Editorial Roundup: New York

Auburn Citizen. July 24, 2022.

Editorial: Be wary of candidates who hide their views

We’ve often written in this space about the importance of voter participation in making our nation’s democracy most effective, but lately we’ve been thinking about the other side in the voting relationship and whether they are doing enough.

Candidates for elected office who are asking for voters’ support have an obligation to publicly answer questions on key issues and take part in debates with their opponents. Frequently, though, we’re seeing candidates who avoid direct conversations with the news media or voters and duck debates.

A clear example has emerged in a key central New York congressional primary in this year’s election cycle. Steve Wells is running against Brandon Williams in a Republican primary for the 22nd Congressional District, a key swing seat that includes Syracuse and Onondaga County.

It’s a district in which Democrats have an enrollment edge, but the person who has represented much of the area for the past eight years is a Republican, U.S. Rep. John Katko. The congressman chose not to seek another term, and a key step in deciding who will now represent this moderate district comes next month when both the GOP and the Democrats hold primaries.

Wells is believed to be more of a moderate in the mold of Katko, but it’s hard to know for sure. That’s because his campaign has largely avoided answering questions directly about key issues facing this country, most notably his views on abortion and gun control. He also has turned down debate invitations, where he’d clearly be on the spot about those and other issues.

What Wells has done is a raise a lot of money, put together some slick marketing packages and kept his head down hoping to get through a primary. Perhaps he thinks his true stances would hurt him in this phase of the election, but if he goes too far to the right, he’ll damage his general election prospects.

But that strategy misses the point of having primaries in our electoral process. Party voters get a chance to decide who best reflects their values and priorities, and then all voters have their say in November. When one party’s chosen candidate wins the general election, that may push the other party a little more in the other direction for future years.

The idea is that the voting process itself should lead to candidate fields that give voters strong choices. That process will break down, though, if candidates simply hide from the public and try to rely on their fundraising and marketing as the sole means of getting elected.

We urge everyone running for office at any level to fulfill the responsibility of being open and honest with voters.

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Dunkirk Evening Observer. July 25, 2022.

Editorial: SCHOOLS Teachers are already at limit

It shouldn’t be any surprise that a recently released audit showed many schools hadn’t met New York mandates for SAVE Act-required mental health training.

The Comptroller’s Office audited 20 randomly selected school districts, and found 18 of them, or 90%, either did not offer mental health training or provided insufficient training, such as lacking instruction to recognize warning signs of mental or psychotic disorders in children or how to access appropriate support and services.

For starters, the audit period for the 20 school districts audited was July 1, 2020, through June 30, 2021, a time when schools were trying to figure out how they were going to meet the state’s requirements to reopen safely due to COVID-19. It’s little wonder the training wasn’t completed on time.

DiNapoli himself noted a bigger problem than schools not meeting the state’s deadlines. The SAVE Act and state Education Department requirements state only that the annual school safety training must include a component on mental health, but neither the SAVE Act nor state requirements directly address what topics should be included within the mental health training component.

That’s a problem. Teachers and school staff are on the front line dealing with students’ mental health issues, yet the state’s guidelines to train those front line staff are unclear at best. The state should make more clear the training it expects its school districts to offer.

But there is a bigger issue worth considering — how much can we really expect classroom teachers and staff to do when it comes to mental health? NYSUT President Andy Pallotta has argued teachers need better training to address mental health challenges.

That’s important to note, because while many schools are currently using federal stimulus dollars to hire additional counselors and psychologists to help students, we know that money will run out and the burden will inevitably fall back onto teachers and aides.

In our opinion, child mental health is a bigger problem every year in our schools.

But it’s on the state and school administrators to devise a way to provide mental health services, ideally linked to public child and family services that are already available, to children who need help without overburdening teachers who already have enough on their plate.

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New York Post. July 26, 2022.

Editorial: Still no excuses for gov’s growing Air Hochul scandal

Why did the New York Power Authority even need its own plane in the first place? That was our first thought on reading of how Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office poached the aircraft. Sadly, it turns out to be yet more evidence of how the gov puts her own selfish interests ahead of anything resembling good government.

As we’ve noted, Hochul took 140 private-aircraft flights at taxpayer expense in just her first seven months on the job, zipping across the state to tap special interests for her huge campaign warchest.

Like her predecessor, she “kosherized” it by finding some day-job duty to handle on each trip. But it still left her on the road, not twisting arms in the Legislature toward vital goals like fixing the botched criminal-justice “reforms” that have done so much to send crime soaring statewide.

In this, she’s a marked contrast to New York’s last “accidental governor”: David Paterson successfully battled the Legislature into cutting spending and generally serving the public interest — goring so many oxen that his party’s powers-that-be refused to let him run to remain gov. (Sadly, that lesson pretty well explains why Hochul gave away the store in this year’s budget.)

All that said, we get why someone had the State Police grab the newer NYPA plane. (A State Police spokesman denies Hochul’s office had anything to do with it. Sure.)

A better jet can move her more rapidly and safely from fund-raiser to fund-raiser. And why not steal a perk that doesn’t even seem necessary from the folks enjoying it? Let ’em fly commercial!

Problem is, NYPA isn’t the same patronage sinkhole as the Long Island Power Authority (which has been burning taxpayer cash since the days of Gov. Mario Cuomo). It has an actual need for the plane: It oversees 16 generating plants all across the state, including one facility where the closest commercial flight is out of Quebec, as well as 1,600-plus miles of transmission line.

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Advance Media New York. July 22, 2022.

Editorial: Steve Wells should debate GOP primary opponent in NY-22

Steve Wells wants to be the Republican nominee for the 22nd Congressional District — but he doesn’t want to debate a rival candidate to get there. He wants primary voters to support him — but he doesn’t want to tell them where he stands on hot-button issues such as abortion, former President Donald Trump’s role in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, and the future direction of the GOP under Trump.

Wells’ “under the radar” strategy — hoping to squeak through a low-turnout primary to get to the general election in November — is unacceptable. It shows disrespect for the people he wishes to represent. Does Wells have so little faith in voters, or in himself, that he feels he’ll be hurt by an honest discussion of important issues? We can only conclude the answer is yes.

Voters need to know where he stands on issues that affect their lives before they decide whether to send him on to the general election or to Washington. They deserve to see how he handles tough questions and how he thinks on his feet. He’s had success in business, which could be useful, but government is not business, and representing the people of NY-22 is not just another jot on the resumé.

Republican Party leaders, committee members and voters should pressure Wells to get into the arena — or get out of the race.

The Cazenovia businessman became a candidate at the 11th hour, after congressional districts were redrawn based on a court ruling that they were gerrymandered to give Democrats an unfair advantage. Wells pledged $400,000 of his own money to the campaign. All four Republican county committee chairs in NY-22 have endorsed him.

Brandon Williams, the Cayuga County businessman challenging Wells in the Republican primary, hit the nail on the head: “Because he’s a self-funded candidate, he’s hoping money can overwhelm any kind of public discourse or dialogue.”

So far, all voters know about Wells is what they see in his TV ads, hammering familiar GOP talking points about Southern border security, inflation and gas prices. What will he do about them? Would he support Trump if the former president is the GOP nominee in 2024? Does he think democracy is in danger? What about issues important to Central New Yorkers, such as poverty, environmental policy, climate change and taxes? Would he be a centrist in this 50-50 district, in the mold of his predecessors, or lean farther to the right? Voters simply don’t know. TV ads are useless and a campaign website don’t provide sufficient information for them to go on.

Beyond policy, the candidate’s refusal to engage with the media and the public hampers voters trying to assess what’s really important about a candidate for office: Can he engage with people? Is he humble and curious? Can he listen? Is he smart? Does he show integrity? Or is he thin-skinned and indifferent about other opinions, especially those not funding his campaign?

We urge Wells to do himself (and GOP voters) some good, and change his mind about not participating in primary debates.

He should remember that the path to Congress in the 22nd District is determined by independent-minded voters.

END