Editorial Roundup: New York
Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New York’s newspapers:
The Senate Has a Duty
Wall Street Journal
Speaker Nancy Pelosi continues to withhold the House articles of impeachment from the Senate, further trivializing a serious constitutional power and process. Senate Republicans seem content to play along while ridiculing her gambit, but they should take their own duties more seriously and hold a trial.
One emerging dodge seems to be that President Trump isn’t formally impeached until the articles are transmitted to the Senate. This is absurd. The House voted on two articles and passed them with a majority. The House broadcast this fact to the country along with more-in-sorrow-than-anger claims that they are doing their solemn constitutional duty.
There’s nothing in the Constitution that says impeachment requires a formal transmittal of the articles to the Senate, whether by sedan chair or overnight FedEx, or that the House must appoint impeachment managers. The parchment merely says the House has sole power over impeachment and the Senate the sole power to try an impeachment. The act of impeachment is the vote.
The Founders also defined impeachment as consisting of two parts—the House vote followed by a Senate trial. They are two stages of the same process. The Founders gave the first impeachment step to the House knowing it would often be governed by populist and partisan passions.
They gave the Senate control over the trial as a check on the House. They knew the Senate, with its two Members per state, would represent the different interests of varied states. And with staggered elections every six years, two thirds of the Senate wouldn’t face immediate re-election after a trial and vote.
This means the current Senate has a responsibility to fulfill its part of the Constitution’s impeachment duty as a check on the partisan excesses of the Pelosi House. This isn’t merely to give Mr. Trump a chance to defend himself and be acquitted of the House charges. The more important obligation is to the separation of powers and to the Senate itself.
By making a fuss of withholding the articles until she hears the Senate’s specific plans for a trial, Mrs. Pelosi is trying to dictate to the Senate how to hold a trial. But the Constitution reserves this power for the Senate. If she never sends the articles and there is no trial, she will have effectively trampled on executive power and Senate prerogatives by maligning a President without the chance for acquittal at trial.
She will be turning impeachment into the equivalent of a censure resolution wrapped in the claim of impeachment. This sets an awful precedent, making impeachment more likely because a President is unlikely to be removed, but also less potent if a President does deserve to be removed from office for real abuses. If impeachment without trial becomes common, genuinely dangerous Presidents will cite that history as a partisan shield.
Current Senate rules say a trial isn’t triggered until the House appoints impeachment managers who deliver the articles to the Senate. But those rules were written when Senators never anticipated the House would treat impeachment in such a cavalier fashion. The constitutional lawyer and our contributor David Rivkin argues that in this context the Senate rules violate the constitutional duty to hold a trial. If Democrats refuse to cooperate by providing the two-thirds necessary to change the rules, Republicans should vote to change the rules with a simple majority.
Mr. McConnell could tell Mrs. Pelosi to nominate managers by a certain date or he will appoint lawyers to make the case for the House. Or he could announce the start of the trial by a certain date, and proceed without the House managers if they fail to show up. The President’s lawyers could make their case, and then the Senate could vote.
This carries some political risk, but faced with such a choice Mrs. Pelosi is likely to appoint House managers in the end. Political risks also exist if Mr. McConnell continues with his current posture of refusing to hold a trial if Mrs. Pelosi doesn’t appoint managers. She and the Democrats will claim from here to November that Republicans were afraid to hold a trial because they know Mr. Trump is guilty.
For Senate Republicans, their constitutional duty here is also the best politics. Don’t join Nancy Pelosi in defining impeachment down. Honor the Constitution by holding a trial.
Bill’s fantasy: He can’t end street homelessness without confronting addiction and mental illness
New York Daily News
Who can argue with a mayor promising to end street homelessness as we know it within five years? We can, because Bill de Blasio’s glossy plan, which commits to adding apartments and vague medical supports, papers over real reasons why thousands of people sleep on benches and in subway stations and over grates, and some of them rant at the heavens and threaten other New Yorkers.
The problems are mental illness and addiction, and as long as they remain at the periphery rather than the center of the city’s so-called solutions, people will suffer.
Most of the 60,000-plus homeless New Yorkers living in our ever-expanding shelter system are there because of too-scarce affordable housing, or domestic violence. But for the roughly 3,600 souls on the street here, the problems are both simpler and more complex.
Over decades, this state and this country have systematically dismantled psychiatric facilities, leaving New York State’s 19.5 million people with fewer than 3,000 state psychiatric hospital beds. In their absence, mentally ill people cycle though hospital emergency rooms, shelters and jails, a psych ward spilled onto the street.
With civil libertarians insisting that personal freedom trumps health and safety, it’s virtually impossible to compel these individuals to get help unless they’ve deteriorated so badly they’ve become dangerous to themselves or others.
Totally absent from the mayor’s optimistic plans this week were results from a 30-day review of how the city takes advantage of Kendra’s Law, an underused statute that can compel individuals into treatment, and other intensive mental health interventions.
Did we say 30-day review? It’s 68 days and counting since de Blasio ordered one, in the wake of the murders of four homeless men by another homeless man. The city’s sluggishness is a depressing sign of its refusal to get real.
Governor needs to fill Cayuga Community College vacancies soon
The Auburn Citizen
When Melina Carnicelli steps down from the Cayuga Community College Board of Trustees, the nine-seat board will have two vacancies. Both of them need Gov. Andrew Cuomo to appoint replacements.
Unfortunately, as of last week’s board meeting, college officials are in the dark about when those appointments will be made. That needs to change, and it needs to change quickly.
Carnicelli’s term, one of four gubernatorial-appointed seats on the CCC board, expired in June 2018. The former Auburn mayor agreed to continue serving until a replacement was made. Outreach to the state from the college took place. And yet, more than a year later, there’s been no action from the governor. And Carnicelli understandably can’t continue to wait indefinitely, so she’s given notice that she’ll be moving on at the end of this month.
The other vacancy emerged last summer, when board member Angela Daddabbo stepped down for personal reasons.
A third vacancy surfaced in recent weeks when county Legislator Patrick Manunik, who has represented the county Legislature on the board, submitted his resignation in conjunction with his imminent retirement as a legislator. But unlike the gubernatorial seats, the Mahunik seat was quickly filled by the county Legislature. And Legislator Charlie Ripley was sworn in and served at his first trustees meeting on Thursday.
While it’s understandable that a governor’s appointment may take a little longer to finalize than one from the Legislature, the delays from the executive branch with respect to these recent CCC vacancies are inexcusable.
The board can still function with seven people, of course, but the smaller number increases the possibility of a meeting lacking a quorum required for official actions to take place.
Moreover, the college community deserves to have a full board. CCC President Brian Durant put it well last week when discussing why the college will continue try, despite the silence from Albany, to engage the governor in getting these openings filled.
“It always is great to have the full representation covered that’s available to us, and the more perspectives that we’re able to add to the conversation, the stronger we are.”
Safety issues make protests dangerous at Centennial Circle in Glens Falls
The Post Star
If you weren’t in downtown Glens Falls at rush hour Tuesday night, let’s set the scene for you.
By 5 p.m., it was dark and the streets all around the city were slick from a daylong snowstorm. Snow plows continued to make periodic sweeps, but traffic was moving fairly well, despite the distractions downtown.
From the roundabout up Broad Street to Church Street, impeachment fever — both for and against — was playing out in competing protests with flags and banners being waved and people shouting at each other.
And once again there were no city rules.
We implore the Glens Falls Common Council to do something.
This has been going on since last summer, and while we understand the wheels of justice can turn slowly, they should not stop entirely.
To their credit, the Common Council did propose some detailed standards for how to deal with these protests earlier this year. A public hearing was held to get feedback. The city appeared on the verge of adopting standards, when the New York Civil Liberties Union stepped in to say it had problems with the proposal.
To their credit, the city agreed to hear them out, but it seems to us the NYCLU didn’t have a firm grasp on the main complaint — safety. Having protests at the roundabout where five busy roads converge in the heart of a small city like Glens Falls is a hazardous distraction.
If the NYCLU is truly concerned about these protests and what rules will govern them, they should have witnessed the “snow-test” after dark Tuesday night.
As distracting as the summer protests were, they were at least held in daylight.
The NYCLU might have gotten a better feel for the concerns if it had witnessed protesters on both sides of Broad Street periodically spilling out onto the snowy road in front of cars and snow plows. On hand were just two Glens Falls police officers to keep the peace.
We’re sure the NYCLU has a certain level of expertise on freedom of speech issues, but we’re not sure what experience they have with pedestrian safety.
We understand the city doesn’t want to be sued by the NYCLU.
We understand that the city wants to be fair and get this right.
But in the meantime, it has to do something to get protests away from the five-way intersection.
It was also clear Tuesday night that political passion had not cooled any with the falling snow, and with an impeachment trial expected in January, there could be more rallies and more confrontations to go with more snow and darker nights.
We urge the Common Council to pass a simple resolution that bans any group that gathers from loitering at Centennial Circle.
Citizens who plan on protesting in Glens Falls should respect the Common Council’s concerns about safety and adhere to this one simple request.
It is a beautiful city with many other convenient places for the public to gather. As we have said multiple times in the past, City Park provides a much better venue for people to assemble and air their views while remaining safe.
One group did start its assembly at the City Park Tuesday. We hope they noticed while they were there the enchanting holiday lights and magical atmosphere all around the park and downtown.
It is truly spectacular this time of year and much more suited for Christmas carols.
It would have been encouraging if both groups ended the evening that way.
Maybe next time.
Party paralysis imperils nation
The House of Representatives impeachment vote last week was very bad news for the legacy of President Donald Trump. It also seems as if political party affiliation has trampled individual conscience and thought as the steering wheel of our government.
All 197 Republicans voted against impeachment, and all 233 Democrats believed equally strongly the other way.
The issues were too sophisticated and nuanced and the membership too intelligent to lead to that conclusion.
This is what we, as American citizens, are stuck with: a government seemingly divided by party.
What are the chances that, without party affiliation, all of those members would settle into the opinions expressed in those votes?
ABC News had a feature the evening of the vote on a high-school classroom in which the teacher explained to the students the issues being “debated” in the impeachment hearing. She invited her pupils to take up the debate.
They did, and with reason replacing hostile stubbornness, independence of thought replacing party fawning, the topics were discussed. Some students changed their minds, but nobody got angry. Would America be better off relying on the decisions of those students than on those weathered politicians?
In the Capitol, party means everything.
Of the 430 current members of Congress, zero Republicans broke ranks, and only two Democrats voted against the abuse of power article and three voted against the obstruction of Congress charge. One independent, a former Republican, voted in favor of Trump’s impeachment on both counts.
Twenty years ago when former President Clinton was impeached, or in 1974 when Congress was close to impeaching Nixon, many more members voted with their conscience instead of their party.
Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer has called for term limits as a cure for such party domination. This newspaper has long opposed term limits, arguing that no other job punishes experience and embraces naivete. But now we’re wondering.
And, what is perhaps more important to our country’s future, is this just the beginning of stultifying gridlock?
Will every president henceforth face impeachment because politics calls for it? Donald Trump is the third president impeached. Will he represent the norm in this regard from now on?
Hopefully America can get past this chapter and move forward in a positive light.
The aisles in the Capitol Building are deeper even than the national divide they have created.