Editorials from around New York
Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New York’s newspapers:
The Daily News on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan for congestion pricing
When congestion pricing passes the Legislature in the next few months, as it must, and all vehicles are charged a fee to drive south of 60th St. in Manhattan, with the funds dedicated to transit, Andrew Cuomo will be the man who changed history and undid a dire mistake more than a century old.
It’s a big shift for a Queens car guy who used to say, “I can’t do tolls.” But 18 months ago, the subways started falling apart on his watch and the governor had to screw up the courage to support restoring tolls to the East River bridges to generate desperately needed revenue.
Yes, restoring the tolls. From the first day the spans opened, the Brooklyn (1883), Williamsburg (1903), Queensboro and Manhattan (both 1909) bridges all had tolls. Cars paid a dime, horses 3 cents. That lasted until a foolish mayor removed the tolls in 1911, losing billions that could have supported the city’s physical infrastructure.
So some bridges are tolled, while others are not. It’s irrational; it distorts the flow of traffic; and it’s regressive.
For more than 50 years, mayors and governors have tried to put the tolls back to no avail.
This time will be different. Never before has a powerful governor, coming off a resounding reelection, with large majorities in both houses of the Legislature, made a push. Never before has a governor included congestion pricing as part of his executive budget.
Cuomo is not backing in or limiting the plan to some small subgroup of cars. It’s full speed ahead. There is no other way.
The Leader-Herald on the Problem Solvers Caucus
If there was ever a time for the Problem Solvers Caucus to shine, this is it. The shutdown of the federal government is well into its second week after the House of Representatives, the Senate and President Donald Trump were unable to come to an agreement over the budget legislation, with the biggest disagreement coming over $5.7 billion Trump wants for a southern border wall (which he once promised Mexico would pay for).
On Dec. 19, Rep. Tom Reed, a Republican from western New York, joined with Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-New Jersey, and Problem Solvers Caucus co-chairman, to urge “leaders on both sides of the aisle to work together, in good faith, and find a solution to keep the government open. Americans expect and deserve much more than more gridlock and more shutdowns.”
The very next day, Reed joined with fellow Republicans in Congress to vote to provide funding for the border wall — something he had to know wouldn’t sit well with the very Democrats with whom Republican members of the Problem Solvers Caucus need to work. That makes us question Reed’s statement that he was “proud to vote to keep our government open for the American people.”
What’s more important — and, we hope, more telling of Reed’s intentions — is this quote from the same news release: “We need a functioning immigration system which allows properly vetted people to come here and work to provide for their families. I hope this is something I can work with my Democrat colleagues on this next Congress.” He reiterated those sentiments during a conference call with regional media outlets earlier this week, including saying, “There are areas of the border where truly a wall is the most effective tool. It’s a combination of everything.”
Recently the Problem Solvers Caucus scored a win by working with Democratic Party leader Nancy Pelosi and Rules Committee ranking member Jim McGovern, resulting in rules allowing more rank-and-file members of Congress to get legislation voted on while paving the way for Pelosi to ascend to the position of speaker of the House. That was indeed a nice piece of deal-making for the caucus.
The North Country’s congresswoman, Rep. Elise Stefanik, supported that deal. She is not a member of the Problem Solvers Caucus but is a leader in the Tuesday Group, made up of moderate Republicans, and prides herself on being bipartisan. For instance, she tweeted Monday, “I represent an ideological diverse district and I am proud of that fact. And I work hard to listen to their perspectives and ideas.”
Now it’s time to see if the Problem Solvers Caucus is ready to help crack a tougher nut: the controversy over the border wall and, with it, the government shutdown. Can they help build the two-thirds majority needed to override a presidential veto?
We are hopeful. While loyalty and opposition to the president are strong factors in Congress, we believe many members are also driven by a professional urge to solve problems — and immigration has long been one of our nation’s most problematic systems. No solution is going to make everyone happy, but it is possible to develop laws that make things more functional, understandable, humane, fair and safe, while also welcoming immigrants in reasonable ways. That will require more acceptance of the ideological diversity Stefanik speaks of — the notion that even if we don’t agree, we have to live with and make accommodations for each other.
The Syracuse Post-Standard on the spike in young victims of violence in Syracuse
Is there a sadder picture than this one?
David Carroll holds a T-shirt printed with an image of his murdered stepson, 15-year-old Loindale Johnson. The shirt is stained with the blood of another young murder victim, 12-year-old James Springer III. The boys were shot eight days apart in October, in different sections of the city. Carroll was one of the bystanders who tried to save Springer’s life.
The year 2018 will go down as one of the deadliest for young people in Syracuse. Ten people age 19 or younger were murdered last year. Six of them were 16 or younger. Their assailants were young, too. Five of the accused killers were under 19. Two of them were just 13.
This does not diminish the loss of 14 other adults who were victims of homicide in Syracuse last year, or the three people who were killed in Onondaga County outside of city limits.
However, the spike in young victims and assailants is a troubling and heartbreaking development.
The crisis in youth violence comes at a moment in time when Syracuse has some new eyes on the problem. Mayor Ben Walsh, in office for a year, has brought in a new police chief, Kenton Buckner. Syracuse City School District Superintendent Jaime Alicea has been on the job for less than two years. We are counting on their fresh perspectives to bring new ideas to the fight.
Buckner, so far, is saying all the right things. He believes the four “legs” that provide stability and support for youths are family, church, education and community, and leans heavily on parenting as “probably the biggest needle-mover” in combating youth crime and violence. Buckner is well aware his department has a strained relationship with the people it serves, leading to a lack of cooperation with police. To rebuild bridges, he is committed to hiring more police officers of color and to having “intentional” and “constructive” contact with community members in non-enforcement situations.
Walsh’s view of policing also is shifting. In a candid interview looking back on his first year, the mayor said he initially focused on getting the community to cooperate more with police. Now, he said, ”. I’ve started to look inward and started to think about what we are doing or we are not doing as the city or police department that is leading to people not feeling comfortable assisting us.” The mayor has come to believe “the onus is on us” to bridge the trust gap between the community and the police. It will be grinding, difficult, necessary work, and we applaud Walsh and Buckner for undertaking it.
City schools also play a critical role. Beyond teaching the ABCs, they are challenged to keep kids in the classroom and off the streets, against the headwinds of poverty and family strife, and also to respond to the trauma of students’ violent deaths within school communities.
Naturally, we look to our police, government and schools to confront youth violence with all the powers at their disposal. But they can’t do it alone. As Buckner said, “Responsible adults need to take on some of the heavy lifting.”
Together, what new ideas can we summon? How do we give youths more useful ways to fill their days, build skills and move toward a real future? How do we listen better to the families and neighbors hit hardest by violence? How do we create jobs and economic opportunities that make crime less attractive?
These are hard questions. The young murder victims of 2018 prick our community’s collective conscience, and call on us to try to answer them.
The Utica Observer-Dispatch on climate change
Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.
Whether noted author Mark Twain or his good friend Charles Dudley Warner, a neighbor and editor of the Hartford Courant, coined that quip is often debated. But when it comes to climate change, the fact is that a lot of people affected by it are doing something about it.
“It doesn’t matter what we think, or what political party or whatever we believe — it’s just going to come,” said Troy Bishopp, owner and manager of Bishopp Family Farm, a grass farm in Deansboro. “And it may just stop ... maybe it’ll be fine in five years. But over the last 20 years, I keep records, and I see really weird things.”
Anyone who has lived in these parts for any length of time has also seen some weird things when it comes to the weather.
In a recent three-part Observer-Dispatch series on the variable climate and its potential effects on the Mohawk Valley, Bishopp said he’s bracing for change. He would know. His farm on Route 12B in Deansboro is a recipient of the distinguished NYS Agriculture Society’s Century Farm Award for continuous operation since 1890 and boasts six generations of farming. As for Bishopp, who touts himself as “The Grass Whisperer,” he’s a 33-year well-seasoned grass farmer, a grasslands advocate, and a voice for grassfed livestock producers to the media, consumers, restaurateurs and policy-makers.
He’s done the science and knows that times they are a-changin’. It’s wise that we listen.
A recent report, the Fourth National Climate Assessment, required by Congress every four years, paints a disconcerting image of how climate change might shape the Mohawk Valley. And preparing for change could make the difference between success and failure because so much that we do depends on the weather. Deny that change if you will, but those most affected by it can ill afford to walk around with blinders on. Like Bishopp, they need to adapt before it’s too late.
The evidence is all around us — from severe flooding in Whitesboro to tough sledding in snowmobile country. If we fail to acknowledge that change is taking place and make adjustments, the problem might eventually become insurmountable. Leaders and others in a position to find ways to adapt must listen.
That’s happening in in regard to flooding of the Sauquoit Creek, which in recent years has had devastating effects on some communities along its route, particularly the village of Whitesboro. Governments have dedicated significant funding to improve aging infrastructure and develop other flooding mitigation projects. One of the largest is the Sauquoit Creek Restoration Project, which calls for building 12 floodplain benches along a one-plus-mile corridor of the lower Sauquoit Creek behind Commercial Drive in the New York Mills/Yorkville/Whitesboro area.
A floodplain bench is a low-lying area constructed alongside the stream to temporarily store excess water until normal levels can be restored, designed to prevent flooding.
“This project is extremely important,” said Whitestown Supervisor Shaun Kaleta. “It’s the largest project taken on in Whitestown in some time, maybe ever. We want to be mitigating before something happens.”
Forethought and planning is the name of the game. Whitestown has been working on the plan with OBG (O’Brien & Gere) engineers for the past two years, and broke ground for the first two benches in the vicinity of Dunham Manor Park in October. Completion is expected by May.
As responsible citizens concerned about climate change’s effects on our environment and general well-being of our communities, we must support these projects and encourage our leadership to do likewise.
It doesn’t stop there. Tourism and economic development, too, face threats from climate change. That can get particularly tricky, especially in the North Country, where business lives or dies with the weather.
“We’re almost totally weather-dependent,” said Mike Farmer, tourism director for the Town of Webb. “The people who come here and decide they want to live here, they came here for the attractions and the activities that we have here.”
In the winter, skiing and snowmobiling top the activity list; summer and fall cater to everybody from hikers and swimmers to boaters and campers. In between, visitors eat, drink, seek lodging, tank up their vehicles and otherwise shop for just about everything you might imagine.
Snowmobiling is the North Country’s winter anchor and communities like Old Forge have made significant investments to serve guests. But in the government’s latest climate assessment for the northeast region, which includes the Mohawk Valley and the North Country, there is an expected 3.6 degree Fahrenheit rise in temperature on average from the preindustrial era. That means less snow — and fewer snowmobilers.
Farmer says Webb has started adapting to that by building its trail grooming fleet. Smart grooming of the near-500 mile trail system means that when other areas close up shop, Webb still has two or three inches of frozen base, making it one of the only places left to ride — both at the beginning of the year or at the end of the season.
Businesses and communities in general, meanwhile, might need to change marketing strategies in the wake of changing climate. For instance, Oneida County Tourism President Kelly Blazosky says there have not yet been conversations between the tourism office and other county officials about planning for potential big-picture changes. That’s something they need to consider because many of the events planned depend so heavily on the weather.
Meanwhile, farmers like Deansboro’s Bishopp play a constant cat-and-mouse game with Mother Nature because extreme weather could limit when plants are planted and harvested. Abnormal rainfall, for instance, could affect soil conditions — good topsoil is critical — and the farmer who also isn’t the scientist could struggle. Heavy rain increases the potential for soil erosion, the government report found, which in turn would increase sedimentation into receiving water bodies and reduce agriculture productivity.
On the other hand, growers of some products who are prepared for weather changes could benefit. Jeff Miller, an agronomist at Cornell Cooperative Extension Oneida County, says a longer, warmer growing period in itself would benefit some crop industries, like apples and pears. And Steve Ammerman, public affairs manager for the New York Farm Bureau, says the grape industry, too, could benefit from a more moderate climate, although warmer conditions could also bring more pests that could be harmful to crop production, “so we have to try and mitigate (that).” That means facilitating new technology is a must.
But whether agriculture, tourism or flooding, the key to dealing with climate change is first to admit that it’s real. Burying our heads in the sand won’t work. And whether grooming snowmobile trails in Old Forge, farming in Deansboro or fight floodwaters in Whitesboro, the ability to adapt to change will make all the difference.
The New York Post on Brexit
Britain’s House of Commons rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plan Tuesday by a thumping 432-202. This, the most crushing loss by a UK government in modern times, leaves the already divided country in a state of even greater confusion.
No one’s sure what will happen now.
If May survives a no-confidence vote Wednesday, as expected, she’ll have just a few days to submit an alternative plan for leaving the European Union.
But she plainly has no Plan B, though Britain is scheduled to exit the EU on March 29. That deadline may be extended — but kicking the can won’t change much, since the EU refuses to offer the significant concessions needed to win Parliament’s approval.
Which leaves the nation looking at either a “hard Brexit,” with no divorce deal — or no Brexit at all.
We supported the 2016 vote that narrowly approved Brexit, believing it would leave Britain free to make its own decisions on key issues and also free from stifling EU over-regulation. But May’s plan would leave the UK within the EU’s economic orbit, yet with no ability to influence EU policy.
Little wonder, then, that it drew a huge thumbs-down across the spectrum, including much of May’s own Conservative party.
That left her with little to offer but the threat of widespread chaos and economic pain amid a “hard Brexit” — though she herself has said “no deal is better than a bad deal.”
It would be rough indeed, but at this point every potential risk is countered by even greater risks. (That includes staying in the increasingly troubled EU.)
The only widely held consensus is that May’s handling of it all has been abysmal. Yet Britain must muddle forward and find some way out of this mess. Weirdly enough, it may even keep muddling under May.