Editorial Roundup: New York
Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New York’s newspapers:
One-click politics: Setting the record straight on Amazon and New York City
New York Daily News
Progressive pols pretending that Amazon’s decision to lease space for about 1,500 employees in Manhattan proves they were right to chase the company out of Long Island City earlier this year are fooling nobody.
One, the 25,000 to 40,000 jobs promised then are 16 to 26 times more than the 1,500 coming now.
Two, Manhattan offices don’t provide nearly the boost Queens residents, including those in NYCHA’s Queensbridge Houses, stood to get, nor does it stretch the central business district in a manner critical to the city’s future.
Three, remember: The vast majority of the subsidies at issue in Queens were either legally automatic city benefits or state aid for which the company would likely have qualified anyway, and which it may still pocket in Manhattan. All told, there would’ve been far more economic benefit generated than taxes forgone, and most aid would only have flowed after headquarters were built or jobs created.
If lawmakers like state Sen. Mike Gianaris really cared so much about corporations tapping the public till, they should’ve used the 10 months since the debacle to restructure some of the as-of-right programs Amazon stood to benefit from.
The Industrial and Commercial Abatement is designed to lure companies that otherwise wouldn’t relocate to the outer boroughs. Hotels the city pays to house the homeless are reaping thousands from this tax break, the Daily News reported. Who’s got reform ideas?
The state’s Relocation and Employment Assistance grants companies a $3,000 per-employee credit for 12 years if employees move into the area. Should we institute a per-project cap?
A grave time for America
The notion of America’s greatness is rooted in many things, not least of which is our democracy. The trust of Americans in their government and, crucially, in the institutions that make it work, is what makes our nation different. We don’t bend them to one person’s will. We don’t discard them at one person’s whim. We don’t attack and discredit them because their work is troublesome for one person — even if that person is the president of the United States.
Increasingly, that is no longer true. This is a grave time for America. It’s easy to shrug off Washington as a partisan sewer. But that’s too superficial a description for the crisis upon us.
Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report on the FBI’s Russia investigation released Monday became an instant casualty of the growing distrust urged by President Donald Trump, and exacerbated by the dishonest reporting of Fox News. We now have an environment in which partisan actors choosing to read the same thing differently have reduced objective truth to a quaint relic.
Horowitz found that the FBI had sufficient reason to begin its probe of candidate Trump in 2016, that there was no evidence of political bias in the investigation, and that spies were not planted in the Trump campaign. But Attorney General William Barr rejected the findings, which sadly was not surprising but is exceedingly distressing. Barr has been more Trump’s wingman and less a principled attorney general; he must put the needs of the department and the nation first. Truly stunning was an out-of-nowhere, break-the-rule-book statement by John Durham, the U.S. attorney from Connecticut chosen by Barr to conduct yet another investigation of the FBI’s probe. Durham said his investigation, which is not close to complete, does not support Horowitz’s conclusions, giving Trump and his supporters cover to say the truth still is not known.
But FBI Director Christopher Wray, appointed by the president after he fired James Comey, accepted the findings about his own agency, including that it made a dismaying number of serious errors in applications for court permission to wiretap a Trump campaign adviser with ties to Russia. That led Trump to attack Wray, and brought further criticism from Barr, moves that have rattled FBI agents and career prosecutors all over the country. There could be no better way to undermine our federal law enforcement system.
Adding to the maelstrom in Washington were the winds of impeachment. House Democrats unveiled two articles against Trump Tuesday, the more troubling of which alleged obstruction of Congress for refusing demands for documents and officials to interview. That’s from Trump’s businessman playbook, thumbing his nose at convention, refusing to play by the rules, refusing to pay vendors. But that behavior by a president has much more serious consequences. His broadsides against Congress, the FBI, the judiciary and others are weakening the nation. And for surreal counterpoint, his and Barr’s salvos were launched the same day Trump hosted Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the White House.
Wray has issued more than 40 directives to address the FBI’s failures. Reforms to the wiretap authorization process are pending before Congress. That’s how our democracy should respond to the IG’s findings, not with determined attacks that erode the very things that make us strong.
Did you catch the item in last week’s Press-Republican Lookback from 50 years ago, describing reaction in 1969 by Plattsburgh State students to the draft lottery drawing?
One student would have been unable to finish college. “It’s blown up every plan I have,” the student moaned. Some wedding plans were interrupted. Three other men called the draft “a sick joke.”
These reactions were somewhat typical to draft notices during the Vietnam War. The draft was never a popular fact of life to young men subject to it, but especially in the ’60s and ’70s, when that war was so controversial besides.
The draft, or military conscription, was used during five wartime eras in the U.S.: The Revolutionary War, Civil War, World War I, World War II and the Cold War – the Korean War and Vietnam War.
The draft – forcing men to join the military because of a wartime shortage of enlistees – was necessary for the nation to accomplish its military mission.
During the first four conscription periods, there was less hostility toward the program because most of the citizenry supported the war, compared with the attitude toward the Vietnam conflict.
Between 1964 and 1975, 8,744,000 Americans were in the service. Of those, 3,403,000 were deployed to Vietnam. A total of 2,215,000 were drafted, meaning they were obliged to interrupt what they were doing at home for two years in uniform.
They weren’t the only ones who gave up part – or, in too many cases, all of the remainder – of their lives, however. The imposition of the draft motivated many of the other service members (about 24 percent) to join so they could select a branch (mostly Navy or Air Force) or an occupational specialty (to avoid ground combat in the Army Infantry).
During those years, 16 million young men of draft age were not in the service, 57 percent being exempted (such as by occupation or family status), deferred (such as for schooling) or disqualified (such as for physical- or mental-health reasons).
Those Plattsburgh students mentioned earlier were bitter about the draft, as were so many others. After all, who wants to become part of a military machine if not naturally inclined toward it, give up two years of their lives, or actually see themselves put at ultimate risk in a war they don’t believe in?
But it was happening to millions, whether they supported the war or opposed it.
The Selective Service System continues today to sign up all men age 18 to 25, though the draft ended in 1972. The just-in-case enrollment is to head off an emergency for which the military is unprepared.
One of the modern controversies is not the signup itself but why only men. As the societal, occupational and other gaps between men and women have been hewn away, this one remains in place.
For the time being, men only are reminded to sign up as required. The penalty for not doing so can be a $250,000 fine and five years in jail.
But be grateful the draft is not now requiring more of you.
Administrators Should Be Held Accountable
The more than 150 people who took time out of their Tuesday evening to attend this week’s Jamestown Public Schools Board of Education meeting learned that 45 Jamestown High School students with high absentee and discipline rates have been identified for placement in a personalized learning program at the school district’s Tech Academy.
That’s possibly a good start to reducing some of the discipline and safety issues at the high school, but only time will tell if it has the impact parents and teachers need to see.
Creation of an alternative education program was being discussed before a Nov. 6 fight caused Jamestown police to respond to Jamestown High School, but fight and its aftermath crystallized the idea that something had to be done more quickly to restore some type of order to classrooms. We highly doubt the problem is actually limited to 45 students, and we note that no mention was made of the middle schools, where discipline can be just as big a problem as at the high school. That certainly doesn’t sound like the case from the teachers who spoke Tuesday.
As important as the actions taken in the fight’s aftermath is the fact that so many people attended Tuesday’s meeting. It’s almost unheard of in our area to have that many people at a meeting, so Tuesday’s meeting should be taken as a sign that teachers are fed up with the disrespect students are showing for teachers in the classroom and some parents are fed up with the seeming inability to control children who at best continually disrupt classes and make it difficult for other students to learn or, at worst, bring criminal behavior onto school grounds.
Just as district officials have more work to do in creating the school atmosphere parents and teachers want to see, we hope teachers and parents don’t think their work is done either. One contentious school board meeting doesn’t mean the job is done. This process will take time, in part because teachers, administrators and school board members aren’t miracle workers. The Jamestown Public Schools District is chronically underfunded by the state and, as a result, understaffed to meet the needs of a high-poverty city. And, the district is hamstrung in part by mandates from the state Education Department and state Board of Regents that limit what the school can do with students. The community needs to be understanding of the Herculean task district officials face.
Turning the district around is going to be like turning an ocean liner with a canoe paddle. Results will come slowly — and the problem with slow results is the community could lose interest. That can’t happen. The community needs to be intentional and deliberate in making its feelings known about the type of school district it wants to see, the types of actions it wants to see taken and then hold the school board and district administrators accountable if that district doesn’t begin to take shape.
Time to erect new statues
We Americans have torn down a lot of statues during the past few years. You know the type: Memorials to military and civil leaders of the Confederate States of America.
Perhaps it’s time to switch gears and erect a few new statues. Give credit to the people and public officials of Montgomery, Alabama, for taking the lead.
Earlier this month, Montgomery dedicated a new statue honoring the late Rosa Parks. The ceremony was held on the 64th anniversary of Parks’ historic refusal to give up her seat on a public bus, to a white man.
That got her kicked off the bus, under the viciously racist laws that existed at the time. It also sparked a boycott of city buses in Montgomery, helping a civil rights movement that continued to gain strength.
Parks, 92 years old when she died in 2005, was a small, quiet woman. That marvelous lady had the courage to say, “Enough!” Her deed inspired millions.
The courage of Parks and others who fought, sometimes at great risk, against segregation and racial violence deserves more recognition than we Americans have provided to date.
It is one thing to tear down statues erected to honor those who fought to perpetuate slavery. It is another, more important in many ways, to recognize those who fought against it, then later against discrimination of any sort.
Good for the people of Montgomery — which, incidentally, was the first capital of the Confederacy.
The fight against slavery, then for civil rights, had many heroes and heroines. One day, let us hope, they will join Rosa Parks in being recognized through statues honoring truly great Americans.