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Editorials from around New York

August 29, 2018

Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New York’s newspapers:


The Wall Street Journal on taxpayers paying for retaliatory tariffs

Aug. 28

U.S. Trade Rep Robert Lighthizer says President Trump wants to “modernize” America’s trade deals, but this week the Agriculture Department is dusting off an ancient New Deal program to assist farm casualties of his trade policy.

USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue on Monday announced $5.9 billion as the first tranche of $12 billion in aid for farmers stung by retaliatory tariffs imposed by China, Mexico, Canada and the European Union. Big commodity producers such as soybean, pork, dairy and wheat farmers will receive $4.7 billion in direct aid from the Commodity Credit Corporation, a 1930s program whose time has come again. The handouts are intended to mollify farmers in Iowa, Wisconsin and Indiana before the November election.

The Agricultural Marketing Service will also buy $1.2 billion in 30 or so nut, vegetable and fruit crops to distribute through government welfare programs and food pantries. Purchases will supposedly be based on “an economic analysis of the damage” caused by retaliatory tariffs, but members of Congress have been lobbying for farmers in their district.

Oh, and tough luck for fisheries, vintners and producers of maple syrup, mustard, strawberry jam and tomato sauce, which have also been hit with tariffs. They don’t qualify for either program.

Farm income nationwide is at a 12-year low due in part to soaring global production, and Chinese retaliatory tariffs have made U.S. producers less competitive while further dampening prices. Farmers fear that trade partners will begin sourcing supply from elsewhere and won’t reverse course even if trade tensions subside.

A Commerce report on Tuesday showed that food, feed and beverage exports plunged 6.7% in July. California farmers last month reported that $2 billion in annual exports had been affected by retaliatory tariffs with almond shipments to China and Hong Kong falling by nearly 50% in June. Meantime, taxpayers are getting hit twice — first as consumers by the Trump Administration’s tariffs and then as financiers to mitigate the political damage.

Online: https://on.wsj.com/2wzuGhO


The Poughkeepsie Journal on train safety improvements

Aug. 29

Follow the sequence here:

Metro-North Railroad blames an engineer for operating a train erratically and falling asleep at the controls, causing a crash that killed four passengers and injuring dozens of others in December 2013.

Experts say if certain technology had been installed as promised, the accident would have been prevented.

Yet Metro-North and many others in the rail industry have still not completed those upgrades and could, in fact, miss another deadline.

In its court dispute with engineer William Rockefeller, Metro-North is — in a fit of irony — providing more reasons why this equipment must be installed at once.

Attorneys for Metro-North say at various times Rockefeller failed to control the train’s speed in accordance with the posted speed limits, sometimes going too slow, before falling asleep at the controls while going 82 mph along the Spuyten Duvyil curve in the Bronx marked for 30 mph.

Experts say implementing GPS-related technology — including wireless radio and computers to monitor train positions — could greatly reduce the chances of accidents across the country. More to the point, the National Transportation Safety Board has said if such a system were in place, it would have prevented this particular derailment in the Bronx.

Rockefeller, who was cleared of criminal charges, has filed a $10 million lawsuit, saying the accident is Metro-North’s fault for failing to have adequate safety features. The railroad is countersuing the engineer for the cost of replacing the train destroyed in the accident, about $10 million.

As these legal matters play out, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates Metro-North Railroad and the Long Island Railroad, is under a deadline to improve its technology — a deadline that has been extended before by Congress. So-called “positive train control” can slow down or stop a train as a fail-safe against engineer error. The industry is supposed to have new safety equipment in place by the end of the year, but the semantics become important here. Congress, which has made its own mistakes in this process, is being overly generous again. If railroads can show they have the equipment installed and employees trained and meet some other criteria, they get another two years to fully activate the system.

Remember that it was in 2008 when Congress mandated all railroads install the system by 2015. That deadline now will be 2020, at least in some cases. And, as recently reported in the Journal, once positive train control is up and running, there likely will be initial schedule issues and perhaps longer trips as the system gets worked out. All the more reason to expedite this process - one that is about a half decade behind schedule and has inspired absolutely no confidence to date.

Online: https://pojonews.co/2wsowQE


The Leader-Herald on Ohio State University football suspensions

Aug. 28

Ohio State University football coach Urban Meyer will lose about $725,000 as a result of the suspensions he has served and will serve. If that seems like a lot, consider that it is less than one-tenth what Meyer is expected to be paid this year.

Is the punishment for what Meyer did — or, more precisely, did not do — sufficient? Some say no.

OSU officials revealed this week that they have suspended Meyer for the first three games of the 2018 season. He will forfeit pay for that period and for the administrative suspension while his case was being investigated.

University athletic director Gene Smith also was punished, with a two-week suspension.

All this stems from Meyer’s handling of misbehavior by an assistant coach, Zach Smith, and Meyer’s lack of complete candor in discussing the problem with the press.

Meyer landed in hot water initially when it was learned he and his wife were aware of domestic abuse allegations by Smith’s then-wife, Courtney, but did nothing about it.

At first, Meyer denied much knowledge of the situation. It came out he knew more than he acknowledged initially.

An OSU investigation disclosed that was not the only misbehavior tolerated by Meyer. Smith was reprimanded in 2014 for visiting a strip club while on a recruiting trip. Later, while involved in divorce proceedings, he was warned about being late for practices and skipping scheduled recruiting visits. Still later, Meyer failed to tell Gene Smith he had suggested the assistant coach get help to beat his addiction to a prescription drug.

Meyer tolerated a pattern of problems with Smith.

The worst, of course, was knowledge of Smith’s wife’s accusations of abuse.

Some have suggested OSU should have punished Meyer more severely. Were he not a coach with a 73-8 record at the university, he might have been fired, it has been said.

The very fact doubts have been expressed should concern OSU officials. Have they indeed treated Meyer with kid gloves because he is so successful? Is keeping the win streak going more important than sending a message that the Buckeye State’s top university will not tolerate failure to act on allegations of domestic abuse?

We make no judgment regarding that beyond this: OSU officials should engage in some serious soul searching. If they find they cannot answer a certain question acceptably, more needs to be done about Meyer.

It is a simple question: Is winning everything?

Online: https://bit.ly/2wtJ77b


The Post-Journal on Chautauqua Lake leadership

Aug. 26

Perhaps the worst fear of those who organized the Chautauqua Lake Watershed and Management Alliance has come true — one member entity has sued another member entity.

While the Chautauqua Lake Partnership was not named in Chautauqua Institution’s recent Article 78 lawsuit against the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the town of Ellery, it was the CLP that has been the driving force behind use of herbicides first in Bemus Bay in 2017 and then in parts of North Harmony, Busti and Ellery in 2018. And, the Ellery Town Board’s decision to take on the costly and time-consuming SEIS process was made to help a group of town residents who were trying to deal with lake weeds that were choking off their access to Chautauqua Lake.

It’s clear that the institution’s action takes aim squarely at the Chautauqua Lake Partnership’s efforts over the past two summers. Then, the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy issued a statement of support for the institution’s actions. To make matters worse, the town of Busti has chosen not to support projects in the village of Lakewood because of the village’s stance earlier this summer on herbicide treatments off the shores of Lakewood — and both the town and the village are also members of the alliance.

There are many good people involved with the Chautauqua Lake Watershed and Management Alliance, and the alliance has done some good work over its history. But one has to wonder what the inability to manage the tensions among the alliance’s competing organizations means for the future of Chautauqua Lake as battle lines are being drawn among member organizations. How does an organization that operates on consensus lead on the most controversial issue to come before it? How does an organization make a decision, or even discuss issues, that are the center of lawsuits among member organizations?

There will never be a campfire moment in which everyone magically agrees on the best way to make Chautauqua Lake a world class lake for fishing, boaters, swimmers and all of the species that call Chautauqua Lake home. The number of organization with vested interests is simply too diverse. Such a diverse membership makes governing by consensus nearly impossible. We know from past experience that an organization is needed to manage Chautauqua Lake. Someone needs to be out finding grants. Someone needs to come up with a yearly plan for Chautauqua Lake restoration and maintenance. Someone has to make tough decisions about courses of action and the amounts of money to be spent on those courses of action.

After last week, we’re not sure that organization exists. We are in the same place we were at least 10 years ago. This really is mind-boggling that the same conversation and controversy has gone on for more than a decade. What’s that old definition of “crazy” — doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

One of the points Chautauqua Institution raises in its lawsuit is Ellery’s leadership of the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement process. It’s important to note that Ellery took the lead on the SEIS because no one else had done so despite recent plans being completed for Chautauqua Lake, including the Macrophye Management Plan that was finished in 2017. It made little sense that the Macrophyte Management Plan stated areas where herbicides could be used in the lake and stopped short of an environmental impact study.

A town had to lead the process because neither the leading lake organization nor the county chose to do so. A group of property owners upset with the condition of Bemus Bay chose to try a new course of action in their area of the lake because they felt their bay was languishing under the old treatment plans.

Someone has had to step into a leadership void when it comes to Chautauqua Lake. It is put up or shut up time. Lead, or get out of the way.

Online: https://bit.ly/2okLtS3


The Post-Star on the EPA

Aug. 26

We nostalgically remember the days — about two years ago — when the Environmental Protection Agency worked diligently to protect our environment for the benefit of our long-term health.

But while most of us were absorbed this past week with trials and plea deals for those closely connected to President Trump, the EPA was announcing the Affordable Clean Energy rule to overhaul the pollution restrictions on coal-burning power plants.

The Trump administration says the new rules will create new jobs and eliminate burdensome regulations, but EPA research reveals the new rules could lead to as many as 1,400 premature deaths annually by 2030, up to 15,000 new cases of upper respiratory problems, a rise in bronchitis and tens of thousands of missed school days.

“Short-term morbidity endpoints mean EPA expects more people to die prematurely from breathing sulfur dioxide,” said the Adirondack Council’s Executive Director Willie Janeway in a written statement. “That’s a pretty casual way to talk about letting people die from preventable diseases.”

The Clean Power Plan put into place during President Obama’s tenure was expected to prevent 1,500 to 3,600 premature deaths by 2030 and reduce the number of school days missed by 180,000.

Simply put, the EPA enacted rules this week to lower the standards for our air and make our health worse, and that comes on the heels of another plan to allow cars to emit more pollution in the years to come.

You’d almost think someone from the coal industry was in charge.

Actually, the EPA’s acting director, Andrew Wheeler, is a former coal lobbyist who previously spent years as a senior aide in the Senate working to defeat climate-related legislation.

Why you should care — other than the luxury of breathing clean air — is because coal-burning power plants have long been the cause of acid rain in the Adirondacks.

The Clean Power Plan would have required 32 percent cuts in carbon dioxide from power plants by 2030. The plan enacted this past week contains a 1.5 percent cut in pollutants.

The Adirondack Council, the Adirondack Park’s largest environmental organization, condemned the new rule for its failure to protect the Adirondacks from climate change while hindering its recovery from decades of acid rain.

If you thought the acid rain problem in the Adirondacks had been rectified, think again.

According to the Adirondack Council, pollution cuts since 1995 have helped some Adirondack lakes and ponds to recover, but others will take centuries to regain their health at current emission rates.

It was encouraging to see Rep. Elise Stefanik say she opposes the new rules because of the damage they might do in the Adirondacks, but we are not confident in the fix she proposes.

Online: https://bit.ly/2okYDid

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