Editorials from around New York
Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New York’s newspapers:
The Auburn Citizen on election procedures in New York state.
Now that another Election Day is behind us, New York needs to tweak its balloting procedures to ensure fair representation for all candidates when the next election arrives.
One issue that emerged locally this year involves a provision in state election law that keeps candidates from appearing on independent lines if they are already on two or more political party lines. But the problem is that candidates are not all treated the same.
The District 13 ballot in Auburn illustrated the issue perfectly. Two city council candidates who secured independent Auburn First lines were forced to squeeze that designation into the same box on the ballot as their Working Families ballot line. But the county candidate, because he didn’t get the Working Families designation, got his own Auburn First line.
The idea behind the law is to prevent people from obtaining a limitless number of ballot lines, but a more fair way to do it would be by allowing just one independent line in addition to any official political party lines.
Another inequity in the mix is the fact that candidates for the state Legislature in Albany and statewide offices are exempt from this law. We don’t believe that candidates at any level of government should be treated differently, so fixing this local problem should mean having it apply across the board.
So after the dust settles from Tuesday’s contests, state lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo should get work on fixing this glitch. Laws regarding elections must always aim for a more consistent, and ultimately equitable, democratic process.
The Poughkeepsie Journal on casino revenues
Even before New York officials got sensible and went with the legal route to expand casino operations, they were basing their financial expectations on rosy projections. At one point, in fact, they were pitching as many as three casinos for the Catskills alone. And, to get there, they outrageously tried to skirt the state Constitution, which prohibited casino operations to expand beyond sovereign Native American land.
Under Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the state has at least gone through the legislature and then voters to amend the Constitution to make such expansions perfectly legal. But the question of where the casinos should be located — and how many of them ultimately there should be — continues to vex New York.
With three new upstate casinos failing to meet revenue projections, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli is rightly being asked to do a hard analysis of the situation. The three casinos could end their first year with about $220 million less in total revenue than they projected when they won the bids for their gaming licenses in 2014, according to a review by the USA Today’s Albany Bureau.
Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, D-Mount Vernon, who heads the state Assembly’s Racing Committee, is seeking the financial assessment, saying he is concerned the new facilities in the Southern Tier, Finger Lakes and Albany area may ultimately seek state help to improve their bottom lines.
This, of course, should concern all New Yorkers; the lion’s share of the tax money coming from these facilities has been designated for the state’s education system. And it also impacts local governments that get a piece of the revenue to help pay for programs and services.
Amid this backdrop, Empire Resorts also is set to open a $1.3 billion casino and destination resort next year on the grounds of the old Concord Hotel in Sullivan County. That site is now identified as Resorts World Catskills and is expected to open in March 2018. Resorts World Catskills will be the only casino in this region and, with its close proximity to the New York City market, there is reasonable expectation it will fare well. But these latest casino figures also show why the state selection board made a wise choice not to locate two casinos in the Hudson Valley to add to the competition. There also has been an explosion of online gaming and other gambling-related activities that have eaten into the market.
The governor’s office and state Gaming Commission are downplaying any concerns, pointing out the state’s overall gambling revenue has increased with the new casinos - and that it’s too early to make judgements on how new venues will perform.
Perhaps. But the state will have to continue to make these assessments. Voters have authorized New York to allow the creation of three more casinos, in addition to the four designated for upstate through this change in the Constitution.
DiNapoli and others have urged the state to take a conservative approach to revenue estimates; these latest numbers suggest why that is a prudent approach.
The Wall Street Journal on Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl and the U.S. Navy ship collisions.
The military is one of the few institutions that Americans still hold in high esteem, but that should never be taken for granted. Two events late last week suggest that even the military’s culture of high performance can be eroded without constant attention.
The first was a military judge’s decision to let off U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl with a slap on the wrist for desertion in Afghanistan in 2009. After a court martial, Army Colonel Jeffery Nance recommended that Bergdahl be dishonorably discharged, demoted to private and forfeit $10,000 in pay. Prosecutors had sought 14 years in prison.
Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban and held prisoner for nearly five years, a terrible ordeal to be sure. But those most outraged by the wrist slap are other members of the armed services who fear the damage to military discipline. Bergdahl deserted on the battlefield in a forward post — the worst betrayal you can make against your fellow soldiers save for fragging them with friendly fire.
Members of Bergdahl’s unit were killed or maimed when they were sent to search for him, not knowing that he had been preparing to walk away for weeks and had even dispatched personal effects to the U.S. before he walked off the forward base. The court-martial sentence must be demoralizing to those who do their duty and risk their lives without fanfare.
Even more distressing is the Navy’s report on its investigation into the collisions with civilian vessels this year in the Pacific theater by the USS Fitzgerald and USS John S. McCain. The collisions — off the coast of Japan, and in the Singapore Strait, respectively — resulted in the deaths of 17 sailors.
The 71-page report, which says both collisions were “avoidable,” is damning about the Navy’s training practices and makes for dispiriting reading if you are a civilian who thinks the U.S. Navy is the best in the world. The report says watch team members on the Fitzgerald “were not familiar with basic radar fundamentals.” And it cites a failure to plan for safety, adhere to sound navigation practices, properly use available navigation tools, and respond effectively in a crisis.
As for the McCain, the Navy cited a loss of situational awareness in response to mistakes in operating the ship’s steering and propulsion system. It also cited the failure to follow the International Nautical Rules of the Road that govern maneuvering vessels amid high-density maritime traffic. These are mistakes of basic seamanship that suggest inadequate training, or shifts that are too long and cause a loss of concentration and crew cohesion.
The Navy had already relieved the ship captains and even the commander of the Pacific Fleet. This accountability is a credit to the Navy and will be a lesson to other commanders. But it should also be a warning that Congress needs to allocate enough money to adequately train sailors so they can fulfill their missions. Collisions with civilian ships in peacetime are awful, but seamanship failures during wartime would be disastrous.
The Jamestown Post-Journal on the indictment of Paul Manafort.
Criminal charges against Paul Manafort and a business associate are not linked to President Donald Trump’s campaign last year, but they still should be of great concern.
Manafort was a top aide to Trump during part of the election campaign. But he was fired last August, quite possibly because Trump was upset about Manafort’s other activities.
A federal grand jury indicted Manafort and a former business associate, Rick Gates, last week. They are accused of a variety of offenses, including money laundering and acting as agents for a foreign government without registering as such.
The two reaped millions of dollars from their work for Ukraine and its former president. Manafort alone is accused of laundering more than $18 million in payments from the Ukrainian government.
It appears the two were hired to influence politics in Ukraine and in the United States. Officials of that government, locked in a sometimes violent confrontation with Russia, needed and still require all the friends they can get — or, apparently, buy — in the international community.
Among the most disturbing aspects of the charges is the appearance that Manafort and Gates put personal profit ahead of allegiance to the United States. They were hired guns, in effect.
So, regardless of Manafort’s onetime link to Trump, if the charges are proven, he and Gates should be punished as severely as the law allows.
The New York Times on the upcoming Italian elections and Silvio Berlusconi.
It is a sign of how deeply the 42-year-old former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi foundered in his bid to infuse fresh life into Italian politics that the 81-year-old, scandal-plagued, four-time former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi looks on track to succeed him as Italy’s political comeback kid. Nello Musumeci, the candidate representing a coalition of parties cobbled together by Mr. Berlusconi, won the most votes on Sunday in regional elections in Sicily, considered a bellwether for national elections. Italian voters head to the polls next spring to elect a new national government, but if Sicily is a preview of Italian politics to come, then Italy and the European Union are in for a rough ride.
Giancarlo Cancelleri, the populist Five Star Movement candidate, won 35 percent of the vote on Sunday, the most for any single party. But Mr. Musumeci beat him with 39 percent of the vote. A new electoral law, approved by Italy’s Parliament last month, benefits parties that form pre-election coalitions, which the Five Star Movement has ruled out. But cobbling together coalitions to win elections is not the same thing as delivering stable governance. Despite the coalition’s backing, Mr. Musumeci failed to secure an outright majority, and if his coalition fails to pull in more political allies to secure one, Sicily will face a hung government.
That is a fate economically struggling Italy, on the front lines of Europe’s migrant crisis, can ill afford next spring. And it would make it harder for President Emmanuel Macron of France and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, whose hand is weakened following German election results in September, to hold together an already shaky union.
With the center-left badly beaten, Mr. Berlusconi was quick to claim a “victory for moderate” voters against Five Star populists. But his coalition includes the anti-immigrant Northern League party and the right-wing Brothers of Italy party. In addition, Mr. Berlusconi — who is barred from holding office because of a 2013 fraud conviction — has made it clear that he is the real power behind the coalition.
Without effective political leadership, more Italians will opt out of the political process, either by staying away from the polls — as did most eligible voters in Sicily — or by embracing populist promises of radical change. But effective politicians have been in short supply.