Editorials from around New York

May 8, 2019

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

The Daily News on what’s working and what’s not in Trump’s economy

May 4

In this 28th month governed by a man of low character who disrespects the rule of law while lying, hiding conflicts of interest, promoting his private business, dividing the country and insulting a long list of the nation’s best values, we must acknowledge: For 27 months, the American job creation engine has performed well.

This solid economy is Donald Trump’s economy.

Trump, who as a private citizen cast cheap doubt on Labor Department numbers that told the story of an economy healing under Barack Obama, can now proudly point to an official unemployment rate of 3.6%, the lowest level since December 1969.

With joblessness so low, with trade policies so counterproductive, it is a real achievement that the economy continues to add new jobs: In April, businesses overall added 263,000 new positions.

Have we, under Trump’s tax and trade policies, suddenly entered a whole new economic world? Hardly. Wages for the average American are still growing too slowly. And looking at mid-April-to-mid-April job production totals, 2018-19′s healthy job-creation total is below those of 2014-15 and 2016-17, when Trump considered the economy in ruins.

Also notable is that Trump’s nostalgic promise to put people back to work building things has not borne fruit because, even as manufacturing thrives, automation means fewer domestic workers are required.

The economy’s biggest hole remains a lack of quality job opportunities for less educated would-be workers who have historically filled these roles, many of whom make up the 27% of employable people still on the sidelines of the labor market.

A major push to rebuild American infrastructure would help them, while fixing transit, energy, water and other systems in urgent need of repair.

Trump and Democrats must find a way forward.

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


The Auburn Citizen on early voting access in New York

May 5

In a perfect representative democracy, access to the ballot for legally registered voters would be equal. The time and effort required to get to a polling place wouldn’t vary, helping to ensure that results weren’t based on any factors besides which candidates the electorate supports.

Of course, there’s no way to achieve absolute perfection in this endeavor. Voters in rural areas, for example, will likely have to travel farther than their counterparts in cities. In contrast, it’s possible that longer lines will form at urban polling places where the population is more concentrated.

But the goal for any election should be to minimize those disparities.

The challenge of meeting that goal is emerging this year in New York state with the establishment of early voting. Last week, counties came out with their preliminary early voting plans for the fall general election, and both Cayuga and Onondaga counties are staring at the potential for a troubling gap in access to early voting polling places.

As of now, elections commissioners in Cayuga County are hoping to establish three early voting sites, one in Auburn and one each toward the southern and northern ends of the geographically long county. A key to that plan, it seems, is securing state funding to get those two rural sites set up and to operate them when early voting takes place. The law only requires Cayuga County to have one site, based on the number of registered voters.

Onondaga County has put out an initial plan to have six early voting sites spread around the county, but officials there are hoping to add at least two more.

As we look at these two plans, the potential for a geographic disadvantage is glaring. Early voting in Cayuga County with just an Auburn polling place would require residents at the southern and northern ends — towns such as Venice, Summerhill, Sterling and Victory — to make roughly hour-and-half round-trip drives should they seek to vote early. In Onondaga County, the six-site plan is leaving a large hole in the southwest section of the county, putting some voters in Skaneateles, Spafford and Marcellus (and Elbridge to a lesser extent) in a similar situation for getting to the closest polling place.

This may not be a big problem for town races. But for countywide contests (and in future years, statewide and presidential races), this would lead to an uneven playing field. Remember, the goal of early voting is to increase ballot access, but that effort would be undermined if that access expansion is geared toward certain voters.

The good news for voters in both Cayuga and Onondaga counties is that elections commissioners appear to see the importance of maximizing early voting polling places, but state money could be the key. To that end, we urge our state and local elected officials to make sure that Albany comes through with the financial support.

Online: https://bit.ly/2JqO093


The Utica Observer-Dispatch on cleaning up the Rome Cable brownfield

May 3

It’s been a long time coming, but the planned demolition of the former Rome Cable Corporation complex 4 and site remediation will usher in a new era for Rome, ridding the city of a hazardous brownfield that has threatened public health for many years and opening up a significant parcel of land for redevelopment.

It was announced recently that the state Department of Environmental Conservation will pay for the work that is scheduled to begin this year.

The agency said it put the site on the Registry of Inactive Hazardous Waste Disposal Sites, listed as a class 2 site that presents a significant threat to public health and/or the environment because previous investigation at the site identified asbestos-containing debris. The site also includes polychlorinated biphenyls, semi-volatile organic compounds and the volatile organic compound in solid above applicable standards, criteria and guidance, according to the DEC.

The state’s decision to pay for the remediation is a plus for the city not only because it will improve the environment, but it will also allow the city to use money from a $1 million Restore NY grant it received last year to help develop the site for re-use. Once the 40-acre site is cleaned up, Rome Mayor Jacqueline Izzo said the city, along with the Oneida County Industrial Development Agency and Mohawk Valley EDGE, have been working to develop a 20-acre business park on the site.

The park - at Henry and Jay streets in South Rome - would be located next to the Cold Point Corp. project that is being funded as a part of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative. Cold Point is being relocated from its current site in the West Rome Industrial Park to a portion of the former Rome Cable facility that has already been remediated. According to its web site, Cold Point specializes in the design and manufacture of water source heat pumps, packaged terminal air conditioners (PTAC), condensing units, as well as packaged heat pumps and air conditioners for direct replacement, renovation, and new construction applications.

As Mayor Izzo says, the fact that the state is taking over the project is positive for the city.

“We’re very grateful that they are taking the entire project,” she said. “This has probably been 15-plus years of trying to get this site remediated and demoed. Then we have a million dollar restore grant, which we’re going to be able to use to do site prep work so that we can ready the site for industrial clients.”

The Rome Cable Corporation, for years a well-known name in the wire industry, made and spun wire here from the 1920s until it went bankrupt in 2003. Certain practices led to contamination, including the use of chlorinated solvents to clean machines and wire, of petroleum to heat the on-site furnaces and as lubricants, and of asbestos containing material as pipe insulation, according to the DEC. In 2010, a 240,000-square-foot building on the site was razed except for its western tower, and part of the site was cleaned.

The completion of the project will be a major step in the reclaiming of land and redevelopment for downtown Rome.

Online: https://bit.ly/2PW3DXp


The Adirondack Daily Enterprise on the Land and Water Conservation Fund

May 4

Among the most important federal programs very few people have heard of is the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Ensuring it has enough money is the proverbial no-brainer.

Doing so will require action by Congress and approval by President Donald Trump, however. Lawmakers and the president should be urged — not just encouraged — to make it happen.

As we have explained previously, the LWCF doesn’t come from taxes; rather, it uses some of the royalty revenue that flows to the government from offshore oil and gas drilling — although it almost never receives as much as authorized under the law.

As its name suggests, it is important in preserving significant lands and bodies of water throughout our country. More than 2.37 million acres have been protected by the LWCF.

On top of that, money from the LWCF goes to many local recreational needs, ranging from parks to public swimming pools. Many local government entities in our area have benefited. Here in the Tri-Lakes area, it has been used to upgrade Whiteface Mountain and Mount Van Hoevenberg ahead of the 1980 Olympics, and also to build campgrounds, develop the Visitor Interpretive Centers and establish playgrounds, beaches, ice rinks and ski trails.

Every county in the United States has received LWCF money, through more than 40,000 grants since 1965.

Yet despite the LWCF’s critical importance, there was some doubt earlier this year that it would continue to exist. Thankfully, that doubt was erased in a bill that Congress passed in February and the president signed into law in March.

But now the question of ensuring the program is funded has come up. A bill sponsored by U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, and Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, would resolve that. The measure, S.1081, would guarantee the agency is authorized for $900 million annually.

A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers are co-sponsoring this bill. The Senate and the House of Representatives should approve it as soon as possible, then sent to the president for his signature.

Online: https://bit.ly/2Jq68zX


The New York Times on media suppression and terrorization of the Rohingya in Myanmar

May 7

The amnesty granted to two Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists imprisoned in Myanmar was good news and a tribute both to their courage and to the many journalists, national leaders and human rights organizations that had campaigned for their freedom. But the release of U Wa Lone, 33, and U Kyaw Soe Oo, 29, on Tuesday was hardly an admission by the government that their arrest and trial were a gross injustice and an assault on the press to begin with.

The two Reuters reporters were arrested in December 2017 after uncovering details of the gruesome murder of 10 Rohingya men and boys, followed by the burning and looting of their village by security forces, as part of a widespread military crackdown on the Rohingya, a Muslim minority, that drove more than 700,000 to flee across the border to refugee camps in Bangladesh. The evidence the reporters gathered, subsequently published by Reuters, was indisputable and acknowledged even by Myanmar authorities.

That did not prevent the military-controlled government, however, from arresting the pair on obviously concocted evidence, subjecting them to brutal intimidation and interrogations and charging them under the colonial-era Official Secrets Act. The reporters were both sentenced to seven years in prison, and the penalty was confirmed by the Supreme Court only last month.

The government has insisted that its campaign against the Rohingya was precipitated by attacks on Myanmar security forces by Rohingya militants. But the 15-month crackdown went far beyond any police operation and turned into a campaign of killings, rapes and torching of villages against a minority long held in disdain by the Buddhist majority as aliens who have no place in Myanmar. A United Nations fact-finding mission declared in August 2018 that the atrocities “undoubtedly amount to the gravest crimes under international law.”

Reporting on the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya remains effectively off-limits, and even the word “Rohingya” is banned. According to the independent online newspaper The Irrawaddy, a number of journalists have been prosecuted under various criminal laws, such as the Unlawful Association Act, the State Defamation Act and, like in the case of the Reuters reporters, the Official Secrets Act. The Irrawaddy itself was recently sued by the military under the Telecommunications Act, which criminalizes online defamation, for its coverage of fighting between government troops and an insurgent group known as the Arakan Army. According to the World Press Freedom Index, compiled by the organization Reporters Without Borders, Myanmar was in 138th place out of 180 countries.

Mr. Wa Lone and Mr. Kyaw Soe Oo were released without explanation in an amnesty granted by President U Win Myint to 6,520 prisoners, so there was no way to gauge whether the gesture augured a change in government policies toward the Rohingya or the news media. More likely, the government simply responded to international pressure. Officials of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, where the Rohingya are from, are meeting in Myanmar this week to discuss progress toward protecting and reintegrating the Rohingya minority.

Sadly, any discussion of the state of affairs in Myanmar invariably comes to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace laureate whose 15 years under house arrest once made her an icon of human rights and democracy. When she was released in 2010 and came to head the civilian government, hopes rose that she would bring her ideals with her. Instead, justifying the military’s actions has become the hallmark of her leadership. According to Human Rights Watch, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi was unhelpful and evasive over the plight of the Reuters reporters and has echoed the military line on the Rohingya.

Still, it just may be that the release of the two reporters does herald a new approach by the government. Until that is somehow confirmed, however, the pressure on Myanmar — and on Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi — to stop the persecution of the Rohingya and the assault on the press must not let up.

Online: https://nyti.ms/2LwWcaE