Editorials from around New York
By The Associated Press
Jul. 26, 2017
Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New York's newspapers:
The Poughkeepsie Journal on New York public authorities
Ah, New York public authorities, bless their little souls and bloated budgets, they keep finding ways to sock it to taxpayers, even when state officials try to distract people by proclaiming they have a handle on this monstrosity of a problem. The latest state report reveals the cold, hard truth. Overall, public authorities in New York have increased operating expenses by 28 percent since 2012 — and their debt has swelled as well.
This, remember, comes years after state leaders took a victory lap for erasing more than 120 local authorities from the books. But, as the Poughkeepsie Journal pointed out at the time, that move was largely ceremonial and symbolic. Most of the authorities taken out of commission were dormant and had outlived their purposes. The list included the City of Poughkeepsie Parking Authority, and the City of Beacon Community Development Agency and Beacon Industrial Development Agency.
The state failed at the time — and continues to fail — to do the heavy lifting.
That's why there are still literally hundreds of authorities on the books and, making matters worse, as the state comptroller noted in an earlier report, they "often operate under the radar and with their own set of rules."
Some of the spending, of course, is completely justified, such as repairs that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and others had to make in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and other natural disasters that destroyed or damaged operations.
But large salaries and generous benefits, including at the MTA, saddle taxpayers with exorbitant costs.
Over the years, various state leaders have used all sorts of tricks to shift money from these shadowy authorities to other causes. This unscrupulous trend continued last year when the MTA sent a nearly $5 million check to bolster three beleaguered authority-operated ski areas that took financial hits due to warm winter weather. The Cuomo administration chalked it up to an accounting measure, but it's one that points to both a glaring lack of oversight and the troubling free rein these authorities have to make decisions without legislative approval.
The consequences have been dire: The state's public authorities have amassed hundreds of billions of dollars of debt. State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli is right when he says the state is relying too heavily on public authorities for borrowing and bypassing a constitutional provision restricting state debt without voter approval and legislative oversight.
Without those safeguards, without a reasonable checks-and-balances system, without transparency, and without a meaningful reduction plan, waste and abuse are bound to continue.
The Times Union on the acting assistant secretary for civil rights in the U.S. Department of Education
How can campus sexual assault victims have confidence in the system when an official responsible for enforcing anti-discrimination rules suggests most of the time women are to blame — or just make it up.
Any college-age man who thinks it's OK to force himself on women must be heartened to have someone like Candice Jackson in his corner.
Ms. Jackson espouses a view that we had thought was in large part left behind in the last century — that allegations of sexual assault on campus are more often than not either the result of women drinking too much, or made up.
That misogynist view might be expected from a throwback talk radio host, but Ms. Jackson is the acting assistant secretary for civil rights in the U.S. Department of Education. That puts her in charge of enforcing Title IX, the law governing gender discrimination in educational programs and activities receiving federal aid.
Ms. Jackson has understandably drawn concern from figures like U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., for comments to The New York Times earlier this month. She opined that 90 percent of campus sexual assault allegations "fall into the category of, 'We were both drunk, we broke up, and six months later I found myself under a Title IX investigation because she just decided that our last sleeping together was not quite right.' "
In other words: Most of the time it's the woman's fault, or her imagination.
Such comments stand in marked contrast to the reality many campuses have confronted in recent years as they have dealt with sexual assault. States like New York have imposed rules to encourage victims to come forward and to ensure claims aren't swept under the rug to protect a school's image. Policies have been drafted to ensure due process for the accused — as this page had urged. New York and some other states have also enacted "yes means yes" laws that require clear consent among sexual partners in campus settings.
Critics point to a relatively few high profile episodes of false claims of campus rape to suggest the issue is overblown. Ms. Jackson says her comments reflected accounts she had heard and read of young men who were unfairly accused.
Ms. Jackson has apologized for her "flippant" statement, saying she and the department believe "sexual harassment and sexual assault must be taken seriously."
Apologies are all well and good, but this one doesn't cut it. What Ms. Jackson wants to pass off as a flip comment was all too revealing of her mindset. It's an underlying hostility toward her office's mission.
We're seeing this all over this administration, whether it's Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' hostility to public education, Housing Secretary Ben Carson's hostility to safety net programs, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's hostility to national monuments, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt's hostility to environmental regulation, or President Donald Trump's press office's hostility to facts.
Rather than proffering an apology, Ms. Jackson should tender her resignation from a post for which she is so obviously unsuited.
The Wall Street Journal on Trump's criticism of Attorney General Jeff Sessions
Donald Trump won't let even success intrude on his presidential ego, so naturally he couldn't let the Senate's health care victory stand as the story of Tuesday. Instead he continued to demean Jeff Sessions, and in the process he is harming himself, alienating allies, and crossing dangerous legal and political lines.
For a week President Trump has waged an unseemly campaign against his own Attorney General, telling the New York Times he wished he'd never hired him, unleashing a tweet storm that has accused Mr. Sessions of being "beleaguered" and "weak."
Mr. Trump is clearly frustrated that the Russia collusion story is engulfing his own family. But that frustration has now taken a darker turn. This humiliation campaign is clearly aimed at forcing a Sessions resignation. Any Cabinet appointee serves at a President's pleasure, but the deeply troubling aspect of this exercise is Mr. Trump's hardly veiled intention: the commencement of a criminal prosecution of Hillary Clinton by the Department of Justice and the firing of special prosecutor Robert Mueller.
On Tuesday morning Mr. Trump tweeted that Mr. Sessions "has taken a very weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes." This might play well with the red-meat crowd in Mr. Trump's Twitterverse, but Sen. Lindsey Graham was explicit and correct in describing the legal line Mr. Trump had crossed.
"Prosecutorial decisions should be based on applying facts to the law without hint of political motivation," Sen. Graham said. "To do otherwise is to run away from the long-standing American tradition of separating the law from politics regardless of party." Republican Sen. Thom Tillis also came to Mr. Sessions' defense, citing his "unwavering commitment to the rule of law," and Sen. Richard Shelby called him "a man of integrity."
We will put the problem more bluntly. Mr. Trump's suggestion that his Attorney General prosecute his defeated opponent is the kind of crude political retribution one expects in Erdogan's Turkey or Duterte's Philippines.
Mr. Sessions had no way of knowing when he accepted the AG job that the Russia probe would become the firestorm it has, or that his belated memory of brief, public meetings with the Russian ambassador in 2016 would require his recusal from supervising the probe. He was right to step back once the facts were out, not the least to shelter the Trump Administration from any suspicion of a politicized investigation.
If Mr. Trump wants someone to blame for the existence of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, he can pick up a mirror. That open-ended probe is the direct result of Mr. Trump's decision to fire FBI Director James Comey months into his Russia investigation and then tweet that Mr. Comey should hope there are no Oval Office tapes of their meeting. That threat forced Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to appoint a special counsel.
As a candidate, Mr. Trump thought he could say anything and get away with it, and most often he did. A sitting President is not a one-man show. He needs allies in politics and allies to govern. Mr. Trump's treatment of Jeff Sessions makes clear that he will desert both at peril to his Presidency.
No matter how powerful the office of the Presidency, it needs department leaders to execute policy. If by firing or forcing out Jeff Sessions Mr. Trump makes clear that his highest priority is executing personal political desires or whims, he will invite resignations from his first-rate Cabinet and only political hacks will stand in to replace them. And forget about Senate confirmation of his next AG.
Even on the day that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was scraping together enough Republican votes to avoid a humiliating defeat for the President on health care, Mr. Trump was causing Senators to publicly align themselves with Mr. Sessions. Past some point of political erosion, Mr. Trump's legislative agenda will become impossible to accomplish. Mr. Trump prides himself as a man above political convention, but there are some conventions he can't ignore without destroying his Presidency.
The Auburn Citizen on the possibility of the Finger Lakes region becoming a national heritage area
The Finger Lakes region could become a national heritage area, and we urge Democrats and Republicans alike to get involved in making it happen.
Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, with the backing of Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, of Corning, is trying to move a bill that would require the National Park Service to study the idea. Gillibrand said the classification would help get the attention of tourists from far and wide, leading to more visitors — and more business — in the region.
The Finger Lakes region study would focus on 14 counties, so it would be helpful for the idea to have support from a wide-ranging number of federal representatives.
The more that can be done to promote Finger Lakes as a region, the better. Too often marketing efforts in the region are scattered and territorial, with each county doing their own thing. An effort like this could improve cooperation and boost visibility to the whole region.
There can sometimes be resistance by both Democrats and Republicans to jump in with support for legislation proposed by the other party, but there is no reason for this to be a partisan issue. Having a federal role in promoting the area and conserving its resources would benefit people across the state.
At very least, it seems like a no-brainer to get this bill, which simply calls for a feasibility study, passed to see what the potential could be.
Gillibrand still needs help in the Senate to kick the bill into gear, and the bill will also need the support of GOP members in congress, including our own U.S. Rep. John Katko, to make it a success.
The Rome Sentinel on rudeness while driving
People aren't signaling. They're not yielding. They're not stopping for yellow lights, or, sometimes, even red. They're halting traffic behind them in order to turn around because they missed a turn. They're stopping for no reasons. They seem to have no consideration at all sometimes.
And have you noticed how many motorists of all ages are looking down and surfing on their smartphones, which, by the way, is quite illegal?
It's likely happening all over the nation, but a recent survey is particularly harsh on New York drivers. In a recent national survey conducted by Kars4Kids, a car donation program based out of New Jersey, reports New York drivers came in as most rude — earning a grade of "F'' are held in low esteem by others.
As part of its campaign for polite driving, called "Drive Human," the charity conducted a national survey to assess the state of courteous driving across the country. The most courteous drivers, according to Kars4Kids, are found in Idaho and New Mexico.
The No. 1 rule of the road today seems to be: Don't inconvenience yourself; inconvenience the other guy.
Besides all the human factors that cause bad driving, there are all the doodads and distractions, from eating on the run to smoking to putting on makeup to, of course, phones and other electronic devices.
It's not just manners that are going out the car window. It's a lot of basic sense, too. Better driving habits are needed.