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

The New York Post on a report on the state's growth that was illustrated with a photo from South Africa.

Feb. 21

How pathetic are New York's economic-development efforts? Well, state officials were just caught illustrating the programs' "success" with a photo of seven huge construction cranes ... in South Africa.

The Associated Press discovered the misleading picture in the Empire State Development's first annual report, released this month. Not only was the pic of a scene in Cape Town, it was from 2010, the year before Gov. Cuomo took office.

At a minimum, the glitch speaks volumes about the competence of the hacks running Cuomo's economic-development show.

Worse, it raises the suspicion that relevant photos would underwhelm: After all, several of the projects Cuomo's built now sit half- or even totally empty.

The report's words were plenty misleading, too. It bragged, for example, that New York's "economy has steadily expanded since 2010," citing unemployment that fell to below 5 percent in 2017, down from 9 percent in 2010.

Except that the state's joblessness rate often lags the nation's. It was 4.6 percent here in December and 4.7 percent in November, for example, compared to just 4.1 percent nationwide for both months.

And while the city's economy has been strong, western and northern New York are dying, with young people moving away (or giving up on looking for work) because jobs are so scarce.

The report boasts that Cuomo's Buffalo Billion is creating "an environment conducive to private investment and job growth in Western New York." But the truth is that the $1.5 billion spent on the program has arguably led to more corruption than jobs: As two New York Federal Reserve analysts noted last October, "job growth slowed to a crawl in Buffalo" in early 2016, and Rochester actually lost jobs.

Fact is, for all the billions in taxpayer dollars Cuomo spends on "development," New York's economy — particularly upstate — is severely underperforming.

For that, thank his high taxes, heavy regulation, fracking ban and energy policies that drive up costs for businesses and residents.

A fake photo is the least of it.



The Glens Falls Post-Star on young people calling for gun control.

Feb. 25

Maybe this time things will be different, but you have to count us as skeptical.

Our six board members met earlier this week and didn't make much progress. We agreed there is no place for an AR-15 in modern society, it is made to look like a military-style weapon, a designed people-killer with no redeeming function outside a war zone. We also acknowledged there are many other legal weapons just like it.

Over 45 minutes, we went from argument to counter-argument, from what the founders' intentions were in 1791 to what could reasonably be accomplished with vigorous debate.

We wondered why everyone was so afraid — especially around here — and why so many people feel they need to be armed.

We couldn't understand why firearm safety training is not mandatory before ever taking possession of a weapon.

It was as animated as this board has ever been as emotions ran high, but that's because the stakes are high.

Ultimately, we came back to those kids at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High.

Those kids gave us hope as never before that something might change.

We have no idea how you are supposed to react after witnessing a mass shooting; after hiding in a closet, hoping, praying the shooting stops. Then running for your life when it goes quiet while fighting back the terror and wondering why the world has gone insane.

How many of them looked at the bodies, we wondered?

How many saw the blood?

How do you go from a funeral one minute to a protest the next?

How do you stand before the world and unleash anger that most of the world finds refreshing and long overdue?

And do it with dignity.

When students went from office to office at the state capital in Tallahassee, they found the cowardice of their representatives.

Most of the representatives were conveniently absent when it came to meeting with the victims, hearing their arguments. We suspect they were hiding under their desks.

And consider this: The vote that failed in the Florida statehouse was not to "ban" assault weapons, but to conduct a debate.

To consider the possibilities.

To refuse even that is cowardice.

"I know I've been walking into office after office after office, and I've spoken to maybe three representatives, two of which already agreed with me," Marjory Stoneman Douglas student Ryan Dietsch told Politico. "I want to see those people who shot down that bill (banning assault weapons), who did not let it get past committee. I want to see those people. I'm not here for a fight, I'm not here to argue with you. I just want to see your face and know why."

We all do.

"We are, honestly at this point, begging them to do something, to save our lives, to save teachers' lives," student Olivia Feller told Politico.

That's where this board is. We're begging our representatives in Washington to do something, anything.

Within hours of the students' protests, the unimaginable happened. Information was being spread on the internet that some of the student activists were really actors.

Politics had found a new low.

On Thursday, Wayne LaPierre, the chief executive for the National Rifle Association, blamed the media. "They don't care about our schoolchildren," LaPierre said.

Later, the NRA released an advertisement that said we, the media, "love mass shootings."

The NRA also criticized law enforcement, gun-control advocates and the teenage survivors.

What sort of monster does such a thing after the deaths of 17 people?

We wonder if that is the place to start.

We should ask — no, that's not strong enough considering the tough talk from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas students — we should demand that every person running for elected office consider whether they want to have a relationship with an organization such as the NRA, including our own Rep. Elise Stefanik.

It's actually not a lot of money for anyone running for Congress, but it's not the money that gives the NRA its power, it is its ability to mount assaults on any politician who is not in its pocket.

The politicians fear the attack ads.

They fear a negative rating.

They fear even having the conversation.

That's what gives these children an advantage.

They are not afraid. They have nothing to lose. How do you attack 15- and 16-year-olds who have witnessed a horror, when they are making more sense than the entire U.S. Congress combined?

Let's go back to Olivia Feller and the question she wanted to ask legislative leaders:

"Which do you value more: guns or kids' lives?"

It's the question every National Rifle Association member should ask.

It's the question every member of Congress should ask.

We're asking you as well.



The Utica Observer-Dispatch on the 50th anniversary of "Mister Rogers Neighborhood."

Feb. 28

If ever we needed Mister Rogers, it's now.

And, happily, we'll get him. Well, sort of.

Fred Rogers, that affable TV personality whose love for children was certainly a reciprocal deal, died in 2003. Children's TV hasn't been the same since.

But this year is the 50th anniversary of this friendly neighbor's first TV appearance, and it's being celebrated with a PBS special next month, a new postage stamp, a feature-length documentary coming out this summer and plans for a TriStar Pictures production, "You Are My Friend." And who better than the versatile Tom Hanks to portray the beloved icon.

"Sometimes I think I wish we had a bat signal for Mister Rogers right now," said comedian Sarah Silverman, who has hung a portrait of Rogers on the set of her Hulu series "I Love You, America" for inspiration.

Rogers, an ordained Presbyterian minister, produced the pioneering TV program at a Pittsburgh PBS station in 1966. It went national two years later. Few can forget that opening scene where he made a gentle entrance into his TV home, removes his jacket and changes into a mom-made zip-up cardigan sweater — one now hangs in the Smithsonian Institution — before taking off his shoes and slipping into a pair of sneakers, all while singing the theme song, "It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood." Rogers composed it — and all the music on the show — himself.

The show was focused primarily on preschoolers. But, PBS always said, it was appropriate for all ages.

And it was.

"No one has come along like him," actor John Lithgow said in a recent interview with the Associated Press. "Everything is based on high stimulation. He really was exactly the opposite. He had such a sense of children's' developmental needs. And I think that's under assault these days."

Lithgow is right. Rogers' rapport with little ones was a very natural one. He was always Mister Rogers, never stepping out of character, and he always spoke directly to his audience, discussing various issues at the age-appropriate level. As Lithgow pointed out, he talked on the level of children — "not talking down to them, not talking up to them, just talking right to them."

That's especially important in today's world.

But it's not so simple anymore. Parents today often struggle with ways to explain what's happening in our broken world, and despite our best attempts to shield and protect little people some of the terrors we face, it's sometimes unavoidable. Kids not only say the darndest things, as the late Art Linkletter said, but they also hear the darndest things. And they ask the darndest things.

One can only surmise how Fred Rogers would address the tough issues and put them in pint-size context. But he would do it. There was no one like him.

On March 6, Michael Keaton will host a PBS special on Rogers, "It's You I Like," featuring Comedian Silverman, Lithgow and other celebrities like Whoopi Goldberg, Yo-Yo Ma, Grammy winner Esperanza Spalding, actor/producer Judd Apatow and others.

"It's You I Like" is the title of one of Rogers' songs:

It's you I like,

It's not the things you wear,

It's not the way you do your hair—

But it's you I like.

The way you are right now,

The way down deep inside you—

Not the things that hide you,

Not your toys--

They're just beside you.

But it's you I like—

Every part of you,

Your skin, your eyes, your feelings

Whether old or new.

I hope that you'll remember

Even when you're feeling blue

That it's you I like,

It's you yourself,

It's you, it's you I like.

The words are especially fitting today for kids.

And for us, too.



The Auburn Citizen on economic development awards.

Feb. 28

New York state's competitive Regional Economic Development Council program has doled out more than $5 billion in tax credits and cash since it was established in 2011. But the details about how some funding applications are chosen over others — and how recipients plan to spend the money — are all too often kept under wraps. That needs to stop.

An example of the glaring lack of transparency can be seen this year in a pending award for a project concerning Owasco Lake.

With much fanfare, the state announced in December that the central New York region was being awarded $86 million for 112 projects. One of those was more than $1 million that the Nature Conservancy said would be used "to protect Owasco Lake and clean drinking water in Central New York."

But what exactly is that money going to be used for? The state said the award would be used to purchase and restore up to six parcels in the Owasco Lake watershed to reduce sediment runoff into the lake. But the Nature Conservancy said in January that its application was much more broad than that, and that it had not yet identified any particular properties to focus on.

So, what exactly is in the Nature Conservancy's REDC application? The state Department of Environmental Conservation denied The Citizen's formal request to see the paperwork, arguing that disclosure "would impair present and imminent contract awards."

Our position is that somewhere between announcing the grant awards and the money being spent, the public should be allowed to know the details. And that time is now.

If an application were to expose proprietary information about a private business, then a case could be make for redacting some of the information available to public view. In this case, we're talking about a non-profit group that works to help the environment. And the fact that this money is reportedly going to be used to improve the health of Owasco Lake makes it of utmost importance for people who live in this area.

If it takes legislation to make this process more transparent, then so be it. The Legislature should make it a point to get that done this spring. This grant program has doled out billions of dollars for projects across the state, and the public has every right to know how their money is being spent.



The Jamestown Post-Journal on putting officers in schools.

Feb. 27

School resource officers can play a vital role in a school district in addition to providing an additional layer of safety for school children and staff.

Knowing this, it's difficult to dismiss a suggestion by the New York State Sheriffs' Association to provide at least one state-funded school resource officer in every grade and high school throughout the state. The association's proposal, though, needs some work before it can be seriously considered.

Assuming a $50,000 salary, it would cost roughly $237 million to place one state-funded school resource officer in every one of the state's 4,750 public schools. Add the state's 2,000 private schools means adding another $100 million to the program. That's a huge financial commitment that the state may not be able to make — which is part of the reason the school resource officer program bloomed years ago before fizzling out. As dollars got tight, the funding agencies pulled out and left the financial burden on local school districts to pay. Few local districts can justify a school resource officer over funding a teaching position.

There is a way to help pay for the positions, but we're not sure if there is political will to do so. Remember, we know that the Panama and Clymer school districts are leaving $1.4 million in savings on the table by not merging. That $1.4 million would pay for a school security officer in nearly every school building in Chautauqua County. We're sure there are similar cost savings possible throughout the state, but again doubt the political will to make such a decision.

Let's also not pretend that simply having a deputy on school grounds is a panacea. There was a deputy on the grounds of Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School, and 17 children are still dead. If this proposal from the state Sheriff's Association moves forward, the deputies would need to prove they are capable of the type of work necessary. School resource officer positions can't just be for show — the deputies would have to be willing and able to stop an active shooter situation.

Providing police in schools isn't a bad idea, but the state Sheriff's Association's proposal needs a lot more thought before it should be considered for state funding.