Editorials from around New York
Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New York’s newspapers:
The Journal News on Aaron Troddler’s sentencing for corruption
During Aaron Troodler’s sentencing on federal fraud and corruption charges, a federal judge called him a “mensch.” But Troodler is also a former public official who stood by, for years, as his boss, Christopher St. Lawrence, hoodwinked potential investors in the Town of Ramapo and misled its citizens. Troodler only wised up in the face of his own federal trail, admitting guilt and testifying against his former boss.
On Jan. 2, the former assistant town attorney and executive director of the Ramapo Local Development Corporation was sentenced to zero time in prison and a $20,000 fine. He had admitted to securities fraud and other federal charges.
Judge Cathy Seibel had received 74 letters that spoke well of Troodler. “Mr. Troodler is a mensch who is eager to please and wants to help others,” Seibel said. “Unfortunately, that included Mr. St. Lawrence.” Even one longtime critic of St. Lawrence wrote in support of Troodler and said after the sentencing he was satisfied with the outcome.
It’s a complex message for future municipal whistleblowers who may see something but hesitate to say something because they could lose their job, hurt a friend, become embroiled in a litigious mess.
Troodler, however, has paid a heavy price: He lost his license to practice law, as a convicted felon. He spoke of his embarrassment and the damage he caused his family. He also holds the dubious record as the first person convicted of federal securities fraud in connection to municipal bonds. Thanks in part to his testimony, though, he soon had company: St. Lawrence was convicted on May 19 of 20 counts of securities fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy. In December, he was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in federal prison and fined $75,000.
Troodler’s testimony was valuable to the prosecution of St. Lawrence. Imagine, though, if Troodler had acted before the FBI raided Town Hall in 2013, before the feds charged him. What if he had refused to ignore St. Lawrence’s Three Card Monte-esque fiscal games, the faked revenue and the fudged financial information employed to polish town and RLDC fiscal records?
A mensch is a person of integrity and character. Whether or not Troodler qualifies in his private life, we should not mistake him for a responsible public servant, let alone a crusader of justice. In many ways, Troodler both suffered from and was rewarded for being a wet noodle.
The Post-Journal on Twitter addressing ‘hateful’ content
Twitter announced last week it has begun to enforce new rules meant to reduce abusive, hateful, violent content. Of course, the intent is good; and Twitter has every right to host whatever content it chooses. It is free to encourage or suppress whatever speech its decision-makers deem meet or do not meet its standards.
However, Twitter should exercise caution, now that it has moved into the dangerous territory of enforcing new rules that appear to be a reaction to one specific message and the few groups spreading it. In this case, the rules are being used to shut down the accounts of groups such as the far-right Britain First, which posts inflammatory (and allegedly falsified) videos meant to cast Muslims in the worst possible light. There is little doubt their posts are meant to stir up hate.
Few would claim Britain First’s messages are anything but garbage, which the vast majority of civilized society rightly rejects. That does not mean they do not have a right — under the U.S. Constitution, at least — to express those sentiments that do not specifically encourage violence.
Twitter is a private business, of course. Its owners are free to encourage or limit whatever types of speech they desire. Still, as something approaching a common carrier, Twitter should bend over backward to ensure the standards it uses to ban Britain First and other similar accounts are applied uniformly to all its accounts.
It is interesting, and not a little distressing, that many of the groups applauding Twitter’s initiative become livid when anyone suggests speech from their favored causes may cause violence or amount to hate speech. Inflammatory speech that can trigger race riots comes to mind.
Both situations bring to light the difficulties of maintaining the right to free expression, amid the temptation to crack down on — even punish — speech some find disagreeable or flat out wrong. Twitter, as a non-government corporation, has the most leeway to make such decisions; but also a great deal of responsibility to lead by example. Whether it be banning controversial social media accounts or banning uncomfortable (for some) words, the slippery slope of muzzling speech is one down which we must not slide.
The (Dunkirk) Evening Observer on New York state health care
The most expensive cost per month to most working New Yorkers isn’t their home or even their groceries — it’s ever-escalating health care premiums.
A recent WalletHub study ranked New York 46th in the country for cost of health care, though the state ranked ninth in access to care and 25th in patient outcomes. While the national debate over health care has been boisterous and partisan, it would seem everyone can agree that as much as possible should be done to lower health care costs for everyone. Spending less on health care would mean more money pumped into local economies.
New York could help consumers by removing the taxes, surcharges and assessments the state imposes on employers and those who purchase health insurance. Unshackle Upstate, in its 2018 legislative priorities, mentions the taxes that are “hidden” in health insurance premiums. Notably, in 2016, the “covered lives” assessment ($1.1 billion), the premium tax on commercial health insurance ($353 million), the New York State Department of Financial Services section 206 assessments ($149 million) and the HCRA surcharge ($3.1 billion), combine to cost consumers $4.7 billion. The taxes can add as much as 10 percent to the premium costs paid by an employer and passed on to employees.
There is no question that the federal government — both Republicans and Democrats — is part of this problem. But New York’s elected officials do have a role to play in lessening the cost of health care for New York residents. They should do so.
The Adirondack Daily Enterprise on sexual harassment in the entertainment industry
A few weeks ago, the entertainment industry formed a special panel, the Commission on Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace. If you have to ask why, you have not been paying attention during the past six months or so.
Chaired by law professor Anita Hill, the organization’s goal is to stamp out sexual harassment and assault in the movie, music and television industries.
“It’s time to end the culture of silence,” Hill said of the commission’s agenda.
Perhaps the panel can come up with some concrete ideas to prevent harassment and assault in the industry. If so, we wish it much success. But the problem is not complicated.
Movie producer Harvey Weinstein could serve as poster predator for the commission. For years, he got away with pressuring women for sexual favors and, on occasion, using force to get what he wanted.
How did he get away with it? He was extremely powerful in the entertainment industry. No one wanted to cross him.
The same can be said for sexual misbehavior elsewhere. Until and unless standing up for what is right is more important than toadying to the powerful, outrageous misbehavior will continue.
Let us hope 2018 takes the story into the second phase it needs to enter — holding accountable those who closed their eyes to misdeeds by powerful politicians, entertainers, media leaders, academics and others.
Among the most disturbing situations that have come to light is that involving Dr. Larry Nassar, who worked with members of the U.S. women’s Olympic gymnastics team for years. He sexually abused some. Earlier this month, he was sentenced to 60 years in prison for possessing child pornography.
One of his victims, Olympic gold medalist McKayla Maroney, is suing USA Gymnastics. She alleges that in 2016, she and the organization settled a claim she had filed for sexual abuse by Nassar. She was required to keep quiet about it, Maroney says.
Why did USA Gymnastics take such action, which smells like a cover-up? The new year is a good time to ask that question — and the same of many others who shielded predators.
The (Gloversville) Leader-Herald on the U.S. relying on other countries
It is about time U.S. officials began worrying about reliance on other countries for critical resources. For too long, as evidenced by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s State Department approving acquisition of a major amount of U.S. uranium by Russia, there has been a “don’t worry, be happy” attitude.
President Donald Trump recently ordered that the government take steps to boost domestic production of some critical minerals, such as platinum and manganese.
Noting we rely on China and Russia for supplies of some strategically important minerals, Trump said that is a national security risk.
Of course it is.
Now, if someone in Washington would just come to the same realization regarding certain manufactured products — steel and aluminum come to mind — Americans might have reason to feel more secure.