Albany Times Union. May 4, 2021.

Editorial: It’s time, Cambridge


A Washington County school district is debating whether to retire the Indians name and mascot.


The Cambridge Central School District must show Native Americans more respect.

The contours of a debate in Washington County will be familiar to most.

On one side is a group pushing to retire the Indians name and mascot used by the Cambridge Central School District. The name, they say, is not just inappropriate but offensive.

On the other side is a group defending what it sees as tradition in a community where a depiction of a Native American man is part of the district’s logo and ubiquitous on school grounds. The name, some say, is about honoring a people and a culture.

As Pete DeMola reported Monday for the Times Union, the emotional debate has become vitriolic as it plays out on social media, so much so that the district has decided to call in a conflict-resolution mediator. That’s unfortunate, though predictable.

Change is difficult even when it doesn’t involve something as near and dear to a community as the local school and its teams, when it doesn’t involve fond memories of decades past and links among generations.

But make no mistake: It is time for Cambridge schools to change. It is simply not acceptable to use Native Americans as mascots. It hasn’t been for a long time.

That’s true on the professional level, where the football team in Washington has ditched the Redskins moniker and the Cleveland Indians plan a name change. And it is especially true for a school district, where education is supposed to be the primary goal.

Native Americans are real people, not props or abstractions. Their imagery is not for a school district composed almost entirely of non-Native residents to use or caricature. Doing so diminishes and insults a culture, no matter the intent. It is a display of arrogance, not honor.

There is no comparison, then, to ethnically based mascots of self-identity and pride, such as the Fighting Irish of the University of Notre Dame. Such names are elevated from within, not chosen — or stolen — from without.

And please don’t describe the push for change as an example of modern-day cancel culture.

For one thing, it has been 20 years since the state education commissioner, citing the inappropriate message sent to children, asked school districts to end the use of Native American mascots and team names. There is nothing new about this debate.

And if there is any group whose culture has been canceled, it is Native Americans — their tribes decimated first by diseases brought by Europeans, then by genocidal policies of removal and extermination.

That’s the ugly history behind the use of Indian-themed names and mascots, which were once common but are becoming less so as Americans grow more tolerant of diversity, increasingly respectful of cultural differences and more willing to look honestly at the country’s shameful treatment of Native Americans — and to heed the pain this appropriation causes them.

That’s called progress. The Cambridge Central School District should embrace it.


Advance Media New York. May 2, 2021.

Editorial: We’re proud of local reporting that gets results

If you think the editorial board is more frequently tooting the horn for local journalism, you’re not wrong. We are making the case for the value of our work to subscribers and the community. We also are standing up for the role played by a free and independent press in a democracy, in the face of growing hostility to it.

Perhaps no one embodies that hostility better than Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The governor hadn’t met reporters in person for months, claiming Covid-19 prevented it even as he conducted large public events with supporters. As sexual harassment allegations mounted, and the Albany press corps broke story after story about the administration’s cover-up of nursing home deaths due to Covid, Cuomo faced unrelenting pressure from the media to answer questions in person from journalists not handpicked by his staff. Before we could pile on, the governor held a news conference Monday in Syracuse. He could not avoid addressing the various scandals that beset him. With great power comes great scrutiny.

We’ve been arguing for months for the action taken last week by the state Legislature, and later Cuomo, to roll back arbitrary Covid-19 rules setting a curfew at bars and restaurants, requiring that patrons order food with their drinks and putting unenforceable limits on socializing at weddings and other events. The Legislature also repealed an executive order exempting high-level state government “volunteers” from ethics rules and a lobbying ban — an action aimed at Larry Schwartz, Cuomo’s powerful vaccine czar. Schwartz resigned. It’s about time lawmakers reined in the governor’s emergency powers. We urge Cuomo to put Covid decision-making into the hands of local authorities; they have the best handle on local public health conditions.

We’re also proud of the work of our sports and news staffs to unravel the mystery behind the suspension of Syracuse University lacrosse star Chase Scanlan. If the university had its way, the reason for team discipline against Scanlan would never have come to light. Our reporting connected it to a domestic violence call to police. The district attorney has opened an investigation into the incident and campus police’s handling of it. We’re also grateful to the five captains of the lacrosse team who kept the pressure on by refusing to practice with Scanlan. As sports commentator Brent Axe remarked Friday, these young adults are schooling the athletic department, university administration and Coach John Desko about the seriousness of the allegation.

Then there is our investigation of the Syracuse Police Department’s practice of paying police officers to stay home during the heat of the Covid-19 pandemic. City officials would not estimate the cost so staff writer Chris Libonati did the math, putting the cost to taxpayers at more than $200,000. Common councilors called for an official audit. Last week, City Auditor Nader Maroun confirmed our findings, only it was even worse — the cost was nearly $300,000. Maroun also found the department paid other officers overtime to fill shifts that could have been filled by officers paid to stay home. The auditor could not determine the cost of OT because of antiquated record-keeping. Chief Kenton Buckner disagreed with some of the auditor’s criticisms, saying he was “flying in the dark” about Covid-19. Mayor Ben Walsh now says the practice should have been handled differently. That’s an understatement. While we don’t expect another crisis of Covid-19 proportions, safeguards should be put in place to prevent such wasteful policies in the future.

Finally, Onondaga County sheriff’s deputies could have body-worn cameras by the end of May — just weeks after staff writer Samantha House wondered aloud why the county’s second-largest police force didn’t have them. Sheriff Eugene Conway’s excuse for not buying them melted away when — nine hours after the story was published — County Executive Ryan McMahon found the money. The result will be protection for law enforcement and members of the public when their interactions go awry.

This is local journalism in action. We’re grateful that our subscribers make this kind of work possible.


Jamestown Post-Journal. May 3, 2021.

Editorial: Common-Sense Legislation Should Be Passed In A Timely Manner

What, exactly, took legislative Democrats so long to decide the time was right to repeal an executive order requiring diners to purchase food if they were having an alcoholic beverage?

Democrats spoke eloquently Wednesday about the importance of checks and balances and respecting businesses and New Yorkers. Sen. John Mannion, D-Onondaga County, said the repeal was about rescinding arbitrary and burdensome executive orders and foundational constitutional principles. Assemblyman Billy Jones, D-Plattsburgh, went so far as to call the rule nonsensical.

Those issues didn’t change from March 10 to April 28. The food service executive order was just as nonsensical, arbitrary and burdensome in March as it was in late April. It’s good Democrats finally came to their senses, but in our view the fact they did so lends some credence to legislative Republicans’ efforts to rescind more of Cuomo’s executive authority.

As Sen. George Borrello, R-Sunset Bay, said on the Senate floor last week, it took 54 days for Democrats to come to their senses on food service and public transparency about the backgrounds of those “volunteering” to help high-level decisions in the state’s COVID-19 response.

These were easy repeals to make. And if rank-and-file Democrats agreed so overwhelmingly with them, then perhaps they need to change their legislative leadership so that common-sense legislation has a chance of being passed in a timely fashion.


Newsday. May 3, 2021.

Editorial: Testing kids has merit

When the federal government denied New York’s request to skip the state’s standardized tests this year, it wasn’t trying to bolster the argument that standardized tests are useless.

But that’s exactly what it did. By demanding that schools administer exams in a year when learning and opportunity have been so uneven, the results will have to be taken not just with a grain of salt but with an ocean-full. As a result, there’s a risk of permanently undermining support for tests that can be highly valuable as diagnostic tools. Overcoming that perception has to be a priority for the state Education Department.

Last year, with COVID-19 raging, Washington wisely granted a similar waiver. It should have again. Instead, schools across Long Island administered unusually short versions of the annual English exams required by federal law for students in grades three through eight. Most students did not even take the April tests, which were full of old and familiar items. State officials said the exams had as few as 24 total questions, most of them old queries from past tests that are also featured widely in practice tests, because it was impossible to field-test new questions during COVID.

Fully remote schools did not open for the tests. Students who were learning remotely but were enrolled in schools offering in-person learning did not have to come in on test day. And students learning in-person could refuse to take the tests, just as so many have for the past several years.

Starting this week, math tests will be given in the same manner. Federally mandated science exams for students in fourth and eighth grades this year are equally slapdash. And shortened Regents exams will be administered but won’t be required for class credit or graduation, with only four of them offered at all — biology, earth science, algebra and English Language Arts.

These tests will generate results that have little meaning, and carry no repercussions: Neither students nor teachers, schools or districts can be faulted or rewarded in any way for this year’s results.

So what happens next year, and the year after that?

Let’s start with two true things:

— Properly designed and administered tests can tell us what students have mastered and where they need work. Seen more broadly, they also can tell us what curriculum and methods of teaching do and do not work, and help tell us, when supplemented by other information, when teachers and schools are excelling or lagging.

— Poorly designed tests, over-testing, teaching to the test and turning education into rote memorization are legitimately troublesome. They waste class time, stymie excitement and don’t teach students what they need to know.

COVID-19 can’t be the reason standardized testing died in New York. It must instead be the opportunity we seize to administer tests that accurately and fairly evaluate student knowledge and help pave the path to proficiency, and excellence.


New York Daily News. May 5, 2021.

Editorial: This Silver can’t be polished: Shelly Silver evades justice yet again with weak home confinement ploy

When Shelly Silver was finally packed off to federal prison last August more than five years after his arrest, we thought that our old motto, that Shelly Silver always wins, would need to be retired. Well, the con man supernal, the dethroned king of downtown, the toppled ruler of Albany, has reclaimed his luck and has won again.

Sprung years early from his Federal Bureau of Prisons public housing in Otisville, Silver is at liberty again — in home furlough, soon to turn to home confinement, should BOP approve. He didn’t wrangle a midnight pardon from President Trump (thank you, New York Republicans, who screamed bloody murder and dissuaded Trump), nor did the U.S. Supreme Court take up his umpteenth appeal.

No, the man who always specialized in escaped hatches used COVID to wriggle out of prison. Under the CARES Act passed by Congress last March, certain U.S. inmates could be sent to home confinement, depending on the conditions of the virus and their crimes. The Southern District prosecutors who convicted this crook (twice) must now argue against Silver’s new no-place-like-home sentence.

How bad is COVID in upstate Otisville? Why can’t the inmates and staff all be vaccinated? The director of federal prisons testified all inmates would be offered the shot by mid-May. Silver’s well-known faith has no dogmatic objections to vaccines, and we really doubt that he converted from Orthodox Judaism to become a vaccine-phobic Christian Scientist. Give the gonif his shot.

The home confinement program has favored older and non-violent felons, two strokes in Silver’s favor, leaving younger, healthier and violent offenders behind bars. But under a Jan. 15 Trump DOJ opinion, once the COVID threat passes, the “BOP would be required to recall the prisoners to correctional facilities.”

President Biden and his AG, good guy Merrick Garland, have left that opinion on the books. Which means that even if slippery Shelly gets some time out, when the virus dissipates, which is going to be very soon, he has a return ticket and room waiting in Otisville. Fluff that pillow.