Plattsburgh Press-Republican. April 28, 2021.
Editorial: New York to lose congressional seat
New York again will lose a representative in the House of Representatives.
It’s not like we weren’t expecting it.
In fact, some political experts thought we’d lose two.
“We’ve lost two or more seats every Census since 1950,” said Dan Lamb, lecturer in Cornell’s Institute for Public Affairs. “This is a break in the trend line that’s positive for New York. We’re not losing as much clout as we have in prior cycles.”
Losing only one representative seemed to be good news for the Empire State, until we heard that the difference between losing one seat and keeping our 27 representatives came down to fewer than 100 people filling out the census last year.
Yes. If 89 more people had responded to the once-a-decade nationwide count, we would have kept our seat in the House.
“There were 435 seats,” said Kristin Koslap, senior technical expert for 2020 Census Apportionment. “The last seat went to Minnesota and New York was next in line. If you do the algebra equation that determines how many they would have needed, it’s 89 people.”
That was 89 people of a total state population of 20.2 million, up 800,000 from 2010, according to the census.
New York tried to do a full count, but it didn’t work.
Using ads, text messages, phone calls and celebrities, state and local officials exhorted residents last year to participate in a count that unfolded amid the coronavirus pandemic and court fights over various aspects of the Trump administration’s conduct of the census. That included an ultimately unsuccessful effort to exclude undocumented immigrants.
The impact of the pandemic and the court challenges will not be known. But what we do know is just a little more than 64% of New York households answered the census by phone, internet or mail in New York. The national self-response rate was 67%.
New York remained the fourth most-populous state. We trail only California, which for the first time lost a House seat, Texas and Florida, which gained two and one, respectively.
Beyond losing congressional representation, our state is likely to lose out on the distribution of $1.5 trillion in federal funding each year.
Because we’ve lost a seat, we know our congressional districts will change. Because of a shift in population within the state, our state legislative districts will change as well.
Traditionally, state lawmakers and governors have redrawn voting districts for seats in the U.S. House and state Legislature. But New York voters approved a 2014 ballot proposition that calls for a 10-member commission to draw districts for the U.S. House and the state Legislature. The maps will be submitted to the Legislature for approval.
In the North Country, it is difficult to maneuver districts both at the state and federal level too much simply because the population is so sparse. But there have been attempts in the past to manipulate state Senate and Assembly districts based on politics.
Even remote areas like ours can be subject to Gerrymandering.
We are hopeful that when the new districts are redrawn they make sense for those who live in the districts, and not created to be what is best for the politicians who serve in those districts.
Albany Times Union. April 28, 2021.
Editorial: Hoosick Falls needs facts
The story of how a village’s water supply was contaminated continues to emerge.
Accountability demands facts.
The people of Hoosick Falls have lived under a dark shadow for more than six years, ever since village trustee Michael Hickey performed the initial tests that detected dangerous levels of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in the local water supply.
Since then, local, state and federal officials have been forced to confront the legacy of contamination by the international corporations that owned the McCaffrey Street manufacturing plant that’s been identified as the source of much of the contamination. In 2017, it was designated as a Superfund site. The community now depends on elaborate filtration systems as it works with the state to find a new permanent water source. Many residents have sought medical monitoring as they wait to learn what years of silent exposure might have done to them and their children.
These people deserve, first and foremost, water free from dangerous chemicals. A close second would be a clear accounting of exactly what was allowed to seep into their soil, brooks and bloodstreams for so many years.
Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics, the company that owns the plant at the center of this mess, is now the subject of a federal whistleblower complaint filed by Amiel Gross, a former member of its internal counsel’s office. As the Times Union’s Brendan J. Lyons reports, Mr. Gross’ filing with the U.S. Department of Labor claims he was fired for pretextual reasons (insubordination among them) after he raised concerns about the scope of potential contamination issues at several facilities.
In regard to Hoosick Falls, Mr. Gross alleges that he interviewed witnesses who said it was one of the plants — along with sites in Bennington, Vt., and Merrimack, N.H. — where a product called Fluorad was used. That’s pure, uncut PFOA.
Saint-Gobain says Mr. Gross’ claims are inaccurate and without merit. His civil claim was rejected on technical grounds. Even so, victims of PFOA contamination who have sued the company have cited his complaint in their request to reopen the discovery process in their case to allow his allegations to be examined and new potential witnesses to come forward. That request has merit. If Saint-Gobain truly believes Mr. Gross is in error, the company should jump at the chance to put these questions to rest.
Saint-Gobain’s response to questions about this matter is to insist that it never manufactured or distributed PFOA or materials related to it. This is akin to a suspect in a murder mystery who defends himself by insisting he neither made nor sold the dagger sticking out of the victim’s back — good to know, but a little beside the point. When the company acquired the plant, it took on the liability as well as the profits.
The residents of Hoosick Falls and the other communities befouled by the contamination are less concerned with who made these substances than they are with knowing who brought it to their village and in what form and potency. Those are the questions that need to be answered before true accountability can be achieved. As usual, the best decontaminant for shadow is sunshine.
Advance Media New York. April 25, 2021.
Editorial: Sheriff Conway has no more excuses for not buying body cameras
The national movement for police accountability finally reached the Onondaga County sheriff’s department on Friday. In the morning, Sheriff Eugene Conway said he would implement a body-worn camera program if county government pays for it. By afternoon, the county executive and legislature chairman promised to appropriate the money.
The sheriff got to the correct result. We wish we didn’t have to drag him there.
None of this would be happening if not for staff writer Samantha House’s story asking why Onondaga County’s second-largest police agency does not have body cameras.
The sheriff proposed a body cam pilot program in 2017. It was not funded, and he did not bring it up again. Since that time, the trust gap between police and the public has only gotten wider. The conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd proved the value of video evidence shot by a bystander, Darnella Frazier. The public should not have to depend on a teenager with a smartphone to capture video evidence of police misconduct.
Body cameras protect both police and civilians from false accusations. They are a tool to build public confidence that officers who break the law will be held accountable. Up to now, accountability has been the exception, not the rule.
Floyd’s death and the protests that followed led to a broad police reform effort across New York state, including widespread adoption of body-worn cameras. They are standard equipment for most large police departments and many small ones. At least 10 of 15 agencies in Onondaga County, including the Syracuse police, have body cams.
The absence of body cams in the sheriff’s department is glaring. Onondaga County is the only one among large Upstate counties without them, according to Syracuse.com’s reporting.
Cameras would have been useful in unraveling the March 4 fatal police shooting of a Jamesville teen experiencing a mental health crisis and armed with an air gun. The sheriff’s office was one of three police agencies whose officers fired on the teen. None of the four officers who fired their guns that day wore a camera.
Comments by County Executive Ryan McMahon and District Attorney William Fitzpatrick put more pressure on the sheriff to acquire body cameras. McMahon sent a letter to Conway on Feb. 25 requesting he come up with a body cam program to be funded in the 2022 budget. McMahon said he got no response.
Conway insists he has no objection to body cameras. But he hasn’t lifted a finger to obtain them since his pilot program was rebuffed in 2017. He cited money as the main stumbling block, complaining the sheriff’s department has pressing needs for more deputies, new vehicles and more protective equipment.
We respectfully submit there is never enough money to do everything. We elect leaders to set priorities and make hard decisions. The sheriff could have rearranged his budget priorities, tapped seized drug money or applied for grants to defray the cost. But he did not. Sheriffs in Erie, Monroe and Albany counties all found the money for body cameras. It can be done.
The simple fact is that Conway had no plans to acquire body cameras until he was cornered into doing so by a curious newspaper and a savvy county executive who sees an opening to do the right thing. Now that McMahon has come through with the money, Conway has no more excuses.
Auburn Citizen. April 28, 2021.
Editorial: New York must use opioid settlement funds for treatment
With enormous cash settlements on the horizon over lawsuits against opioid manufacturers and distributors, New York must not repeat what it did with the first round of money and instead use the resources to fight the drug epidemic.
As part of a $573 million settlement earlier this year over the promotion of pharmaceutical painkillers across the country, New York received $32 million that should have gone toward addressing the crisis. But somewhere along the line during state budget negotiations, it was decided that the bulk of that money would simply be put into the state’s general fund. Some state lawmakers are working to prevent that from happening again.
State Sen. Peter Oberacker and other members of the Senate Republican Conference this week threw their support behind a proposal to ensure that any future opioid settlement funds be put into a “lockbox” dedicated to improving and expanding addiction treatment and recovery services.
“It is unconscionable that funds meant for opioid prevention, education, and treatment could be siphoned away to pay for unrelated pet projects,” Oberacker said in a news release. “New York State must ensure that opioid settlement funds are restricted and used for their intended purpose – saving lives.”
We couldn’t agree more. The flood of painkillers that resulted in a spike of drug addiction across the country was fueled by greed, but even as those responsible are now being held accountable, the problems they caused have not gone away.
Auburn and Cayuga County were by no means left unscathed by the free-flow of painkillers, and many families have been forever changed by the death and addiction the opioid crisis helped cause.
The state must not let those families down again, and any future opioid settlement funds must be used for treatment and recovery services. Cutting back on the flow of pharmaceuticals has helped, but the drug problem has not gone away and it requires an investment by the state to help solve.
Dunkirk Evening Observer. April 28, 2021.
Editorial: There’s dangers in big parties
Fredonia Police Department is attempting to be proactive in an effort to discourage some of the partying that traditionally takes place during the first weekend of May in the village. In a news release issued on Monday, Chief Philip Maslak warned against large gatherings by students or residents.
“Students are asked to refer to their Student Code of Conduct and/or the emergency directive titled, ‘Uniform Sanctioning in response to COVID-19 Student Violations.’ These documents provide guidance and provide sanctions should compliance not be observed,” he said. “The Fredonia Police Department will continue to cooperate with Fredonia State University regarding any issues related to student conduct.”
Maslak is of course referring to the traditional Not Fred Fest. Up until last year due to students being sent home in March, the unofficial springtime event has clogged a number of village streets near downtown with young adults hopping venues and houses to be with friends and others to celebrate the end of a long year.
But during COVID-19, there are concerns of the virus creating havoc both on campus and in the community. Earlier this year — around St. Patrick’s Day — the university noted an increase in positive cases. It was due to what could happen this weekend — a number of parties.
There’s no question, students at the State University of New York at Fredonia have had more challenges in the last 15 months than those who previously attended the institution. They still need to be smart.
Large gatherings — indoors and out — spell trouble. Especially at the end of this semester.