Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New York’s newspapers:
New York Needs Less Bickering, More Teamwork
New York Times
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio have before them some of the most difficult challenges any holder of their respective offices has ever faced. Both men are often forced to choose between the least worst of many bad options. So, you’d think this great crisis would be an opportunity for the mayor and the governor to set aside their long-running feud and work together. The prognosis isn’t great.
Even as New Yorkers face their most wrenching, and consequential, decision — whether to send their children into schools during a pandemic — Mr. Cuomo and Mr. de Blasio quibble and often put the personal over the professional to a dispiriting degree.
On Friday, the city submitted a 32-page reopening plan in which most children would go to school two or three days a week and continue online instruction on the other days. The plan, in some ways, established even more careful measures of safety than the governor had suggested, calling for schools to be shut if more than 3 percent of coronavirus tests in the city proved positive. The governor had suggested that 5 percent be the standard.
Rather than collaborating with city officials to ensure that the plan could have the confidence of New York’s parents and school employees, the governor’s initial public response was to slap it down.
“Just because a school district says ‘we’re open’ does not mean students are going to go,” Mr. Cuomo said on Sunday.
“We’ll accomplish nothing if we open the schools, but a significant number of parents decide to keep their children home,” he added.
One of Mr. Cuomo’s advisers had already called the proposal “an outline” rather than a plan and noted that a school reopening proposal in Yonkers, a much smaller city, was roughly 50 pages longer.
On Monday, the mayor said he was “past the point of irritation” with the governor. He’s not alone.
Mr. Cuomo is right that parents’ trust is necessary. New York City’s teachers’ union already has expressed skepticism about the reopening plan. The city’s rollout of online instruction left little reason for confidence in its plan to resume in-class instruction, nor does the resignation of the city’s health commissioner on Tuesday. And the governor’s warning also applied to other districts in the state.
Still, this political Punch and Judy show has grown tiresome. It began shortly after the mayor’s first inauguration, in 2014, when the governor balked at Mr. de Blasio’s signature initiative, providing prekindergarten to all of the city’s families. Ultimately the governor made universal pre-K a statewide program, to the benefit of all, but their rivalry had begun.
It continued with bickering over responsibility for the collapse of the subway system — remember when that was an existential urban crisis?
The feuding continued over who should take responsibility for the deterioration of the city’s public housing and who was to blame for Amazon’s decision to abandon plans for a major development in Queens.
It continued as the coronavirus pandemic loomed. Before the city shut down schools, restaurants and bars in mid-March, the mayor and the governor squabbled over who had the authority to make such decisions.
Shutting schools as the pandemic surged was unavoidable. The failure of the online alternative makes reopening them urgent. Doing so safely will be a huge challenge, though, and many questions remain. How great a threat is the coronavirus to children, and how easily do they transmit it? How can schools be made safe to staff members and the communities of adults that surround them? How can staff members be effectively tested for infection? Schools that have reopened elsewhere in the country already have seen outbreaks.
New York City and New York State made their share of early missteps in fighting the pandemic and are trying to avoid making more. Yet a corner has been turned, and the threat is being contained.
The mutual loathing between mayor and governor impedes that success. Mr. Cuomo and Mr. de Blasio can’t let it get in the way of educating children and keeping their constituents healthy.
De Blasio, Carranza better move fast if schools are to reopen
New York Post
f the city’s children are to get an education this year — in whatever form — Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Richard Carranza better start getting their ducks in order. Fast.
With just a few weeks left before the start of the new school year, teachers are vowing to strike, principals are threatening to retire, custodians are whining, schoolbus drivers need to be hired and routes ironed out.
Oh, and there’s a nursing shortage, too.
On top of all this, Gov. Cuomo is yet again looking to stir trouble and make the job harder. Isn’t life in the city — with COVID, a crime wave, a homeless crisis, protests — tough enough already?
Start with the teachers’ union, and groups like the Solidarity Caucus and MORE Caucus. They’ve blasted the city’s reopening plan and even called on Carranza to step down. The teachers want at least 14 days with no new cases before schools reopen.
On Monday, they — along with parents and students — staged a theatrical street protest, complete with faux coffins and a guillotine, at union headquarters on Lower Broadway.
The deaths of kids and teachers would be on de Blasio and Carranza’s heads if schools are reopened prematurely, they screamed — as they did little social-distancing themselves amid their shouting.
They also cited a lack of enough nurses and the inability of school custodians to properly disinfect classrooms.
Meanwhile, industry insiders in the city complain that bus companies, which haven’t been paid since March, have laid-off drivers, matrons and mechanics. Logistically, they say the city is behind the eight-ball in getting school buses repaired and inspected, personnel hired, vetted and trained and routes finalized.
Principals, as The Post’s Susan Edelman reported Sunday, also say they’ll head out the schoolhouse door in droves — perhaps as many as 17 percent of them — if classrooms reopen in September.
Amid all this, a Cuomo aide pooh-poohed de Blasio’s plan as a mere “outline” because it contained only 30 pages.
And the gov himself warned that he’ll have final say over whether schools in the city open. De Blasio says he’s now “past the point of irritation” with the gov’s endless zingers.
None of which bodes well for kids: Given everything that’s hit New Yorkers over the past half-year, the key players should be working together, seeking solutions, agreeing to concessions, where necessary — if they truly want to ensure a meaningful educational year.
Remember, it’s the kids who are supposed to come first. Instead, it’s squabbling, demanding, threatening — and precious little getting done.
It Needs To Be Clear What Taxpayers Are Signing Up To Pay
How does it make sense for Jamestown, in the midst of a pandemic, to be spending $700,000 to tear down substandard housing so that the Gateway Lofts project can proceed?
We’re glad council member Jeff Russell, R-At Large, and Grant Olson, R-Ward 5, asked that question on Monday, because the council’s decision, coming at this particular point in time, leaves us scratching our heads.
When a new Gateway Lofts plan was broached back in January, the plan was to demolish 21 houses at a cost of $350,000 as part of a mitigation plan to add housing units to a city that has a glut of them. It costs roughly $14,000 to demolish a house, which means the STEL funding discussed in January would have been sufficient.
By July, the focus had shifted from the number of houses to be demolished to the number of bedrooms to be taken out of the housing market. Depending on the number of bedrooms in a house, it doesn’t appear the STEL funding will cover the 96 bedrooms unless many of the homes have four bedrooms. Focusing on four-bedroom homes would mean 24 houses could be demolished at a total cost of $350,000. Demolishing 32 three-bedroom homes puts the project over budget by about $100,000.
Russell estimated the cost to be about $1 million, which means the councilman is assuming a lot of one- or two-bedroom homes being demolished or the cost of demolition being higher than previously discussed.
If STEL’s money will only cover a portion of the called upon housing demolition, who pays and from what pot of money? When would these demolitions have to be done to meet the mitigation contract? That’s not in the resolution nor, to our knowledge, has it been discussed publicly. As we all know by now, Jamestown can’t raise taxes, and Jamestown officials have talked for years about how the number of demolitions in the city is limited by the cost.
It is apparent that the city should focus on three- and four-bedroom homes for demolition to bring the cost in as close to the STEL payment as possible. That preference should have been reflected in the resolution. And, the resolution should have reflected how the local cost would be paid if the demolitions cost more than STEL is paying.
The city may in fact have thought of these things, but the paper trail doesn’t reflect it. Mayor Eddie Sundquist should hold off on signing this resolution until it is clear who is paying for the demolitions, from what pot of money and on what timeline. It would be even more preferable if the council would pass an amended resolution to clear up the valid questions raised by Olson and Russell so that the resolution is clear what taxpayers are signing up to pay.
Cuomo needs to allow casinos to reopen
The Auburn Citizen
"You don’t need a casino to maintain survival.”
With those words, Gov. Andrew Cuomo summed up his rationale for keeping the state’s four commercially owned and operated casinos closed, despite widespread reopenings of other types of businesses around the state.
While we understand Cuomo’s cautious approach to economic reopening and acknowledge that this approach has likely helped New York state thus far managed keep its new coronavirus case counts low, the governor has also made some arbitrarily restrictive decisions, especially when using the all-important health and safety metrics that he’s often said are the main driver of decisions.
The continuation of casino closures is one such example.
Let’s start with the “need for survival” standard. While it’s true that people do not need to go to casino, the thousands of people who work at these casinos do need their jobs. And with the recent expiration of the extra federal unemployment funding that had been in place as part of the original coronavirus relief package, being without a job is going to be even more hazardous to people and their families going forward.
That said, the question of safety can’t be ignored. Can casinos reopen in New York state and not be a source of a COVID-19 outbreak? We suggest the answer has already been provided, and it is yes.
While New York state has had the power to keep the four commercial casinos closed under the governor’s emergency power, other casinos operated by sovereign Native American nations already have been reopened. These include the full-scale casino operations run in central New York by the Oneida Indian Nation and the smaller electronic gaming hall run in Union Springs by the Cayuga Indian Nation.
All of these Native American-run gaming businesses have put health and safety measures in place, including limits on how many people can be inside, protocols for keeping visitors spaced out, mask policies and thorough cleaning practices. And no big outbreaks have taken place.
No one is suggesting that the commercial casinos open their doors and go back to the old way of doing business. All the New York casinos, including del Lago in Seneca County, have health and safety plans ready to roll.
It’s time to let them safely open so they can bring back the jobs and revenue for local governments they create.
Don’t let anyone divide us
Adirondack Daily Enterprise
Russia and other foreign foes continue to probe both election mechanisms and the political network in this country in attempts to find ways to commit mischief electronically, it is being reported. With the presidential election less than three months away, that comes as no surprise.
There is little most Americans can do to prevent foreign operatives from hacking into digital election systems, though it needs to be noted the vast majority of those in the U.S. appear to be relatively secure.
Let us not permit worry about the security of elections and sabotage of candidates to distract us from the primary digital danger, however. It is our own gullibility and willingness to believe the worst of those with whom we disagree politically.
Much was made of electronic tampering with the 2016 elections. But Moscow and other foreign actors achieved very, very little success in attempting to infiltrate mechanisms by which we cast ballots and count votes. There is no evidence online sabotage had a decisive effect on any election four years ago.
But the success our enemies had in pitting Americans against one another continues to be evident every day. Planting false stories on social media and setting up networks — even to the extent of funding two public protests with opposite goals — are among tactics that, sad to say, have worked very well for those seeking to cripple or even destroy the United States.
As if on schedule just months before the presidential election, the COVID-19 pandemic has given Russian operatives an excellent opportunity to foster divisiveness, mistrust and hate among us.
Russia’s GRU military intelligence service has been identified as the source of one major disinformation campaign using English-language websites. It disseminated about 150 “articles” containing false information this spring and summer, U.S. officials say.
Among the most ridiculous was a claim that Chinese officials believe COVID-19 is a biological weapon, presumably developed by the United States. Given the fact that international disease experts know the virus originated in China, the claim would be laughable to most people.
It only takes a few to accept it and begin spreading the word for such a falsehood to cause more mistrust and divisiveness, however.
That is where we, the American people, come in, of course. So eager have some become to believe the worst about those who disagree with us socially or politically that we have become easy prey for online disinformation offensives. Good old American skepticism — about all things — is our best defense. It is long past time that we began turning to it.