Glen Falls Post-Star. March 18, 2021.
Editorial: Stefanik is embarrassing herself with merchandise sales
By selling anti-Andrew Cuomo T-shirts, can coolers, lapel stickers, bumper stickers, posters and hats on her congressional campaign website, Elise Stefanik has entered a new realm of partisanship.
Browsing the cheap products in her online “store,” dominated by anti-Cuomo apparel, we wondered if our congresswoman has become obsessed. She has an important job, yet of all the causes she could embrace, she is most passionate about proving that Andrew Cuomo is “the worst governor in America.”
It’s not just her online store. A large portion of the website’s homepage is devoted to a video of Stefanik on Fox News, headlined “Holding Cuomo accountable for scandals.” This is what she cares about, even though it has very little to do with her job and even though she has no authority over the governor.
We are not defending Cuomo. We believe he has behaved badly, and we support a full investigation and a legal and political reckoning for his misdeeds. We believe, when several women come forward with similar stories of misconduct, they are most likely true.
No one is above the law — that may be the most important principle in our country’s system of justice. But Stefanik is not seeking equal justice; she is trying to exact punishment on a political enemy — Andrew Cuomo — and she has gone after him with an astonishing eagerness.
We checked around on other congressional members’ campaign websites — few have “stores” where they sell merchandise, and none that we could find sells items that attack another politician, or any person. Nancy Pelosi’s site, for example, sells T-shirts, masks, mugs, stickers, pins, hats and more, but the mugs say, “We don’t agonize, we organize” and the T-shirts say, “Hold the House.” One of the stickers says, “Patron saint of shade” and features a cartoon drawing of Pelosi doing her extended-arm hand clap. That is a long way from the mock “Wanted” poster featuring a headshot of Andrew Cuomo under the legend “Worst governor in America” that you can buy for $30 on Stefanik’s site.
We looked through websites for other House Republicans known for obstreperousness, like Jim Jordan, Matt Gaetz, Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene, but found nothing like Stefanik’s online store.
Stefanik can say what she likes, even if what she likes is attacking her state’s governor. But we question the usefulness of her efforts. How is the sale of “Cuomo’s. Gotta. Go.” lapel stickers (set of 12) helping her constituents? Could she find a better way to advocate for us than promoting bright red can coolers (set of 2), printed with the message “Impeach Cuomo?”
We no longer believe Stefanik entered public life to accomplish good things for the country. She has exhibited a pattern of lying and hyper-partisanship that undermines democracy.
She lied during the 2020 campaign about her Democratic opponent, Tedra Cobb, and came up with mocking nicknames for her, which she repeated. Mean-spirited attacks seem to be what she likes best about politics, and her behavior demeans the office she holds.
Albany Times Union. March 20, 2021.
Editorial: Find the balance, New York
With a budget due soon, New York faces a deficit and hard choices about how to close it.
Passing the buck could harm communities, schools, and entities that help the needy.
As the state’s April 1 budget deadline approaches, here’s a word worth keeping in mind for the Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo: balance.
Yes, we all want a balanced budget. But there is more to a well-balanced spending plan than just getting the revenue and expenditure sides of the ledger to match. The budget is about getting priorities straight, too. That includes deciding whose back a difficult budget like this one is balanced on.
Mr. Cuomo’s approach to date hasn’t always been heartening. He has warned schools of cuts as high as 20 percent, and nonprofits that provide services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities say the state has shortchanged them $400 million in relief they were supposed to get in the pandemic.
Schools, local governments and other entities that depend on state aid fear that the New York will simply look to deduct any money they’re supposed to get in the $1.9 trillion federal American Rescue Plan from their state allocations. Congress sought to short-circuit that sort of shell game, putting provisions in the legislation to try to ensure that federal aid to schools would supplement, not supplant, state funding. State leaders should not be looking for loopholes to get around the spirit of the law.
Mr. Cuomo has not been particularly reassuring on this point, saying when it came to aid cuts only that he’d see how budget talks go and how whole the state is made on its own financial shortfalls. He has said the state faces a roughly $15 billion deficit between the current budget and the next one; the stimulus/relief bill included $12.5 billion for New York state government.
It’s vital that the governor and lawmakers remember that schools, local governments and nonprofits are all dealing with extraordinary costs because of the pandemic, too. Local governments have lost sales tax revenues, and could well be hit with property tax losses in coming years if businesses fail to recover and commercial property values tank. The extra money they’re getting from the federal government cannot only help them deal with their budget problems now and down the road, but should allow them to make smart investments in their communities that will speed their own recovery.
If the state still finds itself short of funds for the coming year, it should not try to pass the bill down to all the schools, local governments and service providers that depend on it for support. As some lawmakers and advocacy groups have noted, state government has far more flexibility when it comes to raising revenue — such as raising taxes on the ultra-rich, who have done quite well in this crisis; imposing luxury apartment taxes; and collecting a small tax on stock transfers that’s been on the books for a century that by itself would net billions and more than close the budget gap.
If raising taxes on the rich or on a booming stock market troubles them, they should consider the alternative. Local governments have only regressive options — raising property and sales taxes. Schools are limited to property taxes, and even those are capped under state law. Nonprofits have few options but to cut staff and services.
As state leaders look to finalize a budget, the balance they should seek is between making the numbers come out right, and ensuring New York maintains a quality of life in which all its residents can thrive.
Newsday. March 22, 2021.
Editorial: A yes to pot on one condition
It’s time for New York to legalize adult use of marijuana, but only if safeguards about driving while impaired are incorporated into the legislation.
Some of the reasons why this change is needed have been true for many years: The substance can be less addictive or harmful than legal intoxicants like alcohol. Enforcement of criminal laws about possession has been shamefully disparate, with Black and Hispanic New Yorkers far more likely to face prosecution for weed, despite studies showing similar rates of usage across racial groups.
Then there are the newer, more pragmatic reasons for legalization: Surrounding states like Massachusetts and New Jersey have legalized marijuana, meaning that over-the-counter purchases will be a drive away. That is slowly becoming true in states around the country, although on the federal level marijuana is still ensconced in the criminal code. A handful of new White House staffers recently lost jobs in the Biden administration after acknowledging prior pot use. Public opinion on the subject is changing and the government is tiptoeing toward a legitimacy crisis if something that is so widely embraced or tolerated remains illegal for much longer.
Enter the latest round of legalization negotiations between Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the State Assembly and Senate. As was the case last year, the broad deal appears to be nearly finalized with lots of tricky compromises hammered out about home growth and how exactly the revenue raised by taxes on this new market will be distributed. But one of the last pieces to fall into place — and most critical on car-dominated Long Island — concerns traffic safety.
Driving under the influence of marijuana must remain a misdemeanor. And this is the tricky part: Drunken driving can be deterred and habitual offenders can be punished because of well-established breathalyzer-style tests that can measure blood alcohol concentration levels at which driving-related skills are impaired. Tests for pot at a roadside stop that can simply ascertain impairment are not available. Oral fluid tests to determine whether cannabis has been ingested are being piloted elsewhere, and they should be used and improved upon in New York once they are deemed workable.
It should be possible for police to charge someone for driving while impaired based on the officers’ observations of the condition of the driver, but currently police have to identify the problematic substance from a set list. It’s possible for the driver to avoid full responsibility for impaired driving by refusing a test for substances so police can’t say what exact substance was in play. This portion of the law should be tweaked.
It is also crucial that police receive advanced training to spot driving while high.
It will take some time to put this new infrastructure for distributing, selling and taxing weed in place, so legalization should be pushed over the finish line now. But the actual date pot becomes legal should be contingent on having an enforcement plan in place.
New York Post. March 22, 2021.
Editorial: DiNapoli must request AG investigate Team Cuomo’s nursing-home coverup
State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli needs to formally ask Attorney General Tish James to open an investigation into Gov. Cuomo’s disastrous handling of nursing homes — and do it yesterday.
Aside from Cuomo himself, only DiNapoli has the authority to make such a referral to the AG, and so enable a state investigation with subpoena power. An AG investigation “would allow New Yorkers to truly learn the full extent of the nursing-home crisis,” wrote families associated with Voices for Seniors in asking the comptroller to act.
Vivian Rivera Zayas and her sister Alexa Rivera founded that advocacy group after their mom died in a Long Island nursing home. “As citizens of the state, we want to know if and how state resources were used to cover up the number of nursing-home deaths, and if so, who ordered it? Did state employees work together to tamper with official documents?”
Excellent questions — and ones Team Cuomo won’t answer willingly.
DiNapoli’s communications director, Jennifer Freeman, told The Post, “We are still reviewing the request.” Why wait? This is a no-brainer.
Cuomo & Co. spent months stonewalling requests from lawmakers, the press and watchdog groups for key info on the coronavirus in nursing homes — hiding the data that show its March 25 order requiring homes to admit COVID-contagious patients led to needless deaths. Only James’ January report calling out the state’s 50 percent undercount of nursing-home deaths forced the gov’s people to start telling (some of) the truth.
Along the way, top Cuomoites bullied the Department of Health into dropping the true numbers from its whitewashing July report. One of them, Melissa DeRosa, also lied to state lawmakers about the reason for the conspiracy to hide the truth — blaming a federal investigation that only started months after the coverup began.
DiNapoli needs to get the ball rolling: New Yorkers — especially the families of the 15,000-plus COVID nursing-home fatalities — deserve to know exactly what went on behind the scenes, and why.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise. March 20, 2021.
Editorial: Big summer events are a big risk
In candidate forums we hosted on March 7, we asked everyone running for the Lake Placid Village Board of Trustees if they would say no to big Lake Placid summer events if there is no major improvement in the COVID-19 pandemic, and what conditions would have to be met for them to say yes.
Art Devlin, who ended up winning the mayoral race, said he would follow whatever the state of New York says, but every other candidate expressed skepticism. Some said the Lake Placid Horse Shows could probably happen because they don’t have much close contact, but they didn’t think tightly packed events such as the Ironman triathlon could be done safely enough to be worth the risk.
We got the trustee candidates to discuss the issue a bit more by saying, if the state leaves the decision up to the community and the village board has to decide this spring, how would you vote, if elected? All four candidates said they would vote no to an event such as Ironman because they can’t see a way to control its crowds.
Jackie Kelly, who ended up being elected, cited her recent experience as Conference Center manager working with the National Women’s Hockey League. The NWHL abandoned its “bubble” season in the middle of its two-week run when rules were bent and numerous people got COVID-19.
“If you can’t control the environment, you can’t control anything,” Kelly said. “I would say no, we can’t do it. It’s just an impossibility to keep everything under control.”
Marc Galvin, who also won on March 16, said, “We really can’t stress out our limited medical resources to bring 1,000, 2,000, 3,000 people here and have a possible outbreak. We just don’t have the resources to deal with that. So I just don’t see it as even a possibility that things are going to change enough where we’re going to have a normal event summer.”
All big events were canceled last summer and the U.S.-Canada border was closed, yet tourists flocked to the Adirondacks anyway. Galvin, who owns a bookstore, pointed out that while capacity limits hurt some local restaurants, many Lake Placid business, including his own, “had one of our best summers ever, even being closed for seven weeks.
“I don’t think a lot of people are going to be jumping on the planes this summer to be flying to Europe or anywhere else, so I have a feeling we’re going to be in for a lot of the same, events or not, this summer.”
That was last week. This week, the public was hearing a different message from a different set of local leaders. Organizers of many of Lake Placid’s biggest events said they are on for this summer. The Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism hosted a conference Thursday to make the announcement.
Not so fast, we say.
Horse shows seem fine, but like the trustee candidates, we can’t see any way to control virus spread in Ironman’s crowds, handoffs, wetsuit stripping, etc. Marathons? Not as bad but still worrisome. Lacrosse — at least the contact version played by men’s teams — is classified as a high-risk sport, and the community has never been able to control the Summit tournament’s house party scene. Rugby? Think about that for a second … no.
We want these events, but not this year. They are lucrative for a few people but are not needed by the community as a whole — and are a pain in the neck for a whole bunch of people.
We’re glad vaccines are working to reduce coronavirus infections, but hyper-contagious mutant strains of the virus are pushing back. This is a rebuilding year. We need to be safe and smart.
Event organizers seem to think it can’t hurt to try, saying they’ll see if the state reins them in. But the state will probably just make them fill out a form and draft a plan, and then leave it up to them to self-enforce. That’s what happened with the NWHL debacle, and a few weeks ago for the Can-Am Pond Hockey tournament. Essex County Health Department director Linda Beers told us everything in this time of COVID has been about self-enforcement — the old honor system. She said there was no way her tiny staff could monitor pond hockey, with its 22 teams and 130 players.
You think you can leave it up to the county or the state to monitor Ironman, with its 2,500 participants and even more fans? They come from all over the world to this race, jostle in close contact with each other and local volunteers, and then go home where they can spread whatever germs they picked up here.
“Ironman, as of now, does not have any testing or vaccine requirements,” Lake Placid Race Director Greg Borzilleri said Thursday. That just sounds like throwing caution to the wind. Frankly, it also sounds like a legal liability. Who wants to get sued by the bereaved family of a triathlete claimed by COVID?
It really is up to local governments whether to allow such an event this summer. The village of Lake Placid’s new trustees said they would vote no. We will see what happens.