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Editorials from around New York

November 1, 2017
Associated Press

Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New York's newspapers:

The Times Herald-Record on the Russia investigation.

Nov. 1

Until recently much of our information about Russian attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election has come from speculation by people with more opinions than facts, some neutral making good-faith efforts to determine the truth, many partisan trying to steer public opinion.

Now, we have some facts. We have two people charged under a 12-count indictment alleging conspiracy against the United States for laundering money and acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign government. One is Paul Manafort, campaign manager when Donald Trump was winning the Republican nomination to run for president. The other is his business partner.

We also have one person, a foreign policy adviser to Trump, who has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI when questioned about his contacts with Russia during the campaign.

All of this seems obvious now but the events of the past few days contain some guidance that will be important as reports, rumors and opinions fill the news pages and especially the cable news shows in weeks and months to come.

Speculation was rampant over last weekend following the report Friday by CNN about imminent action by Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor investigating ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. Some who claimed to be in the know expressed doubts that Manafort would be facing charges come Monday morning. Now we know that either someone was misleading those who asked the questions or those who were holding forth did not know what was happening.

Whatever the case, the lesson is clear. You were better off waiting for real news, a concept so old-fashioned these days it almost seems quaint, than wasting your time during approximately 60 hours of non-stop uninformed speculation.

Those eagerly consuming all of this speculation heard nothing about the most important development Monday, the case of George Papadopoulos, the foreign policy advisor to Trump arrested in July who pleaded guilty in early October. Now, the president and his supporters are working very hard to belittle his importance and his information, despite abundant on-the-record information to the contrary and the extensive record contained in his court file.

As the Mueller investigation continues, as more people face charges or as the prosecutor reveals the extent to which others have been cooperating, staying informed, as opposed to staying opinionated, will be a challenge. Yet the obligation to seek the facts amid all of the opinions has never been more urgent because what the special prosecutor is doing goes well beyond the fate of however many eventually face criminal charges or go to jail.

There is no doubt that Russia had an influence on the 2016 election. There is no doubt that it will try again and that we have not made the necessary changes, not secured either our electoral process or our sources of information, in preparation for the midterm elections of 2018 or the presidential election of 2020.

Only by knowing exactly what Russia did can we protect ourselves from what they want to do. Ignore the pundits and pay attention to the prosecutor because what they say does not matter but what he does matters very much.

Online: http://bit.ly/2yl6djX

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The Utica Observer-Dispatch on "off-year" elections.

Oct. 29

Some refer to this as an "off" election year — a year when there are no major political seats up for grabs.

But that's a bad moniker.

Calling it an "off" election year makes the election sound insignificant. And that's an insult to good people seeking local office.

They deserve better.

Though there always are politics involved at all levels of government, it's not so contentious locally, where half the battle is getting good, quality people to run. That's not always the case. Every year it seems we see some offices go begging, filled by write-ins because nobody chooses to run. That's too bad.

Nobody gets rich serving in local government. In fact, if you were to calculate an hourly wage for these public servants based on time spent doing the job, you'd likely find that most members of local boards and other positions are working for a pretty minimal salary.

Disagree? Run against them and see for yourself.

Serving in government — even at the local level — isn't getting any easier. Constant change in municipal rules and regulations handed down from higher levels of government is a continuous challenge. Pleasing constituents is even more challenging. You make half the community happy, the other half angry. Some don't even know who you are.

But local government is where the action is. Here are the leaders we depend on day to day, week to week, to make sure that our communities run smoothly. Local concerns are often out of the purview of state and federal officials, many of whom are often more concerned with getting re-elected than with solving your problems. Witness the United States Congress.

Local government is where you, the citizen, have the loudest voice. The people you elect are your neighbors, your friends. You see them in the grocery store, in church, at the mall, at the school concert, football game, in the restaurant, at the local pub and anywhere else people in the community gather. As a result, their ears are always being filled by constituents with cares and concerns, a joy — or curse — that comes with the job.

Here at the local level is where the guy on Main Street who's upset with green waste pickup can actually be heard. Community problem? Talk to others in town and get their take. Mutual concerns can be brought before the local board and discussed. Often, something will get done.

So let's not call it an "off" election year. Witness the dozens of letters to the editor showing support for these office seekers. Win or lose, most have community interests at heart, and they deserve your support on Election Day.

Online: http://bit.ly/2z5seTB

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The Plattsburgh Press-Republican on energy conservation.

Oct. 26

Energy is one of American households' biggest expenses. So wisdom in using gasoline, fuel oil, electricity and natural gas can save lots of money.

In New York, apparently, people are especially wise. A recent study by WalletHub.com found our state ranks at the very top of the list when it comes to energy efficiency. Vermont is second.

In fact, the top 16 states are all northern. No. 17 is New Mexico, the first of the southern states to appear on the list.

Predictably, the bottom nine states are all in the South: Kentucky, Georgia, Arkansas, West Virginia, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana and the worst of all, South Carolina.

New York ranks first in transportation efficiency, fourth in vehicle-fuel efficiency and seventh in home-energy efficiency. (Vermont is first in home-energy efficiency.)

All of this makes sense, as efficiency pays bigger dividends up North than down South, although you might think air conditioning would factor in here, too.

According to WalletHub.com, the average U.S. family spends $2,000 a year to heat or cool their homes and businesses and $1,900 on gas and oil for their vehicles. So being efficient is a significant factor in the household streams of revenues and expenses.

Some of this region's communities — Plattsburgh, Rouses Point, Lake Placid and Tupper Lake, notably — have especially attractive arrangements with the New York Power Authority for the supply of electricity from the St. Lawrence Seaway Power Project.

Over the past decade, this region has also experienced growth in alternative-energy sources, as well, such as wind and solar power.

There is an awareness throughout the North Country of the advantages of energy conservation, both for economic reasons and for the many environmental benefits.

This winter, the New York State Public Service Commission is forecasting the price of electricity to be slightly lower than average, which is great news.

According to the commission, a residential customer using 600 kilowatt hours per month is expected to pay about $40 per month for supply, which is about 16 percent less than the five-year average, though that figure varies by utility.

Natural gas, on the other hand, is expected to cost slightly more this winter, the Public Service Commission said. The average customers using 720 therms of natural gas can expect to pay $800 total for November through March, 2 percent higher than the five-year average.

The start of this winter, at least, is expected to be mild, according to AccuWeather, which will help with energy costs.

"Heating costs for homeowners, from the start of the heating season, Sept. 1 to date, are running only about half of what they normally are in the Northeast," AccuWeather President Dr. Joel N. Myers said. "We are predicting above-normal temperatures to continue for the couple of months, so we anticipate that heating costs will only be three-quarters of what they normally are into November."

But residents are still well served by efforts to behave conscientiously in terms of energy conservation.

New Yorkers have a pretty good track record in this regard. We know how to use energy wisely and how not to use it more than we need to.

Online: http://bit.ly/2z6aVSs

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The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle on bail reform.

Oct. 27

It is a shocking figure. About 70 percent of the people sitting in a county jail somewhere in America have not been found guilty of a crime. They have been arrested, and are waiting for their day in court to answer the charges.

Most of these inmates are accused of vandalism, possessing drugs, driving under the influence or other nonviolent crimes. In upstate New York, the majority are facing misdemeanor crimes. Most are not considered to be dangerous. Some will eventually have their charges dismissed, or be found not guilty.

A lot of them are only in pretrial incarceration — for weeks, months or even years — because they cannot afford to post bail. Otherwise, they might be waiting at home, going to work, paying their rent and raising their families — just like most of the defendants who do have the financial wherewithal to post bail.

This is highly discriminatory against the poor, is often financially and emotionally devastating to the accused and their families, and adds up to an extraordinary waste of our tax dollars.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to propose bail reform in the coming months, and it is imperative that New York state lawmakers act decisively to remedy this gross injustice.

There are countless ways they can do this.

For years, judges in Kentucky have been using an evidence-based, pretrial risk assessment tool. Within 12 hours of arrest, defendants answer 13 questions designed to determine how likely they are to flee the area, commit another crime or pose a danger to the community while awaiting trial. About 70 percent of defendants are now avoiding pretrial incarceration; more than 90 percent of them show up for court appearances and avoid getting arrested in the interim. In other words, it is working.

Monroe County already has a pretrial release association, giving judges the option to release a defendant under supervision instead of being required to post bail. Defendants must undergo drug testing, attend all court dates and, if necessary, complete mental health or substance abuse evaluation or treatment. According to the public defender, this is saving the county millions in tax dollars. But, with more than 80 judges in the 7th Judicial District, the program is used with a great deal of subjectivity and could potentially save a lot more.

Some communities across the country mandate release for misdemeanors, provided there are no extenuating circumstances such as a serious criminal record or outstanding bench warrants. Some places, like Washington, DC, have eliminated cash bail altogether, and others are preparing to.

These are among the options that New York can take to ensure that the majority of people in jail are there because they have been found guilty of a crime, not because they are poor.

Online: http://on.rocne.ws/2z6tohO

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The New York Daily News on the New York truck attack.

Oct. 31

It was an attack in New York. It was an attack on New York.

The nightmare of Nice, of London, of Berlin, of Barcelona, of Jerusalem has visited our free and open city with vengeance, as a rented pickup truck plowed down bicyclists and pedestrians. The driver's Islamist shout: "Allahu Akbar!"

By a simple, horrifying act — conversion of an inconspicuous vehicle into a weapon, steered by blinding hate — eight innocents are dead. A dozen more are injured.

Now come officials' entreaties, so well-intended, so necessary, to live our lives as we would before, not to cower in fear as the terrorists would have us do.

But it is impossible not to ask ourselves: Might a walk down the sidewalk, a ride down the bike lane, leave us vulnerable? Might large groups congregated in city centers be exposed to the worst?

Fear must not debilitate us. But it must motivate us, and the trusted professionals of the NYPD, to raise our defenses every sane way we know how.

The name of the attacker, according to police, is Sayfullo Saipov. He came to the U.S. from Uzbekistan in 2010. He has a Florida driver's license. He rented his vehicle in New Jersey.

Dots must be connected, and quickly. Gaps, exposed and closed. Authorities must determine whether Saipov was being monitored for ties to radicalism. And if not, why not.

By design, vehicular assaults, especially when committed by lone wolves, aim to frustrate any hope that they can be interrupted — even by New York's best-in-the-world anti-terrorism operation.

No travel ban would have stopped this man.

But the NYPD and its federal partners can and will dig deep. They cannot hack into minds. Short of that, and consistent with the Constitution, the push to prevent should know few limits.

New York City, knocked to its knees on Sept. 11, has just fallen victim to a fatal Islamist terrorist attack for the first time since. This cannot — will not, we say with confidence — become the new normal.

Online: http://nydn.us/2zXiN5x

 
 
 

 

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