Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New York’s newspapers:
The New York Daily News on fixing New York City’s Board of Elections
It’s a depressing-as-hell comment on people whose job it is to collect and count ballots: Leaders of the New York City Board of Elections always hope for low turnout, because they simply can’t handle large number of voters coming out to exercise the franchise.
Which is why when New Yorkers, bless them, turned out in droves for Tuesday’s midterm election, the system broke down at polling place after polling place.
Scanning machines jammed and were taken offline for hours, apparently because some ballots had a little water on them. (Who’da thunk it might rain? On planet Earth?)
Paper poll books, as usual, dragged out the check-in process. (You want an electronic database of voter names? Sorcery!)
The two-page ballot, necessitated by stupid ballot questions and stupid judicial elections, meant twice as much paper for the scanners to scan. (Newsflash: An eight-year-old device designed solely to scan paper can’t do it consistently.) Expect an even bigger mess when the machines’ warranty expires in 2020, just when the next presidential election comes around.
It’s all par for the course from the boss-run patronage pit, where borough party chiefs pick the commissioners.
This terrible status quo persists even as New York’s supposedly enlightened citizens tsk-tsk about electoral dysfunction and shenanigans in Georgia, Kansas, Wisconsin and other states. Shame on us.
The state Legislature must dismantle and rebuild the city’s Board of Elections.
And it can wait no longer to offer in the Empire State what is already law of the land in 37 states: early voting.
It’s egregiously undemocratic that single parents, people working hourly wages and any number of other would-be voters who have a hard time getting to the polls on a Tuesday have no other way to cast a ballot. Especially when Election Day snafus throw wrenches in the works.
Fix it. Fix it now.
The Times Herald-Record on school funding
We like to think that elections can make a difference, that listening to candidates explain their approach to issues can guide us to vote for those who will work toward solutions.
In this region there is no more prevalent issue than the burden of property taxes. A day on the campaign trail does not pass without a candidate or voter or more likely both noting that New York is steadily losing population, a claim easily verified as factual by consulting Census records, and that the state’s is among those with the highest taxes, a fact also verified by Census records. Anybody who has paid taxes each January and September can compare the bills and verify that schools are responsible for the largest proportion.
So as campaign issues go, this is one of the rare ones where the facts match the opinions.
How about solutions?
Nobody is promising to spend less on education and most voters are not pushing in that direction either. What both participants, candidate and voter alike, seem to want is an approach that would be more “fair” and that is where the discussion often seems to stop.
If taxing someone based on the value of their property is unfair, then you might think that taxing someone on the amount of money they earn would be fairer. However, any candidate willing to make such a proposal will quickly be attacked for raising taxes, even if those that go up would be balanced by those that go down.
So we pretend to talk about solutions while the rhetoric of campaigning rules out most of them.
Add to those impasses the perpetual clash between urban and rural schools, large and small districts, those in prosperous areas and those with greater needs and we have overlapping conversations with little hope for progress.
Then add a challenge outlined by a recent story in the Times Herald-Record that nobody really wants to talk about, the fact that as costs and tax burdens for education increase, the size of our schools has been steadily decreasing. We truly are paying more for less and the only likely prospect for the future is even more spending, tempered only by the artificial cap on tax increases imposed by the Legislature, to educate fewer students.
This should be the subject of a statewide effort, one that would try to make schools more efficient and ensure truly equal opportunity, including such notions as access to both advanced courses and remedial help to improve graduation rates. But any statewide effort would run into the most sacred of all beliefs concerning education – local control.
Nowhere does that show up better than in the schools serving Tuxedo where sentiment opposing any future merger or combination has produced a district with 235 students, only 63 in the high school and a per-pupil spending cost of $56,090, more than double those in most other local districts.
That is what local control can bring, unchecked costs and limited opportunities for students. And while Tuxedo is an extreme example, it provides a warning for all those other districts where costs continue to rise and enrollments continue to drop.
The Wall Street Journal on the Supreme Court
Liberals are predicting that the Supreme Court’s conservative majority will rewrite laws according to their policy preferences. So someone should point out that the conservatives this week behaved as if laws mean what they say regardless of the policy outcome.
In Mount Lemmon Fire District v. Guido, the Court unanimously ruled Tuesday that small municipal employers could be sued under federal law for age discrimination. The case involved two laid-off firefighters of Mount Lemmon, Arizona, who said their employer violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. That law defines “employer” as a person “engaged in an industry affecting commerce who has twenty or more employees,” and the “term also means (1) any agent of such a person, and (2) a State or political subdivision of a State.”
Mount Lemmon Fire District argued it isn’t an employer under the law since it employed fewer than 20 workers. But as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the majority, “the ordinary meaning of ‘also means’ is additive rather than clarifying.’” The Court’s conservatives agreed with liberals though the ruling may subject cities to more litigation.
The Court on Monday also heard oral arguments in Virginia Uranium Inc. v. Warren, which challenges Virginia’s 1983 moratorium on uranium mining. Owners of a uranium deposit in south-central Virginia claim the state mining ban is pre-empted by the federal Atomic Energy Act’s regulation of radiation safety for milling and tailings.
While states have nearly carte blanche to regulate mining within their borders, the landowners say the legislature was motivated by concern for the safety of uranium processing – not mining. But this is reading a legislative intent unsupported by the text.
As Justice Neil Gorsuch mused, “Don’t we get into trouble … guessing what the motivations of a state legislature are and all the methodological, epistemological, and federalism questions that that raises?” One problem with divining legislative intent, as Justice Elena Kagan pointed out, is that courts could come down different ways on identical state laws merely “because the legislative history was different.”
Chief Justice John Roberts raised a hypothetical in which some lawmakers asserted that banning mining “is a great way to keep nuclear energy out of the state. What is the purpose of that legislation? How do you analyze that question?” Justice Sonia Sotomayor chimed in: “Is this going to require deposing every single legislative member?” All good questions.
The judiciary’s job is not to be legislative mind-readers. As Justice Gorsuch noted, the Court has allowed investigations into legislative intent in the narrow context of applying the Fourteenth Amendment. Yet the left has abused this exception to allege racial animus behind all sorts of neutrally applied state laws including voter ID requirements and bans on local minimum wages.
Upholding Virginia’s uranium moratorium may make it harder to challenge state actions that thwart mineral development like New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s veto of a natural gas pipeline on the pretext of protecting the state’s water supply. But it will be a victory for judicial modesty if liberals join conservatives in agreeing that deducing legislative intent is a rabbit hole judges shouldn’t be diving down.
The Niagara Gazette on Siobhan O’Connor’s courage
Siobhan O’Connor showed real courage.
The former administrative assistant for embattled Bishop Richard Malone stepped out of the shadows to help shed light on arguably the darkest period of time in the recent history of the Roman Catholic church.
In her interview last weekend with “60 Minutes,” O’Connor said she started providing information about the bishop’s handling of sex abuse allegations to WKBW News Channel 7 reporter Charlie Specht because she was disturbed not only by the flood of calls from abuse victims she herself fielded in some cases but also by the approach taken by Malone when it came to dealing with what was obviously a very serious problem.
Was she afraid?
Yes, O’Connor admits she feared being sued or excommunicated from the church altogether.
Still, she went forward, providing Specht with hundreds of internal church documents that offered an inside look at how Malone and others within the administration of the diocese dealt with claims of abuse and members of the clergy who were involved in inappropriate incidents that, in some cases, involved minors.
O’Connor has said that she became deeply disturbed by the lack of response from the diocese to claims of victim abuse, noting that she herself began answering calls from victims who, according to her, were not having their telephone calls returned.
O’Connor has also suggested that she objected strongly to Malone’s decision in March to release a list of 42 priest who had been accused of molesting children because she knew dozens of other priests should have been included in the list but were not because Malone and diocesan attorneys set the criteria for release and essentially whittled the volume to end up with a smaller number.
O’Connor’s bold move in sharing documents that describe in greater detail the true manner in which Malone and others approached the sexual abuse scandal has inspired others within the church to step forward as well.
The Rev. Robert Zilliox, pastor of St. Mary Church in Swormville, also appeared on “60 Minutes” to discuss his recommendations to the bishop where sexual abuse cases where concerned. Zilliox believes at least eight or nine more priests should have been removed from service due to abuse allegations. He described the whole situation as “beyond troubling.”
Prominent local leaders, including local businessman and deacon Paul Snyder, have called on Malone to step down amid reports that he failed in his handling of all of the abuse cases tied to the church.
Snyder referred to the situation as a “scandal,” while calling on the Pope to remove Malone, who has consistently stood firm suggesting a shepherd does not abandon his flock in its time of need.
In a statement to “60 Minutes,” Malone said the diocese continues to “reach out to victims, remove clergy with substantiated allegations from ministry and cooperate with federal and state investigations.”
As the news program noted, just one priest was put on leave during Malone’s first six years of presiding over the Catholic Church in Buffalo and only after the scandal broke in March did he suspend 16 more members of the clergy for abuse.
So far, as “60 Minutes” noted, none have been removed from the priesthood.
If O’Connor had not stepped forward, Catholics across Western New York would have less of an understanding of the full extent of the failure of Malone and top diocesan officials to take appropriate action where instances of abuse involving clergy members are concerned.
Now that more light has been shed on the subject, it’s clear Malone should heed the calls for his departure and allow someone else to handle the difficult job of restoring people’s faith in the institution known as the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo.
The Adirondack Daily Enterprise on watching out for kids
School bus drivers must watch in shock, fear and anger as motorists ignore flashing red lights and extended stop sign arms to pass buses. It happens frequently, despite law enforcement agencies’ focused attempts to stop it.
That puts children at great risk as they cross streets and highways, either to get on buses or as they disembark to go home.
Last week, five American children were killed by motorists.
Three siblings – a 9-year-old girl and her twin 6-year-old brothers – were killed when they were struck by a pickup truck near Rochester, Indiana. The children were crossing the road to get on their school bus, which was stopped with red lights flashing and a stop sign displayed.
A 24-year-old woman who was driving the truck has been arrested. She insists she just didn’t notice the bus.
A similar situation occurred in Baldwyn, Mississippi. A 9-year-old boy died.
And in Franklin Township, Pennsylvania, a 7-year-old boy was killed at his school bus stop by a hit-and-run driver.
All five children died because drivers did not care enough for children to slow down just a little and watch for stopped school buses and/or children on streets and highways.
Also a frequent occurrence is motorists zipping through plainly marked school zones – with children present – at well over the posted speed limit.
It is fortunate that there have been no serious accidents in our area involving stopped school buses or school zones during the past several years. We hope our luck does not run out.
Please, pay enough attention that when a big, yellow school bus with flashing red lights and a stop sign is on the road in front of you, you see it.
The same goes for school zones, where children are present at the same times every weekday.
This is not an inconvenience. It’s a life saver.