Political News

Editorials from around New York

Posted 12:29 p.m. Wednesday

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

The (Glen Falls) Post Star on making Lake George safer.

May 13

For Post-Star reporter Don Lehman, one of the most haunting images from the Alexander West trial were those from the security videotape of the crash.

Shown in court by the prosecution and shown again at the request of the jury during deliberations, it showed a slow-moving light moving across the lake when, out of nowhere, a fast-moving white light appears and collides with it.

It is the speed that is so startling.

It happened so quickly that no one in the boat where 8-year-old Charlotte McCue was killed remembered hearing or seeing another boat until after it struck.

It happened that fast.

Out of nowhere.

Lake George does have speed limits.

Boats within 100 feet of shore, a dock or stationary vessels such as boats, rafts or floats cannot exceed 5 miles per hour.

In the open water of the main lake, the daytime speed limit (6 a.m. to 9 p.m.) is 45 miles per hour. At night, (9 p.m. to 6 a.m.) the speed limit drops to 25 miles per hour.

When tragedies like this occur, it is prudent to review whether there is anything that can make the boating experience on Lake George — and other waterways — safer.

That has already happened to some degree. Log Bay Day will not be happening this year, or any future year, we predict. Local officials have already pledged to act aggressively to end the informal event.

We were also pleased to hear that boat renters will have to view a boating safety video before taking to the lake, although at six minutes long, we are worried it does not cover enough ground.

We can't help but believe there is more to be done.

We're hoping that the Lake George Park Commission and the Warren County Sheriff's Office can get together in some sort of public forum to pursue ideas to make boating safer for everyone.

We can imagine a safety campaign that calls for more responsible boating, asking boaters to slow down and leave the alcohol on shore.

And perhaps even more aggressive enforcement.

In the past, we have been critical about whether the Warren County Sheriff's Office boat patrol was a good way to spend taxpayer money.

That videotape of Alexander West's boat roaring down the lake has changed our minds. Boaters need to slow down and the party atmosphere has to be curbed.

We reviewed some of the local websites dedicated to boating. They do a good job of listing the rules and regulations, but there is little that demands more responsible boating.

That should be a priority this year, with local marinas and cruise ship lines participating as well.

New York State's Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation puts out an annual recreational boating report. Its 2015 report ranks New York ninth in the nation for the number of powerboats — 450,000 — so boating is a big deal all around the state.

It was great to see that the number of fatalities and boating accidents has dropped continually since 1973, when there were 132 people killed. In 2015, there were 16 across the state.

Locally, we saw four accidental deaths on Lake George in 2016.

It is not surprising that the 2015 report concludes that alcohol and drugs are a significant cause of fatal boating accidents. Between 2005 and 2015, alcohol and drugs were found to be a primary contributing factor in 57 fatalities. That's one in four of all boating deaths.

Of the 16 fatalities across the state in 2015, alcohol or drugs was present in half the cases.

The Lake George Park Commission also has a significant presence on Lake George. It reported four BWI arrests in 2015 and two in 2016. It issued 81 tickets in 2016 and 73 in 2015. It reported 21 accidents in 2016 and 29 in 2015.

We believe it is time for law enforcement and the Lake George community to make the same type of commitment to stopping drinking and boating as it has to stopping drinking and driving on the road.

The trial that consumed public attention over the past three weeks makes this an opportune time to have this discussion and for the lake community to take stock of its commitment to safety while law enforcement considers whether it should put more resources on the lake.

It is clear nobody wants to relive another trial like the one just concluded.





The Adirondack Daily Enterprise on local deaths.

May 13

This is not normal, these horrible deaths of local people in the prime of life, coming one behind the other before we have time to process them: bobsled pilot Steve Holcomb in Lake Placid, a legend at just 37 years old who died in his sleep last Saturday morning; Jamie Martin and Stacey Ayotte of Tupper Lake, shot to death in a horrendous murder-suicide Wednesday morning; and Saige Borden, a 20-year-old Lake Placid woman who died in a canoe accident Friday morning in her hometown's namesake lake.

Our hearts go out to these people's families and friends — especially today to those of Ms. Borden, for whom the grief is so fresh. She was so young! We've had nightmares about losing our own children at young ages, and sadly, many people in the Tri-Lakes area have experienced it as more than just a bad dream. Their lives were forever changed, but they have survived, with help, and deserve to be doubly blessed and honored because of it.

As if that wasn't enough painful news, this week we saw multiple fires, including one that injured a student at a Lake Placid school, and a head-on motor vehicle collision with three injuries.

On a lower level but still draining, there's the headache unfolding at the Saranac Lake Central School District. The middle school classrooms on the third floor of the Petrova building have suddenly become a toxic cleanup zone — well, kind of, because vermiculite, the mineral that was found leaking through the ceilings, is non-toxic on its own. The problem is it was once mined in ground that also contained asbestos, so it has to be treated as if it's contaminated with that illness-inducing substance. Starting Monday, the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders and their teachers will be moved to the first floor, currently filled up with Petrova Elementary Schoolers. The fourth and fifth grades and their teachers, meanwhile, will be moved 7 miles to Bloomingdale Elementary School.

This is one of the busiest and saddest weeks we've seen in the news business. Locals we talk to seem to reel from the weight of it all. Tupper Lake lawyer Janelle LaVigne summed up the zeitgeist well with a three-word post on our Facebook page: "No more please."

Lest we despair, there's also been good news. The week was bookended by two graduations: Paul Smith's College last Saturday and North Country Community College today. There were plenty of high school spring sports matches, which are basically all good even if the home team loses once in a while. And officials from the two colleges teamed up to sign an arrangement in which students of the public NCCC can transfer to the private PSC at the much lower state tuition rate. It remains to be seen how that deal will play out for the schools, both of which need to boost their enrollment, but for students, at least, it can only be seen as a boon.

So it's not all bad. Plus, the clustering of bad news is just harsh coincidence, not some cosmic punishment. There have been tough weeks like this before.

Local people are in particular need of kindness and friendliness right about now. It's a great opportunity to do something good and say something nice to those around you. Hopefully they will take comfort in knowing the community's heart goes out to the families and friends.





The (Gloversville) Leader-Herald on bureaucrats hurting the poor.

May 16

Rules are rules. Bending them beyond some reasonable point risks creating chaos.

Somehow, giving poor kids a break despite the fact some adult filled in a federal form using the wrong typeface or with incorrect margins doesn't seem like it would create a problem.

Some members of Congress are up in arms — and rightly so — over how the U.S. Department of Education handled a grant program intended to help students from poor families prepare for college.

It seems that under the Obama administration, the DOE adopted rules for how organizations and institutions of higher learning desiring to offer the Upward Bound program had to apply for federal grants. The 65-page applications have to be filled out using a certain kind of typeface, with specified margins and with double-spaced text.

Seventy-seven of the 1,592 applications received were rejected. Wrong typeface. Wrong margins. Space-and-a-half rather than double-spaced text.

Of course, applicants should have been paying more attention. But why could they not have been told to re-do the forms and re-submit them?

Because the bureaucracy has to make it clear who's boss, of course.

Poor children, not the colleges and organizations that did the forms incorrectly, suffer from that kind of idiotic insistence on jumping through the hoops.

Here's the saddest aspect of the fiasco: The bureaucrats responsible may well think they were doing the right thing. And they wonder why so many in the public are sick and tired of them ...





(Albany) Times Union on the need for oil spill protection.

May 15

Our opinion: The Senate should stop blocking a proposed law to hold oil storage facility owners accountable in the event of a disaster.

Federal law regulates the transportation of crude oil, but it falls on the state to regulate storage of that petroleum, protect the people and property around the storage sites, and make sure the owners of those facilities are held accountable for any accidents.

Considering the dramatic increase in shipments of highly flammable crude oil coming through this region and being stored at the Port of Albany since 2008, the possibility for a disaster is real. Yet a state law to require oil-related firms to guarantee they can cover costs of cleanup, decontamination and other consequences keeps hitting a dead end.

Since 2014, Assembly member Patricia Fahy, D-Albany, has led the push for legislation to require oil storage operators, vessels and railroads to provide proof of coverage for spills, fires or explosions. This financial surety bill has easily made it through the Democrat-dominated Assembly, but hasn't been able to get out of committee and onto the floor for a vote in the Republican-controlled Senate.

The dangers of mishandling highly flammable crude oil came into focus in 2013 with the explosion in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, that killed 47 people and caused $2 billion in damage after a tank car filled with highly volatile crude oil broke free, crashed and exploded. The small railroad company involved subsequently went bankrupt and its insurance only covered $20 million — a fraction of the damage the explosion and fire caused. It underscored the need to make sure companies handling explosive oil have adequate financial resources in the event of a disaster.

The costs can be enormous. Beyond the immediate cleanup from a spill, there may be damages to people, businesses and public property, and bills — possibly long-term ones — for monitoring of air, soil and water after a significant breach and mitigating environmental impacts.

Most of us are used to carrying some kind of insurance for our home or auto. The proposed legislation would simply require the same for oil interests.

The Business Council of New York State, which advocates on behalf of businesses, opposes Ms. Fahy's legislation with two weak arguments: The federal government already regulates oil trains, and spills of crude oil are infrequent and usually minor. When they happen, though, the industry must be prepared to pay.

We saw this sort of resistance when gas drilling companies wanted to bring large scale fracking to the state, even in New York City's vast Catskills watershed. Asked if it would guarantee to pay for a multi-billion dollar city filtration system if it ruined the watershed, though, the industry said no.

Like the gas industry, the oil industry seems happy to privatize profit and socialize risk. That's business looking out for its interests. The Senate, however, is supposed to be looking out for the public's interest. Passing the Petroleum Storage Surety legislation would do just that.





The New York Times on a protest in Virginia with echoes of the Klan.

May 17

The mayor of Charlottesville, Virginia., was on the mark when he compared the people who marched with torches on Saturday to protest the planned removal of a Confederate monument to Ku Klux Klansmen, who terrorized Southern nights with cross-burnings and violence. By embracing the symbols and rhetoric of racial terror, the demonstrators made clear that they valued the Confederate memorial not for civic or aesthetic reasons but as a testament to white supremacy.

Communities across the South have been removing Confederate flags from public spaces and removing or reappraising Confederate monuments since the white supremacist Dylann Roof murdered nine African-Americans at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015. The Charlottesville City Council voted last month to sell a statue of the Confederate general Robert E. Lee that was donated to the city by a wealthy segregationist almost a century ago. A court has barred the city from removing the statue while it weighs a lawsuit opposing the action.

A commission established by the City Council, in a report issued last year, dispensed with the notion that the sculpture was, as its supporters argue, simply a neutral expression of Southern pride. Rather, it said the sculpture had emerged from the Lost Cause movement, which developed in the South in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It romanticized slavery, affirmed white supremacy and justified the segregation of black Virginians in virtually "all walks of life," the report said, "including employment, education, housing, health care and public accommodations."

The statue was given to the city in 1924, the year the Virginia Racial Integrity Act made it illegal for a white person to marry anyone other than another white person. Although the sculpture is in a public park, the commission noted, the land around it retained the aura of a "whites only" space for a long time. Given this legacy, the commission said, the Lee statue was unsuitable for placement in a public space unless the surroundings were remade to reflect its origins and serve as a historical reminder and critique of racial oppression and Jim Crow rule.

Many of those who argue for keeping the sculpture in place see it as an innocuous symbol of the South. The demonstrators discredited that idea when they massed around it brandishing burning torches and chanted white supremacist slogans.





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