Editorial Roundup: New York | New York News
Editorial: New York needs to lessen pain at the gas pump
The Citizen Editorial Board
With the price of a gallon of gas well above $4 in Auburn and central New York this week, it’s time for the state to give consumers a break by temporarily suspending its gas tax.
Gas prices have been rising across the country since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine, and although the United States imports relatively little oil from Russia, a decision by the White House to completely cut out Russian imports is expected to drive prices at the pump even higher.
President Joe Biden has acknowledged the need to “limit the pain” people are feeling at the pump, and state Sen. Pam Helming recently asked Gov. Kathy Hochul to do just that by suspending the state’s gas tax program, which in January was at an average of more than 48 cents per gallon with all fees and county tax rates factored in.
With inflation sky-high and gas prices continuing to rise, we agree that Hochul should enact a plan to bring such relief to New York motorists.
Federal recovery act cash has put state and local governments in a position to absorb a short-term loss of revenue this year, and out-of-control gas prices are only going to hinder the post-COVID economic recovery at a time when people are making summer plans and businesses are ramping back up to try to recover some of their losses over the past two years.
With economic uncertainty in America being exacerbated by the invasion of Ukraine, gas prices will likely go even higher before they start to go down again.
Suspending New York’s gas tax won’t entirely solve that problem for local consumers, but it could be a big help.
New York Post. March 7, 2022.
Editorial: God may not be done with Cuomo, but New Yorkers definitely are
Disgraced ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo took to the pulpit Sunday not to beg forgiveness but preach fire and brimstone on the “political sharks” who supposedly drove him from office.
He claimed to be “truly, truly sorry” and that he “learned a powerful lesson,” but only because he hadn’t “appreciated” changing norms in the workplace.
He actually said his “behavior has been the same for 40 years in public life” (which suggests that dozens more women have ugly tales to tell), which turned out to be “the problem.”
Among other things, this also means he’s still stonewalling on his deadly care-home orders, issued to protect a big-donating special interest at the expense of vulnerable elderly and special-needs New Yorkers.
“I’ve gone through a difficult period the past few months. I resigned as governor, the press roasted me, my colleagues were ridiculed, my brother was fired,” Cuomo moaned. “It was ugly. It was probably the toughest time of my life.”
“God isn’t finished with me yet,” he insisted. Maybe not, but the voters are: Polling shows a majority believe the accusations, even if he’s escaped prosecution.
In the Siena survey, 58% say they believe Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women as governor against just 21% who think him innocent.
Cuomo’s spending big from the millions that special interests put in his political war chest in his salad days to try reversing those numbers. If he ever decides to try earning real redemption, he’ll donate that fortune to a genuinely good cause.
Albany Times Union. March 3, 2022.
Editorial: JCOPE N.Y.’s hot potato
What is it about the Joint Commission on Public Ethics that’s made it state government’s hot potato?
You’ll recall that’s the name of the game in which players try not to be left holding an object — a potato, a ball, or whatever — when the music stops. JCOPE, in particular a scandal involving a leak of information from its deliberations, seems to be the thing that investigative authorities don’t want to even touch.
First it was the Office of the Inspector General, which seemed to go out of its way to botch an investigation of the leak. Now it’s Attorney General Letitia James, who for all appearances has yet to even look at the matter.
This concerns an apparent violation of a law that keeps many internal deliberations of JCOPE a secret, including votes by the commission on whether to undertake an investigation.
Such a vote is believed to have come up in a Jan. 29, 2019, meeting that addressed the question of whether JCOPE would look into possible misuse of public resources in then-Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office by a top aide, Joe Percoco. In a federal corruption trial concerning his role in a bribery scandal, it was revealed that Mr. Percoco had been making calls to campaign staff at his former desk in the governor’s office when he was supposed to be on leave to work on the governor’s 2014 reelection effort. Beyond Mr. Percoco’s actions were questions about who else — such as Mr. Cuomo — might have been aware of this alleged misuse of public resources.
After the 2019 meeting, Mr. Cuomo is said to have called Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie to berate him over how his appointees on the commission had voted.
It is a misdemeanor to leak confidential information from JCOPE. The panel’s top staffer reported the matter to the inspector general’s office.
Then-Inspector General Letizia Tagliafierro, who formerly served as JCOPE’s executive director, recused herself and delegated the investigation to a deputy, Spencer Freedman, who like Ms. Tagliafierro had worked under Mr. Cuomo in the past. The investigation concluded that the leak was unsubstantiated, and little wonder: Incredibly, the two prime witnesses, Mr. Cuomo and Mr. Heastie, had not been interviewed. Even the findings were kept secret until the Times Union learned of the probe in late 2019.
JCOPE last year asked for the probe to be reopened. The inspector general declined. So it asked the attorney general. Ms. James’ office responded that the request wasn’t made properly. JCOPE asked again. That was in September. It’s been waiting ever since.
As the Times Union’s Chris Bragg reports, none of JCOPE’s staff or commissioners have been contacted by the attorney general’s office.
It’s hard not to notice that the key players involved here are all Democrats. Which raises the question: Is this just too hot a potato for Ms. James — who often says in news releases that she wields the power of her office “without fear or favor”?
Yes, JCOPE needs to be replaced, and Gov. Kathy Hochul has called for that to get done this year. But even if JCOPE goes away, this issue — this possible crime — won’t. The potato is in Ms. James hand, and there it stays.
Oneonta Daily Star. March 8, 2022.
Editorial: Stefanik has Ukraine blood on her hands
When Donald Trump was running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Saratoga, had serious concerns.
She questioned Trump’s character after he smeared a Gold Star family for endorsing Hillary Clinton, and again after the leak of an infamous video of him making crude comments on “Access Hollywood.” She criticized Trump’s proposed Mexico border wall as unrealistic. Earlier, she had warned that Trump was unlikely to release his tax returns if nominated; after initially doubting that he’d win, Stefanik tersely vowed to support “my party’s nominee” without mentioning his name.
Perhaps most unpalatable of all for Stefanik, an ostensible foreign policy expert who once worked at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, was Trump’s reckless, ignorant kowtowing to Russian President Vladimir Putin and half-cocked remarks about dismantling NATO and stealing Iraq’s oil.
“His statements regarding NATO, his statements regarding Putin, regarding some of the positions in regards to Iraq that he made, regarding the oil fields — I absolutely oppose those,” Stefanik said in an interview with North Country Public Radio.
Trump of course won his party’s nomination, and around this time Stefanik adopted a new persona seemingly pulled from one of Trump’s cameos in pro wrestling: taunting, smearing and sneering at her critics, as if politics is nothing more serious than mere showmanship. She cut off contact with local newspapers and TV stations in her district that might ask serious questions, instead relying solely on friendly appearances with Fox News’ Sean Hannity and other national right-wing media figures. We expect the same from her, now that her district includes all of Schoharie and part of northern Otsego County.
Stefanik’s new persona bolstered her campaign fundraising efforts, especially around the time of Trump’s first impeachment trial. The evidence was cut and dry: Trump threatened to withhold vital defense assistance from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy unless he agreed to launch a phony investigation of Joe Biden’s family as he sought the Democratic nomination to run against Trump. Trump only backed down and released the arms shipments after widespread outrage and public pressure. Few scandals in American political history have been more despicable — or more obvious.
By now, Stefanik’s transformation from a conscientious, traditional Republican to the sleaziest sort of politician was complete. Her response to the existential threat Putin and Trump posed to democracy itself? To smear the witnesses testifying against Trump, such as retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, an Iraq War veteran and Purple Heart recipient whose family fled from Soviet Ukraine in 1979. It was a calculating career move for Stefanik: her newfound cult-like devotion to Trump was the sole reason for her elevation to the House Republicans’ No. 3 post, which was occupied by Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming, until she dared to criticize Trump for attempting to steal the 2020 presidential election by unleashing a bloodthirsty mob on the U.S. Capitol.
Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has made it clear who was on the right side of history all along. Readers should remember this as Stefanik — perhaps spurred by a guilty conscience — attempts to pin responsibility for this tragedy on President Joe Biden, who has proven to be a steady hand and a thorn in Putin’s side in rallying a coalition to help the Ukrainians fend him off. When Stefanik attacked Biden again this week, she provoked the anger of the Vindmans. Vindman’s wife, Rachel, didn’t mince words in her response to Stefanik, the mother of a newborn, saying: “When you hold your new baby I want you to think of the mothers of Ukraine who will never see their children again because you abdicated your responsibility to hold Trump accountable for his extortion.”
Vindman himself wrote of Stefanik: “Putin is responsible for this war, but you deserve a great deal of responsibility for it. It is your vile attacks on our democracy that suggested to Putin he can conduct this war.”
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