Posts Tagged ‘opinion’
Morning, folks. A June-like day out there this Sunday morning, so I assume most of you are reading this on Monday morning at work when you’re supposed to be, well, working. Here’s what’s stirring the passions of local editorial writers this weekend.
The Watertown Daily Times praises Governor Andrew Cuomo for securing a Tier VI pension category for new government workers in New York.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the Legislature have taken another step to rein in the unsustainable costs of public employee pensions by adding a new tier to the system that raises employee contributions and incorporates an optional alternative to the traditional defined benefits plan.
The new Tier VI just two years after the state had added a fifth tier to the state pension system is a major accomplishment for Gov. Cuomo, who came to office pledging to reduce state spending without raising taxes.
The Adirondack Daily Enterprise echoes that praise, but the paper blasts the governor for getting there ugly.
It is disappointing to see Andrew Cuomo’s first term take the same path as that of New York governors before him: Start off strong, not just talking reform but actually changing some of the undemocratic practices in Albany, and then, come crunch time, slide back into the familiar, murky pattern of governance by three men in a closed back room, wheeling and dealing with high-stakes issues that should be debated publicly on the Assembly and Senate floors.
That same sour taste was shared by the Glens Falls Post Star’s managing editor Ken Tingley.
Gov. Cuomo has proved he can get things done, but it is more often than not ugly, backroom wheeling and dealing with no attempt to gauge the will of the people.
Ultimately, in an all-night orgy of legislation, everyone got a little of what they were asking for, but Gov. Cuomo may have made “pragmatic” a dirty word when he gave away fair, impartial voting districts in exchange for casino gambling and pension reform for state workers.
Meanwhile, in yet another sign of how much pressure public sector workers are under to accept lower pay and benefits (see Tier VI discussion above), the Plattsburgh Press Republican is praising Beekmantown teachers for accepting a pay freeze next year.
The Teachers Association last week agreed to a pay freeze for the 2012-13 school year to help the district cope with a $3.2 million gap between budget revenues and expenses.
Everyone in the district — from the students who sit in their classroom to the senior citizens worried about their tax bills — should express gratitude to the teachers for being willing to abandon their promised raises to save the district $300,000.
So there you go. A governor who accomplishes a lot, but gets dinged on style and ethics points; and state and local government workers under more pressure. Chime in below.
Morning, folks. A classic winter morning outside. A quick post about the weekend’s opinion writing, then I’m off to ski.
We’ll start in Watertown, near Fort Drum military base, which is already the anchor point for drone aircraft overflights across the Adirondacks.
Now, the Watertown Daily Times reports, the Obama administration is moving to allow far more drone activity in American airspace, a move that raises civil liberties concerns.
[P]olice can watch a political rally, silently from 30,000 feet overhead. But also alarming is the danger of escalating their use to include weapons. Drone builders are researching the use of nonlethal weapons such as tear gas, tasers and stun guns fired from a drone, and lethal weaponry can be an easy next step on the slippery slope.
The drones will add to the erosion of privacy that has come with the ubiquitous cameras and global positioning systems that can monitor our whereabouts.
The Adirondack Daily Enterprise and the Glens Falls Post Star are thinking about the cost of education in the North Country. The Enterprise weighs in on the side of merging districts, even forming a massive “Tri-Lakes” district.
Last year, the superintendents of the Tri-Lakes school districts met to discuss the possibility of merging districts or even sharing services. Unsurprisingly, they decided not to.
“It all depends on whose ox is getting gored,” Saranac Lake Central School District Superintendent Gerald Goldman told the Enterprise at the time, making it clear that the decision was based largely on the fact that none of them wanted to lose his job.
But it shouldn’t be their call anyway, and they know that. It’s up to the people and our elected leaders. If school boards, following a public mandate, voted to merge districts, superintendents would have to respect that decision.
Imagine a merger of the districts the Enterprise covers: Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Lake Placid and Keene. Each school could keep its doors open as well as its principal and hopefully all its teachers, and have advisory council as well.
Meanwhile, the Glens Falls Post Star is calling for school boards to negotiate aggressively to avoid higher teacher salaries and benefits.
School boards need to understand they are in the catbird seat after years in which the unions dictated the terms.
That may sound cold and heartless, but it is a reality and unions need to understand that as well. This is not a time to be asking for the moon or even a sliver of it.
It is just the opposite. One member of the Queensbury Board of Education has been calling for a wage freeze for some time. Each school board should give that strong consideration.
The other day at a recreation planning meeting in Lake Placid, I participated in a time-honored Adirondack meeting ritual.It goes like this: someone at the table brings up the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan (SLMP), the document that defines land classifications (wilderness, wild forest, etc.) and lists the guidelines for their use.Next, nearly every stakeholder at the table agrees that the SLMP is outdated and that a major review is long overdue.The ritual concludes with everyone agreeing that meaningful review of the SLMP is unlikely, and probably not worth pursuing.The conversation then moves on to other topics.
The SLMP states “Major reviews of the master plan will take place every five years by the [Adirondack Park] Agency in consultation with the Department of Environmental Conservation, as required by statute…” but the last review was in 1987.
Morning, In Boxers. Here’s a look at the opinion churning out there in the North Country mediosphere. We’ll start with the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, which is proposing a major reform to the way Franklin County handles local politics.
Franklin County would be better off with a board of supervisors and weighted voting, like Essex County has, than with its board of separately elected legislators.
The article goes on to lay out a detailed argument for the change. As someone who lives in a village divided by two counties — one with a legislature, the other with a board of supervisors — I think this one’s worth a read.
The Plattsburgh Press-Republican chimes in on the notion floated in Albany that, despite the state’s lingering budget woes, state lawmakers might have earned themselves a raise.
The idea was brought up recently by New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who noted that legislators and commissioners haven’t had a pay increase in 13 years.
That certainly is a long period of time for anyone to manage without a raise, when inflation has boosted prices for most everything. But, frankly, the best pay increases are based on merit — and New York legislators, for the most part, haven’t earned one.
The Glens Falls Post Star is arguing that state officials need to take the next big step in property tax reform, not just capping the amount that governments can raise rates, but capping the amount that each individual is forced to pay.
The circuit breaker, in brief, would put a percentage limit on the amount of property taxes individuals would have to pay relative to their incomes. So, for example, people earning $100,000 or less might have to pay no more than 10 percent of their income ($10,000) in property taxes. The circuit breaker addresses some of the worst inequities of the property tax system.
Denton Publications, meanwhile, is hailing creative efforts to bring high speed broadband connections to more of the Adirondack North Country.
A small-scale broadband project in the southern Adirondacks appears to offer a promising solution that might be applicable to vast areas of the Park.
In Thurman, an entrepreneur is working with the town government to bring fast, affordable broadband to the town’s 1,200 households. The access is based on broadcasting digital signals over the “white space” between television station signals on the radio-wave spectrum. The Internet connection through this technology is up to eight times faster than satellite. The system transmits signals from dozens of existing telephone poles throughout the rural town to small antennas at households.
The technology is promising, because it works over hilly terrain, and transmits through foliage, unlike other digital broadcast options.
There you go. Happy Winter Carnival weekend, wherever your carnival is taking place! Comments welcome below.
Good Sunday morning to all. Here’s some of the opinion writing swirling about in the region.
The Watertown Daily Times lambasts the legislative committee that cooked up new district lines for the North Country’s Assembly and state Senate seats, decrying the impact on Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence Counties.
The Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Redevelopment carved up Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties and put portions of them in five Assembly districts and three Senate districts. Where two senators and two members of the Assembly now represent the tri-county region, its unifying, common interests will be fractured and parceled out among eight lawmakers under the maps released last week.
The Plattsburgh Press-Republican says Ticonderoga and Crown Point are on the right track exploring the possibility of a school district merger.
Both schools face declining enrollments. Ten years ago, Crown Point had about 350 students; it now has 280. Ticonderoga went from 1,100 students then to 900 now. The drop in students isn’t unique to those schools; many districts in the North Country have seen similar declines.
Those two factors — proximity and fewer students — are indicators that the districts would be wise to consider whether joining together would make them a stronger entity.
During this winter-that-never was, the Glens Falls Post Star’s Ken Tingley ponders out loud about the possible upsides of global warming.
I’m a fan of global warming. No, I don’t want the earth to fry into a cinder while I’ve still got some breathing to do, but I sure wouldn’t mind winter ending some time in March or a long, lingering fall that gave way only begrudgingly to winter so we could have a brief, white Christmas.
Imagine the impact on the tourist industry if tourists could swim without risk of heart attack from the shock of a summer dip in the lake.
Imagine the money to be made if the tourist season were extended from 10 to 20 weeks because of warmer temperatures and more sunshine.
I’m probably just getting old and since I don’t relish the idea of moving to Florida anytime soon, I’m kind of hoping my generation is the first ever where Florida comes to us.
Finally, the Times-Union’s food writer checked out the fare at the Cambridge Hotel in Washington County, following Chef Gordon Ramsay’s make-over, and declares the reinvention a success.
The food we had Saturday night at the revamped Cambridge Hotel in Washington County was so far superior to the execrable fare I was served there about 10 days ago that the transformation is nothing short of astonishing…
Ramsay has done the obvious and necessary thing to the menu: focus on local purveyors and make everything in-house that isn’t otherwise sourced locally. The menu names farms and local producers featured in items, including Flying Pigs Farm for pork, 3-Corner Field Farm for cheese and Battenkill Creamery for cream for swoon-worthy homemade vanilla ice cream for apple pie a la mode.
Given that the hotel has been surrounded by these farms and producers for years, I don’t know why it took a tyrannical, foul-mouthed British chef to get them on the menu, but at least it happened.
So there you go. Even some foody stuff to argue about this Sunday morning. Hope you all have a great day…
Morning, folks. Here’s a look at some of the opinion floating out there in the North Country webosphere this weekend.
The Adirondack Daily Enterprise pivots from the APA’s historic decision on the Adirondack Club and Resort, arguing that a legal challenge by green groups would be unwise.
Some of the more strident of the Park’s environmental groups have indicated that they might sue the state to overturn the decision. We hope the overwhelming nature of the vote dissuades them from such an action.
While they might see legal grounds for it, they are in a small minority in that view. The Park’s largest environmental advocacy group, the Adirondack Council, says the project meets the APA’s requirements. Cecil Wray, a lawyer and veteran commissioner who has always stood up strongly for environmental protection, voted yes to a permit.
The Plattsburgh Press Republican, meanwhile, is endorsing Governor Cuomo’s idea of having the Olympic Regional Development Authority take over management of the Belleayre ski area in the Catskills.
There is no doubt that ORDA is the right organization for any winter-resort management in New York state.
Another advantage to the move would be to further the state’s avowed goal of shrinking government: less management apparatus, fewer people to do a better job.
An incidental advantage locally is that the takeover makes ORDA more vital to New York state and its residents and taxpayers. It compartmentalizes duties in a more focused way, as should be the case.
There is no need for DEC to be in the ski business. It has plenty to do without running Belleayre.
The Watertown Daily Times says President Obama botched it when he said no to the Keystone pipeline from Canada.
The United States needs the oil that is being offered. A timely decision would provide thousands of American jobs. It makes sense to take advantage of energy resources right here in North America rather than rely on suppliers in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world.
The Glens Falls Post Star is praising Governor Cuomo’s emphasis on infrastructure spending.
Much of the economic development the governor proposes involves infrastructure work – $723 million to rebuild highways and bridges, parks, dams and higher education facilities. The state will also take advantage of federal funding, private capital and revenue from state authorities in its push to shore up the aging sinews that knit New York together.
In hard times, you have to hunker down and take care of basic needs and, in his focus on infrastructure, the governor is doing that. Spending millions now on roads and bridges will save billions over time, as the state avoids fiascoes like the implosion of the Champlain Bridge, which crippled commerce in the northern Champlain Valley for two years.
So there you go. Plenty to chew on. Comments, as always, welcome.
Morning, folks. Here’s a round-up of issues on the minds of opinion writers around the region. The Plattsburgh Press-Republican argues that Keeseville — which straddles the Clinton-Essex county line — is right to consider dissolving the village.
Keeseville is being proactive by moving promptly on residents’ calls for a dissolution study. Rock affirms that the public will hold the reins in the end.
There are no sound reasons not to proceed with this study: The citizens and officials want to know the numbers, the grant money is available, and the final decision will rest where it belongs — with the people.
Meanwhile, the Glens Falls Post-Star is heralding a big school merger plan in Herkimer County, which the paper says could be a model for districts across the North Country.
The Frankfort-Schuyler, Herkimer, Ilion and Mohawk school districts – all located within 7 miles of each other – voted unanimously this week to put a proposed merger of the four school systems to a vote in each district. The vote is non-binding, but none of the boards were going to push forward until everyone was on board.
These are not tiny school districts, either. The Franklin Schuyler district has more than 1,100 students, Ilion 1,800, Herkimer 1,200 and Mohawk 1,000.
The closest example in our region would be if Hudson Falls, Fort Ann and Fort Edward merged into a Route 4 colossus. Any takers?
Meanwhile, the Adirondack Daily Enterprise argues that Albany should get out of the way and let counties raise sales taxes when local leaders see fit.
The state officials making this blanket decree do not know county finances better than the locals; nor are they trying to uphold any statewide standard.
Sales tax rates in New York are different in every county: The state takes its 4 percent, and county rates vary. Up here, Franklin County takes 4 percent while Essex takes 3.75.
Essex has been trying in recent years to raise its sales tax to 4 percent, but the state Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo are blocking that effort. Why?
Finally, the Adirondack Almanack published excerpts this week from an interesting opinion piece written by Adirondack Council leader Brian Houseal, who called for major reforms in the way state agencies manage the Park.
“The two main state agencies that protect the Adirondack Park’s forests and waters are the Adirondack Park Agency and Department of Environmental Conservation,” said Houseal. “Both were established in the early 1970s and have been operating the same way since that time. Over the past 40 years, it has become clear that some things aren’t working very well. We have presented the Governor with a plan for fixing those problems.”
“In general, we would like to see state agencies treat the Adirondack Park as a single entity by using the same set of rules and policies across the entire Park,” Houseal explained. “For example, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) breaks the Park into two regions, with the regional office in Ray Brook overseeing the eastern two-thirds, while the Watertown office governs the western one-third of the Park, from a distance of 30 miles outside the Park’s border. The departments of Health, Transportation, Economic Development, also break the Park into multiple regions and regional directors.
“In most cases, we are proposing changes that the Governor has the authority to make on his own,” Houseal said. “Some others will require the assistance of the Legislature, either through new laws or with money.”
So there you go. Plenty to chew on on this cold, bright North Country Sunday. Comments welcome as always.
Governor Andrew Cuomo’s state of the state address drew mostly rave reviews on the New York side of Lake Champlain this week — with some spices of skepticism thrown in — this week.
Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin also drew strong reviews for his state of the state message.
First from the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, which called Cuomo’s address “rousing and rational,” but also wrestled issue by issue with his agenda. One example is mandate reform.
Agree: The state must focus on mandate relief for local governments.
But: Gov. Cuomo insisted the property tax levy cap has worked. That’s kind of true, but things aren’t that different yet and we haven’t seen how it will play out for schools. It has put pressure on local governments to solve their own problems, which is good, but now that urgency shifts to the state to make its mandates fair.
It will probably be necessary to shift some of these expenses – Medicaid, pensions and schools – from property taxes to state income taxes. That could be a budget buster in Albany, but income taxes are more fair than property taxes since they corrspond with one’s ability to pay.
The Glens Falls Post Star also praised Governor Cuomo for offering leadership on issues ranging from property taxes to gay marriage.
Gov. Cuomo has made an impressive start, showing a seriousness of purpose and an ability to get things done. But one year does not a legacy make. If the governor is going to change New York’s reputation as a home for patronage and waste, and get the state’s economy rolling, he’s going to have keep pushing just as hard in 2012, and well beyond.And then the Vermont picture from the Burlington Free Press, which chided Shumlin for going light on specifics.
The State of the State speech was largely a celebration of the Vermont spirit, sorely tested by a tough year marked by two natural disasters — the prolonged and widespread flood in the spring and Tropical Storm Irene in late August.
The tone of the address was wholly appropriate given the storm response showed Vermonters at their best. The governor is right to try to harness post-Irene Vermont’s can-do momentum to tackle issues that existed long before Irene added to the already difficult challenges.
But good vibes are no substitute for careful scrutiny of the administration’s policies.
So what do you think? Strong leadership in Vermont and New York — or are there still agenda items that you think need more focus?
Anyone wanting a thumbnail sketch of the ups and downs of 2011 in the North Country can do no better than a quick journey through Marquil’s political cartoons, in this handy all-in-one-place NCPR slideshow.
From Saranac Laker Marl Wilson comes a unique take on the Adirondack Club and Resort debate, Governor Cuomo’s battles in Albany, the state mandate vs. property tax entanglement, tropical storm Irene and much in between.
These pictures are worth at least a thousand words.
Give Marquil’s year-in-review a scan and chime in — what do you think of his read of politics, life and a year now consigned to the dustbin of history?
And about that pun in the headline? No apologies. None.