Editorial Roundup: New York

Jamestown Post-Journal. May 22, 2024.

Editorial: The Reverse Robin Hood Of State’s EV Rebate Program

Did Robin Hood get it wrong?

Did the famous swashbuckling character created by Howard Pyle in the 1880s miss the boat when he robbed the rich to give to the poor?

We don’t think so. But when it comes to the way electric vehicle rebates are handled in New York’s Sherwood Forest, the money is taken from all of us and given to those who have a financial advantage.

The rebates for electric vehicles – currently available for new EVs while legislators debate extending the rebate to used EVs – are paid for by utility surcharges. Everyone pays the same surcharge, which means the fee hits lower income households harder than it does those with more disposable income.

Yet, who is more likely to use the program created by those fees? That’s right – those with more disposable income. Most lower-income New Yorkers can’t get a bank loan on either a used or a new electric vehicle even with state and federal rebates .That’s especially true with the state program, which comes in the form of a tax credit that doesn’t reduce the sticker price of the vehicle. So if you’re not in position to spend upwards of $25,000 on a used vehicle, the EV tax credit is useless to you. It’s very useful for those on more solid financial footing – who probably don’t need the tax credit in the first place.

A better program, in our view, would have been a sliding scale that provides a higher rebate for those who would otherwise struggle to get bank financing for an electric vehicle. That would make sense in helping the state achieve its lofty environmental goals. The least energy efficient vehicles tend to be driven by those who patch together their old vehicles year after year because they can’t afford the astronomical prices being charged for newer vehicles. Helping those people buy newer or electric vehicles would do more to boost EV ownership than making sure people who can already afford EVs get a tax break.

We agree with Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-Jamestown. Howard Pyle got it right almost 150 years ago. New York, with its idea of stealing from the poor to give to the well off, has gotten it wrong with this electric vehicle rebate program.


Dunkirk Evening Observer. May 21, 2024.

Editorial: New York STATE Plan for athletes likely to backfire

By this fall, it will be much easier for girls who want to play boys varsity sports to do so.

That’s not a bad thing.

Girls who can athletically compete should be able to do so without demeaning, invasive tests or having to do more to prove they are athletically capable than a boy of the same age. On that front, we can’t disagree with the state Education Department’s decision to end the Tanner test, a process during which female athletes had to go through embarrassing examinations before they could play sports with boys. And, in a world in which parents tell their daughters they can do anything they want to, it’s patently unfair to hold girls to a higher standard than boys playing the same sports.

Those decisions should be made based on physical ability and skill. Schools will have to devise policies that will determine how girls who want to play boys sports can prove their mettle – but frankly, that should be done on the field. If you can play, you can play.

The problem is, in its attempt to bring fairness to girls who have the ability to play boys sports, the state may inadvertently damage other girls sports. There will be no change to sports where there is a team for boys and girls – like basketball, for instance.

But flag football, played by girls in the spring, would be open to boys unless schools create a new boys flag football program. Girls volleyball could quickly become co-ed in the fall in a place like Chautauqua County, which hasn’t had boys volleyball for years. Boys who have trouble playing baseball are likely to be able to play girls softball – that ball is a lot easier to see, though anyone who has watched the two sports knows they are completely different games.

For every girl who has the physical capability to play with the boys, there are girls who don’t. They need the arena created by federal Title 9 legislation to have an opportunity to compete. Opening that arena to boys with greater physical gifts can hurt the very girls that Title 9 aimed to help. We’d say it is an unintended consequence, but Regent Roger Tilles specifically mentioned hoping to see more boys playing girls field hockey in Long Island if the Board of Regents’ proposal is officially enacted for the coming fall sports season.

It’s safe to say, then, that the state has an intended consequence. The Board of Regents should keep in mind that the door it’s opening swings both ways.


Albany Times Union. May 16, 2024.

Editorial: Act now for a lasting ethics fix

Andrew Cuomo scored a significant win last week when a New York appellate court ruled that the state’s ethics commission is unconstitutional.

The former governor has waged a long war against the Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government as he tries to forestall its investigation of the $5 million deal he received for writing “American Crisis,” a book purporting to offer the Democrat’s “leadership lessons” from the COVID-19 pandemic. And while it’s more than reasonable to question Mr. Cuomo’s motives, a win is a win — and COELIG is in real trouble.

The commission was state government’s latest answer to decades of toothless ethics enforcement, and while far from perfect it was an improvement over what had come before. Yet Mr. Cuomo’s attorneys argued that since most COELIG appointees are nominated by the Legislature, comptroller and attorney general before being reviewed by an unelected panel of law school deans, its structure violated the separation of powers doctrine and strips the executive branch of power.

The appellate court agreed, perhaps ending COELIG’s attempt to investigate Mr. Cuomo and potentially leaving New York government, once again, without an ethics watchdog able to sniff out and punish corruption.

While it is possible the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, will hear the case and even overturn last week’s ruling, lawmakers would be foolish to wait before taking action. The ruling was unanimous, after all, suggesting that the flaws with COELIG are real and significant. Lawmakers must craft a fix that can work and last.

As we’ve said many times, the state needs a transparent ethics body appointed by a range of elected officials, with safeguards in place to guarantee independence from political meddling. Given New York’s long and sordid history with political corruption, the need for such a body was obvious long before Mr. Cuomo was accused of using on-duty government staffers to help produce a book that paid him so handsomely.

Last week’s ruling makes it clear that a permanent and bulletproof solution to the problem of ethics enforcement requires a constitutional amendment put forth by the Legislature. That process could put the proposal up for a statewide vote as soon as November 2025 — but only if lawmakers and Gov. Kathy Hochul act quickly.

Indeed, the task should be near the top of the Legislature’s to-do list for the current session. Few things are more important than guarding against public corruption. In a state where two of the past four governors resigned in disgrace, New Yorkers have rightly grown cynical about state government and the willingness of elected officials to combat wrongdoing in their peer group.

A proposal for a strong ethics panel would demonstrate that Ms. Hochul and lawmakers are serious about meaningful change — and that lessons from Mr. Cuomo’s tenure have been taken to heart. The former governor’s courtroom win must not be a permanent loss for ethical government in New York.


Oneonta Daily Star. May 17, 2024.

Editorial: Oversight of watchdog groups more important than ever

Keeping a watchful eye on those in power is a fundamental aspect of any democratic society. But sometimes even those who take on that responsibility can make mistakes.

An appeals court in New York ruled last week that a state commission created to investigate ethical violations was done so unconstitutionally. The Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government was attempting to make former Gov. Andrew Cuomo forfeit $5 million he received for writing a book about his administration’s efforts to combat the COVID pandemic.

Cuomo has argued that, under the state constitution, the commission lacks the authority to prosecute him. The state Supreme Court agreed with him, stating that the creation of the panel violated the principles of the separation of powers, even if it was done with good intentions.

In an effort to restore public trust in government after Cuomo’s resignation in a sexual harassment scandal, lawmakers sought to replace an earlier ethics commission that was criticized for not being independent enough.

This new body was formed in 2022 by Gov. Kathy Hochul and the state Legislature to investigate possible ethics and lobbying violations in Albany and beyond.

There’s certainly no lack of irony when an ethics organization is deemed to have been created unconstitutionally. But a black mark like this should in no way minimize the importance or necessity of watchdog organizations.

Watchdog groups are non-profit organizations that supervise the actions of governments or other organizations in the interest of the public.

There are numerous types of watchdogs, each with its own set of goals.

Government watchdogs are among the most well-known, as they seek to keep our lawmakers and politicians in check. All three branches of government require this type of oversight in order for democracy to function.

Advertising watchdogs seek to protect clients from false promises and keep the public aware of the products they buy. Consumer watchdogs analyze and report on corporate actions, focusing on everything from banking services to household items.

Companies large and small are held responsible for possible misconduct by corporate watchdogs. Even charitable organizations with the best intentions need to have an eye kept on them so that the public can be assured that they are spending their donations properly and honestly.

For some watchdog groups, simply sounding the alarm is enough of a goal. Others seek to use the information they collect to actively stave off problems. Some will enter into lawsuits with individuals or institutions that they see as harmful to the well-being of their communities.

While some serve these functions, almost all of them are formed with the intention of protecting the interests of the public. The watchdog role can overlap with advocates of a cause, but the driving force behind most advocacy is the improvement of the well-being of a certain population or geographic area.

Regardless of their specific goals, watchdog groups share the same basic principles: they defend those who lack the political clout necessary to enact major change; they keep the public aware of developments that affect their lives; they seek to place power in the hands of the many rather than the few; and they strive for basic democratic ideals and simple justice.

There are some watchdog groups that have been criticized for being too friendly with those within their specific sectors, bringing into question their objectivity as impartial overseers.

It’s in cases like these where the media comes into play as a watchdog. Watchdog journalism has been a critical part of American society since the nation’s founding. It was especially visible in the days of Woodward and Bernstein during the Watergate scandal.

It doesn’t have to operate on that grand of a scale, either. Doing something as simple as paying attention at a small-city council meeting can serve as a worthwhile example of being a watchdog.

We’re living in a time when a former president is involved in a myriad of criminal investigations. With that kind of misbehavior prevalent at the highest levels of power, the existence of watchdog organizations is more important than ever.


Advance Media New York. May 19, 2024.

Editorial: Promised overhaul of NY cannabis regulator can’t come soon enough

An audit of the New York state Office of Cannabis Management confirms everything our reporters at NY Cannabis Insider have been hearing from stakeholders for the past couple of years: It is mismanaged, inefficient, understaffed and opaque.

In response to the audit, Gov. Kathy Hochul ordered an overhaul of the agency — something she should have done long ago. The governor also ordered the State Police to undertake another crackdown on illegal cannabis retailers, which have proliferated in the absence of legal outlets.

Going forward, it will take sustained focus from the Executive Chamber to untangle OCM’s mess, jump-start the legal cannabis rollout and regain the trust of the industry and the public.

Among the problems documented by the Office of General Services audit of OCM:

— A convoluted process for granting licenses created long delays and made it impossible for applicants to know where they stood. Some applicants were told to rent retail locations, at great expense, while waiting for a license that was not forthcoming. OCM demanded hefty fees upfront for applications it never intended to process.

— Inexperienced leaders invented new systems, costing time and money, instead of adopting best practices and technology used by other state agencies.

— Rule changes were arbitrary and not clearly communicated to applicants or the public.

— OCM leaders showed disdain for customer service and lacked sympathy for the entrepreneurs and growers who were bleeding cash while waiting to get into the business.

Based on the audit’s findings and recommendations, Hochul promised to “transform” OCM. She vowed to eliminate the bottleneck of license applications; streamline the application process; communicate rule changes to the public; create internal controls and performance indicators; and properly staff the agency to grow with the industry.

Also, Hochul will replace OCM Executive Director Chris Alexander when his term expires in September — a tacit acknowledgement that he was over his head. The agency’s new chief should be someone with experience running a large, complicated and growing enterprise.

We’re glad to see OCM finally held to account for its failings. However, this audit was narrowly focused on just that one agency. It did not look at the role of the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York, which is involved in raising private money for the cannabis rollout and leasing locations for cannabis dispensaries. Nor did it examine the Executive Chamber’s role in overseeing both OCM and DASNY.

Fixing OCM is a start — but call us skeptical that it will fix all that is wrong with New York’s cannabis rollout.


The Associated Press