A sampling of editorials from around New York

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The Poughkeepsie Journal on the wording of a statewide referendum on allowing casino gambling in NY outside Indian reservations.

Sept. 16


When it comes to trying to get casinos approved in places throughout the state that are not sovereign Native American land, New York leaders have made virtually every mistake in the book. They have tried to get around the state’s constitution. They have tried to get around federal courts. And they have tried to get around federal agencies.

Now they apparently are trying to dupe New York voters.

This process continues to stink, though the state did straighten out some matters by acknowledging that voters should have to sign off on the plans. After more than a decade of various governors trying to circumvent the state constitution, lawmakers have placed a referendum on the November ballot that would allow seven Las Vegas-style casinos in New York, including the Catskills.

But good-government groups are raising concerns, and rightly so, over the language of the referendum, saying it is one-sided and promotes passage of the measure.

The state may have thought it was being clever by adding favorable language, but the tactic could backfire and cause a backlash. The Journal has long said that having a few casinos in the Catskills could be beneficial. It could boost economic development in an area that once had a much more robust tourism industry. And it would siphon more money for New York by having people come to the casinos in the state rather than seeing them go over to neighboring ones, particularly Connecticut and New Jersey.

Voters should make up their own minds, and they shouldn’t be fooled by one-sided wording on what should be an objective referendum.

“It has more spin than a roulette wheel,” Blair Horner of New York Public Interest Research Group told the Associated Press.

How so? Well, consider the straight-up early draft of what the referendum would say compared with what voters will see.

An initial draft said, “The purpose of the proposed amendment to section 9 of article 1 of the constitution is to allow the Legislature to authorize and regulate up to seven casinos. If approved, the amendment would permit commercial casino gambling in New York state.”

But when voters hit the voting booth, they will see this favorable language approved by the Board of Elections: “The proposed amendment to section 9 of article 1 of the Constitution would allow the Legislature to authorize up to seven casinos in New York State for the legislated purposes of promoting job growth, increasing aid to schools, and permitting local governments to lower property taxes through revenues generated. Shall the amendment be approved?”

Though such overtones are apparently legal, the state is making a mockery of fair and even government. Nowhere in this glowing assessment about casinos are concerns opponents might have about gambling addiction, about the impact on local roads, government services and schools, etc. In actuality, no one should expect to go into a voting booth and read reams of information on a referendum that cite the pros and cons of an issue. Voters should research the issue before heading into the booth. The language in this referendum is a stunning example why.




The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle on New York gearing up the statewide health exchange under the Affordable Care Act.

Sept. 14

Even as majority Republicans in the House took another swipe last week at crippling the Affordable Care Act, New York leaders and health care providers are preparing to usher in one of the new law’s chief provisions: a statewide health exchange that will allow individuals and small businesses to shop for coverage. State health officials must now be at the ready with answers and assistance, and consumers must be prepared to do some health care homework.

After all, comparison shopping for health insurance isn’t like choosing a cable TV or internet provider. It’s complicated. It’s crucial. And it’s costly — even with tax subsidies and credits available to those under certain income thresholds. But new competition can make for less expensive coverage for uninsured individuals than current options, and a system that is far preferable to subsidizing emergency health care for those with no insurance.

Credit Gov. Andrew Cuomo for the existence of the state’s health insurance marketplace, which includes 16 companies (five in the greater Rochester area). The governor wisely sidestepped a recalcitrant Legislature and went the executive order route. So while many states are now scrambling to establish exchanges, New York’s is firmly in place. In fact, the state Department of Health has already unveiled a website, http://www.nystateofhealth.ny.gov, to help consumers navigate this brave new world of health care.

Make no mistake — such assistance will be crucial to New York’s 2.6 million uninsured as the Oct. 1 enrollment date draws near. State leaders are seldom paragons of efficiency, as anyone awaiting a decision on hydrofracking can attest, but they need to get this one right.

Supporting players, such as the Central Library of Rochester, have lent welcome assistance, hosting forums at which a health exchange webinar is screened.

Insurance companies, too, are wisely positioning themselves. Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, for example, has been casting its net for younger customers — those less likely to file claims. Such healthier members make covering the estimated 50 million now-uninsured Americans affordable — a key provision of the Affordable Care Act — which is why adults over 26 will face financial penalties next year if they do not carry insurance.

Indeed, college graduates traversing the job market, local Kodak retirees who recently lost health care benefits and retirees who have not yet reached Medicare age will all benefit from the new insurance options.

Yes, there have been complications; thus, the president decided to delay until 2015 penalties against some businesses. Yes, there have been unforeseen consequences, with employers such as Wegmans and Trader Joe’s discontinuing coverage for part-timers. Such wrinkles will be ironed out.

And as more pieces of the new legislation are put in place, the system will gain momentum as it gains participation. Insurance companies have been working to implement the new law since its passage in 2010. Eligible consumers can now benefit, but must perform due diligence.




The New York Daily News on the Washington Navy Yard shootings and the failure of Congress to toughen gun laws.

Sept. 18

After the murder of 20 first graders — and no federal action to curb ready access to firearms, even by the deranged — what’s another dozen victims cut down in cold blood a stone’s throw from the Capitol?

That, apparently, is the attitude of Congress, which — despite overwhelming popular support for tightening background checks, building a nationwide database of deranged people prohibited from buying firearms and banning high-capacity magazines — refuses to inconvenience anyone who wants to get his hands on a weapon.

“We don’t have the votes,” came the feeble explanation Tuesday from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

More relevant is why the votes aren’t there — namely, because of the outsized influence of one deep-pocketed lobby, so dominant that Republicans and even some Democrats dare not cross it.

Many are the lessons yet to be learned from Aaron Alexis’ Navy Yard rampage. But there are already plenty that just might make it a little harder for the next maniac to shoot up a workplace or school or movie theater or house of worship.

Or, for that matter, make it a little harder for the next thug to cut someone down on the streets of Brownsville or the South Bronx.

Alexis had a long, documented history of insanity. He had been treated by the Veterans Administration for a slew of psychiatric problems, including paranoia and a sleep disorder.

About a month ago, he called the Newport Police Department in Rhode Island. Having moved from hotel to hotel to hotel in a single night, he reported demons — voices to speaking to him, people sending microwave vibrations to his body.

Yet even if these mental problems had been properly classified, even if the courts had been properly alerted, nothing in current U.S. law would have effectively stopped this man from legally purchasing weapons thereafter.

We’re to believe this is the price of freedom?

In March, the Congress batted around legislation to build a robust interstate system to prevent those with court-documented mental illnesses from buying guns. This was said to be an easier lift than tightening background checks or banning military-style rifles.

It had bipartisan support. It died.

Let’s be clear: Gun purchase bans can stop maniacs from arming to the teeth. Tuesday, reports citing two senior law enforcement officials confirmed that in recent days Alexis tried to buy an assault rifle — and failed, thanks to a Virginia state law prohibiting their sale to out-of-state buyers.

Crazily, that’s where the prohibition ended. The murderer-in-the-making walked out of the store with a shotgun instead.

The problem is obvious: Too many guns in the hands of the wrong people. The answer is just as clear: Tighten the laws.




The Times Union of Albany on Republican opposition to Obamacare and the threat of inaction on the federal budget and deficit.

Sept. 16

Just before Congress took one of its most productive actions this year and adjourned for summer break, it engaged in yet another pointless exercise: voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act — for the 40th time.

We’d hoped this silliness was over. But House Republicans now appear determined to go for vote 41. This time, though, it may be more than another inconsequential bit of political point-scoring. The extremists want the GOP to hold the government hostage to their demands, even if it jeopardizes a still-fragile economic recovery.

House Republicans and their leaders simply must rethink this strategy, and turn instead to the task of governing responsibly.

Back on Aug. 2, amid the latest Obamacare repeal vote, a Democratic member, John Dingell of Michigan, chided his Republican colleagues, “Aren’t you embarrassed, to go a 40th time, in a fruitless, hopeless act?”

Apparently not.

Congress needs to vote soon to keep the government running after the fiscal year ends Sept. 30. But tea party activists and right-wing radio hosts have been beating the drum for Congress to refuse to pass a continuing resolution, or to raise the debt ceiling when the government reaches it around mid-October, unless Obamacare is scrapped.

House Speaker John Boehner seems to realize that such antics are risky business for his party and for the country. The last time Republicans engaged in such games, when they held the debt ceiling hostage in 2011, the nation’s once-pristine credit rating suffered and we ended up with the mindless budget approach known as sequestration.

The country has come a ways since then. Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s both recently upgraded the nation’s outlook from “negative” to “stable,” although S&P left the credit rating downgrade in place.

The deficit, running $1.3 trillion two years ago, is expected to be down to $642 billion this year. Unemployment is down from 9 percent in 2011 to 7.3 percent.

Mr. Boehner came up with the idea of staging another Obamacare vote that wouldn’t have let the political posturing stand in the way of the nation’s business. But that idea now seems to be dead, and if things don’t change, the radicals on the right will get their wish, to push the government and the economy closer to the edge of another fiscal cliff.

There’s still time for the House Republican majority to do the right thing — negotiate earnestly with an eye toward compromise, and even, dare we dream it, take another look at the jobs proposals President Barack Obama has offered time and again, including more investment in this nation’s aging infrastructure.

Or it can waste time and money. As Mr. Dingell noted in his remarks in August, it costs about $1.5 million to stage these pointless votes. A party that once stood for fiscal responsibility ought to be able to do better than that.




The Utica Observer Dispatch on a New York Indian tribe’s call for Washington Redskins to change the team’s name.

Sept. 17

The Oneida Indian Nation’s latest campaign pressing for the NFL’s Washington Redskins to rid itself of a name that is offensive and demeaning resurrects an issue that should have been settled long ago.

“We do not deserve to be called redskins,” Oneida Nation Representative Ray Halbritter said in an ad scheduled to air on radio stations in Washington.

“We deserve to be treated as what we are — Americans.”

It’s time to put this matter to rest. There is absolutely no justification for calling any team, club, group or otherwise by any moniker offensive to an ethnicity or race.

All the old arguments to preserve such names are tired and lame.

— “Such nicknames and logos honor a great people.” Really? The Cleveland Indians’ Chief Wahoo — a goofy caricature with a toothy grin, triangular eyes and a feather sprouting from its head — bears absolutely no resemblance to Geronimo, Cochise, Black Hawk, Thayendanegea, Skenandoa, Cornplanter, Pontiac, Red Cloud, Tecumseh, Sitting Bull or any other proud Native American leader, past or present. Would Poles, Italians, African-Americans, Irish or other people with a proud heritage be “honored” by teams using some of the derogatory labels they’ve been given through the years? Not likely.

— “Why does everything have to be politically correct?” It doesn’t. It just has to be correct. Native Americans aren’t mascots. They’re a proud people with a rich history.

— “It’s tradition.” Tradition. Shmadition. Sometimes, tradition changes — usually for the better. Ask the kids in Mohawk and Ilion.

Redskins owner Dan Snyder was adamant, if not arrogant and downright ignorant, about the issue. He told USA Today back in May that he wouldn’t change the team’s name, no matter how many people he insulted.

In the ad, Halbritter said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell should “stand up to bigotry” by denouncing “the racial slur” in the team’s name. But Goodell actually defended the nasty nickname last June in a letter to 10 members of Congress who had urged him to reject it. He said the name is “a unifying force that stands for strength, courage, pride and respect.”

Really? It seems Goodell has a double standard when it comes to racial slurs. He criticized Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper this past summer for uttering a racial epithet against African-Americans, yet says the name “Redskins” stands for “pride and respect.” Wow.

Maybe the Oneida Indian Nation is asking the wrong generation to fix what’s broken here. While the Oneidas will certainly get more national publicity by going after the NFL, perhaps it’d be better to start right here in central New York, where honorable young people at one area high school thumbed their nose at tradition and did the right thing.

Earlier this year, Cooperstown students decided to change their nickname — also the “Redskins” — after they found it offensive.

But at least a half dozen other area schools still cling to logos and names like “Red Raiders,” ”Eskimos,” ”Warriors” and “Indians” when other names would be much more appropriate. They should follow Cooperstown’s lead.

By doing so, they’d honor another tradition — the proud legacy of Native Americans in Central New York. Maybe the NFL could learn a lesson.




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