- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 30, 2014

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - The New York Daily News on the indictment of Congressman Michael Grimm.

April 29

If Michael Grimm cares as much about the people of Staten Island and Brooklyn as he claims to, he will step aside now and let someone else give their undivided attention to serving the 11th Congressional District.

Grimm, onetime FBI agent, is now staring down a 20-count federal indictment . According to the government, between 2007 and 2010, while running an Upper East Side restaurant called Healthalicious, Grimm:

— kept separate sets of books - one with correct payroll records, much of which were paid in cash, the other with incomplete information, thereby cheating the federal and state treasury of sales, income and payroll taxes ;

— knowingly employed undocumented immigrant workers;

— lied about these facts and others under oath.

In legal proceedings, Grimm is extended the presumption of innocence. But this has implications beyond the courts. The question is whether a tarnished candidate can give voters the credible choice they deserve - and, if he wins in November, whether a tarnished elected official can effectively represent some 700,000 people.

The answers: no and no.

A man credibly charged as a tax cheat cannot write the tax code. A man who, according to the feds, intentionally hired undocumented immigrants cannot overhaul immigration policy. A man who lies under oath cannot question others under penalty of perjury.

Grimm was already facing a tough challenger in former City Councilman Domenic Recchia. Creative election lawyers need to find a loophole - so the GOP can nominate someone who can ably compete for votes, and then serve ably if elected. Someone other than Michael Grimm.



The Buffalo News on the federal historic tax credit program.

April 28

Renovation of Buffalo’s historic buildings is booming, thanks in large part to the federal historic tax credit program. However, this type of investment and economic stimulus could grind to a halt if opponents of the credits have their way.

As News business reporter Jonathan D. Epstein outlined in his comprehensive article a week ago, the continuing renovation of our old buildings is dependent on an incentive that has been targeted for elimination.

Tax reform efforts have turned a spotlight on government expenditures. In a budget-balancing proposal that can only be described as short-sighted, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., released a discussion draft in February containing language that would repeal the federal rehabilitation credit.

Protection and even enhancement of the federal credit is the centerpiece of a multiyear effort by the Historic Tax Credit Coalition in collaboration with the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The groups are seeking to reintroduce the Creating American Prosperity through Preservation (CAPP) Act. In New York, the Preservation League of New York State is leading advocacy for this legislation.

Developers in New York State have aggressively used the federal program from the beginning, and since a complementary state credit has come on line, historic rehabilitation work has extended to all corners of the state. Proposed enhancements in the CAPP Act will make the program even more valuable for New York. Projects earning less than $5 million in federal credits will qualify for a 30 percent credit instead of the current 20 percent. That would apply to the majority of projects undertaken upstate.

The CAPP Act also proposes to end federal taxation of state rehabilitation credit use. Currently, developers using the state rehabilitation credit lose 35 percent of the value of every dollar utilized in the state program. Eliminating federal taxation of the state credit will generate greater equity investment on the front end of projects, when capital is most needed.

These CAPP Act enhancements could assist 36 projects pending or planned in Buffalo, totaling more than $83 million in projected capital investments for our city and more than $1 billion in pending projects statewide.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., is a co-sponsor of the CAPP Act, and Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand has shown keen interest. That’s welcome leadership on the Senate side. But the House has yet to reintroduce the CAPP Act. Many members of the New York State delegation are interested and likely co-sponsors, including Reps. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, and Louise Slaughter, D-Fairport.

Republicans in Western New York need to lead on this issue as well.

Reps. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, and Tom Reed, R-Corning, must persuade House leadership to allow introduction of the CAPP Act and spearhead an effort to protect this economic development program from elimination.

House leadership should understand that no matter what happens with tax reform, the federal rehabilitation tax credit deserves protection and enhancement. It is well documented that the program drives reinvestment and is a net income generator for the federal government. More important, it is a critical component of community revitalization and should never have been targeted for elimination.



Newsday on racist comments made recently making national headlines.

April 28

This country has come a long way on race. The law no longer tolerates discrimination and most institutions, public and private, have accepted diversity as the new normal.

But all too often somebody stuns the nation by saying something so appallingly racist that it reveals just how far we still have to go.

Donald Sterling, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers professional basketball team, is the latest example. Recordings of racist ravings from a man believed to be him in a conversation with his girlfriend were recently revealed. He was upset that she posted a benign picture of herself with basketball legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson and another woman on her Instagram account.

“Don’t put him on Instagram for all the world to see,” Sterling is reported to have said. “It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people.” He told her not to bring black people to his games.

Then there’s Cliven Bundy, a Nevada rancher whose anti-government diatribes over grazing rights on federal land garnered 15 minutes of fame that became infamy when he said of black people, “I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton?”

Before that, it was celebrity chef Paula Deen. A former employee alleged Deen said she wanted a “true Southern plantation-style wedding” for her brother. Using a pejorative for blacks, she said she wanted a bunch of little ones in long-sleeve white shirts, black shorts and black bow ties. “You know in the Shirley Temple days, they used to tap dance around,” Deen said, according to a lawsuit dismissed last year after she had admitted having used racial slurs.

Those bigoted comments, and the mindset they expose, are raw proof of just how stubborn prejudice can be. The nation is becoming more multiracial by the day. And with so many people embracing that reality, there’s hope that eruptions of such bigotry soon will fade away.



The Poughkeepsie Journal on providing job opportunities to veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

April 24

Veterans returning home face all sorts of challenges and adjustments. There has been an alarming suicide rate among them; there have been massive backlogs in dispensing disability benefits; and there have been persistent gaps in linking veterans to new opportunities in the workforce, something that obviously hasn’t been helped by a slow economy.

A far more aggressive and comprehensive strategy is needed, as more veterans return from Afghanistan over the course of the year, joining those who already have finished their tours in Iraq.

For instance, a recent USA Today article cites Department of Veterans Affairs data that show 1,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder every week.

While the Veterans Affairs’ budget has increased during the Obama administration, the agency has struggled mightily to become more efficient and automated to handle all the claims. The agency says it is committed to ending the backlog, in part, by replacing mounds of paperwork with an electronic system. It’s an absolute affront that such a conversion didn’t take place long ago

Clearly, the need to diagnose and treat post-traumatic stress disorder early and aggressively is paramount. Efforts to acclimate veterans back into a society also are imperative. Finding a job and/or getting a better education are major keys seeing veterans make the transition.

USA Today recently reported that a little more than half of veterans who enroll in college do graduate. While this graduation rate is better than that of other non-traditional students, it is still not nearly high enough.

There are signs of hope, however.

The federal government is creating an integrated website that will streamline employment resources for people leaving the military. The website, ebenefits.com, is pulling together job-shopping tools, including giving veterans and their spouses information on how to be build an effective resume and transfer military skills into private-sector attributes.

Potentially more effective programs are becoming increasingly available to veterans in New York state.

For instance, the state recently announced an initiative that would award 6 percent of state contracts to businesses owned by disabled veterans. In addition, electric and natural gas utilities announced a new effort to hire veterans and the state Department of Civil Services will create a web portal for veterans to find state jobs.

Locally, there also have been some worthy efforts. U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-Cold Spring, recently organized a veterans’ jobs and services fair at Marist College. More than 30 vendors were present, including a representative from the Iron Workers Local 417 in Orange County.

Gains both big and small have to made. That starts with people recognizing the problem and not merely wishing to put the wars behind them as if there are no lasting effects or damages that have to be confronted.



The Adirondack Daily Enterprise on the national debt.

April 24.

Americans seem to have become numb to worry about our astronomical national debt, already at $17.5 trillion. So don’t expect much reaction to news President Barack Obama’s administration has underestimated how much the debt will grow.

During the next 10 years, the debt will grow by $6.6 trillion, to $24.1 trillion, the White House claims. But the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says the actual growth will be $1.6 trillion higher.

Think of the numbers this way: Every $1 trillion in debt amounts to about $3,125 for every man, woman and child in the United States. Obama’s $1.6 trillion underestimate equals approximately $5,000 per person.

By 2024, if the CBO is correct, the $25.7 trillion national debt will top $80,000 per person. That is well more than twice the total when Obama took office - and much of the 2024 debt will be due to policies Congress has approved at this president’s behest.

Already, the debt has affected our economy adversely. As the CBO has warned, the problem will grow worse.

So will the percentage of what we earn that goes to Washington. During the 2009 fiscal year, Obama’s first in office, federal revenue was 14.6 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product. This year it was 16.7 percent - and the number is expected to increase.

No wonder the White House wants to downplay the extent of the damage.



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