- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New York’s newspapers:

The Niagara Gazette on former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s conviction for corruption.

Dec. 2

New York residents who have been turned off for years over the scandals and corruption of state lawmakers in Albany undoubtedly drew a collective sigh of relief Monday when former Assembly Speaker Sheldon L. Silver, was found guilty by a federal grand jury.

In that high-profile fall from grace, Silver, 71, was convicted on all seven counts, running the gamut from mail fraud and honest-services fraud (providing grants to a Manhattan cancer doctor in exchange for patient referrals to his law firm) to extortion and money laundering.

As a result, the veteran lawmaker faces a maximum of 130 years in prison although, unfortunately, under federal sentencing guidelines he will probably be given a 20-year prison term.

The quick reaction to the verdict was blistering from the public and the media. People have a right to expect much more from so-called public servant in whom they had placed their implicit trust. Obviously, Silver paid little attention to that awesome responsibility.

What’s mind-bogging about this latest round of corruption, at no point did Silver ever admit that he had done anything wrong. In fact, one of the lead defense attorneys had even hinted that what indiscretions the speaker might be guilty of is generally considered business as usual in Albany. Another attorney, showing the height of arrogance, attempted to defend his client’s unsavory behavior by suggesting that those conflicts of interest and the millions of dollars in outside income were simply part of the system that New York residents accepted without hesitation.

When all the tumult and excitement over justice being served subsides, the government watchdogs agree, maybe something positive will surface in the relentless struggle for the long-delayed reform measures. Somehow all that rhetoric in the 2015 legislative session, with the promises to clean up the mess, fell on deaf ears. The lawmakers never really followed up on that lofty goal that would have been at least one step toward restoring public confidence in state government.

Silver’s disgraceful actions should be more than just another wake-up call. New Yorkers have been down that route too many times already, witness the some 30 state lawmakers who have departed Capitol Hill facing allegations or criminal charges since 2000.

Next time around when lawmakers weigh the idea of pursuing a particular course for personal gain or financial reward, they might think twice about an accurate accounting of their outside income and the present loophole that enables them to accept hefty campaign contributions free from any restrictions.

As Silver makes his shameful exit from Capitol Hill, another federal court jury will decide the fate of Dean Skelos, the former Republican leader of the state Senate, and his son, Adam, both facing their indictments on corruption.

Those proceedings will mark the end to one of the darkest periods in the history of Empire State politics.




The New York Daily News on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to build a rail connection to LaGuardia Airport.

Nov. 30

Far away, perhaps so far away as to live in Neverland, New York, resides Gov. Cuomo’s dream to build a rail connection to LaGuardia Airport, part of his $4 billion makeover.

The governor’s plan calls for having departing travelers schlep out to Flushing on the No. 7 subway line or the Long Island Rail Road and then loop back to the airport via a people mover along the Grand Central Parkway. And vice versa on arriving in the city.

Presumably, Cuomo’s transportation experts are studying how many people would likely use such a service. While they are at it, they must take a real-world look at a proposal that could immediately speed mass transportation to LaGuardia.

Little do many New Yorkers know, but the MTA offers quick transit from Manhattan to LaGuardia via the numerous subway lines that converge at the Roosevelt Ave.-74th St. subway hub in Jackson Heights or via the Long Island Rail Road - plus a bus ride of only eight minutes.

From the E train station in Manhattan at Lexington Ave. and 53d St., it’s three stops and 10 minutes to Roosevelt Ave.

From there the Q70 Limited bus heads nonstop along the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and the Grand Central to the airport.

Or spend 11 minutes riding the LIRR from Penn Station to Woodside, where the bus stops before its quick hop to Roosevelt-74th.

What’s wrong with this picture is, first, that the MTA has done a horrible job marketing the service and, together with the Port Authority, which runs the airport, has made the bus all but inaccessible at LaGuardia.

Here’s what should happen to create a mass transit link from Manhattan to LaGuardia:

- Make the bus service free between the airport and the LIRR and subways. (The 7, F, R and M trains also stop at Roosevelt-74th.)

In Boston, transportation officials eliminated the fare on a bus going from Logan Airport to the subway in a test that was supposed to last three months. That was three years ago.

- Have the buses shuttle from the airport to the train and subways with regular frequency.

- Rename the bus the LaGuardia Subway Express so the non-bus riding public gets the picture.

- Mark the buses with special paint and signs.

- Make sure the buses are suitcase friendly.

- Create convenient, well-labeled bus stops at the airport.

Many thanks to the Riders Alliance for zeroing in on this issue, because the plan holds the promise of markedly improving mass transit at limited expense.

It’s highly worth a solid test.




The Syracuse Post-Standard on Chris Christie addressing Donald Trump’s 9/11 claims.

Dec. 1

Did Chris Christie just make a dent in Donald Trump’s armor?

More than a week after Trump declared - falsely - that thousands of Muslim-Americans in New Jersey publicly cheered the collapse of the World Trade Center towers on 9/11, the governor of New Jersey on Monday said flatly, “It didn’t happen.”

That was a lot more definitive than Christie’s wan assertion last week that he didn’t remember.

Maybe Christie got a shot of backbone from the New Hampshire Union-Leader’s front-page endorsement of his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination. Or maybe he was persuaded by the op-ed piece penned by then-Attorney General John Farmer Jr. declaring that Trump’s 9/11 claims never happened.

It’s about time one of Trump’s rivals for the GOP nomination challenged the billionaire’s inflammatory, defamatory rhetoric. No amount of fact-checking by the media has made a dent. On Sunday’s “Meet the Press,” Trump doubled down on his story about Muslims celebrating in the streets of New Jersey, though he couldn’t say whether it was in Paterson or Jersey City. Whatever.

In Trump’s world, facts don’t matter. In the real world, facts absolutely do matter. The electorate should demand no less from the candidates competing for the title “Leader of the Free World.”




The Watertown Daily Times on whether non-citizens should have access to firearms.

Dec. 1

Given recent acts of terrorism in several places around the world, a renewed effort to prohibit suspected terrorists from purchasing firearms in this country should be approved.

Congressional Democrats are again pushing to close a loophole allowing people on an international terror watch list to buy and possess firearms in the United States. From February 2004 to December 2014, people on the watch list tried to buy guns or explosives 2,233 times - and 90 percent of the time they cleared background checks and were approved to purchase the items, according to a report issued this year by the Government Accountability Office.

The bill to prohibit people on the watch list from buying firearms has been stalled as a result of pressure from gun rights advocates. They have suspicions over any government regulation pertaining to buying and owning firearms.

But it has attracted bipartisan support. U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., and U.S. Rep. Peter T. King, R-Long Island, are both advocates of the proposed legislation. Members of the Obama administration as well as the preceding Bush administration promoted the passage of such a bill.

This measure, however, does not go far enough. No nonresident traveling through the United States for a limited period of time should be allowed to purchase firearms in this country.

People who have permanent nonresident status, those here on a green card, should be excluded from this prohibition as they have established a life in the United States. They live here; they work here; many of them raise families here. It’s easy to investigate their backgrounds in this country.

But others who are here on short-term visas should not be allowed to buy firearms, regardless of whether or not they are on any watch list.

What sense would it make to allow individuals who have no stake in our nation and will be gone after a brief visit buy weapons here?

Congress should expand this idea to thwart the sale of all firearms to nonresidents here on short-term visas.




The Wall Street Journal on the European Union and Turkey’s refugee agreement.

Nov. 30

The European Union and Turkey reached an agreement Sunday aimed at stanching the flow of Middle East refugees arriving in Europe by the thousands daily. In exchange for €3 billion ($3.18 billion) in aid, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has graciously agreed to police his own borders.

In theory the agreement could help control the growing refugee problem, assuming Mr. Erdogan sticks to it. Turkish authorities have looked the other way as hundreds of thousands of people have slipped across its eastern borders and turned its western coast into a staging ground for dangerous journeys to Greece and beyond. Ankara now promises to step up its border policing to obstruct the flow.

Turkey also will accept more of the migrants whose asylum claims are rejected in Europe, since in many cases repatriation to countries of origin is neither practicable nor humane. European officials also discussed resettling refugees directly from the Middle East to reduce incentives for illegal and often deadly crossings through the Balkans. These steps are essential for restoring order to refugee processing in Europe and clearing the backlogs and bottlenecks that are overwhelming frontline states in the Balkan region.

At least some of the financial assistance might be fair, on the theory that Turkey can’t afford to manage alone a mass migration encouraged in part by Europe’s own confused somewhat-open-door policies. Turkey already hosts more than two million Syrian refugees.

But the EU has paid a high price for this cooperation. Already the two sides are haggling over whether the €3 billion is a one-time payment or, as Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has suggested, an ongoing maintenance program. The EU will begin taking steps to grant visa-free travel to Turkish citizens and hold regular summits with Turkish leaders. Brussels is also offering to renew talks on Turkey’s accession to the EU.

Those concessions offer a political boost to Mr. Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party even as he increasingly shows his authoritarian streak. They will also play into the hands of the European nativist right, which is benefiting from the migration crisis.

That’s a steep political cost for Europe for a deal that on its own won’t fix the problem. Desperate people, aided by human traffickers, consistently confound efforts to close Europe’s porous borders. The more of them who try to come through Turkey, the more leverage Mr. Erdogan will have to extract more concessions.

This crisis can’t be addressed solely by disbursing cash and diplomatic favors, even if that’s Brussels’s preferred approach to most problems. Nor will the problem be solved with fences and border closures; Europe’s borders, stretching from the Canary Islands to the Aegean Sea to Arctic crossings in Finland and Norway, are extraordinarily long and all-but impossible to police. There’s always a way in.

That leaves the one serious option for the refugee crisis, which is the use of military force to establish no-fly and no-drive areas in Syria and Iraq, defeat Islamic State, and make it safe for people to live in their own countries. That will require a different kind of investment by Europe, one that it has been reluctant to make for decades. But it beats risking its security on the whims of a Turkish autocrat whose political interests and moral sense don’t align with those of Europe.




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