- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 9, 2016

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

The Auburn Citizen on the Auburn area’s need to embrace racial discussions.

Nov. 5

One thing this presidential campaign has crystallized about the state of the nation is that despite decades of progress, the United States continues to be deeply divided over racial issues.

And the Auburn area is most definitely not an exception, a fact revealed by the tension that emerged at a black comedian’s recent performance at Auburn Public Theater.

So why do we still have these problems, and how can we make true progress in dealing with them?

There is no correct answer to either of those questions, largely because the responses will vary considerably depending upon personal experience. But it’s important that people of all races, ages and genders confront these questions and listen carefully to the answers that everyone provides.

A small step in that direction took place last week when APT hosted a follow-up forum to talk about the reactions to comedian Godfrey’s Oct. 15 show. But as informative as that discussion may have been, the truth is that forum’s participation was not representative of the larger community.

To achieve true progress, such conversations must continue - and they need to include people who could find Godfrey’s act highly offensive as well as profoundly enlightening.

Auburn High School graduate and New York University student Devon McLeod, a biracial 21-year-old woman, framed the challenge perfectly in an essay she wrote for this newspaper after learning about the events that unfolded at APT:

“One person cannot be the voice of their whole race in a discussion. We cannot look for easy, compact answers. This conversation is nuanced. It’s complicated. It will not be put to bed with one community forum. It won’t be wrapped in a pretty bow. And it cannot happen with only six non-white people present. It is inherently uncomfortable,” she wrote.

As we try to evolve and look forward as a community and as a country, we must be willing to engage in these “inherently uncomfortable” conversations. We must be willing to put away our defense instincts when challenged and instead try to find understanding and common ground.

And in the end, we must be willing to accept that some of our deep-seated beliefs have been leading us astray, and have the courage to let them go.




The (Rochester) Democrat & Chronicle on New York state’s illegal highway signs.

Nov. 3

Pity the poor souls who have to enforce the federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways. Developed over the past 81 years, it contains 816 pages of rules, diagrams and images governing traffic control devices like signs, signals, and pavement markings. Then along comes New York state, proposing an edgy, new “I Love NY” branding campaign that would, in order to be legal, require a whole new category of signs - and at least another two or three pages of rules, diagrams and images.

So, you can hardly blame the federal government for its response, which was - in a word - “No.”

New York officials, clearly wedded to their new campaign, interpreted that to mean something along the lines of, “Sure, go ahead, you crazy marketing geniuses.”

Whether they truly are is not the issue. The problem is, the state has been repeatedly told that the new signs have no business being on the side of the road - in space that has long been limited to traffic control devices containing at least a smidgen of recognizable, navigational wisdom for motorists. To ignore the federal government’s ruling could, ultimately, threaten federal funding for New York’s highways.

So, we have to question why New York is picking this particular battle with Washington, DC.

The signs themselves don’t appear to be terribly dangerous to travelers, unless a driver is immediately compelled to download the “I Love NY” app after seeing the logo on a sign. But, vaguely suggesting a download is about as close as these signs get to offering a clear navigational tip for motorists. Mostly, the signs are meant to be followed when the drivers are somewhere else.

“The sign designs and spacing seek to impress simple but memorable information for later recall…” a New York official futilely explained to the federal government.

So, New York does not have a strong argument here. And, it’s an expensive one. Erecting the more than 500 signs has cost $1.76 million for supplies alone. We don’t know, yet, what the labor for this endeavor cost taxpayers, but we bet it didn’t come cheap.

Perhaps this will turn out to be a really good investment, spurring economic growth through tourism. After all, there’s a whole book on how New York City “branded its way out of a crisis,” and these signs cost significantly less than the $50 million spent on marketing Start-Up NY.

Unless, of course, New York has to begin subtracting federal highway dollars, while adding money to take the signs down.

It seems like a gamble that could have been avoided by tweaking the marketing strategy instead of starting a fight.




The (Gloversville) Leader-Herald on who deserves criticism for the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.

Nov. 7

Federal officials have worked hard to portray themselves as the cavalry riding to the rescue of residents of Flint, Mich. It turns out they were walking, and slowly, at that.

Local, state and federal officials deserve severe criticism for what happened in Flint. In essence, efforts to save money for the municipal government resulted in use of a public water source that leached lead out of waterlines. That created a substantial threat to the health of those who drank the water.

But once the story broke, federal officials dodged their responsibility. And they did not offer as much emergency assistance as they might have; President Barack Obama turned down one request for funding for Flint.

Accusations have been made that some officials did not do all they could have to avoid the problem because Flint has a high percentage of poor, minority residents.

If such apathy was a factor, Washington deserves a large share of criticism.

It was reported in October that U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials knew how serious the problem was in June 2015 - but waited seven months before declaring an emergency.

That is inexcusable, of course. But has anyone at the EPA been punished? Of course not.




The Adirondack Daily Enterprise on children not knowing their phone numbers or addresses and the safety issues it poses.

Nov. 2

Our front-office staff noticed something that worried them a little bit this Halloween.

Every year at this time, the Enterprise welcomes hundreds of costumed kids into our front door, takes their pictures and sends them away with a little more candy in their bags and buckets. In fact, the newspaper organizes Saranac Lake’s Downtown Trick-or-Treat every year, involving businesses throughout the Broadway and Main Street area.

We publish some photos and post all of them on our website, and these days, we also do a costume contest for kids under the age of 12. For the contest, we ask kids (or their parents) for their names, phone numbers and addresses so we can let them know if they win.

But a surprising number of kids did not know their phone numbers, or their addresses. And these weren’t preschoolers; some were 8-, 9-, even 10-year-olds.

For as long as we have been around, virtually every school-age child knew his or her phone number and address. Parents made sure they did. Not knowing it is a safety concern, we think.

Now, we understand there are probably several reasons behind this. First, most people are not as good at memorizing phone numbers as they used to be, because we use cellphones that contain our contacts in their memory. When we call or text someone, we don’t dial a memorized number; we push a button with the person’s name on it. In our own newsroom, it used to be that a sign of a good reporter was that he or she knew all their regular sources’ numbers by heart. Now those same old-school reporters have to look up all but a few of those same numbers.

Second, the days of the land-line phone are fading. Now instead of one number for a family, one often has to know each member’s cellphone number.

Third, more children’s parents are no longer together, so they belong to multiple households - a complex situation for a young person.

Still, what if the child gets hurt or is being chased by bullies on the way home from school? If he or she encounters an adult willing to help, whom should that helper call? Where is the home where the helper could take the child?

Parents, we suggest you help your children memorize at least one phone number and one home street address. We hope it’s never needed, but it might be, and it’s a simple precaution.




The New York Times on ways to curb pollution in New Delhi, India.

Nov. 8

It is no longer safe to breathe in New Delhi, one of the most polluted cities in the world. The problem has grown steadily worse, but little has been done beyond stopgap measures like allowing cars with odd- or even-numbered license plates to be used only on alternate days.

The city’s high levels of fine particles - the most deadly because they penetrate more deeply into the lungs - have now soared off the charts, even by New Delhi’s standards, because of seasonal smoke from the burning of leftover crops by farmers in nearby states and from firecrackers set off to celebrate the Diwali holiday.

Levels of the smallest particles, called PM 2.5, recently hit an astounding 688 micrograms per cubic meter of air in one New Delhi neighborhood, far surpassing the city’s average annual concentration of 153. Beijing’s average is 56 and New York’s is 14. The World Health Organization sets the healthy average annual limit of these particles at 10 micrograms per cubic meter.

The solutions for seasonal smoke are obvious: Firecrackers should be banned - and those bans enforced. Farmers who cannot afford equipment that allows them to replant without burning leftover stubble need more help. The government now offers to pay some farmers half the cost, but the remaining burden is too great for most to bear. Subsidies and incentives need to be expanded.

India also needs to tackle the year-round pollution that stems from construction and road dust, from millions of vehicles and from factories and power plants. India is home to 13 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world, and, according to Unicef, about 220 million children in South Asia breathe air with at least six times the level of pollution the World Health Organization considers safe.

India’s 1981 Air Act is far too lax and out of date to control the current crisis. Prime Minister Narendra Modi needs to propose new legislation that sets stronger standards, with stiff penalties for polluters. He will also need to allocate funds for cleaning up the sources of pollution in cities where millions of people are breathing dirty air.




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