- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 7, 2016

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

The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle on connecting college students to their communities.

Sept. 6

A college campus can be an island in a community. Students can live, work and play at their institution of higher education and have very little connection to the city, town or village their college calls home.

That lack of a connection is an unfortunate byproduct of our beautifully self-contained modern campuses. But thankfully, there is a way for area universities and their students to build and strengthen ties with one another: community service.



As staff writer James Goodman reported, area college and university presidents are expressing a desire to do more to help the communities in which their college campuses are a part. Now that the fall semester is underway, the nearly 80,000 students attending local colleges and the hundreds of organizations in and around the Rochester area have another chance to connect.

As college presidents try to do more to help communities in the region, we encourage area universities to strongly promote community service to students and to do even more to facilitate connections between students and organizations. And on the other side of that coin, we urge leaders of organizations big and small to reach out to area colleges and universities to share information about their organizations’ missions and provide volunteer opportunities.

The percentage of college students who volunteer has declined in recent years. Volunteerism in the United States was 24.9 percent in 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Among 20- to 24-year-olds, the volunteer rates were the lowest across all age groups at 18.4 percent.

But the opportunity to give back is there and area colleges have some avenues in place to help students and community organizations connect.

The College at Brockport, for instance, discusses the benefits of volunteering on its community service page and lists a few volunteer outlets. The Rochester Institute of Technology Leadership Institute & Community Service Center provides ideas on ways to get involved and offers a link to find a place to volunteer.

Students at Nazareth College can visit the college’s Center for Civic Engagement to find community service opportunities. The St. John Fisher College Community Service Department offers the statement, “It is our vision that all members of the St. John Fisher College family will be servants of the community” on its homepage, where a link to ongoing volunteer opportunities can also be found.

These and other web pages owned and operated by area colleges and universities provide a gateway for the community and students to connect with one another through volunteering. Imagine the difference it would make if all of the nearly 80,000 college students and the community organizations that need help worked together.

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Online:

https://on.rocne.ws/2caappW

The Times Union of Albany on keeping New York students safe in the classroom.

Sept. 6

As children head back to the classrooms, parents may take for granted that their schools have up-to-date evacuation plans in the event of a fire or other emergency. A recent audit should leave them a bit alarmed.

The report by the office of state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli found that in some schools visited by auditors, there were expired fire extinguishers and blocked emergency exits, and the required number of emergency drills were not being conducted.

The report singled out the state Education Department for lax oversight of fire safety regulations in public schools. The harsh critique faulted the department for not adequately monitoring whether schools are in compliance with all fire safety regulations, and said it takes no steps to verify whether the information schools provide is accurate.

The department responded by saying it lacks the resources to monitor the more than 10,000 school buildings across the state, pushing that responsibility down to “professional conduct of trained fire inspectors and the school district superintendents who are required to certify the Fire Safety reports.” Furthermore, the department said, it doesn’t have the authority to enforce the fire code.

This is not comforting news at the start of a new school year. It leaves questions about why the department requires districts to file their compliance reports in the first place. Its data collection system cannot even detect when reports are overdue, according to the comptroller’s audit.

Rather than be defensive about their performance, local school and state education officials must take this report to heart and find ways to fill the safety oversight gap. One step may be to work with another state agency, the Office of Fire Prevention and Control, which is part of the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services.

Even as the comptroller was rapping schools for not having sufficient fire and emergency plans in place, Fire Prevention and Control was touting its own ongoing safety inspections at public and private colleges in the Capital Region and elsewhere. Nearly 27,000 such inspections have taken place at campuses across the state in the past year alone. The program includes training for residence hall assistants, staff and students.

College campuses with dorm living present uniquely different risks from K-12 schools, but drills and emergency plans for classrooms are common strategies to ensure the safety of students at any level.

If the Education Department can’t effectively enforce its school safety standards, it should consider passing that job to the Office of Fire Protection and Control.

School districts, meanwhile, should strengthen their relationships with local fire departments and public safety agencies to ensure that required safety inspections and drills are in fact done. The last thing anyone wants is to be asking who was at fault when there has been a tragedy.

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Online:

https://bit.ly/2cBA64j

The Times Herald-Record of Middletown on funding the fight against the Zika virus.

Sept. 6

Congress returns to work this week with the chance for leaders and members to show that they can resist the temptation to score partisan points, can put aside political considerations and zero in on some important needs and health risks.

Right now, the prospects for quick, clear and necessary action do not look good.

On top of the to-do list is funding to help fight the Zika virus, a request that has been lingering ever since President Obama sent it to Congress in February.

If you listen to some who believe that this should not be a political issue, especially some of those in the Hudson Valley, the obligation of Congress is clear and non-partisan. In anticipation of the return of Congress, several local people who are very informed and concerned about the issue spoke up, calling on a clear vote to approve the $1.9 billion in emergency funding to combat the Zika virus.

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-Cold Spring, spoke along with Dr. Eli Avila, Orange County’s health commissioner, and Dr. Avi Silber, a pediatrician and the chief medical officer for Cornerstone Family Healthcare. The physicians said that they are confident a vaccine to prevent Zika can be developed if Congress will provide the resources. Maloney said fighting a disease shouldn’t be a partisan issue.

The faster the funds get approved, the faster researchers get to go to work on this important task, the more public health departments can get to work in southern states where Zika cases are being reported and where mosquitoes carrying the disease are being found.

This might not seem like an urgent matter for this region, but the cases that have been reported tell a different tale. Zika has been diagnosed in people who travel to areas where the disease is prevalent and the upcoming fall and winter travel seasons will be seeing many from around here go south for warmer weather.

Congress could have acted last winter when the threat from Zika became clear. It could have acted at many times since then but Republicans were not going to approve this money without scoring some political points. They insisted on including provisions in the spending bill that would have, among other things, denied any money that would have gone to affiliates of Planned Parenthood in Puerto Rico.

As anybody who has even a passing familiarity with the Zika virus knows, it poses a threat to babies whose mothers are infected. Planned Parenthood provides the kind of counseling and advice that those women need, especially in Puerto Rico which faces significant financial challenges, including the challenge of delivering adequate health care. Congress already has prohibitions on federal money paying for abortions so this extra step does nothing productive on that controversial issue. All it does is keep poor women from getting the kind of care they need now more than ever in the face of a genuine health emergency.

Republicans knew that Democrats would not agree to such a prohibition, thus allowing Republicans to score an important political point in this political year, a time when appealing to the base support of the party trumps all other concerns.

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Online:

https://bit.ly/2c7153N

Newsday on Donald Trump’s proposals on immigration reform.

Sept. 1

The United States is a nation built on the dreams and hard work of immigrants, and on the rule of law. It needs an immigration system competent enough to keep out newcomers who would endanger us and compassionate enough to welcome those who can strengthen us.

The current system isn’t good enough at doing either. That has contributed to the political rise of Donald Trump who, in addressing the issue Wednesday night, skillfully blended true and false accusations and possible and impossible policies. What he crafted was a message meant to reassure his most anti-immigrant supporters while granting political cover to those who have areas of agreement with the billionaire but reject his inflammatory rhetoric.

It didn’t quite work, for while his speech in Phoenix did contain valid points, it also painted us as a fearful nation besieged by violent, thieving, benefit-sucking hordes of immigrants here illegally, which simply isn’t true.

Speaking after his return from a meeting in Mexico with President Enrique Peña Nieto, Trump presented a 10-point plan for solving our immigration woes. He is right that we have to deport dangerous criminals who are here illegally, and crack down severely on any business that illegally employs undocumented workers. But he is wrong when he demonizes those workers, and when he says we can’t safely accept refugee families from Syria, and suggests that immigrants from Iraq and Afghanistan, many of whom helped U.S. forces in those countries, can’t be vetted and allowed in.

And at the core of his message is a complete distortion of two things: Trump would have us believe illegal immigration is a crippling issue that can be solved with minimal effort. In truth, it is a manageable problem that is far from easy to address.

The highlight of his speech was Trump’s “tangible, physical, tall, powerful, beautiful southern border wall,” which he says he’ll start building on day one to stop the flow of felons, drugs, guns and cash. When Trump’s opponents claim we can’t build or afford such a wall, they’re falling into a trap. We’re the wealthiest, most powerful country in the world. We can build what we want. But why should we want to do this? We’re also a most welcoming nation, one that has never feared change and challenges. We don’t need to cower behind concrete barriers.

We do have significant immigration issues, but it’s not the immigration apocalypse. We do need a much better system to control and track who comes into our country. We do not need jackbooted deportation teams going door to door looking for immigrants to expel.

And we should not, as Trump said, be a nation that decides to “choose immigrants based on merit. Merit, skill and proficiency.” Instead, we must stick with the guidelines inscribed on the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

The golden door must remain open and the wretched refuse welcome. The magic of the United States is not that we accept only the best. It’s that we also accept those who need to be lifted up, and that they lift us up in turn, assimilating into our culture even as they enrich it.

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Online:

https://nwsdy.li/2bSZRZi

The New York Post on the Clinton Foundation.

Sept. 6

With Nov. 8 just 62 days off, Bill Clinton must be working overtime to rake in last-minute pay-to-play deals via the family foundation. Why else, after all, would Hillary tell ABC that her hubby shouldn’t have to quit the Clinton Foundation before Election Day?

Even after months of exposés showing how gifts to the foundation bought favors from Hillary’s State Department, the Clintons can’t bear to admit the obvious, and put the brakes on the gravy train.

Seriously: “There are no conflicts of interest” with Bill at the foundation, Hillary insisted. “No decision I ever made” as secretary of state “was influenced by anybody.”

Just ignore the extensive record of her top staff rushing to please big donors - answering demands for meetings, jobs and other perks for donors.

Anyway, even if Bill does step down, the Clintons are leaving vast loopholes to keep the pay-to-play going: Daughter Chelsea, for example, plans to stay on the foundation board even if Hillary becomes president.

Not that the Clintons would ever truly wall off contact with their donors. On taking over as secretary, recall, Hillary vowed the foundation would stop taking foreign cash; it didn’t. And her own ethics vow never even attempted to cover her staff.

Meanwhile, fresh scandals keep surfacing. Last week, McClatchyDC reported that a Clinton Global Initiative official actually sent a key State Department aide a 63-page list of people, groups and companies who’d pledged to donate to CGI.

And on Monday, The Washington Post ran a long story on how for-profit Laureate International Universities gave between $1 million and $5 million and “hired” Bill as a consultant and “honorary chancellor” - at a nifty sum of $18 million over five years. Laureate got to brag of its ties to the Clintons - and a seat at a State dinner on higher-education policy.

It’s obvious why the Clintons refuse to make a clean break with the foundation: They simply can’t bear to ever disown their money-sucking operations.

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Online:

https://nyp.st/2czmdAX

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