- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 11, 2017

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

The Plattsburgh Press-Republican on New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to offer free tuition to students attending SUNY or CUNY colleges.

Jan. 8

Gov. Cuomo’s historic proposal to offer tuition-free college to students attending SUNY or CUNY colleges appears to be an enormous benefit to the students, a very large benefit to the colleges, a significant benefit to the state and a pretty good-sized benefit to Cuomo himself, if he ever takes the plunge into presidential politics.

Cuomo has put pen to paper to enact what became a serious issue during this past fall’s presidential campaign: tuition-free college for all.

Well, not all, exactly, but for about 80 percent. Under Cuomo’s proposal, students in families making less than $100,000 would pay no SUNY or CUNY tuition starting in the fall of 2017; in 2018, that income threshold would rise to $110,000; and in 2019, $125,000.

About 940,000 households in the state make less than $125,000, so the offer is widely applicable. Some legislators favor expanding the benefit to all students, regardless of household income.

The big question, of course, is: Where would the money come from?

The cost of the proposal to New York taxpayers would be about $163 million, Cuomo figures.

In a budget of $96.2 billion, that’s not a back-breaker. The higher-education budget is already $7.2 billion.

Young people would be given a chance to compete with any other young person in the state, instead of having to relinquish dreams of ever achieving a college degree. Cuomo says 70 percent of jobs in New York require one.

Tuition now costs in the neighborhood of $6,400 a year at four-year State University of New York and City University of New York schools and around $4,500 at two-year colleges.

Though that’s more reasonable than most private colleges, it still means that many - too many - students now graduate with heavy debt.

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has said that, in the past decade, the number of students graduating with college debt has risen from 2.8 million to 43.7 million.

Of course, tuition isn’t the only cost incurred in attending college. Living expenses, transportation, activities and books, for example, all add up. And handling those costs could give students a sense of responsibility to their education even if they weren’t paying for classes.

Colleges are deeply enamored of the governor’s proposal, as one would expect. The times have not been plentiful for universities dealing with rising costs and diminishing populations. They need students in order to survive, and the outlook has not been rosy.

Cuomo needs to reveal more details about whether the cost of free tuition will be picked up by all state taxpayers or mitigated in some other way.

Will the legislature pass the proposal?

It would seem likely. After all, SUNY was created with dozens of local college sites, rather than one central one, such as the University of Michigan or Ohio State. No legislator would want to face constituents after having a role in derailing a plan so favorable to a local institution.

We’ll know soon. Our guess is that the plan will pass with flying colors. Then the immense benefits to students and colleges can begin.

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Online:

https://bit.ly/2j1jWS8

The Rome Sentinel on universities no longer requiring history majors to take a course in U.S. history.

Jan. 10

According to a recent story in the Washington Times, George Washington University no longer requires history majors to take any courses in U.S. history.

The school, founded by and named for one of our nation’s leading historical figures, says eliminating the American history pre-requisite “better reflects a globalizing world.”

We didn’t know this, but apparently the move by GW administrators is in keeping with higher education trends. According to the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, “fewer than one-third of the nation’s leading universities require history majors to take a single course in U.S. history.”

Indeed, in a survey of U.S. News & World Report’s top 76 universities, only 23 undergraduate history programs require any American history.

This could be a dangerous trend. A healthy democracy requires an educated citizenry. Toward that end we think more, not fewer, courses in civics and the Constitution would be a good idea for all college students.

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Online:

https://bit.ly/2ijPZON

The Jamestown Post-Journal on why weakening the independent Office of Congressional Ethics wouldn’t have helped with voters’ trust issues.

Jan. 8

Apparently it was not only Democrats who didn’t get the message on Nov. 8. Some Republican leaders in Congress may have missed what voters were saying, too.

Last Monday, GOP leaders in the House of Representatives moved to weaken the independent Office of Congressional Ethics. They did so because of complaints- from lawmakers of both parties -that the office had targeted them over relatively inconsequential issues.

Democrats were delighted to complain about the ethics panel plan. It showed Republicans are eager to dismantle mechanisms intended to keep lawmakers honest, they claimed.

Not really. Even with the change, ample safeguards would have remained in place.

President-elect Donald Trump reportedly went to his party’s rescue, urging GOP lawmakers to keep the ethics agency in place, as is. They were wise to follow his advice. And kudos to U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, for standing against the ethics changes when it was discussed inside the Republican conference.

If there was an overriding theme of the Nov. 8 election, it was that many voters don’t trust anyone in Washington. Giving them reason to believe they are right would have been a serious error.

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Online:

https://bit.ly/2jjbA87

The Staten Island Advance on the issues that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio should focus on.

Jan. 10

Mayor Bill de Blasio has a new job, if you hadn’t noticed: He’s set himself up to be the top opponent of President-elect Donald Trump.

How about just being the mayor of the five boroughs? That’s the job he was hired to do. And he still has at least another year of doing it. He’s on our time.

De Blasio has formed a coalition with the mayors of some of the other big cities in America in a bid to stop any negative policies that might come out of the Trump White House.

Mostly the group is focused on immigration issues. De Blasio has tried to rally other municipal unions to urge President Barack Obama to take last minute action on immigration, according to the New York Times. And last month, the paper said, the group held a conference call with Obama officials to also press the administration on immigration.

De Blasio and the others are also concerned about a Trump presidency’s effect on climate change policy, and also want to stave off the creation of any kind of Muslim registry. There are also public safety concerns with the incoming administration.

It’s not that we don’t believe de Blasio is genuine in his opposition to Trump. If anything, a Trump presidency is made for a liberal firebrand like de Blasio. You couldn’t find two people more diametrically opposed on some core issues. And the two camps have already butted heads over reimbursement for security costs incurred by the city when Trump is in town.

So de Blasio can oppose Trump all he wants. After all, he doesn’t give up his right to free speech just because he’s the mayor. He must keep his eye on what’s going on in Washington to ensure that New York City gets what it needs. But he has to take care of business first. Like plowing the streets after a snowstorm, one of the key responsibilities of the city administration.

The city dropped the ball on that one over the weekend in some neighborhoods on Staten Island and in Brooklyn and Queens. Democratic Queens City Councilman Rory Lancman said that the city’s vaunted “PlowNYC” website falsely showed some streets in Queens as being plowed when they hadn’t been touched. He called for a Council hearing to get to the bottom of it.

We’d rather see the mayor work up a head of steam on an issue like that rather than trying to go mano-a-mano with Trump. It reminds in a bad way of how de Blasio went around the country to spread his liberal gospel during the early stages of the 2016 presidential campaign. Here in the five boroughs is where he belongs and where he can have the most impact. He’s our mayor first and foremost. Isn’t that good enough? Isn’t that honor enough?

And while New York City voted overwhelmingly for Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November general election, Staten Island voted for Trump. Should we start keeping watch to make sure that City Hall officials don’t hold our Trump votes against us?

And to be fair, de Blasio isn’t alone among New York Democrats in his zeal to oppose Trump.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who seems to think he has a shot to be president himself in 2020, has also pledged to keep New York safe from The Donald.

Perfect. Another thing that Cuomo and de Blasio can tussle over.

And Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who might be eyeing Cuomo’s job, has also said he will be on the alert for anything that his office can do in terms of keeping a leash on Trump. City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and some of her members have also pledged to take to the barricades against the new president.

It sure beats working, we guess. Ranting in opposition to something and scoring some headlines and retweets is far easier than actually governing and materially improving people’s lives.

But Boston Mayor Martin T. Walsh may have said it best. When speaking to the Times of the anti-Trump mayoral coalition, he cautioned, “There’s only so much you can do on a nationwide level.”

In other words, our real jobs are at home. Let’s make sure we do them.

It’s good advice.

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Online:

https://bit.ly/2j1wo4u

The New York Times on the president of Bolivia and his allies’ attempt to extend his time in office.

Jan. 11

Last February, President Evo Morales of Bolivia said he would respect the will of voters after he lost a referendum vote that would have made him eligible to run for a fourth term.

Nearly a year later, Morales and his allies in the Bolivian Congress are plotting to extend his time in office. Morales, who became president in 2006, is in the middle of his third term. He says that he has great plans for his country and that several more years are necessary to carry them out. The truth is that allowing him to stay in power would be an affront to the will of Bolivian voters and a step on the road to autocracy.

Under Bolivian law, the results of the referendum are supposed to be binding. Morales says they should be nullified by the electoral authorities because the referendum was tainted by a disinformation campaign intended to discredit him. Last month, his government showed a documentary it commissioned, titled “The Cartel of Lies,” in movie theaters across the country. The film takes aim at press outlets that revealed that Morales’s former girlfriend had steered state contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars to her employer, a Chinese company.

The scandal was emblematic of the cronyism and corruption that has soured many Bolivians on Morales. But instead of acknowledging as much, the president’s allies in law enforcement sent the woman, Gabriela Zapata, to jail in an effort to silence her.

Morales’s party has announced that he would be at the top of the ticket during the 2019 presidential election. “If the people say so, Evo will remain with the people to continue to guarantee this democratic and cultural revolution,” Mr. Morales told supporters at a rally last month. That statement left little doubt that he intends to remain in power beyond 2019.

Electoral authorities are unlikely to heed Morales’s call to nullify the referendum results on the basis of the supposed disinformation campaign. But Bolivia’s Congress, which is dominated by his party, Movement for Socialism, could change the Constitution. Either way, the likely outcome- a new term for Morales -would be bad for Bolivians.

Morales has already been in office longer than any other leader in the hemisphere. His policies have transformed the country’s power structure by giving voice to the indigenous majority and reducing poverty. But his administration has been dogged by allegations of corruption and criticized for co-opting nominally independent institutions and cracking down on the press. These trends can only be expected to worsen if he manages to stay in office longer.

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Online:

https://nyti.ms/2j6Qxsf


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