Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New York’s newspapers:
The Poughkeepsie Journal on the VA’s decision to stop funding homeless veteran program
The federal Veteran Affairs is flat-out wrong to cut funding to an excellent, imperative program that supports homeless veterans and their families in our area.
Worse yet, the agency administrating this service, Hudson River Housing, found out only a few weeks ago the funding would be discontinued. Elected officials representing this area are urging the VA to reverse this decision, and it should. Nevertheless, Hudson River Housing Executive Director Christa Hines told the Poughkeepsie Journal the agency is committed to the program and is not planning on winding it down.
The agency was told earlier this month it wouldn’t be receiving an annual VA grant it’s been getting since 2012. The annual funding, about $500,000, supports an effective initiative, one that has aided more than 450 homeless or at-risk veteran families. The help runs the gamut from rental and transportation assistance to financial planning. What’s more, five full-time staff members - two of whom are veterans - are funded through the grant.
Indicative of the fine work, Hudson River Housing is the recipient of the Award for Innovative Excellence from Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families. And Hines says the agency’s application has scored extremely well based on the VA’s own standards and criteria.
The VA issued a statement, saying it is still providing “$1,935,000 in yearly Supportive Services for Veteran Families funding to the Hudson Valley area” and is looking to ensure “resources go to where they best align with Veterans’ needs.”
But veterans’ needs in this area cannot be denied.
“We have 30 open cases of homeless veteran families we’re currently servicing, and in two weeks we could not be able to serve them,” Hines said. “We’re beyond concerned.”
The VA has been under intense pressure the last decade or so, considering the number of returning military personnel from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of these troops had multiple deployments, and the VA has been beset by scandals, including long wait times at some facilities across the country - and the fact that some facilities were actually covering up these deficiencies. During the Obama administration, Congress did put more resources into fixing the system, aiming to give the VA the tools it needs to ensure better care and services for our veterans.
Considering this overall context, cutting the funding for a sound local program makes absolutely no sense and must be opposed in the strongest possible terms. Local elected officials should keep up the pressure; the VA must reconsider this decision.
The Leader-Herald on American’s understanding of the Constitution
Most reasonable people - be they liberal or conservative - would agree the Constitution provides a basic guide to government and outlines the rights given to American citizens.
That may be all they agree on.
The Constitution and Bill of Rights are bandied about with regular frequency these days, but we wonder how many of those who casually justify their behavior or views by citing the Constitution or the Bill or Rights really understand the documents. Studies say not many.
Last year, a survey by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, 39 percent of respondents incorrectly said the Constitution gives the president the power to declare war. More than half (54 percent) knew that the Constitution gives Congress the power to declare war while a vast majority (83 percent) correctly said the Constitution gives Congress the power to raise taxes. A majority (77 percent) know that the Constitution says that Congress cannot establish an official religion - though almost 1 in 10 agreed with the statement that the Constitution says, “Congress can outlaw atheism because the United States is one country under God.”
The First Amendment prohibits the making of any law “infringing on the freedom of the press.” But 40 percent of those questioned favored the idea that Congress could forbid the news media from “reporting on any issue of national security without first getting government approval.” Just over half (55 percent) opposed such restraints.
As we have said before, knowing specific dates in U.S. history isn’t essential to be a good citizen. A citizenry that knows what’s in the Constitution, how the document was written and what the document actually means is important.
At first, our nation’s founders thought that the Constitution itself was adequate as a basic document of government. But after it was adopted in 1787, then ratified by the states, it became clear that more limits were needed. In fact, representatives of the states insisted that the Bill of Rights - the first 10 amendments to the Constitution - be adopted to curb the power of federal government and ensure the rights of citizens and states.
That information - knowing that concern about the power and size of the federal government were factors even two centuries ago - is important.
We encourage all Americans to use the opportunity afforded by Constitution Week to become more informed. But we urge educators to make detailed lessons concerning the Constitution and Bill of Rights a priority. The rights and responsibilities of citizens and government are subjects on which no American student should be left behind.
The Observer-Dispatch on the lost ability to compromise
All the dust kicked up over Rep. Claudia Tenney’s decision to hold a campaign-sponsored town hall meeting in Camden speaks to a much larger problem facing our nation today, one that reaches far beyond the mechanics of how this meeting is being conducted: We have lost our way to compromise.
And if we can’t cut through the hate and find a compass to get back on track, making America great again will become the impossible dream.
When Richard Hanna decided not to seek re-election to Congress in the 22nd District, he told the O-D Editorial Board that part of the reason was due to the frustration he felt in Washington over getting things accomplished. Nobody, he said, is willing to compromise. Agree or disagree with Hanna’s politics, he was a straight shooter. And he nailed this one.
The political climate in America today is like a bitter divorce. Husband hates wife. Wife hates husband. Any suggestion made by one side is bitterly contested by the other. Nasty things are said by both sides. The hate festers. Compromise cannot be found. And everyone suffers. Heaven help it if there are children involved.
In this case, America’s children are involved. They’re called constituents. And as the rift between Republicans and Democrats widens, those constituents suffer.
This nation’s inability to find its way is defining its future. Our future. We’ve lost respect in the world, drugs are killing our kids, our education system is in shambles, racism is rampant, corruption in business and government is growing … you can name others.
History has never defined specific rules for a town hall meeting. In America, they date to the 1600s in New England when townsfolk gathered with political representatives to discuss issues that most affected them. Such meetings always ran the risk of being confrontational, simply because not everyone agrees on how things can be done.
But in more recent times, discord has manifested itself into anger, hate and sometimes even violence. This is where we’ve jumped the track.
Tenney has stated in the past that she has avoided open town hall meetings because she feared they would become too disruptive and accomplish little. She has opted instead for telephone town hall sessions, small group gatherings and even some one-on-one meetings with constituents. Protests outside her New Hartford office are not uncommon.
That doesn’t necessarily make her decision to conduct a campaign-sponsored meeting - with emailed invitations to a select audience - a good one. Though a news release last Monday announced the Sept. 19 town hall meeting in Camden, an email from Claudia Tenney for Congress obtained by the O-D prior to that tells its individual recipients “with so many important battles ahead … I want to get your take.”
Hand-picking an audience is disingenuous. And although Tuesday’s town hall meeting is touted as being open to all - reservations are required due to limited seating - sending out personal invitations prior to publicly announcing it is like stacking the deck. A town hall meeting should provide equal opportunity for all 22nd District constituents, not give supporters a leg up on reserving a spot.
On the other hand, while throwing open the doors to the public seems the democratic thing to do, given the political climate in America today one can’t help wonder what that may or may not accomplish.
“You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t,” former Rep. Charles Bass, a New Hampshire Republican, told US News and World Report in an April 17 report, “Trouble in the Town Hall.”
Bass said members of Congress know the town hall meetings won’t attract people who are happy with the jobs they are doing. “People who are angry - and boy are they angry right now - are motivated to come out,” he said. But “if you don’t have them, constituents are not only angry at you. They’re frustrated.”
Protesting is part of democracy, but when anger turns into raucous rants protesters do a disservice to responsible constituents who are seeking answers. Debate, yes, but opponents who become disruptive should be removed.
And so, we circle back to the disharmony infecting government today. Former Rep. Hanna’s frustration with Congress’s inability to get things done spills over into everyday America. We want town hall meetings and we want equal opportunity for all to attend them and debate issues. That’s the way democracy works. We understand there will always be contention, but if the debate - whether in Washington or Anytown, USA - cannot be conducted with civility, the hate will only grow worse. And so will our nation.
Perhaps instead of electing politicians to get America back on track, we need to hire a few divorce lawyers to reach a settlement. They certainly can’t do any worse.
The Democrat & Chronicle on the Rochester airport upgrade
We know the Rochester airport needs work to make it state-of-the-art.
That’s why when Monroe County pitched a plan for major upgrades at the Greater Rochester International Airport that includes a massive canopy, more accessible information, new and improved security checkpoints, it received nearly $40 million through an Upstate Airport Economic Development and Revitalization competition.
All totaled, our shiny “smart terminal” was projected to cost $54 million. Until this week. Now, thanks to a $25 million jump in the price tag, our 21st-century airport is projected to cost $79 million.
The request for this 46 percent increase was submitted by Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo on Tuesday, the same day members of the County Legislature were to hold their regular session. By making this 11th-hour $25 million request, Dinolfo left little time for county legislators to do their due diligence before they rubber-stamped the request.
Moving at light-speed to push this request for additional funding through has left the public with whiplash and questions, questions that likely would not have arisen had there been more time for lawmaker and community discussion. Where was the fire? Why was this $25 million request dropped in the laps of legislators for an immediate vote? Why not provide more notice for lawmakers and taxpayers? Was there a ramification for waiting and if so, what?
What price will we pay later for robbing Peter to pay Paul? According to the county, the $25 million will come from federally authorized fees paid by airport passengers, and rent and parking revenue collected by the county’s airport authority. No fee increase is expected.
With the new budget, the airport authority now will provide $14.2 million, about $11 million more than originally planned. And $25 million will now come from passenger fee money, an increase of $14 million.
If we’re moving money from one pot to another, what impact, if any, will it have on previously planned additions or upgrades to the airport? Will passengers still see the same upgrades and renovations touted in the original plan or will we have to take it down a notch?
Are plans still a go for a new play area designed with help from The Strong National Museum of Play, for instance? Is a collaboration with Rochester Institute of Technology on a new onsite business incubator still on?
There were many good ideas in the county’s original proposal for airport upgrades, ideas supported by the major carriers serving ROC.
The Rochester airport serves roughly 2.4 million incoming and outgoing passengers each year. A state-of-the-art airport is needed. And so is transparency, not obfuscation, from county leaders about the airport renovation project.
The New York Post on Trump at the UN
Rarely has the UN hall heard a more honest appraisal of the global scene or a stronger vow of resolve to fight threats than President’s Trump’s first address to the General Assembly on Tuesday.
“In over 30 years in my experience with the UN, I never heard a bolder or more courageous speech,” tweeted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Nor could there have been a more stark contrast with the speeches his predecessor, Barack Obama, gave: Trump made no apologies for America’s past and even boasted of US exceptionalism. “America has been among the greatest forces for good in the history of the world,” he said.
And he unabashedly repeated his vows to put “America first.” Good for him.
Trump minced no words as he put Pyongyang on notice, labeling it a “depraved” regime and threatening to “totally destroy North Korea” if forced to.
“Rocket Man” - his pitch-perfect term for Kim Jong-un - “is on a suicide mission.” Hope Kim was paying attention.
Nor did the president have any qualms about blaming Islamic extremism for terrorists. He said the actions of Syria’s “criminal regime,” including the use of chemical weapons, “shock the conscience.” And he slapped Russia and China (though not by name) for their aggression.
Another highlight: one of the most forthright takedowns of socialism ever from a world leader. He said Venezuela’s regime has “destroyed a prosperous nation by imposing a failed ideology that has produced poverty and misery everywhere it has been tried.”
Still, his larger point was upbeat: He noted the “extraordinary opportunity” the world faced, particularly given advances in science and medicine, and said it’s “entirely up to us whether we lift the world to new heights.”
That - and Trump’s honesty - was refreshing indeed. No wonder so many saw the speech as the best yet of his presidency.
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