- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 6, 2017

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

The Press-Republican on checking out charities before donating

Sept. 1

As local people read about and watch video of the flooding victims that Harvey left in its watery wake, the first instinct of many is to want to help.

That’s indicative of the caring hearts possessed by North Country residents.

Even though they sat here safely through a week of beautiful weather, empathy was strong for the distraught residents of Houston and other southern cities.

But people who donate need to feel confident that the money they part with will make it to the people most in need. No one wants to think their contribution is tied up in the administration of a charity instead of making it to the true target of their generosity.

So it’s important to choose carefully where your donation is directed.

The Press-Republican recently received a letter from Art Taylor, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau’s give.org branch. His warning seems especially pertinent at this time, so we share it here:

“With more than 1.2 million charitable organizations to choose from, finding one aligned with your values can be deeply rewarding,” Taylor wrote.

“While the vast majority of soliciting charities act responsibly and deserve your support, Americans must remember that not all organizations are created equal.

“Case in point: In 2015, the Federal Trade Commission, all 50 states and the District of Columbia charged four sham cancer charities with bilking donors of $187 million over a five-year period.

“The New York Times reported these charity operators spent a significant portion of the money on personal expenses, such as Caribbean cruises, college tuition and trips to Disney World for themselves and their healthy families.

“And they hired fundraisers who often received 85 percent or more of collected funds.

“Charity fraud has consequences. Generous donors lose money, social issues stay unsolved, and the needful remain in need.

“But it can be avoided - scams have common signs. If a charity solicits you, ask specific questions to get details; be on guard against aggressive fundraising tactics; and be cautious if they try tugging at your heartstrings.

“Above all, check them out using a charity evaluator, such as BBB’s Give.org, which help donors of all kinds decide which charities to trust with their donations.

“So, when you’re donating, do it with peace of mind by taking the time to check out the charity first. It just might make all the difference,” Taylor concluded.

If you go to Give.org, you can put in the name of a charity and search how it rates on a number of categories ranked by the Better Business Bureau.

You can also read about the types of complaints that charity received and whether they were addressed.

The website has a section with specific advice about Harvey giving.

“As the storm system continues its damage, we must also keep in mind one of the most important lessons from fundraising efforts of disasters past: giving to established, experienced and vetted relief organizations (is) one of the best ways to help,” Give.org advises.

So, by all means, help out the people and animals displaced by the storm ravaging the southern states. But take a look at Give.org to know how best to apply your help.

Online: https://bit.ly/2xaWoo6


The Adirondack Daily Enterprise on how hating hate doesn’t help

Sept. 5

We and others criticized President Donald Trump last month for insisting that white supremacists and neo-Nazis were not the only ones to blame for violence that broke out at their rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. We still believe these groups’ agenda to eliminate whole categories of people was the worst part of that incident and deserved unqualified revulsion by national leaders.

Nevertheless, we do not excuse violence by other extremists, either. They, too, are a national problem.

That was demonstrated Aug. 27, when a “Rally Against Hate” was held in Berkeley, California. It drew about 2,000 participants, most intent on making a peaceful statement.

Then more than 100 black-clad, hooded people who identified themselves as anarchists joined the crowd, targeting a small group of right-wing protesters.

Reporters chronicled that the anarchists, sometimes called anti-fascists or “antifa,” attacked at least four people, according to The Associated Press. Their ferocity was such that police had to use a smoke bomb to drive them away from one man they had attacked.

Earlier in the day, another group of left-wing protesters also dressed in black assaulted three men in a park. They kicked and punched the men until police went to their rescue.

There was no report of the right-wing protesters doing anything to bring on the attacks.

Ironically, this park is named for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., whose nonviolent - and effective - protests against racism and injustice ought to be an enduring template.

Also ironically, some of the anarchist thugs were carrying shields on which they had written, “No hate.”

They wear masks to hide their identities, like many terror squads throughout human history.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that,” King famously said. “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Here in the United States of America, we believe in the freedoms of speech and peaceable assembly. We do not accept violence of any sort as a means of silencing those with whom we disagree.


Online: https://bit.ly/2xPfo8A


The (Auburn) Citizen on advocating for Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill

Sept. 3

When former Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew announced in April 2016 plans for a $20 bill redesign that would put abolitionist Harriet Tubman’s image on the front, it came largely in response to an impressive advocacy effort by people around the nation who understood the important and overdue tribute such a move would accomplish.

They held rallies and launched petitions, reached out to elected and appointed federal officials and vigorously spread the word on social media, among other efforts.

“I have been particularly struck by the many comments and reactions from children for whom Harriet Tubman is not just a historical figure, but a role model for leadership and participation in our democracy,” Lew said at the time. “You shared your thoughts about her life and her works and how they changed our nation and represented our most cherished values.”

The news, of course, was cause for celebration in Auburn, where Tubman lived for so many years and where a national park has been established at properties associated with her time here.

Lew noted that the goal was to have the Tubman bill out in 2020, the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which gave women the right to vote.

But is all of that now dashed? There’s certainly cause for concern after current Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin deflected a straight-forward question last week about whether he supported following through on the plan.

The reaction among the bipartisan base of Tubman bill supporters was swift and loud, and we were glad to see our federal elected lawmakers representing us in Washington - U.S. Rep. John Katko and U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand - step up to call for Mnuchin to get behind the plan.

But if anyone thinks a couple of days of social media posts and a handful of letters by congressional representatives are going to get the job done, they are setting up for major disappointment.

Much like the initial effort to convince the Obama administration to do the right thing by honoring this black woman’s immense contribution to our nation’s evolution, this new effort needs to be organized and persistent.

Yes, it may be frustrating to feel like a hard-fought battle has to be repeated, but advocates need to channel Harriet’s stubbornness and spirit and get the job done once again.

Online: https://bit.ly/2xbdu52


The Post-Journal on state standardized testing results

Sept. 3

Standardized testing results for students in New York’s public schools have been released and, once again this year, there are plenty of reasons for hand-wringing as well as head-scratching.

On the whole, the numbers are not good. Data released last week by the state Department of Education showed 34 percent of Chautauqua County students scored as proficient in math compared to 32 percent in 2016. English language arts proficiency increased from 30 percent in 2016 to 32 percent this year. Statewide, the percentage of students proficient in ELA in grades three through eight increased 1.9 percent from 37.9 percent in 2016 to 39.8 percent this year, whereas the same figures for mathematics increased 1.1 percent from 39.1 percent to 40.2 percent this year.

It sounds as if we are making progress, but how many of those gains are addition by subtraction? Every school district in Chautauqua County except for Ripley had a portion of their students refuse to take the tests, with 43.1 percent of students in the Fredonia Central School District refusing the math test and 47.8 percent of Fredonia students refusing to take the math exams. An analysis of 2017 test refusers showed many, though certainly not all, test refusers hadn’t shown proficiency in 2016 or didn’t take the tests at all in 2016.

School district officials contacted by The Post-Journal say they are still digging into the data. We can say one thing with near certainty - only about one-third of Chautauqua County students are proficient in English language arts and math, by the state’s own definitions. And, given the modest gains in proficiency, it is likely few gains have been made narrowing achievement gaps among low-income students or students for whom English is a second language.

These results are cause for concern - they mean nearly two-thirds of students in our schools right now aren’t ready for college or a career. The students who end up in college will need remedial help in writing and math before they are ready for college-level courses. Those who end up in the workforce are going to need additional training before they are ready for jobs that can pay a living wage. Part of those children struggling to attain proficiency will likely find themselves in poverty.

Any progress is good, of course, but such small gains will take decades to truly make a difference. We won’t see 50 percent of students proficient in Chautauqua County, at this rate, until 2027 in English language arts and 2025 in math.

For our children and our county, we need to start seeing bigger gains in student proficiency.

Online: https://bit.ly/2wGCtMb


The New York Daily News on the summer commute at Penn Station

Sept. 5

It was one of precious few transit bullets dodged in an absolutely awful year for getting around the city: The Summer of Hell predicted by Gov. Cuomo for Penn Station’s railroad passengers never materialized.

Commuting into and out of the dreary pit these past few months turned out to be just ordinary-bad, not off-the-charts, tragicomically terrible.

Today, the Amtrak repairs that took tracks out of service and cut back schedules end. Regular operations resume, bringing back 230,000 daily LIRR trips, 172,000 using NJ Transit and 35,000 on Amtrak.

Good news, right? Kind of.

If the repairs really did what they were supposed to do, those hundreds of thousands of commuters rushing back into the rabbit warren would henceforth have far smoother rides in and out.

But Penn has been badly mismanaged by cash-starved Amtrak for decades. With full service returning, the delays and headaches are sure to come back with a vengeance soon enough.

Rather than wait for the inevitable, the railroads should learn from the summer and use now-proven methods to change travel patterns permanently to ease the crush.

The No. 1 reason the summer was a breeze was because there were fewer people and trains at the station. Amtrak sent some trains to Grand Central. NJ Transit diverted whole lines to Hoboken, and the LIRR substantially boosted service to Brooklyn’s Atlantic Terminal and Hunterspoint Ave. in Queens.

Most critically, both NJ Transit and LIRR cut the fare to the other destinations, which at first LIRR refused until Cuomo made them do it.

It worked swimmingly. Ridership to Brooklyn and Queens went up 40% and 60% respectively, as thousands of Long Islanders voted with their wallets, taking advantage of cheaper fares.

Over in Jersey, NJ Transit trips to Hoboken climbed, as did PATH rides into Manhattan. And everyone else at Penn benefited from a lower load there.

Today, for no good reason, the fares to reach outlying stations go back to what they were before - a boneheaded refusal on the LIRR and NJ Transit to learn from a rare experiment that worked.

Both commuter lines have to lower fares to their non-Penn stops and balance any lost revenue by increasing the Penn fares.

Penn remains at the track crossing. Amtrak, the landlord despite running the fewest trains, should be forced out of its management role. The station should be handed off to the state so that the cruddy place and the new Moynihan Station to its west can be knitted seamlessly together when the latter opens in 2020.

But we need not wait for that to happen to win lasting improvements at New York’s most exasperating transit hub. The Summer of Hell is dead. Long live its smarter ideas.

Online: https://nydn.us/2w7kECg

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