- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 22, 2020

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

Brazil Calls Glenn Greenwald’s Reporting a Crime

New York Times

Jan. 21

The Brazilian government’s filing of criminal charges against the American journalist Glenn Greenwald is an increasingly familiar case of shooting the messenger and ignoring the message.

Mr. Greenwald is best known for his role in the release of national security documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor, in 2013. In Brazil, where he moved 15 years ago to be with his now-husband, an opposition Brazilian congressman, Mr. Greenwald co-founded a Portuguese-language version of his investigative news site, The Intercept, which has become a thorn in the side of the far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro.

Last June, The Intercept Brasil published a series of articles, based on leaked cellphone messages, that appeared to show illegal collusion with prosecutors by Sérgio Moro, the judge who had become a superstar corruption-buster for jailing scores of businessmen and politicians, including the popular former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

Jailing Mr. da Silva knocked him out of the race for president, clearing the way for the election of Mr. Bolsonaro - who then appointed Mr. Moro as his justice minister. Now, in addition to that implicit conflict of interest, the hacked messages suggested that Mr. Moro had violated Brazilian law, under which judges are supposed to be neutral arbiters, to help Mr. Bolsonaro. And this by a man previously lionized for his assault on entrenched corruption.

But the Bolsonaro camp quickly zeroed in on Mr. Greenwald rather than on Mr. Moro. Mr. Greenwald and his husband, David Miranda, came under a barrage of death threats and homophobic attacks. The Brazilian press reported that the federal police, which are under Mr. Moro, had asked the finance ministry to investigate Mr. Greenwald’s “financial activities,” and the police said they had started an investigation into the hacking of cellphones that led to the leaks.

The 95-page criminal complaint made public on Tuesday said Mr. Greenwald not only received and wrote about hacked messages, but actually played a “clear role in facilitating the commission of a crime.” For instance, the prosecutors said Mr. Greenwald communicated with the hackers while they were monitoring private chats on a messaging app.

Legal experts and opposition politicians said the evidence was thin. An investigation by the federal police, which identified and arrested the hacker, had already cleared Mr. Greenwald, and a Supreme Court justice had declared that publishing the messages was protected under the Brazilian Constitution.

Mr. Greenwald said he had “exercised extreme caution as a journalist never even to get close to any participation” in the hacking; he also noted that the complaint was brought by the same prosecutor who had earlier tried, and failed, to prosecute the head of the Brazilian bar association for criticizing Mr. Moro.

Sadly, assailing a free and critical press has become a cornerstone of the new breed of illiberal leaders in Brazil, as in the United States and elsewhere around the world. Accusations of wrongdoing are dismissed as “fake news” or politically motivated slander, and the power of the state is harnessed not against the accused officials but against the reporter.

In its 2018 report on press freedoms, the organization Reporters Without Borders warned that a “climate of hatred and animosity” whipped up by leaders toward journalists was posing a “threat to democracies.”

“More and more democratically elected leaders no longer see the media as part of democracy’s essential underpinning, but as an adversary to which they openly display their aversion,” the report said. When Mr. Bolsonaro was elected president in 2018, Reporters Without Borders called him “a serious threat to press freedom and democracy in Brazil.”

President Trump may not have made a dent in press freedoms in the United States - its traditions and institutions are too strong for that - but his incessant dismissal of stories he doesn’t like as “fake news” and his outrageous attacks on reporters as “enemies of the people” have provided succor and encouragement for the likes of Mr. Bolsonaro, who fuel loathing toward reporters both out of a personal disdain for the free press and as a cynical means of firing up the anger of their followers.

Mr. Greenwald’s articles did what a free press is supposed to do: They revealed a painful truth about those in power. Puncturing the heroic image of Mr. Moro was obviously a shock for Brazilians, and damaging to Mr. Bolsonaro, but demanding that defenders of the law be scrupulous in their adherence to it is essential for democracy. Attacking the bearers of that message is a serious disservice and a dangerous threat to the rule of law.

Online: https://nyti.ms/2NRyq7N


New Yorkers are right to remain nervous about Cuomo’s $179B budget

New York Post

Jan. 21

Anyone worried about New York’s fiscal health couldn’t have been terribly reassured by the $179 billion budget Gov. Andrew Cuomo rolled out Tuesday.

Cuomo called for no major tax hikes and kept the uptick in state operating costs to 1.9 percent. Good. Yet the plan left many details under wraps. And its broad strokes are themselves hardly comforting.

Start with the budget hole Cuomo needed to close - $7 billion, the Citizens Budget Commission says. The gov would plug that with $2 billion via a higher estimate of tax receipts, $2.5 billion in Medicaid savings and $2.5 billion in other various trims.

Yet he left numerous details about that unanswered, not to mention how he’d deal with mammoth future-year gaps.

And his plan pushes off payment yet again (and possibly permanently) of $1.7 billion in Medicaid bills that were quietly snuck into this year’s budget from the year before - a move experts see as reckless.

He also wants local governments, like New York City, to pick up the tab for Medicaid spending that tops a 3 percent growth cap, even though the state sets most of the basic rules for Medicaid.

Cuomo has until April to hammer out a final plan with the Legislature; expect lawmakers to push for even greater spending.

Finally, the gov yet again plans to ram into a budget deal a host of new laws that have little to do with the budget. As for the one item that needs urgent attention - the bail-reform laws that have put public safety at risk - he didn’t say how he’d fix them.

Yet fixing those “reforms” should come even before a budget deal, as New Yorkers increasingly seem to think: With dangerous suspects being released nearly daily as a result of the reforms, a Siena poll Tuesday found only 37 percent of voters now favor them, down from 55 percent in April.

Alas, the state budget isn’t the only thing New Yorkers have to worry about.

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


New year, same old acts at St. Joe’s Amp

Syracuse Post Standard

Jan. 19

It’s déjà vu at the St. Joseph’s Amphitheater at Lakeview. Ten of the 13 headliners announced so far have performed there in the past three years.

The sameness is a turn-off. Over 80 percent of Syracuse.com users who recently answered a survey on the topic agree.

So is the lack of musical diversity.

Country music is the dominant genre, with seven acts packaged together as the Country Megaticket: Sugarland, Thomas Rhett, Tim McGraw, Brad Paisley, Jason Aldean, Kenny Chesney and Lady Antebellum. The other shows are throwbacks to the Classic Rock era (Steely Dan with Steve Winwood, the Doobie Brothers and Foreigner) or the 1990s (Matchbox Twenty).

Where’s the novelty? Hip-hop and R&B? Music from this century? For that, you’ll have to drive or fly to another venue.

By playing it safe with well-worn acts, the Amp is missing out on attracting a new generation of live music fans, and risks driving away fans who are bored with the offerings.

Sure, the amphitheater can’t compete with large arenas or stadiums attracting 2020 tour heavyweights like Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, Def Leppard and The Eagles. But there’s variety out there we’re not seeing in Syracuse.

Artists hitting nearby venues include The Avett Brothers at Brewery Ommegang, in Cooperstown; Rascal Flatts farewell tour at Darien Lake; Alanis Morissette at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center; the Black Crowes reunion tour at SPAC and Darien Lake; Rod Stewart at SPAC; Maroon 5 with Meghan Trainor at SPAC and Darien Lake; and Journey with the Pretenders at SPAC and Darien Lake.

It’s frustrating to see that artists are leapfrogging the Amp on their Upstate New York tours. That was to be expected for a new venue. After five years and many improvements, the Amp is well-established. Why isn’t it getting some of these acts?

Taxpayers, you built the amphitheater. Then-Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney, announcing the hiring of Live Nation to book the facility, said: “We are thrilled to partner with an experienced promoter whose strong connections in the music industry will bring a mix of artists that crosses every genre.” Onondaga County should hold the promoter to that.

Late Friday, Live Nation teased an appearance by Nickelback. That would be a start. With another eight or 10 shows yet to be announced, Live Nation still has the opportunity to inject something new into the Amp’s lineup.

Online: https://bit.ly/2GbrYV8


Clearing Of Sidewalks Should Be Based On Their Use, Not Schools

The Post-Journal

Jan. 22

Mayor Eddie Sundquist has a lot on his plate right now. This weekend’s snowstorm should add one more item to the mayor’s already full agenda - sidewalk plowing.

Clearing sidewalks is the responsibility of homeowners or tenants, but anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of the city’s population demographics realizes many city neighborhoods are populated with older people who may not be able to clear their walk due to age or medical reasons. Some city residents with snowblowers are more than happy to clear entire streets. Those kind residents deserve your thanks and, maybe, the offer of a warm cup of coffee when they’re done clearing the walk in front of a neighbor’s house. Working-age neighbors may not always have the time amidst their busy days to shovel their walks and the walks of neighbors on either side of them, leaving a mismash of cleared and uncleared sidewalks.

That’s where the city’s sidewalk plow system comes into play. The mere presence of a sidewalk plow in the city’s fleet is an acknowledgement that some areas of the city need to have reliably cleared sidewalks. We’re not going to advocate for using sidewalk plows throughout the entire city, at least, not without knowing the city could provide the service without adding additional people. It is time, though, to come up with a new way of deciding where the sidewalk plow is deployed.

Some areas of the city have their sidewalks plowed because of their proximity to schools without consideration of whether or not children actually walk to school in those areas. In some areas, sidewalk plows are being used where no children are walking to school and where hardly anyone walks in the winter in the first place. Conversely, one often sees parents - often mothers - struggling to push strollers in the winter on uncleared sidewalks or pushing strollers in the road in areas where doing so really isn’t safe, but the parents have no choice. The winding curves of Baker Street are one area where this is a particular problem.

Use of sidewalk plows really needs to be based on amounts of pedestrian use and not proximity to schools.

Online: https://bit.ly/2unH33i


Necessary but painful job in Lake Placid

Adirondack Daily Enterprise

Jan. 22

We were glad to hear Lake Placid village Mayor Craig Randall tell the Lake Placid Business Association this week that people will, in fact, get to speak publicly at a public information session about the looming Main Street overhaul.

It was a change from the week before, when the mayor and Trustee Peter Holderied had emphasized that the event would be an information session to tell people about the project, not a public hearing to hear what they think about it.

The job has to be done. The old pipes beneath downtown Main Street have to be replaced sometime, and the smart time to do it is now, before the lines really blow out, before the 2023 Winter World University Games, and when plenty of state grant money is available to lift the burden off village taxpayers. The downtown sewer main was slip-lined in summer 2018, and now the village must replace water lines and, more significantly, the storm drain network, adding bio-retention basins to keep pollution out of Mirror Lake. So much road salt has seeped into the village’s beloved central waterbody that it no longer “turns over,” meaning the semi-annual churn of colder water between the bottom and the top. That natural cycle is essential for fish and other denizens of the lake.

But while necessary, the project will not be pretty. It’s expected to take two years, reducing Main Street to one-way traffic (not sure which way yet) for two summer tourism seasons. Many potential customers will steer clear, and it’s very possible that several businesses will be forced to close.

There doesn’t seem to be any way around that.

There’s no way to replace that infrastructure without ripping up the road, but when we build it back, we may as well build it back better. But “better” involves functionality as well as aesthetics.

Therefore, as with so many things in this village, it turned into an argument over parking.

We are glad that the village has added dozens of parking spaces back to its plan, which as of October would have eliminated a whole bunch of them. Now it would eliminate fewer than 10 - although we, and many others, believe it shouldn’t eliminate any.

Village officials wouldn’t have had to change their carefully laid parking plans so much if they had done public outreach on the front end, instead of at the end - and not just to 15 hand-picked people. If they had reached out to the general public of residents, workers and visitors, we’re sure they would have heard an overwhelming majority of people calling to add parking spaces, not cut them.

Downtown Main Street is a fabulous success - quite possibly the hottest commercial spot in northern New York. As far as we can tell, most people want it back, after construction, pretty much as it is.

In the end, leaders have to be deciders. But at the beginning, middle and almost-end, leaders need to listen to the people’s wants and concerns. Without public buy-in, leaders struggle. It’s impossible to please everyone, but if people know they were listened to and taken seriously, they can trust the process.

We know everyone involved is trying to do what they believe is best, and we don’t envy village leaders in this necessary but messy task. They must do some short-term damage, but it’s in the service of long-term good. As long as they are open and fair about it, people will go trust their leadership.

Online: https://bit.ly/3aANbWs

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