ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The New York Post on the state's November referendum on expanding casino gambling.
Talk about a sucker's bet. When New Yorkers go to the polls this November, they will be asked whether the state constitution should be amended to allow Las Vegas-style casinos. Unfortunately, the Cuomo administration has stacked the ballot in favor of the house.
The evidence comes from a new Siena Research Institute poll, which asked voters flat out if they favor such an amendment, the result was 46 percent for, 46 percent against.
But fiddle around with the language, and you get a different result. So when the voters were presented with the actual language on November's ballot — which describes the casino initiative as "promoting job growth, increasing aid to schools and permitting local governments to lower property taxes" — an even split magically became a 55 percent to 42 percent vote for approval.
Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group puts it this way: This ballot referendum has "more spin than a roulette wheel."
Our view is that New York has enough casinos, and more will just increase crime, bankruptcies and gambling addiction. In fact, the best way to understand casinos is as a tax on those who can afford them least.
As for job growth and lower property taxes, if the governor is serious about these things, he'd do better to open the state to fracking. Instead, we have the usual suspects — public-sector unions and pro-Cuomo business interests — joining forces to lobby for what they think will be a magical, cost-free pot of gold.
New Yorkers deserve an honest ballot question on this. Instead, we've been given a stacked deck.
The Albany Times Union on New York state's public education system.
Flaws in two experiments in public education were exposed last week, raising concern that New York will again allow a generation of children to go without the "sound basic education" guaranteed in the state's constitution.
The first issue begins with the widespread failure of students on new standardized tests based on the Common Core Learning Standards: 70 percent failed, far more than last year. That wasn't a shock; the state Department of Education had warned of dismal results, saying that Common Core is raising the bar to address the problem that just 35 percent of high school graduates are ready for college or careers.
But now we learn that tens of thousands of students who failed won't get the extra help they need. The Board of Regents says school districts have to provide remedial help to only 30 percent of those who failed — the same as last year. Yet if the bar has been raised, shouldn't schools be shifting spending and administrative priorities to get students over the hurdle?
The State Education Department often points to the example of Massachusetts, whose eighth-graders rank second in the world in science and sixth in math. But that state's Education Reform Act of 1993 did not yield results for a decade. Can't past experience help speed up the results here?
In the second experiment — New York's decade-old charter school movement — the Times Union's Scott Waldman reports that two such schools in Albany, which has one of the highest concentrations of charter schools in the country, have mixed results in their test scores and graduation rates. It raises the question of whether that experiment needs a hard, broad review.
Both these stories bring to mind the 1993 Campaign for Fiscal Equity case and the ongoing Small Cities Schools case, both of which have called the state's investment in public education inadequate. In the CFE case, involving New York City schools, the courts agreed with the plaintiffs, but the state has yet to fulfill its financial obligation.
Later this year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Education Reform Commission is expected to release its final report. The commission earlier pointed to solutions we've heard before, such as longer school days, expanded early learning, and consolidation.
Mr. Cuomo repeatedly notes that New York has the highest spending per pupil of any state but some of the worst results. The question yet to be answered objectively is: "Why?"
At a time when the state is demanding more of students and teachers while clinging to an often partisan school funding system and an increasingly regressive property tax, supporting charter schools with mixed results, and forcing public schools to cut back on staff to live within a politically popular two-percent property tax cap, it's imperative that Mr. Cuomo's commission answer that question, before proposing yet another experiment on our kids.
The Daily Gazette of Schenectady on the trashing of an ex-NFL player's house by hundreds of young partygoers.
Who knows? Perhaps the unauthorized use and trashing of former pro football player Brian Holloway's house in Stephentown by hundreds of area teens would not have generated quite the "media circus" that one of the teens' parents characterized it as, had the homeowner been John Q. Public instead of a minor celebrity. But it hardly matters.
This parent's reaction, recorded in a story in Friday's (Albany) Times Union, pretty well exemplifies the issue Holloway cited when, several weeks after the party, he finally decided to press charges against the perpetrators. In truth, he ought to have sooner, because the overwhelming majority of kids who took part in the "festivities" has proven to be unrepentant and must be held accountable.
Frankly, it's hard to believe this wouldn't have been some kind of regional story had the property owner been the anonymous type. Before, during and after the party, there was no defending what these kids did. When they responded to an irresponsible call over social media websites to show up for a house party, they had some obligation to know the circumstances — that the property owner was out of town and hadn't authorized the party. And even if they didn't know beforehand, they should have figured it out pretty quickly when they arrived: No sane homeowner would have permitted a gathering of booze- and drug-taking teens so large (300-400) or so ill-behaved (Holloway reported finding 10 broken windows, 20 holes punched in walls and enough empty beer cans and liquor bottles to fill 10 55-gallon plastic bags).
And when all was said and done, the kids should have responded to Holloway's appeal to own up to their behavior and help him clean up. Sadly, only a handful did; and when Holloway reposted numerous kids' pictures on his website in an effort to shame them, some parents threatened to sue. (Never mind that the pictures had already been posted elsewhere on the web by the kids themselves, to proudly show off their presence at the party.)
While a case of this magnitude threatens to tax the resources of Rensselaer County authorities, including the tiny Stephentown court, it's worth pursuing because not just these kids and their parents, but kids and parents everywhere, need to know that a "party" of this sort is just plain wrong.
The Leader-Herald of Gloversville on the new federal health care law.
Some companies and organizations that initially accepted federal money to act as "navigators" for the new federal health care law, "Obamacare," are returning the funds, claiming they have been pressured unfairly over their programs.
A Florida company made national news by returning $800,000 in "navigator" funding because there was "too much scrutiny" of the program. It "requires us to allocate resources which we cannot spare and will distract us from fulfilling our obligations to our clients," a company official said.
Since the company and many liberals upset at scrutiny of the navigator program bring it up, let's talk about obligations.
A major concern about the navigator program is that the hundreds of thousands of people providing such services will have access to personal information about clients trying to find out how Obamacare affects them. Some of that information could be used in identity theft schemes to steal clients' money.
Some companies and organizations planning to provide navigator services do not even require criminal background checks for their employees. It is that lack of concern about security that has some critics of the program concerned — and demanding firms like the one in Florida do a better job of truly fulfilling their obligations.
Americans ought to applaud those who insist organizations and companies providing navigator services be concerned about clients' security. Those who consider that a distraction have no business being involved in the program.
The Daily Star of Oneonta on cuts to the federal food stamps program.
It should come as no surprise that when lawmakers last week were looking to wring savings from the federal budget, food stamps ended up on the chopping block. But the Republican House vote to cut $39 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — what used to be called food stamps — is an example of misguided legislators being penny-wise and pound foolish.
The most obvious reason why the move was a waste of time is its likelihood of being signed into law; the Democrat-controlled Senate doesn't appear likely to strip food stamps from their usual place in the farm bill, and President Barack Obama issued a veto threat before the House vote. But the House's insistence on passing symbolic gestures means it didn't have time to reconcile its bill with that of the Senate by today, the day the current farm bill is set to expire.
There's also the question of whether it's moral to take food benefits away from needy Americans at a time when the unemployment rate remains stubbornly high at 7.6 percent — and when Congress has done little in recent memory to stimulate demand or reduce unemployment.
But aside from the question of morality, cutting food stamps at a time when consumer spending is sputtering is just bad economics. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, about 97 percent of food stamps are spent within 30 days, which makes them one of the quickest ways the federal government can stimulate demand.
That, of course, isn't the purpose of food stamps, which are intended primarily to alleviate the worst effects of poverty and underemployment. But perhaps it's a misunderstanding about the point of food stamps that's behind the House GOP's efforts to gut the program.
"In the real world, we measure success by results," said Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind., in voting for the cuts last week. "It's time for Washington to measure success by how many families are lifted out of poverty and helped back on their feet, not by how much Washington bureaucrats spend year after year."
But arguing that food stamps serve no purpose if they don't singlehandedly "lift families out of poverty" is a bit like arguing that bandages are ineffective if they aren't preventing car accidents. Restoring food-stamp funding can help prevent things from getting any worse, but reducing unemployment and lifting families out of poverty are goals that can only be achieved if Congress and President Obama work together in earnest to stimulate demand for goods and services.
House Republicans announced Friday they would put food stamps back in the farm bill and give it another try this week. We're sure that if they look hard enough, they can find plenty of other worthwhile cuts.