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In Focus: Rockland

More from the opinion-makers of The Journal News and LoHud.com, with a special look at Rockland.

What are your priorities for Albany’s agenda?

December
22

The state Legislature convenes for its 2012 session just after the New Year. What issues do you hope they take up in 2012? What are your priorities for your representatives in the state Senate and Assembly? Replacing the Tappan Zee bridge? Pension reform? Mandate relief? What are your top issues?

Leave your answers in the comments below.

Posted by Ed Forbes on Thursday, December 22nd, 2011 at 8:35 am |
| | 1 Comment »

Opinion roundup: Dana Sassano, Westchester’s budget and Teaberry Port

January
5

Here’s a glance at opinion content published in The Journal News today, Wednesday, Jan. 5:

Dana Sassano: Editorial
We mourn the loss of Dana Sassano, 17, of New City, who was killed Dec. 29 when she was thrown from the back seat of a Toyota 4Runner when the vehicle went out of control on a hairpin turn on Route 17A in Orange County. The driver and two other passengers survived the accident. Sassano wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. We encourage legislators in Albany to revisit the state’s pioneering seatbelt laws and make it mandatory for all passengers to buckle up, all the time. We write:

… Making seat-belt use mandatory won’t magically make all comply, or save all lives. But it can only help. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics show the value of seat-belt mandates. About 83 percent of people in 2008 wore seat belts when riding in the front seat, and 74 percent wore them when riding in the rear seat.

Back-seat-belt compliance is higher in states that mandate it, NTSB statistics show. About 85 percent of adults wore seat belts in the back seat in states that mandate back-seat use, compared to 66 percent of adults buckling up in the back seat when state law didn’t require them. Back-seat belts are 44 percent more effective at preventing death than riding unrestrained; that figure goes up to 73 percent when riding in a van or SUV. …

… All passengers should buckle up, at all times, in all seats. It should be a primary law, meaning a driver can be pulled over for this infraction alone. Call it Dana’s Law.

Westchester’s budget: Commentary
Westchester County Legislator Sheila Marcotte offers a Community View on the battle between the Board of Legislators and the administration of County Executive Rob Astorino over the 2011 county budget. She writes:

… In the heated, and at times overheated, process of proposing, debating, amending and passing a budget for Westchester County, most attention has centered on funding this program or that; keeping or eliminating one budget line or another. Unfortunately, what was lost in the clutter of that debate is that the real challenge for all elected officials, now and for the future, must be that of making government smaller.

Literally.

Taxpayers can no longer afford the superstructure of government, and all the costs associated with it, that has been constructed in Westchester County’s case. Westchester residents are the most heavily taxed in the nation and the relief they demand, and deserve, will not come solely from trimming around the edges of budgets and plucking out one cost or another. Tax relief, meaningful tax relief, will come only from making fundamental structural changes to the model of government and by reducing spending in smart, future-oriented ways. …

Teaberry Port: Commentary
Robert C.A. Sorensen of New City offers a Community View on the news that United Water may raze Teaberry Port, an 18th-century home in West Nyack. Sorensen advocates for the building’s preservation:

… Rockland residents should stand up to this rude and uncaring approach by United Water. We should protect our historical heritage, and United Water should be helping in that effort instead of its current course. Rocklanders must let their views on this be known to United Water and government leaders. They should be working to protect our historic structures and to correct United Water’s misguided plan for demolition.

More opinion
Cuomo steps up: Editorial, The Buffalo News, Jan. 5
Public officials shouldn’t accept gifts: Editorial, Glens Falls Post-Star, Jan. 5
Wrong approach: Editorial, Watertown Daily Times, Jan. 5

Posted by Ed Forbes on Wednesday, January 5th, 2011 at 11:43 am |
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Albany Bureau reporter Cara Matthews discusses Platinum Legislature series

August
26

Cara Matthews, a reporter in our Albany Bureau, joined the Editorial Board Tuesday afternoon to discuss the reporting she and her colleagues have undertaken for our Platinum Legislature series, which began Sunday, continues Aug. 29 and concludes on Sept. 5.

In this Sunday’s installment, Joseph Spector, Albany Bureau chief, explores how legislators earn and use per diems. On Sept. 5, reporter Nick Reisman examines legislators’ use of state-owned cars and officially-issued license plates.

In our conversation with Matthews, we dissected the $226 million it costs New York taxpayers to operate the state Legislature and reflected on how things have changed since we published our Solid Gold Legislature series in 1985.

Here’s a highlight reel:

Read more of this entry »

Posted by Ed Forbes on Thursday, August 26th, 2010 at 10:17 am |
| | Comments Off on Albany Bureau reporter Cara Matthews discusses Platinum Legislature series

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Editorial spotlights planned this week

August
24

Coming up this week on Editorial Spotlight:

• Cara Matthews, Albany Bureau reporter, will discuss our series on “The Platinum Legislature,” which details the high price that New Yorkers pay for their state Legislature, at 1 p.m. Wednesday. Read Sunday’s installment at www.LoHud.com.

• Democratic U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, appointed to fill the seat vacated by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2009, will discuss a wide range of issues, at 11 a.m. Thursday.

To watch these LIVE, go to www.LoHud.com/editorialspotlight. To ask a question or leave a comment, engage the CoverItLive blogging feature on the right side of your screen.

Posted by Ed Forbes on Tuesday, August 24th, 2010 at 12:50 pm |
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Platinum Legislature, budget surpluses and Iraq

August
24

Here’s a glance at opinion content published today, Tuesday, Aug. 24:

Platinum Legislature: Editorial
Our Sunday editorial that was tied to a special report from our Albany Bureau on the costs of running the state Legislature published online today. We write:

… The New York Legislature costs about $216 million annually and is the third most expensive state Legislature in the country. It is 19th in terms of per capita cost, at about $11 a year per New Yorker. But some taxpayers are treated better than others, as the reporting by Albany Bureau’s Cara Matthews shows. The most senior lawmakers in the majority party get more resources to carry out their duties.

For instance, consider that office expenses for Lower Hudson Valley lawmakers, for the period from April 2009 to March, range from $1.4 million, for Democrat Jeff Klein, the Senate deputy majority leader, who represents the Bronx and parts of southern Westchester, to $654,000, for Republican Sen. Thomas Morahan, who represented the 38th Senate District, which includes Rockland, until he passed away last month. Surely residents of Klein’s district are not more deserving of state resources than those in the 38th District.

Political power also dictates how much money individual lawmakers get to spread around their districts in the form of grants or so-called member items. That’s another absurdity that tradition, incumbency and dysfunction have left in place — no matter how much Albany watchdogs complain. Add all that up and one thing is clear: If the Legislature were free, it still would cost too much.

Platinum Legislature: Cartoon
Matt Davies comments on the cost of running the state Legislature in his Sunday offering.

Budget surpluses: Editorial
We comment today on news that the East Ramapo School Board and the Town of Clarkstown were both carrying massive reserve funds.

Iraq: Cartoon
Matt Davies comments on the American exit from Iraq — and on our sustained commitment in Afghanistan — in today’s offering.

Posted by Ed Forbes on Tuesday, August 24th, 2010 at 11:58 am |
| | Comments Off on Platinum Legislature, budget surpluses and Iraq

Extended, at least

June
18

The New York State Senate has extended Kendra’s Law to June 30, 2015. The Assembly had already passed the extension of the law.

Kendra’s law allows courts to order involuntary outpatient treatment for seriously mentally ill people who have histories of violence or recidivism. It’s named for Kendra Webdale, who died after being pushed in front of an oncoming subway car in Manhattan in 1999. Her assailant, Andrew Goldstein, suffered from schizophrenia that had gone untreated even though he had sought help and had assaulted 13 other people.

The Editorial Board wrote about the pressing need to extend Kendra’s Law before its sunset date of June 30, and to consider making the valuable law permanent well before the next need for an extension.

We said then:

Kendra’s Law is good policy and protection for both the mentally ill and the public at large.  … Lawmakers, so busy not passing a budget, must get Kendra’s Law extended, at the very least. Then, they must not wait the full five years to craft legislation to improve it and make it permanent.

The extender bill for Kendra’s Law was sponsored by state Sen. Thomas Morahan, R-New City, who chairs the Senate Committee on Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities. He also introduced a bill to make the law permanent, but it went nowhere when no Assembly bill matched. Another bill, supported by Kendra Webdale’s parents and many advocacy groups, would have made Kendra’s Law permanent while expanding it, including allowing more people to make referrals and adding ways to track people who had been mandated into treatment.

One of those pushing for the law’s expansion and permanant status is DJ Jaffe, founder of the NY Treatment Advocacy Coalition and former board member of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill.  Today, he released a statement on the Senate’s vote, calling the failure to make Kendra’s Law permanent and close loopholes in the legislation “dangerous, expensive, and cruel to individuals with serious mental illness and all New Yorkers.” He said:

As a result of this vote, both hospitals and prisons can continue to release seriously mentally ill individuals who may be danger to self or others into the community without first assuring they will get mandatory ongoing treatment to prevent them from becoming violent again. Earlier this week, the legislature voted to permanently shut down 250 inpatient psychiatric hospital beds for the mentally ill. The combination of these votes puts the mentally ill at risk of not receiving treatment, and other New Yorkers at risk of the consequences.

Last week after the Assembly vote, the mental health commissioners in Westchester and Rockland  told the Editorial Board that the law had great value, and supported extending it, as is. They explained that a referral to use Kendra’s Law operated as a sort of “warning flag,” that alerted them to people who needed more support. Often, individuals, when offered help, would accept it, negating the need for court-ordered treatment under Kendra’s Law. But, they were concerned about how any changes could play out, and were hesitant to make a changed law permanent.

Here’s a statement from Morahan’s press release on extending Kendra’s Law:

The statewide implementation of Kendra’s Law has resulted in beneficial structural changes to local mental health service delivery systems. It clearly improves a range of important outcomes for its recipients, apparently without negative consequences to recipients.  Increased services available under Kendra’s Law also clearly improve recipient outcomes.

Posted by Nancy Cutler on Friday, June 18th, 2010 at 11:58 am |
| | Comments Off on Extended, at least

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About this blog
Welcome to the community conversation/editorial page blog for Rockland. It's your place for two-way talk with the people behind the opinions on The Journal News editorial pages and LoHud.com. Look here daily to talk back to the opinion writers, find out what's on our agenda, and steer us to the hot topics in your community. Contributing to this blog are deep-rooted Rocklanders Nancy Cutler, editorial page editor in Rockland, and Bob Baird, longtime Rockland columnist and editor, along with Ed Forbes, interactivity editor, with occasional contributions from other opinion staff.

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