New York Post. May 16, 2023.

Editorial: Zap the worthless $64m Cuomo-era Excelsior vax app

If Ben Franklin were alive in the computer era, he’d’ve said: “Nothing can be certain, except death and taxes — and the inability of any government to run an IT project on budget and well.”

Long after the COVID threat has receded, New York taxpayers are still burning $200,000 a month to maintain the Excelsior App — the Cuomo-era state vaccine passport that nobody uses and never needed.

The Times Union reported this week that the cost of the seldom-used vax app has skyrocketed to $64 million total from its initial $2.5 million debut in 2021.

At best, it was a way for inoculated New Yorkers to access restaurants and live events.

But carrying around your vaccination card worked at least as well — and the app didn’t even register your shots from a drug store or other “third party,” only from city- or state-run sites.

Why keep pouring cash down the drain?

The Hochul administration insists the app can be developed for purposes beyond showing vaccinations no one has to take.

So what?

Plus, we can’t help noticing that (besides IBM) Boston Consulting Group and Deloitte Consulting score the biggest bucks from New York for the Excelsior App, jointly collecting $28 million so far.

By chance, Boston Consulting Group and Deloitte also got paid to help out with Gov. Kathy Hochul’s State of the State speeches, with Boston netting $838,000 this year and Deloitte $1 million in 2022.

Then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo reportedly hired both BCG and Deloitte in 2019 to provide strategic advice to his budget division at a cost to taxpayers of around $30 million a year each.

And Team Hochul rolled over those contracts soon after taking over.

It all reeks of corrupt waste.

The gov can start to clear the air by zapping the vax app.

Jamestown Post-Journal. May 15, 2023.

Editorial: State Legislature Should Listen To DEC, EPA On Pesticide Treated Seeds

New York state already does a good job limiting the use of seeds treated with pesticides.

Called neonicotinoids, these treated seeds aren’t available over the counter and the DEC allows them to be used only by qualified professional applicators in targeted instances where the presence of pests threatens certain types of crops. New York protocols on pesticides are already more strict than the U.S. EPA and the states’ Integrated Pest Management program helps make the state’s pollinator protection program one of the strongest in the nation. And, let’s not forget farmers need a thriving pollinator population for their business, so they have a vested interest in using as few pesticides as they can to protect their crops.

Is this a situation that is screaming out for legislative action?

In our opinion, it is not.

Yet for the second consecutive year the state Assembly has approved the Birds and the Bees Protection Act (A.3226/S.1856) to prohibit, starting Jan. 1, 2026, the sale, distribution or purchase by any person within the state of corn, soybean or wheat seeds coated or treated with neonicotinoids. The bill has not yet come to the Senate floor for discussion and no one knows if Gov. Kathy Hochul would sign or veto the bill if it reaches her desk.

In our opinion she shuld veto the bill if it reaches her desk. It’s one thing if the scientists at the DEC decide the use of pesticide-treated seeds is hurting pollinators so badly the seeds need to be pulled from the market. But as long as there are conflicting reports on the seeds’ effect on pollinators and how badly pests would impact crops, the situation should be decided by the DEC and not state legislators. This is a situation that calls for science, not politics. Legislators should let the DEC handle the use of pesticide-treated seeds.

Albany Times Union. May 14, 2023.

Editorial: A new immigration wave

The end of a Trump-era measure and inaction by Congress leave state and local officials in New York bracing for an influx of immigrants.

Here’s what effective, purposeful governing looks like: Gov. Kathy Hochul declaring an emergency in order to help localities deal with an expected influx of immigrants.

This is what ineffective, performative politics look like: Officials like Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin declaring emergencies to keep immigrants — legal or otherwise — out of their jurisdictions.

That’s the sad contrast New Yorkers are witnessing this week as the state braces for the expiration of Title 42, a federal provision invoked by former President Donald Trump to use the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to limit immigration under the guise of protecting public health.

Prior to Title 42’s invocation in March 2020, immigrants seeking asylum could remain here while their cases were reviewed. But under Mr. Trump, who has made anti-immigrant rhetoric a cornerstone of his political identity, more than 2.8 million of them were sent back over the border using Title 42 rules — and they were denied the right even to seek asylum.

President Joe Biden tried to end Title 42 last year but was blocked by courts after Republicans sued. Now, though, with the end of the national COVID-19 emergency, the use of Title 42 expired as of Thursday night.

That means more immigrants entering the country, on top of the millions already here. New York City has already seen a surge of tens of thousands of immigrants thanks in large part to the antics of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who have been sending them north as a political statement.

To deal with the influx, New York City planned to house several hundred asylum seekers in hotels in Orange and Rockland counties and pay for their food, shelter and resources. But Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus and Rockland County Executive Ed Day declared states of emergency forbidding hotels and motels from accepting them. So did Mr. McLaughlin — even though New York City has no stated plans to send migrants there, and even though the people New York City is sending north are here legally.

The political sniping and one-upmanship are, of course, just another symptom of the broader American immigration problem — the lack of a comprehensive, coherent policy. For that, the dubious credit goes to Mr. Trump’s Republican Party, which for years has done all it can to ensure the immigration system stays broken while running perpetually on promises to fix it. The result: scattershot, ultimately ineffective “solutions” like Title 42 and Mr. Trump’s ridiculous, costly idea for a border wall. And theatrics like these county executives’ states of emergency.

The Biden administration is putting new rules in place to make illegal border crossings less appealing. It’s imposing a five-year ban on entering the country again for anyone caught crossing the border illegally, and prosecution if they do try to enter again anyway.

But this won’t take the place of what’s been so clearly needed for so long: Congress developing a comprehensive, long-range immigration system that addresses all the national security, workforce and humanitarian complexities of the issue. Until then, we’re left with Gov. Hochul’s and Mayor Adams’ best attempts to manage the problem, and Mr. McLaughlin’s best efforts to milk it.

Auburn Public Citizen. May 11, 2023.

Editorial: Balance intent of New York’s bail reform update with public safety

Though she got strong resistance from downstate Democrats, Gov. Kathy Hochul was successful in winning a small victory in an effort supported by many on both sides of the aisle to scale back reforms that many view as having created a revolving door in New York state’s criminal justice system.

Exactly how it’s gong to work out is still unclear, but the recently passed state budget includes wording giving judges more discretion to set bail in cases where a defendant appears to pose a danger to the community. The update means that judges will no longer be required to release people on appearance tickets even though their alleged offenses don’t technically qualify as violent felonies.

Changes enacted in 2019 went a bit too far, and left judges unable to have many defendants held even when their conduct demonstrated they had no regard for public safety. We supported a commonsense change, especially after seeing how bail reform has played out in Cayuga County, where defendants who really shouldn’t be are being released pretrial because prosecutors and judges are powerless to stop it from happening.

At the same time, we agree with the overall intent behind rewriting the rules on bail, because for far too long, defendants charged with minor offenses were held in local jails — sometimes for months — simply because they lacked the means to post bail. It was a completely unfair system that affected Black New Yorkers in disproportionate numbers. It will be important that judges keep that in mind as they evaluate requests for bail from prosecutors under the latest update to the law.

Dunkirk Evening Observer. May 15, 2023.

Editorial: EDUCATION Not enough worries over lower scores

Last week’s report that test scores in civics and history are dropping should be concerning not just to teachers, but to all of us.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress — known as the “nation’s report card” — tested about 7,800 students across the country in civics, and 8,000 students in U.S. history between January and March 2022. The test had last been given in 2018.

On a point scale of 0 to 500, the average U.S. history score dropped 5 points to 258, continuing a downward trend that began in 2014. Just 13% of eighth graders scored at or above the proficient level. In civics, the average score dropped 2 points to 150 between 2018 and 2022. Just 22% of eighth graders scored at or above the proficient level.

Some point to the COVID-19 pandemic as a reason for the decrease in history and civics test scores, but the slide actually started in 2014 — well before the pandemic began. It’s more likely the decline in civics and history knowledge is the result of simple, old fashioned neglect. As the focus has turned to reading, math and, in many districts, STEM learning, history and civics is being left behind.

Those who cover government don’t need the NAEP to tell us that the nation’s collective knowledge and understanding of government, civics or history is decreasing. We see people struggling to understand how government is supposed to work, which branches of government are supposed to handle certain tasks and how past events tie into current events.

Most importantly, we see it in our elections. Candidates with depth are left by the wayside while candidates with few ideas, little substance and an ability to captivate the public’s attention for their outlandishness are becoming more and more successful. As our national civics knowledge decreases, our politics gets worse because fewer of our country’s youth realize the importance of making informed choices at the ballot box — or of voting at all.

The New York Board of Regents is in the midst of discussions to change the state’s graduation standards. We hope they are paying attention to the NAEP scores in civics and history and consider ways to boost those scores by requiring more civics education as a requirement for graduation.


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