Here’s a selection of opinion content published since Sunday, Dec. 26:
Sunday, Dec. 26
Hunger and the holidays: Editorial
We comment on anecdotal reports that spending and charitable giving were up this holiday season. Despite those spots of good news, we examine the continued need of local safety-net organizations. We write:
… Many heads of local charities are mindful that the economic downturn officially ended in 2009; they also know, without consulting a stockpile of economic data, that the needy keep coming in droves — individuals socked by foreclosure; private-sector workers hit hard by layoffs; and more and more public-sector workers now getting pink slips. The state Labor Department warned this month that the local “recovery” from the recession has been “uneven.” Many have already fallen off the edge.
So-called “safety net” agencies say the need continues to grow, despite forecasts of economic improvement. “I keep reading in the paper … that the recession is over, but tell it to the people here,” said People to People Executive Director Diane Serratore. Her agency is best known as Rockland’s biggest food pantry, but it also collects backpacks and school supplies for kids each fall and runs Project Joy, which supplies a store stocked with holiday gifts for kids. Last month, People to People provided food to 1,681 families; in 2008, the monthly average was around 500 families.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Northern Westchester has increased its work in response to the recession. “A lot of families are having one parent or two parents working two or three jobs just to make ends meet in this area,” club Executive Director Brian P. Skanes told the Editorial Board. In response, hours for the after-school program were extended. Longer hours meant children weren’t eating dinner until very late, or skipping the meal entirely. In response, the club began serving dinner. Adding the dinner program was costly, but Skanes said it paid off tremendously. “Since starting the evening meal program about a year ago, kids’ behavior is better here, also in school,” he said. …
Indian Point: Commentary
Paul Vitale, vice president for Government and Community Relations at The Business Council of Westchester, writes a Community View in which he argues against the construction of cooling towers at Indian Point nuclear power plant in Buchanan.
Tuesday, Dec. 28
We comment on the Blizzard of 2010, which dumped several feet of snow across the New York metropolitan area and the Lower Hudson Valley and snarled traffic and transportation.
Westchester budget: Editorial
We comment on the final Westchester County budget for 2011. The $1.78 billion spending plan, we conclude, offers a change of pace to Westchester residents. We write:
… The blueprint reduces county spending by $28.5 million and the county work force by 10 percent. The budget does not reflect all the cuts — perhaps blood-letting would be the more accurate term — that Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino sought in his budget proposal. In a test of wills, the Board of Legislators restored funding for a whole host of mostly social “safety net” programs Astorino sought either to trim or scuttle altogether. Such is how budgets and priorities are set in representative democracies: executives, with their own wish lists, propose, and legislatures, with their own values, dispose. Voters charge both with settling upon the proper mix of prudence and obligation.
Whether the budget actually goes far enough in recalibrating or repositioning county government is not altogether clear. Westchester, like Rockland and Putnam, and the state and federal governments as well, still has some sorting out to do in the aftermath of the Great Recession, which is still taking a toll on family and government budgets alike. Republican Astorino, to be sure, sought to push the change button with more force than the Democratic-controlled board, whose members resisted wholesale policy shifts and gave voice (and votes) to different values. But Astorino can properly claim credit for changing the budget discussion in Westchester. What should be beyond question is, voters and taxpayers want more thrift and more willingness to challenge the status quo, as well as the courage to break from it. …
Wednesday, Dec. 29
Zadroga Act: Editorial
We comment on the passage of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act last week by the lame-duck Congress. We write:
… The protracted debate over Zadroga at times seemed like ungrateful pennypinching. Had Washington forgotten so quickly the price paid — and continuing to be paid — by those who worked so feverishly and selflessly at Ground Zero? That certainly appeared to be the case. GOP lawmakers stood in opposition to the Zadroga Act for months, labeling it another entitlement program that would add to the deficit, even though the bill had its own funding stream. When the method of paying for the bill was criticized, the funding source was switched. To win Republican support, the bill was cut back from $7.4 billion to $6.2 billion and, finally, to $4.3 billion. Some of the most eloquent voices for the agreement were stricken first responders, or their survivors. Our debt to them cannot be stated in dollars and cents. …
Sturdy Congressional ducks: Syracuse Post-Standard
Republican responsibility: The Buffalo News
Time to fix election law: Albany Times Union
Cold shoulder for Bloomberg: New York Daily News