EDITORIAL: To Judy Grunberg

DEAR LANDLORD: This newspaper has been a tenant of yours for over eight years. You have been a friend for a decade longer than that and yet I still have a few things I don’t recall ever mentioning to you. Now, with your death, I’ll settle for sharing them with our readers, many of whom knew you well.

You talked a lot. The remarkable thing is that when you talked it was about real projects and real problems and real political or social or economic needs. What you said mattered and people wanted to know what you thought.

How is it that a human being could be in as many places doing as many things as you did? But there you were at the Blue Plate and Rewraps, and Chatham Area Business and Arts (CABA) and the Columbia Land Conservancy and WAMC boards and co-founding the Real Food co-op and helping save the Crandell Theatre and, in past years, not only sitting on the Columbia Memorial Hospital board, but funding the hospital’s Hospice Unit, to name just a few items on your schedule. You were the evidence that proved something in the planning stage was likely to become a reality, as in: Oh, Judy’s involved. That’s news. Read more…

EDITORIAL: Our proficiency deficit

NUMBERS TELL STORIES but only to those who know the secrets of counting. Fortune cookie wisdom? No. It’s an observation on the latest data dump from the New York State Education Department.

Late last week the Education Department released a report with the catchy title “Spring 2019 Grades 3-8 ELA & Math Assessment Results.” These are results from what used to be called high stakes tests for elementary and junior high students. They were introduced to comply with federal mandates that gave large federal grants to states that measured student achievement.

The state and school districts have been collecting data for years and posting it online as part of each district’s annual “report card.” But the English language arts (ELA) and math tests are different because they are supposed to reveal how well the state as a whole and its individual districts are preparing some of our youngest learners. It all boiled down to a binary conclusion: Are the kids in 3rd through 8th grades proficient in English and math—Yes or No? Read more…

EDITORIAL: Gag rule won’t work

SOME DOCTORS HAVE a great bedside manner, others can be a cold fish. Those distinctions matter when it comes to communicating and healing but they are not as important as trust. We expect that physicians will recommend what they believe is in our best interests. Not what drug companies want to sell us, not what’s best for the provider’s college loan debt and certainly not what the federal government decides is the most politically expedient medical advice.

But the Trump administration is now enforcing a new rule that would put the president’s views in the doctor’s office of Planned Parenthood by not allowing the organization’s healthcare providers to identify which specialists offer a full range of options, including abortions. The method of enforcing this new restriction lies in a longstanding federal funding source called Title X (the Roman numeral for 10).

Title X helps Planned Parenthood nationwide fund many essential health services to poor and low-income women: things like tests for pregnancy and for sexually transmitted infections, cancer screening and birth control. The funding may not be used for abortions, a prohibition that Planned Parenthood and other providers observe by having separate abortion services. But this new effort would restrict Planned Parenthood providers from referring patients to what could be the most appropriate services. That would punish patients. Read more…

EDITORIAL: A message to ‘Sam’

THE CHILD VICTIMS ACT took effect in New York state on Wednesday, August 14. The law extends the rights of people sexually abused before the age of 18 to sue their abusers and confront them in court.

The date is important because some people who were victims had lost the right to sue their abusers once the period of time for filing a case against the abuser had elapsed. In effect, the new law turns back the clock and gives those victims exactly one year to file cases against their abusers. And because the law was signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo on February 14 of this year, the victims have had time to prepare.

The law also allows victims who haven’t yet come forward to bring a civil lawsuit against their abuser until the victims are 55 years. Read more…

EDITORIAL: Questions. Only questions

FROM THIS DISTANCE the murders in El Paso and Dayton speak for themselves. Yes, our thoughts go out to the survivors and their communities. And yes, those thoughts then drift toward wondering how long before these violent outbursts and their aftermath engulf us too.

Statistics say the odds are still in our favor when it comes to avoiding young, white males armed with military-style firearms and determined to murder as many strangers as possible. But who among us measures risk by such calculations?

Once again public attention turns to the question: What can we do? You’d think by now the data might affect the behavior of those federal politicians who normally oppose any restrictions on the ownership of firearms. Start with an estimate of how many of the roughly 40,000 firearm deaths a year in the U.S. from all types of firearms could be prevented by tightening the rules for the purchase or possession of a gun. We could calculate how many more lives could be saved if military-style rifles were removed from the equation. Put another way, how many innocent people must die before the right to own a particular type of weapon becomes too costly? Read more…