EDITORIAL: Who’s in charge here?

IT’S CONFUSING. It’s frightening. It feels so unfair. This is not what we were led to expect. We need someone to blame. But by now he’s left the building.

Last week the chairman of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors and the supervisor of the Town of Stockport, Matt Murell (R), blasted Governor Andrew Cuomo for his handling of efforts to vaccinate millions of New York residents to protect them from Covid-19.

Don’t blame Mr. Murell for venting frustration. He’s right. There isn’t enough vaccine available to meet the demand. State government has to manage distribution of the shots statewide. Jack Mabb, director of the county Department of Health said this week, right now signing up for a vaccination is a lot like playing the lottery. And yet over five different clinics since January 2, the department has administered shots for 1,213 people. Read more…

EDITORIAL: What the mob stole

THERE WERE CROWDS and explosions the last time I was at the Capitol of the United States. It was nearly 40 years ago. I kept a tight grip on our youngest daughter, who sat on my shoulders. Below us were people everywhere we looked stretching past the Washington Monument, the Reflecting pool to the Lincoln Memorial. Our daughter learned a new expression that night from a boy nearby, a voice in the crowd but no face we could see: “Holy guacamole!”

He repeated the phrase with each fusillade of the annual July Fourth fireworks on the National Mall. Soon enough I heard the expression echo from over my right ear. Once again people of America were celebrating themselves and their country. Hundreds of thousands gathered in a space that belonged to them. And then they left. We walked home. It was 10 blocks away but I never took the official tour of the Capitol.

What I saw on TV and online news streams last week was not a building or a country that looked familiar. The action sequences were framed in the dimensions of smart-phone video. They looked like scenes from an amateur movie where angry monkeys escape their cages. But the cast last week wasn’t monkeys, it was a mob—a term reserved for humans who attack other humans for no good reason. Read more…

EDITORIAL: What’s on The Meeting?

WHAT LOOKED LIKE A TEMPORARY measure last spring seems now like it’s here to stay. You could call it part of the new normal except that it’s not new and it’s anything but normal. Call it digital democracy for lack of a better term.

From the time the first patient with Covid-19 showed up in Westchester County and the virus began to spread through the city, state, country and planet, it was clear that the disease could be spread wherever people gathered. Optional gatherings were forbidden or discouraged.

But the gatherings of municipal governments—meetings—are required by law. And in most cases meetings are also open to the public whenever county, town or village boards meet to adopt local laws or spend taxpayers’ money. So Governor Cuomo issued executive order 202.1, which allows government to conduct business remotely by phone or video conference call as long as members of public can listen to or listen and view the proceedings. Read more…

EDITORIAL: Can you spare a loan?

THANK YOU. That’s nearly all there is to say. Your support has kept us going another year. We could not have imagined your generosity. You have troubles enough of your own from the pandemic and other hardships that seldom make headlines. Yet you continue to purchase subscriptions and newsstand copies, and click on www.columbiapaper.com. All of it helps.

You’ve noticed that the paper is thinner now than when we suspended publication for 10 weeks beginning in April. That’s not the result of too little news. Fewer pages means lower costs. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. But here’s a breaking story: local newspapers are among the businesses eligible for loans as part of the $900-billion pandemic relief bill approved this week by Congress.

The preliminary information says that money for newspapers will come from an improved loan program called the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which was part of the first pandemic recovery legislation. The original PPP got mixed reviews: some big shots got big loans and shouldn’t have; small firms who got money later wished they hadn’t. The rules in round one of PPP excluded this newspaper from applying. Local banks we contacted gave us the bad news. Read more…

EDITORIAL: Include EMS in Phase 1a

THERE WILL BE SCREW-UPS. There may be questionable choices too. Bad actors will prey on the misery of others. And that may not be the worst of it.

But we’ve done this before—trying to vaccinate practically everybody in the United States. Most of us didn’t experience or don’t remember the bad stuff associated with previous vaccines. And we didn’t suffer from some nasty diseases. So will anyone remember that emergency medical services (EMS) personnel were left off the list of the care providers slated to get the first round of the Covid-19 vaccine?

The members of the Columbia County EMS Advisory Board noticed the absence of EMS personnel on the list of people designated as eligible for Phase 1a. of the Covid vaccination roll-out. And last week Steven Meehan, secretary of the county EMS Advisory Board, sent a letter to Governor Cuomo and the commissioner of the state Department of Health, Dr. Howard Zucker, urging them to put the EMS workers on the list. (Mr. Meehan’s letter is in this issue.) Read more…