Editorial: A JCOPE stumble

That Gov. Kathy Hochul first named James Dering to serve as acting chair of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, and then backpedaled in the face of public backlash, suggests she realizes that putting another Cuomo ally atop the panel was not a good look — for her or for the ethics watchdog.

It wasn’t.

The governor later said Commissioner Dering’s appointment as chair was just for last week’s meeting. A meeting in which, we’ll note, he cast a decisive vote to let ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo keep his profits from his $5.1 million “American Crisis” book deal. Questions remain on whether state employees improperly helped with the book.

If Gov. Hochul is serious about changing Albany culture — and we hope she is — one of the first steps is cleaning up JCOPE.

Make no mistake: The panel needs to be scrapped and replaced with a new ethics enforcement mechanism. But in the meantime, we’ve got what we’ve got. And Gov. Hochul must appoint commissioners with credibility.

An attack on the First Amendment

From the annals of “Government Gone Wrong”: Schenectady City Council member Karen Zalewski-Wildzunas recently sought to formally censure a Schenectady school board member for her public calls to defund the police.

Ms. Zalewski-Wildzunas accused Jamaica Miles, a racial justice activist, of “driving a wedge … between the school and the police department.”

You read that right. The councilwoman tried to use a municipal body’s power to censure an individual for voicing a proposal she disagrees with.

Don’t like an idea? Vote it down. Argue against it. But to single out a person and slap their wrists because you don’t like what they say? At best, that’s intimidation; at worst, authoritarianism. Where does that end?

Ms. Zalewski-Wildzunas and other council members who supported this idea should know better.

Seeing across the digital divide

The Federal Communications Commission says that more than 98 percent of New Yorkers have access to broadband. That number, though, has a couple of asterisks after it.

The first: The FCC assumes that if broadband is available anywhere in a census block, then the whole block is considered to have “access” — a shortcut that leaves countless households off the map. The second: Having “access to broadband” does not mean actually having it. Service availability isn’t the only obstacle; cost, too, is a factor.

A report from state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli addresses that second asterisk with a report noting that about 14 percent of all New Yorkers are without broadband at home, through lack of access or lack of a subscription. And it’s mostly the poor, the elderly, and those with lower levels of education who are doing without: More than 36 percent of households with incomes below $20,000 had no broadband.

From telehealth to schooling, from job applications to remote work, reliable internet is essential to modern life. To reduce inequality and bring this utility to every household, we need better data. Mr. DiNapoli’s report brings New York’s picture into clearer focus.



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