A sampling of editorials from around New York

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 28, 2014 at 9:21 am •  Published: May 28, 2014
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ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The Buffalo News on felons seeking exemptions for employment in certain industries.

May 27

The complications of humanity — its wrinkles, crosscurrents and black holes — are all on display as the case unfolds against Jeffrey J. Basil and the police officers who were with him when a bar patron was shoved down a flight of steps and left in a coma.

Basil, it seems safe to say in hindsight, should have been nowhere near a bar. His history of run-ins with the law and the tragic outcome of a May 11 confrontation document a foul-tempered pattern that should — in retrospect — have ensured he was not involved in the alcohol industry or, for that matter, debt collections, which he also sought to pursue.

William C. Sager Jr., 28, suffered a severe brain injury when he was pushed down a flight of stairs at Molly's Pub in University Heights. He remains in a coma.

Basil, who ran the bar, has been charged with felony assault. Buffalo Patrol Officers Robert E. Eloff and Adam E. O'Shei have been suspended without pay for what they did — or didn't do — when the attack took place at the bar where they had been working security.

Basil has been in and out of trouble for years, enough that, as a felon, he was prohibited by State Liquor Authority regulations from applying for a liquor license or managing a bar.

He sought an exemption, allowed for felons working toward rehabilitation, and was twice denied by State Supreme Court Justice Penny M. Wolfgang before she approved it on his third attempt three years ago.

Basil has several convictions on his record: a felony of attempted criminal possession of a controlled substance, a violation after an arrest for aggravated harassment and misdemeanor DWI. For the last one, he was sentenced to 90 days in jail. In January 2013 he was convicted of a violation — driving while ability impaired. Six months ago he was convicted of second-degree harassment.

Now, though, he is charged with an assault that could easily have left a man dead and appears to have caused permanent brain damage. And so, the question is, should Wolfgang have shown mercy on Basil?

In retrospect, of course, the answer is no. Yet there should be no question that the law needs to leave room for people to turn their lives around and to make a living.

Three of Basil's arrests had to do with the use or attempted sale of intoxicating substances, and two others involved harassment. Together, they draw a picture of someone who doesn't need to be working in the alcohol industry — or, for that matter, in debt collections, an industry with its own thuggish reputation, especially in Western New York.

There is no perfect formula that can guide judges on whom to allow exemptions from the standard consequences of criminal behavior. Human nature doesn't allow for that, and judicial systems have been known to work poorly when politicians substitute their judgment for those of actual judges.

Nevertheless, this terrible episode suggests the need to reconsider the system, and whether certain crimes should simply prohibit some people from ever again working in a few licensed industries.

Basil didn't have to manage a bar. He could have sold shoes at a department store. He'd have been better off for it, and so would William Sager.

___

Online: http://bit.ly/TQfWq7

The New York Daily News on efforts in the state Legislature to legalize medical marijuana.

May 27

With the state Legislature inching toward legalizing medical marijuana, absolutely tight controls are crucial.

New York must not make the mistakes California did after its medical marijuana law passed by referendum in 1996.

The law was so loosey-goosey that virtually anyone could grow, sell, prescribe or ingest the weed for practically any ailment, real or imagined. Predictably, the state was overrun by pot shops frequented by recreational smokers who easily obtained prescriptions from pliant "practitioners" based on most any health complaint.

Worse, the burgeoning and little-regulated industry gave cover for criminal gangs to move their contraband from Mexico and elsewhere.

Here, Staten Island state Sen. Diane Savino says her Compassionate Care Act, narrowly approved by the Health Committee, would impose strict regulation "from seed to sale."

Her law would license no more than 20 growing operations, which would operate indoors under 24-hour security and surveillance. Each plant would be bar-coded, its every move tracked.

Only patients with one of 20 "severe disabling or life-threatening" conditions (including cancer, Alzheimer's and HIV/AIDS) would be eligible.

They would need permission not just from a medical professional authorized to prescribe narcotics, but also from the state Health Department.

What Savino's proposal does not do, worryingly, is cap the number of retail outlets that sell the stuff. It would also give an advisory board the power to add diseases and conditions to the original 20. Finally, it lacks an expiration date — a necessary precaution in such tricky experiments.

Using his authority under existing law, Gov. Cuomo has floated a plan that would allow no more than 20 hospitals to dispense pot for medical purposes. While there are legal obstacles to this approach, he's right to want a program that's limited, controlled and subject to revocation.

That's what the doctor ordered when it comes to the distribution of an illegal drug as medicine.

___

Online: http://nydn.us/1humvUe

The Poughkeepsie Journal on problems within Veterans Affairs.

May 25

Today, as we pay homage to those who have fought and died in our nation's wars, the country can honor veterans in so many ways — but none is as pressing as making sure those returning from battle are getting adequate care to stay healthy.

The country is falling horribly short, as the most recent scandals at Veterans Affairs facilities show. And that is an awful thing to ponder as we observe Memorial Day.

Recently, in fact, it was revealed that dozens of U.S. veterans died waiting for appointments at the Phoenix VA and many of them were on a secret waiting list, apparently to mask the problem.

As incredible as that seems, similar claims are now being reported at VA facilities in at least a half-dozen other states, including Florida and Pennsylvania. The VA's inspector general said an investigation into the allegations has expanded to 26 facilities.



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