ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The Times Herald-Record of Middletown on the Cuomo administration's continuing refusal to forecast tolls on the new Tappan Zee Bridge.
Those wondering why the Cuomo administration will not talk about the price motorists will pay to cross the new Tappan Zee Bridge got a new and costly perspective last week.
An analyst for the Manhattan Institute took a look at the debt the state has accumulated and the required payments, compared it to the amount collected in tolls on the aging bridge, factored in the costs of the new span and came up with a not-surprising suggestion that tolls will double at least.
That's truly a conservative estimate, below the only number that the governor's people have hinted about.
Follow the thinking of the analyst a bit farther and the news is even worse. Whatever the state decides to charge for crossing the bridge, it is not likely to really pay the bills. So more money will have to come from the only other source that has the capacity to raise that much, the Thruway.
The new bridge "really threatens to overwhelm the Thruway's capital plan over the next decade," analyst Nicole Gelinas said.
Befitting a conservative scholar at a conservative institute, she had a very conservative suggestion.
Start raising the tolls now.
There was no response to that, although Thruway authorities did jump in and assure New Yorkers that whatever the bridge ends up costing, whatever the toll turns out to be, motorists on the Thruway and elsewhere will not be asked to chip in.
While he was campaigning for re-election, the governor refused to speculate about the level of the tolls on the new bridge, saying that until the state knows exactly how much it is going to cost, it cannot establish a figure. And there are lots of ways to come up with cash to help keep the inevitable toll hikes in line. The most prominent would be to use the multi-billion-dollar windfall the state has collected from settlements with large banks. But that money has attracted a lot of attention from others who would rather see it go to other areas in need of such an amount. Just last week Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver suggested calling a special session of the Legislature to apply the billions to the state's aging infrastructure. If the money goes toward keeping tolls in line on the bridge, it cannot also go toward repairing or replacing other bridges in bad shape or repaving and repairing roads and water and sewer systems.
The governor and his people would do the state a service by being more open about this funding. As the analyst pointed out, the old bridge has carried 10 percent of the traffic on the system but it has provided 20 percent of the Thruway toll revenue.
So we already have a system where money flows from one user to another, a system that cannot continue with the big bill to build a new bridge coming due.
What seems clear is that one day soon the state will have to share some bad news, including the real tolls on the new bridge and the effects the decision to set those tolls will have on other transportation obligations and future needs.
The Glens Falls Post-Star on the Cuomo administration ousting the well-regarded head of the Lake George Park Commission.
Until now, we've watched the political intrigue in Albany from afar, but over the past few days, it has struck closer to home, and we don't like it.
Earlier this week, we heard that Dave Wick, executive director of the Lake George Park Commission and principal architect of the boat-washing initiative that has been a triumph in heading off invasive species in Lake George, was asked to resign by a representative of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Sources told us Wick refused and that the park commission would not accept his resignation if he did offer it.
By all accounts, Wick is a good man who does his job diligently and has made a difference — something the folks in Albany could learn from.
We then confirmed Wick had been placed on paid administrative leave and that the Lake George Park Commission has scheduled a public meeting for 9 a.m. Friday at the law offices of Bartlett, Pontiff, Stewart and Rhodes in Glens Falls, and it appears Wick's future hangs in the balance.
We were then incredulous to learn from the governor's office that Wick was being targeted because he failed to report a fuel spill when a state-owned boat he was using leaked a gallon of fuel into the lake at a boat-fueling station operated by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
From our viewpoint, that's like getting 20 years for littering.
If Gov. Cuomo was hoping to give his bullying image a facelift in his second term, he is off to a bad start.
These revelations are even more startling when you consider Wick's track record.
Environmental victories are not won easily or very often, but the success this summer of new boat-washing stations on Lake George to combat invasive species was an enormous step forward.
There were nearly 17,000 inspections done, and more than 1,000 found some type of possible marine contamination. The boat-washing program — the first established in the eastern half of the country — could go a long way toward containing the spread of invasive species in the Adirondacks and may have already made a difference in Lake George.
Wick is the man behind this success story.
There is a long history of acrimony with environmental groups in the Adirondacks, so what Wick has accomplished over the past few years in bringing together environmental groups with state and local municipalities for the greater good of Lake George is rather miraculous.
Working behind the scenes, Wick put together the S.A.V.E Partnership, a coalition of municipal and environmental leaders that agreed to put up half the $700,000 needed to fund the boat-washing initiative. Not only did he get them to agree on a course of action, he got them to open their wallets.
Wick has been intimately involved in setting up the boat-washing program and has successfully addressed the concerns of boaters, marina operators, environmentalists and the DEC. This was no easy task.
Considering the diversity of groups involved, getting the boat-washing up and running in time for the 2014 boating season was remarkable.
We have heard nothing but praise for the work Wick has done. He has a reputation as a person who works well with local government officials and, more importantly, helps them get things done.
Rules are rules, and when they are broken there should be a cost, but the response by the governor's office is nothing short of ridiculous.
We were happy to see someone in power come to his defense Thursday.
"I'm not sure any of the issues raised lead to, 'Fire this guy,' " Assemblyman Dan Stec said.
We'll go a step further. In the world of political hardball, where the Moreland Commission is here one day and gone the next, we are skeptical that a gallon of gas is the motivation for all this maneuvering, and if we had to choose between the reputations of Mr. Wick and Mr. Cuomo, it would be an easy choice.
The New York Times on the grand jury findings in the police killing of Michael Brown in Missouri.
The St. Louis County grand jury's decision not to indict the white police officer who in August shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, would have generated widespread anger and disappointment in any case. But the county prosecutor, Robert McCulloch, who is widely viewed in the minority community as being in the pockets of the police, made matters infinitely worse by handling this sensitive investigation in the worst possible way.
First, he refused to step aside in favor of a special prosecutor who could have been appointed by Gov. Jay Nixon of Missouri. He further undermined public confidence by taking a highly unorthodox approach to the grand jury proceeding. Instead of conducting an investigation and then presenting the case and a recommendation of charges to the grand jury, his office shifted its job to the grand jury. It made no recommendation on whether to indict the officer, Darren Wilson, but left it to the jurors to wade through masses of evidence to determine whether there was probable cause to file charges against Officer Wilson for Mr. Brown's killing.
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