The Weekend’s Best (& Worst) from the Empire Page News Links Service

Subscribers to the Empire Page this weekend were treated to excellent reportage as well as insightful analysis and opinion. One must be impressed by the quality of journalism coming out of New York’s newspapers in spite of layoffs and hard economic times. Note that most of the breaking stories are first generated by the state’s smaller papers and only later picked up by the wire services and the state’s larger dailies.

This weekend’s prize for the highest quality coverage is a tie between the Plattsburgh Press Republican and the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle.

On Sunday the Press Republican hit journalism paydirt on two energy stories. The most significant is the news that talks are underway between the New York Power Authority (NYPA) and Canadian energy producers to import “up to 2,000 megawatts of power from multiple sources, including hydropower from Canada.” Cheap power would be a boon to northern New York’s economy. The second energy piece covered the St. Regis Mohawk’s desire for cheap power to help run its casino and bingo hall.

The D&C had the best state news coverage this weekend with an assist from Gannett’s Albany bureau. While Gannett provided an overview piece on the potential for incumbents losing their seats in the next election, the D&C attended a meeting where a local legislator got an earful from voters who are angry are about high taxes and what’s been going on in Albany.

Top Editorials

The Poughkeepsie Journal on Sunday hammered the Legislature on two points – disclosure of pork spending and allocation of internal resources. Their mild conclusion: “A level playing field would be best for all New Yorkers.”

The Glens Falls Post Star takes the state to task for failing to pay its taxes to the city and county of Saratoga. I like their suggestion that those entities seize the track and put it up for sale. The taxpayers of New York would surely make out much better from a privately held track operation in Saratoga than what we get from NYRA.

The Kingston Freeman editorial board recaps the sorry story of what went on in the State Senate in June with the added footnote that individual legislators in their coverage area don’t seem to have learned any lessons from the fiasco. “All of which leads to the conclusion that no reform of Albany worthy of the name will come from within,” writes the Freeman. “Only the voters can clean these houses.”

Best (& Worst) Columns

Tom Carroll, long-time charter school champion and activist, has six suggestions for incoming State Education Commissioner David Steiner in a piece published Sunday in the Albany Times Union. Let’s hope Steiner incorporates Carroll’s ideas into a plan to shake up the bureaucracy in Albany. No part of our government gets less value for the cost or is as critical for New York’s future than our educational system.

Casey Seiler, also writing in the Times Union, interjects a bit of humor into the down on Albany theme, suggesting that Steve Wynn be required to purchase the Empire State Plaza and the Capitol building (which he could then lease back to the state) in order to get the lucrative VLT contract at Aqueduct that he desires.

The Prize for the worst column of the weekend goes to Michael Marinaccio, supervisor of the Town of Dickinson and president of the Broome County Association of Towns and Villages. Marinaccio’s column in the Binghamton Press & Sun Bulletin, which I am not criticizing for publishing it, is called “Consolidations gone wild”. Marinaccio is critical of the newly passed legislation introduced at the behest of the state’s attorney general and signed into law by Gov. Paterson is designed to make it easier for the public to bring local government consolidation to the voters.

Marinaccio fails to state that the reason the law change was needed was that the prior requirements were so onerous that incumbent politicians could easily prevent consolidations no matter how much desired by the majority of the residents of the affected jurisdictions.

Further Marinaccio’s criticisms fail on two grounds. First, no consolidations will go through without voter approvals. Second, although Marinaccio dislikes some of the procedural rules he had a chance to fix them up front by participating in drawing up the legislation! He had to know that reform was on the table and because of his position had multiple channels to provide input – through the state associations that he is a member of and through his local legislators.

While the title Marinaccio’s piece is designed to cast fear in the minds of the public, the problem with consolidations is that they are not happening fast enough. Case in point: a study reported today in the Jamestown Post-Journal and other papers points out that school consolidations in eight counties in Western New York would result in a savings of $133 million a year!

Of course many incumbent politicians are not in favor of consolidation. The choice is simple: continue to pay high property taxes to support the salaries, pensions, cars, offices, computers and other equipment for supervisors and other local officials or consolidate.

Footnote on Newspaper Websites: Why are they Sooo Slow?

Have you noticed how long it takes newspaper websites — even including the Empire Page — to load these days? That’s because we are jamming our home pages with videos and all kinds of multi-media ads.

The Value Click ad server network is most often the primary culprit in slowing down the loading of the Empire Page. I’m considering kicking them off the home page. Let me know if you think I should.

Newspapers however don’t have the luxury of demanding faster load times from those ad networks. It’s one of the consequences of the changes taking place in the economies of print journalism. At the very time when newspapers need to generate more traffic on their websites, they are dependent on ad networks whose primary client is the advertiser.

Links to all of the above items PLUS 400 news stories, editorials and columns drawn from dozens of news websites this past weekend are available to subscribers of The Empire Page for less than a quarter a day. Click here to subscribe.

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