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A sampling of editorials from around New York

Associated Press Updated: December 3, 2014 at 10:48 am

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The New York Daily News on the state's teacher education requirements.

Dec. 1

Aspiring teachers failed New York's toughened licensing exams at record rates, revealing the scandalous truth about the universities and colleges that claim to train teachers:

Too many operate as degree mills — admitting pretty much all comers, feeding them knowledge irrelevant to the classroom, then cranking out more graduates than could possibly find jobs.

It's no wonder that only a third of public school graduates are deemed ready for higher education or a career — and that the kids they teach in turn struggle to meet the Common Core academic standards.

While almost no would-be teachers flunked the state's old certification tests, the pass rates on the four new exams range from 82% down to 68% — meaning thousands of ed-school grads didn't make the cut.

At the same time, just 21% of the teachers certified in 2012-13 found a job in a New York public school in their first two years post-graduation.

As promised, Education Commissioner John King and Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch must shut training programs whose certification pass rates fall below 80% — in a concerted drive to produce fewer, better teachers.



The Post-Standard of Syracuse on the Syracuse mayor's bid to get $1 billion in state aid for local infrastructure.

Nov. 30

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner put her stake in the ground — literally and figuratively — last week. If a billion dollars of state money were to fall into her lap, Miner would spend $851 million of it below street level.

The mayor would replace the city's failing water pipes, embedding them with "smart" technology to alert us when they start to fail. At the same time, the city would create a natural chilled water system to cool buildings cheaply, efficiently and sustainably using the cold water at the bottom of Skaneateles Lake. It's a big idea, but would it create a big enough competitive advantage to spur private investment and innovation?

Miner also would install municipal broadband ($84 million), rebuild roads ($48 million), redevelop public spaces opened up by the reconstruction of Interstate 81 ($3.66 million) and remake a portion of the North Side into a "World Market" to channel the entrepreneurial energy of Syracuse's refugee community ($3.34 million). The rest would top off the Say Yes to Education endowment fund to make it self-sustaining ($10 million).

The mayor prepared her wish list in response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's desire to replicate the success of the "Buffalo Billion," a 10-year investment in turning around that Western New York city. If the Legislature approves, Cuomo wants to create a $1.5 billion pot of money for Upstate economic development. Cities would compete for a share of it.

Reality check: Miner knows Syracuse is not likely to get a billion dollars. She acknowledges her vision is out of sync with Cuomo's desire to leverage state money with private investment; the private sector's role in her plan would be as government's hired hand. She's well aware it's not terribly compelling to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on stuff you can't see. It's an "eat-your-peas" approach that aligns with Miner's view of the role of government, versus the "shiny toys" approach favored by Cuomo and the Buffalo Billion.

A chilled water system is a big idea, but would it create a big enough competitive advantage to spur private investment and innovation?

Leaving aside the nuts and bolts of Miner's vision for the moment, here are some things to appreciate in its broad strokes.

We agree with her focus on infrastructure. As we've said before, it's the key to a functioning city and a worthy place to invest New York's share of the bank settlement windfall.

Miner is right that investing in infrastructure gets government out of the business of picking winners and losers in its efforts to stimulate the economy. Infrastructure is a public good that enables and encourages economic activity. Government doesn't create jobs; it creates the conditions for the private sector to create jobs.

The mayor is smart to capitalize on Syracuse's distinct natural advantage — an abundance of potable water — and to piggyback on the existing paths that move it from Skaneateles to Syracuse. The question is whether "the best darn water infrastructure in the nation" is a boast worth making.

Whether by accident or design, the mayor's plan leaves us wanting more. Think of it as an opening bid. Who's willing to push her vision farther?



The Times Union of Albany on U.S. defenses against cyber crimes.

Dec. 1

If the predictions of some military experts are right, our next big war could well be a "cyberwar," in which our enemies use sophisticated computer techniques to cripple our electricity, water, food, transportation and communication systems.

A Senate Armed Services Committee investigation has found that hackers linked to the Chinese government repeatedly infiltrated the computer systems of U.S. airlines, technology companies and other contractors involved in the movement of U.S. troops and military equipment.

Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has warned of a "cyber Pearl Harbor" in urging the U.S. to build adequate defenses and be prepared to respond should an aggressor resort to cyberwarfare.

For our first line of defense, Congress has turned to the military to take the lead on cybersecurity. Yet as the yearlong Senate Armed Services Committee probe found, the military's Transportation Command, or Transcom, has gaps in identifying when cyber attacks are underway, and was aware of only two out of at least 20 such cyber intrusions within a single year.

At the urging of some state governors, the Defense Department is enlisting the help of National Guard units. An October report by the National Governors Association urges that the National Guard play a role in state cybersecurity efforts.

New York's U.S. senators, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, along with their New Jersey counterparts, are supporting formation of a combined Cyber Protection Team, a joint effort of the each state's Army National Guards. If approved by the Defense Department, this unit would be based in Latham and work with the Department of Homeland Security "to focus on combating increasing cybersecurity threats to the region's critical infrastructure and networks."

It's good to prepare the National Guard to help in response to a cyber attack. We already rely on the National Guard for help after natural disasters and terrorist attacks, and it has been used to protect people and property and maintain order during civil unrest — challenges that would no doubt arise in the event that a major cyber attack disrupted essential services, from transportation to communications to public safety to finance. Having a National Guard that is trained and ready to respond in a cyber crisis would seem to be a logical extension of its current role.

But expanding the guard's mission to play a key role in protecting against such attacks is a questionable strategy. Cyber defense is a constant need, not a job for weekend warriors, however dedicated they are.

Like the federal government, states must maintain their own cyber defenses, which will likely require hiring specialized employees, training those already on the job, coordinating with federal experts and perhaps working with cybersecurity firms.

Protecting against cyber attacks, however, is a full-time job, not a mission for part-time citizen soldiers.



Newsday on government regulation of drones.

Nov. 30

Not too long ago, the only drones anyone needed to worry about on a final approach to Kennedy Airport were the tireless chatterboxes who might be seated nearby.

No more. Today it's that other kind of drone — officially known as an unmanned aircraft system — that has pilots, politicians and Washington worried.

The military has used them for years in places like Afghanistan. But their popularity also has been growing fast among civilians at home — from hobbyists to private investigators to photographers. Drug dealers sometimes use them for deliveries. Amazon is looking at their possibilities.

The result is a troubling surge of unmanned aircraft within some of the nation's most tightly packed corridors — such as the airspace around metropolitan New York.

The Federal Aviation Administration has received reports describing 193 drone encounters since the beginning of the year — including 12 in New York.

How urgent is the situation? Last month alone, three near-miss incidents were reported in airspace around JFK.

In one, a Delta pilot 10 miles out saw a drone flying way too close to his plane's left wing. In another, a drone was spotted within two miles of a heavily used JFK runway. And in another, a Virgin Atlantic pilot headed toward the airport spotted a drone at about 3,000 feet.

"When the Wild West persists unchecked," says Sen. Charles Schumer, "someone eventually gets hurt."

But if tighter regulations are a must, Washington seems to be moving forward with the speed of a lumbering blimp.

The FAA was supposed to draft regulations by August, but missed that deadline. Among the possibilities: A rule that drone operators must first have a pilot's license and experience flying manned aircraft, a rule restricting drones to daylight flights, and a rule restricting drones to an altitude of 400 feet.

Not surprisingly, a phalanx of industry organizations is pushing back hard against some of these ideas. But Washington needs to tame the Wild West before disaster strikes.



The Democrat and Chronicle of Rochester on presidential nominations.

Dec. 3

As Pentagon veteran Ashton Carter emerged Tuesday as President Obama's likely choice as the nation's next Secretary of Defense, lawmakers predicted he would sail easily through the Senate confirmation process. That is, of course, if he can get there.

Among the victims of the calcified partisanship that has come to define Washington politics have been presidential nominees to offices at all levels, whose selections languish for months, sometimes years, before reaching the Senate floor. Such pettiness ill serves the nominee, the president and, most of all, the public. It must stop.

That Carter is eminently qualified to lead the nation's Armed Forces is hardly in dispute. He is the former second-in-command at the Pentagon with considerable experience in national security, not to mention a Rhodes scholar and Harvard lecturer.

But too often, qualifications fall victim to political priorities. And with congressional Republican leaders meeting behind closed doors Tuesday to plot how to respond to Obama's executive order on immigration, the wheels aren't exactly greased for expedient confirmation hearings.

It should concern all Americans when the transition of leadership in vital, high-priority offices is needlessly delayed. Republicans have already said they want to wait until next year — after they take control of the Senate — to confirm Obama's attorney general nominee, New York federal prosecutor Loretta Lynch. Indeed, freshman firebrand Ted Cruz of Texas didn't even think the nomination itself should be made until next year, despite incumbent AG Eric Holder's resignation announcement back in September.

At least Holder and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel are remaining in place until they can pass the baton. That's not the case with the position of surgeon general, where presidential nominee Dr. Vivek Murth has waited more than a year for his day in court. The GOP isn't solely to blame. Democrats could confirm the nominee with a simple majority, but haven't. The result: A potentially prominent medical voice missing during the ongoing Ebola crisis.

Even at the local level, such delaying tactics are felt. Former Monroe County District Attorney Michael Green, for example, waited years for a vote to confirm his nomination as a federal judge. It never came — and no reason was ever given.

Presidential nominees, and the public, deserve the courtesy of an up-or-down confirmation vote. The sooner, the better.



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