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Cheers and jeers

CHEERS – To saving money. The New York State Association of School Business Officials pointed out the state Legislature passed several cost-saving and mandate-relief measures. The four bills include a Board of Cooperative Educational Services property lease extender that allows longer leases of 20 years so BOCES can get better terms from landlords; the repeal of a requirement for annual visual inspection of school buildings, saving an average of $2,000 per school district; legislation that allows the Department of Motor Vehicles to share fingerprints and background checks of prospective bus drivers to avoid duplicative efforts; and a measure that allows schools to post bids on a state procurement website accessible to vendors from around the state. These measures may not produce a major savings, but they are a good start.

JEERS – To misusing money. This week we heard about yet another New York public authority that is mishandling money. According to a state comptroller’s audit, the New York Power Authority leases public land in the St. Lawrence region to two golf courses, a local boating club and a private university at little or no cost and often without collecting the rent. The audit says the authority collects only a few thousand dollars in rent each year for the properties. The annual payments should exceed $200,000, the audit says. For example, a private St. Lawrence golf course rents land assessed at $1.8 million from the authority for $2,000 a year, while the fair market rent is $180,000 a year. The audit was the latest revelation regarding the mishandling or misuse of money by public authorities. The state should monitor these agencies more closely and, in some cases, demand reform. A 2004 state comptroller’s report stated, “The time for meaningful reform to increase accountability, deter misconduct and reduce waste and inefficiency at the more than 640 public authorities and subsidiary corporations in New York state has come.” Did that time ever arrive?

CHEERS – To new graduates. Several local high school graduation ceremonies took place Friday afternoon and several others are today. Is graduating high school a big deal? You bet it is. The National Dropout Prevention Center points out graduating from high school will determine how well you live for the next 50 years. On average, high school graduates earn $143 more per week than high school dropouts, and college graduates earn $336 more per week than high school graduates, the center says. Graduating from high school gives young people the abilities and resources they need to become productive members of society. Some of the graduates will go into the work force right away, some will go into the military, some will further their education at college and some will go to trade schools. We hope to see our local graduates make a difference.

Cheers and jeers

CHEERS – To a good Scout. Broadalbin-Perth 10th-grader Andrew Meashaw, a Boy Scout, spent nearly a thousand hours over the past year planning and building a nature trail on school property. This week, school officials got to see the fruits of Meashaw’s labor during a tour of the trail. Meashaw, who did the project as part of his effort to obtain his Eagle Scout rank, built bridges, cleared brush, spread wood chips and made signs for the nature trail. With help from other volunteers, Meashaw has provided the school district and community with a valuable service. We encourage people to visit the trail and thank Meashaw for his benevolence.

JEERS – To the Dream Act. A nightmare we thought was put to rest earlier this year reared its ugly head again this month. The Dream Act, which would extend state financial aid to college students who are in the country illegally, received state Assembly approval early this month. In March, the Senate rejected the measure, but that hasn’t stopped Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver from continuing to push it. The Dream Act would use tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer money to pay for tuition assistance for people here illegally. This would take money away from students who are U.S. citizens and struggling to pay for college.

CHEERS – To fireworks. Who doesn’t enjoy a fireworks show? Thanks to Tom Cristiano and others, Knox Field in Johnstown will be the site again this year of a free fireworks show June 28. There will be a Life Net medical helicopter visit around 6:30 p.m., a performance by Lexington Center’s music group Flame at 7 p.m., with fireworks later in the evening. Vendors also are expected. This sounds like a great event people won’t want to miss.

Cheers and jeers

CHEERS – To faithful walkers. Last week’s local Relay for Life events attracted hundreds who showed up to offer support for those affected by cancer, bring awareness to the disease and raise tens of thousands of dollars for the American Cancer Society. In Gloversville, people walked for hours around the running track outside Park Terrace School. In Amsterdam, people participated in the event at the Amsterdam High School track. In addition to a fundraising event, the Relay for Life is a night of camaraderie. Teams and individuals socialize with each other, enjoy food and entertainment, remember loved ones, celebrate survivors and unite to defeat cancer. People who participate in and donate to this event are making a difference. Cancer research is making strong progress. On Jan. 1, nearly 14.5 million children and adults with a history of cancer were alive in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. We must continue to step up the effort.

JEERS – To a cold-hearted killer. James F. Dibble shot his mother to death in her home and stole from her house. Police arrested the Ephratah man, and a jury later convicted him of second-degree murder and other charges. This week, a Fulton County judge sentenced Dibble to 25 years to life in prison for killing Gwenda Lisman. During the proceeding, Dibble showed no remorse and little emotion. In court, Lisman’s loved ones talked about her life and how she tried to help her son. Dibble just stared at the floor and table in front of him. One of Dibble’s aunts said he was “born with an evil spirit.” We suspect he will take it with him to his grave.

CHEERS – To Bailey Wind. Wind was severely injured in a car crash that also claimed the life of her boyfriend and another friend in 2012. A drunken driver struck the car they were in. Wind’s recovery has been a struggle, but today, she’s turning a terrible tragedy into a way to warn other young people about the dangers and potentially horrible outcomes of drinking and driving. Wind speaks to schools about her experience. Last week, she stopped at Mayfield High School. Wind has written a book called “Save Me a Spot in Heaven” about her relationship with her boyfriend before the accident and how she has been doing since he died. Every high school student should hear her story. Hopefully, those who do will learn from it. Every day in America, 28 people die as a result of drunk-driving accidents, according to data compiled by Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Cheers and jeers

CHEERS – To a young woman’s perseverance. Former Johnstown High School student Kelsey Insogna lost partial use of her legs in a 2011 town of Johnstown car accident, which also claimed the life of her brother. She has not allowed the tragedy to stop her from enjoying life and taking on new challenges. Kelsey, who uses a wheelchair most of the time, has taken up handcycling. In April, she completed her first Cycle to the Sea event, a three-day bicycle and handcycling ride from Charlotte, N.C., to North Myrtle Beach, S.C. The annual 18-mile journey is a fundraising event for the Adaptive Sports & Adventures Program in North Carolina. “I love challenges,” Kelsey says. We love her strength and positive approach. She’s an inspiration to all of us.

JEERS – To those who pay little attention to American history. If you’re an American and you’re age 16 or older, you should have knowledge of American history, especially the wars our nation has fought. Unfortunately, we often hear about surveys and polls showing people know little about our nation’s founders, the Constitution, war history and other fundamental aspects of our history and government. For example, one recent survey showed only 40 percent of those surveyed knew June 6 is the anniversary of D-Day, fewer than half knew Franklin Roosevelt was president at that time, and 15 percent identified the location of the D-Day landing as Pearl Harbor. If high schools and colleges are not teaching this basic history, they must, and if students and other members of the public aren’t paying attention, they need to adjust their priorities. We should know and understand our history in order to make good decisions now and in the future.

CHEERS – To “Fishing University.” A TV show on the Outdoor Channel is interested in filming a show or two on the Great Sacandaga Lake. The Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce says the shows could air early next year and give the area national publicity. This is good news for the area, which certainly makes a perfect setting for a fishing show. You can find out about “Fishing University” at www.fishingu.com. Empire State Development recently reported New York is having a record-breaking year for television production. In less than half the time than last year, a total of 23 pilots have filmed in New York, yielding an estimated $127 million in spending and an estimated 15,915 jobs, compared to 23 pilots filmed with an estimated $117 million in spending and an estimated 13,150 jobs in all of 2013. Additionally, 10 series have shot in New York in 2014, yielding an estimated $346 million in spending and an estimated 18,130 jobs.

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