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Cheers and jeers

CHEERS – To a proposed tax decrease. Gloversville Mayor Dayton King is proposing a 2017 city budget that includes a 2 percent tax decrease. The city’s property tax rate places a tremendous burden on property owners. A tax decrease would be a step in the right direction. The decrease would bring the city’s tax rate to a little under $21 per $1,000 of assessed value, which is still an unreasonably high rate for our area. We strongly encourage the city council to maintain the mayor’s proposed tax cut as it reviews the budget proposal and later adopts a final plan. We’d like to see the Gloversville Enlarged School District follow suit with a tax cut as well. The district’s current rate in Gloversville is $21.70 per $1,000.

JEERS – To failing to provide a candidate. City of Johnstown voters will see the name of one candidate for mayor on the November election ballot. The candidate is Vern Jackson, a current city councilman whom the city Republican Committee selected for the position. The local Republican and Democratic parties had the opportunity to nominate a candidate following the death of Democratic Mayor Michael Julius in July. Julius’ term was to expire at the end of 2017. The Republicans came through with a choice, but the Democrats didn’t find anyone. Jackson may be a very good candidate for the job, but it’s unfortunate the voters won’t have a choice. Julius was a Democrat. His party should have given resident another option on the ballot.

CHEERS – To handing out computers. Several local schools are loaning laptop computers to students. At some schools, students can take the computers home. More and more, students are using computer devices for their assignments and homework. The trend makes sense, considering today’s electronic world. The laptops give students access to a wealth of information to help in the learning process. In the Gloversville Enlarged School District, students in grades three through 12 are using Chromebooks, and students in grades six through 12 can bring them home. The approach helps put all of the students on a level playing field, since some families can’t afford computers for their children. We suspect more schools soon will be providing laptops or other devices to their students.

Cheers and jeers

CHEERS – To supporting the library. Retiring longtime Sen. Hugh Farley, who represents Fulton County, this week announced he secured a $2 million state grant to help pay for the Gloversville Public Library’s planned building renovations. Farley has been a strong supporter of libraries during his four decades in office. This new money brings the library’s fundraising total for the renovation project to nearly $8 million. It has been an impressive campaign. We look forward to seeing the improvements to the library, which plays a valuable role in the community.

JEERS – To out-of-whack public-employee wages. The Empire Center, an Albany group, compiled a list and comparison of municipal employee wages across the state. In our area, average salaries are high in comparison with private-sector pay, but in some parts of the state, the pay is astounding. For example, a general employee in Rensselaer County made more than $212,000 in 2015-16. In Wayne County, a general employee made $331,270. In Buffalo, seven police officers were paid more than $177,500. In the Mohawk Valley, an Oneida County general employee had the highest salary at $159,900, a Utica police officer was second at $158,298 and a Herkimer County general employee was third at $157,139. In Amsterdam, the average police salary is $69,018, in Gloversville, it’s $58,952, and in Johnstown, it’s $69,315, the report says. The average firefighter pay is $62,427 in Amsterdam, $73,942 in Gloversville and $60,792 in Johnstown, the report says. We hope the publicity about the salaries at least makes local leaders think twice in salary negotiations. In addition, state officials should take notice of how the Taylor Law affects salaries. According to the Empire Center, police and fire employee contracts are negotiated under a provision that allows the unions to seek binding arbitration. The statute has been linked with causing police and fire pay to increase at more than twice the rate of other local government employee pay between 1974 and 2012, the group says. High municipal salaries end up forcing local taxpayers to cough up more money. The salaries must be high enough to attract qualified employees, but also reasonable.

CHEERS – To alert neighbors. A lightning strike knocked out power on the east side of Amsterdam the night of Sept. 8. During the outage, residents near the former Fownes Bros. glove factory on Elk Street noticed something unusual – flashlights shining on the sixth floor of the old building, police said. The neighbors called police, and when the authorities investigated, they discovered a major marijuana- growing operation, police said. This is an example of why it’s important for people to pay attention to what’s happening in their neighborhood. Sometimes, illicit activity can be going on right under their noses.

Cheers and jeers

CHEERS – To testing the drinking water at schools. A new measure signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo requires schools in New York to test their drinking water for lead contamination. In light of the drinking-water problems we’ve been hearing about in the state and other parts of the country, the new requirements make sense. School districts will report the results to parents as well as local and state officials. Buildings with high levels of lead will have to fix the problem. We don’t always agree with the state telling schools what to do, but in this case, the requirements will be good for the protection of children.

JEERS – To going easy on a corrupt leader. A judge is allowing former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to stay out of prison on bail while he appeals his conviction on corruption charges. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison, and the sentence was supposed to start Aug. 31. The judge is allowing Silver to remain free because Silver “articulated a possibly meritorious legal basis for his appeal.” Silver contends his conviction was weakened by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned the conviction of former Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell on corruption charges. The ruling in Silver’s case sends the wrong message to crooked politicians.

CHEERS – To an octogenarian car wrecker. Roger Newkirk isn’t too old for smashing up cars. In fact, he’s good at it. The 80-year-old from Johnstown won a figure 8 demolition derby competition at the Fonda Fair recently. He started participating in demolition derbies just four years ago, and getting banged around doesn’t seem to bother him. We tip our hat to Newkirk, who isn’t letting age get in the way of doing the things he enjoys.

CHEERS – To an outstanding teacher. Amanda Zullo, a 1998 Mayfield Central School graduate who has family in Gloversville, has proven to be a particularly good and effective chemistry teacher at Saranac Lake High School. Zullo is the recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching and was given the opportunity to go to Washington, D.C., to see the president. She also gets $10,000. Zullo was one of only two teachers selected from New York state. We salute Zullo not only for winning the honor, but for her hard work in educating and inspiring young people.

Cheers and jeers

CHEERS – To the Fonda Fair. In 1841, President William Henry Harrison died of pneumonia, Frederick Douglass spoke at a Massachusetts Anti-slavery Society Convention, and Edgar Allan Poe became the editor of Graham’s Magazine. It was also the first year of the Fonda Fair, and 175 years later, the annual fair is still going strong. This year’s fair, which began Tuesday and ends Monday, is attracting crowds and enjoying decent weather. One of the fair’s highlights is tonight, when the Mohawk Valley Music Fest kicks off at 4:30 p.m. Every year, the fair offers 4-H agriculture and farm animal competitions, rides, games, rodeos, tractor pulls and many other activities. And don’t forget the food. We salute the Fonda Fair for its resiliency over the decades, and we hope it will continue for many more years to come.

JEERS – To a lack of attention to the upstate economy. Upstate New York trails downstate and the nation as a whole when it comes to job growth, according to the state comptroller. Employment upstate rose 0.3 percent since June 2009, when the Great Recession ended, compared to 2.2 percent for downstate and 1.9 percent nationally. Some areas, such as the Mohawk Valley, saw a 2.8 percent decline in jobs since the recession ended, according to the comptroller. “Pockets of the state still have a long way to catch up,” Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said. Our state legislators should take notice of the report and look at whether New York economic revitalization programs are targeting the right places in New York.

CHEERS – To the Shriners Circus. The Oriental Shriners Circus will take place today at 2 and 7 p.m. and Sunday at 1:30 and 5:30 p.m. at 4335 Route 30 in Amsterdam. When people show up for the Shriners Circus, they support the Shriners’ charitable efforts. The Oriental Shrine, based in Troy, is part of Shriners International, which founded and supports Shriners Hospitals for Children. This network of hospitals in the United States, Mexico and Canada treats children for orthopedic problems, spinal cord injuries and other conditions regardless of a family’s ability to pay. We urge local residents to take the time to not only enjoy a great circus, but support a great charitable effort.

CHEERS – To the return of Fantasy Sports. Months ago, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman forced fantasy sports companies DraftKings and FanDuel to stop doing business in New York. He claimed daily fantasy sports companies “are engaged in illegal gambling.” Fortunately, state lawmakers saw things a little differently. They recently passed a measure that defines daily fantasy sports as a game of skill. The fantasy sports operators have now been cleared to resume business in the state. New York’s Gaming Commission granted temporary permits to five companies that run the online games following passage of the state law. Adults should have the freedom to play the games.