Albany Times Union
Far too few state standards regulate forensic evaluators, whose work has the power to reshape families. But there’s hope that may change.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced a “blue-ribbon” commission to examine the role of forensic evaluators in Family Court, where they’re tasked with assessing parents locked in custody battles. Their reports can carry a lot of weight with the judges who decide these difficult cases.
But as reported by the Times Union’s Chris Bragg — who has written extensively about the deaths of children in the Family Court system, and the flawed protocols that allowed young victims to fall through the cracks — the role has no statewide training requirements. There are no state-issued criteria for writing forensic evaluation reports, except that the child’s “best psychological interests and well-being” must be considered. The secretive nature of the reports — even parents’ access to them is limited — also makes it nearly impossible to judge their merits or hold evaluators accountable if their work is flawed.
So the governor’s announcement is a welcome development. The panel should convene quickly and, we hope, recommend changes that will help the system get better at protecting these vulnerable children.
Good idea, poor implementation
Schenectady County has moved to protect local restaurants by clamping down on the fees that third-party delivery apps charge eateries — fees that can run as high as 30 percent. But the County Legislature’s measure came out only half-baked.
The county recently capped delivery fees at 15 percent of the cost of the food order, and pick-up fees at 5 percent. The problem: Those aren’t the only fees the companies — apps like Grubhub, Uber Eats and DoorDash — charge restaurants. They also collect marketing, listing and advertising fees — and without any caps on those, the apps are able to shuffle their charges from one category to another and go right on gouging restaurants. That’s a loophole big enough to pass a smorgasbord through.
The restaurant industry would like to see all non-delivery fees capped at 5 percent, and delivery fees at 15 percent. Albany County recently adopted that model. Schenectady County lawmakers should get back in there and try again.
Cause, meet effect. Action, meet consequence. Town of Milton, meet Old Man Winter.
Milton’s Town Hall has been empty since March, when a leaky roof was found to be feeding mold growth. In December, pipes burst in the building, soaking ceilings, carpets, walls, and insulation. Why? No one had turned on the heat.
The town facilities committee had talked about it, but no one mentioned it to the folks in the building department. Though you might think it would have occurred to them on their own, winter being cold and all.
Town Supervisor Benny Zlotnick said that insurance will cover the damage and that the burst pipes won’t add much to what the town was already planning to spend on renovations. Really? What’s a few thousand here and there among taxpayers?
There are lessons here for Milton, about communication, yes, but also this: When you let a building sit empty for most of a year, it rarely gets better, no matter who owns it.