Mere months before fast-tracked public hearings and votes on four skyscraping new jails meant to replace benighted Rikers Island, Mayor de Blasio admits his grand plans need rethinking.
For starters: An expensively drafted concept for a tower where Manhattan's Marriage Bureau now stands got scrapped as infeasible. Instead, the current Tombs are to triple in size to 50 stories, infuriating so much of Chinatown that the mayor paid a peace-making visit last week practically pleading for neighbors to demand their price in community benefits.
It's what the mayor won't admit yet that will cost the close-Rikers cause in the dearer currency of credibility: He's counting on borough jails even smaller than those in the already optimistic blueprint proposed by a commission headed by retired Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman — so they'll total around 5,000 inmates, rather than roughly 8,000 now. To get there, the state needs to pass criminal justice reforms that are carefully calibrated not to endanger public safety.
De Blasio helped make this mess. Rather than putting the five jails in five boroughs roughly proportional to the numbers each now sends to Rikers, the mayor ruled out Staten Island and divided the total by four.
Council politics put a Bronx site two miles from the courthouse, amid another knot of furious neighbors.
Rushing flawed plans too fast will only ensure Rikers Island remains open for many years to come.
— The Daily News, New York
A newly proposed handgun bill proposed by state Sen. Kevin Parker, D-Brooklyn, isn't practical.
The bill would allow authorities to search social media and internet usage for any "red flags," similar to those that have preceded some mass shootings. Permit applicants would have to consent to provide investigators with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat passwords so agencies in charge of background checks, like sheriff's offices, could check the past three years' worth of social media content, both public and private. A year's worth of internet search results from Google, Yahoo and Bing would also be required for investigators to skim through, in search of red flags.
Investigators would have to look for defamatory content — such as racial slurs, discriminatory behavior or biased language against those of different genders, sexual orientations, religion, age and disability — threats against the health and safety of others, talk or acts of terrorism, and other issues deemed necessary by the New York State Police.
Counties would have to spend a lot of money each year to hire enough staff to perform such investigations, and, as Gerace says, the background check process is already exhaustive. The law is also duplicative because, in New York state, making certain types of threats is already a crime that prohibits those convicted of making such threats from owning a gun.
There is a bigger problem with Parker's legislation than simply being unfeasible. A strong argument can be made that the legislation infringes on the First Amendment right to free speech as well as the Second Amendment rights to bear arms. Who decides what material is offensive and what isn't?
Too often, there has been ample evidence on social media that a shooter planned a horrifying act of violence. We can understand, then, legislators' desire to prevent these types of issues. There are avenues to do so simply by reporting these things to police. Some states have laws that allow civil gun seizures if a judge agrees that a person is a threat. For instance, prohibitions against domestic abusers having guns make sense to us.
There is an interest in keeping guns out of the hands of those who would do harm. Parker's proposed legislation, however, is not the best way to do so.
Security measures will have to work around the rights of liberty enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.
— The Leader-Herald, Gloversville
For a nation to be great, it must be stable. For its people to be content, they must believe that their institutions are trustworthy and competent. But the events of this week exposed the nation's growing instability under the increasingly incompetent and untrustworthy President Donald Trump and his administration. The United States needs and deserves better. This week alone:
• A federal judge refused to sentence former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and said of his conviction for lying to FBI agents about his conversations with the Russian ambassador, "Arguably, you sold your country out."
• The Dow Jones Industrial Average saw its worst weekly plunge since 2008, at least partially because of Trump's trade war and uncertainty over a potential government shutdown.
• Trump's acting attorney general, Matthew Whitaker, lied in claiming that no Department of Justice official had suggested he recuse himself from the Russia investigation.
• Defense Secretary James Mattis quit, and in a startling letter to Trump, he repeatedly implied the president was alienating America's allies and enabling its enemies.
• Trump announced that U.S. forces in Syria would come home because the Islamic State has been defeated (it hasn't) and that half of our 14,000-strong U.S. military force in Afghanistan would come home, too. The unexpected new policies flustered and terrified American military leaders and our Kurdish allies, and delighted Vladimir Putin and the despotic leaders of Turkey and Syria.
• Trump swung wildly over whether to shut down the federal government over the wall at our Southern border.
The nation has a defense secretary who is leaving, a conflicted acting attorney general and a departing White House chief of staff. The president, whose job it is to corral this chaos, is indulging in a Twitter-frenzy of braggadocio and nonsense. Donald Trump promised to make America great again. Right now, he's just making it angry and unsettled.
— Newsday, Long Island