Shortly after allowing the state of emergency over the COVID-19 pandemic to expire in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared another state of emergency — this time because of gun violence.
There is no question that gun crimes are on the rise in many cities this summer. More than 500 people have been hurt or killed by gunfire so far this year, with the biggest increases in upstate cities including Albany, Buffalo and Rochester. A frightening number of killings have also taken place in Syracuse.
The state of emergency makes millions of dollars available for things like community "violence interruption" initiatives and summer jobs and recreation programs designed to help keep young people occupied with positive outlets. A big problem, however, is that the funding will be going out the door without the approval of the Legislature and outside of the normal competitive bidding process.
Some critics see the executive order as nothing more than an attempt to deflect attention from the scandals and ongoing impeachment probe hanging over the governor's office. Others say that the uptick in violence would be better addressed by increasing funding for police agencies and undoing criminal justice reforms that included the elimination of bail for most crimes in New York.
Cuomo said the emergency order was necessary because gun violence had become a statewide problem, rather than a local one. But it's difficult to overlook the self-congratulatory nature of plan's announcement when it's peppered with statements such as "just like we did with COVID, New York is going to lead the nation once again."
Yes, violence is a statewide issue, but it's also a local one, and getting a handle on the problem isn't going to be accomplished by executive order. Nor is it going to be easily resolved by abolishing recently enacted bail reforms. Gun violence is a complex issue that will require a commitment by the state Legislature to engage with communities across the state to try to fix a variety of problems affecting crime rates.
Just as criminal justice reforms and the response to COVID-19 left a lot of room for improvement, this latest "emergency" plan would have benefited from the input of lawmakers from across the state rather that just the governor's small circle of trusted advisors.
The Citizen editorial board includes publisher Michelle Bowers, executive editor Jeremy Boyer and managing editor Mike Dowd.