Under President Donald Trump, the United States has added another spring ritual to accompany blooming flowers and the return of baseball: the fresh promise of a grand plan to rebuild the nation's infrastructure.
Tuesday, Trump and his advisers met with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. There were similar meetings and similar brandings of "infrastructure week" in early 2017 and 2018, too. But this time, Democrats Pelosi and Schumer sounded optimistic about the conversation, and about a potential bipartisan plan to spend $2 trillion to repair the nation's crumbling roads, bridges and tunnels, improve the power grid and expand broadband service.
A vital nation must have high-quality infrastructure. Rebuilding ours would provide good-paying jobs, a better business environment and a safer and more comfortable nation. There is little opposition in either party, so it's vexing that a bipartisan deal hasn't already been done.
But it always comes down to funding and priorities. To spend $2 trillion, that money must be raised via public or private sources, whether it's borrowed, assessed in gasoline taxes or other levies or captured via tolls and fees. And then it must be parceled out fairly and wisely.
The tri-state area needs major improvements. One is the Gateway project, a $30 billion effort to build a rail tunnel under the Hudson River. We need more workaday improvements, too, like safe roads and bridges. We need to be able to easily move products and people about. And we need to be able to move important legislation, too.
Trump and congressional leaders plan to meet again on the topic in three weeks. This time, they need to the framework of a deal. Because if failing to do so becomes an annual tradition, the decline of our nation will become a foregone conclusion.
— Newsday, Long Island
Much of what governments keep secret from their people should be revealed. It is in the nature of public officials to keep knowledge that may threaten them quiet.
But there is a difference between that and information that jeopardizes the security of an entire people. There are good reasons, too, to keep confidential facts that could be harmful to others.
Julian Assange, the Australian man who played and plays a large role in the Wikileaks program, finally may be about to face justice. And, for some reason, he has become a hero in the eyes of some.
Assange is no hero. When he sought and received asylum in Ecuador's embassy in London, he was fleeing not just criminal charges in the United States but also serious ones in Sweden. Here, he was accused of collaborating in a scheme through which tens of thousands of U.S. diplomatic documents were stolen and made public on the internet. Some compromised national security. It has been said release of the documents resulted in the deaths of some U.S. agents operating abroad.
Given refuge in the Ecuadoran embassy, Assange continued his dangerous game. It may be recalled that he used Wikileaks to disseminate confidential emails from Democrats during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Finally — after evidence Assange was abusing his hosts by revealing some of their confidential information — Ecuadoran officials kicked him out of the embassy. British police took him into custody to await extradition proceedings from the United States and Sweden.
Swedish authorities still want Assange on a rape charge — hardly the stuff of which folk heroes are made.
Yet the rogue hacker remains admired by some. Why? Because he steals and reveals secrets.
Never mind that he does not discriminate between information that should be made public and that which harms both individuals and entire nations.
Assange is, as Ecuadoran officials have said, a spoiled but dangerous brat. He should be brought to the United States for trial — right after a woman in Sweden gets her chance to see justice done.
— The Post-Journal, Jamestown
MTA Chairman Pat Foye has ordered a crackdown on Long Island Rail Road overtime abuse, and LI pols are seeking hearings. Yet the scandal is built-in, and it won't end unless Gov. Andrew Cuomo faces down the unions in contract talks.
The Post has shined a spotlight on the outrages, based on a new Empire Center report: Last year, OT spending soared nearly 30 percent, to $225 million, over the previous year — or more than twice the 2013 figure.
Chief measurement operator Thomas Caputo pulled in a stunning $461,646, including $344,147 in OT, nearly triple his salary. Track worker Marco Pazmino upped his $55,000 pay nearly six times, to $311,000, by logging 4,157 OT hours (suggesting he was on the clock 22.4 hours a day, Monday through Friday, all year).
Meanwhile, LIRR delays hit a 19-year high in 2018, and the MTA has been crying poverty to justify fare and tax hikes and new tolls. New Yorkers are coughing up more to pay for all the abuse and getting lousy service.
Yet the gov can do something about it: The LIRR's union contracts just expired, and he can demand fixes to work and OT rules in the new deal. Cuomo can insist, for example, that OT no longer be handed out based on seniority. Or that engineers don't get double time simply for operating a diesel and an electric train on the same day.
But does the gov want to help? A spokesman claims it's the MTA, not Cuomo, that "negotiates directly" with the union. Of course, he did get involved in talks in 2014 — to make sure union leaders were happy and wouldn't strike as he faced re-election.
Fact is, the gov calls the shots on key MTA issues. If he wants Foye & Co. to stand up to the unions, fix the contracts and end the abuse, they will. Trouble is, Cuomo may care more about the unions than about riders and taxpayers.
— The New York Post