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State proposals: Yes to casinos and Adirondack land deals, no to judicial retirement age

Editor’s note: This editorial is part of a series endorsing state propositions and candidates for a number of offices.

The News is making recommendation on these four proposed amendments to the State Constitution.

Proposal 1

Here is the fact about casino gambling: It’s here, and it’s here to stay. It’s in New York – including Buffalo, Niagara Falls and Salamanca – and it’s in the states and provinces around us. The proposed constitutional amendment to expand gambling in New York is, thus, less than it appears. New Yorkers should approve the amendment, however reluctantly.

Casino gambling can cause social problems and it often preys on those least able to afford it. That phenomenon is likely to increase as casinos become more numerous, attracting greater percentages of players from nearby communities.

Still, the facts are what they are. Casinos already exist in every province and state bordering New York save Vermont. Many New Yorkers spend their money in other states. Proposal 1 would keep some of that money in-state.

Casino gambling elsewhere in New York won’t have any negative impact here, since we already have the Seneca casinos and the state will build no new ones in the “exclusivity zone” granted under the compact with the Senecas.

In fact, Western New York could benefit from gambling elsewhere in the state, given that a share of the state’s take would be directed to Western New York.

If the amendment is approved, the state needs to deal with the negative effects by greatly increasing the amount of money devoted to helping problem gamblers. As it stands, that’s little more than an afterthought.

And whether it is approved or not, state officials should cringe at the wording they approved for the amendment, which dangles such enticements as job growth, increased aid to schools and lower property taxes to secure a yes vote. It could also have mentioned another side effect: thievery to support a gambling addiction.

Proposals 4 and 5

New Yorkers will also be asked to approve land deals in the Adirondacks. They should.

Under Proposal 5, New York State will temporarily give to NYCO Minerals, an established employer in the Adirondacks, a 200-acre parcel of Forest Preserve next to the company’s wollastonite mine. This will support an important employer in a region where good jobs are especially hard to come by.

In return, NYCO will give the state 1,500 acres of land for the Forest Preserve. When NYCO has removed the wollastonite from the 200-acre parcel, it will reclaim the mine, plant vegetation and return the property to the state.

There are possible downsides. Opponents say it will destroy old growth forest – though one that had previously been logged. There are also concerns about setting a bad precedent.

On balance, though, this is a good deal for New Yorkers. Eventually, all of the acreage in question will be old growth forest again and, in the meantime, jobs are protected and the park expands.

Proposal 4 would settle conflicts over land ownership in the Adirondack Forest Preserve dating back more than a century. Owners of more than 200 lots would pay a fee for a clear title to their land, and that money would be used to purchase other land elsewhere. Those landowners and the state would both come out ahead.

Proposal 6

This proposal would increase the retirement age for some judges in the state from 70 to 80. While the current retirement age, which was set in the 1800s, is clearly too low, we urge a “no” vote. The proposal affects only some judges in the state: Supreme Court and Court of Appeals. If, as proponents say, citizens will benefit greatly by keeping experienced judges on the job, why doesn’t it apply to all of the state’s more than 1,100 judges?

The state should start over and raise the retirement age for all judges, and strengthen the safeguards to ensure that older judges remain effective.