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EDITORIAL: We should have been clearer

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“I DIDN’T GET A PAPER LAST WEEK.” We heard that complaint from half a dozen or more subscribers over the last week, and it’s embarrassing to admit that it doesn’t come as a surprise. So let’s start the new year with a tardy tidbit of housekeeping. For the first time in nearly six years, we didn’t publish a print edition of The Columbia Paper last Thursday.

We decided late last year that because Christmas and New Year’s Day fell on Thursday this holiday season we would combine those two issues. We created an expanded calendar–our first What’s Happening This Winter pull-out section–and published a day early. We also continued updating our website with news even as we took this breather.The thing we overlooked was informing our readers of the schedule change. We did place a notice in the December 25 edition about being back on January 8, and many readers saw it.

If they hadn’t, we would have received a lot more calls. But people are busy that week, and it’s not surprising some folks missed it or didn’t register that it meant there would be no new edition January 1. We didn’t mean to surprise you; we just didn’t plan well.

I apologize for that and I want our subscribers to know that you’ll receive all the papers you’ve paid for. But to tell the whole truth I couldn’t be happier that we wrapped up the last issue of 2014  early and took a break. That change allowed me to reach Boston in time for the early arrival of a new grandchild December 24.

Education looms as big issue

I SPOKE WITH GOVERNOR MARIO CUOMO just once, and then only to ask him a question as he left an event in Ulster County many years ago. As I recall, I wanted a him to describe what the state was doing to make local school taxes less burdensome. It was already an old issue back then.

He hesitated at the door of his limo and looked at me with a piercing stare. Then, as he often did with questioners, he turned the tables and responded by asking me a question. I stumbled over my follow-up, so he closed the door and drove off. I imagine now that he smiled slightly, knowing that he’d put me in my place. He probably didn’t smile. He’d sized me up and cut me down so quickly it couldn’t have given him much satisfaction. Either way, I didn’t mind. I can’t think of a person I’ve met who was more charismatic.

The tributes to Mario Cuomo following his death last week have focused on his gifts as a speaker. Even tedious state of the state speeches sounded uplifting when he gave them. He made you believe New York could live up to his vision of a just, prosperous, safe and clean state. The speeches rang true because he believed in the things he said. His accomplishments were modest by comparison, most of them overshadowed by the sense of hope he aroused.

Right now the whole Cuomo family, as well as many who consider themselves part of what the late governor called “the family of New York,” are grieving the loss of Mario Cuomo. But his son, our current governor, Andrew, has already signaled that one of the major thrusts of his second term will be changes to the state’s public education system.

Andrew Cuomo may not have quite the gift his father did for public speaking, but voters should pay careful attention to what he says he’ll do. Unlike his father, he has already transformed state policy with municipal tax-caps, same-sex marriage rights, a fracking ban and the SAFE Act gun safety law.

But achieving positive change in education could stymie him much as it did his father, especially if change is once again imposed from the top down without inclusive strategies to address the public’s deep mistrust of high stakes testing and the valuable but now tainted Common Core curriculum.

The governor has our sympathy as he mourns. But soon he will return to public life, where the old challenges await him. What a great tribute it would be to him and his late father if he could find a way to work lasting improvements in the way we educate our children. That can only be done by bringing the public into the process at the outset.

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