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EDITORIAL: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Observer-Dispatch - 5/19/2018

May 19--GOOD, BAD

A bittersweet time for UCP's Tehan

Calling something the end of an era is cliche and maybe even a bit melodramatic. But when it comes to Louis Tehan's retirement from Upstate Cerebral Palsy, there's no other way to describe it.

For 39 years, Tehan has been the face of UCP.

Tehan officially retired as UCP's president and CEO May 1 and becomes CEO of Upstate Caring Partners, the agency's parent organization, cutting his weekly hours nearly in half -- from about 61 to 35. Next year, he'll pare that back to 20 or 30 hours a week, he said.

Whether that's good or bad might depend on whom you ask.

For Tehan, it's probably a little of both. He's earned a break but it's clear that he truly loves his work. The Utica native and 1974 Utica College graduate has grown UCP from a grassroots operation using borrowed space in a Utica school and Rome Elks Club into a mega-agency that owns more than 80 buildings and employs 3,000 people in several counties.

And what began as an agency that offered just preschool and early intervention services for children with cerebral palsy has expanded to include services as diverse as a residential school, equine therapy, art classes, jobs for people with disabilities and mental health counseling, to name just a few, serving people of all ages with a wide range of physical and mental health disabilities.

Tehan's genuine passion and hands-on commitment have been the keys to UCP's success.

"He's just a once-in-a-generation leader," said Geno DeCondo, former UCP chief operating officer who has taken over as executive director.

That's for sure. We wish Tehan the very best as he transitions toward a well-deserved retirement, and thank him on behalf of the thousands of people whose lives have been made better by his vision. He's truly one of a kind.

GOOD

Tarnished Silver got what he deserves

Sheldon Silver is still guilty. Fortunately, another jury and a new trial didn't let him slip off the hook.

That hook was set more than two years ago by then-U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who nailed the long-time Albany powerbroker on public corruption charges. Silver was convicted in December 2015 and sentenced to 12 years in prison after the first trial. He received a temporary respite in June 2016 when the U.S. Supreme Court altered the rules for instructing juries about political-corruption laws -- leading an appeals court to overturn Silver's conviction last July.

But the second time wasn't a charm. Last week, the former Assembly speaker was convicted of seven corruption charges at his Manhattan Federal Court retrial. Prosecutors said he took advantage of his position as one of the state's most powerful politicians to obtain close to $4 million in bribes and kickbacks.

Silver has been in the Assembly since 1977, representing a district on Manhattan'sLower East Side, and had been speaker since 1994. During that time he became a puppet master over a Democratic caucus that marched in lockstep to his commands, with many members often voting on bills they hadn't even read.

He was part of a crooked trail through Albany blazed with corruption. Since 2000, more than 30 state lawmakers -- from both sides of the aisle -- have left office because of criminal charges or allegations of ethical misconduct against them. Most recently, Joseph Percoco, a former top aide to Cuomo, was convicted in March of corruption charges that included taking $300,000 in bribes from companies with state business.

And in June, former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his son Adam are to be retried on graft charges. Their convictions in December 2015 also were thrown out by an appeals court after the Supreme Court ruling.

Silver is scheduled to be sentenced Friday, July 13. At age 74, he's likely to spend the rest of his life behind bars. We'd like to think his case will serve as an example to others whose greed trumps public trust. But we doubt it.

UGLY

Spike Lee took the low road

Director Spike Lee produced a powerful film, "BlacKkKlansman," which he debuted this week at the Cannes Film Festival. What a shame he took the low road in an expletive-laced monologue taking President Trump to task for the president's response to last year's violent white supremacist protest in Charlottesville.

To be sure, Trump's reaction to the Charlottesville incident was pathetic. As Lee said, he had the opportunity to denounce the Ku Klux Klan and the alt-right, but instead chose to say there was "blame on both sides" in the unrest between the neo-Nazi groups and counter-protesters.

Lee could have made his point without the gutterspeak. After all, he's a bright, articulate director who offers us strong messages on racism in America. He and millions of others were rightfully enraged over Trump's Charlottesville comments. His bully pulpit at Cannes would have been much more effective to a much larger audience had he chosen his words more carefully and with more class.

Regarding Charlotteville, Lee said Trump had "a chance to say we are about love and not hate," and sharply criticized him for not denouncing the KKK.

"It was a defining moment and he could have said to the United States and the world that we're better than that," said Lee.

Spike Lee is better than that. His criticism was right on. It would have been so much better without the expletives.

___

(c)2018 Observer-Dispatch, Utica, N.Y.

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