It has become fashionable on New Year’s Day to note the bad times of the past 12 months, say good riddance, and welcome the new year with the hope that things will be better.
So it’s important at this turn of the calendar to say we’re not blindly following tradition: This past year really was bad in many ways.
The world was wracked again by terrorism — from Brussels to Berlin, from Orlando to Nice, and throughout the Middle East. Bombs exploded in New Jersey and Manhattan, too, set by an amateur who fortunately did little harm but did renew fears.
Tensions over multiple police shootings of black men exploded with the killings of officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge. Syria plunged deeper into chaos and Aleppo became a metaphor for hell on earth, before the latest in a series of cease-fires was announced last week. Zika flew north and landed in America.
Every year brings the death of celebrities but 2016 seemed especially hard, beginning with David Bowie and ending with last week’s passings of Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. The heartbreak of a daughter and mother dying one day apart was a sadly fitting finale.
On this date last year, the presidential primaries had not begun, but we all knew that an already ugly election was going to get worse. No matter who you supported, much of the rhetoric was destructive and demeaning. And the proliferation of fake news and evidence of Russian hacking were alarming.
The tumult — echoed by the rise of nationalism in Europe and the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom — swept away conventional predictions and upended the status quo. Working class Americans spoke and Donald Trump was elected president, leaving us with qualms about what comes next but also hope that a fresh approach might bring about needed changes.
Here’s our wish list for 2017:
It has to change. Hopefully, 2016 marked the end of a long descent into negativity; our politics and our campaigns should be ennobling. Let’s respect the opinions of others even though we disagree with them. Let’s have honest and civil discussions. Let’s have respect for the timeless arts of negotiation, compromise and cooperation. Let’s reject fake news and renew our reverence for verifiable information.
And let’s dispense with dysfunction. That’s true for Washington, paralyzed by partisan wars, and for Albany, where the parties seem to care only about themselves and the most important work is done behind closed doors.
The past 12 months built excitement, sparked mostly by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. Let’s keep it going. The resolution of phase 1 of the Second Avenue Subway, the rising replacement for the Tappan Zee Bridge, the ongoing revamp of LaGuardia Airport, and plans to redo Penn Station were wonderful. The same energy should be tapped to push forward on East Side Access, develop a sensible replacement for the Port Authority bus terminal, work on a train link to LaGuardia, and get the Long Island Rail Road’s third track project underway. With open road tolling set for this year, Cuomo should now back a comprehensive plan to seriously address city congestion, like the proposal that includes tolling East River bridges.
Nationally, Trump is pitching a $1 trillion infrastructure plan. Let’s do it, but pick the right stuff. Aging roads, tunnels, bridges and airports are worth fixing, but don’t forget water and sewer systems and flood and storm mitigation, and let’s join the rest of the world with high-speed rail.
We’re building on Long Island, too. The land of no said yes often enough that big projects that promise to transform Glen Cove, Hempstead Village and Huntington Station advanced in 2016. The Ronkonkoma Hub reset will start early in 2017. Smart decisions must be made about developing Belmont Park, which could spark the revitalization of that area. The customs station at Long Island MacArthur Airport needs to move forward, to open up the region to international travel. And for all the good talk about refocusing Long Island’s economy on research and innovation, it’s time for action.
Washington: Trump and much of his administration lack government and policy experience. That was a plus during the campaign and could be the basis for innovative policy decisions. Yet we have deep concerns. We hope he’s a good listener. And that he makes decisions based on knowledge and evidence.
Congress should do a thorough investigation of Russian hacking, and take steps to shore up our cyber defenses.
Albany: We keep setting high hopes for the state capital and they keep getting grounded on Albany’s rocky shoals. Still, we wish: That the legislature finally does something substantive about limiting self-dealing by its members, and that it passes legislation to make voting and running for office easier. We also hope the legislature allows Suffolk County residents to vote on a clearly worded referendum to raise funds to be used only to finance an ambitious proposal to fight nitrogen pollution. And we wish that the opt-out movement opts out of protesting this spring; education officials are making reforms. Let them work.
Local: Nassau and Suffolk must start thinking regionally to share and improve services and cut costs, with a focus on transportation. That includes helping to create conditions that would lead to the electrification of some railroad lines and the start of the third track project. Long Islanders need more and better service.
Elected leaders also need to stop putting off the difficult decisions required to turn around each county’s troubled finances. And if they continue down the same path, voters should remember in November, when the Nassau County executive and every legislative seat in both counties are up for grabs.
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No one ever gets all they wish for. But we’re going to be optimistic about that, too. And we hope our readers attain their personal goals as well.
Happy new year.