TODAY'S PAPER
69° Good Afternoon
69° Good Afternoon
Opinion

Tough times

New York Newsday's Jim Dwyer, surrounded by his

New York Newsday's Jim Dwyer, surrounded by his family, at a celebration after winning the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for commentary. Credit: Newsday / Tony Jerome

Daily Point

Remembering Jim Dwyer

No writer knew the New York City subway system like Jim Dwyer, the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for New York Newsday, The New York Times, the Daily News, and other newspapers.

Dwyer, who died on Thursday of complications from lung cancer, was a moral and thoughtful journalistic voice on issues far beyond transit, from wrongful convictions in our flawed justice system to the horror of the 9/11 terror attacks. Across subject areas, he was a lyrical writer, a barking watchdog, and a legendary repository of New York history, among the last generation of the great Golden Age Gotham columnists. But all of those traits were crystallized in the subway columns he wrote for New York Newsday between the late 1980s and early 1990s – leading to the 1995 Pulitzer win for commentary.

On that canvas he was a bard of all the small and large dramas that take place underground, from a train crash to a station kiss. And he tried to stand up for riders in the face of politicians and administrators in defending New York’s life-giving, never motionless public square.

Read a selection of Dwyer’s Newsday subway columns here.

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Talking Point

How many stamps for absentee ballots?

You would think it would be a simple question: How much postage should voters put on their absentee ballots?

There was some Twitter confusion in New York City on Thursday, when the @NYCVotes account — an initiative of the city Campaign Finance Board and Voter Assistance Advisory Committee — tweeted "We recommend using *2 stamps* to ensure there will be enough postage."

"You DM’s [sic] me on Monday saying one forever stamp was enough," replied one Twittter user in exasperation.

"Sorry for any confusion," @NYCVotes wrote back. "We just received guidance that one stamp may not be enough for voters in every part of the city."

The situation is different on Long Island, however, according to commissioners from both counties.

Both Nassau Democratic commissioner Jim Scheuerman and Suffolk Republican commissioner Nick LaLota say that absentee voters mailing their ballots should use a Forever Stamp, or 55 cents worth of postage.

That’s because that’s enough postage for the weight of all the official paperwork — your ballot, the "oath" envelope, and the "return" envelope provided by the Board of Elections.

Sometimes, however, a voter might inadvertently add to the weight — by putting the ballot into his or her own envelope, say, or adding a piece of paper. That could cause the postage price to go up slightly.

But that won’t stop Nassau and Suffolk voters from getting their ballots delivered even if they only put on the one stamp, because both counties have a system set up through which extra unpaid postage on the ballots would be paid by the boards.

"No ballot will be returned to the voter for insufficient postage," said Larry Nedelka, fiscal manager for the Nassau BOE.

"Noody’s ballot will be returned if they put on 55 cents," said LaLota of Suffolk.

Nedelka noted that the board hasn’t had issues with ballots that have already come in.

Of course, easiest of all would have been pre-paid return postage as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo mandated for the June 23 primary, but that ship has long since sailed.

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Pencil Point

The fly wins the day

For more cartoons, visit www.newsday.com/cartoons

Final Point

How has COVID affected Long Island’s economy?

Recently, it might seem like every morning a new headline has blared about the fight between congressional Democrats and Republicans over what level of stimulus package is needed and when. But for a deeper sense of just how much COVID-19 has affected the economy in Nassau and Suffolk, take a look at the Opportunity Insights Economic Tracker.

The project, part of a think-tank-type partnership between economists at Harvard and Brown universities, maps the pandemic’s devastation down to the county level.

It uses outside-the-box markers such as time spent outside the home, charted when available for counties and states over the course of the health crisis.

In Nassau and Suffolk, for example, people are still spending less time outside the home than they did in January, but much more time in parks, according to anonymized Google mobility data.

That might explain the huge shifts in consumer habits — the tracker shows drops in total spending by consumers in both counties, though the sharpest drops occurred during the spring.

You can plot county vs. county and state vs. state as well as highlight other categories to see, for example, how low-income vs. high-income workers fared or which job sectors have seen the biggest dips in job postings.

Overall, the tracker depicts a grim picture of the recovery, and among the economists’ key insights is that investment in public health efforts will pay off in terms of consumer confidence, and low-income workers are particularly in need of help: "providing and extending targeted assistance to low-income workers impacted by the economic downturn (such as through unemployment benefits) is critical for reducing hardship and addressing disparities in COVID’s impacts," the group says.

Dig in to the tracker here.

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Columns