Hillary’s Jersey Guy Dumps on New York

It is bad enough that Senator Robert Torricelli of New Jersey is among those responsible for persuading Hillary Clinton to use New York as a vehicle for her personal ambitions. But now the Garden State’s junior Senator is butting in on policy issues that are none of his business. He is trying to block a proposal to build an Indian-run casino on the site of Monticello Raceway in the Catskill Mountains.

Mr. Torricelli’s motives are clear: Atlantic City’s casino industry doesn’t want any competition. A gambling mecca in the Catskills, where times have been hard for decades, would reroute all those casino-bound buses with New York license plates filled with senior citizens. Rather than heading south on the Garden State Parkway, the buses would clog the northbound lanes of the New York State Thruway. The Atlantic City moguls would have no choice but to find more creative means of separating the elderly from their pension money. A Tom Jones-Engelbert Humperdinck retrospective, perhaps?

Mr. Torricelli didn’t have the grace to consult with Gov. George Pataki before launching his anti-Catskills campaign. Instead, he dashed off a letter to Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, who handles Indian casino applications, and made sure the press knew that he was fighting hard on behalf of Atlantic City’s upstanding titans of legalized gambling. How’s that for manners?

Anyone who has been to towns like Monticello knows that time has not been kind to the Catskills. Whatever the ethical merits of legalized gambling, it’s understandable why so many people in the region have been clamoring for casinos for years.

It should be up to New York to decide whether or not the proposed casino is right for Monticello. Senator Torricelli has no business interfering with New York’s decisions. After all, does he want Senator Charles Schumer butting in every time some New Jersey entrepreneur decides to open a new toxic waste dump or a chemical plant?

‘Cash for Parole’ Merits a Close Look

The Federal Government apparently is stepping up its investigation of troubling allegations that fund-raisers for Gov. George Pataki’s campaign and Pataki administration insiders may have been involved in a cash-for-parole scheme. According to a report in The New York Times , a note from a Pataki fund-raiser to an administration official contained the names of three violent felons whose families made hefty contributions to the Governor’s campaign, apparently in hopes of getting their relations out on parole. These are shocking charges, and they deserve an extensive inquiry.

There surely is enough evidence to suggest that Federal probers are on to something. A state parole officer has asserted that the chairman of the State Parole Board, Brion D. Travis, said the Governor had an “interest” in the release of at least one prisoner. (The parole officer has pleaded guilty on a charge of lying to Federal investigators.) Mr. Travis and the other members of the State Parole Board are gubernatorial appointees.

Of the three felons whose families contributed to the Pataki campaign, only one, a Brooklyn rabbi, was released. But that’s almost beside the point. If some rogue fund-raisers were dangling get-out-of-jail signs in front of families as a lure for contributions, they should be exposed and punished.

Rather than dismiss the Federal probe as politically motivated, the Pataki administration ought to do all it can to make sure that anybody who tarnished the Governor’s name is brought to justice. Politics can be a rough game indeed, but it is hardly credible to say, as some Pataki administration officials insist, that the Federal probe is based on politics, not on substance. There is more than enough smoke to suggest the presence of a fire, however small, and surely even a Republican-led Federal Government would act the same.

Politicians, regardless of party affiliation, owe it to themselves to make sure that sleazy fund-raisers, the bane of modern politics, are rooted out and disgraced. Their tawdry operations usually go on without the candidate’s knowledge, but they contribute to public cynicism about the role of money and government.

Let the chips fall where they may, Governor.

The Lessons of Summer

This was the summer the City Board of Education decided to get tough with poorly performing students. Instead of a vacation, 37,000 city public school students went to school to avoid being left behind a grade. After an intense few weeks, about 60 percent made the grade and have earned their promotions. Those who didn’t will be left back, but presumably they, too, will profit from the experience.

New York and other cities have been allowing too many of their public school students to advance from grade to grade without the necessary skills and commitment to learning. That insidious practice, known as social promotion, is coming to an end, and the students will be better for it. This year’s mandatory summer school demonstrated that the bad old days of worthless milestones are over. Only students who deserve to be promoted will be.

Granted, the bar for passing wasn’t particularly high, but that is the fault of administrators, not the students. Summer school offered the poor performers a chance to make up for past failures, and it is to the credit of those who succeeded that they did well under difficult conditions, including the summer’s record heat. And it is to the city’s credit that it chose to challenge, rather than coddle, the poor performers.

To the summer graduates, congratulations on a job well done.