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Mountains & Valleys

VALLEY — “Now is the winter of our discontent” — that opening line of William Shakespeare’s “Richard III” applies well to our current COVID-19 situation. People here, on the whole, have done well about wearing masks and social distancing, and as a result of that (at least we like to see it that way), COVID numbers here have been as low as anywhere in the country. Even with possibly record summer tourism, we kept this a safe place. Yet now the coronavirus is surging through the local population more than ever, and the disease keeps getting closer to each of our lives. It is a tough, tough time — but it is critical to keep hope alive and remember that this is just temporary. We may have to suck it up and make sacrifices for several more months, but vaccines in development are showing remarkable progress. They will become available sometime next year. God, please let it be soon!

MOUNTAIN — The Saranac Lake High School wasn’t able to compete for a third straight state championship, since all state championships were canceled this fall due to the coronavirus pandemic, but they get a consolation prize. Last year, only one of them qualified for the Nike 5K national championships, but this year the team’s top seven runners are competing. They won’t go to Oregon to do so, like last year; instead they’re being timed today in Cadyville. It’s strange having runners compete nationwide on different courses, but at least they picked one of the flattest courses in the region — not like the Saranac Lake and Lake Placid runners’ hilly home courses. It’s exciting to see great local athletes rise to a broader stage, and these are some of the fastest kids to ever come out of the Tri-Lakes area. Much of that is due to their own intense work ethic and camaraderie, and to their excellent coaching. We’re rooting for the Red Storm Runners.

VALLEY — School bus drivers play a crucial role in our education system, and when the pandemic hit in spring, our area made that more clear than ever. Instead of carrying children, local bus drivers shuttled meals, homework and more to students’ homes, thereby becoming the faces of the school district — the only staffers students and their families could see in person (albeit behind masks and socially distanced) rather than on a computer screen. Also, those deliveries showed that district staff knew and cared about every student’s family.

So to have that taken away is heartbreaking. Districts assumed state aid for transportation would continue through the pandemic, but the state waited until now to tell districts it won’t. We understand that the state is trying to make up a deficit in the tens of billions of dollars, but it still stinks.

VALLEY — Lying on a job application is serious business, especially in high-stakes jobs that people tend to scrutinize closely, like police officers. We are sorry to have to report on a police officer who spent a night in jail on a felony charge, but we have to because we know our readers care about it. The officer allegedly gave the Saranac Lake Police Department false information on his job application back when he was hired in summer 2017, misleading the SLPD about discipline he had faced when he was an officer with the Massena Police Department. No one yet is saying what the discipline was for, but Franklin County District Attorney Craig Carriero would say it involved both on-duty and off-duty activities, and that the officer was not fired. If all that is true — we cannot presume guilt yet — to cover it up would be unethical and could, depending on the nature of the offense, put Saranac Lake residents and other police officers at risk. This is a serious case that should be watched closely.

MOUNTAIN — Regarding the same case, it was good to see that police departments themselves, and not just the public at large, can benefit from the state Legislature’s repeal of 50-a, a once-obscure portion of New York’s civil code that shielded police officers’ personnel records from public view. Before, police chiefs couldn’t necessarily access job applicants’ disciplinary history; they had to rely on the applicants’ honesty and maybe other police chiefs’ willingness to share information. It made it too easy for cops with issues to move around and avoid accountability — just like non-disclosure agreements let problem school superintendents move around, as Lake Placid saw a few years ago (although the Lake Placid school board also signed an NDA that let that superintendent get hired elsewhere). While we think some aspects of New York’s recent justice reforms are flawed — e.g., bail reform should give judges more discretion to assign jail and bail — the 50-a repeal will prove its worth in many ways because increasing government transparency is fundamentally good.

MOUNTAIN — Good for the state Olympic Regional Development Authority for listening to its customers at Mount Van Hoevenberg and backtracking on its price hikes for cross-country skiing season passes. That’s business, and while ORDA is government rather than private — tens of millions of tax dollars were recently invested in upgrading Van Ho — it still needs to operate on a supply-demand basis and cultivate goodwill and good user experiences.

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