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Reporter's Notebook

September 14, 2013

State clearly wants a 'yes' on casinos


So my question Friday morning as I sipped a fresh-brewed cup of coffee from Spurbeck’s Grocery in Cooperstown was: Is it legal for the politicos to salt wording into a referendum question that is intended to influence the voters?

I then picked up the phone and contacted one of the state’s foremost legal authorities on the state Constitution as it applies to gaming, Albany attorney Cornelius “Neil” Murray.

“I’m looking at this right now as we speak,” Murray said after I popped off the first couple of questions.

Murray said it appears to him that the state decided to “rig the question in such a way that people are going to say yes” to the casino question.

The veteran lawyer said he was poring over both the state Constitution and Election Law to find out if there are any requirements for neutrality in the way referendum questions are written.

If Murray did not know this off the top of his head, I didn’t feel so badly in not being able to divine the answer myself. But my bet is that the earlier generations of politicians who wrote the state laws on elections scripted them in such a way as to allow literary license and even hyperbole in ballot questions.

The post card-images of sleepy rural communities, with well-tended flower beds around stately Colonial and Victorian homes, differ from the raw statistics that come from our law-enforcement agencies.

Consider these numbers just compiled by the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office: Emergency 911 calls were up 35 percent in 2012 over the previous year. The number of criminal cases opened — 386 — represented an 18 percent increase form one year earlier. And the number of felony drug arrests — 30 — was up a staggering 229 percent.

Undersheriff Craig DuMond said he’s optimistic the disturbing trend will prompt the Delaware County Board of Supervisors to add a new deputy position to the department’s road patrol. The road patrol lost one member when Deputy John Demeo was reassigned to the criminal investigations division and became the department’s new handler of Ozzie, the agency’s first K-9 cop.

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