The real work gets done in the middle


We live in a world defined by extremes, where political forces have driven public discourse so far to the edge that the partisan divide is getting wider and wider. Our elected officials resist finding common ground, and prefer vilifying opponents instead of seeking compromise. Consequently, many New York voters have abandoned both parties, declaring a pox on the houses of both Democrats and Republicans.

In fact, the state’s fastest-growing constituency comprises voters who have chosen not to affiliate with either party. The Board of Election calls them “blanks.” They are neither progressives nor conservatives, but largely identify as moderates. Like most of the country, the majority of New Yorkers are centrists who reject the constant accusations and political hype.
Sadly, the parties call resistance to compromise being “principled,” but it’s anything but. Coalition building has always been a proper and essential part of governing.

But choose any issue, even those that have been identified as crises, and we can see the outcomes of this ongoing division. The approach is generally so extreme that nothing gets done.

Look at our energy and environmental policies. If New York state were its own country, it would be about the 12th-largest economy in the world. But the state has also prioritized reducing the environmental impact of its economy, and has reduced its carbon footprint significantly over the past 20 years. Today, our carbon output accounts for a fraction of 1 percent of the world’s total, a remarkable achievement given our economic output. It’s a statistic we should all celebrate as we continue moving toward a renewable-based economy.

As far as some of my colleagues are concerned, however, we haven’t done enough. They’re now advancing policies in Albany that would significantly burden every municipality, school district, business and homeowner, all with the rallying cry of “saving the planet.” Many of these policies would place New Yorkers at risk, because they remove redundancy from our system and place unreasonable demands on our electric grid.

We’re on an island jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean, susceptible to nor’easters in the winter and hurricanes in the summer. Our electricity is carried on an overhead distribution system that is routinely compromised by high winds, falling branches and blown transformers. And yet there’s a headlong rush to convert our entire energy system to electricity and eliminate natural gas for fuel, heating and cooking. Experts agree that the grid will invariably fail in both winter and summer, as it always does. But the increased demands and single-source dependency will only make these failures more precarious.

Or take the fact that every school district in New York must now switch to electric school buses in 2027. Never mind that we know the grid can’t provide nearly enough electricity to charge all those buses. Never mind that electric buses are notoriously unreliable, especially in cold weather. Never mind that New York winters get very cold, especially upstate. And ignore the fact that no school district is prepared to purchase these buses, nor are they willing to channel billions of dollars statewide away from educating children to do so.

Frankly, manufacturers don’t even have the capacity to satisfy the mandate. Yet in a classic case of virtue signaling, legislation was passed by those who knew it couldn’t be done. Putting undue pressure on already burdened school systems just makes no sense.

Anyone who questions these policies is somehow portrayed as anti-environment, something that is not only untrue but also unfair. There is real consensus on environmental policy, and we all want clean, reliable energy supplied by a stable grid. We just have to be reasonable about how we approach it.

Whether it’s housing, crime, taxes, health care or the environment, we must reject extremes from both ends and occupy the middle. That’s where the real work gets done. We don’t need unanimity, just consensus.

Jack Martins represents the 7th Senate District.