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Enviro editorial: Clean up West Valley's radioactive wastes

Dig 'em up, move 'em out, dig 'em up, move 'em out, dig 'em up ...

Oops. Sorry, but the Rawhide theme just keeps running around the mental track on this one. Digging up the leftover radioactive wastes at West Valley and shipping them to a secure storage destination a lot less vulnerable to seismic faults and land slumps than the area south of Springville has been the editorial page's preference for years. Unfortunately, that's an expensive proposition in the short term, however much it would save in the long run, and jurisdiction disputes between the state and federal governments haven't helped.

There are public hearings this week on a draft envronmental impact statement that would see some work done but a lot of the stuff left here under "active supervision," which means until they actually figure out what to do with it. In the meantime, contaminated groundwater plumes inch closer to the creeks that eventually feed into Lake Erie.

Wednesday's editorial page opines that that's not good enough, and gives you some information so you can opine too. Meantime, here's a summary of where we stand:

Dig 'em up, move 'em out, dig 'em up, move 'em out, dig 'em up move 'em out, Rawhide!

State budget: Kicking the can down the road

After yet another secretive deal-cutting session involving the usual "three men in a room scenario, the governor and the leaders of the Assembly and Senate came up with a budget that essentially postpones the hard choices demanded by a balloning deficit in a time of deepening recession -- payroll cuts, restructuring, less spending on the stuff favored by special interests, maybe even (gasp) an end to the member-item discretionary spending sometimes known as "pork."

In short, the bureaucracy spared itself, not the taxpayers. Tuesday's ediorial page says so, here.

The page also tries something new -- an add-on section that gives you contact and resource information. To be brutally honest, that's how we're trying to make lemonades out of a lemon -- the lemon being an economy-driven restructuring t(of the kind Albany can't seem to make) that costs us one more editorial writer. So when an issue warrants it, we'll be giving staff extra time to research and think through their editorials by running just one editorial and improving its punch by linking it to this new feature. Think of it as not only exhorting you to grab a figurative torch, but opening a torch booth for your shopping pleasure.

In this process, by the way, we're losing (at least part time) editorial writer George Pyle, who has been our blogger extraordinaire for some time now and has pioneered "aggregator" blogs on the News site. George will be working as a financial section reporter now and blogging for the business section,  where he'll be the same kind of excellent blogmeister. And, we're happy to say, he'll be back here for occasional fill-in weeks amounting to about a third of the year. Seems we just can't get by without him!

-mike vogel 

Power, planning, pens, phones

   The lead editorial in today's Buffalo News -- "Switching off a rate hike" -- takes the report that thNew York Power Authority has backed off of a planned hydropower rate hike as good news. Not only will it NYPAKessel save upstate homes and businesses money, it suggests that NYPA President Richard Kessel [right] is serious about helping Western New York with its economic problems and possibilities.
   The NYPA announcement is here. Portions of a last week's News Editorial Board meeting with Kessel can be heard here.

   The second -- "Find a stellar city planner" -- laments the loss of the person who was going to be the new city planner for the City of Buffalo. We need one, and soon.

When times are tough, the few development projects a city has the good fortune to attract need to be carefully planned and integrated into the community. When times are good, the many Langan development projects a city has the good fortune to attract need to be, well, just as carefully planned and integrated.

   In the My View space, Michael D. Langan [left] observes that Letter writing isn't what it used to be.

   And Another Voice contributor Ronald Fraser, of the DKT Liberty Project, argues that other states should follow the lead of New York and make it easier for prison inmates to keep in touch with their families. It helps strenghten a prisoner's connection to society and makes it easier to live on the outside when released.

-- George Pyle/Editorial Writer

Wall Street, Main Street, runways, Iraq

   Wall Street liked the public-private toxic asset relief plan announced the other day by Treasury Geithner Secretary Timothy Geithner [left]. And so do we.
   The lead editorial in today's Buffalo News -- "Target the bad debts" -- notes that is looks a lot like the approach the Bush adminstration said it was taking with the passage of the TARP program, but didn't.

   This plan seems reasonably structured to entice investor participation in the process—and that participation may prove as important to rejuvenating the markets as any dollars and cents that eventually may flow.

   Other views from: The Philadelphia Inquirer [This one better work]. Newsday [It's our best shot]. The Wall Street Journal [The best news about the new Treasury bad bank asset purchase plan is that Secretary Timothy Geithner has finally settled on a strategy. The uncertainty was getting almost as toxic as those securities]. The New York Daily News [Geithner's strategy would harness the borrowing power of the U.S. government to the investing smarts of the private sector as a way to cleanse the toxic assets that have been poisoning America's banks. And The New York Times [In the end, there is no getting around firing the executives at failing banks, acknowledging the losses, wiping out the shareholders and then deciding how the government can best restructure the institutions. The Obama administration has yet to explain why its approach is better than that.]

   Today's second editorial -- "Pass a rehab tax credit" -- still likes the idea of offering those who undertake job-creating restoration of houses and commercial structures a New York state tax credit.Nancy

   The My View column is contributed by Nancy Druelinger [right], who wonders if airlines and pilots are under too much pressure to fly when weather conditions are bad.  

   And today's Another Voice real estate belongs to Jawad al-Bolani, the interior minister of Iraq, who promises Americans that his nation will not squander the gift of freedom it has been given. 

-- George Pyle/Editorial Writer


Tuesday roundup

  The lead editoral in today's Buffalo News -- "Releasing the troops" -- surmises that Defense Secretary Robert Gates agreed to stay on beyond the end of his hitch so that he would have the pleasure   Soldier of releasing thousands of U.S. military personnel from theirs. Gates has made the welcome announcement the the Pentagon's harsh "stop-loss" policy, which kept thousands of soldiers and Marines in uniform months beyond the official length of their enlistments, will be phased out over the next two years.

   One more thing needs to be said, by all of us, to those who had to serve longer than they thought:
   Thank you.

   Other thoughts from: The Oregonian [It's a heck of a way to run a war]. The Greensboro, N.C., News & Record [Keep soldiers with better re-enlistment bonuses]. The Miami Herald [More fairness for U.S. troops in combat]. The New York Times [Mr. Gates seemed appropriately contrite when he told reporters that holding so many soldiers against their will was “breaking faith.” He was right.]

   The second editorial -- "Promoting Niagara" -- argues that it makes no sense for the city of Niagara Falls and Niagara County to divide their tourism efforts. But it would make more sense for the agency Runfola that's now in charge of such work -- The Niagara Tourism & Convention Corporation  -- to be more transparent in its priorities and spending. [News background here.]

     Buffalo restauranteur Ross Runfola Jr. [left] says eat local. The job you save may be your own.

   And the executive director of the Hunger Action Network of New York, Mark A. Dunlea, argues that training welfare recipients for real jobs would be a big help to state's economy.

-- George Pyle/Editorial Writer

Big money: AIG bonuses, NYS pensions

   The lead editorial in today's Buffalo News -- "Letting rage set policy" -- begins:

   Rash and ill-considered grabs at big bundles of cash, taken with no thought for the long-term Aigprotest consequences, ought to be the kind of thing that Congress and President Obama are acting to put an end to. Not copy.

   It's about AIG and the plan that passed the House, though may be stalled in the Senate, to slap a 90 percent tax on the larger bonuses received by executives of the justly despised AIG. Those guys don't deserve much in the way of rewards. But after-the-fact taxation, so clearly designed to be a punishment for things the government should have stopped before, is bad policy and probably unconstitutional.
   Update: NY AG Andrew Cuomo says at least 15 of the big-bonus babies at AIG have returned their bonuses.

   Other thoughts from: The ChiTrib's Steve Chapman [Congress ... is now shocked to find AIG doing what it was allowed to do]; The Appleton, Wis., Post-Crescent [Justice is served with tax on AIG bonuses]; The Santa Rose, Calif., Press-Democrat [Noted Rep. John A. Boehner of Ohio, the House Republican leader: “This bill is nothing more than an attempt for everybody to cover their butt up here on Capitol Hill.”] and The Boston Globe [Cool it on the bonus blowback].

   The second editorial -- "Change pension calculations" -- argues that the practice of allowing New York public employees, particularly police officers and firefighters, to rack up large amounts of overtime in the Firefighter later years of their career, wildly inflating the pension payments they will receive for the rest of their lives, must be halted.

   The question is whether the governor and state legislative leaders have the backbone to change the system in ways sure to draw the wrath of unions—however much it would benefit taxpayers, their children and their grandchildren.

   The editorial draws on information presented in The Buffalo News here, there and over yonder.

   None of these articles, I think you will be pleased to find, contains any untoward amount of rage.

-- George Pyle/Editorial Writer 


Weekend sampler

From the weekend's Buffalo News Opinion pages:

   Sunday's focus was on labor issues. The Viewpoints cover story -- "Labor debate" -- dealt with the fight over the so-called Employee Free Choice Act. Some say it would help workers by making it easier for labor unions to organize at workplaces not now represented. Others worry that it tilts the balance too far in favor of labor, just when employers can least afford it.
   Our lead editorial on the subject that day was called "Too open to abuse." So, you might gather, we're opposed.
   This just in:  Three companies known for having good relations with their workers -- Starbucks, Costco and Whole Foods -- have offered a compromise plan. We'll consider it.
   The second editorial -- "Focus on the economy" -- begins: It's the economy, smart guy. It says President Obama needs to concentrate all his political fire on fixing the economy, specifically the credit markets, before he can have any hope of reforming health care, education, environmental policy, or anything else.
   And this just in: Obama and Treasury Secretary Tim Geitner have announced a new plan to meld public and private efforts to relief banks of the "toxic assets" that have so burdened the credit system.

   Saturday's lead editorial -- "The AG and AIG" -- argues that the investigation by New York Cuomo3 Attorney General Andrew Cuomo [left] into the much-hated executive bonuses paid out by even-more-hated AIG is the best way to deal with the problem. Certainly better than punitive, and perhaps unconstitutional, tax clawbacks being supported in Congress.
   These guys may really be the only ones who can defuse the bomb that is still ticking away at the heart of the global financial system. Or as they say over at The Daily Beast: Let them have their blood money -- but tell us where the bodies are buried.
   Other thoughts from The Fort Worth Star-Telegram [AIG stands for "Ain't it Greed"], The Seattle Times  [Give it all back] and The Minneapolis Star-Tribune [The anger makes it harder to solve the problem]. 

   Monday's lead editorial -- "Seek the truth about torture" -- supports the plan from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy to establish a truth commission to look into the abuses of the Bush administration as they concern torture, illegal prisons, illegal wiretapping, etc. The point is to find out what happened, and how we can keep it from happening again, not partisan grandstanding or even punishment for those who went over the line.
   The goods showing that the previous regime was, indeed, guilty of torture are here.
   The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Washington Post agree.

-- George Pyle/Editorial Writer

Opinions TGIF

Making the economy sound sound
   "Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be."
                                                                             - Abraham Lincoln

   The lead editorial in the TGIF Buffalo News -- "Hopeful words, harsh reality" -- reflects on how the language that describes a nation's economy -- depression, panic -- is so much like the language that describes a person's mental health.

That is why those acting on behalf of the Obama administration and those criticizing its performance have to pay at least as much attention to what their words are doing to the national mood as to what their actions are doing to the soundness of the financial system.

   Those words included last night's visit by President Obama to Jay Leno's Tonight Show, and the recallLeno to duty of Obama's Internet-based campaign organization.
See also:
- In The Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan worries that Obama won't be able to get us out of this mess because he is neither a hedgehog nor a fox.
The Los Angeles Times worries that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geitner is as clueless politically as he is clever on economic matters.
- In The Washington Post, biz columnist Steven Pearlstein says to stop obsessing on the relatively small amounts of executive bonuses: Let's keep our attention on the elephant rather than the pimples on its behind.
On Slate, political writer John Dickerson explains how the president has to be careful stoking the public anger toward the evil bankers. He still needs public support to bail them out.

Drug sanity
   The second editorial -- "Reform drug laws" -- calls on the New York Senate to follow the lead of the Assembly and reform the draconian, and counterproductive, statues known as the Rockefeller Drug Laws.
Similar views from: The Utica Observer DispatchThe New York Times and The Albany Times-Union.

More wine?
- The New York Times features an interesting op-ed from wine store owner Marco Pasanella. He agrees with our 3/7 editorial arguing that supermarkets in New York should be allowed to sell wine, as long as the state's silly laws are changed so that he can sell cheese. Given that, he isn't worried about losing the business of the discerning wine drinker to the teenager with the name tag and the vest.
The Long-Islander, on the other hand, opposes wine in groceries: The fact that legislators haven’t made efforts to pass this law until the economy tanked is a clue that it’s just a grab for money.

-- George Pyle/Editorial Writer 

Thursday Opinions

Campus cash
   The lead editorial in today's Buffalo News -- "Campuses take a hit" -- agrees with the miffed leaders of Sunylogo the state's public universities that it is not fair to raise tuition costs for students and then use the money, not to improve education at State University of New York or City University of New York campuses, but to make up for the state's overall deficit woes.

Albany should not be imposing what amounts to a tax on students, at least in its initial years. And the schools make a plausible case that bureaucracy is getting in the way of faster, less costly and more efficient local operations.

See also:
- The Buffalo State College Web site has a page helping students and their parents raise objections to the tuition sweep.
- The Albany Student Press headlines its editorial State sanctioned grand larceny.

Green space
   The second editorial -- "Welcoming a new park" -- celebrates the good news of the Niagara River Greenway Commission allocating $1 million for a new park along the riverfront near Buffalo's Cobblestone District.

A cat named Trouve
   In today's My View slot, Jamestown attorney Gavin MacFadyen [right] explains how he came by hisMacFadyen new best friend.

I had considered calling her “Velcro” because she seldom left my side during the first few days, as if fearing another abandonment. Instead, I settled on the French word “Trouve” or “found.”

Dress for success
   And, in today's Another Voice offering, Charter School for Applied Technology Superintendent J. Efrain Martinez argues that his school's dress code will prepare his students to succeed in their chosen careers.

-- George Pyle/Editorial Writer 

Keeping promises, dodging responsibilities

   The lead editorial in today's Buffalo News -- "Keep the promise" -- slams the Obama administration for even thinking about a proposal to bill the private insurance carriers that have U.S. military veterans as  Va clients for some of the care those veterans receive for service-related injuries and illnesses.

   Obama, or someone in his employ, may well want to remind everyone that America’s general, non-veteran system of health insurance reeks of high cost and low satisfaction. But threatening to dump U. S. military veterans into that maw is no way to do that.

   This just in: Veterans groups are returning to the White House Thursday to talk it out some more. 

   The second editorial -- "Legislature just watches" -- whacks the Democratic leadership of the New York Senate for announcing that they aren't even going to pretend to draft a budget for the coming fiscal year. Majority Leader Malcolm Smith says he plans to show up empty-handed when he meets with the other two men in the room -- Gov. Paterson and Speaker Silver -- to hash out the real state budget.

   Nothing is to be gained by abandoning even the form of a legislative process. Smith’s plan does away with the whole process—bills, hearings, debates, amendments and, most important of all for constituents who want to monitor their elected officials’ behavior, roll-call votes.

See also:
The Ventura County Star focuses on the more helpful aspects of Obama's proposals for the Department of Veterans Affairs, including an budget hike of $25 billion over five years and opening the system to help more vets.
Bruce Coulter, in the Burlington (Mass.) Union taunts: Hey, G.I., is that a gun in your pocket, or is it just Obama and company reaching for your insurance card?
See also also:
- Newsday slams New York legislative leaders for breaking their promise to hold budget negotiations in public.
- The New York Post is unhappy about how a deal to save the city's transit authority died in the state Senate.
The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle laments the quick death of Gov. Paterson's proposal to add a tax to obesity-causing sugary drinks: With the proposed 18 percent tax, maybe, just maybe, adults would have thought twice about buying sugary drinks that are linked to diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

-- George Pyle/Editorial Writer

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