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Big problem. Partial solution.

   A bad-news/good news pair of editorials today anchor The Buffalo News Opinion Section.

Driving New Yorkers out
   The evidence, thus far, is only anecdotal, but it seems clear that if New York is not at an economic tipping point, it is fast sliding in that direction. Small businesses and billionaires alike are fleeing the state as the reality of the most irresponsible state budget in memory starts to set in.  
    A new poll by the Siena College Research Institute reported that 11 percent of New Yorkers will move if things don’t improve, while only 16 percent said they would never leave. Ten percent said they would like to go “as quickly as I can.”

-Streamline this law
   The impenetrable jungle of local governments that burden New York taxpayers is rooted in a morass of laws, spread throughout the state statute books, that can easily frustrate the progress of even the most Cuomo3 resolute citizen reformer.
   Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo [right] has now offered those reformers the promise of a sharp machete. It comes in the form of a bill he calls the New New York Government Reorganization and Citizen Empowerment Act.
   Raw text of the legislation is here. AG's supporting summary is here. Newsday reports on how the bill is moving through legislative committees, but has drawn hot opposition from firefighters. It has also gained support from at least one conservative commentator.

   Today's Another Voice column is from Nan L. Haynes, an attorney, who outlines the never-ending problems with the Erie County Holding Center.

   And, in the My View space, Tonawandan Tom Reinagel roars his support for the good done by Lions Clubs.

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News
 

High court. Low ethics.

   Today's Buffalo News Opinion section offers its not-so-instant analysis of President Obama's choice of Appeals Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor for his first nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. And we like Sonia what we see.
Historic choice for the court 
   The New York City native certainly seems to be someone who is qualified, by dint of talent, education and experience, to be a Supreme Court justice. Yet she is also someone who has been somewhere else, somewhere far below the high dais of an appeals court judge, where real people live and work and have little power over a legal system that may only notice their efforts and dreams when it takes the time to squash them.
   Favorable reviews of the nomination from The New York Daily NewsThe New York TimesRochester Democrat & Chronicle, The Los Angeles TimesE.J. DionneThe Salina Journal and Newsday, which said, Diversity isn't essential for justice to be done, but it adds to the perception that justice is being done.
   Less enthusiasm from The Wall Street JournalThe New York PostGeorge F. WillJonah Goldberg and The Orange County Register, which said: In several respects it was a shrewd choice, although some of the factors that made it shrewd speak poorly of the current state of American politics.
   Sotomayor's official court biography. More from Judgepedia. A White House backgrounder. Oh, and here is how you pronounce the woman's name.

   The second editorial supports the call from New York Gov. David A. Paterson for a new, truly independent state ethics commission, to oversee the doings of both the executive and legislative branches, campaign finance, lobbying and those who seek to influence the state's pension system.
State needs ethics reform 
   Paterson was exactly right the other day when he said, “The sad reality is that this issue is much larger than the Public Integrity Commission. The general perception is that the ethics process in Albany is broken and I believe it is.”
   The governor's press release is hereA video of his announcement presser is here. The Commission on Public Integrity's Web site is here. 
   More editorial support from Newsday.

   Today's Another Voice belongs to Vincent Graber, a member of the West Seneca Town Board, who opposes the move to downsize that body.

   And, in the My View column, Fredonia State College student Sarah T. Schwab says good-bye to a place that has, for the past two years, been a room of her own.

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News  

 

UB UnBound. Ol' (white) boy judiciary.

   The lead editorial of today's Buffalo News Opinion section calls on the New York Legislature to free the University at Buffalo from the burdensome state budget regulations that threaten its promise as the Simpson primary economic engine of Western New York.
Albany should help UB
   UB President John Simpson [right] is leading efforts to increase other campus revenue possibilities and save the UB 2020 plan, and the Legislature can and should pass similar Assembly and Senate bills—A2020 and S2020—to curtail over-regulation and add local flexibility.
   The president of SUNY Stony Brook wants in on the deal.
   The university calls the many alumni and community leaders who work in support of their vision UB Believers. Good cause. Catchy name, too, I guess. But I wonder about the seriousness of a university that names any arm of itself after a Monkees song.

   We also find fault with the current method used to fill seats on New York State's appellate level courts.
Look harder for justices
   Gov. David A. Paterson’s justified complaint that no women even were recommended to him as he seeks to fill a vacancy on the Court of Appeals. In light of President Obama’s U.S. Supreme Court nomination Tuesday, the state deficiency is even more glaring.

   In Another Voice, writers representing the Working Families Party and Citizen Action of New York stand up for Buffalo-area state Sens. Antoine Thompson and William Stachowski for supporting the new state budget.
- Area residents should thank Stachowski, Thompson
   First and foremost, they deserve thanks for passing the Fair Share Tax Reform... By raising the income tax rate on the wealthiest New Yorkers (families earning more than $300,000 per year), more than $4 billion will be raised. ... Progressive income taxes are much fairer than sales taxes and fees, which impact lower income families to a greater degree. Without this tax revenue, Western New Yorkers would be burdened with higher property taxes in order to support necessary health and education services.

   And, in the My View position, Clarence empty-nester Susan Wallden is pleasantly surprised by the substantial resume she has built up by running her family's home for the past 23 years.

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

Broken circuit. Power on?

    Leading the Opinion section of today's Buffalo News is our plea for the The New York State Department of Correctional Services and its main labor union to get on the same page as to Coolhandluke the department's staffing needs.
Failure to communicate 
   The interests of taxpayers and the safety of correctional officers sometimes differ. The two sides must  come to a better understanding.
   The correction workers union -- the New York State Correctional Officers & Police Benevolent Association -- is ready to pull out all the emotional stops on this fight. You can listen to their radio ad here and check out their TV spot here.
    A somewhat less incendiary list of facts about proposed changes in the prison business from the DOCS is here
   We just don't want to get to this.  

   We also allow ourselves to hope that efforts by the state and the New York Power Authority to promote green power sources such as wind and solar will bring both sustainable, low-cost power and an estimated 50,000 jobs.
Green light 
   The meteorological mix here is right. With the Steel Winds project in Lackawanna, wind power off both lakes Erie and Ontario and the happy fact that Western New York receives an abundance of sunshine, this area could be a real player in the developing green economy. The governor’s announcement is welcome news.
   The governor's official announcement is here. Want to sell solar power to NYPA? Here's the first round of paperwork.

   Today's Another Voice soapbox belongs to Fred Bonn, president of the New York State Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus, who laments the loss of Richard Geiger as head of the Buffalo Niagara Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Geiger’s likely departure will hurt tourism efforts
   Geiger has always demonstrated the value of taking the high road. When faced with difficult decisions, he consistently advocates taking the proper path, one that preserves and sustains the integrity of the organization and strengthens the community as a whole.
   It is this quality of character and ethical standard that, in time, we feel Buffalo will miss most.
   [Are we to infer, then, that whoever wants Geiger out isn't so concerned about integrity, character and ethics?]

   And, in today's My View, Williamsville writer Penny Zeplowitz offers a story of how the kindness of a true British gentleman turned a ruined evening into a treasured memory.

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News  

Closing schools. Building helicopters.

   The lead editorial in today's Buffalo News Opinion section bashes the Buffalo Board of Education for failing to take the needed steps to reduce the excess capacity in the district's high schools. By doing so, they endanger millions in state aid needed to finish the crucial refurbishment of the district's many schools.
Flunking out
   Members of the Buffalo Board of Education seem to have forgotten they were elected to serve students and, in doing so, would have to make tough decisions up to and including closing schools so that the final phase of a $1 billion school reconstruction project could proceed. ...
   Buffalo has to go to the State Education Department with a plan to reduce high school space, which can only happen after the board has grown a backbone. School Board members were elected to do what’s in the best interest of students. So, do it.

   Also, we seek a middle ground between outright cancelation and full-speed-ahead options as regarding Vh-71 the new fleet of helicopters being outfitted to carry the president of the United States:
Spend the money 
   Just scrapping the VH-71 helicopter program would throw away between $3.6 billion and $3.8 billion. ...
   Skip the waste and the supercopters, and get the president an up-to- date, more mission-capable ride.

   Today's Another Voice column is another voice from the health care industry, this time Drew Altman of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.
Is industry’s action on reform for real? 
   The announcement that health care industry groups plan to voluntarily shave $2 trillion off the rate of increase in health spending over the next 10 years reminded me of the voluntary effort launched with similar fanfare in the Carter administration. Then, industry groups fended off President Jimmy Carter’s efforts to aggressively control the costs of hospital care by offering to do it themselves. Their efforts helped slow the rate of increase in health spending for a few years — and helped defeat Carter’s plan — but then the rate of increase in costs spiked again.

   And, in the My View column, Frances Kulik remembers
Brush with greatness still brings me joy 

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News   

Strange bedfellows. Splitting the sheets.

   The lead editorial in today's Buffalo News Opinion section has nice things to say about the choice of Our New Man in Beijing.
A savvy selection 
   When you stop to think about it — as both men apparently did — it shouldn’t be a surprise that Huntsman President Obama wanted Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman to be his new ambassador to China, and that Huntsman accepted the job.
   Republican Huntsman is the governor of the state that cast a smaller percentage of its votes for Democrat Obama than any state save Wyoming. But he is not a politician to be judged by his habitat
....
   Like Obama, Huntsman is an American whose thinking has been broadened by spending a formative part of his life abroad and who remains eager to engage all the peoples of the world. And China is one country that needs serious engaging.
   White House backgrounder. Official state of Utah Huntsman home page. Editorial reaction from The Salt Lake Tribune and two of its columnists, Rebecca Walsh and Sean "Culture Vulture" Means. From Deseret News Editorial Page Editor Jay Evensen. From The Guardian. A Huntsman profile from The New Republic. 
  Full disclosure: I met Jon Hunstman when I was an editorial writer for the aforesaid Salt Lake Tribune and he was getting elected governor. We endorsed him. I voted for the other guy. But I couldn't help but be impressed by the hopeful realism of someone who perceptively refers to raising children (he has seven) as "clinical trials." (His family fortune bankrolls a cancer research hospital, so he knows what the term means.) 

   We also call on the New York Legislature to humanize its laws governing the very human matter of divorce.
- When marriages fail
   Consider it one of the enduring inanities of Albany: The New York State Legislature appears to be on the verge of approving same-sex marriage but still won't budge on the matter of divorce. This state is in the forefront of the fight to allow gays and lesbians to marry, but won’t let anyone end a marriage without first being mauled by the state’s antiquated and punitive—and expensive—divorce laws.
   New York is the only state without a no-fault divorce system. To end a marriage here, either both parties must agree, and submit to a one-year separation, or one must accuse the other of cruel and inhuman treatment, adultery or, conversely, refusal to have sex for a year. The frequent results are prolonged proceedings, heightened animosity and, worst of all, children forced to choose sides as the angry process unfolds.

   Today's Another Voice column is from Angela Logomasini, who argues against the growing number of arguments against bottled water.
Paterson’s new ‘sin industry’: Bottled water?
   She's at -- where else -- http://enjoybottledwater.org/

   And the My View space goes to Maria J. Steuernagel of Perrysburg, a teacher, who reflects on the drive to lengthen the school day and/or school year.
Societal changes hurt student performance 
    Our school systems keep trying to fill the void, but how effective can they be when as a culture, we simultaneously devalue education while expecting it to fix a host of new and growing problems?

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News 

For torture before she was against it?

   According to the lead editorial in today's Buffalo News Opinion section, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi isn't serving any good cause by mixing up her stories about what she knew about CIA torture in the Bush administration and when she knew it.
- Pelosi’s permutations
   It would not be all that shocking to learn that, in 2002, Pelosi and other key members of Congress knew all about the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques”—spook-speak for torture—and not only Pelosi didn’t raise a finger to stop it, but cheered it on.
   But now that the world is slowly but surely regaining the composure that al-Qaida did so much to destroy, as we renounce torture and revive our loyalty to the rule of law, we have no time for a lot of self-serving revisionist history by anyone on either side of the debate.
   Just as it is not acceptable for Dick Cheney to claim that torture was both justified and useful—and expect us to just take his word for it—it is not acceptable for Pelosi to
splutter clumsily that the only reason she didn’t speak out against torture at the time is that the CIA lied to her.
  Associated Press analysis and video. Pelosi press release. Previous News editorial. 
  Related commentary from Leonard PittsDavid IgnatiusSusan EstrichEugene RobinsonCharles KrauthammerJay Bookman and Maureen Dowd.
  Editorials from Scripps News, The Las Vegas Review-Journal, The Portland Oregonian, The Boston Herald, The Los Angeles Times, The WashingtoPost and The Washington Times,    
       

   Also, we say, good for the Buffalo Public Schools for improvements in their state achievement tests:
-  Well-deserved praise
   On their own, the Buffalo scores were not overly impressive, but reaction by the education commissioner is noteworthy. Perhaps one day, Buffalo schools will move beyond a model of academic improvement to one of achievement.
   [Check out the searchable database here.]

   Today's Another Voice contribution is from Janet Trautwein, CEO of the National Association of Health Underwriters. She argues ‘Public option’ will kill private insurance. She also argues that that would be a bad thing.

   And the My View slot goes to Robert Shannon of Clarence, Celebrating the life of my second father. 

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News 

Healthy choices

   Leading off today's Buffalo News Opinion section, two editorials about health care issues:
 - First things first
   Here’s the first, and most important, test regarding the idea of building a children’s outpatient center on Childrenshospital the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus: Is it medically necessary?
   If an ambulatory outpost of Women and Children's Hospital is not medically necessary, then that should end the discussion. If it is needed, then planners at Kaleida Health and other stakeholder groups can deal with the inevitable follow-up issues: cost and community impact.

- Not just blowing smoke
   Barring an unexpected reversal, one of the long-term lunacies of American health regulation soon will be rectified as Congress and President Obama prepare to give the Food and Drug Administration authority over tobacco products.
   Govtrack.us summary and bill text are here. Roll call House vote is here. [Vote in the New York House delegation was 28-0 in favor.] The Web page that should soon be fired up again is here. Statements from sponsors Sen. Edward Kennedy and Rep. Henry Waxman and from supporter Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-Fairport. [Hard to find a posted statement from a congressman in opposition. Anybody throw me a link?] And the case against, from R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company.    

   And an Another Voice column from Dr. Michael Cropp, the CEO of insurer Independent Health:
-  Independent Health backs collaborative reform 
   Reversing the high cost of health care is a collective responsibility requiring visionary leadership; wide-ranging partnerships involving employers, consumers, community groups and not-for-profit organizations, elected officials and others; and renewed collaboration among the public and private sectors.

   And, in the My View slot, James Costa of Elma offers a prescription for a longer, and happier, life:
Let’s not be grouchy in our golden years 
   We’ve made it this far; many never do. So let’s celebrate our longevity and our families

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News     

Obama's decisive action

President Barack Obama's decisive action in replacing Gen. David D. McKiernan, top commander in Afghanistan, because things weren't going so well represents a marked difference -- and, so far, improvement -- from his predecessor.

Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal [right] will take over and while his record is not unblemished -- as his roleMcchrystal in the handling of the friendly-fire shooting of former NFL player Pat Tillman indicates -- it holds promise.

As today's lead editorial states, this may be "the first time a general was removed as commander of a theater of combat since Harry S. Truman sacked Douglas MacArthur during the Korean War." Contrast that to former president George W. Bush, who not only showed a reluctance to fire poor performers but sometimes went a step further in heaping praise, a la Michael Brown, despite the then-FEMA chief's mishandling of the Hurricane Katrina.

We may not approve of everything Obama does, although dear readers will disagree, but this piece of decision-making is right on target.

The Pentagon press release is here. Plus official biographies of Gens. McChrystal and McKiernan.   

-- Dawn Marie Bracely

Solar Power visit (with editorial board meeting audio)

New York Power Authority President Richard Kessel stopped by The News to reinforce the governor's announcement that the state's top power authorities will purchase up to 150 megawatts of solar power through a program designed to make the state the nation's second-largest solar power producer. And that means jobs, as Kessel said here. In fact, if this renewable energy initiative gets off the ground -- and there's no reason to think otherwise -- it could help transform Western New York.

Kessel talks about requests for interest here. Power officials are looking at an array of places to build such as municipalal buildings and methods such as central solar, as Kessel discussed here.

Futuristic? Optimistic? Naive? We've been called worse. There's reason for optimism, if not for the sheer sake of it all. But incentives for producers along the lines of a new partnership with General Electric Co. in Schenectady County, which is expected to create 350 manufacturing jobs , are worth considering. This area has plenty of skilled workers and Western New Yorkers are known for their strong work ethic.

The governor's focus on upstate New York and, more importantly, on jobs, is encouraging.

Dawn Marie Bracely/Editorial Writer

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