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Planning. Judging. Relaxing.

   The top and the bottom of today's Buffalo News Opinion page take local officials to task for their inability -- make that outright refusal -- to plan and govern as one community instead of dozens of rival fiefdoms.
   The lead editorial -- Planning opportunity lost -- criticizes Erie County Executive Chris Collins for vetoing, and the Erie County Legislature for failing to override the veto of -- a measure that would have finally created a county planning commission. Collins' argument that it would be an expensive and unneeded extra layer of government falters when compared to the expensive and unreasonable situation as it is.
   The status quo virtually begs each municipality to engage in the kind of zoning-for-dollars that approves the next big-box store or housing subdivision without regard for the damage it might do to existing developments and the strain it might put on roads, utilities, law enforcement, schools and other tax-supported services. 
   The Another Voice column -- Collaboration, not competition, is critical -- is an offering from William H. Hudnut III [right], former Buffalo resident who later served 16 years as mayor of the unified city-county Hudnut government of Indianapolis -- and was a key player in stealing, er, luring the NFL's Colts away from Baltimore. So he knows something about urban development. And he also is unhappy with the local resistance to community-wide planning.
   Today, regions compete, not cities. Therefore, municipal entities within a region — that is, in the same commuter shed where people read the same papers, listen to the same news and root for the same teams, the Sabres and the Bills — must learn to work together to be competitive.

   The second editorial -- Court shows good judgment -- praises last week's 8-1 Supreme Court ruling that found the strip-searching of an Arizona teenager by middle school officials looking for extra-strength Advil was a violation of the Constitution's prohibition of "unreasonable searches."
   The court made the right call on this one. It did so, not just because its members can read the law, but because at least eight of them can imagine what it must be like to be a helpless child psychically violated by a powerful adult.
   All the other opinions I can find -- including those offered by The New York TimesThe Tulsa WorldThe Los Angeles TimesThe Seattle Times and The Marysville (Calif.) Appeal-Democrat -- suggest that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is about the only person in the country who didn't have a problem with such abuse of a child.Axlerod

   And, in today's relaxing My View column -- Relaxing with Yoda at the Jell-O factory  -- Williamsville's Harvey Axelrod [right] explains the benefits, and the hazards, of a good massage.
   Massage can reduce your blood pressure and leave you lightheaded. One of the side effects is that afterward, you are so extremely relaxed, you have to get off the table slowly. In fact, you are so relaxed that you have to be very careful driving home. Road rage after a massage is unthinkable.

   Maybe they should try that in Albany.

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News. 


Clearing the air

   Two different ways of improving what's in our air are subjects of discussion on today's Buffalo News Opinion page.

   The lead editorial -- The smoke clears -- praises Congress for passing and President Obama forSmoke signing the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. [All of Western New York's representatives voted for it. So did both of our senators.] Even though it doesn't go as far as many would like in meting out justice to the purveyors of coffin nails.
   The new law is, to a large degree, a deal with the devils. It makes no attempt to put Altria, R.J. Reynolds or Lorillard out of business. ... Nobody needs the failure of another Prohibition. ... But the FDA now can and will ban youth-targeting tricks such as candy-flavored cigarettes and marketing aimed at children. This is crucial, as most people who smoke picked up the habit before they were 18 years old – that is, when they were breaking the law to do so.
   Other editorials on the subject from
- The San Francisco Chronicle: The nation is left with an oddity: a Washington health agency charged with overseeing a deadly product.
- The Charlotte [N.C.] Observer: This has been a hard lesson to learn in North Carolina, which still takes pride in producing some of the world's best tobacco. But the ugly fact is that tobacco kills. Congress knew that, and did the right thing. 
- The Miami Herald, The Grand Rapids [Mich.] Press, The Kansas City Star, and The Daily Gazette in Schenectady.

   This week's offering from the Buffalo News Washington columnist Douglas Turner -- Clean energy bill will be difficult to vote for -- describes what went on inside the sausage factory as the House amended and passed the heavily compromised climate change bill.
   The 1,200-page American Clean Energy and Security Act is a mighty hard bill to vote for. ... it is a monster, driven in part by zealots, that creates new networks of expensive and conflicting bureaucracies. It is not just another Clean Air Act. The measure touches almost every aspect of private life in the United States except human sexuality and pet grooming.
(WNY vote: Louise Slaughter [D-Fairport] and Brian Higgins [D-Buffalo], yea; Chris Lee [R-Clarence] and Eric Massa [D-Corning], nay.)
   Other editorial comment:
- The Washington Post Action on climate change is overdue. But is this the best we can hope for?
The Philadelphia Inquirer If the United States is going to be the world leader in fighting global warming, it needs to walk the walk.
The Washington Times Because of its obvious negative impact on the economy, cap-and-trade is a hard sell even with large Democratic majorities.
- New York Times columnist Paul Krugman: We’re facing a clear and present danger to our way of life, perhaps even to civilization itself. How can anyone justify failing to act?

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News    

What we owe vets. What we want from airlines.

   The lead editorial in today's Buffalo News Opinion section welcomes the 3,000 American veterans who have come to Buffalo for the annual convention of the New York Veterans of Foreign Wars. And calls for Vfw_logo_large the reform of the seriously underfunded and undermanned system that is supposed to provide injured veterans with the benefits they have earned.
The welcome they want
   Some things are fundamentally wrong. One is the dubious milestone of 1 million outstanding claims the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is poised to reach.
   [Here's a little bit of good news for veterans from the stimulus file.]

  The second editorial supports a bill proposed by U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., that would make it more obvious to people booking flights online when part of their journey will be aboard a regional carrier, rather than the national airline whose name is on the cocktail napkins.
-  What airline? (What plane?)
   We’d make an additional suggestion. Web sites should also be required to prominently disclose the type of aircraft, specifically noting if it is a turbo jet or propeller jet. Air passengers should have the right to that kind of information before wading deeply into the online reservation system.
   [More news here.]

   Today's Another Voice comes from the throat of Brock University professor Michael J. Armstrong. He argues that American food processors lose a lot of money by not paying more attention to food safety.
- Ensuring quality is cheaper than the alternative
  As another food recall hits the news, I have to ask: How many businesses can afford to lose $25 million during a recession?

   And the My View space today belongs to Snyder's Susan Asquith [right], who considers the ups andAsquith downs of Facebook.
 Social networking sites carry pulse of society
   For as quickly as good news can spread, the bad spreads even faster. You can’t ignore the fact that once information is posted to the Internet, it’s there for eternity. Now this might be quite appealing for future cosmic generations who will be able to read volumes of electronic transmissions from all points of the world. Will these cryptic electronic transmissions be the ancient scrolls of our time?

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

Where are the adults?

   What's the New York State Senate but another reason to move to Canada?
- From today's Buffalo News editorial, Where are the adults?:
   Were any legislative body in, say, Canada, or any other nation with a parliamentary system, mired in Hitem such disarray, the head of state would have dissolved the body weeks ago and called new elections. But under our three-branch system, all that hapless Gov. David A. Paterson has the power to do is order this clown circus to keep meeting, and meeting, and meeting, in hopes that one side or the other will eventually come to its senses, or collapse, and allow the people’s business to be done.
   Fat chance.
   [News update]

Other opinionators weigh in:
- Newsday: New York State needs a constitutional convention. Just make sure there are no legislators at it.
- The New York Times published just such a call from former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani: Putting New York Back Together. Paterson agrees.  
- New York Daily News: Take their pay 
- New York Post, in an editorial headlined David has an idea, suggests that enough members of the Senate are under investigation for alleged crimes that the log jam could be broken by busting a few of them. [Example.]
- The Albany Times-Union: A roadmap to sanity could include mediation and bipartisan leadership.
- The Syracuse Post-Standard: Bad Theater: Who will step up to bring Senate to its senses?
- The Niagara Gazette: Senate question must have answer Senators, the first day was interesting. The second day was confusing. The days thereafter were just ridiculous. Figure out who’s in charge and get back to work. And do it today.

   The Gazette is right. It's not even funny anymore. And certainly not as interesting as what's going on in South Carolina, where the governor lit off to Argentina to see his girlfriend.
   Hit it, Sarah.


-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

Swine flu hits home

   An editorial in today's Buffalo News mourns the loss of a local teenager to complications rising from a case of the H1N1 influenza virus, popularly known as swine flu. It also argues that individuals and households, as least as much as any school or public official, must take responsibility for stopping the spread of this feared disease.
- Swine flu hits home
   Somewhere between complacency and panic comes vigilance. And that is what is necessary in dealing with the threat of a strain of influenza that Saturday claimed the life of a Buffalo teenager.

   The U.S. Centers for Disease Control offers lots of online advice about dealing with the flu. Click the picture below to get there. 

Keep your sick kids home from school. Visit for more information.

   Other editorials on the subject, with varying levels of panic, from:
- The Fort Morgan (Colo.) Times: Flu news no cause for panic 
- The Ventura County (Calif.) Star: H1N1 virus is on the move 
- The Santa Rosa (Calif.) Press Democrat: Still at risk 
- The Minneapolis Star-Tribune: Guarding against flu complacency
- The Times of India: Swine Flu Alert
- The Timaru (New Zealand) Herald: No more room for scepticism (And, if all this flu stuff isn't enough, the Kiwi paper also offers this bit of scary news: Whooping cough epidemic coming.)
- And some advice from Someone Who Knows What They Are Talking About in The Washington Post: Pandemic Reality Check

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News 

Powerless in Albany

     The gridlock that has overtaken the New York capital is again the focus of much editorial consternation today.
- The Buffalo News Powerless in Albany
   Amid the chaos engendered by the political circus dominating state government, perhaps the ultimateDam power play is this: Unless the Senate gets its act together immediately, 333,000 jobs across the state and more than 16,000 jobs in Western New York may be at some measure of risk.
   That’s because two key electrical power programs that benefit 570 New York companies—including 94 here—will expire June 30 unless they’re extended. And even though that wouldn’t necessarily translate immediately or totally into job losses, businesses already reeling from the recession could be dealt another unwelcome, and unnecessary, blow.
The New York Times Get back to work, Albany
   The New York State Senate has been deadlocked for more than two weeks. That means that New York taxpayers have forked out hundreds of thousands of dollars in salaries to 62 idle senators. That means anxiety is rising in communities that have bonds and taxes and jobs programs dependent on bills that are stalled somewhere in Senate chambers. That means citizens are getting fed up, with more than half of New Yorkers telling the Siena Research Institute pollsters that this impasse is a “farce” and “an embarrassment.” It is time for those on New York’s public payroll to get back to work.
- The New York Daily News Chamber of horrors
   Get them into the chamber, Gov. Paterson, and nail their juvenile derrieres to the chairs for as long as it takes to force these 62 sorry excuses for senators to live up to their oaths. Get them there today. And tomorrow. And every single day, seven days a week, weekends and holidays included, as retribution for their irresponsibility.
Newsday Top Paterson officials leaving Albany circus
   Albany-watchers have been caught up in the spectacle at the center ring of this circus - the State Senate deadlock. But there's a sideshow in the governor's office that's at least as destabilizing.
   Gov. David A. Paterson's administration has been rapidly losing people in key positions since April. Just as $2 billion in federal stimulus money should be flowing to shovel-ready transportation projects around New York, the state Department of Transportation commissioner has resigned and has not been replaced. Likewise, the insurance superintendent is leaving next week, with no replacement in sight. And two of the three highest-ranking officials of the Empire State Development Corp. - which spurs business expansion - have resigned.
New York Post  The Senate vs. the kids
   The state Senate remained in unholy deadlock yesterday, with the likelihood of more of the same today. Meanwhile, each day that the body fails to renew the law that put the mayor in charge of city schools, new reasons emerge for them to do just that.
The Albany Times-Union's Eric DuvallMario
   That's it. I've officially run out of words to describe our state government.
   I doubt I can find any more sarcastic [epithets] to describe Albany politics.
   It's a new personal low, but they pay me to write even on days like this.
   We have elected children. Overgrown third-graders are running this state. It reminds me of my childhood, when I fought with my brother over who got to use the Nintendo. I used to turn out the lights and refuse to do chores until someone vindicated my position, that it was my turn to play "Super Mario Brothers."
The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle has even created a separate blog -- Fed up with Albany.

News updates herehere and here. 

Buckle up.

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News 

Reshaping the former AM&A's department store

An editorial today ponders the fate of the former AM&A's department store and plans by a local developer, Rocco Termini, to reshape it. Termini has already converted three former AM&A's warehouse buildings behind the store into apartments and office space. He's is hoping for an estimated $80 million to $100 million in public help for the Main Street structure.

Is the effort to restore a building central to downtown worthwhile?

Dawn Marie Bracely/Editorial Writer

Columnists: Pro-Obama media bias

You folks had such a good time with E.J. Dionne's column charing the media with conservative bias that I thought I'd point out this one, as well.

In today's Viewpoints section, liberal columnist Susan Estrich worries that ABC-TV's decision to anchor a newscast and prime-time special from the East Room of the White House might be perceived by some viewers as putting the network not just in Obama's house but firmly in his camp. Gee, ya think?

Anyway, Estrich trusts ABC but worries about the perception of bias: "But it's what people see that worries me, and what people are saying about it that should ultimately trouble defenders of a free press. What they'll see is a joint production of the Obama White House and a group of supposedly independent journalists. They'll see the media not covering the White House, but dressing it; not reviewing the show, but hosting it. What is said matters less than what is seen."

She also has some interesting things to say about the power of the media in Washington.

What do you think about ABC's decision -- and about Estrich's take on it?

-Mike Vogel

Program note: The Paragraph Factory

For those of you who watch this space for The Paragraph Factory, our (hopefully) monthly live chat on the art of writing  -- sorry. Scheduling and workload issues have kept Charity and I from coinciding long enough to host the chat during the past few weeks.

But we're going to try again soon. We're now planning to be on line for that conversation at 2 p.m. Tuesday, July 7. Hope you'll join us!

-Mike Vogel

Upstate Focus: Albany's unfinished business

The power struggle in New York's Senate has paralyzed that body when it comes to actually doing the work taxpayers pay them for. The Assembly has been in session and passing bills, but it too is distracted. There's a lot that needs to be done, and the end of the legislative session looms.

Newspapers across upstate have editorialized on that, but today several will be revisiting that topic as part of the Upstate Focus project, in which newspapers publish their independently-reached opinions on a topic of mutual concern. In the interests of full disclosure, this seventh topic in the series also includes some editorials that ran within the past couple of days, in newspapers that couldn't so quickly revisit the topic.

The full set of editorials is at ; if you'd like to comment, here's your chance.

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