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New jobs ...

   The lead editorial on today's Buffalo News Opinion page -- Create more jobs -- sides with Erie County Executive Chris Collins [right] in his support for a new way to help finance several pending construction Collinsprofile projects now stuck on the drawing boards of various local nonprofits. And we agree that the plan should not be weighed down by pro-union rules proposed by some Democrats on the County Legislature.
   In an era when very little is being built, a demand that civic projects be held hostage to high and, for non-profits, unaffordable wage scales is hardly a favor to unemployed and under-employed workers. It simply serves to torpedo some of the few projects that would get them skilled jobs.
  
But, even though we support Collins' ends, we have some problems with his means.
   Collins doesn’t really help matters by getting down into the partisan dirt with his rivals, quickly reaching for the cudgel of how lawmakers who oppose him on this, or any, issue only embolden potential challengers in the next election.
   And, what do you know, three pages later, leading off the City and Region section, there he goes again.
- Collins airs ad blitz opposing prevailing wage 
   Also beginning today: a series of automated telephone calls — “robocalls” — urging taxpayers to contact their county lawmakers,
Chairwoman Lynn M. Marinelli in particular...
   Aides said that Collins’ new
political action committee* will spend $10,000 on radio advertising to promote his plan to let an arm of the Erie County Industrial Development Agency offer cheaper, tax-exempt financing to nonprofits for their expansions.
   
   Well. That's the way to calm the waters.

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

   * Technically, the above link is to Collins' old PAC, "Collins for our Future." His new one, "Taxpayers First," hasn't shown up on my search engines yet. I'm also in the market for a link to Collins' ad, either sound bite or script.

... Old master

Speaking of calm, our other editorial today joins the memorializing of Walter Cronkite.
Newsman and newspaperman 
   While the talking—and shouting—heads on the ever larger and flatter tube are doing their best to bask in the glow of the late Walter Cronkite, allow us newspaper types one point of personal privilege.Walter
   We had him first. And he never forgot it. ...
   Tellingly, he never claimed that even his own newscasts were all a person needed to be a well-informed citizen of the republic. He knew he presented a briefing, a headline service, to help busy people catch up and stay reasonably informed. For the full story, he said during and after his time at CBS, people have to read newspapers.
[He even taught us how.]

   Related: The New York Times obit [they're still the best in the biz] and appreciation. Memories from The Wall Street Journal, Roger SimonThe Houston ChronicleThe Cleveland Plain DealerCBS NewsThe Washington PostThe Huffington Post, Linda Ellerbee's Nick News [so that's what happened to her], Vermont Public Radio and, from beyond the grave, Kurt Vonnegut:
   Cronkite steps aside just as old newspapermen are becoming as legendary as cowboys. As young as this country is, we will have a rich mythology, by and by. Radio and television news began with old newspaper people. How else could they have begun?
   The noun "press" is now archaic as applied to news editors and reporters. Equally antique is the cliche that describes Walter Cronkite so well:
   "He has printer's ink in his veins."

   And that's the way it was.

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

  

The squandered stimulus

   On the second Opinion page of today's Buffalo News, Washington Post economic columnist Robert Samuelson says the problem with President Obama's economic stimulus package wasn't that it was too small or too big, but that it was too unfocused.
   - The squandered stimulus
   Spending increases and tax cuts are sprinkled in too many places and, all too often, are too delayed toAdamwaterbill do much good now. Nor do they concentrate on reviving the economy’s most depressed sectors: state and local governments, the housing and auto industries. None of this means the stimulus won’t help or precludes a recovery, but the help will be weaker than necessary.

Related commentary:
- The St. Louis Post-Dispatch
     Within 37 days of FDR's inauguration, he had proposed and Congress had enacted the CCC. On the 38th day, the corps began handing out shovels to hundreds of thousands of young men who worked for $30 a month planting trees, building fire roads and fire towers, digging irrigation ditches, restoring what the Dust Bowl had torn asunder.
   In today's world, we might get hearings in 37 days, but we wouldn't get a bill. The American shovel industry would have to be satisfied; foreign-made shovels might be allowed, but only if a reciprocal trade agreement were hammered out.
-
 The Memphis Commercial-Appeal 
   No one predicted instant success, but you wouldn't know that from the intensity of the criticism
-
The Detroit News
   Obama's stimulus plan is not working
The Schenectady Daily Gazette 
   Stimulus needs more time to do its work
The Philadelphia Inquirer 
   2nd stimulus? Not yet
The Arizona Daily Star 
   It's too soon to pull plug on federal stimulus

Related news:
- Stocks zigzag as Bernanke says Fed has game plan from The Buffalo News/AP 
Highway spending isn't the stimulus it was envisioned to be from The Los Angeles Times.
Pace of Decline Seems to Have Slowed, Fed Chief Says from The New York Times

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

Why do we even have a State Senate?

Today's top editorial characterizes Western New York's State Senate delegation as the weakest in memory. Wi th  our new system you can comment directly after the online version of that editorial, so I won't reopen that thread here (although, of course, in the anarchy of the blogosphere you may).

And before some of you just can't resist the usual knee-jerk comment about how can we criticize when we endorsed these folks, here's the obvious answer: Because they didn't run in a vacuum. When we endorsed an incumbent, it was because we thought he or she was the better choice. And often the challengers just  weren't up to the challenge; blame the political parties, which often don't field really attractive candidates in races they can't win (due to the incumbency-protection system the Legislature has erected), and often don't really fund the challengers they do field. So why do we endorse at all? Because we've always felt voters are faced with these choices so we ought to offer a recommendation. But, given recent history, I'm seriously rethinking that.

But back to the Senate, and the deeper question there: Why do we even have one?  In Congress, House seats are apportioned according to population but each state gets two senators no matter what its size, so there's one body based on population and another offering a regional check of that by representing each of the states of the Union separately. In New York, Assembly seats are apportioned according to population -- and so are Senate seats. It's not two per county, it's basically the same as the Assembly, only smaller.

The past argument is that the Republican Senate provided a check on the Democratic Assembly, but that's a circumstance, not a system. And it's not the circumstance now.

So should we change the rules (constitutionally), keep the status quo (and how's that been workin' for you lately), or just abolish the second house and save some money?

-Mike Vogel 

A collection of firsts and other unique happenings

With the first African-American President's recent address to the NAACP during its 100-year convention, this seems an appropriate time to celebrate milestones of "firsts."

As Pres. Barack Obama told the crowd at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, he was the beneficiary of those who came before him: W.E.B. DuBois to Thurgood Marshall to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Emmett Till.

They struggled so that others, such as himself, could thrive. And, yes, there is much more to be accomplished in the black community, as Obama pointed out.

But this month is shaping up for notable firsts. There is, for instance, the confirmation process for the Supreme Court's first Latina judge, Sonia Sotomayor. And there were these:

Below the article in The Buffalo News on Obama's speech to the NAACP is an article noting an all-female Marine Corps crew taking the president to Andrews Air Force Base. Maj. Jennifer Grieves' last day in the Marine One rotation, as the first female pilot of Marine One was marked with another first -- the presidential helicopter was flown by an all-female three-person crew.

On the opposite page, another first -- 17-year-old Zac Sunderland's first solo circumnavigation of the globe, making the Californian the youngest person to sail around the world alone, leaving Marina del Rey on June 14, 2008, at age 16 and growing a year older and a year wiser. Sunderland spoke of his encounters with stark poverty: "In other countries, 13 people are living in a dirt hut and when you meet them, they're the most kindest, generous people."


And then there's 15-year-old Kimberly Anyadike of Los Angeles who recently became the youngest African-American female to complete a solo flight across the United States, navigating a single-engine Cessna with an adult safety pilot, 87-year-old Levi Thornhill, who served with the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II.

Said Anyadike:  “I wanted to inspire other kids to really believe in themselves.” And she wanted to honor the Tuskegee Airmen -- the U.S. Army Air Corps’ all-black combat unit that served during World War II. She did both with honor.

"Firsts" and "youngests" can sometimes seem overwrought, but the importance of blazing a path for others can never be overstated.

Dawn Marie Bracely/Editorial Writer

Editorial: Government consolidation law

New York now has a new government reorganization law that makes it a lot easier for local governments to consider (voluntarily) mergers and consolidations. It also makes it a lot easier for citizens to demand that they do, through a petition and referendum process. And county governments can take a leadership role by pointing out where streamlining and efficiencies can be found.

Cuomo State Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo (left) deserves credit for a carefully thought-out law, and for skillfully navigating the political waters to get it passed. Now we'll see who steps up to take advantage of the improvements.

The law is the focus of our editorial today, and we've included links to the law and to "how-to" guides as well.

Think there will be any takers?

End political pressure

   The lead editorial in today's Buffalo News takes a very dim view of some of the latest goings-on at Buffalo City Hall.Tanya
- End political pressure
   As reported in The Buffalo News Monday, several City Hall employees have received weekly e-mails from the commissioner, Tanya Perrin-Johnson [right], basically assigning them extra—unpaid—duties and hours on behalf of Brown’s reelection campaign.
   ... This reeks of nothing but a clear violation of both the City Charter and the city’s own Code of Ethics, both of which forbid any abuse of a city official’s position to command political activity or to extort personal favors.
   News follow-ups from Tuesday and Wednesday.  

   Also on today's Opinion page:
Girls should face off
   Buffalo News editorial
   It’s hard to imagine, in some ways, that girls’ hockey remains a backwater in this region’s high school sports programs. Whatever the reason, the problem will soon be solved if plans to create a regional girls’ varsity ice hockey league come to fruition. Prospects are encouraging.
   News background.

-  Medical bankruptcies must factor into debate 
   by Jeffrey Freedman
   Today, too many Americans are just one serious illness away from bankruptcy. Most health insurance policies have loopholes, copayments and deductibles that can bankrupt a family in a short time.
   Harvard, Ohio University study.

- Let’s rename Buffalo the Emerald City 
   by Frank J. Hotchkiss/The Apollo Alliance 
   Buffalo and the surrounding region have the potential to become the greenest location on the Great Lakes. The Emerald City will be the city that recognized the opportunity and seized the moment to build the yellow brick road to prosperity as the largest green manufacturing and services city in the United States.

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News  

Trials and tributes

   The Thursday edition of The Buffalo News Opinion page holds forth thus:

- No pay for no work
   Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli announced last week that, despite questionable constitutionality, he would withhold the pay of senators until they resolved the power struggle that has paralyzed government in New York. It’s hardly unfair. According to DiNapoli, the standoff has cost local governments $741 million, New York City $902 million and the state $1.3 billion. If senators don’t care about that, maybe they’ll care about having their paychecks withheld.
   Latest news. Editorial commentary from Newsday [Gov. David Paterson rolled a metaphorical grenade into the State Senate yesterday, blowing up power-sharing negotiations between the deadlocked sides.] The New York Times [The Governor's Mr. Fix-It], The New York PostThe New York Daily News [a bold and masterful stroke], The Albany Times-Union [The Senate, which in fact has not been discharging its own constitutional duty for the past month, asked for this.]    

- Gibson leaves legacy of activism
   The East Side community activist who died last week at the age of 78 tended more than flowers and Rosa vegetables, she tended the civic life of Buffalo. Founder of a neighborhood Crime Watch program, leader of the Community Action Information Center and former president of the Concerned Citizens of Masten Park Community Block Club No. 1, [Rosa] Gibson was a tireless advocate of the real people who live in Buffalo, too often below the radar of public officials of all levels and stripes.
   News articleObituary.   

- Planning board foes condemn our region to decline
   by George Grasser
   News background. Our editorial. Donn Esmonde column. County executive's statement.   

- Using the written word in tribute to a teacher
   by Kevin J. McCue
   I traveled down to Allegany in October last year to visit an old friend. After lunch, I drove up the street to visit my alma mater: St. Bonaventure University. Nostalgia enveloped me as I crossed the bridge and spied the lovely venerable brick buildings off to my right.

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News 

Cleaning up messes.

   Today's Buffalo News Opinion page sez:

- Honduras poses a test
   President Obama is facing his toughest test yet in Central America, the June 28 coup against Honduras President Manuel Zelaya in Honduras [right]. Whether he passes that test may depend upon how he responds to baiting by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
  
[News update. Editorial commentary from The Arizona RepublicThe Dallas Morning NewsThe Poughkeepsie JournalThe Nation and The Wall Street Journal. Statements from The White House and SoS Hillary Clinton's news conference with video.]     

- Improve jail care
    There have been far too many suggestions in recent years that people in the custody of the Erie County Holding Center were not getting the kind of attention they need. ... That’s why it is good news that the Erie County Legislature, at the urging of County Executive Chris Collins, has moved to put the county’s doctor — Health Commissioner Anthony J. Billittier IV — in charge of the health care provided to the inmates of the downtown holding center and the Erie County Correctional Facility in Alden.

State must change rules on lieutenant governorship 
   by State Assemblyman Robin Schimminger
   A little over a year ago, the Rockefeller Institute of Government held a public policy forum on “Gubernatorial Succession and the Powers of the Lieutenant Governor.” We were then two months into the current vacancy in the lieutenant governor’s office created when then-Lt.Gov. David A. Paterson replaced Eliot L. Spitzer as governor.

-  Mom’s love of garden finally takes root 
   by Pam Henel
   It is a labor of love to tend a garden, or a child. It requires time, thought, and diligence. It especially requires patience, waiting and watching as your plants or children grow. Truly a labor of love, but the rewards are bountiful, and bring joy to your soul.

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News
[Map of Honduras from www.cia.gov and its World Factbook, one of the coolest Web sites out there.]   

It might have been

   While the federal government was basically doing for the big national banks what those young "escorts" were doing for Eliot Spitzer, Spitzer [right] was trying to do something about it. About the Spitzerbetter banks, that is. The Bush administration and the federal courts wouldn't let him.
   Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court said Spitzer was right and the feds were wrong. [Article.  Ruling.  Poem.]
   In today's lead editorial -- Victory too late -- The Buffalo News argues that if Spitzer's probe investigation had stopped the practices of some banks to steer minority families into high-interest, high-risk mortgages, it might have prevented, or at least eased, the global financial meltdown that resulted from the burst of the housing bubble.
   It is a case of closing the barn door, for sure. But it demonstrates that, when it comes to making sure banks don’t cause the downfall of the whole economy, the more eyes on them, the better.

   Also on today's Opinion page
- Locking through
   If it was important to Buffalo to restore the western terminus of the Erie Canal, imagine what it means to Lockport — and the rest of Western New York — to rehabilitate the canal’s famous "Flight of Five" locks in the city. This is an important project and it is now under way. [ArticleHistory.]  
- Allegany State Park needs a good master plan 
   By Larry Beahan
Bingo tradition is humbly assumed 
   By Stefan Mychajliw

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News 
  

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