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2009: The year reality bit

   New Year's Eve. Time to look back in anger. Joy. Sadness. Confusion. Bemusement. I-told-you-so-ism. Willfull forgetfulness. Etc.

- The Buffalo News: It all began with so much hope.
   Newswise, 2009 opened with the inauguration of a new president. He was a young, vigorous man with aYearinreview beautiful family, an exotic heritage and a uniquely American success story propelling him to the highest office in the land, which made that bright January day shine with even more promise.
   Of course, it did not take long for reality to return.
- The Rutland Herald: The year 2009 has been the year when the United States began to shake itself out of a feeling of helplessness, the sense that the nation was powerless to address the deterioration of bridges and roads, schools, health care and so much else. It has been the year when we took the first steps toward reviving the nation. It is a struggle, and it always will be. But it is one we happily take up. 
- The New York Daily News: And the losers are: Announcing the Daily News' prize Knuckleheads of 2009.
- Gail Collins, NYTimes: No matter how difficult the issue, Obama has been sensible, deliberative. Just look at Dick Cheney swooping around like a dementor from Harry Potter, and you have to appreciate how much things have improved.
- The Dallas Morning News offers a Texas take that half-way resonates everywhere: Their economy has been good. Their politics, not so.
   A few editorialistias are already looking forward:
- The Los Angeles Times: Government intervention in the economy most likely prevented a worse recession. But the Obama administration should articulate an exit strategy.
- The New York Times: The entire Legislature is up for re-election in 2010. And unless there is a sudden turnaround — and, so far, we see few signs of it — New Yorkers have no choice but to vote out all the lawmakers and start over.
- The Chicago Tribune: We will be amazed -- and appalled. And that's a prediction guaranteed to come true.

Happy.

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News
  

Violence above ...

    But what already is apparent is that there was a mix of human and systemic failures that contributed to this potential catastrophic breach of security.  We need to learn from this episode and act quickly to fix the flaws in our system, because our security is at stake and lives are at stake.

   Man. It's been hard to do our editorial duty to View With Great Alarm the circumstances leading up to the Christmas Day plot to blow up an airliner over Detroit. Not only do new facts keep burbling up. The president himself -- see above -- has been lambasting the situation pretty well all by himself.
   Of course, we all soldier on as best we can:
- The Buffalo News: There are two main ways to avoid the trap of living in fear. One is to do all the Getagrip reasonable things that can be done to make it much more difficult for the next terrorist with a death wish to even get on board another airliner. The other is to refrain from unreasonable steps.
-
The New York Times: But as this case makes chillingly clear, the airport security systems put in place after the Sept. 11 attacks — complicated, expensive and hugely onerous for travelers — have serious flaws. And so do the bureaucracies that run them.
- The New York Daily News: It's time to get a grip, Mr. President.
- The Washington Post: ... we want to shine a light on the stunning breakdown in communication among the State Department, the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) and the British government that allowed Mr. Abdulmutallab to buy a ticket in the first place.
- The Detroit Free Press: This is what terrorism is about: making ordinary citizens fear that their lives are in danger while they do ordinary things.
- The Chicago Tribune: Despite $40 billion in airline security upgrades since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the best anti-terror device at play on Christmas Day was good fortune. We got lucky.
The Hutchinson News: At what point do we decide that all the security designed for every specific kind of attack is less effective than it is just making travel absolutely miserable for the traveling public?
- The Salt Lake Tribune: People who travel will not accept more inconveniences in the name of security without reasoned assurances that they do some good. Nor should they.   
- The Wall Street Journal: If the goal is to have a "nimble, responsive" TSA, a non-union work force makes more sense. [Hey. I can't help it if the WSJ editorial page is more afraid of labor unions than of terrorists.]

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

... violence below

   The second editorial on today's Buffalo News Opinion page also examines what we Americans can and should do to deal with terror in other countries. This brand of violence, the bloody drug cartels that increasingly rule large swaths of Mexico, can clearly be traced to the streets of the United States.

- U.S. fuels Mexico drug violence
   It is a situation that will only get worse until the United States manages to control its insatiable appetite for the heroin, marijuana and cocaine that makes the drug lords, of many countries, rich beyond their wildest dreams. And that appetite will not be controlled until American leaders abandon their own harsh anti-drug policies and replace them with prevention and treatment regimes that are the only prayer we have of getting to the root of the problem.
   Some useful background from The Associated Press is here.

   Else-Web:
- The San Francisco Chronicle: It's telling that Leyva's defeat came at the hands of the Mexican navy. Both Mexico's far-larger army and its police force are riddled with turncoats and cartel agents. If Calderon can'tShootout trust his own forces, how can he hope to win this long, painful war of attrition?
- The Washington Post: This tragedy should serve as a reminder of why the United States must remain a strong and unwavering partner to Mexico in combating the increasingly ruthless cartels.
- The Washington Missourian: The truth is our country bears much responsibility for the drug problem in Mexico. Our country provides the market for most of the illegal drugs produced in Mexico along with the flow of guns south of the border. Local law enforcement officials can attest that much of the drugs available in Franklin County come from Mexico.
- The Salina Journal: Arrest a rapist or murderer, and the number of rapes and murders in an area will go down. Arrest a doper, and all you've done is create a job opening for some other entrepreneur.
- The Pensacola News-Journal: For years, critics of the U.S. war on drugs — which has utterly failed to stop the flow of marijuana and other illicit substances — have warned that the huge amounts of money generated by the drug trade will fertilize corruption on this side of the border.
   It's happening.

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News


  
 
   

Emergency calls. Casting calls.

   The lead editorial in today's Buffalo News Opinion section argues that the Erie County 911 emergency telephone system needs to catch up to current technology.
- 911 needs upgrades
    There’s no telling whether a frantic 911 cell phone call by a woman screaming for help as fire tore through her Cheektowaga home would have turned out differently, had it not been sent on a circuitous route throughout an outdated system ill-equipped to handle emergency phone calls with the same speed and efficiency as those made from land line phones.
   Similar problems in the area have been documented before, with less tragic results, and we've previously called for the merger of the county's 22 -- that's right, 22 -- public safety answering points.
   Apparently, there are systems that can trace 911 calls made from cell phones, as in:
- Catoosa to get 911 upgrade - The Chattanooga Times Free Press
   Sheriff Phil Summers detailed the system’s capabilities for the commission. He said it can track a cell phone to within about 10 feet of the call, while the current system can’t locate a signal at all. The system also will have the capabilities with a future expansion to receive text messages, officials said.

   The second editorial surveys the field in the 2010 New York governor's race -- the year is almost here -- now that former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani has dropped out:
- Race for governor widens
    ... there is now potential for a wide-open field and that’s not always a bad thing, especially for Collinsmug Republicans in a state that is in desperate need of an infusion of some new blood and adrenaline.
   And, right on cue, here's a story from today's City & Region section:
- Collins is urged to run for governor
    While some Republican Party leaders in New York have lined up behind Rick Lazio for governor, Republican Party chairmen from 15 counties say they want Chris Collins [right] to run. ...
   Collins has hired
a public relations firm rooted in New York City to get his name around and help him launch a statewide campaign. In his own statement, he said he will announce his decision “very soon,” which is expected to be around the middle of January.
   Those flaks will have their jobs cut out for them explaining away some of Collins' serious baggage - or what would be serious baggage in a civilized society.
   Interesting, too, is what may be a Freudian typo in this NY Daily News blog about Collins and his political ambitions, referring to his campaign committee as "Collins or Our Future." You mean we have a choice?

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

  

Thinking globally, acting in Lockport

   The lead editorial in today's Buffalo News Opinion section is our take on the Copenhagen climate summit that concluded, somewhat anti-climactically -- but a little bit pro-climately -- earlier this month: Not much, but better than nothing:
- Moving ahead on climate
   The United States must now continue its leadership on this score, not only at conference tables butImsorry also, and perhaps more importantly, in laboratories and universities. It is there that the technological solutions to this problem, the ways to power a 21st century economy without 18th century smokestacks, will be developed, offered to the world and make the United States the global climate savior it always should have been.
   The official White House takeaway: "A Meaningful and Unprecedented Breakthrough Here in Copenhagen"
   Editorial views from The Los Angeles Times [U.S. must lead], The Syracuse Post-Standard [It's everyone's responsibility], The Oklahoman [It's all a load of liberal guilt.], The Louisville Courier-Journal [Obama did well just to avoid collapse.], and The Cleveland Plain Dealer [Nice side deal on U.S.-Russian arms.]

   The second eddie is at least something that's a little easier to get your head around.
- A vision in Lockport
   Just when it seemed as if a small section of Genesee and Locust streets in the City of Lockport would end up another statistic among run-down, violence-plagued neighborhoods, hard work by dedicated community activists and the intervention of a Syracuse nonprofit organization may wind up saving the day.
   Background from The Buffalo News and The Lockport Union-Sun & Journal.

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News
  [AP Photo above is a Greenpeace billboard in the Copenhagen airport, showing a computer-aged photo of Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva as he might look in the year 2020. Which gives us a song cue to go out on.]
   

Fly away, fly away, fly away ... drop

   The lead editorial in today's Buffalo News Opinion section expresses happiness that the feds are cracking down on airlines that occasionally leave their passengers stranded on the tarmac for hour upon hour. Such delays will be limited to three hours, and hefty fines are promised for violations.
- Holiday gift to flyers
    Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and the U.S. Department of Transportation should be credited for Airplane their rule-making process that led to landmark passenger protections, scheduled to go into effect in 120 days....
   According to Kevin Mitchell of the Business Travel Coalition, the most significant implication of this three-hour rule is that it will not work at the three New York City area air-ports, and overscheduled major hubs, unless airlines rationalize and depeak their schedules and operations....
   Opponents of the new rule will argue, as does the Air Transport Association President and CEO James May, that the new requirement goes against the concept of completing as many flights as possible.
   Those who have been—or will be—stuck on those planes tend to disagree.

   Other newspapers taking off on the subject include, in the pro column, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Lincoln (Neb.) Journal-Star, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Houston Chronicle business columnist [For perhaps the first time in the history of our republic, the government has had to tell a private industry it must let paying customers use the bathroom.], The Baltimore Sun, The Boston Globe, The San Jose Mercury News, The Portland (Maine) Press-Herald, the wonderfully named, and very near LAX, Torrance Daily Breeze and The New York Times [which makes up for a silly, pop-culture headline with an allusion in its text to Samuel Beckett - or maybe the other way around].
    The banner for the other side is taken up by a couple of newspapers that also live near some really busy airports, The Los Angeles Times and, in an editorial and a column, The Chicago Tribune. They contend that the rule is likely to backfire, leaving even more people stranded, just in the terminal instead of on the plane.

   Our second editorial for Christmas Eve is pleased with the Santas who have rescued the New Year's Eve Balldrop ball drop in Buffalo's Roosevelt Square. [Two happy editorials in one day? Yes, Virginia.]
- The show goes on
   The Buffalo Sabres Foundation and Upstate New York Transplant Services rode to the event’s rescue over the weekend, ponying up enough money to cover the shortfall and ensuring that the show will go on.

   And, as it says on the Maine Today home page: It's beginning to look a lot like your winter holiday of preference.

   Merry.

- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

Fixing a hole in downtown Buffalo

   Today's editorial is all about hope, hope that someone -- several someones, actually -- will finally do something about the blight that is the former AM&A department store on Main Street.

- Full speed on AM&A's
    With a real effort now on hand, it would be wise to do everything possible to accomplish what has not been possible to accomplish in the past. This kind of uphill battle requires innovation, determination and Newam&a  
know-how. Enter Rocco J. Termini. The community should rally around his effort.
    A combination of state and federal historic tax credits and new market tax credits plays a significant role in this project, and without recent state legislation for those historic tax credits there may not have been anything to consider. A project of this capacity requires incentives and is deserving of public support.

   Termini's main ally in the project is the health care and hotel management outfit, The Hamister Group, which now lives in one of those suburban buildings that sort of tries to look like a real, quality old building. Like the AM&A used to be, and could be again.
   [If it all comes together, can we call the bridge that runs over Main Street the Hamister tube? Please?]
   The other heavyweight in the deal is the chain of Hilton Garden Inns.
   Of course, the taxpayers are expected to invest, too. Through tax credits offered through the National Park Service and The New York State Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and cold hard cash from the New York Upstate Regional Blueprint Fund.
    Well worth every dime.

   Meanwhile, other historic buildings being rebuilt with help from tax credits can be found in
- Cleveland: Three northeast Ohio projects, including ASM headquarters and dome, win state tax credits
- Raleigh: New art museum takes shape soon
-
Portsmouth: Horizon House Receives Historic Preservation Tax Credit 
-
Bastrop: Funding announced for Historic Bastrop High project
   And, maybe,
- Detroit: Tax credit legislation for Broderick Tower, Taubman Center for Design await governor’s signature  

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

Hit it, guys:

It's enough to make you sick

  While the U.S. Senate votes and votes and votes some more on the health care reform bill, editorial boards from around the country cast their ballots.
   There is a scattering of opinion across the board. But, clearly, the nays are firm and heart-felt, while the yeas are a better-than-nothing grasp. [The take from The Washington Post is so reluctant that it doesn't really belong in either column.]

Nay:
- The Buffalo News - This was supposed to be the moment for health care reform but, much as it pains us to say it, President Obama and Congress — Democrats and Republicans — have badly missed the Senatorshealthcare opportunity. They need to start over.
- The Capital Times - Senate's health reform bill abandons half the population.
- The Dallas Morning News - What this bill doesn't do is bend the cost curve, in the vernacular of the day. It offers experiments and suggestions and even creates a commission to review Medicare growth rates. But it won't control the growth in medical costs that President Barack Obama says is essential to easing the burden health care puts on the economy and the federal budget.
- The Salt Lake Tribune - If you think that a Christmas gift to the insurance companies counts as health care reform, then you should love the Senate bill. We don't.
- The Deseret News - What the Senate will pass this week is a brilliant political document. But it is a pathetic health care bill.
-
The Denver Post - Better to take up the quest for true health care reform next year and try once again to craft meaningful legislation than to accept this ghastly gift to the insurance industry and hodgepodge of pricey perks to legislators.
-
The Oklahoman - Think of it: The Abramoff lobbying scandal took down a number of people, famous and otherwise, over the buying and selling of congressional votes. Yet Reid now is a legislative wizard. Go figure.

Yea:
- The New York Times - The implacable Republican opposition to reform, and obstruction from a handful of Democrats, have made this bill less effective and less fair than it might have been. Still, the United States Senate has a chance this week to get past the bickering and haggling that have robbed it of Americans’ trust and pass a historic piece of legislation.
- The Boston Globe - The country has spent decades getting into its current health care fix, with exorbitant outlays and mediocre results. ... After a core commitment is made to provide universal access to health insurance, Congress can go back and correct the initial bill.
-
The Des Moines Register - Congress has crafted legislation with many shortcomings. But it is unfair to overlook what the bill does right - namely protecting Americans against wrongdoing by insurance companies, insuring more people and addressing this country's impending federal budget problems.
-
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch - Like the state of the art in medical care, health care reform doesn’t have to be perfect to succeed. It just has to be better than what preceded it.

Also:
- The Anchorage Daily News - Want to cut health care costs? Get more people to quit smoking.
- The Chicago Tribune - While Washington argues about how to contain health care costs, hospitals are on a building boom. 
- The New York Post -  Hey! How come New York's senators aren't bringing us any special deals?

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

Do the right thing

   Pardon us, but could you help out some fellow Buffalonians who are down on their luck?

   Of course you can.Neediest-banner

   Here's the editorial making the case:
- Please give
  That need for help is especially strong this year, given the months of economic hardship that just now may be easing. Unemployment is high. So are heating bills, especially for those who live in older and cheaper homes with inadequate insulation and weatherization. This is still the nation's third-poorest large city, and the News Neediest campaign is aptly named.

   Here's the Web site with more information:
- News Neediest

   And here is the button you push to donate money. DONATE

   Give more if you know what this photo has to do with this subject:

Baldpeople 

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News 

Economic or community development?

Just as today's editorial indicates, true economic development consists of more than barber shops and beauty salons in one section of the city, the conclusion readers likely drew following a series of articles here in The News on the grants the Buffalo Economic Renaissance Corp. has awarded that benefited Jefferson Avenue's business district. It's also one drawn by our own research. Barber shop

One can debate the merits of focusing on a particular area, especially one as poor and underserved over the years as Jefferson Avenue. Mayor Byron W. Brown has done an admirable job in both his previous job as State Senator and in his current role to infuse life in a once truly downtrodden area -- and there's more to be done. Fine. It's a point recently made by News Columnist Rod Watson.

However, as our editorial indicates, such concentration is difficult to understand in the context of economic development and strategic planning . While it would be difficult to launch a wide scale attack on poverty on the third poorest city in the nation, strategic development creates new wealth and new jobs, an unlikely scenario when coveted grant money is being put into barber shops and beauty salons. 

Community development is another matter. It's hard to attract new businesses into a rundown area without much curb appeal.  If this is part of the logic then the administration's strategy should be identified as such and a clear distinction made.  Not that it would explain all of the unexplainables outlined in The News series and commented on by Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) officials.

There is some optimism with businessman Dennis Penman at the BERC helm but he is interim, meaning Brown must search for the best candidate to lead this team.  The succession from Timothy E. Wanamaker under former Mayor Anthony Masiello, Brian Reilly under the current mayor (until that situation became problematic, not to mention the removal of top housing official Carla Kosmerl from the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency) and now Penman, for the moment, engenders little confidence among the public. Unless you live on or near Jefferson Avenue.

Brown's focus on Jefferson Avenue may not be favoritism but merely a coincidence.  One could argue that such favoritism has existed in Buffalo for generations -- think Jimmy Griffin and South Buffalo.  And now, it's the East Side's turn.  Just like the old show The Jeffersons, Jefferson Avenue is movin' on up.

The Jeffersons - Theme Song (Movin' on Up)
Found at Theme Song (Movin' on Up) on KOhit.net
Let's just hope not at the expense of the rest of the city.

Dawn Marie Bracely/Editorial Writer

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