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Canal Side's financial side

Today's top editorial opines that Canal Side is worth the money. Of course, we take a lot more words to say that on the page.

There's $154 million worth of public investment in the pipeline, and planners expect the private sector (primarily Benderson Development and Bass Pro) to add another $140 million to that.

That's a big shot of taxpayer cash for a project in this city, but it doesn't jump out in comparison to other projects in the state, primarily in New York City. President Obama, for example, just announced $151 million in high-speed rail funding that essentially just repairs the train stations (such as they are) in Buffalo and Rochester and adds another track to sections of the current route between Rochester and Albany & Albany and NYC. 

So we think Canal Side is a good investment, and one piece of the overall effort to revitalize Buffalo. You?

-mike vogel

Wudja think?

Enough about substance, let's talk about style. President Obama clearly noticed the populist surge in this country and abandoned his high-flying rhetoric for plainspeak. I thought it was a mistake -- kind of like putting the professorial Woodrow Wilson in overalls.

On the other hand (a saying editorialists do try to avoid), maybe it added force and clarity to his message, something that's been lacking of late.

Anyway, there was no single moment that rose to the level of Ronald Reagan's "Mr. Gorbachev, kiss my ...." oh, wait, maybe that's not quite how that one went.

Wudj YOU think?

-mike vogel

Talking to the governor

Upstate Focus, a loose collaboration of upstate New York editorial page editors, tried something new yesterday -- televising a meeting. Several of us gathered at Rochester's public television station, WXXI, to hold a 90-minute editorial board meeting with Gov. Paterson and his budget director, Bob Megna.

This kind of meeting happens all the time -- a paper's editorial board will meet with policy-makers, interst groups, issues experts, advocacy group leaders and the like to learn and to probe viewpoints, part of the process of reaching editorial positions. But this one, titled Answering to Upstate, involved representatives from several papers -- The Buffalo News (me), Rochester Democrat & Chronicle (Jim Lawrence, who chaired, and his deputy page editor Jane Sutter), Syracuse Post-Standard (Fred Fiske), Watertown Daily Times (political editor Jude Seymour) and the Elmira Star-Gazette, Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin and Ithaca Journal (Dave Kubissa does all three for Gannett). And it was streamed live on the Internet (we had the links yesterday) and then produced for TV and radio. Here, I understand WNED-TV is looking at broadcasting it on its Think Bright channel.  

Quick side note -- WXXI's building is prominently labeled the "B. Thomas Golisano Production Center." Didn't hear if anyone welcomed the guv to that.

Anyway, Paterson was open and frank, especially in taking on the Legislature and its reluctance to do what's right for New York, not just for legislators. My favorite line, in a discussion of the engineered incumbency-protection practices that keep returning the same folks to Albany, was "You literally have to sleep with the flies in Albany to get turned out of office." I used that as one of the stand-alone quotes on tomorrow's pages.

We didn't have enough time to get into local issues as deeply as we liked (I didn't get to a planned question on talks with the Senecas over cigarette taxes), but we did cover a lot of ground. Not a lot of news -- that's not primarily what editorial board meetings are for -- but it was a good, detailed exploration of his stands. Paterson handled what his budget guy later called tough questions well. He says the right things -- but it will be a real problem for him to deliver.

-mike vogel 

Other bridges, other problems

   As a brief aside, here's a bit about how other folks are fighting about U.S.-Canada bridges, too.

   If you can get past the distressing description of someone else's pride and joy that leads this editorial.

- Bridge too far - The Toledo Blade
   If it seems bizarre that the most economically important border crossing between the United States and Canada is privately owned by a reclusive 82-year-old billionaire, that's because it is bizarre.
   What's even stranger is that
Matthew J. Moroun, usually known as Matty, wants to build a second bridge next to his Ambassador Bridge, won't take an emphatic no from the Canadian government for an answer, and is resorting to increasingly desperate behavior in an attempt to sabotage efforts to build a new, internationally owned and regulated bridge a mile south.
   More background from The Detroit Free Press.
   And I loved this headline from Sunday's P.1: Canadian airports stand on guard [Why this is witty.]

   For The World's Longest Unguarded Border, this frontier sure engenders a lot of fussing.

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News
Rousing finish:

Editorial: The Peace Bridge plaza design

Today's top editorial applauds the latest Peace Bridge expansion project plaza design for routing traffic around Front Park instead of through it. That reconnects the Prospect Hill historic district to the park, and allows creation of a city gateway -- an Olmsted-like traffic circle that takes the bridge's city traffic to Niagara Street. Designers pledge good architecture and landscaping in later design stages.

That won't end the controversy. The News has previously posted both the plaza plan and the design concepts for the bridge itself, so you can reach your own conclusions.

The bridge designs, as seen from a planned configuration of the Riverwalk, are in our "Inside The News" blog  here.

The plaza design is here. 

Mass. election: seismic shock or seismic shift?

Ted Kennedy must be hitting about 78 rpm now, spinning in his grave. GOP State Sen. Scott Brown comes out of nowhere to close a huge gap and then win the vacant Senate seat in Massachusetts -- Massachusetts!!!! -- putting Kennedy's old vote in the hands of a Republican who has pledged to block Obamacare, the latest version of Ted's most cherished legislative goal.

Whatever your politics, this definitely was democracy in action. And the key wasn't the party vote -- Massachusetts is 3-1 Democrat -- it was the voice of the independents. This time around, the Democrats lost them. Big time. And the rest of the Democrats in Washington ignore that at their peril.

We'll discuss this at the edboard table tomorrow, but I'm already wondering if "Hell freezes over" might be the right headline for Thursday's editorial. Combine this with Obama's sinking poll numbers and the closed-door health care debate mess, and there's much for politics watchers to chew on.

-mike vogel/editorial page editor

Pondering Monserrate and saving J.N. Adam Center

Question: What do you do when a colleague is convicted of a crime that involves "accidentally" slashing his girlfriend's face?

Answer: If you're the special Senate committee charged with making a decision on this colleague's fate, you get stuck between the options of expulsion or censure.  But if you're most of the general public, the answer is easy.  Expulsion. Monserrate

Good thing for Sen. Hiram Monserrate most of the public doesn't get to decide.  If that were the case, he'd have to look for a new job.

As today's editorial states, we're incredulous. Or, maybe not, considering the political players.  Monserrate "accidentally" slashes his girlfriend's face, claiming he tripped while bringing her a glass of water in a dark bedroom.  Although he insists it was an accident he later says he's developed "a much greater appreciation for the issue of domestic violence in our community," and his colleagues are still weighing his credentials to remain on the job?

You can't make this stuff up.  Monserrate, now a convicted member of the State Legislature, needs to go.

***

What needs to stay and get fixed up is the now-closed J.N. Adam Development Center.

Albany needs to step in and take responsbility for this historic site.  In a pay now or more later scenario, officials should move quickly on this Perrysburg site.  Dating back to 1912 and funded in part by its namesake, former Buffalo Mayor J.N. Adam, this site needs state protection.  The sooner the better.

Dawn Marie Bracely/Editorial Writer

State legislators fail test; preserving Buffalo's history

Here's a question for New York State Legislators -- Are you smarter than a fifth-grader?  The answer for many is apparently, no.

Out there for the taking is as much as $700 million for state schools via a federal "Race to the Top" grant and the someone legislators are getting stuck on a provision that would make us more competitive against their states and that is the creation of 400 charter schools. Paterson

Gov. Paterson has a firm grasp on this state's looming budget crisis and, wisely, sees this grant money as potentially filling a huge need in the neediest of schools.  Sure, the state could still compete for funding without the charter provision but President Obama's administration has made clear its preference.  And so has this page in an earlier editorial.

New York is facing a deficit that could exceed $7.5 billion, as outlined in a News article by bureau chief Tom Precious.  Paterson is trying his best to mitigate the situation but with little help from a State Legislature that saw fit to turn back the governor's request over the weekend and introduce an alternative charter school plan to be included in an application the state must submit by ... today!

Cobbling together an "alternative" plan not in keeping with the path to more charters is clearly not the answer the feds are looking for when deciding on where to send hundreds of millions in grant money.  All the while, the state is bracing for the governor's proposed cuts in education, health care and a host of other programs.

The Legislature might want to consider well before cooking up any "alternate" plans. When it comes to Race to the Top funding, perhaps the governor said it best: "We need the resources."

***

Speaking of resources, News business reporter Samantha Maziarz Christmann's piece on efforts by a local preservation group to get the Statler Towers put on the list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places compiled by the National Trust for Historic Preservation is about an idea worth supporting.

As we said in an earlier editorial, the Niagara Square landmark could use a dose of good fortune.  The Statler represents a part of Buffalo's past and hopes for the future.  By shining a national spotlight, even simply through the application process, on this important and long-neglected structure perhaps something can finally get done.

This page supported New Buffalo Statler Redevelopment's efforts but the group unfortunately failed to meet a deadline to come up with the funding it needed to complete its $1.3 million purchase.  This group, along with any other viable entity, should be encouraged to keep trying to save this important piece of Buffalo history.

Dawn Marie Bracely/Editorial Writer

Google (Not) in China?

While visiting China a few years ago, I remember the monumental task of trying to find a reliable Internet connection for my laptop computer, and feeling that the task was both daunting and troubling.

Daunting because of what seemed like a dearth of wireless connectivity compared to other Asian ports from which our ship had recently departed. Troubling because of the obvious isolationism permeating the country, mixed with a timid appreciation for Western capitalistic endeavors. DSC00761

Nonetheless, I was able to achieve Internet connectivity in various Chinese ports of call, including Beijing where, apparently, I could visit Tiananmen Square -- as the photo indicates -- but might have had trouble typing the words,  "Tiananmen Square" in an Internet search.

And therein lies the problem.

As today's editorial indicates, Google is considering pulling out of China because of a security breach that may have originated in that country and possibly connected to the Chinese government. U.S. officials are also investigating and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton voiced dismay at the situation.

China has long been known for its censorship and words such as "Tiananmen Square," and the "Dalai lama," don't show up well in Internet searches. Human rights advocates are known to have trouble trying to communicate with the outside world via the Internet about what transpires in that country.

Google has not yet made a final decision on whether to pull the plug on its interests in China. The pressure of the decision with government-friendly Internet search company Baidu.com and other Western businesses willing to go along to get along can't help. Hopefully, Google will realize it is doing the right thing by not bowing under that pressure and make the right decision.

Meanwhile, if I ever find myself back in China and accessing the Internet, I may type the words, "Tiananmen Square" and "Dalai lama" just for the heck of it.

Dawn Marie Bracely/Editorial Writer 

Harry Reid's mistake

Regardless of the number of years that pass by, or the historical depth and breadth of accomplishments, it always seems as if American society can count on one public figure or another to come down with foot-in-mouth disease when it comes to race relations.Harry reid

The result sets us all back as a country, even if only to realize that the 21st century means little in the context of long-held beliefs about what should be our celebrated differences, not a parsing of those differences to determine which of us is more acceptable than another based, of all things, on skin tone and speech.

Sadly, though, here we go again.

Today's editorial compares what Trent Lott said eight years ago and what Harry Reid said about Barack Obama six years later when he revealed his own true colors, in determining that Obama would be a stronger presidential candidate despite being black due to the fact that he is a "light-skinned" African-American "with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one."

This comment, revealed years later as a result of the publication of a new book, "Game Change," by journalists John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, was all kinds of insulting -- although perhaps as purely political analysis probably true.  An article in the Root by Omar Wasow refers to research strongly suggesting that white voters do favor lighter-skinned black candidates. 

Still, Reid's statement was wrong.  His words, however, do not rise -- or, lower -- to the Lott statement, made at former Sen. Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday party, that the senator's policies should have been implemented and had that happened, "we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either."  Say, what?

While, as a dark-skinned African-American woman I find Reid's comments appalling, I can't say that those of us in the black community hadn't wondered aloud whether Obama would have been successful were he dark-skinned and less "articulate."  It's a sad truth when it comes to comfort levels and who is perceived as "threatening" and why. 

Obama, to his credit, has accepted Reid's apology but what he should do is continue an earlier promise he raised during his campaign to discuss race in America.  The conversation clearly isn't over.

Dawn Marie Bracely/Editorial Writer

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