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Bass Pro - The Day After

   For a project that just lost its major tenant, Canal Side sure has a lot of construction equipment on site.
   Here's the live shot.

   Maybe they're putting the Aud back.

   [Careful, Pyle. That's how rumors start.]  


HarborCam_20100731140330

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

The One That Got Away

   It's official. Bass Pro is a no go in Buffalo.

   Here's the instant analysis editorial:
- After Bass Pro - Buffalo News Editorial
   Bass Pro Shops will now be forever known to Buffalo as The One That Got Away.
   Friday's announcement that, after nine years of back-and-forth, the national outdoor equipment Adambadnews powerhouse had decided not to build a heavily subsidized superstore in Buffalo's Canal Side project at least puts an end to that elongated process.
  The most important thing now, for those who favored the project as a super magnet for other development and for those who opposed it as a corporate-welfare boondoggle, is to move on as quickly as possible.
   And, as they move on, there is one thing that the developers of Buffalo's waterfront should always have in the front of their minds. And that's the water.

   Here's the Buffalo News Page One article:
-
Bass Pro is out of Canal Side plans - Mark Sommer/The Buffalo News
   Bass Pro Shops has been told by a growing chorus of Buffalonians -- and in an ultimatum issued last week by Rep. Brian Higgins -- to sink or swim.
   On Friday, it sank.
   Jim Hagale, president of the Springfield, Mo.-based outdoors retailer, told Higgins in a two-page letter it is pulling the plug, putting an end to a highly public courtship that began nine years ago.
   Bass Pro had become a community lightning rod, and it was one of the factors Johnny Morris, the company's chairman, cited in explaining the company's decision to Jordan Levy, chairman of Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp.
   Critics denounced the use of tens of millions in public subsidies to reel it in; demanded a living wage and other agreements in exchange for a transfer of city land; released a report that cast doubt on Bass Pro's ability to generate economic development and boost tax rolls; and filed a lawsuit claiming the project violated the state constitution.
   In addition, Higgins, D-Buffalo, publicly released a letter sent to Morris and Hagale issuing a 14-day deadline for the company to sign a lease. The deadline was this coming Monday.

   Here is the appropriate folk dance for the occasion:

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

Congress fixes a problem ...

   The Buffalo News Opinion Brain Trust today is happy to see that Congress is about to bring in airline safety reform for a safe landing, after being stacked up in a legislative holding pattern for a year.
   But we're not that impressed with the suggestion that New York's dysfunctional Legislature would be any less so if it got smaller.

- An end in sight - Buffalo News Editorial
   Families of the victims of Continental Connection Flight 3407 have nearly won a hard-fought battle in Families3407 getting airline safety legislation approved through Congress.
   Safety provisions have been attached to a temporary extension of funding for the Federal Aviation Administration. Now it is up to the Senate to pass the legislation so that it can be sent to the president for his signature. ...
   Kudos to top lawmakers—Chairman of the House Transportation Committee James L. Oberstar, D-Minn., and Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W. Va., Commerce Committeechairman— for changing tactics to attach the safety provisions to a temporary FAA funding extension that will be permanent law once enacted.
   Lawmakers from Western New York—Reps. Louise Slaughter, Brian Higgins, Chris Lee and Sens. Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand—must continue to usher the legislation through the process. As close as this is to fruition, it’s no time for our representatives to take their eyes off the bill.

   Update:
- House approves safety rules sought by Flight 3407 families - Jerry Zremski/The Buffalo News
   Updated update:
- Senate passes aviation safety measures, sending bill to Obama - Jerry Zremski/The Buffalo News
   Updated updated update:
- Obama to sign aviation bill today - Jerry Zremski/The Buffalo News

    Here's the text of the bill, HR 5900, and background from GovTrack.us. It passed the House by voice vote - i.e., everybody who was there at 11:30 p.m. shouted "yea" - and there is no roll call to record. I happened to catch it on C-SPAN. It was Western New York Night, as Lee, Higgins and Slaughter each got to claim credit in the way they claim credit in Congress, by giving other people credit.

... the NY Legislature is the problem

- Quality, not quantity - Buffalo News Editorial
   It's easy to be cynical about the latest proposal from government downsizing guru Kevin Gaughan -- the one that calls for reducing the size of the New York Legislature by about 17 percent. A smaller Legislature, Gaughan after all, would simply be easier for special interest money to buy.
   Gaughan, the Hamburg lawyer who has already persuaded several area towns to downsize their boards and has turned his attention to the proposed dissolution of local villages, wants to reduce the State Senate from 62 members to 50, and shrink the Assembly to 125 from 150. But, while smaller may be better when it comes to town boards, it isn't the number of state lawmakers that is the problem. It is the way they are chosen. ...
   ...it could certainly be argued that New York has way more lawmakers than it needs. Or uses. The speaker of the Assembly and the majority leader of the Senate hold so much power -- making up, with the governor, the Three Men in a Room who dictate budget decisions -- that maybe we don't need a Legislature at all. Maybe we ought to be honest about the fact that we are ruled by a Triumvirate -- in the style of Octavian, Antony and Marcus Lepidus -- and just shrink the Legislature down to nothing. ...
   What the New York Legislature really needs is not fewer members, or more members, but better members. And one key way to do that would be, as we have often argued in this space, to change the way legislative districts are drawn.
   Taking that function away from the lawmakers themselves and turning it over to an independent, nonpartisan commission would end the practice of drawing district lines in ways that make seats safe for incumbents, or at least so tilted in favor of either Democrats or Republicans that no real choice is ever offered to the voters.
   Truly competitive legislative races, whether there are 212 of them, 175 or 12, would be much more responsive to the popular will and less likely to become the personal property of incumbents, property they can use to extort campaign contributions from special interests who know they aren't influencing the outcome of any election, just influencing their chances of being heard by the winners.

   A new way of drawing legislative districts in New York is one of the goals of a new group called New York Uprising, led by former New York City Mayor Ed Koch.
   Related:
- Koch Will Head To Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse To Blast “Enemies Of Reform”  - City Hall News
- All talk, no reform - Albany Times-Union Editorial
- Throw the bums out: Here’s the list of legislators to vote against this fall - New York Daily News Editorial
- Enemies of reform - Middletown Times Herald-Record Editorial
- Taking sides in N.Y.  - Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin Editorial
- The Big Fix - New York Times Editorial
   And, of course, before New York Uprising, there was The Brennan Center.
- Still Broken: New York State Legislative Reform 2008 Update

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News 

Slouching war plan ...

   The editorial craftsmen on the Buffalo News Opinion desk worry about fighting a hidden enemy in Afghanistan and hidden fees at the airport.

- War gone wrong - Buffalo News Editorial
   There's an old saying that "things are never so bad that they can't get worse." As the release of thousands of leaked documents this week demonstrates, it fits Afghanistan's current situation perfectly.
   When President Obama decided to make winning the war in Afghanistan a cornerstone of his Afghanpolice administration, he did not fully understand or consider what he was dealing with. ...
   The idea that President Hamid Karzai would unify the country collapsed around a corrupt administration riddled with graft and payoffs. ...
   When Obama announced we would pull out our forces in 2011, celebrations erupted all over Taliban councils. They would wait out the United States and take over the country next year. Pulling out after a debacle in the Mideast is an unfortunate pattern for the United States, and recognized by Muslim countries. ...
   U.S. military forces are designed to fight wars, not build nations. But if anyone can succeed, it is Gen. David Petraeus, newly installed as the head of operations in Afghanistan. He has some useful tools at his disposal, including patrols and attacks by drone aircraft. He should maintain and possibly even increase their usage.
   In the meantime, Washington's best think tanks need to look at the options if the war continues to go badly. While there are many options, none is conspicuous or palatable. Nonetheless, if bad things are going to get worse, we have no option but to face up to what may be inevitable.

   Related:
- 1 Soldier or 20 Schools? - Nicholas D. Kristof/The New York Times
    By the standards of history and cost-effectiveness, we are hugely overinvested in military tools and underinvested in education and diplomacy.
- Costs of Major U.S. Wars - Congressional Research Service
- What’s Second Prize? - Thomas Friedman/The New York Times
   Why do we have to recruit and train our allies, the Afghan Army, to fight? That is like someone coming to you with a plan to recruit and train Brazilian boys to play soccer.
- Not the Pentagon Papers - Fred Kaplan/Slate
   If any of this startles you, then welcome to the world of reading newspapers. Today's must be the first one you've read.
- Obama's long-shot bet and high stakes in Afghanistan - Trentonian Editorial
   As for the withdrawal date, it’s a sop intended to mollify anti-war, indeed, anti-military Democrats of the Left. But it’s not fooling them.
- From Afghan media: Documents show gap in war's media coverage - CNN

... Hidden charges

   We gave this guy some grief a few weeks ago, when we thought he deserved it. [His colleague, Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-Fairport, wrote to defend him.] Today, well, the man's got a point. But we think we can improve on it.

- Carrying baggage - Buffalo News Editorial
   Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn. [right], had it exactly right. If the airlines don’t get right with the public on the JamesOberstarextra costs of travel, the public will demand that Congress force the issue.
   The issue begins with the baggage charges that airlines implemented three years ago as costs rose and the economy weakened, but it doesn’t end there. Seat selection, early boarding, extra leg room, blankets, pillows, drinks and meals can all add significantly to the cost of air travel. The public should be able to evaluate those potential extra costs at the time of booking.
   That’s the primary issue, though Oberstar suggested that Congress might act to restrain what the airlines can charge. ...
   the nonpartisan Congressional Government Accountability Office issued a report stating that airlines, travel agents, online travel services and other outlets should be required to disclose all such fees in a clear and consistent manner. ...
   Airlines are under tremendous financial pressure from competition and a weak economy. It’s in the public’s interest to maintain healthy competition within the industry. Government should stay out of setting fees and simply require the industry to disclose them in a uniform, easily understandable way. That would do the trick.

   And, just by the way, it now looks like the hold-up we were bagging on Oberstar about before is about to be resolved. With his help:
- Air safety bill near passage - Jerry Zremski/The Buffalo News
   Key aviation safety improvements stemming from last year's crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407 in Clarence Center could win approval in Congress and be sent to President Obama within days, thanks to a legislative breakthrough Wednesday. ...
   Rep. Jerry F. Costello, D-Ill., chairman of the House Aviation Subcommittee ... and Rep. James L. Oberstar, D-Minn., chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, revealed their strategy shift in a meeting with about a dozen members of the Families of Continental Flight 3407.
   Upon hearing that their long legislative fight appeared on the verge of victory, many family members wept.

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

Let the Wookiee tweet

   For filing in the You're Just Jealous You Didn't Think Of It First folder:

 WikiLeaks may or may not have revealed secrets, outed spies, helped democracy or hurt the war effort. [WikiLeaks case prompts calls from some intelligence veterans for tighter access to US secrets - AP/Buffalo News] 

But it has spawned one wonderful Internet offering.

   WookieeLeaks

   A few of the better ones:

- "Death Star power core vent shaft vulnerability was a construction fault! Sienar Fleet Systems product Chewbacca recall imminent" 

- "John Yoo authors legal memo approving Vader's use of torture droids during 'enhanced interrogation'. "

- "Those WERE the droids they were looking for."

- "Reports of 'large reactor leak'; suspiciously coinciding with massive security personnel presence on Detention Block AA-23"

- "Han shot first."

   Tips of the Imperial Helmet to Wired and The Atlantic Wire

   Related:
- Are Jedi Knights Libertarian or Socialist? - Max Fisher/The Atlantic Wire

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News  

Stronger city, times two.

   Two editorials in today's Buffalo News Opinion section about good things happening locally. Don't worry, we'll be back to our normal grumpy selves in a day or two.

- It’s a new day - Buffalo News Editorial
   It wasn’t that long ago that the idea of big-time investors competing for the right to lend the City of Buffalo Buffaloseal millions of dollars—and offering rock-bottom interest rates to boot— would have been dismissed as a fantasy.
   But this month the city felt confident enough in the attractiveness of its bond issues to offer them for sale on the open market. And city officials’ faith—and their long efforts at fiscal reconstruction—were rewarded. ...
   The larger of the two offerings, $22.7 million, was snapped up by J.P. Morgan Securities, in a bid that will force taxpayers to fork over only 3.63 percent interest. Morgan Stanley&Co. won the other contest, agreeing to charge interest of only 3.53 percent for the use of $4.9 million. ...
   Democrat [Mayor Byron] Brown and Republican County Executive Chris Collins have kept their pencils sharp and, with the control boards [city and county] and the taxpayers looking over their shoulders, have made great strides toward fiscal stability in these parts.
   There’s more work to do. But the progress has been nothing short of amazing.
   Background:
- City holds first bond auction since 1986 - Brian Meyer/The Buffalo News
   [When I googled "city buffalo bond sale," the Google website asked me if I really meant, "city buffalo bone sale." Not this time.]
   Revise and extend: We are reminded that, while we wanted to credit Mayor Brown, and the control board, for the city's fiscal improvement, it is not the mayor that sells bonds for the city. It is City Comptroller Andrew A. SanFilippo. 

- AmeriCorps gets help - Buffalo News Editorial
   It never made any sense that the Western New York educational program run by AmeriCorps was refused the funding it needed to continue providing hundreds of tutors to serve thousands of students.
   Considering that all the available money from that pot went to the New York City area, it may have had a certain twisted political logic to it. But the cut-off would have done unforgivable harm to an effective program that attacks our pervasive poverty at its roots.
   Thus it was wonderful news that came recently when Rep. Brian Higgins and WNY AmeriCorps CEO Mark P. Lazzara were able to announce that a new vein of federal money had been tapped to continue the program.
   That means the AmeriCorps Builds Lives through Education — ABLE — program will live on with $2.3 million in federal funds that were allotted to New York to distribute.

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

Why we're losing...

   OK. Here's why we torture people, hide people, drop bombs on people, and wonder why we're still losing, as explained by Andrew Sullivan over at The Daily Dish:

   We're not watching the right TV show!! [Or, I might suggest, the right TV network.]

   Mental Health Break - Andrew Sullivan/The Atlantic
   It's such an intelligent sci-fi show - not least because of its love of history and irony and a certain British decency which courses through the Doctor's inhuman veins. He is the anti-Jack Bauer, in a way, proving that humaneness and humor is as effective as violence and evil, even when deployed by those who think they are doing good.

   Viz:

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

  

We can work it out. Maybe.

   Editorials in the Buffalo News Opinion section today call for the Buffalo Public Schools and the New York Legislature to work together as well as, at least in this one instance, the United States and Canada have.

- Find another way - Buffalo News Editorial
   Among the numerous problems facing the Buffalo Public Schools is a new $22.8 million budget hole created by Albany's fiscal mess.
   Gov. David A. Paterson has issued thousands of vetoes in recent weeks, but one has opened a giant Gov06-10 budget gap for Buffalo schools -- after district officials had already closed a $49 million deficit. It's time for the Senate, Assembly and governor to fix these problems. ...
   New York is working its way through a severe financial crisis. There is no way to deal with it painlessly. But this veto shouldn't stand. School officials need to work with the governor and the Western New York legislative delegation to find a better way to deal with the state's financial problems than to hand one of the state's poorest school districts with a $22.8 million bill.
   Related:
- The Power of the Veto Pen - New York Times Editorial
- Mr. Paterson tries again - Albany Times-Union Editorial  
- David Paterson's crazy, brave last stand in Albany - Jimmy Vielkind/New York Capital
- David Paterson Vetoes His Way to Tabloid Glory - Wayne Barrett/The Village Voice
- Next governor should go budget-nuclear a lot sooner, Paterson says - Celeste Katz/New York Daily News

- Working together - Buffalo News Editorial
  Fighting terrorism is not a game of hot potato, where governments can toss risks around from nation to nation in hopes that the bomb will blow up while the other guy is holding it.
   The understanding that a key tool for preventing the kind of terrorism that respects no border is cooperation across borders is behind a welcome agreement between the United States and Canada. That agreement—the Canada-U.S. Action Plan for Critical Infrastructure—sets up a permanent framework that both nations will use to jointly watch their shared borders and border facilities, making one another alert to risks, improving and securing lines of communication, cutting back on overlap and duplication and arranging to stand ready to help one another if terrorist attacks—or anything else—destroy security and transit infrastructure.
   Background reports, from this side:
- U. S., Canada unveil joint border-security plan - Jerry Zremski/The Buffalo News 
   and that side:
- Cross-border security plan made with U.S. - Mike De Souza/Montreal Gazette 

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

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