The far-sighted fellows in The Buffalo News Opinion corner today are all about where to look - for people who might have filled some of the top jobs at Buffalo City Hall and for information to use against someone you might be suing.
-Filling the key posts - Buffalo News Editorial How does Mayor Byron W. Brown expect private sector enterprises to recruit the best talent from around the country to come to Buffalo if he can't be bothered to even attempt to do so for key jobs in his own administration? [Brown skimped when recruiting for key posts - Buffalo News 9/26/10] Is this another symptom of the city's deep inferiority complex? The belief that nobody who would be an exemplary police commissioner, fire commissioner or director of planning would be interested in doing those jobs in Buffalo, so why bother? Or is the truth even more disturbing? Perhaps, despite his pledge to conduct national searches for top talent to head his police, fire and planning departments, the mayor really doesn't want to open his top cabinet posts to the best and the brightest nationwide. Maybe he only wants them filled with homegrown and thus locally savvy talents or, worse, by political loyalists, people who have already backed his campaigns -- people who aren't likely to challenge his policies or his thinking on any significant issue and bring heft to their heretical arguments with advanced degrees, extensive experience and measurable successes in other places. Since being overwhelmingly re-elected last year, Brown fired Police Commissioner H. McCarthy Gipson, Fire Commissioner Michael Lombardo and Economic Development Commissioner Brian Reilly. Each, we were promised, would be replaced after a national search for the best available talent and the best fit for Buffalo. None was. New Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda, Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield and Brendan Mehaffy, executive director of the Office of Strategic Planning, were promoted from within and chosen without any serious wider search.
The score-keepers in The Buffalo News Opinion corner today approve of efforts to clean up the Great Lakes and to crack down on Buffalo gangs.
- Work on the Great Lakes - Buffalo News Editorial In a year of often-troubling news, one of the bright points has been the increasing prospects for restoring the environment of the Great Lakes. President Obama, with the help of Congress, has been as good as his word on working to reclaim one of the world's most significant environments. Just last week, the Environmental Protection Agency announced federal grants of $20 million, with more than half -- $11.7 million -- targeted to the Buffalo Niagara region. That's great news for Western New York -- environmentally, aesthetically and economically. The grant comes as part of Obama's Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which includes several goals to be met by 2014. They include finishing the cleanup of five toxic hot spots, reducing the rate at which invasive species are discovered in the lakes, decreasing phosphorus runoff and protecting nearly 100,000 acres of wetlands. The money will make a difference in Western New York. Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, for example, will receive five grants that will, among other things, help restore the natural habitat around the Buffalo River. The state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation will receive $6.5 million for beach sanitary surveys at Woodlawn Beach. The task will include identifying sources of pollution and taking corrective action. The state Department of Environmental Conservation will receive several grants, of about $315,000, to encourage homeowners to adopt organic land care practices that reduce water use and avoid synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. (for a full list of grants, go to http://greatlakesrestoration.us.) The reclamation of our lakes is an urgent matter. Locally, they are vitally important to the economy, recreation, entertainment and drinking supplies. Nationally, the Great Lakes constitute the world's largest supply of fresh surface water. We would be foolish, indeed, not to rescue them from years of careless, if not always intended, abuse. It's good to see Obama's pledge, well supported by Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport, being put into action. She and the rest of the Western New York delegation -- and all Great Lakes representatives, for that matter -- need to ensure that the work continues and that the goals are met.
- Targeting West Side gangs - Buffalo News Editorial The arrest of 27 alleged gang members and associates on Buffalo’s West Side last week is an encouraging sign for residents of that troubled neighborhood, but the legal assault needs to be continuous. [Arrests target gang on West Side - Buffalo News 9/23/10] Federal investigators swooped down on the West Side Wednesday, arresting suspects for crimes including homicides. What is more, by using the federal RICO statute — often used against organized crime — agents were also able to file a $23.6 million forfeiture action against purported gang members. James H. Robertson, special agent in charge of the Buffalo FBI office, says the figure represents the gang’s drug profits over the past decade — an average of more than $2 million a year. The need is obvious and urgent. West Siders have been living with the fear of gang violence for years. Monsignor David M. Gallivan, pastor of Holy Cross Catholic Church on Seventh Street, said his church’s religious education director was jolted out of bed by gunfire outsider her home. She has a baby at home. “I talk to people who are scared to do things, or organize good events in the neighborhood because they are afraid of getting caught in the cross-fire,” Gallivan added. That’s no way to live. ...
The eye-on-the-ball folks in The Buffalo News Opinion corner today urge responsible people to stop the trend toward building distracting gee-gaws into new cars, and support the local folks who are trying to rebuild Buffalo one neighborhood at a time.
- Driving while distracted - Buffalo News Editorial It's bad enough that drivers are already engaging in risky behavior behind the wheel -- talking on cell phones, programming GPS units, even texting for crying out loud -- but now the carmakers are building in toys that practically beg motorists to disregard the road. Ah, yes, the road. Remember it? ... And as if the number of imported distractions weren't bad enough, now the automotive industry is working to make matters worse. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood this week lit into automakers for turning cars into entertainment zones. [Summit calls for reduction in distracted driving - AP/Buffalo News 9/21/10.] "In recent days and weeks we've seen news stories about carmakers adding technology in vehicles that lets drivers update Facebook, surf the Web or do any number of other things instead of driving safely," he said. "Features that pull drivers' hands, eyes and attention away from the road are distractions." ... Indeed, LaHood is already planning to meet with manufacturers to establish new safety guidelines. That's a good place to start, but there should be no doubting the bottom line. If carmakers insist on marketing automobiles that are designed to function as land-based missiles, government will need to step in. Related: - Distraction.gov - DOT website - Distracted drivers can kill - Fort Myers News-Press Editorial - Terror cell - Cumberland [Md.] Times-News Editorial - Call, interrupted - The Brown and White [Lehigh University] Editorial
- Rebuilding neighborhoods - Buffalo News Editorial It has been nearly a year since more than 6,000 volunteers converged on Buffalo’s West Side to participate in television’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” a show that transformed the house of Delores Powell and, in the process, provided local groups a heightened cachet and fresh approach. Several volunteer groups, including the one in which Powell has been a longtime member—People United for Sustainable Housing—have taken the lessons learned from that extreme experience to the next level. There has been a new strategy of transforming blocks at a time, instead of piecemeal, and more headway into green reconstruction that provides safer and healthier homes. PUSH Buffalo recently was featured in an article by the American Institute of Architects, one that focused on turning a once- vacant late 19th-century house on the city’s West Side into a near-zero energy building. ... By taking bigger bites, entire streets are transformed. And because of the experience of managing several thousand volunteers just less than a year ago, which spurred more volunteer improvements to other houses on the street, the scope of such projects has become less daunting.
The above-it-alls in The Buffalo News Opinion corner today have advice for the not-so-frontrunner in the New York governor's race, and want more information about what looks like an epidemic of absenteeism among Buffalo teachers.
- Taxpayer disgust - Buffalo News Editorial It's a different kind of campaign than Andrew M. Cuomo[right] -- or anyone else in New York -- had imagined it would be. With Carl P. Paladino as the Republican nominee for governor, it's a new and unanticipated landscape on which the Democratic attorney general must run. He needs to adapt and, much as any son might resist comparisons to a successful father, he should take a page from Mario's playbook: Step into the fight. Here's how much things have changed. Cuomo thought he would be running against Rick A. Lazio, but Lazio was flattened by Paladino, who tapped into a deep source of voter disgust. Fine. Paladino's a renegade Republican in a Democratic state. The race just became easier, right? Not exactly. On Tuesday, just a week after Paladino's primary victory, a Rasmussen Poll showed that the gap between the candidates had narrowed to 16 percent, down from 29 percent earlier in the summer. Only one day later, a Quinnipiac University poll put the gap at 6 percent -- although that quickly was followed by a more extensive Siena Research Institute poll showing Cuomo retaining a strong lead (57 percent) over both Paladino (24 percent) and Lazio (8 percent). ... [Update: Latest poll: Cuomo up by 19 - The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion said 52 percent of likely voters support Cuomo compared to 33 percent for Paladino.] Unfair as it may be, it's hard not to think of Cuomo's father who, as governor, enthusiastically waded into crowds of protesters, taking their questions and giving as good as he got, if in a more gentlemanly and erudite way than Paladino has managed. Cuomo will need some of that fire to compete in this new election on this unfamiliar terrain. What is more, voters need it, too. Related: - Sampling differences behind wide range of poll results - Tom Precious/The Buffalo News - Paladino vs Cuomo shapes up as nasty race - Don Glynn/Niagara Gazette - Cuomo should agree to debates - Poughkeepsie Journal Editorial - Albany Andrew? - New York Post Editorial Cuomo, who arrived in Albany almost 30 years ago, has two basic problems: * A lot of people think he never left. * He's unwilling to tackle Albany's corrupt culture with candor or energy. This adds up to Andrew The Incumbent -- not a happy place for him in the Year of the Tea Party. - Mud wrestling? No, ah, politics - Albany Times-Union Editorial Six weeks to the election for governor, and any prospects for a more substantive, issues-oriented campaign require a strained look over the horizon, trying to see beyond the dreariness of politics as usual.
- Out for the count - Buffalo News Editorial A new study by the Buffalo School District of teacher absenteeism and its impact on student achievement is certainly interesting and worth exploring. But to be fully credible, the report should have been undertaken by a disinterested third party. ... For example, the board reports—accurately, one presumes—that daily absenteeism by teachers averages more than 10 percent. More intriguingly, the study specifically linked higher rates of absenteeism with lower rates of student achievement. [Does shaping up mean showing up? - Buffalo News 9/19/10] By comparison, statistics provided by the Buffalo Niagara Partnership show the entire region’s absenteeism rate at less than 5 percent in 2004 (its most recent figures)—more than 50 percent lower than the school district’s rate. The difference, if accurate, is appalling. But there may be asterisks. Buffalo Teachers Federation President Phil Rumore blasted the study, contending that, among other things, it counted as absenteeism days that teachers were required by the district to attend special education meetings, training sessions, student suspension hearings and other events. Rumore said those events accounted for one in six of the absences. Even still, the district’s report is sobering, and it begs for confirmation by a third party, perhaps the city or state comptroller’s office.
But, then, things are tough all over: - EC third on list of dysfunctional schools - The Daily Dispatch, East London, South Africa - Sonia concerned over teacher absenteeism in rural areas - Sify News, India - Teachers: Back to school - Philadelphia Daily News Editorial As expensive as absenteeism in any sector is, we'd argue that a teacher's absence has a critical impact far greater than in the private-sector. When you consider that each teacher is responsible for a classroom of 25-33 students, and that many teachers deal with multiple classrooms on any given day, the number of students impacted by even one teacher's absence starts to add up. And make no mistake: Students suffer when their teacher is absent. Studies have linked high teacher absence with lower test scores and lower achievement.
Of course, sometimes, we might be better off if some teachers called in sick:
Today the deck-chair rearrangers in The Buffalo News Opinion corner call on the New York Legislature to deal with the state's huge tax burden, and suggest that Lockport might be just as good a place for a hospitality school, especially if it just can't get welcomed in Niagara Falls.
- Face the tax cap - Buffalo News Editorial Give this to Gov. David A. Paterson: He’s developing an exquisite sense of timing. The lame-duck governor wants to summon lawmakers to a special session to deal with a property tax cap before November’s elections. [Paterson urges special session on tax cap - Buffalo News 9/21/10] Pressured by him, by competing plans from the two gubernatorial candidates and by voters’ seething anger, lawmakers will be forced into facing some uncomfortable facts. ... including the state’s unsustainable debt load, the tax-fueled cost of energy and, to the governor’s point, some of the nation’s highest property taxes. Although those are taxes imposed at the local level — county, municipal and school — many of the rates are propelled by unfunded state mandates, such as the local share of Medicaid costs paid by county taxpayers. ... Taxpayers can’t continue to survive that kind of financial flogging, and Paterson knows it. So do the two men running for governor, Democrat Andrew M. Cuomo and Republican Carl P. Paladino, who are pushing plans that are even more ambitious. Senate Republicans, smelling a chance to recapture the chamber’s majority, also say Paterson is not going far enough. Such is the bind in which Senate and Assembly Democrats have placed themselves. They will either have to please their patrons who depend on the state’s willingness to spend recklessly or please their voters who are already incensed and itching to vote on Nov. 2. Our advice to them is to side with the everyday New Yorkers who are fed up with business as usual. Whether the renegade Paladino or establishment Cuomo wins, the old ways are no longer going to be acceptable to voters. It’s time to start making amends. Related: - Carl Paladino, welfare king - Bill Hammond/New York Daily News - Dave does right - New York Post Editorial - Call special session on property taxes - Rochester Democrat & Chronicle Editorial - Remaking Medicaid - Syracuse Post Standard Editorial
Today the truth-plumbing scribblers in The Buffalo News Opinion corner consider two holes that needed to be closed up: The oil well in the Gulf of Mexico and the fanciful concept of what qualifies as work for town officials in New York:
- More light on town work - Buffalo News Editorial Some town officials have apparently taken the phrase “must-watch TV” to a new level, while others have taken to heart the burden of the daily commute. Those, at least, are but two examples revealed in an article by News reporter Barbara O’Brien detailing the questionable practices shown in the time logs submitted by elected and appointed officials from the towns of Amherst, Cheektowaga, Lancaster, Hamburg, Orchard Park, Tonawanda and West Seneca. [With pension at stake, work logs are elusive measure of integrity - Buffalo News 9/14/10] Thanks to new regulations — part of efforts by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli to permit more transparency in government and hold local officials accountable — the public has a chance to get a peek at what some officials consider work activities and the rest of us consider part of daily living and not necessarily “billable” hours. ... The bottom line, though, is that the state comptroller’s office has done a public service by updating and strengthening regulations, in place since 1976, requiring officials to submit one-month logs. The change offers the public a better opportunity to question elected and appointed officials on how they spend their work time. In some cases, the logs will reveal dedicated and hard-working officials. In others—well, sunlight is always the best disinfectant.
The deep-ponderers in The Buffalo News Opinion corner today applaud the success of a local judge who has been helping those who have done their duty by going above and beyond his. And we lament the success of a new way for Big Food to pour sweetness into our bodies.
- Sugar, sugar - Buffalo News Editorial The people in charge of marketing the substance formerly known as high fructose corn syrup want you to know that their ubiquitous concoction is no worse for your health than plain old sugar. That’s like saying the bullet in the chamber of an AK-47 is no more harmful than the bullet in the barrel of a single-shot flintlock. It’s more or less true. And utterly beside the point. It is the means of delivery that makes the difference. And, because the lower cost of high fructose corn syrup has resulted in it being fired at consumers’ bloodstreams so much more forcefully than sugar used to be, Americans are getting fatter by the minute. The Corn Refiners Association wants the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to allow its product, found these days in everything from soft drinks to wheat bread to pickles, to be listed on nutrition and ingredient labels as simply “corn sugar.” The trade group is well aware that the older, polysyllabic name is a bit off-putting on its own and that, since foodies started linking its goo to the national epidemic of obesity, it needs to put on a new front. ... As pointed out by food writer Michael Pollan, this is not the first time in U.S. history that people have had to figure out what to do with a surplus of corn. A century or two ago, the surplus would get squeezed into liquor, the regrettable result being a serious upswing in alcohol abuse. ... Related: - An -Ose Is an -Ose - New York Times Editorial Calling high-fructose corn syrup “corn sugar” makes it easier for consumers to tell that sugar has been added — and easier to choose another product with no added sweeteners. - Don't Sugar-Coat High-Fructose Corn Syrup - Anna Lappe/The Atlantic - Sugar's Power Over Humans Traced - Emily Sohn/Discovery News
And if you are old enough to remember this, you may even have once drunk soda with real sugar in it: