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Catching Up On The News

News items I spotted while catching up on what I missed while on vacation:

-- The Syracuse Post-Standard reported over the weekend about the continuing failure of state lawmakers to reform the Empire Zone program.

"A year after a consultant to the governor called the Empire Zone tax breaks ineffective, New York has made little progress in fixing the nearly $600 million-per-year program. "

-- The Valley News (Westchester County) has had a couple of pieces on Bob Wilmers, new chairman of the Empire State Development Corp. One story, no longer available online, noted that Wilmers began his tenure last week not by going to the office, but by going on, or continuing, a vacation. He did preside over a meeting of the agency last Thursday, however, as was reported by Tom Precious in The Buffalo News. A second story from this weekend quoted state legislators as being anxious to meet with him, and good government types questioning potential conflicts of interest.

"State legislative leaders said yesterday they are still waiting to meet with newly installed economic development chairman Robert Wilmers about his plans for the Empire State Development Corp. amid questions over Wilmers' potential conflicts of interest.

Wilmers has been largely mum about his agenda for the critical state agency since he was confirmed to the post last month by the state Senate after being nominated by Gov. David Paterson. And he has yet to discuss the job with the Assembly and Senate chairmen of the Corporations, Authorities and Commissions committees.

"There is going to have to be a time and a place for a discussion on Mr. Wilmers' views on economic growth and development of the state," said committee chairman Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, D-Greenburgh. "The things I've seen (from him) seem remarkably conventional and given that these programs are catastrophic failures, we want to know what his reform agenda is. As of today, I don't think anyone knows."

-- The New York Post's Fred Dicker reported that retired Joe Bruno will receive a state pension of about $95,000 -- bigger than his base pay as state senator.

"What's more, while Bruno's Senate salary is subject to the state's 6.85 percent personal income tax, his pension will be state tax-exempt."

-- Buffalo Rising did a Q&A with News columnist Donn Esmonde.

Q: What's the most frustrating part of Buffalo?
A: The self-interest, pettiness and narrow vision of too many of the politicians and so-called civic leaders who hold power.

-- You've almost certainly read about Al Gore's call for 100 percent renewable electricity within a decade. Here's a link to the speech.

"To those who say 10 years is not enough time, I respectfully ask them to consider what the world's scientists are telling us about the risks we face if we don't act in 10 years. The leading experts predict that we have less than 10 years to make dramatic changes in our global warming pollution lest we lose our ability to ever recover from this environmental crisis. When the use of oil and coal goes up, pollution goes up. When the use of solar, wind and geothermal increases, pollution comes down.

"To those who say the challenge is not politically viable: I suggest they go before the American people and try to defend the status quo. Then bear witness to the people's appetite for change.

"I for one do not believe our country can withstand 10 more years of the status quo. Our families cannot stand 10 more years of gas price increases. Our workers cannot stand 10 more years of job losses and outsourcing of factories. Our economy cannot stand 10 more years of sending $2 billion every 24 hours to foreign countries for oil. And our soldiers and their families cannot take another 10 years of repeated troop deployments to dangerous regions that just happen to have large oil supplies.

"What could we do instead for the next 10 years? What should we do during the next 10 years? Some of our greatest accomplishments as a nation have resulted from commitments to reach a goal that fell well beyond the next election: the Marshall Plan, Social Security, the interstate highway system. But a political promise to do something

"Ten years is about the maximum time that we as a nation can hold a steady aim and hit our target. When President John F. Kennedy challenged our nation to land a man on the moon and bring him back safely in 10 years, many people doubted we could accomplish that goal. But 8 years and 2 months later, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the surface of the moon."


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