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A funny Obama Facebook page

Anyone with a Facebook account will LOL over this fictitious Barack Obama page.

Is Richard Kessel blowing smoke?

Sure, he's saying a lot of the right things, but can we really believe Richard Kessel's promises to help Western New York, or is the New York Power Authority chief just giving us lip service?

My take: I think he is trying to mend fences with Western New York.

That said, I'm not blind to the authority's track record in our neck of the woods.

Kessel has the advantage of not having the "pride of authorship" of that history, and he certainly has not gone out of his way to defend the authority's actions. In fact, when he says some of the things he says, like NPYA has been shortchanging WNY, you can sometimes see some of his staff cringe, as if to say: "I can't believe he's saying that." I'm not the only one seeing it.

Some folks, starting with Congressman Brian Higgins, remain skeptical.

Others, including Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster, think Kessel gets it.

What's motivating Kessel?

Politics, to a certain degree.

Kessel is running the show at NYPA because of David Paterson. And the governor is in deep trouble, here and elsewhere.

If Paterson has any chance of getting the Democratic nomination, much less winning the general election, he needs to start winning back favor. And one way to do it -- here in WNY, anyway -- is to have NYPA start doing right by the region.

To quote Bubba, 'It's the economy, stupid," and smarter use of NYPA power and profits can help.

In other words, in this case, smart energy policy is smart politics.

Beyond that, Kessel's track record in Long Island suggests he has an interest in renewable energy and a taste for big projects. He's a guy who likes to make his mark. NYPA's money affords him that opportunity.

Given the authority's track record, it's important to watch what Kessel does, not just what he says.

But I think anyone who simply dismisses what he says based on NYPA's history is being simplistic. In some ways, Kessel is a different cat from his predecessors. Moreover, the authority has never been under greater pressure to change the way it does business.

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