ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The Auburn Citizen on Gov. Andrew Cuomo's announcement of $1 billion in economic development incentives for Buffalo.
A billion dollars for Buffalo? Did we hear that right?
Among the items in Gov. Andrew Cuomo's State of the State speech Wednesday was an announcement that the state will be offering "national and global industries up to $1 billion in multi-year economic development incentives to come to Buffalo."
Good for Buffalo, but what about the rest of the state?
It was just a month ago that state announced the winners of a process in which regional economic development councils competed for hundreds of millions in funding aimed at job creation. Central New York was one of the big winners. One of the others, with an allocation of more than $100 million, was western New York, home to Buffalo.
So our first question is, if regions statewide had to come up with detailed plans to be considered for economic development funds, how does Buffalo suddenly warrant an addition $1 billion?
And if Buffalo is as desperate as Cuomo says it is (painfully high unemployment and 28 percent of its people living in poverty), why should New Yorkers believe that $1 billion is a wise investment to make there?
We can't help but recall that, during the most recent gubernatorial election, Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino gave Cuomo his biggest challenge. Paladino has a track record of job creation in western New York and a lot of political allies, as well. A big investment in that part of the state would certainly go a long way toward making some of those folks a little more pro-Cuomo.
In any case, economic incentives of this magnitude require a lot of oversight and review. The regional development councils were required to prove they had solid plans in place. Buffalo needs to be required to do the same and more to justify this massive investment.
The Kingston Daily Freeman on the work still ahead for Gov. Cuomo and the New York Legislature.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders took the occasion of the annual State of the State address to engage in one of the great Albany World rituals — quid pro quo congratulations.
"Thanks so much, you're great, too!"
Isn't that great?
Well, not so much.
Given the depth and breadth of the challenges facing the Empire State, one admittedly productive legislative session in the wake of years of dreadful dysfunction may be cause for wary optimism, at most, but hardly for celebration.
Our cities are still crumbling, gangs wield violence in support of a thriving drug trade, Upstate has too few good-paying jobs, and our schools are underperforming by almost any measure.
Forgive us for saying, but it's a little early for either Cuomo or lawmakers to be taking a victory lap.
It's hysterically funny, really. These legislators of ours had protested long and loudly about the unfairness of being labeled "dysfunctional." It's just not so, they insisted. Then, they have one demonstrably good session and suddenly they're celebrating the end of the dysfunction they had said they never embodied.
It is true that Cuomo is riding high on a wave of overwhelming voter approval. A recent Quinnipiac University poll found 68 percent of voters approved of his job performance. But we'd be more comfortable if he and the rest of Albany World were guided by the old show business axiom that you're only as good as your next performance.
About that next act, the centerpiece of Cuomo's address was a call to meet hardship with economic development, with gambling an important linchpin. Cuomo touted development of 3.8-million-square-foot convention center at the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens and called for amendment of the state Constitution to allow gambling casinos off Indian lands.
He also proposed $1 billion in economic development aid to bring businesses to Buffalo.
The Cuomo Era of Good Feelings had its limits, however, and education was it.
The governor seemed bent on offending just about everyone in public education by proclaiming himself to be the state's lone advocate for students, against an educational establishment he portrayed as self-serving.
"I learned my most important lesson in my first year as governor in the area of public education. I learned that everyone in public education has his or her own lobbyist. Superintendents have lobbyists. Principals have lobbyists. Teachers have lobbyists. School boards have lobbyists. Maintenance personnel have lobbyists. Bus drivers have lobbyists. The only group without a lobbyist? The students. Well, I learned my lesson. This year, I will take a second job — consider me the lobbyist for the students."
We wish him luck — he's going to need it.
There was nary a word, however, about legislative redistricting or the permitting and regulation of drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale formation.
That's too bad because both issues are pressing and carry long-term consequences, the one for our continuing little experiment in self-government and the other for the rural economy and environment in an area stretching from the Catskills to Lake Erie.
Cuomo has waffled on redistricting. Initially he said he would insist on an independent commission to draw new boundary lines. With legislators reneging on their promise to voters to empower such a panel, Cuomo recently has reserved the right simply to veto any outcome he considers unfair. Too bad. The people of New York have no reason to trust legislators with a clear self-interest in drawing the lines to benefit themselves, much less those who have gone back on their promises.
As for gas drilling, the administration has been tilted toward approval of hydrofracking extraction of natural gas from the shale deposits, even as evidence has grown of the potential dangers of the process. A misstep on this issue could long outlive the legacies of state economic development initiatives in Queens and Buffalo.
We hate to be spoilsports about it, but it's going to take a run of more than 12 months of good governance to put things right in the Empire State.
The Buffalo News on restructuring the U.S. military after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
President Obama is moving smartly to right-size the American military at a moment when threats to the nation are resetting themselves, when two wars are winding down and when just about everyone is clamoring to reduce the nation's budget deficit. This is a change that has to happen.
The move, announced Thursday, will reduce military spending by hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decade. The cuts are part of a recasting of defense strategy to move away from the costly ground wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and focus on threats from nations such as China and Iran.
Under the plan, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta will oversee the beginning of a reduction in the size of the Army and Marine Corps and also push for cuts in next-generation weapons. The Army, already scheduled to drop to a force of as little as 520,000, would be cut further, to 490,000, under the administration's plan. The Marines, which factor into plans to project American power in the Pacific, would see a smaller reduction.
Americans have learned over the past decade that the military of the past may not be best suited to the challenges of today and tomorrow. A small force of men tracked and killed Osama bin Laden. Americans played a critical role in the dispatching of Moammar Gadhafi's regime in Libya without ever setting a foot on Libyan soil. Our drone force projects power in ways hardly imaginable a decade ago.
What is more, the nation needs resources not just for fighting expensive ground wars but for humanitarian aid, counterterrorism and other 21st century demands.
The conservative right is already criticizing the president for being soft on defense, but it's nothing more than the usual cheap shots. Either Republicans are for a modern military or they are not. Either they're for deficit reduction or they're not. The president's plan aims at achieving both those goals in a world that remains dangerous.
Members of Congress — in both parties — have too often sought to protect military spending as a jobs program. But the future of military bases and weapons programs must be decided on defense needs, not economic advantage. Indeed, it is increasingly difficult to perceive the economic advantage of a military budget that is helping to drive deficits through the roof.
We don't know that Obama has lighted on the perfect plan for a 21st century military, but it should be plain to all that he is moving in the right direction. Our force needs to be nimble, more effective and less costly — just like government itself.
It would be helpful for the president's opponents to focus their criticisms on making the plan better rather than simply bleating that Obama is weak on defense. Clearly, he is not that. Against the wishes of his political base, he aggressively prosecuted the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, took out bin Laden and help to dislodge Gadhafi.
But it's an election year and what is right is not always on the political agenda, so Republicans will play to their base. But while the changes hold a share of risk, so does not changing and, in the end, the changes are what Panetta said they are: inevitable. Obama is on the right track.
The New York Post on the U.S. rescuing Iranians from pirates and Iran sentencing a U.S. citizen to death.
Just a few days ago, Iran publicly hailed the U.S. Navy's timely rescue of 13 Iranian fishermen held captive for 40 days by Somali pirates as "a humanitarian gesture."
"We welcome this behavior," a spokesman for Tehran's foreign ministry said.
But what did Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government then actually do?
It sentenced an imprisoned American-Iranian to death on trumped-up espionage charges.
And then it announced that it has begun enriching uranium — a key step in developing nuclear weapons — at an underground facility.
The death sentence against 28-year-old Amir Mizraei Hekmati, a former military translator who's been held since August, is the first imposed on a US citizen since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
The sentence comes after months of isolation — Hekmati has not been allowed to see Swiss diplomats, who represent US interests in Iran.
The reason is obvious: He was undoubtedly coerced into videotaping a false confession broadcast on Iranian TV.
As a spokesman for the National Security Council noted: "The Iranian regime has a history of falsely accusing persons of being spies, of eliciting forced confessions and of holding innocent Americans for political reasons."
Whether the sentence ever will be carried out is an open question. History suggests such things are more theater than threat.
Not so the Iranian bomb.
Indeed, the truly disturbing — though not unexpected — news is the confirmation by the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran has switched on a uranium-processing plant tunneled deeply inside a mountain.
The European Union seems set to impose an oil embargo on Iran. Even without China on board, Tehran is hurting.
But not hurting enough to shelve its nuclear program.
D-Day for stronger action grows perilously closer each day.
The Plattsburgh Press-Republican on changing attitudes about curbing violence in sports.
Peer pressure and contemporary standards are the best guideposts for acceptable conduct in any area of life. Consider how smoking was not only accepted but cool a generation ago, and drunks were generally regarded as harmless buffoons, even if they got behind the steering wheel of a car. Now, both habits are considered dangerous, not only to those practicing them but to others.
Sports seem to be getting the message these days.
Back in the heyday of National Football League players such as all-time greats Jim Brown and John Unitas, the harder one player could hit another, the more laudable. If a star could be maimed during a game by a violent collision, the player inflicting the damage was considered a hero — a practitioner of the sport true to the ideals of the designers of the game.
Protections for vulnerable athletes were few, both in terms of equipment and of rules. And concussions, for example, were merely a byproduct of the profession.
But everyone is learning that those earlier sentiments were seriously flawed. The goal of participants in any sport should not be to injure during the course of a game but to win in an environment of safety.
Rules have been adopted to limit the violence done to bodies, and particularly to heads. As we watch football now, we realize the enormous damage a speeding 300-pound body can cause and we react with a measure of horror when we see a violation of the rules that results in an injury, especially to the head.
Most sports fans by now have seen a replay of the Detroit Lions' Ndamukong Suh intentionally stomping Green Bay lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith. The league suspended Suh for two games for the blatant assault.
These days, the TV cameras catch every gesture on the field. And public reaction to Suh's stomp has been outrage. So, in fact, has the reaction of fellow players.
Same with Pittsburgh Steeler James Harrison's helmet-to-helmet smashing of Cleveland's Colt McCoy, inflicting a season-ending concussion on the defenseless quarterback. Astonishingly, Harrison appealed his one-game suspension and, as expected, was denied. The fact that he appealed is almost as despicable as the illegal hit itself, as it indicates a sense of denial, a shirking of responsibility.
More recently, baseball's Texas Rangers catcher Yorvit Torrealba was playing in a Venezuela winter league game and hit a plate umpire in the face.
He was immediately suspended for 66 games by that league, and there were calls by many for Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig to do something similar. Torrealba wisely issued an apology, though you can't help but wonder it was out of remorse or self-preservation.
The truth is that neither sports nor society in general will any longer tolerate bad behavior in the name of competition. Previously pampered athletes must abide by the same rules as the rest of us.