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PASSPORT PLAN BAD FOR AREA BUSINESS

My wife and I have just returned from a trip to Southern California, where we were visiting our son and daughter-in-law. It was a delightful experience, but it's great to be back in Buffalo. The prices of everything in California are astronomical compared to those in Buffalo, and the beautiful weather we experienced in California greeted us when we came home.

Whenever we travel outside Western New York, I usually arrange to have The Buffalo News sent to me so I can keep current on happenings in Western New York. I failed to make these arrangements for this trip but did keep up with national and international news events through the Orange County Register and the Los Angeles Times. Both are fine newspapers but naturally did not cover events in New York State and most particularly in our sector of the state.

Upon our return home, I caught up with local and state news from the back copies of The News and New York Times that were awaiting us. There were some surprises, good and bad.

Devastating was the news that the U.S. State Department had made a decision requiring passports of everyone crossing the Canadian-American border. That would end an 80-year era of trust between Americans and Canadians that has resulted in significant economic benefits for citizens on both sides of the border. Ostensibly, this ill-advised mandate, set to take effect in 2008, was put in place to enhance homeland security.

Shocked and chagrined as I was about this policy decision, I was going to call Rep. Thomas Reynolds of Clarence, an important member of the Republican leadership in the House, to urge him to intervene with President Bush to get him to cancel this directive. Fortunately, Reynolds acted even before I got to him and urged the White House to review the order. Dozens of other House members and U.S. senators did the same, but I believe that Reynolds' intervention was the most important.

Bush said he had not been informed in advance of this directive and, to his credit, ordered the State Department to review the policy. "I thought there was a better way to expedite the legal flow of traffic and people," he said after he learned of the edict. Reynolds responsibly noted that the local economy depends on as free a flow as possible over our northern borders.

I feel fairly certain that, given the president's statement and the pressure from Congress, the State Department will quickly reverse itself and come up with some alternatives that will enhance border security without causing undue harm to Western New York's economy.

A positive piece of news I found in reviewing the copies of The News I had missed while in California was the report that two local developers had advanced plans to significantly develop the long-vacant three acres of land immediately adjacent to the 11-story Admiral's Walk building on the Waterfront. Both would-be developers are responsible and appear to be financially secure. Both said they would not need any public funds to carry out their plans. That, indeed, is welcome.

Development of the land would be a welcome addition to the waterfront village and add significantly to the total valuation of the city.

Murray B. Light is the former editor of The Buffalo News.