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Editorial: 2016 was a year of bumps and bruises, with some bright spots standing out

It was a year for the books in Western New York, across the country and around the world. What was familiar was swept away, or at least seemed to be, with uncertain consequences to follow.

For Americans, that phenomenon was mainly reflected in the election of Donald Trump as president. Not only did his victory overturn expectations, but made chief executive of a man whose intentions are unclear.

He said he wanted to build a wall along the southern border that Mexico would pay for, but then said it might be a fence. He said he was pro-life on abortion when, in the past, he was pro-choice. He despised the Clintons when he previously admired them. Then he liked them again. He admitted groping women at will but said no one respects women more than he does.

It’s going to be interesting.

It’s not just the United States, either. In Britain, voters decided to leave the European Union, again with uncertain consequences. The union is an over-arching public structure that, it is fair to argue, has helped prevent the kind of splintering that incubated two world wars.

And on the subject of war: It came to the United States digitally. With near universal agreement that Russia hacked Democratic Party email servers with a goal of influencing the presidential election, American democracy was invaded and potentially damaged. Consequences to be determined.

In New York, the familiar pattern that was interrupted had to do with official corruption. The leaders of the State Senate and Assembly were sentenced to lengthy stretches in prison for federal crimes related to abuse of their offices, while prosecutors charged state and business leaders with bid-rigging in economic development programs, including the RiverBend project in South Buffalo. In the past, such conduct was called business as usual.

Buffalo, meanwhile, had to get used to things going right. It had been decades.

Despite Albany’s problems, the solar panel manufacturing plant at RiverBend moved forward, more or less on schedule. SolarCity, which will take up residence at the plant, says it will start manufacturing in 2017, putting Buffalo at the cutting edge of a durable 21st century industry.

Canalside continued its development as Western New York’s premier gathering place, courtesy of strong management and a giant rubber duck. Ohio Street, once the very definition of urban blight, was recast as an attractive roadway, instantly drawing attention from developers.

Virtually vacant, One Seneca Tower found a new owner who seems to relish the challenge of bringing Buffalo’s tallest building back to life. A towering apartment building is planned for the waterfront, while the city adopted its first new land use plan since 1977.

Fundraising for improvements to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery got a shot of testosterone with the startling pledge of $42.5 million by a billionaire bond trader and Western New York native, Jeffrey Gundlach. Henceforth, the gallery will be appropriately known as the Buffalo Albright-Knox-Gundlach Art Museum.

Change came to other culturals, too, with Donna Fernandes announcing she will leave her job as president and CEO of the Buffalo Zoo. Even the giant Brazilian cockroaches were crying. Downtown, the savior of Shea’s Performing Arts Center, Tony Conte, announced his retirement as well.
Some things stayed the same, of course. Neither the Sabres nor the Bills made the playoffs and another Bills coach was fired. But just wait until next year.

And, as always, the world lost figures both reviled and beloved. For millions of people, Fidel Castro was among the former and Carrie Fisher among the latter. So was her mother, Debbie Reynolds, who died on Wednesday, just a day after her famous daughter. Muhammad Ali had both detractors and admirers to the end. He said he was the greatest, and he proved it. John Glenn, maybe the last American hero, died.

George Martin and George Michael both passed away. So did Prince, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen and Leon Russell. Music took a big hit this year.

In sports, Gordie Howe is gone and so is Arnold Palmer. Morley Safer, one of the most erudite reporters television has ever produced, died this year. Robert Vaughn, aka Napoleon Solo, reported once again to Mr. Waverly, causing us to wonder if the pearly gates are found behind a changing room in a tailor shop.

Nancy Reagan left to join Ronnie. Antonin Scalia’s death still hurts the understaffed U.S. Supreme Court. Elie Wiesel, a survivor of the Holocaust, died after decades of fighting for justice for victims of oppression. Buffalo lost many luminaries, as well. Among them was Stanford Lipsey, former publisher of The Buffalo News and a driver of much of the city’s progress.

And so it went. A year of progress and upheaval, gain and loss. It was, in that way, like every other year. But not every other year was like this one.
It was a year for the books in Western New York, across the country and around the world. What was familiar was swept away, or at least seemed to be, with uncertain consequences to follow.
For Americans, that phenomenon was mainly reflected in the election of Donald Trump as president. Not only did his victory overturn expectations, but made chief executive of a man whose intentions are unclear.
He said he wanted to build a wall along the southern border that Mexico would pay for, but then said it might be a fence. He said he was pro-life on abortion when, in the past, he was pro-choice. He despised the Clintons when he previously admired them. Then he liked them again. He admitted groping women at will but said no one respects women more than he does.
It’s going to be interesting.
It’s not just the United States, either. In Britain, voters decided to leave the European Union, again with uncertain consequences. The union is an over-arching public structure that, it is fair to argue, has helped prevent the kind of splintering that incubated two world wars.
And on the subject of war: It came to the United States digitally. With near universal agreement that Russia hacked Democratic Party email servers with a goal of influencing the presidential election, American democracy was invaded and potentially damaged. Consequences to be determined.
In New York, the familiar pattern that was interrupted had to do with official corruption. The leaders of the State Senate and Assembly were sentenced to lengthy stretches in prison for federal crimes related to abuse of their offices, while prosecutors charged state and business leaders with bid-rigging in economic development programs, including the RiverBend project in South Buffalo. In the past, such conduct was called business as usual.
Buffalo, meanwhile, had to get used to things going right. It had been decades.
Despite Albany’s problems, the solar panel manufacturing plant at RiverBend moved forward, more or less on schedule. SolarCity, which will take up residence at the plant, says it will start manufacturing in 2017, putting Buffalo at the cutting edge of a durable 21st century industry.
Canalside continued its development as Western New York’s premier gathering place, courtesy of strong management and a giant rubber duck. Ohio Street, once the very definition of urban blight, was recast as an attractive roadway, instantly drawing attention from developers.
Virtually vacant, One Seneca Tower found a new owner who seems to relish the challenge of bringing Buffalo’s tallest building back to life. A towering apartment building is planned for the waterfront, while the city adopted its first new land use plan since 1977.
Fundraising for improvements to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery got a shot of testosterone with the startling pledge of $42.5 million by a billionaire bond trader and Western New York native, Jeffrey Gundlach. Henceforth, the gallery will be appropriately known as the Buffalo Albright-Knox-Gundlach Art Museum.
Change came to other culturals, too, with Donna Fernandes announcing she will leave her job as president and CEO of the Buffalo Zoo. Even the giant Brazilian cockroaches were crying. Downtown, the savior of Shea’s Performing Arts Center, Tony Conte, announced his retirement as well.
Some things stayed the same, of course. Neither the Sabres nor the Bills made the playoffs and another Bills coach was fired. But just wait until next year.
And, as always, the world lost figures both reviled and beloved. For millions of people, Fidel Castro was among the former and Carrie Fisher among the latter. So was her mother, Debbie Reynolds, who died on Wednesday, just a day after her famous daughter. Muhammad Ali had both detractors and admirers to the end. He said he was the greatest, and he proved it. John Glenn, maybe the last American hero, died.
George Martin and George Michael both passed away. So did Prince, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen and Leon Russell. Music took a big hit this year.
In sports, Gordie Howe is gone and so is Arnold Palmer. Morley Safer, one of the most erudite reporters television has ever produced, died this year. Robert Vaughn, aka Napoleon Solo, reported once again to Mr. Waverly, causing us to wonder if the pearly gates are found behind a changing room in a tailor shop.
Nancy Reagan left to join Ronnie. Antonin Scalia’s death still hurts the understaffed U.S. Supreme Court. Elie Wiesel, a survivor of the Holocaust, died after decades of fighting for justice for victims of oppression. Buffalo lost many luminaries, as well. Among them was Stanford Lipsey, former publisher of The Buffalo News and a driver of much of the city’s progress.
And so it went. A year of progress and upheaval, gain and loss. It was, in that way, like every other year. But not every other year was like this one.

Sunday: A lighthearted look ahead at the new year.

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