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It sadly appears to be business as usual with the new county administration. For decades, the city and county governments have put urban design and planning decisions in the hands of people who are lawyers, political operatives or both.

County Executive-elect Joel Giambra has continued this tradition with the appointment of his commissioner of environment and planning. This is especially disappointing since Giambra is one of the few politicians who has shown an understanding of urban planning issues.

Local urban planners and architects have been inexplicably silent about this issue. One can imagine how ballistic the local American Bar Association would become if an urban planner was put in charge of the county's legal activities.

One only has to look at Cleveland and Baltimore to see how important urban planning is. These two cities were not transformed by lawyers making tax deals with businesses. They were transformed by great urban planning decisions related to their downtown waterfronts.

The Baltimore waterfront attracts 13 million out-of-state visitors a year. I would be surprised if the downtown Buffalo waterfront attracted 13,000.

Our new commissioner of environment and planning has already endorsed the proposed Inner Harbor project, which has no rationale and should be terminated. The outlet of the Erie Canal should be restored.

The Skyway should be demolished and replaced with a lift bridge similar to those over the Chicago River. The lift bridge would connect downtown to the currently inaccessible area south of the Coast Guard base. This area has excellent potential for development.

Great urban design can be seen in Buffalo. Drive or walk down our Olmsted parkways or walk out the front door of the Central Library and look down the vista to City Hall. These urban designs probably take up 1 or 2 percent of the city's area, but account for at least 30 percent of our extraordinary city's quality and character.



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