Share this article

print logo

MILESTONES AND MILLSTONES

Morning has come on the first day of the year 2000. At the very least, there's an end to speculation over what will happen when "19" disappears from the heading on the calendar; at best, we can hope for another 11 months of peace before debate renews on when the millennium and the century really start.

Please keep reading -- we promise we won't rehash that tired debate right now. Today provides a chance to ponder some milestones and millstones, millennial or not:

We're not sure what it means, but for the first time in history the chief executives of both the city and the county boast Italian heritage. It might mean better food, or at least better sauce, in local government cafeterias.

As we move into the new century there's encouragement in the increased involvement of local up-and-coming professionals in civic life via such organizations as the New Millennium Group and the 21st Century Club. In 1900, there was a similar movement of "Progressives" looking to nudge their more established elders into new visions and bolder action. Buffalo was coming out of a recession then, too, and we could do worse than recapture that sense of unbridled optimism.

Now that this New Year's party schedule is over, perhaps it's time to pump more civic energy into marking the centennial of Buffalo's Pan-American Exposition of 1901. There's a year yet to plan for the gala commemoration that milestone deserves. Notwithstanding the example consistently provided by the State Legislature, not every deadline should come as a surprise.

Speaking of commemorations, Western New York calendars should be marked with a couple for this year as well. It's the 175th anniversary of the 1825 completion of the Erie Canal, which made Buffalo a major city. The last few hundred yards were dug in Buffalo by placing a whiskey barrel and a ladle at various spots along the surveyed line, and inviting citizens to partake as soon as they'd trenched their way to the amenity.

It's also the centennial of the city fireboat Edward M. Cotter, the oldest working fireboat in the country and a designated National Historic Landmark. A 100th birthday celebration is planned during this year's Fleet Waterfest on Aug. 5 and 6, and it would be nice if the U.S. Postal Service helped spread the word with a commemorative stamp.

Two major public efforts launched in the last millennium (or at least in the 1990s) have so far proven disappointing. Here's hoping the near future brings salvageable solutions to the Peace Bridge expansion project, which suffers from too much planning, and the Buffalo Psychiatric Center site reuse project, which has suffered from too little.

Hopes for the bridge center around a consensus review panel that's trying to pull together several different plans into a winning solution for a new bridge. A series of presentations that will lead to a final mid-March recommendation is set for later this month and is open to the public. We hope the public gives the presentations the attention they deserve.

As for the Psychiatric Center site, a city design panel may have found a workable solution to the lack of private-investment offers by backing a government conversion of the landmark buildings to new educational and cultural reuse.

Peace in the Buffalo school system between the new superintendent, whoever he or she is, and the board would be a welcome change and something to look forward to. For a city desperate to keep its dwindling middle class, this is a decision that may be among the most important that city leaders will make in the first decade of the new century.

The Bills start off the new millennium the way they began the last decade of the old one -- fighting for a trip to the Super Bowl. Maybe this is the year. Now that really would signify the start of a new age.

There are no comments - be the first to comment