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ANOTHER LAYER OF BUREAUCRACY

No doubt, it is a good thing for New York to make a concerted effort to bring high-tech jobs to the state. No doubt, too, it will be an even better thing for Western New York that the person heading up the effort is a Buffalo man who understands the crying economic need of this region.

But at the risk of appearing to examine this gift horse too closely, does New York really need to create a new state agency to do this important work? Don't we have enough agencies and offices and commissions and boards and authorities and task forces and departments already? What can this one do that any of the others can't? Shouldn't we take a few minutes to think about this first?

Too late, it's done. Dr. Russell W. Bessette, a Buffalo plastic surgeon, has been named to head the brand new New York Office of Science and Technology at a salary of $136,000 a year. The office, apparently, will be different from Empire State Development, a state economic development agency whose programs include the Semiconductor Manufacturing Initiative, designed to make New York a hub for semiconductor industry growth. But, doesn't that sound like an effort to bulk up New York's high-tech muscle?

The Pataki administration explains the decision to create another agency by allowing that the state's economic development efforts been poorly coordinated and lacked an overall goal. NYSTART, as the new office is to be called, is to remedy that problem. But if adding a new bureaucracy were the way to increase coordination and improve vision, ours would be the most adept, clear-sighted state in the union. Does anyone think that it is?

Certainly, the state needs to do all it can to grab a piece of the nation's high-tech action. Regardless of New York's problems -- one of them demonstrated by its penchant for creating new layers of government -- the state has a lot to offer. We should be able to land more of this industry than we have, particularly in Buffalo, which is rich in high-speed data lines. Buffalo has a plan to exploit that fact and leaders of the project -- the Buffalo Byte Belt Technology Development Initiative -- should be sure to contact Bessette.

But the effort smacks of taking the easy way out. Instead of straightening out a bureaucracy that wasn't working, the state has created a new one, leaving the others in place to continue in their uncoordinated ways.

We can all hope this effort will be successful, but however much good it may accomplish, the bottom line will be that the state could have done even more if instead of feeding its couch-potato bureaucracy, Albany had put it on a diet.

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