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A new year dawns After the chaos and confusion of 2005, here's hope that 2006 sorts itself out

Perhaps the greatest wonder of this new year is that there still is an Erie County government after the fiscal meltdown of the past 12 months, and that that political and budgetary meltdown didn't take an already fragile regional economy with it. We survived. Pop the corks.

Western New York dodged a bullet in the auto industry, as well, although we could still get hit by the ricochets. Delphi's still here, albeit threatened. So are the Ford and General Motors plants. And, for that matter, the Air Force still is flying out of Niagara Falls. Cheers.

It is always dangerous to assess a year just after it slips away, and even more dangerous to predict the new one just arriving. But 2005 may just go into history as the year this region was truly forced to look hard at itself, and we hope that 2006 starts earning a reputation as the year some serious rebuilding took hold. There's not enough bubbly in all the New Year's partying in New York to ease contemplation of the continued decline that's the only alternative.

This newspaper helped with that regional self-appraisal, with a year-long "Why Not Buffalo?" exploration of roadblocks and issues. That brand name now fades, but the need for hard-nosed analysis -- by citizens, elected and business leaders and community activists as well as by journalists -- must continue. And there should be New Year's resolutions aplenty -- for the return of true representative democracy through meaningful reforms to the way public business is done in Albany, to job-creating initiatives based on making companies want to locate in Buffalo and elsewhere, to fulfillment of the redevelopment promises that already have been made for this area.

As these pages noted recently, 2007 may be the "make or break" year for those promises, based on deadlines and timetables for work already well-started. But 2006 must keep those dreams on track, and maybe add a few more. Here's our wish for 2006: momentum, in the right direction.

It's a new year, with new faces in City Hall and the County Legislature. There is at least hope. Start well, and keep going.

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