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Broaden the focus ; Region's 2010 agenda must include more than SUNY reform package

For the past three years, the University at Buffalo did such a good job of enlisting the power structure of Western New York behind its UB 2020 program that every other Buffalo initiative was virtually forgotten.

It was a losing strategy. You don't find other areas of the state betting on one item and then going home empty-handed when the plan fails.

And fail it did. It's hard to believe a university administration with lobbyists in Albany and the sophisticated Western New York private and public power structure could ignore the one hurdle it had to clear. It was and is Sheldon Silver, the speaker of the Assembly, the most powerful man in Albany, who made it clear repeatedly, along with the chairwoman of the Assembly Committee on Higher Education, Deborah J. Glick, D-Manhattan, that he wasn't buying what UB was selling.

And, to some extent, Silver's and Glick's resistance made sense. They said the university system was designed to allow as many New Yorkers to enroll as possible, and that giving campuses open-ended authority to raise tuition would result in many students being financially unable to attend their university. The legislation offered ways to circumvent that problem, but the issue was not without merit.

With the departure of UB President John B. Simpson, it will now be necessary for a new administration to redefine and resell the program to leaders in Western New York. That includes finding out what will pass muster with Gov.-elect Andrew M. Cuomo, the State Senate and, last but not least, the Assembly.

And finally, let's hope this time that Western New York's power structure shows itself to be more than a "one trick pony." That is one of the tests of true leadership.

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