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PAIN AND POLITICS <br> The City Grill shootings and Carl Paladino's run for governor dominated the local headlines

Two very different local news stories stood out in 2010, generating national headlines and resonating with the public and members of the media alike.

In one, a deadly shooting outside a downtown restaurant left four people dead and four others wounded.

The massacre sparked intense coverage of the search for the gunman and his motive for the shooting and also raised issues of race and safety in the city's downtown.

The other big story of 2010 was Carl Paladino and his run for governor.

This got the attention of the downstate and national media, but Paladino's confrontational personality and refusal to temper his public remarks caught up to him in November.

Beyond those stories, 2010 was a year when an incumbent legislator lost one of the safest seats in the State Senate, Bass Pro Shops died, a snowstorm brought Thruway traffic to a standstill and politicians fought over how to finance Erie County's libraries and cultural institutions.

There also was positive news.

We saw the approval of tougher federal aviation safety measures, two major investments in an area General Motors plant and a local hockey hero's moment in the Olympics spotlight.

Those events all made the list of the year's top news stories, as selected by the editors and reporters of The Buffalo News.

So much happened in 2010 that a rare presidential visit, the resignation of Southern Tier Rep. Eric Massa and the mothballing of the grand old Statler Towers didn't make the cut.

Here, then, are the Top 10 Local News Stories of 2010:

1. It was around 2:30 a.m. on Aug. 14 when a gunman opened fire outside the City Grill restaurant in downtown Buffalo.

Danyell Mackin, Tiffany Wilhite, Shawntia McNeil and Willie McCaa III -- all in their 20s and early 30s -- were killed and four others were wounded.

Mackin, who had two young children, was at City Grill to celebrate his first wedding anniversary.

"They don't know what they took from me, my son and my daughter," Mackin's widow, Tanisha, told The News. "They just don't know."

Eventually, prime suspect Riccardo M. McCray turned himself in to police at the WIVB-TV studios in North Buffalo.

Less than one month later, a relative of McCray's was killed in what police called retaliation for the City Grill slayings.

McCray has been jailed since Aug. 25 and faces life without the possibility of parole if convicted on first-degree murder and other charges.

2. Paladino rode an anti-Albany mood to beat the establishment choice, Rick Lazio, in the GOP primary for governor. But he never got traction in the general election and didn't raise the money he needed to match Democrat Andrew M. Cuomo's hefty war chest.

And he struggled to get out from under the weight of racist and sexist e-mails he forwarded to friends, a testy confrontation with a New York Post reporter and various intemperate statements he made. In the end, Paladino lost to Cuomo, 61 percent to 32 percent.

"I made a lot of mistakes but I think we sent out a clear message and certainly raised the bar for Andy," he wrote Tuesday in a message to his followers on Facebook and Twitter. "I firmly believe that we woke a lot of people up and we are all better people for having done it."

3. In 2010, we finally wrote the obituary for the long-awaited Bass Pro Shops project on Buffalo's inner harbor. The nine-year saga featured endless anticipation, overblown rhetoric and never-fulfilled promises.

Government entities pledged to spend $35 million directly, and millions more indirectly, on the Bass Pro store inside Memorial Auditorium. But the company never signed a binding contract as the years dragged on, the Aud came down and the project's scope changed.

Finally, after Rep. Brian Higgins issued an ultimatum, Chairman Johnny Morris responded on July 30 that Bass Pro was pulling the plug.

Officials with the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. are moving on with a smaller-scale, as-yet-unknown Plan B.

4. In 2010, State Sen. Antoine M. Thompson took flak for a trip to Jamaica, for his taxpayer-funded mailings and publications and for a donation he got from the scandal-tainted developers of a downstate casino.

Still, the Buffalo Democrat represented a district where Democrats outnumber Republicans, 103,653 to 21,681, so his 525-vote loss to GOP challenger Mark Grisanti was shocking.

Republicans ended up winning back control of the State Senate by 32 to 30, giving them a seat at the table of power.

Thompson was one of an unusually high number of incumbents who lost, or gave up, seats in 2010.

State Sen. Dale Volker and Assemblyman William L. Parment retired, and State Sen. William T. Stachowski and Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte lost primary fights.

5. Snow in December doesn't typically qualify as big news, but the lake-effect storm that blew through the region Dec. 1-2 and closed the Thruway left behind angry residents and embarrassed officials.

The narrow but intense storm band pounded the suburbs to the east and south of Buffalo and ground traffic on a section of the Thruway to a halt.

Hundreds of frustrated travelers were left stranded overnight, and representatives of the Thruway Authority and the state police vowed to improve their response to future storms.

6. This year saw a successful conclusion to a long fight by the families of the victims of the Feb. 12, 2009, crash of Flight 3407 to push through changes to improve airline safety.

The families lobbied members of Congress and the executive branch and kept attention focused on the issue even as unrelated issues threatened to derail the legislation.

The bill, signed by President Obama on Aug. 1, increases the minimum number of flight hours for beginning pilots, mandates simulator stall-recovery training and requires websites that sell plane tickets to prominently state the name of the carrier operating each leg of every flight.

7. Erie County Executive Chris Collins this year cut $4 million from the budget for the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library and the full $600,000 in county funding for about two dozen smaller cultural groups.

He left intact money for 10 larger entities he believes draw visitors from outside the county.

Supporters of the smaller groups and the libraries protested the moves, but Collins' GOP allies in the Legislature held firm and blocked Democrats from overruling his cuts.

In a compromise, Collins agreed to restore $3 million of the $4 million he slashed from the libraries' budget and to spend $100,000 in county funding on the smaller culturals, in a deal with the Oishei Foundation, which agreed to match the $100,000 with $400,000 of its own. However, Oishei decided to go it alone without any county funding after Democrats in the Legislature rebuked the head of the foundation for not informing them of the offer.

8. GM in 2010 announced two major investments in its Tonawanda Engine Plant, welcome news for a region that fears its manufacturing sector is in permanent decline.

A $425 million investment announced in February was expected to create 470 jobs and ensure the plant's future as producer of GM's fuel-efficient, four-cylinder Ecotec engine.

The second commitment, announced in April, of $400 million for a new V-8 engine line, was expected to add 415 jobs and retain 300 others.

9. The officials who manage Erie County's jails this summer signed a landmark agreement with the U.S. Justice Department after five inmates at the Erie County Holding Center killed themselves between early 2008 and June.

The pact would improve suicide screening at the Holding Center, ensure annual training for the corrections staff and alter the bunks, bars and air vents that have made it possible for inmates to hang themselves.

Further, the county agreed to pay a contractor to monitor its compliance with the deal.

10. The entire region, not just its hockey fans, took pride in the performance of Sabres goalie Ryan Miller as he represented his country in February at the Vancouver Winter Olympics.

The steady netminder took Team USA on a scintillating run to the gold medal game against Canada. The Americans lost in overtime, 3-2, but the recently engaged Miller won international acclaim for his play.

e-mail: swatson@buffnews.com

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THE TOP STORIES OF 2010

Local

1. City Grill massacre

2. Carl Paladino runs for governor

3. Plan for Bass Pro store dies

4. State Sen. Thompson loses

5. Storm strangles Thruway

6. Flight 3407 safety measures

7. Collins cuts culturals budgets

8. GMinvests in Tonawanda

9. County jail suicides

10. Ryan Miller shines at Olympics

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