This year opens a new chapter in Buffalo's history, one that will bring important strategic decisions as well as choices that can shape the city and its region for generations to come. Some will further, or change, initiatives already well under way; 2011 offers not just hope and promise as the general economy continues its slow recovery, it offers progress on foundations already built, on visions conceived and refined.
It is one role of a newspaper, on its editorial pages, to further that progress through analysis, study and recommendations not only on decisions being made, but on decisions that should be made. On this page, we seek to champion Western New York. And we seek to offer others, from readers writing letters to the editor to policy-makers writing op-ed columns, the chance to join that debate.
The newspaper's editorial role, however, is the key component on that mix. The opinions voiced in News editorials are written in the institutional voice of a cultural citizen that has watched this city grow, change and decline since the early 1880s. It is our job here to illuminate, and urge. The recommendations of the editorial board carry the weight of opinion of the institution that is The Buffalo News more than do the personal opinions, valuable as they are, of individual columnists.
To help shape those opinions, the editorial board also adopts its own agenda -- its list of topics most crucial to the city and region, and which should be targeted for special attention and backing throughout the year. In the interests of transparency, we now share our 2011 agenda with you.
In some cases, agenda items are projects and initiatives that we will comment on repeatedly through the year, both to help maintain public pressure for progress and to state and restate where things have gone right -- or wrong. In other cases, agenda items are underlying principles that can be manifested -- and will be commented on -- in varied ways and differing decision points.
There are many important projects that will draw our review, but not as agenda items. There are policies, especially at the international and national levels, that are equally critical -- Medicaid or Social Security or wars, for example -- that also will draw comment from us but are far less susceptible to shaping by the recommendations of a regional newspaper, and thus not agenda items for us.
This year, we will focus on only one national issue as an agenda item. The cost of health care -- and the cost of health care insurance -- was not adequately addressed in a major reform that ignored the basic medical tenet of "first, do no harm." This has made care costs not just a health issue, but an economic one. This year must bring attention to cost control, if the expansion of coverage already achieved is to stand a chance of sustainability.
On state issues, our agenda includes several issues. Most of them involve the State Legislature, which disgraced itself last year. New Yorkers deserve better governance than that provided by the self-perpetuating political power machine in Albany, and although voters made that point strongly in the election cycle, the Legislature's focus on itself rather than on the state's fiscal crisis does not provide a strong basis for taxpayer confidence.
So here are our state agenda items: Fix the Legislature, a struggle that must include independent redistricting and solid ethics reform. Make New York more competitive for businesses and the jobs they create by removing costly barriers to business development that have been imposed through the years. Make it easier, through leveraging tax credits and other initiatives, for Buffalo and other communities with treasured stocks of historic and culturally significant buildings to save and redevelop them in ways that both improve the economy and save the souls of our cities. And find more of the solution to state fiscal problems in reduced spending, not in taxes and fees.
In this region, we will continue to push for some critically important plans, including those on which the city already has chosen to place its strategic bets on the future.
Those include UB 2020, the continued development of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and the kind of cultural tourism/regional attraction development most strongly represented by waterfront redevelopment.
We also will include as 2011 agenda items the maximization of Niagara hydropower benefits within this region, as a matter of basic fairness. We will continue to back historic preservation, not only through the state-level policies already mentioned but through the efforts of local developers and a healthy community give-and-take over preservation issues and possibilities. And one long-delayed effort remains incomplete; the proper expansion of the Peace Bridge will remain for us an agenda item this year.
By commenting repeatedly on these issues when commentary is warranted, we intend to keep them on the community agenda as well and to help shape community debates. This is our starting agenda for 2011; events, community needs and other developments may change our focus, of course, but in all cases our guiding principle will remain the same. We want what's best for Buffalo and Western New York, and we will be making sure you and your elected representatives know just where we stand.