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Authority's swift actions deserve praise

It is easy to hammer the state's shadow government of agencies, authorities and bureaucracies for being unaccountable, out of touch and out to lunch. And rightfully so.

Having said that, I have to hand it to the Thruway Authority for rising to the post-storm reform challenge. Instead of hemming and hawing, announcing endless studies and playing the usual game of cover-our-butt, Thruway officials got busy.

It started from the beginning, when the authority's Donna Luh -- even before the road was cleared from the Dec. 1 snowstorm -- admitted that the authority made massive mistakes. The errors led to motorists being stranded for more than 17 freezing hours along a stretch of the Thruway near West Seneca. Luh's candor was a startling change from the usual "dodge-and-delay" bureaucratic mush.

Actions followed words. Reforms already in place include giving locally based state police and Thruway officials the power to close stretches of the road; positioning tow trucks in advance of a predicted storm; blocking on-ramps to the "free" section of the Thruway during traffic backups, and -- are you sitting down? -- insisting that state agencies work together during an emergency.

While the authority is at it, they should reach out to local volunteer fire companies along the I-190. The couple of fire stations I passed near the Thruway during the storm were virtually deserted. Volunteer firefighters could have delivered supplies to stranded motorists, or aided folks who need to be evacuated. Help is there, for the asking.

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As much as I sympathize with the widow of David Park, I was happy to see her drop a lawsuit against the Amherst homeowner who shot her husband dead in a tragic misunderstanding one night last spring. Park, a respected school teacher, was in town for a party at the house next door. Inebriated, he left the party and apparently wandered back into the wrong house by mistake.

I cannot imagine any judge or jury deciding that a homeowner does not have legal justification to shoot an intruder who reportedly kept coming despite commands to stop.

Having said that, I still think that people are, on balance, safer not having a gun in the house. Statistics show, and logic dictates, that the weapon will more likely to be used in a flash of temper, or to kill oneself in a moment of despair, or in an accident involving the gun owner's children, or stolen and resold on the streets, or -- as in this case -- fired in a tragically lethal misunderstanding, than it will be to successfully ward off an attack.

All of the above is especially true in Amherst, which perennially is ranked among the safest towns in America. The most likely home intruder in the upscale suburb is a marauding raccoon.

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Andrew M. Cuomo's people groused that the NFTA -- whose board is chosen by the governor -- named a new executive director just before the governor officially took office. But Cuomo still has the chance to flex some local muscle. The Erie Canal Harbor board of directors -- also answerable to the governor -- is in need of a housecleaning.

The failure of the years-long pursuit of a Bass Pro megastore, and the consequent discrediting of the model of big-box retail as a waterfront anchor, has left the board ripe for turnover. Several longtime board members saw the landing of Bass Pro as their prime mission, at the expense of the site's history and other elements. With the waterfront focus since changed to smaller, step-by-step development, it makes little sense for the Mission Bass Pro folks to remain in place. So, please, replace them.

e-mail: desmonde@buffnews.com

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