Niagara Gazette — President Barack Obama’s two-day bus tour of upstate New York — extending into Scranton, Pa., for a short time — has created an embarrassing dilemma for Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Obama is pro-hydrofracking, the process of extracting natural gas by drilling down several thousand feet, using a mixture of water, sand and chemicals, to blast away the rock. One of the biggest deposits for the rich resource is the Marcellus shale that covers some 48,000 square miles including parts of northern Pennsylvania and the Southern Tier in New York.
So while Cuomo shows up for the official presidential welcome in Buffalo, he has no intention to accompany the Chief Executive to other communities (e.g. Binghamton) where the anti-fracking protesters are expected to have their voices heard. The governor has been basically ducking the issue, claiming that he will remain neutral on the subject at least until the state health commissioner releases the findings of a study that has been delayed for almost a year. At present, New York has a de facto five-year moratorium on drilling.
NO VALID GRIPE: Some callers to a local radio station talk show were sounding off about Obama’s itinerary for his upstate tour. “I think it’s just awful that he has no plans to visit Niagara Falls,” a caller complained, adding that he was ignoring “one of the seven natural wonders of the world” (By the way, it’s not).
This isn’t some junket White House staffers have organized to boost business for Duff’s Chicken Wings or Charley the Butcher’s famous roast beef. The president’s whirlwind tour is to focus on the escalating cost of higher education and encourage an all-out effort to deal with that mounting crisis. The appropriate backdrop for the Obama tour to four cities still struggling with battered economies, despite hopeful signs of recovery: Buffalo, Syracuse, Binghamton and Scranton, Pa.
With New York state spending more per capita on financial aid to higher education, the Obama visit to the University of Buffalo campus has more to do with restructuring the way parents are forced to pay for college costs. The president seems serious about addressing a major concern: That the average tuition at a four-year college has tripled in the last 30 years and, as a result, the typical student dependent on a loan has inherited a $26,000 debt. Obviously, we weren’t told in advance about any details of the president’s proposals, but it is reported his plan is designed to help middle-class families.
SHOWING THE WAY: A baseball fan for all seasons noted the stark contrast between the New York Yankees vs Boston Red Sox game and the Little League World Series game that same night in Williamsport, Pa. And it was more than just the age gap. It was a disgusting and ugly scene in Major League Baseball.
At Fenway Park, Red Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster seemed determined to bean Yankee superstar Alex Rodriguez, still playing while he awaits the ruling on his appeal of a performance-enhancement drug suspension. After a couple of close throws, Dempster finally hit A-Rod and that brought Yankee manage Joe Girardi storming out of the dugout that echoed a litany of gripes aimed at the umpire. Meanwhile, in Williamsport, the 12- and 13-year-olds were displaying every conceivable form of sportsmanship, from constant respect to the umpire to friendly nods toward the opposing team. In one memorable moment, the second baseman extended a high-five to the home-run hitter rounding the bases. Maybe the Little Leaguers could provide their adult counterparts with a few valuable lessons.
TRIVIA: Who was the first woman ever nominated for U.S. vice president? (Answer Sunday).
TALKING POLITICS: Overheard in Players Lounge, Niagara Street: “Liberals feel unworthy of their possessions. Conservatives feel they deserve everything they’ve stolen” — an informed customer who has studied the subject for years.Contact Reporter Don Glynn at 282-2311.