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By James Hufnagel

It's truly pathetic when parents live vicariously through their children, pushing them to excel in sports, music or academics, but especially so when it comes to political dynasties.

For example, George H.W. Bush lost to upstart Bill Clinton, the third-youngest man to be elected president in U.S. history. It was a stinging defeat made very personal when Texas governor Ann Richards enthralled the national Democratic Convention that summer with the famous line that George Bush "was born with a silver foot in his mouth."

How sweet it had to be for George the Elder when the fruit of his loins George Jr. -- a DWI offender and AWOL Navy Reserve pilot whose major life accomplishments included the near-bankruptcy of an oil company and a major league ball club -- ousted Richards, and then went on to rehoist the Bush family crest over the White House front door for another eight years.

There's something so antiquated about family political succession. As if, in this vast land of excellence and opportunity we call America, where thousands of educated, accomplished and patriotic citizens live, the most qualified individuals we can come up with for high office are George's son, or Bill's wife, or Mario's kid.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is being talked about as the 2014 Democratic candidate for the presidency, as was his dad 20 years ago. An exceptionally intelligent man and a brilliant orator, Mario Cuomo served as a leader of the Democratic Party during its long years in the wilderness, courtesy of the Reagan revolution, himself flirting with runs for the White House in 1988 and 1992. Instead, the reign of the "philosopher king," as he once was pegged, came to an abrupt end in 1994 with defeat at the hands of George Pataki.

You may wonder why we are taking this stroll down memory lane. The fact is, after less than a year in office, Cuomo already is laying the groundwork to fulfill his destiny and run for president in 2014, and rest assured the interests of Western New York and Niagara County are of infinitesimal consideration with respect to his family's grand strategy and overarching ambitions.

So far in his brief tenure, Cuomo has pulled the rug out from under a $100 million New York Power Authority proposal to fund projects in Niagara County, replacing it with a "Regional Economic Development Council" privileged to compete with 10 others across the state for a maximum $40 million share of state development aid. Even that amount, paltry by comparison to the shelved NYPA grant, would be shared with Buffalo and the rest of Western New York.

Meanwhile, the Niagara Power Project hums along, sending hundreds of millions of dollars worth of hydropower out of state. In addition, our environment is being fast-tracked for ruination by natural-gas fracking, benefiting both downstate and Cuomo's national reputation on energy policy by sacrificing our drinking water and landscape.

In furtherance of his war on Niagara County, it's now becoming clear that Cuomo intends to kill funding for the Niagara Greenway, the 50-year, $450 million program funded by NYPA, created to foster a "Niagara River corridor (of) unique ecological, cultural and economic importance to Western New York."

On Sept. 23, 2011, former State Parks deputy commissioner for Upstate Operations and career Albany bureaucrat Dominic Jacangelo convened a special meeting of the Niagara Greenway Commission at Beaver Island State Park to warm up commissioners and the interested public for the coming bad news.

Jacangelo plodded through a boring 65-minute PowerPoint presentation apparently intended as a refresher course for commissioners on the original Greenway plan, a $750,000 document replete with glossy photos of the waterfront, an inventory of local tourism assets and vague guidelines about how a greenway should look that now is gathering dust on the shelf of your local library.

The meeting was typical Albany, parachuting into town for a day, condescendingly telling us what we're doing right and what we're doing wrong, because God knows we need all the advice we can get from these people on how to run our lives.

The alarm bells started going off for those astute few in the room conversant in bureaucratese when Jacangelo, for no apparent reason, correctly pointed out that there is no actual statutory language in the original legislation establishing the Niagara Greenway that requires a funding stream from NYPA, nor was there ever any formal agreement reached during the Power Project relicensing negotiations five years ago that required NYPA to fund a greenway.

He proceeded to remind everyone -- entirely out of context, and for reasons then known only to Cuomo, and State Parks and NYPA ruling elite -- that the Hudson Valley Greenway has existed and prospered for many years without benefit of anything resembling a power project relicensing funding source, existing solely on grants from various and diverse public and private agencies.

"After all," chirped a female Greenway commissioner, "there are plenty of other sources, such as community development grants, the state Environmental Protection Fund, and also matching funds that can be utilized."

And Jacangelo stood there nodding, a faint smile on his face.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com Oct. 11, 2011