September 5, 2013

Editorial: Stafford deserves permanent tribute


---- — If you walk up to the third-floor observation deck at Albany International Airport, you’re drawn to an impressive bust of former State Sen. Joseph Bruno of Troy.

The bust depicts a smiling man of the people with text proclaiming that the one-time Senate majority leader secured “more than 250 million dollars worth of state support for numerous education, community, cultural, transportation and economic development projects in the Capital Region.”

What a wonderful, lasting tribute to an accomplished leader of government — even though his reputation may have been diminished at the close of his career by allegations he used his influence to direct state money to private interests.

If you’re from the North Country, you might be moved to ask why no such tribute was ever offered up to its greatest guardian angel ever, the late State Sen. Ronald B. Stafford.

Stafford was a contemporary and great friend of Bruno. Some said he had even more clout than the majority leader.

Stafford died June 24, 2005, at age 69 after spending 37 years looking out for the concerns of the North Country. From his first election in 1965 to his retirement in 2002, Stafford was an effective advocate for the underdog northern region, which has far more trees than people.

He was credited with enacting the Tuition Assistance Program, which has enabled thousands upon thousands of college students to complete their education.

More than a half dozen state prisons, with their many of jobs, operate in this district because of his work.

The Olympic Region has him to thank for its host role in the 1980 Winter Games and ensuing prosperity.

And the amount of state money he was able to win for North Country projects probably rivals Bruno’s for the Capital District, though we were unable to find a precise number.

Some argue, of course, that money is no measure of a legislator’s value — government should not be in the business of making handouts. But big government must help provide for things that small government can’t.

Stafford has tributes, of course. Among buildings named for him are the SUNY Plattsburgh Ice Arena, the technology building at Clinton Community College, the City School District’s Middle School and a wing of Alice Hyde Health Care Facility in Malone.

His name is revered among the current population.

But wouldn’t some kind of reminder, such as Albany County created at its airport for Bruno, be appropriate and welcome, both for now and for future generations to stop for a moment and ponder what a generous provider Ronald B. Stafford was for so many people and projects in his constituency?

His numerous successful endeavors in behalf of his people should be burnished in some kind of permanent display.