21 September 2009
President's Day in Troy
The President of the United States came to my old home town today. It's still where I work and the office, a newspaper building, was full of talk about the visit. It seems that good will prevailed everywhere. Even Mr. Right had a good word for Obama, who had chosen Hudson Valley Community College as a venue to speak on the importance of community colleges in education and economic development. Mr. Right was happy to learn that stimulus money was being spent on community colleges, since he sees that as leading to actual job creation as opposed to the sort of short-term make-work he identifies with government stimulus programs as a rule. The only ambivalence about the event arose over whether certain local notables would be snubbed. One was Shirley Jackson, the president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy's leading high-tech educational institution. Some wondered why Obama didn't choose RPI for his speech until his focus on community colleges became clear. Another was Joe Bruno, the former majority leader of the New York state senate and as such a major public benefactor of Hudson Valley, where a baseball stadium bears his name. Bruno was an old-school pork barrel Republican who remains under federal investigation after his retirement. Under his leadership of the senate, lots of money and jobs flowed into Rensselaer County and Troy, probably more than was proportionately due to them. But such are the privileges of power, and there you might find an irony in today's event. A Democratic President has come to a pretty much Republican city to praise a community college which had become a Republican politician's personal project, but in such a way that no longer seems characteristically Republican. I'm sure Mr. Right had people like Bruno in mind when he once opined that there were no "real Republicans" in New York State," since such people presumably would not suck taxpayers' money from elsewhere in the state into personal monuments like Hudson Valley. But now everyone seems agreed that Hudson Valley is a good thing, and the leading man in the country has confirmed their opinion. Was government intervention, whether through Bruno's control of the senate or Washington's allocation of stimulus money, necessary for HVCC to become worthy of recognition? Ponder the question for yourselves.