It wasn't that long ago that Finger Lakes citizens could celebrate Independence Day with sparklers purchased at their local grocery stores and gas stations. Not the serious fireworks available just across the border in Pennsylvania, but a little low risk fun for the kids.
Now, New York's unstoppable nanny state prevents all forms of fireworks from being sold, including sparklers. The Albany gang has decided that the colorful novelties are just too dangerous for simple minded New Yorkers to handle. Safety is their number one priority, it would seem, regardless of what their subjects think.
None the less, a bill to re-allow sparklers made it's way to governor Andy Cuomo's desk this week. Unwilling to allow even the slightest risk to his subject's life and limb, our second generation governor vetoed the attempt.
|This one survived, 1876|
Hence our surprise when, at the same time he was nixing sparklers, Cuomo gave his OK to a terrifying attempt by a wealthy show business celebrity to tiptoe across Niagara Falls on a high wire. The Empire State says it is worth the risk to allow professional daredevil Nik Wallenda to attempt the stunt, despite his famous family's history of sudden death.
Nik Wallenda, the 7th generation of the famous Flying Wallendas, is making a lot of news lately. The Wallenda family, aerialists known for working without nets, have had their share of tragedy. In 1962, 2 members of the family - Richard Faughnan and Dieter Schepp - fell 70' to their deaths while attempting a 7-man pyramid in Detroit. In 1963, Rietta Wallenda (fell) to her death in Omaha while performing on the sway pole. In 1972, another relative, Richard "Chico" Guzman, was killed when he touched a live wire while on the metal rigging. And in 1978, patriarch Karl Wallenda, Nik's great-grandfather, fell to his death while performing (video here, difficult to watch but not gory). Last month, Nik and his mother Delilah Wallenda successfully completed the walk of a 300' long wire suspended 100' in the air between 2 towers of a seaside hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico - the same stunt that killed Karl.
New York's anti-business environment has left the city of Niagara Falls a hollow shadow of its former existence as a major tourist destination. Approving Wallenda's stunt has been justified by pointing to the economic benefits the event might bring to the area.
The Wallenda bill passed both houses of the 212-member Legislature with only one no vote. A legislative memo accompanying the bill states simply that the walk will be good for tourism and economic development in Niagara Falls.
If the state really cares about reviving Niagara Falls, a less risky plan might be to stop collecting sales tax in the region, then stand back and watch the economy flourish on its own.