Two county officials risked their necks Wednesday to put the finishing touches on a billboard with a message aimed at stimulating conversation between parents and their children.
Wearing hard hats and brave expressions, County Executive Gorski and Legislature Chairman Charles Swanick climbed an 18-rung ladder to help paste up the curbside message: "Ask the kids: Who is the luckiest person in the world?"
Some watching from the ground thought the two Democrats were pretty lucky to make it back to the ground safely. The billboard is on the west side of Sheridan Drive near Grand Island Boulevard in the Town of Tonawanda.
The billboard campaign, which will run for six months, will pose a series of questions designed to stimulate conversation between parents and children while they are driving in the car together. It grew out of a proposal from the Erie County Coordinating Council on Children as a response to the Columbine High School killings and other violence across the country.
Exchanging ideas between the front and back seats may spotlight areas where children need help, Gorski said.
The county executive, speaking as the father of five children, said teens sometimes are not communicative.
The hope is that the billboards will spark conversation that could get at deeper issues of concern to children and parents.
Two other billboards are going up at 1155 Jefferson Ave. and 817 Broadway. One will ask, "Who has life easier -- Boys or Girls?" And the other, "What is more valuable than money?"
The first three billboard displays are free but the coordinating council will spend $40,000 of its $100,000 anti-violence appropriation on other billboard messages in an effort to turn driving time into quality time.
Patrick Reilly, a banker who retired and found himself serving on 11 community boards, heads the coordinating council. He said the idea for "Ask the Kids" came from Gelia Wells & Mohr, a local advertising agency. Reilly, who grew up in a big family, thinks efforts to start talks with children do pay off.
"There were seven children in our family," he said. "My father was a parole officer. My mother was a nurse. We all had dinner together every night."
And they always talked to each other, Reilly said.
Sharon Comerford, county coordinator of the Council on Children and Families, said two other anti-violence thrusts will be proposed to the County Legislature.
A consultant, yet to be hired, will offer a network of services to working parents who may be interested in some help in parenting, she said.
The council also hopes to line up professionals from law enforcement, education and other fields to work with schools on how to deal with incipient or actual violence and secure grants to set up new programs.