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Everybody's Column

Social promotion, low standards certainly aren't helping students

I commend Arthuram White, ("Persistence pays off with a diploma," Feb. 5) but what have we come to as parents and teachers when it comes to standards in the classroom? Do we actually feel we should be sending out accolades for a grade of 66 on the Regents English exam? Where were all the teachers and this gentlemen's mother when he was obviously having trouble with English in his earlier school years?

This is ludicrous. Where are the accolades for the thousands of kids who strive for a great education and are on the honor roll or merit roll semester after semester? Should we be proud of a 66? Are we as a society that lax in our standards these days that a student who receives a passing grade of 66 on the Regents English exam -- after four attempts, no less -- is worthy of such an article in The News and congressional recognition?

It is unfortunate for Arthuram to have these bars set so low. But when schools are passing students whose aptitude tests probably do not deem it acceptable from grade to grade, then there in fact lies the bigger issue. As long as these practices are in place, the kids will never really see the value in education and thus be inclined to accept an equivalency diploma or drop out.

Paul Sampugnaro



Politicians always seem to find loopholes in laws

After a tough week, there's nothing like the Saturday News while lingering over a cup of hot coffee. I nearly spit my brew, however, when I read on Feb. 4 that County Executive Joel Giambra may run for Congress.

It was not the whole idea of his running, really. It's the fact that he has "$820,000 on hand." Even though, as political reporter Bob McCarthy explained, that money can't be used for a federal election, "there are ways to 'cleanse' the dollars for a congressional race." Cleanse the dollars? Is that anything like laundering money?

It's not Giambra's fault. It's the fault of elected politicians who pass strong laws to impress the folks back in the district while quietly making sure the laws can be circumvented when it suits them.

Paul D. Seil



Ceremony serves as reminder of just how great our nation is

On Feb. 2, I had the privilege of witnessing at the swearing-in ceremony for 52 new U.S. citizens in federal court. They came from Brazil, China, Vietnam, Iran, Croatia, Somalia, Ukraine and 27 other countries. Nothing in recent memory has moved me quite like the looks on their faces -- young and old -- as they took their oaths.

There's much about our government and society that can cause one to become disillusioned from time to time. But we would do well to remind ourselves now and then that the rights and freedoms that we often take for granted are for others just a dream, and that despite its many flaws, this country remains -- for these 52 new citizens and for millions like them around the world -- a "beacon of hope." While I sometimes wonder whether we're on the right track, I never doubt that we're on the right train.

Jeremiah J. McCarthy

President, Bar Association of Erie County


Shared border management at Peace Bridge is a bad idea

I am writing in response to the Feb. 3 editorial, "Another sensible step for bridge." We applaud the hard work of the City's Planning Department in wrestling the Peace Bridge Authority and the Department of Homeland Security into a better deal for Buffalo. However, shared border management is neither sensible nor the best possible deal.

Would The News be as gung-ho if the 100-acre customs plaza was coming to Buffalo's West Side? Idling trucks and cars in Fort Erie won't clear up the environment and respiratory health problems in Buffalo because the prevailing southwest wind will bring the smog back into the neighborhood. Terrorists will be able to destroy any bridge from within the United States because all inspections will be in Canada. It is possible to improve national security, stimulate the local economy and improve health and the environment by putting reverse customs into the plazas. This, combined with moving the trucks to non-residential locations, would be the best of all worlds.

Bernadette A. Secco

Executive Director, Fresh Air Coalition


Pay cuts will hurt patients seeking mental health care

The Feb. 5 News article regarding HealthNow's belt tightening struck me as ironic, given the quadrupling of its cash and investments over the last four years. HealthNow's own annual report shows a twenty-fold increase in net gain over the same four years. Since its premiums have been climbing just about as quickly as its assets, HealthNow might consider using some of this money to "stay competitive."

As a psychologist on the front lines of providing mental health care for HealthNow's subscribers, I must wonder whether my pay cut to levels below those of 1993 are necessary when the top 10 administrators' salaries -- who make a combined salary and benefit package of $6.87 million -- stay the same or rise. We're told these compensations are necessary to retain talented administrative leadership. I guess talented administrators are more important than those actually providing the care.

My salary woes should not be the public's concern. However, I want people to be aware that these inequitable decreases may put unnecessary obstacles in the way of people who need mental health care. When I can no longer afford to provide services for an insurer, I must stop seeing those patients. Many of my colleagues face a similar dilemma.

Susan R. Davis



Talk radio won't entertain us like our local personalities did

I have been listening to AM radio for many years and enjoyed being entertained. Oftentimes, local personalities provided relief from the problems of the day. One local personality who accomplished this superbly was Danny Neaverth. He, along with Dr. Boo, Accordion Bill and others, as well as playing "the oldies," helped me start each day with a smile. It's too bad that WKBW has chosen to go to a talk-show format. Yet another station has chosen not to entertain but to allow opinions to fill the airways.

Paul Synor



News didn't need to print negative story on Detroit

As a Detroiter, I read the Associated Press story in the Feb. 3 News "The Two Detroits" with great interest. For some reason, I was expecting to read a comparison between Detroit and Buffalo -- two cities separated only by Canada that share many of the same characteristics. Both Buffalo and Detroit have downtowns comprised of architectural gems. Both cities have inefficient forms of public transportation. And both have suffered from extreme poverty as a result of white flight and the decline of American manufacturing and industry.

In short, other than the Super Bowl, every description provided of Detroit can be applied to Buffalo. Why is it then that I never read these descriptions about your own city? Why does The News prefer to point out the shortcomings of other cities? Let us not forget The News piece that criticized the poverty levels of the Seneca Nation, yet did not once mention the skyrocketing poverty levels in Buffalo, especially on the East Side.

People from Detroit do not need you to point out our shortcomings; we have our own papers to do that. And, believe it or not, we love our city and every once in a while would like to be free from the stereotypical images of Detroit painted by outsiders.

Meghan McCune

Detroit, Mich.

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