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Everybody's Column

>Unusually warm winter disrupts natural cycles

Is Donn Esmonde the most myopic person in Western New York? His extolling of a January golfer as the first bird of spring warps the true meaning of the unprecedented run of warm weather this winter. A nice day in our long winters is certainly uplifting. Even a week of January thaw is a welcome break. But in case you haven't noticed, it has stopped snowing in November and December, the lake no longer freezes and snowmobiles are a glut on the market. Frozen fields have turned to muck, something that shouldn't happen until March.

The trees, plants and animals of this region owe their survival to the stability of our weather -- as harsh as it may be in winter. Nature runs on a timetable. When buds and shoots appear in January, what will the wildlife that depends on these food sources in March do then? It doesn't get shipped in from California. Do not be seduced by the siren's song carried on warm southerly breezes! The abnormally warm winters, rather than being a cause for festivity, should spur us to learn more about the dangerous consequences of human-induced global warming and take action to slow it down.

Obviously, it will be cold again. But normal weather patterns are inexorably being disrupted. The golfers of January are canaries in the mine shaft. If we don't do anything about climate change now, we will become as extinct as dodo birds.

Michael Fanelli
Elma

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>It's great to see Spitzer stress need to fight crime

The State Troopers Police Benevolent Association applauds Gov. Eliot Spitzer's first State of the State address, which was reported in the Jan. 4 News.

The PBA appreciates that Spitzer recognized from the audience Kristi Todeschini and Teri Longobardo, whose husbands, Trooper Craig Todeschini and Trooper Joseph Longobardo, were two of the four troopers killed in the line of duty in 2006. We are grateful that Spitzer remembered the sacrifices of our fallen troopers and acknowledged the dangers they face every day.

He spoke of the importance of public safety and removing guns, gangs and drugs from our streets. His plans for an interagency task force and expanded state assistance to combat crime will help keep our neighborhoods safe.

PBA members are not only troopers, but also parents and taxpayers. Our members are eager to see improvements in the education their children receive in public schools, and they are concerned about property taxes and government spending. Spitzer has shown us that he has more than just a vision for a greater New York; he has comprehensive plans and the support of the people in implementing real change.

Daniel M. De Federicis
President, State Troopers PBA

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>Extend viewing hours for Christmas windows

I completely agree with the letter writer regarding the success of Christmasville in the Village of Lancaster. Families scattered throughout the country come home for the holidays to reminisce as well as to begin new traditions. Visiting the windows is an excellent way to begin.

Our family viewed the windows Christmas week, but we were disappointed when the lights illuminating the windows were turned off at 8 p.m. I suggest that next year the viewing time be extended to 9 p.m.

Arlene Olday
Depew

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>Living Wage Ordinance does not violate freeze

The News article on the likely increase to Buffalo's living wage rate included a mention of City of Buffalo employees, which readers might find confusing. Here is a brief explanation. City employees have been covered by the Living Wage Ordinance since it was amended in 2003. In 2004, all city employees were entitled to at least $9.03 per hour with health benefits or $10.15 without. Even before the wage freeze instituted by the Buffalo Fiscal Stability Authority in April 2004, there were some city workers, including seasonal laborers and interns, who earned less than this living wage rate.

The question has arisen whether, if the city came into compliance with its Living Wage Ordinance and gave these workers a raise, it would violate the wage freeze. The Living Wage Commission believes that complying with the ordinance would not violate the wage freeze because, under state law, the wage freeze applies only to increases granted "pursuant to collective bargaining agreements, other analogous contracts or arbitration awards." In other words, the wage freeze would not apply to a wage increase granted pursuant to a city ordinance.

Lou Jean Fleron
Chairwoman
Buffalo Living Wage Commission

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>Salary increase will be passed on to taxpayers

The Jan. 3 News article, "City's living wage likely to rise to $9.59," concludes with the compliance coordinator of the city's Living Wage Commission calling into question the stance of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership and other business organizations regarding the living wage and associated cost-of-living adjustments. I would like to extend some information on which the business community bases its interests in this debate.

Any salary increase to city employees is a direct increase in cost to taxpayers -- a dangerous maneuver to make outside of the annual budget process. In addition, as the ordinance applies to employers, increased costs are generally dealt with in two ways -- the reduction of lower-wage work force through rehiring higher-skilled employees or increasing automation, or passing the cost on to taxpayers with higher bids for contracts. Neither solution is positive.

To suggest that forcing employers doing business with the city to pay higher wages to entry-level employees does not affect the city's and taxpayers' bottom line is a misrepresentation of the facts. There is a clear correlation between raising the wage mandate and increased costs to taxpayers -- sadly, at the expense of the people the ordinance is designed to assist.

Craig W. Turner
Government Affairs Manager
Buffalo Niagara Partnership

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>Downtown Buffalo is not dangerous

In response to the letter "Making Buffalo safer needs to be top priority" -- Buffalo is safe. It is not crime free, but it is not bad in downtown. I'm thinking the writer's son is hanging out in the wrong neighborhoods and with the wrong people. My husband and I having been living in Allentown for 16 years and we have owned a restaurant in downtown for four years. We have never encountered anything like her son did. Her feelings about downtown are typical of suburbanites -- most think the city is dangerous. It's not, so come down sometime.

Mary Beth Bartlett
Buffalo

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