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Everybody's Column

Toll collector's job isn't all that great

In response to The News articles on the Thruway Authority, here's a toll collector's life. First, you take a civil service test, which anyone can take. Then you may get hired as a part-time toll collector. If you want to be a full-time collector, you leave your family and friends and take a position downstate, and try to live on a starting salary of $10 per hour in New York City, Albany or Syracuse.

If you are lucky, after many transfers, which entail moving as many as six times, you get home after five years. While you were away, your grandparents, aunts or uncles have died. You have traveled back to your hometown to attend funerals. Your friends are gone.

By that time, you stand a good chance of having lung problems (carbon monoxide poisoning) or other health problems associated with the job. Then you go to work every day and try to deal with verbal and sometimes physical abuse. If you are lucky enough, you may be able to get a decent apartment or find a very inexpensive house to rent or buy, because your net pay is almost half of what you gross.

Then you retire and will be very lucky if you live 10 to 15 years without contracting lung cancer or another work-related illness. And you get to read newspaperarticles demeaning you.

David Zelonis

Grand Island


The middle class is being destroyed

What happened to the middle class? Our blue-collar middle class is collapsing with the value of the dollar. There has been a stagnation in real wages for the past six years at the same time the stock market was going through the roof. But that economic windfall has been felt mostly by the upper middle class.

There has been a serious loss of good-paying jobs, and employers have given up health plans and retirement plans for their employees. The collapse of the housing market is a symptom of the crisis. Gasoline prices have skyrocketed. Previous presidents went to OPEC and had the Saudis produce more oil to keep prices down, and also released some of the U.S. oil reserve to do the same. Of course, President Bush, his father and Vice President Cheney all have well-documented ties to the oil companies.

Spending beyond our means has forced this government to borrow immense amounts from China. Is there any wonder that our FDA has been compromised and just about every week there is a recall of food, drugs or toys? U.S. wealth has been transported overseas. Bush will not raise tariffs to protect the American worker. This will be the first generation since the Great Depression where children will have a lesser standard of living than their parents.

John Kowalski



Clark should grant DeJac a new trial

I greatly admire and respect Erie County District Attorney Frank Clark. I love his straight-talking, no-nonsense approach to law enforcement and life in general. Sadly, all that is about to change.

What is he thinking? Clark is prepared to fight tooth and nail to deny Lynn M. DeJac a new trial in the murder of her 13-year-old daughter, Crystallynn Girard. The forensic evidence now shows DNA in the murdered girl's bedroom and body as belonging to DeJac's ex-boyfriend, Dennis Donahue. He is currently in jail awaiting trial on a more recent murder charge.

Crystallynn deserves justice, as does her mother. Claiming that there was sex between a 13-year-old and her mother's adult boyfriend, but no evidence of murder, is incredible. If I ever heard of reasonable doubt, this case is it. What harm is there in granting DeJac a new trial, and reconvicting her if the evidence bears out? I am fairly certain most other taxpayers would agree with my assessment, and be happy to pay for another trial.

Clark was as sure about the Anthony Capozzi conviction as he is now about DeJac's. But he was wrong. Clark should do what's right, and save his career and reputation.

Rick Lange



Water Authority has nothing to brag about

Here we go again. The Erie County Water Authority has misused funds, purchasing a full-page ad in the Nov. 12 News filling itself with self-serving praise for outstanding service. Why did it not use the thousands of dollars spent on this ad to improve service to its customers? Do we have a choice of water providers? No.

We were without water for a few days at our home during the October storm because we are at or near the end of the county line. We had to melt snow to flush our toilet and buy bottled water. We suffer from low water pressure every day. But does the Water Authority spend money on emergency generators and pumps to improve water pressure? No. It puts an ad in the paper patting itself on the back for providing poor service and high rates.

William Kraus



America must invest in high-speed trains

It's about time America gets back on the rails. If ever we needed a good mass transportation system, it's now. With all the hassle at airports these days, people are looking to travel in another direction. Our government is spending all our money on airports when it should be looking into developing a high-speed rail system. Just look at Japan and France; their trains can move people at 250 mph because they have used government money to develop high-speed trains.

Why doesn't our government do the same? It's because, from the president down, lawmakers are wasting our money on all their pet pork projects. We are looked upon as one of the great countries of the world. Why do we have to put up with antiquated rail passenger service? Other countries have the knowledge to create a high-speed rail system. Why can't America do the same?

Robert Schuh



Stop stealing money from Social Security

I am in a quandary and hope someone can help me to understand. When we take out a loan, we are expected to pay it back, with interest. There are also penalties for late payments.

How can our government borrow from our Social Security trust fund, which we all paid into, and have the nerve to tell us that there won't be any money left for our children and grandchildren? Why doesn't the government have to pay the money back with interest? It is the American people's money, and it is supposed to be our "security."

Why do we have to continue giving our money and have it taken away to support any whim our government wants? Did officials get our permission to borrow it and deny future generations from having security? Why can't we stop contributing? They get enough from our taxes and the rip-off on oil.

Joan Ladowski


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