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EVERYBODY'S COLUMN / Letters from our readers

Many lives needlessly lost because of poor planning

What is the point of being able to predict a natural disaster like Hurricane Katrina if nothing is done to prevent the loss of life that occurred and continues? When President Bush appeared on television and instructed the masses to evacuate, he did not offer any assistance in this endeavor. Not everyone could afford to hop on a plane, buy a bus ticket or even pay for the gas needed to travel hundreds of miles to safety.

How could the average family or an elderly couple on a limited income flee to another city and afford to stay in a hotel for days or weeks? Why wasn't there a plan? Why didn't the president, who prides himself on protecting the American people, do more to protect the poor people of Louisiana and Mississippi?

A fleet of buses could have been deployed to the cities known to be in the path of Katrina, and hundreds of poor and disadvantaged could have been taken to comfort and safety. Our great nation has the money and the means to feed and house these people until they can safely return to their cities.

The sad truth is that many lives could have been saved if our president had made a "pre-emptive" strike.

Mary Abu-Sitta

Amherst

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People can open homes to victims of hurricane

While watching MSNBC more than a week after Hurricane Katrina ruined hundreds of thousands of lives, I noticed a crawl at the bottom of the screen. It said someone was offering a displaced family of nine a place to live for a year. It went on to state that they were united through www.openyourhome.com.

What really irritates me is that when Katrina barreled through, and it was apparent so many people were going to be homeless, my husband said he wished he could offer to share our house with a family. But we heard that the best way to help was to donate money to the Red Cross. We never heard about an organization that unites displaced people with families willing to share their homes with them. I wonder why that is?

It seems to me that offering a place to live to a homeless family deserves as much attention as making a financial contribution to a faceless entity. Perhaps now more people will learn about www.openyourhome.com and will have a choice of how to help.

Lou Ann Loveless

Buffalo

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Government's response to Katrina was appalling

I'm so disgusted and utterly offended by the gross mishandling of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. I and many other African-Americans wonder if this devastating scene would have played out like it did if the majority of inhabitants of this region were Caucasians.

I watched in disbelief day after day. There was a mass of people who looked like me -- crying, chanting for help, waiting for relief, just wanting to be rescued. I'm dumbfounded. How could our great nation, which we truly revere, treat its own citizens in such a shabby manner? What I've witnessed makes me question: Are we equal? Does race really matter? Aren't we all human beings with the same basic needs, wants and desires?

There's one more point that I have to make. The displaced people in New Orleans are not refugees. A refugee is an emigrant or a foreigner. These people were born in the United States.

Gussie Trotter

Buffalo

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Storm should be wake-up call on dangers of global warming

Hurricane Katrina has left a path of destruction in the Gulf states. In her wake, lives have been destroyed and property damage is expected to exceed $25 billion.

It takes a cataclysmic event like this to get President Bush's attention. When Bush learned about Katrina, he canceled the rest of his five-week vacation and soon could be heard on radio and TV cautioning local residents to take the storm seriously.

But how seriously does Bush take hurricanes like Katrina? The president rejects the science of climate change. The power of hurricanes is a function of ocean surface water temperature. Because of global warming, that temperature is rising, producing more powerful hurricanes. Bush has a lot of nerve to be comforting hurricane victims while his energy policy is hurting them. The president has rejected the Kyoto treaty and has done nothing to curtail fossil fuel use and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. All of this is making global warming worse.

Katrina is a wake-up call. We need to reduce our use of coal, oil and natural gas and switch to clean, renewable energy sources. We also need to insist on honesty about this issue from our president.

Walter Simpson

Amherst

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Williams' only achievement is to escalate war of words

I would like to take issue with James Williams' most recent spate of name calling. In his two months as Buffalo school superintendent, Williams has proved to be a combative and adversarial player who seems to have been hired solely to beat up on the unions that represent school personnel. So far, his only achievement has been to escalate a war of words.

He has determined that Buffalo Teachers Federation President Philip Rumore is "a snake in the grass" and a liar who needs his "rear end kicked."

Rumore has run the BTF for almost 25 years and is obviously well respected by enough of his constituents that he has been re-elected consistently as their president.

It is easy in our current political climate to beat up on unions. It is also easy to focus public opinion on one issue in a complex situation. Attacking unions does nothing to improve our school system. Perhaps instead of being the schoolyard bully, Williams can make peace with the unions and prove he really cares about the children. He will walk away from Buffalo with more than a half-million dollars in accumulated salary. I hope he earns it.

Mark Drumlevitch

Buffalo

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Cutting essential personnel won't improve city schools

As a parent of two elementary school students in Buffalo, I was hopeful with the arrival of our new superintendent, James A. Williams. The Buffalo schools were in need of a strong leader who could work with the unions and keep the best interest of our children in focus, and Williams promised to do just that. The reality, however, has been an absolute mess.

Williams' first move was to lay off essential assistant principals and teachers to use them as pawns in the insurance dispute. Now that the courts have given him the single carrier insurance, he still is playing games with those jobs. As far as working with the union, I've yet to see him engage in any sort of negotiation. I've seen him hurl names and insults and I've seen a lot of grandstanding, but no substance. This last outburst is just plain embarrassing.

Frankly, I don't care if Williams apologizes to Buffalo Teachers Federation President Philip Rumore or not. What I do care about is that my children are returning to a school without an assistant principal or a librarian.

Andrew Miner

Buffalo

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Superintendent's behavior sends the wrong message

After negotiating an exorbitant number of sick days in his contract and then, in a highly theatrical move, giving back a good number of them, Buffalo School Superintendent James Williams declared that he intended to "lead by example." Apparently that was only in the area of contract givebacks.

His recent tantrum in the presence of several union leaders is especially disturbing. Is he still leading by example? I hope not. If a student called a teacher a snake or a liar and then threatened to kick him in the butt, he would be suspended.

So, to the control board that chuckled at his reference to the incident and to Williams, I say: Shame on you. That is not a proper example for adults in positions of authority to set. It is incredibly unprofessional.

Instead of showboating, Williams' time would be better spent in providing documentation so that the teachers can see the new coverage. It isn't a single insurer that they object to; it's the uncertainty of the coverage. Why can't they see their coverage? Who's hiding what? Perhaps someone is trying to pull a fast one on the teachers. As a retiree of the Buffalo public schools, I hope not. The teachers are too smart for that.

Marciann Spiess

Buffalo

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Why are rich oil companies being given huge tax breaks?

Exxon Mobil earned $7.64 billion in the second quarter of the year in profits. The U.S. energy bill passed by Congress in July contains tax breaks of $1.6 billion for oil and gas producers and refineries and $3.1 billion for utilities. Why are we giving oil companies tax breaks when they make that kind of profit?

Why are gas prices so high? Maybe it's because the oil companies are so greedy and, as usual, our elected officials do not care about the little guy. Economically depressed areas like Buffalo could use that kind of help. Just imagine what $1.6 billion would do for Buffalo.

Ned C. Guadagna

Buffalo

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President is still trying to link Iraq to 9/1 1 attacks

President Bush is talking to audiences to defend his war in Iraq. He is still using the same tired lines, "we fight the terrorists over there so we can be safe over here," or, "the war came to our shores on Sept. 11, 2001." This is an attempt to connect what we are doing in Iraq with the attacks on 9/1 1. There is no connection! Iraq had nothing to do with 9/1 1. It had no connection with Osama bin Laden and his organization al-Qaida. Every study on the subject comes to the same conclusion -- no connection.

The American people deserve better than what Bush is offering. Certainly, our soldiers in harm's way deserve better. When we leave Iraq, it will be a disaster, both in Iraq and throughout the Middle East. But it will be a disaster anyway, now or later, so let us face up to a failed policy and get out now.

Carl Jacobs

Tonawanda

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County leaders, not workers are to blame for fiscal mess

Let's see if I understand the problem. County Executive Joel Giambra, the legislators and their cronies have plunged Erie County into a financial abyss and county workers are supposed to be eager to give up benefits to balance the budget?

I am tired of hearing about life in the "real world." As a county worker, I earn less than I would in private industry. I work for a lesser wage because of the benefits. County workers get 15 sick days a year, but they do not get New York State disability. Sick days must be accumulated and banked. If you have a serious illness and don't have enough sick days, you don't get paid.

County workers get a one-hour lunch and paid holidays. Evidently, we are the only workers in Western New York who get paid time off. When federal and state offices, schools and major industries close for holidays, that's fine. It's just county workers who should be at their jobs every day.

Giambra and the legislators put the county into this predicament. If a truly "hard" control board were instituted, these people would be held accountable for their actions and fired. That's what would happen in private industry.

Michelle Quinn

Amherst

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