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Off Main Street / The offbeat side of the news

> Walking a fine line

Amherst Councilman William O'Loughlin has a possible solution for town building department workers who are spending more to gas up the vehicles they use to do their jobs: fudge their mileage accounts.

Town resident George Richmond said he was appalled when he heard O'Loughlin float the idea during a Town Board work session. O'Loughlin said the workers who use their own vehicles on town business might want to consider playing a little fast and loose with their odometer readings.

Given a chance to speak during the public portion of the board meeting, Richmond suggested that workers who followed O'Loughlin's advice would be committing a crime.

"If you do that in just casual conversation," Richmond asked, "what do you do on your income taxes?"

O'Loughlin, a financial planner by trade, bristled at the notion that he would ever cheat on his taxes.

Then he reiterated his mileage idea in a question to Building Commissioner Thomas Ketchum: "Could you . . . if an employee drove 200 miles a week, for the moment only, approve, for example, 300 miles a week, just simply to get them the extra money that they're spending out of their pocket for gasoline?"

"I'm not suggesting we break laws or commit fraud," O'Loughlin said. "I never would do that."

> Good vibrations

The defense attorney for Robert Rhodes III says the Homeland Security officer had a "secret weapon" in the hard-fought federal trial that led to acquittal Thursday of civil rights violations.

A local psychic, Bernice Golden, sat in the courtroom during jury selection. Golden said she listened to the voices of would-be jurors and felt vibrations from each person that helped her determine whether they would be fair to Rhodes.

"I've used Bernice for jury selection quite a few times over the past 17 years," said Rhodes' lead defense attorney, Steven M. Cohen. "She does a great job."

The jury Golden helped to select found Rhodes not guilty after a few hours of deliberations.

Was the psychic able to predict what the verdict would be?

"I met Bernice Golden in January of 2004," Rhodes said, after the verdict. "She told me I would be out of work for over four months, beginning in July 2004, and it would be an upheavel and a whirlwind."

Indeed, Rhodes was suspended and arrested in July of last year.

"She also told me to hire Steve Cohen as my lawyer," Rhodes said, "and I would win."

> Catchy captions

The First Off Main Street Photo Caption Contest drew 16 responses from readers who thought they could come up with a better, wittier caption for the photograph of Gov. George Pataki and Sen. Charles Schumer, above, taken at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station.

The caliber of the submissions, in terms of humor, ranged across the spectrum from Bill Cosby to Andrew Dice Clay.

Most writers went with a religious theme, and a few played off airplane wings and chicken wings.

Brian H. Krauss, of the Town of Tonawanda, wrote, "The altar boy and the class clown."

And Melanie Seibel of Snyder had Pataki say, "I'm prayin' we stay for some wings." Her Schumer replied, "Be thankful [Niagara Falls] kept their wings."

"A (left) wing and a prayer," came from Kent Lorence of Buffalo.

We didn't pick an official winner, but perhaps Elaine Minton of Eden submitted the best.

Pataki: "Please God, let me be president just once and I'll never ask for another thing."

Schumer: "If I have to listen to one more of this guy's speeches, I'll pull out more of my hair."

> You like us!

Add the Orlando Sentinel to the growing list of newspapers with nice things to say about Buffalo.

In a Sept. 4 article titled "Buffalo's Warmth," travel editor Jay Boyar touted the architecture of the Darwin Martin House, Shea's Performing Arts Center and City Hall.

"The snow, the wings and the Bills. Those are what this cash-strapped city is known for these days," Boyar wrote. "But in a finer and fairer world, that list would include the architecture."

In the past two years, publications including USA Today, the Washington Post, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, have been similarly complimentary about Buffalo.

That can't be good for our inferiority complex.
Written by Bruce Andriatch with contributions from Stephen T. Watson, Dan Herbeck, Harold McNeil and Mark Sommer.

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