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EVERYBODY'S COLUMN / Letters from our readers

We should disband FEMA and hire private groups

The citizens of disaster-prone states should make a candidate's planning and leadership abilities a top priority when in the voting booth. Though the idea of privatizing any government agency is a Libertarian idea that many find distasteful, the possibility of thousands dead seems more so.

George Dreer

Niagara Falls


Officials at all levels failed to take necessary measures

Shame on Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco for not having a strong emergency plan in place. Shame on New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin for not engaging every bus he could find to get those people out of town. And shame on President Bush for taking so long to react to this gigantic problem.

We were watching Hurricane Katrina on the Weather Channel and the local news five days before it hit New Orleans. Those brave newscasters went out in the elements to bring us storm coverage. Certainly some government officials had to be paying attention to what was on the television that week.

They knew the outdated levees were not able to withstand a Category 5 storm. America always seems to wait for the disaster and then reacts to the consequences. We would bet that our inability to act was closely watched by terrorist groups around the world. Shame on America.

Scott and Mary Beth Barlett



What has Homeland Security been doing the last four years?

We have had our first test of the Department of Homeland Security, which was put in place four years ago and has been receiving unquestioned funding for all this time. We were led to believe that it would be the agency to plan for national disasters.

As we watched the unbearable suffering of the regions hit by Katrina, it was impossible not to ask: Where is all the planning that was supposed to be in place? Who is responsible for the catastrophic response to our citizens' dire need? The answers from many of the people who were expected to manage this disaster often seemed to be coming from another planet. To plead ignorance about what was happening when the news coverage was so detailed and widespread is beyond comprehension. This was not an unknown enemy -- the possibility of a levee breach was well-documented by the New Orleans newspaper two years ago.

I know that we must concentrate now on what we can do to help, but in the future, someone must be held accountable for the inadequacy of the government's response.

Joan Mondul



Residents had responsibility to obey evacuation orders

Hurricane Katrina now ranks among our country's worst natural disasters along with the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and the 1900 hurricane that hit Galveston, Texas.

A major difference between the three is that the people affected by the first two disasters were given no warning. New Orleans had five days notice of the storm's arrival.

The San Francisco and Galveston disasters happened in a time long before FEMA or federal disaster aid. Therein lies another major difference. The survivors didn't wait for handouts. They were rugged individualists. They rebuilt their lives and their cities. The most troublesome footage I've seen of Katrina is of the people screaming to be taken care of. And who screams the loudest? It's not the old and the sick. The loudest ones are the young and the healthy.

So if The News wants an editorial on where to place the blame for the scope of human tragedy, I'm pointing my finger at those adults who didn't take responsibility for their own safety and that of their young and elderly family members. They created the magnitude of casualties by either refusing to get out of harm's way or insisting that others chauffeur and tend to them. Government is not family.

Robert J. Lohr



New Yorkers already pay far too much for power

Let me see if I understand this correctly. For its relicensing process, the New York Power Authority offers and Niagara County accepts a $1.1 billion settlement for the impact the Niagara Power Project has on the county. That's great, and is more than fair. But when Congressman Brian Higgins asks for a paltry $10 million per year settlement for another affected area -- Buffalo and Erie County -- the public is told that his proposal will raise power rates.

How does that compute? And who is doing the computing? In fact, it doesn't compute, because the Niagara Power Project is the greatest power and revenue producer in the entire statewide system. Yet the authority expects us to believe that if more dollars are targeted to mitigate the effects of the Power Project along the Buffalo waterfront, we will have to pay more. We already pay too much!

What Western New York really cannot afford is another 50 years of crumbs from the Power Authority's table.

Maryann Perry



Forget about settlements and lower our power rates

In regard to the Sept. 2 letter from Brian Vattimo of the New York Power Authority, who is he trying to kid? Vattimo states that the Power Authority has made a "voluntary" offer of $100 million and that this is not a condition of relicensing. If the offer were truly voluntary, it would have been made years ago. The authority made this offer when it needed support for relicensing.

Additionally, I find it strange that Vattimo states the Power Authority is a "non-profit, public authority," and it had $100 million available to offer Buffalo and Erie County plus what was offered to Niagara Falls and Niagara County to buy the support of the local politicians.

While I am only a concerned citizen and not an expert in the money of politics, I have some major concerns. If the rates were lowered so that what is charged meets what is spent and the authority operated at a break-even stand point, the lower costs would dramatically help attract business and industry to Western New York. The additional employment would do more through the Power Project's normal tax obligation to help Western New York than a one-time shot of $100 million.

Michael A. Kless



There's no doubt Israeli wall is being used to annex land

I am writing in response to the Aug. 26 letter, "Building Israeli wall improves odds for peace." I have just returned from the Holy Land and wanted to share my experiences with the wall. I have toured the entirety of the wall as it stood at the end of this summer. My observation is that it is, in fact, an annexation wall.

Casual observers may wonder why the wall wanders back and forth across Israel and Palestine rather than following any of the proposed demarcation lines between these two lands. In many places, the wall divides Palestinians from each other and from their lands. In others, it dives into land owned by Palestinian families to annex the land outright.

Around Jerusalem, the wall gerrymanders through Palestinian neighborhoods to remove them from the city census and make them part of the West Bank population. My observations are easily supported by maps, testimonials, deed searches and satellite imagery.

No one thinks the situation is simple, and people are entitled to their opinions. However, the writer might not want to base his arguments on the wall.

John Lloyd



Mideast chaos will continue until Abbas faces militants

An Associated Press story in the Sept. 12 News carried the headline: "Palestinians celebrate freedom in Gaza." The article said that Palestinian police were unsuccessful in keeping crowds out of the recently emptied settlements. Militant groups then hung their banners, fired guns into the air and set abandoned synagogues ablaze.

If the Israeli army was able to forcibly and expeditiously evict well-armed settlers, why couldn't the Palestinian police maintain order? Until Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas shows some courage in actively confronting the militants, the "Palestinian Authority" will remain an oxymoron. Until a majority of the Palestinian people take control of their destiny from the hands of corrupt, self-serving officials and terrorists -- excuse me, militants -- there will be no hope for coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians. Or was that the plan all along?

Bruce I. Sanders



Bush's insensitive remarks reveal a lot about her

Barbara Bush, commenting on the victims of Hurricane Katrina staying in the Houston Astrodome, said: "So many of the people here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them." Let me get this straight. Did she mean they don't deserve the same rights other Americans do, or for that matter other human beings? Does she believe that being underprivileged makes one better prepared to lose everything they have?

I'm not quite sure being neglected for days or wondering whether their family members are alive or dead is "working well for them." Would being in a shelter with only the clothes on your back, and not knowing where you will be living next work well for any of us? Did being underprivileged prepare them for that? Were they better prepared than we would be if half of our family was missing, we lost everything and the government forgot about us?

There is no denying that there are privileged and underprivileged in this world, who live very different lives. However, on this earth we are all human beings who deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. It's too bad Bush never grasped this concept.

Rose Attardo



County needs to streamline government, not raise taxes

Well, here we go again folks. In the Sept. 8 News, I read about our county leaders' plans for increasing both sales and property taxes in order to balance the Erie County budget.

Couple this result with the recent meteoric increase in gasoline prices -- New Yorkers pay some of the highest gasoline taxes in the nation -- and a 25 percent projected hike in home heating fuels this winter, and the outcome will be the continued loss of population as many hard-working families will simply not be able to afford this triple whammy. The out-migration will leave in its wake a smaller base to address what appears to be an ever increasing tax burden, thereby driving up taxes next year. Where does it end and where are we going?

The taxpayers of Western New York need a break and will find themselves in the driver's seat at voting time this November. Our area desperately needs to elect people who will drive change into local government functions. Streamlining and reducing the size of local government is an absolute must if we are to prosper and attract new business and people to Western New York. Please exercise your right to vote this November and vote for change.

Richard Smith


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