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EVERYBODY'S COLUMN / Letters from our readers

State shouldn't obstruct Catholic hospitals' mission

The proposed hospital closings are odious to Buffalo, and violate the rights of both Catholic and private hospitals. The commission deliberately issued its report only days before the law requires its approval, to contain the reaction against its high-handed, undemocratic manipulations and prevent us from persuading our legislators to vote against it.

Catholics and non-Catholics alike love Catholic hospitals for the greater compassion, dedication and reverence for life that their doctors and staff bring to the business of health care. Caring for the sick and weak is basic to the Church's civilizing mission.

The state owes the Church whatever compassion exists in its social programs. For the state unnecessarily to hinder the Church in fulfilling its sacred mission to the sick infringes freedom of religion.

What proof is there that reducing competition will lower hospitalization costs? If a mass disaster or an epidemic strikes our area, all those empty beds will be needed -- remember 9/1 1. Significantly, no other state has seen the need to close good hospitals that its people want. There surely are less disruptive answers to the problems that this committee was to evaluate.

Laurence D. Behr



Hospital closings are painful but necessary

The Commission on Health are Facilities in the 21st Century's recommendations will benefit Western New York. This is especially true in Erie County, where Medicaid costs have been blamed for our fiscal crisis. The commission's report notes that 41 percent of Millard Fillmore Gates' beds remain empty; at St. Joseph, the number is as high as 58 percent. These empty beds are costing Western New York taxpayers, patients and providers unnecessary money. Further, our limited health care dollars are being spent on marketing, not innovation.

While I appreciate that any hospital closing is going to be difficult for our community, we must understand that fixing our failing health care system is essential to maintaining Western New York's quality of life. With this in mind, we should direct our focus toward providing assistance to those adversely affected by closures.

I recommend that News readers take the time to review and consider the final report's observations and recommendations. They provide a strong first step toward a quality-driven health care system.

Dale J. Bauman



Panel should go back to the drawing board

I think the proposed hospital closings are a travesty. These government panels have a mind-set that the solution to a problem can be managed by leaving the existing plant in place and eliminating and redistributing parts thereof. They are wrong and shortsighted, and they should go back to the drawing board and try again.

The problem as I see it is that New York State needs a modern health care system sited, constructed and staffed to meet the needs of our population expected between 2007 and 2040. We have a system that was sited and constructed to meet the needs and population distribution of 50 years ago. For example, the Southtowns have grown greatly, but there is no hospital planned there. Our Lady of Victory, the nearest facility, was closed. New modern facilities must be built based on the existing population distribution.

We also must remove the overwhelming influence of the insurance companies and the money people. Most of the hospital beds are empty because the insurance money managers drive sick people out of the hospital before they are fully recovered. That policy does not lead to fully recovered people -- it stresses the nursing staff and it increases the danger of death.

Philip Kintner



Let's mothball facilities in case they're needed

Like it or not, it appears the closing of Millard Fillmore Gates and St. Joseph hospitals is a done deal. However, before they are turned into luxury condos or torn down for yet another giant drugstore, some thought should be given to the future.

Would it not make more sense to mothball these facilities for some indeterminate period, say three years, just in case they are suddenly and urgently needed? What if there is a biological or nuclear terrorist incident? What if the long talked-about flu pandemic actually does take place?

Reducing the number of hospital beds might make sense at this precise, uneventful moment, but what if emergency intake and the need for acute-care beds were to double, triple, quadruple and beyond? Where are those beds and facilities suddenly going to come from? In the dangerous world in which we find ourselves, such a scenario is not altogether improbable.

Before we tear down what cost many millions to build, we might want to consider protecting our investment and our future.

James Nietopski



Our country is starving for leadership under Bush

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that 35 million Americans could not put food on the table at least part of last year. In response, the Bush administration has stopped using the words "hunger" or "hungry" to describe the millions of Americans who can't afford to eat. Instead of suffering from hunger, these people are now experiencing "very low food security."

The first step in problem-solving is identifying the problem. Instead, President Bush is hiding the problem by giving it a vague description. Obviously, he is either not serious about dealing with hunger or he lacks basic problem-solving skills. My money is on both.

America is starving for a real leader. Bush's inability to respond effectively and sanely to natural disasters, terrorism, corruption and hunger proves he isn't qualified for the job.

Gross incompetence may not be an impeachable offense, but there are many criminal activities to prosecute. Authorizing warrantless wiretaps, torture, genocide in Iraq and kidnapping a.k.a. "renditions" are just a few. Bush has got to go! The only way to solve America's "very low leadership security" problem is through impeachment.

Eddie Lopez



Bush administration must be held accountable

Our country will soon pass a tragic milestone -- the death of 3,000 U.S. soldiers. Yet we have seen no subpoenas, no serious investigation to evaluate management. Active participants like Wolfowitz, Tenet, Bremer, Powell, Franks and now Rumsfeld are fading into the background, free from scrutiny, major questions left unanswered.

We may have voted for different reasons, however, every American should agree on accountability. Was intelligence perverted and distorted for political reasons? Did the Pentagon cave in to politics? Did war profiteering take place? Were laws faithfully executed or egregiously violated? Why Iraq, when Osama bin Laden is still at large today, probably in Afghanistan?

If our current majority cannot find answers to these questions, perhaps it's time to elect a third party in 2008.

Fred Tomasello Jr.



The people have spoken; give Democrats a chance

In response to a Dec. 4 letter, the Democratic takeover of Congress was done by the votes of both Democrats and Republicans. The people of the United States rejected the way things are being run by the Bush administration. The people have spoken: "These are not my representatives."

I have no respect for a president who joined the Air Force Reserve to avoid Vietnam, didn't fulfill his obligation and then sent Americans to die in Iraq by lying to the people.

I have no respect for a vice president who had five deferments from Vietnam and then sent Americans to die in Iraq by lying to the people.

I have no respect for a defense secretary who says it's "my way or the highway" and, after his demise, writes a memo acknowledging his stupidity. The list goes on!

This is America. When politicians are voted in, they are there to stay until we are smart enough to vote them out. It is now the writer's turn to wait.

Henry G. Kleinfelder Sr.



Auctioning artwork is a grave mistake

The Albright-Knox Art Gallery is moving in a contemporary art direction by financing new additions by the sale of the old collections. Director Louis Grachos informed me that objects my ancestors donated, as well as other donations from its permanent collection, are to be auctioned off by Sotheby's, donations that include Indian, Greco-Roman, African and Old Master works. He said the "core mission" is to replace the "old" objects with the "new" art of the present.

Tom L. Freudenheim, a former museum director, in a Nov. 15 Wall Street Journal article titled, "Shuffled Off in Buffalo," points out that "trading art for art" is "a problem that's become endemic to the profession," and that donated artworks are not "the property of the trustees, who are meant to hold them in trust for the people of Buffalo."

In our opinion, the decision to sell 200 objects from its permanent collection will adversely affect the ability of the gallery to collect donations from the public in the future. Buffalo is not a large city and cannot compete with the specialized galleries of large cities.

This decision will deny the community the ability to see art in a historical context and limit the enrichment for future generations by pushing the visual to a mono-sensory experience.

George and Rita Forman



Why was major decision announced as a done deal?

In his Dec. 5 Another Voice, Charles Banta, Albright-Knox Art Gallery board president, stated that the board's deaccessioning process has been "transparent." So how come the news hit us like a bombshell? How come the Albright-Knox made the announcement right before Thanksgiving, when people are busy with the holiday? Furthermore, this major decision was announced as a done deal.

So much for transparency. The Albright-Knox board could not have been more secretive and dishonest with the community, to whom the gallery belongs. Community donations and taxes are part of that museum.

Joyce L. Wilson



Sale will strengthen gallery for the future

As a long-standing supporter of the Albright-Knox and a life member since 1979, I have always been keenly interested in the work of the art gallery, because my late wife, Lenore, was not only an enthusiastic volunteer and loyal board member but also was a dedicated staff member, serving as gallery shop manager until her death in 1999. We actually had many good philosophical and common-sense conversations about deaccessioning as a way to augment the gallery's resources.

I believe the decision to deaccession works of art is wise and forward-thinking. It is a decision some are bemoaning now, but will be thankful for in the future, as the gallery takes the courageous and perhaps unpopular step to strengthen itself for years to come.

William N. Godin



'Cleanup' is causing more harm than storm

On a recent visit to the Langfield-Edison neighborhood, our family was horrified to see the massacre of most of the large, established trees. On Langfield Street alone, we counted 30 trees that were at least 18 inches in diameter cut down to the ground. There is no way that all of these trees were damaged severely enough to warrant this.

This area surrounds a housing project. If anyone complained to the workers cutting the trees, they would have no voice, because they are not homeowners. This is evident in the surrounding area of single-family homes, where trees were left standing.

While everyone in the area appreciates the help we received from workers around the country, we are sickened by the fact that the landscape of some of our neighborhoods has been permanently destroyed so that some tree-removal services could profit. It is appalling that the October storm may have been less devastating than the "cleanup" because of people's greed.

Dawn Hendryx



Casino will bring economic ruin

A casino is a good thing for Buffalo? Note the Dec. 1 News article about the inability of New York State to verify revenues in the Seneca Gaming Corp. casinos. Then, the next day, we read of a serious embezzlement of funds from Hopevale. The former chief financial officer admits that he stole $192,679 and it went to the casinos. Casinos are not economic development; they are exploitive and predatory.

The governor, State Legislature, mayor and six members of the Common Council chose not to consider the common good, but, rather to exploit Buffalo citizens, who had no voice in this decision because the governor did an end-run around the Constitution. Then our local officials, given a chance to be public servants, chose to be Albany and Seneca Gaming Corp. servants.

Robert J. Heffern

Co-Chairman, Citizens Against Casino Gambling in Erie County

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