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Everybody's Column

>State budget process is still a secret affair

The failure to make the process more transparent was the greatest casualty of this year's state budget. Despite lofty rhetoric from the governor and legislative leaders, the only thing transparent in the Capitol was that real reform has not yet occurred. All serious negotiations between the governor and legislative leaders occurred behind closed doors -- including a marathon six-hour meeting.

The governor's use of "messages of necessity" to bypass the three-day bill-review period meant legislators had minutes to review the thousands of pages that contained the final $121 billion budget.

In this rush for a budget, little debate occurred. Unwilling to miss the deadline, the governor and lawmakers traded real discussion for an almost on time budget.

An exception to this budget somnambulism came in the form of questions from Assembly Republicans. Jim Hayes of Amherst articulated the concerns of the house's minority, reformers and other New Yorkers in criticizing the failed budget process. He's right: it was secretive and chaotic. Going forward, the governor and state lawmakers must make real transparency and public debate central to the legislative process.

Bill Mahoney
Legislative Associate, NYPIRG

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>Teacher doesn't deserve workers' compensation

In regard to The News article, "Teacher's claim denied," I believe that the right decision was made in this case. I feel sorry that this happened, but just because the woman is a teacher and was beaten on her way to work, she is entitled to workers' compensation? What is the difference between this incident or her having a car accident on the way to work?

The Buffalo Teachers Federation asks for the public's help, but when was the last time the teachers supported the taxpayers of Buffalo or New York State on an issue like this? They don't seem to get too worked up about any plant closings or if someone else gets hurt at work and is refused workers' compensation.

If this decision is overturned, that is just one more reason -- more public money spent, increasing taxes -- to leave this state, where the taxes are too high. Also, it must be nice to turn in unused sick time to increase your pension.

John Eckholm
Celoron

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>Let's work to save every tree we can

The painted red dots on the trees in town were disheartening. My hope was that the trees would just be pruned. But my heart knew differently. The trees were going down. Why? I'm not a tree expert, but some of the trees appeared to be salvageable. Do perfect trees exist anywhere? I'm upset with myself for not asking questions. Now they are gone. Maybe someone would have listened to me. Maybe there was a way to save some of these magnificent beings.

The October storm was a freak incident. Most of us have never seen anything like it in our lifetime. My husband and I have three majestic, old sugar maples by our house. The storm damaged them extensively; but with some careful pruning and TLC they will heal, because nature is resilient. We don't dispose of imperfect human beings.

We share this planet with some remarkable creatures and plant life. I'm upset for not speaking up earlier, but I'm doing it now. And maybe before we pull the cord on the saw again, we might reconsider downing yet another tree.

Ruth Shewan
Medina

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>Missing child takes precedence over game

I didn't just read what I thought I did, right? Alan Pergament didn't just criticize Channel 4 for displaying Amber Alert information, did he? Now I'm all for enjoying a great sporting event, such as the NCAA Basketball Championship game, but that's exactly what it is, a game. When held up to real life, games should always take a back seat.

I find it offensive that Pergament is complaining about Channel 4 interrupting his enjoyment of a game over the needs of a missing girl, and the anguish of a family in crisis. While this particular case worked out for the best, the next time it happens, we may not be so lucky. I hope that anyone with the power to make those decisions would not hesitate to break into any program if a case such as this were to arise again. Alerts like this take precedence over entertainment.

Mark Rosenecker
Lancaster

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>Racy casino billboard should be taken down

I thought I'd seen it all until this morning, when I almost went off the road as I approached the Scajaquada exit from the westbound Kensington Expressway. A billboard for the Fallsview Casino shows a woman in such a hurry to gamble that she forgot to make sure her dress was hanging correctly and not showing off her assets -- no pun intended.

First of all, I did not like trying to explain that ad to my 8- and 9-year-old children who were with me. And secondly, one of the two lanes on that exit is closed due to construction. With that billboard, which is shocking enough to make people take a second look to verify what is actually being shown, an accident is bound to happen. Please take it down -- it is an insult to this community.

Cynthia Marinides
East Amherst

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>Can't we honor troops with flag at half-staff?

I have a question that I hope someone might be able to shed some light on. I raise the flag at my workplace every day. I wonder why we do not fly the flag at half-staff every day while we as a nation are at war? It seems to me that our servicemen and women -- who are getting killed every day, in the name of whatever you want to call it this week -- deserve to be recognized by the citizens at home.

I received a directive two weeks ago to fly the flag at half-staff for a local assemblyman. I think that while our children, husbands and wives are putting their lives on the line for the Iraqis and ourselves, at the very least, we should fly the flag at half-staff every day.

Steven M. Young
Kenmore

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>Religion alone is not the cause of violence

The recent letter blaming religion for war and violence is typical of the one-valued orientation so often offered by secular Humanists, who blame religion for the failures of mankind. Of course there are wrong actions taken and decisions made under the guise of religion. But it is not religion that is wrong, it's the fraility and weakness of human nature that has been the cause of mankind's failure in running the universe.

On the contrary, the many people in this world who try to follow God's precepts have prevented the world from falling into complete chaos. Religion is not the cause of violence, it's the people who don't practice it properly.

George Weimer
Amherst

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