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Everybody's Column

Paying a living wage would reduce poverty

Are our children our future? Recent news coverage of Buffalo's poverty figures should move this question to the forefront. We have the second-highest poverty rate among large U.S. cities -- 43 percent of our children live in poverty; among children under 5 "fully half are now growing up poor." What this bodes for our region 15 years in the future is easy to predict.

With so much talk about private-sector leadership, here is one opportunity for responsive local government to set an example. Since 1999, the Living Wage Ordinance has been in effect for the City of Buffalo. It states that city employees and employees of city contractors must be paid a wage calculated so that a family of three could live just above the federal poverty level. Today that wage is $9.59 with health benefits and $10.77 without.

Yet Buffalo's mayor appears reluctant to meet these standards for seasonal workers and for certain contractors, like Rural/Metro, the exclusive provider of ambulance services for the city's 911 system. It's time to connect the dots. We can ill afford government that both decries and fosters poverty in the same breath.

Susan Woods



People with many tattoos can't have it both ways

I have two tattoos -- one is fairly large, both are easily hidden. I am in favor of self-expression but draw the line when those of us who are inked claim discrimination. Tattoos are a choice. In choosing body art, I was fully aware that it needed to be appropriate in a variety of social and professional situations.

Perhaps those with excessive body art miss the point that freedom of self-expression and its rebellious nature is counter to playing by standard societal rules and that it rightly goes against many professional policies. Workplace diversity is not about fashion or freedom of expression. Being turned down for employment because of a chosen mode of personal embellishment is trivial compared to discrimination based on gender, race, religion or physical disability.

We can't have our cake and eat it, too. I get sick of people complaining when they can't have it both ways. If you want to look different, don't be surprised when you are treated differently. Certain professions have requirements for good reason. Even as a person who has body art, I realize there are certain instances where its display is simply not appropriate.

Alexandra Murphy



God gave us free will; humans are to blame

A recent letter writer would have us believe that the true God of the world is a being bent on our suffering and destruction. However, if people want to find the real beings of terror, we should look in the mirror. Tragedies such as the California wildfires are caused by man concentrating the forests and setting the fires. Hurricane Katrina was due to land desecration and poor dike management.

We as humans have free will from our creator. When we destroy the earth, we are using our free will. Despite all our faults, we are still loved. That's the beauty of redemption. Make no mistake, God has control of this universe. But if you set a fire and kill people, have many sexual partners and catch a disease, or destroy a natural barrier protecting a city, then calling God sadistic when such disasters strike is a completely different religion. It's called humanism.

Eric Brown



Subsidies to farmers offer unfair advantage

Jack Davis proposes in the Nov. 11 Viewpoints that "thousands of us march on Washington to save jobs and protest free trade." He claims that our trading partners "provide [their] domestic industries with local tax incentives, offer special financing and charge tariffs on imports. They target specific industries to monopolize. This certainly is not fair or free trade."

This one-sided view ignores the fact that Mexico, India, Brazil, China and many smaller developing nations are making the same claim against U.S. government policies. When, they ask, is the United States going to eliminate its annual subsidies of $17 billion to American farmers, which provide special financing and tariff protection to producers of targeted row crops and sugar?

People opposed to free trade are quick to blame our trading partners without acknowledging that the United States has failed to implement its recent promise in World Trade Organization negotiations to slash farm supports in return for reduced trade barriers to other nations. So, before we protest the trade policies of other countries, let's be careful to acknowledge that fair trade requires fairness and keeping promises by all parties.

Jim McConnell



If we can have Ice Bowl, why not a Super Bowl?

Let's see if I have this right. The Buffalo Bills are unable to host a Super Bowl because Ralph Wilson Stadium is not domed and is in a cold climate. On Jan. 1, the Sabres and Penguins will play hockey in this same stadium. There are battles being waged for tickets. If you are lucky enough to get a "good" seat, you will need a telescope to see the puck. If you get a "limited visibility" seat, you will only see helmets moving above a wall. Goalies will not be visible from these seats because they crouch. The place will be sold out. Beats me.

Dale J. Placey



Urban hydroponic farms would reap many benefits

I am responding to the Nov. 5 article, "Plan envisions unemployed Buffalo residents working on farms." Paul Snyder's concept of transporting Buffalo's unemployed to work on farms in Wyoming County is indeed innovative. However, an even better idea would be to invest in an urban hydroponic farm downtown.

Buffalo is plagued by vacant lots and a stalled economy. An urban hydroponic farm would be a productive reuse of vacant lots, and because it takes place in an enclosed environment, it would provide year-round jobs. Greenhouses can also be constructed on any of the city's numerous brownfields.

Locating a farm downtown would also eliminate transportation costs, making healthier food choices a reality for lower-income families. Creating local jobs would keep revenues and earned incomes in the city, helping to revitalize the urban economy.

There are already successful urban farms in Buffalo. Queen City Farm, located on East Utica, is actively engaging that community in urban farming. The Massachusetts Avenue project has a prosperous urban farm on the West Side. Even if Snyder chooses not to invest downtown, therefore, others should take advantage of Buffalo's opportunities for improving the local economy and the quality of life for downtown residents through urban farming.

Cristen Manning


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