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Everybody's Column

>Citizen participation is key to democracy

As we private citizens tighten our belts, politicians at all levels of government persist in the preservation of their own egos, fiefdoms and petty party loyalties.

Mediocrity seems to be the criterion for past and current mayors of Buffalo, as well as council members and school board participants. None supports his or her constituents; each strives for self-protection. County Executive Chris Collins finds he can't be a dictator, but it wasn't democracy that stopped him. The self-interest of members of the Legislature caused the roadblock.

I am a committed Democrat, but I strongly condemn the Democrats on the Amherst Town Board for refusing to list downsizing as a ballot referendum. Did they think we wouldn't notice that they used "democracy" as their reason? Democracy -- real democracy -- involves citizen participation. A referendum would assure this.

Western New York hasn't had representation in Albany during my long lifetime. Washington? Forget about it! Until the mind-set changes, until selflessness prevails, until politicians represent their constituents, our country will continue to tank.

Hallie Morrison Block


>Obama shouldn't make promises he can't keep

President Obama says he can create 4 million jobs. Quite frankly, I'm kind of sick of hearing political talk. Tell me how he's going to accomplish it. Where are these jobs coming from? In Western New York, Bethlehem and Republic Steel will not reopen. Ashland and Mobil Oil were torn down. Buffalo Color is empty. Trico moved out. Many of the grain elevators are defunct. We've waited years and heard many promises to replace jobs at these places and others.

Maybe we have new projects that could create construction or permanent jobs. The mate to the Peace Bridge has been talked about for how many years? It was postponed because birds might fly headlong into the bridge's support wires, instead of under or around it. Will we see Bass Pro? Power plant expansions in Jamestown and at the NRG plant in Tonawanda are on the back burner, which may not even be lit. There are probably many more examples.

I really hope Obama has a good plan to get things going and can create jobs. I hate to sound so negative and I hope I'm wrong, but in Western New York I just don't see it.

Dave Carlson


>House retired priests in former rectories

I was pleased to read in The News of the possibility of two Catholic Churches being reused as houses of worship. Especially with all the downsizing in the area, this is good news.

Since the diocese has to pay taxes on properties that are no longer being used as religious nonprofit, why not utilize some of the rectories for retired priests? It is costing the diocese money to heat these buildings, not to mention the added burden of utilities and insurance. Most have multiple bedrooms, garages for their vehicles and some have areas where they could put exercise equipment.

The estimated cost of $2 million to refurbish the St. Mary's High School Convent could then be used for more important projects in our area.

Stanley J. Zynda Jr.


>Power Authority's transfer of funds to state is sickening

I was less than elated to read about the $750 million "transfer" of funds from the Power Authority to buy "pork chops." If the authority had this amount laying around, it should have gone back to all users -- business and residential -- not Albany. I am just sick about this. And the sad thing about this is there is not a single thing we can do about it. I'm in "bizarro world" and I feel trapped. The Power Authority said this will not affect rates but, mark my words, it will be wanting another rate increase before Christmas.

Allen R. Eich


>Who was doing vetting of Cabinet nominees?

With all of the fuss about unpaid taxes and the Cabinet choices by the Obama team, you have to ask who the heck was doing the vetting of these tax dodgers? And it would be great to know the name of the CPA firms that prepared the tax returns for these politicians.

Someone ought to lose a CPA certification for such sloppy work. This is all unnecessary flack for President Obama when he least needs it. Hopefully someone or a group of someones on the vetting team will be promptly terminated by the Obama chief of staff.

Philip L. Wiggle


>Symbolism is quite clear in shirts featuring Obama

Regarding the Rev. Darius Pridgen's complaint that the "James Bond" style shirts featuring President Obama are sending a violent message, I would suggest he look again. Pridgen is quoted as saying, "The power in his hand is a gun." It is not. It is a microphone.

The artist's choice to replace a symbol of force -- a gun -- with an image representing speech sends exactly the opposite message than the one the reverend seems to be seeing. The symbolism, that Obama is a man of words rather than violence, is quite clear to anyone actually seeing the shirt. If that is not obvious to Pridgen, perhaps he should stick to the subject of religion and leave the worlds of artistic and political imagery to those who understand them.

Brian Mauger


>Plan should encourage the use of mass transit

Just as the American people are rushing to lower their carbon footprint and use mass transit, the Senate passed an amendment to the stimulus bill to give tax breaks to new-car buyers for the first $49,500 of the car's price tag. At the same time, they defeated an amendment that would have pumped an extra $25 billion into public works projects, including $5 billion for mass transit.

The auto industry bought itself its own rules and freedom from a fuel-efficient future with nearly $135 million in campaign contributions since 1990 and $548 million of lobbying efforts since 1998, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The stimulus package should boldly be stimulating public transportation. Based on the American Automobile Association estimates of driving costs, it's calculated that Americans who rely on public transportation can save $8,368 a year, dwarfing a saving of $1,500 on a $25,000 vehicle. It's time for Congress to have backbone and to do what is best for our future.

Robert Lenz

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