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EVERYBODY'S COLUMN / Letters from our readers

CSEA members looking out for future workers

Donn Esmonde said he would have jumped at the "sweet deal" offered to county employees. However, the deal did not include a five-year 15 percent raise. It was a nine-year deal (January 2007 to December 2015) that proposed a three-tier system.

The CSEA union family does not promote "best child," "middle child" and "third-rate baby." We are brothers and sisters who care about each other and about those who will join in the future. More than 3,000 eligible voters -- an 82 percent turnout -- cast qualifying ballots. State and county elections should have that turnout. These CSEA members have watched county executives use the office as a steppingstone to higher office and to dole out high-paying patronage jobs, raises and friendly vendor contracts. The union members would like the same for our children and neighbors who will be coming into the work force.

History might help Esmonde understand the outcome of the vote. During the lean years, union members took benefits instead of pay. For example, in the past we said no to a 1 percent raise in order to keep summer hours. In 2004, we agreed to a one-provider health insurer because we were being threatened with layoffs. We -- taxpayer members -- caved to the threat, yet six months later our members were laid off by the hundreds. We were misled and lied to. In order to get members back to work in the auto bureaus, we agreed to straight time Saturday hours among other concessions.

In May, the union agreed with the county to "let the members decide." By a 2-to-1 ratio, CSEA members voted not to throw the new kids under the bus. We do not care for Chris Collins' business-as-usual methods.

Ann Marie S. Hawes



County employees were right to reject sour deal

Donn Esmonde's comparison of Erie County to General Motors was like comparing apples to eggplants. GM is a "for profit" corporation beholden to its stockholders, which went bankrupt while its employees earned double what a county worker earns. We could get by without GM, but not without county services.

The contract offer I read said county employees would get a salary increase of 3 percent per year for the next five years plus $750 for 2010, but since they would give up any base salary increase for the past three years, it's really a nine-year contract averaging 1.8 percent per year plus the stipend. Workers also give up two holidays, two personal days, summer hours, fully paid health insurance and any health insurance benefits whatsoever for future retirees. I see lots of gives for one get that's more than three years late.

For our millionaire county executive to suggest that a cleaning lady or a grade-one typist buy her own health insurance with her tiny pension after many years with the county is akin to the famous "let them eat cake" statement. What government entity provides no form of health benefit for retirees? Esmonde's sweet deal sounds like a sour ball to me.

George Knab



Government must do more to protect coast

The truth keeps on emerging that the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a major catastrophe whose long-run consequences may be worse than the effects of the recession from which we are pulling out painfully slowly. The situation has been made worse by the federal government's misperception of its obligations. Simply put, the government must defend U.S. soil against all invaders, foreign and domestic.

In this case, the invader is an oil spill that threatens and damages the coastline and the lives of those living there. The catastrophe has two phases. First, due to an explosion on an oil drilling rig, a huge amount of oil is spilling into the Gulf of Mexico. This problem should be left for solution to BP, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig. The government does not have the expertise or an agency that is capable of remedying deep-sea drilling mishaps.

In phase two, as the oil approaches the coastline, the federal government has the obligation and the technical capability to protect the beaches and wetlands. What is needed is manpower. Call out the National Guard, send in the Corps of Engineers, organize something like the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps, empower the state and local governments to take independent action and give them resources for hiring people and the necessary equipment. Of course, present the bill to BP.

Too much time has been spent in pointing out BP's responsibilities and condemning its inaction when long sections of the coastline show nobody combating the encroaching oil. The question should not be: "Where are BP's crews?" but rather: "Where are the men, women and equipment that the federal government has mobilized to protect the coastline?"

George J. Neimanis



Obama has responded too slowly to disaster

Close to two months into the oil spill and I hear that the president has a "game plan." I am more convinced than ever that I have been right all along in saying that this is a president who does not understand the power of the office -- or, understanding it, is afraid to use it.

He should have deployed troops in mass numbers to help with the cleanup weeks ago. It surely doesn't take two months to train the military for this oil cleanup. And while they are doing it, if they are doing it, care should be given to include those little "uninhabited" islands whose foliage, nests and breeding places for sea creatures are also being destroyed by oil.

Let there be no understanding of my motive here -- I voted for Obama. I just am unhappy about his handling of this tragic man-made disaster.

Betty F. Robinson



Hamas is responsible for suffering in Gaza

Moral relativism is a dangerous thing. Let's have a clear understanding of the facts. The Palestinians in Gaza are not the victims of Israel; otherwise we would have a blockade in the West Bank, and we don't. The government of Hamas is a regional threat; otherwise the Egyptians would not participate in the blockade. Which leads to the humanitarian question.

Who is responsible for any hardship the people of Gaza suffer? The Hamas rulers are. The same ones who want Islamic law all over the Middle East and a restoration of the Caliphate. All the other actors in the region are responding to the threat, and Turkey is trying to score points by playing radical. But until Hamas sits at the table as a responsible partner in peace, violence will continue.

Carlos Kurek



Palestinians' anger should not surprise us

A recent writer to this page expressed surprise and consternation that a particular group of Israelis favored coexistence with the Palestinians, and a particular group of Palestinians did not; in fact, no Palestinian in that group favored it.

To those who honestly want to understand this, I would refer to the Balfour Declaration of 1917, which made the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine the policy of the British Empire; the British Mandate of Palestine, in which the Palestinians were essentially told they'd eventually be put in control of Palestine; and U.N. General Assembly Resolution 181, in which they were essentially told they would not. The Palestinians' reaction really shouldn't be all that surprising.

Far be it from me to begrudge the Jews a homeland; the Holocaust was a horror that stands as a black mark against not only the Nazis, but all humanity, a species monstrous enough to be both capable of and willing to commit genocide.

However, the Palestinians are angry about having their country taken away from them -- arguments that they never had a country to take away are hair-splitting at best, disingenuous at worst. It should be no surprise that they haven't gotten over it. Would we?

Jeff Duska



A cable-stayed design would clash with bridge

It is good to see reason and good taste coming to the fore in the public choice of the three-arch design for the planned Buffalo-Ontario bridge. It has a beauty of its own reflecting the graceful lines of the Peace Bridge arches.

The persistent argument that a cable-stayed design with towers would be a "signature" bridge is misguided. There would be nothing unique or iconic about such a bridge; the general design, with slight modifications, has been showing up all over the country in recent years. Examples in Boston and Tampa Bay, shown in recent issues of The News, are just a few among many. Why does The News continue to promote this design? Let's get on with it and build a bridge we can be proud of that represents the Buffalo area and not an indistinguishable copy from elsewhere.

Jim Van Verth



Three-arch design is the signature bridge

When the so-called signature bridge designs are shown against the background of their intended location, they appear to be signatures written in invisible ink. Their fine detail of thin cables is lost in that background. The bold arches of the three-arch design are highly visible. The three-arch design is the signature bridge.

David Amsler



More smokers needed to increase tax coffers

Isn't it ironic that New York State will need more people to smoke in order to collect handsomely on its new taxes on cigarettes? Maybe it will have to run its own smoking commercials. Has anyone checked to see how much money anti-tobacco organizations get from tobacco taxes collected by New York State? The News is always investigating policemen and firemen -- what about investigating the non-profit anti-tobacco business?

At the same time the state is busy with its new taxes, Buffalo Council Member Demone A. Smith is busy with his own anti-tobacco project. Has Smith done anything except be a tobacco-prohibitionist?

What prohibitions will be coming next? It seems nobody learned anything from the prohibition era.

June B. Costello



Why doesn't New York raise taxes on alcohol?

Yes, another tax on cigarettes. No, smoking isn't good for you, but it is my right; just like people who choose to drink alcohol, which also kills innocent people. How about charging $1.62 more per ounce? Drinking is also bad for your health and others.

If the government wants people not to smoke, then ban it. It is used by our state to bring in more money. If nobody smoked, there would be no extra tax. All these taxes are tiring. I see why people leave this state. How about the drinkers helping the state, not just the smokers. You can walk away from secondhand smoke. You cannot walk away from a drunken driver.

Eileen M. Brandys


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