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Everybody's Column

Cutting comptroller's staff opens door to fraud, waste

County Executive Chris Collins' decision to lay off a third of the comptroller's staff will ultimately cost the taxpayers money. Internal auditors in government are the first line of defense against fraud, waste and mismanagement. They are the watchdogs with laptops, spread sheets and pencils who ensure that tax dollars are spent in a manner that is consistent with the budget decisions of the Legislature. In brief, they play a critical role in our system of checks and balances.

The county executive claims that the county's outside auditing firm can fill the vacuum created by the reduction of the comptroller's staff. I am surprised that Collins, with all of his business experience, fails to recognize the unique relationship that exists between internal auditors and outside auditing firms. The former are critical to maintaining the integrity of the county's accounting system. The latter depend on the integrity of that system to verify that the county's financial statements are an accurate and fair presentation of the county's financial health.

These financial statements are the only objective source of information that taxpayers and other stakeholders have regarding the financial health of the county. Compromising the integrity of the county's accounting system will only open the door to fraud, waste and mismanagement that will ultimately cost more than the auditors' salaries.

Richard Denesha, CPA

Amherst

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Politicians leaving mess for future generations

So the Bush tax cuts will be extended despite their negative impact on the federal deficit. Along with that, we are purposely going to underfund Social Security. Ladies and gentlemen, eat, drink and be merry. There is really nothing to worry about.

The "canary in the coal mine" is Wall Street. No matter what you hear about China, the majority of government debt is held by U.S. banks. Until their analysts' worry that the interest on government debt (let alone principal) can't be paid, neither party will take action on protecting our children's and grandchildren's prosperity.

In the meantime, our attention will get diverted to such important issues as gay marriage, flag burning, mosques in Manhattan, illegal immigrants, defining real patriotism, Obama care, etc.

Enjoy yourselves now, for by the time the reckoning finally comes, there will be hell -- and a lot of the middle class's wealth -- to pay.

Larry S. Fallon

West Seneca

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People have the right to protest vulgar art

It seems Jonathan Katz misses the point that, to many people, his art exhibit is vulgar by nature. We can wrestle over the definition of this word or debate as to whether it should be considered vulgar at all. But none of that matters. The fact remains that it is the public that has the right to deem what is appropriate and not appropriate, not the artist. Artists are free to create whatever they want. But they do not have the right to display it wherever they want. We all censor all the time. Go on TV and show me good Christian people who live normal lives. It's not there. Hollywood censors integrity. Go to an art show and look for similar depictions of Mohammed. They're not there. The art world censors Islamic imagery because it fears retribution.

I wonder how Katz, or anyone in the gay community, would react to a Christian art exhibit in the Smithsonian that portrayed a homosexual being castrated as a "metaphor" for the suffering of Christian missionaries around the world. My guess is it would create a loud cry to remove it from public display. I would hope true Christians would do the same.

Freedom of expression comes with great responsibility. It also comes with great risk. The artist is free to create, and the public is free to reject. There are no inherent public rights in art. The local community still maintains the ability, even the responsibility, to determine what is good and noble and worthy of support and what is vulgar and obscene and worthy of rejection. Somewhere along the line, the art world has forgotten that.

Earl T. McCullough

Lockport

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Don't dump animals in street like garbage

I am sick and tired of people not spaying and neutering their cats and dumping them like garbage. You see, I answer a hotline for an animal welfare group and receive many calls about abandoned cats living outside. A recent concern was about a cat giving birth to kittens under a deck in this horrible cold.

In another case, a mother cat had kittens in bushes near a house and the kittens kept running in the street, and were eventually all hit by cars. People dump these animals on the side of roads, in parks, fields, farms and sometimes on personal property. These animals are not disposable, and feel pain and fear just like you and I. The word is responsibility. And if you don't know what it means, look it up in a dictionary.

Judith Manka

East Amherst

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Tunnel would be better than lift bridge at canal

Early on in the selection process, the New York State Department of Transportation rejected the idea of a tunnel to the outer harbor to connect downtown Buffalo to the waterfront. Unfortunately, the DOT picked the wrong location, used the wrong (and most expensive) tunneling process and simply updated an old cost estimate for inflation when making that decision.

A tunnel constructed using a variation of the "cut and cover" technique would be more cost-effective and provide shorter approaches than traditional tunnel boring would. It would be wide enough to provide at least three lanes of traffic, plus pedestrian and light rail access to the outer harbor if Main Street were chosen for the downtown exit location.

A tunnel has many advantages over a lift bridge. It would not stop traffic. It would not require operators or expensive maintenance. It would be much better under winter weather conditions. Perhaps most significantly, it would not have a highly visible "footprint," as a lift bridge would. This would be much more in keeping with the 1850s "canal era" look that many people are in favor of for Canal Side.

Thus a tunnel would meet all of the primary criteria the DOT used in its selection process, provided the cost was not overly expensive. Hiring a tunnel consultant to confirm what the cost estimate would be seems to be a logical next step. A reasonable cost, even if more expensive than a lift bridge, would indicate that a tunnel should be chosen as the favored option.

Jim Rudnicki

Lake View

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