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EVERYBODY'S COLUMN

Collins has made a mockery of representative government

Chris Collins and his Republican colleagues disappoint us with their recent theatrical partisan performance. When the county executive was first elected, many hoped we would move from inefficient partisan politics to focus on the public good for policy. But his first significant act as county executive, a political fundraiser, announced that we remained in the grasp of party politics.

Since then, Collins talks the talk of bipartisan reconciliation but walks the walk of stubborn and strenuous Republican and Conservative advocacy. When the Holding Center problem emerged, he tried to explain that the problem was prompted by "liberal elements" in government. With very conservative Niagara County former sheriff Tom Beilein as one responsible party at the state level, that reaction did not fit the facts.

After a subsequent series of legal actions by Erie County, which included hiring expensive Washington lobbyists and many pointless maneuvers that just wasted money, Collins reluctantly surrendered to the state and federal authorities and had to eat crow and produce records to the ACLU after the county refused to cooperate with that group also. Goodness, I thought, these stubborn people don't make a point and cost us money, too.

My most recent dismay was the budget process, which appears manipulated for ideological posturing and included a disgusting propaganda effort that distracted from the democratic process. Erie County must develop structural adjustments in line with shrinking populations and wealth. Rather than manage and improve, Collins clings to confrontation and political expediency in a budget process that guarantees similar battles in 12 months. This is supposed to be representative government, but I lose the feeling that my interests are represented.

Art Klein

Tonawanda

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Hockey player was right, Buffalo is a ghost town

I have to agree with the out-of-town hockey player who labeled Buffalo a ghost town. I blame this on bickering politicians who have stalled progress for years. Although Western New York has many attractions that we can be proud of, the dangerous and desolate area of downtown Buffalo is currently a shameful site.

Marty Farrell

West Seneca

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Critical infrastructure must be replaced now

Based upon knowledge, belief and documents that have been disclosed in the past few weeks, the United States and Canada must fast-track the replacement of at least three bridges. The State Department and the Department of Homeland Security have determined that the transportation links across the Niagara River are critical to the minimal functioning of the economy. These bridges, which carry 10 percent of trade between the two countries, are past their planned life, and are vital to national economic security, according to the State Department.

One bridge is 137 years old; others are nearly a century old each. I do not say this cavalierly, but these infrastructure connections are on par with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in terms of their criticality. The U.S. and Canadian governments should immediately approve a plan to build the inspection stations, travel plazas and a bridge paralleling the Peace Bridge. Currently, Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism and the extraterritoriality of other U.S. laws extend the jurisdiction of the United States into other countries and territories. A U.S. inspection plaza located in Canada is not risky. In fact, it may be safer by apprehending suspects before they ever reach the bridge. The Peace Bridge has proven self-funding and work must commence now.

Secondly, on an emergency national economic security basis, fund and fast-track the replacement of the two active railroad bridges across the Niagara River. These bridges carry a disproportionate share of the cargo generated in the United States and Canada in a relatively more efficient way. Failure of this aged infrastructure would be catastrophic to the economy of North America. Moreover, as the Panama Canal expands in 2014 to carry larger ships from Asia to New York, the ability to service this supply chain into the U.S. and Canadian economic core will be constrained by the bottlenecks at the Niagara River. This will scuttle any plans to build Western New York into a regional logistics hub.

Michael F. Ziolkowski

Grand Island

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Paterson's pardon was a miscarriage of justice

This past week, a judge stated that "no one gets a free ride." Well, it sure looks like Gov. David Paterson gave one. A black man was convicted of manslaughter in the killing of a white teen and received two to four years in prison. John H. White served a total of five months and was pardoned in time to be home for the holidays.

Paterson said White has suffered enough. He was incarcerated for five months for taking a young man's life. Michael Vick did 12 months for abusing dogs. The Cicciaros have not had their son home for Christmas for the past four years, but the Whites have suffered enough? They missed a summer and fall. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People praised the governor's decision. The NCAAP was seeking a full pardon, claiming it was self-defense. This governor leaves office the way he came in -- as an underachiever.

Phil Ryan

South Buffalo

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Public servants have become the masters

This is in response to the Dec. 13 letter, "Cutting federal worker pay only hurts people right here."

How unusual that a public sector union president would "cry foul" about a federal pay freeze! The writer and his fellow federal employees will continue to get their promotions and step increases while the rest of Western New York suffers with layoffs, pay cuts and overburdening property taxes.

His letter does not mention the fact that public sector pay here (and in most parts of the country) far outstrips that of the private sector, not to mention the very generous benefits that our children and grandchildren will have to pay for.

I worked for the government for 32 years. I always considered myself a civil servant. During my career, I watched as pay and benefits for us increased while the private sector suffered, partially as a result of increasing payroll, sales and property taxes. Sadly, we have now reached a point where the servants have become the masters.

I do not doubt that many civil servants do work hard; but so do private sector employees and entrepreneurs who earn less and lack civil service benefits and job security.

If the writer and his co-workers are unhappy, they are welcome to leave their civil service "bubble" and join the rest of the area's struggling work force.

Ken Scholz

East Amherst

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