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Everybody's Column

Require all college students to study a foreign language

Although I am not a linguist, I could not agree more with the insightful Dec. 19 Viewpoints article by Michael Poliakoff deploring the dismemberment of foreign language majors and departments by some university administrators.

I agree as well with the words of CIA Director Leon Panetta, who stated that "We need to get back to mandating [foreign] language training as a requirement for graduating from college." Personally, I would allow classical languages to satisfy such a requirement. Along with at least a year of foreign language, I think a year of college-level mathematics should be required of all college graduates. Those wanting to avoid such requirements should receive certificates of attendance instead of college diplomas.

The administrators at the University at Albany responsible for "the termination of majors in French, Italian, Russian and Classical Studies" should themselves be terminated. Their actions amount to a reprehensible assault on the world's civilization and literature.

Richard H. Escobales Jr.



Authority could have given money from tolls to charity

We have been subscribers to The Buffalo News for 25-plus years and this is the first time we thought it important to give an opinion. It was announced by the Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority that the authority would not be charging tolls on Christmas Day. How nice. But we think a better idea would have been to charge people and then donate the money to those who really need it.

Yes, it is the government and so it gets complicated. So why not donate it to a non-secular charity like the Food Bank of Western New York or one of the Ontario Association of Food Banks; hard-working volunteers who help feed people.

In 2009, according to the authority, approximately 3,100 vehicles crossed into Canada on Christmas Day. In 2008, it was 3,300. A car is charged about $3, which brings us to more than $10,000 taking into consideration truck traffic (Tolls are paid one way into Canada). Imagine how many people could be fed. Think about it.

Karl and Tina Fiebelkorn



State park closures hurt local economy, residents

Once again, upstate New York is being shortchanged. Despite the strong public opposition to last year's threat to close parks, some sites are already back on the chopping block for 2011. The apparent closing of several upstate parks will hurt local economies while reducing taxpayers' quality of life.

It has been reported that as of Jan. 1, the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation will close three Western New York parks -- Knox Farm State Park in East Aurora, Woodlawn Beach State Park in Hamburg and Joseph Davis State Park in Lewiston. The state will also be closing the Robert Moses State Park Nature Center in the Town of Massena in the Thousand Islands.

To make matters worse, local officials, chambers of commerce, regional tourism associations and park friends groups have been given very little notice of the closings. This means they have limited time to come up with possible alternatives, such as corporate sponsorships, public-private partnerships and local government management, to keep the parks open and to prevent the tourism dollars that help support a number of small businesses from going up in smoke.

An independent study commissioned by Parks & Trails New York revealed that the state park system contributes $1.9 billion annually to the state's economy, a 5-to-1 return on investment. Considering that the state already has a significant investment in these parks and that the state parks budget is a mere quarter of 1 percent of the total state budget, the logic of closing these parks is hard to fathom.

It is particularly bewildering that these closures are being made in light of Gov. David Paterson's authorization of $16.7 million in grants from a fund he controls. These expenditures include allocations for chess tournaments in New York City, foreign trade offices in Chile and Australia and promotion of a New Jersey Super Bowl in four years.

Mark Luciano

Director, Parks Program and Government Relations Parks & Trails New York


Why doesn't School Board make a goodwill gesture?

The editorial staff of The News wants the Buffalo Teachers Federation to drop the cosmetic rider to the union's contract as a "gesture of goodwill." What gesture of goodwill is suggested for the Board of Education to make? Maybe School Superintendent James Williams and the board should have been bargaining in good faith since the last BTF contract expired in 2004. How much money could have been saved?

Larry Finkelstein

East Amherst


Frivolous items have no place in county budget

Chris Collins should be lauded for attempting to balance the budget. Why should the public suffer and pay for rich people's entertainment? Anyone who wants to enjoy a cultural event that involves costs should pay for it himself. No one should expect the working class, the poor or the marginally employed, those working hard and diligently to earn a living, to pay for someone else's amusement. If the individual thus inclined enjoys a play, musical or other performance, then it is his privilege to pay for it. If he cannot or will not, that is his decision, not the responsibility of those who must deprive themselves to pay the taxes.

We are taxed enough and must agree with Collins that frivolous items have no place in our extremely scant and deeply in debt economy and resources. Too much has been squandered and given away already because of ambitious politicians who want to please their influential constituents no matter what the cost to the taxpayers.

The U.S. government has given far too many stimulus packages that were wasted and will cost us, our children and grandchildren our incomes and our savings. Let us wake up and comprehend what the score is. Do not allow our hard-earned money to shrink because of inflation created by our leaders. Collins is courageous and insightful in attempting to do the rational and responsible thing.

Ursula A. Falk



Don't criticize people for something so petty

What makes a recent letter writer think she has the right to correct another person's English? She is not this young man's parent or teacher. But what's more important is the fact that she thinks she has the right to be rude and disrespectful to this young man who was doing his best to do his job to please her. So the next time "you guys" are thinking about dining out, leave your rude and disrespectful attitude at home. Better yet, stay home and cook your own meal.

Robert Miller


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