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EVERYBODY'S COLUMN

Independent commission should draw district lines

I read with interest the Dec. 30 News editorial, "Drawing the line," and the Jan. 1 Another Voice by Timothy Kennedy, "After census, independent redistricting is urgent." Both articles point out that "remaining in office depends not on governing well but on drawing the district boundaries that keep their gravy train chugging along the track to Mediocreville."

The League of Women Voters of New York has long advocated for an independent commission. Reformers have long argued that the method the state uses to draw legislative and district boundary lines is undemocratic and in need of reform. The new commission's members would be appointed by the legislative leaders from a pool of candidates selected by a nominations committee and also would set standards for the drawing of new district lines. Legislative support has been growing the past number of years and in the 2010 election all state candidates, when asked, were in favor of an independent commission. As The News noted, Gov. Andrew Cuomo promised to "veto any redistricting plan in 2012 that reflects partisan gerrymandering."

Kennedy points out that "Legislators today literally pick who they want to represent" and that "more competitive legislative districts mean better legislators, and better legislators will look beyond their differences." So now that the census data is completed, let's get going and demand reform.

Judith M. Metzger

Williamsville

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Progressive amnesty plan is needed for illegal aliens

We must have amnesty for illegal aliens -- a progressive amnesty that will lead undocumented citizens of the United States to legalized citizenship. We can no longer ignore that we are a bilingual country, as attested to in big-box stores like Lowe's having bilingual signage on its front doors.

Our illegal work force, sad to say, is an expendable one. If an illegal worker is injured, another truck goes down to the border to pick up another warm body. In some states, these workers can be found at city plazas waiting to be hauled away to do jobs for which they are paid cash under the table. These undocumented citizens seem to know how to survive in a hand-to-mouth economy, which includes bartering for goods and services.

If we use a progressive amnesty, we can prevent ethnic backlash riots. We could end human trafficking and corporate welfare. Produce pickers, nanny jobs and hotel/resort prices would increase, but in return Social Security would be more solvent. I would rather see peace in the streets than riots.

Philip James Jarosz

Buffalo

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Time Warner rate hikes are getting out of hand

If it wasn't so upsetting, I'd find it amusing that in the same section of The News that publishes Everybody's Column, there was a full-page ad from Time Warner regarding blackouts. What a self-serving ad this is, and of course it isn't the first because every time a network renewal comes up, we see the same tactics.

Time Warner says we should be outraged because these greedy networks are driving up our rates! Give me a break. Time Warner will raise those rates regardless of how much or little the networks are given.

In another article, I read that many of those rate increases are in the 10-to-11 percent range. How is that much of an increase even justified? I can see something in the 2-to-4 percent range, but 10 percent is not justifiable, in my opinion. Many of us have gone without raises in the last few years, but not Time Warner.

The reason these broadcasters are seeking higher rates is they are well aware of the significant increases the cable companies have been forcing the public to pay. And they simply want their piece of the pie.

How much are we really willing to pay to watch television? Shame on you Time Warner.

Bill McCarthy

West Seneca

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School boards facing nearly impossible task

I read the recent Another Voice about cost drivers in education and a property tax cap with great interest. A few years ago, I spent three years as part of a citizens' budget advisory board in the Hamburg Central School District. When asked to continue on for another few years in the group, which advised the School Board on the yearly budget, I declined.

I declined for exactly the reasons that Kathyann Lorka outlined in her article. Virtually all of the line items in the school budget of any dollar significance were locked in place by state regulation; uncontrollable costs such as fuel and contractual salary, insurance and retirement obligations to teachers, administrators and support staff. That primarily left job cuts as the available cost-cutting tool.

On the other side of the coin, property tax increases on top of already confiscatory property tax costs are too much to ask of the homeowners. Property taxes are already so high that even small percentage increases have a very large compounding impact over time. What was and is clear to me is that business as usual is no longer an option. While a property tax cap will be difficult to deal with, the alternative of no cap will continue to weaken the fabric of communities in the state and increase the rate of flight from the area. School boards have a nearly impossible task ahead of them.

Joseph M. Cuddihy

Hamburg

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Taxing authorities are responsible to no one

The Dec. 28 letter, "Credits help developers but not the taxpayers," does not go far enough to explain the basic corruptions of taxation, which have led to the type of issues cited.

The noted Erie County Industrial Development Agency has no constitutional basis for its existence. Each such agency is created by a particular act of the State Legislature. If the Legislature creates a constitutionally questionable law, it is only effective if no one challenges it in federal court.

The basis for court challenge of any IDA is that these agencies have become non-elected taxing authorities. A prime purpose for our existence as a nation is set in the Constitution. Revenue raising is to be the responsibility of elected legislatures. If the people should become disappointed in the manner of taxation, they have the voting right to change any particular entity of government.

This is not so with IDAs, where their board memberships and deliberations, while meeting the letter of Open Meetings Law, are as far as possible from public view. They are not subject to voter displeasure.

The horror of these agencies is not only that they are taxing authorities responsible to no one, but that they also override the laws of our elected local legislatures and school boards.

Donald G. Hobel

North Tonawanda

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