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EVERYBODY'S COLUMN

State needs ethics reform, publicly financed elections

It's true that New Yorkers are desperate for government transparency, including improved information sharing. But we will not achieve real democracy until we lessen the influence of big money in politics. Nothing makes this clearer than the investigation of State Sen. Carl Kruger for, among other misdeeds, accepting payoffs. He's far from the first. Former Sens. Vincent Leibell and Pedro Espada are two other New York elected officials recently charged with corruption.

The solution? Stronger ethics laws and publicly financed -- i.e., voter owned -- elections. Two important pieces: Limiting politicians' ability to use campaign contributions for personal matters; and lowering contribution limits and allowing candidates who rely on small donations to claim public matching funds.

The good news: Gov. Andrew Cuomo has already put forward an ethics bill, and he has said he supports public financing of elections. The bad: a public financing bill has yet to be introduced. That's a real shame. This reform would constitute an enormous step toward eliminating what some say amounts to legal bribery, that is, the costly and unsound policy choices that result from the improper influence of large campaign contributions.

New York's leaders have an unprecedented opportunity to let the sun shine on elections, too. Public financing and ethics reform should be their number one priority.

Dave Palmer

Executive Director

Center for Working Families

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Bloomberg owes Buffalo a public apology, at least

I am disappointed in Mayor Michael Bloomberg's recent remarks about Buffalo. In my opinion, good manners dictate an apology is owed, and it should be delivered in a forum just as public as the remarks, not in a late-night private phone call. Further, I would challenge the various civic groups of Buffalo to have Bloomberg appear in a video proclaiming the benefits of the Niagara region. I believe this would be appropriate for his misstep.

Gary Wood

Buffalo

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Math assessment results should surprise no one

The disastrous, overall performance by students in Buffalo's public schools on the recent fourth grade state mathematics assessment should surprise no one. In an August 2008 letter to The News, I warned that the K-5 mathematics program currently in use in Buffalo, Investigations in Number, Data and Space by TERC, had been criticized by a number of mathematicians. I concluded that despite the assurances of some mathematics educators, children need to master the traditional algorithms of arithmetic.

That warning went unheeded. Only recently did I come across the observation by R. James Milgram, emeritus professor of mathematics at Stanford, that "TERC is the second most mathematically illiterate and damaging program I have ever seen."

While mathematics is more than addition and subtraction, mastery of the algorithms of arithmetic is essential if students are to succeed in algebra and later in disciplines where serious college-level courses in mathematics are necessary.

While the new and "improved" TERC Investigations now in place in Buffalo promises to teach the algorithms of arithmetic, the damage to current students has been done. And it remains to be seen whether the formal introduction of the algorithms in TERC amounts to more than just a smoke screen to deflect criticism from concerned parents and angry mathematicians. While I support the intelligent use of calculator and computer technology, the misuse of such technology will lead to computer-assisted mathematical incompetence.

The time has come to require all school administrators to take a serious exam in college-level mathematics to test their mathematical mastery or lack thereof.

Richard H. Escobales Jr.

Buffalo

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Plan to turn terminal into lofts is delusional

I'm very glad I read The Buffalo News on a daily basis because, on occasion, it does report something quite comical. The article of March 10 titled, "The city's coolest lofts?" was the funniest thing I have read in months. A $75 million delusionary plan was unveiled by the Central Terminal Restoration Corp., once again spelling out the broad uses for this archaic facility. Right!

I especially liked the reference to the Long Island-based developer seeing "great potential" in this old white elephant. It reminded me of the time someone told me about the great potential of the old Westinghouse plant by the airport. In the article, an architectural designer stated that on a clear day, you can see Toronto from the top of the terminal tower. That's almost like seeing Russia from Sarah Palin's back yard.

I was so enthused that I would like to invite all who read the article to see for themselves the "beauty and wonder" of this historic monument with its extended buildings and "great potential." However, I wouldn't advise taking pictures as an inducement for tourists, or future entrepreneurs. That just might put the $75 million out of reach, and hopefully, put it instead, where it could be used for something logically constructive.

Norman Machynski

Cheektowaga

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Keep U.S. military out of crisis in Libya

While I didn't vote for our current president, nor do I agree with much of what he's done, I have to agree with his decision not to intervene militarily in Libya. Our country doesn't need to be embroiled in another war with a country headed by an Islamofascist despot such as Moammar Gadhafi. If not for the oil, the United States would hardly scoff at what's happening there.

This situation is just one of many examples of this country's desire to control a situation in which we "prop up" the tyrannical leader of an oil-rich country only to have it backfire in our face. Saddam Hussein, the shah of Iran, the royal families of the OPEC cartel -- we send them F-16s, top-notch military hardware and billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars! All this in the name of "stabilizing the region."

Some of our illustrious leaders are now saying we should do something in Libya for humanitarian reasons. How naive. If not for the black gold, which I admit we must have unless we find alternative energy, this region would be just another spot on a map.

We should be energy independent by now. We've been through this before, but as usual a handful of CEOs and market speculators get richer and richer. When is enough going to be enough? People complain about $4 a gallon for gas. If that price doubles, will that be the catalyst to wake this country up?

Albert Viterna

Lake View

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