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EVERYBODY'S COLUMN

Region needs to create economic opportunity

I am a proud Western New Yorker. Reading the paper on the pullout of Verizon from Niagara County made my blood boil. No one likes our tax burden, but I don't believe that is our biggest problem. We have many other legal, environmental and bureaucratic obstacles that keep us from building almost anything.

The State Environmental Quality Review Act was not established to stop development. It was established to create a framework for projects to be implemented in a balanced and sensible approach. Sadly, it is no longer used that way. When did we lose that balance? Our history is full of projects that have never come to fruition, while other states can turn approvals on projects in days.

I fault the entire community: elected officials for not championing reforming laws to allow projects to get done in an expedient fashion; bureaucrats for not using common sense when they have the discretion to do so; and finally, the public, myself included, for being the silent majority and letting narrow self-interests make life a little worse by stopping job growth. We need to stand up and be counted.

I am proud to be part of a new initiative that is bringing together area elected officials, contractors, material suppliers, engineers, architects, IDAs, builders and realtors in a series of summit meetings called "Pinpointing the Chokepoints" to discuss these issues. As a coalition representing some 10,000 people in Western New York, we came together to identify what we need to do differently to create real economic opportunity. A series of work groups have been meeting to establish and identify our principles and goals, with another summit scheduled for April 8. As a child of the '60s, I want to be a part of the solution, not the problem. What about you?

Maria Lehman

Orchard Park

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America has enough problems of its own

Why do people give me a funny look when I tell them I couldn't care less about the Libyans, or the Egyptians either? I have my own problems. Don't we all? Charity begins at home. Maybe we should think about solving some of the many problems of this country before sticking our nose into the business of some other country. And, I hardly need add, the people of both these countries have nothing but contempt for us.

Jack Spiegelman

Buffalo

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Collins is destroying county's quality of life

I am at the latter half of my seventh decade and have developed some simple political views. I believe open government and good management, cognizant of the lessons of the past, trumps all ideology. For two years, I have watched with growing alarm the dedicated ideology of County Executive Chris Collins that usurps representative government and disregards our heritage and history.

The Holding Center fiasco exposed an extreme side of this when Collins initially blamed "liberal elements" in government for the problem. Actually that was nearly a high point as we lost reputation in expensive and mostly unsuccessful litigation wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars, with the county finally surrendering to the state and federal agencies.

Now I witness with alarm Collins' stealthy, noxious intent to destroy the library system, our cultural life and environmental work that decades of citizens and lawmakers assembled for our knowledge, culture and health.

In a purely political move, he appointed a person with no education or experience as commissioner of Environment and Planning. Then he cynically maneuvered his own chosen representatives to replace her in an elective office to allow him more control in the Legislature.

Meanwhile, he manipulates budgets and dismantles the Department of Environmental Compliance and the County Environmental Management Council and abandons a rich cultural heritage carefully assembled in good times and bad.

I think citizens should demand a stop to this and usher the county back to where we can take pride in and honor our institutions, and enjoy quality of life along with money management.

Art Klein

Tonawanda

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Treat flag with respect, dispose of it properly

As I walked down my street, a garbage truck was stopped just a few steps in front of me. Walking nearer I saw a look of bewilderment on the face of the garbage man -- it was heart wrenching. He cradled a U.S. flag, folded in a triangle. It appeared to be a veteran's burial flag. I was horrified. Yes, someone had thrown the flag out with the trash.

I told the man that I would have the flag disposed of properly. I took the flag and cried as I walked home, thinking of my father and uncles who proudly served their country. I came home and made a call to my daughter's school. I asked if the school could please fly the flag to honor the war veteran it was meant for. The school's representative graciously accepted the flag.

If you have an American flag that you can no longer keep, please consider donating it to a school or church. If you have a flag that is in need of being disposed of because it is worn out, please consider giving it to the local VFW post, American Legion, Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts for proper disposal.

Mary Ann Voorhees

Buffalo

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Merging corrections, parole is terrible idea

The proposed merger between the State Department of Correctional Services (DOCS) and State Division of Parole is simply a bad idea. If the commissioner of corrections is allowed to control parole, he would in essence be allowed to manipulate the entire inmate population in the state correctional facilities. The fox should never be allowed to be in control of the henhouse.

The DOCS controls the number of inmates being let out and parole controls the amount of inmates who return. Giving one person the absolute ability to oversee and influence the entire corrections population (58,000 incarcerated inmates and 44,000 parolees) is extremely dangerous because the human element of deception is involved. One man will now be able to artificially keep the inmate population at any number he desires.

Cost saving is a must in this state, especially in light of the current fiscal crisis, but we need to make sure inmates are released because they pose no further risk to society or to our communities, not because of overcrowding or to artificially keep the inmate numbers down.

Working in a correctional facility, I have seen firsthand how the current commissioner of corrections has decimated this once proud agency. Morale throughout the department is at an all-time low. It is imperative that these two agencies remain distinct and separate!

Vinny Blasio

Lake View

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