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Everybody's Column

Erie County executive is not fooling citizens

Chris Collins ups his rhetoric of no tax increases by stating he will fund Erie County highway and "other" projects using county surplus money and not taxing our children's future. The unspent surplus may well be needed to cover county directives that the court(s) have declared as unconstitutional.

Well, let's see where this money came from. In his first year in office, Collins proposes a 5 percent tax increase. The County Legislature and citizens reduce the tax to zero. Collins takes the people to court, pays county tax dollars in legal fees and the settlement of a Collins tax of more than 2.5 percent becomes reality. The next year he continues the tax and it has become a permanent yearly tax increase for county residents. Now, in addition to the Collins tax, in the 2011 budget he decides to collect an additional $8 million in taxes and announces he will again ignore court orders and not spend the money on what the Legislature and people approved.

So, as the tax continues and increases, libraries, day care centers and cultural organizations are closed and Collins continues to claim that he won't raise taxes. Maybe he should spend some of the $2,000-per-plate campaign fundraising money he collected last week and buy reading glasses for himself and his cronies. But the people of Erie County can read their tax bills and know the truth about Collins and his administration. Who is really mortgaging the future and well being of our children?

Barry E. Weinstein

Amherst

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New York urgently needs independent redistricting

The time has come for New Yorkers to take back their vote. The League of Women Voters of Buffalo/Niagara believes this can come about only if legislators support an independent, nonpartisan commission for redrawing Assembly and Senate districts, in response to the 2010 census. To achieve that end, the LWV has joined ReShape NY, a broad coalition of different advocacy, business, union and civic groups, calling on the governor and State Legislature to create an independent redistricting commission that draws district lines using fair and defined criteria while engaging the public in the process.

Traditionally, legislators have drawn the lines to maintain their own partisan majorities and protect incumbents. As a result, New York's elections are notoriously uncompetitive. Without strong competition in our electoral system, meaningful discussion of public policy has taken a back seat to partisan rhetoric and unrealistic budgets. In the 2010 election, New York State had one of the lowest rates of voter participation in the nation. This is no surprise. Why should people vote if they face no real choice in candidates?

Despite opposition from ReShape NY and others -- including a bipartisan group of legislators who are working to have a truly independent redistricting commission in place in time for drawing the lines in 2012 -- the State Senate recently passed legislation that proposes a flawed constitutional amendment creating a redistricting commission that would not be effective until 2022. Voters of this state cannot wait another 10 years for reform. They deserve better.

We ask New Yorkers to contact their state legislators and to insist that they support a truly independent redistricting commission to take effect immediately.

Margaret Brunson

Co-President, League of Women Voters Buffalo/Niagara

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Shriners should drop ridiculous circus acts

The phrase "what's wrong with this picture?" came to mind when I opened The News and saw a photo of a tiger encircled by a hoop of fire. It befuddles me that the Shriners in our area continue to feature such ridiculous circus acts as tigers jumping through hoops of fire. I'll never understand how Shriners, known for their charitable works, seem to be able to ignore the plight of captive circus animals that must endure unnatural tricks and lives of deprivation.

While a Shriner was being interviewed about the circus recently, far in the background the circus elephants could be seen. They were rocking back and forth while standing in the fairgrounds event center. I've yet to see wild elephants exhibiting that behavior, much less wild tigers jumping through hoops of fire.

Compare the lives of free elephants to those who must endure noisy event centers and traveling in trucks from city to city. Tigers are natural predators that roam many miles and love to swim. They can hardly have their needs met in circus life.

Non-profit organizations and day programs scoop up the Shrine Circus' free tickets offered each year. How ironic that the very people who work daily to improve the lives of others choose to fill the seats of such a circus. While circus-goers and sponsors may find it easy to dismiss eyewitness accounts of cruel methods used to train circus elephants, I fail to comprehend why they can't use common sense to understand how miserable the lives of exotic animals are in circuses. Hopefully, the Shriners will consider extending their charitable feelings to circus animals -- soon.

Valerie Will

Orchard Park

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Waterfront plans are a big disappointment

In the past, how many times have we heard the phrases "scaled back" or "downsized" when describing a proposed building project in Buffalo? Now comes word of a "lighter, cheaper, quicker" waterfront. What a city of losers, with absolutely no thoughts of doing something in a grand way. The Peace Bridge is a prime example. We are the Mayberry of the North.

Is everyone as excited as I am at the prospect of a snack shop and some bathrooms being built? This is actually the lead topic in talks of waterfront development. I can't wait to get a hot dog and then go use those brand-new bathrooms! Wow! Baltimore and Cleveland have nothing over us.

No wonder this city is the laughingstock of the nation. But there is hope. I understand high-level talks are under way to lure a Tim Hortons to the waterfront. They hope to have plans finalized by 2019.

David Schaff

Amherst

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Lack of billboard permit is least of city's worries

I usually have a very good appreciation of The News and most of its reporters. However, James Heaney's reporting that Carl Paladino lacks a Thruway permit for a billboard, as if it is earthshaking news, would lead one to believe that the lack of such a permit is causing all of the state's fiscal problems. If Heaney is really interested in code violations, he should take a ride to some of the abandoned industrial sites around the city and see the thousands of serious violations that exist.

Paul S. Shanks

North Boston

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