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Letters To IsledeGrande 2023
Previous Letters

Letters To IsledeGrande.com must include Your Name and Address with Phone and Email
Emailed to our Publisher mailed to: Letters to IsledeGrande, 1871 Whitehaven Road, Grand Island, NY 14072
Please Keep in Mind, personal attacks will not be published
IsledeGrande from it inception over 25 years ago has had one goal, positive communication.
Let's Make Grand Island a Great Place to Live!

Thank You - My Final Days on Town Council

    This marks a bittersweet moment for me as I address you for the last time as your Councilman. Serving the residents of Grand Island over the past eight years has been an honor and a Privilege. Throughout my past eight years the driving force behind my commitment was my desire for good government, one that is transparent, honest and that represents the people that elected me.
   I have consistently been responsive to resident concerns and often supported residents by giving a voice to their issues, even when the odds were stacked against us. I leave behind a record that reflects my dedication to limiting the size and cost of our government to our taxpayers, while maintaining high-quality services.
    As I bid farewell to this chapter of my life, I want to express my gratitude to the community that placed its trust in me. Together, we have weathered storms and celebrated triumphs, always with the common goal of making Grand Island a better place for all.
    To my esteemed colleagues on the Town Board and our Supervisor, I extend my best wishes. May you lead with wisdom. Thank you, Grand Island, it has been an incredible journey, one that I will forever hold close to my heart.
Mike Madigan - Councilman

Election Comment

    I proudly served on the campaigns of Mike Madigan for Grand Island Supervisor and Dan Kilmer for Grand Island Town Council. My faith informs me that in the end we will all have an accounting on how we conducted ourselves in this life. In my opinion Integrity is what is most important which is how I believe Mike and Dan conducted their campaigns. They tirelessly went door-to-door day after day, week after week meeting the Grand Island residents and explaining the issues. They had others help to supplement their prime efforts. Mike and Dan were self-funded, not beholden to special interests. There are many serious issues currently facing Grand Island. Some have existed for a very long time. Mike and Dan did not use mud-slinging but rather clearly identified these issues and proposed serious solutions, not sweeping them under the rug. I met so many great people as I worked with them on these campaigns. These are solid values and fiscal conservatives who understand what is needed for Grand Island as well as in higher levels of government - it all starts at the local level. I hope to expand my relationships with them. While I'm very disappointed that Mike did not prevail, I want to thank him for his 8 years serving as a Grand Island Town Councilman and for his ongoing service with the Grand Island Fire Company. I wish Mike all the best in his future endeavors. I want to congratulate Dan Kilmer on his great win and wish him well as he begins his service as Town Councilman. Also, as a military mom myself, I can't thank Dan enough for his 38 years of military service.
Respectfully - Carol Hamm

Election Outcome

   First and most importantly I congratulated Supervisor elect Marston this morning in his big win.
   Second, I thank all the many individuals who supported my candidacy and worked so hard advising me and going door to door supporting both myself and Dan Kilmer who prevailed in this election.
    Congratulations to Dan, Tom, Pete, Mark, and Pattie in their wins.
    This race was a roller coaster, and I really enjoyed the ups, like the primary win against all odds, but boy that sudden stop at the bottom OUCH! There is a silver lining in adversity - I met really great people, folks who will always be considered friends through the relations we built during this campaign. Thank you!!! On to the next chapter in my life, when one door closes another one opens.
Mike Madigan

Best Choice for Grand Island Supervisor

   I am SURE people will criticize me for writing this . . . but from the time I created IsledeGrande twenty-five years ago, my hope was it would be a way for Islanders to come together, old friends reunite, new friends share ideas. I never created the platform for people to take shots at each other or me? Many unfounded claims unsubstantiated for political gain. For the record NO ONE loves Grand Island or it's people more than I do. I want the best for everyone that lives here.
    Now we are in a struggle to pick the next Supervisor for this town we all love. We have serious concerns. . . the Giant Warehouse, Increasing Taxes, Declining infrastructure, Safety for residents along Staley, East and West River roads. I am sure you can add to the list.    Basic Questions we need to ask the candidates before we vote.
       Are they willing to ask the tough questions?
       Are they engaged in the dialogue to get the best solutions.
       Are they concerned OUR taxes are about the highest in Erie County.
       Are they concerned about the condition and safety of our roads.
       Are they pro development?
       Are they obligated to donors?
       Are they working to reduce taxes, some towns are, do they even care?
       Are they willing to stand with the people of GI against the state?
   Things to ask yourself:
      Have you gone to TB meetings?
      Have you spoken to the board about your concerns?
      Were they listening or did you get spun off?
      Have you watched workshop meetings?
      Were they engaged, were they listening?
      Have you noticed how some of board members are often on their
      phones texting...and then quick to criticize.
    We need elected officials that are serious and Stand Up for the residents. The Giant Warehouse issue has been weighing on our minds for three years. Finally someone comes up with a plan to address it, suggesting a Moratorium on M1 zoning. Then out of the blue comes serious discussion? and "the solution"? Trust me we wouldn't be having that Vote on Monday if it wasn't for the agenda planned Moratorium discussion. Think about who would be best for Supervisor and stand up for the residents. We need a Town Board that shares both sides of important issues works to find the best solution, without the personal attacks.
    I have friends on both sides of this campaign, but we can't be voting for our friends. We need real transparency, not just talk about it. Some people talk about the "good old boys" like it is a club, I'll scratch your back if etc. So many people are connected and in my eyes it does NOT make for good governance. The choice is hard but it shouldn't be about friendship, it should be about leadership.
    Please read ALL the letters and try and see past the political Back Scratching, be discerning.
      AND most importantly VOTE! Reg Schopp - Publisher

Vote Marston for Town Council

   My name is Christian Bahleda and I'm one of the four council members for the Town of Grand Island. I'm writing to provide my endorsement for Pete Marston for the position of Town Supervisor & Tom Digati for the position of Town Councilman. If you are a resident of Grand Island, and care about development (or overdevelopment), the fiscal health of Grand Island, and more importantly, the future of Grand Island - I urge you to vote for Pete Marston and Tom Digati.
   Working alongside Pete over the past two years, I have seen his ability to effectively and efficiently work with others; Pete is open and honest - two things rarely seen in politics. Pete’s passion to make Grand Island a better place to live is unsurpassed. I can fully attest to Pete’s skills and character, and I have no doubt that Pete Marston is the best candidate for the position.
   Tom Digati is a great candidate for Town Councilman, he has already proven himself to be successful in the role. Tom is an honorable family-man. Tom always stands up for what he believes in & what he believes is best for our town. Tom challenges people for the purpose of discussion and for the betterment of the community - he doesn’t rubber stamp anything. Tom is always looking for ways to improve our town.
Please, on November 7th, 2023, go out and vote for Pete Marston for Town Council & Tom Digati for Councilman. It’s what is best for our small and unique island.
Christian Bahleda

Madigan Represents our Residents

    I met Councilman Madigan when he first took office in 2016, I have attended hundreds of town meetings and have seen how he operates. He has not changed; he has not been corrupted. Mike addresses issues in the open and is transparent – he will meet with you, even if you are on the polar opposite end of an issue. He will listen to you and consider and respond to your concerns. If you give him information, rest assured he will listen. Even if you disagree with him, you will at least know why he holds a different position. Mike will always consider that he is working for the residents.
    What differeiciates the two Supervisor candidates is their levels of engagement and responsiveness. Mike is the person that reaches out and gets engaged and responds to a residents concerns. I personally have sent numerous emails to the entire Town Board regarding various issues from efforts to forbidding and passing a law stopping Tourists Homes to the ridiculous speeding. You never hear his oponents voice on any important issue. He sits silently at board and workshop meetings never engaging in any deliberations and seldom revealing his position. His actions make me wonder. Telling West River residents concerned about the conditions along the river looking to help the State with maintenance as good neighbors, Marston responds, "they are not your neigbbors", does that show any understanding or concern for the residents, real taxpayers with serious concerns?
   Mike Madigan is always fully engaged and responsive AND he came to our defense. If the topic is important and undecided, he comes into meetings fully prepared and fully engages in deliberating and deciding the best outcome – typically leading the board towards the best outcome. Mike is always responsive – the multiple issues residents have he calls, e-mails, and frequently meets with and engages them so he fully understands their concerns.
    The choice can’t be clearer and the contrasting styles more different: If you want all 5:0 votes, no deliberations, go-along-to-get-along zero transparency and unresponsive town government then Pete is your guy.
    If you want your town government to challenge the status quo, to deliberate and challenge all sides of an issue before determining the best path forwards and in the process have residents fully understand the topic and what led to the decision then Mike Madigan is who we want and need for Supervisor. He has integrity and operates openly and honestly and is fully engaged.
    Mike originated the rezoning issue with his proposed Moritorium on M1 Zoning, hoping to find common ground. Without that initiative the board wouldn't be voting Monday on the new law.
Please consider voting for Mike Madigan for Supervisor and his running mate Dan Kilmer for Town Council!
Sandra Nelson

Madigan for Supervisor

    I am Voting for Mike Madigan for supervisor. The River Town development impacts my home. The Current Town Zoning map is incorrect. I am next to the Rivertown development. My house was zoned R1 and the vacant land next to me R1 single family homes only allowed in 2005. It changed to R2, R3, as map shows and my house to CBD, supposedly that vacant land is now PDD not represented on the map. My house is non-conforming not allowed in CBD. I will have 4 story buildings 30 feet from my side and back property line with roads on the property line. I have an inground pool and with this development stadium seating around it. My house is losing value because of this development. I have been to all the meetings and sent letters on 9/8/2021 to the supervisor and 4 board members at that time. I included my and wife’s contact information, emails, cell phone numbers. The only ones to contact us was Mike Madigan, Mike actually visited our property to see firsthand our situation. Christian Bahleda talked to us at a presentation at the welcome center. No supervisor or any other board member replied in any format. Remember Mike Madigan and vote for him, Mike cares about us residents.
Paul Salonek

Filling the Job of Supervisor

   Hire the right candidate for the JOB. Grand Island needs a professional in the office who regularly manages Million Dollar Budgets, has 30 years experience as a professional people manager and has the vitality, entheusiasm and record for fighting for the residents and small businesses.
    It is a serious job which will affect all of us tax payers on Grand Island. His many accomplishments as councilman speak loud and clear as to why we need him as supervisor. On election day, please vote and then vote for the best qualified candidate…. Mike Madigan. Thank you.
Janice Wieckowski

Whitney Statement

    I am writing to you today to clear up some misrepresentations as to why I retired. Councilman Madigan stated that I did it for political purposes. The only thing political related to my decision was to get out of politics. As I stated, I resigned for personal reasons. I am 67 years old. I had open heart surgery four years ago and I felt that the job was not conducive to my health.
   Recently, Lynn and I got married. Lynn is Pete Marston’s sister. We were in a relationship long before Pete or I were involved in politics. As Deputy Supervisor, Pete assumed the responsibilities as acting Supervisor. However, the Town Board can appoint anyone they want to that position. Apparently, as I do, the majority of the Board felt confident that Pete could faithfully fulfill the duties as acting Supervisor. I fully support Pete Marston for Supervisor and I hope you will too.
John Whitney

Not Here, Too?

    In the 1980s there was an individual, whose name I forget, in Mario Cuomo’s administration. He headed up one of the agencies tasked with economic development. He actually tried to do his job as us poor saps (read: taxpayers) thought it was supposed to be done. He incurred the wrath of the establishment. He coined a wonderful phrase, identifying the establishment as “The Insiders’ Commercial Party.” This was the friends and family way of running State government. Those in power didn’t want anyone actually doing their job because people might notice that they weren’t getting their money’s worth. Before that, we had LBJ admonishing Senators “to go along to get along.”
    The common thread is that the incumbents don’t want their cozy state of affairs disrupted. They like things the way they are, thank you. Or as Silvester Pussy Cat put it so memorably in a Looney Tune, “We got it soft.” Why do I bring this up? It appears that the ‘Insiders Commercial Party’ has planted roots here on Grand Island. The last week has seen a flurry of ‘testimonials’ lauding one or another of the candidates for the Town Board. In particular, the insiders want Pete Marston to be elected supervisor so things can continue in a ‘business as usual’ fashion.
    Unfortunately, reality will rear its ugly head. The Town has serious financial expenditures looming. The water system needs massive amounts of work. We can’t keep adding layers of blacktop to our roads. At some point, sooner rather than later, the roads will have to be rebuilt from the dirt up. This isn’t cheap. There is the issue of zoning with the warehouse being the case du jour. There is also the handing out of building permits and not verifying that the terms are being adhered to. Nothing is being done to those who flaunt the rules. Needless to say, these things shouldn’t continue. The budget is a big issue. Madigan, of the current board, is the only one who understands what is going on with the budget. The others are happy to spend your money in the name of “progress”.
    The words ‘fiscally responsible’ are bandied about by both Marston and Digati (this is a guy who has no shame in being included in the Republican mailer with Frentzel, Madigan, Kilmer and Nemeth even though he is opposed to the two seeking board seats!). I can’t say what Marston thinks because the only thing I ever heard him say at a Board meeting was that “the State of New York was not your neighbor” to the West River homeowners who were seeking to get the State to properly maintain the bike path and environs. Digati took issue with me when I said that the approach to financing that the town took was wrong. His comment showed he knows nothing about finance. He does like to spend the taxpayer’s money, though.
    As I stated in my letter to the editors last June regarding the Republican primary, ‘These races should be about who will best serve the interest of all Grand Islanders. They should not be popularity or name recognition contests. We should be seeking the individuals who are most competent, most engaged, and best able to further our collective interests.’ I stand by that.
    One writer spoke of decorum. Decorum is nice but it shouldn’t be the primary reason one elects an individual. Competence should be. Would you prefer a doctor who had great decorum but was a hack versus one with no bedside manner but who was the tops in their field? Choosing a supervisor isn’t the same as choosing a dinner companion. Further, decorum shouldn’t be a code word for not asking uncomfortable questions.
    We, at all the levels of government, have ceded too much to insiders. We need to hold government accountable. On Grand Island, electing Mike Madigan supervisor and Dan Kilmer councilman will go a long way towards achieving that.
    James Mulcahy

Insiders vs. Outsiders

   Mike Madigan, Dan Kilmer, and I are outsiders. We question why government does things the way that they do and we hold Politicians, who are elected to represent us, accountable for their actions. The insiders don’t like it.
   Some of these candidates are running on “fiscal responsibility” instead of “fiscal conservativism”. Don’t be confused, because both contain the word fiscal. Fiscal means money/budgets. Conservative means not wanting to spend money. So someone that is fiscally responsible is responsible for raising your taxes. Someone who is fiscally conservative does not want to raise taxes. In my opinion, raising taxes by 2%/year equates to greater than 20% in 10 years. That is not fiscal conservativism. Mike Madigan was the only one out of the 5 that voted against John Whitney’s budget raising taxes by about 5%. Soon after that, there were 2 full time employees hired to expand departments. At approximately $100,000/employee, could we have not hired them and had a tax increase of less than 2%? West Seneca has not had a tax increase in 3 years. 0% increase. Hamburg and Duchess County had fiscally conservative leaders in the past and had a 10% decrease in taxes under that leadership. Are they that much better than us?
   Many have asked me if the lack of transparency, mismanagement and delays are intentional and possibly due to a hidden agenda on the part of the town and its leadership. My response is, look at the actions and ignore the words if they are inconsistent. A perfect example of this is the recent M1 issue. Mike Madigan had a plan and the rest of the people on the town board knew that plan. There were meetings, excluding Mike, and another plan was proposed. Is this how a team is supposed to work for the good of the town that these people are supposed to represent? Electing Madigan and Kilmer would put an end to this.
   Do you realize that Both Madigan and Kilmer are self- funded and are not accepting money from individuals or businesses? They are only appearing on flyers from the GIGOP that the entire team is on. They do this so they are not beholden to donors. Marston has accepted money from developers and owners of the development companies according to NYS BOE campaign finance.
   After last night’s candidate forum, it was blatantly obvious to me that Digati’s answers were the same as the Democrats. No wonder that he has always voted to increase the size and scope of government and increase taxes.
Please vote for Madigan and Kilmer to end the abuse of the taxpayers on Grand Island.
Dean Morakis

Community Before Politics

    Both in 2019 and throughout my campaign for re-election, I have made clear my commitment to put the interests of our Town before all else. Local politics is not national politics. Here, we might have different letters next to our name, but we are all Grand Islander’s first. We are all a part of the same small, tight-knit community. The majority of our community values the unique nature of our Town and wants elected officials that will work diligently to preserve and enhance the things that make our Town great.
    With this in mind, I must clear the air about my position on this year’s race for Town Supervisor. I have had the opportunity to serve this Community alongside both candidates for the last three plus years. I have known both for at least twice that long. During my term, I have been in the public meetings, the workshops, and the executive sessions; I have been the go between with individual phone calls trying to carry ideas between the two; I have helped both with campaigns; I have worked on successful projects with both. My experience has led me to one very simple conclusion: Pete Marston is the right choice for Town Supervisor.
    I supported Pete in the primary. At that time, both he and I received the endorsement from the Grand Island Republican Committee and the Grand Island Conservative Committee. Unfortunately, Pete did not prevail in the primary. Unsurprisingly though, Pete’s dedication to our Town led him to continue his race on the minority Conservative line. He did not back down despite numerous suggestions that he should and attempts to force the issue. Instead, he became even more devoted to his campaign.
    I have attempted to run a campaign with Mr. Madigan and the republican slate of candidates. However, it has become apparent that Mr. Madigan and I have fundamentally different views of the role of party politics in local elections and governance. As a result, I cannot do so any longer. Rather, I will stand by commitment to put Grand Island’s interests before politics. I believe that this community will be best served with Pete Marston as our next Town Supervisor. He knows how to collaborate and work together towards a common goal: the greater good.
    As always, please do not hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions or would like to discuss why I support Pete, though I am sure more will come between now and the election. I can be reached by phone at (716)984-4521 or by email at tdigati@gmail.com.
Respectfully - Tom Digati

Decorum is Important

    It’s an election year and some would rather trash the opponents of candidates they support. Not only do I find that distasteful, I find it not helpful to the community who is trying to decide who to vote for. People who know me know that I believe that people should be civil when working with others who represent the Grand Island Community. Decorum is important. Unfortunately, that was not always my experience when on the Town Board.
    As a positive person, I can be the voice of reason when needed. Today, I would like to use my voice to tell you about a good man whom I have served with on the Grand Island Town Board. That man is Pete Marston. He is the most qualified person for the job of Town Supervisor. He possesses great pride and concern for the Grand Island community.
    I first met Pete when I was a councilwoman, and he was serving on the Planning Board. I was the liaison to that board. Very quickly I could see that he had a great knowledge of the zoning codes and the laws that applied to those codes. He later became the chair of that board with my recommendation. It did not matter that we were not of the same party, he clearly was qualified for the position. He always did his homework and was prepared every meeting… an excellent leader. Two years later, he ran and was elected to the town board as a councilman. Pete worked tirelessly and with anyone on any project if it meant it would benefit Grand Island. A quality you don’t see much in today’s political atmosphere. He knows how to get things done.
    He has served as liaison to many advisory boards. One of the things he did well was follow-up with the tasks and initiatives of those boards. It is time consuming task, but much needed in order to get things done. Pete is a guy who is not looking for admiration and credit for everything he does like many elected officials do. He is not that guy who will constantly remind you of all he has done or takes credit for what others have done. That is not only unusual, but also rare for an elected official. If you are looking for a Supervisor who does not play politics… Pete is your guy. He is humble, kind and respectful.
    Pete knows all the Department heads, employees in those departments and advisory board members by name. He treats them with the respect that they deserve. He knows what every department does and interacts with true interest and concern for the needs of those department to do their jobs well. Yes, you get to know a person pretty well when working with them day to day. In a world where people would rather bash each other, the one common thread that Pete and I shared was being respectful, hard working, inclusive and to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.
    Pete is a family man and realizes running for office can put his whole family in a fishbowl. Some years ago, a certain candidate wrote "Political attacks on those who seek office that focus on the individual rather than issues is one reason good people decide not to run and it harms communities and the integrity of our government. I personally commit to not engage in such behavior." Pete has always run a positive campaign, making it about strengths and accomplishments, not any opponents’ weaknesses or failings.
    I am proud to have served on the town board with Pete and I don’t think you can find a better candidate regardless of political party. Isn’t it time that we work together for our community and elect a candidate that wants to bring the community together instead of tearing it apart. Pete Marston has a record of doing just that!
Former Councilwoman, Bev Kinney

Town Board is Rudderless!

   Our Town Board is completely rudderless, meetings are in disarray and clearly nobody is in charge, resulting in critical issues being mismanaged.
   The mismanagement is fully on display at board meetings. It is apparent that “acting” Supervisor has no experience managing meetings. He is charged with maintaining meeting order through compliance with Roberts Rules. Since John Whitney, his brother-in-law resigned his position as Supervisor, just prior to the election; meetings have been chaotic and at least in one case, critically flawed resulting in the need to call a special meeting to correct the acting Supervisor’s errors.
   I was a councilman in Lewiston for four years and our meetings adhered strictly to Roberts Rules of Order. You speak when called on, you address the Supervisor not others in the room and you never call names or make personal attacks, something that is been happening on a regular basis.
   At the October 16th GI Town Board meeting 3 of the 4 members voted to table the new law restricting the size of warehouses on Grand Island. Mike Madigan stood alone again, fighting for the residents as the only dissenting vote against tabling, he wanted an up or down vote on the law. The reason behind this stems from the lack of leadership from the deputy supervisor’s office. Pete Marston failed to ensure the revised local law documents were submitted to Erie County for review timely. The importance of this new law is critical to the warehouse development issue and timing is very important to island residents. The multiple delays and lack of transparency has caused much concern, everyone has been waiting for action. Erie County had previously received an outdated document and already weighed in, suggesting that the county has no input since it is a local law created by the town. The fact the County had only one day to review the documents was the problem.
   Relying on my experience as a town councilman in Lewiston I would have made a motion to pass the local law contingent upon approval from the county. This would have put the residents at ease knowing their town board took a unanimous position on this crucial issue. Instead the public saw once again a lack of action.
   The Town Supervisor needs to be more than a friendly face and a title. He must be professional, a leader, a manager of people, meetings and projects, and must take responsibility for the actions of town government. This was played as if it was the Erie County’s fault, it clearly was not.
   Pete Marston gets an F, for failing to provide leadership, failing to take responsibility for the mishandling of this law. This is just another example of his lack of understanding the level of responsibility that comes with the supervisor’s office. This law should have been passed Monday night, contingent to Erie County’s approval, period.
   This town is desperate for good, accountable, transparent and responsible leadership. We need to elect a team that is capable of doing the job.
Respectfully submitted by Dan Kilmer

Happy Town Board is Considering Amendments

   I am happy to hear that the Grand Island Town board is considering amendments to its Zoning Regulations. Amendments to laws are made when they are no longer appropriate and Zoning should not be nor can it be an exception.
   The Zoning concerns occurred when Amazon submitted plans for a giant warehouse to be built on a plot near a residential area on Grand Island. The Grand Island Homeowners loudly rejected that proposal based on size and impact. Amazon subsequently withdrew its proposal. A similar proposal is now being made by a different Developer with a warehouse of similar impact.
    I have heard some say that "we are foolish for refusing to allow these projects to go through regardless of size". Money is one of their arguments: "the taxes that this warehouse would generate would lower our property taxes." And then a second monetary comment: " all the wages for the new warehouse workers and the dollars that would be spent in construction of the site would be lost…money that would be contributed to the local economy” And then the comment that: “There might be a legal battle waged with the Town over these size amendments to the Zoning Laws and this would be a financial burden to the Town which the citizens would ultimately bear through added taxes”
   Non of this is new. It is the rhetoric of development.
   The issues we are facing money cannot buy. It is why residents chose to live on Grand Island. It has to do with what is left of the land and our way of life. The preservation of the residents tranquility, i peace and quiet, health and quality of life. The suggested amendments in our zoning laws address what we value and what is left of the land and the size of development.    Should these amendments be passed by our Town Board? YES
   Will they be challenged legally ? Possibly
So the question is: Are the amendments to our current Zoning Regulations necessary and should the thousands of residents who are requesting these changes be heard?
   The answer appears to me to be a loud and resounding YES The island is a grand place to live and we must collectively work to keep it that way!
Jim Mazza

We Have Your Back . . .

   While it’s true that some Grand Island citizens, myself included, have expressed some frustration and anger about the whole warehouse debacle, I want you to know that when someone from outside of Grand Island — let’s say a developer who brings costumed clowns to a public hearing — attempts to humiliate our Town Board members, we have your back.
    Yes, this has been a long, painful process — longer than need be — but we recognize that you’re doing your job and trust that you’re watching out for the best interests of our Island and our citizens, clowns and Buffalo News editorials be damned.
Katherine Hastings

SEQR Falsehoods, The Triumvirate’s Election Year “Discretional Transparency”
    and the Local Law Distraction

   On August 28 councilmembers Bahleda, Digati, and Marston’s coordinated behind the scenes opposition to the proposed moratorium on distribution center and warehouse approvals was revealed to Mr. Madigan and the public. Mr. Bahleda announced, telling Mr. Madigan “a moratorium is not enough” admonishing the moratorium would bring a taking action against the Town. Instead, Bahleda announced the triumvirates “commitment to act” by requiring a special use permit and a reduced building footprint for warehouses and distribution centers. The Island Dispatch reported that protestors who oppose the High Cube Fulfillment Center Warehouse (HCFCW) project walked away with smiles, apparently having been convinced by Bahleda’s speech that their voices had been heard and change was on the horizon.
    On September 7 Deputy Supervisor Marston told me the reason the deeply and materially flawed DEIS was accepted is because the application had been going on for 1 ½ years. Of course, that has nothing to do with completeness, and the application was submitted nearly three years ago. I wondered why if the HCFCW project was being killed by the local law amendment Mr. Huntress praised the board for their actions, did not threaten a lawsuit, and went on to disrespect and pity we backward residents who opposed noxious industry on Grand Island? The answer given was - we don’t know. The truth came out a week later in the September 15 Dispatch; that is, Acquest will be grandfathered under the current law. Only landowners other than Mr. Huntress will be affected by the purported restrictions.
   Councilmember Bahleda put forth the triumvirate’s and hired gun Hodgson Russ attorneys take on the SEQR process sometime prior to the 28th. As a professional engineering consultant specializing in the preparation of solid waste management facility designs and applications in New York state for over 40 years, I have been the principal in charge of dozens of Type I applications subject to extended environmental review under SEQR, and would like to expose the disinformation here; yes that’s right, disinformation.
First and foremost, the Town of Grand Island Town board is the lead agency for this High Cube Fulfillment Center Warehouse (HCFCW) action. The lead agency is responsible for the final written scope of the DEIS, the preparation of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), the preparation of the Final EIS, and the Findings. The Scope, the DEIS and the FEIS are prepared by the applicant in nearly every instance due to the time commitment, expertise required, and the high cost. SEQR says if the applicant does not exercise the option to prepare the draft EIS, the lead agency will prepare it, cause it to be prepared or terminate its review of the action.
   SEQR requires the Town to determine the Draft EIS is satisfactory with respect to scope, content, and adequacy at a level of detail sufficient for an accurate analysis of significant adverse environmental impacts before it can be determined complete for public review. Mr. Bahleda is dead wrong suggesting the DEIS must just present the “environmental questions", and that the Town is charged only with approving “the table of contents” so does not have to “agree” with the information presented in the DEIS. Mr. Bahleda contradicts himself, also stating that the questions before the board on August 28 were “…does the drafted SEIS identify and adequately quantify the level of pollution” and has it answered “..questions “..concerning the environmental impact” therefore allowing us to open this for public review.”
   The Deputy Supervisor and Town Engineer do not dispute that less than 10% of the text of the DEIS has been reviewed and commented on by Town officials or its consultants. Yet, the Town is keenly aware of the errors, omissions, and disinformation presented in the DEIS and brought to its attention by the public. SEQR says if the draft EIS is determined to be inadequate, the lead agency must identify in writing the deficiencies and provide this information to the applicant for correction, and the determination of the adequacy of a resubmitted draft EIS must be based solely on the written list of deficiencies provided by the lead agency following the previous review. Simply put, the DEIS is the Town’s document, and they must provide responsible and accurate answers to these environmental questions before determining whether the document is ready for public review.
   Who is doing the game playing here councilmember Bahleda? The triumvirate, under the advisement of the Hodgson Russ hired guns, are essentially telling their constituents the town has its hands tied and we do not have to “agree” with the accuracy of our own documents. People should know the Town’s power broker politicians can go silent after they issue the FEIS and Findings because the applicant or the Town are not required under SEQR to respond to questions or concerns regarding how our comments are addressed in the FEIS – that document is it – game over.
   After all, Acquest seems to have reasonable case for a regulatory taking, and we constituents have sound arguments for a Request for Judicial Intervention via an Article 78 proceeding given the bastardized and improper “discretional transparency” process the town routinely follows under the guidance of Hodgson Russ.
Grand Islanders lose and the attorneys/special interests win - again.
Jim Daigler

Fake Facts and The High Cube Fulfillment Center Warehouse (HCFCW) Impact Statement

   I met with the Town of Grand Island Deputy Supervisor and the Town Engineer last week to get a few answers regarding the Town's recent improper Draft Environmental Impact Statement completeness determination.
   According to SEQR, a Draft EIS is adequate for commencing public review if it meets the requirements of the written scope and provides the necessary information to evalute project impacts, alternatives, and mitigation measures.    It is essential the information presented in the Draft EIS is simply stated, understandable and accurate such that significasnt impacts are identified, quantified, and mitigated to the maximum practicable extent. Absent accuracy, significant impacts will not be adequeately addressed. When asked whether the raft EIS must be accurate to be complete at the August 28 board meeting, the hired gun Hodgson Russ attorney did not answer.
   The gist of my conversation with the deputy Supervisor and the Town Engineer can be expressed using some paraphrased examples of the back and forth.
   Question (Q): Since the Deputy Supervisor recognizes the well documented inaccurate, misleading and incomplete information in the Draft EIS, why did he believe the Town must accept the document as complete?
   Answer (A): This application has been going on for 1 1/2 years.
   Q: On presenting the Table of Contents for the Draft EIS to the Deputy Supervisor showing nine Chapters and 41 Sections, I asked why the ecologist (not an environmental analyst) retained by the Town reviewed and commented on only four Sections, or less than 10 pertcent of the document?
   (A): None given.
   (Q): Has anyone reviewed the Scoping Document for the Draft EIS to confirm all the promised work was completed?
   (A): None given.
   (Q): Who is the Town representative who knows the documents in the application best?
   (A): The Town Engineeer.
   (Q):Does the Town Engineer have any comments on the documents of the Draft EIS?
   (A): No (So, no Town official or consultant has any comments on over 90% of the Draft EIS)
   (Q): Where does the Draft EIS state the number of trucks that will be exiting the Thruway into Town?
   (A): We don't know.
   (Q): How many trucks does the board think will be exiting the Thruway into Town?
   (A): We don't know.
   By the way, the number of trucks per day can be computed with variable results using a few of the contradictory statements in the documents. *Draft EIS says 18 trucks/hour maximun, but no range in the number of trucks per day. *Traffic study says the HCFCW will add 8,419 vehicles per day to Long Road Bridge. This is estimated to include at leat 7,753 trucks per day. *Draft EIS says the HCFCW will add 6,952 vehicle trips er day. This is estimated to include at least 2,187 trucks per day.
   (Q):Where are the applicants' responses to my pointed questions on the noise study that were promised me by both the recently retired Supervisor and the Town Engineer?
   (A): You cannot see them yet.
   (Q): How can the Town approve and accept the use of roadside noise measurements taken across from a truck entrance and averaging 58 dB(A) for the amvient residential noise benchmark when in possession of the 40dB(A) one-hour Leq (NYS well known benchmark) behind the home at 2790 Long Road?
   (A):Consultant GHD agreed it was apporpriate and we are not noise experts.
   (Q): A common sense judgement call cannot be made by the Town?
   (A): None given.
   (Q): What will happen first, the passage olf the local law limiting the size of the HCFCW or the SEQR Findings on the HCFCW application.
   (A): The local law.
   (Q): If the applicant is having his project destroyed by this last minute change to the Zoning Code, why has he complained about the process, praised the board who managed the process, and not threatened a lawsuit?
   (A): We don't know.

   Conflicted councilmembers can claim transparency until they are blue in the face while in reality it does not exist. The application disingenuously and substantially underestimates the severity of the impacts of HCFCWE operation on the community and the environment.
    To this untrustworthy applicant's advantage, SEQR does not require any response to public comments on the Final EIS. History suggests pro-overdevelopment councilmembers are leavcing ythe door open for unsupported excuse responses, or no response to some comments at all, in the DEIS.
   It is clear a HCFCW is not as of right in M-1 as the Code is now written. It is also evident an honest environmental impact analysis will confirm the facility as proposed is noxious per the commonly accepted definition and is not allowed by any means in M-1.
    Why the rush to modify the language in M1?
   Acquests pathway to obtaining Town approval for the proposed HCFCW is founded in fake facts and may in the near future only require a Special Use Permit and a variance or two.
Jim Daigler

Response to Buffalo News Editorial Staff

    Dear Editorial Staff,
    Regarding your opinions expressed in the article "Double-dealing" on the Editorial page of the Buffalo News on 11-Sep-2023, we wish to point out misstatements that were made. It is obvious that the sole source of the information presented in your editorial was from the developer, Acquest, in their bid to build a giant warehouse off Long Road on Grand Island.
    You correctly point out that the current M1 zoning law allows for warehouses and distribution centers. However, our M1 zone "is established to encourage the development of non-noxious industry" and "to attract nonpolluting industry." Clearly a giant warehouse with thousands of trucks per day does not fit this definition. Thankfully, our Town Board is taking corrective action to reconcile the language of the M1 zone and allowable uses with its original purpose.
    When the original language and uses were approved, no one could have foreseen the building of massive warehouses and distribution centers that are the very antithesis of the stated purpose. Section 407.110 paragraph A in the town code states that “To the maximum extent possible, the character of the proposed use should be comparable with the surrounding neighborhood and in harmony with the town’s Comprehensive Plan." The Comprehensive Plan further states "an industrial business in this area should include “trail connections, infill development, and clustering of buildings in a park setting." Far from "double-dealing", the Town Board is addressing the legitimate concerns of thousands of residents who have brought these discrepancies to their attention.
    Traffic is just one of the many concerns of Grand Island residents. Acquest has failed to identify an alternative/mitigation for truck traffic when (not if) the Long Road overpass needs to be rebuilt (it is the same age as the Beaver Island Overpass which is currently out-of-commission because it is being rebuilt). There is only one proposed access point identified in the project for trucks.
    You also mentioned the project in Niagara County to build a giant warehouse for Amazon and that, “…the trucks will still cross Grand Island.” That may be true, but 1000's of trucks will not be using our local infrastructure daily and spewing tons of toxic fumes while idling in our residential neighborhoods. They will still be causing wear-and-tear on our bridges and interstate highway, which will be a problem for the state to solve.
    Next time you write an opinion, please do your research and talk to people on both sides of an issue.
Mike Rayhill, spokesperson
CRED4GI (Coalition for Responsible Economic Development for Grand Island)

Grand Island Needs Transparency

   I am a resident of 40 yrs. on Grand Island. I’m concerned about what did and didn’t take place at the General meeting on August 28th.
   For months we were promised a public review of the DEIS reports of the largest project (Acquest) ever proposed on Grand Island. Why were the residents/taxpayers ignored.
   On August 28,23 at the general meeting Councilman Madigan proposed a motion for a temporary moratorium on this LONG Road 1,200,000 sq. ft distribution center. If passed, EVERYONE would have more time. Residents could and should review the DEIS reports, the councilmen could look at other communities and the problems these distribution centers may create. A temporary moratorium made good sense.
   Instead, Councilman Bahleda proposed to amend the motion (moratorium) to have a local law to amend the M1 zoning regarding the size of future distribution centers. OK, probably a good idea but what happened to more time/moratorium ? Why not both?
   Where is the process that should guide our four Councilmen via the town's Master Plan and advice from our legal dept.? Where is the transparency for the taxpaying residents, property owners /sellers/investors and developers.
   Can’t we just focus on the long term health of this Island and it’s residents.
Thank you,
Janice Wieckowski

Warehouse 2.0 Meeting - What Just Happened at Monday's Town Board Meeting

   At the much-anticipated August 28 Town Board meeting, Councilman Mike Madigan delivered on a public promise to propose a moratorium on giant warehouses and distribution centers.
    Public comments at the meeting greatly supported this proposal. The purpose of the moratorium, Madigan explained, was to give the Town sufficient time to deliberate on (a likely complex) revision of M1 zoning. After Madigan's motion, things got curious.
   Councilman Bahleda motioned to amend Madigan's proposal: to skip the moratorium altogether and go straight to revising M1. Fast-tracking the zoning revision? Seems hasty, but just wild enough to work? What just happened? A closer look reveals a seemingly backwards board dynamic, best summarized by Dept. Supervisor Marston's own words:
    "I'm just gonna put this out there. Councilman Bahleda has worked hard on this and he has gone around and worked with Digati and I, separately, to discuss potential ways to make this work and we collaboratively put together a pretty good mouse trap."
    Hmm... Notice Madigan is not mentioned in this clever 'collaboration'. Excluding the main proponent of M1 revision from the conversation? Weird! A lot of hard work resulted in a spontaneously clumsy motion amendment? At the very least, why not come to terms at the workshop? And why are you springing it on the public like this? The whole thing came off more like a frantic cabal than collaboration. Let's not forget: It's been 3 years since Project Olive was proposed.
    There has been time before now for responsible, methodical local law revision with full transparency. Maybe the zoning revision idea has been slow in coming, but at least acknowledge that it's come through Madigan, and via a non-rushed proposal. Seems to me the Island would best be served by true collaboration among the Board, instead of factions scrambling end-runs around an idea guy in order to score political points. Just exactly what mouse are we trying to trap here? These are the impressions I was left with after such a meeting. So I'll ask the Town Board: What just happened?
Liz Zilbauer

Solar Moratorium a Model to be Followed – It Gave All Stakeholders a Voice - August 2023

    A proposal will be considered by the Grand Island Town Board on Monday August 28th @8PM to put into effect a moratorium on distribution center and warehouse approvals to permit time to perform a comprehensive review of the current M1 zoning requirements and consider possible amendments.
    On January 19, 2021, the Grand Island Town Board passed a similar moratorium, a moratorium on Solar Farm approvals. Prior to this approval many residents raised concerns to the Town Board about issues they viewed must be resolved related to safety, health, and welfare of residents related to solar facilities, very similar to complaints currently being raised about warehouses and distribution centers.
    The Town Board, as part of their approval of the moratorium, required that a supervisor committee be formed that included all stakeholders related to Solar Farms. The committee included proposed solar farm property owners, solar farm developers, solar farm neighbors and both anti and pro-solar farm residents. Note: Several Solar Farms were at various stages of consideration and approval at that time.
    This committee gave a voice to all stakeholders on all sides of the issue and provided them an opportunity to have real input on the requirements that must be met for all future approvals of solar farms. Most importantly, many residents at the time felt their concerns were falling on deaf ears, this committee gave them a seat at the table.
    This committee of stakeholders’ approach proved to be highly effective. Many issues were raised, and risks mitigated in the amended law. During the final approvals, stakeholders from all sides of the issues gave positive feedback both on the process and final output.
    One risk that was mitigated in the amended solar law was not permitting solar farm battery storage units on GI. NY has had three serious solar battery storage fires in recent weeks that included shelter-in-place for area residents due to toxic smoke. All three of these fires uncovered issues including the risk to area residents and the limited ability of the fire departments to safely fight these types of fires. The Town of Grand Island has been contacted by developers seeking to install such battery facilities and fortunately our current law does not permit them.
    As the Town Board considers approving the moratorium on warehouses and distribution centers, the solar farm development moratorium precedent should be considered as a model to be followed. Giving a voice to all stakeholders in the future development of our Island proved effective for such critical high impact developments. Residents are encouraged to participate in the town board meeting August 28th at 8PM to voice their position on this proposed moratorium.
Mike Madigan - Councilman

Short Term Moratorium on Distribution Centers to be Proposed - August 2023

    On August 28th, a motion will be presented to the Board proposing approval of a local law placing a moratorium on warehouses and distribution centers. This moratorium, if it’s supported, would temporarily suspend approvals for Warehouses and Distribution Centers while the town reviews and considers potentially changing its land use regulations (zoning laws) to address new circumstances not addressed by its current M1 zoning law.
    After considerable review of the current M1 zoning law it is my opinion that changes in the global economy have resulted in our current law falling out of alignment with its original intent. Mega malls are being replaced by mega distribution centers which did not exist when the M1 zoning law was updated last in 2012 for example. The public can attend the Town Board Regular meeting at 8PM Monday August 28th at the town hall courtroom and at the beginning of the meeting voice either their support or opposition to such a moratorium – such lobbying can and has in the past impacted how your representative’s vote.
    Correcting the record: Deputy Supervisor Marston communicated at the end of the August 7th Town Board Meeting, (where rebuttal was not possible) that “we’ve come up with a plan to accept the findings” of the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the Long Road Warehouse and that this acceptance is planned at the August 28th meeting. I am not certain who he is referring to regarding the “we” that made this decision to accept. Deliberations leading to a vote must, as per the NYS Open Meetings Law, be done in public not in a backroom. I will assume he misspoke even though he stated he was reading his statement from a script. Speaking for myself, though I am confident I am not alone amongst my fellow council members, no such decision has been made yet. Like the moratorium – the public can attend the next meeting and share your feedback with your elected representatives on this matter.
Mike Madigan – Councilman

Town Board Abruptly Changes Course on Long Rd Warehouse - August 2023

    On July 17, the Town Board committed to hosting and participating in a detailed public review of the consultant reports related to the Long Road warehouse project and scheduled the first review for July 31st. They did not follow through on that commitment. The meeting never took place and CRED4GI inquired as to why that didn't happen.
    On August 2nd CRED4GI received a communication from Pete Marston (acting Town Supervisor) stating that the Town Board was working on scheduling public reviews of the consultant reports. However, in the closing minutes of the August 7th Town Board meeting, Marston said the approach has changed and that the Town Board is planning to vote to ACCEPT the findings. This means the Town Board intends to accept the Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement and Peer Review documents at the next Town Board meeting (scheduled for 8/28) WITHOUT FURTHER REVIEW. You can view his comments here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZmXfjbfRmY.
    CRED4GI spoke to two different Town Board members about why their approach has changed. Based on their answers we conclude that they are being pressured by the developer’s lawyers to move forward. The Board’s acceptance of the findings at this stage would be an egregious breach of trust and a failure to fulfill their duties as public officials, especially given they sat on these findings for three months before even posting them for public review. Our town officials appear to be waiting for public comments to define the issues and criticisms of the project for them instead of taking responsibility to proactively protect the public interest. And what about our advisory boards? From what we understand, none of the Town's advisory boards have been asked to weigh in on the DEIS or consultant findings. Why are they being excluded from the process?
    When challenged to explain how the Board could accept the findings when there have already been major issues raised by the public that have not been addressed in the reports, the Board members had no response. It is time for the public to hold our officials accountable and to take action to protect the future of Grand Island. Here are four critical actions you are urged to take:
    1) Show up to speak at the 8/28 Town Board meeting to protest the duplicitous process announced by the Town Board. Let our officials know that they cannot cancel the essential review process of thousands of pages of reports that should involve their consultants and the public in open discourse. Let them know that before accepting any findings they must address the various problems with this project proposal. Bring your yard signs and participate in a public protest similar to that held in opposition to the Amazon warehouse. Mark your calendars and plan to participate!
    2) If the Town Board decides to move forward with their current plan and the project's DEIS receives approval without addressing the serious issues raised by residents, CRED4GI has secured legal representation to file an Article 78 (legal proceedings against the Town). Please help to fund this action! Please send checks to CRED4GI, PO Box 121, Grand Island, NY 14072 or you can donate online at https://www.gofundme.com/f/cred4gi.
    3) Show your opposition to this project! Please put your yard signs up. If you need a yard sign email us at CRED4GI@gmail.com and we will deliver one to your front yard. Bring your signs to the protest on August 28th. Yard signs will be distributed at the protest as well.
    4) If the Town Board goes ahead with their plan to accept the DEIS, they must wait at least 30 days to schedule a public hearing. This would put the hearing at late September/early October. We need All Hands On Deck at the public hearing to voice objections and issues with the project, so mark your calendars!
   Cathy Rayhill, spokesperson
Coalition for Responsible Economic Development for Grand Island - cred4gi.org

Town Tax Rate - June 2023

    Using the Erie County website, I did a comparison of taxes between the Towns of Clarence and Grand Island. The results were interesting to say the least. Town tax rate in Clarence is $1.86/1000 and the school tax rate is $13.95/1000. Grand Island town rate is $2.97/1000 and the school tax rate is $19.98/1000. Even taking account the difference of the equalization rate (85% for Clarence vs. 90% for GI), the difference is significant.
   I believe the difference is mostly attributed to the types of residential housing permitted in the two towns. Clarence has 2 types of housing in their zoning code. One zone for sewers and one for no public sewers. Lot size for homes with sewers are a minimum of 100 foot frontage and at least ½ acre in total size. Grand Island has 12 residential zones if one considers all the sub types. Homes are built on smaller lots which is great for developers but these homes cause an increase in taxes.
    To me it seems obvious that the way Grand Island is developing will only increase taxes in the future. Some say that development is inevitable. That’s true but the type of development can be controlled and the best way to do so is to reform our zoning code. Redefining the residential code requiring larger lots would be beneficial on taxes since larger lots attract larger homes. What is more beneficial for Grand Island more: one new home assessed at $500,000 or two assessed at $250,000. A few Larger homes also cause less congestion and traffic issues than many smaller ones.
    I have not heard one candidate running for Town public office talk about this. Hopefully if the general public agrees with my thoughts, we can get our candidates to address this issue.
Peter Coppola

Primary Election - June 2023

    It was inappropriate for the GI Republican Committee to endorse any candidate (Supervisor and town council) when it was an almost evenly divided vote within the committee! When such a rift exists it may have been wise for the GI Republican Party not endorse anyone. The postcards and propaganda you receive with the underline "endorsed" means that somewhere between 14 and 18 people in a committee of 26 voted to endorse those candidates. In their flyers and postcards I am not seeing accomplishments nor future goals. Only the word "endorsed" and empty statements like "support a brighter future". Really? How would they do that? Is the word endorsed everything? I believe it was the Republican Committee’s responsibility to put forth to our community the most qualified candidates, and I do not believe they did. Worse yet the committee is funding their endorsed candidates (Supervisor and Town Council) campaign even though the entire committee helped to raise, and directly contribute to those funds. NONE of the funds are going to help Dan and Mike. Mike and Dan have a robust campaign team that many republican votes may have by now met and spoke with.
   It appears the opposition (team working with candidates for supervisor and town council) think voters are going to pull the lever for them just because they were ENDORSED. Don't vote that way because someone told you to, vote for persons who are working right now to get elected and have a resume of accomplishments and a list of goals for GI. I personally want the most QUALIFIED person hired to do the job. Not who is who’s friend, relative, husband etc. I do not care how long those willing to give up their time and effort have “Lived on Grand Island “. WE ALL LIVE HERE NOW. FYI Dan Kilmer has lived on Grand Island longer than Joe Spinella.
    It is our responsibility as the committee to give the voters a reason to support and vote. It is everyone’s responsibility to meet and discuss issues with each and everyone of the participants. I am truly not liking the whisper involving other deals being offered during this campaign.
    I find it equally curious there will be no Democrat on Supervisor line in November. Really? I wonder who they "selected" as their candidate once the GI Republicans made their endorsement.....Look at the substance and details of what Dan and Mike will do when elected - they provide a clear detailed commitment to voters. Compare that to the ENDORSEMENT GIVEN TO candidates that provide blank post cards and or a couple of empty meaningless phrases.
    I live in the very same home that my Father built. As a life long resident of Grand Island I truly believe that I needed to write this letter. I have nothing to gain, but everything to lose unless we the people do the right thing regarding our Elections as Republicans. Truth, Honesty and Integrity.
Sandra Nelson

The Town Needs Change - June 2023

   Restore Republicanism with Dan and Mike. Why did the Town breach the tax cap this year? Why has West Seneca had no property tax increases in 3 years? Our supervisor and most of the town board will tell you because of sewer/wastewater issues. But West Seneca just got a $30 million sewer bond. How do they do it? Through attrition. West Seneca had seven policemen retire over the past 3 years and they did not replace them. They also had seven highway workers retire that they did not replace over the same time period. At about $100k/person, including benefits, there is your savings.
   Steve Walters, when he was the Supervisor of Hamburg, and Marc Molinaro, when he was Dutchess County Executive decreased property taxes by 10% through attrition; when someone retired, they did not replace them. Here on Grand Island, the retiree’s seat is not even cold before the new hire arrives. Not only do they replace the retirees, they also hire more people (friends and family, a whole different editorial).
   The most egregious act of this government is breaching the property tax cap all while overtaxing the citizens and while knowingly sitting on excessive fund balances. The Supervisor, at a recent Board Meeting, reported the town in March was sitting on a historically high $21 million in the bank and had earned in just one month a historic record $47,000 in interest on those funds, most of which is excluded from the 2023 budget. Interest rate alone, that is mostly not in the 2023 budget due to poor forecasting, would cover the $289,000 raised by exceeding the tax cap, increasing the property tax levy by 5%.
   Why is our Republican majority overriding the tax cap and over collecting taxes, overtaxing us? Do they not know that many of our younger and more senior residents are living paycheck to paycheck? Is it because they think they can accelerate tax property tax increases without consequences from voters who they hope are not paying attention? Fire them. Elect someone else.
   To put it in perspective, West Seneca has a fund balance policy that keeps the general fund below 20% of their tax levy. Grand Island has no such policy and financial audits show that Grand Island is sitting on balances that are as much as 3-5 times larger than 20%. Our school board got in trouble a few years back for having too large a fund balance. Our town government freely uses the excess money it is sitting on for “off budget” elective spending.
   In West Seneca change came through the voting booth after their former Supervisor overrode the tax cap a little over 4 years ago. West Seneca is now a role model town after the current fiscally conservative Supervisor took over and changed that Town’s tax and spend culture – transformed it. Residents are proud of their supervisor and his fiscally responsible and transparent approach to budgeting.
   In 2017 Councilman Madigan stopped McMurray from overriding the tax cap which would have raised your town property taxes by over 5% in 2018 saving taxpayers $1.2M in additional taxes since then. The town finances have remained exceptionally strong since 2017 validating Madigan’s fiscally responsible leadership by preventing the override. For this tax year, five years after McMurray’s attempted tax cap override, Madigan again tried to stop a 5% property tax increase that Digati and Marston fought hard for (they prevailed and voted to override the tax cap in a 4:1 vote).
   Digati posted his pride in voting to override the tax cap and increase town property taxes by 5% on his personal FB page June 1st. Madigan rebutted him with the just released financial audit details that showed Madigan’s motion numbers were conservative and would have responsibly prevented the override if adopted (the actual buffer was $1.2 in additional cash on hand above his motion’s numbers). In the two weeks since Tom has not refuted Madigan’s devastating rebuttal, why not, apparently, he cannot. Voters should read the exchange; it is revealing and is a political debate worth following for voters.
    In their campaign mailer they claim to "Keep Grand Island Safe, Strong, and Affordable" They also claim to want to “keep taxes down and protect fiscal responsibility.” This is coming from two guys that have never voted to decrease taxes or spending and in fact their foot is firmly pressed on the accelerator as they overrode the 2% tax cap and increased the property tax levy by 5%, increased spending 5%.
    When McMurray was Supervisor, everyone around the county (and within our own GI Republican Committee) asked me as the GOP Chairman why McMurray got whatever he wanted when we had a Republican majority (Madigan, Baney, and Marston) on the town board to block him. I never revealed the reason hoping we could bring him around, but that never happened, it was because Marston sided with McMurray against what should have been a Republican majority. So, based on past practice it is apparent Marston and Digati have no concerns about increasing the size and scope of government, and increasing taxes. While they are not registered Democrats, that is what Democrats do. They are the definition of RINOS (Republicans In Name Only). OH! and 1 more thing… (As Lieutenant Columbo would say), It is curious that after the Republican Endorsement, the Democrats did not select anyone to run on the Democrat line for Supervisor. Very Telling indeed. Please consider voting for change, please vote to begin establishing fiscally Conservative Town Government that you can be proud of after the election. Please vote for Mike Madigan for Supervisor and Dan Kilmer for Town Council.
Dean Morakis, former GIGOP Chairman

Pete Marston for Town Supervisor - June 2023

    Many thanks to the G.I. Republican Party for endorsing Pete Marston for Town Supervisor. Pete is a man with integrity that has vast experience in town government. Pete has served on the G.I. Town Board for two terms, the past 4 years as Deputy Supervisor. Pete served as Chairman of the Planning Board before becoming Town Councilman. He understands our laws and codes. He has worked hard to change outdated codes to protect Grand Island and its rural character. Pete has been instrumental in creating park trails. Many times, lending his own equipment in that effort. The trail network received the 2022 Erie County Environmental Excellence Award.
    Pete holds developers accountable by establishing an escrow fees schedule for Town developmental studies. Pete is a small businessman that understands the challenges in those endeavors. Pete always comes prepared for Town board meetings. Pete gives back to his community through his work and charitable contributions. During Pete’s first term as Town Councilman, an elderly woman walked into the Supervisor’s Office in tears. One of the woman's neighbors threatened to report her for not shoveling her sidewalk. Pete said, "I'll plow your sidewalk."
    Notably, I have not seen any negative campaigning from Pete or his campaign staff. I have been involved in helping with political campaigns here on Grand Island for 30 years. I know voters have a real disdain for negative campaigning. I also believe that the politicians that use negative campaigning do so because they don’t have many accomplishments to talk about. Pete Marston is the real deal. He’s honest, a great family man and hard worker. Please vote for Pete Marston in this upcoming election. It is a vote that you will not regret.
Jeanie Clabeaux

Upcoming Republican Primary - June 2023

    On Tuesday, June 27th, registered Republicans on Grand Island get to choose their nominee for Town Supervisor and Town Councilmen positions. There will be early voting from June 17th through June 25th. These are the contested races. I have some views about the races. I will say, at the outset, that the Republican Party Committee should have refrained from endorsing any candidates in these races.
   These races should be about who will best serve the interest of all Grand Islanders. They should not be popularity or name recognition contests. We should be seeking the individuals who are most competent, most engaged, and best able to further our collective interests. Most of us do not get involved in the goings on at Town Hall (or on Ransom Road where less than 10% of eligible voters turned out last month for the School Board elections, with 60% of those in favor of the propositions. That’s right, 6% of the voters determined the results for us!) which is why we need the best to represent our interests.
    I believe that Mike Madigan is the best candidate for Supervisor. We need someone like him who will stand up for the residents of the Island. Mike isn’t afraid of a fight. He knows the budget numbers and is fiscally conservative. He asks the right questions, no matter how uncomfortable they be. He listens to his constituents and is available. He is willing to vote no even if he is the only one. He takes principled stands even if it doesn’t make him popular with the friends and family claque at Town Hall. A number of years ago, he challenged Brian Higgins for the US. House seat. This could have been seen as an exercise in futility: the district is heavily Democratic, Higgins was the incumbent, and the media, as usual, were in the tank for him. Mike presented a very principled alternative to Higgins, who only surfaces near election time. He deserved a gold star for taking the fight to Higgins rather than allow him to slink to victory, unchallenged.
    Without hesitation I recommend voting for Mike for Supervisor. Dan Kilmer is relatively new to Grand Island. He has a distinguished career in the military. He was a councilman in Lewiston, ably serving his constituents there. When the State wanted to preclude boaters from mooring around Grass Island, he was an integral part of the committee that compelled the State to rescind that ill-conceived plan. Dan is a fighter. He will be an excellent steward, like Mike, of our tax dollars. He is engaged and available to his constituents. Again, without hesitation, I recommend voting for Dan for Town Councilman.
James Mulcahy

"Tick Heaven" on West River - June 2023

    Tall grass that is allowed to grow between the West River homes, the bike path and the West River, and the presence of a large numer of ticks is a serious problem that requires New York State attention. Ticks are parasites that look for food. The food the ticks live on is blood. Where there is food there are ticks. The blood of dogs, cats, mice, deer, squirrels and people are their food source.
   The tall, unmowed areas of these grass meadows effectively acts as a barrier that must be crossed by these people and animals when trying to get to the river or bike path. Ticks find this particular situation of tall grass and food source (people, and other animals passing thru)...ideal for attachment and sucking blood. Once the ticks engorge themselves of blood they drop back into the tall grass and lay their eggs which later hatch. These then repeat the blood sucking tick cycle on future hosts.
   These ticks have found an ideal home to the "horror" of all that use the West River median to get to the bike/walking path and the river. Dogs, cats, mice, deer, squirrels and people all crossing this median innocently and then becoming potential victims. This tick situation occurred after NYS Parks put into place a design which was to make the median, park-like and interesting, by including trees and mowing patterns which included meadows (tall grasses).
   It is true that tall grass without a passing food source does not harbor ticks. After all ticks do not eat grass. But give ticks this perfect "food table" of a tall grass barrier (meadow) that must be walked thru by people attempting to get to the bike/walking path and the river, and all the above mentioned animals...the ticks have found themselves in a "tick heaven".
   Full short grass mowing on the median should be reinstated by NYS Parks in order to stop this serious tick health risk. A risk to all that use the West River median as an access to the river and the bike/walking path.
Jim Mazza

Please Vote June 27th - June 2023

    Please vote on June 27th for Peter Marston for Town Supervisor, Thomas Digati & Joseph Spinella for Town Councilman, Mark Nemeth for Town Judge, and Patti Frentzel for Town Clerk.
    As a life-long Islander, I find it vital that we vote our values, therefore, for this primary election I will be endorsing Peter Marston for Town Supervisor, Thomas Digati & Joseph Spinella for Town Councilman, Mark Nemeth for Town Judge, and Patti Frentzel for Town Clerk. These candidates emanate honesty, transparency, and dedication - all attributes that are essential for the future success of the Town of Grand Island. As a newly elected councilman for the town, I've been lucky enough to have the opportunity to work alongside these candidates and can fully attest to their knowledge, skills, and most of all, character.
    Peter Marston possesses a combination of qualities which are needed to be a successful Supervisor, such as effective communication, strong moral ethics, empathy towards others, and the ability to inspire residents as well as the town’s employees. His selfless dedication over the years shows his passion for the growth of Grand Island. Town Supervisor is the most important position for the future prosperity of a small town like ours, and I can’t imagine anyone better than Peter Marston.
    Thomas Digati is a warrior. If you don’t believe me, please stop by Town Hall on the first or third Monday of the month around 6pm and watch the fireworks. However, Tom’s passion is only outmatched by his desire to make our community even greater than it already is. Tom’s track record of achievements and work history show he truly cares for Grand Island. Not many people know this, but Thomas Digati’s humble career started when he was a teenager working in the Parks & Recreation department. Tom’s technical expertise is unsurpassed; should I ever find myself stumped on a code, law, variance, easement, address, or anything else - Tom already knows the answer.
    Joseph Spinella is the definition of a hard-working, loving, family man. Joseph possesses a combination of successful qualities; as a technical manager for one of the largest banks in the country, I’ve personally witnessed him establish healthy working relationships, maintain team morale, being tolerant and have a willingness to learn, and most of all, Joseph is extremely organized and disciplined. Joseph Spinella follows through with the things he says he will do.
    Mark Nemeth has excellent critical-thinking and decision-making skills. Mark is able to pay close attention to legal proceedings and is able to apply the rules of the law without any biases. Mark’s knowledge and interpretation of the law is fair, honest, and diligent. I am proud to see our Island having Mark Nemeth as Town Judge.
    Patti’s accomplishments are unsurpassed by her tenure working as Town Clerk. For over 15 years, Pattie Frentzel has represented Grand Island as our Town Clerk. Patti’s leadership in her department, organizational skills, and tenacity for keeping the Town of Grand Island’s documents organized, accurate, and transparent, as well as keeping the history of Grand Island alive and known. I applaud Patti for her long-lasting administration over the Clerk’s office and I cannot thank her enough. I look forward to seeing Patti as Town Clerk.
Christian Bahleda - Grand Island Councilman

Stamp Out Hunger - May 2023

    Thank you to all who participated in the National Association of Letter Carriers Annual Stamp Out Hunger Food Collection! Here on Grand Island, we collected over 3,200 pounds for the Neighbors Foundation. We appreciate all that our letter carriers do every day and especially the extra effort involved to collect the donated food and bring it to our pantry this past Saturday, May 13th. Special thanks to Chris Amato from the Post Office who helped coordinate the event and the Grand Island High School students and others from the community who assisted in receiving and sorting the food.
And of course, thank you to the Grand Island Residents who donated food and generously support the Neighbors Foundation throughout the year. Together, we will continue to combat food insecurity and provide confidential food assistance to Islanders in need. To learn more about the Neighbors Foundation, request assistance, or make a donation, please contact us at 716 775 7998, or visit our website at: gineighbors.org. Neighbors Helping Neighbors!
David Conboy - President, Neighbors Foundation of Grand Island

Use Posted Detour - May 2023

   As we all know, due to the removal of the South Pkwy bridge over the I-190, the traffic pattern on the Island has changed, especially from Whitehaven Rd. to the southern tip of Grand Island. We as motorists tend to take signs for granted because we use the same route every day. With that in mind, we are asking all motorists to pay attention to all traffic signs. Many motorists are not using the posted detour. They are using roads they may not be used to. Case in point, some motorists who are using Stony Point Ext., southbound and stopping at the first Stop sign, are then turning right on to a one-way ramp going the wrong way, ignoring the one-way signs at the intersection.
    The Town has asked the New York State Police, the Erie County Sheriff, and the Grand Island Police to be aware of the problems that have been reported to the Town Hall, the Highway Dept. and us. Since April 1, 2023, 95 citations have been issued. Between April 24th to the 28th, the Town had one patrol car assigned solely to traffic and 15 citations were issued. We are asking all motorists to pay attention to all traffic signs during the construction season and beyond. For your safety and the safety of others.
Eric Thomsen, Chair - Traffic Safety Advisory Board

PRIDE of the Island - May 2023

   For over 40 years, the Grand Island Teachers’ Association has recognized hundreds of students for exhibiting the qualities that we all want to see in our students. We want them to be: personable, respectful, involved, diligent and enterprising. We designate these students as recipients of our PRIDE of the Island award.
   On May 16th, we will hand out 281 awards for this year’s recipients at the budget and Board of Education election. This time of year is a reminder of the shared mission of all stakeholders in the Grand Island community. All of us - teachers, parents, and community members - want the best possible education for the children of Grand Island. We can only achieve this by putting forth efforts that are in concert with this shared mission.
    The teachers of the Grand Island schools value our partnership with the parents and community, and we will always be grateful for the support and cooperation that we experience each and every day. I would like to thank the Grand Island community for continuing to partner with us to create the best educational experience that we can for the students of Grand Island. Click HERE for the list of the 2023 recipients.
Michael A. Grosso - President, Grand Island Teachers’ Association

As Daffy Duck would say, "Despicable!" - May 2023

    As Daffy Duck would say, "Despicable!" Last month I had a letter on IsledeGrande addressing the School Board’s Capital Reserve Fund. I pointed out why it was a terrible idea. I showed why it made the taxpayers worse off without any compensating benefits. The Board, on its website, listed the propositions we will be asked to approve this month. The third one is the capital reserve fund.
    They, then, give their (eight) reasons for recommending its approval. The disingenuousness and deceitfulness displayed was, to be blunt, appalling. Taking the justifications in order:
    -Credit Rating (boost district’s fiscal strength). No, it does not. Does your FICO score improve if you move money from your checking account to your saving account or from your left pocket to your right pocket? Of course not. The district’s credit rating like any credit rating is a function of the ability to pay (the taxpayers’ income) and the amount of debt the district has. Low incomes and high debt will get you a low credit score; high income and low debt, a high score.
    -Less Interest and Debt Issuance expenses. While this is true, as I pointed out last month once a taxpayer consolidates his share of the school district’s interest expense with his or her own, they are worse off.
    -More building aid. This makes no sense. Building aid is a function of the size of the project. The only way we would get more aid than otherwise, in dollar terms, is by bloating the project.
    -Less Burden on the taxpayers (tax cap calculation). The burden on the taxpayers is not decreased by putting the taxes collected in different piles. Since this is presumably for capital projects which aren’t subject to the tax cap, this reason displays either ignorance or is a blatant attempt to confuse the unwary taxpayer.
    -Ability to complete larger Projects. No. The ability to do larger projects is a function of our ability to pay. Again, the creation of this account does nothing to enhance the taxpayer’s ability to finance a project.
    -Establish Capital Project long range schedule. This is another example of the district hoping you aren’t paying attention. This is a red herring if there ever was one. The two are totally separate issues.
    -Set-aside that does not affect the general fund budget. While that is true because it is an add-on, it does affect the taxpayer’s personal budget as well as their tax bill. It, also, makes it harder to evaluate the year-over-year increases in the general budget.
    -Maintenance and upkeep of items throughout the buildings. Isn’t that what the repair and maintenance accounts of the general budget are for? This is being peddled as a capital reserve fund, not a maintenance fund.
    The real reason for this reserve fund is that when the district comes to the taxpayers with a capital project it won’t look as expensive because they have already drained funds out of you. It also encourages them to spend your tax dollar less wisely. The contempt the district has for the taxpayer is disgusting. This proposal should be defeated come May 16th. If it isn’t, don’t complain about your tax bill.
James Mulcahy

A Bad Idea in 2008 and Still a Bad Idea Today - April 2023

    In last week’s Island Dispatch, there was an article about the School District’s capital funding. It focused on the capital reserve fund and the capital outlay plan.
    The capital reserve fund was first approved in 2008. It expires this year. The School Board wants us to reauthorize it. It was a bad idea in 2008 and remains so today. It has zero: as in none, nada, zip; redeeming social value. It makes the taxpayers worse off while obfuscating the cost of capital projects. It is a scheme to pre-fund capital projects. It is a bad deal for the taxpayers. A simple example will show why. Let’s say that one’s school tax would increase by $1000 due to funding this slush fund. (This isn’t an unreasonable assumption. The fund is allowed to rise to $10 million. With about 6,000 households on the Island, the average family will be on the hook for $1,667.) This $1000 will be kept in, at best, a savings account earning substantially less than the rates on the taxpayer’s personal borrowings. The rate on credit cards today is as high as 22% while mortgages and auto loans are in the 6-8% range. Thus, a taxpayer would implicitly gain, say 3%, at best, on the capital fund or $30 while potentially incurring $220 in interest expense on credit card debt. No rational person would do this: pre-fund an account earning substantially less than they could effectively earn by paying down existing debts. Given the precarious state of the economy, it is disgraceful that the District wants to take even more money from the taxpayers. Money that is NOT necessary to operate the schools.
    Why does the District want to do this? Simple. It makes it more difficult to determine the true cost of capital expenditures. By pre-funding they can make it appear that the cost to the taxpayer will be less because the incremental funding needed will be lower. Further, since it isn’t their money, the District will be less likely to spend it as wisely as you would. Again, this fund is not for the benefit of the taxpayers but for the bureaucrats on Ransom Road.
    The capital outlay plan is even more despicable, if that is possible. Remember the 2% cap on tax increases? That has, effectively, gone by the board. The Grand Island school district had the highest tax rate increase in Erie and Niagara counties last year, more than 2.5x the average increase, ~4.6% hike in the rate versus slightly under 2% on average. What happened; How could this occur; you may ask. The State carved out certain items to be excluded from the 2% calculation. Capital expenditures was one of the items. So, the District redefined, in good Orwellian fashion, a number of repairs and maintenance expenditures, which would fall under the 2% limit, as capital expenditures. A better world through bookkeeping!
    All of the above financial sleight of hand is not done to improve the quality of the schools or treat the taxpayers fairly or in an above-board fashion. It is about all about power and control. None of this points to sound financial management.
    Vote a resounding NO on renewing the Capital Reserve Fund.
James Mulcahy

Tribute to Marty Prast - February 2023

    Thank you Jim Mulcahy for a well written, heartfelt tribute (eulogy) to Marty Prast in the Feb 16 Isle De Grande letters to the editor. Anyone that ever had any contact with Marty will agree that whatever hardships or heartaches he lived with as a result of his war injuries were never apparent in his demeaner or in his outward appearance. He was an inspiration to everyone he came in contact with. Jim captured it perfectly in his eulogy. Thanks Jim.
Mike Breier

Eulogy for Martin T. Prast - February 2023

    I had posted this on my Facebook page. It was well-received. I am reproducing it here so that those who don’t use Facebook could see it. Twenty-five years ago last Monday, my close friend Marty Prast passed away from wounds suffered in Vietnam. His widow asked me to give an eulogy at his funeral.
Eulogy for Martin T. Prast
    I believe there is order and purpose to life: we are created to know, love, and serve God in this world and be happy with Him in the next. As such, we are called to do good and live our lives responsibly and honorably, I would like to highlight some aspects of Marty's life that, I believe, are relevant to this.
    I am NOT going to talk about the young Marty, who had the original Personal Seat License, PSL, at Canisius High School, for JUG; or whose driver's license was in a seemingly perpetual state of suspension by his dad; or who with Tom Boehm, Ted Sobolewski, and myself drove Bernice Dinsmore to distraction at CYO meetings and Elizabeth Beach at play practices; or who with Boehm, Sobolewski, and myself drove Frank Daruzska nuts on the Grand Island Transit after school. There is more: the Tappa Kegga frat days or as one of the Goons - but you will have to wait for the movie.
    Rather, I want to talk about the Marty whose life exploded, literally, in early 1970. The issue of character is currently front page news and the topic of every talk show. There are learned books and commentaries on the fact that real heroes are scarce today. Of the approximately 2500 major league professional athletes, are there ten you would like your child to emulate or even look up to? It is as bad as at Sodom, where God said to Abraham, "If there are just ten upright men, I will spare the city for their sake." For those who missed class that day, He didn't.
    I don't think that it was a coincidence that Marty had Ranger training in the Army. When I talk with friends at work about their children and we lament the lack of good role models for kids, I always suggest they get a tape of the D-Day invasion. Watch those Rangers take Pointe-du_Hoc, the 130 foot sheer cliff at the end of Omaha Beach. They knew the odds were against them, but they went forward, anyway. These guys were, and in my mind still are, REAL HEROES. Likewise, the odds were against Marty, but he went forward with undaunted courage. He belongs with that select group of Rangers.
    How many of us, when we think of Marty, think of a handicapped person? Not many, I expect. He just didn't seem handicapped. If you had only seen his resume, you would wonder who is this guy and where does he get the energy? God may have closed one door, but He certainly opened others. Marty was courageous and set an example in a low-key sort of way. He just DID things. He took to heart the old U. S. Army saying, "The difficult takes a while to accomplish, the impossible a little longer!" With every job he undertook, he mastered the skills to be successful. He was never just a figurehead.
    In 1973, Tom Boehm and I visited Marty at the Castle Point, New York, VA hospital. This was just three years after his injury. He was the only one there with a combat injury, and HE was encouraging the others to look to the future. I've known people who took more than three years to get over teen-age loves, much less be able to offer encouragement and advice.
    Marty never complained or used his injury as an excuse - except when he was caught speeding! In fact, it wasn't until Nov., 1995 when he and I drove to Staten Island to bring his Model T to the port for shipment to Austria that he even spoke about his personal grief. Again, it was tangential, in the course of discussing something or someone else, I forget which. He said that anyone who says they don't go through Dr. Kubler-Ross' seven steps of dealing with grief/trauma: denial, anger, pity, depression, .., acceptance - I don't know them all; is kidding himself. That was the one and only admission to me that he also had taken that journey. Again, who would have known? Marty attacked life. He didn't wail about what others may have perceived as his misfortune.
    The lessons, then, we can learn from Marty are, I believe: grieve, but don't wallow in self-pity; if something is worth doing, let's do it, and do it right; look to the future; be not afraid; be courageous; and always hold your head high. Marty is definitely a hero for our times and those to come. And I am going to miss him.
Respectfully submitted,
James M. Mulcahy

DeGlopper Memorial News - January 2023

    The DeGlopper Memorial Expansion Committee would like to extend heartfelt thanks for the ongoing support from the community, as well as a special note of appreciation to two Island organizations for their support during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.
    Sherry Miller of the Rotary Club became aware of an event called National Wreaths Across America day. The national event's goal is to honor as many veterans as possible by laying wreaths at their place of memorialization. This information prompted Sherry to reach out to us and offer to place wreaths at each of the dedicatory areas within the DeGlopper memorial site. We are pleased that the Rotary took the initiative to volunteer their time to coordinate and fund the cost of the wreaths for this tribute at our Island Memorial.
    Additionally, the Grand Island Chamber of Commerce, under the leadership of President Eric Fieblekorn, coordinated the effort to light up the site by providing the time, effort, and financial support needed to string up Christmas lights on the evergreens.
    The Charles N. DeGlopper memorial site is a jewel in the center of Grand Island. The prime location demonstrates that we will always remember the sacrifices made daily by those who serve and their families to preserve our freedoms. We encourage you to visit the site at 2333 Grand Island Blvd. and consider the expression of your sentiments by purchasing an inscribed granite stone or a paver. Although supply shortages delayed installation in 2022, we now have an inventory that will allow us to have any stone purchased by February 28, 2023, installed by Memorial Day this year (barring anything unforeseen). Pavers may be inscribed with a tasteful, personal message expressing gratitude for those who serve, or more detailed information honoring a loved one than what is allowable on the Memorial Wall. These memorials are priced for various budgets as follows: 12” x 12” Granite stone - $1,000; 8” x 8” Paver - $375; 4” x 8” Paver - $150.
    Grand Island residents who have served may also have their names inscribed on the Veterans Memorial Wall. The cost is $100 and requires proof of honorable service (DD214), and proof of past or present residency on Grand Island. Forms for pavers or names placed on the Memorial wall are available at the following: DeGlopper Memorial VFW Post 9249, 2121 Grand Island Blvd. and on the website degloppermemorial.org by clicking respectively the tabs: "PAVERS", "MEMORIAL WALL". The memorial committee asks for your continuing support to raise funds needed to complete the handicapped-accessible sidewalks and the ongoing maintenance of the site.
Elsie Martino, Secretary
DeGlopper Memorial Expansion Committee

So Very Sad - January 2023

    Well, this is quite a title for a letter to the editor. Where does it come from, you may ask. Last Monday, January 9th, was a School Board meeting. It was the first of two that I had planned on attending, intending to make some observations. I realized, though, that this would be an utter waste of my time. The Board and administration are not in the least interested in what the public has to say. Anyone who has ever attended one of these meetings can attest to this.
   I was going to go to the two meetings because I had two topics that I wanted to speak about. The first was triggered by Comrade Sean Ryan’s “giving” us $138,000 (of our money) for security upgrades last Fall when he was trolling for votes. Upon hearing that, I recollected that we had a recent capital project, Jan. 2019, that had millions for security upgrades in it. I wondered what ever happened to those funds. It struck me that we NEVER get a detailed accounting of how our capital funds are spent: what were the specifics of the project; how much was the project expected to cost; how much did it actually cost: if it cost more, where did the funds come from; and if less, what was done with the leftover funds. This isn’t an academic exercise. The 1999 capital project received approval for $18.4MM to be spent. Twenty-one million dollars were spent! We were supposed to get new science labs. We didn’t. We did get a third gym that was never mentioned in the lead-up to the vote (accessible only by the elite, I am told.) This project was wreck from the get-go. Almost everyone is unaware of the debacle since the district wasn’t required to provide a detailed accounting to the taxpayers. In a recent project, it came in under budget. Okay, what was done with the remaining funds? Again, we have no idea.
    The second topic I intended to bring up was about the curriculum. Last Fall, I recommended that each and every section of every course have its syllabus, including all materials to be referenced, used, cited, etc., be placed on the curriculum page of the district’s website. This should be a non-controversial recommendation. It is easy to do: the teachers already have their syllabi and there is a kid from BOCES who manages the website. A simple email from the asst. superintendent of curriculum to the faculty followed by their emailing the syllabi back to him is all it would have taken. To date, there is nothing on the website, except for grades 1-5. Shouldn’t the parents and taxpayers know what is being taught? This is a hot-button issue across the country. Why is the district loath to provide this information? They seem to forget that they work for us. Why aren’t others demanding the district provide this information?
    They get away with ignoring the public because so few confront them on a sustained basis. Their strategy is the old rope-a-dope: outlast them. It will be interesting to see how much longer this can persist. Substantially higher taxes will get people’s attention. NY State’s finances are a wreck. Richer school districts, like Grand Island, will see their state aid, if not cut, at least, frozen. Last year Grand Island’s school budget went up the most of any district in Erie or Niagara counties. Its increase was more than double the average increase. That budget was before the impacts of high inflation and a muddling stock market are felt. Most are probably not aware that the State has mandated that all new school buses acquired after 2027 be all-electric, with the fleet being all-electric by 2035. An all-electric bus currently costs $450,000. This is only the beginning of the costs. A garage to house the buses will be needed because in the winter low temperatures drain the batteries. Don’t forget about the back-up generator that will be needed if the electric grid has issues. Where is the electricity going to come from? Anyone who was in WNY the past three weeks, when the sun barely shone and it was either windless or gale-force, knows that “green” energy is a fraud being perpetrated on the public. Why hasn’t the board communicated these issues to the public? Off-the-cuff comments at the unattended board meetings don’t suffice.
    Even though I don’t have any children or grandchildren in the district schools, I am very interested in education and the economic well-being of our community. I can’t do it myself. In fact, as I implied at the beginning, I am finished. There are over 9,000 registered voters on Grand Island. Only 1700+ came out for the budget and trustee’s vote. Robert Strauss, a powerhouse in national Democratic politics for years, once said, "you get the government you deserve." We are witnessing that in our school district. So very sad.
Jim Mulcahy

Every Day is a Blizzard for Many in Our Community Who Rely on Public Transportation - January 2023

    As we continue to recover from the December 2022 Blizzard, we’ve all read stories about people being trapped and unable to leave their homes due extreme weather and the lack of plowed roadways and bridges, as well as shoveled sidewalks and bus stops. Many in the community experienced feelings of anxiety, worrying about loved ones, access to food and inability to get to work and medical appointments. We know based on reporting, that horrifically too many have lost their lives. Imagine if the blizzard never ended, or imagine that the blizzard made transportation impossible for the places you needed to go, and never stopped. As ridiculous as this example might sound, these conditions are an everyday reality for marginalized communities, including the disabled, immigrant, rural, and Black and Brown communities - with or without snow.
    In 1990, the historic Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed to create access and equality for our fellow citizens with disabilities, and it created a system for those who couldn’t use buses called “paratransit”. For paratransit advocates like Stephanie Speaker, that minimum standard has never been sufficient to fulfill the needs of the disabled community. The ADA sets a minimum standard of less than a mile on each side of a route for paratransit, and limits times to the same as is served by the fixed route busses in the neighborhood. That leaves a lot of WNY out of reach for paratransit users, and even more on nights, weekends, and holidays, when standard bus service is even more limited.
    In the last five years, the Erie County Clerk’s Office has collected over $100 million from mortgage tax revenue from residential and commercial purchases and sent it to the NFTA for public use. Despite the influx of these funds, transportation does not serve the needs of many in our community. This storm, once again, highlighted the historic inequities in transportation in Western New York. As we talk about changing policies to address these inequities, the public has an opportunity to weigh in on these issues. The Erie County Clerk’s Office and the Western New York Law Center have partnered with Columbia Law School, and other not-for-profits, to launch a survey that would provide feedback to the NFTA regarding people’s experience with paratransit and public transportation. This survey can be accessed at rateyourridewny.com. Your comments can help lift the "travel bans" for persons with disabilities caused by regulation rather than snow.
    As Martin Luther King said, "We are faced with the fact, that tomorrow is today. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words, 'Too late'." We need to address the public transportation needs of our community now.
Michael P. Kearns - Erie County Clerk