LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 2007
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Lack Of School Concert Audience Decorum Addressed - Dec. 2007
What could better get you into the holiday spirit than to attend a musical performance put on by the youth of Grand Island? But, what can be more frustrating than long lines at the mall-- people who attend these musical performances and forget why they are there. My family had the distinct pleasure of attending two concerts this season, one at the elementary and one at the high school level. How heartwarming it was to see the students clad in their best concert or holiday attire, singing and playing with their whole heart and soul. It was also thrilling to look around at the jam packed audience of standing room only to see the support of family and friends of these children. Although I left with an extra skip in my step and song on my lips, I must admit that I also left with a deep frustration regarding the lack of concert audience decorum among the parents and grandparents in the audience.
First of all, waving to our children as they open a curtain, mount the risers or finish a piece is both distracting to the performers and to the rest of the audience. Directors spend endless hours trying to get their young musicians to focus and we destroy that before the first downbeat with our desire to be noticed by our children. Secondly, unless one is stricken with a strong urge to vomit, or feels a heart attack coming on, one should REMAIN in their seat during songs and only move BETWEEN. Why do people think that they can get up anytime that they want, just because their child is not currently performing? Most frustrating of all is the tendency for some adults to talk DURING songs, of course, the ones that THEIR child is not in. It is hard to answer your child honestly when they ask whether you enjoyed a particular piece when you couldn’t really hear it.
Parents have always been and will continue to be the primary educators of our children, especially on etiquette and manners. If we, ourselves, do not demonstrate proper decorum during concerts and performances, how can we expect our children to be good audiences during assemblies or attentive students in the classroom? Remember, children do what they see. Concerts are not football or hockey games where we are allowed to do a play-by-play or motion to our favorite player. Let’s all make a conscious effort to think of the performers, directors and fellow concert audience members before we are rude or disruptive next time. Just think of what positive role models we will be for our community of Grand Island!
Oh, and by the way—you can “teach an old dog new tricks”. I was pleased to see that the audience of the high school concert knew enough NOT to applaud after the national anthem. Cheering, too, is just for sporting events.
A Concerned Parent of Musicians
Posted Tuesday, December 26, 2007
Rus Thompson Writes Assembly Transportation Committee - Dec. 2007
Chairman David F. Gantt
Last week I was invited to testify to the Assembly Republicans concerning the proposed toll increase and the Grand Island Toll issue. I would like to be there today but I did not know about this public hearing until today Tuesday, Dec 11th. I could not change my schedule to give me the time.
I hope you will accept this email and enter it into the record as a working document when you all meet to discuss how to go forward with saying NO to the toll increase and to give you more power with legislation to eliminate the Grand Island Tolls. It can be done with your help.
One of the hottest issues is the canal system and the financial burden that is being placed on the toll payers. $80 million a year being funneled out of the Thruway Authority is no longer acceptable. Governor Pataki and Spitzer both said that they would separate the two. This needs to be done there by eliminating the toll increase. Pressure and legislation need to be proposed and passed to do this.
Last year alone the New York State Department of Transportation applied for and received $1.4 Billion from the Federal Government Highway Fund. Those dollars are paid for by us in the 19 cents a gallon gasoline tax. The D.O.T. applied for all the (I's) interstate road system including the 671 miles of Thruway, the I- 84 and the I- 287. Approximately $400 Million should have been allocated to the Thruway system yet none of it did. Had that money made it they could have cut the tolls in half throughout the thruway system. Instead we are looking at toll increases for the next 3 years and that is no longer acceptable. So in this one suggestion we see $480 million dollars in savings.
Now to the Grand Island Tolls at the bridges.
I represent almost 8000 petition signers from the Niagara Frontier, http://nogitolls.com, and the recent merge of our group with the LaSalle PRIDE, a group from Niagara Falls. I discussed the following with Jeff Williams from the Thruway Authority and he agrees, he also is the first one to admit that not all the money collected at these toll booths stays here like the Thruway Authority and others have said it does, last year alone they ran off with more that $10.6 Million to fund the rest of the thruway and the thruway debt.
We are at the point where it is past time to start to make the Thruway Authority smaller instead of expanding as they have been for years. Take the Niagara section of the 190 from the city line, over the Grand Island bridges and into Niagara Falls away from the Thruway Authority and turn it over to the NY State D.O.T., eliminating the tolls at the bridges.
The D.O.T. gets its funding from already dedicated sources like the Federal Reimbursement and the Highway Use Tax (HUT). The Grand Island bridges have been tolled since 1935 and for 72 years we have been paying tolls to get on and off the island. Traffic has gotten worse over the years and is in excess of 71,000 vehicles at the South Bridges and 52,000 at the North Bridges.
Daily traffic back up has become the norm with traffic backed up over a mile and sitting at a dead stop on the I-290 creating a very dangerous traffic safety hazard. The quickest and easiest remedy is to eliminate the tolls and by giving this section to the D.O.T. all will be done in one piece of legislation.
The Thruway Authority took over the bridges in 1950 and were the first tolls on the Thruway System. Not until June 24, 1954 were there any other tolls on it. At that point a 115 mile section was opened between Rochester and Lowell, west of Utica.
I first discussed this with Senator George Maziarz. He liked the idea and he said he would research it and follow up on the proposal with his colleagues and get back to me.
Governor Spitzer's popularity is at an all time low and is over 70% negative here in WNY. You and he could show your commitment to helping WNY by doing this one very important step to help better the economy and stop the commuter tax on people struggling to make a living here.
Jeff Williams from the thruway authority agrees. He feels that the Grand Island Bridges and the Niagara section should be run by the D.O.T. right now, so let’s make it happen. The other option I hear is building new toll booths on the other side of the bridges on Grand Island? That alone would cost$90 Million, and cannot be a serious proposal. Remove them for us all.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Grand Island, NY
See The New York State Thruway: The Beginning
Posted Tuesday, December 12, 2007
Keep The Toll Increase From Happening - Thompson Testifies At Assembly Conference - Dec. 2007
See Thompson To Testify To Assembly Conference On Tolls
This morning I proposed two different things one to keep the toll increase from happening and even cut the tolls in half.
#1 take the Canal system from them and make it a state funded stand alone entity that saves the thruway authority and toll payers $80 million yearly. Also dedicated funds from the federal government like the $400 million they should have received last year at the department of transportation be applied to the thruway system. That alone would cut the tolls in half. So in this one suggestion we see $480 million dollars in savings.
Secondly, and I have been talking to Senator Maziarz about this, start making the thruway authority smaller, remove their control from the Niagara section of the thruway and the Grand Island Bridges and turn it over to the New York State Department of Transportation. This will remove the tolls at the bridges, eliminate the daily traffic back up and stop the pollution and safety hazards surrounding the toll booths.
Funding will come from the gas tax reimbursement from the federal government and existing taxes from the Highway Use Tax that trucks already pay. The H.U.T. tax is a 5-cent-a-mile tax paid by trucks to help fund the D.O.T. There is also state taxes specifically for road use that also funds the road system.
Jeff Williams from the thruway authority agrees. He feels that the Grand Island Bridges and the Niagara section should be run by the D.O.T. right now, so let’s make it happen. The Assembly Republicans agreed and will contact Senator Maziarz to put together legislation to do just that.
I will work with all of them to make sure this happens and keep you updated.
Posted Tuesday, December 5, 2007
Jim Wright, Community Chorus Soloist - Dec. 2007
I would like to thank the Grand Island Community Chorus for inviting me to sing with them for their winter concert. I had the pleasure of working with the group this past summer and I was very glad to be part of the group again. It is one thing to go sing a random performance somewhere and then leave but it’s another thing when you know the people you are working with and you are able to perform in your hometown. As many of you know, music is very important in our school district and we have a very impressive program in Western New York. It is really exciting to see that music is becoming an even bigger part of our community. I look forward to attending their next performance and I wish them all the best.
Posted Tuesday, December 4, 2007
Tolls Provide Funds To Maintain Bridges - Dec. 2007
It costs millions of dollars to maintain the Grand Island Bridges. Where would the money for maintenance come from if there were no tolls? Higher taxes for the residents of the island, an increase in gasoline taxes or just a general tax increase? The money has to come from somewhere.
Why should we subsidize the trucking industry and all those gamblers on the way to the casino? After all, there are alternate routes, except for us Grand Island residents. Think about the traffic. It is very heavy now at certain times — with no tolls, some of us will never get home.
Posted Tuesday, December 4, 2007
Friends Of Library Extend Appreciation - 2007
The recent Friends of the Library used book sale was, as usual, a huge success. The Friends would like to extend their thanks to the community whose support made it possible. As usual, our volunteer staffers did a magnificent job. Special thanks go out to Tops Market for donating the bags for our popular bag sale. Thanks again and see you in the Spring.
Friends of the Grand Island Memorial Library
Posted Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Notice To All Veterans - DAV Recruiting Dinner - 2007
The Grand Island Chapter #168 Disabled American Veterans will hold a recruiting dinner for veterans who may be eligible to join the DAV. This is an informational dinner at no cost to the veterans who attend. Veterans who were injured while on active duty in any branch of service are welcome to attend. Dinner will be held at the Grand Island Order of The Moose Lodge #180 in the meeting room, 2524 Grand Island Blvd., Grand Island, NY on Tuesday December 4, 2007 at 7 p.m. Spouses of the veteran are welcome to attend. Call Sr. Vice Commander Bert Payne, 773- 2823 for reservations before November 20, 2007.
DAV Recruiting Committee
Posted Wednesday, November 7, 2007
I Like Being A Martian - 2007
by Javier Alvarez
This is a story I like to share with my classmates of GIHS.
“August 1966, sitting in a four engine propeller plane for a twelve hour flight to Miami and then another 6 hours to NY City. For the first time in such huge machine: what am I doing here? I am going to a town called Grand Island. . ., Grand what??, and island?? Island should be in the ocean, not in the river, in rivers there is only small piece of land enough to build a cottage…; something must be wrong, or they just call Grand Island as it could have been “Grand Heaven”.
So it was that after so long journey I finally got to Grand Island; of course tired, scared and almost mute (all the English I had learned so far was just wiped out). How is the people I am going to meet; how am I going to communicate. They had told me that in the school I was going to they play soccer…, that is football to us; How can they do it??
I was supposed to be the first Foreign Exchange Student in town but then I realized that I was not only the first Foreign Student, I was the first foreign person or perhaps the first person coming from out of town, from somewhere called Peru, almost, almost like coming from another planet: Mars. I soon noticed that kids, young people and others not so young were curious of knowing how a foreign person was like: is it a Martian??, has two eyes, one mouth but speaks different. Soon this Martian learned that people in earth (GI) was kind, nice and friendly so it was easy to get use to it. I am sure that people in Earth also learned that Martians are gentle people.
I was lucky to be that Martian. Today, 40 years later, I still like being a Martian together with people in Earth, that is Grand Island”
Thank you to all of you that made me feel at Home.
Class of '67
A note from Publisher Reg Schopp
Javier and Maria are building a Hotel in Urabamba. . .which is scheduled to open in April of 2008.
We are going to host a website for them with other links to the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
Urubamba . . . . http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urubamba,_Peru
is only 1.5 hours by train from Machu picchu http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Machu_Picchu
one of the most fascinating tourist attractions in the world. . . .
Javier's new email address for his website is email@example.com
Schmidt Family Extends Thanks - 2007
Our family would like to thank everyone in the community for the tremendous amount of support we have received over the past week. Thank you for your sympathetic words and when we were at a loss for words, a hug was all that could be offered, we were comforted. Times like these would be unbearable without the support of family and friends. It was quite clear that Dan was loved by many people. As we all begin to heal, Dan will live on as we reminisce with many cherished memories.
The Schmidt Family
Posted Monday, October 24, 2007
Grand Endorsement For Grand Island - 2007
The opinion I express is one from an outsider looking on at the happenings in Grand Island. Your community is one that most folks across America would love to be a part of. I've been reading "Between the Bridges" for almost a year now. I smile each time there is an article about one of the many school teams. It is nice to see young people as a focus and the obvious pride the community has in their achievements.
My husband and I recently visited Grand Island. The trip's purpose was to see if this would be a good place for us to spend the years we have left. We walked for hours around Beaver Island State Park and along the streets admiring the lovely, well kept homes. It did not take us long to agree that Grand Island is just the place for us.
With any luck, we will soon get a call from our realtor. We are ready to say goodbye to Connecticut and hello to one of the prettiest places in New York.
Paula and Howard Ball
Posted Monday, October 23, 2007
Toll BS is the SOP - 2007
by Jul Thompson
Bamboozling the public has become the SOP, or Standard Operating Procedure, of some of our public officials and the New York State Thruway Authority. We're told the recent committee meeting at Grand Island Town Hall was held in public with the Thruway Authority, to solicit public comment and get the answers we're looking for, on the Grand Island bridges. There are over 6400 signatures on the petition to get rid of the tolls, and at least 2500 comments on the on-line petition. How much more public comment do they need? Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, Legislator Michele Iannello, and Supervisor Pete McMahon hosted the meeting, and we're assured that they all support the effort to eliminate the tolls. Both Hoyt and Iannello have continually told us they have "put forth legislation" to eliminate the tolls. But only Supervisor McMahon has signed the petition, and has even personally gathered signatures by posting the petition at Town Hall. This is a critical fact that few people are aware of: Unless a legislator brings his or her bill to be discussed in committee, then brings his or her bill to the floor for a vote, it will never get voted on. "Putting forth legislation" is a way for legislators to say they're doing something, without doing anything at all, and "in committee" is where all good bills go to die.
Officials from NYSTA tell us that the bridges are in good structural condition. Yet when asked if rusting rebar, bleeding out of concrete pillars is evidence of structural damage, the answer is "yes." When asked if this condition exists at the Grand Island Bridges, the answer is "yes." Despite the blatantly obvious contradiction, Legislator Iannello confirms the Grand Island bridges are safe (Island Dispatch, 19Oct'07). Yet according to the August 13th issue of the Niagara Gazette, all four bridges received a below 4.0 rating, and we understand that on any bridge that falls below 4.0, motorists are to be denied access, while necessary and immediate repairs get underway. Meanwhile, we're told the only repairs NYSTA has planned for the bridges is decking and more paint. Though they plan to do the insignificant repairs mostly at night, we're also told that four lanes will be narrowed to just two lanes (in effect, eight lanes narrowing to one in one direction), and amazingly, they still plan to collect tolls! How much is enough? Not only are we double taxed, FOIL requests reveal a NYSTA profit of over $10 million a year. That’s over $100 million profit in just 10 of the 73 years they’ve been collecting tolls!
Since we clearly can rely on neither the empty suits we've elected to represent us, nor the self-appointed unaccountable Thruway Authority, I guess we need to take it upon ourselves to find out what happened to the $382 million we're now finding out that Western New York was supposed to have received from the federal government as a reimbursement for highway taxes. Albany has it, but it seems our Western New York delegation is too weak-kneed to go get it.
Posted Monday, October 22, 2007
Community Thanks - 2007
by Robert J. Soluri
I would like to express my thanks from the Grand Island American Legion
Post 1346, to the Charles N. DeGlopper VFW Post 9249 and the DAV Post 168 and
all of their members for taking the initiative to donate and help purchase a van for our Veterans.
This van will be used to transport our Veterans to and from the VA Hospital for needed medical care.
I would also like to thank the people of Grand Island for all of their donations
and for supporting all of our fundraisers to make this endeavor a reality.
The official dedication in memory of Paul Kane was held Saturday Oct 20, 2007 at Veterans Hospital on Bailey Avenue.
Robert J. Soluri
Grand Island American Legion Post 1346
Posted Monday, October 23, 2007
VFW Extends Note Of Thanks - 2007
The officers and members of the Charles N. DeGlopper Memorial VFW Post 9249 would like to say thank you to everyone who supported our recent fund raiser at Pizza Hut. The effort raised well over $150.00 for the Post. A special thanks goes to the Co-chairmen Kester Bleich and Steve Bazemore for their efforts in making this a success.
VFW Post 9249
Posted Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Thompson To Debate Iannello Sunday - 2007
Tomorrow, Sunday at 10 AM Rus Thompson will be on the radio in a debate with his opponent, Iannello.
During the debate I will be breaking some brand new information concerning not just the tolls, but the Thruway Authority, NY State DOT and the Albany Legislature. It concerns the use and abuse of over a billion dollars. In my continued strive to hold politicians and the authorities accountable for their actions, waste and misuse of our money. We have uncovered massive abuse of our tax dollars.
Tune into to WBEN AM 930 on your radio dial at 10 AM Sunday morning. http://www.wben.com
There are only a couple hot races in the county this year and this is one of them, the other is Collins and Keane.
This information, with your help, will be the catalyst to allow Governor Spitzer to eliminate the tolls not just on the Grand Island Bridges but across the entire New York State Thruway.
As always I keep myself available via cell phone at 563-9901
Posted Saturday, October 13, 2007
Please Support Fundraiser For Rosanna Russell - 2007
I am asking that everyone take note of an upcoming benefit for Rosanna Russell, appropriately called “Roses for Rosanna”. Rosanna Russell is not only a family friend, but a longtime island resident, and a loving mother of two, a son, Anthony and a daughter, Rosalie. She attends St. Stephen’s church and is employed by Heritage Centers, working with both handicapped adults and children. Rosanna has always gone above and beyond for others; her clients that she works with are equally as important to her, as her own children. She has dedicated her life to helping others. Rosanna, always optimistic, has a knack for finding the good in everyone. Her positive attitude and sunny demeanor are contagious. She beams as she speaks about her family and friends. Unfortunately, Rosanna was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in June and has been unable to work. Please help us we try to alleviate some of the financial strain placed on her and her family. This benefit will be held from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, October 20, 2007 at the Sandy Beach Yacht Club, 1851 Winter Rd., Grand Island, NY. Tickets are $20/adult and $10/child and include Food & Entertainment. I am urging everyone to come out and support this worthy cause.
Grand Island High School sophomore
Posted Thursday, September 27, 2007
Will Grand Island Bridges Get Red Flagged Next? - 2007
Seeing that I have been labeled “No Tolls Thompson” and the latest “Bridge Watchdog” I need to continue to do what I do best and that is to watch the government appointed authorities, in this case the bridges.
After my Press Conference a couple weeks ago there has been much activity around, on and under the bridges. Yesterday I took the time to take some pictures of the results of that inspection and lo and behold I see much Red Paint.
All three of these pictures were taken on the South Bridge, North bound right after the tolls. I will take more soon and then await their results. Waiting for them may take a long time.
Posted Thursday, September 27, 2007
Fareway, Fix, Baseline Neighborhood Association Appreciates Support - 2007
Tuesday, September 25, 2007 . . .We would like to thank everyone who is supporting our efforts to stop the proposed Country Club Cottages patio home cluster development between Fareway, Fix and Baseline Roads.
A Public Hearing will be held Monday, October 1, 8:00 p.m. at Town Hall on the new Cluster Development proposal. Any comments or concerns, along with previous statements should again be presented to the board.
We urge all interested parties to come to this Board Meeting and express their views.
Fareway, Fix, Baseline Neighborhood Association
Posted Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Mulcahy Responds To Schools Superintendent - 2007
Mr. Christmann responded to my letter of August 30 with 1,213 words, contained in an eight paragraph article. Most were totally unrelated to anything I had to say. I will address his responses by referring to the paragraphs by number.
Paragraph one is an appeal to authority: ‘As a superintendent of schools for the past nearly 20 years including my last seven months in Grand Island’. It doesn’t have any relevance to the points I raised which were specifically about finances. Paragraph two reminds me of the line from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice: “methinks thou dost protest too much.”
Paragraph three actually addresses a point I made. I said that the actual cost of the roofing job seemed low relative to the estimate used to justify its portion of the $4MM (yes, 4, not 3.9) capital project. Mr. Christmann gives some reasons why this could be the case, although I’m told by contractors that it seems to be a large variance. He states, “Roofing work right now proved to be very competitive and the low bid came in much less than anticipated in the estimates which were done many months earlier. This result, I would hope, would be seen as a good thing. The district has not for a second considered these funds to be anything other than a public trust to be used wisely and for the general purposes set forth to the residents and then approved by them in a public referendum.” (Italics added.) Typically, when a bill comes in for less than the estimate it is considered to be a good thing because one saves money. We are told that the savings is to be used for generators. These were never mentioned in the presentations to the public before the referendum. In fact, I asked what else was on the wish list that wasn’t included in the referendum package and was met with dead silence. Taking the savings, running out and spending them on something not included certainly doesn’t qualify as treating these funds as a public trust. Further, the phrase ‘general purposes set forth to the residents’ are weasel words used to excuse any use of the funds as the district sees fit. If one goes back to the referendum, the public was given a very clear list of the projects to be funded.
Paragraph four makes absolutely no sense in the context of responding to my article. I never said anything about the district doing anything illegal or improper. I have no idea what “rules” he is talking about. His next few sentences: ‘School districts are required to first borrow the money they need to pay the contractors and then the state reimburses them to the amount clearly shared with the public before the vote. The principle [sic] payments and interest costs are both eligible to receive the same state reimbursement percentages.’; just rephrases my statement about what a RAN, revenue anticipation note, is. What is the point?
Paragraph five is a beaut. Again, it does not address my point that while the 3.55% may be a low rate for a long term bond, it is not for a RAN which is a short-term borrowing. All of the filler about FICO scores and excellent credit ratings is irrelevant to the point. The last sentence, though, captures the mindset of district officials, succinctly. He states, “On that $2,000,000 note the district will earn nearly $32,000 in interest and those are dollars that will save the residents from paying more in local taxes.” Banks lend at higher rates than they borrow at. They are not eleemosynary institutions. They lend to us 3.55%, but presumably are borrowing it back from us at a lower rate. Are we to understand that via our state tax burden: income taxes, sales taxes, miscellaneous fees; we are paying out more in interest than is being earned at the local level. Maybe it warms the hearts of the district officials not to have to raise directly the funds they spend. From the taxpayers’ standpoint it is coming out of the left-hand pocket rather than the right-hand one. Further, we are paying more in total. If we don’t need the money right away, why not wait to borrow it? It should be clear, by now, that in any of these “gifts” from Albany we are net losers; downstate gets the preponderance of the vote-buying largess. In Grand Island’s specific case, we are an above average income community, as such, we are net subsidizers.
Paragraph six discusses my term, “FREE MONEY”. If Mr. Christmann had been around last Fall when the referendum was being put forth, he would understand my ironic use of the term. Despite what he says in this statement: “When these extra EXCEL dollars were added to the building project reimbursements already given to Grand Island by state law, the net cost to the Grand Island taxpayer was zero.”; the net cost was NOT zero. It may have been zero from the viewpoint of the district officials, but it is not from the taxpayer. Who does Mr. Christmann think is paying for this: Sheikh Yamani, the tooth fairy, who?
He says, “We follow the rules but we don’t make them.” A more accurate rendition is “We take advantage of the rules but we don’t make them.” The district didn’t have to spend the money. It could have organized other districts and said to Albany that: ‘this increased tax burden (to the taxpayer at the State level) is the very thing that is destroying the upstate economy. We need to live within our means. Stop the shell game.’ I’m sure that thought never occurred to anyone.
Paragraph seven refers to the health insurance issue. Mr. Christmann states, ‘The writer had that completely wrong.’ Maybe, but I had referenced Jodi Robinson’s report on the August 20 School Board meeting in which she said, ‘Health insurance cost increases are tentatively estimated to be over 1/4 of a million dollars more than budgeted by a state enacted mandate, none of which is covered by state funds.’ Jodi, from my experience, is meticulous and very careful in her reporting. If the cost increase had nothing to do with state mandates, why didn’t the district issue a correction earlier? It should have let Ms. Robinson know that she got it “completely wrong.”
Paragraph eight is more filler with usual sops to motherhood and apple pie thrown in for good measure.
I stand by what I have said. I don’t see where Mr. Christmann’s verbiage negates what I wrote.
Posted September 13, 2007
American Legion Expresses Thanks - 2007
Open Letter to Grand Island Residents
Grand Island American Legion wishes to thank everyone for their support last weekend for our 3rd annual poppy drive, in remembrance of September 11, 2001.
The money that was raised will be used for our U.S. Troops and needy organizations on Grand Island for the coming year.
Also, thanks go out to Legion members and to a few volunteers that helped on this year’s
Active or retired military personnel that would like to join the Grand Island American Legion Post 1346, should call either myself at 553-0059, Shorty Vanthoff at 773-7915 or any Legionnaire. Our meetings are the last Wednesday of the month at Moose Lodge #180 on Grand Island Blvd at 7 p.m.
WE WILL NEVER FORGET!
Robert J. Soluri
Posted September 13, 2007
Why A Political Fundraiser On 911? - 2007
I read with disbelief a notice posted on isledegrande.com that candidate Rus Thompson has selected September 11th, 2007 as a date to enjoy beer, wine, munchies and to raise money for his political causes and aspirations. Am I missing something? September 11th. What happened to going about our business that day with solemn remembrance of those who were murdered at the hands of terrorists on the 11th? As a life long firefighter I personally will stop by the firefighters memorial at Grand Island's fire headquarters and have some silent thoughts for our 343 FDNY brothers who were killed on that day. I will also remember two additional FDNY firefighters who were killed only weeks ago fighting a fire at ground zero in a building that was being deconstructed due to damage sustained in the attacks of September 11th. One doesn't have to go far to find a person on Grand Island, Buffalo, Williamsville or other towns and villages who has some kind of connections to a person or persons who were murdered on 9/11. September 11th should be a "hands off" political day. In my opinion that basic lesson should have been covered for candidates in campaign 101 or a book entitled "campaigning for dummies". Rethink this one Rus!
Michael P. Dallessandro
Grand Island, NY
Posted September 10, 2007
Superintendent Robert Christmann Responds To Letter To Editor- 2007
As a superintendent of schools for the past nearly 20 years including my last seven months in Grand Island I’ve come to appreciate and respect individual public opinion. I try very hard to be a good listener and to delay giving an opinion or making a decision until all the facts are known. Without the proper background into an issue quite often a person can reach a conclusion that’s incorrect.
It has not been my current practice nor will it become my future practice to respond to letters written in various local journalistic formats even when I believe that the writer has not taken sufficient time to understand the topic on which he or she chooses to comment. My priority remains to focus on academic improvements in our five schools in contrast to becoming a full time “letter to the editor” responder. Despite that belief, I’m obligated to comment on the opinions from a Grand Island resident which were shared recently in the IsledeGrande. To leave so much misinformation unchallenged would not serve well the Grand Island community of which I’ve grown so much to appreciate. This letter then is an effort to put forth accurate unbiased facts related to the previous writers opinions.
All architects do the best job they can do in estimating the costs associated with the hundreds of individual items in large scale capital project work. Labor costs, materials costs, transportation costs, unforeseen problems, etc. all have to be considered when doing their estimates. All capital project work done by schools ultimately requires the use of sealed bids from the contractors. Confidential bids are opened one at a time and the lowest responsible bidder by law must be awarded the contract. Roofing work right now proved to be very competitive and the low bid came in much less than anticipated in the estimates which were done many months earlier. This result, I would hope, would be seen as a good thing. The district has not for a second considered these funds to be anything other than a public trust to be used wisely and for the general purposes set forth to the residents and then approved by them in a public referendum.
The New York State Legislature has developed the requirements that apply to all capital project work. It is our obligation to follow those legislative requirements as well as those from our State Education Department (SED). We will not do anything improper or illegal no matter how the writer personally feels about “the rules”. School districts are required to first borrow the money they need to pay the contractors and then the state reimburses them to the amount clearly shared with the public before the vote. The principle payments and interest costs are both eligible to receive the same state reimbursement percentages. Those are the rules for every district.
Similar to what districts have to do when selecting contractors, we are required to put our borrowing out to bid. For our first $2,000,000 note, eight (8) separate financial institutions bid to purchase these notes. We’re obligated to select the lowest interest bid (again to save the residents money) and this time the low bid came back at a 3.55% interest rate. It was lower than what many other districts could have received because of our excellent credit ratings. As most people know, if you were to borrow money for a mortgage, you would be charged a much different interest rate based on your own personal credit rating or FICO score. Mortgage rates could run from 6% to 8% based on the credit rating of the borrower. The same guidelines affect school districts. The stronger your financial standing, the less interest you have to pay to borrow. Not only is the district paying a very low rate, the laws, which the legislature not us created, allow us to invest the money until our bills come due. On that $2,000,000 note the district will earn nearly $32,000 in interest and those are dollars that will save the residents from paying more in local taxes.
The writer’s use of the phrase “FREE MONEY” is misleading. What can be stated is that the NYS Legislators passed a bill creating a new category of building aid called “EXCEL”. It was their plan that these dollars would be used to help school districts keep up the infrastructure of their individual buildings while also helping to create badly needed construction jobs in the local economy. When these extra EXCEL dollars were added to the building project reimbursements already given to Grand Island by state law, the net cost to the Grand Island taxpayer was zero. If the writer disagrees with how this law was written or how building aid is determined by the NYS Legislature, my suggestion would be to express those concerns directly to our NYS assemblyman and state senator. They create and approve the legislation that controls all school building project work every where in NYS. We follow the rules but we don’t make them.
Finally, on the comments written about the additional $250,000 needed for our health insurance costs, the increase had absolutely nothing to do with our state mandates. There is no connection whatsoever between our health premium costs and Albany. The writer had that completely wrong. The charges are coming from our health insurance company, Independent Health, and the same one used by many thousands of workers. Our response to that possible increase has been to actively search for other less costly insurance plans. We won’t accept this type of increase without a good fight to get our current company to lower it or to switch to another less costly provider if there is one.
I’m pleased and proud to be associated with a board of education and district officials who place a very high priority on being financially conservative and spending tax dollars wisely. That’s exactly what we’ve accomplished with our capital project and with our 2007-08 school district financial budget. I’ve been in many meetings with construction workers, our financial advisors, and our school staff. I know how seriously we take our financial role and we’re also constantly listening to our board of education members who expect the most from our tax dollars. We’re all trying our best to complete the work that has to be done on our buildings, as well as educate our students and provide a fair wage to our staff while never forgetting that our schools belong to the Grand Island residents. Their support, financial and otherwise, is more deeply appreciated than we can begin to express. We expect to earn your trust every day. We also will continue our sincere efforts to listen to what each and every one of you has to say no matter what the topic is. If we can do things better, we want to be told what it is and how to do it. Again this type of response letter will not become a habit but I do want you know that if you have any questions or comments about anything to do with the Grand Island School District, I want to hear from you at 773-8801, my direct line. We encourage and appreciate your thoughts. Don’t hesitate or worry about expressing them. Our schools belong to you.
Robert W. Christmann
Superintendent of Schools
Posted September 6, 2007
Mulcahy Speaks Out On School District's Capital Improvement Project - 2007
Here we go again! The School District releases some financial numbers and they raise more questions than they provide answers. Let’s start with my favorite topic, the capital improvement project. One can always find nonsense oozing out of these numbers.
The district announced, through Richard Gehring of Trautman Associates, the following. The budgeted $1.65MM for the roofing jobs came in under budget by $509,000! Let’s see: 509,000/1,650,000 = 30.8%, or 1,650,000/(1,650,000-509,000) = 144.61%. Either way that one looks at it the district mis-estimated by at least 30%. Good job, guys. It is difficult to believe that Trautman, a reputable firm, errs by this much for its private sector customers.
Rather than shrink the project, since we gave permission to do specific items as I recall, the district views these funds as walking around money for them to spend. This continues the district’s habit of asking for money for one thing and spending it elsewhere.
We read that the District borrowed $2MM for this project. Hmm, I thought this was to be “FREE MONEY” from the State (ignore the fact that we are the State). Let’s give Mr. Christmann and Mrs. Ingrasci the benefit of the doubt; that is, that the borrowing is a RAN, Revenue Anticipation Note. This is a short term borrowing, under a year, that recognizes a cash flow timing discrepancy between when the district’s bills have to be paid and when, in this case, Albany sends the money.
The district is patting themselves on the back that they only paid 3.55% to borrow ( is the interest expense part of the “FREE MONEY”). This, they say, is due to our great financial condition. Keep in mind that municipal financing is exempt from federal income taxation and if the investor is a NY state resident it is exempt from NY income taxation. Let’s be generous and assume the lender is from outside NY. The Federal tax rate is 35%. In order to obtain 3.55% after paying the federal income tax, one would have to earn 5.46%. This is a very, very high rate for this short a term for a good credit.
If it is for a long term, say 15 or 20 years, then the rate is okay. But it can’t be for that long because we were told, over and over again, that this project was to be funded with “FREE MONEY.”
Which is it?
Also, at last week’s board meeting it was announced (per Jodi Robinson’s column on Isledegrande.com) that ‘Health insurance cost increases are tentatively estimated to be over 1/4 of a million dollars more than budgeted by a state enacted mandate, none of which is covered by state funds.’ Really? What is the new mandate that is causing this? Did we (The district) fight this or did we get other Districts to join us in fighting another cram down from Albany? Obviously not. Why not?
We are asked to shovel money at the District but their accountability and stewardship are sorely lacking. ‘Tomorrow’ finally came for the City of Buffalo and Erie County, don’t think it can’t happen here.
Posted August 30, 2007
Views On Status Of GI Bridges - August 2007
See 8/16/07 article on Island Bridges Under Scrutiny. For New York State's Bridge Program in Brief see NYS Highway Bridge Data.
Like many in our area, I, too, am not an architect, engineer, bridge designer or a subscriber to Feng Shui. I applaud the concept "Between the Bridges" as a starting point for discussion, however:
1) The current structures are in poor shape (per Federal assessment standards)
2) The current design is no longer used because of its shortcomings
3) Should we really build upon a shaky foundation, or, bite the bullet and start from scratch as soon as possible (but not sooner)?
I hope that this project, critical to our town, is "fast-tracked" and that public discussions and comment don't delay the project like has happened to the Peace Bridge Project and many other projects in the area.
All the more reason to raise the tolls, not eliminate them. Use the funds to complete the LaSalle Expressway to either the 990 or the Colvin extension, or both. If the tolls are removed heavy truck traffic will increase, wearing the bridges out faster. Also, who was the rocket scientist who decided to raise the speed limit on the thruway? No one slows at the bridges. If they have to, then the re-accelerating on the bridges causes even more damage.
James M. Mulcahy
This letter refers to a recent article in the Buffalo News
The News article claiming the Grand Island Bridges are similar in design and structure to the eight-lane I-35W bridge in Minneapolis that collapsed was overstated. The News implied that the same fate might occur to the isle bridges because of these comparisons. Yes, they need corrective action; but no, they will not collapse.
The Grand Island Bridges, in essence, are grand arches. The I-35W bridge was a level-plane bridge. Supporting the isle bridges are regularly spaced, well-defined arches that are anchored into concrete pylons sitting on the bedrock under the Niagara River. The bridge in Minneapolis was supported by a shallow, too-elongated archway, with no intermittent vertical support elements underneath.
Compounding these inherent flaws was the fact that the Interstate-35W bridge was three-quarters of a mile, with eight lanes of poured concrete. That is a prohibitive amount of weight for a bridge to stay put when not properly supported.
VFW Conveys Appreciation For Success Of July 4th Community Picnic - 2007
The Officers, members and auxiliaries of the Charles N. DeGlopper Memorial VFW Post 9249 would like to take this opportunity to thank the Grand Island community for your continued support of our organization and our efforts to support the many needy Veterans and their families in and around Grand Island. To our sponsors, Gold Level, Joe Cecconi Chrysler; Silver Level, Fuccillo Chevrolet; along with the many other businesses, organizations and neighbors who have also contributed to our annual raffle and success of our Post’s 4th of July picnic, thank you. Without your generous contributions and support, this event would not have been a success. To the many families and friends who braved the rain to stop by for a few moments, we say thank you. While it rained most of the morning and into the early afternoon, it did not seem to dampen the spirits of our community to once again enjoy the 4th on Grand Island.
Daniel B. McMahon
Posted Wednesday, August 8, 2007
A Sincere Thank You From Lions Club - 2007
Special Kids enjoy a Special Day. Once again, because of the generosity of the Grand Island community, it was a special day for the children at the Buffalo Launch Club. Almost 1200 smiling faces enjoying a day, a day that they look forward to all year long, a day that is all about them. Watching them enjoying boat rides, face painting, clowns making them laugh, magicians making them think, horses making them happy, giving children joy in that one day that maybe they would never have. Thank you to the Grand Island community for supporting the Grand Island Lions Club. It is through the generosity of the Grand Island community supporting our White Cane Sale, Spaghetti Dinner at the Holiday Inn and various fund raisers that this day was possible. It is because of our community that there were almost 1200 smiling faces at the Special Kids Picnic. Grand Island is a Grand place to live.
The Grand Island Lions Club
KidBiz Sponsors Appreciated -2007
The Grand Island School & Business Alliance (GISBA) would like to express our appreciation to the sponsors of this year’s KidBiz; Fuccillo Auto Park, Niagara Frontier Publications, Grand Island Holiday Inn, River Oaks Golf Club, Keller Group, The Legend Group, The Grand Island Town Board (Peter McMahon, Mary Cooke, Gary Roesch, Dick Crawford, Sue Argy), Michele Iannello, Erie County Legislator, Town Supervisor Peter McMahon. We thank the Grand Island Chamber of Commerce, Town Board, Town Recreation Department, the Grand Island Town Police for making it all happen.
A special thanks goes to Mike Heftka our KidBiz trainer and Cheryl Chamberlain with the High School DECA Students; Amanda Camizzi, Courtney Justus, Seth Kline, Brooke Chamberlain, Amanda Heftka, Sarah Chamberlain, Lauren Emmi and Ciera Morreale, the Grand Island School Principals Mary Haggerty (Elementary) and Brace Benson (Middle School) and Sandy Anzalone (High School) for their support.
This year we had a special opportunity to add to the event, the Battle of Bands, sponsored by Jackson Music and Fuccillo, starring 7 of Grand Island’s finest teen bands. We thank Chamber of Commerce’s Youth Ambassador and GISBA student member, Cory McGowan, program director, for a job well done, and sound man Jon Radice for helping to making all the bands sound their best.
As you can see, all this happens with the help of many people. It goes with out saying, we thank the parents and the public for their support.
Co-Chairmen of GISBA
Past President, Grand Island Chamber of Commerce
Posted Thursday, July 10, 2007
Island Happenings A Huge Success -2007
The Grand Island Chamber of Commerce hosted Island Happenings in conjunction with Kid Biz on Saturday, June 30th in the Town Commons with over 50 business vendors and 50 Kid Biz participants. The weather was fabulous and the Rock band, “The Strangers” provided a great musical sound to create a festive atmosphere for everyone to enjoy.
Thank you to all who attended and to all that participated in this great annual community event that is growing in popularity every year. Of course, this would not be possible without the assistance of all our valued sponsors, Fuccillo Chevrolet, Niagara Frontier Publications (Island Dispatch/PennySaver), Bleich, Inc., Carol Ann’s Hair Fashions. Creative Leather Concepts, First Niagara Bank, First Investors Corporation, Grand Island Women of the Moose Lodge #180, North Point Embroidery, Senator Antoine Thompson, TCA Consultants (Technology Camp of America), and Sam’s Club.
The participants this year showcased many creative products and services. Many vendors reported they received very good feedback from the attendees. Participating in this year’s event were; 10100, Inc., Arbonne International, Avon, Beth Newton, Bleich Inc.(Miracle Ear), Citizen Corp Council (CERT), Claudia Preve, Connie’s Creations, Cookie Lee Jewelry, Cowabunga Kettlecorn, Creative Leather Concepts, First Investors Corporation, Fuccillo Auto Park (WJYE), Fun Flops, GI Moose Lodge WOTM, Grand Island Dance Studio, Grand Island Traffic Safety, Grinders Skatepark, Home & Garden Party, Island Turf Care, Kathy Schifano, KR Communications, LLC, Lisa Justus, Market America, Mary Kay, Meagan McCormick, Niagara Frontier Publications, North Point Embroidery, Patricia Cancilla, Pure Soaps’n Stuff, Realty USA, Relay for Life, Rolling Meadow Studios, Sam’s Club, Scott & Spencer, Signature Homestyles, Soma Cura, St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Stack’d Wood & More, Tastefully Simple, TCA Consultants, Inc., Mary Lenz, Shred-It, St. Stephen’s School, Tupperware - Marcia Kraden, US Coast Guard.
For future events and information, please visit the Grand Island Chamber of Commerce website at: www.gichamber.org, or call our office at 716-773-3651.
Island Happenings Chairman
Posted Thursday, July 10, 2007
Freedom From The Tolls - 2007
July 3, 2007 . . .Freedom from the tolls was the object of my mission during the 4th of July Parade yesterday on Grand Island. Instead of putting anything in the parade like a float or a decorated van I chose to walk the route with petition in hand.
I covered the petition sheets with a plastic cover and just walked the sides asking people if they wanted to sign the petition, at a couple points there were 10 to 12 people lined up waiting to sign. In the short route I was able to walk I got almost 100 more signatures to add to the total. We are well over 6000 now and I will have to total them up now to get an exact number.
To put it in simple terms, people are fed up with the tolls that were supposed to be removed in the 50’s. They are tired of the traffic that has gotten worse and worse, the accidents and the pollution. The fire in their bellies was fueled even more when the tolls were removed in Buffalo but not on Grand Island. They are fed up with the false promises over the years from Albany politicians, instead of getting rid of the tolls we were given books of coupons and then the EZ Pass.
Nothing they do or have done has ever taken care of the bottleneck traffic that we face every single day and with summer upon us it is even worse. Instead of joining in with the petition drive to eliminate the tolls our politicos are trying to figure out where to move the tolls. Don’t move them, remove them.
I wish I had a dozen people carrying petitions yesterday, we probably could have 1000 more signatures. Maybe a float would have gotten more attention, I don’t know.
We are not slowing down, we are speeding up.
Have you signed the petition? Sign it now at http://nogitolls.com/
Posted Thursday, July 5, 2007
Thank You !!! Grand Island - 2007
July 3, 2007 . . .Recently the Disabled American Veterans, Grand Island Chapter #168 held its “Forget Me Not" Fund Drive. This year's drive was especially important to the Veterans. The Veterans of Foreign Wars, Post #9249; The Grand Island American Legion, Post #1346; and the Disabled American Veterans, Grand Island Chapter #168; have joined together to purchase a much needed van for the DAV Transportation Network. Many Veterans have no means of transportation to their medical appointments. The vans manned by volunteer drivers provide service to and from the Veterans Medical Center, and the Veterans Clinics.
The Vvan will be marked with the symbols and/or the logos of the Veterans Posts and recognition of Grand Island. We THANK the many great donors who made this drive a very successful endeavor, the Worker Volunteers and the members who spent many hours distributing the “ Forget Me Not “ flowers. The “Forget Me Not" reminds us to remember the men and women who served our country and now could use a helping hand. We owe them Much !!!! The people of Grand Island, NY have shown their appreciation by their support to our efforts to help the veterans in need.
Again many thanks from the Veterans of Grand Island, NY.
Officers and Members of the DAV
GMAC Lawsuit Regarding Drunk Driver - 2007
Tuesday, June 26, 2007 . . .
Can anybody tell me what GMAC did wrong to deserve being named in a lawsuit where a drunk driver, driving 100 miles per hour drove off Ransom Rd into the river? Could it be that they just happen to have assets, thus being a ripe target for a cash grab? What ever happened to responsibility?
former Island resident
Posted Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Friends Of Library Discard Book Sale - 2007
Wednesday, June 20, 2007 . . .The Friends of Grand Island Memorial Library would like to acknowledge the success of its recent discard book sale. Sincere thanks go out to all our loyal customers. Hats off to the many volunteers who staffed the sale. Local boy scouts and Eagle Scouts were invaluable at the set up and clean up and deserve a round of applause. We look forward to seeing you all at our November used book sale.
Public Hearing on Big Trucks in Residential Neighborhoods - 2007
Wednesday, June 13, 2007 . . .Grand Island’s Planning Committee has completed a draft modification to section 49-147
of the Town Zoning Code in order to format the change into a proposed law concerning the legality of parking commercial use vehicles in residentially zoned areas of the town.
Mr. Dinsmore would be well advised to obtain a copy of the proposed law and read it; it would put his mind at ease over parking his semi on his property once and for all.
He “doubts people will side with you” he suggests, concerning support for the proposed zoning change, as if in some way...it is I who is the interloper that has arrived on Grand Island and is trying to change its “rural character” on him. Anyone who owns property on the Island is a resident, Mr. Dinsmore...that includes folks who have been here for a week or forty-four years, and their opinions carry equal weight.
The zoning change is being advanced by our Town Board, as it ought to be, in response to numerous complaints they have received concerning parking these vehicles in residential areas. As I pointed out in a previous article in Isledegrande, and which was also carried by The Grand Island Dispatch, Pete McMahon and Dick Crawford should be applauded for leading the charge. It is not I with who people
would side, Mr. Dinsmore; rather, they would be “siding” with their own best interests and their children’s.
The proposed zoning change will allow you to park your truck on your property, Jeff.....don’t worry; it just stipulates that it can only be “One Large Truck,” not a fleet of them, and that it must be “behind the building setback, and rear yard setback.” Additionally....it prohibits, prohibits...period... parking them
on residential streets. Which is, after all, what the real nature of the problem is here. So you see....we’re closer to agreement on this issue than you thought.
On your observation that a lot of vehicles might be considered commercial vehicles......the proposed law is quite specific. It stipulates that commercial vehicle would be defined as any tractor used for pulling a semi trailer which weighs in at a whopping 18,000 MGW. That’s nine tons! If I had my druthers....I would change that lower weight limit to include two and one half ton “stake trucks” also.....which many tradesman park in their driveways. But ......I’ll accept the prohibition of the tractor-trailer tractors...as good enough.
The public hearing concerning this issue will be on the second of July. The Board will listen to anybody who wishes to speak on the matter at that meeting...and then vote on the change after consideration of those comments. It is important that property owners, who wish to maintain the value of their homes in residential areas, and protect the safety of residential homeowners and their children make their support of this zoning change known to the Board. If you cannot make the meeting, on the second....or if perhaps you are not comfortable with the thought of speaking in public.........you can send an e-mail to the Board indicating your support. Your e-mail will be just as effective. It’s important that you include your name at the close of your E-mail; your E-mail name is not sufficient. The E-Mail address of the Town Board is: firstname.lastname@example.org . Kevin J. Rung
Posted Wednesday, June 13, 2007
An Open Letter of Thanks - 2007
I would like to thank the Grand Island community for their wonderful and warm support. My spaghetti dinner was a "smashing success," because of Grand Island's generosity. Family, friends, and strangers alike attended, bought dinners, and sponsored my trip.
I knew I could count on the people of Grand Island because of their support for causes such as Relay for Life, Megan Grotz, and other worthy fundraisers. I also knew my spaghetti dinner, while not nearly so weighty, would be taken seriously and supported with the same vigor. Not only did the citizens of Grand Island attend and support me, but Island Presbyterian Church was a key supporter by opening their doors so willingly to my request.
As I graduate this month and prepare to dorm at SUNY Geneseo, I know the Town of Grand Island will remain my home, not only because of my upbringing and the memories I have, but because it is a generous community full of kindness. I've established a website at www.SendAbe.Info for anyone who wishes to share in the memories and progress of my trip to Europe that so many kind people have made possible.
Posted June 13, 2007
Response To Restricting Parking - 2007
In response to Mr. Rungs response: I have no problem restricting parking ON residential streets. I do have a problem with parking restrictions in my driveway. Large vehicles parked on the street DO present a potential risk, but parking in my own driveway, past the right of way, should not be any risk to you or anyone else driving. My driveway is 370 feet long and when I park my truck with 53-foot trailer attached, it is more than 250 feet from the road. If this is a safety concern to other drivers, they should not be driving! You say that commercial use vehicles should be banned from parking at a residence. Commercial use means any vehicle used during the course of business. This includes, but is not limited to, salesmen's cars, delivery vans (which look just like my conversion van, but without the windows) pickup trucks, utility trailers, possibly a boat, some motor homes and so on. I really doubt too many people will side with you when they find out they can't park any of those in their driveway! I have received 9 calls this week in support of the NO PARKING RESTRICTIONS. All came from long time Island residents, not from transplanted islanders. The people with the $400,000 and up homes, don't have many big trucks parking on their streets since most truck drivers can't afford one of those houses. If you ask most any "Islander" about this issue, I think you will get an overwhelming response of " move back to where you came from and quit trying to change our lifestyle." As for the "ugliness" of big trucks, I've seen much worse looking houses than big trucks. Just because you don't like your neighbor's truck, doesn't mean the rest of the residents here do. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Any one who would like to comment, for or against is welcome to e-mail me at BIG8E5FORD@aol.com. Also let your town board know how you feel.
Stony Point Rd.
Posted June 12, 2007
Former Resident Remarks On Money-Raising Efforts On Isle - 2007
To the Editor,
It is quite impressive to see the spirited efforts to raise money to treat young people and adults with life-threatening illnesses. It is also amazing how often folks are called upon to dig into their pockets and show their generosity. Not long ago, I found myself in a similar situation, asking relatives for help with extraordinary medical bills, at a time when I had no medical insurance. It is a very humbling experience. This type of situation leads me to wonder if our national priorities need to be changed.
We spend billions of dollars, soon to be over a trillion, to fight a war overseas in Iraq, in a nation that probably few of us have had any personal experience. We send our young people there, and too often, they return in a casket. It makes me wonder if we have lost our vision of what is best for Americans, including our armed forces.
Should it really be our goal to see that our friends and neighbors, and especially our young, are a top priority when they are stricken with a medical condition, that threatens their life? Few families are prepared to deal with such catastrophic illness, and its financial consequences, often too much even with insurance. Some form of national health insurance is desperately needed to fill the gap.
Las Vegas NV
(former Grand Island resident)
Posted June 6, 2007
More On the Big Trucks Parked In Residential Areas - 2007
By Kevin J. Rung
Wednesday, June 6, 2007 . . .
My Island neighbor, Mr. Dinsmore, has written a response to the Viewpoint article concerning the Parking of Commercial Use Vehicles in Residential Areas which I submitted on the 31st to Isledegrande.
He seemed quite exercised over what he interprets as the attempt of an “across town resident” to tell him how he may use his home or parcel of land. On that issue I am in agreement with the Gentleman from Stony Point Road.
Having been a resident of the Island myself for over twenty five years, I too feel we should not be told how to use our property.......within reason.
Purchasing a home in an area which a township designates as Zoned Residential, for example, entitles us to make the reasonable assumption that Zoned Residential will preclude the sight, and danger to our children, of tractor trailer trucks parked out in front of our house. Parking these trucks in residential areas, constitutes the imposition of an unwanted requirement on we, who don’t wish to live with a truck yard in front of our homes, by the truck owners; the very situation that Mr. Dinsmore inveighs against, when he says he doesn’t want others telling him what to do with his property. Thus, the wishes of a very very few truck owners are suppose to be tolerated by the majority of homeowners.
Consider the absurdity of an automotive repair shop, complete with old tires, and revving engines, suddenly springing up on....let us say, Colonial Drive, or River Oaks Drive. The property owners would be on firm ground to demand that it be removed to an area of town zoned for commercial use. It is equally absurd to assume it’s OK to park tractor trailer trucks in any area zoned residential; they too should be removed to areas zoned commercial. (The flip side of this, is that if you choose to purchase a home on a commercially zoned street, like Baseline – for example, then you should be prepared to suffer the sight of trucks which by zoning have a right to be there.)
The argument advanced by Mr. Dinsmore, that the rigs in question cost one hundred thousand dollars and the cargo may add an additional three hundred thousand dollars for which he is personally responsible is spurious and of no consequence to the issue of what is safe and correct for a residential area of town. While we may understand, and indeed even sympathize with him over his liability burden, it is not the problem of any residential property owner and does not infer that he has the right to “keep an eye” on his rig, by parking it out in front of everybody else’s home. The same is true, incidentally, of the rig owner who has been parking his tractor on Marlin Drive.....using the same empty argument. Your discomfiture about the safety of your rig is not our problem, you are the one who chose to be a truck driver for a living ( ...which, by the way, Mr. Dinsmore, is a perfectly honorable and worthy occupation.......).
Mr. Dinsmore goes on to suggest that we live in a rural community and wonders, “what could be more rural than a big rig parked in the driveway?” I guess he means to imply that tractor trailer trucks in rural driveways go together like hominy and grits and therefore....we shouldn’t be surprised that they’re parked in residential driveways on the Island. The fact is, that Grand Island is no longer a rural community; Mr. Dinsmore’s reactionary impulse not withstanding. Our Island is a rapidly growing community, boasting an ever more costly housing stock and growing property tax base. As such, it is incumbent upon our Town Board to pass this important revision to chapter 49 of the Town Zoning Code, in order to protect not only our littlest citizens from injury, but also, all property owners from the financial injury that will result from allowing the deterioration of the residential character of our neighborhoods.
There will be a public hearing on this proposal in July. Every property owner and taxpayer who cares about his investment in his property ought to turn out and speak in favor of its passage. In the meanwhile, contact Pete McMahon and Dick Crawford in writing, by E-Mail and let them know that you are in favor of passage of the proposed amendment. Their E-Mail addresses are:
Kevin J. Rung
Posted Wednesday, June 6, 2007
Parking Commercial Vehicles in Residential Areas Poses Threat To Public Safety - 2007
By Kevin J. Rung
Wednesday, May 31, 2007 . . .the Town of Grand Island is one of the very few remaining municipalities in Western New York which has not yet revised its Town Zoning Code to make it illegal to park commericial use vehicles in residentially zoned areas of the town. Under the leadership of Peter McMahon, our Supervisor, and Councilman Dick Crawford, a change to Chapter 49 of the Town Zoning Code has been proposed that would make parking these vehicles illegal.
McMahon and Crawford's leadership on this issue should be applauded by every property owner and taxpayer on the Island.
Years ago, when the Island was little more than a rural summer home venue . . . the incidental parking of a truck here or there was of little consequence; however, now that Grand Island is a growing community with new homes in the high six-figure price range, property owners can no longer afford to ignore the elephant in the living room.
As it now stands, there is no law making it illegal (let that sink in: there is no law making it illegal...) to park a commercial use vehicle on any residential street or in your neighbor's driveway on a residential street in the Town.
A couple years ago, upon returning home after work, I saw that one of my neighbors on Dolphin Drive had parked an eighteen wheel semi, complete with an ocean freight container on board, on the grass, along side his garage, in full view of anybody driving south down Dolphin at Marlin Drive. I reported this incident to our Town Zoning Office the next day . . . only to learn that what the man had done was perfectly legal! There was no ordinance against it on the Island. At the present time, the property owners on Marlin Drive are treated to the spectacle of a semi tractor regularly parked on the street; a jarringly ugly monstrosity in an otherwise tranquil residential neighborhood.
Parking huge commercial vehicles in residential areas constitutes a very real and imminent threat to the public safety. The trucks block the view of motorists as well as property owners attempting to back out of driveways, placing children who play in these residential streets, or who ride their bikes there, at risk of being struck and injured. The owners of the trucks run small auxiliary diesel engines to keep the batteries charged and in the process spew diesel fumes into the neighborhood for everyone's enjoyment. The auxiliary engines cycle on and off annoyingly all night long for us all to listen to. Certainly of equal concern is the negative impact that allowing commericial trucks in quiet residential areas has on property values. For most of us, the equity in our homes is a very real component of our personal worth; imagine what would be the effect of attempting to sell your home at the best price, as potential buyers considered that a commercial truck yard existed right out in front of the house. It's not happening in your neighborhood, you say . . .be assured that as it now stands, it could. All of you folks who own three hundred thousand dollar, plus . . . homes in the River Oaks section of the Island may wake up to find an ugly tractor trailer truck parked next door in Joe's driveway one Saturday morning, or worse . . . out in front of his house for you to enjoy, and there is nothing you can do about it.
There will be a public hearing on the proposed amendments to the Town Zoning Code before this important change can be adopted by the Board for the good of us all. It's important, that as taxpayer and property owner, you take a moment to write to your Town Board and make them aware that you support this proposed change to Chapter 49. It's also important that you watch the newspapers and the Town web site so that you are aware when the Public Hearing will take place, in order to attend to support this important change to the Zoning Code that Pete McMahon and Dick Crawford have proposed for our benefit.
Kevin J. Rung
Posted Wednesday, May 31, 2007
Supporters of Buddy Poppy Drive Appreciated - 2007
I would like to take a moment to say thank you to everyone who contributed to the VFW’s Buddy Poppy drive held at various locations across the Island last weekend. The donations received will help The VFW to continue assisting our Veterans and their families during the coming year. Recently we, along with the Grand Island American Legion and the DAV Chapter #168, have contributed towards the purchase of a van, for the Buffalo VA Hospital, to transport our Veterans to and from needed medical appointments and treatment. My thank you also goes out to the members of our Post, the men’s and ladies Auxiliaries, who with out their dedication this drive would not have been possible.
Commander, Post 924
Posted June 5, 2007
Response To The Big Trucks! - 2007
In response to the letter from Mr. Rung: I'm sorry you find a big truck ugly. Many people drive these rigs every day to haul you your belongings. Everything you own or use was shipped by these big ugly trucks. As a 44-year Island resident, I feel that if you own a home or parcel of land here, you should be able to use it as YOU see fit. Not as your neighbor, or accross town resident sees fit. When you start restricting what is parked in your driveway, you start infringing on peoples rights. First it's big trucks, then motor homes, next it will be boats, soon it might be green cars, or yellow ones (I personally don't like yellow cars). Where does it stop? Your neighbor pays his taxes, which are pretty steep over here, and has to hear from you how his job (which pays his taxes) is ugly. Not everyone who lives on this Island has a nice cushy office job. Some of us get dirty for a living and bring our work home with us. We are not at all embarrassed to show what we do for a living. How would you feel if you were told you can't park your $30,000 car at your house? Now turn that into a $150,000 rig (not including the load, which you are responsible for). Is your car safe being left at Burger King for the weekend? Are you sure? Now let's put a $300,000 cargo in your car. Still feel you can leave it there? I personally would not like to take the chance. My cargo gets stolen, I have to sell my house to pay for it. There are a lot of people out there with opinions about things they really know nothing about. You seem to be one of them. Parking restrictions is just one more way for the government to tell us what we can and can't do. Kinda like communism. We live in a rural community. What's more rural than a big rig parked in your driveway? If you want parking restrictions, move to Amherst. For those of us who like to live OUR way, let the Town Board know we don't want any more restrictions placed upon us.
Stony Point Rd.
Posted June 5, 2007
Residents Update Neighbors On Cell Tower - 2007
To Teddy Linenfelser:
The following letter is an update concerning the cell tower behind the Island Presbyterian Church. Our neighbor John Kackmann, who composed this letter, gave me permission to send this to you. My husband John and I passed out this enclosed update to over 150 neighbors who are against this tower. We want to notify other Island residents who may have concerns.
See Verizon Cell Tower Update
John and Betty Cook
63 Autumnwood Drive
Posted June 5, 2007
Pride Of The Island Award - 2007
Grandmother Louise Alessi, Mom Lynn Quarantello and Vincent.
When I opened the envelope from the mailbox, tears flowed as I read how my seven-year-old son received the Pride of Grand Island award. For me, this was a very special moment. My son, Vincent, is a special needs child who is attending Sidway's kindergarten program. His teacher, Mrs. Marisa Valentine, was hired to teach a special needs program. She is a special education teacher with special needs experience. This program is new to the Grand Island district and needed to be led by experienced individuals with extensive background for children with special needs. My son is the reason this year's program became a reality. Marisa interviewed with Vincent as the student. He responded well to her which got her the position. Her five years experience working with special needs children is what the district and Vincent needed. Mrs. Diane Cooper was also hired as his speech instructor. She comes from BOCES with experience working with non-verbal children. When Mrs. Denise Dunbar was hired as principal, she gladly accepted the challenge of the new program. She has embraced this project with all the staff to having our children accepted and rewarded for their accomplishments. She knew there would be hard work and changes involved to get the program off to a solid start. No two children learn the same and special needs children take longer and need more patience from everyone involved in their education. They require more hand over hand assistance from aides, to tolerance in the cafeteria line because they are slower in their independence, to extra help on the bus ride. Vincent is very proud to be able to carry his tray from the cafeteria to his classroom. Mrs. Valentine says Vincent has surpassed his goals she set for him in September and said he won this award hands down.
I'm hoping Grand Island school district will be able to attract more special needs instructors to follow Vincent throughout his school years. We hold monthly meetings to access his goals. I have seen up to seventeen different teachers come to discuss what they have tried to unlock this little boy. Vincent does not speak but we are all learning to try and understand his way of communication. These instructors have been instrumental in the development this year as they too have had to struggle yet another learning curve with Vincent.
While I look forward to another year at Sidway, Mrs. Dunbar has already begun the huge task of staring Vincent's journey to Huth Road School when he starts second grade. Again, the program will need to be adjusted for his particular needs so more experienced staffing will be required and classroom sizing revised. Vincent participates in all aspects of schooling whether it is in his small group, to the auditorium for a production on stage. He is known and recognized by all his schoolmates.
I'm very proud to be a part of the Grand Island community. The support we get with Vincent's acceptance has been great. Anyone with a special needs child can understand how important it is to have their children around other kids so they can model and learn from them. I didn't want Vincent to be stared at as different but to be acceptable for what he can do. Thank you for giving my son the same opportunity that other children in our community have. He'll always be my mild mannered Clark Kent. I hope he'll be yours, too.
Posted May 31, 2007
Andersons Extend Thanks for Support of Hope For Jason Benefit - 2007
We would like to thank the following businesses who generously donated to the Hope for Jason Benefit, which was held on May 20, 2007. Your contributions were very much appreciated and made our endeavor a success: Aceti’s Wines & Spirits, Baby Joe Mesi, Beach House, Brick Oven, Chamber of Commerce, Curves, Deno McGinn, Grand Island Auto Tech, Grand Island Rod and Gun Club, Island Deli, Hiz-Air Salon, Holiday Inn, Mallwitz’ Island Lanes, John’s Pizza, KOA Camping, Leather Concepts, Niagara Frontier Publications, Pam’s Card Shop, Sante Wines, Say Cheese Pizza, Sports Collectors Corner, Summit Fitness Center, TJ Nails, Tops, Town Café, USA Today, Village Inn, World Gym, WJYE and 97 Rock.
Also THANK YOU to all the individuals who generously donated a basket and/or helped with the benefit or took the time to attend the benefit! Kudos to all of you!
THANK YOU AGAIN,
Aimee Anderson and Nancy Anderson
HOPE FOR JASON
Posted May 30, 2007
Islanders Thank McMahon's Family Restaurant - 2007
Just a note to say thanks to the McMahons for fabulous, friendly service and a wonderful meal.
Mike (Sexton) and I had a college graduation party for his daughter, Cori Sexton, who graduated Buffalo State on Sunday (May 20) at our home. At the last minute we decided to go with a catered meal, and were lucky enough to fit into the catering schedule with McMahon's Family Restaurant. Seeing as we own an Island business, we obviously like to keep our business on the Island. We were treated like royalty by the McMahons and their catering menu was extensive (and anything you didn't see, you could ask for). The food arrived hot, on time and absolutely delicious! We just wanted to say thank you to the McMahon family for helping to make a special day for our family!
Posted May 23, 2007
Resident Says Town Infringes On Personal Lives On GI - 2007
The Town of Grand Island is again trying to propose zoning ordinance
changes for parking on Grand Island, by motorhomes, trailers, truck and
boats. What they have in mind this time is unknown, and infringes on
personal lives of Grand Island residents.
They tried last year and the took it off the agenda when so many people
showed up that they claim they had to make it clearer in the wording.
Lately, it seems that they have been pushing things through with very, very little attention brought to it. Just like last week’s editorial regarding the cell phone site off Huth Road.
I have already brought this to the attention of FMCA, The Good Sams Club, Colton RV and Meyers RV. This infringes on the rights of us owning personal vehicles on the island. I also plan on notifying other motorhome and trailer clubs.
If you want to help out in fighting this, please submit your name and e-mail address to: email@example.com or call me at 773-4817. I plan on setting up some meetings regarding this matter. Please keep watch at Isledegrande.com for any other information.
Robert J. Soluri
Posted May 23, 2007
American Legion Commander Thanks Community - 2007
The Grand Island American Legion Post 1346 held its annual Mother's Day Flower sale fundraiser this past weekend.
We would like to thank everyone who stopped by and helped our fundraiser to be a success again this year. Special thanks to Legion members for donating their weekend, the VFW for letting us again use their facilities and donating coffee, Ms. Linda M. Kutzbach for sponsoring radio talk time, Dan McBride for the live broadcast, Isledegrande.com, Island Dispatch, and to the Pennysaver for their coverage. WE hope everyone had a Happy Mother's Day and look forward to next year.
Robert J. Soluri
Posted May 14, 2007
American Legion Appreciates Community Support - 2007
Members of the Grand Island American Legion post 1346 would like to thank the people of Grand Island for making this our best sale so far. The money from this sale will be put together with the VFW and the DAV to buy a new van for the Veterans Administration Hospital. This van picks up veterans all over Western N.Y. who can not get to their doctor appointments and returns them home.
Posted May 14, 2007
Heartfelt Thanks - 2007
I would like to express my thanks to the community, family and friends for their support, thoughts, and prayers during my daughter's recent illness. Ashley is at home after a bone marrow transplant and five weeks in the hospital and doing very well. However, there is a long road ahead and some hurdles for sure but with all the support you have given her, the doctors are confident she'll have a complete recovery. Please continue to keep her in your prayers.
Posted April 19, 2007
Friends of Library Say Thanks - 2007
The recent Friends of the Library spring book sale was a huge success. We realize this is because of support extended by the Grand Island community. Our thanks go out to the people who made generous book donations, to the people who offered their time and talents at the sale and last but not least to all our loyal customers. Your combined efforts made this successful sale possible. Thank you again.
Friends of the Grand Island Memorial Library
Posted April 19, 2007
Life Lessons Fair A Success - 2007
The Life Lessons Fair, held March 31st at the High School, was a wonderful success. Students of all ages and their families enjoyed playing carnival games, winning prizes and listening to three local student bands. The highlight of the event was alumnus Megan Grotz, who shared a very touching story of her experience receiving a double lung transplant. Victoria Dent representing UNYTS, an organ and tissue donation facility in Buffalo, also shared a very uplifting story about her father's gift of life. Thank you to all the Life Lesson members for their hard work, enthusiasm and creativity in promoting organ and tissue donation, as well as family, faculty and staff who also helped in supporting our cause.
Life Lessons advisors
Posted April 4, 2007
American Cancer Society - Relay For Life - 2007
Team Polka Dot Chix Chapter III
March 26, 2007 . . .Team Polka Dot Chix Chapter III has begun. This year a few new faces have joined in the fight against this terrible disease. We now have 16 members ranging in age from 10 – 18 and one adult teammate. We have a lot of great ideas for fundraising this year and we hope we can count on your support.
“The Polka Dot Chix” name has a special meaning. To refresh your memory, we are trying to connect the dots and when all of the dots have been joined, the cure for cancer will have been achieved. The only way all of the dots can be connected is through research and of course that takes funds. Last year our team was able to raise over $4,000.00 bringing our combined total of two years to almost $9,000.00.
So what do we have in store for this year? First, we are planning on selling 10,000 candy bars, one for each child that will be diagnosed this year with cancer. The American Cancer Society expects that the number of new cases of childhood cancer this year alone will reach over 10,000. It is so unfair that anyone has to suffer from such an awful disease let alone a child. On Grand Island, we have another little boy newly diagnosed. You can read all about him on Isledegrande.com and about all of the details of his benefit coming up. He’s a beautiful little boy with the most amazing smile. I have no doubt that he will win his battle just as I did. As you look at his face, ask yourself, why did this happen to him and what can I do to help? Answer; show your support by attending or donating something to his fundraiser or you can help in our efforts of supporting The American Cancer Society. We as a team realize that this is a lot to ask but as we’ve told you before, cancer strikes at any age. With your help, our team promises to donate every single penny we raise to The American Cancer Society. All money will be used in their efforts in research and development of new and better treatment plans and to continue the education of those in need. Because of this, children diagnosed and their families will continue to have hope. In 2007, 1,444,920 new cancer cases and 559,650 deaths, or about 1,500 deaths per day, from cancer are expected in the United States. What if one of these cases was you? Don’t you agree that these statistics are not acceptable? The time is now to pause this disease. The time is now to “stay the course” and strengthen our efforts in this fight.
We are also sponsoring a Sunset Tent at the Relay on June 8th and June 9th. This tent will honor the lives of people we have lost. Their picture will be displayed with their name, form or cancer, their Sunrise (date of birth) and their Sunset (date they passed). The cost for each picture is $5.00 and will be made from an existing picture that you supply to us. We promise to get the picture back to you safely. Also, don’t forget to look for Grand Island’s Largest Piggy Bank. She will be making appearances all over with an empty tummy just waiting to be fed.
If you would like, direct donations may be sent to me with all checks made out to the American Cancer Society. All donations are tax deductible. So as we close this letter, we leave you with this:
“Great and miraculous things happen when people come together with an intention to create hope and possibilities"
Thank you so much for your time and God Bless.
Alicia J. Sommer
11th Grade Student At Grand Island High School
Please send donations payable to “The American Cancer Society” to:
98 Pellamwood Court
Grand Island, NY 14072
Team Members: Mariah Christie, Katie Hager, Julianne Lavallee, Cassie LoBrutto, Elizabeth LoBrutto, Jessie LoBrutto, Kelsey Mash, Jenna Paternostro, Sierra Seese, Spencer Seese, Sydney Seese, Alicia Sommer, Emily Sommer, Becky Sommer-Stufkosky, Sara Stenzel and Jenna Stufkosky
Posted April 4, 2007
The Faces May Change - School Board Budget Process - 2007
I wrote a letter to the editor on March 8, referring to the Grand Island School budget process as March Madness. I was too subdued in my assessment of the goings on over there. Regardless who the participants are, nothing ever changes. They really should get the ventilation system checked.
Every year the District wants more money. Every year they refuse to show us their books, but expect us to ante up. If we refuse, the sheriff comes and auctions off our homes. So much for the Land of the Free. Two years ago, the budget lost by the biggest margin in WNY. The other districts that had their budgets defeated, including one that only lost by a few percentage points, accepted the will of the people. Not Grand Island, they terrified the kiddies in the school about the dire consequences if the budget failed on the second try. Their Chicken Little tactics worked and the budget passed. Last year, they pulled out all of the stops for the first vote. They sent oversized yellow postcards to everyone (who paid for this?). Yellow was used because the year before Bob Weaver’s group (I am one of them) sent yellow postcards. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, to coin a phrase. The budget, nonetheless, still only passed by 66 votes out of 4,106 total votes, in one of the largest turnouts ever. Here we go again; the District acts as if the votes the past two years were landslides in their favor. They weren’t. This year, though, they have proposed a budget that continues to spend freely, including activities that are outside their purview.
The District continues to be a sinkhole of spending and appalling decision-making. It is difficult to decide which decision is the worst. While one can agree with the goal of the Reading Recovery program, what are the children being taught in grades 1 & 2, if not reading? Adding 11.5 full time equivalents to make up for the lack of learning is the standard bureaucratic response: spend more money, especially someone else’s. Rather than add staff, maybe the correct thing to do is get rid of the current teachers and hire more competent ones. Also, give the children assignments and get their parents involved. If the parents don’t care, why should we?
In my last letter I stated, “Let us start with the statement about the new approach to budgeting: “a version of zero-based budgeting.” This approach has nothing whatsoever to do with zero-based budgeting. Zero-based budgeting wipes the slate clean and makes each and every expenditure justify itself anew. The School District’s approach, though, is one of arrogance and conceit, that is, that all of last year’s expenditures were spent wisely. In fact, they couldn’t have been spent more wisely. Such hubris.”
We are told that the District is not looking at areas to trim! So much for zero-based budgeting: to be blunt, the zero-based budgeting statement was thrown out by the District to make it look like they were intensively evaluating all of the monies spent. Ha! It is business as usual over there. After all, it isn’t their money. It is ours.
Don’t forget that two years ago, we were told that it was the State’s fault our taxes were going up. The State was demanding higher pension contributions than over the previous few years. The impact of the stock market decline in 2000-2002 had caught up with the funding obligations and required infusions from the Districts. The District, in all of its finger-pointing, never pointed out that in the prior years, required contributions were close to nil because of the stock market performance in the late 1990s. Contributions could have been made on a levelized basis each year so that the stock market swings wouldn’t cause taxes to rise abruptly due to weaker corporate earnings. This would have required the District, though, to have made choices or ask for even more money.
The district should be made to tell us how much of this year’s budget is pension contributions and how much were last year’s. I am willing to bet that the required contribution is lower this year than in the last two years. If so, then there should be some decline in spending. If there isn’t, we can expect to see another abrupt hike in taxes the next time the stock market swoons.
How about the energy expenditures? This is an account with which they have been about as deceitful as could be. In order to get the “no tax increase” budget through on its second try two years ago, the District budgeted $4,000 less in energy expenses even though prices had been rising month after month for over a year. This was clearly done to be able to say there was no tax increase associated with the budget. How about this year? If anything, prices are down somewhat on average from last year. What are they budgeting this year, compared with last year?
And now, the piece de resistance: the pre-K program. This isn’t a mandated program. Why are we being expected to fund it? I’ll give the answer below. The district says, presumably with a straight face, that their program won’t be in competition with the Island’s other [sic] private programs. Huh? Who are they kidding? Of course, they are going into competition with them. If I were the private providers I would sue the District under the Sherman Anti-Trust Act for predatory pricing, demanding treble damages. Further, I would make the individuals who made this decision responsible for paying the fine. The paper said the district’s program was to give 18 children a”leg-up” on kindergarten. Which 18? If twenty show up you have to take them in if they are paying taxes for it. Since the program is ‘free’ to the individual, they will flock to it. This is basic economics. Obviously, the District will then say that there has been an overwhelming demand for this service so we must provide it for all. (If they started offering free coffee and bagels to commuters, I’m sure there would be line up for that, also. It doesn’t mean that the commuters would want it if they paid for it out of their own pockets, or that this is an activity the District should be engaged in.) To suggest that this program isn’t designed to drive the private providers out of business is dishonest in the extreme. But honesty has not been a hallmark of that operation over the years.
What about the massively over-funded reserve account? What is being done with that? Has the District received all of the FREE MONEY we were told we were going to receive if we voted yes on the capital budget in December? We need forthright, complete answers to these questions.
This past week the U.S. Census Bureau released its estimates for the populations of each of the 3000+ counties in the country. As usual, WNY had declines in all except Alleghany which squeaked out an increase of less than 1%. (One can dispute the precise size of the decline, but no one is disputing the fact of a decline.) The tax burden continues to tighten its grip on our economic well-being. The District tells us that they are doing it “for the children”. Baloney! They are doing it for themselves and in the process destroying opportunities for the children in this area. School taxes are over 60% of the total property tax. This can not continue. There needs to be fiscal discipline by the Board and the District officials. For anyone who thinks I am being apocalyptic, read the fine article by Niki Cervantes on the front page of the Sunday, March 25, edition of the Buffalo News. If that doesn’t worry you, read Tom Precious’ article on the 1st page of the City & Region section. At some point, we have to accept economic reality. Do we do it now when the costs of adjustment are relatively low, or do we wait until it requires draconian measures?
Posted March 26, 2007
Fire Company Medical Team Thanked - 2007
Thank you to the Grand Island Fire Company. When I recently fell in my home and my daughter called the rescue squad, they were here in minutes and were wonderful. A special thank you to Rick! They took very good care of me and also were very supportive to my daugher, Stacey. They are the best. I ended up with multiple bruises and scrapes and a concussion, but am feeling much better. A big thank you to our neighbors and friends for their concern.
Posted March 19, 2007
Appreciation For Fundraiser Success - March 2007
The Rastelli Family
Carol Rastelli is in red. (click name for story)
We just wanted to thank you very much for supporting our efforts to raise money for my mom's operation. The fundraiser was extremely successful due to the generosity of all of you! The amount of people who showed up to the fundraiser was a true testament to how much my mom means to so many people - she is truly a wonderful person. We apologize to anyone who had to wait in line to get in and for the parking situation, but we appreciated your patience and hope you had fun despite the crowd! The amount of people who showed up to the fundraiser was more than double than we had anticipated. If we had known, we would have had it at a much bigger place.
Thank you again for all of your donations, baskets, and support through this hard time in our lives. Your friendships mean the world to us!
The Rastelli Family
(Nick, Carol, Anita, Tina, Nick, Tony, and Marty)
Posted March 8, 2007
It’s March Madness Time - 2007
No, Silly, not the NCAA basketball tournament, I’m talking about the real March Madness: the Grand Island School District budget process.
One has to wonder if the District officials: 1) forget what they have said in the past; 2) assume the public has forgotten; or 3) don’t care. The information contained in the March 2, 2007 edition of the Island Dispatch is chocked full of nuggets. I’m sure the District hopes that no one connects the dots.
Let us start with the statement about the new approach to budgeting: “a version of zero-based budgeting.” This approach has nothing whatsoever to do with zero-based budgeting. Zero-based budgeting wipes the slate clean and makes each and every expenditure justify itself anew. The School District’s approach, though, is one of arrogance and conceit, that is, that all of last year’s expenditures were spent wisely. In fact, they couldn’t have been spent more wisely. Such hubris.
Mrs. Ingrasci is quoted regarding capital project savings of $500,000 and reserves of almost $3 million, which she ‘considers a start in the right direction.’ Stop the film! Let us rewind to last year, when Mr. Ramming was lauded for getting the reserves back to where the State recommended them to be: 2% of the budget or, approximately, $900,000. We are now $2.1 million above that. Does the District really think the reserve should be larger? Keep in mind that the school district borrows at under 5%, while the taxpayers pay from 6% - 21.6% on their various borrowings. The District taxpayers would be better off if they had these surplus reserves in their own pockets. Further, as Mr. Christmann pointed out ‘that traditionally the tax rate increases by 1 percent for every $250,000 of expenditures.’ Since the reserve is $2 million over the recommended level, we could have raised $2 million less last spring at budget time. By Mr. Christmann’s reasoning that would have lowered the tax rate increase by 8% (=$2,000,000/$250,000). This would have turned a 7.6% tax increase into a .4% decrease.
Last December we were asked to approve a $4 million bond issue that was going to be totally reimbursed by the State. (It was FREE MONEY. Just remember that when you fill out your NYS income tax form or pay the 8.75% sales tax.) At one of the public information sessions promoting the bond issue, I asked why these projects haven’t been addressed already. Were we only doing them because we got FREE MONEY? My concern was that, given the pictures we were shown, these projects should have been done long before then.
Let us go back to Mrs. Ingrasci’s comments about the capital surplus and the reserve. The purpose of the reserve, presumably, is to be there for unexpected immediate needs. The capital surplus reflects lower costs than were budgeted for on an existing project. Taking these two items together, we have $3.5 million: $500,000 in the earmarked capital account and the unallocated $3 million in the general reserve account. Why weren’t these funds used to fix the roof? If the State didn’t come through with FREE MONEY would these projects still be on hold? My guess is that the answer, unfortunately, is yes, otherwise the District would have utilized the funds they had already available for just such contingencies. This is the generous interpretation of their actions.
I have criticized the fiscal management of the District in the past. I have been accused of being impolite or worse for doing so. Tough. The District is managing a $46 million enterprise. They should do so with competence. WNY is the only metropolitan area in the U.S. losing population. Given our tax rates and unfunded obligations to municipal employees, including school districts, things are going to get worse long before they get better. Unless and until the taxpayers demand prudent management of the various activities that the government entities engage in we will continue our downward spiral.
Posted March 8, 2007
Aydelotte Family Extends Appreciation - 2007
Our family would like to thank everyone who donated theme baskets and all the other fantastic raffle items for Ba's benefit. We would also like to thank the community for coming out to provide their support. Your kindness and generosity made the evening a great success. We hope everyone had as much fun as BA did.
The Aydelotte Family
Posted March 8, 2007
Be Careful What You Wish For! - Another Point Of View - 2007
There's been a lot of talk lately about removing the tolls on the GI Bridges...it's been said that this will fix every problem that has been plaguing Grand Island since the beginning of time. However, there might be another point of view worth considering. A view that this may not be a movement by some well intentioned fellow Islander concerned about the comfort and well being of the rest of us. I would like to offer that point of view on this most important matter. It's being said that just by removing the tolls life will improve in quantum leaps. Maybe people should hold off on their giddiness at having found the cure all to everything to think about this point of view, if even for just a brief moment.
The idea being pushed down our throats is that the traffic problems at the bridges are caused by the toll booths. NOT SO FAST. It's most likely that backups are not caused by the tolls but by the bridges themselves. The bridges, as they are now, are a choke point for traffic. There are multiple lanes of traffic being squeezed into two lanes. Removing the tolls will not change that one bit. There will still be backups as long as there are only two lanes of traffic to access the Island. Case in point...the interchange from the 290 east to the 90 west at the blue water tower near Williamsville. There are no tolls there but everyday traffic backs up to Sheridan Drive simply because that is a choke point.
The idea of squeezing I-190 Northbound, I-290 Westbound and River Road traffic into two lanes and not having some sort of traffic backup is ludicrous. You can't squeeze multiple lanes into just two lanes and expect everything to move along smoothly. It could be argued that the increased Island traffic that the promoters of toll removal are touting will most likely cause an increase in bridge traffic problems and accidents on the bridge. We've seen what happens when one lane is closed due to an accident or breakdown. Think for a second of the traffic mess if both lanes were blocked on the bridge---in the peak summer driving season. You could say that the toll booths, as they are now, actually help traffic flow because they force traffic to stop and proceed up the bridge in an orderly manner, thereby alleviating accidents. I for one would rather proceed slowly than not at all.
Let's call this what it is... A disguised power play by greedy developers who are anxious to cover the Island with concrete and asphalt. The developers know that the tolls are an impediment to the kind of changes they'd like to see on Grand Island. If they get their way and you want to take a peak at what their vision of the Island is five or 10 years down the road, just look at Niagara Falls Blvd. from Robinson to Sheridan Dr. or Main St. in Williamsville any afternoon. The word that comes to mind is gridlock. Has everyone seen the story where Williamsville is now trying to narrow Main Street in an effort to force drivers to use alternate routes because of the horrendous traffic problems?
After the tolls are removed, what's next? ...Widen Grand Island Blvd. then Baseline and Stony Point Roads to four lanes? Is there anyone who lives there that wants to see that happen? The first thing to consider is 'Why did I move to Grand Island'? There are a number of upscale communities in WNY. But what was it about the Island that made you want to move here? It's likely the reason is because of the rural, country like setting that exists here. Those qualities are what makes the Island a unique place. It can either stay that way or it can be turned into just another overcrowded, traffic congested suburb like so many others in WNY---with unchanged limited access. You can say goodbye to the Island as you know it if the developers have their way. And for all those promises of an increased tax base and its associated advantages...no ones life has improved one iota with all this increased tax base that we have been blessed with in recent years. If it's an improved quality of life you desire, petition the local and state governments to better spend the tax dollars they already take in.
Do not mistake the intent of this article. It is not an endorsement of the bridge tolls. It is an indictment of the intent of pushy developers to forever change the Island. Not for your benefit---but for theirs. This is going to be a defining moment in the history of Grand Island. In this case, that old saying couldn't be more true. Be careful what you wish for...you just may get it.
Posted February 8, 2007
Waterford Park Developer Uncooperative - 2007
I recently attended a meeting with the developer of the proposed Waterford Park subdivision off East River Road. Our intention was to see if the developer would integrate some green space into the plan to make it more attractive to all residents (future new builds alike) and less environmentally intrusive. Unfortunately, the developer was not open to any changes whatsoever and in the end indicated that resident concerns would not be given any consideration.
The density of the proposed Waterford Park subdivision fails to meet the standards of what experts have come to call environmental sustainability. That is, establishing a balance between natural environmental features and economic development. Such balance should satisfy both developer and those who see value in maintaining green space.
As a Grand Island resident since 1964, I am well aware of how this community has expressed pride in (and consciously touted) our rural character. To be consistent with the Town Master Plan, we would hope that the Town Board, in keeping with the concept of environmental sustainability, would respond favorably to citizen requests that the Waterford Park subdivision be altered in such a manner as to maintain green space while allowing for less dense, yet economically viable residential development.
Posted February 1, 2007
Letter from the NY State Thruway Authority Concerning Tolls - 2007
I received this in the mail today as have others, I am curious, why? I have not sent any letter to the thruway authority. I only sent a few to the Governor's office, is this his response? I would certainly hope not.
Talk about spewing the company line. I will wait for some kind of response from their office after we call them tomorrow.
Click for "Thruway Authority Letter."
Posted February 1, 2007
Thank you From Friends Of Library - 2007
By Barbara Jarzab
The Friends of the Grand Island Memorial Library wish to thank all the patrons of our most recent used book sale, and everyone who has participated in the past. Without your patronage, our book sales would not be the successes that they are.
Our latest book sale earned almost $2,000 which will help finance the reading and craft programs the library sponsors throughout the year, and it will also be spent on materials and supplies for the library. It is most rewarding to see the turnout at each sale and hear the comments from so many who are delighted with their purchases of books to enjoy and share.
We look forward to seeing everyone at our next book sale which will be held at a future date in the upcoming months.
Vice President of the Friends of Grand Island Memorial Library
Posted January 11, 2007
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