EDITOR TEDDY LINENFELSER
Previous Letters to Editor Page
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Editor or addressed to: Letters to the Editor, 1871 Whitehaven Road, Grand Island, NY 14072
Albert Paul Hujer
Posted December 16, 2010
Now Maria Whyte points the finger of blame at County Executive Chris Collins for cutting funding for a summer programs for the youth? She wants the taxpayers of Erie County to pay for this program in full after Albany cut the 2/3rds of the funding for it. Albany gives us nothing for this program now. Why? Why did Albany cut funding? It's called a fiscal crisis and Albany is cutting costs and funding for programs, why are we not doing the same? We should be and it is up to the legislators to buck up and do what is right for the taxpayers of this county.
It comes to a point where we have to cut costs, we have to cut programs and yes we have to cut funding for culturals. It's sad that we will have to lose something like Shakespeare in the Park, but charging for a show like this should make it self sustaining. We do not live in a state or county where we can continue living the life of leisure, where government pays for everything, where programs are continued when Albany cuts funding just because there are government jobs to save.
I fully expect Albany to continue to cut funding this year as we come up on yet another budget from Albany. This state is not only in debt, we are carrying a deficit this year and already come into next year with over a 20 billion deficit. Although the frustrations with government may not be all over the state, we know one thing for sure. The residents of Erie County and all of Western New York is still "We are mad as Hell". My focus this year and this coming election year will be right here in Erie County and I will assure you all of one thing, the TEA Party is NOT a myth as the Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy stated, and not dead as the Democrats wish.
It's time for our Erie County Legislators and anyone that has a desire to run for County Executive to stand up and state where they stand on issues that will continue to drive up costs and taxes for the hard working taxpayers of Erie County. It is our job to hold them accountable and I assure you, we will not forget.
Just my humble opinion.
Posted December 9, 2010
I have a dear friend who was such a soldier. He enlisted and went to war, and after much training became a paratrooper. He jumped into the darkness on June 6, 1944 (D-Day) with the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment attached to the 82d Airborne Division. Later he fought in the bitter winter's cold in Belgium (the Battle Of the Bulge) then on to the Invasion of Germany. Upon returning back to his home in Buffalo, NY (Black Rock), he went to work at the Chevrolet River Road Plant (General Motors). He became a Union Representative and served his fellow workers well. This is but a small story of his life, from the Great Depression until his retirement. There were many hard times and he also spoke of many good times. He served His God, Country and fellow Citizens well I am sure the Good Lord will keep him safely in his hands. Farewell my friend, "Little Joe" Joseph J. Stefaniak, He will be missed by his many, many friends. "AIRBORNE ALL THE WAY "
Posted November 4, 2010
Posted November 4, 2010
I have contacted the Erie County Board of Elections and they have verified that my name and number is not on their list. I am on the National DO Not Call registry, but I understand they are above the law there! The continued unwanted calls after they have been reported to their respective political party is a form of harassment. I do not need to be reminded when and who to vote for and will not vote for someone who is breaking the law by making unwanted calls (harassment)!
Can you help me get these political candidates to stop calling. Or do I need to request a warrant for their arrest for harassment?
The list below is a partial list of callers with pre recorded messages. This needs to stop and I am ready to take legal action to stop this form of abuse. They are using phone calling companies (call mills) to make their calls for them and the candidates should be held accountable and responsible for their actions.
(D) NYS Sen. Antoine M. Thompson
(R) Jay Townsend
(R) Mark J. Grisanti
(R) Nicholas A. Langworthy Republican Committee Chairman
(R) Paul B Wojtaszek
(R) Jeffery F. Voelkl apologized and is trying to stop the calls to my phone
(R) Harry Wilson
(R) from Dennis Vacco regarding – Paul Wojtaszek
(R) Judge Debora A Chimes apologized and is trying to stop the calls to my phone
(R) Dan Donovan
(R) Leonard Roberto
(R) Carl Paladino
Posted November 4, 2010
First there are smiles to greet you, or maybe a coupon on the shelf next to the item you may need (not to say the price might ever be cheaper that the discount chain you have to go off Island to get), or an insurance question, a reaction/side effect concern. Mike is always there on hand with the answer or solution. He is educated and genuinely concerned for you and your family.
Life on Grand Island was like this when I was a child, people took the time and made the effort for each other! Just when I thought he was a diamond in the rough, he approached me with a question about making a donation to Grand Island Relay For Life (which he knew I was a volunteer for). So he held a customer appreciation weekend and donated a check for $1,000.00 to the American Cancer Society….that is where the Prince comes in…he didn’t bat an eye, said it was nothing!
Well my question to our Island residents is when we have a “hands on” guy like Mike why would we need or want to go anywhere else than the Island Prescription Center?
Save the gas and have piece of mind as well. Get a good straight answer for any question right there on the spot.
With Sincere Appreciation,
Mary A Dunbar-Daluisio
Co-chair Grand Island Relay For Life
Posted October 28, 2010
Posted October 28, 2010
Our goal is to collect all 4,000 boxes of stuffing needed by the City Mission to make this Thanksgiving special for the poor and needy of Western New York, I've lived here my whole life and believe that our community can accomplish this goal.
Please contact me or my mother, Denise Oursler, either by e-mail or phone. You can reach us at are (716) 681-0428 by phone, and at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com by e-mail.
I have made four separate attempts to reach Mr. Golombek to discuss the situation and to find out his stance on the issue. Thus far over a thousand residents have voiced their opposition to the cell tower in Veterans Park. For someone who claims to be able to better represent the Island it was disappointing that all four attempts have gone unanswered.
I’m not trying to single Mr. Golombek out, its just he is the only assembly or senate candidate who has not responded. Sam Hoyt, Brian Biggie, Antoine Thompson, Mark Grisanti and Rory Allen all have called or met with me to discuss this issue. Interestingly all have pledged to protect the park from commercial development.
So the question remains, if you say can better represent Grand Island then why do you ignore the residents? It is not to late Joe, email me at ProtectVetsPark@yahoo.com.
Posted October 21, 2010
Thanks to Cuomo and his henchmen telling us, Paterson has just enough scandal to qualify for the office. Paladino, for all his good intentions, doesn't appear to have the experience or savvy to beat out the status quo in Albany. Paterson decided not to contend but tries to make things better whatever the politics. That is statesmanship, a quality to be desired in a governor.
David B. Birt
Posted October 14, 2010
When does it end? I don't even have any children. Why is the amount I pay in school taxes based on the assessment value of my house? That makes no sense. I pay more to the GI School district then my neighbors who have children. And what about the family that rents an apartment with kids attending the schools? They don't pay a dime in school taxes.
This is a serious matter. Something needs to be done. Change is needed on how the amount of school taxes owed is determined. If things continue on the same path, I'll be looking for a new place to live. Somewhere where I don't feel like I'm being robbed every year my school tax bill arrives.
Posted October 14, 2010
First, there should be no fringe benefits for any elected or other part-time official or employee. This means eliminating the health care benefit for the town board immediately. As it currently stands if one already has coverage through work, retirement plans, or spouse, an official is eligible for cash in lieu of coverage. Pensions are another benefit that should be curtailed. These positions aren’t supposed to be a source of career-type benefits.
Second, the town is one of the few left who still has two people riding in its snowplows. In bygone days doing this was called featherbedding. It is still featherbedding. As people retire or resign from the highway dept. these positions should be eliminated.
Third, pay and benefits working for the town should reflect what someone could earn doing comparable work in the private sector. It is not appropriate for someone who does the same work in the private sector, with more uncertainty about their hours and pay, to pay for someone to get more.
Fourth, the town should eliminate the separate highway, water, sewer, and recreation depts. and create a dept. of public works so that resources can easily be re-allocated to the areas that need them at any point in time. (Some may counter that there are different unions. Well, then, pick one. If a current dept. can’t agree then maybe outsourcing the whole operation should be investigated. The point is that the taxpayers are paying for services, not for sustaining any particular union.)
These are all things that should be addressed, with the first one being implemented immediately. Unfortunately, I have commitments on Monday evenings so I wouldn’t be able to present this until December, at the earliest, but at least the ideas are in the public domain.
Posted September 30, 2010
As the Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), I feel a strong responsibility to share with teens and parents what science has taught us about drug abuse and addiction. Adolescence is when most drug abuse begins, and it is also a period of critical brain development — a process that continues into a person's 20's. That's why prevention efforts are so important: If we can get teens to realize that their brains are still "under construction" and that drugs may alter this process — perhaps forever — we have a good chance of preventing addiction for a lifetime. As parents, you can reinforce this message.
Science has shown that drugs alter the brain's structure and function; and during the formative teen years, patterns of brain development play a significant role in shaping your teen's personality and actions. While the teenage years can be a time of exploration and growth, that same drive can prompt dangerous risk-taking, including drug use. Teens who get involved with drugs risk problems with school, family, the criminal justice system and even their mental health. Our hope is that together we can help teens make healthy decisions based on facts and not on popular myths or peer pressure.
That's the message we are promoting this fall during NIDA's first-ever National Drug Facts Week (NDFW). The week-long observance is an extension of NIDA's annual and very popular Drug Facts Chat Day, where NIDA scientists answer questions received in real time from teens all over the country. What we have learned from Chat Day is that teens do want the facts about drugs, particularly when they are presented in ways that respect their intelligence and creativity. During NDFW, schools and community groups can hold other events that bring teens and scientists together to discuss the facts about drugs and the brain. For more information, please visit http://drugfactsweek.drugabuse.gov.
Thank you for doing your part in safeguarding your children from the risks of drugs and alcohol.
Nora Volkow, MD
Director, National Institute on Drug Abuse
This letter was submitted and recommended by Dan Stinson, Chairman of One Island, One Team, One Dream, To Be Drug Free
Posted September 23, 2010
If the 5 towns that have downsized were paying double ( and no one is paying double ) what Grand Island is paying, the savings per Town would be $144,000 or $720,000 total. My guess is that the actual tax savings for the 5 Towns is closer to $300,000 which is a long way from the $1,000,000 Mr. Keller claims.
The Town tax rate has grown at 1.76% per year. The cost of living has grown an average of 2.45% per year. The reason the levy is higher is the growth in the tax base, not the tax rate.
It's another example of the proponents, including Kevin Gaughan, playing fast and loose with the figures.
Supervisor Peter McMahon
Posted September 22, 2010
Mr. Keller blames high property taxes on the exodus of young people. No: high taxes, from whatever source, and excessive regulations are to blame. High property taxes cause seniors to leave. If property taxes are reduced, without a dollar for dollar reduction in spending then the revenue must be made up somewhere else. It will need to be from income taxes. NYS already has the highest income taxes in the Northeast.
His numbers are laughable. His statement “If his [Gaughan’s] movement succeeds in all 25 towns, we will eliminate 50 elected positions, saving every Erie County taxpayer more than $6.8 million per year, or $68 million every ten years.” If every Erie county taxpayer could save $6.8 million per year we wouldn’t need any votes, we'd have done this long ago. The actual saving per individual (~950,000 pop.) would be $7.15.
His statement, “Where are all those taxes going? Certainly not into our business district, which has far too many unused and vacant parcels.” is another beaut. I don’t want my tax dollars funding business properties. That is the responsibility of the owners. Also, the fact that taxes collected on the Island have risen 57% since 2000 doesn’t take into account growth in the population. Grand Island is growing.
There is a naïve belief that cutting two part-time council positions will start WNY back on the road to prosperity. Nothing could be further from the truth, unless it is that Gaughan wants to save us money. The sad thing is that Mr. Gaughan isn’t interested in saving anyone a dime. He is an advocate of big intrusive government. If he were really interested in cutting the cost of government he would be focusing his energies elsewhere. To name just a few areas where there are low-hanging fruit: Medicaid, school district’s bloated administrations, excessive staffing of state departments, corporate welfare, state employ benefits packages, etc. The fact that Mr. Gaughan has been totally silent on any of these, much less all of them, speaks volumes (no pun intended) about his seriousness for cutting costs. He still has his dream of regional government; that is, more remote, more unresponsive, more unaccountable.
Posted September 22, 2010
Then, along with a group of concerned citizens, I asked Gaughan to come to Grand Island to organize a petition drive so that we islanders could decide whether to downsize town government. I did so for two reasons: my sons, Max and Nick.
Like all fathers, when they become adults, I want my sons to be able to live and work here, where their parents, grandparents, and cousins live. But too many of our children have to leave Western New York for lack of jobs. Grand Island has lost 27% of our young people just since 2000.
The cause of these sad departures is high local property taxes – we pay the fifth highest local taxes in the nation. And a contributing cause of these high taxes is our large number of politicians, for whom taxpayers pay their compensation and benefits.
Out of Erie County’s 25 towns, our town board is the fifth highest paid. Several towns in Erie County have more than double the population of Grand Island, but their council members receive a smaller salary. So far, Gaughan’s movement has resulted in voters adopting downsizing in five towns – Orchard Park, Hamburg, West Seneca, Alden, and Evans – reducing local taxes by almost a million dollars per year. If his movement succeeds in all 25 towns, we will eliminate 50 elected positions, saving every Erie County taxpayer more than $6.8 million per year, or $68 million every ten years.
Grand Island’s population has remained fairly steady since 1980 – no real growth or loss. But just since 2000, the town tax levy (the amount of taxes Grand Island collects from residents) has increased 57%, town employee benefits rose 142%, and the amount of sales taxes we pay that’s passed onto Grand Island town government increased by 77%. Where are all those taxes going? Certainly not into our business district, which has far too many unused and vacant parcels.
Politicians and political party chairmen have made arguments against downsizing and in favor of keeping the status quo. Their views are understandable because the more elected positions there are, the more influence party bosses possess. But these folks never ask the important question: At what cost to taxpayers? The answer is clear. If we don’t at least start to dismantle our high concentrations of politicians, our children and grandchildren will never be able to experience the great Western New York life we all love.
Posted September 20, 2010
Mr. Keller notes quite a few statistics in his letter to the Island Dispatch on 9/17.
He states that out of Erie County’s 25 towns, reducing each by two council members would save “…every Erie County Taxpayer more than $6.8 million per year”. Aside from the syntax error, that we EACH appear to be saving $6.8 million, using Mr. Gaughan’s own statistics from his website, one calculates the savings of $761,628 not $6,800,000. This is slightly less than 2.4% of his example of $32,140,386 as the cost of government. Mr. Keller goes on to note the increases in the taxes and levies on Grand Island over the last ten years. Of particular interest is his sales tax comparison. I don’t believe Mr. Keller is familiar with how sales tax revenue is distributed. He cites “…and the amount of sales tax we pay that’s passed onto Grand Island town government increased by 77%”. The sales tax revenue increases that Grand Island enjoys are directly attributable to three (3) factors 1 – the increased traffic from Canadian shoppers to our Western NY area, since their dollar has stabilized, 2 – The mandated sharing of the additional ½% and 3 – the growing population and tax base on Grand Island that allows us to receive our fair share, and that fair share accordingly has grown. Increased sales tax revenue equates to lower property tax increases. Likewise, our mortgage tax revenues have grown in the past ten years. This is directly attributable to the desirable place we all live. Unlike sales tax, that is distributed by population count and assessed value, mortgage tax is directly influenced by the sales in your community. Property values remain stable, and your Town tax dollar goes a long way. The distribution of sales tax or mortgage tax has no correlation either directly or indirectly to the size of your Town Board.
Mr. Keller writes of the cost of employee benefits increasing 142% and the Town levy increasing 57%. In those same 10 years, a resident’s General Fund tax rate has increased a total of only 16.7%. This is an average of 1.67% each year. Meanwhile, the cost of living has risen 2.4% each year. It seems to me, the Boards of the last ten years have done a pretty good job of stabilizing taxes, amidst some pretty crazy healthcare and retirement contribution increases and fluctuations. During those same ten years we have had a three grade increase in our Town’s bond rating. This is a direct reflection of our stable financial position. Yet, we accomplish this in a geographic area fraught with green and red budgets and control boards. We must be doing something right. The escalating costs of health care in the United States have no correlation either directly or indirectly to the size of your Town Board.
I have been employed by the Town of Grand Island for nearly all of these last ten years that have been referenced. I take my job very seriously, I watch over the Town finances as if they were my own, and, since I am a resident and taxpayer, that is, in part, true. I believe each of the board members I have had the pleasure to work with, have served to the best of his/her abilities. That being said, each has (had) strengths and weaknesses in different areas. The ability of other members to compliment the strengths and smooth the weaknesses has been vital. Decreasing our representation to only two council members, in my opinion, would be a huge mistake, a mistake from which we may never recover.
Posted September 20, 2010
I oppose downsizing the Town Board from five to three members.
The argument that lifetime health care costs (legacy costs) will be saved if we downsize is not true. Your Grand Island Town Board addressed that issue in 2002 when lifetime health benefits were eliminated, new employees began paying 20% of their health care costs and elected officials began paying 25% of their health care costs. Any possible savings does not factor in the 25% of medical care costs that elected officials pay if they use the benefit and the fact that not all council members use it. I do not use health care benefits from the town and I also return the “bonus” offered to employees for not taking the health care plan. In my tenure as a council member I have returned over $17,000 to the town.
I believe that any possible savings would be offset entirely by additional costs associated with the utilization of workers to fulfill duties currently performed by the five member town board. The downsizing would, in fact, increase the cost of government to Grand Island taxpayers.
I believe that a five-member board gives the best representation for the citizens of Grand Island, something on which America was founded. Albany’s “3 men in a room” concept, with its dangerous concentration of power, is not working there. Why would it be a good idea to bring that to Grand Island? I believe that the $17,000,000 town budget should not be controlled by two people, a majority with a three member board. Two people should not be able to determine all hiring, labor contracts and other contractual work, policy regarding the use of property and supplies and services purchased by the town. Special interests with only a couple of successful board candidates could wrest control away from the people. What other group (church, sports, clubs, homeowners’ associations) would ever consider putting three in charge so that two people could control all decisions?
I believe that representative government is the best government. Giving up representation for questionable, if any, savings is foolish.
I urge you to vote no on September 23.
Councilwoman Mary Cooke
Posted September 16, 2010
Many of you know me and were kind enough to support me in my bid to become a Councilman. Even if you didn't, I hope you trust me enough to realize that my stance of defeating this downsizing referendum is the right stance. I, along with the entire Town Board have passed a resolution stating the reasons we believe downsizing is not a good idea. It is a stance that believes that your representation will be severely reduced. All to save $10 a year? It doesn't make sense. Just like I said in my campaign, the issues facing us are YOUR issues, and we need all the help we can to collect information, debate the points and come to a conclusion on matters that are of concern to you. Two councilmen will not be enough to allow you to be represented adequately. Please don't lump your local council members into the "I'm mad as heck, they're all a bunch of bums, throw them out of office" idea. Local representation is your best representation.
Please be an informed voter on this issue. It is really too important not to be.
Thanks for listening.
Posted September 16, 2010
The proposal to downsize the Grand Island Town council from 4 members to 2 would be a drastic cut for local representation. I have been part of the legislative branch that has worked continuously outside the box to implement cost effective procedures. For example rightsizing, when an employee retires from any position our first question is, is there an alternate way to provide the current level of service? We have successfully implemented rightsizing in the Water and Wastewater departments and continue to look at consolidation in other areas. We work closely with our department heads to present and adopt budgets that maintain a high level of service at the lowest price possible.
To the residents frustrated with government generally: downsizing our Town Board below the appropriate size to efficiently conduct the Town’s business is not the way to send a message. We’ll all suffer with increased taxes and reduced services. We should not so quickly sacrifice our local government to quench one man’s ambition. As our Forefather’s admonished us nearly 235 years ago in the Declaration of Independence, “Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes.”
In my opinion two council members would be inadequate to continue a professional level of representation, service and accessibility that Grand Island residents deserve.
I respectfully ask that you vote NO on September 23rd.
Councilman Dick Crawford
Posted September 16, 2010
As I travel the Island and see the “Vote Yes” signs, I can pretty much tell the reason for the sign. It makes me upset when I think that people would vote to downsize as a way of “getting even” with the Town Board. If someone is that upset they have the opportunity to vote out the present elected official and vote in the people they feel will listen to them and vote accordingly. PLEASE DO NOT CONCEDE YOUR REPRESENTATION TO THE SPECIAL INTEREST FOLKS.
Without listing all the practical reasons not to downsize, as with all resident concerns, I would be more than willing to talk to you in person. I can be reached at home 773-3967 or on my cell 583-7969. Thank you for taking the time to read this letter.
Posted September 16, 2010
Our Town Government is run very well by our Town Council and has kept our tax rate to a minimum. The problem with our Government is not with the town but with the State and School system. If you doubt this, take a ride to Albany and see the waste of your money at the South Mall which is where many of our State office buildings are located. These buildings are overspending at its finest. If you think our school system is doing its job, then ask a high school senior where 8/16" is on a ruler, what direction is North or how to add without using a calculator.
I have interviewed many perspective employees and most cannot do these simple tasks. Try asking a high school senior these questions and when you write your school tax check ask yourself if you are getting your money's worth. Town government is a highly tuned machine compared to the State government and school system.
A few years ago, I saw town government in action and thought a council person's job would be great, good pay and few hours. As I looked further into this, I found I could get a job flipping burgers and make just as much without any hassles. To do the job properly, it takes 30 hours a week or more and has more upsetting meetings and phone calls that I can even imagine. We need 5 people on our council, if for no other reason than it is too easy for 3 people to get too cozy as 5 people each have their own views and are much easier to contact than 3 members.
I doubt if Kevin Gaughan is trying to make this change out of the goodness of his heart. I would like to see what long term plan he has for himself and how a change in town government will help him - only time will tell.
Our town government is the best deal we have, don't mess up a good thing. Vote No to Downsizing.
Posted September 16, 2010
Vote NO on September 23.
Posted September 16, 2010
Everything that the Conservative Party, Republican Party and Business Community believes in is a smaller government and with less taxes. All of the Town Board members seem to agree upon this belief, except for when it involves the Town of Grand Island.
Why then, does the Town Board think that if you downsize the board? Their claim is that "would be easier to corrupt the board members because there would be fewer members to keep everyone honest?" HOGWASH, with 16 volunteer boards, and all the town departments, approximately 50 to 60 people at every stage of any project are looking at and questioning every little detail to make sure everything is done to town code.
I truly believe that it would be impossible to corrupt any of these honest, hard working public servants. I also believe that yes, it would be little more work for the board members if the board were to be down sized. But, with the condition of the economy, just about every business has had to work with less people, and employees have to work longer hours just to make ends meet.
Yes, if you look at the tax savings in downsizing the board, it may not seem like $75,000.00 is a lot of money, but it is a lot of money to most people. If you are truly a Conservative, Republican, Business person or retired person, I truly ask you to vote YES< to down sizing to save taxes and to help make a smaller more efficient government at all levels.
Dan Drexelius - owner Double D Construction
Posted September 16, 2010
We hear the board members claiming our representation will suffer if the downsizing is approved but the flip side to that is, if they all agree on everything every time then are we truly being represented and do we need five people to agree on everything or is 3 enough? I myself am not sure how to vote on the downsizing referendum, but I believe residents should be familiar with the board’s voting history. This may in fact be more an argument to who is on the board rather than to how many are on the board but it is something that residents should keep in mind. Studying the past unanimous “yes” votes shows that the board saying “no” to downsizing is the first time they have been able to say no. But then again they are all in agreement on it…as usual.
Posted September 16, 2010
We are writing this letter, not as members of any group for or against downsizing the Grand Island Town Board, but as citizens who are concerned about the negative impact of the proposal.
We have worked with, and against, the Town Board on many matters, and have seen Board members spend a great deal of time and effort in meeting, research and communications. To decrease the number of Board members will decrease the quality and quantity of knowledge brought to the Board's work. Fewer Board members would also mean less opportunity for voter contact. These add up to down-sizing of representation, for very little saving.
Admittedly, the current Board votes in lock-step, and we certainly do not agree with many of their decisions. However, if diversity of opinions and votes is important, then a diversity of members is also.
Down-sizing the Town Board brings to mind two oft-repeated phrases: "Taxation without Representation":, and "Three men in a room".
Do we want those for Grand Island? We think not.
We urge you to vote "NO" on down-sizing on September 23.
Very truly yours,
David and Barbara Birt
270 Orchard Road
Grand Island, NY 14072
Posted September 16, 2010
The plain answer is “No” to both questions if the end result is far less cost-effective to the community. The “Red Herring,” in this case, is to overlook the accountability and fiscal situation in the absence of two additional council persons. Is it more or less possible to influence or control a group of four (4) or a group of two (2). Which one or ones of those council persons in their 23 regular meetings and over 70 workshops accounts for saving the town hundreds of thousands of dollars on various proposals or projects?
That’s the reason for council members. To discuss and debate those actions which best support our town financially. Should we do this with one arm tied behind our back? Observe the four council members. Is there a single one among them that you would be ashamed to introduce to a friend or family? We are indeed fortunate to have four (4) Council Members highly skilled, competent and frankly, not in dire need of this position. Rather, they have served, despite a growing community, with more effort and the same pay for the last decade.
So think it over before you jump at the $70,000. reduction in salary. Don’t ignore the hundreds of thousands their presence saves. I’m informed that the $70,000 savings amounts to $10.50 per 100,000 of assessed valuation. In return for accountability and hundreds of thousands in savings, I think I am willing to sweat the small stuff. Funny thing about facts isn’t it? They are such stubborn things.
Thomas N. Clabeaux
Chairman, Independence Party
Grand Island, NY
Posted September 9, 2010
Over the last few months of reading about downsizing of town boards and dissolving all villages, I feel the need to write this letter.
Activist, Kevin Gaughan, has been out promoting the downsizing of town boards and eliminating all villages, assuring us this is the only way to cut taxes in the twenty five towns and 16 villages of Erie County. I feel his ultimate goal, of course, is centralized government. While his thoughts may be well intended, his actions are very much misguided.
If Mr. Gaughan really wants to save Erie County residents millions of dollars, he should direct his efforts to the New York State government, and challenge our Medicaid system, which is the highest in the nation-higher than both the State of California and Texas together. All of this money which incidentally is grossly mismanaged and wasteful comes from our property tax dollars. This would truly save millions of tax dollars and cut our tax bills.
Another area Mr. Gaughan could challenge to save millions of tax dollars are in consolidation of school districts and superintendents.
Kevin Gaughan’s effort on reducing town boards would at best save pennies in each town. I am not saying pennies are not important. They are, but not at the expense of losing a proven sound method of government.
Starting in 1973 I was elected and re-elected to seven consecutive four-year terms as your Highway Superintendent. Now retired, I tried to do the job you expected of me. During this time I served with five different supervisors and many town board members. Every one of them, democrat or republican tried to do the best for our town. I ask each one of you to investigate and see exactly what your town board members really do, how many meetings they attend, as well as how many hours they work. I think you will be very surprised.
I urge all of you to make it your business to vote NO for the downsizing of our board. Surely you don’t want two persons running our town and, in some cases, believe me, it could be one person.
I have always felt we have a wonderful community of intelligent people who do not need some outsider telling us how to run our government.
Norman J. Mrkall
Highway Superintendent, Retired
Posted September 9, 2010
If the proposition passes, the average taxpayer will save about $10 per year. This has to be contrasted with the reduced access to the remaining officials, the inefficiencies and constraints under which town business will have to be conducted, and the increased ability of special interests to influence decisions. With regard to the last point, it is important to keep in mind that special interests will only have to convince two instead of three officials. This means for any given amount of expenditure they can increase by 50% the amount directed at any individual.
Basically, then, this whole exercise is not about shrinking government as most people understand it. It is part of Mr. Gaughan’s efforts to eventually saddle us with a regional government. Trust me, this is where he is headed. Leopards don’t change their spots, and Gaughan has lusted after this for years. This government will be even more remote from the citizenry than the county government is today. It will also be more expensive. Monopolies raise prices. Gaughan inundates people with scads of data. Remember, though, that data aren’t information. One of my favorite pieces of data comes from his main rationale for downsizing: we have too many elected officials per capita. His data showed that the community with the greatest number per capita was Williamsville, probably the most prosperous community in Erie County. On this basis, maybe we all should increase the number of officials! When I pointed this out, he just mumbled. Also, do we really want to reduce the number of elected positions in government? Keep in mind, the work still needs to be accomplished. For instance, I like having the highway superintendent elected, rather than being a civil service position, since we can fire him for poor performance.
If one is truly serious about reducing the cost of government, and I for one believe we all should, then one should be pushing for the elimination of the County Executive and County Legislature, returning to the Board of Supervisors system. The current system has a built-in bias to expand government to justify its existence. There are numerous ways to shrink duplicative services at the county level; or how about stopping the subsidies to the richest folks in town: the Bills and the Sabres; to say nothing of getting out of the hospital business. We are the only upstate county with its own hospital. Have you heard of people keeling over in Rochester due to the lack of a county hospital? Neither have I. ECMC is a patronage system. Mr. Gaughan is strangely silent on any meaningful reductions in the cost of government.
Again, if Gaughan was serious about reducing the costs of government he would be leading a charge against our out-of-control Medicaid expenses. NY spends more than Texas and California combined, even though they have more than triple our population. He could lead a charge against the bloated and inefficient operations of the public school system. I would recommend that a school system become a department of the local government. Mr. Gaughan also trots out figures about the flight of people from WNY over the past four decades. Subject to check, I’ll accept his numbers. However, loping off two council seats from a five-person board will have zero: repeat, zero; effect on this trend. Slashing both government spending and government’s malignantly intrusive role in our lives are what is required to begin to restore our economy.
Vote no on the 23rd and start badgering the politicians to do the right thing regarding county-wide and state-wide expenditures.
Posted September 9, 2010
Notice for the Annual American Legion Poppy Drive in honor of the Victims of the attacks on the Twin Towers, The Pentagon and Shanksville,Pa flight 98, on 9-11-2001. We shall never forget them.
Poppy Drive will take place on September 10th and 11th at the various locations on Grand Island. Proceeds will be used to support Our Troops and Veterans.
Thank You for your donation.!!!
Posted September 9, 2010
I strongly agree that New York State and the Federal Government are too fat and need to be downsized. Just look in the phone book or online and you will find agencies that you did not even know existed. That is a project for downsizing.
I do not think it is reasonable for a State Senator or Assemblyperson to have a staff budget of close to a million dollars. Spending money on Birthday cards, hiring personal staffs, using government cars as personal vehicles, ratcheting up pension benefits by giving themselves raises every year. Talk about downsizing, that’s a project that will save millions of tax dollars across the state. Consolidating the plethora of agencies, at the state and federal levels and all of the salaries equated with them is another project for Kevin Gaughn to work on to downsize.
And then there is the multi billion-dollar Medicaid program. Wow, that is downsizing program just waiting to be attacked. There are lots of good solid reasons to downsize government, its agencies and programs, which will have at least an affect of billions of dollars of taxpayer relief. I am in favor of all of it, if just someone like Kevin Gaughn would like to tackle it.
I am not in favor of downsizing representation vs. programs and agencies. When you downsize your representation, you increase the power of the people who are left. Here in Grand Island, we would have 3 men in room!! That is how they operate in Albany. We have all seen that result. Why would you want that here?
Our representatives are part time. They make less than $20,000 per year. They work other jobs and attend nightly and weekend meetings. They attend every event, meet with anyone who asks them to, and they are our only direct link to getting things done on Grand Island.
They do not have government cars, lifetime health insurance, big pensions, individual personal assistants, government cell phones, free EZ-pass, they do not send monthly mailers, hold breakfasts, or send birthday cards at the expense of the Grand Island taxpayer.
What they do is represent us by working closely with residents, town employees, and 13 volunteer Boards to make sure that the town is fiscally solvent, that are local taxes stay in check, that services are delivered to increase the quality of life of all of us who live and work on Grand Island.. Most of us take for granted that our water tastes good, the toilets flush, the roads are plowed, the golden age center is funded, housing is well built, the parks are beautiful, but the truth is the reason for the great quality of life here is because we have competent elected officials.
Without them who is going to do all of that work? Who? We will have to hire full time staff to replace the part time council people. Thereby increasing the town budget, pension, health insurance, etc. They however, will have no decision-making abilities. How much sense does that make?? Considering what we loose, what do we gain? A bigger tax bill to pay for the full time employees that can’t make a decision when we call with an issue. That is not cost effective, in my opinion, that’s stupid.
Kevin Gaughn claims it will save us money. It will not save us money. Downsizing the Grand Island town council will not save money, period. It will however, take away our representation.
Compared to the millions and billions of dollars of bloated government in the state not to mention the federal government, Grand Island town government is ahead of the curve. The Town Board has already downsized and consolidated several departments. Grand Island is a growing community. We do not have the issues that face our neighboring communities, like duplication of services; we are an Island, without a village, plain and simple.
If downsizing is his passion, Kevin Gaughn should be working on downsizing ineffective programs and agencies, not the representation of small towns whose budgets are less than Sheldon Silver’s.
Even though Kevin Gaughn made the comment at a public meeting that he thinks we should be a democracy, we are a Republic. As a republic for which it stands, I for one stand for adequate representation and the power to vote NO on downsizing our council.
Grand Island Republican Town Chairwoman
Posted September 9, 2010
1. Regardless of the size of the Town Board, basic services would remain the same. The independence of Grand Island governance is also unaffected.
2. Good representation is not a function of the number of board members, but of their competence and integrity.
3. Regular elections give us control of the makeup of the Town Board.
4. Union contract agreements and the like are matters of public record regardless of the size of the Town Board, and therefore under ultimate public review.
5. It is hard to imagine a situation which would be critically affected by the absence of one board member. Most important issues are ongoing for months or even years, or are totally predictable, so there is great flexibility for voting on them. As noted by Craig Eddy (Isledegrande 8/10/10): "Every single vote the Town Board has had this year has been unanimous. There have been 14 Board meetings and not a single dissenting vote." Three Board members would have produced the same result, but at an annual savings of $70,000 - the salary and benefit costs of 2 council members (Island Dispatch 9/3/10).
6. In case of some emergencies high levels of government would be involved, so our welfare would not be compromised by having a smaller board.
7. Other towns which have decided to work with fewer board members expect to be fully able to conduct daily business and to have the ongoing communications desired by their citizens. Saying these things would be too difficult for Grand Island "does not compute."
Posted September 9, 2010
As a constituent who approached Sam with a concern regarding an injustice perpetrated by a state agency, I can personally attest to his prompt response and determination over a period of many months to get matters taken care of. He gets results because he works hard and has the experience and expertise to solve problems.
We need to keep this fine Assemblyman who has delivered for Grand Island over the years. Because he stands up to the political machines and big money, there are those who want someone less independent in this position. For this reason, he faces another well-financed primary fight and general election challenge. Those of all political persuasions need to return this truly remarkable public service to the New York State Assembly.
Posted September 2, 2010
And certainly without the help of all of those who assisted us with their time and resources we could not have made this event a reality and words cannot truly express how sincere our thank you is to each and every one of you.
Trinity United Methodist Women
Posted September 2, 2010
The wedding was in full planning stages when my friend's other daughter graduated from High School and had a large graduation party in June. Then August arrived and the wedding took place. It was beautiful. There were about 125 people from all over attending-and hundreds of homemade cookies that my friend had made for weeks prior to the wedding. I learned cookie dough can be frozen. Many behind the scenes things were taking place by my friend as well to ensure a smooth day for the bride and groom. The day after the wedding - yes, the day after my friend threw a surprise 50th Anniversary party for her in-laws. She figured everyone would be in town-what a great opportunity to surprise them. See, my friend thinks of other people all the time. At the anniversary party my friend had made many home made dishes again. Many things can be frozen including appetizers. It was all coordinated perfectly. Throughout all of these events my friend and her husband sold their home and bought a new one, Yes, just another minor thing to throw in there. They choose for sale by owner so did all the work themselves. Selling a home can be a project and buying another quite the ordeal.
My friend has a wonderful, supportive husband who also is a giver. I believe good people attract other good people in their lives.
I continue to learn from her and feel honored to know my friend - my friend Audene Affuso who continues to teach others by her actions. Thank you Audene for being a teacher to me in my life. I am blessed!
Tracy Roesch Williams
Posted August 19, 2010
As a fellow Republican I would advise Mr. Biggie to research a topic before taking a stand on it. Even a cursory review of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Places parkland alienation handbook would have been enlightening. It would have revealed to him that the Town should have contacted Assemblyman Hoyt and Senator Thompson long ago and that the Geis land is indeed protected whether the town considers it part of the park or not. I invite Mr. Biggie to review the 3” binder full of information pertaining to this issue that I have. He would see the email from the town’s legal counsel that confirms the Geis land is protected, something Mary Cooke seems to think is still open for interpretation. He would also see the zoning code and subsequent use variance that were issued for the cell tower despite Councilwoman Cooke’s claim that the site did not need a variance. Mr. Biggie would also find the 1995 letter from the Geis’ lawyer which clearly states the land was not intended for a maintenance building contrary to what the Dispatch reported Councilman Roesch said. I’ve heard Supervisor McMahon say there are proponents of the park location. If there is anyone outside of Mr. Biggie and the Town Board where are they? At the Planning Board Meeting, the public hearing, two Zoning Board meetings and at the Town Board meeting only Verizon’s lawyer spoke in favor of the project, not a single resident spoke up in favor of it.
The issue can be looked at in the simplest of terms, the coverage propagation maps tell the story. I invite Mr. Biggie and anyone else who would like to see the maps and judge for themselves to contact me at ProtectVetsPark@yahoo.com
The Town Board’s acceptance of adequate coverage and subsequent P.R. complain to try and save face beg to ask another question, where is our representation? I will not weigh in on the downsizing debate but there are two things I think Grand Island residents should know. First, do you know that every single vote the town board has had this year has been unanimous? There have been 14 board meetings and not a single dissenting vote. So what is the difference if they vote 5-0 or 3-0? Secondly, I find it curious that at every window in the Town Clerk’s office is a stack of copies of the anti-downsizing editorial that appeared in the Dispatch a few weeks back. No discussion of the pro’s and con’s or list of issues, just the editorial to keep the status quo.
Posted August 19, 2010
Reducing the number of councilors serving from 5 down to 3 would seriously hamper the coordination and functioning of town government, its departments, would lessen sound fiscal oversight, as well as reducing and hindering our government’s responsiveness to its citizens.
And what would we gain? We’re not, as one Islander seemed to think, going to merge with some other entity to save tax costs. We’re not the Village of Kenmore or Williamsville. We’re not a tiny landlocked island inside a larger township; whatever happens at the polls we will still be an island in the Niagara with all the unique services that must be provided.
So what does one hope to gain? The petitioner who came to my house told me he wants to reduce the town council by two members; the goal being to save two salaries, benefits and possible future retirement payments. He asked me if I realized that our town was started with not five but three town councilmen.
That’s true. If we reduce the town board we’d save two salaries (totaling less than $40,000.00). We’d recoup the town’s contribution to health insurance for those who choose to accept it (not all do); and we’d save the minimal amount contributed to retirement.
What would we lose? I wonder if those collecting petitions are telling people that when the population of Grand Island grew that we automatically gained those two council positions.
They replaced two town justices who previously served both as council members and justices. This was necessary in response to a growing population and an equally expanding workload for both the council and the court. Presently, to serve our town, this part time position requires approximately 30 hours per week from our councilors not including time spent running for office. They participate in 23 board meetings per year and over 100 workshops. Of course, participating in each of those meetings require hours of preparation from each member. The four members serve as liaisons to the ten Advisory Boards. Citizens serving on these boards deal with issues vital to the well-being of our community and depend on the active involvement of council members. Over and above these regular meetings, are meetings with the police, the courts, and the school district. These efforts have produced revenues and an increase in service to the taxpayers of our town.
Our council members work tirelessly for the welfare of our community and are our biggest and best fiscal watch dogs. They were responsible for an insurance savings of $100,000 per year. They’ve done away with “take home cars” for government town positions.
The list could go on. Grand Island is served well by our council of four plus our supervisor. To redistribute this load among the two remaining councilors would be impossible.
We will lose accessibility to our councilmen. We will lose the careful research and collaboration that have netted costs savings to the town time and time again. We will hamper communication between council members and we would create a volatile situation. The stability of the board could be lost in a single election.
Downsizing a town board might be the right decision for other local municipalities; but it would surely be a costly mistake for our Island.
Kevin M. Backus
Conservative Party of Grand Island
Posted August 12, 2010
Posted July 21, 2010
When Verizon approached the town in 2007 they proposed multiple locations farther north along Huth Road that according to their radio frequency tests yielded the most coverage area. The only issue was those locations did not meet the town’s setback requirement, a requirement that not only did not exist a few years ago but is amongst the most stringent in western New York. So much so that one of Verizon’s lawyers said it would not hold up in court. At least two existing towers on the Island would not meet that setback if they were proposed now. Another new tower in the Fix & West River Road area was granted a variance to the setback requirement last week. The town also likes to cite wetlands as a reason as well, yet Verizon’s drawings show no state or federally protected wetlands at the Huth Road location.
Verizon was asked to look for alternative sites which Verizon states need to be within a ¼ mile radius of the “ideal” location. The Veterans’ Park location is over a ½ mile away. So why does the town insist on destroying the character of our park? Why wasn’t a variance to the setback pursued for the Huth Road sites? Why chose a location of the park that is surrounded by federally protected wetlands and a town “Enhanced Environmental District”? Why did the Zoning Board grant a use variance to install the tower in an “Open Space” district that doesn’t allow tower with no internal discussion? Why not locate the tower where is serves the most area? The only other reason is the lease money the town would receive if the tower is on town property. No lease has been negotiated but Supervisor McMahon has previously said the town receives about $10,000 a year for a tower, or about $800 a month.
Verizon’s own cell phone coverage propagation maps for Grand Island show that if the tower is moved that far to the southwest significant coverage gaps will exist at the north end of the Island including on the Niagara River. Not only is a coverage gap a threat to public safety, but it could result in more cell towers in the future to fill those gaps. The independent report commissioned by the town confirms the coverage gaps and the possible need for additional towers in the future. What if it were you or your family who had an emergency in Buckhorn State Park, on the Niagara River or along East River Road and could not get a signal?
The town continues to push the Veterans’ Park location despite the following reasons not to:
1. The coverage gap shown by the Verizon’s propagation maps and confirmed by the town’s independent expert.
2. The park is protected by state law against parkland alienation that requires the State Legislature passing a law allowing alienation. Both State Assemblyman Sam Hoyt and State Senator Antoine Thompson are on the record against this location.
3. The family that donated the land to the park is against this use of the land.
4. The access road to the tower is in violation of a deed restriction if a proposed Parks & Recreation building is not built that would share the access road. A building that has been talked about for at least 15 years and is no closer to construction.
5. Despite the town switching to a “veterans themed bell tower” design, the family of Lt. Col. Terrence Crowe, for whom there is a memorial to in the park, also opposes any tower in the park.
6. Opposition by over 550 people, so far, from across Grand Island who have signed the petition against any tower in the park.
7. The park location is by Verizon’s own admission outside of their alternative search area.
8. The proposed location is adjacent to a town designated “Enhanced Environmental District” and borders federally protected wetlands.
9. The proposed location is less than ¾ of a mile from an existing cell tower.
10. The destruction of one of the last undisturbed wooded sections of the park. Installation of a 125 foot tower and associated equipment destroys the character and beauty of the park.
Despite all that the town continues to push the park location, why? For $800 a month? Money that the town said would go to the general fund and not even to the park. Is it worth the risk to public safety?
If you agree that Veterans’ Park is not the location, that the tower should be sited where it does the most good please contact the town board at firstname.lastname@example.org and myself at email@example.com.
Craig J. Eddy
Posted July 8, 2010
The St. Stephen's Parish Players wish to extend a big "THANK YOU" to the gentleman that leaped into action to help when our '57 Belair blew a radiator hose in the middle of Saturday's parade. After hearing the loud 'pop', several spectators rushed over to push. This spontaneous pit crew was assembled and ready before the steam cloud dissipated. They stayed with the car until it was safely parked at the end of the parade route. Their generous efforts kept the parade moving along 'without a hitch.
Posted July 8, 2010