Previous Letters to Editor Page
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Editor or addressed to: Letters to the Editor, 1871 Whitehaven Road, Grand Island, NY 14072
Please note: I am going on vacation Nov. 22-28.
If you have a letter to submit, please have in by Tuesday, November 21st at noon.
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall - November 2017In reading the November 10, 2017 issue of the Island Dispatch, in my humble opinion the article from the illustrious Town Supervisor was appalling. Not only did he pout about his slate being swept, he stooped to an all-time low, to make the statement "even that idiot Ray Billica" is nothing but gutter tactics and confirms what an "empty suit" Nate really is.
It is mind boggling how a Western New York Company that per Wikipedia employs over 55,000 individuals and has over 2.6 billion in annual revenue could have such a classless individual on their payroll.
In the subject of this letter - Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, it is obvious that the Town Supervisor does not have any mirrors in his home or office. If he did and looked into any of them it would be very obvious who the real "idiot" is. Dave Grant
Put Ego Aside - November 2017At the Candidates night held at Kaegebein School on October 26, 2017, all the prospective candidates for Town Council were asked should the Town Board have the final decision on use of building projects in the zoning districts. All candidates agreed the Town Board should have the power to regulate building projects in order to protect Grand Island. This is very important for existing business and the population on Grand Island.
Jennifer Barney pointed out that Tourist Homes hurt the hotel and motel business and Pete Marston pointed out they should be listed in business zones. Listing Tourist Homes (Short Term Rentals) in business zones would give the Town more authority to regulate these business for the best interest of Grand Island residents. If there is a zone of record for Short Term Rentals, Grand Island could legally defend its laws in any litigation on this basis.
Nathen McMurray, in the recent article published in the Buffalo News, pointed out he is not a politician because he believes in his goals. The problem with politicians is they too often put their personal interests above what the community wants. Nathan has put his interest in Tourist Homes against what the majority of residents wanted. He violated the Town Board vote 3 to 2 in presenting West River Parkway Proposal 3 to New York State. He wants to take credit for removing the bridge tolls without addressing the issue of additional traffic problems Grand Island Residents are having getting off the island. He wants credit for the information center being built on Alvin Road regardless of the previous failure of the one at Burger King.
The Town Board is the authority for governing Grand Island's Laws and not Nathan McMurray. I believe all issues in Work Shops and Agenda Meeting when voted on should be publicly posted showing each board member's vote. Board members should be required to answer questions presented to them by the public. Also, it is important that Grand Island Residents keep track of issues and publicly show support for or show reasons why they are against them. I, like many, hope Nathan McMurray will put his ego aside and put his will toward supporting what the Town Board votes on and the issues that the majority of Grand Island Residents support.
School Resource Officer (SRO) Contract - November 2017For the record: The Proposed School Resource Officer (SRO) Contract: By Michael Madigan - Councilman
The Town Board agreed to have the Supervisor represent the board in negotiating the contract for a SRO (Police Officer coverage at the school) with the school Superintendent. As part of this approval the Town Board set clear boundaries. Those boundaries were that the position would not be full time and that it aligns with our current 19 hour part time police force and their associated pay rate and command structure.
The board, at that time, agreed it did not want to open the door to any risk of creating a full time police force. After negotiations by the Supervisor with the school Superintendent, the contract submitted to the town was not aligned with what was agreed to prior to the initiation of those negotiations. The contract instead detailed that the town would hire a full time person (SRO); provide a dedicated police car, a firearm and Grand Island Police uniform and badge for the SRO who would not be a Grand Island Police Officer. The contract creates a special peace officer position hired under a rarely used General Municipal law section 209-V (used by 2 out of 599 agencies in NY).
As per the contract the pay rate would be approximately 25% higher than our existing officers. The qualifications, as per the contract, would limit the candidates to retired past law enforcement officers with prior SRO experience - an extremely small pool of candidates (an understatement). It must be noted that police certifications expire 4 years and 1 day after retirement which adds to the question - do we accept only newly retired officers and if so the candidate pool would likely be down to one candidate.
Ethics wise it should have been disclosed that the contract was tailored around a pre-selected candidate who has prior SRO experience and is considering retirement from law enforcement in order to accept this position and who has a conflict of interest associated with a school board member. The contract was not structured in the best interests of the taxpayers, the town and the schools and would likely have to be revised if that officer decided to reject the offer, resigned from the position or went out on extended leave resulting in the need for replacement.
Note: The preferred candidate is highly qualified and an ideal fit for the position. This does not reduce in any way the need for full disclosure upfront and this would have removed the need to tailor the proposed contract around the undisclosed candidate.
The advantages of using the originally proposed two part-time Grand Island Police Officers fully dedicated to the school as SROs that would work 7.5 hour days each on alternating days include:
When looking at the advantages of leveraging the Part Time GI Police, like they do in the successful SRO program in Akron NY, vs. the creation of a new Peace Officer position, it seems to me the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. The contract negotiation remains in process. I believe many parents want a fully qualified law enforcement officer presence at our schools. I have shared my position and my concerns for transparency purposes so the public can be informed. I believe we can restart the negotiation process and reach a compromise between the school and town so that this position can be created.
Mike Madigan - Town Council
Grand Island Master Plan Survey - November 2017I recently completed the survey for the Master Plan, but have two questions about the survey, the survey design and the implementation of the responses.
(1) There was no method of identifying who was completing the survey. I understand that this is probably an attempt to keep opinions confidential, but my concern is that a person who wanted to sway opinions about what should be included in the Town of Grand Island Master Plan could complete the survey as many times as s/he wanted. This would bias the survey responses and could create a town plan that does not actually represent the wishes of the community. Is there anything in place that would prevent this? I don't know who developed the survey but am hoping the Town will look at the results and then hire a professional who has a background in statistics and survey development before any final plans are made so any suggestion of bias will be addressed.
(2) Survey development is a craft designed to get answers to questions so a plan can be developed, but professional design of a survey is supposed to remove as much bias in the questioning as possible so the survey isn't just a way to get the answers the survey developer wants to get. Blatant bias is a technique often used by politicians and lobbyists when they "ask for opinions" but eliminate any areas that might be not be to their liking. My personal inclination in those cases is to not reply, or to return the survey asking for a more intelligent and better designed survey that truly wants to know my opinion. I am concerned about the lack of any space on the Master Plan Survey to make remarks about areas of concern that are not addressed by the survey. This omission appears to make this survey biased in favor of just issues addressed in the current survey, but eliminates the ability to give opinions on other matters that would impact a town plan. How will this area of concern be addressed in future discussions of a new Master Plan?
I would welcome a response from those who are involved in the survey process and would like to know if there will be a provision for limiting the number of times a person can respond to the survey, and if professionals will be utilized in the final attempts to learn about the concerns of our community's wishes.
June Justice Crawford
School Resource Officer - November 2017Dear Grand Island Citizens:
I'd like to further share my thoughts with all of you regarding the proposed creation of a "special patrolman" position to fulfill the need of a school resource officer (SRO) in the Grand Island Central Schools. I have one word that summarizes this agreement under the current terms devised by the Supervisor's Office and School Superintendent. MISTAKE.
I attended the joint town board and school board meeting on Monday October 30, 2017 at the Grand Island Town Hall. I took note of several remarks given by Supervisor Nathan McMurray and Superintendent Brian Graham that are concerning to me as a taxpayer and as a police officer. The first item has to do with the agreement that has been written by Dr. Graham and Supervisor McMurray. This agreement was taken almost word for word from a similar contract implemented by the Town of Clarence and the Clarence Central Schools, and the Town of Elma and the Iroquois School District. Both bodies recognized the need to have an armed police officer present in their schools for the safety of the students and the community. Those two communities are very nice, but they are not Grand Island. Comparing us to them is like comparing apples to oranges.
We are very different. Grand Island has a long history of being self sufficient. We are an island after all. The agreements those two townships have in place work well for them. This is because they do not have any other choice. Neither town has their own police department. They have to rely on law enforcement services provided by the Erie County Sheriff's Office. As previously stated, I am 100% in support of establishing an SRO program here but there is simply no need to hire a "special person" to fulfill the "special patrolman" position. Grand Island has the Grand Island Police Department already in place with everything that is needed to implement the SRO program. This created position is just political patronage and a waste of more taxpayer money.
The second item concerns the legal liabilities surrounding the proposed SRO agreement. Police Officers and Peace Officers in New York State are required to meet stringent annual training and certification standards. Firearms qualifications, firearms maintenance, use of force training, police department policy and procedure updates, legal refreshers, and in-service trainings are just a small example of the things that we are required to maintain proficiency with in order to perform our jobs safely and effectively. Failure to maintain these items poses grave liability risks to the officers themselves and to the governmental authority they represent. This is proven nearly every day in the media as law enforcement officers are scrutinized for each decision that they make during critical incidents. None of the above certifications or training standards that are required by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services are addressed or listed in the proposed "special patrolman" contract as written by Superintendent Graham and Supervisor McMurray.
No firearms qualifications, no training standards, no command structure, no accountability. When asked about this Supervisor McMurray will tell you with an arrogant smile that the agreement has a "hold harmless" clause within it protecting the town from civil/criminal liabilities when something bad happens. In case you didn't know, Supervisor McMurray is an attorney and they know everything. Now, I am just a blue collar cop, with a simple college degree, but I don't know how well this agreement will hold up in a court of law when an unsupervised, untrained, and non-certified "special patrolman" becomes involved in a critical incident at one of our schools. The legal implications that this scenario proposes are astounding. With all of that being said, I do know that All of the certification requirements and legal issues that may arise with deploying law enforcement officers are covered under the current structure already in place by the Grand Island Police Department. We have the necessary command structure, regular training, policies and procedures, tools and resources, and full authority to do this job safely, correctly, and efficiently. Supervisor McMurray and Superintendent Graham...why expose the town and district to unnecessary risk? Why not just capitalize on the resources you already have?
The third element is far less serious but it does strike a more personal note for me. The agreement calls for the "special patrolman" to earn a salary of $25.00 per hour. A modest wage. 38 hours per week. No weekends, no holidays, no overnight shifts. An inside office with heat and a desk. A nice easy retirement job. Super. Uniformed police officers working for the Town of Grand Island earn $20.00 per hour. All of the part time Grand Island police officers work full time law enforcement jobs elsewhere in Western New York. This means that we spend 40, 50, sometimes 60 hours per week trying to make a living and provide for our families.
To clarify my point I'll elaborate further. On a Saturday this November the Town of Grand Island will host the annual Light Up The Boulevard Parade. Our local leaders will most likely be there to smile and wave at the crowd. My five year old son recently joined a Grand Island Cub Scout Pack. They will also be marching in the parade that evening with their moms and dads and my boy is really excited about it. I have to work my full time job that Saturday. A 10 hour shift. After I get out I'll run home to change into my GIPD uniform and then head over to the station to gear up. I won't be marching with my son that evening. I, along with the rest of the members of the Grand Island Police, will be positioned at one of the intersections along Grand Island Boulevard shutting down the road and blocking traffic. Simply put, that parade doesn't happen without us there keeping everyone safe.
If you think for one second that I enjoy spending my weekends, holidays, and evenings away from my family to serve my community then you're sadly mistaken. So why do we do it you ask? The answer is easy. This is our home. Our families and friends home. Many of us have lived here our entire lives. We take great pride in giving something back to our community despite all of the sacrifices that come with it. By paying a "special patrolman" $5.00 more an hour than the police officers working out in the rain and snow, in the middle of the night, on weekends, and on holidays Town Hall is sending a very clear message. Our sacrifices don't matter to them. To the men women of the Grand Island Police Department this is a huge slap in the face.
At the end of the day our elected politicians are going to do what they want regardless of what the taxpayers want. Despite this administration's constant chatter on social media of "I'm not like them...we have full transparency here...I do what's best for the community" their actions speak louder than their words.
I'll leave you all with this. I don't use fancy sentences or complicated words to make my stance clear. I prefer to rely on common sense and honesty. I hope what I've written resonates with you on some level. It's all true. Or as we like to say in law enforcement "nothing but the facts."
Thomas Dewey II
485b Tax Program - November 2017One of the topics at the joint town board school board meeting this past Monday was the 485b tax program. What's the 485b tax program? It provides for reduced taxes for businesses (for a period of time) who do new construction based upon a formula and their otherwise increased assessments. It's a 50% reduction in year 1 and then reduced thereafter. It's a state law and towns and school districts can opt in.
In GI the town taxes do not constitute the bulk of your real estate tax bill. County and School taxes do and at the school level each property owner is taxed at about $20 per $1000 of value for school taxes. What does this mean? It means that the value of any 485b town/school exemption is mostly found in school taxes. A million dollar project with a school 485b exemption, will save $20,000 in taxes in year 1 with additional benefits going forward.
Is this good? Well it depends on many factors including whether the business was incentivized to do the project or merely given a tax break. By law, the tax reduction cannot be given only to those who have been truly incentivized. For this reason, among others, I have voted against this for many years. I have been on the school board for 12 years.
Who cares? Well other GI taxpayers pay the difference and other existing GI businesses - who do not get the benefit pay full 100% of taxes - putting them at a disadvantage. Since the school board adopted this program a number of projects have gone forward that seem to qualify for this program. Including the new hotel development at the old Dunlop building. Is it material? I don't know. Is this public knowledge - I don't know.
Enough is Enough! - November 2017Grand Island. We are a community of people with differing views and ideas of how we want "our Island" to be. When has the fact that someone has a different idea or desire for this town become a good enough reason to verbally attack and smear a fellow citizen? Yes, our history shows that besides mild mudslinging during an election cycle, our leaders worked for the betterment of our community and did not stoop to the low levels of behavior that I have seen for the past approximately two years. Our Supervisor apparently thinks that it is a good enough reason and has engaged in that behavior regularly since he came in to office.
The latest post on Facebook by Nate McMurray in which he is berating the web site Isle-de-Grande (as if I needed to single just one out) is a prime example of how he slanders the people and businesses of Grand Island. Whether he is calling people "rude and offensive", a "fear monger-er", "pain-in-the-neck" or any of the multitude of others thrown out in the past. I, and many others, have witnessed this behavior in town meetings, in print publications and on social media; even on his Official Supervisor Facebook Page. It has to stop!
It's not that people are "hateful" when they speak out about this, I believe that many fellow citizens are just tired. Tired of a thin-skinned politician bashing others because they disagree with him. Tired of the name calling; Tired of the talking behind the back of others; Tired of the scoffs, moans and other loud noises emitting from the Supervisor while someone is attempting to share their questions, views and ideas. Just plain tired of immaturity and narcissism. This behavior is unacceptable, yet happens with an alarming frequency at seemingly every meeting.
Citizens of this town have just as much right to be heard as the man with the bully pulpit called the Office of the Supervisor. These same inconsiderate acts occur elsewhere too. Just because our national politicians are inconsiderate, does that make it okay for it to happen here? Do we want our local officials to behave in this egregious manor? If not, more people need to stand up with me and say something! More people need to stand up, allow their voice to be heard on Facebook and town meetings to say enough is enough! It's time to tell Mr. McMurray he needs to stop his behavior! By not saying and doing that, we give all who act in such a childish manner, permission to continue. I am no longer willing to grant that permission.
I want to be transparent. I voted for Nate. I voted for him because he promised a better Grand Island than what our last Supervisor oversaw. I now know that those promises were really nothing more than campaign lies and in fact he has lead us to a more divisive Grand Island. I fear that his behaviors and those who align with him or blindly follow him will continue to divide us further and making Grand Island no longer a Grand Place To Live!
In Response - November 2017There have been recent communications from Keith Tripi, signing as Grand Island Farms Cooperative Trust (a name formerly used by us prior to becoming a NYS non-profit) and from Gifarms-dot-org (website formerly used by our group) that need addressing. That name, email address and website are solely owned and operated by Keith Tripi, who is not a member nor an attorney representing Grand Island Farms, Inc. The communications share information that is completely out of context and intended to disrupt current works by the group. Grand Island Farms, Inc and the Grand Island Farmers Market support local farms and small businesses. The Board of Directors has been working cooperatively with Town leadership to promote agriculture and to write legislation (Farmland Protection Plan) that will protect aspects of farming that are currently not addressed in Town Code. Grand Island Farms, Inc represents farm owners and small business owners from all political parties. We are not a political group but we will work with whoever, from whatever party, is willing to be open, listen to our concerns and engage the community and citizens to support growth of a local and historical treasure - our Farms.
Secretary, Board of Directors
Grand Island Farms, Incorporated
Public Service - October 2017Small family-owned farms on Grand Island were included for the first time in a county-adopted state-certified agricultural district in March 2016. There are now about 90 such farms on the Island that are in an Erie County Ag district. They produce all sorts of products including meats, eggs, honey, vegetables, fruits and grains. They board horses and raise everything from fish to therapy animals.
The Town Board in 2011 unanimously adopted Town Code Chapter 145 - Right to Farm. It recognizes that farming maintains the rural character of the Town and is an essential industry that enhances its economic base, environment and quality of life. This law urges cooperation and understanding between neighbors because farming can be a dirty industry that produces noise, dust and odors, but is absolutely essential if you want to eat.
The community response to most farms on Grand Island Island that are in the agricultural district has been positive. That is due in part to an extensive screening process by Erie County's Agricultural & Farmland Protection Board to ensure that every farm included in an Ag district here complies with local law. The NYS Department of Agriculture & Markets has made it very clear that inclusion in an agricultural district does not allow any farm to intentionally circumvent local law unless the State determines local law violates State law by unreasonably restricting agricultural activity. Simply put, the process of getting into an Ag district is designed to weed out problematic businesses before they take root, and to cultivate responsible farm operations that will grow to serve their communities.
The Grand Island Farms Cooperative Trust is an association of like-minded farm owners who collaborate to uphold the integrity of the agricultural district. At core, we support small business. It is the backbone of our country, accounting for the majority of all jobs in the United States. We work together in advocating for responsible farm operations that use common sense and government resources to create safe and healthy environments that benefit Grand Island and allow farm owners the freedom to pursue their trade.
We are recognized by Erie County and NYS government for our integrity. As Mark Twain said, "Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest." We endorse integrity and outstanding public service at every level of government. Please visit our website to learn more about our experience with Public Service.
Grand Island Farms Cooperative Trust
Keith Tripi, of counsel
School Resource Officer - October 2017I would like to address an issue that has come up over the last few months regarding the "creation" of a school resource officer position within the Grand Island Central Schools. I'll start by applauding the effort to establish a police officer position in our schools. It is extremely important and beneficial to have a police officer in our schools protecting our children. It also allows the town, the school district, and law enforcement agencies to have open communication with each other and to work as a team to provide the best possible learning experience for our children.
The Town of Grand Island currently employs approximately 20 sworn and fully trained part time police officers to work for the Town of Grand Island Police Department. In the interest of full disclosure, I am one of the part time police officers for Grand Island. Each of us have full time police employment elsewhere in the community. One of our main responsibilities is community policing throughout the Town. We currently staff town police officers at all large scale community events such as Taste of Grand Island, Fourth of July Parade, Friday night football games at the High School, and most other school related functions. This is a top notch service that many towns do not or cannot provide.
My concern is that recently is has been proposed by the Supervisor's Office and the Grand Island school board to "create" a special position for a School Resource Officer in the Grand Island Schools. This created position would not be employed by the Town of Grand Island Police Department. This position would not be a certified and fully trained police officer under the New York State Criminal Procedure Law. This position would not have access to the required law enforcement tools and resources that the Town Police currently utilize every day. The agreement between the Town and School calls for making a "special patrolman" to be employed full time in the schools with a salary of $42,000.00 per year. This position would be a "peace officer" under the New York State Criminal Procedure Law. Peace Officers may be armed but they only possess limited authority to make arrests and conduct law enforcement activities. This position would only have authority on school/town owned property. This position would report to the schools and not to the police department or the town government. Basically we would be giving an armed security guard with no accountability a full time job in our schools. What happens if an incident starts at the schools and then continues off property? The "special patrolman" would have no authority to act. We need real certified police officers protecting our children and our community. There are just too many issues with this "created" position. It offers no benefit to the Town, the Schools, or our children.
Town of Grand Island police officers have already received the "School Resource Officer Training" from the NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services. To make my point clearer...we are already employed as police officers for the Town. We already work in the Schools. We are already trained for the position that they want to create. Why create this "special" position if a greater and more efficient system already exists!?
Why wouldn't the Supervisor's Office and School Board be happy assigning two part time Town of Grand Island police officers to work in the schools each week? We already are actively working there. Why not continue it? Could it be that certain people in positions of power are trying to make special arrangements for their family/friends? So much for "full transparency" at the ole Town Hall. Typical behavior from our politicians/school board. If you ask me something stinks... I encourage you to ask these questions at the joint Town Board/School Board meeting Monday October 30th 2017 at 6:30pm Grand Island Town Hall boardroom.
Thomas Dewey II
Dear Valued Voter - October 2017Dear Valued Voter:
At the core of all political platforms, should be the delivery of factual information that enables voters to make informed decisions when electing public officials. Substance, not sensationalism should be sought when selecting a candidate. Empty promises should not be mistaken for proven performance. With this in mind, I feel compelled to set the record straight regarding the exemplary work taking place in Grand Island's Town Court.
Unequivocally, Grand Island has one of the most highly regarded town courts in Western New York. This is a remark often made by attorneys, police officers and Assistant District Attorneys appearing in the Island's courtroom. I have a solid basis for comparison regarding our court's exceptional capabilities since I have frequented almost every single town and village court throughout Western New York during my thirty-year tenure as an attorney. Additionally, I have represented thousands of clients in the exact types of cases I now preside over as your Grand Island Town Judge.
With respect to the substance abuse issues facing our community, my impeccable record as an experienced Town Judge for the last twelve years cannot be understated. My arsenal of knowledge allows me to expertly identify programs and resources that are best suited for each individual. And while we operate like a drug court we do not have the official designation of a drug court. Many people do not realize that our Judicial District has certified programs in place that have become the prototype for successful treatment programs across the nation. These programs can be utilized are considered some of the best in the nation in combating addiction. I understand the value of working collaboratively and cost effectively with neighboring drug courts. Yet, despite all these efforts, the opioid problems still persist across our county.
Atop of this, I remain vigilant in my efforts to seek even better options by aggressively advocating for our town's inclusion in the cutting-edge "Opioid Court" created by Judge Craig Hannah in Buffalo. This "Opioid Court" is in session five days a week. It requires the defendant appear every day for verification of counseling and random drug testing. A negative report can result in immediate incarceration for a day or even weeks. The intensity of this program gives greater hope to the families and communities battling against addiction.
As November 7th approaches, I encourage you to rise above the hype of political rhetoric. I ask you to reflect on the incredible importance of retaining an experienced judge - a consideration that is particularly relevant in this year's judicial election because several veteran court members may be retiring in the near future. Now, more than ever, your vote for me, Mark Frentzel, will ensure experience and competence remain on the bench in the Grand Island courtroom.
The Reign of Error Continues - October 2017Until 6-7 years ago, the Grand Island Schools had a School Resource Officer (SRO), a State Trooper paid for by the State (you know, money from your left-hand pocket). Due to budget issues, it was eliminated. Now, the position is to be resurrected by the Town and the School District. My purpose with this letter is not to pass on the wisdom of creating this position, rather it is illuminate the process.
The first item of interest is that this position will be called a "special patrolman" and be appointed the SRO at the schools. Retired police officers in NYS cannot collect their pension and work for a government entity. This "special patrolman" is a loophole and allows a retired police officer to collect his/her pension as well as work for the schools. The old double-dip: isn't it wonderful. Why is this being done, you may ask. You would be SHOCKED, SHOCKED, to find out that the position already has a person identified to fill it. If you aren't shocked yet, you will be once you find out that good old-fashioned nepotism is rearing its head.
The "deal" the School Board President and the Supervisor have tentatively agreed upon (the Town board hasn't approved it yet) has the pay scale set at $25/hr. and is a full-time slot. Our Town police are paid $20/hr. Why is this position being paid more? Why aren't the Town police providing two part-time officers: they could cover simultaneous events and have coverage when one is on vacation.
The contract that has been handed to the Town Board for review is contrary to what they agreed to several months ago. The majority of the Board stated clearly they had no interest in a full-time police officer and would not support such a plan - it was agreed the contract would be designed to employ part-time officers (~19 hours) at current rates and current reporting structure. The majority of the Board gave clear instruction that the contract must be drafted with this in mind- they have no desire to open the door to hiring full-time police officers or opening the door to full-timers, as this would.
So, here we have another instance of the Supervisor acting in direct contravention to the explicit wishes of the Board. For all of his and his enablers' blathering about transparency he does what he damn well pleases and expects to serve the Board with a Fait Accompli. Grand Island isn't a dictatorship. Not yet, anyway. The full School Board needs to be asked if they are aware of the deal-cutting going on.
Back in 2001 when I confronted the then School Superintendent and School Board about the status of the capital project and the letter they had received from the State Education Dept. which I had, it turned out that the rest of the Board had been kept in the dark. We need to find out if that is the case today.
Finally, there should be no nepotism allowed. It is close to impossible to conduct any business much less taxpayer business when family are involved. It isn't as if there aren't competent people who are able and willing to this job. We need to demand answers, now. We need to hold the Supervisor accountable for his actions, as well as the School Board President. None of McMurray's smarmy retorts should be acceptable responses. This is our money that is being committed, not his or hers, for that matter.
Thoughts on G.A.C. - October 2017We, the spoken majority of seniors, that currently use G. A. C., do not want to move! We feel there is no need. Let me tell you what is so nice about the G. A. C. The center is in a parklike setting on the Nike campus. We are surrounded by nature, walking distance to the river and away from busy traffic. We have a full kitchen and stellar staff. Seniors enjoy (@$4) lunches and can have guests. The G.A.C. has a covered entry, and a roundabout drop off entry. It has a skylight lit hallway, billiards room, stage, a craft/computer room with windows on two sides. The campus also has a three hole golf course, nature trail, tennis court, baseball diamond and small toddler play set.
The buildings at the campus are well built. The Community building is on the campus. We seniors use it for Tai Chi classes, Total Body Workout, Dementia Social Group and Chair Yoga, plus other groups. The Recreation Department uses it some in the summer. Others use it also.
This all said, the building is under used. The community building needs a few updates. The seniors and others, worked with those needed, to secure funding for the building. That funding came through in November 2016. The town has neglected this campus for a long time. Nothing has been done to the Community building since the grant was given. The money is here, the need is there, let's get 'er done!
There could be discussions and planning going on. These should have been shared with those who currently use the Community building. I tried to express all of this on a community Facebook page in the past. That page had posts concerning their desire for a a new Community Complex. They want to make a Community Center that would house all demographics yet pander to those who want it to be in walking distance for their children. They feel the center of the island (old Ames plaza) or Vet park is best. I don't know how you could please everyone. That's not my concern. I just don't see why the G.A.C. needs to be involved? The campus is all bought and paid for. Doesn't the town already own enough land? If you don't want to be on the campus where we are than don't. Just don't wrap our funds up in your "cart before the horse" plans.
You know the old adage: "You can't fight city hall". I feel those town officials that are pushing for all of this, have it all figured out. That is why these "consultants" are working for "free". Are the business these folks are in going to prosper by making us purchase these stadium like new builds? Perhaps they have their own plans. I've been told they can't sell the campus right out, but who knows what they want it for. Or maybe it is just the (small) amount of funding the seniors get. They want to take that away and mix it with their needs. Now with the WR Parkway being taken over by the town, the campus is even more perfect for us. The campus is open to all islanders.
I am rather new to the G.A.C. and perhaps one of the youngest members. We have one of the few centers serving seniors a full cooked meal. For @$4 each member (guest too) can get a real good cooked lunch. Chef Barry has just signed on and folks are loving his cooking. My friend and I signed up last November/December. I was worried as some groups I've joined in the past, have seemed clickish and judgemental. No worries there. This is the largest group I've ever joined, that has been so kind and welcoming. These seniors are kind and friendly to all. I guess this type of friendly kindness comes with age. Lol
Just a word to those people on good ideas for grand island or GI2. I pray to God those kids you are raising, learn more than sarcasm & bullying. I'm hoping that it's just a case of being on Facebook and people speak and act differently, than they do in person. When you have something nice, you try to protect it. I love Grand Island. We have always intended to retire here. Can the new Supervisor say the same? Are we being used as a stepping stone for his political career or does he love the island enough to stay? If we keep building and adding, by the time he's old enough to retire, we'll be wall to wall buildings and roads.
Sincerely yours, Deb Gaudy
Let's Talk About Facts - October 2017We have all heard the story line, 40 years of construction experience. Dan Drexelius is a plumber, he does water and sewer lines, septic tanks, clears properties and occasionally digs basements. I have also never seen any of Dan's paving equipment that he supposedly uses for what his supporters claim is vast paving experience.
Let me make something abundantly clear, the Highway Superintendent, whoever wins the election, will not be coming into the office to build, design or construct roads. That is not the job of Highway Superintendent. The Grand Island Highway Department does not build or pave roads, we do not have the manpower or equipment to do that kind of work. The Grand Island Engineering Department handles that work. The Highway Department does road patching and repair, which we have been doing for decades.
We have heard many times of Dan's experience with plowing runways. Frankly, there is no comparison between plowing a runway and plowing narrow neighborhood streets with parked cars and pedestrians or main roads with traffic all over the place and in many cases, in a hurry to get in front of you and cutting you off as you are trying to safely plow the roads. Plowing where children are waiting for the bus, pets running in the road or trying to make it down a street while people have parties and cars are parked on both sides of the road making it very difficult if not impossible to get through.
The winner of the Highway Superintendents race will not be coming into the Office to run equipment or plow the roads, he will be coming in to the office to be an Administrator, plain and simple. He will be in charge of the budget, enforcement of Highway laws, overseeing the operation of all facets of the department. Dick Crawford has 22 years of experience in dealing with the Highway Department budget process, a major part of the Superintendents duties. Dick has spent the last 3 years running the Highway Department and bringing it back to the way the department was and should always be.
Dick Crawford has a strong, first hand working knowledge of the Highway Department, Highway Law, budgeting and managing the Grand Island Highway Department in a professional and respectable way. He has brought the entire department back together in a positive and constructive way. Over the last 3 years, Dick has saved the Town 10's of thousands of dollars by keeping many jobs in house as opposed to subcontracting them out at much higher prices. He has brought in new equipment to better equip us in doing our jobs and saving the Town money on a regular basis.
We, the employees of the Grand Island Highway Department represent 306 years of on the job Highway Department Experience. I feel that qualifies us to have a VERY well educated stance on who would be best as the next Highway Department Superintendent. This is the first time in over 40 years that every employee is standing behind one person running for Highway Superintendent and that person is Richard Crawford. We aren't just employees, we are taxpayers and we all see first hand that the Highway Department under Dick's leadership is running correctly and responsibly for all Grand Island Taxpayers.
Election of a Highway Superintendent - October 2017We are now in the process of electing a Highway Superintendent, a position that is extremely important to the residents of the Town. It is an independent elected official who answers only to the people, and is not politically driven. After reading, watching and listening to others, I decided to voice my opinion. As a former elected Highway Superintendent, I am as qualified or more qualified than the elected official that has voiced his opinions to the media.
Dick Crawford, for the last 3 years, has had the opportunity to learn the operation of the Highway Department from the inside out. He has run the department very efficiently from snow removal to brush pick up service and everything in between. He has a great background in government and understands the business end of the operation, which is very Important. He is very familiar with the budget process, highway law and regulations and union contract that the Highway Superintendent MUST follow.
We have another candidate who operates his own business. He claims his experience will help him run the Highway Department. Believe me, nothing would be further from the truth. His business field is unrelated to the duties and operations of the Highway Department.
The office of Highway Superintendent, when run properly, demands full time attention. He is on call 24/7 in case of an emergency. If someone is running his business at the same time, I guarantee you there will be a conflict of interest, and something will suffer. Rest assured it will not be his business. Therefore, this should send up a big red flag.
Remember what I wrote earlier, "It is an independently elected office and he works for the people and only answers to the people". Having run the department during the 1970's, 1980's and 1990's and been given credit for building and running a modern and efficient department, I am looking forward to someone to continue in the same manner and carry on and run a smooth operation. I urge all of you to review your two candidates carefully before voting. I for one, will be voting for Dick Crawford and recommend you do the same.
Norman J. Mrkall - Retired Highway Superintendent
Conservatives & Residents - October 2017To my fellow Conservatives and Grand Island Residents,
As you have noticed our Grand Island Conservative Party has gone away from its usual Conservative values. I have been a been a member of the Grand Island Conservative Party for over 25 years and was amazed at their endorsement.
I was proud to have represented the Conservative party for my 12 years on the Grand Island Town Board. During my 12 years on the town board I had the pleasurer of working with both a Democratic and Republican Supervisor and Democratic and Republican Councilmen and Councilwomen. We never consistently agreed on every issue. We discussed our differences of opinion in civil and forthright discussions. The Conservative Party endorsed Dick Crawford 5 times when he ran and represented you as your Town Councilman.
I served with Dick Crawford during 10 of the 12 years on the Town Board. I also worked with Dick when I was president of the Grand Island Rotary Club. Dick is currently Past President of the Grand Island Lions Club and was on the board of directors that was instrumental in obtaining a $75,000 grant for the Grand Island Miracle League. They out did the GI Rotary by $25,000. This is one of many projects that I have had the pleasure of working with Dick Crawford on.
The other that I'm extremely proud of is the one-million-dollar grant that we received from Empire State Development for the renovation of the Old Dunlop building. Dick along with the other members of the board assisted with the application.
I'm urging you to vote for Dick as Highway Superintendent. Dick was the liaison to the Highway Department while he was on the Town Board for 10 years. Most recently Dick serves as the Deputy Highway Superintendent and is the daily "go to guy" for the department. Dick has also received the endorsement from all the Highway department employees. Please give Dick Crawford your vote on Tuesday November 7th. Thank you.
Breaching of Tax Cap - October 2017For the Record: Public Discussion Regarding Breaching the Tax Cap.
The Town Supervisor in the October 13th publication of the Dispatch wrote "I am embarrassed by the discussion we had a few weeks ago regarding taxes. It was such a show. It was designed to scare and shame rather than promote public understanding."
At the town hearing information was presented by the Supervisor that was completely false. He claimed the Sewer fund was being depleted - a fund that has more than doubled its fund balance since 2010 - an increase of over $1M. The alleged depletion of this fund was one of the primary justifications used for accelerating tax increases above the NYS limit.
The week prior to the hearing I requested that the false information not be included in the PowerPoint presentation following confirmation that the information was false by the Town Accountant. I was shocked at the hearing when this false claim was left in the presentation by the Supervisor.
In regards to the discussion: The discussions served to educate the public. The public had the opportunity to learn that the Town has seven different funds that make up the budget and that our fund balances (reserves) are very healthy according to the Town Accountant. Since 2010 the town has consistently collected hundreds of thousands more in taxes annually than what it has been able to spend. In 2016 the town collected $760,000 (8%) more in taxes than what was spent and 2017 will be similar.
The Supervisor during the tax discussion on his blog claims that we must "Raise taxes a bit more than usual; or gut the town". The numbers suggest otherwise.
The Supervisor indicated in his article last week that he was embarrassed. My response is actions have consequence and I hope he learned from his actions. As Board members we are tasked with accurately reporting town expenses, revenues, fund balances and their associated budgets and we must take this task serious. As a Board we are tasked with representing all the folks on the Island and we should be sensitive to the 23% that recent census data suggests are financially distressed. When discussing accelerating spending (property tax increases) and by association the growth in our town government we must keep all of our residents in mind.
Best regards: Mike Madigan -Town Council
Dear Fellow Islanders - October 2017First of all, Chris and I would like to thank you for your confidence and support during our time as Councilmen. It has been a rewarding experience and we couldn't have done it without you. As most of you know, we are not seeking reelection. It is time to let others serve and for us to follow different pursuits.
We feel that it is a very important time in government that the right people are elected to represent you. Over the last 2 years it seems that the focus on representing the people has changed. We both have tried very hard to make sure the people's voice has been heard but there are times when this administration has done what they want, not what the people want. In some cases, this has cost money, your tax money, that was unnecessary. In others, it was just a decision to push an agenda that wasn't in the best interests of the residents. It has also shown a disregard for the premise that your elected officials are there to represent you, the tax payers.
It is for these reasons that we are urging you to make sure to vote on Tuesday November 7th. We urge you to support two Council candidates, Jennifer Baney and Pete Marston, who we believe will represent you the best, and make sure the Town is not controlled by a few people, but by Councilmen who will represent you, the tax payers, who deserve that representation.
Chris Aronica and Ray Billica
GI NOT Broken - October 2017Nathen McMurry's article in the Island Dispatch dated October 13, 2017, suggested Grand Island is broken. He does not understand the values of safe neighborhoods without Tourist Homes, and the country living Grand Island residents have enjoyed for years.
Retail Business' on Grand Island have a limited market, so when competitive business' are established, existing Business' profits are affected. This is one of the causes of the vacant business buildings on Grand Island. The new truck stop being considered near the Information Center on Alvin Road may hurt the existing gas stations. Will Grand Island residents' tax money be spent for sewers on Alvin road for this project?
I disagree with Nathan McMurray's statement "we need the invisible network: government." I believe workshops and agenda meeting should be open to public comments. Town Board members' votes on issues should be published. The Advisory Boards should be listened to and not ignored. Board members that have conflicts of interest should excuse themselves from voting.
A Community Center would be nice for activities for younger people but older residents should have their own Golden Age Center. A Community Center should have a sports center for our youth and be located near the ball park on Bedell Road. This would save tax dollars as the property is owned by the Town. As I understand it, seniors are happy where they are located now at the Nike Base on Whitehaven Road.
Taxes are high on Grand Island and I agree Grand Island's portion is a small part of the tax bill, but any increase makes taxes higher. I am assuming there is some grant money for the community center?
The election of council members are the future of Grand Island. Residents deserve the protection residential zones provide. All the people I have talked to in residential zones say they would not want a Tourist Home near them. Protect yourself and your neighborhood by voting for candidates who favor no Tourist homes in residential zones.
Put Politics aside and do what's right - October 2017Going above and beyond, passion and love for his community, we as taxpayers can only benefit from voting Dan Drexelius "OUR" next Grand Island Highway Superintendent.
I have known Dan Drexelius on a number of levels, initially as the guy who helped a then, young newly married couple, build our family home in 1989. Then as a community advocate, later working with him on various community enrichment projects and fundraising that has benefited a number of our community organizations. Speaking as a former Grand Island small business owner for 25 years, there is something that I learned to be true about the residents of Grand Island. They understand the value of a dollar; and appreciate hard work and skilled craftsmanship.
To put things into perspective, if you as a homeowner were going to invest into an expensive and long overdue improvement to your home, and you called both candidates for highway to look over the work. just ask yourself which one would you feel like you have confidence in getting it done? With all politics aside, we are not voting for a Prom King. The reality is that there is only one candidate with 40 years of "hands on" construction experience and that is Dan Drexelius. He is truly a qualified candidate who has actually managed drainage improvement, runway snow removal, road and subdivision construction, fleet maintenance and more.
I know that Grand Island taxpayers can understand that opportunity is knocking, please vote and put Grand Island 1st, and allow Dan Drexelius to work for "us" as "our" Highway Superintendent.
Short Term Rentals - October 2017Recently, I had the opportunity to talk to Jennifer Baney and Pete Marston by telephone regarding short term rentals in residential zones. I do not know them personally and the only contact I have had with them is a phone conversation. I was granted permission by Jennifer Baney and Pete Marston to publish our conversations in a letter to Isledgrande.
Jennifer Baney is against short term rentals, first because of the damage it will do to our existing hotels and motels, which already have a high rate of vacancies. Short term rentals will also negatively affect the new hotel being built on Long Road. She supports residential zoning be used for residential use only, not short term rentals. She also acknowledged why bed and breakfast are granted special use permit in residential zones because they are owner occupied, which provides better control of the tenants. In our conversation, she stated she would not want a short term rental near her home
Pete Marston believes in the existing residential zoning law which protects the residential use as intended, no short term rentals allowed. He believes that short term rentals should be added to and listed in a business zone, but only with safety guidelines. He also noted, short term rentals would add to the problems the growths of apartments are creating. Pete Marston believes in the country living we have enjoyed for many years under the current zoning laws. In the conversation, Pete Marston said he does not want a short term rental near his home but he would not rule out them near his business.
I am inviting Dr. Celia Spacone and Cindy Montana to address the issue of short term rentals and protecting our zoning laws. I do not know Dr. Spacone and I have talked to Cindy Montana when I attended workshop meetings. I believe it is important that candidates publicly address active issues and not just give general statements that show no commitment. I appreciate Jennifer and Peter addressing the issue of tourist homes.
Town Board Candidates - October 2017Do you want strangers to occupy a Tourist Home in your neighborhood? The fact is short term rentals are listed as an unresolved issue by Nathan McMurray. The Tourist Homes was so important to Nathan McMurray, he called Mike Madigan a coward in an Agenda forum for not voting. The current law has eliminated short term rentals, but with the election of new members of the town board, will Nathan McMurray try again to change this law?
I do not know any of the candidates and their views for representing the people living on Grand Island. I am hearing rumors there are candidates who would support Nathan McMurray on short term rentals. It is my understanding Candidates Night has been cancelled. I am asking the candidates to publicly state on Isledegrande and The Dispatch their stand on short term rentals, the closure of the West River Parkway and views on other issues facing Grand Island.
In the future, I believe the Town should post on the town website how each board member voted on all issues. What do you think? Candidates please reply on this too.
Candidates' Night - October 2017Most of you are aware that Grand Island has had a candidates' night before elections, whether for town offices or the school board. Well, this year we aren't. There was too much competition at Christmas time so the Grinch came early: trick or treat.
This year's night had been scheduled for Tuesday, October 17, since last July. The Democratic party isn't coming because of a planning meeting that has been scheduled for that night. If this sounds like a replay of the no-show by the Supervisor at the West River bike path meeting at the high school because of another (last minute) "conflict" that is because it is.
Candidates' Night is the only time where the citizens can get to ask questions and hear responses that aren't canned propaganda from the erstwhile office-seekers. One needs to ask why a candidate wouldn't take an opportunity to meet as many voters as possible. This is the perfect venue. Is it because the Supervisor and his minions don't want the voters to grill his slate that they aren't coming?
Individual candidates can still make it known that they want to and are willing to engage their future constituents in this forum. Call Reg Schopp at IsledeGrande or Larry Austin at the Island Dispatch to let them know that you want to participate. This aspect of our town democracy shouldn't be permitted to be thrust aside. The voters will be able to discern from both the questions and the answers what the candidates are made of and where they stand.
In the virtue of full disclosure I am an Independent. I don't vote in any primary. I vote for the candidate I believe will do the best. It would be nice to hear them articulate their vision rather than have to rely on some pap written by a political hack, somewhere. Demand that Candidates' Night be restored. It is our town, not the politicians.
Visitor Center - September 2017The Visitor Center is a New York State project not subject to local policies and codes. I like many, think it is a waste of tax dollars, because of the failure of the Information Center located at Burger King in the past. Also the new Visitor Center's location on Alvin Road will be impractical for tourist or truckers to stop there.
If Nathan McMurray does have influence in New York State projects, there is a possible solution to traffic problems going south at the Grand Island South Bridge. When traveling south on I90 from Niagara Falls, change the Beaver Island exit to the south of the I90 overpass bridge and change the south entry to the I90 to Buffalo from the circle by making a loop north as you passed over the I90 overpass bridge entering 190 north of the overpass bridge. Leave the Beaver Island Parkway entry to I90 as is. This would cut the traffic down at the base of the south bridge. I think everyone would appreciate an effort by Nathan Mc Murray to try to solve this traffic problem.
With all the taxes we pay on Grand Island, it is a shame that some children are denied a chance to attend preschool. What can the town do to make this problem go away?
With the coming elections I hope our candidates will listen to the residents, keep us informed; honor our existing laws, listen to the advisory boards and base decisions on what is in the interest of the majority of the public. These values have made Grand Island in my opinion the best place to live. I am concerned that personal opinions have been changing our government and the residents are not being represented as we should be.
Déjà vu, All Over Again - September 2017After having read the Supervisor's column in last week's Dispatch, I came across this on the September 24th edition of the website, Café Hayek: It is pages 372-373 of David Boaz's 2015 book, The Libertarian Mind:
My ideal community would probably not be your utopia. The attempt to create heaven on earth is more likely to produce hell, because we have different ideas of what heaven would be like. As our society becomes more diverse, the possibility of our agreeing on one plan for the whole nation [or town] becomes even more remote. And in any case we can't possibly anticipate the changes that progress will bring. Utopian plans always involve a static and rigid vision of the ideal community, a vision that can't accommodate a dynamic world. We can no more image what civilization will be like a century from now than the people of 1900 could have imagined today's civilization. What we need is not utopia but a free society in which people can design their own communities.
This sentiment is in line with Jefferson's view "That the government that governs least, governs best." (I know that there is some question whether he, in fact, ever actually uttered this phrase but it clearly sums up his views.)
We have individuals here on the Island, most recently Jenn Pusatier on IsledeGrande.com, that believe that we should (must?) do things for the seniors at the Golden Age Center, for instance. No, we don't. True community springs from the bottom up, not a cram-down from above whereby everyone is compelled to support the current cause celebre. It used to be, before special interests realized that one could coax near limitless funds out of public officials, that like-minded individuals formed organizations to further their interests. They included church-based groups, charitable associations, and other entities that enriched their lives without compelling others to underwrite it. Ms. Pusatier's verbiage is a bald-faced effort at trying to shame us into doing what she thinks is 'best.' Efforts such as this create resentment and balloon costs. Any time the government gets involved the costs of providing anything rise. Grand Island has been such a grand place because it resisted these cram down and cost-shifting schemes in the past. It is not the time to start now.
Mr. McMurray continues to obfuscate the issues with lots of irrelevant blather. He talks about the town accountant (who I do not know): "Through her diligence, our town has achieved an incredible credit rating [AA1]." Now, I worked in the Treasury Dept. of a very large company: $3B - $4B in revenue each year, it fluctuated based on commodity prices. I funded the company each day in the commercial paper market where, at times, we had over $558M outstanding, and was part of the team that issued long-term debt: $300M at a pop. I was able to devise approaches that saved the company $60,000 - $70,000 per year in interest expense, not a huge sum but not chump change, either. We also had an AA bond rating. At no time was I ever under the illusion that my actions were responsible for it. Our rating was that high because we generated substantial profits and cash flow and our level of debt was low. Similarly, the reason for Grand Island's high rating is the wealth of the Islanders relative to the level of debt it is servicing. It is shocking that the Supervisor doesn't understand that our town accountant didn’t "get us this killer credit rating." Her recommendation that we pass a law to go over the 2% tax cap is a recipe for fiscal profligacy. Have her stick to debits and credits.
Continuing in that same vein, here is another beaut: "To actually lower taxes, you need to cut services." Again, really? As new homes and businesses are built on the Island, the tax base goes up. It isn't a given that the incremental cost of providing services is greater than the incremental increase in revenues. We don't need more snowplows or supervisors, councilmen, etc. Further, why shouldn't the town work to become more efficient so that we help keep the increases in prices down?
Finally, he throws in the water and sewer infrastructure as a deal for our tax dollar. He then threatens: raise taxes a bit more than usual; or gut the town. As I seem to notice, I get a water bill every quarter, independent of my town tax assessment. This is a user fee: it varies with my consumption of water. The users of the sewer system are charged based on their usage. Other than the fact that these are monopolies with whom I have to deal, it is no different than buying gas at NOCO. You are only charged for your purchases. The sewer charge and/or water charges should not be part of the basic town budget. They have dedicated revenue sources that are tied to usage. Most of the other components to the budget are, within bounds, all discretionary. They should be examined every year to determine if they can be done more efficiently. Years ago, a chief executive at a major bank directed his direct reports to present budgets that cut costs by 40%. His thinking was that if you ask for 2%-5% cuts, the subscriptions go, as do other small items, but no one thinks about really restructuring how the business is operated. A 40% cut focuses one's attention. While I am not proposing a 40% cut, the thought process that would lead to one needs to be undertaken.
Does he want to take a Mulligan on his statement that Cuomo "has been an extremely fiscally conservative governor"? Just yesterday, Cuomo told a group of businessmen that the state faces a $4B deficit this year. (His aides say it is less.) Let's see, he has flushed $750M down the drain on Solar City, $20M apiece on these nonsensical tourist centers, and the millions spent on the thruway signs that the previous Federal administration said were illegal. Nice, very nice.
Mr. McMurray has a propensity to fill his articles with "facts" (e.g., our accountant got us a killer credit rating) that most people won't recognize as false. (It reminds me of the time the School Board in a presentation said that their fiscal prowess saved us 10 basis points (bps) on our borrowing cost or $100,000 over 15 years on a $1,000,000 loan. Sounded great. Unfortunately, however, it wasn't in the least bit true. Ten bps is equal to 1/10 of 1 percent. At most it would have saved the taxpayer $15,000. I was the only one who caught it.) He gives doom and gloom threats of how our lives will be solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short if his view isn't accepted. The real doom and gloom will be if he is allowed to squander our hard-earned money to fund his pet schemes. He needs to countered at every turn.
A Community with Compassion - September 2017On November 9th, 2017, it will be one year since the announcement that the West River Parkway would be closed in September 2017 and reopened as the West River Connector Trail in the Spring of 2018. That announcement sent shivers down the spines of thousands of Grand Island residents that made their voices heard, they were in direct opposition to closing this historical parkway and replacing it with a bike path.
Now many people that are "pro-path" think that these residents that oppose the closure of the parkway are not in favor of a path, are selfish, and are secretly hiding the river from tourists and other Islanders, but nothing could be further from the truth. A bike path sounds like a wonderful idea, but like most of Grand Island, careful planning was not used when NYS took eminent domain and relocated the properties, leaving many residents on the West River without much of an easement and therefore causing a massive safety concern as just one of the many issues with this full closure. It is hard to find a Pro-Path person that is willing to bend on the issue, even slightly, and most of these people will not be directly impacted by the closure. To them, it will be an afterthought on a sunny day to wander over and take a stroll or a ride, not a day to day intrusion, until the bike path does not look the way they want it to. Then we will never see the pro-path people again.
Many of the concerns that we have had as residents, have still not been answered with clarity and this brings me to my next point. We have been in a communication blackout. The lack of transparency from the State since this announcement is dumbfounding. Mark Thomas, along with our Supervisor, promised that we would be kept up to date on each step of the project as it moves forward. Up until this very moment the only communication that we have heard is that the project has been delayed. This is not the reassurance we were promised and quite frankly reminds me of the "bike path" in Niagara Falls that runs down to Lewiston.
Actions speak louder than words. I implore you to take the Sunday drive from Beaver Island to Lewiston via the West River Parkway, along Niagara "Scenic" Parkway. I think that we could all agree that the project attempt on the Niagara Falls location is an epic failure and NYS has no plans to work on this disaster in the foreseeable future. What makes us think that they will take greater care with us? Who will step up to the plate and protect Grand Island's beautiful and scenic parkway should this project be "completed" the way the trail in Niagara Falls was? I am afraid that our pro-path crowd will abandon us and recreate elsewhere when it is not maintained or even completed because the full funding is not there. Leaving the people that live within the confines of the project to deal with the aftermath.
I feel for our Supervisor, who has taken the brunt of the backlash for this project, when he in no way, has the power to create such a mess on this beautiful Island that we all share. I have seen him sink into his chair when he sees yet another resident stepping up to the microphone to voice their concerns over the West River Connector Trail. He is wearied of the adversity and it makes me feel terribly that he has taken this on as his personal battle. As someone who lived in NYC for a very long time, I get where Mr. McMurray is coming from. There is a great big world out there with incredible ideas and we should partake in some of them. Grand Island should not be stagnant, behind the times, or left in the dark ages, but can we work on other projects together? The town Supervisor has so much energy and such vim and vigor for life, I just wish that he would listen with more contemplation and work for all of us, not just the people that are in full agreement with him.
I implore all Grand Island residents to take the time to listen to your neighbors, friends and family. Be kind to one another and take into consideration that if someone is upset about a project in their neighborhood, that there very well may be many good reasons. Who knows how much more magnificent these types of projects would be if we were working as a united front. Truly listen to each other and let's move forward with compassion. Let's be Pro-Island, Pro-Community, Pro-Neighbor and keep Grand Island "The Heart of Niagara"!
Lou Ann Cane
Disrespect No Solution - September 2017If those overpaid prima donnas who call themselves football players don't like the USA, they can leave anytime. Disrespect for their country is not, and never has been a problem solver. If you don't believe me, ask Jim Kelly, an outstanding role model if there ever was one!
There is No "I" in Team - September 2017It will be two years this coming January when a new Town Supervisor took office. Having worked for a Western New York Fortune 300 Company 42 1/2 years it was fairly common to hear the phrase "change is good". Giving the newly elected Supervisor the benefit of the doubt, my inclination was to sit back and see what if anything would change. Pleasantly surprised he started a weekly article that appears in the Opinions Section of the Island Dispatch and was a plus for better communications. However, after several weeks went by it got to the point of having Websters Dictionary at my side to decipher some of the words he was using. There were also some analogies being used that in my humble opinion were difficult to understand as to how it related to a specific point he was making. Neither of these were in layman's terms. These concerns were passed on to his Secretary with the hope they would get to him and be viewed as positive feedback and not being critical. In other words communicate to the population in layman's terms. This took place over one year ago and if anything it has gotten worse.
If you are good there is no reason to pat yourself on the back or toot your own horn. It is by your actions and performance that individuals will know you are good without having to tell them. Being an Island resident for 40+ years, the Town leadership/elected officials has never been in such disarray and that starts with the Captain of the ship. It would appear that if something good happens on the Island, the Town Supervisor is the first one to raise his hand and take credit for it. Conversely, he has no problem pointing the finger at the individual/individuals who oppose his desired outcome. Plain and simple, he is not a team player. In one of his recent articles he stated you should vote for election candidates based on their qualifications and not party affiliation. Yet in other articles it is obvious that the majority of individuals he strokes are from the same party he is affiliated with and one might assume it will happen with the impending election in November. He really does not walk the walk or talk the talk.
In the September 15, 2017 issue of the Island Dispatch, his article contained something that has become the rule versus the exception. The word I or I'm was used twenty five (25) times. This is something you would not hear from a team player, hence the subject of the article, There is no "I" in Team.
Publishing Untruths & Misleading Public - September 2017Mike Madigan is publishing untruths and misleading the public again! I am tired of it! I sit in on every public meeting and try to listen and get involved. For one party or another...NO. I do this because I believe enough deals under the table and in the final hours behind closed doors has gone on for too long on this island. I want FACTS. I want to know first hand as a tax payer what I am paying for and who is pushing one agenda or another! Being involved allows me to voice an informed opinion, ask questions and get involved where I can. I voted for Mike, he knows this! Politics is politics and I get that! Mike has gone too far and enough is enough!
Since Mike came into office, he spent all of this time obsessing over everything Supervisor McMurray does. He panders to anyone who has a complaint. He pushes people to stand up and mock him. In almost two years in office he has put nothing forward. Instead, he is wasting Grand Island tax payer money on investigations that go nowhere and LIES. Yes, lies. The most recent set of lies is that the Supervisor wants to build a truck stop on Grand Island. I spoke to the Supervisor. He told me personally that he does not want to put a truck stop on Grand Island. He did say Loves visited the Island, but he knows almost NOTHING about it! He said yes...they've been poking around. If a project is proposed it goes before the planning board. MIKE IS THE PLANNING BOARD LIAISON! WHY IS HE BLAMING NATE?
The Supervisor fought hard for a visitor center. It will have spots for trucks to park, but they can't idle. The bus and truck spots are required by law! And there will be NO gas or concessions. Everyone should go see the Visitor Center they built on Long Island. It's gorgeous. That's the model the one on Grand Island will look like. Long Island is online and so are the plans for Grand Island! And as Madigan rages, other communities are desperate to steal the visitor center from us. If it did go to Lewiston and they got to celebrate their history, would Mike take the blame? After all if it was built in Lewiston...as NYS tax payers we would be paying for it too. Why not have the money be spent here and allow our local farmers and companies showcase their products. Along with Grand Island Pride! Thank You Supervisor for fighting for us!
One of Madigan's favorite conspiracies is regarding Delaware North. The Supervisor does not want to be a lifetime politician. Nate therefore still works for Delaware North. But as of today, Delaware North does not have a postage stamp of property on Grand Island. NOTHING! If they get some small contract later, who knows! It's a big company! But for two years now, we have had to endure conspiracy after conspiracy about how Delaware North is going to build condos and yurts on Grand Island. Yet, nothing! No public record, article, post or proposition has come to town hall with ties to Delaware North.
Mike Madigan's company, however, does have lots and lots of property on Grand Island. And worse yet, the town is building a 1.5 MILLION DOLLAR pipeline to their factory! That's our taxpayer money!!!! And Mike never said a word!. Mike is the money guy???... saving our town money?? He fights over every dollar and has argued with our professional account that has put our town in a financial envious status. No matter how many times she tells him he is wrong or that is misinformation....Mike knows better!!!! A Public Hearing was given to explain our financial standing and concerns in the next 3 years due to sewers and he was told to stop talking and listen by his peers on the board. Let the professional with years on the job talk! The GAC had to fight for pay raises and van service! Our seniors, that hopefully someday will be me, LOVE and NEED that center and DESERVE better! The Dunlop building, which Nate is getting built, needed sewers. But not a dollar of taxpayer money is spent. On the other hand, we keep talking Delaware North. Why? Because of Nate! For Mike, it's all about Nate! Show me one project he has brought to the table!! Even a meeting when someone doesn't say "its in the agenda packet Mike".
So what is Nate doing? He's visiting Mike's company and asking for an investment! Why didn't Mike try that?? What better connection do we have on this expansion of pipeline? Save us money and go fight for the taxpayers!!! The job we elected you to do! Some people think this is all about the West River trail. Nate is for it. Mike tried to kill it. But why? Was it to help his company? YES! He said so openly! He wanted more traffic and expansion! Is that the future we want for West River? But this isn't really about West River is it? No. It's about one man, determined to use taxpayer money and crazy claims to dirty the name of the Supervisor who is actually making Grand Island better. I have seen nothing to contradict my claims. It's all on record. I would be happy for someone to point out where I am wrong! Nothing has been brought to the town by our elected councilman but discouragement, obstruction, misinformation, spin and LIES.
I believe this town is better than this! We are better than this! Do we want to spend our other councilmembers time and effort playing these games for another two years? Do we want to start conducting our town hall in a professional manner and get beyond the personal attacks and egos. Tired of it! Do your jobs! What we pay for! Represent this whole town not just your personal interests. Enough is Enough! STOP MIKE! Your tactics are not helping anyone! Give us FACTS!
Supervisor McMurray, Councilman Billica, Councilman Aronica, and Councilwoman Kinney thank you for your service to this town! Please stop the madness! This is not about political positions. Its about doing your job and representing GRAND ISLAND. PLEASE CHECK THE MINUTES!!! Look up the FACTS! Watch the meetings!!!
Supervisor Completely Changing Grand Island - The Truck Stop Community - September 2017Grand Island will soon be transformed from the quiet little bedroom community known for its solitude that many residents sought out when they moved here. The quiet bedroom community is being replaced by a truck stop community.
The Supervisor has lobbied long and hard for transforming the center of our Island into a thruway rest stop featuring concessions managed by Delaware North. This rest stop includes multiple tractor trailer parking spots (a feature all tourists must have). As a result of locating this "Tourist Center" at the center of our community a "Loves Travel Truck Stop" is planning on locating adjacent to it across the road on Whitehaven. "Loves Travel Center" truck stops feature large tractor trailer parking areas, multiple showers, Diesel fuel and other amenities to attract the trucking community.
Will sewage and diesel runoff pollute nearby wetlands and properties at the heart of our community? The smell of diesel and sewage will soon be in the air: construction started on the NYS rest stop with no notice to the town (none) and with the entire Town Engineering department completely unaware of critical plans such as how the tens of thousands of gallons of waste from this site will be processed - this location is not on Sewer.
If the State's intent is to build and then force the Town into creating a Sewer district for them I would hope the town informs them that their approach was not only wrong and misguided but a costly assumption for them that will not be supported or approved by the town. Yes the balance of who is on our town board matters. Our community is being transformed rapidly - the Supervisor's vision is being realized.
Mike Madigan - Councilman
Tourist Center Zoning - Permits? - September 2017Is the new center being built in a correctly zoned area?
Was the Town even included in the discussions to build? or where?
Isn't Alvin a Town Road? Is it designed to handle the additional traffic/trucks?
Who is going to maintain Alvin? Who will benefit? Will the Town collect taxes?
Have all the rules regarding building on Grand Island been ignored?
Were the appropriate building permits filed? Doesn't the State have to to follow Grand Island Zoning laws?
Was there any kind of SEQR done? How will it impact area roads or how will it affect our local enviroment?
Is there a question of air pollution from the diesel engines? or the noise?
Directly across the Thruway we have two churches, an apartment complex and retirement home, will the noise or fumes be a factor?
Don't the people of Grand Island have a voice? Who is responsible?
The Whitehaven overpass is problematic to start with, two of the worst intersections on Grand Island.
How will the trucks or tourists even get there? Are there plans to modify the exits?
How will it bring more business to Grand Island?
Sounds Too Good to Be True? Remember what your parents told you.
What am I missing? Who might benefit from this million dollar facility, the Town of Grand Island?
Will there be commercial property taxes paid? Who might run it, who might that be?
Could there be a conflict of interest?
Town Officials your answers are welcome.
In fact how about those running for office, what is your take?
Reserve Funds - September 2017In a recent posting on Isledegrande.com Councilman Mike Madigan wrote about the Town's excessive, in his view, reserve funds: "Misleading the Public". This desire for large reserve funds is not unique to the Town. Over on Ransom Rd. the School Board lusts after every nickel they can shake out of the taxpayer. In my opinion, Madigan is too kind in his discussion.
There are a number of issues with these slush, oops!, I mean, reserve funds. While I realize that most people's eyes glaze over when talking about topics such as this, it is important to understand the issue because the gluttons for more funds are placing their bets on the fact that most people either don't have the time or the inclination to get to the bottom of it.
An obvious problem with these funds is that many of the people who were taxed to fund them may have moved before they were used. As such, they didn't get any benefit from their taxes. This, of course, brings up a second problem; that of the money burning a hole in the pockets of the Town Board to spend it. Having excess funds sloshing around is an anathema to most politicians; they want to erect something so they can get a brass plaque with their name on it. Typically, if the taxpayers were asked to vote on one of these beauts, they would turn it down soundly.
The problem of taking money from people who have to borrow at rates substantially higher than the Town or School Board is the height of fiscal irresponsibility. If shoveling money into these funds means that a person has to keep a credit card balance outstanding the mismatch is huge. The pro-funders will say that having these funds improve the Moody's or S&P bond rating. True, but the savings from a better bond rating is miniscule compared to the increased borrowing costs the taxpayers would have to pay on their personal accounts.
The town is rated AA1, the second-highest rating, and the School Board is rated AA2, the third-highest. In plain English it means that they can borrow without difficulty whenever the need arises. There is no need to maintain these funds which as I noted above: come from people who may be gone when they are used; tend to cause the moneys to be poorly spent; and increase costs to taxpayers since their personal debts have to take a back seat as does funding their retirement.
Both the Town and School Board funds should be reduced this tax cycle to the legal minimum. If there are funds that aren't legally mandated they should be eliminated outright. The individual taxpayer knows best how to spend his/her funds. Let these elected entities come to the taxpayer if and when there is a need to increase spending. Stop with the hidden slush funds, now.
Facebook Back & Forth - September 2017I own a commercially zoned property on Grand Island. It has been on the market for the past 14 months and I have had a lot of interest by entrepreneurs looking to grow their business on the Island. I have had several reasonable offers, and each of them has fallen through due to issues with zoning and classification of business type. In one of those deals, I brought my issue to the Town Supervisor and Town Board for assistance.
After months of conversations back and forth with the potential buyer we were not getting the necessary approvals to move forward. In an effort to get all the facts, and move the process forward, I called Nate McMurray, he reassured me that he would get it done. The site plan proposed by the potential buyer was scrutinized repeatedly and at one point the small business owner was questioned about the landscaping choices he would make. All the frustration and roadblocks lead to the deal ultimately being rescinded. After it fell through I was told that the buyer did not trust the town and was not interested in spending any additional time or money fighting a losing battle with Grand Island.
Fast forward several months and I am informed that in a blog, the same person that reassured me that he would personally get the deal done, is bragging that he kept "another car dealership from opening on the Boulevard". I immediately was shocked and hurt, and shared my disgust with my contacts on Facebook. At that time, Nate tried to enter in a debate about the semantics of his conversation of me and spun the truth to favor his position.
After a long back and forth on Facebook with Town Supervisor McMurray, things got even worse when Nate and Jim Sharpe decided to bring the heated disagreement to my place of business and confront me in front of my employees and customers. In my opinion, his dishonesty was wrong, but the lack of professionalism and respect that was shown when they came to my workplace really crossed the line. I know other people share in the frustration over the difficulty of working with members of our local government and hope this opens a dialog for ways to improve the process and decision makers in the future.
Naivete - September 2017As assuredly as the sun will rise in the East, Jean Clabeaux can be counted on to respond to any slight, perceived or otherwise, to Nate McMurray. In her recent missive defending him she lists some of his accomplishments and activities. And, of course, she takes a McCarthyite swipe (her specialty) at an Islander who has the temerity to voice his views (as she does): "...It should be noted that since Mr. McMurray's time in office, Mr. Goss has written 17 letters here in the Isledegrande. All of Mr. Goss' letters address the tourist homes and/or the closing of the parkway. And, all letters include some negative comment about our supervisor. Fortunately for Grand Island, Nate McMurray focuses on all important aspects of life, for residents of all ages and not just a chosen few."
She confuses activities with accomplishments and change with improvements. McMurray gushed about the Tourist Center that the taxpayers will be wasting their money on. Why is this an important aspect for anyone, much less everyone? It is a blatant effort by Andrew Cuomo to advertise himself and, hopefully from his vantage point, increase his voter totals in WNY. It would have been hard to pick a worse spot for a tourist center. (See http://www.nationalreview.com/article/451134/ny-comedy-museum-another-andrew-cuomo-boondoggle for another waste of your tax dollar.)
The cashless tolls are another doozy. While I am all for speeding up the movement through the tolls, am I the only one who has noticed the missing parts of the revision of the toll structure? There are two lanes of traffic entering the 190 from the Youngmann, converging to three lanes. However, the bridge is only two lanes. Oops. Let's not forget about the poor souls trying to enter from River Rd. This promises to be accident central. It would be interesting to have an highway engineer from some other state, who isn't dependent upon Cuomo's administration for a job, to opine on this change. All of the increased traffic will be off-Islanders clogging up the bridges. As anyone who cares to check will see, the southbound traffic at the south bridge is often backed up to Whitehaven. For those who may have forgotten there are no tolls on that stretch of road. The problem is excessive traffic. None of McMurray's suggested alternatives will alleviate this problem. In fact, they will make it worse. The toll barriers serve two very useful purposes: inducing some drivers to take Niagara Falls Blvd. and slowing the converging traffic so that there are fewer, if any, accidents.
Ms. Clabeaux asserts that McMurray "...focuses on all important aspects of life, for residents of all ages and not just a chosen few." Really? I'd say he opts for the chosen few (read: those who agree with him) every chance he gets. The Town Board voted 3-2 against the State's plan for the West River Pkwy. He didn't present the Board's view because it wasn't his. So much for representing all Islanders. His lack of transparency is well known, as is his being fast and loose with facts. Does she think that no one sees this? This isn't the children's story, "The Emperor's New Clothes". Everyone can see and aren't deluded by his machinations at Town Hall.
Misleading the Public - September 2017Knowingly and intentionally misleading the public is unacceptable and must be stopped:
In today's Buffalo News (Friday Sept 8th), the Supervisor states he "opposes depleting our capital reserves". suggesting that if we do not breach the tax cap, this will happen starting in 2018. The same reserves that have on average increased every year since 2010 by over $750,000/year.
In 2016 the over collection equated to collecting 8% more in property taxes than what was spent of the $9,700,000 property tax levy. We are taxing too much not too little. We collected >$5,000,000 more in taxes than we spent since 2010, increasing our reserves by over 100% and our finances were healthy in 2010. The Supervisor claimed at this past Monday's board meeting that "one fund is not so healthy - the Sewer fund". The Sewer Fund Balance has grown every year since 2010 and is up over 250% since then - a fact the Supervisor is fully aware of but continues to repeatedly misrepresent.
The Sewer fund has never had such a healthy reserve as we have right now - a fact. There is no foreseeable risk of depleting it. We will grow this fund in 2017 and will likely do the same in 2018, while staying at or below the tax cap based on current forecasted numbers that the town accountant reviewed with me today. Is there a potential need to breach the cap - the budget numbers strongly say no!
The real question is at what point are our reserve fund balances high enough - when should we stop growing reserves - I say we passed that point already. The 2018 budget numbers strongly suggest, based on past trends of under forecasting revenue that remain consistent, that if we go with the maximum tax cap increase we will continue to over collect in most or all of the funds - Pam Barton, our town accountant, does not deny this.
The $180,000 in additional spending being forecasted to be required for the Sewer Fund barely puts a dent in the $760,000 we over-collect annually. If there is a need to breach the cap - the Sewer Fund is being scapegoated for other spending plans in the works. As a town board member I must consider the impact of any property tax increase. Erie County reports that 23% of households on Grand Island are financially challenged. No we are not talking about just $20 as some will try to persuade you to believe. If the town breaches the tax cap boundary the schools will likely follow and the impact will be significant (the Town's example essentially gives them permission). The claimed, only $20 more, is in addition to the increase that the cap permits and excludes the impact if (when) the schools follow by similarly breaching the cap. The Town Board must roll up it's sleeves and lead by example by developing a fiscally responsible budget that maintains the tax cap and respects our resident taxpayers and their hard earned money.
Mike Madigan - GI Councilman
If It Aint Broke, Don't Fix It! - September 2017My name is Chuck Berlinger Jr. I have worked at the Grand Island Highway Department for 31 years, longer than any current employee. To all those who claim Dick Crawford is not qualified for the job, let me explain something to you.
Since November of 2014, Dick Crawford has been running the Grand Island Highway Department. In that 2 years and 10 months, the Grand Island Highway Department has been running as it should be running. Employees are held accountable for their jobs, there is mutual respect between Dick and the employees, work is getting done. The way Dick is operating is saving the town thousands of dollars by keeping many job in house as opposed to sub contracting them out to private contractors at much higher prices.
The job of Highway Superintendent does not require years of experience in the construction business, it is an administrative position. The Highway Superintendent is not out there running equipment, engineering road building or anything like that. The Town of Grand Island Highway Department does not dig septic systems, basement foundations, build roads, install sewer lines or water lines. We patch roads, pick up branches, clean ditches and install ditch pipe, Plow and salt the roads, install, fix or replace road signs, stripe all town parking lots and crosswalks and we also assist every other Town Department with tasks as well as them helping us.
The Highway Superintendent, whoever it may be, does not come in and teach us how to do our jobs, we already know them and do them. Anyone coming in to the Highway Department is the new person and they are being taught how the Highway Department works by the employees. That way, the Superintendent can send the right people out to do the specific jobs as needed. If it aint broke, Don't fix it! Vote Dick Crawford, Grand Island Highway Superintendent!
Chuck Berlinger Jr.
Help, Don't Criticize During Times of Need - September 2017It's mind boggling to think that there are those, both inside and outside of the media, who appear to be more concerned about Melania Trump's shoes than the catastrophic loss of life and property caused by Hurrican Harvey. Nevertheless, this perplexing shortsightedness by a few has already been overshadowed by an overwhelming governmental and citizen outreach to counteract Harvey's destructive ferocity. Helping one another in such times of need is, and always will be, a time honored attribute of our great democratic society. Good luck and God speed to those who have undertaken this phenomenal challenge.
GI Town Court Programs - September 2017
What three things do these four people have in common?
1. They were arrested on Grand Island.
2. They appeared in my Court.
3. They successfully completed specific diversion programs offered through our court, and put their lives back on track.
Our court offers specific programs tailored to meet the needs of individuals suffering from these issues. We also partner up with the C.O.U.R.T.S Programs, one of the best in the nation. As your town justice I have made a positive difference in hundreds of people's lives by directing and monitoring individuals into programs that give them the tools and direction they need to avoid further interactions with the criminal justice system. To infer that our court is not doing our best-is simply not true.
Mark J. Frentzel
Grand Island Supervisor's Continued Bad Behavior - September 2017Historically if a Town Board member requested an item to be included on a workshop agenda it has been included by the Town Supervisor who controls that agenda. Without any notification or discussion the Town Supervisor has started excluding items that were requested by more than one board member in recent months. The supervisor's actions are unprecedented and inappropriate.
In the most recent incident three items were requested well in advance of issue of the Workshop agenda by me. Upon submission of these requests I received acknowledgement of request receipt from the Supervisor's office. All three of the items I requested for this week's agenda were excluded from the agenda without any prior notification or discussion as to why they were excluded - as has been the case in other recent incidents involving another board member.
The items I requested were as follows:
Each of these items requires deliberation and decisions and all of these items impact the public. As per New York State open meetings law such deliberations and decision making must be done in open public meetings. The Supervisor currently controls the agenda and yes he can decide what is and what is not on the agenda. There has never been a problem in this process in the past. If the Supervisor continues this inappropriate behavior the board will need to consider changing how Workshop agendas are set.
Mike Madigan - Town Councilman
Response to GI Elections - September 2017This letter will serve as a response to comments made by Martin Goss, the writer of the letter entitled: Grand Island Elections.
Comment # 1 - Mr. McMurray disregards what the people want.
Response: Mr. McMurray's record speaks for itself.
Some of Nate McMurray’s accomplishments and activities include: a moratorium on apartment development, the preservation of green space, clean/safe environment, transparency, cashless tolls systems, the clean-up of the roundabout and planting of trees, term limits, new Holiday Express Hotel in the old Dunlop Building, Solar Law (Bev Kinney and Nate McMurray) Tourist Center, Farmer's Market, Broadband (Bev Kinney and Nate McMurray), New Master Plan, sidewalks on Grand Island Blvd., gas lines removed from 2 closed gas stations (environmental hazard), elevator to be installed in town hall (for handicap), Town Justice Center and the study of a Community Center.
It should be noted that since Mr. McMurray's time in office, Mr. Goss has written 17 letters here in the Isledegrande. All of Mr. Goss' letters address the tourist homes and/or the closing of the parkway. And, all letters include some negative comment about our supervisor. Fortunately for Grand Island, Nate McMurray focuses on all important aspects of life, for residents of all ages and not just a chosen few.
Comment # 2 - Nathan McMurray terminated Bob Strarzinski, the chairmen of the Zoning Board, because the board voted 6 to 1 against the Tourist homes.
Response: Mr. McMurray did not terminate Bob Starzinski.
Mr. Starzinski was Chairman of the Planning Board (not Zoning as Mr. Goss stated). Mr. Starzinski is no longer chairman because of a local law that stipulates that a party cannot serve more than 2 consecutive years as chairman Mr. McMurray had nothing to do with Mr. Starzinski no longer serving as chairman.
Comment # 3 Residents should study and know more about the candidates running for office.
I agree and this is how Nate McMurray won the position as Town Supervisor. Mr. McMurray's campaign platform was very clear. The people liked his agenda and voted him into office.
Hit & Run Outrage - September 2017I wanted to reach out and express my frustration in regards to the hit and run that was allegedly committed by Edward J. Kuebler III.
I am in complete disbelief that Sybil Kennedy (Grand Island Town Justice) let this guy walk out of her courtroom on only $5000.00 bail!!!! Considering what he is accused of doing, Hit and Run, and the damage caused to another human being, I am completely awe struck that Sybil Kennedy felt that $5000.00 worth of bail was adequate for the situation. I have to seriously question if she is fit to hold the position of a Town Justice!
I would also like to see the Media get a little more involved in getting some answers. This guy is a corrections officer, and there has been no mention if he has been placed on administrative leave, WITHOUT PAY, pending the outcome of the charges and a trial or plea. How is this even possible? This question needs to be asked!
How about questioning the Erie County District Attorney, John J. Flynn, to see if he is going to prosecute this case and seek the max (yes, that's a joke too...four years, I'll address that in a minute) or if he is going to roll over and accept a plea that provides minimal jail time. My guess is the latter as the D.A.'s office does not have a good track record with this. If anyone doubts the validity of this statement I'd like to remind you all of the case where Andrea L. Glinski hit Amy Stewert (who was very severely injured) and Rachel D. Baird, and left the scene of the accident. Glinski at least was held on $100,000.00 bail by the Amherst Town Court, however when sentenced on two class E felonies she wound up serving less then 18 months in prison.
There is an epidemic of hit and runs these days, and the only way it is going to stop is if New York law makers get off their butts and address the problem!! Right now, people run from the scene because they are likely under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If they were to stop they would face much longer jail sentences then if they flee!!! As far as I am concerned, they should face Attempted Murder, or Murder charges for these types of crimes. What is the difference if you shoot someone, or stab them, or run them down in a damn car? I'd love to hear a law maker answer that question!! At what point in time are Law Makers going to recognize and admit that this is a problem and address it head on?
I hope that someone will reach out to get these answers!!!
One ANGRY and Very Concerned Tax Paying Citizen
Martin J. Napier
Grand Island Elections - August 2017Grand Island's future depends on us to elect the best officials.
Many people on Grand Island have witnessed how Supervisor Nathan McMurray disregards what the people want. He has no respect for the residents and other board members that disagree with his position on issues.
An example is when the Town Board voted 3 to 2 to have the West River Parkway bicycle path be constructed between the service road and the parkway; he contacted the state and recommended the town wanted to use the parkway as a bicycle path. The Town board scheduled a community meeting at the high school to determine what the community wanted. Hundreds of residents attended supporting the board's decision to keep the parkway open, but where was Nathan McMurray? He did not respect the community enough to attend the meeting and he was at the VFW conducting a meeting to close the parkway.
Another example is when hundreds of people protested Tourist Homes, he favored creating the monopoly for a selected few Tourist Home owners regardless of the zoning laws and the numerous complaints by the residents. When Michael Madigan elected to not vote on the Tourist homes issue, Nathan McMurray called Michael Madigan a coward at the public agenda meeting. Nathan McMurray terminated Bob Starzinski, the chairmen of the zoning board, because the board voted 6 to 1 against the Tourist homes. The fact is Nathan McMurray would not have followed the rules of forwarding the Tourist Home issue to the zoning board if Ray Billica had not insisted he follow the procedure. I do not know why this issue was so important to Nathan McMurray that he would not represent the people. Will Nathan McMurray try again to change the laws to create a monopoly for some Tourist Home owners with the new board?
There are two open seats to fill on the Grand Island Town Board. When Nathan McMurray was elected many people did not know him or his values. We should know more about the candidates who are seeking to be on the Town Board. I hope the Grand Island Residents will unite with me in asking the candidates to publish their positions on the West River Parkway, Tourist homes and other issues facing Grand Island on Isledgrande.
(Editor's Note: A Grand Island Candidates Night will be hosted by the Island Dispatch, Isledegrande and the Lions Club on Tuesday, October 17, 2017, at Kaegebein School at 7:00 p.m.)
Golden Age Center Votes - August 7,2017The following provides details regarding recent votes impacting the Golden Age Center
At the August 7th regular meeting there were two items voted down by Chris Aronica and I:
1. Change the rate of pay for part time employees of the Golden Age Center from Recreation Attendant part Time Step A ($9.7/hr.) to Recreation Attendant Part Time Step E ($10.85/hr.) This request was voted down by Chris Aronica and I (Bev Kinney and Nate McMurray voted yes)
2. Hire an incremental (unbudgeted) full time Recreation staff member for the Golden Age Center - this was voted down by Chris Aronica and I (Bev Kinney and Nate McMurray voted yes)
Item 1: When I voted no I felt this motion would impact all employees in that title, throughout our town government, of which there are many. What was proposed was a new starting pay rate increase of >12% from $9.7 to $10.85/hr. Additionally, I believed, the proposed rate could have a cascading impact on other position pay rates that are set higher than this entry level position.
At the August 21 meeting the original motion was revised by creating a new grade (Grade 1A Golden Age Recreation Attendant/Kitchen Aide) that impacted only the kitchen staff at the Golden Age Center as intended. This motion passed unanimously.
Item 2: Hire of an incremental full time/full benefits Recreation Attendant. After review, prior to this no vote, of the current staffing and the organization chart I felt the incremental full time hire was not required. The budget had a Cook position that was open and other kitchen staff positions that were open. At the August 21 meeting the Board voted to Re-establish the Full Time Cook position (which was already in the 2017 budget and not filled and Barry Conway was appointed to this position).
For the record both of the items that were voted against at the August 7th meeting were replaced by more appropriate motions that were better targeted to address the issues being addressed.
Mike Madigan - GI Town Councilman
St. Stephen Vacation Bible School Cancellation - August 2017We write in response to the St. Stephen's 'Vacation Bible School (VBS) 2017' bulletin insert published August 20, regarding the program's cancellation. Publishing a letter in the bulletin is not an option for us, so we'll attempt to correct the record here.
St. Stephen Vacation Bible School (VBS) was cancelled because office management permitted a funeral in the Old Church, space reserved for VBS preparations and program, just a few days prior to program opening. VBS is a massive undertaking, with theatrical set pieces and extensive decoration. This interruption during essential 'tech week' was unnecessary, given the New Church's availability for a funeral, and proved insurmountable. All of this could have been prevented by more thoughtful, proactive support from the parish office. We ask: Do you think the VBS volunteers are looking for trouble? We are definitely not. Also: What if that same funeral were requested just 3 days later, when the children were attending? What then?
Many of the points made in the pastor's letter are half of the story, and a few are totally incorrect. Yes, the office did offer for Maintenance to take down and reset the VBS 'Maker Fun Factory' themed set, but only after we admitted in exasperation that the interruption would force us to cancel. Prior to this, we were scolded, and told to remove and reset it all ourselves, on short notice, with too many other jobs still left to do.
We expected, in good faith, for the sake of the ministry, that parish management would protect VBS from such an issue. It simply did not. Maybe a professional contractor could endure such an interruption at such a time; but a small group of inexperienced volunteers, many of whom are seniors, some with mobility issues, could not. This fatal miscalculation was a direct result of parish management's disconnect with the VBS ministry.
It should be known that we ardently wanted to run the program. Teens were now stepping up to help make the insurmountable possible. Yet, a mind-boggling prime issue remained. Without total trust that the reserved space would go funeral-free during program week, it was too great a risk. A letter from volunteers seeking apology and assurance went unreturned.
This mishandling is sadly only reinforced by the pastor's letter. Truly, it is a nutshell display of the very approach that ultimately crippled VBS: dismissive, accusatory, incorrect, unhelpful. Our urgent request for a meeting with the pastor the night we were broadsided by the funeral notice went unreturned. He remained unavailable. Even after the closure report, a pastoral, de-escalating approach would have been welcome: to call a private meeting with us, for the purpose of coming to an understanding and moving forward. Instead, the pastor did not respond to us directly, but instead he responded to the resulting scuttlebutt, and via the parish-wide bulletin. So, a majority of parishioners got only half of the story. In this, VBS' account was framed in the worst possible light. He even chose to publish the contents of an obsolete, private email that may have been aimed at his self-defense, but in the process vilified VBS volunteers and drove a wedge. By his own actions, the pastor has exposed just exactly what is at issue here. What's worse, we have learned that VBS is by no means the only ministry having these kinds of difficulties. The question is, what is to be done about it? Our hope is, and has always been, something communicative and constructive.
For a copy of the VBS closure report referenced in the bulletin, email Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dave and Mary Anderson, Mary Pascucci, Liz Zilbauer, Jim Maul, Florence White & Other VBS Committee members
Thank You Sam Long's Landscaping - August 2017I'm writing to recognize and thank Sam Long's Landscaping for outstanding customer service. They've done both a major excavation project and, most recently, a very minor plumbing job for us. It didn't matter the extent or urgency of the job- They were relentlessly pleasant, courteous and willing to go above and beyond what the job called for. Their expertise, efficiency, regard for customer needs, flat-out friendliness and generosity go unmatched. You simply do not find this anymore with so many busy contractors. Thank you Sam Long's!
Who or What is our Town Supervisor? - August 2017I am a lifelong resident and a senior citizen of Grand Island. I feel that I finally need to write this letter. Enough is enough.
I have been very active in the efforts to keep the West River Parkway open, I feel for the better of Grand Island and my lifelong neighbors. I again have worked effortlessly trying to get the Tourist Homes on Grand Island closed. These homes are by our Town Laws illegal, but the town is refusing to enforce that law. We know for a fact that these homes have housed Human Traffickers and Registered Sex Offenders. I have had personal confrontations with people who have stayed at the homes closest to me. Why is our Supervisor not enforcing our laws?
When I first met Mr. McMurray, he seemed relatively calm. Mr. McMurray asked me to meet with him in his office after one of the many town meetings I attended. We were on the opposite side of the fence with these issues. In the meeting he told me how he wanted to first of all tell me what "A well-spoken, well dressed, and classy lady I was". While someone might think this was compliment, I did not. He told me that sometimes he does not come off very well. I replied "You come off as an inexperienced young man," and stated that I was old enough to be his mother, and was here only to discuss the issues.
Time went on and I witnessed Nate's behavior in the continuing saga of our issues border on manic. He thought nothing of SCREAMING insults at his own board as well as constantly interrupting and ridiculing anyone who opposed his way of thinking. On several occasions he has approached me in public with the agenda "that we should become friends ", that "I am such a classy lady". Just who does he think he is talking to me in that manner? I truly find his comments insulting. Is that his way of making friends?
Last week I attended the Workshop Meeting first and following, the Town Board Meeting. After several hours, and in sheer frustration and disgust, I regrettably told him that I was sick of him berating our other Town Board Members. That he continues to insult them by calling them names. Insulting their intelligence etc. I felt his continued berating articles in the Island Dispatch and The Buffalo News might be better spent addressing true concerns of the citizens of Grand Island. Example; more information regarding the monies spent for the new Sidewalks, $400,00.00 for fiber optics that will not be available to the citizens and the new so called Information Center that Governor Como is spearheading. He made some comments to me and FINALLY said I was in fact just tired of his "bullsh-t". He told me to sit down or I would be removed from the meeting. I sat down. He went on to say that he was tired of people attacking him ... hmm, makes me wonder.
On Wednesday of last week I walked into the high school for a public meeting regarding the Town Master Plan. As I entered the high school, I was immediately accosted by Mr. McMurray. He was loud, extremely vocal, and disrespectful. As I walked in the front doors he started to berate me. "And you" he shouted, "I found out who you are and what you are about the other night". "Ms. Nelson, I am warning you, that I will ban you from town meetings if you say another word!!" I replied that he was harassing and threating me, and more then several times told him to stop talking to me. Also, I informed him that his verbal attack was unacceptable behavior. He continued to threaten me as I walked down the hall toward the cafeteria. His response was "you can go into this meeting, but if you say one word, I will have you removed." I said he did not have the right to attack and threaten me. His response to that was, "As long as I sit in "THAT SEAT" I do." Not only was his behavior harassing it was very threatening. His behavior continued in his singularly disrespectful tone.
Later as I left the meeting he continued the same disrespectful, loud and threatening manner. His comments as I left were "I will pray for you, Ms. Nelson, I will pray for you ", and again that "I will remove you from my meetings ." This was repeatedly said until I left the building.
It was truly upsetting, to say the least, that the Supervisor feels that this is the correct manner in which he should conduct himself with a lady who is a senior citizen, as well as his entire constituency who oppose him. We are not in a country that is controlled by our elected officials, we are in America. Someone needs to inform our Supervisor that he does not control everyone that sits on our Town Board, nor the people of Grand Island!! In spite of our opinions, no one should have to go out to a meeting in fear of being accosted by anyone. The Supervisor needs to find a way to behave in a dignified manner, which is demanded by his position in this community. I find his behavior appalling and embarrassing to the Town of Grand Island.
No Need for Community Center - August 2017I am currently the Chairman of the Grand Island Republican Committee. The committee neither agrees nor disagrees with the following opinion. They don't even know that I'm writing this.
I was one of the 50 or so attendees at the Town Hall meeting on July 18th at the high school. The first meeting was in the theater. After about a 1/2 hour of a presentation by the Planners about what was going to determined during the breakout session, we went into the cafeteria and broke up into groups of 7-8. Yes indeed, this was a feasibility study on what we would want in it if it were built. Those were the ground rules. Any comment that did not fit into that pre-established framework was discarded.
Someone suggested a theater so that people could have plays. I said that 1/2 hour earlier we were sitting in a vacant theater. The moderator said "Sir, remember to limit your comments to what you would want if we built a community center." Someone said a community pool. I said that there is one in this building. The moderator said "Sir, remember to limit your comments to what you would want if we built a community center". I was not the only one that was steered back to the purpose of the meeting. As a matter of fact, all of the "cool" things that were dreamed up: basketball courts, arts and crafts, fitness, meeting rooms, theater, pool, and more, were all under the roof of the building that we were in. Duplicate facilities also exist in the other schools.
As a long time Grand Island taxpayer, I see absolutely no reason to pay for this twice when I've already paid for it once. You know what the moderator said. The only thing that we don't now have is an ice rink. Before people get excited, investigate not only the cost of the building and refrigeration equipment, but also the cost of maintaining and running that equipment. The rink in Niagara Falls gets its entire operating budget from the Greenway Commission, because the city can't afford it.
There were other things that were mentioned, yoga, fitness center, daycare, coffee shop, pastry shop, arcade, etc. My comment was, since when is it the business of government, to compete with existing businesses, since all of this already is available through the private sector in our community? You know what the moderator said. The bigger question is, of the people that are in favor of the community center, how many of them would use it? The town board has put the cart before the horse because they are doing a feasibility study before doing a market survey to see if anyone will actually use it. I will use the library as an example. I am a huge supporter of our libraries. I believe that we need libraries. I don't mind paying for the libraries. The benefits of having a library greatly outweigh the costs. Anymore, I never go to the library. I buy the books that I want to read.
When I spoke to the supervisor about this over a year ago, he said that "the kids don't like school, we need a separate facility". I've been coaching 10-16 year olds for 17 years, and there is one thing I can say for certain; kids don't like anything, including, sometimes, their own ideas. As a taxpayer that has already paid for all of this, I really don't care that they don't like something. It is not my problem. Suppose that we build them the Taj Mahal and they don't like it? As a coach, every year I have to convince them to like being coached, and like being coached by me. That is my problem to solve.
I have heard comments from citizens that we need a place to gather, meet, and serve as a community hub. In the old days, those places were the churches and schools. Maybe we should start a new campaign, "School is Cool". We can use the facilities that we have already paid for. The High school/Jr high complex can be the main facility, and the 3 elementary schools could be satellite facilities.
Shared services have become a "fashionable" means that local governments use to slow tax increases. When the Assessor in Tonawanda retired, Tonawanda and Grand Island entered into an agreement to share our assessor and share the costs. Clarence schools share their busses with adjoining school districts to reduce costs. Why can't we, as the taxpayers and the owners of the schools use those facilities, and since we also own the town, demand that those facilities be shared, and they can figure out how to do it?
When one looks at government and its role in our lives, there are certain things that the government is expected to provide to the citizens. On the Federal level, these are specifically outlined in the Constitution, even though, today, the Federal government in engaging in many activities that the founders never intended were the responsibility of the federal government. On the local level, what do we need? Police and fire protection, garbage removal, water, sewer (for some of us), schools, snow removal, roads repaired, and I am sure that I forgot a few. I think that I can safely say that for most of us, if we have those few things, without interruption, we really don't pay much attention to our local government. Everything else that we get from the government are things that some people want (whether a large or small group people).
There is one truth about government budgets: all of the taxpayers pay, not some, all. When the government decides to increase taxes to pay for a new service, the question must be asked; since everyone pays for this, will there be enough people that will benefit from this to offset the confiscation of money from those who didn't benefit from it, or is it a service that the government must provide (senior center, library, etc)? If only a few people benefit, and it is not a necessary service, then it is not fair for everyone to pay. There are services that our town provides that are no longer necessary, or they are a convenience for a few that uses those services. I don't believe that we should all pay for services that are no longer needed or are a convenience for a few. If we didn't live in the 6th highest property taxed county, out of 3144 counties (or county equivalents) in the U.S., I wouldn't be writing this.
If we, as a town, have no clue how many people are in favor of this, and of those how many would use it, and how often they would use it, then why are we debating what will be in it?
Keep Up With Times - August 2017The Mark Pigeon letter has been removed.
After several attempts to reach the author Mark Pigeon we have determined
he doesn't exist and it was written by someone interested in making a statement with an undisclosed identity.
If you are Mark Pigeon or know how we can reach him, please email, Jodi@giecom.net.
It is important that we make an effort to validate all letters that are submitted.
No Way to Run our Town - August 2017Supervisor McMahon called an average of 112 Board meetings per year and Mary Cooke called 128 meetings per year. In 2017 year to date, we have held 34 meetings - a rate that suggests fewer than 55 board meetings will be held this year. Yes the Supervisor and the Board are still collecting our full paychecks.
The Supervisor is the only person with the authority to schedule a board meeting, it is his responsibility. Most decisions can't be made by the Board, as per NYS Municipal law, without it being done in an open public meeting. Inaction (lack of decision making) has consequences and the Town Government has spiraled into dysfunction due to the lack of proper management.
The Board has been dealing with a rash of people quitting and retirements. The retirements were announced months in advance and to date none have been pro-actively managed. The lack of proper management and the associated turnover has created significant organizational stress and confusion.
Board members have expressed concerns directly to the supervisor, through e-mail and now, regrettably, publicly. The Supervisor responded to this feedback first by refusing to schedule meetings and now by lashing out and scheduling a 7 hour meeting Aug 14th directed at the Department heads, a mandatory meeting, dragging all of them into the dysfunction.
Compounding this situation is the lack of information sharing. Often items have not appeared on the agenda so preparation is not possible. The Supervisor shares critical information with one member of the board but not the other three Councilmen - information only he has access to and which he chooses to withhold. By withholding the information poor decisions are made impacting our town.
The Supervisor is the only person with the authority to schedule board meetings. The lack of meetings and associated pro-active management and decision making has had a significant impact on the town operation. Historically all 5 town board members have come to a consensus as to when, all, or the majority, could meet and then set the meeting. In the past this was not a problem. This is no longer the case. The public needs to be aware of what is happening and that there is a consequence.
Councilman Mike Madigan
Online Get Well Card - August 2017On June 13, 2017 my friend Dana Papaj was walking her dog on East River Rd. in Grand Island and was involved in a hit and run accident. Family, friends, and those who do not even know her are sending their prayers and wishes for a healthy recovery. My name is Lisa Dudley and I wanted to do something for Dana. I first met Dana in college many years ago and then it turns out we had daughters in the same grade. Dana always lights up a room! This page is for you to send Dana some love, tell a story about Dana, or just let her know you are thinking about her, an ongoing get well card to support and inspire Dana that her daughters and husband will read to her. Dana is a wife, mother of two beautiful daughters, a new grandmother, an aunt, cousin, a friend with a heart of gold. She is always showing her caring ways to others, now it's time to give it back. Please share so we get lots of messages to Dana. Facebook page.
Taxpayers Are Being Cheated - August 2017Taxpayers are being cheated when the Supervisor does not schedule workshop meetings to address issues that need immediate concern. He is paid a full-time salary along with the four councilpersons who receive part-time salaries, and taxpayers are not getting their monies worth.
It has been almost three weeks since our last meeting and there are many issues that need to be addressed, including the most important and pressing issue of replacing the Town Engineer who gave us notice over two weeks ago that he was retiring August 30. A viable plan for that replacement/transition has not been discussed to this date. In addition, the department head for the Code Enforcement office still hasn't been named, and it has been more than four months since that department head gave us notice he was retiring, and over one month since he retired.
Many emails have been traded with times and dates when council members can attend. Yet the Supervisor refuses to schedule a meeting. What are you taxpayers paying us for? Will it take, for the first time in recallable history to invoke Town Law 62 that reads in part: "The supervisor of any town may, and upon written request of two members of the board shall within ten days, call a special meeting of the town board by giving at least two days notice in writing to members of the board of the time when and the place where the meeting is to be held"?
Past Town Boards have never had this problem with many workshop meetings, held between the two regular meetings held each month, being scheduled to address issues that constantly come up. This lack of ability to meet and address issues affects all the people of Grand Island and shouldn't be happening. I hope this trend doesn't continue as it is a disservice to all taxpayers of Grand Island.
Raymond Billica - Councilman
The Real Issues Surrounding the West River Bike Path - August 2017Two weeks ago, Councilman Mike Madigan had posted on this website a letter he wrote to Mark Thomas of the NYS Office of parks. The letter asked if he would "Please confirm that the Parkway Closure plan has been canceled. The lack of any response by you or the State to address the Town of Grand Island and its residents' serious safety concerns, after committing to do so at the November 2016 meeting (no traffic calming plans or plan of any form has been provided as committed) supports the conclusion that this project has been canceled."
The response, also posted on this website was quite telling. Mr. Thomas said (among other things) "...Our public process regarding this project is complete. Throughout the project planning we have exceeded the required public input sessions and continue to take into account the community concerns expressed as we advance final design..." Really? They 'have exceeded their required public input sessions!' They even have a quota for dealing with their employers (that's us). The contempt with which the State views the taxpayers and citizenry is appalling. One would be excused for believing that these public input sessions were nothing but spleen venting events so they could check the box that they had 'listened' to the concerns of the public. The highhandedness is so typical of the State.
Mr. Thomas also questions the existence of a "legal contract." Why aren't I surprised that the State doesn't acknowledge the existence of a legal contract? Both the State, via Mr. Thomas and Mr. Peters, and the Town Board signed an agreement in 2014 committing both sides to the project. Isn't the State's word good?
More importantly, though, is the abuse of the law. This would make a great topic for Civics class (do they even teach Civics, anymore?) The West River property was taken under the Eminent Domain law. This is the power of the government to take private property and convert it into public use. The Fifth Amendment provides that the government may only exercise this power if they provide just compensation to the property owners. Implicit was the idea that the takings served a critical social purpose. The original idea was that one property owner shouldn't be able to stop a water or sewer line or make a roadway go miles around. Most instances were narrowly construed, as they should be. In recent years, though, states have used it to take property from individual A and give it to individual B, blatant cronyism, culminating in the obscene Kelo vs. City of New London [Ct.] Supreme Court decision in 2005.
In the West River case, the State (read: Robert Moses) wanted to have a parkway. They used the law to acquire the land. The reason they gave was for a scenic parkway. On this (rather flimsy) basis, they were able to succeed. Now, they want to convert the parkway to something else. That wasn't the deal. What is to prevent them from taking land in the future under one pretext and, then, at some point wanting to do something else? The initial reason may have been a ruse all of the time. The reasons are immaterial; the point is that they acquired the land under false pretenses. If they knew that they could only use it for the stated purpose they might be a bit more judicious in their use of this law.
The overriding question is whether the citizens are in charge of the state or a cronyist CABAL is; what one writer speaking of NY's government back in the mid-1980s called "the insiders' commercial party." Mr. Thomas' response: "exceeding the required public sessions" speaks volumes about the State's attitude about who is in charge. Our rights are only what they choose to allow us. This is no different than the attitude that the Lord High Executioner, (oops!), I mean Mr. Justice Francis had when he told the parents of Charlie Gard in the UK that they had no rights. The State's view overrode their parental wishes (with their own money, at that!) Government is a necessary evil but it needs to be on a very short leash.
Back in the day when my classmates and I took Civics we took to heart Abraham Lincoln's closing lines from his Gettysburg Address: "...that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." Those words: of, by, and for; are becoming more and more quaint as time goes on. The State views itself as our superior, not our employee. Every time we acquiesce in just one more situation we lose more freedom and control over our lives. One day we will look around and wonder whatever happened to the freedoms we once had. It won't happen all at once; that would evoke a strong rebuttal, but slowly it can happen.
In banking, those of us in credit referred to it as "boiling the frog." If you threw a frog in boiling water it would know something was wrong and try to get out. Being coldblooded, though, if it was put in tepid water, it would be fine. Turn up the heat a bit and it would adjust. Turn it up some more, and it would adapt again. Eventually, the water would get to the boiling temperature, at which point the frog would die but it would have felt good the whole time, not aware he was being killed. We really don't want to go the way of this frog, do we?
Now, a few observations on the project itself. The State's whine about expense is bogus. Both parkways could be maintained for less than $100,000 per year plus fuel and equipment depreciation. This would get 5 college kids working 26 weeks. This is what was done in the 1960s and the parkways were pristine. It would take a plow 30 minutes @30 mph to plow the 6 miles of West River that are left unplowed, down and back. The Carey administration made a very self-serving decision in the late 1970s having the DOT maintain the parkways. Here we are 40 years later and no one in Albany is willing to admit that it was a mistake.
With respect to the bike path who is going to use it to justify the upheaval? People aren't going to bike over to the West River so they can bike on the West River. Doesn't driving there so they can bike defeat the purpose? Riding on the parkway before mid-May is awful because the winds off the 40-degree river make it very cold and unappealing. In the Fall, the winds and short days make it unappealing. So, we are down to four months. One can only bike from sunrise (right!) to late afternoon because the bugs get unbearable, then. In essence, there will be a huge disruption for minimal benefit. The resources should be spent more wisely creating bike paths on the mainland where, believe it or not, most of the citizenry of WNY live.
There is still time to stop this expensive fiasco, if we only have the will.
Don't Close Parkway - July 2017The plan to close the West River Parkway ranks among the top wrong headed plans I know of. It's obviously used by vehicular traffic to a far greater extent than closure proponents would have us believe. All you have to do is keep track of cars parked at overlooks to see the truth of that. And many are from out of state, meaning potential tourist income for Island businesses. This bike path proposal is not even a bad joke. Legislators, thinking we're stupid, feel we'll get distracted by this, making it easier to rob us of our parkway.
As one who has biked in the West River area, please trust me WE DON'T NEED A BIKE PATH. The "WHY" of the reasons I say this is not even worth discussing. I have had a word with Supervisor McMurray, a strong proponent of closure. I briefly discussed this and two other issues with McMurray. I gaged that we were eye to eye on these two other issues. I feel McMurray's position is more about a political need to fall in behind powerful state political forces, probably looking for ways to decrease spending. Maybe he owes political favors - happens all the time. Who knows? At any rate, I strongly oppose closing the West River Parkway.
Is It Really a Done Deal? - July 2017Councilman Mike Madigan recently initiated communication with the NYS Parks Department, questioning the department's follow-through regarding the proposed plan to close West River Parkway. Critics on social media have labeled Madigan's persistent efforts to respond to constituent concerns regarding the proposed parkway closure as inappropriate. Their criticism is based on the supposition that the state's decision to close the parkway is "a done deal" and will not be changed, regardless of efforts on the part of citizens or their elected representatives.
Many may recall another situation quite a few years ago, when the Defense Department announced the decision to close the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station. Rather than accept the official announcement as indicative of "a done deal," area elected officials responded to constituent concerns and launched a bipartisan effort to keep the air base open. As a result of the persistent efforts of citizens and lawmakers, the NFARS continues to maintain an integral role in national defense and continues to provide significant economic benefits to the Buffalo-Niagara region. This would not be the case if elected officials had failed to act in a situation that could have easily been perceived to be "a done deal."
Parkway Closure, Broken Commitments - July 2017Thomas Responds: Parkway Closure Plan Delayed but not Cancelled
NYS Parks Mark Thomas responded Tuesday, July 25th to my inquiry whether the Parkway Closure plan was cancelled or delayed. As per Thomas it has been delayed - the plan as detailed in August 2016 (Aug 5, 2016 meeting minutes) had the project bidding starting in the second quarter of 2017. As per Thomas the bidding has not yet been started. Thomas hopes to start the bidding in the 4th quarter 2017 and start construction in the Spring of 2018.
In his response to my letter expressing concerns regarding breaches in the contractual agreement by him and his Department to the Town and its residents - Thomas states there is no legally binding contract signed. Apparently his argument is that the signed agreement is not legally binding and therefore any such signed commitment or agreement by him, his office or NYS is not worth the paper it is written on. This is unethical and abusive government.
I will not get into a debate with Thomas whether he is legally bound to the signed agreement committing him and NYS to work as a partner with the Town Government, to meet with the Board a minimum of quarterly to plan, design and execute this project and it requires mutual agreement and a signed amendment by NYS and the Town for any project scope changes. The current scope places the path between the river and the open Parkway.
Thomas has broken the commitments made in that signed agreement. The town rejected Thomas's plan and approved the plan to place the path in the median, Thomas has refused numerous requests to meet with the Town Board (we have met once in 19 months as a board with him) and no amendment has yet been submitted changing the scope of the project to include closure of the Parkway - a significant scope change. These actions by him and his department are all breaches in the commitments made to the Town of Grand Island and its residents. Such breaches in trust should have consequences.
Due to Lake Erie? - July 2017It may be due to Lake Erie. After all, the Detroit Lions, Cleveland Browns, and Buffalo Bills find ways to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory that other teams don't seem to do and that we could never conceive of if we didn't watch it unfold before our eyes.
I am not referring, though, to anything as Olympian as pro football. No, I am speaking of that other blood sport here in WNY: politics. In our congressman, Brian Higgins, we have the sine qua non of a pol who never does what he was elected for. In Albany, he was worried about matters that weren't in his purview and, now, as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, he focuses his attention on the Inner Harbor in Buffalo; an activity that more properly belongs with the mayor of Buffalo, the County Executive, and our profligate friends in Albany. We have issues with health insurance, taxes, illegal immigration, etc. but nary a peep out of Higgins about them.
Here, on Grand Island, we seem to have spawned a clone of Higgins in our very own Nate McMurray. He wants to get involved in matters that belong to the State: to wit, the West River Parkway, which is part of the NY State Park system. He has no say beyond that of any of us as citizens and taxpayers. However, he gets lots of ink talking about "free" things.
On the other hand, he ignores real issues on Grand Island. East River Rd. is a wreck from Stony Point to Staley. Why isn't he working with the county to fix this? While it would require improving the shoulders and scraping away the current blacktop, it doesn't require inventing a perpetual motion machine for it to be accomplished. Putting in a decent road with shoulders would require two passes by the road laying machines. Granted, it won't get a brass plaque or have the school band there to rev up a crowd while he drones on, but it will improve the safety and convenience for those who use it and pay lots of taxes.
One might argue that this will only benefit a fraction of the Islanders. Ok, then how about doing something about the water system? It is another wreck. On West River there are leaks numerous times each year which implies that gallons are being wasted. I am told that on the other side of the Island it is worse. One of these days, there will a pressure issue and the fire company will be consigned to bucket brigading out of the river. Again, no one sees the water system, but we all use it. This is a multi-year, expensive project but it needs to be done.
It would be nice to have our elected officials do what we pay them to do, not what get them publicity.
Get a Grip - July 2017In a recent article posted on IsledeGrande, "Reflecting on a 19th Century Judge," our county legislator, Kevin Hardwick, was lamenting that if we didn't give in and let NYC get their way our sales tax rate would be cut. Boo Hoo. Then he lamented that the move to make Albany do what every other state does: pay all of the Medicaid costs out of the state budget, not offloading half of the state's share onto the counties; would again cause the four horsemen of the apocalypse to ride roughshod over us.
Did it ever occur to him that maybe, just maybe, the county should cut its profligate ways. Start with the sports arenas. It was published last week that the Bills' cut of NFL revenues, not their game day revenues, is $244M. Why do the richest people in town need a dime of subsidy? The geniuses at county hall can't even get a contract that says all home games will be televised locally. The schmucks who advertise would probably like to have more people see their ads. Instead, we roll over whenever they threaten to leave. Guess what? If a vote were taken, as much as people like the Bills, they aren't interested in subsidizing rich folks.
One can go down the line on waste: we do things that are not appropriate tasks of government and, in others, we grossly overpay. The problem is that politicians only pay a fraction of the cost but are beneficiaries far in excess of their costs. They also like to read nice things about themselves in the Buffalo News. They make good additions to their scrapbooks.
If Albany was forced to cover all of the Medicaid costs maybe, just maybe, they would look at the waste in it. NY, up until a few years ago (I don't know if the numbers still hold but it will be a close approximation), spent more on Medicaid than Texas and California combined, even though, combined, they had triple NY's population. Rockefeller checked every box on the options list. It is no wonder no firm will locate a plant here unless they are lavished with taxpayer money. The net outmigration of millennials was the largest in the nation, even outdoing Illinois. The seed corn is leaving town.
There doesn't seem to be an understanding that people respond to incentives. If you keep throwing money at them, they will take it. If you stop, they will devise ways to survive. People don't need and can't afford to have the government continue to spend their money. STOP!
Highway Department Input - July 2017I would suggest that when deciding who to vote for in the Highway Superintendents race on Grand Island this year that you find a Highway Department Employee and talk to them and see what they have to say. I have been with the Grand Island Highway Department for 31 years, the longest of all Highway employees. This is the first election in my 31 years where the ENTIRE department is firmly behind one candidate and that is Richard Crawford! We have never had everyone agree on the same person in any election in the last 31 years at least. Richard Crawford has brought the entire Department together since he has been there.There is a mutual respect between Richard and all the employees, something I haven't seen before. The Grand Island Highway Department is running very well, efficient, safe and professional under Richard's direction on a daily basis.
Grand Island Community Center Questions - July 2017As the issue of a Grand Island Community Center is being pursued it is important for the taxpayers to be informed and able to participate in the processes of exploration and decision. It is with respect to the principle of transparent governance that the following requests are being made to the Town Board:
With regard to a June 3 Spectrum News article by Alex Haight (also carried in June 5 www.isledegrande.com), the Town Board is asked to address these points:
The decision about a community center will have a tremendous impact on Grand Island's future. It is critical that if built, it should reflect the desires and finances of ALL the stakeholders. There should not be unanswered questions or a predetermined outcome.
Social Media and Grand Island Government - June 2017In the June 9 issue of the Grand Island Dispatch, Nathan McMurray touts the importance of social media in Grand Island government. I agree that social media may certainly serve a purpose within the context of town government, but the use of social media as the primary means of communication with and between Islanders carries with it inherent risks of presenting information in a subjective context and eliminating input from the large percentage of citizens who choose not to participate in social media forums.
Even worse, the various sites that have appeared on Facebook since McMurray took office have provided individuals with the opportunity to hide behind a keyboard while directing name-calling, ridicule, and even slander at Island neighbors whose views on town issues are not concurrent with their own. It may be beneficial for residents to be able to view live streaming video of Town Board meetings, but I question whether the negative effects of uncensored rude and disrespectful comments regarding citizens and law makers posted during the live stream subjugate this benefit.
Whether social media is "good or evil" is directly related to the ability of the site administrator to maintain an open and objective forum. In McMurray's case, Facebook has been used as a venue to advance his own personal agenda and to provide information in the context of his own agenda. A recent example of his skewed presentation of town news was a May 17 post congratulating only one of the two individuals elected to the School Board, and recognizing only two of the three unsuccessful candidates. Though several days later he posted a half-hearted congratulatory message to both the elected candidates, the May 17 post was an obvious slight to one elected trustee, who was the top vote-getter, and to the candidate who came in third, just a handful of votes away from earning a seat.
McMurray tolerates downright nastiness on the part of his Facebook forum participants toward those who disagree with the supervisor's personal agenda. His practice of blocking from site participation those who respectfully disagree with his views and who produce sound arguments to support views that differ from his own further narrows discussion on his site, providing the appearance of overwhelming agreement on issues when, in reality, those with dissenting arguments are simply not allowed to participate in the discussion.
The supervisor asserts "with full surety" that countless positive developments on Grand Island are attributable to social media. I question this assertion, and invite him to provide factual justification for this statement. Particularly as the upcoming town elections approach, I caution Islanders not to overestimate the value of social media in the context of open, honest, objective communication. I ask those administering town-related Facebook sites as well as those participating in social media forums related to town issues to do so with objectivity and respect for all views and all individuals. Finally, I would like to remind the supervisor that the vast majority of his constituents do not live their lives on social media, and the need for input from all Islanders should to be recognized.
Live or Work on Staley Road? Is Traffic an Issue? - June 2017Interesting Conversation...in speaking candidly with one of Grand Islands most experienced fireman, involved in traffic accident reports, I asked how 1000 cars a day might affect the intersections of Whitehaven and the Thruway; Alvin and Baseline and Baseline and Staley, three of the most problematic intersections on Grand Island. Most importantly the exit from the Thruway onto Whitehaven.
Without any reference to cause, people exiting from the north have trouble seeing overpass traffic. In addition, when pulling out, the driver's side is exposed to side impact, causing some of the most serious injury accidents. The intersections of Alvin and Baseline and Staley Road and Baseline are also problematic. If the Thruway Authority has money to spend, have them convert the Whitehaven exits to a clover leaf. It would be a good and practical place to start and possibly save lives. If there is 20 million dollars for a Tourist Center on Alvin, how might those visitors access the center? Keep in mind that tourist drivers are often tentative, hoping not to make a wrong turn, ultimately causing accidents. Whether you are exiting from the south or the north onto Whitehaven, both exits are problematic and the problem needs to be resolved.
Now let's add to this, the concept of connecting the East side of the island to the West, for people on foot or on a bike. In my view, safety has to come first and it hasn't even been considered or discussed. Let's take a step back and determine how we can make Grand Island a safer place for our residents. Now for Staley Road, whether you live or work on Staley Road you realize how congested the rush hour traffic can be. I have heard that for some residents, the wait is up to eight minutes just to exit their driveways. People going to work might be behind schedule and drive faster than they should. Growth in the Pharmaceutical complex is expected and now we are going to reroute 1000 cars a day onto Staley? We aren't even addressing the current problems with Staley Road and we are considering adding 1000 cars a day, most of which will be at peak times, school busses, garbage collection, etc. etc. The safety or our residents needs to come first.
Now for sidewalks and bike paths...need I say more? Sidewalks are important and the problem has gone on for years. Some residents feel like they are being punished and it is clear there isn't a simple solution. The Town is happy to receive a grant so they won't have to answer to those that suggest, requesting residents to conform when the town doesn't, might be embarrassing? If it takes a bond issue, let us figure out as a town, how to fix the problem, instead of kicking it down road, or should I say down the sidewalk?
One more thing, our roads aren't safe for bikers; no shoulder in some places, the problems are everywhere. Try riding your bike from Cardinal Lane to the Library, it seems simple enough, well it isn't, it is dangerous. How about north and south on Baseline between Love and the Town Center, it is ridiculous, the problems are everywhere. The safety of our residents needs to come first!
Misleading Information on Facebook - June 2017A recent entry on the Facebook page that calls for new ideas to make Grand Island better contains some misleading information. Although the page is supposed to be for new ideas, it seems to have devolved into a political sounding board that excludes many on the Island who are not even aware that the site exists. Such use of social media is meant, it appears, to present just one side of an argument and to politicize the events happening on our Island. A post by our Town Supervisor is a thinly veiled attack on Mike Madigan, a member of the Town Council, who has often taken the side of people who do not agree with the Supervisor about a number of issues. In the spirit of true democracy, people on Grand Island should be able to disagree without the opposition having to resort to character assassination. Unfortunately, in this Facebook entry, this is not the case.
Nate McMurray recently accused Mike Madigan of undermining the use of Mordecai Noah as a historical figure who could increase tourism on Grand Island. This accusation was used as the excuse for the removal of Mike Madigan as the liaison from the Town Board to the Grand Island Historical Preservation Advisory Board. As one who is a member of the Preservation Board, and has been involved in this issue from the beginning, I would like to set the record straight.
A man who came to live on Grand Island about two years ago was a fan of Mordecai Noah and wanted to have him recognized for his dream of making Grand Island a refuge for the Jews in the 1800s. This gentleman was not Jewish himself but he often said he was raised to hate Jews and this was his way of atoning for that background. He met with Nate McMurray and talked Nate into issuing a proclamation about Mordecai Noah from the Town Board. Nate had the proclamation drawn up but only told the Town Board members about it in the working session that was held one hour before the Town Board meeting, giving the members no chance to discuss this or to do any background research on the item.
The proclamation was issued at the Board Meeting and as a member of the Preservation Board, I agreed to look into the history of Mordecai Noah and report back to the members. In doing so, I spoke to members of the local Jewish Community and obtained an invitation for Nate and myself to a meeting and social gathering of the Jewish Federation of Western New York. The objective was to determine how to handle the use of Mordecai Noah as an historical figure without antagonizing the Jewish Community and without making him seem to be more than he was at the time of his purchase of land on Grand Island. A local rabbi had cautioned me that those who are interested in Zionism considered Noah an interesting figure but not a major historical figure.
Nate's statements about Mike Madigan indicate that the research Mike did was done to be an obstructionist about this issue. That is not the case. The Preservation Board was hesitant to be seen as jumping on a bandwagon and wanted to be certain the historical facts were correct and the use of Noah as a tourist draw would not be done casually. Mike did his homework and raised some concerns about Noah's position in the Jewish community, about his views on slavery, and on the question about whether his purchase of land was for a refuge for the Jews or a financial investment since Noah wanted to charge a tax which would be paid by every other Jew in the world. These were valid questions and how to handle these was a valid item of discussion by the Preservation Board. To say that Mike Madigan did not do this in good faith is not accurate. His removal from the Preservation Board was an unfair response to this. If Nate McMurray had done his homework prior to presenting the proclamation about Mordecai Noah, he, too, would have had reservations.
As of last fall, the person who originally requested the proclamation has left Grand Island. He left no forwarding address. His email account is closed. We do not have a phone number for him despite meeting with him on two occasions. He wanted to explain his ideas to the people of Grand Island. I invited him to speak at a gathering at my home and he agreed. He also agreed to speak to Nate and ask him to appear. On the day of the cocktail party, thirty-five people gathered but the speaker never called and never appeared. I have reported all this to Nate. While I have continued to meet with the archivist of the Jewish Community to be certain we handle this with respect and caution, it is unfair to say that Mike Madigan did his research just to be an obstructionist. As I pointed out to Nate in a private conversation in his office, enthusiasm for a cause does not mean jumping on a bandwagon when you are taking a chance on offending an important part of the Western New York community. If Nate had done his homework (and I told him this), the proclamation would not have been issued and we would have investigated the background of the person who first raised this issue and then disappeared into thin air.
Politics is an interesting business. Disagreements are bound to happen, but the disparagement of our neighbors is not the way to run a town. I appeal to the Supervisor and the members of his Facebook page that we make the first goal of making Grand Island grand the call for respect of everyone who lives on this Island and the mature use of disagreement rather than resorting to name calling. We have enough strife in our country at the moment. Let's not bring it home.
June Justice Crawford
Island Tax Increase Vote Next Week - May 2017Next week's school vote represents another opportunity for Island residents to raise their taxes. The School Budget each year includes a portion to be covered by a tax levy. Grand Island voters (a very small number of voters) have approved a tax levy increase 9 of the last 10 years.
While each individual year, the increase may seem benign, the cumulative effect of annual tax increases is considerable. If the 2017-2018 proposed budget is approved, it will represent 13.2% increase in the tax levy over a 5-year history and a 27.7% increase over 10 years.
Most districts do include increases in their budgets which affect the tax levy. Look at a comparison of some local school districts to Grand Island.
School District - % increase in the tax levy over 5 years*
Tonawanda City - 8.5%
Depew - 9.0%
Cheektowaga - 10.1%
Hamburg - 11.1%
Amherst - 11.3%
Williamsville - 13.1%
Grand Island - 13.2%
Ken-Ton - 14.6%
Orchard Park - 16.0%
Clarence - 16.2 % (The increase in Clarence over 10 years is 18.4 %, versus 27.7% for Grand Island)
The proposed Grand Island School budget shows student enrollment will continue to decline next year, while state financial support to our district will increase 4.2% over the current year. On top of the school budget, funds for buses are approved on Grand Island each year as a separate item on the vote, paid by taxes. The price tag for busses each year is over a half million dollars.
No one wants to deny our students quality education and services. But how many residents actually realize this vote is about more than a school board? Do most Islanders realize the impact of this annual voting process to their taxes and exercise their right to vote? Do voters hold the school district accountable to keeping our property taxes from growing out of pace with the surrounding communities?
Less than 2,000 residents vote on the school budget every year. Last year less than 1,500 turned out to the polls. Take an interest in the future of your schools, students, community and your personal finances and show up to vote. Voting takes place from 8 am to 9 pm on Tuesday, May 16, at Grand Island High School.
*5 Year increases calculated from tax levy figures in 2017-2018 proposed budget detail available on each school district website, the Buffalo News and historical financials from the NYS Comptroller's Office.
Remembering Doug Smith - May 2017Doug Smith was a person who lived to make other people laugh and smile and have flagrant fun in full defiance of all the anti-fun, pro-bummer powers that be. To me, that is one of this life's highest callings. Doug answered that call his whole life, and made a whole lot of people laugh and smile and have flagrant fun. And taught them how to do so, if they didn't already know.
Whether in his newspaper columns, or his TV shows, or in his non-public/professional, personal life, he was always trying to just lighten things up for people and reduce their stress and pain, and more than willing to play the clown to make as many people as he could feel good for a while. He was not really a clown, of course...he was a gifted writer and top-notch journalist who could have had a very successful career as an investigative reporter or political pundit or any of that serious, depressing stuff.
But Doug was all about the uplifting stuff, like the performing arts. That was his passion as an amateur theater actor, and that was what he wanted to write about. He wanted to go see great artistic performances, on stage or screen, and then tell you all about it. And get paid for doing so. Which he did for most of his career, because he did it very well. Then later he figured out how to get paid to cover another of his passions -- great food - and share with us all how to enjoy it on the cheap.
When I was a kid and a Cub Scout, he was our Scoutmaster, and would drive us around the Island in his station wagon on our annual fundraiser going door to door selling Freddie's donuts. He always let us eat far more glazed donuts than we sold, and paid the glaring deficit for our gluttony out of his own pocket. How cool is that? He also took me along with his son, my friend Joe, for a trip on the Arcade & Attica Railroad steam engine line. Which began a lifelong love of trains for me, now shared by my own son. Thanks, Doug.
We on this side of the veil have lost a great entertainer and a damn good man, even if some of his puns did make us groan loudly. He made a whole lot of people laugh and smile and have flagrant fun. And is surely doing the same now for a whole lot of people on the other side.
Thanks again, Doug. Break a leg up there.
GI Highway Boat Issue - April 2017In response to Dan Drexilius' allegations.
This is a remote area being used as a staging/storage area for contractors working for the town. Such as tree service, sewer cleaning, paving contractors and Erie County. I had a couple employees put their boats and an old cap to a pickup back there. When I found out, we were already into winter so I asked them to remove them in the spring since that area is not usually accessible in the winter. These are the facts, anything else said by Mr. Drexilius is simply not true by any stretch of the imagination. His immediate denial that this in not politically motivated is strong evidence that it is just that. I would ask Dan to stick to the facts this election and not subject the Grand Island residents to dirty politics, lies and innuendo.
James T. Tomkins
GI Highway Superintendent
Letter to Congressman Brian Higgins - April 2017Recently Grand Island Town Councilman Mike Madigan wrote a letter to Congressman Brian Higgins regarding the closing of the West River Parkway. See letter here.
Paul Revere's Ride - April 2017Kevin J. Rung wrote in regarding the historical significance of April 19th. In 1775, Paul Revere took his infamous ride to warn that the British were coming! See story
Sit Idly By or Send a Message - April 2017Once again, a bad case of "grumble-itis" has overtaken the main stream media which has expressed beleagered skepticism as to President Trump's courageous humanitarian concerns.
Nevertheless, his recent missle message to war criminal Assad was greeted with bi-partisan congressional support, substantial public approval, as well as measured accolades from our mideast allies.
Russia, of course, apparently did not think that the gassing of innocent children required any degree of moral outrage. His misguided outrage at U.S. actions instead probably puts to rest those earlier collusion/conspiracy theories. In any event, is this a wakeup call for the world's murderous dictators? I surely hope so!
Thank you to the Community! - March 2017
At last week's "Coexisting with Coyotes" educational event, the interest and attendance was wonderful and the information presented was incredibly beneficial! Sincere thanks are extended to the presenter, Lesley Sampson of Coyote Watch Canada, for sharing her time, knowledge and experience with the Grand Island and WNY community to help us better understand coyotes and for providing knowledge and tools to better coexist and appreciate this keystone species.
A highlight of the event was the beautiful coyote art that was contributed by members of the community and especially the artwork provided by students of the Huth Road Elementary School art classes. The colorful and creative student works showcased the beauty of coyotes and we thank all the students who participated along with Huth Road Art Teacher Dana Allen for her project leadership. Much appreciation is also extended to Kerri Nowak, principal of Huth Road School, and to the Grand Island School District for being wonderful hosts and for providing a facility and equipment that makes such educational events possible for the community.
We sincerely appreciate and value all the attendees and all who share an interest in learning more about the wildlife that we share our natural spaces with. Thank you for your time and for wanting to learn how humans and animals can better coexist in the environment that we all enjoy and appreciate.
Citizen Coalition for Wildlife and Environment
School Board Vote - March 2017"At its March 27th board meeting, the GI school board voted on various matters including a proposed broadband study and a 485b proposal suggested by the town board. As a school board member I voted for the broadband study and against the 485b. With respect to the broadband study the district committed $2,500 to assist in funding a study which I hope will determine how broadband would help our kids and whether the district may have ability to get grant funds to pay for it..there is not otherwise a pot of money generally available or set aside for such purposes - meaning the town residents would have to pay for it.
With respect to the 485b program - I voted against! The 485b program is a tax break where any commercial development or improvement above a certain level - I believe $25,000 based upon my reading of the town code and review of town board meeting archives on Isledegrande.com(others believe it may be $10,000) - is entitled to a 50% tax break on the cost of any increased assessment. The benefit decreases 5% per year thereafter.
As a school board member I have voted against this proposal for many years and you can review the meeting minutes during my entire decade long board term to hear why. Among other reasons for my vote:
Farming Fake Crisis - March 2017On March 6, the town board voted 4-1 (supervisor McMurry being the only dissenting vote), that a letter be sent to about two dozen residents who had previously been issued a noncommercial farm animal permit under town law, BUT whose property was now located in a county agricultural district. The letter would require the landowner to confirm to the town whether they are exempt from the town's livestock licensing law since they operate a commercial farm enterprise on their property, or whether they must still comply with the town's livestock law since since they are NOT keeping livestock for commercial purposes. Noncommercial farm animal uses include "backyard chickens" for personal egg consumption and horses kept for personal use. See "Farming Fake Crisis" letter, con't.
Erie 1 BOCES IS Important - March 2017My first encounter with the Erie 1 BOCS program is when my children attended Ken-Ton BOCES program many years ago. I have been a proud Grand Island resident for the past thirty years, three of my children now have homes on the Island and six of my grandchildren attend Grand Island schools. Most have taken full advantage of the Erie 1 BOCES training programs. Hearing recently that Grand Island School District may be sending fewer children to Erie 1 BOCES for training and education is not only concerning but very disappointing.
Attending Erie 1 BOCES during the school day gives students the opportunity to focus on a specific career and technical trainings which help them excel not only in high school, but in college as well. This program also gives students the ability to fully immerse themselves in a curriculum that is "hands on" and relevant to a career, preparing them for future success. Replacing this type of education with a one period elective class would not give students the full range of experience, education and internships that the BOCES program provides.
There have been many success stories from Grand Island students who have gone through the programs at Erie 1 BOCES, not to mention the many students who have been inducted into the National Technical Honor Society.
Please do not deny our students of Grand Island the opportunity to participate in the top notch technical programs Erie 1 BOCES provides. I truly believe that taking this opportunity away would be detrimental to our future generations as well as to the reputation of our school district.
Tolls and Population - March 2017I have followed the conversations concerning tolls with the underlining theme that the tolls help hold down the population and maintain the unique environment of Grand Island.
I agree that we need to fight to maintain the beautiful atmosphere of our Island. The problem has nothing to do with the tolls but it is the zoning that is encouraging bad development; The previous Town Board foolishly allowed high density apartments that permit up to 16 units per acre. This zoning still exists. We are also allowing single family cookie cutter houses to be built on small lots that is similar to the tract housing that was popular in the 1950's and 1960's.
If we are serious about maintaining the unique atmosphere of our Island then we must pressure the Town to change zoning that encourages bad development.
Tolls Can be Positive and Looking Forward 2017I have been blessed to live on Grand Island since I was a young boy. As Mrs. Luther so eloquently pointed out, the toll bridges have kept country living on Grand Island. In my opinion, she is correct that eliminating the tolls will increase the traffic and population. It could also increase the taxes for Grand Island residents since the tolls help to maintain the cost of bridge repairs.
The town Supervisor Nathan McMurray's actions so far have shown he does not share the values that have kept Grand Island such a great place to live. He has supported Tourist Homes when communities throughout the country were passing laws to prevent them. He did not support the West River Residents and the vote of the Town Board to keep the West River Parkway open.
If the Supervisor Nathan McMurray is recording phone calls, I wish he would release the subject matters that the calls are pertaining too. It is foolish for a resident to make threats. If you are not happy with the Supervisor, it is important to vote for Town Board Members who support your values. If the town board changes, I am sure that the Supervisor will push to reintroduce things like the Tourist Homes because that is what he wanted regardless of what the population wanted.
If I have learned anything, it is important to ask the candidates their opinions on issues like the Tourist Homes before you vote.
Removing the Tolls is Not the Solution - March 2017I have always lived on Grand Island and have a few thoughts about the Buffalo News Article regarding the bridge tolls. They overlook the fact that removing the bridge tolls will not help the congestion in leaving the Island in the morning. Waiting in line is difficult if you are trying to get to work on time - to a doctor's appointment - or taking a flight out of the airport.
More development - houses off Whitehaven Road to Tracey Lane, apartments on the Blvd. all equal more cars crossing over the bridges. We should be pushing Albany for another bridge. If we start now it could take at least ten years. My husband as Town Supervisor, started petitions in 1987 for a bridge but nothing happened.
Last week the Dispatch had a Sheriff's report that showed eleven arrests of off Island people from Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Tonawanda, Kenmore and Cheektowaga. Without the tolls, it is possible more arrests will be made, will we need our own Police force - sooner rather than later?
The West River Parkway change to a bike path is an issue many Island residents are against. It is another instance of a change made in Albany that is not necessary or wanted.
I have lived here for 92 years and along with other family members have always been involved in Town affairs. I am not against progress and new ideas, the Farmers Market is great but I am not comfortable with some that just want change. I object to becoming another Amherst - overcrowding - signs all over town. New residents should visit the Grand Island Historical Society at River Lea and learn about the history of our Town and our fight for the bridges.
We have grown - but we need slow controlled growth to keep the small town atmosphere that many people are looking for when they move here. People have discovered our Island is a beautiful place. Someone on Facebook said when they cross the bridge it feels like leaving the city problems behind and are coming home to relax.
In my opinion, yes, we are growing but we are not a "destination"! We are a small, quiet bedroom community. Let's try and keep it that way!
Shirley K. Luther
Before We Remove the Bridge tolls - March 2017Before we think of removing the bridge tolls on our Grand Island Bridges we should consider adding another span. The Island Dispatch for the past 3 weeks have looked back 30 years ago when there was discussion to add another bridge. Many mornings during the week there are backs up with people trying to leave the Island. With the addition of the new apartments and the housing being developed off Whitehaven Road more motorists will be part of the morning rush heading to Buffalo and Niagara Falls.
The front page of The Buffalo News last week was a joke, the back up shown in the picture had nothing to do with the tolls but an accident on the bridge, the article said there is a toll to leave the Island and that residents are charged 8 cents per trip. Before we see the Island as a destination we should show concern for our fellow Islanders and leave the tolls alone.
Time to Think Twice- March 2017As we revist the idea of removing the tolls we need to seriously consider who will benefit. Don't let the media hype confuse you. The .09 cents we pay now ($32.85/year if we cross every day) gives us a priveledge. We have the right to ask the State to address the increasing traffic crossing over our bridges and what to do about it. Even if there were no tolls we have a problem, let's not kid ourselves. We have spent the last eighty years paying for them and now we need fix the real problem, we need two more. If we ask the State to remove the tolls we might very well lose the leverage we have, a say in how the toll money is spent. We all understand what Shirley and Sharon are talking about in the above two letters. Two new spans between the existing bridges would solve the problem, it would also address the inevitable future repairs, traffic could be directed to match the need, the backup leaving the island in the morning or the backup coming home in the afternoon. We are interested in your view. Here is a link to a sketch from 2007 of one possible solution
Whining About the Tolls - March 2017At some point a set of express lanes will be necessary. Integrating as proposed into the existing bridges is a great idea. They could be used southbound from 6am-10am and northbound from 3pm-8pm. Having gaps will reduce the chance of accidents. Regardless of whether or when this is done, we should be pushing the state to complete the LaSalle Expressway to the 990 with a connection to the Twin Cities Highway. This would alleviate much of the traffic, especially truck traffic, that has no intention of stopping on Grand Island. The State could use some of the "excess" revenue they have collected over the years. Also, we need to be careful about whining about the tolls. Has anyone looked at the tolls downstate? Here is a link to Jim's previouse article about the Tolls Downstate
You Can't Make This Stuff UP- March 2017Last Tuesday, February 28, Nancy Fischer, a Buffalo News reporter, had an article in the news about the new welcome center coming to Grand Island. I have never met Ms. Fischer but she appears to be one of the most uncurious reporters around. She is the reporter who at the end of January swallowed hook, line, and sinker everything McMurray told her about closing the West River for a bike path. The whopper that only 4-5 people were opposed to it even though there are signs all over the Island saying keep the parkway open. After that episode one would think that she would put a little bit more cranial effort into her articles and not play Walter Duranty. To show how inane her article is (it isn't just her; the people she quotes should put a bag over their heads, too) we can focus on the cost of the center. In paragraph 2, it is "unofficially estimated to cost somewhere between $6 million and $15 million. ." Sounds like School Board estimates. In paragraph 3, we are informed that the State has requested $20 million for the project. In paragraph 9, it is stated that the Long island center cost $20.2 million. In paragraph 10, McMurray gushes that he was told "Yours will be better (translation: it will cost lots more)."
In the 3rd last paragraph, it is noted that Cuomo requested $55 million to build 10 centers. Maybe it is because I work with numbers all of the time that I like to see how they relate. The State initially was going to spend an average of $5.5 million per center; then the unofficial estimate for ours is between $6 and $15 million; the State has already blown $20.2 million on one center; and ours will be more expensive. Basically, the state has no idea how much these boondoggles are going to cost other than the total will probably be north of $200 million, if these two are at all representative.
The article, in general, and Eric Fiebelkorn of the GI Chamber of Commerce's comments reminded me of two famous quotes. Fiebelkorn's of Lenin who said the capitalists will sell us the rope with which we hang them. The article of Alexis de Tocqueville's "The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money."
With respect to de Tocqueville's remark does any sentient person not understand that Cuomo's Buffalo billions and these tourism centers are nothing but bribes using our own money? He wants votes, lots of votes. Fiebelkorn should be ashamed for going along with the charade. By being part of it you are now complicit. It will be rather gauche to argue against higher taxes and more regulation after all Albany has done for you. If businesses want to advertise and/or build centers like this, by all means do so: but use your own money.
Grand Island is about as illogical a place to put one of these things as you can imagine. Tourists who are coming across the Island are going to Niagara Falls. They know all about it. They aren't going to the Anchor Bar or Our Lady of Victory Basilica. People aren't going to waste time at it when doing so will cut into their time at the Falls. Given that the State can't help itself and needs to spend our money, the obvious place to have put it is at the Clarence rest area on the Thruway (oh, I forgot there are already pictures there). It would enable people to choose which way to go: North, South, or West; for those who don't have an internet connection.
As I have said before, the State is broke. It has either the worst or second worst business climate in the country. No firm will locate here unless they are bribed to, as Solar City is. Does anyone think that the spin-off of that $750 million facility will ever generate $750 million in tax revenues, much less $750 million in present value terms? If the State officials won't go to the Betty Ford clinic to do something about their addiction to spending other people’s money at least spend it on something productive. The Black Rock Canal is a sewer. Why wasn't the $200 million spent cleaning it up instead of on these white elephants? The fact that Cuomo wouldn't want to plaster pictures of himself on a sewage treatment facility and make multiple trips to it goes a long way to explain why the funds are being wasted the way they are.
The late Robert Strauss, who was a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee and served under both Jimmy Carter and Bush 41, said, "You get the government you deserve." Given our actions or inactions, this pathetic collection of officials is our punishment.
Jim Mulcahy Buffalo News Article 2-28-2017
Supervisor's Unethical, Dishonest and Manipulative Behavior- March 2017Supervisor McMurray will argue that secretly recording his consitituents without their knowledge is permissible under New York State law. He will omit that his actions are illegal in many states, including Pennsylvania where it is a felony. He will omit that many states have made such behavior criminal for good reason in that such actions are unethical, dishonest and manipulative.
The Supervisor, in February 23rd Grand Island Dispatch, publicly admitted that he was secretly recording his constituents. I had been told that he was recording people and playing these recordings to a select group of people in his circle. This dishonest and manipulative behaviour has now been admitted to by him directly.
The people of Grand Island should be on notice - If you oppose a position Supervisor McMurray has, and if he contacts you to discuss your position it is likely that his intentions include recording you and that he may use this recording against you in the future. Be aware and be warned.
Councilman Mike Madigan
Response: Is It Unethical, Dishonest and Manipulative Behavior? - March 2017Supervisor Mc Murray is correct in that it is perfectly legal to record phone messages in New York. What Madigan fails to mention and what Mr. Mc Murray clearly states in his article, is that he has received threatening phone calls. I don't believe taking precautionary safety measures, when someone threatens a life, is unethical, dishonest or manipulative. It's just plain smart.
Initially, I was a little surprised that Madigan would come to the defense of those making illegal and harassing phone calls. In retrospect, I am thankful that the guilty thug(s) are now on notice. Maybe they will think twice before exercising further unlawful behavior.
Is it Moral or Ethical? - March 2017In her rush to defend McMurray's surreptitious taping of his phone calls, Ms. Clabeaux ignores the issue. While it is legal, in NY, to tape a phone call without the other party's knowledge that doesn't imply in the least that it is moral or ethical. "Legal" defines the minimum threshold of acceptable behavior. All of us have called businesses who inform us that our call may be taped for one reason or another. At that point we have the option of hanging up and contacting them by US Mail or email or continuing on. McMurray would still be able to defend himself from vituperative or threatening calls if he announced that he was taping the call. Not all of his Constituents are calling with the intent of threatening him.
It would be interesting to know: 1) when McMurray started taping: day one, or after he received a threatening call; 2) what constitutes a threatening call in his view - did he call the police; and 3) how many and what percentage of the calls he has received are threatening, as opposed to just being against his views. Given his fast and loose use of facts I doubt if we will ever know.
Farms in Your Neighborhood?- February 2017A big topic concerning Grand Island is the number of residents that would like to become part of the Erie County Agricultural District. I have attached a series of letters that I have sent to the Town Board, and the Erie County Legislator voicing my concerns about Grand Island growing more populated with so called farms. See letters.
I feel that many Islanders are oblivious as to what is happening, and if residents close their eyes, it will be too late to go back and realize that this change has happened and is very real. I know I certainly don't want a farm next to me. I don't contribute my hard earned money and pay the high taxes to see and smell animals in my backyard. I do not condemn the idea of Agriculture on a small scale and the residents that have the land that's over 7 acres that have distance between neighbors. But when it is dab smack right there next to you in your backyard, then it's alarming.
I've driven around the Island and have seen all these big beautiful homes that were never there before and I wonder what would be their opinions on this issue? They probably don't even know as to what is really going on. I googled the zoning for Grand Island and the Island zoning was mainly noted as "RESIDENTIAL". I think that it is time that Island residents should know what exactly is happening on Grand Island and let our Town Supervisor hear everyones opinion and not just mine.
I looked up what a "Variance Permit" means, which is: A variance is the right of a property owner to do something on his land that is prohibited by the zoning code. By contrast, a special use permit enables an owner to use land in a manner the code already permits and that should be allowed, so long as the board is assured that the use is in harmony with the rest of the neighborhood and that it complies with certain code conditions. The part I have highlighted is alarming, because I have documented violations that my neighbor has done. I asked our Supervisor; "how many violations can one have and still be permitted to have their variance permit". No one had an answer, because nothing is in place in "our laws" for Grand Island. I said, "One violation, verbal; Two violations, write up; Three, you're OUT!" The Board told me that it would take a very long time to change our laws pertaining to zoning. I feel that I've arrived at a "dead end". Help!
Teresa Kozek Rattus
Apology For What?- February 2017In response to Dave Sherman's recent journalistic commentary in the Grand Island Dispatch, I am truly disappointed that he is not infuriated with "fake" news media outlets like the New York Times, et all, that continually victimize President Trump and many others. Did he not expect a predictable backlash from these maliciously maligned targets?
The majority has made it clear that they believe that a so called free press carries with it a high level of responsibility in performing their solemn duties. If you don't beleive me, just consider the main stream media's rock bottom ratings enjoyed today.
All journalism is not "yellow" journalism, but "yellow" journalism deserves no apology from the American people or anyone else.
RESPONSE-Where is Our Flag?- February 2017As Caretaker of the Town Hall I do apologize that the flag is not currently flying. The rope snapped in a wind storm 9-10 days ago. It will be repaired soon. (Repaired at noon, Wednesday, February 22nd.) No disrespect was intended for our citizens or service people.
James Linenfelser - Caretaker Grand Island Town Hall
Tourist Center Questions - February 2017We read that the State of NY is planning on squandering more of our hard-earned money on ten tourist centers around the state at an announced cost of $55 million. Grand Island is supposed to be one of the lucky recipients. The obvious question is, "Why?"
There are certainly more than ten areas of the state that offer tourist destinations. Grand Island, by the way, isn't one of them. What about all of the areas that are being ignored? They are being forced to pony up so other areas can get free (to the merchants, not the taxpayers) advertising. What savant is choosing the sites? Could it have anything to do with Cuomo's quixotic quest to become president? These will be more places to stick a picture of him.
The $55 Million only represents the construction cost, not the annual operating costs. Is the state going to build on land it already owns, or is it going to purchase the land? If the latter, who is going to be the beneficiary of the taxpayers' largess? Dollars to donuts, it is someone politically connected.
Will the state tire of maintaining these facilities down the road and try to offload them onto the local communities? It wouldn't be the first time. It could be argued (lamely) that in the 1950s when the various interstates and thruways were being built that there might have been a need for these structures, but there is zero justification today. The internet provides more information than ever. Merchants can stuff brochures in many locations if they believe it will increase sales. When a patron strolls into one of these facilities will the staff tell him or her the name and address of every potential restaurant or sight to see: basically, reciting the phone book to them? Of course, not. So, how will they choose which to promote? Should the government be in the business of favoring one company over another?
NY is broke. It has the worst business climate of the 50 states. We need less, much less, government meddling in the marketplace, not more. The incentive for politicians to spend other people's money is already too great. Grand Island should do the morally responsible thing and tell Albany: "No thanks; we are opposed to frivolous spending that serves no critical need, especially one that can be better and more suitably served by the private sector."
I'm not holding my breath waiting for this to occur.
Wrong to Associate Opposition to Parkway Closure with Racism - February 2017I am outraged by and compelled to respond to Supervisor Nate McMurray's commentary regarding the proposed West River project in the February 17th Island Dispatch. His public characterization of a culture of racism on the Island is misleading. It is not outside the realm of possibility that a couple of individuals did direct offensive comments to McMurray. He would not be the first elected official to receive nasty messages - dealing with at least a few disrespectful individuals unfortunately comes with the territory of public office.
It is truly inaccurate and unfair, however, to insinuate that the Island is plagued by racism and bigotry based on these two outlier comments, and it is particularly divisive to once again associate opposition to the plan to close the West River Parkway with alleged racist motivation. As a Grand Island resident for almost 30 years, what has been most upsetting to me regarding the West River project is how McMurray has perpetuated a campaign of labeling, name-calling, and bullying against residents who do not agree with his viewpoint, unfairly characterizing those opposed to the project as racists and elitists, and pitting neighbor against neighbor in order to achieve what he admitted from the outset to be his own personal objective regarding the project.
It is unfortunate that rather than fulfill his duty as an elected official and attend the October public forum regarding the West River project at GIHS, an official Town Meeting requested by the citizenry and approved by the Town Council, McMurray chose instead to hastily schedule for the same date and time a gathering where he shared cider and donuts with his "coalition of like-minded friends" at another Island location. Had he joined the other members of the town government who responsibly and objectively moderated the meeting at GIHS, he would have seen first-hand that the several hundred residents in attendance were not racists, elitists, nor naysayers, but were simply sincere, concerned citizens who have invested countless years in making Grand Island a better place, and who were respectfully seeking a compromise plan that would be in the best interest of all.
In his weekly commentaries in the Dispatch, McMurray regularly attempts to relate local issues to history or literature. Unfortunately, the comparison is not always relevant to this time and place. In 15th Century Italy, Machiavelli's advice to govern through a "coalition of like-minded friends" might have been appropriate. As a contemporary resident of the Town of Grand Island, however, I instead suggest that McMurray begin to govern through respectful, objective consideration of opposing viewpoints and recognition of the historical context of this unique community, and that he build on the foundation of community among neighbors across the Island rather than perpetuate a climate of divisiveness.
For an elected official to choose to communicate, whether in public forum or via social media, only with constituents who agree with him, is cause for concern. For an elected official to encourage his "coalition of like-minded friends" to engage in labeling, name-calling, and bullying against those who do not share his personal viewpoints, as McMurray has done since the proposal to close the West River Parkway was announced, is simply wrong.
Potential Candidate - February 2017
From left: Jennifer, Simeon (5), Brian & Titus (1).My name is Jennifer Baney, and I would like to introduce myself as a potential candidate for town council. I'm thankful for the encouragement of others to run for this position and appreciate you taking just a few moments to learn about me and what I feel the core values and skills are that are needed for this important position.
My background is in the field of education, having earned consecutive degrees from both Houghton College and The University at Buffalo. My husband and I moved to Grand Island in 2009, appreciating the island for its affordability, small town feel, and beauty. I spent about a decade teaching, the majority of which was as a tenured teacher in the Williamsville Central School District.
In 2011, coinciding with the birth of our first son, I decided to take a leave from teaching, Nearly six full years later, I've enjoyed the gift of being home with our children. This time away from the workplace has allowed me the opportunity to get more involved in our community. I serve on my oldest son's school board, have helped on the leadership boards of two local mom's groups, am active in leading a variety of activities at our church, and have just recently been asked to serve as a chairperson for a college fair coming to Buffalo in the fall. I am incredibly thankful for the opportunities I've been given. I feel the skills I've gained as a teacher, wife, mother, leader, and collaborator could all be beneficial to our town government.
I've also spent the last year engaging in and observing our political process on Grand Island. As stated earlier, at the encouragement of others, I've decided to pursue a position. As candidly as I can, here's what you could expect if I were to serve:
Integrity: I am an honest person. No perceived need or goal within the town would ever be great enough to compromise my integrity. I want our children to be able to see our elected officials as pillars of honor and integrity. I feel there are ways to disagree without slandering or belittling. You will never have to question my motives, as I have no political ambitions beyond those of Grand Island. While our nation is so deeply divided at every level of government, I do believe that our island can work together, despite our differences, as an exemplary community with leaders that can display appropriate behavior and admirable character. I will not make promises I can't keep or rush to complete projects within my term to gain praise or attention. I would govern well.
Responsibility: I view the council position as an important one, and one not to be taken lightly. I would work hard, constantly trying to represent the citizens best by balancing my personal convictions with feedback I receive from members of the community. I think it is important for elected officials to be in the community, not to be seen, but to listen. I would not take endorsements or support lightly. Those in leadership know that when done well, it is not about power or attention, but very much about unnoticed, selfless service to others.
Commitment: I view the council position as one in which the member must be accessible. If elected, I would commit to not pursuing or accepting any additional employment. Citizens need to be able to engage with their representatives, which can be challenging for both the representative and the citizen when the representative works a traditional schedule or is overcommitted. Within the professional realm, the town would be my number one priority.
Integrity, responsibility, and commitment, when boiled down to the basic level, are what it comes down to for me. I look forward to this upcoming season and wish for a respectful, thorough vetting process where you, as citizens, discern who will best serve to represent you. Let's keep Grand Island grand....and also try to make it a bit grander.
Mrs. Jennifer Baney
WHERE IS OUR FLAG? - February 2017The Grand Island Town Hall has not displayed an American Flag for over a month! This is an insult to the residents, especially to the men & women who have served our country, past and present. I am sure the Town Supervisor will give us some flimsy excuse (someone is sick, the pole is broken, etc). But there is no excuse for not displaying the flag of our country. Mr. Supervisor and your friends at the Town Hall should be ashamed. Please display the flag of our country!!!!!
In Response - February 2017In response to the letter entitled "No Representation," I have a different understanding as to what has transpired in the matters that the author of this letter states. I am outlining the statements made in the letter followed by my response. See letter here.
Franz Announces Candidacy - February 2017
To All My Fellow Grand Island Residents:
My Name is Thomas Franz. I am proud to announce that I will be running for a position as your Grand Island Town Councilman.
I have served all of you as a state park and town police officer for over 25 yrs. Over the course of my career I have been a Patrol Officer, Detective and Patrol Supervisor. I have always had a strong desire to serve. It was something I always talked about as a kid growing up on here on Grand Island. My career as a police officer has brought me down many paths! It has been challenging and rewarding, at times frustrating and sad…but all in all it has been a great ride! It has been an absolute pleasure to serve with, to learn from, to teach and to supervise some truly wonderful and dedicated police officers serving both our town and our state.
In 2007, I was blessed, honored and privileged to be elected by you to serve as a member of our Grand Island School Board. I believe the school board I served on and the people I served with on that board did some great things for our school district! In our private meetings we discussed numerous things, but it always came back to three core principles, with those being...responsibility to our kids, to our taxpayers and to our employees. We were the stewards of the people's money, and I firmly believe as a member of that team, we did a great job and delivered on all three of those principles.
I would like to now be part of a town council team as your town councilman, where I again can be a steward for your tax dollars. There are current projects on the Town Board's plate with substantial financial impact to all of us taxpayers. If elected, I promise all of you that I will be a fiscally conservative steward of your money, looking at both the short and long term impact on all of us taxpayers. My responsibilities and principles will be to you the taxpayer, to our town employees and to all of us town residents.
As I have said I have always had the desire to serve. I look forward to meeting all of you in the coming months, hopefully serving all of you and our great hometown of Grand Island!
Thomas J. Franz
No Representation - February 2017The problem is that Nathan McMurray is showing a pattern of not representing the majority of Grand Island residents. He tried to change the existing Tourist Home law passed by the previous Town Board to protect the public from the problems that have been created by Tourist Homes on Grand Island. The facts are, his actions favored a very small minority in an attempt to change the purpose of our zoning codes that were established to protect all citizens.
At a workshop, Nathan McMurray told other board members there were not many complaints about Tourist Homes. The fact was at the first agenda meeting on Tourist Homes, there was so many people there against them, you had to stand up, and park across the street. On the Tourist Home issue, he tried to bypass the Planning Board, but thanks to Ray Billica and Christopher Aronica the procedure to have the Planning Board review the proposed law change was followed. Nathen McMurray did not follow the recommendations of the Planning Board but continued with his goal. The fact is, he removed the Chairman of the Planning Board and one other member who voted against legalizing Tourist Homes. At an agenda meeting when Mike Madigan elected to not vote on the Tourist Home issue, Nathan McMurray called him a coward and later removed him from the West River Parkway Committee.
The Town Board voted 3 to 2 to present Option 4 to New York State, but as I understand it, Nathan McMurray notified New York State that Grand Island residents preferred Option 3. When the Town Board elected to have a community meeting at the Grand Island School about the West River bicycle path, hundreds of residents attended supporting Option 4. Nathan McMurray avoided this meeting because he was moving forward with Option 3 and he did not want to listen to any other options.
New York State has shown that they do not want to maintain the property and thankfully for the West River Association, you can see the west river. As far as I know, there is no guarantee New York State will maintain the West River area. Will the Town of Grand Island be responsible for keeping the area clean, mowed, legally liable for any accidents etc.? The fact is, if the West River Parkway is used for vehicle traffic, auto insurance was available for liability claims. I believe that the Town of Grand Island has a right to protect their zoning laws and control its road use in a way that best serves the population of Grand Island residents, not other communities as the newspaper suggested it should.
It is my hope that Nathan McMurray starts representing the population of Grand Island and not his own agenda. Going forward with New York State, he should have a hold harmless agreement for the West River Residents and Town of Grand Island for any liability claims. The West River Residents and the Town of Grand Island should be listed as additional insured. He should establish who is going to mow the grass, take care of landscape and have a regular schedule established for these issues. Other issues to be addressed are trash removal, snow removal, restroom facilities with handicap accessible and a first aid station. How and where duck hunters are going to park during duck hunting season should be determined. Since this bicycle path is a multi-use path, will there be speed restrictions for bicycling? Many serious bikers travel 20 to 30 miles per hour.
Editorial: Western New York continues to reclaim its shoreline with new Grand Island trail - February 2017An Editorial by the Buffalo News Editorial Staff published on Wednesday, February 8, 2017
Isledegrande Publisher Reg Schopp responds.
BN:The issue surrounding West River Parkway on Grand Island is about access, and not just for a few fortunate homeowners. The state's plan for converting the parkway into an 8-mile pedestrian and bicycle trail will allow more people to enjoy what relatively few, by comparison, have coveted.
RS: There is NO evidence or estimates as to how many people will use the proposed path to compare to the thousands that enjoy it from their cars. The State's numbers indicate approx. 1500 per day, that leads us to millions of people over the last 60+ years. The West River Homeowners that you refer to as "a few fortunate homeowners" a little bias in that snarky remark, have taken care of that road since they adopted it 26 years ago. That includes, picking up garbage all along the road, all eight miles, cutting the grass, etc. etc. The first road in New York State to be adopted by a group. Those same homeowners have been in favor the originally proposed path since the idea was first vetted years ago. What can possibly be gained by demeaning them, it is poor journalism to say the least. The collaborative between State Parks and Grand Island was approved by all, then Bait and Switch. Convince the public that the West River Homeowners are against the path. This comes with our Town Supervisor, pushing the States Option #3 while he is still employed by the company that is under contract with NY State Parks for concessions all over the state.
BN: The West River Connector Trail project has been sitting around for years, as News staff reporter Nancy Fischer reported. Now it is moving forward. The state is planning on closing the parkway between Long Road and Oakfield Road and using it as a trail. Currently, few cars reportedly travel that road, ( RS:the real number is 1700 or more,) though inhabitants along that stretch will speak glowingly of their road, their view. Change is hard but in this case brings about a more equitable result for a public roadway.
RS: Much of this sounds like our Supervisor has injected it into your "Unnamed Editorial", the same divisive propaganda. Talk to the 1000 cars a day that use it to get to and from work on Staley Road, they are going to work either way and safety becomes an issue.
BN: Perhaps the plan could take into account residents' worries. State officials should try to mitigate the impact by adjusting plans for scenic overlooks, for example. Grand Island Supervisor Nathan McMurray noted some intransigence, if you will, on the topic by people not in favor, though his claims of 98 percent support seem unlikely.
RS: "Seems Unlikely", how can you even think about printing it? How about doing your research here is a perfect place. Not only did the Town Board vote 3 to 2 against closing, actual number of responses to the State's request for input were 81 percent against. The State collected the forms, ask them.
BN:Opposition is rooted in large part from residents who live on West River Road, enough that a homeowners group has made an effort to raise money to hire an attorney to stop the state from removing the parkway, as Fischer reported. The number of people turning out in July - more than 200 - to debate the issue is a good indicator. As reported, four options were proposed by the state, including one (R.S. NOT one, three options left the Parkway open, Two of which were presented by the State)in reality three) to maintain the parkway for vehicular traffic. State parks officials had made up their minds. Closing the road would be the best of the four options. Doing so, Mark W. Thomas, Director of the Western District of New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, as summarized, the New Path provides, "a wider surface at 24 feet for the trail, is less environmentally disruptive and can be built within the $2.5 million budget."
RS: The State never did a SEQR, required for any other project in New York State, by anyone else, but not the State? Ask that question before you quote what they think. Safety on other Grand Island roads will be affected, there is no question. Grand Island roads that are presently without shoulders and dangerous for pedestrians and bikers. Have they discussed the maintenance of the new trail? Mark Thomas at one of the Town Meetings suggested that maybe a Grand Island group would volunteer. They are going to do nothing hoping the West River Homewoners will get tired of the weeds and the rats and the bugs and keep maintaining it. If that isn't arrogance.
BN: Keeping the road open for vehicles costs more - an extra $800,000.
RS: The State took the land to build a Scenic Parkway, tens of thousands of people enjoy it every year. Why would converting it to be a Bike Path have to be the only option? Option #1 presented by the State was within their budget, and it had both. The State's Option #2 was within their budget. Both included an Open Parkway and the Path
BN: The math is straightforward and so is the view: three scenic overlooks of the Niagara River that will be enhanced as part of the project. Vegetation may also be removed to further open up the vistas. At the end of the day, this parkway will be for everyone. That’s the right approach, even recognizing the loss some residents may feel.
RS: If you find this misrepresentation troubling, you can help.
There is NO logical reason we can't have our Scenic Parkway and a Path!
The West River Homeowners Need Your HelpThe Real Story
DeGlopper Memorial Info UPDATED - February 2017Sorry for any previous confusion, the DeGlopper Memorial website was undergoing some changes, and in doing so the contact page went down. We would like to thank Dr. Gasbarro for bringing this to our attention. We are an ALL volunteer organization and we appreciate any and all feedback so we can continue to work towards bringing this wonderful project to completion. All has been corrected and any contact requests will be forwarded directly to me and answered in a timely manner. I have also included my cell phone number on the "Contact" page for anyone who would like to get a hold of immediately. I do not always have the answer, but I will always find the answer so please feel free to reach out to us with any questions. We are looking forward to starting the expansion of the DeGlopper Memorial soon and all donations and paver purchases bring us one step closer. Donate here.
Chris Taylor and the DeGlopper Memorial Expansion committee
DeGlopper Park Memorial Info. - February 2017I grew up on Grand Island and most of my family still lives there. In fact, we are into our 4th generation on the Island. So, when I saw an ad offering to sell pavers to honor those who were in the military, I thought it would be a great way not only to salute my dad who fought with the Coast Guard in World War II, but also for his grandkids and great-grandkids to see. I have written 2 emails and sent them to the DeGlopper Memorial website asking about what could be put on the paver, both of which have gone unanswered. No phone number is listed on the site. I hate having to beg someone to take my money but does anyone know any living human being who can answer my questions?
Dr. Ron Gasbarro
New Milford PA
West River Parkway Article FAKE NEWS! - February 2017Editorial Staff of The Buffalo Evening News and Ms. Fischer,
As you can see, I have copied the West River Homeowners Association...yes a group of 160+ of which all but four are NOT in favor of Closing the Parkway. Of the thousands of Grand Islanders, the majority, at least 60% are AGAINST Closing the Parkway. How could any responsible journalist print an article that is so blatantly wrong? (Article). It is important in a world filled with FAKE news that journalists check their facts. ANY research should have given you pause.
Mr. McMurray has not only fed you false information, which it appears you did NO fact checking. He has almost total inverted the facts, 98% for Closing? Have him answer why he has totally ignored the people of Grand Island, including the Town Board which voted 3 to 2 against closing. All of the facts support NOT Closing, including many Safety concerns that were voiced and unanswered. Thousands of people that utilize the road were ignored. The list goes on... the real story lives in the Real motivation of the State and Mr. McMurray ? Was there a SEQR study done? Ask that question, do your research and you will have a REAL story, instead of your ridiculous article.
Your response is welcomed.
Publisher of IsledeGrande.com
The West River Homeowners Need Your HelpThe Real Story
West River Homeowners are For the Path - January 20171950 - New York State took the land from West River Homeowners by eminent domain. A Scenic Parkway was created and it has been enjoyed by millions of people for over sixty five years. New York State promised the homeowners access to the river in the future. After taking their land, it was the right thing to do.
Forty years go by and the State decides it can't maintain the road. Control of the Parkway was turned over to the Department of Transportation, to save money. Maintenance of land and the Parkway became a problem. Snow removal stopped, closing the road for traffic during the winter months, again to save money. Achieving their goal of saving money, but ultimately neglecting their responsibility to maintain the Scenic Parkway they created.
In 1990 the West River Homeowners Association adopted the West River Parkway. This was the first road in the State of New York to be adopted by a group. For over 25 years the West River homeowners have cut the grass, cleaned up garbage, planted flowers, and enhanced the beauty of the surrounding land. This project was initiated because New York State was neglecting its responsibility.
In 2014, as part of the Grand Island Master plan approved in 1998, the Town Board of Grand Island, the WRHOA and many other concerned Grand Island groups worked together with NYS Parks to obtain a $2.5 million state/federal grant to build a multi-use path between the West River Parkway and the Niagara River. The multi-use path was to be for the common good of Grand Island and State Parks. Closing the Parkway was never discussed.
In October and November of 2015, meetings were held with NY State Parks, to review concepts for the proposed multi-use path. West River Homeowners, NYS Parks and Recreation, Town officials were given the opportunity to share their ideas and concerns. At that time NYS Parks, the town government and the WRHOA were all in agreement on the location of the multi-use path. Closing the Parkway was NEVER discussed.
At a workshop meeting of the Town Board on May 2, 2016, the concept of closing the parkway is mentioned by our town supervisor. He received immediate push back from the board respectfully suggesting there would be much concern from the community.
On July 20, 2016 New York State Parks held a meeting to present its preferred option for the West River multi-use path. Option #1 between the Parkway and the river, Option# 2 in the median between the Service Road and the Parkway. To the surprise of the majority attending, Option #3, Closing the Parkway, which had never been discussed was the states "preferred" plan. Option #3 was supposedly the cheaper option but it included the addition of 7 parking lots. Later, State Parks removed the seven parking lots, saving even more money but never addressing where people will park if they want to use the proposed path.
Immediate backlash resulted from the July 20th meeting which included hundreds of responses to the preferred option by islanders, more than 60% against closing the Parkway. A two week response period for concerns was established by the State. Hundreds of safety concerns from the diverted traffic were submitted. When questioned in early August 2016, Mark Thomas, NYS Director of Parks explained that he believed the Town Board was informed and in favor of the closure of the Parkway. At that point his communication was solely with our Town Supervisor, who admits openly that he knew of the plan in January of 2016.
On August 15th the Town Board voted three to two against NY State's Option #3, closing the Parkway, and notified the State. An immediate Social Media Blitz was started by the Town Supervisor that called specific island groups by name, it included personal slurs, photos of West River homes, singling out West River homeowners that were voicing opposition to closing the Parkway, suggesting the WRHOA were against the path. From that point it was not about the multi-use path anymore, it was "For the Path or Against the Path", suggesting the WRHOA were against the Path.
For the Record, we want to be VERY CLEAR; the West River Homeowners have ALWAYS been FOR the multi-use path. Concerns were raised about how closing the Parkway would affect traffic safety. Very little concern was given to the thousands of people that enjoy the Parkway for the principal reason it was designed, the scenic experience or the thousands of people that use the Parkway to get to and from work. To this date there have been no real estimates to the number of people that will use the path.
Please note, the majority of Grand Island people, the majority of the West River Homeowners and the majority of the Town of Grand Island Council believe the West River Parkway is positive for Grand Island, just the way it is. The majority of Grand Islanders are for a multi-use path along the West side of Grand Island. Interestingly, the West River Service road with wider shoulders is considered by serious bikers to be one of the safest roads on Grand Island. Ironically it is currently marked with signs identifying it as the Greenway Bike Trail.
There is NO logical reason why we can't have both, the multi-use path and the parkway.
It is very difficult to understand why NY State Parks is pushing so hard to close the Parkway. Concerns over future development of the land have been voiced and supposedly dismissed. In reality, the management of Beaver Island State Park and Buckhorn State Park might be in question. There can only be supposition as to how the West River Parkway property could be included in that marketing. It is for obvious reasons the West River Homeowners and concerned citizens of Grand Island want real answers as to future use.
The West River Homeowners would like your help in this fight against the State.
West River Homeowner Association Board of Directors - President Frank Greco
For more information please visit W.R.H.O.A.
Concerns About Supervisor - January 2017As a Grand Island resident, I have concerns that long-established board's and committee's advice is not being fairly evaluated by the Town Supervisor Nathan McMurray. I say this because he dismissed the Planning Board recommendations without any discussion with other board members at a work shop meeting I had attended. Previous Town Boards always considered the recommendations of the existing Planning Boards and Committees. Now his actions of removing board members from committees, because they do not agree with him is not right because it denies fair representation. It's unfortunate, but the Town Board members should investigate if Nathan MacMurray's actions are related to the fact that Chris Aronica and Mike Madigan have not supported or voted for Nathan MacMurray's opinions or plans.
It Is His Right - But Is It Right? - January 2017The Supervisor has the right to assign and remove town board member liaisons to committees. That is an authority that has been entrusted in the Supervisor's position for decades without abuse.
The current Supervisor has decided to use this authority to remove board member from committees when they take positions opposing his, now on two different occasions.
Chris Aronica was removed by the Supervisor from the Parks and Recreation Advisory committee after he expressed firm opposition to the closure of the Parkway (Option 3) at an advisory meeting where the Supervisor was present. There was a very public confrontation, on more than one occasion, regarding this action by the Supervisor.
The second occurrence happened this week with my removal from the Traffic Safety Advisory committee after similarly expressing my opposition to Option 3 (the Parkway closure) in the context of traffic safety and my inclusion as part of that Board, the Parkway is seven times safer than any other major road on the Island based on a calculation method provided to me by NY State Parks.
I chose not to start the year off with a public confrontation regarding this matter. I avoided the conflict and did not think such a conflict would be the right way to start the year and I knew it would make no difference since the Supervisor has the right to remove me - as we learned after his actions against Chris Aronica. I have decided that not having that confrontation may have been a bad choice on my part. I have decided that my failure to confront this action has left it behind closed doors and hidden from the public.
The Supervisor has been entrusted to assign and remove Board Members from these committees and for decades this authority has not been abused. Things have changed.
Mike Madigan - Your GI Councilman