Previous Letters to Editor Page
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Editor or addressed to: Letters to the Editor, 1871 Whitehaven Road, Grand Island, NY 14072
Really? - March 2020I read the article by my high school classmate, Kevin Rung, on this site the other day. He appears to be in favor of the Amazon facility. Clearly, that is his prerogative. However, the caricature of my article that he uses as a punching bag needs to be responded to.
He says, at one point, “There will be an increase in semi traffic on I-190 24 hours a day as Amazon’s fleet go to work; but to extrapolate a sudden crippling increase in accidents closing the bridges is unsupportable.” I said, “Who is going to eat crow when there is an accident at one of bridges which backs up traffic for two hours? So much for keeping to anything resembling a schedule.” It is an extreme case of hyperbole to get a ‘sudden crippling increase’ from ‘when there is an accident at one of bridges.’
I don’t see anything in my article about “…the trucks”……as if a motorized plague might be unleashed onto the Island; for what possible reason would Amazon’s trucks need to trundle about on the Island’s roads?” This is just creating a straw man to attack. Nowhere did I say that the trucks would be cruising the Island’s roads.
He says, “Amazon’s new warehouse would result in important new Island infrastructure.” No. It would result in a new privately-owned facility. Infrastructure items are bridges, sewers, roads, pipelines, etc. On the other hand, the increase in truck traffic will degrade one piece of infrastructure much more quickly: the bridges. We saw the inconvenience when they were re-decked in recent years. Does anyone seriously want that repeated more frequently?
However, that is beside my main point. My point was and is that putting this facility on Grand Island doesn’t make sense economically. Any location on the mainland would be more profitable and/or less costly. Anything one can do on the Island one can do less expensively on the mainland. This is true of any island. You have a lower material well-being for a given income on the Island which is more than offset by perceived quality of life options. (If it wasn’t you wouldn’t live here.)
Given that it makes more sense to build this facility on the mainland, why is it being done here? This is my Cui Bono? question. Something doesn’t add up. If one wanted better access to Canada, Niagara County has plenty of property zoned for this off the 190 and near rail sidings. In Erie County, throw a dart and one can find properties: Walden Avenue, Genesee St., etc. Any would make more sense than Grand Island. Again, Cui Bono?
First Responders and Medical Professionals: Running Towards the Danger - We Thank You! - March 2020Reminiscent of 9/11, our first responders and medical professionals on the Island are risking a lot (themselves) to save a lot (save others). The Town of Grand Island thanks these remarkable and heroic individuals that are truly selfless.
It is human nature to avoid life threatening risks - especially those hidden or silent risks that can be brought home to their own family. Our first responders and medical professionals are right there on the front line doing just that. As an example, The Grand Island Fire Department responded to eight calls Friday, March 27th (the first call being at five in the morning and the last at near midnight). At a time when our residents are being asked to stay at home to prevent getting sick, our volunteers, following a stringent protocol that mitigates risk, are entering homes to help people that are sick or injured, including patients suspected of having Covid-19. Similar heroic acts are being performed by the ambulance crews, doctors and nurses who are on the front lines against this virus, many of which are Island residents.
Our entire community has stepped up in this challenging time. The outpouring of people throughout our community who are volunteering to help the most vulnerable amongst us is truly remarkable. Neighbors are checking on neighbors, making certain they are okay and giving them support by shopping for and providing food. Many have organized, with support from the town and our schools, delivering meals and groceries to those who need this assistance. Others have supported our hardest hit businesses, such as our restaurants, by ordering out and providing them a financial lifeline that is much needed.
A truly heartfelt thanks to all of you for pulling together as a community. Your efforts are what make our community so fantastic and you are making our community and country safe and strong in this challenging time. You are truly great Americans. The next time you see one of these folks, from a safe distance of course, please thank them!
GI Town Board: Jennifer Baney, Tom Digati, Mike Madigan, Pete Marston and John Whitney
Oppidum Populusque Magnae Insulae - March 2020My friend, Jim Mulcahy weighed in recently in these pages with some observations regarding the proposed Amazon warehouse which looks like it might be built on the Island’s northern end. Drawing upon the Latin which he and I studied during our years at the same Prep school he asks: Qui Bono? To who’s benefit? The proposed Amazon warehouse makes sense for several reasons and in answer to Qui Bono – why - Amazon benefits. So what?
The land on which the warehouse would be built has sat undeveloped for the thirty seven years I have lived on the Island; my hunch is that Amazon acquired it for a song. It sits right on the principal north/south artery I-190 allowing shipments south and east into the eastern and southern counties as well as into Niagara County to the north and maybe Canada. Who benefits – Amazon – so what?
Lots of static is being emitted about “the trucks”……as if a motorized plague might be unleashed onto the Island; for what possible reason would Amazon’s trucks need to trundle about on the Island’s roads? Rather, they would concern themselves with entering and exiting I-190 via the shortest route to and from their warehouse. I-190 is already a major artery for semi traffic moving north and south into and out of Canada and Niagara County. Amazon will benefit. So what?
There will be an increase in semi traffic on I-190 24 hours a day as Amazon’s fleet go to work; but to extrapolate a sudden crippling increase in accidents closing the bridges is unsupportable. Besides, most bang-ups which close the bridges involve automobiles not paying very good attention or texting during the morning rush to get off the island to work.
Amazon’s new warehouse would result in important new Island infrastructure. The warehouse would be conceptualized and built after careful and thorough review by the Town’s fully competent elected officials. Both the Town and School system would realize significant new tax revenue. Our Town would gain new population that would need to avail itself of our stores, businesses, restaurants, and so on. So……..in response to my friend Jim Mulcahy query: Qui Bono? To who’s benefit? Oppidum populusque magnae insulae – the town and the people of Grand Island.
Kevin J. Rung
Neighbors Foundation Message - March 2020Neighbors, during these challenging times we want to remind our Grand Island friends that the Neighbors Foundation is here to help provide food for those that are in temporary need. Please call 773-7476 or 773-1452 for assistance.
We've also received many calls from people asking how they can assist the Neighbors Foundation. If you have food you would like to donate, you can drop it off in the narthex of St. Stephen's Church on Baseline Road. There is a receptacle to the right as you walk in the main door. Alternatively you can call me at 773-7476 to arrange a time and place to meet.
We also provide those in need Tops Gift cards for perishable food so we expect our financial resources to be stretched over the next few months. If you would like to donate money, you can donate online at www.gineighbors.org, or mail a check to:
Grand Island Neighbors Foundation
P.O. Box 155
Grand Island, NY 14072
Be well and let's continue to care for each other, especially our neighbors in need.
David Conboy - President, GI Neighbors Foundation
Cui Bono? - March 2020I know that I have used that title in the past but it is particularly appropriate for the topic I want to discuss. Cui Bono is Latin for, basically, “who benefits?” In my economics courses I always tell the students that to understand why something occurs, we need to ask ourselves, “who is the beneficiary?” This will lead one in the correct direction to understand why something happens.
The case in point here is the Amazon warehouse facility proposed for the north end of Grand Island. A disinterested analysis of the location would show that it is about as poor a site as one could imagine for a warehouse and distribution center with the volumes anticipated. Again, Cui bono?
Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, came up with a brilliant idea that has benefitted million of users of his site. The fact that Bezos was/is clever does not imply that all of his underlings are. (I think the debacle in Queens, NY should prove that. The rants against the tax breaks caused Amazon to pull out without so much as a whimper. If it was such a great deal why not explain it to the public. Even AOC should have been able to understand that Amazon was just not going to pay as much in taxes, not get a check from NYC. Amazon, in my opinion, is clicking their heels that she ran cover for them. While Amazon may have received tax breaks, when someone put pencil to paper to determine their labor costs, especially for executives, the deal started heading south. NYC’s public schools are a wreck. Any exec would have to send their kids to private schools which will be over $20,000 per student per year of after-tax income. Further, it gets very pricey to live in NYC. If one opts for the suburbs, there is the commute. The salaries that were going to have to be paid I am sure made this venture much less attractive. It was easier to save face by bailing out due to “community protests” than admit you screwed up.)
Who is going to eat crow when there is an accident at one of bridges which backs up traffic for two hours? So much for keeping to anything resembling a schedule. With the purported number of trucks that will be plying these bridges each day they will wear out that much faster. Do we really want to have the bridges redecked every other year?
There is lots of land in Erie and Niagara Counties that is zoned for this type of activity; is accessible to railroads and highways; and comes in sufficiently large sizes to accommodate it. The argument for putting it on Grand Island seems to be the weakest any potential site. Grand Island will get minimal tax revenue; the County and the State will be the primary beneficiaries. Grand Island, on the other hand, will incur all of the infrastructure costs and increased commuting costs.
There was a hue and a cry when a truck stop was proposed for Whitehaven at the Thruway exit. It was stopped even though we are talking about a far greater number of trucks with this project. Where is the outrage over this beaut?
If the powers that be want to do something that would benefit Amazon and others, the LaSalle Expressway should be completed to the 990 and the Twin Cities Expressway. I, personally, would add undoing the ignorant decision to bisect the Island with the Thruway in the first place. (Yeah, I know: fairy tales can come true….) Nonetheless, we should demand that the former is done. Soon!
Again, Cui Bono? This project couldn’t pass any free-market test. As such, someone has, at least, one ulterior motive for foisting this catastrophe on the Island. Just Say No.
COVID-19 UPDATE - March 2020Fellow Islanders:
In accordance with Governor Cuomo's Executive Orders, the Town has reduced our staff to all but absolutely essential operations. We have closed all the Public Buildings including Town Hall, Highway, Library, Golden Age Center and Recreation buildings. With water bills being sent out, we're asking that you mail a check or place one in the drop box located outside the lower level entrance to Town Hall. On-line payment is another option.
We must remember that this virus is not to be taken lightly. Please practice safe social distancing, wash your hands often, use hand sanitizer, wipe down surfaces with disinfecting wipes. Work from home if possible and avoid large social gatherings. In other words, please do everything possible to minimize the spread of this disease.
In these trying times, we need to try to stay positive. Isolation can lead to depression. If the weather allows, get outside, take a walk, go for a ride. Make some phone calls, reach out to a friend or your neighbors. We will get through this. We can, we must.
Hopefully this will be over soon. On a lighter note, Spring is here!
John C. Whitney, P.E. - Town Supervisor
Project Olive Comment - March 2020Grand Island residents, and most particularly those of us who have worked all our lives to buy homes on or near West River Road or Long Road, are evidently viewed by those town officials who pretend to represent us as just some more powerless furry creatures whose homes they will permit Amazon to destroy. They have known of Amazon’s intent to convert our heretofore peaceful neighborhood into an uninhabitable industrial zone for some time, but said nothing until recently to their constituents, to whom they allegedly report & who have been paying their keep.
They barely bother with an excuse, muttering politicians’ drivel about the “tax base” and “buying wetland credits.” Even from a financial standpoint, development by a predatory retailer the likes of Amazon adds no net jobs to the local economy, because for every one of Amazon’s underpaid hires, at least one higher paying job is lost among locally owned shops. “Buying wetland credits” is just a way of pretending you’re not destroying the environment by throwing a few dollars around.
Nothing good ever comes of a situation in which people have no voice. It is up to us to put a stop this situation, and it must be made clear to the Town Board members that it is time for them to represent us, and that further complicity in Amazon’s ruinous scheme will not be tolerated.
Keep Medicaid Cap - March 2020For decades, one of Western New York’s greatest challenges has been the burden of continually rising property taxes. For too long, this burden forced families, seniors and people on fixed incomes to relocate to other states. But in the past decade, we have made considerable progress in both economic development and revitalization of this area that so many of us are proud to call our home.
Governor Cuomo made reducing property taxes one of his highest priorities. We all agree that taxes on middle class, blue-collar, hardworking individuals and families cannot continue to rise unchecked. The Governor fought for passage of the 2% property tax cap and a cap on the amount of Medicaid costs paid by counties. That has benefitted Erie County greatly in our ability to provide high-quality services while continuing to reduce your taxes, which we did in the County Legislature when considering this year’s budget.
The Medicaid cap helped counties slow or even reverse the decades of property tax increases that made life unsustainable in Western New York. But now that progress is under threat from a new proposal that would remove the cap and shift a portion of those costs back to local taxpayers. Local taxpayers simply can’t afford this. If we are forced to absorb more Medicaid costs, counties will have no choice but to return to the bad old days of choosing between increasing property taxes or making cuts to vital services like veterans’ services, road maintenance, public libraries and more. Our seniors deserve quality programming as do working mothers deserve adequate daycare. The Governor’s proposal could jeopardize the exact things that are making life here appealing to so many.
We can’t afford to take a step backward. New York’s counties stand ready and willing to be a partner in finding ways to reduce costs while maintaining a high quality of care. But we must protect local taxpayers and keep the cap on local Medicaid costs.
Hon. Kevin Hardwick - Erie County
Fantasy Island - February 2020I was devastated to hear that Fantasy Island was closing down for good. This was my favorite childhood place to go with my family, and later on I enjoyed it with friends as a teenager and well into adulthood, joining my niece and nephews there, and more recent their children. I have so many fond memories of the place – picnics with my family, the Golden Nugget Saloon Show including the old ragtime piano music and Can Can routines, riding the train through the tunnel (when they used to do that!), and watching the “crazy” people dare to ride Devil’s Hole...but I was not surprised when I heard of its demise after visiting the park last year with my sister and her son’s family.
It broke my heart then to see the park so dilapidated. If the present owners wondered why they lost business, they only needed to take a ride on the antique cars to see three or four of the cars dismantled and rotting along the path and then overgrown weeds hitting them in the face as they drove it along the outer part of the path closest to the highway. Or see the remnants of the old log flume ride laying in the undergrowth nearby. Or find so many rides with signs saying "next seat, please." I’m sure there are others like me that find the demise of our childhood park heartbreaking and I’d like to see our Town revitalize it and bring it back to life. Maybe we could do a town-wide GoFundMe page or something, get some initial funds going to save it? Maybe call the Governor’s Office? The State sent all this money to fund the Welcome Center (I won’t go there on that waste of taxpayer dollars), so why not an amusement park? I hope that our town leaders won’t let this park die, regardless.
Open Letter to Town Board - February 2020I am writing to ask that we, the taxpayers and voters, are given a full accounting and explanation of the Deputy Supervisor position in the last administration. In previous administrations the title of Deputy supervisor was given to an (elected) Council member who took over in the Supervisor’s absence, similar to the President, Pro Tem in the US Senate. It was not a permanent position.
How did Grand Island come to have a position this high in our government structure? I don’t remember voting on it. I do remember voting years ago to eliminate positions. Shouldn’t such a powerful position have received the explicit approval of the voters?
As importantly, how was he compensated?
1. Did the supervisor pay him out of his own pocket?
2. Did the supervisor reimburse the Town which then cut the Deputy a check?
3. Did the taxpayers have to pay for both the supervisor and the deputy supervisor?
Needless to say, it makes a difference. If it was 1 or 2, especially, what legal risks were the Town (read: taxpayers) exposed to? Further, are the Island taxpayers on the hook for any post-service benefits like higher pension benefits or health care benefits or others? We better not be.
Finally, if there exists, anywhere, the ability for a future administration to do something like this, it should be your first piece of business to drive a stake through its heart. Back room skullduggery is a disgrace and we should explicitly disavow and disallow it.
James M. Mulcahy
Prosperity - February 2020Politicians like to submit missives to opinion columns in order to keep their name in front of voters. You can’t blame them - if you ask the average guy who his State Legislator is, or his Congressman, most of the time he would have no idea. And so, our Congressman Brain Higgins, submitted a piece to the “Opinions” section of Friday’s edition of the Island Dispatch using President Trump’s State of the Union Speech as an opening. Although it was probably written by one of his staffers and signed off by him, it none the less exhibited a viewpoint animated by shared effort toward goals we can all subscribe to; Mr. Higgins is to be commended.
There was, unfortunately, this: “It is undeniable that the $1.9 trillion tax cut benefiting big corporations and the wealthy failed to deliver for hardworking Americans.”
Mr. Higgins’ observation was his opinion, thus - we can allow him the exaggeration of suggesting something as if it were true; however, stating that: (the tax cut) "......failed to deliver for hardworking Americans" is false, Mr. Higgins’ opinion notwithstanding. The Tax Policy Center reports that for 2018 all quintiles (statistical groupings) enjoyed a tax decrease; not only the so called “wealthy” of the upper quintile, but also the lower and middle income quintiles. Moreover it noted that within all quintiles, some taxpayers paid higher taxes; this “some” included high income earners – the wealthy. Differences were the result of data interpretation, variability of tax deductions, earned income credits, and variations in tax bracket creep.
This much is certain: The tax cut enacted by the Republican Congress and President Trump has resulted in igniting an economic boom. Corporations and small businesses are investing in expansions and upgrades as a result of those tax cuts, generating an explosion of employment in the US not seen in decades. New job openings are going unfilled and the level of African-American and Latino unemployment has never been as low as has now been achieved. Real wages have increased and consumer purchasing continues to rise as a result. That means new cell phones, new flat screen TVs, new cars and so on; all the stuff we all want.
But in spite of all the evidence to the contrary there are candidates for president pumping their fist in the air trying to convince gullible sections of the population that the demonstrable success of free enterprise must be replaced by the misery and envy of Socialism. Data suggests their supporters are young people who have no knowledge of the grim Socialism that some of their parents and grandparents endured – first hand.
Mr. Higgins’ opinion piece suggests there is hope that cooler, rational heads will prevail as party candidates in the upcoming election, affording American voters a choice between realistic candidates whose platforms are grounded in a collaborative real world with continuing prosperity – rather than the fantasy world characterized in George Orwell’s 1945 fable, Animal Farm.
Kevin J. Rung
Will We Lose a Great Asset to the Community? - January 2020There comes a time when all good things come to an end..I heard by the grapevine that we may see the demise of a great community asset namely Isledegrande.com. I am hoping it is just a rumor, but if is really true, I will be very sad.
As a frequent user of Isledegande.com for information of what’s happening on our Grand Island, it would be a shame if it was no more. I understand the cost of publishing a free service must run in a good deal of financing. From the information I have, Reggie Schopp has been the main source of keeping Isledegrande.com in business. Evidently the cost of publishing the site has risen to a point where it is not making ends meet. Donors and local advertisers are not sufficient to keep up with rising costs.
I’m sure we will all miss Isledegrande.com unless some Angel comes to the rescue. An Angel in the form of more advertising revenue, local donor participation from (clubs, school projects, Senior information groups, Church groups, Veterans Groups, Local Businesses and more who are now a part of the weekly news.
I was surprised that many of our Grand Island Citizens do not know that this source of NEWS of the ISLAND exists. Those of you that know this GEM exists, Get the word out to your friends and maybe we can save the most valuable Asset on this Grand Island, Time is short, join us NOW ! Save ISLEDEGRANDE.COM
To the Grand People of Grand Island - January 2020The Neighbors Foundation of Grand Island was happy to have brightened somewhat the Holiday Season for 53 families on the Island. However, we did NOT do it ourselves! Many of you from Grand Island helped with financial, food, and gift contributions, so that the Foundation could provide food baskets, turkeys, hams, gifts for children involved, and other help for those families.
Many of you helped: big food collection by students from all schools, hard work by School System Maintenance Dept. bringing it to K of C Hall, then DECA and Interact sorting that food for us. Many local organizations: the K of C with use of their Hall for distribution, others made donations to our ‘Share Your Happiness’ fund drive or held events that raised money, collected food or gift cards.
To acknowledge the help we have received, the Neighbors Foundation has placed a listing of all our donors and workers in the Neighbors Foundation segment of the IsledeGrande web site. The Foundation, with donations and work of so many in those lists, was able to help your Island neighbors in temporary financial distress. Thanks to all the donors and helpers listed in that summary - you made the 2019 Holiday Season a bit happier for your Island neighbors.
See list here.
David Conboy, President, Neighbors Foundation of Grand Island