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Community Thank You - November 2021The Bauman and Kalman family would like to thank the communities of Grand Island and WNY as well as the Independent Health family for the outpouring of love and support received during the tragic loss of Laurie Kalman. It's this love and support, and our faith, that continues to carry us through. Laurie's life and legacy will be remembered with each sunrise and sunset. It's now up to all of us to carry the flame from the incredible torch that was Laurie.
Thank you and God Bless,
The Bauman & Kalman family
A Call to Reason - October 2021I read the recent letter to the editor that concluded with a request imploring readers to "Inoculate me if it will help us all thrive again soon." I believe the request is a good one and was shared respectfully by the writer who explained her concerns and love for her neighbors as the motivation. I have the same love and concerns for my neighbors and also want to see us all thrive again. I would like to add some perspective and before I start I want to be clear that I am not anti-vax and I have read many reports telling of the benefits of vaccinations. However, I am not convinced that they are the panacea that they are touted to be. I try to be antithetical and listen to differing views before making decisions and would like to share some observations that I see regarding the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines. The statistics cited are from government or neutral sites. My list is not exhaustive and I don't work in the health care field nor claim to be an expert but I would encourage everyone to do their own research and make the decisions that are best for themselves.
Before reading the statistics below please remember that I am not anti-vax, I just want to have realistic expectations of the benefits. All of the observations below are specific to Erie County.
1. According to the Erie County Department of Health as of October 11th 75.3% of the population 20+ years old have at least one vaccination. (source for items 1 and 3-6 ECDOH)
2. Current COVID case and death rates are dramatically higher than last year at this time when no vaccines were available. On October 14th of last year the cases per 100,000 people was 4.9, this year it is 26.7. Death rate per 100,000 was 0.1 last year and is 0.3 this year. So the statistics say that the current case rate is over 5 times higher and the death rate is 3 times higher than this time last year in spite of 3/4 of the adult population being vaccinated. Source covidactnow.com.
3. The average age of COVID related death for 2021 is 76. In 2020 the average age was 80.
4. Since the beginning of the pandemic 77.19% of deaths were people 70+. (1574 out of 2039 total deaths.)
5. Since the beginning of the pandemic 1.37% of deaths were people 40 and under. (28 out of 2039.)
6. Since March of this year 99.985% of those 40 and under recovered and did not suffer a COVID related death. 8 patients out of 54,600 infected did succumb but any comorbidities for these 8 are not listed.
In early August CDC director Rochelle Walensky stated regarding vaccines that "They continue to work well with delta with regard to severe illness and death, but what they can't do anymore is prevent transmission." Since then cases and deaths rose and peaked about 3 weeks ago and have been trending down since. Who knows what the future holds but this is the current trend. On a personal note, 4 of the 5 people I know who recently contracted COVID were fully vaccinated. All were symptomatic and thankfully none became seriously ill.
The vaccine has only been in use less than one year and long term effects cannot be known. Vaccine efficacy is waning and some of the most vaccinated areas of the world are experiencing the highest rates of COVID illness and death which can explain why we're seeing a big push for boosters.
I recommend that everyone research possible side effects of the vaccines and weigh it against their risk of serious illness or death from COVID and make the choice that is best for themselves. Vaccine side effects are often minor but on rare occasions they can be severe. For those who contract the virus between 1 and 5% end up hospitalized and over 98% survive (some statistics say over 99% but I cited the most conservative). Many reports show that natural immunity far surpasses the benefits of man made vaccines.
I will reiterate that the point I'm trying to make is that I want to have realistic expectations of the benefits and risks of the vaccines along with the illness itself. I am not suggesting nor am I convinced that vaccines don't offer any benefit. Here are some concluding thoughts:
1.The statistics support director Walensky's statement that the vaccines do not prevent transmission.
2.COVID discriminates against the older population and people with underlying health conditions. The younger and healthier people are the more resilient they are against COVID. The risk of contracting COVID may not outweigh the risks associated with the vaccine for this age group. Fortunately the risk of severe problems for this age group is very small for both the vaccine and the illness.
3. Each person should assess their own risk a take action accordingly. I personally don't believe there is proof of a one size fits all solution at this point.
We cannot live a risk free life and no one is bullet proof. I think it is clear the COVID is here to stay and 100% prevention is a fantasy. The evidence is lacking that 100% vaccination will eliminate or even greatly reduce the risks of COVID for any length of time. Since we are forced to face life that includes the risk of contracting COVID I implore our health department and politicians to provide transparent access to all information regarding vaccines and treatments so that each person can decide what is best for them. I do not see enough evidence to justify that vaccines be mandated for all or else. What will be the cost of shutting the unvaccinated out of the work force, not allowing them to shop, not allowing them to see their favorite team or show in person, or preventing them from participating in society? Do the benefits of the vaccines justify punishing the unvaccinated? Who will pay the bill for shunning these people from society? Should they starve until they comply? Has anyone seen the videos of Australia and would you want to see that happen here?
I am distressed by the division between people who believe vaccinations are the only answer and those who are adamantly reluctant to take them. I am in neither of these categories but I try to see through their eyes and can respect both. Personally, I just want honest answers and information to help make the best decisions in a difficult time. I want to see all people show love and respect for their neighbors regardless of their position on the vaccines. This country is being torn apart by divisions over many issues and COVID is only one of them. We need to start coming together as Americans and fellow human beings and not give into the forces that would tear us apart. Is anyone else tired of the endlessly moving goalposts that are preventing us from thriving?
Benjamin Franklin once said: "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." Before you desire to take away your neighbors liberties or give up your own I ask that you count the cost. Will you support your neighbors right to disagree with you and love them just the same? What will happen if you don't?
Town Board Endorsements - October 2021In submitting our endorsements for the open Town Board positions, we have taken great care in choosing wisely the candidates that we think will serve Grand Island most effectively. Serving on the Town Board allows for a unique perspective into what is essential to serve well, and we thank you for taking a few moments to consider our insight.
Diversity in both skill set and abilities is essential to working as a collaborative team. Though we both have varied educational backgrounds and career experiences, we have collaborated on many key projects for the Island, including all bargaining unit negotiations, our LED streetlight conversion project, and most recently, the review of our municipal auditing process. More than ever, our town needs to be led by elected officials with valuable credentials, relevant job experience, confidence, professionalism, and exceptional character. We have looked at past party affiliations and endorsements, and highly recommend Mr. Christian Bahleda (R) and Mr. Richard D'Agostino (D) for Town Board.
We are glad that Highway Superintendent Crawford and Judge Mark Frentzel are running unopposed, as their commitment to their elected positions is highly commendable. With Bahleda and D'Agostino joining the current Town Board, we feel that residents will have the best chance to be served by officials with a singular focus on you, the tax payer.
We thank you for the brief opportunity to provide what we recognize to be unique insight in relation to this election cycle. We are thankful for your support of each of us as we endeavor to represent you well.
Councilwoman Jennifer Baney
Councilman Mike Madigan
Be a Bee - October 2021When the scale of a thing is beyond our imagination, we’re challenged to find a familiar parallel to comprehend it. Last week, like you, I read that more than 700,000 Americans had, in the short span of just the last 18 months, died a suffocating, lonely and horrifying death from COVID 19. I put the newspaper down and tried to picture each of those loved ones, across all states, north to south, east to west, humanizing them outside the printed page and into my heart.
Consider this: from the Revolutionary War to the 2017 Raid on Yemen fewer Americans soldiers in total have died since our country began compared to the number who’ve died during the COVID 19 pandemic. Seven hundred thousand equates to one fourth of the entire number of US war dead since the American Revolution. Staggering, no? The number of US dead so far exceeds that of the 1918 flu pandemic by 25,000. It occurred to me that if someone had said aloud, perhaps in late December 2019 when I was enjoying the sun in Arizona, that close to three-quarters of a million Americans would be dead from a single source within the next year and a half, I’d have scoffed at them, unless of course they meant that a meteor would soon be annihilating three-quarters of Erie County or a nuclear bomb would be erasing nearly half the city of Manhattan, in which case I’d be running as far and as fast from here as I could. Of course, we couldn’t run away, could we? How many of us have thought, “If only they’d open the northern border so I could escape the chaos here?” only to realize that there is no way out except, as the saying goes, through. Then, just as we thought we’d hunkered down long enough for the meteor dust and nuclear waste to clear, another one appeared on the horizon.
This has been the stuff of science fiction made painfully real. Even our devices: televisions, laptops, iPads, desktops, and smart phones delivering all the video content ever produced since Hollywood’s birth to March 2020 couldn’t, in the end, lift us out of the mire that forced us to live with one another or, err, die trying. Instead of bringing us closer together emotionally, which we dearly needed, the platforms we used: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, yada, yada, yada, became the go-to venue for our rage and fear as we tele-duked it out, foolishly thinking that did us any good whatsoever.
The holidays of 2020 were especially interesting, because by that point we’d figured out how to do this thing. People who’d never heard the word zoom before unless it erupted from a little boy playing with his favorite Matchbox car began to get uncomfortably familiar with tele-everything. Tele-appointments, tele-conferencing, tele-medicine, tele-therapy, tele- your friends you love them, tele- your family they had to stay away but you loved them too. Tele-teaching was perhaps the toughest of all. I have a beloved friend who teaches kindergarten in Niagara Falls. Each week I’d ask her how on earth she managed to teach the little ones their ABCs, colors and numbers while struggling to get them simply to stay focused. Not that getting them to stay focused hasn’t always been her number one classroom challenge, but when the 5-year-old can wander off screen to parts unknown it became clear her class was no longer with Toto on the Yellow Brick Road. And of course, this was when she could get them to show up on screen at all. From her description, I gathered that she had to become a one-woman tele-tubby act and parental dictator all-in-one. With new rules of engagement, brightly colored backdrops, some emailed and snail-mailed lesson handouts and an insistence that adults in the room corral those kiddies the way she had done for many years in person, some education did, in fact, occur, even if it was primarily an education in tele-learning, tele-PTAing, and tele-patience. It was anything but simple. But, like our holiday dinners, it did ultimately work, at least in its way. That is, in a new, less perfect way. But, let’s be honest, when were classrooms or family dinners ever perfect anyway? Communication is hard work. It always has been.
In truth there never was a utopia in which any of these things were perfectly done, including caring about folks we don’t know, who don’t live among us, and whose life is remarkably different from our own, whether they’re breathing well or suffocating in a COVID chokehold looking us in the eye with heartbreaking desperation. We’ll never perfectly understand the mystery of our own survival while 700,000 of our fellow Americans were dying either. Consequently, striving for a sort of heaven in which we want to do all things to the best of our ability and at least try to selflessly care for one another is what our highest spiritual principles teach us to attempt courageously. The prayer of St Francis of Assisi impels us to love before we’re loved, to understand before we’re understood, and to give before we receive. And for what? Enroute to the doorway where I’m rushing to get out of all of this unharmed, why would I pause to let you go first? Because death of ourselves, the refusal to keep shoving ourselves to the head of the line, is what courage looks like in practice. Viktor Frankl, the Jewish psychologist who wrote the book Man’s Search for Meaning while he was imprisoned by the Nazis, struggled with the kind of existential angst so real to many of us now. His response was to look around and pause long enough to ask “what is happening among us?” His well-documented observation was the same as that of St Francis: you can’t kill off the person next to you, doing nothing at all to help them in any way you can and hope to survive yourself. The only way we can survive anything, and, as Frankl documented, actually thrive afterward, is to be as helpful as possible to the person next to you. It’s just that simple.
I recently heard someone say that when children begin dying of COVID 19 mask wearing and vaccinations will no longer be a political football. But aren’t our 700,000 fellow Americans the children of someone? The math is beyond my ability, but I wonder what complex equation could tell us how many fewer Americans would have died of COVID 19 over the past 18 months if we’d all stood in line and said, “Inoculate me if it will help us all to thrive again soon. I love my American neighbor as myself.” As Marcus Aurelius, the 1st century Roman Emperor put it, “What’s good for the hive is good for the bee.” Be a bee.
Just Say “No” - October 2021I would guess that most Grand Island residents are aware of the recently passed NYS law that legalizes the sale and use of marijuana. I would bet, though, that very few Grand Island residents know that any town in NYS may make the decision to prohibit, within that town, businesses that sell marijuana and businesses that allow on-site consumption by enacting a local opt-out ordinance no later than December 31, 2021. Towns enacting such a law may rescind it at any future time and make the choice to license these businesses. Towns that do not enact an opt-out ordinance by the December deadline, however, will never get another chance to prohibit these businesses within town limits.
There are many reasons to be concerned about the government promoting recreational drug use through the legalization of marijuana. Concerns involve risks to not only the user, but to the public. Sharing our town roads with patrons of pot parlors is a scary prospect. Unlike alcohol, there is no verifiable lab test to identify drivers who are under the influence of marijuana, so fear of arrest for a DUI is not a deterrent.
At a recent Town Board meeting, two people urged the town to allow businesses to sell pot and to allow on-site consumption parlors because of their medical needs. The new NYS law involves licensing businesses that sell and provide places for on-site consumption of marijuana for recreational use.
Owners and employees of these businesses are not healthcare professionals, and are not qualified to recommend marijuana for medical problems. Patients using cannabis products under the supervision of a physician for medical needs are able to get these products from qualified legal providers, and that will not change.
The primary argument for allowing marijuana sales and on-site use in the town is potential tax revenue. I have been a Grand Island resident for 61 years. I know that people do not cross the bridges to shop here. The only people who will support these pot sellers will be those who live or work on the Island. Changing the culture of our town to one that promotes recreational drug use in exchange for a few tax dollars from our own residents doesn’t make much sense to me.
I suggest that Grand Island take a step back, opt out for now while we have this one-time chance, and take time to research the effects of these businesses on other towns. The Town Board must hear from every resident who favors an opt out law. The clock is ticking! If we don’t opt out by December 31, we will never have another chance. Your email to the Town Board will make a difference. Voice your public comment at the Town Board meeting on October 4 at 8 PM. Our town needs to follow Nancy Reagan’s advice, and “Just say no!”
2021 American Legion Post 1346 Poppy Drive - September 2021
Robert Haag photo.  On behalf of the Grand Island American Legion Post 1346, I would like to thank all the people who donated to our annual Poppy Fundraiser on September 10th and 11th. It was a great success for our post.
The proceeds from the fundraiser will benefit the VA Hospital, Grand Island High Scholarships, homeless veterans, the DeGlopper Memorial, the Neighbors Foundation and other charitable organizations.
Rick Bonarek, our chairman on this project, did an excellent job of coordinating people and places. Thank you to all legion members who donated their time and effort. Special thanks to all the businesses who allowed us to set up at their locations: Tops Market, Gui’s Lumber, Northwest Bank and the 7-11 Convenience store.
Thank you everyone and God Bless America.
Ray DeGlopper, Commander American Legion Post 1346
Figler Thank You - Septenber 2021
Team Figler  Justin Figler completed the 24 mile run Wednesday, September 1st and ran the last 4 mile leg on the high school running track in front of over 100 spectators. It was an overwhelming success and raised $28,400 so far from 346 individual donations. On behalf of Parkinson’s Boxing and my family, I would like to thank all of the people who donated and for their generosity.
Long Road Blacktop Problem - Septenber 2021  Hi Mr. Hardwick,
I live on Long Road, Grand Island. Not too long ago blacktop patches were added to our road. It was then we residents could feel our cars being veered from our path. Our tires were actually being moved by these patches. I then thought well I am sure they are temporary. Yesterday I was told they will be there over the winter. This Kevin is a bad move. I know most likely it is too late to pave the road, but here is a more urgent problem. This problem is some of these temporary blacktop patches cover the fog lines. Along the road you cannot in many spots see the white lines separating the driving lane from the walking or bike lanes. This is extremely dangerous. I would have written earlier but thought these patches were temporary. The fog lines need to be redone this fall before winter sets in. I like many other Long Road residents walk this road for there are no sidewalks. I have been putting up with this dangerous situation all summer. Mr. Hardwick please contact county roads and have them put down new fog lines also described as the white lines separating driving lane from walking and biking lane. The existing covering of the fog lines by these foolish blacktop patches is very dangerous to the residents who walk this street or bike this street. Please help .
School Supply Thank You - August 2021
From left: Bethany Kulikowski and Megan Lavis  Dear Grand Island Community,
For the second year in a row the Grand Island Community showed their generosity in so many ways. Two of our DECA leaders took on the task this year and reached out with a call to the community to donate school supplies for our students in need this fall. Well, in true Grand Island fashion, anonymous residents stopped to see Fahim at Island Ship Center, get their #FahimFix, and donate quite a bit of supplies. The monetary donations came in as well from the Rotary, VFW, and even more generous unnamed residents of our dear Island. On behalf of Megan Lavis, Bethany Kulikowski, and our entire DECA chapter we want to applaud our residents. Thank you for always making a difference in the lives of others and truly make this a “grand” place to live and work.
Cheryl Chamberlain - GIHS DECA Advisor
Why Have Landlords Been Forbidden to Collect Rent Payments by the Governement? - August 2021I am writing to inform the public how landlords, specifically in the state of New York, have been affected and continue to be affected during this pandemic. After our family retired from the United States Air Force, we moved back to Grand Island. We chose to buy homes in the area and rent them, as a way to supplement our military retirement. We take pride in our rentals and work hard at this small business enterprise.
In spring of 2021 Governer Cuomo declared that renters needn’t pay their rent during Covid. I have a handful of rentals on Grand Island and all renters but one continued to pay their rent, even in situations where their professional lives had been altered. For this I am grateful. One tenant in particular, however, stopped paying rent even though he could. What was a landlord to do?
I immediately researched Forbearance Programs through my mortgage company and was granted a three month forebearance, which did not absolve me from those months of paying my mortgage; instead the program tacked the payments onto the end of my mortgage. To add insult to injury in this duplex setting I pay the tenants water bill. This tenant, for reasons that are unclear to me, began running his water 24/7. In addition to paying outrageously high water bills each quarter and maintaining my insurance on the property this tenant stopped mowing his lawn, which is his responsibility according to the rental agreement. Code Enforcement contacted me as the owner of the property and I must now cut the grass to comply with the Town Code.
Can’t the legal system help? I hired an attorney (additional out-of-pocket-expense) and we took my tenant to court in May 2021. When the judge asked him why he was not paying rent he simply uttered one word behind his mask: COVID. When the judge queried if the young man had a job he stated that he had; he had worked at a factory. When the judge pressed further asking when he had lost his job he vaguely stated, “about a year ago”. No proof was required and being actively accountable to look for a new job was neither suggested nor enforced. The judge simply said this tenant is not obligated to pay rent at this time. Gavel bangs. Case dismissed.
My attorney asked for a new trial date of September 1, 2021 because it was rumored that the Eviction Moratorium may end August 31, 2021. I have continued to acrue additional court expenses and have turned the calendar numerous times, paying not only my personal living expenses but this tenant’s living expenses as well.
In the interim, state-wide Emergency Rental Programs (ERAP) were put into place - promising ‘significant economic relief’ to landlords of non-paying tenants. The catch? The Landlord must work WITH the tenant filling out near-impossible stacks of paperwork and in the end checks would be cut TO THE TENANT in the tenant’s name with the ‘hopes that the tenant would cash the checks and give the arrears to the landlord’, but by law WERE NOT OBLIGATED to do so. Landlords weren’t guarenteed a penny. Again, the state assistance benefited the tenant, not the landlord.
Our Governer declared that tenants did not have to pay their rents in these trying times; but is anybody curious how the landlords - whether they have one rental or hundreds - have been affected? I have gotten another job in an attempt to keep my house from being foreclosed upon, a real and ongoing threat for those of us now unable to pay our rental mortgages.
I acknowledge that this pandemic has affected each and every one of us. I also acknowledge the need, at times, for temporary safety nets to be put in place. However, theses safety nets/programs need checks and balances to hold individuals accountable and must be short term. Honest hardworking Americans who have rental homes as their small business should never have been penalized in such a disproportionate manner.
Robin J. Shipman
It Never Ends - August 2021On the news yesterday we learned that the Bills want a new stadium, totally financed by the taxpayers. Of course, this is just the opening salvo. The Bills will ultimately ante up some of the money, not much, but some. This will make the “negotiations” with the County look real. Poloncarz will be able to gloat that he got the taxpayers a better deal while the Bills won’t look as greedy as they actually are.
There are a number of questions that need to be addressed: Do we need a new stadium and Who should pay for it, to start with.
We don’t need a new stadium. Ohio Stadium, where the Ohio State Buckeyes play, was built in 1922 and upgraded in 2001. It holds over 100,000. The Rose Bowl was also built in 1922. It holds over 100,000. The University of Michigan’s stadium was built in 1927 and holds over 107,000. There are two clear take-aways from this: stadia last and these stadia, as well as most others, were built for the purpose of seeing the action on the field. The lust for new stadia by NFL owners is to accommodate people who want to be seen at the game, rather than seeing the game.
No professional sports owner would build their own football stadium. It is economically irrational to pour that kind of money into a facility that will be used, at most, 10-12 times a year. Every economic analysis of stadia show that they are economic losers. Yes, bars and restaurants nearby do well but restaurants and bars further away lose. It is a zero-sum game, at best. One doesn’t have to believe the economic analyses to realize that stadia are losers. There was a real-life case in the late 1980s. The Chicago Bears played their home games at Soldiers Field, owned by the Chicago Park District. The Bears, admittedly, had a lousy deal with the Park District compared to other teams’ deals for their facilities. The Bears threatened to build their own stadium and move the team to Addison, IL, an outlying suburb, if things didn’t change. Once they started to analyze the costs and benefits, they decided it was more prudent to continue to negotiate with the Park District for a better cut of the revenues.
It never ceases to amaze me how so-called liberal politicians who claim to be fighting for the little guy will shovel money at the richest people in town. The Bills have one of the sweetest deals, if not the sweetest, in the NFL. The Bears, Browns, and others training sites and team headquarters are not at their stadia: The Browns are in Berea, OH and the Bears are in Lake County, IL. The Bills own, in every meaningful sense of the word except bearing the cost, the stadium in Orchard Park. The owners are rich and the players earn salaries far beyond what most could earn in other professions. Let them pay for a fancier facility if they think it will increase net profits (it won’t, and they know it).
When the current stadium was built in 1973 it held 80,020. Today, it is 71,608. So, capacity has been decreased, at substantial expense, I might add. Since we can’t repeal the law of supply and demand, prices have gone up. So, let’s get this straight: we paid to shrink the seating capacity for which we get higher ticket prices and less people can actually attend the games. Such a deal.
Enough is enough. Erie County, or the State, has far better ways to spend the $1.1B or whatever number is finally decided upon. (I bet that the Bills contribution will be a fixed amount, not a percentage of the whole cost. This will make the taxpayers liable for any cost over-runs.) Almost every sewer district in Erie County is beyond capacity, so that even a hint of rain causes sewage to run into the Niagara River. Any funds the County can scrape together should be devoted to remedying this health hazard first. I realize that there is no pizzaz in upgrading a sewer system but this is what public officials core responsibility is: the health and well-being of the citizenry; not bread and circuses.
Given my cynical (realistic) view that Poloncarz will obligate the taxpayers, I suggest, in fact, I implore, that the Grand Island Town Board investigate the possibility of seceding from Erie County and joining Niagara County. Given our unique status as an island and our location, it should be feasible. Grand Island has a little over 20,000 residents. We are 2.2% of Erie County and would be 8.8% of Niagara County. Since Grand Island is an above average income/wealth area in Erie County we will bear an above average share in the cost of Pegula’s fantasy. Yes, Niagara County is a poor county but it doesn’t have any illusions of grandeur, building wasteful edifices. Whether or not we can get out of Erie County, the Board should go on record that we are opposed to squandering any tax money on the Bills.
The “FUN? WOW!” Story Continues - July 2021My fellow Islanders,
As a lifelong Grand Island resident and amusement industry fanatic, I was overjoyed to hear the news that Gene Staples and his team have stepped in to save the park we all came to know and love: Fantasy Island.I was among the many in our community and the amusement industry who were immensely disappointed when Apex Parks Group permanently closed the park in February 2020. Our beloved, once booming family amusement and water park was left to withstand another full cycle of WNY weather, sans the TLC it requires and deserves.This was followed by what can only be described as a gutting of fan favorites, sold off, and with them went the memories that local families forged over the years.So many of us can relate to year after year measuring up to see when we were tall enough to ride each new season.
So-called “urban explorers” and vandals alike (what’s the difference, really?) proceeded to do their best to destroy what was left of our beloved park. They tried their hardest to discourage potential buyers from seeing what we all know is the beauty and magic that park holds.I guess you can say they weren’t expecting someone like Gene Staples. For those who don’t know about Mr.Staples, he puts his heart and soul into the amusement industry. In a period of just 14 months, he has acquired/leased three previously defunct amusement and water parks, successfully reopening two of them within three months of signing their respective deals.This guy means business! As with his other parks, Gene’s vision doesn’t just involve reopening these parks; he also diligently works towards ensuring an experience that brings back what generations grew to love about true blue amusement and water parks. In fact, his vision may involve a return to the heyday of Americana-era amusements with room for growth along the way.
Change is hard sometimes, but change is inevitable,so let’s get the name change out of the way. So many of us know the acres of fun located at 2400 Grand Island Blvd as “Fantasy Island.” Except for a blip in the early ’90s, Fantasy Island was the name for almost 60 years! However, it’s just a name. The new name “Niagara Amusement Park” allows for park rebranding to attract tourists visiting Niagara Falls, Buffalo, and the entire WNY region. Let’s all remember that it’s just a name, and I have to say it’s far catchier than “Permanently Closed.”
I was involved in efforts to reopen the park since its unexpected closure. Within those efforts, I had the honor to work with fellow Fantasy Island workers who, despite all the obstacles we faced, tried with all their might t omake it happen for our community. That said, I’d like to make a shoot-out (err, shout-out) to Bill Baldwin (BlackBart from the Wild West shoot-outs), ‘Marshal Dan’Monroe, Jay Wilcox, and everyone involved in those efforts.I’m sure they join me in wishing Gene Staples and his team nothing but success with Niagara Amusement Park. If Mr. Staples were to need anything, I encourage him to just say the word. We know what a jewel this park is and are willing to do all we can to make Niagara Amusement Park a success for years to come.Thank you, thank you, thank you, Gene Staples, for seeing what others were unable to see but what we in WNY never lost sight of.
Faulan DAFA to March - July 2021Faulan DAFA to March in GI Independence Day Parade Saturday, July 3rd.
The US has always been viewed as the role model for freedom and independence, and past presidents such as Kennedy and Reagan have referred to her as a shining city on a hill that is the beacon of freedom’s hope - that hope is held by millions of people trapped in countries where there is no freedom.
Faulan DAFA also known as Falun Gong, is a spiritual practice that millions around the world have made a part of their lives. Rooted in Buddhist tradition, it consists of two main components: self-improvement through the study of teachings, and gentle exercises and meditation. In China it is estimated that there are over 100 million members.
In 1999 China banned Falun Gong (Faulan DAFA) and initiated government sponsored persecution, internment and genocide of it’s members in China. Today it is reported that millions of individuals are being held in re-education concentration camps in the Xinjiang Province of China where large-scale organ harvesting, medical experimentation, executions and slave labor is occurring.
Please help our beacon of freedom shine even brighter by welcoming the marchers of the “Upstate NY Faulan DAFA Association” to our great Independence Day Parade as they seek to make folks aware of the plight of their people in China and raise awareness of their organization and it’s practices.
Mike Madigan - Town Councilman
July 4th Celebration - June 2021Fellow Islanders:
This year, the July 4th Parade and Dick Bessel Independence Day Run will be held on Saturday, July 3rd. Due to safety concerns and NYSDOT requirements, we are asking that you do not set up chairs, tents, etc. until the day of the event. Any such unattended items placed in the NYSDOT Right-of-Way prior to the date of the event will be removed and placed at the Town Highway Department, 1820 Whitehaven Road. If they are not picked up by Monday, July 5th, they will be discarded.
Your cooperation with this matter is greatly appreciated.
John C. Whitney, P.E. - Town Supervisor
DeGlopper Gratitude - June 2021Dear Fellow Residents of Grand Island,
Expressing appreciation to the people involved with the development of the DeGlopper Memorial Expansion project is simply overwhelming. On behalf of the DeGlopper family I will try to explain our gratitude by telling you about all that has happened since the idea was initially put forth.
The idea of renewing and beautifying the DeGlopper Memorial site came up in January 2016. The VFW, the American Legion Post and the Moose Lodge considered the idea. Meetings were held for all interested parties to pursue the importance of such a venture. It was favorable to all.
With such a formidable task ahead, Dan Drexelius was chosen as project manager, who liked the idea of acquiring the vacant Exxon Mobile property, adjacent to the site. After much negotiating, he was able to get it donated, thus making it an expansion of the memorial grounds. Once that was accomplished, a site plan was designed and groundbreaking took place in June 2016.
Development of the project moved along with the grateful donations of time, money and effort. This project has been funded primarily by Grand Island residents.
As we admire the components of this memorial site, we recognize the generous contributions of material and labor, of the elements both seen and unseen.
Representatives as young as the Boy Scouts and high school students, to our older senior residents, were involved with every aspect of this project. Local businesses from every entity in our community contributed to the continual development as needs arose.
Volunteers of Grand Island service organizations devoted time, energy and money to the enhancement of the grounds. The role of the VFW, the American Legion Post and the Moose Lodge never ceased to administer to the needs of the project with meetings and fundraisers.
The efficient management and undying devotion of Debbie Bota and Elsie Martino, to ensure an excellent completion, was a tireless effort.
Bringing Charlie back to life was due to the exceptional talent of two people, Ralph Sirianni, of the Town of Tonawanda, for the life-like drawing of our Uncle Charlie, which then became the basis for the lifesize bronze sculpture by Susan Geissler of Youngstown, NY.
In closing, the members of the DeGlopper and Killed In Action families will be forever indebted to this monumental effort put forth by the DeGlopper Memorial Expansion Committee, with the support of our wonderful Grand Island community. A heartfelt thank you to all.
Tonawanda Coke Stacks Coming Down - June 2021
From left: Jackie James & Jenn Pusatier. In 2002 a future friend of mine from Kenmore, Jackie James, was diagnosed with a neuromuscular disorder called Fibromyalgia. I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia around the same time. Jackie and I did not know each other as of yet, but this shared diagnosis would bring us together to fight a goliath polluter to our environment: Tonawanda Coke Corporation (TCC). It had been polluting our air and water for years without any regard for the health and safety of its workers or local communities. Both of us believed we may be sick because of our environment.
Two years later, Jackie, along with a few neighbors, decided to collect air samples with a Home Depot®️ bucket retrofitted into an air sampler. Those samples were tested and found to have high levels of benzene, a cancer-causing agent. It was in this same year that the Clean Air Coalition was founded. From 2006 to 2007 this small group of impassioned residents used their data to persuade government officials from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to fund a year-long air quality study. Benzene levels came back at 75% higher than the EPA guidelines. The fight was on to have Tonawanda Coke fix its ways or close its doors permanently.
In 2013 the Department of Justice, using our citizen science as evidence, took Tonawanda Coke to US District Court. After a month-long trial, twelve jurors found Tonawanda Coke and its environmental control manager guilty of 14 criminal charges of violating environmental laws. This was only the second time in history that a company had been indicted and convicted in violation of the Clean Air Act. Justice prevailed— at the hands of residents! Tonawanda Coke was fined $12.5 million and ordered to fund two community service projects worth $12.2 million. Its managers were also ordered to install emission control equipment after which benzene levels came down 92%.
Citizen Science Community Resources was formed to focus on TCC and hold its leaders accountable to their obligations under the federal court order: clean up the plant and fund the community outreach projects to those affected. The celebrations were somewhat short-lived; Tonawanda Coke never complied with the EPA regulations even after multiple fines. In 2018 a tunnel collapse went unreported and this in turn forced the community to see the black smoke coming from the stacks. The opacity levels of the smoke were undeniable along with the odor and particulates in the air. The government took notice. In September 2018, TCC was hauled back into federal court and found guilty of breaking its probation. In the same month, the NYS DEC denied TCC’s Title V air permit. Finally, in October 2018, when Tonawanda Coke was tired of fighting the government, elected officials, and all of us residents, it closed its doors once and for all.
Throughout all of this, I have been an advocate for the Town of Grand Island in holding Tonawanda Coke accountable. It was because of the residents that attended our town meetings, took pictures, and called the DEC to report what they were seeing that we were able to close the plant and breathe fresher air once and for all. To all of those families on Grand Island that shared your personal stories of illness with us, know that they will never be forgotten and we hold them close to us. You trusted us and what we were trying to do for our communities. It truly was a David and Goliath story. CSCR believes in 3 R’s: Resilience, Reclaim, and Rebirth. Nothing is impossible, and what is right is right. Never say never. Justice can prevail. Citizens, through their own science, can create change. Our communities deserve better.
Our organization, Citizen Science Community Resources, started by Jackie James, is excited to announce to our communities that the 3 stacks on the property will be coming down on Saturday, June 5th at 5:45 AM. Those ugly reminders in our skyline will be gone. Asbestos remediation has been done in the stacks. Full environmental oversight by many agencies will ensure a safe demolition.
CSCR continues to review the Brownfield/Superfund Projects on-site during cleanup with the DEC and the engineering company doing the cleanup. We continue to tour the site and keep communication lines open with the developer. I sit on a Tonawanda Coke Working Group that gives us a review every month along with local elected officials. We look forward to what the Riverview Campus will bring to our community. It will be a catalyst for new technology, new jobs, and a clean waterfront.
So save the date: two historic events are happening on Grand Island on June 5th. At 6 AM the Tonawanda Coke stacks will be demolished. At 9:45 AM there will be a DeGlopper Memorial Dedication Ceremony at the park. All before lunch!
Director / CSCR
Why I am Running and Some Major Issues - May 2021Why am I running for the School Board? Good question. I am reminded of Clint Eastwood’s character in Heartbreak Ridge telling the recruits as they were preparing to take their first jump in parachute training: “jumping out of a perfectly good plane isn’t a rational act.” The rationality of running can be debated but the necessity can’t be. We need change. The “go along, to get along” mindset has to go.
As an economist, it is my observation that the successful firms are customer focused. In school systems, the customers are students and taxpayers. Where do they stand in the hierarchy of concern by the district?
As one who was involved in the capital budget debacles going back to 1999 and spending decisions as far back as 1979, I can assure you that taxpayers are of the least concern to the system. Taxpayers have seen their monies squandered time and time again. This MUST change. Funds need to be spent wisely and frugally. With respect to students, it is important to bear in mind that most learning in life occurs outside of formal education. We are always learning. So, what should be the aims of the school system? Clearly, we should give them the tools to be able to learn on their own: the 3 Rs – reading, writing, and arithmetic. If a child is having difficulty with one of these topics, he/she should double up on classwork in it. This is the true ‘no child left behind’ action. After that, we should to strive to instill in them a love of and appreciation for learning. Facts are important. The ability to evaluate a situation and address it is as important. It doesn’t matter if it is a word problem in math, trying to determine why an engine isn’t running, or any of a number of different issues that will arise.
We need to acknowledge that vocational skills and careers are just as rewarding and necessary as those that require college degrees. I may not need a lecture on supply & demand curves or Shakespeare’s sonnets in my life but I will probably need a plumber.
Finally, we should have been looking for ways to re-open the schools full-time rather than giving litanies of reasons why we couldn’t. It is embarrassing when the local private schools as well as many public-school districts throughout the country have been open full-time since September, even in states with high case rates. In NY, a number of districts have been open full-time since January. If it is the State that is at fault the Board should push back. Get the other districts to join in and present a united front to Albany. If it is the County, we should confront them, too. It is wrong not to demand that the State or County defend their mandates to keep schools operating at half-speed. It is costing the students, academically and socially. It will difficult for them to recoup the lost time.
It is our money and the future of our children.
We can do better. We need change.
At Candidates’ Night one of the questions asked was “What is your stance on Critical Race Theory and the 1619 Project? Are you in favor of bringing them into the Grand Island School District?” I am totally opposed. It has come to my attention, though, that many may be unaware of this nonsense. So here is a ‘Cliff Notes’ synopsis of them. As Thomas Sowell, an economist at the Hoover Institution at Stanford, said, Critical Race Theory is “revenge society” and “racism under new management.” While hardcore Marxism would be impossible to sell, ‘equity’ wouldn’t be. People might confuse it with equality as in our founding documents. As has been pointed out, critical race theorists emphatically reject equality. It just represents non-discrimination. (As it should.)
(The following is from Christopher Rufo’s discussion of it in Imprimis which is available online.) In contrast to equality, equity as defined and promoted by critical race theorists is little more than reformulated Marxism. In the name of equity, UCLA Law Professor and critical race theorist Cheryl Harris has proposed suspending private property rights, seizing land and wealth and redistributing them along racial lines. Critical race guru Ibram X. Kendi, who directs the Center for Antiracist Research at Boston University, has proposed the creation of a federal Department of Antiracism. This department would be independent of (i.e., unaccountable to) the elected branches of government, and would have the power to nullify, veto, or abolish any law at any level of government and curtail the speech of political leaders and others who are deemed insufficiently “antiracist.” One practical result of the creation of such a department would be the overthrow of capitalism, since according to Kendi, “In order to truly be antiracist, you also have to truly be anti-capitalist.” In other words, identity is the means and Marxism is the end.
Clearly, critical race theory is nothing more than propaganda masquerading as an intellectual discipline. This rot should have a stake driven through it.
The 1619 Project is another doozie. It claims that the beginning of the United States wasn’t 1776 but 1619 when the first slaves were brought to our shores. Its thesis is that slavery was the defining characteristic of the United States. New York Times columnist Bret Stephens published a more than 3,000-word essay outlining the project’s blunders that have led the academics with the National Association of Scholars (NAS) to call on the Pulitzer Prize Board to revoke its award to the project’s chief essayist, Nikole Hannah-Jones.
At the heart of his criticism is the project’s central thesis to revise the date of America’s “true founding” to the year 1619, when the first African slaves found their way to the colonies (Native American tribes had kept slaves on the continent for centuries by then). Several months after the campaign’s launch, now that it is infecting some 4,500 K-12 classrooms, the legacy newspaper (NYT) stealth-edited the project to remove the language of its “true founding” to when the “moment [America] began.” “These were not minor points,” Stephen wrote. “The deleted assertions went to the core of the project’s most controversial goal, ‘to reframe American history by considering what it would mean to regards 1619 as our nation’s birth year.” There is so much wrong with this project that it fails as history. Many eminent historians have condemned it. It would fail as historical fiction, also. Why should anyone want propaganda taught in the schools?
It is the job of the Board of Education to see that the students’ time is well spent learning. Their time shouldn't be wasted on propaganda, however nicely packaged.
Proposition No. 2 Opposition - May 2021Regarding the proposed 2021-2022 Budget for the Grand Island schools, I am of the following opinion. With regards to Proposition No. 2 in the amount of $710,000, what does the statement "to acquire various school buses and vehicles" actually mean? How many school buses, what sort of vehicles, how many, and the cost of each? In past budget proposals this was clearly spelled out. As the importance of safely transporting our students has been a priority for me, I have always voted to approve this expenditure. I find myself unable to do so this year. As a taxpayer, to blatantly ask me to approve the expenditure of $710,000, with basically no explanation, is something I refuse to consider. Vote to change the School Board. I support Jim & Leslie.
Pride of the Island - May 2021Dear Parents,
Thank you for your support and cooperation during the last fourteen months. Your dedication to education and love for our schools has shown through during this terrible pandemic. Since 1991, Grand Island Teacher’s have recognized students that we believe to be the "Pride” Of The Island. PRIDE is awarded to students who are Personable, Respectful, Involved, Diligent and Enterprising. This year we recognized 255 students who fit that description. Thank you for raising such incredible children. We look forward to working with you to help your children become successful adults.
Your partners in education,
Mike Murray - Grand Island Teachers’ Association President
Now is the Time for All Good People to Come to the Aid of Our School District - April 2021Grand Island’s schools depend upon a fraction of the people in our small community to deliver and sustain the District’s important mission. Most GICSD employees are underpaid, the School Board members receive not a dime. Yet our schools (roughly 2800 students across Sidway, Huth Road, Kaegebein, Connors Middle School and GIHS) are rated top-notch, with a strong statewide report card and a 95% graduation rate. Students are top-ranked on a 4-point scale for college, career and civic readiness, a remarkable achievement truly enviable in districts across the country. It is a well-supported assertion, then, that prior to disruption by a global, lethal virus, GICSD teachers and staff, Superintendent Graham and the School Board were doing an excellent job.
Suing the GICSD now reflects very, very badly on the band of angry people, not the District. It is widely seen as kicking District employees and School Board members, who’ve already taken a beating for an entire year, just when those folks need the community to rally for the last leg of this very tough journey all have endured. Instead of a lawsuit, how about setting an example for those 2800 students of something that looks a lot more like collaborative civic leadership? You can be sure Superintendent Graham and School Board members never lost faith in GICSD teachers given their history of excellence. You can be certain teachers have been doing their level best to invent solutions for the past year, straining under an incomprehensible burden. Mutual concern for our students’ learning across the community is unequivocal. So, what, then, is this lawsuit all about?
A commitment to returning the children to their classrooms as soon as we are able is the middle ground on which we all stand. Bringing a lawsuit against people already extraordinarily stressed and doing the best they can is disingenuous and worse, unproductive. Harming the District financially clearly is also a bad idea. On its face this lawsuit is a politicization of something not a single person could have hastened or changed. Litigation distracts us from our urgent need to act collaboratively and responsibly.
Ask someone who has lost a family member to COVID-19. This is in no way a partisan issue, despite what some have written about in the Dispatch or cried from the podium. This is a global killer, something we’re unlikely to see again in our lifetimes. Consider the new and unknown variants and the infection rates spikes among college student partiers. Read the descriptions of folks dying alone in agony and review the statistics on infection rate fluctuations directly concomitant with proximity, then wonder aloud, along with most of your neighbors, why anyone would want to legally force teachers and children into a situation that could expose them unnecessarily, and with summer just around the corner! Consider, too, that District employees are not yet 100% vaccinated! This lawsuit comes just when things are finally beginning to look hopeful. Suing the District now is uncivil, unkind, unhelpful, and unfair to those who have worked extraordinarily hard. Counter-productive and costly, it will not achieve the objective we all agree upon most fervently.
To Impeach, or not to Impeach; is that really the question? - March 2021After having been subjected to his preening for the past year, New Yorkers now have to watch as Andrew Cuomo is being accused by eight, at last count, women, of loutish behavior. He has been, uncharacteristically, keeping a low profile. Given that he has the legislature contemplating (I am engaging in hyperbole) impeaching him for these acts, the AG looking into his actions with respect to the nursing home debacle, along with the Eastern District of NY US Attorney’s office and the US Dept. of Justice, this is understandable.
What should we make of all of this? We can dismiss the legislature’s actions as pure theater. They will impeach no one. This is their version of the four-corner stall. They are counting on the AG, the Dept. of Justice, or the US Attorney to get their first. This shouldn’t be too hard since Methuselah could out wait these politicians.
Without wanting to diminish his behavior towards these women, the nursing homes and homes for the disabled’ actions are the important issues. People died because of his policies. There should be real accounting and consequences for these actions. As citizens of NY, though, we shouldn’t have to wait until the end of 2022, the end of his term, to be rid of him. Any legal actions will take at least that long to get rolling through the court system. We should be able to oust him now. Unfortunately, we can’t. There isn’t the ability for citizens to mount a recall campaign similar to that occurring in California. Everything has to come from the legislature. They won’t allow it because, horrors of horrors, it could be turned on them. They might actually have to get a real job. Those of us on Grand Island are fully cognizant of the utility of the recall process. We could have canned McMurray within two years of his reign of error. Why should the citizenry be compelled to suffer through an official’s full term when it is clear that he/she lost their trust? They shouldn’t.
Given Cuomo’s problems this is the best opportunity we will have to get a citizen-initiated recall law on the books. Any politician who opposes it, by that very act, shows that they shouldn’t be in office. On Grand Island there is a grassroots group, 5Days4GI, which is standing up to the educational bureaucracy, demanding a return to full-time in-class education. Having been a lone voice in the past confronting the school board, I find this to be a most welcome initiative. We need to do this at the State level with respect to recall laws. Call/email your elected official. Get them to commit to doing it. If they won’t, tell them to update their resumes.
A Message from the Supervisor - January 2021January 6, 2021
As your Town Supervisor, I just want to tell you how saddened I am by the events that took place today in Washington, DC.
The attempted insurrection at our Capital disgusts me. The chambers of Congress are sacred, hallowed grounds. To see people attempting to stop the electoral process by storming Congress is an attempt to overthrow our government. The course of action would be through the Courts, not through violence and insurrection and cannot be tolerated.
I support the right to protest, but this action crossed the line while doing absolutely nothing but causing damage, injury, and death. Our prayers are with the family of today’s victim and we pray for peace and unity within our country.
John C. Whitney, P.E.
Will Not Run for Re-Election - January 2021Grand Island Residents,
It is with both a fair amount of sadness and resolve that I want to share with you my decision to not run for re-election to the Grand Island Town Board. Thank you for taking a few minutes to read my statement about the decision. With the election reforms that have taken place across New York State, it is essential that candidates declare their intentions many months in advance. Primaries happen earlier than ever before, which means petitions must be circulated earlier, extending the length of the campaign season to upwards of an entire year. So while this announcement may seem early, it is very much in line with the election calendar.
Serving Grand Island, though stressful and demanding at times, has been an incredible honor. However, I can assure you that I am fully committed to a strong finish in this final year of my term. I am thankful that with this decision I can solely focus during 2021 on my role as your Town Councilwoman, without the campaign element. I will remain committed to the tasks of the job through the entirety of the year, with ample time spent at the end of my term to transition the new councilperson into the position, all with a focus on you, the resident and taxpayer.
Though my decision to not run for re-election was incredibly difficult, it was made slightly easier knowing that Grand Island is well served and represented with Supervisor Whitney at the helm. It is essential for men and women with integrity, professionalism, a strong work ethic, relevant collaborative work experience, and a dedication to the community to engage in our town politics. Please continue to volunteer for our committees and advisory boards. And also, if you have the character and capacity to serve, not only will I look for your name on the ballot, you will have my full support.
With Gratitude and Continued Service,
Councilwoman Jennifer Baney