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Doing the write thing

    OK, pop quiz time.

   How many of you have ever done a write-in vote at a polling station?

   And how many of you live in Orchard Park?

   That's where the "opportunity to ballot" - known as the write-in to those who don't work for the Board of Elections - has been used most in the past couple of years, particularly in those contentious Independence Party primaries.

   In the past week, I've been told the write-in spaces are too high for short people.

   I've also been told by an irritated elections inspector that all of the polls are handicapped accessible, and all voters had to do was ask for them to be cranked down lower.

   I've had a chance to see some of the votes counted. The write-ins, like regular votes, are recorded on wide, long pieces of paper - about 3 feet wide, as long as 6 feet long, depending how many people voted.

   A vote in the wrong column isn't counted. And if you somehow end up voting as a Democrat even though you're registered as something else, your vote won't be counted because it will go in the wrong column.

   In the end, there is a written record of the votes - something that might not exist if electronic polls become the norm. But, wow, what tedious work going through those write-ins and the absentee ballots and the affidavit ballots (where there appears to be something wrong, but the inspectors take the ballot anyway in case the voter actually is right).

   That's what I've seen. Tell me a little about your experiences.

   Would you know how to do a write-in? And if you have, how did it go?

   --- Elmer Ploetz   

There's a reason the totes come with lids

   I love my garbage tote. So do a lot of people. My father loves his so much, he jokingly says he wants to live in it.

   There is much to love about them. No more lugging cans to the curb. No more wondering whether they're blowing down the street on a windy day. No more lids disappearing. No more raccoon parties out by the street.

   But here's the thing about the totes, now in use in several suburban communities: They're only going to do what they're supposed to do - keep the rats away - if they're not so stuffed to overflowing that the lid can't be closed.

   What if you have so much garbage you can't fit it all in there? Some towns will let you put out another container, as long as its covered. Or get to know your neighbors by asking them if they have some extra room. The better answer is to try to make less garbage by making sure you're recycling as much as possible.

   If the totes help us do that, it's one more reason to love them.

   --- Bruce Andriatch

Where there's smoke, there's fire (pits)

   If you have happy childhood memories of campfires or bonfires, the idea of an outdoor fire pit likely appeals to you.

   If you live next door to someone who has one going all the time, maybe appeal is not the right word. "Bothered" might be better. "Sickened," perhaps. "Driven out of my mind by the constant smoke," maybe.

   Local government leaders, who previously had not seemed all that concerned about the backyard fires, have begun to push for laws that would regulate them.

   So is this putting a damper on your outdoor fun? Or does this mean you can finally listen to "Smoke Gets in your Eyes" again without getting angry?

   --- Bruce Andriatch


Your suite is ready, Whiskers

   If you've ever decided against going on a trip because you don't want to leave your cat behind or you've thought, "How could I have fun in some exotic land knowing that Rover is in a kennel?" you're not alone.

   And now the market has caught up with you.

   A pet hotel could be the way to go. In fact, from the sounds of these places, your pet might have a better time than you will.

   But are we maybe going just a tad overboard here? The same animal that will drink out of the toilet every chance he gets can spend a weekend in what amounts to a spa? Why would they ever want to come home to the old bath towel on the tile floor in the front hall when they can have a lambskin blanket and soft music in their own suite?

   And by the way, don't we have something better to do with our money?

   --- Bruce Andriatch


Amherst voters not kind to Kindel

   In the Republican primary for Amherst, six-term incumbent Council Member Bill Kindel finished last among five candidates. The veteran lawmaker has apparently worn out his welcome among those who feel that new blood is needed to get results on the Town Board.

   The primary was a victory for the Amherst Republican Party, whose slate of endorsed candidates gained top votes.

   Mark Klyczek, a candidate supported by Supervisor Satish Mohan but subjected to a negative hit piece by the Republican Party, finished fourth. A vote for Klyczek may have been a vote for Mohan, or simply an indication of anti-incumbent fervor.

   Perhaps Kindel's public and well-publicized run-ins with Mohan during board meetings have not been overlooked by voters who have expressed an interest in supporting a board that exhibits more professionalism and respect.

   What do voters want in the makeup of the next Town Board? And what message did Republican
voters send by supporting Barry Weinstein, Roy Wixson and Guy Marlette for office?

     --- Sandra Tan


This class is too big ... This one is too small ...

   Imagine you build a house in a beautiful neighborhood. One of the things you love about it is that your kids will be able to walk to school, which is so close you can see them outside your kitchen window.

   Now imagine that you get the word from the district that your kids won't be going to that school, but to a less crowded one a few miles away. Instead of leaving the house 10 minutes before the bell rings, they'll have to get on a bus that comes 45 minutes earlier and brings them home 45 minutes later.

   If you're a suburban parent, that scenario can sound very much like redistricting reality. School officials aren't trying to be evil; they just need to do something when some schools are overflowing with students and some are, well, underflowing.

   If not redistricting, what? Should they add on to the schools that have too many? Close schools that have too few?

   --- Bruce Andriatch

Timmy's: Worth the wait?

   Tim Hortons is just a little bit like Wal-Mart: Nobody wants one in their neighborhood, but it seems like everybody goes there.

   Members of the Lancaster Town Board on Monday did what we all seem to have a hard time doing - they said no to Tim Hortons. In this case, it was a proposal to build one on Transit Road and Michael Anthony Lane. Residents said they were worried about the traffic and the board agreed. The developer expects to file a lawsuit.

   Traffic and Timmy's go together like doughnuts and coffee. I know that every time I pass a line of cars waiting to go through the drive-thru - OK, OK; every time I'm IN a line of cars waiting to go through the drive-thru - I wonder why we do it. True, the line moves very quickly, but where else would you willingly get in a line where there are almost always 10 to 15 customers in front of you?

   What I'm asking is: Why do we love Tim Hortons so much? Is the coffee THAT good? Would you go there as often if you had to actually get out of your vehicle to go in the restaurant?

   --- Bruce Andriatch

Chaos in Amherst

Even with a program, it's hard to tell the players in Amherst's tricky Town Board races  this year.

On the surface, party labels might suggest Democrats support Democrats and Republicans are working for their own.

But since the the arrival of Supervisor Satish Mohan two years ago, the political cross currents are running strong.


  * Council Member Bill Kindel, a veteran six-term Republican, is challenging his party in the primary election, saying his values "are in direct conflict" with [fellow Republican] Mohan. Kindel also talked about becoming a Democrat and courted  Democratic County Elections Commissioner and Amherst Town Democratic Chairman Dennis Ward, brother of Amherst Council Member Dan Ward.

The party switch didn't happen, but indications are that Kindel and the Democrats would be comfortable if he wins one of the three open seats on the board.

* Mohan, who complains that he needs a board that will help enact his agenda, backs two of the endorsed Republican candidates, but has decided to support a newcomer, nursing home
administrator Mark Klyczek instead of a third party candidate, Guy R. Marlette.

And, this week, Amherst Republicans released a letter to the press accusing Mohan of violating campaign financing rules.

What's going on?

According to Mohan, both Democrats and Republicans are now opposing him.

-- Thomas Dolan

Aiming too high at shooting club?

   The "mixed use" development concept - a well-designed space that melds retail, residential and office interests - isn't new. It's just new to Western New York.

   Across the country, many well-designed mixed-use projects have met with great success. Suburban planners have promoted such developments as "new urbanism" - high-density developments that feature walkable, mixed-use communities with plenty of public access and gathering spaces.

   Benderson Development representatives say that's exactly what they have in mind for Amherst Town Centre, a $44 million mixed-use development planned for the former Amherst Shooting Club property on Maple Road.

   Benderson officials say the project's proximity to UB, the Pepsi Center and Audubon Golf Course make this spot the perfect location for a new "lifestyle center."

   But some residents are skeptical. Placing high density development in what is now an open field means traffic congestion and access issues for neighbors who've lived in the community for years.

   Benderson promotes a development with "timeless character" but some residents say Amherst Town Centre is "out of character" with the surrounding neighborhood.

   Can this kind of mixed-use development succeed in Western New York, and is the former Amherst Shooting Club the place to build one?

   -- Sandy Tan

Welcome to office supplies: Empty your pockets

   Is this back-to-school time or the continuation of a scavenger hunt through office supply stores?

   Does your child's class supply list read something like this: a 1-1/2-inch three-ring binder; a graphing calculator; seven folders with pockets, all different colors; a protractor; three boxes of tissues (no aloe please); paste; glue; a 1-3/8-inch three-ring binder ...

   What do you think of this annual rite of fall? What is the strangest thing you have to get? And do kids really need all this stuff?

    - Bruce Andriatch