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Apathy reigns on election day

   We spend a lot of time around here getting the skinny on the men and women running for office in the 'burbs. The stories about who the candidates are and what they stand for in every elected job from town supervisor to assessor are a staple in the paper at this time of year.

   But when the polls close Tuesday night, we'll marvel at how few votes are actually cast for the people who will run town governments, the people who decide how to spend your money.

   In some cases, it's apathy. As has been well-documented, even presidential elections don't draw like they used to. In local races, the fact that many candidates have no opposition or only token opposition is certainly part of it.

   But there are some hotly contested campaigns being waged in the suburbs and the populace will greet most of them with a yawn. Why? If all politics is local, why don't more people vote when it comes to local politics?

   --- Bruce Andriatch

   

The roads less traveled

 

   My daughter is learning to drive, so I decided last week to see how she would handle the ultimate test: Transit Road in East Amherst on a Saturday afternoon.

   It made me think of the streets and roads I'm always trying to avoid, either all the time - Main Street in Williamsville - or some of the time - the 290/90 interchange at the Big Blue Water Tower, during rush hours.

   How about you? Is there a thoroughfare that you'll do anything to avoid?

  --- Bruce Andriatch

   

Gimme a P!

   

   At a Town Board meeting last week, Amherst Supervisor Satish Mohan launched an angry tirade about the nature of "dirty politics" in response to accusations by political opponents that he was adding patronage jobs to his 2008 budget.

   Mohan said in commentary edited below:

   "Has politics become so dirty that we can't think any honest or true things? I have read in Webster's dictionary that the definition of a politician is ... one who pursues personal or partisan gain, often through crafty or dishonest means.

   "A politician (should be) one who dedicates himself to public service, does it honestly, diligently and selflessly. I promise to everybody I am working for this definition and I will keep working for this definition."

   Curious about Mohan's statement, I opened up Webster's dictionary upon return to the newsroom and, indeed, Mohan quoted Webster's definition of "politician" with great accuracy.

   The word "politician" - and especially the phrase "career politician" - has picked up such negative connotations that it's usually found in campaign attack ads leading up to election day.

   Seasoned politicians refer to themselves by a different "P" word: public servant. It sounds more noble, honest, and trustworthy.

   Why the word games? Will "politician" forever remain a dirty word?

   --- Sandra Tan

Clarence turf battle on hold

  Although the Clarence School Board is "nowhere near" ready to make a decision on artificial turf for the high school playing fields, Superintendent Thomas Coseo recently said the issue will start moving front and center during either the Nov. 19 or Dec. 10 board meetings.

   "We owe it to them to at least start discussing it," Coseo said, referring to the coaches and sports boosters lobbying to replace the school's grass fields with artificial turf.

   Supporters asked the board at its Sept. 11 meeting to schedule a public referendum on the issue. The board took no action, other than agreeing to study the request.

   Varsity football coach Tom Goddard and Michael Swan, president of the football boosters, also proposed an all-sports complex that would accommodate a variety of sports programs, including baseball, soccer, field hockey and lacrosse.

   They estimate converting three fields and adding lights at two would cost less than $3 million.

   But talking with Coseo recently, it sounded like supporters will face a few hurdles.

   "We haven't even made it through our current capital project," Coseo said. "And certainly
you have to look at the district's educational mission ... the impact on taxes."

   --- Niki Cervantes

Quibbling about the quarry

   Buffalo Crushed Stone's lawyer, Craig A. Slater, has one answer for critics who live near the company's quarry on Como Park Boulevard: "We got here first."

   That's right. The limestone mining company was there long before the folks who moved in around it. To be fair, company reps also say their activities fall well within the state's environmental guidelines and they have all the necessary permits to do business at the quarry.

   But the claim to being first on the spot clearly means the rest of the folks who move in behind them have lost some of their right to quibble about the mine.

   The quarry's neighbors complain about noise, smell (rotten eggs, or hydrogen sulfide), dust, truck traffic and especially the vibrations. Depending on how close they live to the quarry, witnesses testified that their homes shake, windows break, and they fear that the house may be splitting apart.

   All this is part of everyday life in Cheektowaga.

   Do you buy the company's argument? And what else should the "I got here first" rule apply to??

   --- Thomas J. Dolan 

Putting a value on public service

   So how much is an elected official worth?

   The question makes a great opening line for any number of jokes, but the underlying issue deserves some serious consideration.

   In today's Bufalo News, we have a story regarding the controversy surrounding Supervisor Satish Mohan's $75,000 salary, and a resolution passed by the Amherst Town Board to ensure Mohan never gets a raise.

   And then there's the promise by Erie County executive candidate Chris Collins to work for only $1 a month.

   There's no question that it's hugely unpopular for any elected official to seek or accept a big salary or pay raise, no matter how much or how little the job pays.

   The negative political consequences of seeking more money for a job - even if a raise is legitimately deserved - means that some of our locally elected leaders end up receiving a smaller paycheck than the upper level administrators who work for them.

   Some might argue that a taxpayer-supported job in public service shouldn't be compared to a job in the private sector. Or that the elected official in question hasn't performed well enough to merit any kind of raise.

   Others might say that only by giving our top-ranking local leaders salaries indicative of their huge responsibilities will stronger, better-qualified candidates run for elected positions that are undeniably demanding and stressful.

   Which arguments sway you?

  --- Sandra Tan

   

An idea that stopped traffic

   A study commissioned by Erie County found no justification - based on state criteria, anyway - for keeping traffic signals at three Town of Tonawanda intersections: two on Elmwood Avenue and one on Colvin Boulevard.

   Even the town police chief said he didn't foresee a safety problem if they were replaced with stop signs on the side streets. To the contrary, he suggested that simplifying the intersections could reduce risks.

   But residents opposed removing the lights and the Town Board agreed. They're staying.

   In my first-ring suburban neighborhood, there's a traffic signal at the corner - the intersection of a busy east-west route that runs from Buffalo to Amherst. Yet every driver living on my street knows that you don't dare proceed, even when you have the green, without first looking for the east-west motorists gunning it to beat the light.

   The silence of many a day has been shattered by cars screeching to a stop and sometimes colliding.

   What's it like in your neighborhoods?

   --- Janice L. Habuda

Power to the people

   Because of the way electrical power is organized by grids, National Grid spokesman Steve Brady said last week that it would be impossible to say whose power was out the longest during the October storm. He was pretty sure, however, that it had to be somewhere in Snyder.

   I asked around informally and heard many people say they were without power or they knew someone who was without power for seven or even eight days. The people on Chateau Terrace were the only ones I could find who said their power came back on day 11, or almost a full 240 hours after it went out.

   Can you beat that? Or should we all doff our chapeaus to the people on Chateau, the most powerless neighborhood in Western New York?

   --- Bruce Andriatch

Down on the farm

   With immigration a hot topic, the use - and some say, abuse -of migrant labor by Western New York farmers is equally controversial.

   Agriculture industry representatives say migrants are essential to bringing in the crops, since locals have no interest in the temporary, minimum wage jobs. But enforcement of immigration laws often means even a migrant workforce isn't a sure thing.

   What's the answer?

  --- Janice Habuda

A flight of fantasy in the Town of Tonawanda

Cougarr

   My big brother used to go up to the wings on the back tail of the airplane. So did other kids. Every time we went, I swore that I would join them. I never did. It was too high.

   That plane represents a powerful childhood memory for me and - apparently - for a lot of people. Where else could you go to actually climb on top of an airplane or slide down to the nose? Even after the town wisely chose to seal up the cockpit, you could still pretend you were flying.

   I drove past it a couple of weeks ago as I often do and was pleasantly surprised to see in this era of video games, laptop computers and TVs in every room, kids still jumped around on that plane just like I did.

   Some of them even go way up on the tail.

   Show-offs.

   --- Bruce Andriatch

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