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Going public

   Our story in Saturday's paper on municipal golf courses noted that they are struggling to survive in a more competitive environment. In my column today, I pointed to the Town of Hamburg as an example of one community that is managing to do pretty well in spite of those challenges.

   Golf courses do all kinds of things to attract players, from basic things like offering automated tee times to coupon specials. Hamburg is trying to keep its core players happy and is reaching out to residents of adjacent towns by offering them the chance to pay lower rates.

   What else could the municipal courses do to attract golfers?

  --- Bruce Andriatch

More tests in Tonawanda

   Every victory has been hard won by City of Tonawanda residents living along the edge of a municipal landfill where radioactive wastes from the Manhattan Project are buried.

    With the help of elected officials, they convinced the state Department of Environmental Conservation to test their properties, and that of a nearby elementary school, for radioactivity last year.

   On Tuesday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has maintained that no remediation is necessary before the Town of Tonawanda Landfill is capped, announced plans for additional testing on the levels of uranium, radium and thorium buried at the site. Residents intend to continue their fight to have the wastes removed.

    "All the money that's been spent on testing, they could have removed the stuff already," said Joyce Hogenkamp, a founder of Clean Up Riverview's Environment.

    What do you think?

    --- Janice L. Habuda

The secret's out

   If a meeting involving elected officials isn't held before the public, does that make it a "secret" meeting?

  A number of Amherst Town Board members met privately with Benderson Development officials during a time when key votes for the rezoning of the $44 million Amherst Town Centre project on Maple Road were at stake.

  When The Buffalo News wrote about it, opponents of the project predictably accused the Town Board of cutting back-room deals. Town officials responded that they haven't kept the information shared at those meetings a secret from anyone.

  Supervisor Satish Mohan and others cited reasons of practicality and manageability for skirting the Open Meetings Law with Benderson Development at various times. There were no vote negotiations, they said.

   The public will have to decide whether to take their word for it since they weren’t there.

   --- Sandra Tan

Actually, it really is just massage

    The practice of massage therapy is booming. So too is the winking and nudging that goes on when people hear the term, assuming that it means something other than actual massage.

   It doesn't help that popular culture almost always portrays the massage as a precursor to sexual activity and that there are hundreds of cases every year in which people get arrested for running prostitution rings disguised as massage businesses.

   If you're not sure, ask the massage therapist to see a copy of his or her license. Or you can check the American Massage Therapy Association Web site to see if the person is listed there.

   Do you ever get a massage? Have you ever told someone you got a massage and been peppered with questions about what REALLY happened?

   If so, you can understand the frustration of Georgia Johnson as outlined in my column today.

      --- Bruce Andriatch

Diversity comes to suburbia

   When Barack Obama gave his now famous speech about race in America, it gave people a reason to talk about a subject that is right up there with religion and politics in the taboo topic pantheon.

   But students in a growing number of first-ring suburban school districts do more than just discuss racial issues; they live them every day. Students are not only exposed to people of different races but cultures as evidenced by the growth of English as a Second Language programs. Go into many of the schools in the towns of Tonawanda, Amherst and Cheektowaga and the population is akin to a meeting of the United Nations.

   That was the point of my column today , which was centered on the efforts of one of the local BOCES districts to help students appreciate diversity.

   Today's students are living a kind of integration that was unimaginable in the suburbs even 25 years ago. The question is: What will that mean for their - and the nation's - future? 

  --- Bruce Andriatch



Getting their geese

   It must be spring, because Cheektowaga officials are once again working on the geese problem in Stiglmeier Park and Reinstein Woods. Simply put: The parks have too many geese.

   Five years ago, visitors to the town's premier parks quickly learned that anything touching the ground became contaminated with goose droppings. Balls, shoes, soccer uniforms, blankets, and, of course, people, especially small ones.

   Today, the park is in better shape. But the control methods used - including addling, or oiling the goose eggs in their nests - must continue indefinitely, or the geese will become numerous again. Five years ago, town officials estimated that 700 Canada Geese were nesting in the two parks. Now the estimate is about 75 to 100.

    Are there better ways than addling the eggs or removing the geese? How many are too many? Or should the town leave the geese alone?

  --- Thomas J. Dolan

Caught in the Net

   It was an ironic juxtaposition that Grand Island Superintendent Robert W. Christmann couldn't help sharing about his tech-savvy students.

   While one was using his skills to hack into the school district computer system, there are other students at the school working to upgrade the web site for the Town of Grand Island. They'd like to work with local businesses, too. Educators know the more they get students working on real life projects, the more they can see the value of their training and the more it sticks with them.

   "The more real we can make it, the better they will be," he said.

   Unfortunately, reality sunk in another way for another student.  The 16-year-old student has been charged with a unauthorized use of a computer, a misdemeanor. Authorities said he obtained the passwords of staff members, although they don't think he used the passwords.

   While proud of its "amazing" students, district officials also want to get the word out to students: Keep it legal.

  --- Barbara O'Brien

Memories are made of this

   Sometimes, you read or hear something and you have an unexpected and visceral reaction. The planned closing of the post office on Highland Avenue in the Town of Tonawanda was one of those times for me, spurring today's memory-filled column.

   Writing about things like this makes me examine whether I - like many of us - should stop living in the past. We all do it to some extent. I wonder whether those of us who have lived here a long time are more nostalgic than most and whether that's why we resist change and try to preserve things. It's human nature to think the past was much better than the present, particularly when the present can seem so dark and the past seemed so bright.

   The closing of a post office is not the end of the world. Maybe it's just a reminder that time marches on.

  --- Bruce Andriatch