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Poverty knows no boundaries

   Thanksgiving is here and, as if we needed to be reminded, more and more people need the kind of help churches and food pantries can provide.

   At The Tabernacle in Orchard Park, volunteers spent their day Monday getting boxes of food together  to provide a Thanksgiving day full of meals for needy residents of Western New York. Many took pains to say that the food would be going to people in communities that are not normally associated with poverty.

   Poverty can mean people who have never had anything. But as the economy worsens, it's worth noting that poverty can also mean people who once had everything until circumstances changed.

  --- Bruce Andriatch

So long stoplights!

In a move that is oh so European, New York is encouraging transportation planners to consider using roundabouts to solve traffic problems in congested areas. The advantage is that, unlike multi-arrowed traffic signals, roundabouts keep traffic moving. They also are expected to reduce the number and severity of collisions.

Western New York recently began seeing the fruits of some of those plans, with roundabouts in the Village of Hamburg and on Kensington, Harlem and Wehrle.

In brief, some people love them and others.... not so much.

The small traffic circles operate on a pretty basic premise: Cars outside the circle yield to cars inside the circle. (It's not as hard as it sounds, since cars inside the circle do eventually leave it.) The circles do have a learning curve, for lack of a better term, and that has been a problem for a fair share of drivers.

But, it looks like they are here to stay and we will be seeing more of them.

Sidewalks save lives

   I find myself thinking and writing about sidewalks a lot lately. Partly that's because when I run, I find myself contending with the dangers of cars that don't see me running toward them on streets that have no sidewalks. Partly it's because within the past month, three local people have been killed walking in the street in areas where there are no sidewalks.

   The snow on the ground should remind all of us that we have to shovel the sidewalk because that's the law, designed to keep pedestrians from having to walk in the street. But the law seems pointless when so many roads exist without sidewalks and people have no choice but to walk in the street.

    No one has an easy answer to this problem. Sidewalks cost a lot of money and some people just don't want them. But it seems to me we have two choices: Either ban people from walking in the street - a virtual impossibility - or build more sidewalks.

   If one or the other isn't done, you can bet there will be more fatalities.

  --- Bruce Andriatch

Will Amherst follow Lancaster's lead?

   Because of a confluence of events, Amherst could choose to ask voters whether to cut two members from its Town Board this year.

   Amherst is one of the few remaining communities with a seven-member board. The Village of Lancaster will no longer have membership in that club, after residents last week voted to downsize.

   If Amherst wants to take action this year - with one board member not seeking re-election and another about to leave the board to be town clerk - the time could be right. But to do this year would require a costly special election.

   Still, the long-term savings would more than offset the cost of the election.

   Should the town start the downsizing wheels in motion?

  --- Bruce Andriatch

Survival of neighborhood school at stake in Brant

   Lake Shore School Board members don't want to throw good money after bad, so they're wondering if the district should spend a lot of money on improvements at Brant Elementary School if the school might be closed soon for declining enrollment.

   The district also wants to make sure facilities are equitable and Brant pupils are offered amenities similar to the other elementary schools.

   But Brant is a special school, parents and teachers say. Spend a fair amount, update the school, they say, but don't close it.  What faculty and staff offer their pupils more than makes up for some shortfalls in the building, they say.

-- Barbara O'Brien

It takes a village

   When people start debating whether we need villages, the argument usually is about village government.

   But people who choose to live in villages care much less about whether they have a mayor and four trustees than they do about the village quality of life. Whether it's Williamsville or East Aurora or Kenmore or Hamburg or Lancaster, spend a few hours in a village and you'll understand.

   The houses are a little older and little closer together. Mail and the newspaper probably are delivered right to the door. Maybe most importantly, people can walk places easily.

   The library is all part of that equation. That's why a Kenmore resident is fighting to keep a library in her village.

   The people who want to centralize the library in the Town of Tonawanda say nostalgia cannot replace reality, which is why they argue that bigger and newer beats old and charming.

   What do you think?

   --- Bruce Andriatch