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Mohan could have done more

Politics aside, there was something refreshing about Satish Mohan in 2005.

He ran for Amherst town supervisor promising the one thing that we all seem to want but are afraid of at the same time: change. It was enough to get him elected, but that mandate for change did him no good once he was sworn in and had to get to work.

As I write in my column today, the facts suggest that Mohan failed to do what he set out to do because not only could he not convince people to follow him, he couldn't even get people to listen to him. He alienated the town's rank-and-file employees, town unions, department heads and other Town Board members. People who have worked with him and covered him said he tends to see his position as good and the other side as corrupt or evil. You're not going to win many friends that way.

But Mohan said he wasn't trying to make friends. He has said that his goal was to be the voice of the people, to truly represent their interests without fear or favor. Maybe he did that. But when your one voice is up against the din of a thousand others, you're not going to be heard.

— Bruce Andriatch

Cinema's golden age still alive in Hamburg

   Every town used to have a theater like The Palace in Hamburg. The memories of those movie experiences come flooding back when you walk in, which is a big part of its allure, and a big reason I wanted to write a column about it.

   But Jay Ruof isn't content to bring in nostalgia-seekers only; he also is trying to thrive in a highly competitive environment. That's why he shows first-run movies, keeps his ticket and concession prices low, and asks his customers what they want.

   Is that enough to get movie fans to eschew the big multiplexes? Or do you think theaters like The Palace should go the way of the silent movie?

   --- Bruce Andriatch

Assessing the process in Amherst

   It was a moment Amherst property owners were warned was coming. They were told to be calm, to exhibit understanding - to believe that their taxes weren't going to go through the roof.

   But the reaction was anything but once the notices starting arriving last week telling plenty of residents that the value of their property had skyrocketed.

   Now the horror stories are rolling in, one after another. Values jumping 30 percent, 70 percent and more for no discernible reason. So many residents jammed the town's assessment web site that it crashed and only started working more consistently on Monday. Angry emails are flying. Blogs and message boards are full of outrage.

   Here's the problem as I see it (And by the way, I live in Amherst): Trying to understand how these new assessments are determined is practically impossible. They are based on what those working for the KLW Group (which was hired to do the town's new assessments) see when they look at the exterior of the property. They try to find "comparable" properties in your neighborhood to establish your new value, but how can anyone determine true comparability without going inside a home? And when assessors et al can't find recent comparable sales in your neighborhood, they try to find a different comparable neighborhood. How is that even possible?

   Is the whole process more guess work than anything else? As one angry property owner told the Town Board on Monday, if that is the case, "Houston, we've got a problem."

   Especially when you live in one of the highest taxed state's in the nation.

   --- Niki Cervantes

A return to normalcy in Clarence will have to wait

I drove to Clarence Center Sunday for the first time since the plane crash. I'm not sure why.

There was no way I would have gone when the investigation into the crash was still going on or when parts of the plane were still there, but a part of me just felt the need to see the site.

After I read "A Time to Die," Tom Wicker's incredible insider account of the Attica Prison uprising in 1971, I drove from my house in Batavia to the prison just to look at it. As Nancy Smyth told me Monday, doing things like this make the event "real" and easier to comprehend.

Although mine is a fairly typical reaction to this type of catastrophic event, it's completely understandable that the town does not want people driving down Long Street. But officials also know a time will come when that will happen.

How long should the street remain closed? And when it reopens, should the town allow a memorial there? Or should something be done to continue to protect residents from being constantly reminded of the tragedy of Flight 3407?

--- Bruce Andriatch