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Required to live where you work

   Many local municipalities require that their employees be residents of their town or city. As taxpayer-supported positions, officials argue, these employees should have a vested interest in the communities they serve.

   But while these rules are on the books, they aren't often enforced. This year marks the first year Amherst has actually terminated any employee for the offense, under new pressure from the Town Board.

   Some local governments are reluctant to invest the time and money necessary to track down offenders who might otherwise be doing a good job at work, but happen to sleep in another town.

   That leaves many to wonder whether residency rules are worth the paper they're written on.

   --- Sandra Tan

They had the write stuff

   Write-in votes usually are wasted votes. That's why I was so interested in what happened last week in the Amherst School Board race.

   As I wrote in my column today, two people whose names were not on the ballot won seats. It's hard enough to win an election, but to do it by getting people to forgo the ballot levers in favor of writing down a name on a piece of paper hidden behind a little door is truly impressive.

   It struck me as truly democratic, a way to get around the normal political process that sometimes stops candidates in their tracks.

   --- Bruce Andriatch

Competitive spirit sidelined by the rules

   Jordan Maliken and his supporters lost one at the wire Tuesday.

      State Education Commissioner Richard Mills decided he had to let a decision stand:
Maliken, 20, who is diagnosed with mental retardation, cannot race with the track team during
the final two weeks of his last year at Amherst High School.

   Although state law allows students with disabilities to go to school until age 21, rules
say athletes cannot compete for a fifth year, or after age 19.

   Still, his parents and school staff thought there was a chance that an exception could be
made for Maliken, now finishing his fifth year of high school.

   So people went to hearings, made phone calls and tried to navigate confusing layers of

   Twice, in March and April, the local division of the New York State Public High School
Athletic Association, affirmed that the rules did not allow for exceptions for students with

   On Tuesday Mills let the association decision stand.

   "There is no authority, in this case, for the commissioner to waive the requirements," said
Jonathan Burman, a Mills  spokesman.

   What do you think?

-- Michelle Kearns

Safety lessons

   It seems like every year, someone is coming up with a new way to tell young people how to be better, safer drivers.

   The latest example was far from planned. The parents of a woman who died in a crash on Easter morning agreed to have the car placed on the lawn at Eden High School.

   Maybe it will have an impact. But as I wrote in my column today, the message always manages to escape some kids at this time of the year, when we hear and read stories about fatal crashes.

   Students take driver education. They learn from preschool about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. They are constantly told to be careful.

   Is there anything else we can we do to prevent more tragedies? Is the answer to simply raise the driving age?

   --- Bruce Andriatch

Read Bruce's column.

Cats will land on their feet at the Galleria

   They have been country cats, but soon you can call them mall rats, when the Erie County SPCA closes its Southtowns shelter and opens an adoption center in Walden Galleria in Cheektowaga.

   A pilot program last fall at the mall was wildly successful, with 499 cats adopted in about four months. That's compared to 559 cats adopted in a year's time from the shelter on Pontiac Road in Evans.

   Since the Southtowns shelter was losing money, and the SPCA stands to adopt out more animals while not losing money at the mall, the move made sense to the agency.

   But some Southtowns residents grumble about the move, which will leave them with the option of going to the SPCA in the Town of Tonawanda to surrender or drop off dogs, unless the Ten Lives Club cat rescue and adoption group starts accepting dogs.

   --- Barbara O'Brien

Crime doesn't pay, but maybe it can pay back

   I wasn't really sure how community service worked until I talked to Clarence Justice Michael Powers about his idea to make it more Clarence-specific.

   It turns out he didn't know a whole lot about it either, until he became a judge.

   His idea, which was the subject of my column today, struck me as a decent idea. As he put it, the community that has to deal with the effects of the crime should derive some benefit when the criminal has to pay for the crime.

   What do you think?

   --- Bruce Andriatch

Read the full story.


Homeowners lose — by a landslide

  Jody and Chris Morphy are two Amherst residents who, like most homeowners, didn't spare much thought to their homeowners insurance until disaster struck. When their property suffered a landslide that made their home uninhabitable, they naturally assumed that their homeowners insurance would protect them.

   It didn't.

   The state does not require insurance companies to provide "earth movement" coverage in standard homeowners insurance policies, and none even offer a rider that can be purchased separately to cover this kind of loss.

   Residents can buy earthquake insurance, but any earth disturbance must be caused by an actual earthquake, which is not the case here.

   This type of coverage is rarely needed in this region and could increase premiums if it is a required add-on. Should homeowners' policies be allowed to exempt this type of damage?

   -- Sandra Tan