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Can McKinley now move forward?

       The verdict is in at McKinley High School. A special investigator has concluded that the seven-week suspension of Jayvonna Kincannon was both "severe" and "excessive."

   Ordinarily, the report said, the punishment for similar offenses would be in the range of 5-15 days.

    And while the 108-page report found that Principal Crystal Barton "had every right" to dismiss volunteer assistant girls basketball coach Michelle Stiles, it says the "concerns" of James Daye, a teacher and coach, were a "contributing factor" in the dismissal.

    The report does not recommend disciplinary action against any school system employee and does not directly fault Superintendent James A. Williams. Instead, it recommends a series of internal reforms designed to prevent situations like this from arising again.

    Is the report on target? Are the recommendations appropriate? Will it clear the air at McKinley?

   

… Peter Simon

Many local college grads plan to stick around

   The assignment came from an editor: Where do all these local college students end up after graduation?

   It seems like a reasonable question, until you start looking into it.

   In an area like Western New York, where there are so many college students, there's a lot of churning going on, and it's hard to keep track of who is coming and going.

   Young adults, in general, are a mobile, elusive group, and very difficult to track.

   So The News stopped in at senior picnics and graduation ceremonies over the past several days to get a sense from graduating students on where they're going to end up.

   Some have a job elsewhere. Some are going home. Some found a new home in Buffalo.

   In fact, if there was any common thread throughout the interviews it was their fondness for Western New York.

   It may not be enough for them to stay. And it's not that they wouldn't mind a change of scenery for awhile. But some vowed to return someday.

   Sherry Farrow, 34, left her little hometown in the state of Washington several years ago to come to the University at Buffalo.

   She graduated last week with her doctorate in clinical psychology, and has a job lined up in Syracuse.

   "Syracuse is close enough for me to come home," Farrow said.

   "See?" she added. "When I say home, I mean Buffalo, which is weird."

  --Jay Rey   

Pearl Street's new look

   The Pearl Street Grill & Brewery is undergoing a $3 million renovation that's adding up to three levels of terraces and the 25-foot-tall "Lake Effect Man" statue that was suspended last week from the top of the four-story building.

   The Buffalo Preservation Board has twice rejected changes to the building put forth by managing parter Earl Ketry, saying they were inappropriate for a building that dates back to 1840 and is in the city's Ellicott Historic District.

  The Common Council approved some of the changes anyway.

   Should a building's appearance always reflect its history, or does the here and now have a say in it, too?

   

… Mark Sommer

Making a difference, one house at a time

   A two-year-old program that aims to revitalize urban neighborhoods on the brink of ruin will open a store in a former East Side dry cleaning plant Saturday.

   ReSource, at 298 Northampton St., will sell materials salvaged from abandoned city houses to fund the growth of Buffalo ReUse. The nonprofit organization uses a method called deconstruction to keep wainscoting, windows, fixtures and other items from going to landfills. The nonprofit organization trains idle young minority men and women to do the work.

   The program is gaining national and international attention. Michael Gainer, ReUse executive director, was cited in a recent New York Times Magazine, feature, "Faces of Social Entrepreneurship," and ReUse has been nominated for the 2008 Sustainable Cities Award given by the Financial Times of London and the Urban Land Institute.

   Local funders have taken note. In August the John R. Oishei Foundation awarded Buffalo ReUse a $200,000 startup grant. Other sources, both government and private, have donated an additional $50,000.

   ReSource will have a preview reception from 6 to 8 p.m. today followed by an open house Saturday.

   -- Tom Buckham

Let's have full disclosure in the McKinley mess

   Buffalo's School Board two months ago hired investigator Dave Edmunds to get to the bottom of the McKinley High School mess.

   Edmunds, an attorney, looked into matters ranging from the dismissal of Michelle Stiles, the girls volunteer basketball coach, to the lengthy suspension of Jayvonna McKinnon, the player who defended her. The idea was to uncover what happened, to hold school officials accountable and to restore public trust.

   Edmunds … who was paid $25,000 … delivered the stack of findings Wednesday to the board. The question now is how much of what Edmunds discovered will ever be revealed to the public.

   Board members, most of whom are protective of Superintendent James Williams, say that parts of the report that deal with "personnel matters" may be blacked out. The problem is, the McKinley issue is all about "personnel matters" involving various school officials.

   Given the board's administration-protective tendencies, the fear is that the bulk of the report might never be made public. If that happens, it was not worth the effort.

   The full report needs to be made public. It is the only way the district puts the McKinley mess behind it.

  -- Donn Esmonde

Glut of medical ads crossing the line

   The advertising of prescription drugs and medical devices to consumers has grown  --  from $11.4 billion in 1996 to $29.9 billion in 2005. So, too, has controversy over the practice.

      Proponents of advertising to consumers say it encourages more informed decisions about health care and treatment options. But critics of this marketing contend it increases the demand for expensive brand-name medications, turns normal human experiences into medical conditions, skims over safety concerns while highlighting benefits, and interferes with the doctor-patient relationship.

      In the New England Journal of Medicine, an article by a Buffalo physician takes issue with a television ad for the Cypher heart stent by the Cordis Corp. He and others contend it crosses a line in direct-to-consumer advertising. The company defends the ad campaign as an effort to educate consumers and physicians about the newest research on the device and its use as a treatment option for coronary artery disease.

      The article comes at an important time. Congress and the Food and Drug Administration are conducting hearings about medical advertising to consumers. However, it is not clear what will happen. Some experts, even critics of current regulations, say there isn't enough information about the advertising in print, TV or online to make informed decisions about what policy changes to make.

     -- Henry L. Davis

Clock is ticking on reforming IDAs

   Albany is a town that seldom acts on important matters without a gun pointed at its head. So it goes with a measure, now stalled, involving the workings of 115 local industrial finance agencies around the state.

   The stakes are high, as are the political influences of the players on the two sides of the debate. Do IDAs continue largely as they have been operating for the past several decades, or will major changes be made to incorporate more sunshine, fairness and accountability into their operations?

   In the meantime, though, nonprofits and civic groups -- from libraries and schools to nursing homes -- are caught in the middle.   They get IDA financing, too, to build new patient wings or to expand a charter school or construct a new YMCA. But right now, because of the larger dispute, the flow of IDA financing to those entities has stopped. That has stalled nearly $2 billion worth of projects around the state.

   The clock is ticking. Lawmakers end their 2008 session in just over a month.

   -- Tom Precious

 

Picking at the Peace Bridge plan

   WASHINGTON -- Here we go again.

   The Western New York equivalent to the quest for the Holy Grail -- the quest for a "signature" Peace Bridge -- is back in one of its perennial pick-at-it phases.

   This time some big guys, most notably the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, are picking at it.

   And the concerns they raise, about the expansion of the bridge plaza and its potential impact on human health and historic properties, aren't for the birds.

   Yet that's what we thought this debate was all about -- the common tern, the lowly gull that might be powerful enough to knock down plans for a soaring cable-stayed span between Buffalo and Fort Erie.

   Instead, it turns out the bridge debate is about people, and a city's past, and its future.

   No doubt about it, though: for many Western New Yorkers, the debate is a frustrating one.

   After all, it was going on long before "google" became a verb.

   In fact, it's been going on so long that it raises an important question.

   At this point, how many of you would be satisfied with a pontoon bridge to Fort Erie?

  -- Jerry Zremski

Many affected by the I-190 standoff

   The unfolding drama on the Niagara Thruway affected a lot of people Monday evening … whether they were stuck in traffic, found themselves spellbound watching the live action on television or bemoaned the loss of their favorite TV programs.

   So how did this whole incident affect you?

   Were you one of the ones caught in traffic?

   Were you one of the disgruntled TV watchers who thought it was folly for the local stations to stay with the situation for almost three hours?

   Or did you consider this televised event something like a Sabres playoff hockey game, an event you were glued to until it ended?

   Please let us know.

    … Gene Warner

Frank Clark exits in uncharacteristic fashion

   It wasn't your typical Frank Clark press conference.

   It lasted a mere five minutes. There was no question-and-answer period. His cheeks never got red. And at the end, his voice was anything but booming.

   The one constant in the local media world -- Erie County District Attorney Frank Clark's colorful, flamboyant, fire-and-brimstone sessions with the media -- seemed to vanish on Monday when Clark announced that he's stepping down after this year.

   There were no issues discussed here, just a man clearly sad about having to move on.

   He paid homage to his wife, Cathy --  "the wonderful person standing next to me" -- and his love for the district attorney's office -- "this has been my home for 27 years, and I love it."

   "There always comes a time when you say goodbye, and I think this is the time I have to say goodbye," he said.

   He talked about his medical condition, lupus, and how job-related stress triggers a flare-up of his disease, posing a very serious threat to his health. He talked about how tough it would be for him to be on the sidelines, rather than in the line of fire. And he talked about his interest in a possible teaching post.

   "It's a very, very sad day for me, very sad . . .," he said. "But I'm Irish, I'm a Marine, and I will continue to roll on."

   There were many unanswered questions, of course, about his legacy, his successor, his future political involvement, etc. But this wasn't a day for questions, even if they had been allowed.

   It was a day to say goodbye to a political figure who has occupied the spotlight for 12
years. Now someone else will have to bask in that spotlight.

   And the media, both professionally and personally, will miss their go-to guy.

   -- Gene Warner

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