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Unraveling the mysteries of Flight 3407

WASHINGTON -- Three months  to the day that Continental Connection Flight 3407 came tumbling down on a house in Clarence, the mysteries surrounding the doomed flight will start to be unraveled.

The National Transportation Safety Board on Tuesday will begin three days of hearings aimed at unearthing the probable cause of the crash, which claimed 50 lives.

And maybe, just maybe, by Thursday we will have answers to the following questions:

What role if any did icing play in the crash?

Why did the pilot, Capt. Marvin Renslow, do the opposite of what he should have done, pulling down on the plane's yoke after the plane's stall warning system activated? How well trained were the pilots?

Should they have been flying the plane on autopilot during much of the flight?

Did they distract themselves from an impending emergency by talking more than they should have?

Was the crew too tired to fly?

And most importantly of all, what does all this mean for the flying public?

— Jerry Zremski

Read the full story.

Patronage in the Surrogate Court, is there a better way?

Patronage jobs come in all shapes, sizes and salaries. And in the case of one little known office, lucrative commissions.

The office is Public Administrator, a non-salaried, commission-based office dedicated to settling the estates of people who die without known relatives or heirs.

In Niagara County, the job is filled by County Treasurer Michael Broderick, who recently grabbed headlines by steering estate work to his wife and brother.

So what about Erie County?

Here, the job of Public Administrator is held by Acea Mosey, a well-known Democrat and a former Erie County Water Commissioner. She also is a long-time supporter of Surrogate Court Judge Barbara Howe, the judge who appointed her.

By all accounts, Mosey runs an efficient office. She also gets paid well to do it.

Mosey estimates her annual commissions at about $180,000 but some of that goes to the law office staff and expenses she needs to do the work.

It's a system at the core of a decades-long debate over what's best: A private, commission-based system of giving the estates to a small group of lawyers, or a staff of government employees doing the same work?

Or is there a third and even better way?

— Phil Fairbanks

Read the full story.

Message sent

   How is it that, in the midst of their grief, the family of Brandie Jean Conklin can try to prevent others from losing their loved ones?

   It's not easy to admit your beautiful daughter, the mother of two herself, made some bad decisions about drinking and driving, about texting and driving, and about speeding. But Robin J. Goodridge and Wayne Goodridge Sr. are laying it out there, hoping they can help at least one person stop and think twice.

   Here is their message:

   "The next time you think about texting and/or drinking while you're driving, think about this: A 22-year-old girl dead on the road from a head-on collision; the driver of the truck that tried with all his ability to miss her, finally ditching the truck; this 22-year-old girl's two children, both under the age of 5, not understanding where Mommy is; her parents, her sisters, a brother, a young man who loved her and tried to save her with CPR that night; and many friends.

   "This 22-year-old girl was our daughter, Brandie J. Goodridge-Conklin. All of those referenced above are heartbroken and will feel her loss forever.



   --- Barbara O''Brien

Women & Children's move to Medical Campus under study

  Women & Children's Hospital, faced with neighborhood opposition to an expansion project, is seriously considering construction of an outpatient center on the medical campus on High Street.

   It is one of a handful of alternatives under study, including sticking with the current proposal, but it has huge implications. It would mean the eventual move of the rest of the hospital.

   Women & Children's two years ago proposed building a $60-million ambulatory care center across the street from its main campus, a major piece of its future development strategy.

   But neighbors strongly oppose key elements of the project, which includes demolition of homes to make room for the center and for expanding a parking lot.

   Unsure that changes to resolve residents' concerns are feasible, hospital physicians have started examining other options, especially relocation to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

   Kaleida Health in 2002 committed to keep Women & Children's as a free-standing facility in the city's Elmwood Village following fierce community and physician opposition over a plan to relocate the pediatric hospital on the medical campus.

   Now, perspectives appear to have changed.

   For one thing, Kaleida Health and others are turning what was only a vision of a centralized core of medical and research facilities into a compelling reality, especially with construction of a new center for heart and vascular care.

   What do you think?

   … Henry L. Davis

More questions surface about Flight 3407

   WASHINGTON -- Some media reports have made Capt. Marvin Renslow, the pilot of the doomed Continental Connection Flight 3407, look like the sole cause of the Feb. 12 crash, which claimed 50 lives.

   But the closer you look at the crash -- and the more you report it -- the more it seems that there may be plenty of blame to go around.

   It's suspicious, isn't it, that the Federal Aviation Administration is now investigating whether Colgan Air -- which operated the flight -- over-scheduled its pilots?

   And it's suspicious, isn't it, that the National Transportation Safety Board is studying the exotic stall-protection system on the Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 and Colgan's training program for pilots that fly the aircraft?

   It's enough to make you ask: what else will we learn when the NTSB begins hearings in the crash on Tuesday?

   -- Jerry Zremski

Jack Kemp, a Buffalo champion

When Jack Kemp died on Saturday, it also was the end of an era for Western New York.  

Kemp was a champion of his adopted hometown in all ways. He came to a thriving city in 1962 to quarterback the Buffalo Bills when the team still played its games in the city, at War Memorial Stadium. With Kemp as their leader, the Bills won the AFL championship two years in a row — in 1964 and 1965. 
Off the field, Kemp embraced Western New York as much as the fans embraced him. He became active in the community, was an elder in his church and then, after football, represented the Buffalo suburbs as a congressman.

Although Kemp did not return to Buffalo to live after his time in Congress, he, like Tim Russert after him, continued to represent the area in Washington, as a model of its integrity and grit.

When running for vice president in 1996, he declared, “Buffalo, N.Y., is my hometown ... Don’t let anybody tell you it’s not. ... I learned every lesson in politics and football from being a congressman and a quarterback for the Buffalo Bills.”

No. 15, you will be missed. 

Going postal vs. the truth of inconvenience


   How I came upon this story of long lines at post offices and a greater love of friendship occurred quicker than even overnight delivery.

   I dashed into the Niagara Station Post Office, at the foot of West Genesee Street, near South Elmwood Avenue, and jerked to a halt at the end of a long line.

   The line soon came to a complete standstill when two customers way ahead of me presented a passport application. Some of the paperwork was out of order and further delayed an already lengthy  process.

   Being that I enjoy eavesdropping, I took note of the grumbling and gripes in the customer line, though I felt bad for the clerk. He's a congenial gentleman who makes the trip to the post office a memorable experience. I actually feel bad when John is not on duty.

   But this day he was and he was working alone. Another clerk came out from the backroom briefly and saw the long line. She then again disappeared.

   I later learned from the clerks' union president that the clerks are sometimes pulled from the service windows to process mail in the backroom to keep delivery operation on time.

   I'd like to think that was what was happening, rather than someone taking a lunch break. People do need to eat and I wouldn't want a clerk eating at the counter and getting greasy peanut butter or mayonnaise stains on my letters, not that I'm a neatnik.

   Frank Resetarits, the union head, described the practice of moving folks from the counter to the backroom as "robbing Peter to pay Paul."

   If it is true that time is money, then is the post office picking the pockets of customers forced to wait?

   I personally did not feel robbed. During my lengthy wait, a friend walked in and we got to catch up. He confided in me that if we hadn't had the company of each other, he would have gotten "hot" over the inconvenience and eggs could have been fried on his "bald" head.  Thank goodness for friendship.

   In my reporting for this story, I also learned of a practice that once again highlights the cost of being poor. You may remember that award-winning series in The Buffalo News, where those in poverty-stricken neighborhoods do
not have easy access to supermarkets and banks, among other services, and pay
high prices on check cashing and groceries.

   Postal clerks are required to "up sell" products, including more expensive services such as Express and Priority Mail delivery. They do not mention the cheaper service of parcel post delivery.

   For years, Resetarits said, clerks asked customers if they wanted the cheapest or the quickest way to get a letter or package to a destination.

   The cheapest, as I said, is parcel post.

   Clerks at post offices in poor neighborhoods continued to mention parcel post, realizing their customers might not be able to afford the more expensive options.

   Resetarits said they were warned to stop mentioning parcel post during the up-sell sales spiel.

   This might cause some folks to fume and fry a few eggs.

-- Lou Michel

Read the full story.

Much-praised GI Bill began amid controversy

   Few might remember that the original GI Bill, otherwise known as the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, almost stalled in Congress before Franklin D. Roosevelt signed it into law in 1944.

   "Some shunned the idea of paying unemployed veterans $20 a week because they thought it diminished their incentive to look for work," according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. "Others questioned the concept of sending battle-hardened veterans to colleges and universities, a privilege then reserved for the rich."

   Eventually, according to a historical account of the bill on the VA Web site, all agreed something had to be done to assimilate veterans into civilian life, especially after the government had discharged World War I veterans with little more than a $60 allowance and train ticket home.

   These days, that original GI Bill is a heralded piece of legislation.

   "In the peak year of 1947, veterans accounted for 49 percent of college admissions," the VA states. "By the time the original GI Bill ended on July 25, 1956, 7.8 million of the 16 million World War II veterans had participated in an education or training program."

  -- Jay Rey

You can read about the new GI Bill here.

Another year at the helm of the BMHA

   The Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority voted Thursday to extend the contract of Executive Director Dawn E. Sanders for one year.

   The extension increases Sanders' paid vacation time to four weeks from three. And she got a four percent wage increase to her $94,000 salary — down from 6.5 percent suggested in the original agreement two years ago.

   Some commissioners were not too happy with Sanders' work performance two years into the job. They have complained about her style in dealing with residents and some commissioners. She can be abrasive, unresponsive and out of touch, they say. Nor did they feel she had accomplished much in her two years running the Housing Authority.

   One of the five commissioners, Leonard Williams, was ready to vote months ago against keeping Sanders on board. He changed his mind when the group agreed to include goals and objectives to benchmark her progress.

   The list will be used in February 2010 when housing authority officials start negotiating a contract with Sanders.

   Joseph Mascia — who was elected to the board of commissioners by BMHA residents, as was Williams — also was set to cast a no vote on Sanders' future with the public housing agency. But rather than reject her completely, he decided to abstain from voting and wonders if the board made a mistake by keeping her on another year.

   "I hope the four commissioners who voted for her prove me wrong," Mascia said.

   What do you think?

   —Deidre Williams  

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