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The Bishop's Mansion

I got a lot of e-mails off of Sunday's column arguing that the Catholic Diocese ought to sell the $1 million mansion on Oakland Place where the bishop and a couple of church officials live. The main point was that the home is an unneeded extravagance in a poor diocese in which a number of parishes and schools are closing and merging for financial reasons, to the distress of many of the faithful.

   I conceded that the money raised by selling the residence would have little impact on the diocese's long-term financial problems. But the bishop relocating to more modest digs would serve as a symbolic gesture, and send a message that sacrifice starts at the top.

   Reader response was mixed, with one assenting reader making the point that leadership sets the tone. He used the example of Buffalo Zoo head Donna Fernandes taking a pay cut when funding cuts forced a reduction in hours and staff. "It sent a message that she should be the first to sacrifice if others had to," wrote Paul.

   Others disagreed. A couple of readers made an analogy to President Bush not needing to live in the White House, but the country wanting him to have a residence befitting his stature. Another reader suggested that, with my line of thinking, the pope should move out of the Vatican.

... Donn Esmonde

The New Olaf Fub

    Olaf Fub sez: Just a minute, here. Who this really is, is Dale Anderson. I've followed Reporters' Notebook over the years and it seemed that this column was designed to be the province of the oldest reporter in the newsroom, or at least one of the oldest reporters. Now, with the passing of Lonnie Hudkins, who oversaw it since 1982, it looks like that's me.

   Like all of Lonnie's projects, he poured quite a bit of care and concern into it … he even would fax it in from home when he was on vacation. So, as the new proprietor, my guiding principle is to respect his memory by respecting his methodology. Reporters' Notebook will do the same things it's been doing for all these years … the announcements, the poems, the birthdays, the pithy proverbs.

   But like any new proprietor, I may find it hard to resist doing a few home improvements. Mostly it would be like caulking the windows, nailing down a loose floorboard and putting on a new coat of paint … the same color, but perhaps a slightly different shade. There's one change already, which I'll bet few of you have noticed. I'm tying in the leadoff quote to a historic birthday, something that would have been a lot harder to do back in the days before the Internet.

   Meanwhile, I'm beginning to appreciate how interactive Reporters' Notebook is. A lot of it depends on what gets submitted for it. So, if you have suggestions, observations or things that just plain need some attention, e-mail them along to or send a letter to Reporters' Notebook at Box 100, Buffalo, NY 14240. I can't guarantee that all of them will get into the paper, but I'll do my best to accommodate everything that will fit.

   As for poems, the amount of space that the layout editors allow for the column makes it difficult, if not impossible, to print a verse that runs longer than eight or 10 lines. Maybe we should go for some original limericks (G-rated ones only, please, if you're moved to write some).

   However, there's a lot of room here on the Web site, isn't there? Let's put it to use with something that's a bit long for the printed column, but just right for this space … a tribute to Lonnie that came in from one of his regular poetic contributors, Doris V. Neumann of the Town of Tonawanda:


   Heaven is a little brighter

   Since you have come to dwell

   You left your footprints in the sand …

   Yes, Lon, you served us well.

   I hear a lovely melody

   Beyond the skies of blue

   They welcome you with open arms

   Yes, Lon, we sure miss you.

   Beyond the blue horizon

   You staunchly take your stand;

   We cannot comprehend it all …

   Some day we'll understand.

   Au revoir, Lonnie.

On the other hand...

    I have gotten a slew of e-mails reacting to Wednesday's column ("Being Pushed Too Far By A Spoiled Brat") on the 10-year-old boy who reportedly terrorized the father and his 5-year-old son Friday at the Amherst Pepsi Center. The boy deliberately shot pucks at the father, Charles Schmidl, and his son while they skated at the rink, and made obscene and abusive comments.

   Unable to find rink staff or security to intervene, Schmidl said he eventually grabbed the boy by the jacket and dragged him off the ice. Schmidl was arrested for harassment and endangering the welfare of a child.

   The e-mails almost unanimously backed my view that, although the father was wrong to put his hands on the 10-year-old, a kid who is this out of control is the product of bad parenting. Kids this obnoxious and confrontational don't happen overnight, they are the result of years of parental excuses, lack of consequences and failure to make the boy responsible for his actions.

   Having said that, it is worth noting that the polar extreme of this tale is splashed on the front page of Wednesday's paper. Anyone who thinks that many kids these days are criminals-in-the-making has only to check out the five teenaged girls headed for National Science Bowl. They are the first all-female team to make the finals in the contest's 17-year history. The girls, all African-American, attend local high schools and represent Buffalo Prep, a college-prep program attended after regular school hours.

Click here for their story.

Congratulations to them … and to their parents, who instilled their kids with the values of hard work and responsibility.

-- Donn Esmonde

The Pellegrino stories

We all seem to know someone with a gambling problem. It may be someone we work with. Someone in our family. Maybe the neighbor next door.

That may explain why reader response to our stories about Michael Pellegrino's death provoked so much response, positive and negative.

On the plus side, people have thanked us for revealing the "dark side" of gambling, from suicide to embezzlement to bankruptcy.

But others reacted angrily to our use of Pellegrino's name and our suggestion that his gambling  (he was widely known as a big-time gambler and big-time loser) may have played a role in his suicide.

Believe me, as reporters, we understand the anger some people feel about The News' coverage of Pellegrino's death. And believe me when I say we don't do those kind of stories lightly. We understand the pain his family and friends are going through. We also know that every new story about his suicide resurrects that pain, and that the real victims are the people left behind.

Having said that, I think his death, especially how he did it, where and why, cry out for attention. We will never know for sure but it seems clear to me, given his gambling losses, that gambling played a role in his suicide. It may not have been the only reason, but he was known as a frequent player at both the Seneca Niagara and Ontario casinos and, even more so, as a player who lost.

As a newspaper, we have an obligation to write about the other side of casino gambling. And the most honest, and yes painful, way to do that is to use real stories about real victims with real names.

I also know, and this comes from gambling counselors, that other gamblers follow these kinds of stories because they see their plight in others. For that reason, I think stories like the ones we've done the past two weeks may do some good.

For more on this issue, check out this link: New York Problem Gambling 

- - Phil Fairbanks


Standing up for Buffalo

Apparently I wasn't the only one who had a bone to pick with Willis McGahee. Judging from the tsunami of reader e-mail, comments by the former Buffalo Bills running back hit a nerve. Current and former Buffalonians, and Bills fans everywhere, were dismayed that the kid the Bills took a chance on didn't just take the trade he wanted and say sayonara.

It's Tuesday at 11 a.m. as I write this, and I've heard from people in half the states in the union, NORAD headquarters, a Navy base in Virginia, and a Denver yoga studio. Plus a whole lot of people who found the story ("Dear Mr. McGahee - Take This!) in today's Life & Arts section while looking for a Sabres medallion coupon.

I heard from a woman in Maine who's moving back with her family to take a job here, and a man who moved here from Oahu six months ago with his pregnant wife. Now they live with their infant son in a lovely three-story on Linwood they own for half of the rent on their 700-square-foot apartment in Hawaii.

"When we do get a chance to go out," he wrote, "I'm continually impressed by the new places we find to go and the exciting restaurants that seem to be around every corner."

I write about Western New York for a living. My News colleagues and I have done our jobs and chronicled its problems and shortcomings in sometimes painful detail. But anyone who doubts that this city holds a special place in the hearts of people who have really lived here doesn't know squat.

To read the original story that's causing all the comment, here's the link.

- Andrew Z. Galarneau