Let's protect liberties of all of our citizens
I recently witnessed a rally hosted by the National Organization for Marriage, which is calling for a voter referendum on same-sex marriage. I found it ironic that the event was dominated by African-American religious leaders, people who I thought would understand first-hand why we do not put citizens' civil liberties up for a popular vote.
When Abraham Lincoln was president, had the abolition of slavery been put up for a popular vote in the Southern states, it would have failed. A century later, had desegregation required a public referendum, it, too, would have failed. Large numbers of voters in Alabama and Mississippi still disapprove of interracial marriage, a redefinition of "traditional marriage" that was only secured when "activist judges" on the Supreme Court decided that race shouldn't come before love. Even those who resent comparisons between the Civil Rights Movement and the Gay Rights Movement should at least recognize the hazard in allowing one group to vote down the liberties of another.
Allowing a majority to dictate whether a minority can enjoy full equality under the law sets a dangerous precedent. In any society where citizens' rights are determined by whichever party or ideology currently holds the majority, no person can ever be guaranteed that his liberties will be forever protected. In other words, whenever the liberties of some are not recognized, the liberties of all cannot possibly be secure.
Thruway construction is taking much too long
When is the 290 West to 190 South ramp going to be completed? When I saw this project start in early 2010, the pace appeared robust with numerous workers and equipment on site every day. The progress was obvious and it left me with the impression the project would be completed early this year. Now the progress appears non-existent except for the height of the weeds growing on the asphalt put down last year. You see occasional workers or equipment moved around, but the project is moving at a snail's pace, and we get to suffer through the traffic and road rage every day.
This is ridiculous! When I lived in Chicago, a few ramps like this were replaced every year. The companies had well-defined schedules and incurred severe penalties if they didn't meet them, and it worked. No one would tolerate interrupting a major thoroughfare year after year for an entrance ramp. But this is Buffalo where, for some reason, getting things done always seems a challenge.
It's depressing to see shuttle program end
I am deeply saddened to see NASA's space shuttle program come to an end, and the future of our space exploration efforts uncertain. We must now take a back seat, and watch while Russia and China forge ahead in space. I see it as yet another signal that this once-great country is in decline.
Forty-eight years ago, I was part of a small army of construction workers at Cape Canaveral, Fla. We were constructing roads, utilities, administration buildings and launch pads. It was difficult and exhausting work, transforming a scrubby island -- it was then known as Merritt Island -- into an organized NASA facility under the blazing Florida sun with no existing buildings, and very few palm trees for shelter, only construction trailers. We had no idea that we were building the incubator for the sprawling technological complex that exists there today.
One day I was privileged to be a part of a group of about 25 men installing underground water lines alongside a roadway, when a Jeep pulled up near us, and Gus Grissom and Gordon Cooper got out. They were two of the seven original Mercury astronauts, and were touring the expanding facilities. They stopped to say hello and exchange small talk. They were only there for a few minutes, but I was incredibly impressed by their casual confidence, conviction and courage. They showed no fear or trepidation about their future adventures. Grissom had already survived a short 15-minute suborbital flight and splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean, and would later lose his life in a fire on the launchpad.
I have since come to realize how puny and minuscule my labors were in comparison to the contributions of those seven original astronauts, and the men and women who followed in their footsteps. They represent America's finest, and symbolize the seeds that made the United States the leader in space exploration.
Let independent panel handle redistricting
Citizens Union commends Erie County Executive Chris Collins for recognizing that district lines drawn by legislators who have a vested interest in the outcome is a process in need of reform, and for proposing an independent commission for the next round of redistricting.
Fortunately, the State Legislature still has time to create a more independent process for the current redistricting of state legislative and congressional seats. Legislators must return to Albany during a special legislative session to end partisan gerrymandering, and establish an independent commission for drawing state legislative and congressional district boundaries according to fair and objective criteria while allowing for robust public input.
One hundred eighty-four of the 212 state legislators pledged or co-sponsored bills to end the decades-long political manipulation of district lines that prioritizes the re-election of incumbents, resulting in their 96 percent re-election rate while dividing communities and under-representing minority groups.
Legislators must honor their words and keep their commitments. If they don't return to Albany and reform redistricting, Gov. Andrew Cuomo will veto the lines just like Collins did at the county level. New Yorkers can't wait another 10 years for reform.
Executive Director, Citizens Union
Bicyclists on sidewalks should yield to walkers
I don't really care about people riding their bikes on the sidewalk. I even encourage it because it seems most drivers seem to view bicycles as targets for abuse, or worse. But there is one thing. I wish they would announce their presence to walkers when they come up behind them. Every time this happens, it scares the pants off me. Hit me with that bike and you will be guilty of a crime.
Not too long ago, I had what the cyclist no doubt thought was incidental contact with a bike. My hand still doesn't feel right. All those people who pride themselves on being polite, but then ride up on somebody unawares, aren't as polite as they thought. God gave you a voice -- please use it. Or go buy a bell.