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Income gaps threaten our economic security

Recent reports show that the wealthiest 10 percent of the U.S. population owns more than three-fourths of the nation's wealth. The July 26 News reported that the wealth gaps between whites and minorities are at their widest level in a quarter century. Whites, on average, have 20 times the net worth of blacks, and 18 times that of Hispanics. Poverty, crime, despair and violence are inevitable results. We read about such consequences in our daily papers. These increasing income disparities should raise alarms for those who care about economic security.

The last time our country was this unequal, it set the stage for the Great Depression. In response, over the next 50 years, Democratic and Republican administrations shared America's bounty with policies that helped farmers, veterans, the jobless, the elderly, the sick and students -- creating a strong, prosperous middle class. But starting in the 1970s, global economic forces, combined with Washington's policies favoring the rich, created the largest economic gap since the 1929 stock market crash. Our economic demise, according to Warren Buffett, has been the "trickle down" theory; it has not worked. In the end, with these kinds of disparities, everyone loses.

So what can the average citizen do? We can educate ourselves and stay politically involved. We can hold our legislators accountable. Our only hope is an informed citizenry that continually calls attention to the problems besetting us all, including the alarming wealth gaps we're seeing today. The United States, like any nation or organization, thrives when all get to participate in the common good.

Sister Eileen O'Connor

Amherst

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News did a great job covering Garden Walk

This year's annual Garden Walk is history. The exhibitors are mulling over the events, reviewing the graciousness of the visitors, quelling the swelled heads from the compliments, marveling at the lovely weather and generally grateful that the constant watering tasks have somewhat abated. For the first time in weeks, dinners are being prepared and eaten on time. Even fingernails are relatively clean and unbroken. However, one more pleasurable task remains. All of us congratulate the journalists at The News for the great articles about the Garden Walk. Our success reflects your effort, and all of us owe you a resounding "great job!"

Lynn and Robert Widger

Buffalo

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Amherst IDA violates policy with its decision

Recently the Amherst IDA granted Prime Wines $500,000 in incentives to move its Premier Liquor store. The Countywide IDA Uniform and Tax Exemption Policy clearly states that IDAs are to promote economic development and prevent economic deterioration. Granting such benefits will clearly have a negative impact on the Delaware Avenue business district in the Town of Tonawanda, which violates IDA policy. Also, IDA incentives for retail establishments are supposed to be directed to areas designated as a Neighborhood Enhancement Area. I don't believe that Maple at Niagara Falls Boulevard qualifies as such an area.

Prime Wines has been and I am sure will continue to be a great corporate citizen, unfortunately in another town. I don't believe Prime Wines was wrong in asking for incentives, however, the Amherst IDA is clearly wrong in its decision.

The larger question is: Where was the Tonawanda supervisor? Where was the Town Board? When did they know this move was a possibility? What did they do to provide Prime Wines a suitable alternative? Lord knows we have an abundance of empty storefronts in Tonawanda. As a member of the ECIDA Board, did our town supervisor protest Amherst's decision? Finally, what are town officials doing to assist in finding a suitable business to fill the Premier location?

The net gain of such a decision for the community is zero. This is not what an IDA is supposed to do and such decisions cannot be allowed to continue. The Amherst IDA's decision violates policy, is unfair to the residents and business owners of Tonawanda and will certainly contribute to more economic deterioration.

Mark C. Tramont

Town of Tonawanda

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Plan turns back clock for disabled people

We in the Developmental Disabilities Alliance of Western New York (DDAWNY) read with amazement and disappointment the comment made by Travis Proulx, spokesman for the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, in the July 28 News. He said, "OPWDD's priority is the health and safety of the 126,000 New Yorkers with developmental disabilities we have reached savings through cuts to nonpersonal and non-essential programs."

Our priorities have always been higher than that. Health and safety is a minimum standard and is another way of saying, "custodial care." In the institutions, the minimum standard of care was just keeping the person alive. For the last 30 years, we have aspired to help our people gain productive and satisfying lives; lives rich with work opportunities, friends, recreation and education. The OPWDD's official statement is a repulsive step back to the days when all we cared about was meeting the physical needs of our people. They deserve more. They deserve to have their emotional, social and educational needs met as well.

The "non-essential programs" that the OPWDD plans to cut are the very programs that meet the above needs and make life worth living. If we follow the "priority" set by the office, we are turning back the clock 30-plus years and returning to the days when the disabled were devalued. What a horrible thing to do.

Michael L. Gross

Executive Director, DDAWNY

Buffalo

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Schools will improve if we all work together

Count me among those who think that the Buffalo Public Schools are poised for success. The reform has to begin with a group of well-intentioned stakeholders who are capable of moving beyond the "win-lose" politics of the past and are ready to reconfigure an archaic model of district organization. The superintendent is not the enemy, nor are teacher unions, charter schools or the Board of Education. The enemy is a negative mind-set rooted in acrimonious turf battles of by-gone years and acceptance of the notion that change is not possible.

The success of the Buffalo Public Schools serves as a barometer for the health of our community and they directly impact decisions on area investment, as well as our property values throughout the region. What do we have to lose by commissioning a panel of stakeholders to survey successful urban public, private and charter schools to identify those shared elements that make them work?

The path out of this mess is ready for discovery. It's time for some committed representative stakeholders to take the first step.

John J. Di Stefano

East Amherst