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Rail trail will protect adjacent landowners

The abandoned Buffalo & Pittsburgh railroad right of way is a dilemma for local communities. The recent letter opposing a rail trail points out the many negative activities now occurring on the neglected right of way and spilling over onto adjacent landowners' property.

Unwanted activity is occurring despite the fact the corridor is not a trail. If you are an adjacent landowner bothered by trespassers, who do you call? Town officials, local police and/or local firefighters are called. They are responsible for maintaining the safety and security of the entire town, including abandoned railroad property.

Railbanking the land for future transportation or utility use and creating a managed trail is the safest way to protect adjacent landowners. Communities can then establish the rules and regulations for use, and the penalties for when unwanted activity occurs. Barriers can be put up to keep vehicles off of the right of way and trespassers out of adjacent neighbors' yards. When issues need to be addressed, residents can call the local management organization to respond.

Regarding cost, the federal government has dedicated funds for development of trails and only trails. Unless we fight for those funds, they will be spent elsewhere. We want our tax money to stay here and not be spent in Albany or New York City.

The Pat McGee Trail in Little Valley is a good example of a successful rail trail. It gets no funding for maintenance from any of the six communities it runs through. It is managed by a local organization, the Cattaraugus Local Development Corp. Local volunteers patrol the corridor. In addition, the Sheriff's Department is allowed to drive on the trail when patrolling, making it safer for the adjacent residents. After development, the many problems occurring on the abandoned right of way were minimized.

Communities need to take over management of the neglected right of way. Landowners deserve to live next to a safe, well-maintained property, not an unmanaged no man's land full of trespassers and unwanted activity.

Anne Bergantz

President, Erie Cattaraugus Rail Trail

Orchard Park

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Israelis, Palestinians must negotiate a deal

What is standing in the way of the two-state solution that both Palestinians and Israelis say they want? President Mahmoud Abbas says Palestinians can't talk peace while there are growing Jewish settlements in the West Bank, on land Palestinians claim for their state. Israelis could (but don't) say that they can't talk peace while Abbas refuses to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and allies with Hamas, which is openly committed to the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews everywhere.

Given these very real concerns, the only practical way to start peace talks is for both parties to come to the table with no preconditions -- as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has agreed to do -- and confront all problems, not only the settlements, but also refugees, borders, water rights, propaganda, recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and others. The goal should be a negotiated arrangement that both sides can live with, so that ordinary Israelis and Palestinians can get on with their lives in peace and security.

Jewish settlements in the West Bank are not an unsurmountable obstacle to peace. Israel gave up large areas of land to make peace with Egypt, and Netanyahu says Israel is willing to make painful sacrifices again. If the negotiated borders leave some Jewish communities in the West Bank, as seems likely, this should not be a deal breaker. After all, more than 1.5 million Arabs are living in Israel.

Neither the United Nations, the Quartet nor President Obama can make peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The Israelis and Palestinians must do it themselves -- and they must start now.

Maxine S. Seller

Buffalo

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Billions more wasted as America leaves Iraq

We are leaving Iraq. After incalculable lives lost or ruined, infrastructure destroyed, billions of dollars squandered and a fertile recruiting ground for terrorists created, we are finally leaving. However, we are also leaving behind billions of dollars worth of equipment, forts, outposts and arms. We are giving it away to the Iraqis. Not selling or leasing it, but handing it over. Free.

The Huffington Post is reporting that smaller but equally expensive outposts, now abandoned, have been stripped clean by the people we "liberated." The same fate now awaits other, better-equipped and much more costly outposts built by the Bush folks when their wild dream of having that country be a staging point for his grandiose plan of dominance (read oil grab) in the Middle East evaporated. Or maybe I should say when the real task to kill Osama bin Laden and decimate al-Qaida was enjoined by President Obama.

Tens of thousands of vehicles, Humvees, tanks and munitions, all too costly to ship back home, are being handed over. Free. Our parting gift to a country that doesn't want us anywhere near it anymore. I guess gratitude is in short supply for the carnage and havoc we foisted onto that country when Bush's pre-emptive dream went awry. Go figure. Some may counter that this is just one of the costs of doing business in the war on terror. I think of it more like a horrific lesson of what not to do ever again.

Stephen Saracino

Buffalo

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Meegan's huge salary is an affront to taxpayers

How ironic that the Buffalo taxpayers have been paying Robert Meegan, the retiring president of the Buffalo police union for the past 23 years, the magnificent annual salary of $84,000 for doing not a lick of police work. This man evidently had no qualms whatsoever about gouging the city taxpayers while also collecting their hard-earned dollars. As for his other yearly salary of $34,500 as union president, I am sure the union members were only too happy to pay him since he was able to obtain everything he asked for, mostly due to the arbitration board siding with him in every instance, whether or not it was feasible.

Sixty-two years ago, when some members of our family were starting out as Buffalo patrolmen, the beginning salary was a mere $2,300. Yes, we said hundred. Compare that to the average stipend of $64,000 they now draw. Quite a difference, even over such a span of years. Add to that the overly generous pensions that these cops draw due to the tremendous overtime they are allowed to accumulate, also thanks to Meegan. In the past, no overtime pay was allowed. Consequently, the pensions that these former patrolmen draw were, and are, insignificant.

So, to sum it all up, are the Buffalo taxpayers any safer now than they were in the past? That is the $64,000 question. (No pun intended).

Alice M. Szanyi & Mildred Orange

Kenmore