Don't blame the PEF for state's fiscal woes

Thanks to The News editorial board for expressing its opinion on the recent PEF contract vote. I am writing to shed a little more light on the subject. The editorial stated that the proposed contract required PEF members to pay more for their health insurance, similar to a contract approved earlier this year by CSEA members. What it did not say was that the proposed increase in health insurance costs for PEF members is three times larger than the CSEA agreement called for. In addition, it failed to mention that we are also being asked to take a week off without pay.

The members of PEF are professional employees -- doctors, nurses, engineers, research scientists and more -- many with licenses, providing essential services to the people of New York State. In many cases, our members could get better-paying jobs in the private sector, but have elected to stay in the public employ because the benefits help to offset the lower compensation. Twice in the past we were forced to accept lag pay, which means that we worked for a month without being paid but will eventually get the money when we leave state service.

The News and the public should know that it is the "pay to play" consultants and the crooked politicians who have bankrupted the people, not the rank-and-file members of the professional employees of this state. Take a look at the politically appointed, or should I say, anointed! Our union has repeatedly tried to show where the waste is, but no one is listening. The News can have its opinion, but at least tell the truth with all of the facts.

William Hoak, R.N., B.S.N.

PEF Division 180



Recognizing Israel condemns Palestinians

A recent writer called again for the Palestinians to recognize the state of Israel as a Jewish state. This is a recurring demand of the Israelis and their supporters. There are, however, some problems with this demand: namely 1.5 million of them -- the Israeli citizens of Arab descent currently living in Israel. Recognizing Israel as a Jewish state condemns these people to a permanent state as an inferior minority, which is contrary to what a full democracy -- which Israel insists it is -- would provide for all of its citizens. It is totally understandable why Palestinians would not agree to this.

Eric A. Gallion



Video captures vitality of theater community

In Colin Dabkowski's Oct. 2 column, he noted that Buffalo's Curtain Up! collection of quality plays and musicals would put similar events in vastly larger cities to shame. Surely this breadth cannot build out of a vacuum. Curtain Up! is an affirmation of the theater community's vitality and an acknowledgment of the core of the community, which is Main Street's Theater District.

To that end, some of his comments regarding "Buffalo: All the City's a Stage," the promotional video co-produced by Visit Buffalo Niagara and the Theatre Alliance of Buffalo, miss the point of the project and seem to fault the producers for promoting enthusiasm from within the theater community. In the video, Adrienne Lewis lists key components of our Theater District -- theaters, food, hotels. Dabkowski takes issue with her quote, "There's everything for anybody who's coming into Buffalo to experience all at once in this epicenter." Epicenter is defined as "a focal point, as of activity." Is Main Street not the focal point of activity for the theater community? Our Theater District features a grand presenting house, three fine producing theaters and several others within a few blocks. There are hotels and a handful of fine restaurants right there, with many more of both just blocks away. While the street is not awash nightly with patrons, it is nonetheless the hub from which Buffalo's professional companies emerge, across the city and even to the suburbs.

The video captures the vitality of the theater community and wraps it into a package that can be taken on the road to gain new fans with new dollars. The package originates in the Theater District, warts and all. Despite Dabkowski's thought that the project's message teeters on misrepresentation, this video will only cross one line -- that of our county's border and into the minds of theater lovers everywhere.

Patrick Keyes



We need signs to greet visitors from Canada

On the beautification efforts in and around Buffalo in preparation for the Preservation Conference, I say, hurrah! However, there is one huge glaring oversight that has been apparent for years. Returning from Toronto this past weekend, I once again was horrified when I exited the Peace Bridge onto Porter Avenue. Nowhere are there any signs greeting visitors, no landscaping, no beautification for the international gateway that we are, and should be, proud of. Instead, there is a boarded-up duty free shop that sits as one more eyesore.

What does it take for some signs that would welcome all our travelers? Couldn't we convert that old duty-free shop into a visitor's center/currency exchange that could sing the praises of our Frank Lloyd Wright treasurers, the Basilica, Botanical Gardens, the wonderful art galleries in the Elmwood Village, etc.? Between the city, county, Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau, can't we please do something we can be proud of?

Barbara Shaw



Restaurant patios should be smoke-free

Let's imagine you go to eat for a family dinner and since it is a beautiful day, you choose a place that has an outdoor patio. Your family sits at a table and the conversation begins with everyone sharing information about his day. Then all of a sudden, you inhale this disgusting filthy smoke and find three people about eight feet away smoking cigarettes.

This is a classic example of what has happened to me many times. I not only have experienced this when I go out to eat, but I have seen this happen often at my work. I am a server at a restaurant that has an outdoor patio. Many times, I notice families coming in with young children and just 10 feet away, there are customers smoking. The smoke drifts and blows right by the table and immediately this family and other customers are inhaling dangerous secondhand smoke. I have had customers leave or ask to move inside because the smell of the smoke was so strong.

All outdoor patios should be 100 percent smoke-free. Going to eat and sitting outside should be as pleasant and relaxing as dining indoors. Inhaling chemicals and poisons from secondhand smoke should not be part of the occasion. How is that enjoyable?

Katie Calabrese