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Buffalo is a mecca for cultural tourism

While our fond memories of the City of Light are still fresh, I'd like to publicly express my heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to the citizens of Buffalo-Niagara who helped make the National Preservation Conference in Buffalo an unparalleled success.

The leadership and enthusiasm from local partners like Mayor Byron Brown, Preservation Buffalo Niagara and Visit Buffalo Niagara, the vision and hard work of our conference co-chairs, Catherine Schweitzer and Bob Skerker, and the strong participation of local residents in the conference itself were truly remarkable.

The 2011 National Preservation Conference attendance was also record-breaking. More than 2,500 individuals registered for the conference, surpassing annual totals from the last 10 years. These folks came from all 50 states and several foreign countries, but importantly, many also came from Buffalo. We are pleased that so many of you embraced the conference as a conversation-starter about Buffalo's past, and how its rich cultural and architectural treasures can guide its future. Our Buffalo Unscripted (www.buffalounscripted.org) documentary film project, which included 200-plus interviews with citizens on the challenges and opportunities facing Buffalo, electrified the conference during its premiere.

From the stunning Richardson Olmsted Complex, to the intricate Guaranty Building, to the solemn grandeur of the grain elevators, we left Buffalo impressed by your landmarks, neighborhoods, parks and hospitality. If any doubt remains about Buffalo's suitability as a world-class cultural and heritage tourism destination, I'd like to put that to rest. And I have 2,500 other people who will back me up.

Stephanie K. Meeks

President, National Trust for Historic Preservation

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News helps us see our city's treasures

The recent National Trust Conference in Buffalo appeared to be a huge success at many levels. Part of that success should be credited to The Buffalo News for covering it extensively, before and during the conference, and from so many different perspectives.

Mike Vogel's Viewpoints article was especially compelling and should help us all better see the treasures, beauty and good neighbors we have in Buffalo on a daily basis, long after the visitors have gone home. For many of us, we can more proudly call Buffalo, "home." Thanks to The News for helping to bring us the good news!

Dennis Galucki

Founder and Coordinator, Center for the Study of Art, Architecture, History and Nature, Buffalo

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Many look forward to a return visit

Congratulations to Buffalo residents for the wonderful experience you gave us during the Preservation Conference. Whether we attended as professionals in the field or just because great architecture is a hobby, it was thrilling to see your famous architectural treasures, and how you are trying to save more.

It was a joy to stay in one of the most beautifully restored homes I have ever seen, the Beau Fleuve B&B, and to hear about the preservation battles it has won for the Linwood neighborhood. And to hear the story of how two remarkable architects saved the world-famous Guaranty Building and did it in the right way, thanks to one brave corporate sponsor who has committed to doing the right thing and without public financing. The restored Darwin Martin House and the plans for the Richardson Olmsted Complex are truly inspiring, as is the passion for the Graycliff Estate by its curator and his volunteers.

And your churches? I have never seen so many beautiful churches in my life, and so many of them have been restored! Blessed Trinity, St. Louis, St. Joseph and St. Paul all blew me away. As did the way you are finding new uses for them, such as the remarkable St. Francis Xavier. The commitment of the volunteers who are trying to save the Central Terminal was also inspiring. The restoration experts at Shea's have done wonderful work. And the rousing history presentation by Martin Wachadlo at City Hall was a big highlight. He is your best ambassador.

I could go on and on. Five of us saved up for three years for this trip and we can't wait to go back. Way to go, Buffalo! You rock!

Jan Bentley

Kansas City, Mo.

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Occupy participants deserve our support

Thank God for Occupy Buffalo. While most of us spend our days grumbling and hand-wringing about the blatant economic injustices and outrageous political corruption that run rampant in this country, the occupiers have dedicated their very existence to protesting these conditions.

Let the media scratch their heads and right-wing loudmouths dish out their ignorant insults -- these (mostly) young people are walking the walk, braving cold and rain to highlight the desperate economic plight that more and more of us are facing, as Wall Street sociopaths and coldhearted multinational corporations sell our country down the river.

Those who can should join the Occupation. Unlike the tea partyers, Occupy is all-inclusive and very welcoming. For those of us who can't make it there, we can at least lend our support. Occupy is a desperately needed voice in these darkening times. And for those who would prefer to criticize from a warm, comfortable media center, perhaps you ought to try camping out for your beliefs in a late Buffalo autumn before you hurl the next stone.

Dave Goddard

Williamsville

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It is time to send demonstrators home

Today, one of the protesters of Occupy Buffalo stated, "people need to be held accountable." Who will be accountable for the destruction of Niagara Square? They have made the square look like a barnyard, trampling the grass to mud, walking through the perennial gardens and destroying plants, letting dogs run loose and not picking up after them, leaving garbage when the cans provided are full. Tents are put up to make it seem there is a larger group, but no one is occupying them.

This movement has demonstrated how chaos results when no one is accountable. If that is their goal, they have achieved it. Send them home.

Marlene Liberti

Buffalo

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Collins is ignoring needs of the people

Chris Collins has lost touch with the purpose of government. He has criticized Mark Poloncarz for wanting to run the government as a service industry. That is exactly what this government of the people, by the people and for the people is, a service industry. Collins is proud of unilaterally cutting spending to the libraries, arts and cultural groups. The Six Sigma program is specifically associated with the statistical modeling of a manufacturing process to reduce manufacturing errors by 99.9 percent. How this applies to government is beyond me.

Collins' proudest accomplishment is shedding the county of Erie County Medical Center. ECMC was handed over to a for-profit group, Kaleida Health, which is turning its back on our neediest groups. ECMC is closing outpatient clinics with total disregard for the needs of the people they serve. The poorest people in Erie County in greatest need are being affected by Collins' cuts, not the elite 1 percent. Government spending needs to be controlled, but it also needs to be tempered by the needs of the people.

Edward Hill

Buffalo

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ECMC must not turn its back on patients

Recent News articles have indicated that Erie County Medical Center is planning to close two outpatient clinics that are serving more than 600 addicts and alcoholics a month and provided more than 25,000 clinical visits in the first six months of this year. This proposed action is being planned despite a growing epidemic of opiate use and constant reminders that alcoholism destroys lives.

ECMC's management has told clinic staff that they need to come up with a way to deal with a $1 million deficit if they want to keep their jobs and stay open. Ideas such as reducing the rent of $240,000 for two floors of space and implementing the use of electronic medical records have been dismissed without meaningful dialogue. One proposal that I would put on the table would be for all ECMC executives to have their salaries capped at $200,000. This would achieve the desired savings.

ECMC must honor its commitment to make decisions based on its expressed core values, which include "equity and fairness" as "guidelines for all decision-making" and making sure that "all patients get equal care regardless of their ability to pay or source of payment." ECMC is the only option in Western New York for uninsured people seeking addiction treatment without a 45- to 60-day waiting period for Medicaid coverage. As Dr. Robert B. Whitney has pointed out, the real bottom line also has to include the "$7 saved by the community in reduced expenses on health care, employment, legal and social services for every dollar spent on good treatment."

"Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane," in the opinion of Martin Luther King Jr. ECMC can continue to confront these inequalities in our community or it can increase them by closing its outpatient addiction treatment programs.

The Rev. Dr. M. Bruce McKay

Pastor, Pilgrim-St. Luke's United Church of Christ, Buffalo

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How can NFTA charge more for poor service?

I was very happy when I read the letter, "NFTA must do better or people won't ride." The writer must have read my mind. I work downtown and have been a subway rider for 12 years. I have seen not only a decrease in the service, but the deplorable behavior that occurs on the Metro trains. I have a friend who is an HSBC employee and she stopped taking the train last year due to the unacceptable behavior, the disrespect of some riders and the poor service. In 12 years, I can count on both hands the number of times an officer has been on the train between the hours of 4:45 and 6. Where are they?

The escalators at the University Station are down at least once a month, and don't get repaired for at least a month. Often times there are only two trains at 7:10 a.m. and two trains at 4:38 p.m. outbound. Some of my "train friends" and I have emailed the NFTA and the response we receive is, "Sorry for the inconvenience, but we have trains that are down." Really? So, you want to raise the fare, but cut down on service? Typical of what corporate America is doing today. Give them less, charge them more!

Fortunately, I do have a choice to drive to work. But some people who have limited financial means don't have a choice; taking the train is their only transportation. Does the NFTA really care? That remains to be seen.

Theresa Calabrese

Amherst