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Buffalo firefighters seek a fair contract

The News editorial board is again attacking unions with half truths. The Taylor Law allows for compulsory interest arbitration to settle labor contracts for police officers and firefighters because no striking is allowed and, therefore, the current contract continues until a new contract is reached or awarded.

The City of Buffalo has accumulated a surplus of $140 million during the last 10 years. The Buffalo Fire Department has eliminated 156 positions, with recurring savings of $85 million. This has occurred even though there has been an increase in total emergency responses.

Firefighter pay has increased 23 percent over 16 years, which averages 1.4 percent per year, or less than inflation. This includes 5.5 percent awarded through arbitration for 2002-03, which the city is contesting in court. Firefighters have had no raise since 2003. But since 2000, my members have been paying up to 25 percent toward their health insurance, and since 2009, 3 percent toward their pensions. Does The News consider this "past generous contracts"?

The city enjoyed the savings from health insurance until it illegally changed our health insurance in 2004. In 2010, the city was ordered to provide free health insurance for all employees and retirees as a remedy for violating our contract. But our members are still paying because the city has refused to follow the arbitrator's award and the State Court judge who confirmed the award.

The union has tried to negotiate a fair contract to govern the years 2002-2012, presenting the city with many proposals that would save money, including residency for new firefighters. The city's response: "You rejected a contract in 2008, so we're not going to negotiate again."

The News won't be satisfied until all public employees are compensated at the minimum wage, with no benefits and no right to organize a union.

Dan Cunningham

President, Local 282, Buffalo

Professional Firefighters Association

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Snubbing of culturals cost Collins the race

Democrats generally care about the world; Republicans generally care about their little world. And with that myopic view can come some arrogance and misguided sense of privilege. That's why Erie County Executive Chris Collins lost.

I lived in Dallas 25 years before moving back home. Buffalo has more culture in its little pinky finger than Dallas would ever hope to have. This city's engine and soul is its culture. Collins didn't understand this. That's why he lost.

Bill Nimelman

Buffalo

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Special ed students not to blame for test scores

The Nov. 11 News contained an important article on Erie and Niagara county schools in need of improvement. The State Department of Education reported that a record number of schools in our area are failing to make adequate progress in raising students' scores on the state's English and math tests.

Why are so many of our schools failing to make the grade? There are many reasons for poor academic performance. However, special education students were identified as a primary cause of the schools' poor report cards. It appears that a number of school administrators are blaming the special education students for their schools' overall poor performance on the state exams. These students are a minority of the student population. Yet they are being singled out as a primary cause of the overall failing scores.

There are many reasons why students fail to perform adequately on the tests. They include increasing poverty rates, increasing class sizes, stressed school budgets, etc. However, none of these factors is discussed as possible causes for poor academic performance. Instead, our most vulnerable and disadvantaged citizens are being blamed for the problem.

Richard Denesha

Amherst

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Looks like a pattern of harassment by Cain

Herman Cain, who is running for president, says that he has never committed sexual harassment against any woman. Yet he now has four separate women accusing him of sexual harassment.

He might have you believe that one claim is baseless and false, he might even be able to claim that two claims were found to be baseless. But when you are faced with four claims -- and two of them were settled with financial settlements and non-disclosure agreements -- you have a real problem and a pattern.

You have to ask yourself: How many false, baseless claims of sexual harassment can you dismiss without wondering, are they all false, or is there substance to the claims against Cain? Sexual harassment is a real problem in this country, with many women in school and in the work place claiming they are being sexually harassed. Many times these claims are dismissed as just someone just clowning around, and that the men didn't mean anything by what they said or did.

Peter Nugent

Amherst

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Cutting defense funding will put nation at risk

Incoming 7th Fleet Commander Vice Adm. Scott Swift is absolutely correct in his assessment that North Korea is our most important national-security challenge in Asia. North Korea and Iran are both progressing toward their goal of possessing nuclear weapons and the ballistic missiles to carry them. Defense officials have predicted that North Korea could be advanced enough to strike San Francisco with a nuclear-tipped missile as early as 2016.

Thankfully, U.S. innovations in radar and interceptor technology have developed an ever-improving, real-life shield against ballistic missile attack. Today, radar systems and interceptor missiles are poised to detect and engage attacking missiles from across the Pacific. President Ronald Reagan's concept of nuclear missile defense -- once dismissed as a "Star Wars" fantasy -- has become reality, and just in time.

As members of Congress look to cut defense spending, they should heed the warnings of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Swift, and remember that our nation remains at risk of attack.

Rear Adm. James J. Carey

(Retired) U.S. Navy

National Chairman, Flag and General Officers Network

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Board of Elections must do better job

Before leaving home on Election Day, I checked the website of the Board of Elections to be certain of my polling place. Later I arrived at an empty building and after two more trips was able to cast my vote. The information posted by our Board of Elections, the gatekeeper of our core democratic process, was at least two years out of date.

In a time of epic political partisanship, Erie County voters can point to at least one bipartisan agency harmoniously collaborating in incompetence.

Ray Bissonette

Snyder