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We need leaders free of special interests

Outgoing County Executive Chris Collins fulfilled his campaign promises and is, by almost all accounts, a competent, intelligent and effective leader. It is disconcerting to his supporters that he lost the recent election to Mark Poloncarz; that his lengthy experience as a corporate manager didn't translate into electoral success this past November despite the achievements in his lone term.

In a News interview, Collins noted that his administration was proof that Lean Six Sigma could work in government as well as business. Lean Six Sigma is something most voters in Erie County aren't completely familiar with and, in the context of the election, probably contributed to Collins' disconnect with the electorate. Lean Six Sigma appears to be an algorithm designed for people to get them to think more like computers -- focused, rigid and undynamic. To many others, it is associated with layoffs.

Collins is in concert with a larger movement of Republican politicians who have a lot of faith in corporate leadership as government. They feel that governments that operate like corporations deliver services more efficiently and effectively. While everyone would agree that bloated bureaucracies are wasteful and frustrating, it is important to recognize that corporations and government entities are very different organizations with different missions. Bean-counting principles can balance a budget, but it is usually at the expense of employees and quality service.

What is desperately needed here and at the national level are candidates who aren't controlled by corporations, corporate management systems, labor unions or any other special interest. We should seek out and vote for candidates creative and nimble enough to temper the interests of a diverse citizenry with the far-reaching arm of powerful concerns. Blind obedience to corporate management principles or allegiance to labor unions or special interests is not leadership.

Patrick Sahr

Buffalo

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Occupy protesters should go home now

I realize I'm a part of the 99 percent. I understand the passion behind the Occupy Buffalo takeover of our beautiful Niagara Square and Lafayette Square. But now it's winter. Don't ask me for a donation to keep you warm and fed. Go home. And if you don't have a home to go to, you are there for the wrong reasons.

Thora Van Horn

Buffalo

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Many groups working to stop animal cruelty

Washington PR man Jeff Douglas has joined a new campaign to smear the reputations of public interest groups (Dec. 24 Another Voice). His latest target is the Humane Society of the United States, because we are the greatest threat to animal abusers and his industry paymasters. Douglas and his so-called Humane Society for Shelter Pets falsely try to define animal welfare work as just one narrow category of writing checks to local pet shelters. These shelters carry out vital and important work and take in 6 million to 8 million dogs and cats each year. But there are billions of other animals at risk in society, and they all need our help.

Supporters of the U.S. Humane Society know it's not an either-or proposition, and understand that it's a rising tide that lifts all boats. Our 11 million donors support, on average, five to seven different animal groups because they know that animals need the help of local shelters, rescue groups, wildlife centers, horse sanctuaries and more -- and also need powerful organizations to battle the root causes of cruelty nationwide.

The animal welfare movement is strong and growing. It represents mainstream values. Although there is no official registry, there are estimated to be as many as 20,000 groups, big and small, engaged in the important work of safeguarding animals. Together, these organizations and their expanding army of workers, supporters and volunteers are an unstoppable force for good.

Only if these groups allow the likes of Douglas to succeed in dividing the power of the movement, by creating phony quarrels between groups, will he be able to slow down progress toward making this a more humane world. Please support your local animal shelter and visit humanesociety.org to find out how you can support our national efforts to prevent animal cruelty.

Wayne Pacelle

President and CEO, Humane Society of the United States

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Public restrooms are no place to feed baby

I couldn't help but disagree with Donn Esmonde's column titled "Let's keep breast-feeding a private act." Toward the end of his piece, he states that "stores and restaurants are equipped with restrooms and seem to be the perfect place for an infant to chow down."

Where would he like the mom to sit to feed her baby? The toilet maybe? Or maybe she should stand? Let's consider the germs and cleanliness of most restrooms. Most public restrooms I have been in are dirty and definitely not the place to feed an infant. I wonder if Esmonde would like to take his next meal into a public restroom and eat it there and see how much enjoyment there is for him?

Jenine Szymanski

Lockport

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Prohibit blackouts in lease with Bills

Mark Poloncarz's first order of business as Erie County executive is to be smart about a long-term lease with the Buffalo Bills. This agreement should include no television blackouts of games for the length of the new contract. There are several reasons to include this clause.

First, county and state taxpayers are footing the bill for stadium renovations that are expected to run more than a hundred million dollars. This is essentially subsidizing profits for owner Ralph Wilson and the National Football League. Second, the Bills' stadium has a larger seating capacity than most NFL franchises. Despite this unfair challenge and the team's losing record, the region still manages to be a few thousand tickets short of selling out on any given Sunday. Third, fans shouldn't be punished when the team is broken. We have supported the team for more than 50 years with our shivering bodies, painted faces and hard-earned cash. It's not the fault of uninspired fans when our stadium can't fill to capacity in the dead of winter with a team facing a losing record. The Bills have no problem selling tickets when ownership is perceived to be committed to winning.

Finally, blackouts reflect a poor business model and don't ultimately work. Studies show that blackouts don't increase ticket sales much, if at all. Winning is what motivates people, and the team hasn't done that in more than a decade. Not showcasing the product hurts your bottom line and local advertisers. Smart business learns to entice people, not by turning them out, but by reaching out.

Sean Kelley

Youngstown