Region's record doesn't inspire much confidence

Western New Yorkers can be seen running around town these days joyously exclaiming, "We've got a billion dollars; businesses will boom; we're saved from economic ruin!" They're talking, of course, about the billion dollars that Gov. Andrew Cuomo is making available as incentives that area business development "leaders" will be able to dangle in front of outside businesses to lure them into setting up shop here.

I would caution these eternal optimists who think the area is suddenly "saved" that there isn't just some automatic billion dollars sitting there on a table ready to go. A lot of creative, progressive and futuristic thinking and planning need to go into the salesmanship that will be needed to actually entice business to locate here, which will subsequently release the state funds/incentives.

And that's the part that makes me worry. Think about the fumbling around with the waterfront plans for a few decades. Or the ill-fated Peace Bridge talks that dragged on seemingly forever and ended up nixed. Or the steel-beamed eyesore of a partially built casino sitting in limbo in downtown Buffalo since 2008. Or the empty retail space and buildings lining downtown Main Street that once constituted a busy retail corridor.

None of this history is particularly confidence-inspiring. What's going to be different this time? Do we have the progressive thinking minds among us to pull this local economic recovery off? Is anybody working on this yet? Or are we all just sitting around talking about it and waiting for things to magically happen?

Phil Schwab



Minimum wage hike is necessary, long overdue

Here we go again. All the naysayers bring about the dark cloud over raising the minimum wage. First of all, it would be nice to know how many of them earn only $8.50 an hour.

There's income inequality, and then there's the United States. Research by the Institute for Policy Studies shows that within the developed world, no nation has seen the income share of the top 1 percent grow faster over the past three decades than the United States. Keep in mind that to qualify for the elite status of 1 percent in annual income, an individual makes about $506,000 per year.

Anyone who works for a living deserves a decent wage. It is about time, and an automatic escalator is long overdue.

Michael J. Rusinek



Regulations protect workers, environment

It's amazing how today's extremist politicians want to eliminate regulations on everything from banking to food quality. Their ignorance of the historical development of regulation is mind-boggling. Without laws to protect us, our food, water, environment and work place would again be in constant danger. These geniuses don't realize that at the turn of the 20th century, there were few regulations in the United States and people drank contaminated water, contracted deadly diseases, breathed contaminated air and died at early ages.

This is the stage that most of the industrialized Third World is at right now, 100 years behind. Latin American and Southeast Asian laborers work in horrible conditions devoid of government laws to protect them. They don't have child labor laws, eight-hour workdays, worker safety laws, a living wage and health care. I suppose these politicians would like to see the American middle class regress 100 years and forgo all of the regulations that make their lives safer and compete with $1 per hour wages. Nearly half of all members of Congress are millionaires, so they won't be affected.

Banks should be regulated even more than they are now. Removing the safeguards put in after the Great Depression nearly caused a second Depression. Regulations safeguarding our food, travel, water and air must remain. Our middle class is in decline not because of regulations but because greedy corporations move their factories to countries with no regulations. Their motives are anti-American.

John W. Kowalski



Let's enforce gun laws already on the books

Leonard Pitts' Jan. 31 column on guns is a perfect example of someone writing on a subject of which he knows very little. I'm happy to inform him that three measures he calls for are already in place.

There are meaningful background checks now on all gun purchases from licensed dealers. The mentally deranged man who shot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was not in the database because the college that he was kicked out of would have violated his rights by informing the police of his condition, so it didn't do so.

Pitts wants fully automatic weapons to be illegal. They already are and have been for years. He wants gun safety classes for children. The National Rifle Association's Eddie Eagle gun safety program has taught more than 24 million children what to do if they find an unsecured gun. Through efforts like this, the youth fatal gun accident rate has declined by 91 percent, from 1.1 fatalities per 100,000 youths in 1950 to about .1 per 100,000 youths in 2004. And this is in spite of the fact that hundreds of thousands of additional guns have been purchased by law-abiding people in this country since 1950. Also, mail-order gun purchases were outlawed many years ago.

Finally, I should point out that the vast majority of criminals who have guns get them illegally on the streets, often in an hour or less. No amount of background checking can change that. Fully enforcing the many gun laws already in place might.

Doug Kreinheder



Priest always offered prayers and support

There is truly another side to the Rev. Secondo Casarotto, recently accused of sexual misconduct at St. Anthony of Padua Church in downtown Buffalo. The average reader is blind to the fact that he was truly an old-school shepherd to his flock. He prayed three Masses every Sunday: Latin, English (where I'm a cantor) and Italian. Many times he sat tired and quietly in between Masses. He answered a call personally when I panicked during two tragedies. Once when my husband almost slipped away from an illness, and shortly after a devastating house fire. He offered prayers and support.

Casarotto rallied parishioners during many festas (celebrations), including the Feast of St. Anthony where he led a solemn procession around City Hall to pray for our government. He encouraged and greatly defended the faith, told endless stories of saints, as well as pointed out corruption. I am deeply saddened and regret his tainted departure. However, I'm also reminded of two quotes from scripture that alleviated my depression, "Let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone" and "Do not judge or you, too, will be judged."

Janice Schlau