Chorus board stands by its decision on director

We write today to clear up some purposeful public misrepresentations and explain recent actions of the board of the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus. A small minority has publicly criticized our decision to not extend the contract of former music director Doreen Rao.

Rao, whom everyone agrees raised the chorus's artistic and performance standards, was not terminated. The board voted not to renew her contract when it expires in June and voted unanimously to pay her for the remainder of her contract. After the board informed Rao in person, she mischaracterized the board's decision of non-renewal as a termination.

A minority of our membership continues to bombard The News and social media with inaccurate criticism. The board acted for several reasons that were explained as fully as possible in a membership meeting on Jan. 16. Due to the confidentiality of personnel matters, the board cannot be more specific. But we have said and stand by our statement that anyone in a board-employee relationship would have made the same decisions for the good of the chorus under the circumstances the board faced.

The board and most of our members are moving forward with an excellent interim music director. We agreed to members' requests to be more transparent by making our minutes and financials readily available to members. We will hold a strategic planning session next month that all members are urged to attend. We have great confidence in the spirit and achievement of the chorus and our members' loyalty.

The chorus is a gem in Buffalo's music circles and we will continue in our 75th year to improve and grow.

Steven Bench

Chorus board president

Andrea Copley

Board vice president


Republican response is just empty rhetoric

Giving the GOP rebuttal to the president's State of the Union address, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels acknowledged that Social Security and Medicare are in need of repair to keep them going for future generations, saying, "Decades ago we could afford to send millionaires pension checks and pay medical bills for even the wealthiest among us. Now we can't, so the dollars we have should be devoted to those that need them the most."

In other words, take Social Security and Medicare money from those who can afford it the most, and give it to those who need it the most. That's a curious statement coming from a fiscal conservative, and the antithesis of Republican ideology. It makes one wonder if his speech is just more political rhetoric, conjuring images of Republicans riding high into Washington to save the republic from the Democrats.

Louis Marinaccio



No need for big search; make Dixon permanent

From what I can observe, Amber Dixon, interim superintendent of the Buffalo Public Schools, has the complete confidence of the School Board. So why move forward with a national search? Dixon has all of the qualities needed to remain at the top. She is a Buffalo native and, to her credit, rose through the ranks from teacher to associate superintendent. Anyone who lives in Buffalo knows there is a system of politics in this area that takes outsiders years to understand. She has proven to be a leader and can obtain a consensus that will bring all parties involved together.

There is absolutely no reason to engage in any national search that the board deems necessary to find an experienced candidate when the schools already have one, according to the majority of the board. I think it may be time to look for new board members who have the schools and children in mind instead of their own self-interest.

At this critical time, can the schools afford a new out-of-town superintendent who may take years to understand what Dixon already knows? I totally agree with board member Jason McCarthy. Give Dixon a contract and stop playing politics at the expense of the children.

Joseph A. Mascia



Assessors are unable to predict the future

I am writing in regard to the Jan. 29 News article, "Is my assessment on the money?" First, I want to say that I sympathize with the assessors, and understand that they are not directly responsible for my unsupportably high tax bill. That responsibility is with the budgets of the town, county and school board. Most of what Robert Strell said is useful; but the fact is that the entire premise is flawed.

Predicting the future is impossible, and yet that is exactly what the assessor, and the homeowner who wants to challenge the number, is being asked to do. The question is, "what will my house sell for?" The answer won't be revealed until the sale is done -- in the future. I propose a rebate system whereby when a property sells, the tax bill be recomputed and money rebated to whomever it is owed.

Also, New York State Form RP-524 allows only three arguments. Either your property was in the wrong category, i.e., single versus multifamily, commercial versus residential; or there is an error of fact, i.e, incorrect square footage; or there is an unequal assessment -- the only argument the homeowner can usually make.

Unequal assessment depends on comparable sales as the best criterion, and herein lies the fatal flaw. If there have been no comparable sales, there is no argument. You cannot argue that the comparable house down the street has been on the market for three years with steadily decreasing asking prices, or that there is no significant action in the local market, or that your house simply doesn't have the amenities your similarly assessed neighbor does. If there is no sale, there is no argument.

Frank Needham



Voters need to ignore all of the mudslinging

It's our fault. Really. Yours and mine. We buy the detergent that will get our clothes cleaner (that's a positive ad). But we reward the candidate who disparages the other candidate more (that's a negative ad). Would you book a flight on the airline that claimed a competitor lost more luggage and bumped more passengers than it did? Would you seek to verify that claim?

The primary circus has not come to our area, but the general election will be no different. Do the candidates address our concerns or sling mud at each other? Even if they articulate a concern, do they offer a solution? Is it viable?

We say we don't like negative ads, but we continue to buy their messages. Our attention span is so limited we accept information as accurate only if it will fit on a bumper sticker. When interviewed by the media after voting, we see on what the voters in the primary/caucus states based their decisions. Will we do the same when it's our turn?

Sandra W. Myers