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Buffalo needs to offer diverse housing for all

For more than 50 years, it has been against the law to discriminate in the sale, rental and financing of property. Congress passed the anti-discrimination law in the tumult following the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

But at the same time, Congress failed to pay for the enforcement of the law, leaving this important duty to a patchwork of private not-for-profit groups across the nation. Over time, many of these groups contracted with localities to enforce the law and pursue discriminators.

Some of these groups vary in efforts and effectiveness, but all are starved for funds, and they are often required to take whatever they can get to enforce this vital right. In Western New York, Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) enforces the law under contracts with the city and the larger suburbs.

HOME, which has an excellent record, still must obtain a good deal of funding from private foundation grants and other fundraising.

Meanwhile, there is no shortage of discriminators. A study reported last year that Buffalo ranks sixth in the nation when it comes to housing bias, along with Detroit, Chicago and other large cities. Fair or not, the ranking is not likely to help Buffalo market itself as a modern, richly diverse area in which to do business.

But there are other, even better reasons to want Buffalo to join the modern movement to diversity. According to some studies, the best predictor of success in life is housing. In other words, if we want to have a high-quality, well-trained work force with the skills needed in today's job marketplace -- including the ability to work smoothly with all kinds of groups and individuals -- it must start with decent, affordable and diverse housing for all.

Tom Dolan

HOME board member

Buffalo

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Let's make good use of hospital building

I get the picture. Give a million dollars to a developer to redevelop the soon-to-be-mothballed Millard Fillmore hospital. Sorry, wrong picture. This is the perfect opportunity for the state and Erie County to take this building and create a campus for elder care at all levels. The population is getting older, costs for nursing care are soaring and no one has a plan to tackle the inescapable.

So how do we fund such an undertaking? It's already funded. It's called unemployment and welfare benefits. People want to be productive. What better way than people helping people? Add volunteers, use out-buildings for shelter for the homeless, a soup kitchen, AMVETS and any other project that needs attention. This capacious complex could be a state jewel. It can expose what can be done by and for good people in need. Noah needed a huge ark. We have our ark. Let's make good use of it.

Mark Neupert

Tonawanda

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Focus on bus service, not airport expansion

It is irresponsible for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority to consider such an aggressive plan of airport expansion at this time when the same public agency is ready to eliminate bus service and/or raise fares, strangling the populace of Western New York. Taking just 5 percent of that $406 million -- about $20 million -- would help, if not solve, the current problems now facing the beleaguered agency. And the public wouldn't have to worry about getting to work, making doctor's appointments, getting grocery shopping done or any of the myriad of other reasons so many people depend on buses.

The problems of the bus service are here and now, not 20 years in the future. Money can still be allocated for airport expansion without forsaking the bus and rail service so badly needed in Western New York. Then again, my views on the subject will fall on deaf ears at the NFTA since none of the powers-that-be at that "public" agency ever use them. Isn't that right, Ms. Minkel and Mr. Vanecek?

Peter J. Sawicz

Buffalo

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Tripathi is making all the right moves

Contrary to the opinions expressed by professor Jim Holstun in the Feb. 10 News, University at Buffalo President Satish Tripathi is doing all the right things to build bridges across the ravine between the university and the rest of the community. This moment in time holds a historic opportunity for UB and Western New York, especially the City of Buffalo.

Buffalo is dying and its demise is dragging the region down with it. Any realistic hopes of recovery must be grounded on the current foundations of our regional economy: the "eds and meds." The alpha institution in that pack is UB, led by Tripathi.

There is no more time for polite ivory tower academic debate while things plod along as usual. This is a teeth-and-claws fight for resurrection of the region and its economy. Tripathi's present vision of UB 2020 makes sense as a plan for excellence. Our collective future demands vigorous, enthusiastic cooperation among our civic, economic and academic leaders, including those who will build thefuture.

Charles E. Wiles III, M.D.

Clinical professor of surgery

Grand Island

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We should bar minors from indoor tanning

I strongly support the Assembly's recent passage of a bill to ban indoor tanning for those under the age of 18. My daughter, an eight-year survivor of malignant melanoma (the deadliest form of skin cancer), would surely have benefited from this law 20 years ago when she was frequenting indoor tanning salons to get her "base tan" before family vacations or just wanting to look beautiful with a tan like her friends for prom.

Being a parent of a teenager, there are daily battles to fight. Though we didn't have the knowledge about the health effects and hazards of skin cancer then, I gave my daughter the best advice I knew at the time, which was not to do it.

Now I know I was right. According to the American Cancer Society, people who use indoor tanning devices before the age of 30 increase their risk of melanoma by 75 percent.

Unfortunately, my daughter didn't listen and continued to frequent those tanning salons and burn herself to a crisp looking for that awesome tan. If the indoor tanning ban had been in effect, my daughter may not have developed malignant melanoma, because the law would have backed me up, protected her and we would have avoided many unnecessary arguments.

I implore the State Senate to follow the Assembly's lead and pass this legislation to protect our children ages 14 to 17. I don't want any other parent to go through what I went through pleading with my daughter not to do this to herself, losing the argument and watching her develop skin cancer 20 years later.

Peggy Hamels

Eden