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Opinion

Opinion Page Policies

By Howard B. Owens

Summary:

  • Readers may submit either Letters to the Editor or Op-Eds;
  • Submission to the Opinion Page is open primarily to Genesee County residents;
  • All opinions are welcome but any statement of fact must be backed by evidence;
  • No personal insults, no name-calling, keep it civil;
  • Only digital submissions are accepted.
  • Submissions are not edited.
 

The Batavian accepts two types of submissions for publication on its opinion page:

  • Letters to the Editor
  • Op-Eds

Letter or Op-Ed
What constitutes a letter to the editor or an op-ed is largely a matter of how you want to define it.  Typically, letters are shorter, more opinionated, whereas op-eds are longer and contain more factual information in support of the opinions expressed.

The term op-ed is a hold-over from the era of printed newspapers when opinion columns would appear on a page opposite the editorial page, which expressed the official opinions of the newspaper. The op-ed page was the place where the newspaper would air opposing points of view.

Who may submit
Genesee County residents may submit letters or op-eds or letters on any topic in the news.  People who do not live in the county may only submit letters or op-eds on local topics.

The Batavian reserves the right at its sole discretion without setting precedent to accept submissions from people of prominence or organizations that are not living or based in Genesee County.

Submissions may be posted directly to the website and will go live on the opinion page once it is tagged “opinion.”  The Batavian reserves the right to immediately remove any submissions that don’t meet publication criteria. 

Real names are required for all submissions and the profile page of the person making the submission should include accurate information on the person’s place of residence.

Opinions and false information
You are welcome to your opinion.  No submission will be removed because of your opinion.  If you say, “I believe …” or “I think …” that is an opinion.  If you state, “XYZ happened,” that is an attempt to make a statement of fact.  If that statement is false (examples of a false statements, “bees do not pollinate flowers,” or “the earth is flat."), your submission will be removed.  To be clear, if you say, “I believe the earth is flat” it is an opinion.  If you say, “the earth is flat,” that is an attempt to make a statement of fact that lacks any evidence to support the statement.  The opinion is allowed.  The false statement is not.

If you state an opinion that is based on false information, don’t be upset or surprised if the publishers or other readers leave comments that provide correct, truthful information that contradicts your opinion.

Keep it civil
Insults and name-calling are not permitted in any submission.  Public officials should expect criticism and often that criticism can seem or be rather personal.  The Batavian does not permit personal attacks but what constitutes a personal attack on an elected official or another public person can be a gray area.  The Batavian reserves the right to use its own discretion to determine what constitutes a personal attack and remove any submissions that cross the hard-to-define line.  However, insults and name-calling are not permitted even against public people.  Keep your writing civil.

How to submit
All submissions must be electronic.  We do not accept submissions on paper or through postal mail.  If you do not wish to make a submission through your own account on thebatavian.com, you may email your submission to the publisher, howard@thebatavian.com.

No editing
Submissions are not edited by The Batavian.  Each contributor is responsible for spelling, punctuation, and grammar as well as readability.  The Batavian reserves the right to remove submissions that are difficult to read because of poor writing.

Letter to the Editor: ND baseball knows how to promote players' accomplishments with local media

By Staff Writer

Letter submitted by Donald Weyer:

Man, oh man, Rick Rapone, the baseball coach at Batavia's Notre Dame H.S., knows how to "talk up" his team's players and performance, and by extension, that school's standing in the eyes of local sports fans!  He could give a teaching seminar to the area's public school coaches in the art of public relations, contact with the media, the construction of sports narrative, call it what you want.  What it all accomplishes is the elevation of Notre Dame and the motivation of the players on the team.

Read a report that he provides to local media on an individual contest: all the reports have a context, a scenario; a development of that scenario, of suspense; a climax of the scenario, a resolution or conclusion, a win or loss.  Compare his reports of competition to the often three-sentence reports given by his compatriots in local high school reports: score of the contest, and two sentences describing, usually lackadaisical, a couple of names of the contributing players.                

What the public school coaches don't understand is that if you don't "talk up" your team and school, no one else will talk up your team and school.  Some of them even sound like they're ashamed of their team's win or not embarrassed by their team's loss.

Rapone is an asset to our area's media, high school sports, Notre Dame H.S., and especially, in my case, a reader of his media narratives! 

I look forward to his future ones and some improvements in local public high school coaches' media relations after reading or listening to some of his!

Letter to the Editor: 'Big press' to blame for rise of 'fake news'

By Howard B. Owens

From Donald Weyer:

I'm confused!  So let me see if I can work my way out of this perplexing welter.

It seems to me that almost a day doesn't go by without hearing about "news" and supposedly its opposite, "fake news," being batted back and forth over the net, only to fall to the ground, no foul, no point, scored.  My ears' sense of sound gets tired following the word-

To better understand this phenomenon, I need to flesh out on the page some of my observations of the match on this court of public dissension:

1.  Rochester, N.Y. has a newspaper, the "Democrat and Chronicle," which doesn't have an editorial page.  Why?  Unheard of in a relatively big city's newspaper.

2.  Buffalo, N.Y. has a newspaper, the "Buffalo News," which does have an editorial page, but only prints its "letters to the editor," at most, 2 days out of 7 days in its publishing week.  Why?  Unheard of in a relatively big city's newspaper.  (All 7 days of "letters" are published in its "online" edition, which a reader must pay for).  One can read the paper edition for free at the public library.

3.  Batavia, N.Y. has an 'online" only, news site, "The Batavian," which is principally local- and regional-directed.  No national or international news, very little business news, a small amount of state news.  (It is currently charging a fee for readers to get "first-access" to certain articles, and after a limited amount of time, the articles are then free to read).  There's a lot to be said for staying small, focused, and doing what you know best!  This news site does all these well, without becoming a newsletter.  Better yet, not a Bezos or a Berkshire Hathaway, huge corporations that ventured into media.  At times though, its local coverage becomes almost quaint:Girl Scout Cookie sales, pine-derby competitions, quilting bees, etc.!

4.  Also in Batavia, N.Y. is the "Batavia Daily News," print and "online".  (The "print" is free to read at the public library, and the "online" has a subscriber fee).  This newspaper checks most of the boxes for a traditional one: international, national, local, sports, weather, obituaries, etc., although the "online" edition tilts mainly local, maybe in competition with "The Batavian," which is a good thing.  Anyway, it, too, has an editorial page and "letters to the editor," and is probably stronger in "opinion" than "The Batavian".  But then "The Batavian" can always improve, can't it?

5.  The "Wall Street Journal," unfortunately associated in many peoples' minds as a solely business and stock-market publication, which it no longer is, represents the best of the current collection of print newspapers, in my estimation.  (Check out its "Life," "Art," and "Books" sections, and particularly, its Saturday edition).  The "New York Times" and "U.S.A.Today" pale in comparison to the "WSJ".  (It too has an "online" edition, which a reader must pay for.  The print edition is free to read, again, at the public library).

After all this context, and hopefully my readers' attention, my point is I think that a lot of the "fake news" issue results from the weakening, hollowing-out, fragmentation, single-issue politics and slant , of which the traditional newspaper didn't have to cope with. 

You know, all the long-established, respected press institutions had one aim and one aim only:publish "all the news that's fit to print." (Credit to "N.Y.Times").  And from my point of view, hopefully, print all the competing opinions, both professional and pedestrian!  The newspaper business, as currently constituted, is at fault, itself, for the rise of accusations of "fake news".  Not the left wing, the right wing, the central wing, progressives, or conservatives, with their concomitant agendas and loves and hates!  And I lay the cause of all your hand-wringing, vociferations, assaults, and attacks, relating to "fake news" squarely at your own feet.  If you, big press, had all reported all the "real" news, there would have been no opportunity for "fake" news to creep up and proliferate in the cracks of the sidewalk beneath your own guilty feet.  But no, today's big press, you were solely focussed on the "bottom line" of your balance sheets, and getting as many "eyeballs" reading your publications, come "hell or high water".  Period!

Letter to the Editor: The county manager has 'stepped into it' this time

By Howard B. Owens

Submitted by Donald Weyer

Hey, Matt Landers, Genesee County Manager, I respected you, but I'm starting to wonder!

You're whining about "the homeless" in your realm, in reference to the illegal immigrants being potentially bussed into, and housed in our area; and your subsequent declaration of a "state of emergency", (shades of Alexander Haig, "I'm in charge here", and I think, Watergate), as our introduction to not the "Summer of Love" (1968), but rather to the Summer of 2023.  Where are these "homeless", please tell me, do.  I want to see them.  I certainly hope that you're not referring to homeowners who are barely making their payments to retain their homes, the nearly-borderline "homeless".  (Actually, I think they are called home or housing "poor").  Are you?  Because you have resources at your disposal, windfalls from sales-tax revenues, mortgage taxes, all the gambling revenues pouring out of Batavia Downs, to directly assist the nearly-drowning property-tax payers, don't you?

In fact, aren't all your most recent "crying wolf" press releases just political grand-standing?  Please, Mr. Landers, instead of ballyhooing the new jail out there by County Building 2, which is just more agitprop about crime and criminals, ditto with your immigration stand, pay attention to the genuine needs and priorities of us Genesee County tax-payers who finance your programs!  You know, us middle-class people,go-to-work-everyday, no questions asked, no problems made, individuals and families, who find ourselves strangely neglected, in this age of "victims", the "under-served", the "put-upon" ,the "under-belly", of American society!  And anyway, isn't crime, jails, prisons, and criminals, principally an N.Y.State function; immigration primarily a U.S. government function?  Leave these issues, and pontifications about them, to the big boys and girls in Albany and Washington, and talk to my neighbors and me right here in Batavia, N.Y., the seat of Genesee County, and the base of your management and governance,in association with the Genesee County Legislature.

You're not elected, sir, but if you were, right at this time in your dedicated, and I'm sure, sincere service and tenure, I would vote against you.

I don't know whether I'm "pro" or "anti" immigration.  But maybe a little "pro," only within legal means.  But, man, oh man, Matt, my good man, I think you've "stepped into it" this time.  Stay closer to home, do what you do and know best, talk up the "good bones" that we have out at the Genesee County Park; the incredibly outstanding employees and programs you have over at the Genesee County Office for the Aging, the Senior Center, on Bank Street; the Sheriff's Department sheriff and deputies and prison officers who keep us safe and secure; your guys who do the snow-plowing and land-scaping; the offices that ably serve our veterans and provide social services; the ones who exactingly and perspicaciously keep and record our vital and transactional business records in the County Clerk office.  These are all tangible programs and people that you can point to, not the lofty and abstract policy ruminations and philosophizing that you are currently faltering on!  Jettison the politicking over the state and national affairs to the state and national players, no matter if they are buffoons and jokes and rummies!

Letter to the Editor: City should make sure oil change waste is properly disposed

By

From Donald Weyer:

Quick and speedy automobile oil-change business proposed for that little patch of land at the eastern entrance to the Valu Plaza in the city of Batavia. 

I'm certain Doug Randall, the city's majordomo of buildings inspection; the city Planning Board; and ultimately, the honorable City Council, and respected City Manager, will all join hands and solemnly swear to ensure that the proposed business will dispose of the used and waste and pollution-inducing oil pulled out of the cars, in an environmentally friendly manner, and also in accordance with human health and ecosystem safety regulations.

Because we; me, you, and Hennessy, in Lil Wayne's words, don't want to foot another cleanup bill for the desecration of the land, that we are currently paying for in two stages, not one stage, at the former junkyard on Bank Street; at the former Trojan site on Clinton Street; and in the future, I suspect, on the site just west of the Ellicott Station on Ellicott Street.  All formerly privately-owned properties, and in Batavia.  There probably is more destroyed land in Batavia that we're not aware of yet.

Anyway, why weren't the owners, or their estates, or their insurance companies, made to cough up the millions needed to clean up their messes?  Instead of N.Y.State, which translates to you and me!  I'm sure that you and I could use the extra cash in our pockets, instead of paying it out to right these private businesses' wrongs!

OP-ED: GLOW Region Students Thrive at Inaugural Healthcare Career Exploration Event

By

By Karyn Winters and Angela Grouse
GLOW With Your Hands: Healthcare Co-Chairs 

Volunteers from across the GLOW Region recently conducted another successful hands-on career exploration workforce development program for local students, demonstrating that we have the foundation for providing the next generation of the healthcare workforce. 

Our first GLOW With Your Hands: Healthcare event welcomed 575 students from 29 school districts across Genesee, Livingston, Orleans, and Wyoming counties, along with 225 representatives from more than 50 agencies and employers guiding students about careers and pathways in the healthcare sector. 

We are familiar with the current state of healthcare, especially in rural areas such as the GLOW region. There is a need for prepared workforce candidates in the healthcare industry. We wanted to take the model we built for GLOW With Your Hands: Manufacturing and mirror it for the healthcare sector. We have seen the impact other hands-on career exploration events have had on employers; this was the perfect industry to engage with on such an initiative.

Vendors and sponsors engaged students with hands-on activities and friendly conversations throughout the day-long event. GLOW With Your Hands: Healthcare offered hands-on displays, and even an EMT station where students could simulate life-saving activities such as CPR. 

Students used the opportunity to explore careers in healthcare that they may have an interest in and others they may not have been familiar with. Our vendors are subject matter experts with on-the-job experience, and they were well-equipped to answer any questions students had throughout the day. 

An event of this scale – the largest ever healthcare career exploration event in our region – would not have been possible without the support of so many public and private sector entities. A big thank you to our friends at ESL Federal Credit Union, who made a significant investment that was so important in building momentum for a successful event. There is a reason we see continued support for these types of career exploration events – employers know they can recruit from a well-educated and prepared pool of potential workers seeking career opportunities right in their own backyard. 

In addition to the support of vendors, 75 people from across the community volunteered their time to assist us throughout the day-long event, serving as tour guides, distributing lunch, and more. This event would not have been possible without their help. 

Most of all, thanks to the students who once again expressed such strong enthusiasm for exploring career opportunities through another successful GLOW With Your Hands event! We are excited that the fourth annual GLOW With Your Hands: Manufacturing event is less than 6 months away!

Opinion: During stress awareness month, be alert for gambling lures

By

Submittec by Jeffrey Wierzbicki, Western/Finger Lakes PGRC

Inflation is high, prices are higher, and many people are struggling just to put food on the table. When our finances are tight, stress can increase. Stress is defined as a state of worry or mental tension caused by a difficult situation. When we are stressed, we might start looking for an escape. You might even think that gambling or the lottery and hitting it “BIG” is the answer. In fact, it may cause more strains in your relationships at home and at work and start to affect your mental health causing more stress, anxiety, and depression.

There are many opportunities to gamble, the grocery store, casinos, online sports betting, convenient stores, and gas stations all offer gambling. Most can gamble and play the lottery for fun or entertainment. Unfortunately, sometimes gambling can take a toll on our mental health and further strain us financially.

Understanding what problem gambling is and why you may be gambling is a good place to start. The New York Council on Problem Gambling has many resources to help you. Reaching out for help is hard, but there are many resources out there. These resources include:  The Path of Problem Gambling, this is an infographic that can show you how gambling can affect an individual, as well as your family members, co-workers, and community. We also have The Cost of Problem Gambling , this will show you how much money gambling is costing you every year.  Another way to start small is by taking an e-screener. The e-screener is confidential and anonymous and can help someone decide if they are ready to reach out for help. These free resources can be found at www.NYProblemGambling.org

After learning more about what problem gambling is and how it may be affecting you, you may want to reach out for more support. The Westerns Problem Gambling Resource Center is here to help. We can connect you to support groups, clinicians or provide you with more educational materials. We are happy to talk with you and explore your options. Call 1-833-437-3864, to talk with someone who can help. All calls are confidential.

Letter to the Editor: Rather than raises, how about plows for city sidewalks

By

Submitted by Fred Gundell

I have lived in Batavia for basically a short time. Only nine years. But I do know enough to see this is a poorer community with an aging population. Some empty businesses. A small but efficient police department and other public services. I heard yesterday that 35% or higher of our population is considered elderly. We appear to have an overabundance of low-income housing and very little or no middle-income housing. This does not attract younger people or add to the tax base. But not the purpose of this letter.

This city has only a very few sidewalk plows for our extended winter months. Seems like Downtown and Schools are the only requirement. If you live on East Main Street or Ellicott Street (and other places) and are elderly or, for that matter, any age and need to get up the sidewalk, it is impossible. Local homeowners (and local businesses)seem to shovel their personal walks to their porches but leave the public walk untouched. (Not all, but many) This forces elderly and handicapped folks to walk on the roads to get to the store or church or the doctor, or where ever they have to go. This is not acceptable. I was raised in Rochester. Much bigger than Batavia, and our sidewalks were always plowed by the city. If this city can not hold homeowners and businesses to shovel their walks, they should provide plowed and passable sidewalks.

The financial costs for more plows and folks to run them are, of course, the continual claim by the City Manager, City Council and DPW. But I did not see any of this fiscal restraint recently when City Council voted for many pay raises for city officials that were well beyond the 2-3 percent that most of us get. They also went beyond the State's two percent tax cap, which we will pay for. I urge residents to let their council members know of their distaste for this waste of public money. And urge them to purchase whatever plows we need for our sidewalks, so anyone in a wheelchair can get to their doctor's office. I submit for the amount of taxpayer money that just went to pay increases, we could have purchased five more plows and people to run them. Which, to me, is far more important to our community and the well-being of our citizens. 

Journalism that gets results: City Council lodges complaint about Ellicott Station

By Howard B. Owens

Journalists work hard, report important stories and hope they're making a difference. 

Often we feel that we do make a difference, but we don't often see the tangible results.

Our news editor, Joanne Beck, broke the story about Ellicott Station unexpectedly becoming a low-income housing project when the community was promised something far different.  She stayed on top of the story, providing follow-ups and more details.

As a result, the community and Batavia City Council took notice.

As The Batavian reported first, last night City Council approved a letter to Homes and Community Renewal asking that rather than relegate the property to low-income housing, the income standards be raised to better fit the original intention of the complex. That intention was to serve the needs of people making workforce wages, which HUD defines as 80 to 120 percent of an area's median income.

The current 50 to 60 percent AMI for the project is what HUD defines as "very low income."  

“This is a fundamental change from the goals for the Ellicott Station project and does not match the BOA or DRI strategies for development of our downtown,” the letter states.

Kudos to the City Council for taking action, even if the letter might fall on deaf ears. It's unlikely the city has any power other than write a letter in an attempt to change the rental requirements for the project, but documenting the community's concerns and the history of the project is an important step if there is any chance to effect a change.

So, we're glad to see some action taken following our exclusive coverage of the issue.

Previously: 

OPINION: Ellicott Station is not looking like a 'Pathway to Prosperity'

By Howard B. Owens

Ellicott Station was sold to Batavia as part of our community's "Pathway to Prosperity." 

It was going to bring more people Downtown to help bolster business, fill vacant storefronts, and put more feet on the street.

At the groundbreaking for the project, developer Sam Savarino, along with state, city and GCEDC officials, talked about "workforce housing." These would be apartments for people with jobs, earning $18 to $20 an hour.  They would be college students just starting their careers.  They would be part of the workforce at STAMP.  There was no mention of people relying on government assistance to make rent, buy food, or get medical care.

Don't get me wrong, like the economic philosophers who helped define what a free-market economy is, such as Adam Smith and Friedrich Hayek, I believe some level of social welfare is necessary to help level the disruptions wrought by markets.  It's good for society to ensure that nobody is left unsupported in dire poverty.  So the complaint here isn't about Section 8, SNAP, or Medicaid.  All of those programs have their appropriate place in our society and in our community.

But Sam Savarino is receiving millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded grants and tax incentives on the promise that his project would set us on a "Pathway to Prosperity."

Now that apartment applications are available for Ellicott Station and we can read what the rental criteria is, we predict that this project is unlikely to help the local economy and may even hurt it.

Only "very low-income" people can apply.  If you're making $18 an hour, you're earning too much, unless you have dependents. 

Prior to Friday, The Batavian made attempts to find out what the criteria would be to qualify tenants for Ellicott Station.  The project manager for Savarino wouldn't return our calls or answer our emails. Local officials were loathed to reveal the primary criteria was "low income."  

The state's Housing and Community Renewal site tells us that Ellicott Station is reserved exclusively for "low-income" tenants. That in itself may be misleading.

The federal government, Housing and Urban Department (HUD), defines low income as 80 percent of an area's median income.  Ellicott Station is reserved for people making 50 to 60 percent of an area's median income.  According to HUD, that is "very low income."  

This isn't workforce housing, as we were promised.  HUD defines workforce housing as units intended for people making 80 to 120 percent of an area's median income.

We didn't know until yesterday that this is housing intended primarily for people who qualify for Section 8 housing vouchers.  Yes, since our story was published this morning, we've heard that all landlords must accept Section 8.  But here's the thing: if you're renting a unit for $900 or $1,200, or more, your likely tenants earn too much money to qualify for Section 8. When your top-end rent is $740 for a family of four, as it is for Ellicott Station, there is a likelihood the applicant qualifies for Section 8.

That just doesn't fit into anybody's definition of "workforce housing."

And people who qualify for Section 8 often also qualify for SNAP and Medicaid.

Here's where that's a problem:  There's no guarantee that Ellicott Station will be filled by residents of Genesee County.  In fact, it seems likely that many of the new tenants will move to Batavia from outside Genesee County. Savarino can't discriminate against applicants, from what we've been told, based on current residence.  The company can't exclude residents from outside the county.  Since tenants will be selected by lottery, it seems likely, some percentage of residents will both be drawing on social services and from outside that county.  That is going to drive up the costs of Medicaid -- already a big tax burden -- for county taxpayers.

I don't want any tenants of Ellicott Station to ever read this and think I'm against them. That isn't the point.  This is a program opening up for a bunch of low-income people to have a better life. For them, that's great. They will get subsidized rent on units that include washers and dryers, refrigerators, dishwashers, microwaves, water, electricity, and air conditioning with access to broadband. Some will even get covered parking.  Good for them.  I remember what it was like to not have much, barely able to make rent, and constantly low on fuel for my car, so I'll cheer for the individuals who have a chance now to live a more comfortable life. I hope they make the most of it and are able to move up in the world.

That's not the point.

The point is, we were promised a "pathway to prosperity." 

When I was working for low-level wages, I wasn't able to go out to nice restaurants regularly. I couldn't shop at stores like Valle Jewelers or Charles Men's Shop.  I had to watch every penny. Ellicott Station isn't likely to produce a lot of foot traffic for Batavia's upper-end restaurants nor help attract new retail to Downtown and help fill some of our storefront vacancies. 

And this comes at a time after we've all seen our assessments go up significantly, which is a defacto tax increase that is leading the City Council toward a vote to override the property tax cap, along with a proposal to raise water rates.

It is positive that the eye sore that was the Della Penna building and Santy Tires is gone, and we can hope good businesses move into the commercial space being built, though time will tell what businesses want to be part of the same complex that includes "very-low-income" apartments.

I've been a cheerleader for Ellicott Station because I believed even "workforce housing" would lead to more customers for Downtown businesses.  I thought it could be transformative for a Downtown bespotted decades ago by Urban Renewal.  A chance at a new life.  I feel misled. There was a time some years ago when Savarino and city officials promised "market-rate housing" for Ellicott Station. I understand that financing big projects can be a challenge.  Savarino's inability to raise the financing necessary for "market rate" is understandable. But when HRC got involved, it should have been made clear by all involved that these apartments would be for "very low-income" individuals and families and tenants would be eligible for vouchers. The lack of transparency on this point is disappointing.  If we had known years ago, or at the groundbreaking, what this complex was really about, it might have seemed less than ideal, but at least, we could shrug and be thankful we're getting rid of an eyesore and getting a vacant property back on the tax roll.

It now seems clear that Savarino, GCEDC. the City of Batavia, the BDC, and HRC has misled us all over the past few years about the kind of housing going into Ellicott Station. This isn't looking like a "pathway to prosperity." Instead, it's looking like a new burden on taxpayers.

I'll be happy if I'm proven wrong.

Black History Month: Louis Armstrong

By Howard B. Owens

Born in New Orleans in 1901, Louis Armstrong grew up poor. He earned money to buy his first cornet at age 7. He was raised in an orphanage, getting his first formal music lessons there, until 18 and then started his way in the world as a musician.

He is one of the most influential musicians in history -- helping to develop and popularize jazz and laying the foundation for the Swing Era.

After World War II, he was an ambassador the world over for American culture.

Black History Month: Wes Montgomery

By Howard B. Owens

One evening in the 1940s, a teenage Wes Montgomery went to a dance with his wife and heard a record by Charlie Christian for the first time. The next day he went out and bought his first six-string guitar.  He tried to teach himself to play guitar by listening to Christian.  By the time he was 20, he was performing in clubs in Indianapolis.  Touring through Indy, Lionel Hampton heard Montgomery and hired him to play in his band. That started his career.

Montgomery was known for playing with his thumb, helping to give him a distinctive sound, along with his use of octaves and chordal melodies.

He’s widely regarded as the greatest jazz guitarist in history, hugely influential … and he’s a joy to listen to.

Black History Month: Charlie Christian

By Howard B. Owens

Charlie Christian is generally regarded as the first electric guitarist in a band.

John Hammond discovered Christian and brought him to Benny Goodman.

Goodman wasn't sold on an electric guitar as a lead instrument in a band, and Christian came to his audition dressed flashy.

The band jammed on a few songs and Goodman still wasn't impressed. He called out Rose Room, figuring the song would leave Christian in the dust. But Christian knew the song well and launched into an hour-long jam.

Goodman signed him.

Goodman was a leader in the Jim Crow era in racial integration. Among his band members, besides Christian, were vibraphonist Lionel Hampton, and pianist Teddy Wilson.

In Harlem, Christian joined in with the likes of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillispie and helped invent a new style of jazz, Be Bop.

He was only 25 when he died of tuberculosis in 1942. He is among the most influential guitarists in history.

Black History Month: Muddy Waters

By Howard B. Owens

As a young man growing up in Mississippi, Muddy Waters fell under the delta blues, acoustic blues influence of Robert Johnson and Son House. When he moved to Chicago, he found what worked in small juke joints back home couldn't be heard in the Windy City's crowded bars, so he started playing electric guitar.

And Chicago Blues was born.

He's one of the most influential artists of the 20th Century.

Black History Month: Robert Johnson

By Howard B. Owens

Robert Johnson was barely known in his lifetime. He was 27 when he died, leaving behind only 59 recordings of 29 songs.

He remained largely unknown until 1961 when Columbia Records released King of the Delta Blues Singers.

Young kids like Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, and many other early rock and roll guitarists heard the album and were transfixed.

Johnson became one of the most influential guitar players in history though he died in obscurity.

That obscurity helped foment many legends, some that started in his lifetime, such as meeting the devil at the crossroads and trading his sole for talent.

The roots of that legend is that Johnson used to show up at juke joints and could barely play. Then he went away for six months and came back as a transformed musician.

That's likely due to taking lessons from another accomplished player, but he was so much better, other musicians couldn't believe how good he became.

Black History Month: Lead Belly

By Howard B. Owens

George Harrison once observed,

"If there was no Lead Belly, there would have been no Lonnie Donegan; no Lonnie Donegan, no Beatles. Therefore no Lead Belly, no Beatles.”

For those who don't know Lonnie Donegan -- he was a British musician who, as a side project, started performing American folk music, which started the Skiffle movement. He was hugely successful for a time and influenced a host of young teenagers in England to put together bands. Often they were poor and played homemade instruments. This is how the Quarrymen got started, with John Lennon at the helm, and the Quarrymen evolved into The Beatles.

Lead Belly also influenced Bob Dylan.

Catholic Charities: Providing HOPE for 100 years

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By Deacon Steve Schumer

Over the past several months, the Western New York community has been reeling with losses and tragedies, each one reminding us how fragile life is. But in spite of, or because of, these adversities, signs of hope, strength and unity have continued to emerge rather quickly.

Consider the recent blizzard where we saw countless acts of selflessness and heroism by first responders, volunteers and just everyday folks who stepped up and helped – and even saved – their neighbors.

At Catholic Charities, we thrive on the hope we see every day. In a mother who escaped a violent situation for her and her children. In a young man who started a new life in America after fleeing Afghanistan. We see hope in people of all ages and of all faiths – from the support our foster grandparents give, to teens spreading awareness about the importance of good mental health. Hope is everywhere. It is at the root of what we do.

During and after these overwhelming events that have shaken our community, Catholic Charities has been here as a beacon of hope. Our counseling services, food pantries, and basic needs and housing assistance offer crucial support. We are here for the most vulnerable among us and for anyone in need. We are here for the community. We are here for you.

In fact, Catholic Charities has been a beacon of HOPE here for 100 years. In October 1923, Catholic Charities was born out of the Diocese of Buffalo from a collection of institutions serving the very young to the elderly. During its first year, Catholic Charities served about 12,500 people. Last year, Catholic Charities’ programs and services supported more than 134,000 individuals, families, and children.

We are inspired by our centennial year, and recently launched this year’s annual Appeal, with a goal of $9.5 million. Support of the Appeal will help ensure critical programs and services administered by Catholic Charities and many diocesan ministries through the Fund for the Faith, so needed in our community, will continue to be available. The Appeal is always needed. Some years, like this one, it is particularly meaningful.

The annual Appeal has been an integral part of Catholic Charities’ century-long history. In the 98 years of the Appeal, close to half a billion dollars has been raised. That figure alone illustrates how vital the annual Appeal is.

When you donate, you play an essential role not only in the growth and success of Catholic Charities, but in the Western New York community at large. Your gift provides more than just a meal for a family, or the stability of a home for someone in need. It provides hope.

Donations to Appeal 2023 can be made at ccwny.org/donate through June 30. Thank you for your continued support.

Deacon Steve Schumer is president and CEO of Catholic Charities of Buffalo.

Letter to the Editor: Agency urges people to seek help with problem gambling

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Letter to the Editor:

New Year, New You

New Year’s Day symbolizes fresh starts and new beginnings. People use January as a benchmark to reprioritize their lives. Wellness is often at the top of people’s priority lists with things like making time for self-care, ending harmful habits, or wasting less and saving money.

With the introduction of Mobile Sports Betting last year, the Western Problem Gambling Resource Center (PGRC) has seen a dramatic impact on people’s lives in a variety of ways linked to emotions, behaviors, and finances. Young people ages 18-24 and their families are being most affected, many of whom have had little experience dealing with other addictions or mental health issues.

Like other types of gambling, Mobile Sports Betting includes negative effects like sleep issues, strain on relationships with loved ones, financial problems and increased alcohol or drug use. People who struggle with gambling are also at a higher risk for other mental health problems. The ease of access and lack of awareness about risks of MSB are fostering the development of problems quickly at a point in time when many of these young adults are learning to navigate life on their own.

The problems associated with gambling are not reserved only for the person engaging in the activity. Other loved ones, particularly parents in this case, are finding themselves worried about their loved ones, trying to help financially, and wondering how to best handle the situation. 

The most important message for the beginning of this new year is that help is available if you or someone you love has been exhibiting warning signs of a gambling problem, such as unusual financial problems; feeling stressed or anxious over sporting events or other gambling activities; low school performance due to absence or preoccupation with gambling; or lying to family and friends about how much money and time is spent on gambling. January is a great time to reach out to the Western PGRC.

The Western PGRC is here to help anyone who is looking to reprioritize their lives and overcome the problems that gambling has caused. Private-practice counselors, behavioral health and treatment facilities, recovery groups and other community services throughout Central New York make up a vast referral network. When people call (716) 833-4274 or email WesternPGRC@nyproblemgambling.org, they confidentially connect with a knowledgeable PGRC staff person who will listen to and connect them with the resources that best meet their needs. Whether you are ready to get help, or you are just curious about your options, call us today. We’re here to help.

Jeffrey Wierzbicki
Western & Finger Lakes Team Leader
Western & Finger Lakes Problem Gambling Resource Center's
NY Council on Problem Gambling

OPINION: Elected officials should make transparency their New Year resolution

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Op-Ed submitted by Paul Wolf

In January, many will start the New Year with goals to exercise more, eat better, lose weight etc. January will also be when newly elected public servants or incumbents starting another term take office across New York State.   

Old habits are hard to change in people and especially hard to change in government. The biggest issue in government today is the lack of trust the public has in their elected leaders. The best way to build trust as an elected official is through transparency. Elected officials should begin 2023 by conducting the public’s business in an open and transparent way. To show their commitment to open government, elected officials serving on a village board, town board, city council or a county legislature should introduce and pass a New Year resolution stating they will:

1)    Post timely notice of all meetings at least one week prior to all meetings.

2)    Meeting agendas and all meeting documents will be posted online, at least 24 hours before a meeting occurs.

3)    Post draft meeting minutes online, no more than two weeks after a meeting occurs.

4)    Allow members of the public to speak at the beginning of a meeting regarding agenda items and non-agenda items, whether attending in person or remotely.

5)    Live stream their meetings by video and post the video recording online afterward.

6)    Only conduct private executive sessions on rare occasions in accordance with the New York State Open Meetings Law. Just because you can hold executive sessions does not mean that you have to. A motion to hold an executive session to discuss “litigation,” “personnel,” or “collective bargaining” is not sufficient, as the Open Meetings Law requires motions to state more information when holding an executive session.

7)    Agree not to hold private political party caucus meetings. There is no reason at the local level to hold private political party caucus meetings to discuss political business or public business. Secret meetings build a lack of trust among the public.

8)    Have information regarding the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL), posted in a visible place on your website. Proactively post documents online as much as possible so that the public can access information without having to file a FOIL request. Post an easy fill-in-the-blank form that assists the public in filing a FOIL request by email on your website.

9)    Commit to ensuring that all FOIL requests are acknowledged within five days as required by law and that information is provided to the public promptly.

Paul Wolf, Esq., President, New York Coalition For Open Government

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