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Opinion Page Policies

By Howard B. Owens


  • 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.

Letter to Editor: Catholic Charities

By Staff Writer

Letter to the Editor from Katelyn DiSalvo, Tri-County District Director, Catholic Charities

The need today is real and Catholic Charities is, as it has been for the last century, here to meet the challenge. HOPE is central to the work we do every day. HOPE for our neighbors when they are homeless, hungry, in need or troubled. Everything starts with HOPE, thanks to the generosity and support of those who give through the annual Appeal.  

Now underway through June 30, Appeal 2024, the agency’s 100th campaign, helps fund many programs and services administered by Catholic Charities along with several ministries through the Fund for the Faith.  

In just the past year, nearly 1,900 neighbors of all ages, faiths or no faith throughout Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties were given HOPE by the programs and services offered by Catholic Charities. These include basic emergency assistance such as support for food and finding housing resources, working with domestic violence offenders for systemic social change, and parents who want to reduce conflict and parent effectively for their children. In Genesee and Orleans counties, our home visitation and friendly phones programs bring a sense of connectivity and quality of life to homebound seniors.

Thank you for choosing to give HOPE by supporting this year’s Appeal. Please visit

And if you or someone you know needs HOPE in Genesee, Orleans or Wyoming counties, call us at 585-343-0614. We have offices in Batavia, Albion, and Perry.  

Letter to the Editor: Parking and construction of the new police station

By Staff Writer

Letter to the Editor from Donald Weyer:

Come one, come all, step right up! We have a gen-u-wine, er genuine three-ring circus setting up its big top in the confines bounded by Bank, State, Main Streets, and Washington Avenue! The center tent pole smacks dab in the Alva Place parking lot, the future home of the newly constructed Batavia Police Department Headquarters. I extend my three cheers and hip-hip-hoorays!

Me, not to be similarly bound by any gag order such as imposed by City Manager Tabelski on City Council members. Shame on you, Rachael; I intend to address every volubly dazzling and dancing performer in this carnival, which commenced April 21 at the above site and continues with its performances to date. So let me play "the adult in the room", figuratively in the circus tent, and aim to tame the lions and tigers fuelling the city's current uproar (those animals are charged to "roar", not grown people, but what can I say!)

  1. Ms. Kubiniec (owner of private business offices on the south side of Washington): you're rambling on about snowbanks and unplowed snowy and icy sidewalks, and your dearth of rent-profits, while the Spring birds are singing and the flowers are sprouting and the sun is shining in this prelude to the merry merry month of May. Please check your anachronisms and income shortage and stay on point!
  2. Geno Jankowski (respected president of Batavia City Council): Your statement of hurtful comments about you is melodramatically sentimental, disingenuous, and a bit ironic, to say the least. Man up, you're a retired police officer, an illustrious one at that, so put on your big-boy pants, a stiff upper lip, a straightened spine, and thick skin, all learned, instilled, and developed among the men in blue, as well in your position on Council, and demonstrate some real leadership and forget about your feelings being hurt. Take the bull by the horns, whistle while you do it, and wrest it to earth! Not in the mode of Alexander Haig's autocratic "I'm in control here, at the White House", but more in that of FDR's fireside chats and his democratic and confident, yet communal, "we have nothing to fear except fear itself", with the emphasis on "we".
  3. Dr. Mazurkiewicz (chiropractor with a private business office in Washington): You stated that your office was promised "one row of parking spaces along the north side of the construction site" for the new police station. O.K., that row is within, not without, the fences for the construction site. I suggest you issue hard hats to all your patients or give up that one row of parking. Safety rules are safety rules, period! I see no alternatives. Concerning your loss of profits, just think: once the new facility is completed, your net income, the bottom line, may multiply a hundredfold, considering the safe location your office occupies, police presence, and all. Stop whining! Anyway, I need your expertise to fix my ailing back and legs, nerve damage or other. Cease worrying about this issue of the police facility and apply your manipulation magic to my old bones. To keep me from whining!
  4. Dr. Canzoneri (foot doctor with private business office in State): Your inflammatory words that there will be "cost-overruns and disruption" with the new police headquarters: the construction is a done deal. Where were your protests when the project was proposed? And don't anticipate cost-overruns and disruption. Just wait and see! (As to your loss of profits, see my words directed to Mazurkiewicz above).
  5. Anyway, I need your expertise also, to fix my numb and painful toes and feet. They tingle, and feel swollen and hot, but are normal size and temperature to the touch. I believe you would find more success treating my feet, stopping my "dogs from barking", than the city bureaucracy treats you and your professional practice! What do you think?
  6. Ms. Tabelski (honorable Batavia City Manager): I previously mentioned your gag order. It sounds like you're trying to ensure that the city administration and representatives get and keep your story and theirs straight together. (Maybe it's time for your office to consider a public relations spokesman. They're good at spin and "spinning") if nothing else! Let all the administrators and representatives speak. They might have some important ideas for addressing the current "kerfuffle!" (That word compliments of the always-incisive staff of The Batavian detailing the circus on display). Additionally, you state that the city doesn't have an employee to drive the bus to conduct the clients of the private businesses in Washington via shuttle bus to their appointed destinations. The city employees and representatives who have been gagged could use the time freed up by not speaking to drive the bus. Alternatively, it's not the time to "call out the National Guard" to solve your self-imposed problems of this donnybrook! Sufficient planning and communication were possible prophylactics, but it's apparently too late for those preventive actions. It's in your lap, now, and I don't envy you or your position.

I would write, or say, or sing at this point in my account of this curious and convoluted and current-day circus that it's time to "send in the clowns, isn't it bliss?......don't you love farce?......quick, send in the clowns" (all credit to Judy Collins). But I won't. Why? No, because "don't bother, they're here" (again, Collins).

Letter to the Editor: Addressing the kerfuffle over new police station

By Staff Writer

Letter to the Editor from Donald Weyer:

Everybody has their very own special interest, their little sphere of influence. I'm sure each and every one of them has a claim to legitimacy, an intrinsic value, which we should honor and respect.

  1. Business owners who must turn a profit, obtain a return on their investment.
  2. Customers are clients of a business who spend their hard-earned dollars in anticipation of receiving a service, a product, or a cure.
  3. Civil servants and their managers deliver on a policy, supervise a project, and satisfy their myriad electors, appointees and representatives.
  4. Even the construction companies paid to innocently put up a building, doing it safely and in the most efficient and cost-effective manner possible. (All four ably reported in coverage by the "Batavian").

All constituencies aim to perform in concert, even though each constituency serves a different master. Don't believe the foregoing? Just look at the eruption of passion that flared up and reached critical mass in Batavia on 4/22/24 when fences sprung up surrounding the construction site for the new City of Batavia Police Department headquarters at that tiny plot of land, late a not very good actually, parking lot bounded by Alva Place, Washington Avenue, and Bank and State Streets!

Alan Iverson, late of the NBA, responded while he was still playing professional basketball to accusations of not giving his all with the words, "I mean practice, that's what it was, practice, really. Not a game. Not the game. We talking about practice, man". Likewise, I counter to this current civil conflagration: "We're talking about fences, and patches of grass, and parking spaces, really, when we're putting up a grand brand new police headquarters?"

I'm no civil engineer, but I think the current problem can be broken down into 3 themes that no one else seems to be thinking about:

  1. New city construction in a high-density area of population.
  2. Too many cars on the road in the city.
  3. And back to the beginning of this piece: numerous and many special interests and spheres of influence. (Heck, my own special interest: I've been fuming for over a year now over the loss of that small section of Main Street sidewalk in front of the construction of the Healthy Living campus! It's an inconvenience, a cancellation of routine, a safety hazard, the necessity for a detour, and generally, a diminution of my valuable time left on this earth to be put to productive use. But I'm getting through it, thanks!)

Incidentally, I'm all for private business, private business customers, the police, the City Manager, the City Council, and new construction. I guess fences, loss of patches of grass, and parking spaces are the costs, the price, of modern progress that we must pay, grin and bear.

Letter to the Editor: Theater prices going too high

By Staff Writer

Letter to the Editor from Donald Weyer:

Act one. My, my, wasn't it quite recent that a senior citizen's price of admission to a theatre play at Batavia's amateur Main Street 56 Theater, formerly Harvester 56 playhouse, came to $16.00? And presently, it is $20.00 (even more if one pays with a credit card, and who doesn't). According to my basic arithmetic, that's a stratospheric 25% increase in one fell swoop! In my theatre-critic opinion, a fine bit of stagecraft, or should that be a review, in deference to the shades of Vincent Canby and Brooks Atkinson? Or is the additional premium just another humdrum iteration of inflation, as I'm sure its defenders will aver? (I believe the regular price of entry, for those humans, neither senior citizens nor students, skyrocketed from $18 to $22, only a little less whopping increase of 22.2222%. And foolish me, here I understood that general inflation in the past year or about was in the 5-10% range)! So it seems it's an equal opportunity soaking of the theatre-going cohort, young and middle-aged and old, all rolled into one.

Act two. And yet. And yet. Don't get me wrong. I'm all for theater, literature, culture in general, and the salutary impact of each on the average citizen, including me (a frequent ticket-buyer and goer to Buffalo's Studio Arena Theater in its heyday of the 1960s and 1970s, as well as an enthusiastic reader of Shakespeare's works).

Act three. By the by. Also, didn't I just read in the local media of April 13 that the theater management is blithely sweeping and theatrically sashaying across the boards to the U.S. Treasury Department, accompanied by the writs of various city of Batavia government officials, a coterie of sorts of supporting actors and actresses in the cause, exeunt stage-door left, not right, politically speaking, with top-hat in white-gloved hand, seeking $95,000 in public assistance in this current matinee-playing piece of a classically-conceived tragicomedy? (It's always all about the dollars and cents for all your characters in the world of entertainment, isn't it)? May I also suggest tap dancing to a pow-wow with the painted-on and primped-up poohbah of state politics, none other than Kathy Hochul, wearing the mask of, masquerading as, playing the part of, take your pick, what we call the Governor? She always seems to have a lot of cash to fling hither and yon. Hi ho, hi ho, off we go to two capitols, Washington and Albany, in a simulacrum of a Broadway musical conga line!

Act four. And yet. And yet. The audience is calling out for an encore, or maybe I should write a surprise appearance. And who will join them to meet the actress supreme (Hochul) in Albany? None other than that old thespian, the original song and dance man, now performing in the role of first supporting actor, seemingly conjured, as if by a genie, from the bright stage-lights of some Catskills venue or other, still slurping from a bowl of borscht, U.S. Senator from N.Y., the hoofer, er honorable, Charles Schumer! Never a shy stranger to the circling white spotlight of celebrity fame.

So now we have the entire array of performers in this 4-act stage piece (I didn't even insert an intermission for your benefit), ready to take their bows: there's Erik Fix, understudy to Rachel Tabelski from Batavia's City Manager Office; various incognito and mysterious apparatchiks of Batavia's Downtown Revitalization Initiative materializing from the wings, for those of you not in the know, the DRI (incidentally, wasn't it from this acronym that the theater received most of its original funding? And that money came from the state [Kathy], not from the federal [Chucky]? So, are we currently seeing an instance of playing both sides of the street or pitting one side of the street against the other? Just saying.); of course, Hochul and Schumer, holding hands, and being presented bouquets of roses in congratulation for their tax-dollars largesse with the audience's monies, mine and yours; and last, but certainly not least, the vaunted impresario, as well as artistic director and playwright, sine qua non, of Main Street 56, Patrick Burk, who makes a nice Sol Hurok-like impression on us all! Let's hear some hands! What more can I add to this scary, yet stunning, performance? What's going on here with our long-revered and highly-respected local theatre, its funding, and its pricing? Please don't enunciate to me that community theatre in Batavia is well worth it, the question of any and all price of admission be damned!

Epilogue. And please don't come after me with that old chestnut of the Philistine versus the arts intelligentsia. I'm ready for you. I'm trying to impress upon my readers that theater, as we know it in Batavia, is coming dangerously close to "pricing out" its audience and supporters!

Citizen support needed to get Local Journalism Sustainability Act included in NYS budget

By Howard B. Owens

The Batavian is among more than 150 local news organizations supporting the passage of the Local Journalism Sustainability Act.

We are all part of the Empire State Local News Coalition.

The work of the coalition has raised awareness of the importance of local journalism and the challenges facing the local news industry. (New York has lost half of its newsrooms since 2004.) 

In just the past month, the coalition rallied in Westchester, where residents were stunned by the abrupt closure of three community newspapers. We went directly to Albany to appeal to lawmakers and rallied with elected officials from the Senate and Assembly. Numerous localities have adopted resolutions expressing their support for legislation that would support local journalism, and more municipal resolutions are in the pipeline. Even unconventional allies like Microsoft have joined our calls to save local news. 

Thanks to these collective efforts, the Local Journalism Sustainability Act – which would provide tax credits to local news organizations for retaining and creating newsroom jobs – was included in the State Senate’s recent budget proposal for fiscal year 2025. This is a key step for inclusion in the state's final budget, which is currently being negotiated by the Senate, Assembly and Governor Hochul. 

However, there is a lot of work to be done over the next few days, when the final budget will likely be announced, to ensure the bill is actually included in the state's final budget. It is crucial that the Local Journalism Sustainability Act is included; otherwise, communities throughout the state risk thousands of newsroom jobs being lost and even more important stories going untold.

The Local Journalism Sustainability Act is sponsored by NYS Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal with the bipartisan support of Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner and more than 70 co-sponsors. As newspapers shutter and layoffs roil the industry, the bill is necessary for incentivizing job creation, returning reporters to many of the state's emptying newsrooms. The bill is content-neutral and designed to ensure that truly local news outlets will receive this assistance. The leadership of the Legislature’s Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Caucus has also endorsed our bill, which is a major testament to the fact that this bill will improve access to news for all communities. 

New Yorkers are standing with local news, and now lawmakers must answer the people’s call to save community journalism. To get the Local Journalism Sustainability Act across the finish line, lawmakers must hear from you about why our newspaper matters and why this bill is meaningful to you and your family. 

So, if keeping local news alive in our state is important to you, please contact Governor Hochul and your local representatives to let them know you support local news. Budget negotiations are wrapping up imminently—the time to act is now!

Letter to the Editor: Stick to plain talk about property taxes

By Howard B. Owens

Letter to the Editor from Donald Weyer:

I got a kick out of Joanne Beck's report in The Batavian of March 26, "City property owners to receive updated assessments," accompanied by Assistant City Manager Fix's ecstatically (probably in anticipation of the whopping increase in city revenues due to increased assessments), yet maddeningly (probably because, as my mother used to say, he "knows exactly what he's doing" to the city property owners), grinning face.

Joanne, "You go, girl," and The Batavian, "You rock"!

"Gettin' down to brass tacks", I'm ecstatic too, "I'm singing like a bird, dancing like a fool, you make me smile", as Uncle Kracker sings, as I read the article on The Batavian. Why? Unlike Batavia city government management officials, Ms. Beck and The Batavian know simple arithmetic. City property owners aren't interested in tax rates per $1,000 of assessed property value, percentage increases in city expenses, interest rates on mortgages, 100% equalization, or even increases in property values or assessed values, except when we're ready to sell (and anyway, where would we go or live, or how could we possibly move all our junk).

What are we property owners interested in? And Ms. Beck gets this right: the "bottom line," "cash on the barrel-head," what will our tax bill be this year, how does it compare to last year's tax bill, and how will it potentially compare to next year's bill? 

My good man, Mr. Fix, we property owners don't pay tax rates, assessments, equalization, or percentage increases in property values. We pay dollars and cents, and I trust you do, too. So stop all your foolish gibberish, gobbledygook "putting lipstick on a pig," or any of your confounding nonsense and make-believe! 

Simple as can be: assessment goes up, tax dollars paid go up, not down (we property owners like "down", but we'll bite for "stay the same", as I'm sure you too would agree!). All the factors that I listed above, the "mish-mash", the pleasing words camouflaging the ugliness lying in their meanings, you know, the ones that city property owners don't care about, are just smoke and mirrors used by city government officials to confuse property owners, change the subject, and otherwise obfuscate the clear fact that you, city property owners, are about to get whacked and walloped, yet again, with a bigger tax bill, just how much bigger, you've yet to find out

Letter to the Editor: City Schools needs to find ways to cut spending

By Staff Writer

Letter to the Editor from Donald Weyer:

Batavia's public school system, the board, and the superintendent are wringing their collective hands and educated minds over the construction of a new school budget and how to leap over, or fill up, or hopefully not fall into and be buried, a looming budget gap in the near future. As a stakeholder, I offer the following, if not solutions, maybe just some simple thoughts:

  1. My child, now an adult, walked to and fro my residence contiguous to MacArthur Park to Jackson School daily for first grade through fifth grade, 1990-95. He did the same for Batavia Middle School and Batavia High School, with more hops, skips, and jumps than the trek to Jackson School! I just figured my child would gain more of a street-wise, public education by placing foot on the sidewalk than by peering out the window of a yellow school bus or a private vehicle. Maybe we should look at transportation policy and, significantly, its cost.
  2. Arriving at school, my child had all the school supplies he could possibly ever need or use. I know because I was responsible for purchasing them! Students financially unable to afford their school supplies can possibly be assisted by social or volunteer welfare organizations, assuming the role of the school system costs regarding school supplies.
  3. Halfway through my child's school day was lunchtime. I purchased the ingredients, packed my child's lunch, and sent it on its way in a brown paper lunch bag. The school system must certainly be assuming some costs, if only for the staff, of the subsidized free lunch program. Let's take a look at those costs. Free lunch would remain intact for those eligible.
  4. After-school sports programs require a scorecard to keep track of all the various teams, coaches, and players. Varsity, junior varsity, modified, female, and male. Maybe we should look at the cost of coaches, equipment, and transportation for this plethora of teams and conclude that we would do just as well with fewer teams. I applaud Batavia City Council President Jankowski for letting us know that his priorities for the city budget are Police, Fire, and Public Works. I know that the city is not directly involved with the school system budget, but, with words from Jankowski's mouth to mine, "I was upset a lot," that he didn't mention the children of Batavia and their education as his fourth concern!

Letter to the Editor: Opponent says Tenney 'feels sorry for big pharma'

By Staff Writer

Letter to the Editor from David Wagenhauser, NY-24 Congressional District candidate:

Rep. Claudia Tenney was recently quoted defending big corporations - specifically those drug companies affected by the Medicare $35 insulin price cap.

It’s as if Tenney feels sorry for big pharma. Uber-profitable big pharma that gets billions in research and taxpayer funding from NIH. Big pharma has had a monopoly on drugs for 20 years and the ability to charge whatever it wants. Big pharma that charges Americans significantly more than any other country. - for the same drugs. 

There are about 1.5 million New Yorkers with diabetes. While insulin costs about $10 to manufacture, prices skyrocketed to about $400/month. It was little surprise that 1 in 4 diabetics could not afford their insulin. Some rationed. Sadly, some died. 

So why does Tenney consistently back big pharma and not our neighbors? Is it the money she receives from Pfizer, Eli Lilly, Gilead, etc.? In fact, Tenney receives over 70% of her campaign’s millions from big corporations and PACS. In return, she’s voted against efforts to reduce gas prices and gouging by big oil, against drug price competition for Medicare, against the ACA and protections for preexisting conditions, and she continues to push tax laws that benefit big corps and billionaires over hard-working Americans. 

Diabetes and other diseases have no political affiliation – there’s no Red vs. Blue. We must work to make WNY more affordable for our families and neighbors. Vote after vote, Rep. Tenney shows us who she works for. 

Letter to the Editor: Questioning $1 million on replacing silos

By Staff Writer

Letter to the Editor from Donald Weyer:

Honorable Erik Fix, Batavia assistant city manager, states $1 million was allocated to fix (not Erik) the silos at the Genesee Country Mall. Seriously, sir?

You blithely fling, float, flare-up, and otherwise fire these money sums about -- $1 million here, $110,000 there, $2.5 million in the pipeline, $7 million in the works. All those commas and zeroes alone make me cross-eyed. How about you? Where exactly, Erik, do you think all this largesse is coming from? From the pockets of you and me, my brother, whether indirectly or just a simple pick from our pockets when we're not looking. (Refer to Dickens's character, the Artful Dodger). Growing on trees, falling from heaven, a windfall from a benefactor? Nah, straight from what you have, to those that don't, to those in need to fund their projects.

Treat these sums, my good man, growing more astronomical for public "improvements," day by day, with a little more seriousness. With more care and concern and circumspection, less free flightiness and light-heartedness.

Last I looked, Mr. Fix, for American publicly-funded budgets, since the government doesn't generate a profit, we're dependent upon the productivity of the American working person. You and me, Erik. Now sir, make a decision: would you rather have the fruits of your productivity in your bank account or pay for a fix of the silos? Yeah, I thought so, me too, we think alike!

Did you bother to count the people who use those silo entrances? Did you bother to ask the people who used the silo entrances whether they cared about the condition of the silos? Do you even have a master plan for that mall? Did you ever wonder what the walkers who principally and overwhelmingly use that mall for exercise and physical conditioning, good things, will do when the UMMC community health center and YMCA, a hop, skip, and a jump down Main Street, is completed? Yeah, I didn't think so! But I did: they will wholeheartedly lickety-split, road-runner-like, flock to the new improved facilities. And who will then be left to use that mall? Only to slam the doors for the last time on the fixed $1 million silos. Five simple questions, Erik, and if you answer "No" to three or more, why are we sinking your and my hard-earned money into the silos?

I know, my man, that you're not responsible for the past and present of that mall, but now you're in the driver's seat for the future of it. I hope that you can steer that "white elephant" to a safe, sane, and secure demise. Just throwing money at it will certainly not accomplish that.

Letter to Editor: Increase percentage of vets exemption on property taxes

By Staff Writer

Letter to the Editor from Donald Weyer:

Me too! "What about me? It isn't fair; I've had enough, now I want my share," according to the Moving Pictures song. Or if you're communally oriented, Pink's "What About Us!"

Genesee County Legislature is considering raising the income limits for senior citizens to receive a fifty percent exemption on county taxes. I learned this from Joanne Beck's report in The Batavian on Feb. 9.

But wait a minute. I'm a veteran, a senior citizen, and a Genesee County taxpayer. As such, I receive a fifteen percent reduction as a veteran in the assessed value of my property, on which the county tax rate is figured. (Income limits not a consideration).

That fifteen percent reduction has not been refigured in light of inflation and prices and significant increases in the assessed value of real estate (assessed value goes up, tax goes up; assessed value goes up, but percentage reduction in assessed value goes up, tax may stay the same; simple arithmetic, no?), similar to the reasons given for recalculating the seniors' fifty percent exemption.

I have no opposition to the current proposal to raise the income limits for the seniors' tax exemption. However, "I hope you know what I mean when I say, me too" (credit to Toby Keith); or, at a minimum, Genesee County should study increasing the veterans' tax exemption on real property assessed value, from fifteen percent to twenty percent, to thirty to fifty percent, etc., to be determined.

Letter to the Editor: Issues with the City Council

By Staff Writer

Letter to the Editor by Donald Weyer:

Cue Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers: "Don't do me like that, don't do me like that, what if I love you baby!"

I refer to Joanne Beck's report in The Batavian on Feb. 13 detailing Batavia City Council deliberations of Feb 12. 

I forward my opinion on one of the topics, a different aspect of the safety of Batavia city streets, which I originally submitted to the Batavia Daily News on Feb. 6. I am offering it for the readers of The Batavian today. Also, it might help the Council in their deliberations. I have addressed the issue of the city's proposed 2 percent property tax-rate increase in numerous, and previous, submissions posted by The Batavian. Again, as assists to the Council in its budget hearings.

Anticipatory of how these affairs proceed along their timelines? Maybe. Clairvoyant? Nah, leave it at a simple one-word "anticipation." (Unfortunately, I'm not nearly as atmospherically and searchingly prescient as Carly Simon was on her "Anticipation." I can't even promise to makin' no one late. But maybe I will be able to say something about "these were the good old days, these were the good old days")!

And now I have a new foreseeable future in my head, related to the street safety feature that will hopefully be studied by the Batavia City Council and/or the Batavia Police Department, both august and respected in their respective vision.

Man oh man, do you feel safe on the clearly urban streets of Batavia? I don't today, but I did once, maybe as recently as 10 years ago. I spend as much time on the streets, and I don't mean in a vehicle, but walking, and riding a bike, today, as I did then, mainly in the daytime. (Unlike city resident, Mr. Houseknecht, speaking to the Council on this same topic on Feb. 12, but concerning the nighttime streets). Now I find that I'm constantly looking ahead, looking behind, looking side to side, unlike I did in the past. And I marvel; there are so many new, unfamiliar faces on the streets of Batavia, just within the past 5 years And in the daylight hours, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., I wonder do any or all these new faces work, as they are mostly of working age, 20-50 years old, unlike my retired self? What was said, idle hands and brains are the devil's workshop. And, on foot. Can't afford, or are banned from driving? So maybe that is a reason for not working, no transportation. Or maybe there is something else going on here on the sidewalks of Batavia? Only saying! 

These were the good old days: a policeman, or two, walking a beat. 

These were the good old days: a policeman riding a bike patrol, and not so very long ago. 

To emphasize, I am fully welcoming and supportive of new residents of Batavia, as long as they, their relatives, their friends, and their acquaintances, are somehow contributing to a positive, safe, environment in Batavia. Not contributing to unsafe streets, for whatever reason, physical or property crime, drugs, or threats to adults or children, in the city. 

The city managed these visible tendencies in the good old days. I'm not asking the Batavia City Council or Police Department to provide work and jobs, for our new city residents. I am asking to see some evidence that the city is doing some "managing" the streets in the present day!

Closing, 3 comments/takes on the City Council meeting on Feb 12:

  1. Councilman Viele - leave off your harping on, and comparisons to, school taxes. Those will be addressed or not addressed at the appropriate time and place, certainly not at City Council and certainly not now. I see what you're trying to do. I suggest sir that you examine or research scapegoat, or scapegoating. It has an interesting history, kings, success or failure of agricultural harvests, fertility rituals, etc. Nothing is in the purview of City Council budget deliberations, especially as Batavia is not part of a monarchy, its agriculture is far in the "rearview mirror" in 2024, and we don't dance around worshipping the sun, the rain, the soil!
  2. Fellow-resident Roach - surprisingly, your input at City Council was pertinent on budget cuts. Unfortunately, I addressed the issue of Council cutting/voting on the Bureau of Maintenance parking lot resurfacing in my prior "Opinion" submission to The Batavian on Feb. 9. I even provided a solution. Please read that writing if and when "The Batavian" chooses to publish it.
  3. Again, "Don't do me like that, don't do me like that, what if I love you baby". Substitutions for baby: The Batavian; Joanne Beck; new city residents; Messeurs Housenecht, Viele, and Roach; City Council; Police Dept.

Letter to the Editor: City Budget raises questions

By Staff Writer

Letter to the Editor from Donald Weyer:

Batavia City budget talks, as reported by Joanne Beck in The Batavian on Feb. 8:

1. Okay, City Manager Rachael Tabelski, since you did most of the talking on this issue, I'll address you first. Leave the $110,000 to pave the Bureau of Maintenance parking lot in the Bureau of Maintenance reserve fund or the city reserve fund, I'm not sure which, as we never know when we might need it in these times of crumbling infrastructure. Propose to put the $110,000 into the new 2024 city budget, just so the City Council can vote it up or down, and we citizens can see who "is fer us" (city property owners) and who "is agin us" (property-tax payers, again). Forgive the frontier colloquialisms. If the $110,000 isn't in the budget because the Council voted it down, then the property-tax increase to exactly pay for the now-defeated $110,000 to pave the parking lot ISN'T NEEDED. How simple is that? The only loser in all this is the Bureau of Maintenance parking lot. But that's solved as I segue into my next point, #2 coming up.

2. Councilman Geib has promised to "take a hard look into this next year," whatever that means as if this year's budget look was soft or easy. Heaven forgive that! And remember, my good man, Derek, in your freshman year on the council, the words of Benjamin Franklin, "Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today," or the unknown speaker's spookily sage advice, "Tomorrow may never come." If you insist, though sir, Mr. Geib, take a hard look at the parking lot macadam next year, maybe the worse for wear, but clearly still there, absent the work of an earthquake or some other horrific calamity. (If that occurred, we may not need a BOM parking lot!) A needed "break" here in my long-winded 5 comments today, in addition to the previous ones I've made in "The Batavian" on other days, concerning these same city budget talks. And anyway, can my proposed course of action be any more logical to you?

3. There's just something "off" about the equivalence of the $110,000 for the parking lot and the $110,000 budget increase necessitating the increase in the property tax rate. Hamlet's "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark." Something in the sense of budget legerdemain, hocus-pocus, too much of the magician, David Copperfield and Houdini, and the "whammy" wizardry of Meyer Lansky; not enough of the budget-constructors' rock-solid book-keeping of Certified Public Accountant standards. I would normally want to insert the lyrics of the O'Jays' Back Stabbers here, "They smilin in your face" and more..., etc., but I will adhere to accustomed polite criticism in this opinion piece and refrain from that insertion. Just saying!

4. Councilman Bialkowski, of the entire Batavia City Council, seems the most reliable to approach the precipice of questioning disagreement/challenge to his compatriots' and the city manager's stances on serious city matters, but then Bob hesitatingly steps back, maybe because of what he sees in the abyss below, maybe he looks up skyward at the next election, who knows, and then compromises, makes nice with the other council members and the city manager. (Maybe we need a return to the City Council days of the early-, mid-career oppositional infusions of Rosemary Christian, even the late-career effusions of Florence Gioia, I don't know)!

5. Why isn't the Batavia city budget presented to the voters, similar to the school budgets?

Letter to Editor: City looking to extract more funds from taxpayers

By Howard B. Owens

Letter to the editor from Donald Weyer:

"Oh, no, I've said too much, I haven't said enough." - Credit to R.E.M. I'm back, are you ready for some more? So, here goes.

The City of Batavia government, honorable city manager, and respected City Council are ganging up on us city taxpayers and marching forth, hi ho, with hats in hands, to get us to cough up payment for unfunded city services! Well, I'll be! I never knew I could get so many more city services, for things that I, or you, don't currently fund. Or maybe even need? Anyway, thank you, thank you!

Seems that most of them are in Public Works and the Water Department. Pay for job-related operating licenses and fees for city employees? What's next, pay for their driver's licenses, vehicle registrations, and work clothes? Come on, we already foot the bill for their heavy equipment, their hand tools, their paperwork, and their pens and pencils and erasers to fill out and correct that paperwork! Pay a stormwater fee? Who or what produces that type of water, and puts it in the streets? No problem, I always suspected all of us had a numinous aspect to our beings. Unfilled city job positions? Well, if they're unfilled, they're unfunded, so why worry about funding them? You'll just end up with more employees that you'll have to keep an eye on and pay fringe benefits to and to get yet more funds to do all this. Work with what you've got.

I'm confused! I certainly hope that we're not playing word games here or swimming in semantics. With all this recent language spoken forth from One City Centre, I feel like I'm living in a house (city) of mirrors or being spun around on a whirlygig or riding on a Merry-Go-Round or stumbling about in a Funhouse (city, again) or being conducted on a boat through Laugh-in-the-Dark and moved along by the aforementioned stormwater (of the city, yet again)!

So get this: City Manager Tabelski is proposing that these unearthed newly-discovered fees and unfunded funds be called programs and/or plans and/or programming. Is that like we pay for a program when we attend an event, which guides us through the event (theatrical play, baseball game, etc.)? Or when we buy a medical treatment or financial investment plan to pay for services covered under that plan? 

Finally, I always thought programming is what one did to a computer or a radio or TV station with its music-play or situation-comedies, respectively. Got it, hmmm, I think, highly-regarded Rachael. But wait a minute, those programs and plans and programming are optional. We can take them or leave them. Will Rachael offer the newfound city fees with an optional choice? If so, guess how many of us city taxpayers will decline the optional programs and plans and programming. I'll lay my wager on all of us.

I need now to list two famous quotations for the revered Rachael, Batavia's City Manager:

  1. First, from Gertrude Stein - "A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose."
  2. Second, from William Shakespeare - "What's in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other word, would smell as sweet."

Reader, please feel free to substitute "fee" for each rose in the two quotations!

"Now I've said too much." - "Trying to keep up with you, And I don't know if I can do it" (again, credit R.E.M.), following the City Council and Manager 2024 budget reviews.

"Plain truth is nothing Nothing but the plain truth" (according to Gentle Giant), and I guess it is the best, and only, advice to offer the players/protagonists in the budget reviews!

Get a whiff of some recent worrisome and noisome rumblings and mumblings emanating from the environs of city budget review rooms:

  1. "Unfunded supplies, positions, studies, equipment, and capital projects. My metabolically slow brain finally gets it, I think. These are all items on a Batavia City Hall wish list. As soon as the ruling city fathers and mothers can finagle or finesse these items with harmless, neutral words, such as "program," "plan," and "programming" (the three P's in the quiver of present-day city management theory, so to say), and to forget dangerous or obnoxious words, such as "money," "taxes," and "fees" (don't dare call them that!), then voila, the city can release its arrows to "fund" them, sort of like on a "flow chart," with us, Batavia's citizens, the targets. Fund with what? You guessed it: city taxpayers' bank accounts! Easy, peasy.
  2. That old city bogeyman: Genesee Country Mall! Let me get this right, feel free to correct me if I'm wrong. The city of Batavia has foreclosed.

Letter to the Editor: First Amendment forgotten in eagerness to settle Kate Long case

By Howard B. Owens

Letter to the Editor by Donald Weyer:

I note that Kate Long has had the criminal harassment charge against her, brought by the Batavia Board of Education, put on pause, potentially resulting in wiping the slate clean, in contemplation of dismissal, all via a plea agreement or deal (deal is my characterization), and I emphasize the deal aspect, as if that is necessarily an honorable thing to make or do, as in the devil went down to Georgia, telling Johnny "and he was willin' to make a deal," boy.

I refer to The Batavian report of Jan. 25. Please also refer to my previous comments on this case in The Batavian, Opinion section, posted Dec. 28.

Ms. Long's defense attorney, Tom Trbovich, decided to circle the wagons to get an easier resolution, a good disposition, for his client, and in the process, not antagonize the office (I assume the Genesee County District Attorney Office). This, in Trbovich's thinking, was accomplished by NOT mounting a constitutional, First Amendment challenge to the harassment charge.

Some further comments by me:

  1. What, this attorney is practicing in the Old West, as evidenced by his resurrection of a Gunsmoke/Annie Oakley-like language reference to wagon-circling (I picture Trbovich taking refuge behind 6-8 Conestoga wagons in the American West, while being assailed by arrows shot from the bows of the District Attorney)? Is the defense totally abject at the mercy of the prosecution? That's not what I learned in school civics class!
  2. Alternatively, what's all this about antagonizing? Doesn't a defense attorney have a naturally and necessarily oppositional (antagonistic), call it adversarial, relationship to the prosecuting District Attorney Office (from the dictionary acceptable definition of antagonize)? Wasn't that what we were taught in civics class in school?
  3. I wasn't aware that the purpose of our legal system was to ensure a good disposition and easier resolution for all parties. I thought the aim of the legal system was to ensure justice for all parties. And that good/easier and justice were not equivalent, the same in every case. This is from the civics class, too.

This entire criminal case has so many missteps, mistakes, misassumptions, and mispronouncements in its travels, making its way, wending by turns through our justice system, that I conclude that a mistrial should be declared by its judge, Durin Rogers. And have it start over by focusing on the only and real and important issue of the case: Ms. Long's First Amendment right to petition a government agency, the Batavia Board of Education, for redress of her grievance concerning the education of her child. She had a legitimate purpose, which was to secure a quality education for her child; an annoyance that the education system was not providing her child with that quality education; and finally, it was alarming to her that the system could not find a qualified teacher to instruct her child! Maybe she overdid it, but that may just signal her sincerity, her seriousness, in pursuing that purpose to the extent that she did!

Letter to the Editor: The price of a cup of coffee

By Staff Writer

Letter to the Editor from Donald Weyer:

"I read the news today, oh boy; well, I just had to laugh... found my way downstairs and drank a cup (of coffee)! 

Batavia Assistant City Manager Erik Fix, as he sees it, Batavia property owners get all those things (city services) 'for the price of a cup of coffee a day.' This profound insight bruited out by Fix in Joanne Beck's news article (the news I read today), in The Batavian, dated Jan. 23, reporting on Batavia City Council review of the 2024 budget, held at City Hall on Jan. 22.

I'm sorry, Erik, I credited you with a banker's/accountant's eagle eye in money matters (refer to my opinion letter in The Batavian of Jan. 24 concerning plans for Austin Park), but in this latest particular pronouncement, you're proclaiming some fuzzy math or arithmetic. By my own personal calculations:

  1. I get a minimum of 50 cups of coffee and a maximum of 100 cups of coffee from a 30.6-ounce can of ground coffee.
  2. That 30.6-ounce can varies in price from $7.99 to $14.99.
  3. Doing some basic computations, in the worst case for my pocketbook and coffee fix, 50 cups at $14.99, 1 cup per day, and using a 365-day year: 365 days divided by 50 cups = 7.3 cans per year; 7.3 cans × $14.99 per can = $109.427 per year, rounded up to $109.50 per year. Alternatively, $14.99 per can divided by 50 cups per can = $0.2998 per cup, rounded up to $0.30 per cup. $0.30 per cup × 365 days = $109.50 per year. Again, $109.50 is my cost for the price of a cup a day for a year of coffee drinking, Erik.
  4. I showed all my work in two different computations and came up with the same results; I can't do anything more. You can't slice it any other way,  Honorable Erik; please show your work and/or the way you slice it.
  5. My Batavia city tax bill for 2023 was $539.38. That would be the cost of approximately five cups of coffee per day, not a cup of coffee a day. ($539.38 divided by 365 = $1.48 per day; $1.48 divided by $0.30 [my cost per cup] = 4.93333 cups, rounded up to five cups per day to pay the city tax bill per day. (Not the one cup of coffee per day that the honorable Mr. Fix imagines or fantasizes or wishes on a star about. Now, Erik, you may choose to pay a profligate $1.48 per day for your coffee cup, compared to my miserly (financially perspicacious?) $0.30 per cup per day; it's a free country.
  6. Again, I'm showing all my work to avoid any confusion, accusation, even duplicity or financial abracadabra or funny business. Erik, sir, please show your work.
  7. To reiterate, I'm not getting, as a Batavia city property owner, all the Batavia city services for the price of a cup of coffee a day. Will you issue a refund to me for my overpayment ($539.38 - $109.50 = $429.88)? I could use an extra $429.88! Couldn't you?

I trust that I haven't bored you, enraged, or exasperated you, patient reader, with all these numbers; actually, they've made me a little dizzy. But I was taught how to be sensible, logical, responsible, practical, and because I was feeling so logical.

Op-Ed: Governor Hochul failed to address New York State’s open government crisis

By Staff Writer

By Paul Wolf, president, New York Coalition For Open Government

When Governor Hochul first took office in 2021, she promised a new era of government transparency. She committed to restoring New Yorkers' faith in their government by improving transparency and increasing government accountability.

The New York Coalition For Open Government has documented large-scale noncompliance with the Open Meetings Law and the Freedom of Information Law at the local level. For example:

  • 72% of towns not posting meeting documents online
  • 25% of towns not posting meeting minutes or a recording
  • 39% of counties failed to acknowledge a FOIL request within five business days as required by law.
  • 75% of Planning Boards not posting meeting documents online
  • Only 25% of villages posted meeting minutes online
  • 35% of villages did not even post a meeting agenda
  • Out of 158 school district executive session motions reviewed, 61% were not in compliance with the Open Meetings Law

In her 2023, State of the State speech the Governor did not say or propose anything to address the open government crisis that exists in New York State. This lack of attention was disappointingly repeated in the 2024 State of the State last week.

The Governor proposed addressing the backlog of liquor license applications but said nothing about the broken Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) system where members of the public are improperly denied FOIL requests or must wait many months to receive basic information.

Governor Hochul proposed actions to strengthen consumer protections and to enhance the Attorney General’s ability to enforce consumer protections. Meanwhile New York has some of the weakest open government laws in the nation and the Attorney General’s office actually fights against the public on Freedom of Information Law matters. 

The New York Coalition For Open Government has several important bills introduced in Albany, which will improve government transparency and accountability. We encourage Governor Hochul to support these bills.

Constitutional Amendment (Assemblymember Steck A4429) 

Several states have the right to open government stated in their Constitution (California, Florida, Louisiana, and Montana), New York does not. Assemblymember Phil Steck has introduced a bill to establish a right to open government in New York’s Constitution. Governor Hochul supports amending New York's Constitution so that more Judges can be appointed. It will be interesting to see whether Governor Hochul supports a bill to amend the State Constitution to add a right to open government.

Mandatory Attorney Fees (Assemblymember Steck/Senator Liu A5357A/S5801A) 

Unlike other states, New York does not have an independent body with enforcement powers to address violations of the Open Meetings Law and Freedom of Information Law. Other states also impose fines or criminal charges for violations of open government laws, such penalties are not available in New York. 

The only recourse available to the public in NY is retaining an attorney to file an Article 78 proceeding and hope that the court will award attorney fees.

New York's current attorney fee statute is weaker than many other states and it is more difficult to obtain attorney fees when litigation is successful.

Assemblymember Phil Steck and Senator John Liu have introduced a bill, which reforms New York’s attorney fee statute for Freedom of Information Law and Open Meetings Law litigation.

Create A Hearing Officer System To Address Freedom of Information Law Appeals And Open Meetings Law Complaints (Assemblymember Rosenthal A7933)

In the 1980’s homeowners across New York State were angry about increasing property taxes. The only recourse homeowners had to challenge their property assessments was to hire an attorney to file a lawsuit in the Supreme Court, which was not easy or affordable. To assist homeowners, the New York State legislature in 1982 passed legislation creating a hearing officer system to hear property tax assessment cases.

Through this system, homeowners complete a simple application, pay a filing fee and the New York State Office of Court Administration appoints a hearing officer to decide the complaint. Hearing officers are attorneys, realtors, and others with experience in dealing with real property valuations.

In 2020, 102,000 assessment complaints were handled across the state through this hearing officer system. Applicants paid a $30 filing fee and the Court Administration paid hearing officers $75 per case.

The same system can and should be replicated to handle Freedom of Information Law and Open Meetings Law appeals. Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal has introduced a bill to create an independent hearing officer system to address open government law complaints.

Letter to the Editor: $1.4 million on sidewalks that don't get used

By Staff Writer

Letter to the editor from Donald Weyer:

Batavia's city budget of $37 million for 2024 "includes $1.37 million for street and SIDEWALK improvements" (Joanne Beck's article in "The Batavian", Jan. 12; emphasis mine).

Has the city ever studied who or what uses the sidewalks in our safely walkable neighborhoods? I mean, I do ride my bike (mainly to avoid the danger of the street), probably illegally; dog-walkers; some youth and some senior citizens, the former because of lack of access to a car, and the latter for exercise and because of what they were accustomed to in "days gone by"; some adults who are legally precluded from driving, maybe due to an instance of insobriety. I think that's about the prevalent utility of city sidewalks in the 21st century!

And forget about the walks for most of the winter when residents or some other entity refuse to clear the sidewalks of snow, ice, and slush, plus the propensity of city snow-plows to push the precipitation from the streets up on the sidewalks, further plugging up the process of walking or biking (again probably illegally, but what can I say, a question of life versus [possible] injury, even death), of putting foot or bike tire to pavement.

Shoot, I don't even have a sidewalk in front of my private residence, along with others on my city block "in the same boat" (excuse, please, the mixed metaphor here, and coming up), in addition to others within the city, sidewalk-less, like "sitting in a row boat without any oars".

So you see where this short, maybe rudderless, essay is tacking, goodness, even yawing! $1.37 million is 3.7% of $37 million. Granted, the 3.7% is for both street and sidewalk improvements. What I ask you to consider, though, is:

  1. What happens to the benefit of sidewalk "improvements" when the dog walkers are replaced by new-fangled "dog parks"? When the youth grow up, and get a car? When the senior citizens, accustomed to the past, are no longer with us? When the legally precluded drivers get sober? When my bike tire gets a "flat"?
  2. All the cost of sidewalk "improvements" benefits become an empty or moot point when there is no one to use them.
  3. Maybe the entire $1.37 million is better spent on STREET improvements? After all, that is where modern humanity is primarily focused, drawing soulful inspiration/consolation/imagination, you choose, from engine-charged "rubber on the road" and the exhilaration of instantaneous, or close to it, arrival!

Letter to the Editor: Is revamp of Austin Park worth the price

By Staff Writer

Letter to the editor from Donald Weyer:

$500,000.00, half a million, for Austin Park in Batavia ("The Batavian" report of Jan. 15)? With the city slipping in, handing off another $225,000.00 of Public Works funds, that would make it nearly three-quarters-of-a-million (actually, 72.5%).

Man, that big wad of cash would look mighty nice spread across a number of other needful parks in the city! Also, some questions for the "city fathers" and mothers too. Like:

  1. MacArthur Park, can we get numerous improvements to the youth baseball fields? Doing something with the unused tennis courts (installing basketball courts, or heh heh, a "pickleball court" moved from the proposed one at Austin), since the city schools overtook the basketball court at the old swimming pool/Youth Center to store its equipment? A permanent fix to the parking lots' surfaces, as they clearly suffer under high usage?
  2. The open, empty field to the immediate east of Dwyer Stadium. The site of the former junkyard, the "Superfund" area, which N.Y. State recently purified, cleansed, and beautified at a "pretty penny" cost to state taxpayers! Good, prime land, just waiting for some recreational infrastructure! Or even an entertainment venue, see #3, below.
  3. An "entertainment hotspot" proposed for Austin Park? I thought we had a thriving one at Jackson Square. And a second one at Batavia Downs Casino. And a proposed third one, see #2 above.
  4. I question what the population density of children is within, say, a 1.5-mile radius (walking distance) of Austin Park compared to that around other city parks. Certainly, you want to put the money where it will serve the greatest number of clients/customers, no?
  5. What's this "master plan" for Austin Park? I assume then that all the other city parks have "master plan(s)," too? And if so, what are they? And if not, why not? I trust that city government officials are all well-intentioned (I do give credit to Assistant City Manager Fix describing these park proposals as "expensive," a word you don't hear often when it comes to the officials addressing spending taxpayers' money, he must have had some experience in the banking industry), but let's get all the "plans" on the tabletop, and the money amounts in clear figures of dollars and cents for each, just to see if we non-government people with "skin in the game" agree with the "plans" and monies!
  6. What is an "all-inclusive playground," and otherwise stated as a "universal inclusive playground"? (What, no more "king of the hill" games, "we got firsts," "we got next," "I got first dibs," "last one in is a ......," etc.)? Are we citizens of Batavia not currently "inclusive" enough? I think we are more "inclusive" than most; and/or are we being too "exclusive"? I think not. (I see quite a lot of new faces around the city in the past few years, "multi" in nearly all categories). If these characterizations are not accurate, which I have stated, is throwing money at them the best way to fix the problem? And if we build the ideal playground, who or what will control or regulate what goes on in that ideal playground?

Letter to the Editor: Fee for stormwater runoff another way to "hook cash" from residents

By Staff Writer

Letter to the editor from Donald Weyer:

Honorable Batavia City Council and respected City Manager Tabelski, you're considering a proposal for us city water-service payers to "assume the position" so that you can seamlessly lubricate and insert a stormwater fee onto our water bills (The Batavian report of 1/9/24).

So now it's all your duties, elected and appointed officials, to go on fishing expeditions and fly-cast about for further ways to hook cash out of our pockets to put in the creel-caches of city coffers? Well, I think with this "stormwater" fee, you just snagged a smelly and ugly stinkfish or the cadaver of a huge and rotting carp!

I understand that stormwater is the runoff from rain and snow storms, both the results of the acts of a higher being (Mother Nature, God, the Universe, call it what you will), not the results of agency by water-service payers. And that the runoff ends up in the city streets and then the city sewers, and then further, I have no idea where—the first two, the clear budgetary responsibility of the city, for which the city has already exacted tribute, and we payers have already paid our pelf, our costly and clean lucre, via property taxes and water bills!

Too much logic and reason for your higher minds, City Council and Rachael? Therefore, you can do one of three things:

  1. Charge the fee to the storms.
  2. Charge the fee off to the city's "cost of doing business."
  3. Charge, do, nothing (and I am not implying that that is your usual modus operandi; I am leaving that up to the judgment of the readers of this petition to our vaunted "city fathers" [and "mothers" too], in lieu of my appearance at an eventual "hearing" on this topic before, again, celebrated and considerate City Council.

Let's not weigh down city taxpayers with further taxes, fees, charges, surcharges, assessments, calls on, or impositions on their financial assets! Batavia is a fairly decent city, our "baby." Let's not "throw the baby out with the bathwater," er, stormwater!

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