Tonawanda News

April 12, 2014

TUCKER: Taking down trees 'disheartening'

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The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Several readers have questioned the City of Tonawanda’s tree removal program. An email to Jenna Koch, who represents the Third Ward and checks into any query on the city, explained the program.

“It’s very disheartening,” Jenna wrote about the tree removal. “It’s my understanding that there were five certified arborists who did an inventory of 5,700 trees in the city and the trees that are coming down are priority 1 level trees. There are 500 trees in the city that are slated to be taken down over the next two years. Very depressing to say the least. (The city) has found funds to plant 100 trees right away. We are also waiting on a grant for $35,000.”

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On to happier signs of spring. Two Blue Jays were in my yard Friday, eating their hearts out on seeds and insects and picking up bits of dried grass and weeds to make a nest. And how about the stacks of peat moss for sale at a variety of locations — sure sign of warmer days.

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As a person who was on the Riviera Theatre board when Frank Cannata was hired and taking part in discussions about the theater going bankrupt, I’m disappointed in his resignation as executive director. Frank never once looked at the down side, but from day one had positive ideas on how to grow the theater into a regional attraction and brought the whole of Webster Street with him — something he accomplished.

His drive, vitality, commitment, knowledge of theater and more enthusiasm and charisma than I’d ever seen, carried the theater to where it is today. I’ve not been on the board for several years, so I don’t know any of the “ins and outs” of this, only that he is one of a kind who has not been recognized for all he accomplished.

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This past week’s news of the Ken-Ton schools’ closings ran a parallel thought with the Diocese of Buffalo’s school closings. Ken-Ton did it right. First, they brought in an outside consultant (a good idea to have someone from outside look over the situation.) The diocese did the same thing.

Ken-Ton took the results of this study to the school board, which looked it over, picked some parts that were judged to be useful, did its own research, talked to school principals, teachers, taxpayers and came up with a new plan that, although it impacted three schools, was well thought out. My neighbor, whose husband taught for years at Kenmore West High School and who is a graduate of Kenmore Middle School, remarked at how well the process was thought out and completed.

OK, here’s the diocese: Received the study, gave it to Sister Carol Cimino, superintendent of schools, who is from out of town and Carol Kostyniak, secretary of Catholic Education whose credentials allow her to teach math in a high school, and who without any further input, sent the closing plan to the bishop who rubber stamped it.

A firestorm of protest arose, particularly from St. Francis which was blindsided by the decree. Two of the sticking points were clear: North Tonawanda and Tonawanda are cities with no busing outside city limits. (This has never been addressed by the “two Carols,” in fact, I would wager neither one of them nor the bishop has ever even driven through either city.) The second issue the diocese loves to point to is enrollment. Well, how about this:

St. Andrew’s in the Town, which has the steepest enrollment decline of any school in Erie County from 2003 to 2013, (485 in 2003 and under 190 this year) is rewarded when St. Francis (enrollment in 2004 was 98 and today is is 190) is punished. 

So St. Andrew’s will stay open with three other Catholic Schools within just a couple of miles in the Town (and with bussing) while the school (St. Francis) that has had the greatest increase in enrollment over the last 10 years is on the chopping block. 

Bob Derner emailed that he agreed with comments about St. Francis school, and the fact that news media around here does not know there’s a City of Tonawanda.

“One solution,” Bob wrote, “would possibly be to change the name of the City of Tonawanda to “Tonawanda City.” Then maybe it will sink in with the “Duh Group.” 

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Years ago, I was a fill-in reporter here when one of the “regulars” was away. One of the assignments was covering the Police Beat. In Tonawanda at that time, not all the police officers were cheerful or helpful at 6:30 in the morning. One exception was John Abt who was always helpful. He seemed to be genuinely pleased to see a reporter, even though copying the police beat information took his time. John died this past week and will be remembered as a person who would do anything for anyone who needed his help. I can attest to that. Condolences to the family.

Contact Community News Editor Barbara Tucker at barbara.tucker@tonawanda-news.com or 693-1000 ext. 4110.

Contact Community News Editor Barbara Tucker at barbara.tucker@tonawanda-news.com or 693-1000 ext. 4110.