I had a call at my home from a woman who accused me of being hateful, and questioning why I was so angry all the time, and so filled with anger and hate. She refused to give me her name and caller ID had her as "Private Number", so I hung up on her. I'd have been more than happy to have a discussion with her otherwise. Anyway, I thought about her comment, and here's a public reply, with a name attached. (I still think that's the way one should do things)
Do I hate everything about New York? No. I like the landscape, the lakes, and the beauty in our rural areas. I like an awful lot of the people I know. However, that being said, we do live in one of the highest taxed areas in the country, and one of the highest taxed states in the country, with the highest Medicaid costs by double the next closest state. Now, I have to admit, those facts do not make me happy, nor are they negated by the things I do like. In fact, it almost makes it worse because we could be one of the nicest areas of the country to live in, and instead we have to watch our young and educated leave for places with better economies and cheaper expenses. And that makes me angry.
I wouldn't mind the fact that we have the highest gasoline tax in the country, if our roads were better (they're not), and our interstates were free (They're not), and traveling on them was pleasant (it's not) .So yes, those taxes and ill kept roads make me angry. It doesn't mean I'm full of hate. That seems to be a little extremist.
I wouldn't mind having the highest paid and largest legislature in the country if those people we elected to office actually looked out for the mostly middle class voters instead of special interest groups and voting blocs. However, that is clearly not the case, and upstate New York is dying because all of the legislative power is located in New York City and Sheldon Silver and his minions couldn't even find us without a GPS system. We can't and don't vote for him, so nothing is going to change anytime soon. So, yes, that makes me angry. I'd have to say supporting or praising those people would only encourage them in their current endeavors, so if I write about what they do it's not going to be supportive or encouraging. That doesn't mean I hate them, it just means I don't like what they do. I direct this to my caller, if you are fairly certain your elected leaders are corrupt, and not doing their jobs, what would you suggest? Not having your expert advice and opinions to rely on, I have to go my own way, and that leads me to the realm of the gadfly. I'm comfortable there, but it doesn't mean I'm full of hate. I'd say calling a total stranger to tell them they are full of hate and anger, to make value judgments about someone you don't know, all while refusing to identify yourself is much more hateful behavior than any of my columns. But, that's life, we all have our own opinions, and there's no way they'll all be the same on almost any subject.
I don't hate the fact that New York's educational system is an overpriced failure compared to many other systems. Hate is much too strong a word. I do dislike it, and yes, actually get angry, when I hear any plan for fixing it that relies strictly on an increase in funding and does nothing to address the actual issues, the way we teach, what we teach, how we teach, discipline, or the lack of, those sorts of things. If I were to write about any of those issues, it wouldn't be a scene from "Sesame Street". That doesn't mean I hate everything about New York or that I'm personally just a hateful and angry person, as the caller suggested. But somebody does need to get angry. If even one person reads one of my columns and sends it to at least one state official, than at least that one official knows some of us are taking issue with their performance.
It's hard to praise anything in our state government when even national publications place us at the very bottom of so many different polls and surveys, from taxes to services to education to overall lifestyle. It's hard to watch money being spent on ridiculous projects, like handing Buffalo one billion dollars when they can't manage their own school system, while worthy tourism activities and proposals are ignored, year, after year after year. Yes, I'll admit, it makes me angry. However, I have to confess, sometimes the similarity in state politics to the Keystone Cops brings a smile to my face. Now, does that sound hateful? I don't think so.
We have a newly elected and downsized county legislature in a county facing a gigantic deficit. So, what does one of our newly elected legislators bring to the floor? An argument and discussion over a personnel issue for a dead person. Does that make you confident that productive work is on the agenda, or more of the same partisan politics that led us to where we are now? I know how I feel, and happy isn't one of the words I'd use to describe my feelings and confidence in our elected county officials, and what their agendas are. I hate to admit it, but once again I think I'm a little angry. But angry is the operative word, maybe even disappointed, but nowhere close to hating anyone over it. And even if I'm angry, if there's a legitimate reason to be angry, does that still make me an angry person, at least in a general sense?
I do have a strong sense of justice, so when I see injustice it does cause a somewhat visceral reaction in me. I'll give you one example that has a lot to do with state government. Years ago, as the state hemorrhaged jobs, laws were passed to create Industrial Development Agencies. (IDA's) The premise was that these agencies could grant tax breaks and offer other monetary assistance to manufacturing companies who agreed to create a certain amount of jobs. As time went on, other people started looking at that sum of money as a piece of a pie they'd like to get into. More and more IDA's were set up, by city, by town, and by county. Soon the tax breaks began to be offered to "industries" that didn't create one job, or merely moved them fro0m one entity to another.
One of the best examples is how the Town of Amherst recently gave over $500,000 in tax breaks for Premier Liquor to move from Tonawanda to Amherst. Now, I'd say that's a HUGE stretch to call that "industrial development", and a huge waste of taxpayer dollars, as every taxpayer in the state is financing moves like this. It's unjust; it borders on corrupt and certainly violates the spirit and intent of the laws creating IDA's. And, once again, due to my knowledge of the issue and my concern for taxes in New York State, it makes me angry. I'm sorry if that offends the caller to my home, but again, we weren't able to have a decent discussion on my attitudes and beliefs due to your insistence on an opinionated and anonymous rant on what you see as my shortcomings. I have my opinions on yours. That being said, I have to ask again, is justifiable anger a character flaw or an attribute?
Anyway, I know for a fact that much of the anger I express in my columns is anger felt by many, many people. Not all of course, I have my detractors and those who disagree as well. But my point is, I'm not full of hate nor am I always angry nor do I hate everything about New York. However, that being said, if I am angry I'll express it and will sign my name to it.
Paul Christopher is a Dunkirk resident. Send comments to