Back in the day, I was given a wonderful opportunity.

I was in 4th grade at PS 83 in Buffalo, NY and I was selected to be part of an experimental program that brought 16 students from various neighborhoods around the city – 8 male, 8 female – together in a 5th grade class at PS 68 with a very experienced and high-performance teacher.

Our group stayed intact from grade 5 to grade 8, and we graduated in June 1965 with the other students at PS 68, going on to the high school in our respective neighborhoods.

Sad to say, over the years, PS 68 lost its luster. It eventually sunk to the level of a failed elementary school.

In the mid-1990’s, M&T Bank discovered PS 68 and decided to adopt the school, investing not only dollars, but some of the intellectual capital of its employees and management team.

With the help of business leaders from M&T, and over a period of several years, PS 68 was transformed from a failed public school into a District Sponsored Charter School.

Today – now known as the Westminster Charter School – PS 68 is at least as good as it was in 1965 when I graduated from 8th grade.

On December 19, 2011, the neighborhood which is anchored by the Westminster Charter, Highgate Heights Elementary and Bennett High schools received notice that they had been awarded a $6 million federal grant to improve services in the neighborhood!

The Buffalo Promise Neighborhood was one of only five U.S. communities, out of more than 35 applicants, to receive the U.S. Department of Education Promise Neighborhood implementation grant in 2011.

In 2010, the Westminster Foundation was one of 21 national recipients of a federal Promise Neighborhood planning grant, which led to the establishment of the Buffalo Promise Neighborhood.

As a graduate of both PS 68 and Bennett HS, I’m proud to see this 360 degree transformation coming to life!

Thank you, M&T Bank, and all of the partners who have worked together to make this possible!

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Speaker of the House

December 20, 2011

For the past several months, the Walrus has been wondering, “Who is John Boehner, and how did he become Speaker of the House?”

Rep. Boehner was elected to Congress to represent the residents of the 8th Congressional District in the State of Ohio. The 112th Congress was elected from districts based on the Census of 2000. There are 435 congressional districts in the U.S., and each district is a geographical division of a state containing a population of about 720,000 people from which one member of the House of Representatives is elected.

As Speaker of the House, Rep. Boehner is exercising extraordinary power over the government of the United States. This is very puzzling because I know I never had an opportunity to vote for him, and as I’ve asked around, I haven’t found anyone I know who voted in an election where John Boehner was a candidate.

What I observe is that Rep. Boehner (and his Lieutenant, Rep. Cantor) seem to be disconnected from the American value system, yet with sufficient power to be able to control critical outcomes which will impact all of us Americans for years to come.

Many of us had the opportunity to observe the federal government shutdowns in 1995 and 1996, orchestrated by then-Speaker Newt Gingrich during the Presidency of Bill Clinton. Given the long and close relationship between Gingrich and Boehner, one has to stop and ask, “Could this be déjà vu all over again?”

The Walrus thought you might like the opportunity to see some facts (yes, these are REAL facts) on the 8th District in Ohio. Note that most of the District falls into the Dayton Metropolitan Area, yet the 8th District was carefully drawn to exclude the City of Dayton (population 141,527) from the District.

Boehner himself is from the township of West Chester, Ohio which is located in the SE corner of Butler County, Ohio. Butler County is part of the Cincinnati–Middletown, OH-KY-IN MSA.

My look at a map of this District led me to think that this might be a poster child for gerrymandering, but further research would be required to support that hypothesis.

State of Ohio: 8th Congressional District
Geographic and Demographic Highlights

The City of Troy is the county seat of Miami County, Ohio as well as the largest city in this county with a 2010 population of 25,058. Troy is part of the Dayton Metropolitan Statistical Area.
Miami County population is 102,506 with a land area of 409 square miles.

Darke County, Ohio has a population of 52,959 with a land area of 600 square miles. The county seat is the City of Greenville, population 13,227. Physically located on the western border of Ohio, Darke County is contiguous to Wayne County, Indiana.

Preble County, Ohio has a population of 42,270 with a land area of 426 square miles. The county seat is the City of Eaton, population 8,407. Preble County is also on the western border of Ohio, contiguous to Union County, Indiana.

The District also includes some rural and semi-suburban areas of Butler County, Mercer County and the northeast corner of Montgomery County.

I live in New York State, often thought of as the land of high taxes and the home of Wall Street.

Current debate in New York has to do with what is called a “millionaire’s tax” which is really just a graduation of income tax rates as incomes rise.

Today, the NYS income tax on a typical New York family is 6.85% on taxable earnings up to $300,000 annually.

The‘surcharge’ starts to kick in when taxable household income for a family exceeds $300,000, causing incremental taxable income over $300,000 subject to NYS Income Tax at a rate of 7.85%, and at $500,000, the marginal rate then rises to 8.97%.

Now let’s take a look at a family in New York State with an annual taxable income of $750,000.

That is about $14,400 per week.

If the “millionaire’s tax’ expires, this family will save about $7,300 at tax time, which equates to $140 per week.

Meanwhile, the Empire State is facing a potential $3.5 Billion deficit in the coming year.

Why would Governor Cuomo not support the extension of this surcharge on the highest earning households?

On another level, one danger of having an uneven income tax landscape in adjacent states is that these highly compensated individuals can easily relocate — note that Greenwich, CT has become the capital of the hedge fund industry; and that downtown Stamford, CT is home to several large investment banking operations (UBS & RBS).

There is currently an effort by the State of Ohio to bring the headquarters operation for Sears from the Chicago area where it’s been forever, to the Columbus area.

Illinois claims they are not in a position to offer hundreds of millions to Sears to retain their operations there; meanwhile, Ohio — with nothing to lose and plenty to gain — is willing to offer a $400 Million incentive package as an inducement to bring 10,000 jobs and all of the ancillary spending that accompanies such an operation.

This news made me stop and think — while our local towns, counties, cities and states are working hard to cannibalize each other, we lose sight of the world economy, and when jobs move overseas, citizens in the U.S. get up in arms, surprised and shocked.

I’m all for ‘home rule’ to a point — but when home rule decisions result in zero sum solutions which have short term benefit (offset by short term loss) to one local region vs. another– accompanied by serious long-term negative impact on our entire nation — we have a flawed public policy that needs immediate attention.
The Walrus thinks it is time to rethink our entire system in the U.S.A. to – hopefully – make it more relevant and competitive in our current world economy…..