(Artvoice 12 August 1999)
 
 

Truth and Lies:
Peace Bridge Review Panel
Hearing #1

by Bruce Jackson
 
 

The Peace Bridge Review Panel--created and funded by the City of Buffalo, Erie County, the Wendt Foundation, and the Community Foundation to bring light to the Peace Bridge expansion project--held the first of three scheduled public hearings in WNED's Studio One last Wednesday and Thursday. Fifty-five individuals and groups made statements or presentations over thirteen hours, all of it broadcast live over WNED-AM.

The Review Panel scheduled six major 40-minute presentations, each followed by 20 minutes for questions and answers. The Panel members listened in silence, save for a few introductory remarks, housekeeping work by the co-chairs Sister Denise Roche and Randall Marks, and the response of Joseph Ryan (Buffalo Commissioner of Community Development) to a member of the audience who lamented the absence of Canadians. Ryan said the organizers had, at every stage of the process, invited participation by representatives from Fort Erie, the Ontario government, the Canadian National government, but the Canadians had rejected all the invitations; Ryan said those same Canadian officials had received copies of all the Panel's planning and programming documents, and those had been ignored.

The No-show
The Panel hoped to open the hearings with a presentation by the Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority, but the BFEPBA refused to participate. That was no surprise: they had also refused to engage in any preliminary discussions with the Panel co-chairs or staff, didn't respond to any letters or telephone calls, and refused to appoint representatives to the Panel itself or either of its two technical groups. Their only written response was a letter from PBA Chairman John Lopkinski to the Panel's project manager, David Carter that was delivered late Tuesday afternoon.

"At this time," Lopinski wrote, "we must regretfully decline your invitation to participate because we feel strongly that this process fails to bring bi-national consideration to the table and duplicates last years [sic] report issued by the Buffalo Niagara Partnership. We are taking this action with the understanding that the Peace Bridge Authority will be accused of not willing [sic] to participate in a public process. Nothing could be farther from the truth."

Well, it is exactly the truth. Of course they are unwilling to participate in the public process. The real hypocrisy, as state assemblyman Sam Hoyt pointed out, is that there is a bi-national body empowered by our two governments to represent us in these matters: the Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority. That is the sole job of the members of the Authority, representing their two countries in Peace Bridge matters. How can Lopinsky honestly fault the Panel because it is not bi-national when the appropriate bi-national body is the BFEPBA, which he chairs, and which he refused to let participate?

(Not that Lopinski has ever been trustworthy on Bridge issues. Back on March 3, 1998, he told the Niagara Regional Council that "The essential government agencies on both sides of the border have signed off on the [twin span] project." That wasn't close to true, and he knew it. The U.S. Coast Guard didn't give its approval until April 28, 1999; the International Joint Commission didn't give its approval until April 30, 1999. The BFEPBA still does not have the required easements from the City of Buffalo. In a "My View" piece in the Buffalo News on March 26, 1999, Lopinski wrote, "The Peace Bridge is a historic structure and any attempts to raze it would be met with stiff opposition by governmental agencies and citizens in both countries." Hogwash. When Lopinsky wrote that, he knew that no government agency in either country had expressed any interest in the bridge as an historical object, and that the executive director of the Landmark Society of the Niagara Frontier had said it ought to be torn down.)

Five times in his three-page letter to David Carter, Lopinski refers to the "Peace Bridge Authority," which is not his agency's real name; he never refers to the "Public Bridge Authority," which is. As I've pointed out before, they don't like to use the word "Public" because it implies they have some accountability or responsibility to the area's citizens and communities.

Lopinski also claimed that the PBA decision is the correct one because, since the Buffalo Niagara Partnership conducted meetings on the bridge in 1998, "no one has provided any evidence to the contrary." Wrong again: there is a huge amount of evidence to the contrary, and the present hearings are a clear demonstration of that, but both the Partnership and the BFEPBA have refused to consider it. Refusing to consider information or pretending that it doesn't exist does not mean the information doesn't exist or that it is not valid. I remember many years ago when one of my daughters, then two or three years old, developed a technique of covering her ears with her hands when something she didn't like was being said. Happily, she outgrew it. John Lopinski didn't.

The Major Presentations
Four of the five major presentations were informative and straightforward. Bruno Freschi's team discussed the signature design that has energized much of the present interest in reconsidering the BFEPBA's plans. Bob Biniszkiewicz presented his plan for shifting the American plaza north, thereby freeing up all the park space that has been consumed by the PBA over the years. Most people there thought it a wonderful idea, one that could work with any of the bridge designs.

Thursday's session began with Andrew Rudnick, presenting the views of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership. I'll come back to him.

Clint Brown, Ross Robinson, Gary Burroughs, and John Cullen discussed their SuperSpan Upper Niagara project. SuperSpan isn't a bridge design; rather it's an idea about a bridge and plaza that are part of the city rather than an insult to it. Brown said they had contacted Eugene Figg, perhaps America's most important bridge designer. Figg has an impressive history of successful and beautiful bridges; he knows the technology, the problems, the politics, the economics. Figg drafted five possible signature designs for this site, all of them coming in at about the same cost as the Freschi/Lin design, and all of them taking only half the time of the plan developed by the Buffalo Niagara Partnership and the Public Bridge Authority.

The final major presentation was UB civil engineering professor John Mander, who described six bridge designs his graduate students developed two years ago-three companion spans and three signature spans. The students' companion spans appear to cost less and look better than the companion bridge the BFEPBA thought up, and their six-lane signature spans were all more economical than any companion to the geriatric Peace Bridge.

Mander spoke about the difference between cost estimating (what it will probably cost to build something) and project economics (what it will costs to build it and use it). Two cars may cost the same to buy, but if one gets 8 miles a gallon and the other 24 and you drive a lot, the project economics are very different. Mander's data indicate that whatever small differences there are in initial construction cost (and a difference of $10 million or so on a $150 million project with a life expectancy of 150 years is not a big deal), the differences in project economics are huge. Bottom line: the two steel bridges advocated by the PBA will cost many times the signature span.

What impressed me about all the presentations, save Rudnick's, is that none of them excludes the other. They're all moving in the same direction. The Freschi/Lin plan has a bridge most people seem to like and Bob Biniszkiewicz has an imaginative plaza idea that struck people as well worth exploring. No reason the panel can't consider both: Freschi's bridge can land in any kind of plaza and if someone comes up with a better plaza than he developed, better for all of us. The SuperSpan idea has the bridge land further south than anyone else has suggested, which would require a longer bridge, but what's really important isn't so much where their bridge lands but their insistence that we can have a beautiful bridge and a plaza that are part of the city rather than an assault upon it. The SuperSpan Upper Niagara group were telling people there's a better way to do this long before Bruno Freschi came up with a design that showed us what that better way might be. If it hadn't been for them taking action two years ago, there might be construction trucks backed up on Niagara street this summer.

Vox Populi: The Shorter Statements
The Panel allocated about seven hours for brief statements by individuals and representatives of groups. With only a very few exceptions, the speakers were intelligent, informed, focused, and interesting. The prime evidence of that was the behavior of the Panel itself: none of the 15 or so members nodded off, doodled, seemed distracted, exchanged notes with one another, or shuffled papers. One, the representative of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, chewed gum much of the time, sometimes slowly and evenly, sometimes vigorously, but I don't think that was in any way connected with the value of the presentations.

People talked about the importance of aesthetics, the possibility of resurrecting a neighborhood and a city, about the relation of all of this to life in our city, about heritage, about the future. Some had ideas about bridge or plaza design or about bridge operations. A few spoke favorably of the companion span idea. With a single exception, the audience applauded the remarks of every speaker.

"Fighting over a peace bridge," said attorney Kevin P. Gaughan "is no way to enter a new millennium." He said he had written the parties to the various bridge lawsuits currently before Judge Fahey suggesting they put the litigation on hold and give talking to one another one more try. Someone said to him afterwards, "The PBA isn't going to talk." "I know," Gaughan said, "but I thought someone should say to them, 'It doesn't have to end this way.'"

Common Council President James Pitts several times said what has become one of his favorite lines in these discussions: "Don't you built no ugly bridge." He also said that, "What we have to do is somehow address the Peace Bridge Authority and many of its members, and also yes, our neighbors across the stream, we have to get them to elevate their view of this issue. The signature bridge is not just bricks and mortar, steel and cable. It's a question of the future of this city and the hope that many of our young people have. I have never seen the kind of consensus and the kind of united action that has taken place around this issue. You would think that that alone would allow the Peace Bridge Authority to reconsider their decision. There is not one issue that I know of that has ever galvanized us like this."

There were so many more: Catherine Schweitzer of the Baird Foundation quoting visionary words about Buffalo by Frederick Law Olmsted, Tony Fryer of the Landmark Society of the Niagara Frontier telling us that there is every reason to demolish the present bridge and plaza and replace them with a beautiful modern bridge and a new plaza in a new location, Fr. Jud Weiksnar of the Franciscan Center for Social Concern at St. Bonaventure saying why aethetics really do matter, Pamela Earl eloquently speaking on behalf of a restored Front Park, business people, teachers, ordinary folks. It was eloquent, informative, considered, and very moving.

Andrew Rudnick: Denial ain't just a river
Andrew Rudnick, president and CEO of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, spent most of the direct portion of his time rehearsing the history of the Partnership's collaboration with the Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Administration, and telling us why the companion span was the only viable choice. He presented it as reasonable, inevitable, and perfect. Basically, he said they knew what was best for us and that should be good enough for us.

He several times referred to the importance of "trade, tourism and transportation related economic opportunity." He said that one of their major objections to the Freschi/Lin bridge is their concerns about"significant environmental issues associated with any cable stayed bridge," and that there were problems with a single pylon in the river. He said,"Minimizing the time and money spent...is key..." He said that the only site for the plaza is the current plaza site because consideration of any other site would need further study and further study takes time and money and we shouldn't spend any more time or money on this.

This is Rudnick's closing statement. I italicized words he seemed to be stressing:

The Authority should increase bridge capacity as soon as possible while continuing our efforts to design the right US plaza gateway in its current location. Regarding the bridge there is no question that there is a real need to increase the current vehicular capacity at our border crossing and it is our belief that given the time and cost issues we have cited above there still seems to be only one viable conceptual alternative that enables this region to achieve economic development potential. That is a second span in the same alignment as the current Peace Bridge and landing on the existing US and Canadian plazas. However we continue to believe as we originally stated directly to the Authority in July 1998 that there may well be a better version of the second span option with a prestressed concrete second span, and replacing the Parker truss with an arch that matches the proposed arch design of the second span in the twin span concept.
When Rudnick was finished, only one person applauded---David Carter, project manager for the Panel. I assume Carter was applauding mechanically, the way a master of ceremonies does, but when it was clear no one was going to join in he quickly stopped. The silence was impressive because every other speaker in the two days of hearings received applause from the room, and some received applause in the middle of their statements or responses to questions as well.

Rudnick's Q&A
The really important part of Rudnick's presentation occurred during the Q&A, because that was when he had to talk about the audience's concerns rather than his agenda. Rudnick got more questions from the audience than any other speaker or group of speakers. The questions were all sent up on cards to the co-chairs by the audience and members of the panel, so there was no opportunity for followup questions. That was not a problem with the other speakers, all of whom, so far as I could tell, were happy to engage the questions read by Randy Marks and Sister Denise, but many of Rudnick's answers were evasive, deceptive, and at least one was untrue. Here's a sampler:

Q: Your workshop never included the community. As a matter of fact, no one from the Partnership asked for our input in spite of our engagement.

Rudnick: That's an incorrect statement. Both community leaders and most importantly the district council member from the area immediately surrounding the plaza and the landing were invited to the meetings.

The two days of panel hearings last week were full of members of community groups who said they had not been permitted to take part in the Partnership's or the PBA's process. Many had described that exclusion in detail in their statements before Rudnick spoke. How does Rudnick handle their complaint? By saying it isn't so.
Q: Can you expand on or discuss the environmental issues associated with a cable stayed bridge?

Rudnick: There are a number of them we can provide you in writing that were provided to us in our hearing. A good bit of them have to do with migratory flyway area, seagulls, ducks, geese, what have you. They're mostly DEC related.

Seagulls? Ducks? Geese? What have you? Nobody, nobody, has ever introduced a single serious concern about birdlife except the Bridge Authority and the Buffalo Niagara Partnership. Not one of the environmental agencies on either side of the border has said this would be a problem. It has not been a problem with any cable-stayed bridge anywhere in the world. And it's not like our birds haven't dealt with cables before: as architect Clint Brown said later in the evening, "Those cables carrying the 25-cycle power across the river next to the bridge have been there for about 100 years and no one's seen a bird skeleton in them yet, or had any reports of birds hitting them and falling in....It's silly."
Q: What are the specific concerns regarding the adverse impact of a single river pier design?

Rudnick: Well, I'd have to....Again it has to do with a bunch of DEC and Coast Guard related reviews that have already taken place. Water level, boating, the construction, actually, what's entailed in actually creating the pylons in the river. And, again, from our workshops, the material that we provided to you all at the beginning at the outset, at least conceiving project dealt with that specifically.

Do you find an answer in that reply? I don't. What about water level, boating, and the construction? Is he saying that the single pier in the Freschi/Lin design causes more problems than the ten piers in the BFEPBA design? If so, why not say it? If not, what is he saying? What's his data? This is just sidestepping by innuendo.
Q: If the twin span is going to take ten plus years to achieve increased capacity why not consider some other plan?

Rudnick: Again, I believe any plan that can be built within the same time frame and within the same budget is worth serious consideration. I do not believe the twin span itself will take ten years to complete. The project in its totality, which includes plaza and connecting improvements, may take ten years, but not the span itself.

No one, not even Bruno Freschi, has said the companion span would take ten years to complete. The BFEPBA itself, however, has said that its plan to build the companion span, refit the old bridge, and redo the plaza will take ten years to complete. That's their own estimate. That question was about the whole project and Rudnick knew it perfectly well. Why didn't he answer the question he knew was really being asked? Because he didn't have an answer he liked. Eugene Figg says a six-lane cable-stayed bridge and plaza can be designed, go through the environmental tests, and be built in a little more than half that time. Freschi/Lin/Cannon say the same thing. Every expert consulted, except the ones who work for the BFEPBA and the Partnership, have said the same thing.
Q: Would you please explain the willingness of the Partnership and PBA to segment the plaza project from the bridge project?

Rudnick: I understand the arguments that have been, the legal positions that have been taken on both sides of that issue. I'm proud to say in front of a panel that includes lawyers that I am not a lawyer, so I can't comment on any of those technical details.

This is a key question and a non-answer. So far as I can tell, Rudnick's response is, he understands the arguments and the positions but he won't tell us what he knows. If he does understand the arguments, as he claims, then the fact that he's not a lawyer is irrelevant.
Q: Does the Buffalo Niagara Partnership see any insurmountable obstacles to the signature bridge as a show stopper, so to speak?

Rudnick: That question implies that there is a common definition of what a signature bridge is and a specificity with regard to what the project elements of such a definition are. I don't believe that's the case.

This response is an illustration of the adjective "disingenuous" in action (my desk dictionary "disingenuous" as "not straightforward; not candid or frank; insincere"). Do you think for a moment that Andrew Rudnick didn't know exactly what bridge that questioner and every person in that room had in mind? Is there any other specific bridge that has been widely discussed that anyone has called a "signature bridge"? It gets worse: Rudnick was at that moment standing directly in front of eight huge full-color renderings and one three-dimensional model of the Freschi/Lin signature bridge and plaza. So how do you deal with a question you don't want to answer? Slip, slide, deny.
Q: If an environmental impact study on the plaza is not completed before the bridge is built, what situation does that leave the neighborhood in if more space is needed in 2006?

Rudnick: If an EIS is not complete is before the bridge is built?

Q: Yes.

Rudnick: Say the second half.

Q: If an environmental impact study on the plaza is not completed before the bridge is built, what situation does that leave the neighborhood in if more space is needed in 2006?

Rudnick: I donít believe there will be more space needed in 2006.

He sidestepped the previous question by pretending he had no idea what signature bridge might be at question. He sidesteps this one by dismissing it outright.
 
Q: You keep referring to cost as a major factor in your decision, when the cost assumption at the time was $65 million, not $90 million. Please explain.

Rudnick: I don't believe the difference between, I'm not sure what the final, if and when there is a twin span contract let by the Peace Bridge Authority, I don't know what that final number will be. I know the way in which the Canadian bid process works is that they really use that number as the starting point for negotiations, not the end point for negotiations. So our understanding of the technical process that the Authority follows is one for which that is a number that will, may be measurably reduced. I don't know that as a fact, but it may well be the case. In addition, the differential in cost figures that we are talking about with regard to any of those alternatives we believe makes that difference between 65 million and whatever the final number to be minute. That it's a dramatically different cost for any major conceptual alternative. And we continue to believe that it will be to the benefit of the project overall and long-term transportation-based economics in this community, to keep the costs low so you can keep the tolls low for as long a period as possible.

I think that's an exact transcription of what he said. It's a little difficult to follow, but it's worth the work because it goes to the heart of Rudnick's presentation. Nothing matters, no external data is worth considering. If Public Bridge Authority's cost projections were off by nearly 50%, as they were, they're still better than the numbers of everyone else in the bridge business. The Authority's projections don't matter anyway, Rudnick suggests, because the final bids may be less than the bids they actually received. Having trouble following that? You should, because it's double-talk. Then he goes on to say that the real cost of the plan he backed at the beginning of this process will still be vastly cheaper than any alternative, even though he hasn't considered the cost of any alternative.

That was Rudnick's last response to the final question. I haven't transcribed all of the questions and answers here. Everything he said wasn't evasive or snarky, but most of it was. There is one question I've saved for last, and not just because it was the question I sent up:

When all else fails, lie

Q: Artvoice polled a large segment of the Partnership's membership.
The results were:
--49% wanted the signature span
--31% were undecided, didn't care, or wanted a tunnel
--20% wanted the twin span
How do you justify your continued opposition, in the Partnership's name, to the signature span, when only a fifth of the membership supports your view?

Rudnick: There are two answers to that. The first is that the premise is false: such a survey was not taken. And the second is that our board of directors, elected by our membership, has periodically reiterated the position that I have stated today.

I'm always surprised when public figures lie in public situations. Do they figure we're so dumb we won't listen to the answer or so lazy we won't check the tape to be sure the guy actually said that? Rudnick could have said, "I haven't heard of any such survey and if there is one I'd have to know how it was done and what question was asked before I could respond to that. But, knowing my membership, I find it hard to believe." That would have been a reasonable way to field the question. But he didn't just field it; he lied flat out: "Such as survey was not taken." Well, folks, such a survey was taken, and the result are exactly as they were specified in the question.

What's important there isn't so much that he lied in answer to that question. Rather that the way he responded to it is illustrative of his way of dealing with all of us: he has no interest in new ideas, he attacks the credibility of people offering new information, and he lies about the fact of fresh information he finds it distasteful.

Rudnick's Drummers
If it is true that Rudnick's board of directors at the Buffalo Niagara Partnership have endorsed or ordered his position, maybe it's time for us to ask them what they are up to. The question Rudnick avoided can be asked of them as well: Given that their rank and file membership doesn't want this ugly and uneconomic bridge, why are they trying to get us to accept it?

To whom should the question be addressed? We asked the Partnership for a list of its current directors, but they wouldn't provide it. We got some help from a recent article in the Buffalo News listing this year's Partnership officers and executive committee members. The officers are:

Robert T. Brady, chairman, president and CEO of Moog Inc.,
    (chairman of the board of directors)
Andrew J. Rudnick, Partnership president and CEO
Randall L. Clark; chairman, Dunn Tire Corp. (vice chair)
Mark E. Hamister; chairman and CEO, National Health Care Affiliates
    (vice chair)
Howard Zemsky; president, Russer Foods (vice chair)
Robert M. Greene; CEO, Phillips Lytle Hitchock Blaine & Huber (secretary) Brian E. Keating; regional president, HSBC Bank USA. (treasurer)
The other thirteen directors on the executive committee are:
Thomas E. Baker, executive director, The John R. Oshei Foundation
William R. Greiner, president, University at Buffalo
Marsha S. Henderson, district president, KeyBank N.A.
Peter F. Hunt, president and CEO, Hunt Real Estate Corp.
Luiz F. Kahl, chairman, Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority
Stanford Lipsey, publisher and president, The Buffalo News
Dennis P. Murphy, president, InnVest Lodging Services
Stephen A. Odland, president and CEO, Tops Markets Inc.
Bill Ransom, president and general manager, WKBW-TV
Victor A. Rice, chairman of Buffalo Niagara Enterprise
Robert L. Stevenson, president and CEO, Eastman Worldwide
William E. Swan, president and CEO, Lockport Savings Bank
Robert G. Wilmers, chairman and CEO, M&T Bank
Luiz Kahl is also a member of the Public Bridge Authority, so it's no surprise that he backs the twin span plan. But why would the heads of all those banks want us to have that ugly bridge? Why would UB president William Greiner and Buffalo News publisher Stanford Lipsey and WKBW-TV president Bill Ransom want us to have that ugly bridge? Why would Tops Markets and Hunt Real Estate want us to have that ugly bridge? Why would Mark Hamister, who served with distinction on the Erie County Cultural Resources Board, and Victor Rice, who collects art, want us to have that ugly bridge?

It makes no sense at all. This is a smart and involved group of men and women, people of sharp business acumen and civic pride. Why would they adopt a policy that says "We know what's good for you, we made a decision two years ago, we won't listen to any new information." None of them would run their own businesses that way; you can't stay in business if you don't respond to new information and public concerns. So why do they let Andrew Rudnick run the Partnership on that basis?

Maybe there's some secret here they're not sharing, or some subtle point we're not getting. We'll keep trying to find out. We're going to call every one of those executives and ask why they want us to have that ugly bridge and why they are closed to new information. We'll let you know what they say.

Democracy
The two days of hearings were democracy at work, and it was impressive and moving. Public hearings with open mikes usually draw a fair number of kooks and people passionately in love with their own voices. There was very little kookery or narcissism among the nearly three-score individuals and groups that gave testimony over the two days. Little wonder the Public Bridge Authority was afraid to participate: in the company of all these honestly concerned, well-informed and deeply committed people, how could they have maintained their pretense of being fair, objective, or concerned for the community?

The heart of the democratic process is an informed citizenry that can speak its mind without fear of government retaliation. That's why the framers of the Constitution made this the first item in the Bill of Rights:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
A long time ago the great New Yorker essayist A. J. Liebling wrote, "Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one." This event couldn't have happened without WNED. It wasn't just that they provided the space, though that was important, but also that they canceled their ordinary programming and aired all thirteen hours of testimonies, questions and statements. I don't know how many people listened to parts or all of it; what matters is that some people who weren't there got to hear as much of it as they wished. I'm sure the PBA and the Partnership would have preferred that those voices of the people and those questions to and answers by Andrew Rudnick never escaped that room. But escape they did. WNED is doing more: they're making sound recordings of the whole event available on their web site (www.wned.org), and they even made a videotape of the proceedings so there would be a full historical record. WNED was one of the fine Buffalo citizens in that room last Wednesday and Thursday. Hooray for them.

So many wonderful things were said in those two days. I could pick a dozen statements that would capture the spirit of what went on, but two in particular come to mind. One was by Colden resident Eli Mundy, whose brief statement was interrupted several times by applause:

Several years ago there was a popular television commercial that asked, "Where's the beef?" I think that citizens on both sides of the Niagara Frontier should ask ourselves, "Where is the Public Bridge Authority?" I think that it's important for all of us to remember that the original ennabling legislation that set up that Authority said that this is the Public Bridge Authority, not the Peace Bridge Authority. Webster's dictionary defines "public" as "acting officially for the people." Ladies and gentlemen, by any reasonable definition, "public" means just that: acting officially for the people. Therefore, I believe it also means that we the people have the right and the obligation to respectfully request that the Public Bridge Authority attend the next meeting of this group, so that in an open and public forum the Public Bridge Authority can answer all the questions that have been raised here during the last two days of these hearings. And if the Public Bridge Authority continues to ignore these questions and these hearings, I believe that we the people should also request that Governor Pataki should remove his four appointees to the Public Bridge Authority so that the governor can reappoint new members and that reconstructed new membership of the Public Bridge Authority will represent the people.
The other statement was in the corridor during a break in the proceedings. Anna Kay France, an old friend who teaches theater at UB, was at the preliminary public information meeting of the Panel a few weeks ago and both sessions last week. She didn't speak at any of them; she just sat there, obviously attentive. I asked her why she was there. "I was planning on being on vacation this week," Anna Kay said, "but I went to the opening session and changed my mind. This is too important. The passion and the eloquence of those statements, both from the people representing organizations and from people just talking about life in their neighborhood: I've never seen anything like this in Buffalo. This really matters to us."
 
copyright 1999 Bruce Jackson

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