Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

Thumbs up to the state Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo for legalizing mixed martial arts in New York state. It took 19 long years for the sport to be legalized in New York amid criticism that it is too violent and like football and boxing prone to causing concussions and head injuries. State legislators compromise on MMA subjects the activity to State Athletic Commission regulation and increases the insurance required for fighter injuries to $50,000 and to $1 million for life-threatening brain injuries. MMA is a sport whose popularity has been on the rise for years, and its legality in New York could be a way to drive tourism-dollars to resorts and stadiums throughout the state. We often criticize state officials for acting against the will of the people they represent. They have listened to the will of the majority of people on MMA.

Thumbs down to public officials that don’t give enough information. The most recent example was earlier this month in Westfield, when a student threat was made on March 1. Police investigated the threat and decided the school was safe. Parents on social media had different feelings, however, with some pulling their children from school during the day. Steve Cockram, Westfield Academy and Central School board president, said the incident was another example of social media misperceptions driving public fear and panic where it wasn’t necessary. One way to combat social media is for the district to be transparent when such issues arise. Karen Belcher, whose daughter is a senior at the school, said that “As a parent, on March second and third, we were nervous. We were scared. There has to be more communication to parents.” She’s right. Putting as much information out from reputable sources as possible is the best way to handle any such information. Letting rumors and half-truths spread via social media only creates nervous parents. Information from the school would have done much to calm worried parents.

Thumbs up to Jim Buck, a member of the Carroll Historical Society who recently donated a 38-star Grand Army of the Republic flag originally from the Cyrus Adams Post 589 to the Carroll Historical Society. The 38-star flags were used from 1877-90. Cyrus Adams was a union soldier who enlisted in the army on May 28, 1861, and was killed in action May 5, 1862, at the Battle of Williamsburg, Va., and is buried in Fentonville. The 38-star flag is a wonderful addition to the Carroll Historical Society’s museum. Thumbs up not only to Buck, but all of the volunteers who give their time to preserve local history for future generations.

Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

Thumbs up to the Jamestown Public Schools District. Tim Mains, district superintendent, recently announced Bush Elementary School, Fletcher Elementary School, Lincoln Elementary School and Jamestown High School have all been removed from the focus school list. A focus school is defined as a Title I school that has the largest achievement gaps for students. Previously, all Jamestown schools were on the focus school district list. We look forward to a day when we can celebrate similar news for the rest of the district’s schools.

Thumbs down to another blow to the Carriage House facility in Dunkirk on Talcott Street. It had appeared county officials had filled the facility with another food manufacturing company headed by former members of the Petri Baking management team. The new development would have brought between 250 and 300 jobs to Dunkirk – roughly half the number employed by Carriage House, but a nice addition nonetheless. County Executive Vince Horrigan recently told The Dunkirk Observer that the deal had fallen through. It is bad news that the company was unable to open. We hope Horrigan and Kevin Sanvidge, county IDA director, are able to find a replacement quickly.

Thumbs up to Andrea Swiderski, a Jamestown High School senior who has received a four-year QuestBridge National College Match Scholarship and been admitted to Colby College. Swiderski told The Post-Journal the scholarship totals $263,000 over the next four years and will take care of the expenses of room and board, tuition and more. “I have worked hard since I was in elementary school (at academics),” Swiderski said. “I knew if I wanted to go to college, I would have to find the funds for it myself.” Swiderski said she plans on pursuing a degree in psychology with a concentration in neuroscience and a minor in music. It’s heartening to see hard work in the classroom pay off for dedicated students like Andrea.

Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

Ten years ago, Angelo and Ylsa Guiffre hosted Come Fly With Me, a series of benefit performances for the James Prendergast Library. Thumbs up to history repeating itself in 2016. With the library again facing financial difficulties, Guiffre is offering his talents and theater to help the library again. The James Prendergast Library has $12 pre-sale tickets available for “Last Orders,” a series of four, one-act thrillers that will be performed as a full-length production at Studio Metro in the InSpire Development Center at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 18-19 and March 25-26. Tickets for $12 pre-sale or $15 the day of each performance can be purchased in person at the library, online at www.in-spire.us or by calling 450-7357. Come Fly With Me was a success both on the stage and as a fundraiser. We’re sure Last Orders will be just as successful.

First responders risked life and limb rescuing two Pennsylvania fishermen who thought ice fishing was a good idea on a day when temperatures hovered in the upper 60s. Thumbs down to those whose lack of common sense make such rescues necessary. It is situations like these that make public safety officials wary of anyone venturing out onto Chautauqua Lake during a good winter, much less a winter with repeated warm stretches.

Thumbs up to Jamestown Board of Public Utilities’ energy efficiency programs that have saved customers more than $1.2 million over their history. BPU energy-efficiency program first started in 2008 with the Energy Star program, which has given out more than 18,000 rebates in seven years. BPU officials have also started five other energy-efficiency programs like the lighting and motor rebates for commercial and industrial customers; home energy audits and weatherization rebates for residential customers; a residential attic insulation program; weatherization for commercial and industrial customers; and a customized incentive program for commercial and industrial customers. Through the energy-efficiency programs, the BPU has 14 million kilowatt hours and reduced demand by 2.6 megawatts. That’s good news for customers.

Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

Boating enthusiasts know the name Chris Craft. They may not know that, for a short time in the 1940s, the iconic boats were made right here in Chautauqua County. Thumbs up, then, to an effort to learn more about the Chris Craft plant in Falconer. Volunteers with the Lawson Family Boating Heritage Museum is asking the public for help finding photographs of the plant or of individuals that worked at the facility, names of individuals that worked at the Chris Craft plant, pay stubs, newspaper articles, tools, jigs or fixtures. The Lawson Center is also seeking any individuals who may have worked at the Chris Craft plant and would like to be interviewed on video. For further information, contact Craig Butler at 982-7480 or Fletcher Ward at 386-7977.

Thumbs down to the final chapter in an embarrassing incident. Recently, Chautauqua County legislators approved two $75,000 settlements to former inmates in the Chautauqua County Jail who had sexual contact with a jail employee. The officer, Jeffrey Swan, resigned after a 20-year career with the Sheriff’s Department. The incident was bad enough. The fact that county taxpayers now have to pay for Swan’s misdeeds rubs salt in the wound. The best thing that can be said is that the whole sordid affair is now, indeed, over.

Thumbs up to members of the Brad Anderson Recognition Committee for their dogged – pun intended – pursuit of funding to create a monument to Anderson and his comic strip creation, Marmaduke. The committee exceeded its $30,000 Kickstarter.com fundraiser goal and is examining other fundraising options. The all-volunteer group has been working since 2012 to get the statue in place in order to honor the noted syndicated cartoonist. Committee members should be congratulated not only for meeting their goal, but for so freely giving of their time. It is amazing to think what volunteers in our area accomplish every year.