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Commentary: To Stay or Not To Stay

By Christina Abt

Buffalo, NY – I've always loved living in Western New York.

Never did I realize that fact more fully then in 1974 when I moved away from the area for five years and nomadically took up residence in the various suburbs of New York City, Toronto, Ontario and Vancouver, British Columbia.

During that time, the most valued life lesson I learned was that I loved my hometown not only for its Bocce Pizza, chicken wing, and beef on weck, epicurean delights, but more fundamentally, for the people who provide Buffalo and suburbs with their collectively distinct personality.

In comparing Western New York Citizens with residents in the three major metropolitan areas in which I lived, I came to the inescapable conclusion that Buffalo is well deserving of its title "City of Good Neighbors." Further, I also realized that Western New York was far and away my community of choice when it came to raising my children and enjoying the rest of my life. And so in 1979, my family and I came home.

Since returning, I've never regretted my decision, despite this region's economic downturns, the mass exodus of citizenry (including my own family members), the lack of cohesive strategic development and urban planning, and the ever increasing rate of taxes. Nope. Not one of those negative elements ever changed my thoughts about this area's wonderful quality of life.

That is until a nuisance called a red budget/green budget cast it's pall over our Western New York Community, and for the first time I found myself uttering words to my husband that I never imagined, "Maybe it's time we start thinking about moving."

Ironically, the singular factor that has most strongly changed my outlook about living in Western New York is the same thing that brought me back to this area. The people. Since the red/green budget disaster began back in November, the aggregate personality of citizens in this community has become increasingly accusatory, angry, and generally distrusting. It is a situation that is personally painful to witness and truly disorienting to my sense of place. It is also injurious to the community values with which I was raised, to the point that the once unthinkable possibility of moving away has become possible.

The subject of relocation is one that my husband and I were considering while on our way to a recent community fundraiser for one of his fellow police officers. The particular policeman serves as a K-9 law enforcer. This spring a cruel and thoughtless driver ran over the officer's canine partner, leaving the dog by the side of the road to die. Touched by the tragedy, fellow policemen and women organized a fundraiser to help their contemporary cover the expensive cost of replacing his lost dog.

The event was filled with food, drink and the usual array of Chinese auction baskets, 50/50 drawings and door prizes. Yet there was something else in evidence at this fundraiser.

There was a DJ donating his time to spin records and toss out entertaining trivia questions. There was a veteran clown freely creating balloon animals and generally wreaking silly havoc throughout the night. There was a collection of volunteer men and women in the kitchen cheerfully turning out endless platters of beef on weck. There was a hall full of men, women and teens generously sharing their hard earned and well-taxed dollars for no other reason than to help another member of their community.

And for me, there was a renewed hope that the possibility of moving away from the people and the community that I've known and loved all of my life will remain just that, and nothing more.

"Heart and Soul" with Commentator Christina Abt is a monthly feature of WBFO News.