CHEER: This year, there are actual contests for school board seats in every local district. How great is that? We think it’s pretty great, not because we enjoy seeing people pitted in contest, but because we see competition as a sign of heightened public interest in local affairs, and that’s always a good thing. Election of school trustees takes place alongside the annual public vote on school district budgets, and in some districts there are ballot measures concerning the feeding or spending of capital reserve funds, that is, tax dollars raised previously and not spent, to improve facilities and/or equipment. Information about the candidates, the budgets and additional ballot measures has been published in this newspaper and it’s all readily available on your district’s website, too. In the May 17 square on your calendar, write “school vote,” then do the light homework that’s required to make informed choices, and then on Tuesday go out and do your civic duty.

CHEER: Double Up Food Bucks NY will be back this summer, doubling SNAP-eligible purchases $1 for $1, up to $20 per day, at farmers markets in Lockport, Niagara Falls and North Tonawanda. Operated by the Field & Fork Network, Double Up funding directly affects local farmers, small businesses and our economy while making fresh produce more accessible. Organizers say the program has been very popular over the past two years. Why wouldn’t it be? With the state of the economy these days, we’re sure there are a lot of folks out there happy to see Double Up return.

CHEER: Thanks to the Primate Sanctuary in Niagara Falls, students in Niagara County Community College’s animal management program are receiving a pretty unique learning opportunity. And they aren’t the only ones benefiting. Carmen Presti, owner of the sanctuary, said the primates love having the interns work with them. “… I watch my animals light up,” Presti said, noting the primates recognize the interns’ cars on the street and get excited. After 33 years of caring for primates, Presti said he was more than happy to give students an opportunity to learn the upkeep skills needed for animal care. It's a great opportunity for NCCC students.

JEER: The City of Lockport recently learned that its Request For Proposals to design and build a concrete skatepark isn’t in keeping with state General Municipal Law, and so the sole response it received, from Seattle-based Grindline Skate Parks Inc., won’t be acted on. The city’s education came courtesy of an unnamed complaining contractor and the Associated General Contractors of NYS, which pointed out the state requires municipalities to make “complete plans and specs” available to potential bidders for construction work. Hence, design and construction of public works must be two separate jobs, which almost invariably means a costlier — and/or in this case lesser — end product. The shame of it is, most of the $550,000 raised for skatepark design and construction came from private sector donations. One hopes the contractors who pointed out the pertinent section of GML were motivated by desire to help the city stay within the law, and not just hunger for a piece of the pie. Either way, it’s a very disappointing setback for the Rail Yard.

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