Niagara Gazette

May 20, 2013

CITY DESK: Buffalo bears, oh my!

By Mark Scheer
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — It’s bad enough those “secretive” Buffalo interests are always trying to co-op our city and our good name with all their grant money and what not. 

Now it appears the evil infiltrators are attempting to rub it in the collective face of Niagara Falls through more diabolical means: Polar bears.

Last week, the Buffalo Zoo wel-comed its second polar bear cub, an orphan named Kali who arrived from Alaska via UPS flight. The 65-pound ball of white fur is now being paired with the zoo’s other celebrity cub, Luna, a female who, since her arrival in November, has grown into the zoo’s No. 1 attraction and a Western New York media darling. 

Once again, this puts Buffalo at a distinct advantage. 

If it isn’t obvious already, these are not your ordinary, average bears.

Although they will one day grow to be man eaters, in their current state, little Kali and Luna are practically the embodiment of “adorable.” 

Try it in your house sometime. Flip on the television news, wait for the obligatory video of one of the cubs in play and watch as family members scurry to get their daily glimpse, er, fix. 

Everyone will be glued to the set, “oohing” and “aahing” as they say things like “how cute.” 

Baby polar bears. Why didn’t we think of this before? 

Those two cubs are more than unique zoo guests, they are bonafide money makers, surefire cash cows, fundraisers in a class all their own. 

Luna’s been packing them in at the zoo since her arrival, helping draw in the type of big dollars needed to build a proposed new entrance and Arctic exhibit that is expected to cost $18 million. 

By last count, the zoo, thanks in part to Luna, has raised roughly $15 million of the needed funds.

And now here comes Kali, another eye-catching little fuzzball that dominated newscasts and front pages last Thursday, even garnering a story about her arrival on the Associated Press wire.  

Dare I say it, these two little cubs have done more for regional exposure, community pride and commerce in the last few months than most officials elected or appointed in recent years. 

Forget the suits. Let’s get more bears. 

It’s a shame, really, that Buffalo is getting all the bear benefits while Niagara Falls has no Kali to call its own, no Luna to love. 

Darn that Buffalo, always robbing our brand and stealing the best ideas. 

As Kali or Luna might say, “GRRRR!”

Award winner

The announcement slipped under the radar for a few weeks, but it bears (pardon the pun) noting that the Empire State Development Corp. earlier this year bestowed one of its top honors on Chris Schoepflin, president of the state-run USA Niagara Development Corp. in downtown Niagara Falls. 

Schoepflin received the agency’s Outstanding Personal Service Award for 2012. ESD President, CEO and Commissioner Kenneth Adams presented Schoepflin with the award during a ceremony in February at the ESD Western New York Regional Office. Schoepflin, a Falls native, was selected out of 440 employees across the state.

The Douglas B. Schelleng Outstanding Personal Service Award is presented once each year to an employee in the agency who: consistently performs at a high level; works well with and is well respected by colleagues;  exhibits personal integrity and honesty; contributes to personal and team accomplishments and has a positive attitude that improves everyone’s work environment. 

“This award is the pinnacle of awards for the ESD Recognition Committee and we believe it truly exemplifies exceptional individual accomplishment within our agency,” Adams said in a statement accompanying the award announcement. “As our Outstanding Personal Service award recipient, Christopher has demonstrated tremendous professionalism and dedication to the ESD mission and provided a long-lasting impact on his community and throughout the region.” 

Feeling Better

Long-time Niagara Street Business Association advocate Ron Anderluh attended last week’s city council meeting and offered a few words of thanks to all those who offered him support and help while he was dealing with a recent health concern.

Anderluh was especially appreciative to the staff at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center and all of the well wishers who sent him kind thoughts and words while he was in the hospital.

A regular at council sessions, Anderluh said he’s feeling better and looking forward to attending more meetings in the future. 

“I just wanted to thank everybody for that and it’s good to see everybody again,” Anderluh said. 

Contact City Editor Mark Scheer at 282-2311, ext. 2250.