December 31, 2007

Can Dyster Save Niagara Falls?

With his swearing in as Mayor of Niagara Falls this Tuesday, Paul Dyster becomes the successor to what has been a slew of one-term mayors. We do have high hopes for Dyster, despite questioning some of his initial appointments. For the most part, he has said the right things, and his willingness to enact a nationwide search for many key positions within his administration does show a willingness to think and act outside the box.

Dyster won with a staggering 80% of the vote in November. Now its time to show what he can do. The question is, what can he do? Can Paul Dyster turn Niagara Falls around? The city has been decimated by political and economic decisions that were made long before Paul Dyster came along. Even before Vince Anello, Jake Palillo, Jim Galie and Irene Elia sat in the mayor's seat.

So what will Paul Dyster be able to do that a long line of predecessors were unable to do? Yes, there are good things happening in Niagara Falls. The opening of the new Conference Center Niagara Falls in 2005; the redevelopment of the United Office Building, the new Theater in the Mist; the redevelopment of the former Holiday Inn Select as a new Crowne Plaza Resort with several restaurants including the city's first Starbucks Coffee; and other attractions such as the Niagara Aerospace Museum and the planned Niagara Experience Center; and of course, the Seneca Niagara Casino.

But what about the socio-economic woes of the city? Is opening a Starbucks going to address the staggering illiteracy rates that plague Niagara Falls? And as we've seen, a casino is hardly a panacea for the neighborhood around the Seneca Niagara Casino. Is revamping the Holiday Inn Select going to stem the tide of the massive amounts of drugs that are trafficking through this city every day?

As I've said before, I love the Falls. Obviously, since it draws 14 million people a year, I'm not alone. But what is it going to take to turn this world-class destination around? Another casino/hotel, this one 52 stories? That's not the answer. Buffalo Ave is a wasteland. From the 190 exit right into the city, the entire strip needs to be demolished. But who's going to do it? Is it the responsibility of our government to make this investment? Will anyone from the private sector ever make that type of commitment, knowing the return on investment is possibly non-existent?

Maybe this is alot to lay on Dyster, considering he hasn't even taken office yet. But we, as did 80% of the voting public in November, have high expectations of Dyster. Of course, we also had high expectations of Anello, Elia, Palillo and Galie. We can only hope that Dyster can differentiate himself from his predecessors, and return Niagara Falls to the glory days of years gone by - if that's possible.

December 30, 2007

Hiding Black Interracial Crimes

A very interesting piece I came across. Although not specific to our area, there was a high profile case in Lockport a year or two ago that would apply to Dr. Williams' thoughts on the issue. Dr. Williams is African American.

Hiding Black Interracial Crimes
By Walter E. Williams

If you’re like I am, you’ve heard scores of media reports about the 2006 Duke University rape case, in which three white lacrosse players were falsely accused of raping a black stripper at a wild party at the home of one of the team members. These guys, convicted by the news media and Duke faculty, were later found innocent. It turned out that Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong was running for re-election. In seeking the black vote, he concealed DNA evidence that would have exonerated the lacrosse players.

You might remember hearing scores of stories about the 1998 murder of James Byrd, a black man who was stripped, chained to a pickup truck and dragged through the streets until he was decapitated in Jasper, Texas. The incident provided fodder for the NAACP and others to attack then-Texas Gov. George Bush, during his 2000 election campaign, for not supporting hate crime legislation. It turned out that two of Byrd’s murderers were sentenced to death, and the other, life in prison.

I don’t know about you, but it was just recently that I heard about a gruesome murder in Knoxville, Tenn., that is far worse than the false charges in the Duke rape case and is at least as horrible, if not more so, than the dragging death of James Byrd. Unlike the Duke rape case and the Jasper lynching, the national news media’s coverage of the interracial Knoxville murders paled in comparison. On Jan. 6, 2007, University of Tennessee student Channon Christian and her boyfriend, Christopher Newsom, were carjacked and kidnapped in Knoxville. Both of them were later murdered.

According to a 46-count indictment, suspects Darnell Cobbins, Lemaricus Davidson, George Thomas and Vanessa Coleman, all blacks, are charged with committing rape, including sodomy against Christian and Newsom, both of whom are white. After being raped, Newsom was shot several times and his body was found burned along nearby railroad tracks. Christian was forced to witness her boyfriend’s rape, torture and subsequent murder before she was ultimately raped, tortured and murdered. The police discovered her body inside a large trash can in the kitchen of the home where the murders took place. Before disposing of her body, the murderers poured bleach or some other cleaning agent down her throat in an effort to destroy DNA evidence. Trial dates have been set for next May.

What have we heard from the NAACP, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and others who rushed to judgment and outrage as they condemned whites in the cases of the “Jena 6″ and Don Imus when he referred to the Rutgers ladies basketball team as “nappy-headed ho’s”? Where were the national news media and public officials? You can bet the rent money that were the victims black and the perpetrators white, Knoxville would have been inundated with TV crews, with Jackson, Sharpton and other civil rights spokesmen and politicians from both parties condemning racism, possibly blaming it all on George Bush.

According to the 2004 FBI National Crime Victimization Survey, in most instances of interracial crimes, the victim is white and the perpetrator is black. In the case of interracial murder for 2004, where the race of victim and perpetrator is known, more than twice as many whites were murdered by a black than cases of a white murdering a black. The failure of civil rights leaders, people like Jackson and Sharpton, as well as politicians to vocally condemn black-on-white crime — and the relative silence of the news media in reporting it — is not simply a matter of double standards. It’s dangerous, for it contributes to a pile of racial kindling awaiting a racial arsonist to set it ablaze. I can’t think of better recruitment gifts for America’s racists, either white or black.

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of More Liberty Means Less Government: Our Founders Knew This Well

December 28, 2007

Sweeney Files Complaint

Although the race for Somerset Supervisor is over, things continue to remain interesting in this section of Niagara County. Niagara Times has learned that former Somerset Supervisor John Sweeney has filed a formal complaint with the U.S. Postal Service against an employee of the Barker post office.

From what we have learned, Sweeney is alleging that the long time employee of the post office intentionally withheld Sweeney's political mail days before the election in an attempt to inhibit the mail's timely delivery at election time. Sweeney apparently believes that this action by the postal employee cost him the election.

Sweeney, as you may recall, lost his bid for Somerset Supervisor to incumbent Rich Meyers in a very tightly contested race. The outcome came down to a count of absentee ballots which ultimately gave Meyers a 10 vote victory over Sweeney.

This will certainly be interesting to follow. We'll keep you posted as more details emerge.

What To Watch In '08

As we leave 2007 and head into 2008, we thought we'd take a look at some of the local political races in our area.

Our state and federal representatives will be the focus of the 2008 elections, with State Senators George Maziarz and Antoine Thompson as well as Assemblymen Mike Cole, Robin Schimminger, Steve Hawley and Jim Hayes, as well as Assemblywoman Francine Del Monte all most likely seeking re-election. Congressman Tom Reynolds has also been busy on the campaign trail and raising funds for another term. Louise Slaughter also appears poised to seek two more years.

A burning question in local political circles surrounds Assemblyman Mike Cole. Cole, who was embroiled in an intern scandal last year, may face opposition from within his own party in '08. Certain GOP operatives believe that when Niagara County stood down in '06 to support Cole, Cole blew the opportunity.

Lockport Mayor Mike Tucker would be the likely choice to challenge Cole for the Assembly seat. Interestingly, sources have confirmed with Niagara Times that Assemblywoman Crystal People's camp has reached out to Lockport Third Ward Alderwoman Flora McKenzie to explore an Assembly bid against Cole. This will certainly be one to watch in 2008.

In 2008 we will be voting for a new President. Switching New York's Primary Election date to February 5th certainly puts New York in play in '08.

Although there we be few local elections in 2008, it certainly doesn't appear to be shaping up as a dull political year.

December 27, 2007

O'Connor Saves Benefit - And Seat

As we alluded to in Monday's post, it appears Niagara County Legislator Sean O'Connor has found a loophole in a resolution that would have required any legislator with at least 20 years in office to pay 50% of his health insurance, while still retaining his seat in the Leg.

Unfortunately for both sides of the aisle, this issue has become quite a political hot potato. The Dems are contending that the resolution was designed to force O'Connor out of office, while the Reps state that the resolution will affect no less then eight members of their own caucus should they reach 20 years of service.

What's somewhat disconcerting is the amount of time and effort O'Connor has put into preserving his benefits. Over the past few years that we have followed the Leg, we've never seen any substantive activity from O'Connor. Rarely a resolution, or a proclamation or even some words on the floor of the Leg. Now, from what we have learned, he sent out press releases to GNN, the Buffalo News, as well as channels 2, 4 & 7 protesting his loss of benefits.

What is somewhat less clear is O'Connor's intent. Does he believe that by having this issue broadcast on the news that he will get public sympathy for his cause? Does he think that someone will start a fund to help him get through these difficult times, like when someone is struck with an illness so friends and family put together a fundraiser to help out?

Reading Tom Prohaska's Buffalo News story this morning, O'Connor just may get some contributions. Prohaska goes on about O'Connor finding a loophole and how he'll save $6,000 a year. But nowhere, and this is a fascinating omission, does Prohaska state that the health insurance loophole that O'Connor has found will cost the taxpayers $12,000 this year. Yes, he states that it will cost $12,000 a year, but never reinforces the fact we will foot that bill. Add another 15% or so per year for the rest of O'Connor's life to come up with the total cost.

That being said, this is not an indictment of Sean O'Connor. If I were in his position, I would be doing the same thing. Having served for 22 years, most of those years with the promise of lifetime benefits, O'Connor should fight for them. This is an indictment of the benefit itself. Lifetime health insurance is a benefit that should not be offered to any elected official. I wonder how many other elected or appointed officials across Niagara County enjoy the same benefit.

The Reps also have handled this issue poorly. While there are some who may legitimately be motivated by the fact that elimination of lifetime health will save the taxpayers millions of dollars, others may be motivated by politics.

Chairman-elect Bill Ross, when asked by WGRZ's Kristin Donnelly "Was this resolution politically motivated to get him out of office, or was it to save money?", responded with "I think as I said, it's a double-edged sword, it had a little of both." That's a pretty stunning admission by Ross.

Normally when we hear that an action is politically motivated, we have a tendency to automatically condemn it. But the the $64,000 question is this: Is politically motivated action acceptable when it leads to taxpayers saving money? Maybe more relevant, does it take political motivation to save the taxpayers money?

Personally, I don't care what it takes to reduce my taxes. Close Mt. View, cut services, reduce personnel, privatize any county service that can be privatized, whatever can be done. And if one part-time Legislator losing a $500,000 benefit keeps a half a million in the pockets of the taxpayers, so be it - politically motivated or not.

December 26, 2007

PIO

Last week the Niagara County Legislature approved the hiring of a Public Information Officer (PIO) in its 2008 budget.

Following this move, the Greater Niagara Newspaper slammed the Legislature for the hire, stating that "Public information officers are the ones who would deal with the media and shield the real decision-makers — you know, the ones you voted into office and pay their salary — from any questions". Really? So once this PIO is in place, we should not expect any more quotes or comments from any Legislator because they've been "shielded"?

Realistically, the position of GNN is not unexpected. They do nothing but focus on the negative of this community, not only in politics, but in general. So, despite a county budget that reduces taxes in '08, the only editorializing we see from GNN is on the PIO position. Pathetic, but predictable. Although practically every organization in the world has some form of PR person, the Niagara County Legislature is hiring one because they want to "shield" themselves from whomever GNN thinks they need to shield themselves from.

Also predictable was the response of Legislator Dennis Virtuoso on Scott Leffler's Dialog show. Scott asked Virtuoso who may be in the running for the new position. After stating that a member of the media had been asked by the Majority Caucus to serve as the PIO, again, Virtuoso stated that a member of the press told him that he was asked by the Leg to serve in this new position, Virtuoso went on to say "I think they're looking for someone more political, I think this is going to be like a full-time campaign manager". HUH? You just stated that the Majority Caucus asked a member of the press to serve as the PIO, but they're looking to hire someone political in the same breath? Are you complete idiot? And where is Leffler to pick up this huge contradiction?

If the Majority was looking to fill the position with some political hack, would they have asked Tom Prohaska of the Buffalo News to be the PIO? Would they have asked Mark Scheer to be the PIO? Of course not. Even knowing this, it didn't stop Virtuoso. He went on to say "I wouldn't be surprised if the person they hire is doing political work on the side". Scott's response? "Wonderful, nice to hear".

Just let Virtuoso throw out anything he wants, Scott will suck it up without any thought whatsoever. And don't worry about the reputations of Prohaska or Scheer, stating that they'd be nothing but political hacks I'm sure doesn't bother them in the least.

In case you missed it, Scheer confirmed in his December 22nd article that he was in fact asked by a member of the Leg to serve as the PIO, stating that "the legislator suggested I might be a good fit for the job, considering my background and all the contacts I have developed in the community over the years". Right, that sounds like they're looking to fill the position with some political hack. Good call, Dennis.

What is somewhat disconcerting is Scheer's response to being asked if he'd consider the position. Scheer went on to state that "In fact, as I told the lawmaker in question, I couldn’t imagine a day when I’d ever switch sides, so to speak".

If that does not crystallize the relationship between GNN and the Leg, I don't know what does. It shows the pure disdain that GNN has. Why do there have to be "sides"? Nevermind, I just answered my own question.

December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

The Supreme Court has ruled that they cannot have a nativity scene in Washington, D.C. This wasn't for any religious reasons. They couldn't find three wise men and a virgin. ~ Jay Leno

Merry Christmas to all!!!

December 24, 2007

Breaking News - O'Connor Resigns From County Leg

Niagara Times has learned that Niagara County Legislator Sean O'Connor (D-Niagara Falls) submitted his letter of resignation to Legislature Chairman Clyde Burmaster on Friday. Speculation had been running rampant that O'Connor would run for the 5th District seat, then vacate the position prior to his swearing in because of the resolution the Legislature passed earlier in the year that would have required all Legislators, including O'Connor, to pay 50% of their lifetime health insurance premiums.

Legislator Kimble tried unsuccessfully to reinstate lifetime health insurance benefits, at 100% taxpayer expense, for Legislators at the last meeting.

What has fueled further speculation of O'Connor's intent is the wording of his resignation letter. Apparently he stated that he is resigning from his "current term". Some believe that with the use of the wording "current term", O'Connor may have found a legal loophole in the resolution that may allow him to come back and be sworn in in January, while retaining the full lifetime health insurance benefit.

This situation may get more interesting very soon. Either way, we wish O'Connor the best and thank him for his years of service to the community.

December 21, 2007

Dyster Showing It's Same Old Niagara Falls

Mayor-elect Paul Dyster has vowed to fill his administration with the best and brightest he can find. Well, turns out the first position he has filled is with local retread Dave Kinney:

(From the Buffalo News: Dyster also announced he plans to appoint David L. Kinney, a former Niagara County parks commissioner, as director of public works. Kinney also has worked as a deputy director of parks and public works in the city and as a supervisor and manager at Carborundum Co.)

Kinney is part of the Restiano/Granieri machine and most recently was a failed candidate against Rebecca Cuddahee for County Legislator a few years back. His government positions were pure patronage hires. Amazing that the best and brightest that Dyster can find are old Falls political operatives.

December 20, 2007

Grocery Store Coming To The City?

Sources have told Niagara Times that City of Lockport Mayor Mike Tucker is in serious negotiations to bring a grocery store back to the city. From what we have learned, the business is a well-established company with strong local ties.

Nearly 10 years ago, Jubilee pulled out of the city, leaving Lockport without a grocery store. Although the current potential grocer had expressed an interest in the former Jubilee building, sources have told us that the $800,000 asking price Benderson Development is seeking is much more than the prospective owners are willing to pay.

The lack of a grocery store downtown has created a hardship for many in the community that are unable to drive or simply cannot get to Tops or Quality. Let's hope Tucker can close the deal on a grocery store for the people of the area.

December 19, 2007

2008 County Budget

The Niagara County Legislature has adopted its 2008 budget which on the surface seems like a fairly successful attempt to keep costs down while maintaining services. The countywide average tax rate will be $8.71 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, which is 2 cents lower than this year’s rate. The spending total is $302 million, which is $8.5 million less than this year’s budget.

What caught my eye is the county tax rate per thousand. While some in the community believe that the tax levy is the most critical component of the budget, those who understand government know that the tax rate truly drives what we as property owners pay, not the levy (which incidentally went down $5.6 million).

To once again attempt to clarify the difference, if a company comes into Niagara County and opens a business that is assessed at $50 million, the taxes which are derived from that company increase the tax levy by the appropriate amount. Because the tax levy has gone up, that does not mean that the amount we as homeowners pay will go up. What matters is the tax rate.

In Niagara County, the tax rate has gone down. For me, as a Town of Lockport resident, my tax rate is going down almost 4.5%.

But as alluded to before, the tax rate is what we need to focus on. If you live in the City of Lockport, your combined tax rate is over $50 per thousand. The county portion is $8.69 per thousand. If you live in the City of Lockport, approximately 15% of your combined taxes are county taxes. But you still have idiots in the local print media, radio and cable who believe that the county portion of our tax bills is the problem.

As a Town of Lockport resident, I'm ecstatic with the outcome of the 2008 budget. Could more have been done? Sure, but I'll take a tax reduction every time. In fact, I don't need a reduction, just hold the line. To the Leg, the County Manager and the department heads, thank you for doing your part to reduce my taxes. Maybe the school districts will take heed.

County tax rate per thousand by municipality are as follows:

Cambria, $7.83, down 34 cents; Hartland, $7.81, down 34 cents; Lewiston, $8.70, down 18 cents; City of Lockport, $8.69, up 1 cent; Town of Lockport, $7.83, down 34 cents; Newfane, $7.84, down 31 cents.

Niagara Falls, $8.43, up 25 cents; Town of Niagara, $12.70, up $1.42; North Tonawanda, $8.50, up 25 cents; Pendleton, $7.80, down 34 cents; Porter, $7.81, down 34 cents; Royalton, $9.34, up 56 cents; Somerset, $9.81, up 37 cents; Wheatfield, $10.60, up 11 cents; Wilson, $8.41, up 25 cents.

December 18, 2007

Change

A few readers have inquired about the name change under which posts are listed, which is Hobbes. Thomas Hobbes was a political philosopher, and someone I've studied and admired for years. He is the founding father of modern political philosophy. Directly or indirectly, he has set the terms of debate about the fundamentals of political life right into our own times.

Judge Restaino

I must admit, I don't know Niagara Falls City Court Judge Robert Restaino. To date, we've refrained from passing judgement on the man accused of "an egregious and unprecedented abuse of judicial power" by the state Commission on Judicial Conduct (CJC).

Restaino, you may recall, put 46 defendants behind bars after no one would take responsibility for a ringing cell phone in his courtroom. This action has lead to Restaino being placed on paid suspension while the New York Court of Appeals reviews the decision by the CJC that ordered the judge permanently removed from the bench.

I'm sure there are two sides to this story. One would assume that there are signs outside the courtroom directing those who enter to turn off all cell phones. They are a distraction and an annoyance at times. But, someone could have simply forgotten to turn his or her phone off. It happens. It doesn't excuse the infraction, but, it's not life and death.

What I'd like to know is who was the coward who wouldn't take responsibility for the phone when Restaino asked whose phone it was. And since you are responsible for dozens of other people going to jail and for the likely removal from the bench of one well-respected judge, how the hell do you sleep at night?

The Niagara Falls City Council has shown their support for Restaino. They voted unanimously to authorize city attorneys to file a brief with the state Court of Appeals in support of Restaino.

Niagara Falls activist Ken Hamilton stated that he believes the decision was unfair to Niagara Falls voters. Really? What about the nearly four dozen people who were jailed in Restaino's temporary lapse in judgement, most of whom are likely from the Falls? Was it unfair to them to be fingerprinted, locked up and forced to post bail with no due process whatsoever?

Whatever the outcome, I do wish Restaino the best. From what I've heard, he is a fair judge with a strong history in the community. Removal from the bench is too harsh of a punishment for one momentary lapse for someone with his track record. Let's hope he's learned his lesson and gets a second chance-we all deserve one.

December 17, 2007

Pigs at the Trough

I would be willing to listen to an argument that county legislators are underpaid. They make, what $15K a year for a job that comes with a lot of responsibility and a lot more grief. So maybe, just maybe, I'd listen to bumping the salary a bit.

But don't try to tell me that they deserve lifetime health benefits paid for by my tax dollars, long after they have left office, if they serve for 20 years. Yet Renae Kimble has submitted a resolution to do just that. What an outrage.

The legislature made a bold move to end this practice in a vote earlier this year...let's see if they have the gumption to stick with it. I know some of the geezers are clamoring to restore this benny, but the young legislators are loathe to face voters again with this on their voting record.

So, to all my fellow taxpayers, get out your scorecard and let's keep track of who is a pig at the trough when this vote to give legislators lifetime health benefits comes up soon. Democrat or Republican, let's vow that whomever votes for this does not get our vote when election day comes around.

December 15, 2007

Show Him The Money!!!

This is freshman New York State Senator Eric Adams (D-Brooklyn) giving an animated dissertation on why he needs a pay raise.

Adams told his colleagues that he didn’t understand how some of them are getting by on the base salary of $79,500 a year, saying on that wage “you qualify for public assistance.”

December 14, 2007

Massage Parlor Redux: Let's Be Fair

I have to admit I laughed a little when it was reported in GNN that the Niagara County Democrat Committee took a $1,000 donation from those accused of using massage parlors as a front for a prostitution ring. Actually, I thought Rivera's explanation was right on point: you can't vet everyone who sends a campaign committee money and if you find out that it's tainted you send it back.

Now, Rivera said the Dems don't have the cash to send back and we can debate the merits of that, but to somehow imply that the politicos did something wrong here is absurd. I thought the story was done.

But now there is today's Buffalo News. The article discusses a letter written by Assemblyman Schimminger to help the massage parlor expand in the Falls, it talks about real estate brokers, talks again about Rivera...and I ask, what is the story? Where is the news?

A massage parlor ring was a front. The culprits have been arrested and will be brought to justice. To try to start implying that people like Schimminger and Rivera should have known illegal activity was going on or should have been more diligent is patently absurd.

Unless you can show they somehow knew they were helping a shady operation...and there's zero proof of that...then this is simply some "gotcha journalism" that hurt the reputations of people who really had no role.

December 13, 2007

I'm a Little Confused

For a long time now we have been hearing about how tourism is going to drive the economy across all of Niagara County. Much has been invested along the canal specifically to bring people to communities like North Tonawanda.

So I don't get while Mayor Soos doesn't care that the concert series is leaving N.T. for Lockport and I don't get why he thinks several thousand people coming to the canal every week in the summer is a bad thing. Sure, you need to deal with security issues with a group that big, but hey, that goes with the territory. It would seem to be that Mayor Tucker in Lockport has scored a major coup here.

Canal Concert Series to dock in Lockport
By Aaron Besecker - NEWS NIAGARA BUREAU

A popular, free summer concert series will leave North Tonawanda for Lockport next year, organizers plan to announce Thursday.

Lockport Mayor Michael W. Tucker said an announcement is planned for 1 p.m. in the Ulrich City Centre in Lockport.

The Canal Concert Series, which has jammed Gateway Park for eight Saturday nights each summer since 2001, has featured national acts and drawn as many as 15,000 concertgoers for a single event.

The entire Buffalo News story can be read at http://www.buffalonews.com/cityregion/niagaracounty/story/227250.html

December 12, 2007

Massage Parlor Busts

I can't help getting a little bit of a chuckle about the meganews that the shutting down of four massage parlors has become. One has to imagine that there are some people who are going to do everything within their power to squash the release of the businesses clientele lists.

Considering that the list allegedly includes a judge, a sheriff's deputy and police captain, one has to wonder if the list will ever become public. The judge apparently would use the Wheatfield location as his location of choice for his "massage".

The regular guys ought to be sweating it out too. Should the list become public and your name appears on it, try explaining that to your wife.

Of course, that may be no consolation to Niagara Falls Mayor Vince Anello and Niagara Falls City Development Corp. Executive Director Ralph Aversa, both of whom attended a ribbon cutting ceremony for the Lotus Spa on 3rd Street in the Falls. Fortunately for them, the $10,000 grant that the business applied for from the city was not approved. I'd love to see that on a brochure touting the businesses that the city has helped cultivate.

The charges levied against the business owners are federal charges and would certainly carry jail time if they are convicted. The outcome for the patrons would seem to be more of a gray area. Whatever the results, we can only hope that this case ends with a happy ending for everyone involved.

December 11, 2007

How Low Can Eliot Go?

Speaking of Gov. Spitzer, we wonder: Just how low can his approval ratings go? Lower than in the new Siena College Research Institute poll? Only 36 percent of New York voters have a favorable opinion of Spitzer, according to the survey; 51 percent have an unfavorable view.

His job-performance rating is even worse: just 27 percent positive, and a stunning 70 percent negative. (Ouch!)

With each passing month, the numbers continue to plummet: The percentage of voters who view Spitzer favorably is down five points from last month, 18 points from the month before and a total of 31 points since May.

You'd think Spitzer would get the message - but there's no sign of that so far.

Voters began souring on the governor soon after Post State Editor Fredric U. Dicker broke news in July of Team Spitzer's Dirty Tricks campaign to smear Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno.

Spitzer could've stopped the bleeding right there - by showing that he wasn't personally involved in the scandal. That would've meant cooperating with authorities probing the affair and, most likely, testifying about it publicly.

Instead, he stonewalled at every turn. His aides fought nearly every request for papers and sworn statements. Spitzer himself has used one excuse after another for not telling his side of the story publicly and under oath.

Just last Friday, he blamed Public Integrity Commission rules for his refusal to disclose any testimony he may give that body. Yet experts say that no law bars his release of a transcript.

Apparently, Spitzer doesn't care that 70 percent of New Yorkers insist that he come clean. (Leaving folks to wonder just what exactly it is that he's hiding.)

Nor are his ratings rebounding despite his decision to scrap his driver's-licenses-for-illegal-aliens idea. That plan cost him big-time in the polls; now that it's history, you'd think the ratings would bounce back - but no such luck.

That they fell yet again suggests that voters are growing ever-angrier with Spitzer's failure to tell the truth about Dirty Tricks. They'll keep falling, too, until that whole sordid affair is unveiled.

Meantime, he'll have no reservoir of public support or good will to draw on as he pushes his political agenda. He faces months, if not years, of paralysis.

Spitzer may be tempted to pander to this group or that to garner support. Never mind the damage that could do New York; it won't even work for him.

Actually, the driver's-license fiasco appears to have been born of just such a temptation; again, it backfired miserably. As will, we suspect, his apparent catering to soft-on-crime liberals by loosening parole restrictions on violent felons. (See above.)

No, there's only one hope for the gov: Tell the truth. Publicly. Under oath.

And Spitzer knows it.

The longer he waits, the worse it'll get.

NY Post

Cry Me A River

Does anyone else think New York judges are being a little whiny here? So their raises are tied up in politics...boo hoo. They knew what the job paid when they took it. They wanted the cushy life of being a judge but now they are DEMANDING more taxpayer money or else they will sue. Glad to see it's about public service. Here's an idea...go back to the private sector where you can earn the big bucks if money is what drives you.

NY's chief judge says she may sue over judicial pay raises
By SAMUEL MAULL - AP

The state's chief judge says she may file a lawsuit next month if state lawmakers end a planned December session without voting to give raises to New York's judges.

Judge Judith Kaye said she expects lawmakers to return to Albany in mid-December. If they fail then to hike New York's judicial salaries, which are the 48th lowest in the nation, the judge said she may sue the state.

"I so don't want to do that," Kaye told The Associated Press. "I've been a lawyer for 45 years, and I know the pluses and minuses of litigation. To me it is a last resort, but I've come just about to the end of my patience."

"If they don't do it now, they'll come back in an election year, and nobody wants to talk about raises in an election year," she added.

The sticking point has been that legislators want a raise, too, their first since 1999. So they tied a raise for judges to a raise for themselves. But that proposal got hung up amid a dispute with Gov. Eliot Spitzer.

Spitzer spokesman Errol Cockfield said, "The state's judges are long overdue for a pay raise. We fully agree they deserve one, and the governor has introduced a bill that does not tie an increase to any other conditions."

At the very least, the judge said, she wants the current average salary of $136,700 raised to $165,200. As chief judge, Kaye earns $156,000 a year. She noted that first-year lawyers in some large Manhattan firms earn more than she does.

Kaye said most law school deans and top assistant district attorneys, people who constitute a pool from which many new judges are expected to be drawn, would have to take a pay cut if they accepted a job on the bench.

"I am ashamed to face colleagues in other states," the judge said in reference to salaries for New York's judges.

Kaye said lawmakers' failure to vote on a pay hike during the past nine years is effectively, given the rate of inflation, a pay cut and an intrusion on judicial independence, and therefore illegal.

It is rare, but not unprecedented, for the state's top judge to sue the state.

December 8, 2007

LCTV and Tom Christy

I cannot even begin to understand how misguided Tom Cristy is. While flipping through the channels this morning, I paused on Legislative Journal while Christy was talking to a caller. The conversation turned to school taxes.

Christy went on a diatribe about Niagara County being the highest taxed county in the country. He stated that when Legislators used to come on, they would focus on the fact that school taxes are by far the biggest portion of the tax burden. Christy then stated that the Legislators must bring a resolution demanding that the school districts do something to address their portion of the tax issue. If the Leg does not bring such a resolution, well, then they "eat it" as he said. In essence, if the Leg doesn't bring a resolution directing the school districts to take responsibility for taxes, then the entire problem is the fault of the County Legislature.

From what I understand, Christy worked for the Democratic Majority of the New York State Assembly for 12 years. He went through the Leadership Niagara program. He is going for his M.B.A. By all accounts, one would think he has a reasonable understanding of how government works. So why would he state that the Niagara County Legislature must DEMAND that school districts take responsibility for their portion of the tax bill? Anyone who follows politics knows that a county legislative body has absolutely no jurisdiction over any school district.

Unfortunately, that didn't stop Christy from giving his opinion as to why he believes that the Leg won't pass such a resolution. Christy stated that the Leg is afraid to pass such a resolution because teachers are in a union. Yes, the Leg, in which the Reps have a 14-5 majority, have weathered the Mt. View storm, and every other union challenge over the past four years, is afraid. Not only that, he stated that teachers give money to candidates, and the Republicans don't dare mess with the massive amount of money that teachers dump into Leg races. Huh?

Can someone be so amazingly dead wrong when it comes to understanding politics? Teachers don't dump money into races in support of Republican candidates. Secondly, teachers don't get involved in Leg races. That's an important point to note and I'll tell you why. Because it absolutely reinforces the point that the Leg has no control over school districts. If they did, if they could give the school districts orders and mandates, you would definitely find the teacher's unions involved in county politics. The fact that they stay out of county politics reinforces the point that the Leg can't touch them.

That doesn't stop Christy. He tells the Leg if you don't tell the schools what to do, you wear it. So which is he, stupid or ignorant?

And, once again, where are the LCTV Board of Directors? Where is Roberta Harper? Where are Jackie Davis and Donna Landers and John Benoit? You are supposed to be the leaders of LOCKPORT Community Television Board of Directors. It's not Erie County TV, it's not Niagara County TV. It's Lockport TV.

I know a few of the people on the LCTV Board. I never thought of this board as a bunch of resume padders, but unfortunately it appears that none of them are willing to address the cancer that has infected their station and my airwaves.

December 7, 2007

Newfane Burglary

The incident in Newfane on Thursday in which three young men allegedly burglarized a home and brandished a gun while fleeing the scene is quite disconcerting. Although Newfane has had its share of issues with rambunctious youth over the years, this is an incident that one would not expect to happen in this sleepy community.

The three men, none of whom are from Newfane, are all facing multiple burglary and weapons charges after being arrested late Thursday morning.

Kudos have to go out to law enforcement officials from Niagara County, the New York State Troopers and the Border Patrol, who lent their helicopter during the search, for their fantastic response to the incident. Without their quick call to action, this confrontation may have come to a much more unpleasant ending.

Although these young men are 19, 18 & 18 years of age, these are not boys being mischievous. They entered the home of a stranger, robbed the home, and flashed a gun while leaving the scene. Let's hope the courts don't treat this as a "kids being kids" incident and sentences them accordingly.

December 6, 2007

Criminal Sentences

A North Tonawanda drug dealer was placed on interim probation for six months. William A. Bacon, 29, had pleaded guilty to attempted fifth-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance.

A man who crashed his truck into a guardrail May 19 avoided jail time Wednesday in Niagara County Court, where he was sentenced on a felony count of driving while intoxicated. Timothy J. Gima, 51, was placed on five years’ probation.

Thomas Stout, 24, of North Tonawanda will be on five years’ probation for driving while intoxicated. He had pleaded guilty to felony DWI.

Wayne C. Gaige, 54, of Mapleton Road, Wheatfield, drew five years’ probation. He had pleaded guilty to two felony counts of driving while intoxicated, settling a case that included three arrests: Dec. 21, 2005, and Jan. 20, 2006, in Wheatfield, and Feb. 17, 2006, in the Town of Niagara.

Todd M. Sanney Jr. of Lockport was placed on five years' probation. He had pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of attempted fifth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.

Frank J. Marino, 32, of Niagara Falls, drew a wide-ranging sentence Thursday in a felony case of driving while intoxicated. He was placed on probation for five years but also ordered to serve 10 weekends in jail and 20 days in the county work program, pay a $1,000 fine and attend mental health court in Niagara Falls. Marino was pulled over Jan. 30 in Niagara Falls. It was Marino’s fourth drunken-driving arrest.

A former Niagara Falls man, connected to a 2003 burglary case by DNA, won’t have to serve any additional time in prison because of it. Robert E. Wall Jr., 39, was sentenced to two to four years in prison for his guilty plea to attempted second-degree burglary but made the time was made concurrent with the seven-year sentence Wall is serving for another 2003 burglary.

A Newfane man who had pleaded guilty to attempted second-degree burglary was placed on five years’ probation. Edmund F. Merchant, 20, of South Main Street, Newfane, broke into a house on Dutton Place in Newfane on March 5.

Jamil T. Marable, 30, of Tennessee Avenue, Niagara Falls, pleaded guilty to attempted third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance for selling cocaine at Fashion Outlets USA in the Town of Niagara on July 21, 2006. The Niagara Falls drug dealer was given five years’ probation.

Peter T. Jackson, 38, formerly of Willow Street, Lockport, was fined $1,000 and sentenced to five years’ probation for his guilty plea to a felony count of driving while intoxicated.

A combination of jail time, probation and $12,470 in restitution was prescribed for a burglar. Tommy M. Pace, 43, of Cleveland Avenue, Niagara Falls, will serve six months in jail to lead off a five-year probation stint. Pace pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of attempted third-degree burglary after stripping copper pipe from homes.

What do all of these sentences have in common? They were all handed down by Niagara County Court Judge Peter Broderick. So what we've learned is that if you drive drunk, including felony DWI, get arrested and appear before Broderick, you're walking out of court.

If you break into some one's home, steal their belongings, get arrested and appear before Broderick, you'll be walking out.

If you deal drugs, get arrested and appear before Peter Broderick, you'll most likely be home the same day. If you crash your car into a guardrail, which could have been a person, you're going home. If you get four DWIs and appear before Broderick, all is well, just head on home.

But they all got probation. The drug dealers, the burglars, the felony DWI offenders, I'm sure none of them will ever commit their crimes again.

Unfortunately, Matt Murphy, as District Attorney, has also shown a propensity to go soft on criminals and cut deals.

Is it any wonder that Niagara County has become the haven for drug trafficking that it is?

Even in Lockport, where Judge Bill Watson was censured for inappropriate conduct related to his campaign promise of putting criminals in jail, it's become a joke. Repeat offenders are regularly brought before Watson and continue to be released without penalty. A man who was once feared on the bench has become a pussycat.

When does it stop? At what point do judges take some responsibility for the crimes that are committed on our streets? At what point to Assistant District Attorneys and Public Defenders stop cutting deals?

The police are doing their jobs. They risk their lives everyday to bring down the scum that plagues our streets, only to have some spineless lawyer who's afraid to actually go into court and try a case undercut his efforts. Cutting a deal is much easier, and it makes the D.A.'s office conviction rate look much better.

But nothing is being done to keep the criminals off the streets. Lawyers and judges need to take some responsibility for the crimes that are committed in this community. Until they do, we'll continue to be a haven for drug dealers and drunk drivers.

December 5, 2007

The Rumor Mill

I'm continuing to hear that Legislator Renae Kimble has an interest in getting her own person, Laura Allen, installed as the next Democrat Board of Elections Commissioner and is going so far as to reach out to Democrats who are part of the Majority Caucus for help in doing so. This would mean that Ms. Kimble would be staging a palace coup and throwing out Nancy Smith who is close with County Dem Boss Dan Rivera.

Here's my "Board of Elections for Dummies" understanding of how this works. Picking a BOE Commissioner starts with the respect parties and their committee members. Assuming that Rivera controls his committee, they would submit the name of current commish Nancy Smith to the Democrats on the Legislature. Normally this would be it...but it doesn't have to be.

Essentially, the Dem Legislators could reject the Committee's recommendation and eventually make their own. This is where Ms. Kimble's ability to line up Dem legislators in the Majority Caucus would be huge.

Let's handicap this. Assume that Dennis Virtuoso, Sean O'Connor and Kyle Andrews stay with Rivera. That's three votes.

Renae goes her way. That's one. Jason Caferalla, the new member of the Minority Caucus, has no love for Dan Rivera, who backed his primary opponent. So that could take Ms. Kimble to 2.

In the Majority caucus, you have Jason Murgia, Danny Sklarski and Andrea McNulty who are all registered Dems. If they lineup with Renae, which is entirely possible because they really don't have a dog in the fight, she wins, Allen is in and Smith is out.

This would be a huge powerplay on Kimble's part and probably re-establish her as one of the top three most powerful elected Democrats in all of Niagara County (with DelMonte and Dyster.) Will she go for it and if so, can she pull it off? It will be interesting to watch.

December 4, 2007

Property Taxes

With the local media repeatedly espousing the statement that we are the highest taxed county and state in the country, when measured as a percentage of home values, I decided to do a little research. Although doing a little homework is apparently over the head of a local newspaper editor and a wannabe MBA student/talk show host, the numbers speak for themselves.

Property taxes -- the principal source of revenue for cities, counties and school districts -- are calculated by multiplying the nominal property-tax rate by the assessment ratio (the percentage of the value of the property that is taxed) by the value of the property.

The figures in this table, put together by the nonprofit Tax Foundation, are for property taxes paid by households on owner-occupied housing. As a result, they exclude property taxes paid by businesses, renters and others.

All data in the table come from the 2005 American Community Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau. Median tax is the median real estate tax paid on owner-occupied housing units for that state. The home-value statistic used is the median value of owner-occupied housing units for that state.

Property tax burdens by state

State - Median tax - Median value - Tax as % of home value - Rank
Alabama - $302 --- $97,500 ----- 0.31% ------ 48
Alaska - $2,241 --- $197,100 ----- 1.14% ------ 17
Arizona - $1,133 --- $185,400 ----- 0.61% ------ 37
Arkansas - $459 --- $87,400 ----- 0.53% ------ 42
California - $2,278 --- $477,700 ----- 0.48% ------ 45
Colorado - $1,297 --- $223,300 ----- 0.58% ------ 38
Connecticut- $3,865 --- $271,500 ----- 1.42% ------ 10
Delaware - $806 --- $203,800 ----- 0.40% ------ 47
Florida - $1,495 --- $189,500 ----- 0.79% ------ 28
Georgia - $1,050 --- $147,500 ----- 0.71% ------ 32
Hawaii - $924 --- $453,600 ----- 0.20% ------ 49
Idaho - $1,226 --- $134,900 ----- 0.91% ------ 24
Illinois - $2,904 --- $183,900 ----- 1.58% ------ 7
Indiana - $1,079 --- $114,400 ----- 0.94% ------ 23
Iowa - $1,355 --- $106,600 ----- 1.27% ------ 12
Kansas - $1,337 --- $107,800 ----- 1.24% ------ 13
Kentucky - $693 --- $103,900 ----- 0.67% ------ 36
Louisiana - $175 --- $101,700 ----- 0.17% ------ 50
Maine - $1,742 --- $155,300 ----- 1.12% ------ 18
Maryland - $2,159 --- $280,200 ----- 0.77% ------ 29
Masschstts- $2,974 --- $361,500 ----- 0.82% ------ 25
Michigan - $1,846 --- $149,300 ----- 1.24% ------ 14
Minnesota - $1,618 --- $198,800 ----- 0.81% ------ 27
Mississippi- $416 --- $82,700 ----- 0.50% ------ 44
Missouri - $1,012 --- $123,100 ----- 0.82% ------ 26
Montana - $1,309 --- $131,600 ----- 0.99% ------ 20
Nebraska - $1,889 --- $113,200 ----- 1.67% ------ 3
Nevada - $1,445 --- $283,400 ----- 0.51% ------ 43
New Hamp - $3,920 --- $240,100 ----- 1.63% ------ 5
New Jersey- $5,352 --- $333,900 ----- 1.60% ------ 6
New Mexico- $707 --- $125,500 ----- 0.56% ------ 40
New York - $3076 --- $258,900 ----- 1.19% ------ 16
N Carolina - $966 --- $127,600 ----- 0.76% ------ 30
N Dakota - $1,326 --- $88,600 ----- 1.50% ------ 8
Ohio - $1,598 --- $129,600 ----- 1.23% ------ 15
Oklahoma - $635 --- $89,100 ----- 0.71% ------ 31
Oregon - $1,910 --- $201,200 ----- 0.95% ------ 22
Pnnsylvania- $1,937 --- $131,900 ----- 1.47% ------ 9
Rhode Islnd- $3,071 --- $281,300 ----- 1.09% ------ 19
S Carolina - $642 --- $113,100 ----- 0.57% ------ 39
S Dakota - $1,404 --- $101,700 ----- 1.38% ------ 11
Tennessee - $794 --- $114,000 ----- 0.70% ------ 33
Texas - $1,926 --- $106,000 ----- 1.82% ------ 2
Utah - $1,130 --- $167,200 ----- 0.68% ------ 34
Vermont - $2,835 --- $173,400 ----- 1.63% ------ 4
Virginia - $1,418 --- $212,300 ----- 0.67% ------ 35
Washington - $2,250 --- $227,700 ----- 0.99% ------ 21
W Virginia - $389 --- $84,400 ----- 0.46% ------ 46
Wisconsin - $2,777 --- $152,600 ----- 1.82% ------ 1
Wyoming - $737 --- $135,000 ----- 0.55% ------ 41
D.C. - $1,444 --- $384,400 ----- 0.38%

Troopergate Reignited

An Albany County grand jury Wednesday will examine evidence in the reignited Troopergate probe, with the inquiry centered on whether a former aide to Gov. Spitzer misled investigators.

The Daily News reported Monday that Albany County District Attorney David Soares has sent a subpoena to Spitzer's office for diarylike notes kept by Darren Dopp, the former aide who fed state police records to an Albany newspaper in an apparent attempt to discredit state Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno.

A source familiar with the papers said Dopp, while serving as Spitzer's chief mouthpiece from Jan. 1 through late July, regularly jotted down notes alongside his typed memos.

The chairman of the Senate Investigations Committee, George Winner, said the new effort by Soares to pry loose administration documents should help shed light on how the scandal erupted.

In his initial look at the scandal, Soares issued no subpoenas and opted not to put witnesses under oath, prompting Republicans to accuse him of waging a whitewash.

Asked about the new subpoena, Bruno said, "All I know is this governor said he would go under oath, twice, publicly, and never has, and is spending a million dollars to keep from replying to [Senate] subpoenas that have been issued."

Spitzer aides had no immediate comment on the upcoming grand jury activity.

November 30, 2007

Niagara County Public Works Facility

Based on a recommendation from the County Manager, the Niagara County Legislature is moving forward with a plan to merge county operations into three buildings. Under this scenario, the approximately 35 buildings the county currently owns or rents space in would be consolidated into an east campus, a west campus and a public works facility.

This is a good idea. Right now, the county has too many antiquated buildings that are inefficient. Consolidation of county operations would also go a long way in eliminating the duplication that exists from maintaining so many locations. In addition, the county will examine the benefits of constructing "green buildings", which are more efficient, environmentally friendly buildings.

The problem is this: When County Manager Greg Lewis initially proposed the campus idea, he stated that the cost for a public works facility would be in the $12-15 million range, which would be paid for over 20 years. The east and west campuses were estimated to come in around $20 million each.

The county's engineering firm, Wendel Duchscherer, recently estimated that the public works facility in itself would cost between $40-42 million. How could Lewis be so far off in his initial projection of $12-15 million? We're not talking about a couple million dollars here, we're talking about $30 million. And if the estimate for the public works was so horribly erroneous, what will that do to the projection of $20 million each for the east and west campuses?

From what I recall, there was some apprehension on the part of the Legislature to move forward with Lewis' plan for consolidation, but Lewis sold it well. But now, knowing the massive cost difference between what was initially stated and what we now know, would the Leg have given Lewis' plan the initial go ahead if they had known the correct numbers?

The consolidation is certainly worth pursuing. But at what cost? Are we as a county, and thus, the taxpayers, willing to spend what could easily be $100 million for it? The Legislators cannot blindly follow Lewis on this. We need to know both the short term and long term implications of moving forward with the campus concept. I hope they do their homework.

November 29, 2007

Vanity Fair Story

This link is to a story in Vanity Fair entitled "The Year of Governing Dangerously". It details Eliot Spitzer's first 10 months in office. It is fascinating reading, regardless of political ties. Simply copy & paste the following into your browser:

http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2008/01/spitzer200801?printable=true¤tPage=all

Immigration Laws

There will be no special bilingual programs in the schools.
***************
There will be no special ballots for elections.
**************
All government business will be conducted in our language.
***************
Foreigners will not have the right to vote no matter how long they are here.
**************
Foreigners will never be able to hold political office.
***************
Foreigners will not be a burden to the taxpayers.
***************
No welfare, no food stamps, no health care or other government assistance programs. ***************
Foreigners can invest in this country, but it must be an amount equal to 40,000 times the daily minimum wage.
***************
If foreigners do come and want to buy land, that will be okay, but options will be restricted. You are not allowed to buy waterfront property, that is reserved for citizens naturally born in this country.
***************
Foreigners may not protest. No demonstrations, no waving a foreign flag, no political organizing, and no bad-mouthing our President or his policies. If you do, you will be sent home.
***************
If you do come to this country illegally, you will be hunted down and sent to jail.

Harsh, you say? The above laws happen to be the Immigration Laws of Mexico.

I'm thinking no one in Mexico's government is advocating driver's licenses for illegals either.

November 28, 2007

Breaking News - Changes in Leg Leadership

Niagara Times has learned that changes are on the horizon for certain leadership positions within the Niagara County Legislature.

Former Chairman of the Legislature, Bill Ross, appears poised to once again hold the Chairmanship. Current Administration Committee Chairman Jason Murgia will apparently become the new Majority Leader, and Keith McNall will Chair Administration.

There are several perspectives on this. Firstly, Niagara Times is obviously viewed as a credible source of information. We very much appreciate the information which has been provided to us and encourage our readers to continue to do so.

Secondly, this is not the first time that Ross and Clyde Burmaster have switched roles. There seems to be a strategy on the part of the Majority to have a Chairman that will guide them through certain phases of the two-year term. More specifically, it seems that Ross navigates the Legislature through the issues and uses his consensus building abilities to get initiatives through the Leg. Burmaster seems to have been chosen by the Majority to lead them through the election cycle. Based on the outcomes of the 2007 Leg races, Burmaster has been effective in that role.

Thirdly, one cannot ignore the party affiliations of the leadership. Ross is a Conservative, Murgia is a Democrat and McNall is a Republican. Will this bipartisanship in those roles be effective in moving the county forward?

Lastly, based on the information that we have received, other committee chairmanships will remain unchanged: Smolinski will retain Community Safety and Security, Sklarski will chair Community Services, Farnham will head Public Works and Updegrove will retain Economic Development.

November 27, 2007

2008 County Budget

The Niagara County Legislature is preparing to approve the 2008 budget that has been presented to them by County Manager Greg Lewis. Lewis initially stated that his budget would include a tax increase not to exceed three percent. He noted that the budget calls for a reduction in the property tax levy, or the total amount to be raised by taxes, of 6.8 percent, and that county spending will be reduced by more than $9 million from current year operations.

Under the plan, the 2008 average tax rate will increase by five cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation. This means that the average projected County tax on a property assessed at $100,000 will increase by $5.00. This will vary based on equalization rate established for each town and city.

Approximately 200 employees from Mt. View will no longer be on the county payroll and the Social Services Department have more than 60 fewer jobs than it had in 2000.

This is all good news. As I have said before, the county appears to be addressing the label of the highest taxed county in the country, but few of the other taxing jurisdictions are doing the same. Unfortunately, when the label was placed on the county, some placed the label on the County. There is a distinct difference.

The study labeled all taxing jurisdictions combined as the highest taxed. School districts, town, city & village governments, special districts, and the County. I'm not sure why this is such a difficult concept to grasp, but as recently as November 18th, Lockport Union Sun Journal Editor Tim Marren, in his column, stated, "The last time a billboard made the news in Niagara County was when Lee Bordeleau decided to boast — or lament — the fact that Niagara County was No. 2 in taxes. All that did was lead Niagara County’s electorate to vote the same people into office again."

Tim, are you unable to comprehend the truth or do you simply choose to ignore it? Either way, when you make comments like that, you're doing a disservice to the community, and letting the other taxing jurisdictions off the hook for their portion of the tax burden.

Why not call out the school districts? Why not call out the special districts and the Town Supervisors that use the water and sewer districts as a haven for political patronage? Why not call out Frank Nerone, who retired from the Sewer District in 2001with a pension of $5,500 a month, only to be brought back as a consultant at $5,000 a month. He's getting 10,500 per month to work at the Sewer District. He, by the way, wants a raise.

What about attorney Bob Roberson, who submitted legal bills to the district with no records that the work was done. When the county auditor refused to pay the bills, Roberson sued the county.

These are but two of the abuses of tax dollars that you choose to ignore. You focus on "County" taxes because it's easy. It doesn't take any actual reporting to say that "Niagara County was No. 2 in taxes. All that did was lead Niagara County’s electorate to vote the same people into office again." It's downright pathetic.

I don't know where you got your journalism degree, apparently, Cracker Jack still has some decent prizes, but wherever you got the degree from, you should demand a refund because they didn't teach you squat about being a reporter.

As for Niagara County, keep up the cost cutting measures, and keep doing your part to address taxes. People of reasonable intellect are well aware of the misguided views of our local periodical.

November 26, 2007

Spitzer CNN's Turkey of the Year

http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/politics/2007/11/21/schneider.political.turkeys.cnn?iref=videosearch

CNN’s Bill Schneider named Gov. Eliot Spitzer “turkey number one” - ahead even of Sen. Larry Craig of toe-tapping fame who promised to step down and then didn’t - for his driver’s license plan that tripped up Hillary Clinton during a presidential debate.

Politicos make Schneider’s turkey list by, as he puts it, “doing something foolish.”

The top five this year: Spitzer, Craig, FEMA (for its fake news conference during the California wildfires), former US AG Alberto Gonzonles(for his “amazing memory lapse” about the eight US attorney firings during Congressional hearings), and John Edwards (for spending $400 on a haircut).

November 23, 2007

Black Friday

You'll have to pardon me if I am a little off today, but I am suffering from slight sleep deprivation this Friday. After waking up Thanksgiving morning, I didn't go to sleep until 7 A.M. Friday morning. You see, I participated in the great American tradition of insanity, Black Friday.

Having scoured every ad possible, both in the newspapers and online, I had my heart set on a new TV. Not just your regular TV, I wanted the flat panel, HD, plasma 52" one. Best Buy was my target. Having arrived at just before 3 A.M., I was somewhat disillusioned to find that they did not open until 5, though they were to start handing out tickets for selected items, such as my TV, at 3.

To make a long story short, after over two hours standing outside, I got in the store, got my TV and few other goodies and headed home.

However, not before experiencing the craziness of the day. One would certainly have a hard time making the argument that WNY is in difficult economic times. The stores were jam packed. Best Buy was packed, Target was amazingly busy. There was a line of traffic to get into the Transit Road location, and in the parking lot, nary a space to be found. All the way down Transit, the traffic seemed like rush hour. Car after car heading to experience Black Friday.

The problem? The line of cars was headed out of Niagara County. Not that this is surprising, those of us who live in the eastern end of the county don't have any place to shop. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Sure, there's Wal-Mart, but in reality, it's a dump that sells garbage.

Town of Lockport Supervisor Marc Smith is devoting a significant amount of time to his Transit North Corridor initiative. Sounds great, but what is a new facade going to do for me? Honestly, I could care less about any initiative that has to do with Transit Road that doesn't involve more shopping and more competition.

In addition, we're going to have a massive empty building as soon as Wal-Mart relocates. Apparently they need more room to peddle lead-filled products from China.

Black Friday was a great experience, albeit the three days it's going to take my body to re-adjust. But the thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, that will be lost in sales tax revenue to Erie County, today alone, is cause for concern.

The Town of Lockport is one of the fastest growing communities in WNY, and all we have as a shopping choice is Wal-Mart. Mr. Smith, you need to be putting all of your efforts into creating a decent shopping district. We all know how much effort you've been putting into the Super Wal-Mart.

If that's what you want to be your legacy, a Super Wal-Mart and nothing else, you're well on your way to getting your wish.

November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

In the immortal words of Erma Bombeck, "Thanksgiving dinners take eighteen hours to prepare. They are consumed in twelve minutes. Half-times take twelve minutes. This is not coincidence".

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Niagara County's Fiscal Stability

Kudos to Niagara County for a recent report that indicates that the county is on firm financial footing. On Tuesday night, the Legislature was presented with a report from Moody’s Investors Services, a firm that assesses the credit worthiness of public and private borrowers. Moody's upgraded the county's bond rating for the third time in less than two years.

The report also highlighted some other interesting observations, including Moody’s indicating that it expects the county’s tax base to remain stable in the coming years and possibly improve as a result of ongoing economic development initiatives.

Moody's also noted savings related to employee health care coverage, the influx of revenue and low-cost power from the New York Power Authority’s re-licensing agreement and countywide reductions in spending.

These are positive steps for Niagara County. Unfortunately, the local media tends to ignore the positive and focus on the negative. For a change, let's embrace some good news, not twist it to turn it into a negative, and accept the reality that Niagara County is not all that bad - despite what the naysayers preach. Congrats to the County.

November 20, 2007

Breaking News -- Meyers Wins in Somerset

After losing the Republican Primary by a handful of votes in September and running on only the Conservative and Independence lines in November, Somerset Supervisor Rich Meyers was declared the winner today by 10 votes.

All paper ballots in the race were opened and counted, which is a credit to both Mr. Meyers and Mr. Sweeney for not trying to disenfranchise voters by challenging the ballots.

Meyers, who has been a lone wolf on the Somerset Board, will be joined by fellow reformer Dan Engert. As I said in a previous post, politics in Somerset is pretty interesting these days.

The Comptroller Invades Somerset

If I asked you, politically speaking, what is the most interesting locality in Niagara County, what would you say? Niagara Falls? North Tonawanda? Maybe the Town of Lockport? Well, you’d be wrong. Right now, the most interesting place is the tiny Town of Somerset.

As all of you know, Somerset is the home of the AES Powerplant and the issues around that have been well-documented. So too have the issues with local attorney Ed Shoemaker and his ironclad grip over the town, the town’s refusal to release Shoemaker’s legal bills and the bottom line that suing AES has been a cottage industry for Ed.

Well, right now a recount is going on that could determine whether the pro or anti Shoemaker forces control town board. A dozen votes one way or the other could mean a monumental shift.

But that’s tomorrow’s story. The real news – AND SOMETHING YOU’RE HEARING HERE FIRST – is that the state comptroller’s office has invaded Somerset Town Hall and have begun pouring over those secret legal billings. That’s right, this powder keg that has been simmering for a while could very well explode and change the face of town politics forever. Who knows where the comptroller’s investigation will go, but anyone who is part of the old guard in Somerset must be nervous.

November 19, 2007

Help Lockport Win an MRI

Lockport Memorial Hospital does not have an MRI machine but they'd like one and you can help them win it.

Go to www.winanmri.com and scroll down to the LMH video. Watch the 30 second clip and then vote. Whatever hospital receives the most votes wins. Right now, LMH is second in the nation.

You only need to watch the video this first time and then every day you can revisit the site and vote again.

Let's all band together and help LMH win this important piece of equipment.

November 17, 2007

Christy's Slang

Watching Legislative Journal at 9:35 this Saturday morning, I heard what is likely the most offensive comment ever uttered from host Tom Christy. It wasn't about Mount View, it didn't have to deal with taxes, and it wasn't a reference to the Business Council.

No, this comment was about masturbation, and it was made by Christy.

While talking to guest Bob Anderson from Niagara Falls, Terry from Wheatfield called in. Terry asked what the Water District does. Before Anderson could answer, Christy chimed in with the following: "I'm sure they do something, I'm sure they don't sit around diddling themselves".

In case you did not know it, "diddling" one's self is a slang term for masturbation.

If the comment isn't offensive enough, my eight year-old daughter was in the room. Fortunately, she was playing a game on the computer and didn't catch it. Not that she would have known what it meant to begin with, but hell, could you imagine trying to explain that one to an eight year-old?

What great TV for a SATURDAY MORNING!!!

This is another shining example of how Christy has gone over the edge. Where is the LCTV Board of Directors? Their names are on the LCTV website, therefore their reputations are on the line as well. Are they going to allow one individual to continue to drag down LCTV? Sadly it appears so.

November 16, 2007

Need a Pair of Cement Shoes?

I don't know why the article below from the US&J caught my attention today regarding a little spat between a concrete company and the YWCA. I think this interests me because I can't make up my mind if I agree with the YWCA that it's probably offensive or with the owner who says it was tongue and cheek.

LOCKPORT: American Concrete billboard stirs controversy
By Joyce Miles/milesj@gnnewspaper.com
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal


— A business owner is standing his ground, and the women in his family are standing with him, after a YWCA of Niagara official charged his company’s advertising is gender insensitive.
Richfield Street-based American Concrete had a new billboard erected Monday on West Avenue. Over the image of a wrapped gift, the solicitous catchline, “Wife need new shoes?” is accompanied by the American Concrete logo and a greeting, “Happy Holidays.”
The humorous inference to “cement shoes” or “concrete shoes” as a method of doing away with one’s wife is at the heart of the controversy.
What company owner Kevin McCabe sees as risqué spoof, YWCA Executive Director Kathleen Granchelli condemned as ignorant.
“I’m sure it was considered to be a joke, or something cute, but with the number of fatalities we see in the domestic violence field, it’s not a joke,” Granchelli said Thursday. “It’s in very poor taste.”
No, it’s not, countered McCabe.
“I think the mainstream understands it,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that some people are reading much more into it than they should.”

Read the whole article at: http://www.niagara-gazette.com/local/gnnlocalnews_story_320020911.html

November 15, 2007

Spitzer's Arrogance

The local Greater Niagara Newspaper group often prints editorials from other newspapers. While we have no interest in emulating GNN, here is an editorial with a very different perspective of Governor Spitzer from what one usually gets with GNN:

ELIOT'S ARROGANCE DOOMED BY HIS CONTEMPT

The best you can say about Gov. Spitzer's now- scrapped plan to give driver's licenses to illegal aliens is that it emerged out of a (profoundly confused) idea that it would somehow make Americans safer. That's the best you can say.

Less kind is that it was the product of testosterone-charged cynicism, hubris and self-righteousness - which led to a stunning miscalculation of how folks would react.

Spitzer is no dummy - a graduate of Princeton and Harvard Law, he managed a 1590 out of 1600 on his SATs and a perfect score on his LSATs. So the correct explanation should be obvious: This scion of power and privilege has utterly no regard for the common man's ability to think for himself.

What he has is contempt: People will believe what he tells them to believe - to hell with the facts. To hell with logic and sound reasoning. The public just needs to be spun. And opponents, bullied.

That's what the Dirty Tricks campaign - where his communications director, Darren Dopp, had the State Police dig up "dirt" on state Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, the gov's political foe - was all about.

To Spitzer, it didn't really matter whether Dopp acted on his own initiative or in response to media requests. (Albany DA David Soares now appears to be probing whether Dopp's claim that he was merely following up on requests amounts to perjury.)

To Spitzer, it made no difference that the accusation against Bruno - that he wrongly used state helicopters for personal political purposes - was groundless, since the Ethics Commission had blessed the practice for years. (Indeed, Spitzer himself had used state aircraft for political purposes.)

What mattered to the gov and his people was getting a negative headline out of the charge - so that people would think ill of Bruno. That's all that counted - it was all for the greater good, you see.

That same reasoning seems to have been at work in many of Spitzer's cases when he was attorney general. He'd threaten Wall Street firms with civil or even criminal charges, and count on the firms to settle with him to make the headache - and the bad publicity - go away. That strategy generally worked - even if the charges were baseless.

But in the driver's-license scheme, the facts mattered - and bullying couldn't get the gov his fix. Let's be honest: Spitzer couldn't truly believe that the proper response to 9/11 - when foreign terrorists infiltrated our borders and used driver's licenses to help carry out their bloody plot - is to issue more driver's licenses to foreigners who've already broken the law by being here illegally.

Yes, he might have convinced himself that his plans' high-tech security measures would provide sufficient protection. He might even have a genuine soft spot for immigrants - "like all four of my grandparents," as Spitzer put it yesterday, who do "hard and sometimes back-breaking work."

He may truly want to find ways to address the fiasco of 12 million illegals "living in the shadows" - a million in New York alone. But his claims still didn't add up. One of his chief arguments for his plan was that licensing illegals would put their names and addresses on file - so authorities would know who they are and where they live.

Gee: Would Spitzer suggest giving guns to felons or mob suspects on the theory that they'd have to fill out forms, thus helping cops track them? Not likely. No, illegal immigrants aren't necessarily felons; most probably aren't dangerous. But all of them have broken the law. And some of them are dangerous.

Far more likely is that Spitzer thought he could rally the pro-immigrant community and liberals to support him at a time when he was bleeding politically, thanks to the Dirty Tricks scandal.

Oops. Fully 70 percent of New York voters weren't buying it this time - and, worse, he was losing support even from fellow Democrats (particularly after the issue put Sen. Hillary Clinton on the spot and apparently cost her support).

So yesterday, he withdrew the plan. But he stuck to his delusions of righteousness: "In New York," he said, there are "1 million undocumented immigrants, many of whom are driving without a license and without insurance."

He claimed he continues to believe his plan "is principally the right thing to do to make our roads safer and our state more secure." And he again blamed "hyperpartisanship" and fear-mongers for attacking the plan.

Spitzer doesn't learn.

Back in August, he gave a remarkable speech - on "the need for both passion and humility in politics." In it, he essentially admitted that his own confidence in the correctness of his views and policies may have led him and his staff to cross the line - for "the greater good."

But in pushing a cynical license scheme that would've exposed New Yorkers (and the nation) to greater risk, he may have deluded himself yet again.

Fortunately, he failed to delude the public.

NY Post

November 14, 2007

Spitzer Backs Down

All the major media outlets today are reporting that Governor Spitzer will pull the plug on his plan to give driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. Given his plummeting poll numbers, this probably is not a major surprise. It will be interesting to see the spin his team tries to put on this retreat.

What I find interesting in all of this is the timing. Had Spitzer not done this originally or backed off sooner, he could have avoided this being an election issue that many Democrats in local races had to deal with. Instead, he pulls the plug a week AFTER the election. So much for being a team player.

November 13, 2007

Exclusive: Barker School District Fires Outside Counsel

Sources have told us that the Barker School District has fired the high priced attorneys they imported from Syracuse to fight the AES PILOT agreement. This could mean that the Barker School District knows they are going to lose the case and are tired of flushing hundreds of thousands of dollars down the toilet on lawyers fees.

Of course, the Barker School District's regular law is the infamous Andrews, Pusateri, Brandt, Shoemaker & Roberson gang...the same ones who have been bilking the Town of Somerset right along. Maybe the Barker folks thought if we're going to piss away tax dollars on an appeal, may as well do it with a local firm.

Plus, I imagine Ed Shoemaker could use a few extra taxpayer dollars in his pocket with the holidays coming up.

Seriously, with the county apparently rejecting the idea of appealing and this move by Barker, plus the election results which show no public outcry about the PILOT, maybe this saga is coming to a merciful end.

And while we're on Barker, has anyone else heard that former Barker Superintendent Steve LaRock, who whined poverty during the PILOT discussions, is on the Barker payroll as a $500 a day consultant? It's good work if you can get it.

Mount View Closure

Kudos to the Niagara County Legislature and the County Manager for taking the proper steps to finalize the recommendation of the Berger Commission regarding the closure of the county-owned Mount View Health Care facility. The current plan has Mount View closing it's doors by December 28th.

Although the county was looking to divest itself of the facility through privatization, the Berger Commission trumped the county's plans to sell Mt. View and directed the county to move towards closure.

Since the closure of the facility will eliminate approximately 200 county workers from the payroll, those who believe that Niagara County has too much government must be elated. Coupled with the assertion that Niagara County is the second highest taxed county in the country, as misguided as that assertion is, the closure of the facility will save the county millions of dollars.

Many of the candidates for office this year condoned the closure. There was political piece after piece accusing the majority of "evicting" the residents of Mt. View. Obviously, this was a less than effective strategy. In fact, it was right up there with hammering AES - no one cared. By the way, not a single resident of Mount View has been evicted.

I believe that the private and public sectors should never compete. Whether it's a nursing home, a golf course, services for seniors or meals for the indigent, the private sector will always provide the service more effectively and efficiently.

Even though we are giving the Leg and County Manager kudos for moving forward with closing Mt. View, we hope that this is only the beginning of further analysis of all county services and a determination of what other services may be privatized.

November 12, 2007

Shoddy, Shoddy Journalism

In the course of catching up on some weekend reading, I came across Joyce Miles' column regarding the formation of the Libertarian Party in Niagara County, something we touched on last week. So I'm perusing through, reading Scott Leffler's reasons for starting it and Bob Confer's comments (side note: are Leffler and Confer attached at the hip these days?)and then I come across this:

By and large, Republican candidates for office this year proclaimed all is well when it’s not, and Democratic candidates simply declared everything stinks without suggesting how to make it better.

OK, I'd expect a comment like that from Leffler or Confer in conveying their rationale for starting the party. But they DID NOT SAY IT. It's actually body copy. So either Joyce is expressing an opinion in the midst of her reporting or the editors at GNN failed to attribute it properly.

It's this type of shoddy journalism that I am growing tired off. To say in the body copy, which should be factual, that Republicans say everything is fine and Democrats say everything stinks is a ridiculous oversimplification and quite frankly not true.

It might be fine rhetoric if attributed to someone being interviewed, but it's poor journalism when the reporter makes that a factual statement in the article. Makes you wonder how many other subtle editorials make it into GNN stories.

Here's the link, judge for yourself: http://www.niagara-gazette.com/local/local_story_315230905.html

Welcome Back, Mark Scheer

With the departure of Jill Terreri, Greater Niagara Newspapers has filled the position with Mark Scheer. I say this is good news for we political junkies.

Based on Mark's previous stint with the paper, I am confident he will have a depth of politics and government that Terreri just never achieved. And Mark is a reporter, not just a note taker who takes the comments from politicians and treats them as fact.

Mark, we're putting faith in you. Good luck.

November 9, 2007

Tom Christy

I've got a problem with Tom Cristy. You know Tom, he hosts Legislative Journal on LCTV. For us political junkies, his show is sometimes entertaining, sometimes volatile and sometimes worth changing the channel. But that's not where my problem with Christy surfaces.

In his recent GNN column about his FAIR Government group, he made the statement that "since FAIR is non-political, non-editorial and educational in nature, it has no concern with who the particular players are". What complete and utter bullshit.

Firstly, Tom Christy is a die-hard Democrat. He worked for the New York State Assembly for, I believe, 12 years under the Democratic Majority. While he sits there railing elected officials for their actions, he conveniently forgets to mention that for 12 years, he sucked off the public teat. Tom, you had 12 years to make a difference, and did nothing to make New York State a better place to live and work. You were a political appointee. I guess while you're getting that paycheck from the taxpayers of this state, the dysfunction is okay. Amazingly hypocritical.

Secondly, in regards to FAIR being "non-political" and "non-editorial", I cannot even begin to comprehend how he could make such a statement. He has become so overtly political, alienating anyone and everyone along the way, that he is having serious trouble getting guests on his show. County Manager Greg Lewis, possibly the least political person in Niagara County's government, will not go on Christy's show. By the way, Christy recently stated that Lewis is no longer welcome on his show, insinuating that he, Christy, made the decision. That is an absolute lie. Lewis informed Christy that he will no longer appear on the show via email. I am attempting to get a copy of that email.

His personal attack on a county legislator's father was disgraceful. Apparently management at LCTV agreed, because after the fiasco aired live, it never aired again.

Lastly, I would like to know how the hell this guy can have three hours every Thursday on LCTV, in addition to the numerous reruns all week, to push HIS agenda. In case you did not know it, LCTV is funded by a portion of the cable bill of City and Town of Lockport residents. Yes, if you live in the city or the town, YOU are paying for this blatantly biased pitchman to throw out his personal agenda.

Maybe this is within the rights of LCTV to allow this, maybe it's not. Next week, I will be contacting Town of Lockport Supervisor Marc Smith and Lockport Mayor Michael Tucker to get a copy of their agreement with LCTV. We are going to find out exactly how that portion of my cable bill that funds LCTV is supposed to be allocated.

For the record, LCTV as a whole is a phenomenal organization. They offer an amazingly diverse slate of programming, 95% of which is beneficial to the community. But giving one person three hours a week to pitch his personal agenda crosses the line of serving the community, and it needs to be addressed.

The Libertarians Are Coming

Radio talk show host, and old friend of this site, Scott Leffler, made the announcement below. I wonder if this impacts his ability to continue hosting his radio talk show.

From today's Buffalo News:
POLITICS
Libertarian Party forms Niagara County chapter

Updated: 11/09/07 7:11 AM


LOCKPORT — Radio talk show host Scott Leffler has been named temporary chairman of the new Niagara County Libertarian Party, he announced Wednesday.

Leffler, who calls himself a “reformed Democrat,” said the state Libertarian Party authorized formation of the Niagara County chapter Sunday.

The chapter has set up a Web site, www.niagaralp.org,which includes a link to a 10-question quiz that visitors can use to discern their political beliefs. “I believe that many Niagara County residents are Libertarians but don’t know it,” Leffler said.

Leffler, host of “Dialog” on WLVL-AM in Lockport, is planning to call a convention in January or February to elect party officers.

November 8, 2007

Recap of Our Election Prognostications

A couple of weeks ago, we decided to take a look at some of the more interesting races, and in some cases, predict the outcome. One of the comments yesterday asked how we did, so let's take a look.

In Lewiston, we said "the race is too close to call". Newlin won with 53.5% of the vote.

In Lockport, we predicted that "Tucker crushes Pillot 68% - 32%". We were right about the crushing, but Tucker actually pulled 72%.

In the 7th Legislative District, we said "Farnham wins with 64% of the vote" against Chenez. Farnham won with 60%.

In the 16th District, we predicted that "McNall takes home the trophy, 58% - 42%". McNall tallied 59% of the vote against McDonough.

In the 11th District, we said "Wojtaszek wins 55% - 45%" against Schultz. Wojtasek pulled a whopping 66.5% of the vote.

In the 18th, we stated that "Syracuse cruises to a 69% - 31% victory" over Bender. Syracuse pulled 65.5%.

For Family Court Judge, we said "Judge Batt holds off a spirited challenge from Maria DiPasquale". Batt currently holds 50.67% of the vote, with just under 2,000 absentee votes yet to be counted. Batt has a lead of 529 votes.

In the race for Niagara Falls City Court, we said "Robert Merino cruises to victory over Maria Massaro". Merino won with just under 60% of the vote.

In the race for Mayor of Niagara Falls, we believed that "Candra Thomason has fought a valiant fight for Mayor of Niagara Falls, but a lack of funds and sheer numbers in the city work against her. Dyster pulls 60%". Dyster cruised to victory with 79%.

In the 2nd, 4th & 5th Legislative Districts, we said "Renae Kimble, Sean O'Connor and Dennis Virtuoso all win handily". Kimble won with 76%, O'Connor pulled 58%, and Virtuoso won with 72%.

In the 15th District, we said "The shocker of the Leg races will be Tony Nemi upsetting Harry Apolito. (Nemi)pulls out a 125 margin win over Apolito". Nemi did win, but his margin of victory was over 400, nearly 60% of the vote.

In the 16th & 17th Districts, we said "Updegrove and McNall also win, shifting the balance of power in county politics back to Lockport". Updegrove won with 60% of the vote. McNall won with just under 60%.

In the 10th District, we stated that "Smolinski narrowly wins". He won with just under 59%.

For Somerset Supervisor, we said "The one race still too close to call is Somerset Supervisor. Logic says that Sweeney, with both major lines, should win handily. But Meyers has stepped up his game in recent weeks and may snag the win on the minor lines". As of now, Meyers holds a 15 vote advantage, with about 70 absentees out. Meyers currently holds 50.8% of the vote.

November 7, 2007

Reflections the Day After

Well, one of the most contentious and expensive campaign seasons in Niagara County history has come to an end. Below are my reflections and observations. I would love to hear what stood out for many of you...and let's not make this stuff personal. It's post-election now, and the community should come together to move forward at least for a few months.

1) Driver's licenses for illegal immigrants was a major campaign issue.

2) Supporters of the AES PILOT, particularly Henry Sloma, should feel very vindicated today. The voters have the last word on the issue and the message is pretty loud and clear.

3) While I'm a little surprised at the GOP success in County Leg races, I'm completely blown away by their margins of victory. Candidates like Andrea McNulty, Paul Wojtaszek and Pete Smolinski crushed their opposition in N.T. And that's Dan Rivera's backyard. Same thing in Lockport. Harry Apolito was demolished by Tony Nemi and McNall and Updegrove rolled. Jerry Farnham takes 60 percent of the vote when he ran close for so many years? Amazing.

4) Paul Dyster should be reminded that Vince Anello had a huge election night victory once. Seriously, good luck Paul, we hope you break the mold of failed one-term mayors.

5) Big win for Mike Tucker...can he move on to higher office?

6) That Family Court Judge race is very close.

7) Rich Meyers' victory may or may not hold on once the paper is counted, but winning off the I & C lines against an R&D opponent? Could it be the people of Somerset are tired of Ed Shoemaker bilking the town?

8) Lewiston Supervisor Fred Newlin is one savvy politician.

9) Clyde Burmaster's race was too close for someone in a leadership position...could there be a new chairman on the horizon for the County Legislature?

10) Maybe trying to vilify a man who regularly wins his own election with 70 percent of the votes (Senator Maziarz) isn't exactly the best campaign strategy for the Democrats.

November 6, 2007

Election Day

Today is of course, Election Day, so regardless of your political ties or affiliations, it is not only your right to vote, but your responsibility. So head out before the snow flies and support your candidates.

Since we didn't have the opportunity to look at all of the races, we'll cover a few more here.

Judge Batt holds off a spirited challenge from Maria DiPasquale for Niagara County Family Court Judge.

In the race for Niagara Falls City Court, Robert Merino cruises to victory over Maria Massaro.

Candra Thomason has fought a valiant fight for Mayor of Niagara Falls, but a lack of funds and sheer numbers in the city work against her. Dyster pulls 60%.

Also in Niagara Falls, Renae Kimble, Sean O'Connor and Dennis Virtuoso all win handily.

The shocker of the Leg races will be Tony Nemi upsetting Harry Apolito. With four lines and literally tons of mail to go along with Nemi's strong name recognition, he pulls out a 125 margin win over Apolito.

Updegrove and McNall also win, shifting the balance of power in county politics back to Lockport.

In NT, Smolinski narrowly wins, and Wojtaszek wins comfortably.

The one race still too close to call is Somerset Supervisor. Logic says that Sweeney, with both major lines, should win handily. But Meyers has stepped up his game in recent weeks and may snag the win on the minor lines.

Any way they fall, remember, you can't bitch if you don't vote. Good luck to all of the candidates.

November 5, 2007

Somerset (con't)

Received via email from Somerset Supervisor Rich Meyers:

I have been somewhat of a topic in a few of the postings on your blog. I have a couple topics of my own that may be interesting to some folks. They have to do with FOIL requests and the legality of an elected Town Supervisor and Chief Financial Officer being denied access to records concerning legal bills.

Becky Connolly, Somerset's Town Clerk, blacked out 80% of legal documents that were FOIL'd prior to my winning the Supervisor's seat, refused to release them to me for review after I took office, and proposed the eventual change to the Town Law that stated that all rejected FOIL request would be appealed to the Town Supervisor. They are now appealed to the Town Board.

Mrs. Connolly recently sent a letter to the fine folks of Somerset accusing me of lying about her and of trying to get her to break the law by issuing this request. Her accusations are humorous at best and slanderous at worst.

What was the basis for all of these decisions? According to Clerk Connolly, Robert Freeman, Director of the Committee on Open Government and personal friend of hers, is the authority behind all of these decisions. Ironically, Mr. Freeman wrote an opinion (FOIL-AO-14270, September 30, 2003) that contradicts redacting most of a legal billing for anyone, let alone a Town Supervisor.

I am not going to accuse anyone of hiding anything, but it is odd that such drastic efforts are being undertaken to protect a bill for services rendered. I ask you why?

Thank you for your time and I truly appreciate such a high quality BlogSpot.

Richard J. Meyers

Supervisor, Town of Somerset

November 4, 2007

County Leg 18th District

This race has former Barker School District Board President Merrill Bender challenging incumbent John Syracuse. Unfortunately for Bender, this one is a no-brainer.

While Syracuse has focused his campaign on what he can do for the people of his district, Bender has apparently appointed himself the campaign manager for every single candidate in Niagara County who is not in the majority.

Watching the Niagara County Concerned Taxpayers (again, I can't type that without laughing out loud) forum, Bender repeatedly lobbied, not for himself, but for every single candidate there. If he put as much time into focusing on his own campaign, he might have slightly more than a snow ball's chance in hell.

What is simply amazing is that Bender never changed his message after the Primary Election in which he was completely pummeled. Simple political logic says that if you are touting a specific message prior to a primary, then you get crushed in that primary, you need to re-think your message.

Bender hasn't, and that will be evident Tuesday when Syracuse cruises to a 69% - 31% victory.