December 26, 2007


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.


Anonymous said...

Virtuoso is the biggest hack and blowhard in Niagara County. He has been a complete failure wherever he has been...his negligence and failure to inspect a Niagara Falls work site; his attempt to stifle the airport project; his failure to bring any hint of development to his district; he cannot even provide enough U-hauls to support the mass exodus from Niagara County. (according to the last census 13 people are leaving per day). Utter disgrace!

Pete M said...

When is someone going to stand up at a legislature meeting and ask virtuoso if he has ever used the county's elective cosmetic surgery benefit on that head of his? His hair has not moved or changed color in 10 years.

Really, is anyone surprised that he would throw out such accusations and Leffler would just eat them up as gospel?

Your catch on Scheer "switching sides" is certainly enlightening. Disturbing, but enlightening.

Proud Dem! said...

Virtuoso is the only oneI ever notice that asks questions of real value. Don`t get me wrong the Majority always seems to have their "act" together and they get things accomplished. Good or Bad. But give it arrest already with the "its his fault" crap. He isn`t the only employee in thes dept. building inspector in Niagara Falls.

pirate's code said...

Per my previous post, I think a PIO can be an asset to the county so long as he or she is not there simply to "spin" info for one party or faction or another.

Virtuoso says what he says because I don't think he has anything else to talk about. I'm sure he views it as his job to poke his finger at anything that comes from the majority caucus. As for Leffler not calling him on it, well... nobody has ever confused Scott with Mike Wallace.

But, I think your a bit over the top regarding the divide between GNN and the legislature, as least as far as Scheer's comments are concerned. "Swithing sides" I think has more to do with the long-standing but silly notion that reporters shouldn't ever become PR people. You will hear many refer to it as "going to the dark side." That said, a lot do it because the money is usually better and the hours often are more regular.

Anonymous said...

Pete and Pirate Code. Sounds like your trying to line up a friend or family member to suck at the public tit like the rest of the GOP hacks.

Anonymous said...

LOLOL...sounds like Virtuoso's PIO has chimed in attempting to spin poor, little Dennis's take.

Anonymous said...

Maybe Dennis should be out recruiting better candidates instead of the slugs they got this year.

Sweaterman said...

It really would be nice for one of these guys in the majority caucus to stand up and tell them to shut up.

The democrats have done nothing to move this county forward.

Get some ideas.

BTW...a member of the media??? wouldn't that person be liberal??

Larry S said...

Of course GNN focuses on the negative. The two most sections of their papers are the obits and the police blotter. Can't get much more negative than those two categories.

And yes, Sweaterman, that would most likely make the person Liberal. That makes Virtuoso's statements even more ridiculous.

He's a hack, always has been and always will be. It's ironic that he never mentions the F in economic development that the county got from the Business Council. Could it be that because for the years of that study (95-05) he was in the majority for most of those years? Yeah, he's slick.

Frank DeGeorge said...

With AG Cuomo's new Project Sunshine and all the other efforts being made to make government more accountable to the public, the County better damn well hire a Public Information Officer. I guess hacks like Virtuoso who like to operate in the shadows, make accustaions and insinuations can't fathom that the county should have a single point of contact for the average joe to get information on any agency, resolution, etc.

No, it's easier to throw grenades than to actually use our head and think about this one.

Now, if the Majority goes and hires an old retread with little experience for the position, than all the naysayers will have a valid point. But until that happens, their comments are ridiculous.

Here's an open question:

Is it wrong for NCCC, NFTA and Niagara Falls Memorial (which employs former Gazetter reporter Pat Bradley) to have some version of a PIO?

pirate's code said...

frank degeorge has it exactly right. The proof will be in who, exactly, gets hired. If it is about finding a job for a political retread or simply putting one party's spin on issues, then don't bother.

That said, I continue to support the idea of a PIO for county government -- all of it, not just the legislature.

Personally, given the relatively low salary, I think it would be a perfect place for some young blood to make his or her mark. Let some of the younger generation learn what public service is about.

And, anonymous, I'd love to confirm for you that I have a friend or relative in line for this job, but that just wouldn't be true. But if it floats your boat, don't let the fact get in the way of a juicy theory.

Anonymous said...

What about the legislator's actually communicating the information directly to the people themselves. It seems as if the PIO will be a way of distancing the PUBLIC officials from the PUBLIC. I might not fully understand the duties of the PIO, but if its straight public affairs and giving information to the residents, isn't that what elected officials and the several layers of government at the county offices are for???

Anonymous said...

Niagara County is always atleast 5 years behind the 8 ball. Tell me any county government that does not have a public relations person??? For pete's sake, even little tiny school districts have them like Barker.

And guys wake up... when you have GNN paying minimum wage to reporters what kind of quality do you think you are going to get???? Scheer couldn't find a job anywhere else so he came back. Theres a guy with no ambition and no pride. Who cares what he says.

And back to Virtuoso, he has plenty of time to do his own PR because he never is at work doing his real job. Its about time someone check into exactly what Dennis does in a day. Taxpayers would love to know!!

Clancy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Yes clerk of the leg should have as part of his duties to be a PIO, but not the incompetent in position now. He is rarely doing what he is being paid to do. He spends his time making and taking politically motivated calls, and even making campaign ads for conservative cronies, in the day during business hours. I do not want my tax dollars to go to paying his salary when he is not doing the work of the county. Where they came up with this guy I don't know. So what if he is a conservative and they want the con. vote. Would a con. EVER vote for anyone other than a con. or a rep.? James Sob would have a great career in domestics or food service. Would you like fries to go with that campaign ad?

Hobbes said...

The above post was deleted because it made a reference to someone's sexual orientation, by name, which will not be tolerated.

Anonymous said...

the clerk of the leg being light in the lofter's is no secret. Don't worry about it hobbes. I have seen the other crap and personal attacks you have let fly on this blog. Or is he a "friend".

Anonymous said...

Gratified web administrator deleted that comment, as if sexual orientation makes one competent or incompetent for any position. Come on, folks, it's the 21st century, get over the homophobia. What is of concern is that a person takes a position, gets paid by the taxpayers of Niagara County, and then goes about doing the work of his Party, not the county. When Nick Forester did that back in the late 1990's or there abouts, he got busted, suspended without pay for a time, which was fair. What about this clerk? If he were competent, literate and articulate, if he were a shining example of work ethic, perhaps you could forgive and forget. But should we? We taxpayers deserve the best out there. Mr. Sobcyzk is not the best out there. Once again, the clerk should be the PIO for the county, but not James Sobcyxk. Here is to hoping '08 will show him out the door. I agree with the other anonymous blogger, Micky Ds looks promising for this political hack.

Hobbes said...

I must admit, I did get a pretty good chuckle out of this comment: "the clerk of the leg being light in the lofter's is no secret. Don't worry about it hobbes. I have seen the other crap and personal attacks you have let fly on this blog. Or is he a friend."

But no, I didn't pull the comment because he is my "friend". I pulled it because of the word "homo", which is generally thought of as a derogatory term.

As for other personal attacks being let fly, that is always the challenge of a blog. Believe me, there are times where I give serious consideration to deleting a comment, but I try to let the conversation flow without censorship.

I can assure you, I am aware of some of the things that are said, and will do my best to keep a handle on it. If at anytime someone has a concern about anything to do with the blog, please email me and I will address it.