July 31, 2007

The Hits Just Keep on Comin'

Four Inquiries Face Spitzer in Bruno Case
By DANNY HAKIM and NICHOLAS CONFESSORE - NEW YORK TIMES

ALBANY, July 30 — Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s administration is facing the possibility of as many as four investigations following a scathing report issued a week ago by Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo’s office, a reality that could tie up many of the governor’s top staff members in legal wrangling for months to come.

On Monday, the Republican-led Senate called for Mr. Cuomo to be designated a special prosecutor with broader powers to investigate the governor and his staff for their efforts to discredit Joseph L. Bruno, the Senate leader. The governor quickly rejected the request, but the Senate’s move and the governor’s swift reaction appeared to embolden Senate Republicans to begin an investigation of their own.

In addition, the State Ethics Commission is conducting a preliminary review in advance of a potential investigation. Republicans have also called for the State Commission of Investigation, an independent body created in the 1950s and initially charged with investigating organized crime, to review the conduct of the governor and his staff. A spokesman for the commission declined to comment.

The office of P. David Soares, the Albany County district attorney, also said on Monday that it was likely to comment further on the case later this week. Mr. Soares, a Democrat, has indicated that he was not reviewing the matter, even though Senate Republicans have asked that he do so.

Calls for new inquiries have accumulated in the week since Mr. Cuomo’s office issued its report finding that the governor’s staff had misused the State Police to collect information about Mr. Bruno, the Senate majority leader, in an effort to plant a negative article about him in the news media. The report concluded that no laws had been broken, and Mr. Spitzer, a Democrat, has maintained that he was misled by his staff and knew nothing about the effort to discredit Mr. Bruno, the state’s top Republican.

The state inspector general, Kristine Hamann, concurred in the attorney general’s findings; she is one of the governor’s appointees. The governor indefinitely suspended his communications director, Darren Dopp, and reassigned another aide after the report was released.

Senate Republicans have been considering how to proceed with a further inquiry. Though top Republicans say they are confident they would win any legal battle over their right to subpoena the governor, his aides and their correspondence, they are concerned that it is likely to take months to resolve such disputes, let alone uncover new information. They are also concerned that a full investigation by the Senate would so poison the atmosphere in Albany that little progress could be made on other issues.

On Monday afternoon, Senator George H. Winner Jr., the chairman of the Committee on Investigations and Government Operations, called on the governor to designate Mr. Cuomo a special prosecutor, giving him the power to subpoena witnesses and compel testimony. During the attorney general’s investigation leading to his report, two of the governor’s top staff members declined to be interviewed at the direction of the governor’s counsel, one factor that has led for calls for a fuller review.

The governor has apologized publicly and said it is time to move on.

Several Republican senators interviewed Monday cited polls published during the last few days showing strong support for further inquiry into the Spitzer administration and widespread doubt that the governor himself was unaware of his aides’ actions. Though the polls also show generally high approval of Mr. Spitzer, Republicans seemed confident that they could move fairly aggressively with public sentiment behind them.

Senator Thomas W. Libous, a Binghamton Republican who is a member of the investigations committee, said, “The public wants an investigation.”

Even as Mr. Winner made his announcement, however, leading Senate Democrats
questioned whether the investigations committee could handle a Spitzer inquiry fairly.

Thomas K. Duane, a Manhattan senator and the committee’s ranking Democrat, said Mr. Winner had yet to contact him or respond to a letter he sent last week outlining conditions that would need to be met for any committee investigation to proceed fairly.

“I think that at the very least, there’s a very problematic appearance if a committee, the majority of whose members are appointed by Senator Bruno, would be in charge of an investigation of something when Senator Bruno was the offended party,” Mr. Duane said.
Four Inquiries Face Spitzer in Bruno Case
By DANNY HAKIM and NICHOLAS CONFESSORE

ALBANY, July 30 — Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s administration is facing the possibility of as many as four investigations following a scathing report issued a week ago by Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo’s office, a reality that could tie up many of the governor’s top staff members in legal wrangling for months to come.

On Monday, the Republican-led Senate called for Mr. Cuomo to be designated a special prosecutor with broader powers to investigate the governor and his staff for their efforts to discredit Joseph L. Bruno, the Senate leader. The governor quickly rejected the request, but the Senate’s move and the governor’s swift reaction appeared to embolden Senate Republicans to begin an investigation of their own.

In addition, the State Ethics Commission is conducting a preliminary review in advance of a potential investigation. Republicans have also called for the State Commission of Investigation, an independent body created in the 1950s and initially charged with investigating organized crime, to review the conduct of the governor and his staff. A spokesman for the commission declined to comment.

The office of P. David Soares, the Albany County district attorney, also said on Monday that it was likely to comment further on the case later this week. Mr. Soares, a Democrat, has indicated that he was not reviewing the matter, even though Senate Republicans have asked that he do so.

Calls for new inquiries have accumulated in the week since Mr. Cuomo’s office issued its report finding that the governor’s staff had misused the State Police to collect information about Mr. Bruno, the Senate majority leader, in an effort to plant a negative article about him in the news media. The report concluded that no laws had been broken, and Mr. Spitzer, a Democrat, has maintained that he was misled by his staff and knew nothing about the effort to discredit Mr. Bruno, the state’s top Republican.

The state inspector general, Kristine Hamann, concurred in the attorney general’s findings; she is one of the governor’s appointees. The governor indefinitely suspended his communications director, Darren Dopp, and reassigned another aide after the report was released.

Senate Republicans have been considering how to proceed with a further inquiry. Though top Republicans say they are confident they would win any legal battle over their right to subpoena the governor, his aides and their correspondence, they are concerned that it is likely to take months to resolve such disputes, let alone uncover new information. They are also concerned that a full investigation by the Senate would so poison the atmosphere in Albany that little progress could be made on other issues.

On Monday afternoon, Senator George H. Winner Jr., the chairman of the Committee on Investigations and Government Operations, called on the governor to designate Mr. Cuomo a special prosecutor, giving him the power to subpoena witnesses and compel testimony. During the attorney general’s investigation leading to his report, two of the governor’s top staff members declined to be interviewed at the direction of the governor’s counsel, one factor that has led for calls for a fuller review.

The governor has apologized publicly and said it is time to move on.

Several Republican senators interviewed Monday cited polls published during the last few days showing strong support for further inquiry into the Spitzer administration and widespread doubt that the governor himself was unaware of his aides’ actions. Though the polls also show generally high approval of Mr. Spitzer, Republicans seemed confident that they could move fairly aggressively with public sentiment behind them.

Senator Thomas W. Libous, a Binghamton Republican who is a member of the investigations committee, said, “The public wants an investigation.”

Even as Mr. Winner made his announcement, however, leading Senate Democrats
questioned whether the investigations committee could handle a Spitzer
inquiry fairly.


Thomas K. Duane, a Manhattan senator and the committee’s ranking Democrat,
said Mr. Winner had yet to contact him or respond to a letter he sent last
week outlining conditions that would need to be met for any committee
investigation to proceed fairly.


“I think that at the very least, there’s a very problematic appearance if a
committee, the majority of whose members are appointed by Senator Bruno,
would be in charge of an investigation of something when Senator Bruno was
the offended party,” Mr. Duane said.

July 30, 2007

Day 211 & All's Hell

A poll coming courtesy of Siena College found Gov. Eliot Spitzer's favorability rating has steadily dropped over the past seven months,falling from 75-10 when he took office in January to 62-22 in June (following the bruising budget battle) to 59-28 in the wake of the current scandal.

The governor's job approval rating is also down, dropping from 55-37 in June to 46-48 this month. Meanwhile, AG Andrew Cuomo's numbers are climbing, with his favorability reaching a Siena poll high of 55-26 and his job performance up to 52-33 from 46-36 in June.

Siena poll spokesman Steve Greenberg notes that Spitzer is developing a "credibility problem" as he continues to insist he didn't know what his top aides were up to as they used the State Police to collect damning information about Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno.

Among those polled who are aware of the scandal, most believe the governor was well aware of what was going on.

July 29, 2007

NPC Audit

Although we visited the audit of the Niagara Power Coalition on a minor scale, further analysis demands further commentary.

Questions

The Democrats have pulled the endorsement of recently arrested Niagara County Legislature candidate Bob LaBarbera. Does that mean the party will commit to providing no financial assistance to his campaign as well?

Speaking of LaBarbera, I had the opportunity to watch him on PULSE this week. He stated that he will still be able to represent his constituents if elected. Does a conditional license allow travel to and from Leg meetings, or is it only to and from work? And if it is only to and from work, would Leg meetings qualify as work?

I caught the FAIR Government forum on LCTV this weekend. Kudos to Tom Christy for a much more productive forum than the initial one. Other than several amazingly off-the-wall comments offered by Al Wroblewski, it appeared to be successful. Instead of a metal detector at city hall, would it be inappropriate to install a breathalyzer?

With nine of the county's 76 school board members resigning mid-term over the past year, so many political races going uncontested and volunteer organizations struggling for new members, have we seen the end of community service?

Long time Lockport Alderwoman Phyllis Green tried to have newcomer Richelle Pasceri thrown off the ballot in the race for First Ward Alderwoman. It appears that Phyllis is in favor of new blood running for office, except if that new blood is challenging her. What kind of message is that sending to prospective new candidates?

On recruiting new candidates for office, Lockport's Fifth Ward Alderman John Lombardi reiterated a point made on this site several times when he stated, "Maybe people just don't want to put themselves in a position to be beat up all time." Is it possible to offer elected officials constructive criticism without beating them up?

Watching a tape of last week's Leg meeting, I, as well as anyone who's seen the meeting, witnessed County Manager Greg Lewis blow a gasket over an innocuous question on sales tax. Is Lewis that insecure that he loses his mind over something so petty?

WLVL's Dialog host Scott Leffler all but called Legislator Rick Updegrove a liar on-air when Updegrove stated that the number one issue residents discuss during Updegrove's door-to-door campaigning is resolution of the Wal-Mart issue. With Town of Lockport Supervisor Marc Smith's statement that the number one concern of voters is getting the supercenter deal accomplished, does Leffler have an on-air apology in him?

July 28, 2007

End of the NBA?

Channel surfing on a late Saturday afternoon, there's your usual fair, Jumanji, always a favorite of the kids. There's the Godfather series being played for the 17th straight day by AMC and Bravo. Of course, there's back-to-back episodes of "To Catch a Predator" on MSNBC. And on CNN and FOX? The NBA. That's the National Basketball Association. Yes, both CNN and FOX are simultaneously having panel discussions about the NBA.

In case you missed it, the NBA has been rocked by a scandal involving former referee Tim Donaghy. Donaghy is the target of an FBI investigation for allegedly betting on games, including some he officiated, over the last two seasons.

The impact of the allegations is yet to be determined, but many believe that this situation could exceed the infamous "Black Sox" scandal. League Commissioner David Stern stated, “This is not something that is anything other than an act of betrayal of what we know in sports as a sacred trust.”

Is this the final nail in the coffin of the NBA? Even Stern, who has held the top spot for 23 years, said, "This is the most serious situation and worst situation that I have ever experienced either as a fan of the NBA, a lawyer for the NBA or a commissioner of the NBA.”

For me, the appeal of the NBA ended long ago. As a product of Magic vs. Bird and Jordan vs. Barkley, I could care less about today's NBA. As an avid sports fan, that's a difficult statement to make. But it's getting harder and harder to stay a pro sports fan. In this day and age of Michael Vick, Barry Bonds, Mark Cuban, disgustingly bloated salaries and ego maniacal owners, I'll take a horse head under the covers anytime.

July 27, 2007

Anello's Uphill Battle

The news that Niagara Falls Mayor Vince Anello has been charged with harassment casts another shadow over the campaign of the first-term mayor, and caps off what has been an eventful week in local politics.

The complaint, which was filed by Erie County District Attorney Frank Clark, stemmed from an altercation between Anello and Niagara Falls Redevelopment Corporation Vice-President Roger Trevino on June 27.

Anello already faces an uphill battle for re-election after the Niagara Falls and Niagara County Democratic committees chose to endorse Niagara Falls Councilman Lewis "Babe" Rotella for mayor. Former Councilman Paul Dyster and newcomer Paul Argy will also appear on the Democratic line.

Anello has also had to face a nearly two-year long FBI investigation for his involvement in a loan made to Anello by Joe Anderson and whether the loan bought Anderson favoritism on city development projects.

The charges brought against Anello continue a busy week for local Democrats. Democratic candidate for Niagara County Legislature Bob LaBarbera was charged earlier in the week for DWI and other related charges.

July 26, 2007

NFIA To Get Millions

I'm not sure how this one slipped through the cracks of the local media, but then again, we are well aware of the fact that "Dirty Laundry" (see Don Henley) sells better than good news.

July 12, 2007

Schumer, Clinton Announce Key Senate Panel Approves $2.5 Million for Niagara Falls International Airport

Washington, DC - U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton today announced that the full Senate Appropriations Committee has approved the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (TTHUD) FY08 Appropriations Bill, which includes $2.5 million for Niagara Falls International Airport to construct a new terminal apron and to make road improvements. The bill will now proceed to the Senate Floor as the next step in the appropriations process. Schumer and Clinton worked closely with members of the Appropriations Committee to include funding for the project in this year’s spending bill.

“This is great news for Niagara and will enable the airport to take a giant step forward to becoming a prime international cargo shipping hub,” Schumer said. “The improvements will expand capacity and ensure that the airport is able to grow cargo operations and accommodate a wide variety of planes. With this funding, Niagara International is poised to make the most of its strategic location as an international and inter-modal trade center. I will continue fighting to secure these crucial funds to make the airport a world-class, job-producing, cargo hub.”

Gazette Wakes Up

Jill Terreri has taken some good-natured abuse on this site, but we've also given her credit when deserved. She may have gotten to the dance a little late with her story in today's paper, but it's one heck of a story, including allegations of harassment and Rivera wanting LaBarbera out. Good stuff, Jill.

TOWN OF NIAGARA: A political storm over DWI arrest

LaBarbera alleges harassment, files police report

By Jill Terreri/terrerij@gnnewspaper.com
Niagara Gazette

A political feud in the Town of Niagara that one candidate thought warranted police attention has created unlikely allies. Niagara County Legislature candidate Robert LaBarbera told police Tuesday night that he received a harassing phone call from Gary Parenti, a fellow Democrat and former state Assembly candidate.

Parenti was urging LaBarbera, who recently was arrested for driving while intoxicated, to leave the Legislature race. Parenti said he was calling as a Democratic committeeman and the call wasn’t harassing in nature; LaBarbera disagrees.

He says that Parenti was angry with him back in January 2006 when he wouldn’t support Parenti in Parenti’s race against Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte, another Democrat. “I just think he’s looking for an opportunity to drill me because I wouldn’t flip for him,” LaBarbera said.

LaBarbera told police that during Tuesday’s night’s phone call, which came in after he arrived home from his appearance in Wheatfield Town Court, Parenti said the DWI arrest gives Parenti the “silver bullet” he needs to destroy LaBarbera’s campaign.

Parenti, a Town of Niagara native, said he never said “silver bullet” and he isn’t sure if he’ll be working against LaBarbera’s campaign because he’s “active doing other things.” “I urged him not to run,” Parenti said. “He’s irresponsible. ... He hurts the Democratic Party.” Told that a police report was filed, Parenti said: “Good for him. That’s fine.”

The situation puts one-time rivals Parenti and county Democratic Chairman Daniel Rivera on the same side, as they are both urging LaBarbera to leave the race.

Parenti just settled out-of-court with Rivera’s insurance company but wouldn’t say how much money he won. Parenti had sued the Democratic chairman for $4.35 million for defamation, among other things, during the campaign against DelMonte, the endorsed Democrat.

LaBarbera said “political people” have asked him to drop out.

Rivera said the Democratic executive committee unanimously voted Wednesday night to revoke its endorsement of LaBarbera. Rivera had called a committee meeting to discuss the DWI situation as soon as he heard about it. Before removing its endorsement, the committee had voted to ask LaBarbera to drop out of the race, but LaBarbera declined.

“I’m going to go until the primary and see if (the voters) want me to continue,” LaBarbera said.

LaBarbera had to turn in his driver’s license Tuesday evening in court because he refused a chemical breath test to determine his blood alcohol level at the time of his arrest.

The DWI, which occurred at 1:40 a.m. July 19, was LaBarbera’s first. His next court appearance is Aug. 28.

The Legislature seat in the 6th District is now held by yet another Democrat, Danny Sklarski, however Sklarski is more friendly with Republicans than those in his own party.

Sklarski and LaBarbera will face off in a Democratic primary in September.

July 25, 2007

Shoemaker's Cash Cow

Am I the only one who picked up on Ed Shoemaker's amazing acknowledgement in Tuesday's Buffalo News? Shoemaker, Town Attorney for Somerset, made the statement in the Buffalo News that "politics in Niagara County used to be a game. It was fun. Now it’s down and dirty and ugly and totally uninteresting. If it weren’t for AES Somerset, I’d be out of the political game".

What is Shoemaker's motivation to stay in the game? I'm going to go out on a limb and speculate that it's the $300,000 per year that Shoemaker and his law firm, Andrews, Pusateri, Brandt, Shoemaker & Roberson, has been paid the past three years by the Town of Somerset to represent the town in litigation with AES Somerset regarding their assessments and landfill issues.

That is a hell of a motivation to stay in the game, and it's an even bigger motivator to see that the AES PILOT agreement is never signed and the issue continues to be tied up in court. After all, if all sides reach an agreement, there would be nothing to litigate, and thus, no cash cow.

How motivated is he to keep his goose laying those golden eggs? He went out and found someone to run against Majority Leader Rick Updegrove. Was this someone with a long history of serving the community? Someone who has been vocal about county issues? Someone who attends Leg meetings on a regular basis? No, it was his car mechanic; his mechanic that works on his MG.

When Somerset Supervisor Rich Meyers attempted to quell some of the spending by presenting a legal billing proposal to the Somerset Town Board recommending a six-minute minimum billing limit rather than 30 minutes or putting Shoemaker on salary to keep costs low, Meyers was met with "he wants to know exactly what I’m doing for the Town of Somerset for every minute", by Shoemaker. Uh, yeah, they're tax dollars and he's the Supervisor;, he has the right to know and so do the taxpayers who pay your salary.

The Somerset Town Board has refused to turn over Shoemaker's billing records that Meyers requested months ago so Meyers could review them. Why would that be such a difficult request to fulfill, especially coming from the Supervisor? One could certainly speculate that when someone refuses to hand over records, that someone is hiding something. Time will tell, but in the meantime, Shoemaker can only hope that the AES issue doesn't get resolved soon. Afterall, he may still need some additional work done on his MG.

July 24, 2007

LaBarbera Court Date - UPDATE

I had the opportunity to attend the arraignment of Niagara County Legislature candidate Robert LaBarbera this evening at Wheatfield Town Court. Mr. LaBarbera was arraigned on the charges of Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), refusing a breath test and failure to keep right.

Mr. LaBarbera was represented by Jim Perry of North Tonawanda, and was arraigned before Judge John Mattio. Mr. LaBarbera had his driver's license suspended pending his trial on August 28th.

Niagara Times has learned that Robert LaBarbera, candidate for Niagara County Legislature, will appear in Wheatfield Town Court at 6 P.M. this evening to face charges related to his DWI arrest.

FAIR Forum

Due to other commitments, Niagara Times was unable to send a correspondent to the FAIR Government forum held last evening at Lockport City Hall. Therefore, we would like your critique if you were there or able to watch it on LCTV.

July 23, 2007

LaBarbera Arrest Update

Niagara Times has received confirmation of a previous report here Sunday evening related to the DWI arrest of 6th District Niagara County Legislature candidate Robert LaBarbera.

The endorsed Democratic choice for the seat was arrested Thursday night on the misdemeanor charge. He was also charged with refusing a breath test as well as failure to keep right.

LaBarbera stated that he plans to continue with his quest to unseat incumbent Legislator Danny Sklarski.

Here is the link to the full Buffalo News coverage of the LaBarbera arrest: http://www.buffalonews.com/cityregion/niagaracounty/story/126034.html

Is New York in JEOPARDY?

This site was just too much fun to pass up. Feel free to be your own Alex Trebeck.
Simply copy and paste the address into your browser: http://www.nyinjeopardy.com. Someone in politics is getting creative!

Observations

FAIR (Fiscal Accountability Integrity & Responsible) Government will be holding it's second pubic forum this evening to discuss opening the lines of communication between the public and the legislature. Translated, the three-minute crowd wants to know how they can get more face time on LCTV.

The news that the mother of the boy who was pulled off the ice at the Amherst Pepsi Center is suing the town for improper supervision has to be the hypocritical action of the year. If you properly supervised your child, he wouldn't have been firing pucks at a father and his very young son, hitting the father multiple times. Take responsibility for your kid, lady, he's the problem, not the Pepsi Center.

The State Comptroller's audit of the Niagara Power Coalition is not kind to former Executive Director Mark Zito, and payments made to Zito from the Coalition with no financial oversight whatsoever. County Legislator and Coalition founder Dennis Virtuoso went as far as to say, "We never saw the checks, we were just board members". Huh? You mean figurehead.

Kudos to contributors to Niagara Times who helped us break two major local stories, the Parenti story and the Legislature candidate's DWI arrest. We have several other major stories in the pipeline, and will keep readers apprised as we receive confirmation. Keep the tips coming at NiagaraTimes@hotmail.com.

Congratulations to Laura Sharkey from the Town of Lockport. Sharkey was named the town's Outstanding Youth of 2007 for her many community contributions. With so many disturbing reports of youth activities in our communities these days, this young lady is a breath of fresh air and a positive role model for all of us.

County Manager Greg Lewis is guiding Niagara County into buying 60 acres in Cambria for a new Public Works facility. I thought the the county was looking to divest itself of the several dozen buildings it already owns. Do we really need to take another 60 acres off of the tax rolls?

Although I don't advocate a 23% raise for any elected official, Lockport Alderman Pat Schrader is right, it's 14 bucks a week. Personally, I'd wouldn't want to be an elected official, and I give these folks all of the credit in the world for the job they do. $8000 to be an Alderman? Gladly.

Of course, you have a couple of the Lockport gadflies professing that the Alderman should set an example by taking a pay cut. Why don't you set an example by going to the Board of Elections, running for election, winning the seat and forgoing the salary.

Lastly, a Houston couple has purchased the former Hotel Niagara on Rainbow Blvd. in Niagara Falls for $4.6 million. Although the Falls has it's share of problems, there are still people out there who are willing to take a chance on the city.

July 22, 2007

Candidate Arrested

Niagara Times has learned from a highly placed source that a challenger for a Niagara County Legislature seat was arrested by State Police for DWI Saturday evening. While Niagara Times does have the name of the individual, we are awaiting confirmation prior to publishing the name.

This should make what already has been a contentious election season even more interesting. More details will follow as they become available.

July 19, 2007

Parenti Suit Settled

As you may recall, Niagara County Democratic Committee Chairman Dan Rivera was fired from his job as an insurance investigator with Liberty Mutual in the Fall of 2006. At the time, there were allegations that the reason for his termination was his misuse of company resources to dig up dirt on State Assembly candidate Gary Parenti.

Rivera vehemently denied these allegations, stating that the separation from his employer was a "difference of opinion over certain policies", and that the allegations were "nothing more than GOP trash. They will stop at nothing to try to derail me.”

Parenti eventually sued Liberty Mutual for the alleged workplace indiscretions of Rivera.

This evening Niagara Times has learned from a highly placed source that Liberty Mutual has settled the case out of court, paying Parenti the tidy sum of $20,000.

Now we know which policies Rivera and Liberty Mutual had this "difference of opinion" over.

July 18, 2007

Online Predators

I've had the opportunity to watch the NBC Dateline series "To Catch a Predator", and I must say I am continuously taken aback by these men who put themselves in such a disgusting position.

In case you haven't seen it, here's how it works: Dateline has volunteers pose as 12- or 13-year-olds and log in to chat rooms where they wait to be hit on by adults looking for sex. The decoys tell the adults they are home alone and sometimes they say they are interested in sex, a few pretend they are eager to meet.

The volunteers, who come from Perverted-Justice, a controversial citizen's organization that aggressively seeks to ferret out online predators, engage in often stomach turning, sexually charged chats with the adults who contact them. Much of the chat room dialogue is too "graphic and disgusting" for Dateline to share. Some men, Dateline reports, send illicit photos of themselves to the decoys.

In each installment, dozens of men eventually show up at the address provided by the decoys, presumably for a sexual encounter. They enter the house and are soon confronted by Dateline correspondent Chris Hansen. They are arrested soon afterward.

If you think that this is a big city problem, you are wrong. When Dateline aired "To Catch a Predator IV", the sting was set up in Greenville, Ohio. Even in small-town America vulnerable young teens are not far from danger. These predators were willing to drive for hours, sometimes even crossing state lines, to have sex with a thirteen-year-old girl.

Many parents of computer literate teenagers are not aware of this problem. I have met many parents who treat their computer illiteracy as something to be proud of: "Oh, Jenny is on that computer all the time. Me, I don't know how to turn the thing on."

Guess what? Jenny is making a date with a guy whose online photo looks like Brad Pitt, but who, in reality, looks like Larry The Cable Guy. Whether you mask your computer illiteracy as an excuse, saying that you are too old to learn how to use a computer or that you don't want to be a slave to technology, you're wrong.

Dateline has an "Online Safety Kit" that every parent should review. It can be found at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15162866/.

Although many predators will travel great distances to solicit their victims, Niagara County does have a Sex Offender website at which you may enter an address and it will tell you all registered sex offenders living within one mile. It can be found at http://www.watchsystems.com/ny/niagara/.

Job Descriptions

Tom Christy has mailed a letter to every Niagara County Legislator asking them to complete a job description. Yes, bartender extraordinaire Tom Christy would like legislators to write down exactly what they do. In addition, he would like them to write a "job purpose, primary duties and responsibilities, qualifications and experience".

This strikes me as somewhat bizarre. Last I looked, Christy lived in Erie County, not Niagara. But for some reason, he has set his sights on the Niagara County Legislature. Considering the heinous financial meltdown in Erie County over the past few years, one would think Erie County would have a greater need for in depth fiscal analysis. But no, the focus is on the Niagara County Leg, and I think I know why.

There is no public comment session in Erie, thus, there are no lemmings. In Niagara County, Christy has his little following to build his ego. At Niagara County Legislature meetings, there are five or six windbags who address the legislature on a regular basis. In Erie County, there is no addressing the Legislature. From these five or six windbags, a little clique has formed, and they follow Christy like a little puppy, and Christy eats it up.

Sure, about 50 people attended the first FAIR Government meeting, but as stated before, you take away elected officials and the three-minute lemmings, there were about 20 people there. That's about one for every Legislator, or one out of 11,000 people in each district. A stunning success - not.

But the Leg is an easy target. Meetings are televised, LCTV devotes a minimum of four hours a week to political dialogue, WLVL carries political discussions, US&J has a message board.

No discussion of school taxes, which is far and away the single biggest tax burden we face. You want some credibility? Go FOIL every school district in Niagara County. Ask them how many students they have. Ask them how many teachers they have. Then ask for the same numbers from 10 years ago. What will you have to say when practically every district has declining enrollment while hiring more personnel? That, my friend, is Fiscal Accountability in government.

You want fiscal accountability, get some school Superintendents on your show. Not on 20 to talk about the horrendous "No Child Left Behind" program, but on YOUR show to talk about the massive financial burden school boards put on the working class of this county.

Never mind, don't respond to that because we all know damn well it will never happen. You'll just keep doing what you've been doing. Keep working it, though, maybe you can get the count of the geriatric lemmings up to a dozen. In the meantime, at least you'll have job descriptions to analyze.

July 17, 2007

Chasing Gundersen

Straight out of the Conspiracy Theorists Handbook, sources have told Niagara Times that certain individuals have attempted to contact Dan Gundersen, the Chairman of Upstate Empire State Development, to verify a quote that was attributed to Gundersen in the Buffalo News.

As you may recall, Gundersen was in Niagara County last week to meet with County Manager Greg Lewis, Chairman Clyde Burmaster, Economic Committee Chairman Richard Updegrove, IDA Chairman Henry Sloma, Lockport Mayor Mike Tucker, Niagara USA President Deanna Brennen and other officials from the county's economic development staff. The focus of the meeting was to brief Gundersen on local economic development activities and marketing efforts.

Upon conclusion of the meeting, Updegrove is quoted as saying, "Mr. Gundersen said Niagara County was the model for business growth and retention efforts". Unfortunately the story doesn't end there.

Reportedly calls have been made to Gundersen's office to verify the comment because some individuals from the Somerset area cannot believe he would make such a statement.

My question is, what the hell is wrong with you? Are you that mentally disturbed that you are unable to comprehend the fact that all is not gloom and doom in Niagara County? That despite your thoughts on AES, which by the way no one outside of Barker gives a flying hoot about, you are unable to recognize other positive developments in the county, including the $1 billion HSBC project?

I cannot even comprehend the mindset of some people and what drives them. What I have come to learn is that some people want to tear down the Niagara County Legislature, even if it is at the expense of the entire county.

The Steamroller in the Swamp

The first few paragraphs here are from a recent New York Magazine article. Because of the length, I could not publish the entire story, but I have put a link to the full story.

The Steamroller in the Swamp
Is Eliot Spitzer changing Albany? Or is Albany changing him?

By Steve Fishman

A few months ago, I asked Governor Eliot Spitzer about his temper, the most popular subject in Albany. This was before Spitzer got into an all-out war with State Senate majority leader Joe Bruno, before Bruno called Spitzer “a rich spoiled brat” and his staff “thugs” and “hoodlums,” before Spitzer may or may not have called Bruno “senile,” before the machinery of government seemed to skid to a halt.

The day we met, Spitzer was dressed in his usual snowy-white shirt, firmly knotted rep tie, dark prosecutor’s suit, and black dress shoes.

“You have a talent for confrontation,” I ventured. “Your signature tactic has been to confront people and show your temper.”

“The full Spitzer,” aides call his angry outbursts, which, in one form or another, were often on display in the early days of his term. In the first weeks, Spitzer singled out one Democratic legislator who defied him. “Bill Magnarelli is one of those unfortunate Assembly members who just raises his hand when he’s told to do so,” he told Magnarelli’s hometown newspaper. Not long after, he famously shouted at Republican minority leader James Tedisco, “I’m a fucking steamroller, and I’ll roll over you.”

http://nymag.com/news/features/34730/

July 16, 2007

Lockport Building Inspection

The City of Lockport is going to lose it's two building inspectors within the next few months, beginning with the retirement of Senior Building Inspector Harry Apolito next month. Mayor Michael Tucker would like to privatize the function, stating that "When Harry leaves, we're in a jam".

In a jam when Harry leaves? What jam is that going to put the city in? No one to read the paper seven hours a day? No one to campaign on city hours? No one to sit upstairs and let the laws of society go unenforced to the point of serious decay of city housing stock? What a joke - get the hell out and let someone who cares about the community do the job.

Of course, there's good ol' Phyllis Green chiming in on the issue. When asked about privatizing the building inspection functions, Green said " I'm totally against it". How the hell is that possible? Look around your ward, it's a shit hole. I would think that Green, if she is serious about addressing blight in her ward (she wants to address blight in her ward after, what, 14 years in office?) she should be willing to try anything to right the ship.

Green stated that she is unhappy with the Building Inspection Department because she believes they are understaffed. You are on the Common Council. If a department is understaffed, you are the person who can increase staffing.

I'm tired of the rhetoric and excuses. Take a proactive position on the blight that has been, and is continuing to occur in the city, or you can get the hell out too.
Just a few short days after being heavily criticized on this blog for her lack of objectivity when it comes to covering and reporting county issues for the local Gannett Newspaper group, Jill Terreri shocked us at Niagara Times by writing a story in Sundays paper which was extremely critical of the Niagara County Democratic Party and it's chairman, Dan Rivera.

We won't rehash the story here, but needless to say, this objectivity is refreshing. As we've said before, criticism is fine, as long as it's earned and it's objective.

Kudos to Terreri for forcing a little bit of humble pie down our throats here at Niagara Times.

July 13, 2007

Observations

All of the local news stations and the local sports radio station are covering the departures of Daniel Briere and Chris Drury incessantly. Who gives a damn? They left, let's move on.

Well-respected local periodical Buffalo Business First recently concluded an online poll which asked: "How do you rate Eliot Spitzer after half a year on the job?" 11% said Excellent, 25% said Good, 29% said Only Fair, 28% said Poor, and 8% didn't know. Six months in and 58% of the respondents think Spitzer is doing fair or poor; It's day 194, Eliot, and things are certainly changing under your watch - for the worse.

The news that Upstate Economic Czar Dan Gundersen will be renting an apartment on Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo somewhat alleviates concerns about his commitment, or perceived lack thereof, to Western New York. Buying a home would have shown a greater commitment, but then again, if he's logging the thousands of miles across the state that he says he is, buying a home would be overkill.

Speaking of Gundersen, kudos to him for spending some time in Niagara County. Gundersen met with county officials this week to discuss the county's economic marketing efforts, and reportedly labeled the county's efforts "the model for business growth and retention efforts".

The Town of Alden is being proposed as the site of a retail complex the size of which will rival the Walden Galleria. Good luck with that.

The pit bull story out of Lockport is without a doubt one of the most disturbing stories I have ever heard. Word is that Nancy Grace his gotten hold of this story. As we know, Grace focused a significant amount of time last year to a story of a little boy from Lockport. We may be welcoming CNN cameras back to Niagara County very soon.

Lastly, major kudos to MSNBC anchor Mika Brzezinski for her refusal to lead the news with an update on Paris Hilton. In case you missed this amazing display of journalistic integrity, you can watch it by copying and pasting this address into your browser: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6VdNcCcweL0

People who are enthralled with the Paris Hiltons, the Lindsay Lohans, the Nicole Ritchies of the world are just downright pathetic. But since MSNBC was prepared to lead the news with a Hilton story, I guess they are well aware of the idiocy of the overwhelming percentage of the American people, and need to play to that audience.

July 12, 2007

Vehicle Forfeiture

Over the past few years, Niagara County has contemplated a "vehicle forfeiture" law. Under what was recommended by Dick DeWitt, an individual convicted of DWI would lose his vehicle on the first offense. Although I believe a first offense forfeiture is too harsh, I do believe that the county should look at this issue further.

Researching the issue, I found many communities that have implemented forfeiture laws. A Portland, Oregon, ordinance requires forfeiture of vehicles of offenders arrested for driving with a license suspended as a result of drunk driving. The forfeiture ordinance also applies to those arrested as habitual offenders who have committed three or more serious traffic offenses, at least one of which was driving while intoxicated. The flexibility included in some forfeiture ordinances results in a de facto combination vehicle impoundment/forfeiture law.

Several states have legislation allowing vehicle forfeiture, but most rarely use it. In many jurisdictions, forfeiture is a discretionary sanction imposed by the courts (NTSB 2000). There are a few notable exceptions of well-utilized programs, including:

Bend, Oregon, seizes vehicles of repeat offenders and of vehicles owned by others if they knowingly allowed the driver to use the vehicle.

In Ohio, laws allow forfeiture for the fourth DWI, third DWS, or the first offense of driving an immobilized or plateimpounded vehicle within five years. If forfeiture occurs, the offender cannot register or title any vehicle in his or her name for five years

The state of Michigan allows forfeiture for crimes ranging from a second DWI in seven years to felony DWI causing death or injury.

New York City initiated a first offender vehicle forfeiture ordinance in February 1999; the city seized 1,458 cars in the first year of operation.

Deschutes County, Oregon, has an ordinance allowing drivers to regain their vehicle if they pay an administrative fee and sign an agreement forfeiting their rights to the vehicle on a future arrest for DWI or driving while suspended.

Anchorage, Alaska, has an impoundment/forfeiture ordinance that seeks 30 days impoundment for a first offense and forfeiture for a second or subsequent offense.

Santa Barbara, California, also has an impoundment/forfeiture ordinance for unlicensed drivers that started January 1, 1995.

A 2000 study found after New York City began a vehicle forfeiture program for first time offenders, DWI arrests declined by 22 percent and traffic crashes declined by 14 percent from the previous year.

A study of a forfeiture program in Portland, Oregon, found offenders whose vehicles were seized re-offended only half as often as those whose vehicles were not seized. Over a four-year period, the recidivism rate for offenders whose cars were seized was only four percent.

Police officers in Santa Barbara, the sheriff’s department in Deschutes County and Anchorage city officials all consider their impoundment/forfeiture programs to be effective.

If our judges are going to continue to let people slide through the courts with a slap on the wrist, the problem is only going to get worse. And if anyone out there says DWI is a "victimless crime", I'd encourage you to go to a victim's impact group. You'll change your mind. Quickly.

July 11, 2007

Protecting Criminals

At the urging of Legislator Renae Kimble (D-Niagara Falls), the Niagara County Legislature has tabled a proposed new policy calling for background checks for new employees.

Kimble believes that the new policy may discriminate against individuals with a criminal background, and she feels that this is wrong. Kimble believes that denying someone with a criminal background a taxpayer funded county job is a violation of Human Rights Law.

New York State is an employment-at-will state. That means that an employer may hire or fire an employee for no reason whatsoever, unless that action contradicts language which is expressly written in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Title VII states, "It shall be an unlawful practice for an employer to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individuals race, color, religion, sex, or national origin".

I didn't see discrimination for rape, drug dealing, murder, arson, assault, forgery, identity theft, terrorism, theft, larceny, or any other crime as a violation of Title VII.

Of course, one would think that Kimble would embrace such an initiative. If this policy should be enacted, it may spare Kimble the significant embarrassment of recommending and hiring another Youth Director only to be publicly humiliated with the disclosure of that Youth Director's prior criminal history. Of course, when one knows no shame, one doesn't concern one's self with such trivialities.

Where is Teresa Hollands these days?

July 10, 2007

I have become accustomed to Niagara Gazette reporter Jill Terreri's horribly slanted columns, but her recent piece was so disgustingly distorted, I felt compelled to respond.

We are all very much aware of the fact that Terreri is nothing but a mouth piece for Dennis Virtuoso and the Minority Caucus, but when she attempts to portray her opinion as "news", it's nothing but a slap in the face to the people of this community.

In this piece, Terreri carries the ball for Virtuoso again, taking his accusation that Henry Wojtaszek needs to be investigated for his role in the AES PILOT. Wojtaszek works for a firm, Harris Beach, that had some involvement with the IDA. Of course, Harris Beach has 250 attorneys, but since Wojtaszek is in Niagara County, AES is in Niagara County and the IDA is in Niagara County, he must have masterminded the whole deal! How idiotic.

A few uneducated, outspoken individuals have have been clamoring for the collective heads of the Legislature and Wojtaszek over this deal, stating that the Legislature is ultimately responsible for the actions of the IDA. The last time I looked, there is only one Legislator who works for Harris Beach sitting in the legislative chambers: Kyle Andrews.

Why is no one questioning Andrews' connection to this deal? He is closer to this deal than Wojtaszek could ever be. He VOTED on those IDA appointments. He WORKS for Harris Beach.
Every single resolution that has come up on this matter, he has voted on. He has never abstained or recused himself from any vote due to a potential conflict of interest. How is this possible? If there is anyone that should be reviewed by the Ethics Committee for his involvement, it's Andrews. As a matter of fact, his role should be reviewed by the State Bar Association as well.

As for Terreri, she can continue doing Virtuoso's dirty work. Obviously she doesn't have a problem with it. I guess that's what a degree from Columbia gets you: The ability to pass off your opinion as news.

July 9, 2007

The news that New York State Health Department will not force Niagara County to build an assisted living facility is good news to the taxpayers of this county. The ruling clears the way for the county to divest itself of the Mount View nursing home, and get out of the nursing home business altogether.

Dumping millions of dollars into an antiquated facility that would require millions more in taxpayer monies to update was never a good idea. I am a firm believer that the public sector should never compete with the private sector. If there are businesses out there that can do the job more effectively and efficiently than the public sector, which is almost always the case, the private sector should prevail.

This position has nothing to do with the employees or the care at the facility. Besides the rampant sex parties that are alleged to have occurred quite frequently, I have heard primarily good things about the care to patients.

What does boggle my mind is the position of the Minority Caucus. Dennis Virtuoso, the current Minority Leader, has been extremely vocal about Mount View. Every time I watch legislature meetings or LCTV or read the papers, there is Dennis crying like a little girl about Mount View.

What Dennis doesn't acknowledge is that in 2003, while he was in the Majority, the Legislature was given multiple presentations by then Administrator Ed Marchi about renovating Mount View. That's right, the ball was absolutely in Dennis's court when it came to determining the future of Mount View.

What did he do? Absolutely nothing. His failure to act in 2003, when he was in a position to invest millions into Mount View has put Mount View in the position it's in now. Not the Berger Commission, not Greg Lewis, but Dennis Virtuoso.

I do wish the employees good luck in their respective futures. No one deserves to have this game played with their livelihoods. I am confident that the patients will be fine, there are many facilities within 50 miles that can accommodate them. And Edwina Luscksh, well Edwina must be the happiest person in Niagara County with the news that Niagara County can now proceed with the closure of Mount View.

After all, it's Edwina who attends every Legislature meeting, calls LCTV, calls WLVL every opportunity she gets to say that Niagara County has way too many employees. Congratulations, Edwina, you just got your wish with the prospective layoffs of 200 county employees.

July 6, 2007

Delphi Contract Rejection

The rejection of the wage-cutting agreement by Delphi workers at the Lockport plant has been an issue I have been unsure I want to tackle. After all, if I disagree with the vote, I must be anti-union. If I agree with the vote, I am out of touch with the international economy, and unwilling to adapt to a dynamic, volatile market.

I respect the position of the workers at Delphi on the contract vote. I believe it shows tremendous fortitude and courage to show management that they are not satisfied with the contract, and they stood together.

But what price are you willing to pay to show your courage? Are you willing to lose your job to show how strong and unified you are? I am not asking because I doubt your rationale, I simply would like to know.

With Lockport slated to be one of four sites in the U.S. to remain open, while 10 others are scheduled to close, the vote may change future plans, and the future of the Lockport plant may be in jeopardy.

What does annoy me is the concern of contract workers with the management compensation. Workers often say that management is undeservedly overpaid. Who cares? As my mom always said when my siblings got something I didn't, or got to stay up later, or got to go somewhere I didn't get to go: Worry about yourself. Management's bonuses didn't put Delphi in a hole, a changing world economy did.

Granted, in the 70's, when Datsun was making toy cars that got 40 mpg, management failed to adapt accordingly. However, the reason they didn't adapt accordingly was the gluttony of the American consumer. Bigger, faster, more, more, more. Ultimately the consumer did come to the realization that smaller and more economical was necessary, and the American automakers found themselves way behind their Japanese counterparts.

Members of UAW in Lockport will soon have the opportunity to vote on another agreement that will be the tell-tale sign of the future of this facility. With the national agreement in place let's hope that the local shows a willingness to adapt.

No one wants to see anyone take a drastic pay cut, but is unemployment a better alternative?

July 5, 2007

New York Post Editorial on Spitzer

This is an unedited editorial from the New York Post:

Governor Spitzer's repeated attacks last week against Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno were filled with distortions, half-truths and, in one case, an outright falsehood, a review of his claims shows.

Spitzer, in a mocking PowerPoint presentation delivered to audiences around the state, claimed Bruno (R-Rensselaer) and the Senate Republicans had voted to raise their own pay even while refusing to undertake official business, had approved the building of "dirty coal" power plants, and had prematurely ended the legislative session in order to begin their summer vacations.

The governor made the pay-raise claim based on the Senate's approving a measure its leaders said was submitted by Court of Appeals Chief Judge Judith Kaye, seen as a Spitzer ally.

The measure, which has not been approved by the Democratic-controlled Assembly, would provide an immediate pay raise for all state judges and set up a commission that could recommend pay raises for all other state officials, including lawmakers, whose pay was last raised in 1999.

Spitzer also claimed that the Republicans "called it quits before the full work week was over" last month when they ended the Senate's regular session. However, the Senate was sticking to the Legislature's official calendar when it ended its regular session last month, which the Assembly did a day later.

And at the time of the recess, Bruno said he would have kept the Senate at the Capitol if agreements had been reached with Spitzer on important issues.

Spitzer has also repeatedly claimed that Bruno and Senate Republicans favored the building of "dirty coal"-fired electrical generating plants that would belch disease-causing and global-warming-inducing gases across the state. But the measure backed by Bruno requires any new coal plant built in New York to meet all existing state and federal emission standards and to use the best available pollution-control technology.

In addition, the Natural Resources Defense Council, a leading environmental group, backed the measure when it was first introduced.

Spitzer Uses State Police to Spy on Bruno

I cannot even begin to describe how disturbing this New York Post story is. We have heard Spitzer describe himself as a "@*%!#* steamroller", but if this his methodology, we are in serious trouble with Elliot. And yes, these are your tax dollars at work. Read on...

Governor Elliot Spitzer targeted state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno for an unprecedented State Police surveillance program.

No other state official was singled out for the type of detailed record-keeping the State Police maintained on Bruno, the state's most powerful Republican, official records show.

A senior state official familiar with the surveillance program told The Post that he believed the governor and his aides had sought to "set up" Bruno by having the State Police keep track of his travels.

"Why else would they do it if not to set up Bruno - by getting on him something they thought was incriminating - when they weren't doing it to anyone else?" said the official.

Bruno himself said "it appears" Spitzer and his staff used the State Police to try to obtain negative information on him in an effort to "set up an officeholder" with whom the governor disagrees.

"I would like not to believe that the governor and the people who work for him would purposely set up an officeholder of the opposing party, but it certainly appears that way," said Bruno.

"This is like something you'd expect in a Third World country, where some dictator has his enemies followed to see how they could either do something to them or disgrace them.

"This is dangerous in a free country."

A Bruno aide contended Spitzer's actions "are reminiscent of Richard Nixon with his 'enemies list.' "

The State Police, which are under the control of the governor, routinely chauffeur Spitzer and Paterson, who they also protect, during their travels throughout the state. Bruno has regularly requested and received State Police drivers during his visits to New York City because, he has said, he's been the subject of numerous death threats.

The record-keeping only started in early April, around the time that Spitzer, a freshman governor, began having major disputes with Bruno.

July 3, 2007

Independence Day

As we approach the Independence Day holiday, it's only fitting that we celebrate the individuals who had the fortitude and foresight to create the greatest country in the world. While you're celebrating with BBQs, beer and parties, take a moment to remember that our founding fathers, and every soldier since, fought for your rights and liberties. So, here are some interesting facts about the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence.

Twenty-four were lawyers / jurists.

Eleven were merchants.

Nine were farmers and large plantation owners.

Five were captured by the British as traitors, and tortured before they died.

Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned.

Two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army; another had two sons captured.

Nine fought and died from wounds or hardships of the Revolutionary War. They signed and they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.

And while many know of Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, John Adams, and other famous signers . . . here is what happened to several of the lesser known ones...

Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships swept from the seas by the British Navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts, and died in rags.

Thomas McKeam was so hounded by the British that he was forced to move his family almost constantly. He served in the Congress without pay, and his family was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken from him, and poverty was his reward.

Dillery, Hall, Clymer, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Rutledge, and Middleton had their properties looted by vandals or soldiers.

Thomas Nelson Jr., at the battle of Yorktown, noted that the British General Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson home for his headquarters. He quietly urged General George Washington to open fire. The home was destroyed, and Nelson died bankrupt.

Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed. The enemy jailed his wife, and she died within a few months.

John Hart was driven from his wife's bedside as she was dying. Their 13 children fled for their lives. His fields and his gristmill were laid to waste. For more than a year he lived in forests and caves, returning home to find his wife dead and his children vanished. A few weeks later he died from exhaustion and a broken heart.

Norris and Livingston suffered similar fates.

Such were the stories and sacrifices of the American Revolution. These were not wild-eyed or war hungry, they were soft-spoken men of means and education. They had security, but they valued liberty more. Standing tall, straight, and unwavering, they pledged . . .

"For the support of this declaration, with firm reliance on the protection of the divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor."

So, every July 4th, take a moment to silently remember these first USA patriots for doing what was needed, regardless of consequences to themselves. And do the same for all of the heroes who have followed them, as their noble efforts allow us to continue to celebrate Independence Day as it was meant to be!

Freedom is priceless, as its costs are the lives given valiantly to have it.

July 2, 2007

Observations

Defense attorneys in the trial of Judge Amy Fricano plan to call a witness to the stand who will state that Lockport Police Captain Michael Niethe reacted with jubilation over her arrest. While I think the allegation is garbage, I have not yet made the connection between this allegation and driving 60+ mph through a heavily populated school zone.

The North Tonawanda school district has hired three new principals to fill vacancies, according to Superintendent Vincent Vecchiarella. Let's hope Vince isn't hiring individuals in his own image.

Kudos to county legislature candidate Joe Urso. Urso is pressing the issue of casino cash, wanting to bring more of it back to the people. When incumbent Dennis Virtuoso stated, "We already did resolutions on that, and it was met with nothing", my first thought was, "good job Francine, way to step up for your constituents. Keep funneling that money out of your city and sending it to Albany". Of course, this is par for the course for her. Remember that Francine refused to let a referendum go to the ballot allowing the people of this state the opportunity to vote on non-Indian casino gaming.

Speaking of Albany, I was in Tops last week, and I saw Elliot Spitzer on a milk carton. Can someone please send this guy a map of Western New York? I'd like to see him in here for something other than a fundraiser. It's day 183 Elliot, what's changed?

While you're at it, send a map to Dan Gundersen too. Please let him know that if he chooses to live in Saratoga, he's going to have quite a commute to his office in Buffalo. But I guess that's what you get when Spitzer hires an Upstate Economic Development Director from another state. Maybe he mistook Saratoga for Sanborn.

I had a chance to watch the F.A.I.R. forum a couple days ago on LCTV. Unfortunately, it seems that the "three-minute crowd" infected this forum as well. From the hour and a half of garbage being spewed, you'd think the public comment session at Niagara County Legislature meetings is the most pressing issue in the county. It's simply amazing how distorted the priorities of some people are.

By the way, at the F.A.I.R. forum, I counted just under 20 people who were not elected officials, candidates or three-minute crowders. That's about one person from each of the 19 legislators districts. I'm not sure I'd classify that as the resounding success Tom Christy has made it out to be. Good effort though.

Kudos to the Village of Albion, the town of Albion, and the town of Gates. The three municipalities are moving forward with a significant plan of consolidation. Maybe their spirit of cooperation will be a benchmark for other communities and school districts in our region.

Lastly, kudos to Lockport landlord Richard Cositoro. He would like to set up a network of sorts for landlords to communicate with each other to monitor less than desirable tenants who have been evicted by previous landlords. A terrific idea indeed, let's hope Mr. Cositoro is provided the necessary tools to follow through.