September 28, 2007

McNulty, Jagow Condemn Spitzer Executive Order

The following is a press release received from Legislator McNulty:

McNulty, Jagow Oppose Driver Licenses for Illegal Immigrants
Two Join to voice outrage, announce legislation preventing implementation of Governor Spitzer’s edict.


Today, 9th District Niagara County Legislator Andrea McNulty was joined by Niagara County Clerk Wayne Jagow at the North Tonawanda branch of the Department of Motor Vehicles to express their outrage at Governor Eliot Spitzer’s latest proposal to grant drivers licenses to undocumented, illegal immigrants.

Legislator McNulty has introduced a resolution that would ask the County Clerk to place a moratorium on the processing of Drivers License applications by illegal immigrants in Niagara County DMV branch offices.

McNulty said “Governor Spitzer’s new policy granting New York State Drivers licenses to illegal immigrants is irresponsible and dangerous. In a time when we as elected officials at the local, county, state and federal level are working towards cooperative solutions to secure our border, it is disappointing for Governor Spitzer to stand in the way of our efforts.”

“The New York State Drivers License is the most universal form of identification and our citizens depend on it for every day identification needs such as banking transactions, age verification and travel needs. Undermining the credibility of this document by granting it to illegal immigrants would weaken public safety and put our citizens in harms way, the new policy is also in violation of both New York State and Federal Law” said McNulty.

County Clerk Wayne Jagow went on to say “The Federal Government has recognized the importance of the security of driver's licenses. That is why Congress has passed the REAL ID Act, which would require social security number background checks of people applying for driver's licenses. After Governor Spitzer's action, not only will his administration be in violation of our own state law, it will also be in noncompliance with the Federal Law Real ID Act. I do not feel comfortable processing applications from illegal immigrants in Niagara County offices; I support Legislator McNulty’s resolution.”

County Clerk Jagow estimates that there are nearly 1,000 illegal immigrants in Niagara County that would be eligible for driver's licenses under Spitzer’s proposal. That figure is based on State DMV estimates.
McNulty, Jagow Oppose Driver Licenses for Illegal Immigrants

Two Join to voice outrage, announce legislation preventing implementation of Governor Spitzer's edict.

Today, 9th District Niagara County Legislator Andrea McNulty will join Niagara County Clerk Wayne Jagow at the North Tonawanda branch of the Department of Motor Vehicles to express their outrage at Governor Eliot Spitzer's latest proposal to grant drivers licenses to undocumented, illegal immigrants.

Legislator McNulty has introduced a resolution that would prevent the Niagara County Department of Motor Vehicle offices, operated by the Niagara County Clerk, from processing New York State Drivers License applications from illegal immigrants.

McNulty said "Governor Spitzer's new policy granting New York State Drivers licenses to illegal immigrants is irresponsible and dangerous. In a time when we as elected officials at the local, county, state and federal level are working towards cooperative solutions to secure our border, it is disappointing for Governor Spitzer to stand in the way of our efforts."

"The New York State Drivers License is the most universal form of identification and our citizens depend on it for every day identification needs such as banking transactions, age verification and travel needs. Undermining the credibility of this document by granting it to illegal immigrants would weaken public safety and put our citizens in harms way, the new policy is also in violation of both New York State and Federal Law" said McNulty.

County Clerk Wayne Jagow went on to say "The Federal Government has recognized the importance of the security of driver's licenses. That is why Congress has passed the REAL ID Act, which would require social security number background checks of people applying for driver's licenses. After Governor Spitzer's action, not only will his administration be in violation of our own state law, it will also be in noncompliance with the Federal Law Real ID Act. I do not feel comfortable processing applications from illegal immigrants in Niagara County offices; I support Legislator McNulty's resolution."

County Clerk Jagow estimates that there are nearly 1,000 illegal immigrants in Niagara County that would be eligible for driver's licenses under Spitzer's proposal. That figure is based on State DMV estimates.

September 27, 2007

AES To Announce Expansion Plans

Jill Terreri has a piece (URL below) on a $25 million expansion that AES is planning. This is certainly welcome news in a county that's desperate for any measurable economic investment. It certainly makes those who said the PILOT will be a catalyst for future development look good, though I doubt it will sway the opinion of those against the PILOT.

It will be interesting to see how this announcement is welcomed by Somerset officials and if it will impact in any meaningful way this November's elections. My initial reaction is that those who have blind hatred for AES will find ways to poke at this announcement. I hope I'm wrong.

http://www.niagara-gazette.com/local/gnnlocalnews_story_269184017.html

September 26, 2007

Does the License Plan Impact the Border

In a thread from a few days ago, I mentioned the lack of coverage given to Governor Spitzer's plan to provide driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. What I find fascinating is the lack of discussion about the impact this plan may or may not have on our community.

Let's set aside the politics of immigration. Let's set aside that this issue is red meat to conservatives on one side and trolling for Latino support on the other. Let's set aside the argument that this is validating illegal behavior versus it's making the streets safer.

Instead, let's focus on an issue for Western New York in which there is near unanimous agreement....you shouldn't need a passport to drive over the bridge to Canada. We all know that requiring passports will be a huge financial burden on many people and will really hurt tourism and commerce.

That's why our Congressional Delegation, in a bi-partisan manner, has been fighting the White House and Homeland Security on this. Instead, the argument has been made that driver's licenses should be good enough. There are some pilot programs being conducted where enhanced drivers' licenses are being tried. A state needs to show the federal government that its drivers license program is stringent enough that it's as good as a passport.

Now guess what? Giving illegal immigrants driver's licenses will kill New York's chances of getting around the passport requirement...thank you Governor.

Spitzer's people are saying that the above statement isn't accurate. That illegals won't be able to get the "enhanced" driver's license. Others dispute that.

The fact is, the border is far more important than giving licenses to illegal immigrants. The governor should have cleared all of this up and had definitive answers from Washington before embarking on this policy change.

And worse, the lack of serious coverage on this issue has led to further confusion. Considering every single media outlet has covered the border issue and many editorials have been written against the passport requirement, one would think this topic would merit considerably more coverage.

September 25, 2007

More to the Mike Cole Story?

Tom Prohaska has an interesting story today about the Niagara County GOP being very lukewarm to Assemblyman Mike Cole's fundraiser. The link is below:

http://www.buffalonews.com/cityregion/niagaracounty/story/170190.html

I'm sure many of you remember the trouble that Cole got into within an intern in Albany in violation of Assembly rules.

Some insiders have emailed to say that while everyone is being cool but polite in the article, the real truth is that neither Senator Maziarz, GOP Chair Henry Wojtaszek nor Mayor Mike Tucker ever agreed to be listed on Cole's fundraising invitation.

Cole was frustrated and just went ahead and listed them anyway. Now, they are avoiding his fundraiser to send a message.

There are strong rumors that several Erie County Republicans are looking to primary Cole. If that happens, you can almost guarantee the Niagara County GOP will field their own candidate in the hope of bringing that that seat back home.

It's also interesting to note that both parties to seem to have a low tolerance for personal misconduct by their candidates. You have Wojtaszek apparently walking away from Cole and Rivera not hesitating to pull the plug on Bob LaBarbera following his DWI arrest. Both chairman deserve kudos for that.

September 23, 2007

Union Sun & Journal's Censorship

Niagara Times thought that this was so important that it needed it's own post.

Apparently, one of this blog's readers copied and pasted the previous Spitzer post onto the Union Sun & Journal online message board. It appears that the US&J editorial board was none to happy with that post.

The reader sent me an email this afternoon letting me know that he has been banned from posting on the US&J message board from now on. He stated that when he went online to read the community forum on the Union Sun, he received a message stating:

We're sorry, but your IP address (xx.xx.xxx.xx) has been banned by this community. This means that you may not login or register as long as you are online with this IP address.
For further assistance, please contact the community administrators
Go Back | Hey Martha...


How amazingly offensive is this? I guess the Greater Niagara Newspaper group advocates the right to free speech, except when it's on their message board and contradicts their view point.

September 22, 2007

Spitzer and GNN's World of Denial

The Troopergate scandal that has rocked Eliot Spitzer's administration has been a topic of discussion on this board before. Niagara Times has been asked "do you want to see Eliot Spitzer fail?" Of course, the answer is no. Regardless of political affiliation, we all have a stake in in Mr. Spitzer's success or failure as Governor.

But what we are astounded by, is the absolute refusal of the Greater Niagara Newspaper group to acknowledge the scandal, other than a sloughing off of the situation. Across the state, editorial board after editorial board has taken Spitzer to task for Troopergate, including the NY Times and the Wall Street Journal, hardly conservative papers. Poll after poll indicates that the people of this state believe that Spitzer is lying, and that he should testify under oath.

A Siena College Research Institute poll shows that almost 60 percent still think he hasn't been fully honest about the affair and that he "needs to be more forthright." Even more astounding is that 70 percent of New Yorkers continue to think he should testify under oath as to what he knew about the dirty-tricks campaign. 53 percent say Spitzer was aware of what his top aides were doing.

What does GNN print? A feel-good editorial entitled "Spitzer: Working for the people". The editorial then goes on to tout "two crtical programs" that Spitzer is pushing: "keeping his and the legislature’s promise to provide health coverage to nearly 400,000 uninsured children in the state", and secondly, "Spitzer promoted a plan to wean the working poor off welfare with better training, including a chance to earn college degrees that lead to better jobs".

Wow, these are two "critical" plans that are going to further vacuum the dollars right out of my pocket. And with GNN's touting of these two "critical" programs, is there any doubt to which side they lean politically?

What about the plan put forth by Spitzer to give drivers licenses to illegal aliens? Where is the coverage of this in the GNN?

In case you missed it, and no one would blame you if you did, Spitzer announced Thursday that illegal immigrants will get driver's licenses in New York State. He also said the state would no longer require a Social Security number or proof that a person is not eligible for such a number in order to qualify for a driver's license.

Is this not an outrage? Even worse, is this not a story that you would deem newsworthy? Again, we are back to the discussion of what is and what is not news. But if there was ever any doubt what GNN believes what is and what is not news, that doubt has been erased when it comes to covering Eliot Spitzer. Er, not covering Eliot Spitzer.

September 21, 2007

AES Lawsuits Dismissed

From the Buffalo News....

LOCKPORT — After State Supreme Court Justice Richard C. Kloch Sr. dismissed the remaining portions of their lawsuit, the Town of Somerset and Barker Central School District were left Thursday with the hope that an appeals court will overturn a tax break for their largest taxpayer.

In his ruling, Kloch also rejected Niagara County’s claim that AES Corp. had committed fraud by seeking a payment- in-lieu-of-taxes, or PILOT, arrangement with the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency. Whether the county would appeal remained unclear.
_______________________________________________

The decision is pretty definitive and leads to several observations:

1) While one can appreciate the school district and the town making the case of the legality of the pilot and the process that was followed, the county's fraud case was a huge waste of taxpayer money that someone should answer for.

2) Isn't it time New York State stepped in and settled this power plant assessment issue statewide so communities are not torn apart debating whether a PILOT or future refunds based on assessment challenges is the lesser of two evils?

3) AES needs to make a significant investment in the plant to show they are indeed interested in being a long-term, good neighbor in the community and make doubters feel that the PILOT was justified.

4) Henry Sloma comes out of the decision looking pretty damn good.

5) The school district and the town come out of this looking like they fought the good fight for their constituency. The county looks ridiculous.

6) You can guarantee appeals because there is money to be made for lawyers.

7) Tough to tell who this court decision helps/hurts politically this election season.

Those are my snapshot judgments...let's hear yours.

September 20, 2007

Rumor Alert

After all the intensity over primary elections, I thought a little rumor mongering might be fun. I've heard the following from three different, unconnected sources: Buffalo Sabres Owner and former candidate for Governor Tom Golisano is interested in buying Greater Niagara Newspapers.

Mr. Golisano is upset with coverage in the Buffalo News and believes the Gazette, properly funded, could be a viable alternative.

We all know how deep Mr. Golisano's pockets go, and the financial problems that have plagued GNN, so this doesn't seem so outlandish.

Then again, does a billionaire CEO really want to be in the newspaper business?

Just some fun speculation at this point. I'm curious if any of our loyal readers have heard this rumor and what you think GNN would be like under new, local ownership.

September 19, 2007

Primary Day Reflections

While many of the races went as expected, there were several surprises. Today we'd like to focus on your thoughts and perspectives on the Primary Elections and what yesterday's results may mean for the General Election and beyond.

We'd like to say congratulations to all of the winners and to those who were not successful, congratulations on your involvement and your willingness to put your name on the ballot. In today's turbulent political environment, that is certainly not an easy task.

September 18, 2007

Primary Day

Considering the fact that today is Primary Day, we'd like to wish all of the candidates good luck. In that spirit, if you would like to wish any candidate good luck, or predict the winner of a certain race, feel free.

September 16, 2007

Supervisor Letter in Its Entirety

The undersigned wish to announce their grave concern at the recent development of political factions in Niagara County. Historically the County has been impacted by its various political parties which have run candidates on issues supported by those parties. Now it appears that it is individuals with agendas and not the political parties that control the issues.

In the recent past, that system has broken down, with the Republican party, run by Senator George Maziarz and the Niagara County Republican party Chairman, Henry Wojtaszek, among others, preempting political discourse and attacking candidates in their own party with whom they don't agree. Clear examples of this are the Republican attacks against Wright H. Ellis in Cambria and John Sweeney in Somerset.

The Maziarz - Wojtaszek group has also compromised Democratic candidates, naming their own slate of Democrats who, when elected, caucus and vote with Republicans, at the direction of and in support of the interests of Maziarz and Wojtaszek.

This is harmful, destructive and deliberate activity by the Maziarz-Wojtaszek machine. The result being that the interests of residents of NiagaraCounty have been subjugated to the interests of their special interest politicians, Maziarz and Wojtaszek. Some examples are:

- the AES PILOT with its huge cost to NiagaraCounty taxpayers;

- the fiasco of dealing with Niagara Power and County power coalitions resulting in losses of millions of dollars to County residents and taxpayers and resulting in lawsuits by aggrieved parties;

- the attack by Maziarz and Wojtaszek against the integrity of Town Government by attempting to usurp the power to Town sewer and water services by attempting to transfer those functions to Niagara County politicians and their political allies;

- taking control of the Independence and Conservative parties in NiagaraCounty;

- the use of State funds and grants to foster the interests of Maziarz and Wojtaszek and not to the betterment of NiagaraCounty, its local governments and its business community.

To stop this political virus from destroying NiagaraCounty, we are asking for your support for the following candidates in this year's election, all of whom are dedicated to bringing sanity back to the County:

WRIGHT H. ELLIS, SUPERVISOR, TOWN OF CAMBRIA
JOHN E. SWEENEY, JR., SUPERVISOR, TOWN OF SOMERSET
RICHARD LANG, SUPERVISOR, TOWN OF ROYALTON

Return Niagara County to its people by electing these candidates who are independent of and opposed by the Maziarz-Wojtaszek machine.

JOHN CONNOLLY
JO THOMPSON
LLOYD WESTCOTT
RAY BEITER

September 14, 2007

If the Majority Changes....

Recently it has been stated that this site has engaged in posting what have been characterized as "partisan" statements. Although we believe that both Republicans and Democrats are equally to blame for our failures, both parties should receive accolades for our successes.

These blames and successes are not limited to the Niagara County Legislature, but should also be focused on our local governments as well as our state representatives, the Governor and his appointees, as well as school boards. They all factor into the equation.

There is much talk these days about the negative aspects of campaigns, and the lack of "tell me what you as a candidate can do for me, not what the other guy is horrible" approach to campaigning.

Since the County Legislature is often the focus of our wrath, I would like to ask a very simple question: If you believe that the County Legislature would be in better hands with a Democratic Majority, why do you believe things would be better?

P.S. For the record, yesterday Mr. Bender stated that we only gave half of the story because we did not post the letter from the Supervisors. At that time, an offer was made to anyone who had the letter to please email it and the letter would be posted in it's entirety. It was never received.

September 13, 2007

Retired Supervisors Jump Into Fray

The previous thread is hot and heavy. Some are calling it one-sided. Mr. Bender asked why we aren’t discussing the letter to the editor from some retired town supervisors that presented another side. I couldn’t get the letter on-line but did get a hard copy. If someone has the full article, I’m happy to post it.

Here’s the gist: John Connelly, J.O. Thompson, Lloyd Westcott and Ray Beiter signed a letter to the editor in support of Wright Ellis, John Sweeney and Richard Lang.

Here are some excerpts:
“Recently the system has broken down with the Republican Party – run by State Sen. George Maziarz and NC Rep. Chairman Henry Wojtaszek among others – pre-empting political discourse and attacking candidates in their own party with whom they don’t agree. Clear examples of this are Republican attacks against Wright Ellis in Cambria and John Sweeny in Somerset.”

They then mention several issues they take exception to including:
1) AES Pilot
2) The fiasco of dealing with Niagara power and county power coalition resulting in losses of million of dollars
3) The attack against the integrity of town government by attempting to transfer control of sewer and water authorities to the county
4) Taking control of the Independence and Conservative parties
5) Use of state funds and grants to benefit their own interests, not those of local governments"

I'm always happy to respond to issues raised by our readers. Let the comments begin.

September 12, 2007

The Somerset Food Chain

Received from a concerned Somerset resident via email:

Point of Fact: The Somerset Town Board appoints the Somerset Town Attorney.

1. In 2006, the challenger for Town Supervisor runs a campaign largely on the issue of the amount of money that the town pays the appointed Town Attorney.

2. "Coincidentally", the appointed Town Attorney Ed Shoemaker reviews, signs and files objection to ballot signatures on behalf of the incumbent against the challenging candidate for Town Supervisor.

3. "Coincidentally", when asked, the incumbent says that Shoemaker is the "longtime family friend" of the incumbent. The incumbent loses by a 65% - 35% margin, thus says the voters.

In 2007, the former incumbent runs again and allies with two incumbent Councilmen to mount round 2!

1. The issue about the amount of money given (on an hourly basis) to the again appointed Town Attorney is still unresolved due entirely if not largely to the actions (votes) of the two incumbent Councilmen.

2. Guess who supports the trio? You guessed it, the appointed Town Attorney.

3. In return for their support of him, he makes a disclosed monetary donation of $500 to their re-election fund and the Lockport Energey Association (of which he has close ties and influence) donates $1000 to their re-election fund!

4. Those are the disclosed amounts directly to the re-election fund of the "leave the town attorney alone gang".

5. Additionally, the well-paid "consultant business manager" for the Barker Schhool district also contributed $150 in disclosed donations to this group. Many other undisclosed donations amount to a significant fund by standards for a typical race in Somerset.

So, the food chain goes like this.....the board will appoint the town attorney....the town attorney eats away at the town tax dollars....the town board continues to appoint the town attornety....the town attorney continues to eat....someone comes to challenge the town attorney and his eating habits....the board comes to the defense and aid of the town attorney and accuses any opposition as being "controlled"....the town attorney returns some of the town tax dollars to the incumbent board to keep them elected....the town board re-appointes the town attorney...and the town attorney continues to EAT!

We can only hope that the food chain (with lots and lots of gravy) will end for the current town attorney. Thus will say the voter!

September 11, 2007

Pillot's Allegations

City of Lockport mayoral candidate Mike Pillot has raised more than a few eyebrows over the past week with accusations of rampant criminal activity within the Lockport Police Department.

Last Thursday evening, Pillot stated that he has proof of the alleged illegal activities, which according to Pillot, included a recorded conversation. A few days later, after being asked to provide this proof by Police Chief Neil Merritt, Pillot asked a supporter to destroy the evidence. In case that was unclear, a 25-year police veteran asked a supporter to destroy evidence of illegal activity. I find that stunning. Even more stunning is the fact that Pillot publicly admitted such.

As a law enforcement officer, is it not your duty and obligation to report illegal activity, now and while on the job? What about the crime, was it a victimless crime? How would the victim feel knowing you just had evidence destroyed that may have impacted his or her case?

I'd like to know why Pillot continued to work at LPD if the department is so corrupt. To me, he sold his soul. Essentially, he continued to work there, believing that department is corrupt. Upon, leaving, he decided to spill the beans. But if he knew about it while there, while taking a taxpayer subsidized paycheck, he was part of the alleged cover-up.

If you knew about illegal activities and sat on them while collecting a check, you put your personal interests before the interests of the city.

Hardly the traits we need in a mayor.

September 10, 2007

Look in the Mirror

The Business Council of New York State has created a little stir by saying that Niagara County gets a failing grade in economic development. They based their "grade" on a review of the counties performance over the period of 1995-2005.

Now, that 10 year period covers both Republican and Democrat Majorities in the County Legislature. It covers a few different IDA heads and dozens of IDA board appointments. So if Niagara County gets a failing grade, it's the result of our collective ineptitude, but.............

Is there a person out there who does not believe the condition of Niagara County and all of Upstate is the direct result of failed policies out of Albany driven by downstate legislators? Issues like taxes, Medicaid reform, workers' comp, etc., etc. are holding us back, yet downstate, which isn't as cost-sensitive as upstate, has seen no urgency to reform these policies.

And isn't the Business Council of New York State supposed to be the leading advocacy group in Albany that is supposed to make the case for changes to improve the business climate.

So, if Albany is the reason for our problems, shouldn't the Business Council give itself an "F"?

Perhaps the Business Council should be looking in the mirror at their own failures and figuring out what they can do besides releasing worthless reports to improve things.

September 8, 2007

Lombardi & WLVL

An interesting situation has arisen over the past day or two that is a segue from the conversation about ethics in politics. This time, however, the accusation of impropriety did not come from a political figure, it came from a nameless, faceless accuser. In fact, the accusation came on WLVL's Dialog hosted by Scott Leffler.

Apparently, and for the record I did not hear the live broadcast but did catch the podcast, during a show in which Lockport 4th Ward Alderman Pat Schrader was being taken to task for his role in the accident that sent a nine year-old girl to the hospital, someone called the show to enlighten the audience with a story about 5th Ward Alderman John Lombardi.

I won't get into the very ugly details of what occurred, but the caller made some extremely disturbing comments about Lombardi. These comments were so harsh that they potentially could impact Lombardi, his family, his business as well as another individual who was named by the cowardly caller.

The concern is that where does the right to privacy end for an elected official? More importantly, what constitutes criticism of an elected official, and what crosses that line? When Bill Leardini stood at the podium and called the Niagara County Legislature "corrupt", I was told by an attorney that the statement absolutely constitutes slander. But as an elected official, what do you do, sue him? Then you're thin-skinned.

In this situation with Lombardi, who's responsible? It's my understanding that in legal terms, once a media outlet broadcasts such a slanderous allegation as the one on WLVL, that media outlet is responsible.

In other words, if candidate X writes a letter to the editor saying that candidate Y is a pedophile, the paper is not off the hook simply because candidate X signed his name to the letter. The paper has a legal responsibility to not print unfounded, slanderous, libelous statements.

So where does that leave WLVL? The questions of their responsibility are already flying. Are they negligent for not having a delay, as most radio stations do? Should Leffler have disconnected the call the moment he realized where the caller was going, instead of allowing the caller to embellish the story even further?

Whatever the outcome, I wish Lombardi and his family the best. No one deserves this type of disgraceful accusation. Not even an elected official.

September 7, 2007

Ethics

Several stories over the last few days have me thinking about ethics. GOP Boss Henry Wojtaszek held a forum earlier this week for some elected officials and appointees to boards like the IDA, Community College, Bridge Comission with the former head of the State Ethics Commission to discuss dos and don'ts.

At the same time, the Buffalo News was praising Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown for firing a public works employee who was accused of taking junkets from a contractor who did work with the city.

Then we have the Pat Schrader cover up and Scott Leffler's show on WLVL yesterday that raised the topic of "us" and "them." Leffler raised the issue of whether the "elite" in our community get to play by their own set of rules.

Hovering over all of this is the continuing saga of the Spitzer scandal with the state's Inspector General doing her best "I don't know nuttin" perfomance yesterday.

I'm always left wondering is it that hard to be on the side of good? Do people in positions of influence lose perspective? Is there a lack of common sense to the process?

Shouldn't acting ethically be pretty easy?

September 6, 2007

An Omen?

The fact that Niagara County does not have a County Executive leaves the county in somewhat of a conundrum. In Erie County, there is no gray area, the County Executive, Joel Giambra, is firmly in charge. For better or worse, albeit temporarily, Giambra holds the reigns of the county.

In Niagara, we have a County Manager, but we also have a Chairman of the Niagara County Legislature. From what I understand, the County Manager, Greg Lewis, is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the county, while the Chairman, Clyde Burmaster, is responsible for setting policy.

Burmaster seems like a pretty amiable fellow despite his temporary lapse in judgement in booting the audience out of a legislature meeting.

Burmaster, as you may recall, replaced the very likeable Bill Ross last year in what appeared to be a move orchestrated by the GOP leadership. Prior to Ross, the Chairmen of the Legislature included Sean O'Connor, Brad Erck, Burmaster, and Gerry Meal.

Interestingly, the last time that Burmaster was Chairman, the GOP lost the majority. Although I don't think anyone believes that the Dems have strong enough horses in the races to pull off a swing of that magnitude, is having Burmaster as Chairman an omen of things to come, and if so, what would that mean to Niagara County?

September 5, 2007

Royalton Candidates Night

The Town of Royalton Republican Committee is hosting a meet-the-candidates night on Wednesday, September 12th at 7:00 PM at the Royalton Town Hall. This event will be hosted by Committee Chairman Bob Johnston and Bob Confer will serve as the moderator for the debates. To ensure everyone's concerns are addressed (and that there is a smooth flow to the debates) Bob is accepting questions from Royalton residents prior to - but not during - the event. They can send their questions and concerns to Bob via e-mail at bobconfer@juno.com

Hypocrisy 2.0

We have previously referenced the fact that the Niagara County Legislature Minority Caucus had reached the bowels of hypocrisy in their lawsuit from 2004 against the Majority Caucus for inviting Democrats to caucus with the Republicans. The Minority Caucus also sued the County of Niagara.

As you may recall, the Majority Caucus consists of eight Republican, five Democrats and one Conservative. The Minority Caucus sought to prevent the Democrats from meeting with the Republicans. So much for promoting the spirit of cooperation.

What we found so hypocritical about the lawsuit was the fact that while admonishing the Majority Caucus for allowing Dems into their caucus, the Democrats themselves were out there recruiting Republicans to run with the Democrats support, and ultimately if victorious, to caucus with the Dems.

In 2004, the Dems backed Republican Keith McNall to run against incumbent Republican Glenn Aronow. While the strategy nearly paid off for the Dems, Aronow claimed victory. Aronow eventually resigned and recommended McNall to fill his seat, which he did, but that's an issue for another time.

Upon the State Supreme Court ruling that the multi-party caucus was in fact legal, in addition to the fact that the Dems were themselves using the Republican strategy of recruiting candidates from other parties, many figured that the Dems would drop the issue. They were wrong.

The Minority Caucus went on to appeal the decision of the Supreme Court to the Appellate Division. While appealing, the Dems have gone on to endorse at least five Republicans, including Charles Dahlquist, Merrill Bender, Wright Ellis, Randy Wayner and John Sweeney for various offices this year.

So if Bender and Dahlquist win, are you going to stick by the ethical standard that you yourself have set? Will they, as Republicans, be allowed in the Minority Caucus, or was this lawsuit more about politics than policy?

Worse yet, the Dems are represented by Attorney, former Democratic Chairman, and former county Human Resources Director Charles Naughton. Yes, the same political hack who was fired from the county in 2004 is back to seek vengeance.

Even more disconcerting are the potential rules of ethics violations. As an attorney, would it not be an ethical violation to sue someone for a certain action, then turn around and commit the exact same action yourself?

Lastly, the fact that the taxpayers of Niagara County have paid for these lawsuits is downright offensive. We challenge the Minority Caucus, Dennis Virtuoso, Harry Apolito, Kyle Andrews, Sean O'Connor and Renae Kimble, to not only stop this political charade, but to reimburse the people of this county the thousands of taxpayer dollars spent over this highly political spectacle.

September 4, 2007

Schrader Accident

On or about August 4th, Niagara Times learned that Lockport 4th Ward Alderman Pat Schrader was involved in an auto accident that sent a nine year-old Lockport girl to the hospital. The accident required a Mercy Flight of the girl. Fortunately, the injuries she sustained were not life threatening.

From what we have learned, a police report was filed with the Lockport Police Department(LPD), and all city policies and procedures were followed.

What we are unable to comprehend, once again, is where is the mainstream media? In a column earlier today, someone referenced the lack of "investigative journalists" in our market. Does the local media only follow stories that are spoon-fed to them?

Worse yet, did the local media know about the story and bury it? Should this be the case, every one of us should be very concerned with this self-imposed censorship of stories of interest.

The release of this story by Niagara Times a month after it occurred is by no means an attempt to impugn Mr. Schrader. He is a dedicated representative who works hard for the city. He is unopposed for re-election this year. Accidents happen and again, the girl was not very seriously hurt.

But where is the responsibility? Do the people of this community not have the right to all of the news, not just the news that the local media deems us worthy of knowing? Or do we not deserve some sort of statement from Schrader, or did he think it wasn't necessary or that we didn't deserve one?

Either way, when you are an elected official, you live your life at a different standard. There are multiple parties at fault here. We can only hope that someone comes clean.

Observations

The Niagara County Legislature took in $865,350 in its Aug. 25 tax foreclosure auction. Is that money accounted for in the budget? It would seem that if it has not already been budgeted as a receiveable, that $865k would equate to about a 1.2% property tax decrease in itself.

City of Niagara Falls Mayor Vince Anello has claimed the unfortunate title of "lame duck" for the remainder of his tenure in office. Anello states that he'll "be just as enthusiastic as I was on my first day.” Let's hope Anello uses the time wisely and to move the city forward.

With the news that a construction worker had his iPod stolen from a classroom at Barker High School on Friday afternoon, my first thought was that things must be getting pretty desperate out in Barker with the oh-so-devastating cuts to the school district. My thoughts quickly turned to asking: If the district is so devastated by the cuts, what are they constructing and how are they paying for it?

The multitude of court challenges of election petitions highlights how difficult of the process of getting on the ballot is in New York State. The system protects incumbents (sans Anello) and discourages new people from getting involved.

Sources have told Niagara Times that LCTV Executive Producer Rich Zapp is so enamored with the job that substitute Legislative Journal hosts Bob Confer and Scott Leffler did while Tom Christy was away that Zapp is considering making the duo the permanent hosts of the show.

State Supreme Court Justice Amy J. Fricano returned to the bench last week after being acquitted of the drugged driving charge last Monday in a nonjury trial in Lockport Town Court. She was found guilty of two traffic violations and fined $310. How is it that this woman can return to the bench with no statement whatsoever to the people who elected her? I'm not talking legally, we know she has the "right" to return to work. I'm talking ethically. As someone who had respected AJ in the past, I cannot begin to comprehend her mindset. Make a public statement, Amy. The public deserves that much.

Niagara County must pay to settle another lawsuit which stemmed from the Niagara County Sheriff's Department. Is it me or have there been an incessant amount of lawsuits generated out of this department over the years?

Niagara County is moving forward with plans for a new public works facility and highway garage. The county has agreed to purchase land in Cambria for the facility. Has anyone seen or heard anything from County Manager Greg Lewis on how the county plans to pay for this multi-million dollar complex?