April 24, 2008

"Plumber-Gate" Stinks Up Lewiston

Recently, Lewiston Town Supervisor Fred Newlin and Councilman Sean Edwards attempted to pass a proposal to create a plumbing board and to license plumbers in Lewiston. The proposed board would administer a test for plumbers working on new buildings and, once passed, would be added to a list of approved town plumbers. A multitude of builders and contractors showed-up at a town board hearing to voice their opposition, and the town board decided to put the idea on hold.

This action begs the question: Why would Newlin and Edwards worry about licensing plumbers in Lewiston, when there are so many other issues to worry about? Also, why did they target only plumbers and not any other trade?

A review of New York State Board of Elections financial statements may hold some answers. Interestingly, three members of the Lewiston town board received $3100 from the Pipefitters & Steamfitters Local 22 Political Action Committee (PAC).

During his 2005 campaign, Edwards received $1400 from this PAC, which incidentally, wasn’t reported to the Board of Elections until 2006. In 2006 and 2007 Newlin received $950 in Pipefitter PAC money, and in 2005 and 2007, Councilman Mike Johnson received $750.

The treasurer for Plumbers & Steamfitters Local 22 PAC is listed as a Michael McNally. Amazingly, the Business Agent for the Pipefitters and Steamfitters Local 22 is none other than Lewiston Town Councilman Sean Edwards, according to their website: www.ualocal22.com.

Did Edwards use his influence to finance his own campaign, as well as that of Newlin and Johnson? Even uglier, did the trio then try to push this "licensed plumber" agenda onto the community? As Ricky Ricardo used to say, "You got some splainin' to do!" In all seriousness, this simply looks bad. With requests for Boards of Inquiry being thrown around quite easily, it certainly appears that this situation needs further review by an outside, independent body.

For more detailed coverage of this story, visit http://www.niagara-gazette.com/archivesearch/local_story_084215435.html.


Anonymous said...

If it is such a reach – why is Buffalo union money flowing to little Lewiston NY; I don’t know about you; but with what next – threats and intimidation.

Lancer said...

I agree, it just looks bad. Why would this be a priority for Newlin? Maybe if he had put the effort into the NYPA settlement that he's putting into licensing plumbers, Lewiston wouldn't have gotten screwed in the deal.

As everyone says, just follow the money and all of your questions will be answered.

Poli Scick said...

Maybe Newlin will be the star witness in what may be the next case of union corruption and coercion in WNY. Right, the unions are just trying to protect their right to work-through bribery maybe. What a crock of sh*t.

rob clark said...

How did Lewiston get screwed with there NYPA Agreement? They are receiving the most money from the deal, and the most power. Ask some of Lewiston’s residents if they are upset about having a lower electrical bill. Any amount helps.

But they did fight a little more than the rest of the Power Coalition. And they didn’t follow marching orders for there part of the agreement. Then they most have screwed there residents. You have a great argument there on that one.

As for the original topic at hand. Who would want a new home or commercial property that isn’t up to code? That creates sewer damage. Or even flooding, due to some fly by night plumber. This is a good idea that should be done with all contractors. Make it all even and legal. That way there it’s fair for everyone. It should be something that is also not used to over charge anyone. Owner or contractor.

Pete M said...

Rob, you don't see any problem with taking thousands of dollars in political contributions from the plumbers union and then shortly thereafter proposing legislation that specifically benefits the plumbers union? I only ask because in making your case for supporting this issue, you conveniently left that part, a very significant part, out of your position.

Anonymous said...

Shucks... Pete, you beat me to the contradiction Rob so conveniently left out. You always seem to rush to the defense of your "Dem-o-Gods". 3 members of the Board are union members... the Union Steward!! It happened in NF for years... but this kind of stuff would never happen "below the Hill", right? Furthermore, Rob, please work on the grammar. As an elected official I would certainly hope you could speak and write properly in order to best represent your People.

Anonymous said...

Funny George and Henry took money from the plumbers union and it was never a problem. How about the money they took from John Gross?

Pete M said...

They may have taken money from the plumbers union, but they never turned right around and proposed legislation that blatantly benefits the same body. It's funny that those defending this resolution keep forgetting that part in their talking points.

Anonymous said...

Think about it, why are Plumbers and Pipefitters more important to our society that Doctors?
What would our society be like if we did not have clean water to drink?

How widespread would disease be without the sanitary facilities that we take for granted in our everyday lives?

What would our average life expectancy be without the current high standards maintained in our water systems today?

Not since the time of the Roman empire has a society advanced their overall health to such a degree as the United States and other highly developed countries have in the past century. The Romans built aqueducts to carry fresh water hundreds of miles to their cities, some of these are still in use today as are more modern systems built in the past two centuries. The Romans developed sewage systems to carry waste out of the cities and help improve the quality every Roman citizens life. They constructed public bath houses which also contributed to an improved health of their citizenry. After the fall of the Roman empire, the advancements and improvements to the infrastructure of cities that they instituted were all but forgotten until the late 1800's. No society worked to improve the quality of their drinking water and sewage systems were none existent. People drew their water from the same wells, lakes or streams where waste was regularly deposited and no one worried or cared about ground water contamination or pollution. People and factories dumped their waste into the nearest stream, pond, or river while downstream people depended on this same water for their daily cooking and drinking needs and watering of livestock. Rivers became sewers and overuse of fertilizers contaminated ground water and rendered farmland useless by upsetting the chemical balance of the soil. Dysentery was widespread, cholera, plagues, and the Flu killed millions over the centuries. Worldwide during the period from 1918 and on into 1919, over 40 million people around the world died from the Flu. One of the ways in which outbreaks of this magnitude have been prevented in recent history is thanks in part to modern plumbing enabling people to wash their hands more frequently and under more sanitary conditions, and also in great part to the efforts of many in the medical profession. Read this account of how in 1918 the Flu affected US Navy Sailors and the country in general at Naval Station Great Lakes, Illinois.

During the 1800's, indoor plumbing started to become popular. The City of Philadelphia had one of the first public water distribution systems in the country, which began operation in 1815. Advancements in metallurgy and forging techniques allowed cost effective pipe and fittings to be manufactured. And development of the skills necessary to assemble these components together into working systems by tradesmen in homes and buildings turned these ideas and concepts into reality. Indoor heating systems made buildings more hospitable and comfortable. The development of sprinkler systems over the past 125 years has helped to save lives and property from the threat of fires. The design and installation of fire sprinkler systems is complex and has developed into a specialty trade within the piping industry. Sprinklerfitters are the UA member journey men and women who specialize in the installation and maintenance of these special purpose piping systems.

The implementation of current waste and drinking water regulations and standards through the installation and maintenance of our waste and groundwater treatment facilities, hazardous waste cleanup, and chemical controls systems has done more to increase the life expectancy of our citizens than any medical advancement in the history of mankind. These standards and regulations are one thing that has enabled us to improve our lives, but they would be nothing without the skills of Plumbers, Pipefitters and other construction trades who turn those words into the mechanical systems that remove harmful chemicals from our water, and kill bacteria and other life threatening organisms. Hundreds of thousands of square miles of our country would still be uninhabitable were it not for the great reservoirs and underground aqueducts that transport water over hundreds of miles safely to were its needed. Where would the great cities like New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and many others get the millions of gallons of water they use each and every day were it not for our countries water reservoirs, water distribution, and waste treatment and disposal systems that safely carry our sewage away?

No amount of medication could do what maintaining our sanitary and potable water systems has accomplished for our society. The next time you take that warm bath or shower in your house, or draw a glass of clean, odor-free water from your faucet to drink or cook with, you can thank in part the Plumbers and Pipefitters and construction workers of this country, not the doctors and physicians for improving the overall quality of your life. If you visit the US Center for Disease Control web site, you can read about the desperate need for safe drinking water in other parts of the world, but you won't find many, if any, references to unsafe drinking water here in the United States. Without the regulations and standards implemented here in the United States, and the associated infrastructure, we would not be much better off than many of the impoverished countries of the World.

Do Doctors need to be licensed?????

Do barbers need to be licensed?????

Answer Yes

Why!!! For the protection and safety of the community....

Mr. Pink said...

I'm not against making sure people who have to do important work on properly licensed....but give me a friggin break on this one.

The one union Newlin et al decide needs to be licensed is the one that a town board member is part of and the one that bankrolled their campaigns.

Rob, I like that you are an alternative voice to many on this board but you are becoming contrarian simply for the sake of defending the Dems.

I'm one who believes raising money is just part of the process. And giving contributions undoubtedly gets your phone call returned a little faster.

But to be so blatant about this...to make a campaign contribution look so obvious as part of a pay to play scheme....well, that should be investigated.

Anonymous said...

How do you know that Fred Newlin took money from the plumbers union? Cuase he reported it. Where did Dan Engert's money come from? No one knows. Where's your outrage on that?

gop shill said...

Where did Dan Rivera's money come from...we couldn't tell for months because he failed to report. Now we know why:

1) Rivera is employed by Mark Panepinto, a bigwig in Erie County Democrat circles.

2) Panepinto is close with former Erie County Executive Joel Giambra.

3) Giambra's campaign commitee gave several thousands of dollars to Dan Rivera's Niagara County Democrat Committee.

4) Dan Rivera turned around and made contributions from the Niagara County Democrat Committee to candidates for Buffalo Common Council and Erie County Legislature.

It's all there in the filings....albeit months and months and months late after everyone stopped paying attention.

Where's the outrage there?

pirate's code said...

Dear Mr./Mrs./Ms. Long-Winded Anonymous -- You might want to cite your sources when you cut and paste. (http://www.ualocal582.com/plumberhealth.html -- a web site of...ta da...a local of the United Association of Plumbers and Fitters of the United States and Canada -- and, apparently, Lewiston) Otherwise, it's known as plagarism. A little Google goes a long way.

Having a license doesn't necessarily make you a better doctor, barber or plumber. It only makes you somewhat regulated.

Licensing is not what created the wonderful utility systems you reference. The marketplace did. And, the marketplace continues to be the best regulator of those who provide such service.

Besides, that little dot on the horizon that you can see if you squint is the point you missed in the original post. Not whether or not to license, but how this came to be in quiet, peaceful, non-political Lewiston, NY.

But, thanks for playing.

Anonymous said...


Please go and google all of Larry Castellini's posts as well. Given the amount of b.s. in those posts, he's got to be stealing it from somewhere.


All the other posters

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Edwards just showed up with a bag of cash?

Anonymous said...

John Gross does not have union plumbers.

fed up in da falls said...

Follow the money, boys, follow the money. If you don't think there was a quid pro quo attached to the donations you're a fool.

Anonymous said...

Now lets all get a grip here.

First, politocs promulgate promises purposely pushing primary patrons' purposes.

No surprise there.

The questions should almost always start with an inquiry as to whether the policy decision is wise and/or desirable or is the policy just a boondoggle which will benefit certain interests at an unjustified cost of the general public.

After all, interests support candidates for office who they believe will promote their agendas.

So is this a wise policy to license plumbers? If so the fact that plumbers promote that wise policy with donations to like-minded politicians should inform nothing more than a need to reform campaign finance laws.

pirate's code said...

Anon post 18 -- Did you previously write copy for Eyewitness News? Love the alliteration.

--Pistol Packing Punks Pressure Buffalo's Boys in Blue

--Buffalo Blaze Busters Battle Burner on Babcock

Makes you long for the days of Irv, Rick & Tom, eh?

Anonymous said...

seem like they hardly bank rolled the campaigns. They were just donors like they were for George and Henry....Let's follow the money their?

rob clark said...

Pete M.....Okay I agree to a point. I hope you see the one point of my agrumeent. That I feel that all contractors should be held to certain licenses. In general its a good idea if done fairly. Without living in Lewiston, is there a bigger problem there that we all do not know about. I do know that they were with out a building inspector for a while. This could very well be a major problem that no one knew about.

Anonymous said...

It gets back to the original story. Lewiston has alot of un-addressed problems: no building inspections: if there are any, it's overseen by Newlin. There's s no process for assessment calculations; new buyers are assessed high, and existing homeowners are assessed low (this is illegal) we all need to be at fair market value. The town is in general, and the parks are shabby. Just look at the crappy sign that greet you upon entering Lewiston. The only nice one is by the Hospital, and was payed for by Beau landscaping. The Landscaping sign is almost as big as the Town sign. The only jewel is the village, which is run by Mayor Soluri and a board of trustees. Newlin took a poor deal from the Power Authoity. We should have free power plus the yearly money. He thinks $20 off our electric bill is an great accomplishment. He forgot that the entire Power Authority Complex sits in Lewiston, and pays no taxes. Getting back to the main story, I think Edwards was just trying to run Lewiston like he runs his union, spend other people's money, and believe nobody will ever notice.

sick & tired said...

Newlin got a bad deal for lewiston? Oh, come on. If Lewiston's deal was "bad," then the other municipalities deals are disastrous.

Newlin was the only one who returns the money directly to the residents. The folks who have been most directly affected. The other entities retain control of the funds and power allocations to be sucked up into our bloated government and used as corporate welfare under the guise of "economic development."

The NiaGOP spin machine is out of balance if it thinks its going to get any traction criticizing Newlin's performance within the Power Coalition. Newlin is the only one to stand up to the corruption , conflict of interest and poor management of the negotiation.

If Newlin could be faulted for anything in the Power Authority deal, its that he didn't get elected a as Supervisor sooner. Perhaps if he had, the whole deal would not have been as far off the tracks as it was and all of niagara County would have benefited from a deal that would be at least as lucrative, on a relative basis, as the deal AES got from the IDA.

Anonymous said...

P.C. I too appreciate an element of better writing, the alliteration is great. As far as Irv and company are concerned, please credit their inspiration to the late loquacious literary legend of Lockport, Clip Smith.
To that alliteration's anonomyous author, if you have an old copy of "Elememnts of Style" please send it to Larry C. This blog would be much less painful to read if he were as proficient as he is prolific with his writing.

Anonymous said...

It's really funny – but understandable why many folks have the wrong impression that Fred actually delivered good deal for the citizens of Lewiston.

The truth of the matter is that Lewiston could of gotten a much better deal.

However, Fred has done a better job communicating his message than the other side – he’s kept it very simple and straight forward.

The other side has not been able to break down the “complexity” of the arrangement. To effectively show people the actual value that they missed out on.

Again, without a clear message, people can’t really appreciate what they did not receive because they don’t have a good appreciation of the “true” value of the resource.

Here a good analogy – when my kids were young I played a teaching games with them (and their friends) to demonstrate the value of the various denomination of money. My observations – 50 pennies was more attractive than a dollar bill and nickels were more popular than dimes. After a while they became to understand the value of the currency because they would equate it to what they could purchase – how much bubble gum.

I think the average citizen Joe has the same perspective. They see that they saved 19 dollar bills on they power bill and believe that Fred most be really working for me. To bad, Joe passed up the one Ben Franklin. And the sader part is that Fred passed it up too.

Anonymous said...


The mainstream media: Gazette, News, and Sentintel have all picked up this story and watch for it to break this weekend. The reporters are all making phone calls to all the relevant players right now.

Fred Newlin's pay to play culture is about to be exposed.

Anonymous said...

Many of these posts, including the original, are opinions portrayed as facts, colored by personal feelings and grudges. Further more, when some are given the chance to blame someone new, despite how questionable the proof, they pounce on it.

Ever give a thought to what was the agenda of the author???

Larry S said...

Well, we're going to find out the "opinions" of those involved when it hits the papers in 24 hours.

sick & tired said...

The story has hit the MSM


And the only thing that's happened is that Hobbes and GOP boss Devantier had their BS splash back in their faces.

Oh yeah, Newlin looks bad on this one.

Perhaps he should be called "Teflon Fred"?

Anonymous said...

After Lewiston gets done with their legal fees, and Mark Zito get his lawsuit settled, the $15-20
per month credit on your electrical bill will be washed. Zito will probably get half of the "good deal" Fred Newlin "negotiated" for Lewiston.

Anonymous said...

Francine DelMonte, 46, of Niagara Falls, was charged with loitering at 8:18 a.m. Thursday. DelMonte was walking on 19th Street Thursday morning and offered a motorist oral sex in exchange for money, according to the driver, who alerted police. DelMonte also was taken in on a warrant for a previous loitering charge.