June 30, 2008

Change In Senate Leadership

With the announcement that Long Island State Senator Dean Skelos will replace Joe Bruno as the New York State Senate Majority Leader, Skelos immediately becomes one of the so called "three men in a room". The three men in a room concept comes from the belief that the Governor, the Assembly Majority Leader and the Senate Majority Leader are the three most powerful men in the state.

Add to that the fact that all statewide officeholders are from downstate, as columnist Tom Precious illustrates in a Buffalo News article from last week, and you have a certain level of uneasiness among the Western New York community. Is it warranted? Skelos has come right out and said that he is not from NYC, and immediately recognized that "whether you live outside Buffalo or Montauk, your property taxes are choking you. That is the No. 1 issue." That's good to hear right out of the gate.

Governor David Paterson wants to run for a full term when his current term expires. He must deliver for Upstate if he is going to win. He must deliver on his promises. Of course, Hillary promised 200,000 jobs to Upstate, and while Upstate has hemorrhaged jobs, Clinton still, amazingly, continues to receive support in our region. But I digress. Paterson will need to show success in Western New York. With the GOP holding a slender majority in the Senate, Skelos will work to retain those GOP Senators, many of whom represent Upstate districts.

Skelos, a week into his new position, will begin a "listening tour" of Upstate in Buffalo this week. He is to meet with area community and business leaders, gathering feedback on the needs of Western New York. That's a good start to what is hopefully a new beginning for Upstate.

June 27, 2008

Senate Candidate Arraigned on Harassment Charge

Yesterday a commenter was looking for an update on former East Aurora Mayor, and current New York State Senate candidate David DiPietro. The Buffalo News has the update, which can be found here.

Jailhouse Rocked

Today's Buffalo News story related to the accusations of Niagara County Sheriff Tom Beilein allowing violations of state regulations to continue in his jail, even after inspectors had been assured the problems would be fixed, must be throwing shock waves through political circles in Niagara County this morning.

Four current and former jail employees are alleging that inmates in the county jail sometimes are held in nonsecure areas when parts of the jail are overcrowded, a problem that state inspectors cited in 2005.

The allegations come as both the Republican and Democratic parties in Niagara County mount their campaigns to replace Beilein.

If the allegations are legitimate, they are serious, and must be addressed. But the timing of these four employees coming forward, albeit anonymously, sheds a very ominous cloud over the allegations. One has to ask, why now? With Beilein's appointment to head the state Commission of Correction weeks away, why bring these allegations forward now?

Are these four individuals truly concerned about the conditions at the jail or are they simply trying to put out a political hit on Beilein's appointment?

As recently as last week, it was alleged by a candidate for office that Senator George Maziarz was holding up the Beilein appointment. Now these developments come to light. Did the four employees bring their concerns to Albany, and if so, are these allegations the reason that Beilein has not yet been confirmed?

Either way, this situation is going to get more interesting as we move forward. If this is an indication of things to come, it could just turn out to be a pretty exciting election season.

June 26, 2008

Media & Race

Yesterday's Union Sun & Journal and Buffalo News both covered stories about a man from Lockport who is looking for a variance to build a private club.

The first paragraph of the Union Sun & Journal piece stated "Steve Huston will appeal to the Common Council to let him to operate a business on residential Michigan Street after the zoning board said “no” for the sixth time on Tuesday."

The Buffalo News story started with "
It was a different proposal but the same old result Tuesday for Steve Huston, an African-American activist who has applied unsuccessfully several times since 1999 to open a business in a residential zone on Michigan Street."

The stories essentially say the same thing, with one exception. The writer of The Buffalo News story goes out of his way to point out the fact that the individual applying for the variance is African-American. Why is that? It is completely, unequivocally unrelated to the story.

Now, I'm not one to be wrapped up in the etiquette of being politically correct, but someone please help me to understand what on earth does the fact that this man is black have to do with anything related to the story. Is it to gain sympathy for Huston? Is it to make him out to be a victim, to insinuate that because he is black, he was denied the variance? Or is it to justify why his request was rejected?

If you read the stories, and I would encourage you to do so, there is completely legitimate rationale as to why his variance request was denied. If I was to apply for a variance and get denied, would the newspaper print that Caucasian-American blog writer David Klein was denied a variance? I don't think so. So why the double-standard? Why is it necessary for the media to repeatedly point out that someone is black?

If there is a legitimate reason, I'm all ears (or eyes in this case). I would welcome any insight to the logic associated with this. Otherwise, it seems blatantly racist to continuously refer to a group of people by the color of their skin.

June 25, 2008

Niagara-Wheatfield Superintendent

In today's Niagara Gazette, there is a nice fluff piece about the new Superintendent of Niagara-Wheatfield schools, Carl Militello. It goes on about their exhaustive search, and Militello cites "having schools go from being designated by the state Education Department as “at risk,” or in need of improvement, to being named high-performing" among his accomplishments.

Unfortunately for the residents of the district, we're not sure they're getting the entire story on Mr. Militello.

A friend of mine who lives in the Carthage district that Militello is coming to NW from had this to say about him: "He is very controversial, almost starting a revolution in Carthage over budgeting, his out of district residence and taxes. He's heading to Niagara County after voter revolt."

This is a piece that appears in the Watertown Daily Times related to the hiring of Mr. Militello and his tenure at Carthage.

The Watertown paper states that "Mr. Militello, who was hired in Carthage in July 2006 after spending six years as superintendent in Dunkirk, has recently come under fire by community members and municipal officials in the district for cutting jobs while increasing taxes."
Also under Militello's leadership, "voters voiced their displeasure with the district on May 20 when they voted down the 2008-09 budget 1,849 to 294 on May 20 and forced all three incumbent board members out of their seats."

So after an exhaustive search, including 25 candidates, we're going to hire the one with an extremely controversial record of cutting jobs while raising taxes? Are these the attributes we're looking for in our school administrators these days?

And as for the Gazette, is it your policy to take someones press release verbatim and pass it off as news? A couple phone calls would have alerted you to the controversy surrounding this guy.

Maybe we can just put all of this behind us. Maybe Mr. Militello will come to Niagara Wheatfield looking for a fresh start; looking to learn from the mistakes he's made in the past. Then again...

June 24, 2008

The Race For Niagara County Sheriff

By now you've most likely heard that Niagara County Sheriff Deputy Brian Grear plans to challenge New York State Senator George Maziarz for Maziarz' seat. Grear, who was thumped by current Sheriff Tom Beilein in 2005, held a press conference to announce his candidacy yesterday.

Grear apparently had wanted to challenge Ernest Palmer of Lewiston in the GOP sheriff’s primary, but it appears now there won’t be a primary. Beilein, who was announced several months ago as a nominee for chairman of the State Commission on Corrections, is still in office.

If Beilein isn’t confirmed by the Senate before July 10, which is the last day to hand in nominating petitions for the primary, there won’t be a primary because there officially won’t be a vacancy. If Beilein moves up to state office after July 10, political parties will be able to choose their nominees without holding primaries.

Here's where things get a little fuzzy: Grear accused Maziarz of holding up Beilein’s nomination, but Governor David Paterson has yet to submit Beilein’s name to the Senate for consideration. But, that's a minor aspect of the discussion.

The one who is truly denying Brian Grear the opportunity to run for Sheriff is Beilein himself. Grear stated that because there is no vacancy, he can't run, and that's true. But Tom Beilein is the only one who has direct control over that, not David Paterson and not George Maziarz.

We all know that this Beilein appointment is coming. Only Beilein can make the determination as to when he leaves his current post. Could it be that Beilein is holding up his appointment to screw Grear? Well, considering Grear and Beilein pretty much despise each other, the fact that Grear has sued Beilein, and Grear had the audacity to challenge Beilein last election, it seems like a pretty good possibility.

Tom Beilein loses nothing by resigning his current post now and opening up the race to anyone who wants to get in. But this is politics, and as we've said before, it's not always pretty. Would Beilein stick it to Grear by delaying his own appointment a month or two? You're damn right he would, and that's why Beilein is such an effective politician.

June 23, 2008

"Pork Barrel" Spending

I started to read Tom Prohaska's article in the BuffNews today about casino slot revenue distributions, and was immediately halted after reading the first paragraph. It stated, "the Niagara County Legislature rolled out the pork barrel last week, allocating $50,000 from the county’s share of Seneca Niagara Casino revenue to a variety of local projects and events."

Now, we've all heard the term "pork barrel" before, but I always assumed that it was the use of taxpayer dollars to fund projects within a specific elected official's district. So I looked it up.

Merriam-Webster defines pork barrel as "government projects or appropriations yielding rich patronage benefits".

Wikipedia states that
the term pork barrel politics refers to "government spending that is intended to benefit constituents of a politician in return for their political support, either in the form of campaign contributions or votes."

Answers.com says that it's "a government project or appropriation that yields jobs or other benefits to a specific locale and patronage opportunities to its political representative."

Since the definitions seem to center around "patronage", I looked up patronage. In political terms, I got "the control of or power to make appointments to government jobs or the power to grant other political favors."

So I looked at the source of funding again. Yep, it's casino dollars, not government dollars. Then I looked at the recipient list again. The Niagara Falls Veterans Memorial Commission, the Niagara Community Center, Twin Cities Community Outreach, the Aquarium of Niagara, the Harley Owners Group rally in Niagara Falls, the Celtic Festival and the Pirates Festival and the Barker Business Association.

What I'm trying to do is connect the use of the term pork barrel and the organizations getting the casino cash, and quite frankly, I'm not getting it. How is dispensing a few bucks to a Veterans monument leading to patronage? Or giving money to a community outreach program? Especially when it's not government dollars, as every definition of "pork barrel" included.

By no means do I not believe that there is patronage at every single layer of government, but is funding community-benefiting events or causes with slot revenues pork barrel spending? Personally, I don't see it. And even though we've disagreed with Prohaska from time to time, he is generally thought to be a pretty competent journalist. That's why we have to wonder about his choice of words on this one.

If there is true pork barrel spending, by all means, do a detailed expose on it. Otherwise, don't make stuff up, Tom. It really kills your credibility.

June 20, 2008

Is There Consensus on Greg Lewis?

If you read the last comment on yesterday's post by regular contributor Rob Clark, he makes the following statements: "That seems to be one subject that everyone on this site agrees on. Greg Lewis has to go!!!"

And judging by the different folks commenting lately and particularly yesterday, Mr. Clark seems to draw an accurate conclusion. So, I want to draw that out more. Does Greg Lewis have to go? Is he doing a good job as county manager or has he been a failure? Is it more the Legislature than him? After all, both sides of the aisle essentially gave him a ringing endorsement with his contract extension.

Since I asked the question, I'll go first. I think Greg Lewis has not done very much and while I support the county manager form of government, I do not believe he is the right man for the job.

June 19, 2008

NCCC Budget

On Tuesday the Niagara County Legislature “maintained effort” with respect to the NCCC budget which, in layman’s terms means that the county contribution, which is currently at about $8.8 million will remain the same.

Several credible sources have told me that County Manager Greg Lewis had given the President of the college, James Klyczek, the green light to prepare a budget that included a 3% increase in contribution from the county. However, Lewis recently recommended no increase and suggested the imposition of a three year cap. Nobody seems to know where the idea of a cap came from or where the three year term came from. However, those cynics in the crowd have suggested that the three year cap coincides with the remainder of Lewis’ contract.

It does not appear that Klyczek is upset about the zero increase he got this year. Sources have indicated that the Administration values the county’s support with its capital improvements at the school. The college is included this year in county’s capital budget.

However, the Administration will now be forced to use fund balance or cut faculty, which brings me to the interesting side of this conversation. It is undisputed that the faculty likes to see a big fund balance as they negotiate their contracts. It gives them a bigger pot. It is undisputed that the faculty attempted to play a significant role in the outcomes of last year’s county legislature elections, and their support did not include support for Republican candidates.

I have also been told by these same sources that the 2% increase in the county’s contribution was a “done deal” before the Democratic minority and Dennis Virtuoso put the brakes on it. Well, I said this before, the Democrats did the right thing. Now I would like to see the reaction from the faculty. The gravy train is over and, ironically, ended at the hands of the politicians they supported. What do they do next? Do they listen to the rhetoric of the Democratic minority or do they turn their backs on them?

June 18, 2008

Breaking News - LPD's Eggert Hit By Car

Niagara Times has learned that Lockport Police Chief Larry Eggert has been hit by a car while riding his bicycle this evening. Eggert has suffered a broken leg, a broken ankle and broken ribs. The incident apparently occurred at the intersection of High Street and Beattie Avenue in the city of Lockport. The vehicle suffered significant damage, including a dented hood and smashed windshield. Eggert underwent a CAT scan, which revealed no damage.

We wish Eggert, who is one of the nicest people you'll meet, a strong recovery. Eggert is expected to be laid-up for 12 weeks.

Anyone wishing to send Larry a card may do so at:
Lockport Police Department
One Locks Plaza
Lockport, NY 14094

Del Monte's Silence Speaks Volumes

The saga of Niagara County Democratic Party Chairman and former Vice-Chairwoman Diane Roberts continues to fester. Roberts, as you may recall, wrote a scathing letter alleging both physical and verbal abuse at the hands (and mouth) of Rivera.

In Sunday's Niagara Gazette, Mark Scheer wrote a piece about the now infamous nose-pulling incident. In the recent edition of the Niagara Falls Reporter, Mike Hudson delves further into the issue. Assembly candidate Paula Banks-Dahlke, a challenger to incumbent Francine Del Monte has also released a statement calling on Del Monte to speak on behalf of Roberts.

In the statement, Banks-Dahlke states, “I have heard Assemblywoman DelMonte often claim that she stands up and fights for women. Why then she is willing to look the other way when it comes to calling Dan Rivera to accountability?" We have to agree with her.

Del Monte's silence on this issue speaks volumes. Loud volumes. We all know that Rivera was fired from his job as an insurance investigator for using company assets to dig up dirt on Del Monte's opponent two years ago. Apparently Del Monte feels that she "owes" Rivera something and will not call him out on this, despite the fact that verbal and physical abuse have been alleged.

Del Monte is showing that she cares more about her political allegiances than doing the right thing. We all hear politicians say "It's time to put people before politics". In fact I heard former county legislator Harry Apolito say it on the radio this morning. Well you know what, Harry? You're damn right, it is time to put people before politics. It's time that people who volunteer their time for a cause that they believe in don't have to be subjected to verbal and physical assault, allegedly. And it's time that the highest ranking Democrat in Niagara County stop sitting on her hands on this issue and take a stand for what's right, regardless of her personal relationship with Dan Rivera.

That, my friend, is putting people before politics.

June 16, 2008

One Year Later

Just over a year ago, some friends and myself were sitting around talking politics when the idea of creating a local blog that, for the most part, focused on local politics was tossed about. Having done some writing in the past, albeit never formally, I decided to take a shot at creating a blog.

Fast forward to today. The blog recently turned one year-old, and I simply wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who has participated and made the site more successful than I would have anticipated a year ago.

Soon after our first post on June 1, 2007, I installed a program that allows me to track the number of "hits" to the site. After approximately one year, the site has had almost 33,000 unique visitors and over 47,000 page loads.

I do want to take a moment to address the comments. Once the post for the day is written, I don't spend alot of time policing the comments. The reason why is that the comments don't drive the site. If there are no comments to a day's post or 100 comments, there's still going to be a post the next day. If at some point I should see a comment that needs to come down, it'll come down.

That being said, comments never come down because they don't mesh with the original post or other comments; they come down when they are either offensive or irrelevant.

Once again, thank you to those who read the blog, have contributed comments and those who have submitted "tips" to the blog administrator.

June 13, 2008

Breaking News

A sad day for Buffalo, WNY and anyone who appreciates quality journalism.

NBC News' Russert dies at 58
Tim Russert, NBC News’ Washington bureau chief and the moderator of “Meet the Press,” died Friday after collapsing, NBC News said. He was 58. Russert, the recipient of 48 honorary doctorates, joined NBC News in 1984 and took over the helm of “Meet the Press” in December 1991.

Friday Ruminations

Yep, they're at it again. The city and the county are battling over disbursements of the casino cash. No, not Niagara Falls and Niagara County, this time it's Buffalo and Erie County. I wonder who's going to play the role of Francine Del Monte, the role of wanting to send all of the cash to the city while completely ignoring the rest of the district.

Kudos to Niagara County Legislator Dennis Virtuoso for reigning in the Niagara County Community College budget by criticizing and voting against the spending plan. He is forcing the faculty to do more with less. It's about time someone sent a message to the faculty that their gravy train is over.

At a recent meeting of local assessors, assessment reform, including a potential shift to countywide assessing was discussed. County Assessor Bill Budde's thoughts on moving to a countywide assessor? “I think that’s got as much of a chance as a snowball in hell,” he said. Thanks, Bill, for saying what we know is true-no local government seriously considers consolidation, it's just a nice little buzzword that's tossed around at election time.

The Buffalo News blog has an interesting piece on George Maziarz and the Niagara Power Project.

I'm not much of a believer in omens, but something tells me that the Buffalo Bills will extend there current streak of eight consecutive years without making the playoffs, longest current streak in the NFL. Thanks for the distractions, Marshawn. I'm sure 89 year-old Ralph Wilson doesn't mind your troubles landing him a subpoena. All of the sudden Travis Henry & Willis McGahee don't look so bad.

The search for a Superintendent for the Lew-Port school district has turned ugly, with allegations of sexual harassment against one of the finalists. Then again, in this PC society, it only takes one nutbag to make an accusation which potentially ruins a career.

Kudos to AG Andy Cuomo for cracking down on pharmacies selling outdated products. I personally bought a dozen eggs at the Rite Aid at Linclon & Davison in Lockport about a month ago and they were nasty, bloody & veiny. Obviously they ended up in the garbage. Even worse, those putrid eggs got me yelled at by my wife.

Governor David Paterson lost control of a press conference with legislative leaders that was supposed to be about end-of-session priorities but turned into a snipe fest.

The head of Emperor's Club VIP (think Eliot Spitzer) pleaded guilty but won't dish dirt on Client Number 9.

Happy Father's Day to all of the dads out there, have a nice & safe day.

June 12, 2008

Whining Judges Win First Battle

So an old judge from New York City who stands to personally benefit from any pay raise given to the judiciary rules that the State has been wrongly denying the judges a raise and must address this horrible situations within the next 90 days or else.

Judge Lehner ruled that it's wrong to tie judicial pay raises to other issues (like this is the only issue in the history of democracy where that's happened. It's called horse trading, Judge Jackass.) and ordered essentially a 28 percent raise.

I hope the state appeals and appeals and appeals some more this ruling. Again, maybe judges deserve a raise. But the sheer arrogance of sitting judges suing in the court of one of their colleagues who then rules in their favor is so a gross abuse of power that I am actually ashamed for them.

Perhaps Upstate should sue over the lack of property tax relief, the lack of a good brownfields bill, the number of labor giveaways that have driven up costs. All of these issues have been held hostage in Albany too. Of course, the judges would laugh us out of the courtroom and say that only legislators can make these decisions.

Well you know what....only legislators can increase the pay of judges. The state constitution says so. So, judges, welcome to the band wagon of people getting screwed....only the rest of us can't abuse our positions to get what we want like you can.

June 11, 2008

County Department Heads

Last night the County Legislature's Administrative Committee accepted County Manager Greg Lewis' recommendations to reappoint several department heads to four-year terms. I don't particularly know any of these department heads, but I think it's a safe bet that they do a pretty good job.

My question is that if Legislators have two-year terms, why are all of these department heads getting double that? Is that a good idea?

After all, what if the voters of Niagara County decided to completely changes horses in the next election because they are upset about the county budget. A new majority takes over with a mandate for change....but wait a minute, the director of management and budget has a four-year term so the new legislators cannot pick their own person to handle the most important jobs they face each year -- passing a budget.

Now, conversely, if Greg Lewis is indeed a non-political manager and is hiring the best and brightests, then it's important that campaigns and elections NOT lead to the wholesale dismantling of professional staff charged with running the day to day operations of government.

Clearly, I'm talking out of both sides of my mouth on this one. Are locking up department heads to longer term contracts the way to attract quality people or create an institutional bureaucracy? Do our elected officials lose the ability to govern they way they want or are we ensuring professional managers won't be subject to political pressures?

And I know we passed a local referendum that enabled Greg Lewis to have a four-year term and that certain department heads (i.e. social services) have six-year terms under state law. But I thought other appointments could not be made for terms longer than those of the legislators.

It might seem like a mundane topic, but these are the people really running the show.

June 10, 2008

Variety Check

In a shocking development, Niagara County Clerk Wayne Jagow says he will need 4.5 additional bodies at the county's three DMV facilities to process the enhanced drivers licenses that will be available in August. Please. Suck it up and handle the additional workload. If your employees can't handle it, I'm sure there are plenty of people in Niagara County that will take the job, with the additional duties. The public sector needs to know what it feels like to work in the private sector. More duties, more responsibilities, same pay. Deal with it.

Speaking of DMVs, why on earth does Niagara County have three? Geographically the county is quite small. In addition, licenses are processed once every eight years. Really, how often does your average person need to visit a DMV? Every candidate for local office touts "consolidation" in their campaign. Someone sack up, step up and bring a resolution to consolidate the county's DMVs.

Mitchell W. Brokob should rot in hell. But until he does, he's going to find the next best thing, prison. Even convicted murderers, rapists, arsonists, etc have a code for sexual assault of a child. Kudos to all of the police personnel that assisted in the arrest of Brokob, and here's to him getting what he gave 1,000 times over.

Kudos to the Niagara Falls Reporter for their piece on Francine Del Monte. The piece shows just how warped her priorities are and how little she really cares about the people she allegedly represents.

The Western New York job market appears headed in a positive direction. No thanks to Del Monte.

Today is Eliot Spitzer's birthday, should you want to send him a card. Or a stripper-gram. Eliot, meanwhile, is looking at his first big business venture since being disgraced from office, a vulture fund.

Meanwhile, federal prosecutors are closing in on the disgraced governor. Their case is apparently so strong that they had no interest in a plea deal.

Hillary Clinton finds herself millions in debt with few options to pay it down.

WNYer Bob Wilmers appointment to head Empire State Development continues to draw accolades from Upstate business leaders. This can only pay dividends for our region.

June 6, 2008

Friday Ruminations

With the leaking of the Diane Roberts letter, the county Ethics Board moving forward on coroner Jim Joyce, the Bob LaBarbera letter, the ruling on former Judge Bob Restaino, the FBI investigation of former Niagara Falls Mayor Vince Anello, Gary Parenti in court and the ruling in favor of Somerset Town Councilman Dan Engert, it was a very rough week for the Niagara County Dems. Can Dan Rivera survive?

When Guv Paterson announced that ESDC would no longer have an Upstate Economic Development Czar, there was concern throughout the region. With the appointment of Bob Wilmers to Chairman of ESDC, we should be giddy with joy. This guy is a WNYer through and through and founded Unshackle Upstate.

Congressman Tom Reynolds continues to be a force in politics. NYC Mayor Bloomberg is pushing Reynolds to take over the state GOP Party. Rudy Giuliani is pushing his own guy, Anthony Carbonetti. Either way, current GOP state chairman Mondello is soon-to-be history.

The end of the road for Hillary could have an impact on local races across the state.

The ongoing saga of Buffalo Bills RB "Predator" Lynch is complete garbage. Frank Clark and the Buffalo PD are looking more incompetent every day that Lynch is not brought in. And stop with the "he's not getting any special attention" bullshit. If it were you or I, we'd have already been charged with hit & run.

The aforementioned Niagara County Dem Chairman Dan Rivera has begun posting videos on their county party website. Here is Rivera's first foray into Youtube:

June 5, 2008

Niagara County Department of Homeland Security

Question: How the hell did Niagara County Manager Greg Lewis convince the Leg that the county needs to create a Niagara County Department of Homeland Security, with a $75,000-a-year director chosen by the county manager? Does Lewis have a pocket full of magic fairy dust that he throws in the face of legislators to place them under his spell?

Back in January 2006, the Department of Homeland Security stated that Buffalo and Erie and Niagara counties were in jeopardy of being taken off the list of approved areas under the department’s Urban Area Security Initiative, instead placing it on what is called a sustainment list. If NC were to be taken off the list of approved areas, Homeland Security dollars would stop flowing to our area.

While Niagara County currently
has a place on the federal list of funded cities, which is a good thing, there's no guarantee that the funding will continue. If nothing else, sunset the position contingent upon the continued flow of dollars to fund the position.

In addition, we currently have the Department of Homeland Security, NY State Police, the Coast Guard. the County Sheriffs Department, with a marine unit, Border Patrol and additional agencies protecting the county. I'm sure they're all breathing a huge sigh of relief now that Niagara County has a Department of Homeland Security.

The NCDHS Department will get a new director and most likely some clerical staff. What's it going to be next year, an additional staff member or two?

Seriously, this is ludicrous. The Leg needs to revisit this issue and seriously consider Lewis' request for this position. Obviously DHS has very specific criteria for spending DHS dollars, so it couldn't be used to reduce taxes. It could, however, be allocated to first responders throughout Niagara County for equipment that would be so vital in the event of a terrorist threat.

Time to take another looks at this one, folks. It simply is not justified.

June 3, 2008

Cigarette Tax

As most smokers in the state know, New Yorkers started paying the highest cigarette taxes in the nation yesterday with the latest $1.25 spike per pack that officials expect to bring in $265 million a year.

Smokers will be paying $2.75 per pack in state taxes, a jump from the previous tax of $1.50. Before the new tax, the average price of a pack of cigarettes was $5.82 statewide, and about $8 a pack in New York City, which levies its own taxes.

In response to the new tax, Jim Calvin, president of the New York Association of Convenience Stores had this to say: "The tax increase is only going to feed that epidemic. More and more smokers in New York state are going to abandon our stores that have to charge the tax and shift their purchases to places that don't charge the tax, most notably Native American stores, the Internet and bootleggers.''

Being the inquisitive type, I decided to do a little research. I did a Google search of "purchase cigarettes online". Now, I wasn't overly surprised when 208,000 results showed up. I was, however surprised at the number of sites offering extremely low-cost tobacco products. One site
has Marlboro for $12.90 per carton, somewhat less than the $50+ you'll pay at Tops.

Another site offers Camel cigarettes for $13.05 per carton. They are European Camels, but most smokers won't care.

Of course, those of us who live in Niagara County know that we have an Indian reservation that offers tobacco products at en even lower cost smack-dab in the middle of the county. There are also reservations around Syracuse and on Long Island.

So will raising the cig tax $1.25 bring in the anticipated additional $265 million a year that the state is projecting? I'm going to go out on a limb and say no, but I will predict that Smokin' Joe Anderson has another billion in his bank account before too long.

Niagara Dems Face Continued Controversy

Niagara Times has acquired a recent email exchange between former Niagara County Leg candidate Robert LaBarbera and the Niagara County Democratic Committee Executive Committee. The first part was in the body of the email, the second, a Word document.

NC Executive Comm: Since Chairman Rivera neglected to pick up the certified letter of my notification of pending disloyalty charges against him, I am notifying you by this e-mail attachment. He recieved his copy as a member of the ethics committee, as he admitted to committee members who related this to me. I feel he is supressing my action, hoping it will go away. I am requesting a full county meeting to address this issue. I will entertain any questions from any of you.

Sincerely, Bob LaBarbera

(The Word doc)

Daniel Rivera, NC Dem Chmn

65 Sixth Avenue

North Tonawanda, NY 14120

Chairman Rivera:

In compliance with the by-laws of the Niagara County Democratic Committee (as amended 6/6/05), please be advised I am filing party disloyalty charges against you. I had discussed this with my Town committee chairman, Michael Moyer prior to his resignation from the committee. Since you are the accused, I am forwarding copies of these charges to the five member sub-committee (of which you are a member) that deals with these matters. This committee was appointed under the chairmanship of Cindy Lenhart and never disbanded during your chairmanship. I am requesting this hearing on the grounds you personally:

1. Lobbied to have my County Committee endorsement rescinded by the Executive Committee illegally on the grounds that I was endorsed unanimously by the entire Niagara County Democratic Committee and that only they have the power to revoke my endorsement.

2. That your decision was influenced by the fact that your involvement in the leak of details of sealed records during the DelMonte/Parenti primary was hitting the newsstands coincidentally at the same time my DUI arrest occurred caused you to seek party sanctions against me in an effort to deflect attention from yourself. You were implicated in this invasion of privacy and dismissed from your job at Liberty Mutual as an investigator.

3. Alerted the many unions and associations who endorsed me to withhold funding, forcing me to conduct a financially limited campaign, as well as compromising my job and my family to unjustifiable debt and hardship.

When I attended the “emergency (and illegal) executive committee meeting” called by you at Soos’ on 7/21/07, I left that gathering with no less than a 50/50 opinion on my stepping down. Within 24 hours you notified me of the “unanimous” consensus that I should step down. We all know this was not even remotely true. Despite that, you reported it to the news media immediately. If you’ll recall, I agreed to step down until I realized you had lied to me. I went door to door, appeared on LCTV to apologize publicly, while never implicating the party. I lost the all-important primary by 14 votes. I was successful in dealing with the DUI conviction, but couldn’t avoid the subsequent fallout from the publicity of “losing” the party endorsement.

I have the Buffalo News article (the only one that printed) regarding your involvement in the Parenti incident. You were successful in using my situation as a diversion to draw attention away from yourself. Had you channeled your efforts to standing behind me despite the adversity, you could very well have taken a seat in the last election. You even conceded to me that you would rather Sklarski ran unopposed than have me on the ballot. As we all know, we gained NO seats in a situation where it was extremely desirable to be a Democrat, and a challenger to the republican majority. Our party has been rendered dysfunctional under your leadership built on arrogance and self-promotion. You’ve blamed everyone but yourself for this horrendous showing.

Union officials and the Wheatfield Dems have confided to me of your successful efforts to discourage funding in an effort to ruin me financially. You scheduled two fundraisers opposite me. I was forced to cancel one, and ran the second with very limited results. Your actions forfeited our Legislative seat in the 6th District.

A Truly Loyal Democrat

Robert S. LaBarbera


Cc: Michael Rimmen, John Marcolini, James Page, James Joyce, Daniel Rivera

*Since Dan has not responded, or contacted any of the members of this committee, I felt the entire committee should be aware of this.

June 2, 2008

Rivera Gets Physical, Allegedly

There have been many conversations in local political circles related to an incident in which Niagara County Democratic Committee Chairman Dan Rivera allegedly placed his hands on the committee Vice-Chair, prompting a letter from the Vice-Chair. Niagara Times has received a copy of the letter from a member of the NCDC, and it follows in it's entirety.

For the record, there is some language in the letter which is not for the faint of heart. Click on the letter to read it in full size.

UPDATE: In response to a concern raised by one of the individuals involved in this controversy, the signature of that individual has been removed from the post.