September 30, 2008

VP Debate

I must admit, I'm looking forward to Thursday night. No, there's no football on. But there is a Vice-Presidential debate. Sarah Palin and Joe Biden will square off at 9PM at Washington University in St. Louis, MO in what is likely to be the most watched VP debate in history. While Palin stormed onto the scene weeks ago, she now has something to prove.

In a Sept. 7 Washington Post-ABC News poll, 58 percent of voters said they had a favorable impression of Palin, compared with 28 percent who said they held an unfavorable opinion. But in a Post-ABC poll two weeks later, positive impressions had dipped to 52 percent and negative views had climbed to 38 percent, as independent women shied away from her. Among such women, favorable views dropped from 65 percent to 43 percent.

Many of the naysayers say that a lack of knowledge on foreign policy and a deficiency of experience in true leadership positions will be a hindrance in the campaign for Palin. Or maybe they're talking about Obama. It's hard to tell because virtually the same arguments that are being made as to why Palin is not qualified apply to Obama. But he was a community organizer. Apparently that is a higher qualification than being a Governor, at least in some people's eyes.

Biden, who's known for his attack-dog personality, needs to be very careful Thursday night. If he comes across as being condescending to Palin, she is sure to be made out to be the victim. Either way, this will make for real reality TV.

September 29, 2008

County Finances

An external audit of Niagara County's finances shows that the county is in solid financial shape, at least for the short term. The long term picture is much less secure. With the county on the hook for potentially a quarter of a billion dollars in benefit costs for retirees, the auditor has stated that the county currently has no mechanism in place to fund these future expenditures.

Obviously county legislators from years gone by never gave this much consideration. If they had, the county wouldn't be in the position to have to fund these lavish benefit packages doled out years ago. But the fact remains that the county is on the hook. So what to do?

The county can't control skyrocketing health insurance premiums for employees, enormous increases in pension costs to continuously bail out the state retirement system, huge spikes in fuel costs and crippling Medicaid payments to fund the Cadillac programs for New York City's massive illegal immigrant population.

Despite the many expenses the county can't control, there is one that they can control - personnel. The county, which is planning to form a commission on property tax relief to analyze the external forces which drive our tax rate, should conduct an internal review of each and every job on the county payroll and the need for each job.

To their credit, the county legislature has made significant reductions in the number of county employees, reducing the number by about 300 over the past 3-4 years.

County Manager Greg Lewis likes to dabble in useless numbers. Give him this project with Human Resources Director Peter Lopes. Both of them seem to have an inordinate amount of time on their hands. On an unrelated note, does the county have job descriptions for each job in the county?

With personnel being the county's single largest expense, they must continue to reduce the size of government. The only way to do this is through the continued reduction of the number of employees.

There is not an industry in this country that is immune from layoffs, especially in these times of financial crisis. With a quarter billion dollar bill hanging over our heads, our children's livelihoods just may depend on it.

September 26, 2008

Friday Ruminations

It has been reported to Niagara Times that Don Hobel, formerly a candidate for State Senate, may be under investigation by the New York State Board of Elections. Hobel had sent out a postcard mailer during his most recent campaign for office, but Hobel has not filed a financial statement with the state BOE, which would disclose the expenditure, a legal requirement. Word is that the BOE is planning to subpoena the mail house which distributed the piece. Stay tuned.

Please don't hold your breath waiting for the demolition of the Wintergarden and construction of the Old Falls Street. USA Niagara has a spotty track record at best. We don't need more broken promises in Niagara Falls.

The Niagara Falls Reporter is still up & running, despite rumors of its impending demise.

It had been widely speculated that NC Dem Chairman Dan Rivera was not going to nominate the wife of disgraced former coroner James Joyce to fill the position that he recently resigned from because Joyce was said to be challenging Rivera for the chairmanship. Alas, Mrs. Joyce got the nomination anyways, and they're all living happily ever after. There is joy in Muddville.

Oooops, looks like we were a bit premature in their living happily ever after. It's unfortunate that this internal strife didn't get the full attention it deserved from the press, but a battle between Rivera and NF Dem Chair Kevin Ormsby ended with Ormsby's resignation. At least that's one Rivera can chalk up to the win column.

Members of the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission are reacting harshly to a request to release the details of former General Manager Tom Garlock's severance package. Instead of launching personal attacks in the press, just release the information; problem solved. By the way, someone should remind Comissioner Tom Pryce of Lewiston about transparency and accountability as a appointee of New York State. He is making himself out to be a complete ass with his comments.

Eliot Spitzer is back.

Lastly, this is a powerful message to Barack Obama:

September 25, 2008

Just Thinking.....

1) Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, the former gubernatorial candidate and head of the state's property tax commission, was supposed to a be a guest at the Niagara County Democrats golf tournament but declined at the last minute. This means Suozzi joins Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and Senate Dem Leader Malcolm Smith who have stiffed Dan Rivera's events. Perhaps Kathryn Mazureski, the former head of NOW and frequent Rivera critic, has indeed convinced the state's Democrat establishment to stay out of Niagara until Dan is gone.

2) The Tax Foundation says that the Niagara County is the highest taxed county in the nation. It's not that we pay the most, but they take our tax bills, divide them by value of our house and boom, that number is high. But isn't the the lack of speculative value in our houses what has saved Niagara County for the most part from a the foreclosure problem plaguing the country? You know, the house you have for $100,000 here cost your friend in Florida $500,000 yet you pay the same in taxes or they pay less. Well, it turns out their house wasn't worth $500,000 and now they can't pay their mortgage. I'd rather still own my house then be out on my ass, regardless of what the Tax Foundation says.

3) Skewed viewing of the numbers from the Tax Foundation aside, we still have too much government and pay too much in taxes in all of Western New York.

4) Has anyone seen Brian Grear since he got crushed in the primary by George Maziarz? He's still on the Dem line for State Senate.

5) This economic stuff is well beyond my comprehension, but I'm pretty sure that if things don't turn around quickly, it will be Barack Obama by a fairly comfortable margin in November.

6) Jim Joyce tells people he may run against Rivera for Dem Chairman. Rivera's committee endorse Joyce's wife for coroner to take Jim's place. Jim chooses not to run against Rivera. Hmmm.

7) Does the GOP even have a candidate against Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte....oh wait, I've seen a few lawn signs. This one was over before it began.

8) What happened to this week's edition of the Niagara Falls Reporter?

September 24, 2008

Paterson to Upstate: Drop Dead

That's a strong sentiment, but how else can we react to Governor Paterson's decision to appoint a downstate political operative and downstate utility executive as the new head of the New York Power Authority?

Paterson appointed Richie Kessel to take over for Clarence resident Roger Kelley at NYPA. Kessel is close to Al D'Amato. He's close to Mario Cuomo. George Pataki put him in charge of the Long Island Power Authority where his record was spotty at best.

And now, he gets to oversee NYPA which means he'll have a huge voice in how power from the Niagara Power Project gets allocated. That can't be good for us.

We believe the NYPA headquarters should be moved Upstate where their operations are. There's no way Kessel does that.

We believe too much of our power is being sent downstate. No way Kessel reverses that trend.

This just simply isn't good for us. Legislators from both sides of the aisle upstate have expressed concern. Clearly Governor Paterson didn't listen.

Thanks for nothing, Governor.

September 23, 2008

County Looks To Make DEC Pay

The news that the New York State Department of Conservation has been shipping hazardous PCBs from a cleanup site in Warren County to the Chemical Waste Management site in Porter without the knowledge of county and state elected officials is quite problematic. Both county and state officials have made the DEC well aware of their concerns with trucking the waste though the streets of Niagara County, and it was believed that the DEC was at least considering alternate options.

The reason that this is problematic is the secrecy that has surrounded this action by the DEC. This material is called hazardous for a reason. If you've ever driven the route that these trucks take to CWM, you know that they travel through residential neighborhoods, and literally right in front of Lew-Port High School. Now, we can all agree that the odds of an accident are pretty slim. But, they do happen. For DEC to allow these hazardous materials to be trucked through our streets without our first responders having the appropriate knowledge to prepare for an accident is unforgivable.

The county, which had been considering levying a $200 per ton tax on the materials, is now looking for a home rule message to apply the fee on what has been transported. To date, that would be about a $2 million bill that the DEC would need to pony up to the county.

The county needs to let it go. Is it wrong what the DEC has done? Absolutely. Does what they've done overshadow the fact that the state is facing a multi-billion dollar deficit? No, it doesn't. Everyone talks about doing their part to cut costs. The county hasn't experienced any additional costs due to the bringing in the materials, they simply wanted to levy the fee to make transporting the waste here cost prohibitive. Maybe it would have, maybe it wouldn't; we'll never know since they went ahead and did it anyway.

But with the state and financial markets facing massive uncertainty, it's time to do our part. By all means, make your feelings known to DEC, but $2 million just because you're pissed off is excessive.

September 22, 2008

A Conflict of Interest for Virtuoso?

The Niagara County Legislature may soon vote on a local law proposed by Dennis Virtuoso that establishes a real property tax exemption for converting non-residential property to mixed-use. This is not a bad idea, as conversions of former commercial building into mixed use residential can be a good way to try to attract people back into urban settings.

What this local law doesn't say is that Virtuoso is a major property owner in Niagara Falls, owning somewhere around a dozen different properties. So, the obvious question is: Does Dennis Virtuoso, landlord, stand to benefit significantly from a local law put forward by Dennis Virtuoso, legislator?

If the answer to this question is yes, then the County Board of Ethics should immediately open an inquiry. Clearly, using one's elected position to benefit one's financial standing isn't right. That's called a conflict of interest.

Now, if Dennis doesn't have a conflict, he needs to clearly explain why. Remember, a perceived conflict of interest is equally bad. Maybe his property doesn't qualify, though I don't see how that's possible.

What Virtuoso should probably have done from the get-go on this is state that while he thinks the law is a good idea, he is in a conflict position (or could have the perception of being in conflict since he owns property) and hence will not take part in any debate of the bill in committee or in front of the full Legislature and will abstain from the vote.

That would have been the ethical way to handle this. Dennis chose to handle it the other way and hoped no one would notice. Now, he could have a big problem on his hands.

September 19, 2008

Friday Ruminations

Last week was the seven year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. That evening, I watched "102 Minutes That Changed America" on the History Channel. It is the most jarring account of the day's events that I have seen. What was very telling were the reactions of eyewitnesses immediately after the attacks; comments along the lines of "just find whoever did this and kill them." I wonder if these are now the same people who oppose our fight against terrorism.

Kudos to Buffalo school officials. Due to declining enrollment and reductions in state aid, officials are looking to close five schools. Of course, the closures won't affect the sacred cow of teacher's benefits, but it will reduce overhead, thus reducing costs. Considering that the Buffalo school district has more students in it than all of Niagara County's schools combined, maybe someone in education should stand up and shout about the fact that there are 11 school districts in the county.

Jack Davis is done, as his final bid to stay on the November ballot was denied. He would not commit to supporting primary winner Alice Kryzan, nor has runner-up Jon Powers. I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for Powers to jump on board. A good portion of his website is devoted to criticizing Kryzan for the lies she repeatedly told about Powers.

Speaking of Kryzan, she'd better get some lessons in Politics 101. On her website, her tagline is "Putting Our Interests Ahead of Special Interests". At the same time, various endorsements from special interest groups are scattered throughout the site.

The Niagara County Democratic and Republican Committees each re-elected their respective Chairmen this week. GOP head Henry Wojtaszek was elected unanimously, Dan Rivera with little opposition. What the press failed to report is the contentious altercation at the Dem meeting between Rivera and Kevin Ormsby, the Niagara Falls Dem Chair. It's called investigative reporting. Try it once in awhile.

The press did feel it necessary to make big news of Lockport Council President John Lombardi's support of Senate hopeful Brian Grear, then report on the election results in Lombardi's Fifth Ward. Ouch, the humiliation.

It's not sexy, but the Great Lakes Compact is one of the most critical pieces of legislation for this region currently being considered by Congress. The objective of the compact is to preserve this treasured natural resource through a set of core principles. Get it done, Congress.

Lastly, the Bills look to go 3-0. Who cares, I need Randy Moss to start getting the damn ball.

September 17, 2008

It's Always Someone Else's Fault

I was reading Donn Esmonde's column in the Buffalo News today...already a sign of bad things to he said that those bankers and investors ought to visit Main Street so they can understand how their decisions are impacting real people, people who can't retire because their 401K is in the tank, etc.

Esmonde may have some point, but the fact is, the market goes up and the market goes down. Everyone who thought they were going to be rich in the 1990's and early 2000's now has a dose of market reality.

But my own feelings today are about finger pointing. In tough times, everyone wants to point a finger so today, I'm going to do some of my own finger pointing for the tough economic times:

1) Mortgage companies that lent people more money they they ever should have.
2) People who took these mortgages with adjustable rates and didn't realize that adjustable meant both up and down.
3) Wall Street speculation that drove up stocks beyond value.
4) People who were getting close to retirement who got greedy and failed to move their 401K assets into safer investments.
5) Lack of government regulation on any of this stuff that allowed unbridled greed to carry the day.
6) Corporate boards who give big buy-outs to top executives who screwed all of this up.

Yes folks, we the average joes, own some of this problem. Greed is way to prevalent from the top corporate boardrooms right down to the need for 3 big screen tvs in our homes. We're at war, and yet there is no shared sacrifice. I'm not sure what government action can be taken to address in many ways what has become our collective failure.

September 16, 2008

Celebrities & Politics

Politics and celebrities have always gone together, and it certainly is their right to express their opinion. But what idiots among the American people will base their vote on the opinion of someone simply because they're on TV or make movies? Are people that incapable of thinking for themselves?

Of course, candidates venturing into the political arena doesn't always translate into positive public relations, as two of the following examples show. Here we find Senate candidate Al Franken "expressing himself":

In addition, esteemed thespian Lindsay Lohan has felt it necessary to interject her opinion into the Presidential election, saying "I would have liked to have remained impartial, however I am afraid that the 'lipstick on a pig' comments will overshadow the issues and the fact that I believe Barack Obama is the best choice, in this election, for president," I'm sure BO is ecstatic about this endorsement. Who's next, Britney Spears? Paris Hilton? Lohan is pictured below.

September 15, 2008

New York In Play

Most Americans will go out and vote come election day. Afterall, Presidential elections historically draw the highest turnout. But those of us in New York are usually not entitled to the political wrangling that often accompanies Presidential elections because New York, due to its high concentration of Democrats, is written off as a given victory for the Dems. We don't usually see the ads on TV and radio and the candidate paraphenalia is usually impossible to get simply because the candidates don't traditionally spend any money in New York. That may be about to change. The following story by Fred Dicker from the NY Post details how John McCain's selection of Sarah Palin as his VP choice just may put New York in play. The story follows in its entirety:

Boosted by the selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate, Republican John McCain has experienced a surge of support among women in heavily Democratic New York state - where he has closed the gap with Barack Obama, new private polls show.

The internal Republican and Democratic polls, details of which were provided to The Post, have stunned members of both parties - and produced deep worries among Democrats. One great concern for Democrats is that the data show a continuous movement toward the McCain-Palin ticket by women, a majority of whom traditionally favor Democrats.

The movement by women toward McCain is being credited to Democratic attacks on Alaska Gov. Palin, last week's "lipstick on a pig" crack by Obama and to the continuing unhappiness by female Democrats over Obama's failure to pick Hillary Rodham Clinton as his running mate.
"If it winds up being tight in New York, that means McCain wins the election nationally," said a prominent Democrat familiar with some of the polling data.

A prominent Republican familiar with the results said, "It really is something, because we just assumed Obama would carry such a heavily Democratic state like New York with no difficulty."
The private polls have consistently shown the Obama-Biden ticket still leading but with less than 50 percent of the vote in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by over 2.3 million voters.

The polls found McCain closing the gap with Obama during the past 10 days - in the wake of Palin's sensational GOP convention speech, Obama's crack that "You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig," and amid a swirling controversy over Palin's credentials to be vice president.
The polling data track the findings of a little-noticed Marist College poll of likely New Jersey voters late last week that found Obama barely ahead of McCain, 48 percent to 45 percent. New Jersey generally votes Democratic, though its enrollment is not as heavily Democratic as New York state's.

The findings of the private polls will be tested by a series of public polls to be released over the next two weeks - starting with a Siena College survey of likely voters due out today.
A Siena poll in August had Obama leading McCain 47 percent to 39 percent. McCain is expected to make a significant move over the 40 percent mark when the new numbers are released today.

The private polling also points to a closer battle for control of the state Senate. Because of the way many Senate district lines have been drawn, Republicans, fighting to hold their narrow majority, are expected to benefit most from a close New York presidential race, insiders agree.
McCain's surge in New York polling comes at a time when his national operatives have rebuffed requests from New York campaign chairman Ed Cox, a Manhattan lawyer and son-in-law to former President Richard Nixon, to spend some serious campaign money in the state.
"Ed was told, 'You have no money for a campaign here, so why should we spend any?' " a nationally known Republican operative told The Post. "The McCain people think of Ed as a nice guy, but there's no money for an organization in New York, so they ask, 'Why go in?' " the GOP operative continued.

The Republican operative, meanwhile, sounded downright gleeful about the political fallout from US Rep. Charles Rangel's failure to pay income taxes from the rental of his luxurious villa in the Dominican Republic. "Rangel has turned into a big liability for the Democrats, and his troubles are playing into the 'anti- politician' mood around the country," he said.

September 12, 2008

Joyce To Challenge Rivera?

While there are some who read Niagara Times who believe that we are driven by GOP inside information, the fact is that we receive information from both sides of the aisle that often drives the topics on this site. Yesterday we wrote about the turmoil within the Niagara County Democratic Committee, and where that turmoil may take the committee in light of its upcoming reorganizational meeting. Last evening Niagara Times received an email containing a correspondence that is circulating amongst NC Dems. The first part (bolded) is the text in the email to me, the second part is the attachment that is being circulated.

Dear Hobbes,

I received this today and I am forwarding it to you. On Tuesday night at the Next NC Democratic Committee meeting Dan Rivera will be up challenged by James Joyce for chairman. This is not a joke it is for real. Apparently Mr. Joyce has had enough of the my way or the highway antics that the current chairman uses.

As well as the fact that he hasn't won a race or really helped out a candidate running for office with anything that is of value.

A democrat that is lost in the woods

MANY Reasons Why Dan Rivera MUST GO!!!!!!!

1. He can’t even win in his own City as Democratic Committee Chair.
2. Other than incumbents that were firmly established prior to his role as chairman, what offices has he won?
3. Why are party donations sent directly to his house, and not to the Treasurer?
4. Rivera is also the Chair for the North Tonawanda Democrats, which causes confusion as to which committee the funds are actually intended, as happened in the case of the Joe Anderson monies being improperly applied to the Tom Beilein campaign in 2004.
5. Why does he continually work behind closed doors to undermine the party endorsed candidates? e.g. Dyster, Hoyt, Joyce.
6. Why is he content to give offices away, like the 26th Congressional District, County District Attorney, Niagara Falls Mayor, Legislator seats in the 6th & 15th Districts? This is tantamount to Party betrayal and should be treated accordingly.
7. Why do we support a leader who was dismissed from his job for exposed political wrongdoings and currently is employed by an attorney who has been implicated and censured in the past for similar election law violations?
8. The 2007 Committee filing with the NYS Board of Elections reveals a reimbursement of no less than $16,576.23 to Rivera, who has a past history of financial irregularities when he served as Niagara County Democratic Committee Treasurer.
9. Rivera has refused committee approved funding to candidates who do not use his hand picked vendors for printing & advertising. According to the 2007 financials filed with the NYS Board of Elections $24,854.24 was spent with Metro Group, of Buffalo. All the other vendors stacked up as follows: Modern Imagination-$2466.00, WJJL Radio-$1100.00, Kax Solutions-$1000.00, Impressive Imprints-$754.65, 2 Market on the Web-$505.00, LCTV-$300.00, MicroGraphics-$174.96.
10. This same 2007 filing reveals two more startling remittances. How does his employer: Canton, Lukcsid, Dolce & Panepinto merit $1500.00 from the Niagara County Democratic Committee, as well as $1000.00 for Friends of David Rivera of Buffalo?
11. Of the 100’s of Candidates endorsed by the County Committee, why were ONLY Charles Naughton, Art Pappas, Bob Anderson, Rick Morasco, Steve Fournier, Rob Clark, Bob DuBois, Harry Appolito, Nancy Smith, James Joyce, Jason Cafarella, Linda DiPasquale, Michelle Wheeler, Mike Pillot, Tom Beilein & Suzanne Needler given County monies. While some of these candidates could truly use the funding, many of these mentioned did not have an election, or were even candidates! In the County Legislature races, which have always been the yardstick for measuring County Chairman’s viability, only 4 of 19 candidates received any County funding. One was a republican, one caucuses with the republicans and one was a personal friend of Rivera’s who, unlike the other legislative candidates, received numerous mailings at the expense of the County Committee. Curiously enough, the largest donation was made to the candidate who turned on our party by caucusing with the republicans (Jason Caferella-$500.00). The committee as a whole approved none of these donations. These remittances were made solely to the discretion of Chairman Rivera.
12. ALL of Rivera’s hand picked candidates LOST in the 2008 primaries.

1. Rivera has displayed a pattern of abuse, particularly to women. What kind of man is this?
2. By commandeering the County treasury, he has silenced those who do not support him on the hopes of receiving funding.
3. He has shown a tendency to sanction anyone who does not adhere to his political strategy—a strategy that has proven totally unsuccessful. In addition to discouraging viable candidates, he squanders our treasures without committee approval.
4. The only Legislative race that was won, was won by a Democrat who caucuses with the republicans—in effect, we a lost seat.
5. He receives the endorsement of the area’s top tyrannical republican leader, State Senator George Maziarz. George states: “we’ve done very well with Mr. Rivera as democratic chair, and hope it continues.”


1. In the last campaign, we would have done just as well with NO County Chairman and would still have over $50,000.00 in the bank.
2. Our image has suffered from being a struggling Party in Niagara County to becoming a dysfunctional one, split by disunity. The press he receives is totally negative, destroying the party’s public perception.
3. Our party is led by a tyrant who happens to be a self-appointed political guru who not only can’t accept criticism, but conducts behind the scenes witch hunts in an effort to destroy any dissenter’s credibility as a democrat, rather than doing his job.
4. He perpetuates his own myth through his bullying tactics, both to the opposition and, sadly enough, largely to members of his own party. Committee members are reluctant to speak out against him, for fear of reprisals.
5. No positives exist……..Rivera’s GOTTA GO!

September 11, 2008

Fallout From Primary Day Splits County Dems

Fallout from Tuesday's debacle of a primary continues for the Niagara County Democratic Party. Chairman Dan Rivera is under serious scrutiny for his handling of the campaign of State Senate hopeful Brian Grear, as well as the implications of that race on the run for Sheriff by Democrat Jim Voutour.

Democrats are incensed that Rivera used $10,000 of the county party's money to fund a last minute TV ad campaign for Grear without going through proper administrative channels, including not getting the approval for the expenditure from the party's executive committee, a requirement in their by-laws. Some party officials are so infuriated with Rivera over this expenditure without approval that they are considering a lawsuit against Rivera personally to recoup the $10,000.

The Voutour camp is concerned that the negative ads that Grear ran against Maziarz, helping Maziarz to a massive 81% of the primary vote, will negatively impact his race in the General Election. Since there are so few races in the county this year, the Voutour camp perceives Grear to be Voutour's running mate in this year's election. Voutour is concerned that Grear will be a huge albatross around his neck in his race against GOP candidate Ernest Palmer.

Palmer, on the other hand, has Maziarz as his running mate this year. Palmer is said to feel good about running alongside a candidate that pulled 81% of the vote. This scenario, many Dems believe, has cast a long shadow over Voutour's campaign.

In addition, Democrats internally are expressing their deep concern with the process of endorsing a coroner to replace recently retired coroner Jim Joyce, who resigned recently after questions were raised related to his involvement with a chain of local massage parlors that were fronts for an international prostitution ring.

The interview committee to select Joyce's replacement included Joyce himself. The committee ultimately chose the wife of Joyce as their candidate for the position, leading many Democrats to assert that this is just another of the many "black eyes" that have been perpetuated under the leadership of Rivera.

With the Niagara County Democratic Committee scheduled to reorganize within the next two weeks, Rivera is said to face a serious internal challenge for the Chairmanship.

That being said, Republicans are hoping that Rivera maintains leadership of the local committee. One can certainly understand why.

September 10, 2008

Shout Out to Leffler, Christy & Wojtaszek

Yes, you read the title of this post correctly. Scott Leffler and Tom Christy hosted Primary Election Night coverage on WLVL and WECK last night and did what I thought was a pretty good job. They were joined by Niagara County GOP Chairman Henry Wojtaszek who offered insight across the races.

Leffler played it pretty fair, offered good analysis and brought a sense of humor to the coverage. Christy worked hard trying to keep up with numbers across all the races and offered some very interesting comments of his own.

Hopefully, a few of the technical glitches that come with simulcasting across two stations will get worked out for the general election. Also, the guys should have a little better understanding of some of the districts...for example, when they were trying to remember what other counties beyond Erie comprise the Dale Volker Senate seat. Best to have that information ahead of time.

Those are all minor compared to what really was some quality coverage. A couple of highlights for me:

1) Wojtaszek responding to what he thought of Brian Grear's vote total by saying a dead candidate would have gotten more votes. Leffler self-admittedly was left speechless on that one. (81-19 Maziarz over Grear is almost unbelievable.)

2) Christy saying that Alice Kryzan's win had absolutely nothing to do with former Congressman John LaFalce's endorsement. When Leffler pointed out that LaFalce is 1-0 in races he endorse, Christy quipped that was far better than his Congressional record.

3) All three commentators discussing the impact of Kryzan's now legendary commercial depicting the bickering between Davis and Powers. They all agreed it was one of the best they saw.

4) Wojtaszek calling out Rivera's record for the night -- 0 for 3 --as Dan invested Dem dollars in Powers, Hobel and Grear.

Good stuff guys. Good stuff.

September 9, 2008

Primary Day

Today is of course Primary Day across the state. In Niagara County polls are open from noon-9PM. The races to watch include:

The 26th Congressional District Democratic primary, which pits Jacks Davis, Alice Kryzan & Jon Powers vying for the seat being vacated by retiring Congressman Tom Reynolds. Our bet is on Davis to win the primary. The winner will face GOP candidate Chris Lee in November.

State Senator George Maziarz has two primary challengers, Brian Grear on the GOP line & Don Hobel on the Conservative line. Maziarz will win both primaries. By the way, I caught Grear's commercial last night, why is he standing next to a Niagara County Sheriff's vehicle? Did someone authorize the use of county property in a paid political advertisement? Worse yet, did someone NOT authorize the use of a county vehicle to be used in a paid political ad? That cannot be kosher.

State Senator Antoine Thompson also faces a primary challenge from upstart Mark Grisanti in the 60th SD. Grisanti, although an impressive candidate, will come up short in his bid to unseat Thompson. Why, who the hell knows since most people in NF have no idea that Thompson is their Senator.

In the 142nd Assembly district, incumbent Mike Cole faces primary challenges from Jane Corwin, Leonard Roberto and Jeff Bono. Living in the district, I've followed this one closely, including the very negative turn that this race has taken. Based on nothing but political instinct, I say Cole takes the primary.

Regardless of who you support, GO VOTE! That is, of course, assuming you have a race to vote in.

September 8, 2008

Marren Plays Naive

A story in Friday's Union Sun & Journal by reporter Mark Scheer started with the line, "Common Council President John Lombardi realizes that he probably committed political suicide on Thursday." This after Lombardi decided that he would support a candidate other than the one endorsed by the GOP.

On Sunday, US&J editor Tim Marren, in his article addressing the issue, wrote "Why is this being called political suicide?". Gee, Tim, why don't you ask Scheer? After all, wouldn't you think that most people got that term from your paper?

And what's with the "oh gee, golly" routine? I mean, writing, "Does anyone else think those terms are a little insensitive. I mean were talking about politics here", is a bit over the top for a paper that thrives on accentuating every negative aspect of politics in the community, except when it comes to the school boards, which you're too much of a wuss to touch. (By the way, Business First has an excellent article on the riches being paid to school administrators in WNY).

The reality of the situation is that Lombardi is the council president. What you fail to see is that the council president is the acting mayor when the mayor is not there. More importantly, the mayor and the council president need to be on the same page politically and philosophically. The mayor picks the council president. If they are not on the same page, it's a bad situation for the mayor, in this case Mike Tucker, who relies on the council president.

You assert that there is "something to be said for a sitting Common Council president to say and do what he believes is right." Wrong. There is something to be said for a Common Council president to put his personal feelings aside and to do what the majority of his constituents want him to do. Of course, we'll have a better idea what the constituents want tomorrow when the primary is over.

Lombardi should resign as council president. Not because people are saying he committed political suicide, but because he and Tucker are so far apart politically and philosophically. That would be the right thing to do for the betterment of the city.

Marren, in the meantime, continues to pick and choose when he thinks it's a good time to play politics. Sorry, Tim, we know better.

September 5, 2008

True Colors Shining Through

After talking about the infighting in the Democrat Party earlier this week, it appears the Republicans have some of their own. Lockport Alderman John Lombardi threw his support behind the candidacy of Brian Grear in what we believe is an ill-fated, bitter run against George not based on doing right for the community but attempting to settle perceived political scores over the sheriff's race.

Lombardi is certainly entitled to do what he wants, but it's amazing that Scheer and Prohaska give so much ink to these baseless charges. It's OK for Lombardi to back who he wants, but not OK for Senator Maziarz to back candidates of his choice. When the Senator makes a pick, it's thuggery, when Lombardi does it, it's bucking the system.

He's the real scoop. Everyone knows John Lombardi hates working for his father's business. He's been waiting for his dad to get out of the way so he can take over, something his dad won't do. This isn't speculation....Lombardi will tell this to anyone who will listen.

He's been begging the GOP establishment for a job for years. He's wanted posts in Lockport, with the County Leg, with NCCC. But this isn't the 1940's...patronage jobs just don't exist like they did and considering Lombardi can't meet the minimum education requirements for most jobs, he's pretty much stuck.

That's until the wackos from Oz came calling. You know the often-talked about theme park in Wheatfield that has no money, no rights to the movie characters and no chance of ever happening. Their all-star team includes John Simon, Tom Christy and now John Lombardi. This squad of winners meets each Friday for fish fries to discuss how imminent the Oz project is, and how they're all going to be masters of their domain when the project starts. This is the same group that tried to derail the new airport at NFIA because they thought the Oz team should run it.

So there's the real story...something you won't read in a Scheer or Prohaska article because they want you to believe Grear is credible.....which is interesting since Grear still won't release his personnel file.

September 4, 2008

Palin Wows The Convention

Wow. That's the best way to sum up Sarah Palin's coming out party at last night's GOP convention. She was witty, assertive, and showed a tenacious personality that will make it difficult for Obama and Biden to overcome. As one observer quipped, Palin is a "pitbull in pumps". Here is part one of the speech:

September 3, 2008

County Dems Infighting Continues

Niagara County Democrats have been thrown into further disarray with the disclosure that the county committee, lead by Chairman Dan Rivera, has given $10,000 to State Senate candidate Brian Grear.Apparently many Democrats are incensed that Rivera has given this money to Grear, a registered Republican, who has little chance of beating the incumbent, George Maziarz.

Much of the angst is coming from the camp of James Voutour, who is engaged in a hard fought battle with Republican Ernest Palmer in the race for Niagara County Sheriff. Voutour's supporters are enraged that Rivera would waste $10,000 on Grear when Voutour needs every dollar he can raise. Former Sheriff Tom Beilein, who helped raise money for the Niagara County Dems, is also infuriated that Rivera would send $10k to Grear over Beilein's hand picked candidate, Voutour.

This is not the first time that Rivera has made some questionable contributions, according to several Niagara County Dems. Last year Rivera caught some heat from county legislature candidates when he contributed $1,000 to Buffalo City Council candidate David Rivera while local candidates who lost their elections, such as Harry Apolito and Charles Naughton, were lucky to get $250 or $300.

Once again it appears that Rivera's inability to stay focused on the task at hand has gotten him in hot water. His complete and utter disdain for Maziarz has clouded his judgement to the point of dumping the overwhelming majority of his committees money into a race he has no chance of winning.

September 2, 2008

"Punished" With A Baby?

As you have undoubtedly heard, the 17 year-old daughter of GOP Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin is pregnant. The Palins have released a statement addressing the pregnancy and their daughter's engagement to the father of her child.

“We have been blessed with five wonderful children who we love with all our heart and mean everything to us. Our beautiful daughter Bristol came to us with news that as parents we knew would make her grow up faster than we had ever planned. We’re proud of Bristol’s decision to have her baby and even prouder to become grandparents. As Bristol faces the responsibilities of adulthood, she knows she has our unconditional love and support.

“Bristol and the young man she will marry are going to realize very quickly the difficulties of raising a child, which is why they will have the love and support of our entire family. We ask the media to respect our daughter and Levi’s privacy as has always been the tradition of children of candidates."

Barack Obama's response? During an interview with a Christian News reporter, Obama said "Look, I got two daughters — 9 years old and 6 years old, I am going to teach them first about values and morals, but if they make a mistake, I don’t want them punished with a baby."

So BO thinks that babies are punishment. Ouch. Let's see the spin doctors get out of this one.