December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

With the holidays upon us, Niagara Times will likely be updated sporadically over the next week or so. We'd like to wish all of our readers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

We'll leave you with a video of the greatest Christmas song of all time, White Christmas, sung by Bing Crosby in Holiday Inn.

December 23, 2009

Senate Dem's True Colors Shine Through

If this video of Democratic State Senator Suzi Oppenheimer stammering and stumbling her way through a question about the state budget isn't downright disturbing, it might be funny. Unfortunately, there is no humor in her incompetence, and every one of us pays the price for her ineptitude and the inpetitude of her Democratic colleagues in the State Senate. It's only a few minutes long and worth a look.

And taxpayers wonder why we’re in a financial mess right now?

The best game Paterson has is to simply say we’re in trouble and the best his Democrat friends in the state Legislature have are geniuses like this to address it.

Please feel free to use this when the Liberals says people really want Democrats to run state government and remember this when Assembly and Senate campaigns gear up next year.

December 22, 2009

Preparing To Govern

Every now and then, here at Niagara Times, we enjoy the prognostication business. And today is no different.

The Republican leaders of the Niagara County Legislature will be meeting very shortly to map out their vision for the next year, and to determine which lawmakers will hold leadership posts as the Majority Caucus, having won its most decisive electoral victory yet, organizes the government come January.

We’re fairly confident in the following predictions:

· Bill Ross wins a deserved seventh term as Chairman of the Legislature, a feat that insiders tell us would make him the longest-serving chairman of that body. Niagara Times has been happy to criticize Ross on various issues, most notably his failure to lead efforts to remove County Manager Greg Lewis. But, after a year that has included winning what are starting to look like real concessions from NYPA Boss Richie Kessel and his now-famous stare-downs with Francine DelMonte, we have to declare ourselves happy with this outcome. We also happen to know that he is a perennial favorite of new GOP Chairman Mike Norris’, and that Norris himself is likely to back Ross.

· Rick Updegrove continues as Majority Leader. This one is a no-brainer, because Updegrove is, honestly, the Majority’s best legislator. While we’re the first to admit the Lockport lawmaker has a tendency to make his point in the lengthiest way possible, his willingness to take on Dennis Virtuoso when the rest of his caucus would often sit on their hands has earned him the title of “leader.” Moreover, though, Updegrove’s singular command of issues, particularly where economic development and job creation are concerned, makes him the strongest Majority lawmaker.

· Clyde Burmaster holds onto the Vice Chairmanship for another term. Ransomville’s legislator, the sometimes-mercurial Burmaster, will continue in his role as vice chairman. And honestly, the role suits him. Burmaster, Ross, and Lockportian Gerald “Butch” Farnham constitute the longest-serving Majority members, and Burmaster has an ability to accomplish a great deal in a back-up role. And, while Burmaster has always signaled a desire to return to the dais as chairman, his style has always been a bit more heavy-handed than Ross’, and we expect that a number of issue in the next year will require Ross’ dexterity.

All three of these individuals’ staying on should be no shock, but given the once-turbulent nature of GOP Legislature leadership, it marks a new era for the Republicans.

On the Dem side, we’re willing to bet that Virtuoso stays another term as Minority Leader. We’ve let our displeasure with the Niagara Falls Democrat be known on numerous occasions, but the truth is he’s probably the best cage-fighter on his side of the aisle.

December 21, 2009

Open Mouth, Insert Foot

I swear that there should be some sort of mandatory training of newly elected officials on the protocol and etiquette of speaking publicly. Even more importantly, those newly elected officials should have at least some iota of understanding of the community in which they have been elected to serve.

Take for instance Jack Smith and Andy Chapman, two aldermen-elect in the city of Lockport.

At a meeting held last week, an architect proposed that the city should build a banquet facility overlooking the locks of the Erie County. Now, our criticism is not directed at the architect one bit. After all, he is not from this area and he doesn't know the community. He is simply looking at a possible vacant piece of land and making what would normally be a very suitable recommendation based on the information he has been provided.

Smith and Chapman (and apparently Chapman's wife), on the other hand, should know better. They should know that there is a banquet facility sitting on the canal, just a few hundred yards downstream, the Lockport Canalside Banquet Center. Apparently this little tidbit of information escaped them as they expressed their joy at the prospect of the city building a facility to compete with Mike Murphy's place.

While the fact that this little nugget escaped the trio, it is also disconcerting to see elected officials so eager to spend public dollars to compete with private entities. This is my concern with IDAs as well, but a topic for another time.

There are, in reality, a plethora of locations in eastern Niagara County that are used as banquet facilities, beside Canalside. Chapman and Smith should have know this before they encouraged the use of millions of dollars in public monies be used for this Main Street project.

I'd suggest these two take a crash course on the city, and soon. The prospect of more ignorance is not going to bode well for them for the next two years.

December 18, 2009

Friday Ruminations

New York's Senior United States Senator, Chuck "Don't Ever Get Between Me and a TV Camera" Schumer is still doing damage control after he called a US Airways flight attendant a "bitch" after she asked him to turn his cell phone off. Ironically, he made the comment to New York's Junior Senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, a supposed advocate for women, but has to this point refused to condemn her mentor's demeaning and sexist remark.

We're thinking that New York State Governor David Paterson is a regular reader of Niagara Times, because it certainly appears that he has taken our advice. In our November 10 post, titled Political Advice For David Paterson, we suggested that Paterson be more defiant, use the bully pulpit and call out by name the legislators who refuse to enact substantive reforms and significant budget cuts. Paterson started doing what we suggested, and voila, his poll numbers have risen for the first time in over a year. You still can't afford to put me on the payroll, Dave, but keep checking in, my advice here will always come at no charge.

NYSUT is suing Paterson for his withholding of school aid payments. Hold firm, Dave!

The ties between the disgustingly corrupt organization ACORN and the New York-based Working Families Party continues to be scrutinized. Any candidate who willingly accepts the endorsement of the Working Families Party should have his head checked. They're dirty, and everyone inside politics knows it. This story also sheds some light on how screwed up the WF Party is.

Liz Benjamin of the Daily News has an interesting piece on Paterson's prediction that Obamination will stay out of the 2010 Democratic primary election for governor. Considering Obama's plummeting approval rating, I'm thinking Cuomo would just as soon have B.O. stay the hell out of New York. The prospect of him prancing all over the state stumping for Cuomo makes me nauseous.

Western New York state senator Bill Stachowski will face a primary challenge from Erie County Legislator Tim Kennedy. Stack has been virtually useless during his 28 years in office, but Kennedy is not the answer for WNY. Kennedy has never shown the fortitude to stand up for anything - that is not the kind of representation we need in Albany these days.

Two Western New Yorkers have been nominated for new upper-echelon UAW posts. Isn't that like being promoted on the Titanic?

December 17, 2009

County Employee Firing

I caught this piece from yesterday's Buffalo News this morning, and once again, was astounded by the arrogance of the union head representing the alleged thief. Obviously I'm not alone, since the article has drawn 26 comments from the public so far.

The story details the allegations against a Niagara county employee who has been charged with stealing two snowplow blades and some bridge railings from the county Public Works garage and selling them for scrap. The union president states his intention of filing a grievance on behalf of the employee because the union head, Ed McDonald, believes the county's firing of the suspect was too harsh of a penalty.

Now, there are certainly two sides to this story. Part of me says the county is acting way too prematurely on this and should wait until the case is adjudicated. After all, if the suspect, Joel Allen, is found not guilty, the county will have some serious egg on its face.

But the reality is that it is very unlikely that Mr. Allen will get off the hook for this one, especially considering that there is supposedly a surveillance videotape showing the the two plow blades being loaded onto a trailer.

So let's get back to Mr. McDonald's comments. In the story, he is quoted as saying, "We’re going to file a grievance on his behalf, alleging the penalty was too harsh." I'm sorry, the penalty of termination for stealing county (and thus taxpayer) property is too harsh? Really?

Some of the public comments hit the nail on the head, including:
  • You would think they (the union) would want this thief out of their midst, because it makes all government employees look like thieves. Instead of defending him they should have been pushing for his removal.
  • Just shows you they were more concerned keeping his union dues than keeping the employees honest.
  • The Union will surely say that he's misunderstood and really needed the money for his sick child, wife, third-cousin or necessary oxycontin or the like.
  • Penalty too harsh is a bunch of horse-S**t. That is what is wrong with society. Lying and stealing can't be condoned on any level and especially when the public is paying your wages.
  • Anything short of murder will get you defended by the union, and even then they would probably spend hard earned honest money to defend them.
  • McDonald's comments epitomize why unions are hated so much. And his comments reinforce the perception that unions only exist to protect the worst workers. What does the union do for the worker who gets up every day, goes to work, does his job, keeps his mouth shut and isn't stealing? Not a thing.
I hope the county prosecutes this guy to the fullest extent, with no plea bargains. If a plea deal is given, it will likely be an ACD or probation, the union will file a grievance, and they'll win. To avoid this, the guy needs to spend a year in jail. then we'll see how fervently the union works to get him his job back. Then again, if it means a few hundred bucks more in union dues, I'm sure they'll do everything thing they can to make sure he's back on the payroll in no time.

December 16, 2009

Filling Vacancies

While there is sure to be some level of criticism of the Niagara County Legislature's plan to amend their current method of filling vacancies between elections, the legislature is making the right move with the proposed revision to the law.

Currently, the rules say a person appointed to fill an unexpired term must be a registered member of the same political party as the former legislator. The legislature is proposing to drop that requirement and allow the appointment of anyone who lives in the affected the district.

In this day and age, less registered voters are choosing to affiliate with the two major political parties, and more voters are choosing to go with the Independence Party, the Conservative Party, the Working Families Party or simply opting not to affiliate with any party.

In addition, all too often the public is screaming that politics gets in the way of the decision making process.

The way the current law is written, the legislature is pigeon-holed into the selection that they can make. Opening up the selection process to interested individuals of any political party will greatly improve the pool of candidates from which to choose, and increase the likelihood that the most qualified person will be chosen.

Considering that there have been a fair amount of mid-term vacancies over the past few years, this is a good move that can only benefit the public.

December 15, 2009

No "Change You Can Believe In" For These Folks

Remember these Words: “If we pass this stimulus it will jumpstart the economy, create 4 million new jobs, it will hold unemployment under 8%”.

Obama LIED and the Economy DIED.

December 14, 2009

County To Expand Public Comment Period

There is so much rhetoric in political circles these days that centers around transparency in government. The public demands more of it, and elected officials are always campaigning on it. Unfortunately, all too often the talk is just that.

The Niagara County Legislature, however, is apparently moving ahead with improving transparency in government with a resolution on the agenda to expand the public comment period.

Currently the public is allowed to speak for three minutes on any item on the agenda or for anything in the best interest of the county at the beginning of the meeting.

For years, the regular speakers at the county legislature have complained that the three minute rule was unfair, that they needed more time to make their points. Obviously the county legislators heard they're complaints and are now opening up a public comment session at the end of the meeting that does not carry the same time restriction.

Kudos to the county legislature for taking a definitive step in the right direction.

December 11, 2009

Anderson & Fruscione Misguided

Two members of the Niagara Falls City Council have sponsored a resolution calling for the resignation of Niagara Tourism Convention Corporation President John Percy. The sponsors, Sam Fruscione and Bob Anderson, are irate that Percy hasn't given them the detailed reports that they have sought on the agency's expenditures. They're also perturbed that Percy hasn't done enough to hire more minority employees.

Percy has refused to disclose, among other pertinent information, the salaries of NTCC's employees, aside from his own, receipts or detailed expense reports for travel that has included overseas trips and how much private consultants are paid.

Now, we're no fan of Percy. He has used NTCC funds to take trips to Prague, Delhi, London, Mumbai, Milan, Berlin, Geneva and a host of other locations that he has not revealed. In addition, NTCC is spending $1 million to construct new offices in Niagara Falls - as if there aren't enough vacant buildings in the city to utilize. But Anderson and Fruscione are misguided in their blame of Percy for tourism failures in the city.

It is estimated that 13 million people visit Niagara Falls each year - it's a natural tourist destination. The failure or simple unwillingness of Fruscione and Anderson to see this is what is so disconcerting.

We don't need to be spending millions of taxpayer dollars each year to attract visitors to the the region - the city needs to be putting millions into improving the infrastructure of the city, demolishing the miles of decrepit buildings that line the city's streets, reducing the tax burden on businesses to attract private capital investment and working to advance some semblance of retail traffic in the heart of the city. None of this is happening, despite the fact that 13 million visitors come to Niagara Falls each year.

What they should be focusing on his how to turn the "day tripper" into the "overnight tripper". The economics of a visitor spending $60 a day versus $360 day should be simple enough for even Fruscione and Anderson to understand.

These two need to get their own house in order before they start blaming Percy for the tourism failures of the city. This smoke and mirrors garbage does nothing to divert attention from their own failures. Until they do, the city will continue to be scorned and ridiculed.

December 10, 2009

DelMonte Misfires On Melson's Loss

Sometimes I have a bit too much time on my hands. But when I read a quote attributed to one of our elected officials, I like to take a few minutes to confirm the veracity of the quote.

Take for instance, State Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte, the highest ranking Democrat in Niagara County. In this piece from the Buffalo News that appeared on November 6, Delmonte was asked about the defeat of Nick Melson, a Delmonte staffer, in his bid for the Fifth District County Legislature seat to newcomer Vince Sandanato.

DelMonte goes on to state that Melson received more votes on the Democratic line than Sandonato did on the Republican line, but Sandonato had the three minor-party lines and that put him over the top. That would be wrong, Fran.

Official results from the race break down accordingly:
  • Melson had 830 votes on the Democratic line
  • Sandanato had 853 votes on the Republican line
  • Sandanato had 101 votes on the Independence line
  • Sandanato had 69 votes on the Conservative line
  • Sandanato had 49 votes on the WF line
Now, no one would dispute the statement that having the minor party lines helped cushion the margin of victory for Sandanato, but DelMonte is unequivocally incorrect when she stated that Melson received more votes on the Dem line than Sandanato did on the GOP line, and that the reason for Sandanato's win in a district that was held by a Dem for nearly 50 years was his having gained the I & C.
It shows just how out of touch Delmonte is with the local political scene and her willingness to simply make excuses for herself and her organization.
What DelMonte should have been saying to the press, if she had the courage to actually take responsibility and tell the truth without trying to spin every scenario into some incomprehensible justification, is to acknowledge the fact that Melson's loss of the WF line to Sandanato in the Primary Election was pretty significant in influencing the final results. Sandanato still would have won, but that loss was crushing for Melson's campaign.
So Francine, and any any elected officials for that matter, be careful what you say in the press. Someone out there might actually be taking the time to check it out.

December 9, 2009

Lewis Turning Back The Clock On Niagara County

When multiple readers inside the government contacted us last week to tell us they were having trouble accessing Niagara Times on their office computers, we began to wonder what was up.

Well, it didn’t take long to get an answer from a very reliable source inside the Brooks Building.

It seems that County Manager Greg Lewis had a fit of rage when a county employee made a casual remark about him being “in the final year of his county manager gig.” Lewis then apparently pressed the employee, who said he’d seen the Greg Lewis Countdown drop below the One Year mark on this blog.

Now, if you’re viewing this blog from anyplace other than a Niagara County government office, you’d be able to verify that. But we are told that Lewis was so enraged by the employee’s “insolence” (his word, not ours) that he summoned the county’s IT Director to his office and demanded he block county employees’ access to the Niagara Times.

From what we’re told, that was a tall order, and would have made it impossible for county employees to view a number of other websites, so Lewis eventually settled for the IT Department just blocking the Countdown clock.

But that’s where things get interesting.

Apparently, the county’s “WebSense” software is now blocking access to various networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn—which was the only way Lewis could block the Countdown clock itself. Now, some may not care if county employees can Tweet what they’re doing, but understand, most Fortune 100 companies consider the social networking sites vital to their business models, and we’re told that several county department heads were examining ways to more fully integrate the social and business networking sites—which are increasingly used by the under-50 set for business and social transactions alike—into how the county does business and offers services, which other counties have already done.

Which means Greg Lewis’ fit of pique is going to prevent a lot of county residents from easily accessing information on things like flu vaccinations and road maintenance and county job openings from the networking sites, which are gaining influence every day.

But even if residents are getting screwed, at least Greg Lewis won’t have to suffer the indignity of county workers counting down the dwindling minutes and hours of his existence in Niagara County.

December 8, 2009

County GOP Endorses Lazio For Governor

Kudos to the Niagara County Republican Committee and its new Chairman Mike Norris for getting out front in the race for New York State Governor. Norris and the Niagara County GOP Executive Committee unanimously endorsed candidate Rick Lazio at the party's Holiday Victory Party at the Holiday Inn in Lockport last night.

Lazio is an energetic and individual who is no stranger to Western New York, having spent a significant amount of time during his run for United States Senate in 2000.

According to his website, Lazio has spent much of his adulthood in the private sector, so he obviously understands the constraints of working within a budget, something so many of our Albany politicians are unable to comprehend these days. It's also worthy to note that Lazio started his political career on the local level as a county legislator, working his way up to a United States Congressman.

While no one knows who will ultimately be the gubernatorial candidate on the Democratic side, I'd be a little less inclined than most to think that Andrew Cuomo is a lock, given history after his disastrous primary against Carl McCall for AG in 2002. Cuomo cannot once again risk alienating the minority community, as he did on '02.

Paterson has said he is in the race 'til the end - good for him, we hope he does stay in, though we wish he'd understand the fact that he has nothing to lose politically and should start calling out those who are inhibiting progress in Albany by name. Unfortunately, that's not his style - he wants to play nice and hopes to persuade the legislature to do the right thing. He's so naive is laughable.

Irregardless, a primary between Cuomo and Paterson will be a bloody one, with a multitude of racial overtones. Cuomo can't afford that if he wants to be politically viable now and into the future.

For the Niagara County GOP to come out early in the race for the governor's seat is a smart move politically that can pay dividends later. And Lazio is a formidable candidate who will be tough to beat, no matter the opponent.

December 7, 2009

Campaign Finance 2010

The Buffalo News has an excellent story in today's paper about the projected financial campaign contributions we can expect across the state in 2010. With candidates vying for six statewide offices, 29 congressional seats, the State Senate and the Assembly, political pundits expect campaigns in New York State to raise upwards of $100 million.

Even idiot Antoine Thompson, the dumbest person in the New York State Senate, is pounding the fundraising trail, having staged his second major fundraising event in three weeks — charging up to $5,000 per ticket.

So we got to thinking - who on God's green earth is willing to pony up $5k for an audience with someone of the likes of Thompson?

Well, we're going to find out as soon as the campaign finance disclosure forms are filed. Then we're going to do everything we can to make sure that we publicize the names of these contributors, and their connection to state government or the connection to the candidate himself.

We all talk about going out and pulling the lever to effectuate change, but hitting the contributors and impeding the ability of these candidates to raise money to spread their rhetoric and hyperbole during the campaign season can also be impactful.

Stay tuned, I have a feeling this is going to get very interesting to track.

December 4, 2009

AES Tax Issue Laid To Rest

It's interesting to note that an issue that was the subject of much controversy over the past few years was resolved this week with little fanfare - the AES PILOT. For those who do not know, AES has an 1,800 acre site located on the southern shore of Lake Ontario in Somerset. The location houses a 675 megawatt coal fired electric generating facility serving 650,000 homes.

AES has been the largest taxpayer in the county for many years, paying more than $19 million in school, county, town and special district taxes in 2005. In October of 2006, the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency granted AES a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes, reducing their tax burden to $17.3 million in the first year. The payment would have then decreased each year by $500,000 until 2011, when the payment level would remain unchanged until 2019.

Niagara County, the town of Somerset and the Barker School District sued to invalidate the lawsuit. After years of wrangling in the court system, the three entities came to an agreement this week with AES to reduce its tax burden based on the exact same formula that was invalidated by the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court in May of 2009.

What's interesting is the deafening silence from those who took every opportunity to slam this PILOT when it was first enacted, including political figures and the kooks at the county legislature meetings.

Dan Rivera, the inept chairman of the Niagara County Democratic Committee, tried to make this issue relevant in both the 2007 and 2009 election season. First of all, any idiot knew that this issue is not one that would resonate with the voters. Seriously, you had candidates in Niagara Falls using this PILOT as the foundation of their campaigns against incumbents. I guess they didn't really understand that the actions of the IDA are separate from the legislature. Nonetheless, all of those candidates and Rivera himself have been conspicuously quiet now that the exact same deal that they found so much joy in rallying against has been agreed upon by gentlemen who put their differences aside, sat down together and negotiated a deal in the best interests of all parties involved.

And all of the critics who stood up at the legislature meetings, like the three-minute nutbags, minority leader Dennis Virtuoso and Rivera himself, calling for the head of Niagara County IDA Chairman Henry Sloma, are now eating a large helping of crow, because Sloma was the only one with the foresight and fortitude to do what was ultimately shown to be the right thing.

Thank goodness this issue has been put to rest. Of course, I won't hold my breath waiting for the former critics to acknowledge just how wrong they were - we all know that will never come.

December 2, 2009

Thompson's Fundraising Jaunt Stalls State Government

Antoine Thompson is special. Don't believe me? Just ask the State Senator himself.

In the midst of a vote to address at least part of the state's $4 billion budget shortfall, Thompson was nowhere to be found. Where was our illustrious Senator? In Buffalo, attending a fundraiser. When pressed by the media about whether his fundraising and his inability to find his way back to Albany to cast his vote on the Deficit Reduction Plan delayed the vote, Thompson responded with the golden nugget of "I believe I'm special, but no".

That's the best you can come up with? Was that an attempt at humor? With the state mired in one its worst fiscal crises ever, you're trying to crack jokes? Let me clue you in, you dumb-as-a-box-of-rocks Senator, you're not special. In fact, you're the least special elected official I know of. Why? Because you do nothing for the constituents who put your sorry ass in Albany. It's just too damn bad that the voters of the 60th SD are more stupid than you.

Just as offensive as Thompson delaying the budget vote to attend a fundraiser is one of his other moronic quotes in the Buffalo News piece. After trying to justify why he is such a fuck-up, Thompson went on to complain that he got back to Albany and "did nothing". Okay, so whose fault is that, Antoine? YOUR party is in the majority. YOUR party controls the chamber. So what are you doing to better state government if you are unable to accomplish anything?

You are so damn incompetent it's downright sickening. Not only are you a do-nothing Senator, you're actually impeding progress in state government. In the dysfunction of Albany, that's saying something. I hope you're very proud.

December 1, 2009

Send A Card To A Soldier

One of my favorite bumper stickers is the one that reads "If You Can Read This, Thank a Teacher - If You Can Read This In English, Thank A Soldier". Despite the fact that so many of us political junkies disagree on issues, the fact of the matter is that we have the right to disagree with our government, and we have the ability to protest and demonstrate against our government. Too many countries do not have that right.

For over 200 years, the men and women of our country have bravely and proudly served in the United State Armed Services, and many of them gave their lives to protect our freedoms.

This holiday season, let's take a moment to let a solider know that their commitment and sacrifice is very much appreciated.

When doing your Christmas cards this year, take one card and send it to the address below. If we pass this on and everyone sends one card, think of how many cards these wonderful special people who have sacrificed so much would get.

The address is as follows:

A Recovering American Soldier
c/o Walter Reed Army Medical Center
6900 Georgia Avenue,NW
Washington , D.C. 20307-5001

November 30, 2009

NFMMC Mental Health Facility

The sad reality of our society is that not enough resources are devoted to treating mental illness. With Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center currently in in the midst of a $6.9 million project to update its mental health treatment facilities, we're hopeful that those in our community that can get the help that they need.

We're not going to harp on the fact that this project is being paid for with slot machine revenues, dollars that are supposed to be used for economic development (right Francine, you stinkin' hypocrite?) or the fact that NFMMC CEO Joe Ruffalo has driven the facility to the brink of financial ruin while making sure to blame everyone and their mothers for the desperate financial situation that the facility has faced.

No, we're simply going to embrace this project on its face value, despite the ancillary concerns, and follow the lead of Lynne Shuster, of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Buffalo and Erie County who is taking a wait-and-see approach to determining whether the newly renovated center will mean better care. It can hardly get worse.

November 25, 2009

Lewis Picks A Fight With....Everyone!

Greg Lewis must be the dumbest man in Niagara County.

We write that today because of the documents below, which have wandered into our possession. Niagara County’s county manager—who, when we last checked in, was busily sending resumes to every county with an opening at the top of its bureaucracy—has decided to expand upon his earlier set of “recommendations” to county leaders, offered several months ago.

NCCC President Jim Klyczek will be thrilled to hear that Lewis is recommending that the county “freeze the NCCC Budget for the next three years.” Aside from the fact that such a move would effectively kill the college’s proposed Culinary Arts Institute, we’re kind of curious how Klyczek will be able to meet payroll. Maybe Lewis just sees NCCC as another Mount View, waiting to be financially euthanized. We’re dying to see what Mr. Klyczek has to say, though, about this recommendation. (And, actually, we kinda wish we hadn’t banned Larry Castellani from this board, because we’d like to know what he thinks, after all of his support for Greg Lewis.)

We’re sure, too, that Lockport Supervisor Marc Smith will be excited to hear that Greg wants to “close the County Golf Course and transfer property to the Town of Lockport.” Now, we’re not sure what the rationale for that decision is—the course is, after all, not a money loser—but we’re pretty confident Mr. Smith has never had any conversations with the county’s bloated figurehead about such a move. Taking over the golf course is a rather involved process. There are liability issues, union issues and state issues. There are costs, such as personnel and maintenance. There’s the whole question of whether Lockport would even want to get into the golf business, or whether Lewis just wants a popular county recreation facility to go to seed because he, well, doesn’t golf.

And then there’s Sheriff Jim Voutour. Now, in his 11 months in office, Voutour has shown himself to be a strong advocate for his Department. So, we’re kind of wondering about Lewis’ plans to “conduct Multi-Agency Incarceration Study and implement study’s findings and conclusions.” Um…it just seems to us that something like that should fall under the county’s top lawman, who was elected by a helluva lot more people than Chief Bureaucrat Greg Lewis. We also are curious if Lewis ever talked to Sheriff Voutour about planning a “cell phone usage sales tax go to the County to fund Sheriff’s Communications Center.” We also wonder how the cities, towns, and villages in the county will feel about this one: “Require other jurisdictions to use and pay a share of centralized dispatch through Sheriff’s Communications Center to qualify for Homeland Security funding through the County.”

Greg seems to be doing a lot in Sheriff Voutour’s name.

Of course, those aren’t the only new costs. Lewis also is pushing, again, for the county to “adopt a mortgage tax with revenues to the County to fund public works operations.” And he’s added this one: “Adopt increased recordation fees with revenues to the County to fund public works operations.”

What public works operations are so expensive we need new taxes and fees, you ask?

We’re going out on a limb and thinking it has something to do with this recommendation: “Implement the Public Works Facility to centralize and consolidate the Public Works operations.”

Ah! The Greg Lewis Memorial Public Works Facility and Taj Mahal. We seem to remember having written about that in the past. Apparently the Lewis strategy is keep throwing around your massive weight, and eventually you get your way, and the taxpayers in “places like this that are penny-ante pound foolish” pay for it.

We’re sure that plenty of other folks will get a kick out of Lewis’ recommendations that his office “absorb” their positions, like an amoeba feeding. But we’re dying to know how his plans for NCCC, Lockport, and the Sheriff’s Office turn out.

November 24, 2009

Francine DelMonte: Born to Run Away From Her Responsibilities

I’m On Fire ever since word reached us that Francine DelMonte, Niagara County’s self-styled Local Hero, had shown up at a ribbon-cutting Monday morning. After all, the last we heard, Governor Paterson had called the Legislature back into session. Now, granted, Paterson himself decided cutting that same ribbon and smiling for the TV cameras was somehow more important than reaching agreement on how to fix the state’s appalling budget mess, so we thought it was possible Frannie had managed to catch a ride out with the erstwhile Guv.

Turns out we were wrong.

A friend of Francine’s revealed to us that the real reason that Francine was in town was because she was busy Dancing in the Dark at the HSBC Arena late into the night on Sunday.

That’s right: even as she and her colleagues were grossly failing the taxpayers who elected them and Waitin’ On A Sunny Day to miraculously fix the state’s budget mess, Francine was, Surprise, Surprise, making time to take in a Bruce Springsteen concert.

Now, we don’t mean to demean The Boss. Frankly, we enjoy his music. In our teen years, we even listened to a cassette tape of Born in the U.S.A. until it wore out. But our only responsibility in those days was a part-time afterschool job, not fixing a self-made budget mess affecting 19 million citizens.

But while Francine is reliving her Glory Days, Rockin’ All Over the World to The Boss, she’s not in Albany fighting for WNY’s interests as the budget-cutting sharks circle. So, when your school district’s aid gets slashed and your school taxes go up, make sure you ask Francine how Bruce’s rendition of Hungry Heart sounded. Of course, if you voted for Francine, you’re Your Own Worst Enemy. As New York continues Goin’ Cali, Francine DelMonte is not only dithering—she’s letting us all go straight Into The Fire.

Francine’s constituents would have been better served had she gotten into her Pink Cadillac or a Downbound Train to Albany and done her job. And given the price of tickets to the Springsteen concert, and realizing that she bought those overpriced tickets with the pay she received for not doing her job, it’s even more disheartening. Maybe expecting her to do her job is just Countin’ on a Miracle, but given the damage that this state government has done in the past year, we don’t think expecting Francine to go to Albany and do the job she’s being paid to do should be a Leap of Faith.

Maybe since she moved to her Mansion On The Hill in Lewiston, Francine has forgotten that the little people who work in places like My Hometown don’t get to blow off their jobs and their responsibilities.

But for the rest of us, it’s as if we’re being Held Up Without a Gun by Francine and her Assembly colleagues.

November 23, 2009

NT Moving In The Right Direction With Tax Break

The plan by North Tonwanda lawmakers to give tax breaks for owners who turn commercial buildings into multiple-use properties is a great step. Under the proposal, the entire value of the improvements would be kept out of an assessment for the first eight years. In each of the next four years, assessments would increase by 20 percent of the value of the improvements.

Because our area was heavily dependent upon manufacturing in the past, we have a multitude of older buildings that can no longer serve in the capacity they were originally designed for. Giving property owners and investors an incentive to convert these properties into multi-use entities will only strengthen our infrastructure.

While we're quick to give kudos on this one, we'd like to make one suggestion - enact similar rules for residential homeowners. Too frequently the residential homeowners in our community invest significant amounts of money into their property only to see a tax increase as their reward.

A few years back the county legislature passed a provision to address just this issue, as it related to county taxes, giving residential homeowners a break on their assessment after a substantive improvement to their home. Every municipality in the county should be following suit.

November 20, 2009

Upstate's Survival Depends on Giuliani

The news that former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is no longer considering a run for governor, instead setting his sights on incumbent United States Senator Kirstin Gillibrand, has the pundits in an all-out frenzy. Anyone and everyone from the political arena is speculating about what Rudy's forgoing of the one seat for a shot at another means to the political landscape across the state.

This blog has had a plethora of posts about the Upstate/Downstate disconnect. I've tried to emphasize the point that it's not about political parties per se, but about the need to have all regions of this state represented in positions of authority, not just New York City. That being said, it's hard to ignore the differences between the regions when you see this:

What the above images show is what the State Senate Majority looked like prior to the Democrats successful attempt to regain the Senate, and after. The before picture, on the left, shows strong representation across the entire state. The after picture, on the right, shows what the State Senate Majority looks like today.

Yes, there are five senators from Upstate New York in the Senate Majority. Yes, this is a problem for those of us who live north of the Tappan Zee Bridge. And the reality of the situation is that if we have to rely on Stachowski, Thompson, Breslin, Aubertine and Valesky to carry the torch for Upstate, we are unequivocally screwed. Stachowski showed what a coward he is after Malcolm Smith promised him the powerful Finance Committee Chairmanship throughout the election last year, only to pull the plug on that promise. Did Stachowski say a word about it? Nope, he took it in the arse without a whimper.

When you couple the geography of the power in this state with the mentality of most of the Downstate senators, as illustrated by bully Kevin Parker (see below), Upstate has a real problem.

So what does all of this mean as it relates to Rudy? Simple: the GOP needs a very strong candidate on the ballot next year if they are to have a shot at regaining the Senate Majority. Rudy would lead that ticket. How is this relevant to Upstate? If the GOP does not regain the Senate next year, it will never happen. With redistricting to happen after the 2010 census, whichever party is in control of the Senate will redraw the lines to ensure their survival in that majority for decades to come. If the Democrats retain the majority, the map above on the right will become permanent. That should be very disturbing , regardless of political affiliation.

Let's hope Rudy does confirm the rumors of his political intentions - the survival of Upstate depends on it.

November 18, 2009

Jauron Being Airbrushed Out of History

At Niagara Times, we try to weigh in on the pressing issues of the day: county budgets…elections…the ongoing competition between Antoine Thompson, Kevin Parker, and Eric Adams to say the dumbest thing on the Senate floor…

So, you could accuse us of having an ideological tilt. Still, we think it’s significant that a little after 3 o’clock yesterday we saw one of our more liberal office colleagues, who gave us a big, heart-felt thumbs-up.

We’d like to think it was a sign he was coming around. But then he told us that the long-awaited event had occurred: Dick Jauron had been mercifully put to sleep.

Okay, it wasn’t that dramatic, but still, it could have happened.

What struck us as particularly funny, though, was that, after our colleague told us the news, we naturally decided to go read about it online, and stumbled upon Jauron’s Wikipedia entry: “Richard Manual Jauron (born October 7, 1950 in Peoria, Illinois) is a former American football coach. He was a former head coach of the Buffalo Bills from 2006 until November 2009. Jauron has previously held head coaching positions with the Chicago Bears and, on an interim basis, with the Detroit Lions. Despite initially enjoying success in Chicago where he was named the AP Coach of the Year in 2001 after leading the Bears to a 13-3 record, he has not had a winning season since.”

Now, we’re not about to start endorsing the veracity of Wikipedia as an information source. Frankly, we have always found it sketchy at best. But it’s amazing just how fast the online editor community can write a truthful, and un-PC, epitaph for a despised figure.

It also occurred to us, though, that this is little more than an effort by the good people at 1 Bills Drive to appease a fan base that, like us, has seen its enthusiasm flag. It’s not that we aren’t happy to see Jauron go—surely some prep school someplace is looking for a nice-guy coach who can’t find it in him to lay into his players. (Actually, there’s even a webpage devoted to finding jobs for such people—if someone knows Dick’s email and wants to forward that to him, be our guest.) Rather, though, we’re annoyed that Bills management couldn’t make this tough decision when it mattered.

The 2009-10 season is already a loss for a team that’s 3-6. It’s hard to imagine the Bills now running the table and showing up in the postseason. So, firing Jauron now was little more than an effort to appease us, the fans.

The problem for Ralph Wilson is, it’s going to take a hell of a lot more to revive interest in this franchise.

Good luck with that.

November 17, 2009

Breaking Loose

I don't read the Greater Niagara Newspapers much, simply because their coverage stinks and the writing is so sub par. The GNN papers, which include the Niagara Gazette, the Union Sun & Journal, the Tonawanda News and the Medina Journal do little for me other than another option when the Buffalo News doesn't have a relevant issue covered, which is rare.

So this morning, being a slow news day, I figured I'd take a gander at the Gazette. Lo and behold, there it was, the impetus for today's post.

Our old friend Howard Milstein (not really, I don't have any billionaire friends), has agreed to meet with United States Senator Chuck "Never Get Between Me And A Camera" Schumer and Niagara Falls Mayor Paul "I Got the Hippy Hippy Shakes" Dyster about the hundreds of acres of undeveloped property in the city that Milstein owns.

Now, this is all well and good, and I'm sure all of the parties involved will get a nice little photo op out of the gig. They'll come out smiling, talking about the progress that is being made, Schumer will boast about how interested Milstein is in the revitalization of Niagara Falls and Dyster will stand there looking incompetent, which he does very well.

But Dyster needs a serious reality check before he walks into a room with someone like Milstein. Howard will chew Dyster up and spit him out if he senses one iota of bullshit from Dyster. Which brings me to the disconcerting quote from today's Gazette story, in which Dyster stated, “With development beginning to break loose (in the Falls), we thought it was important to bring Mr. Milstein back.” I'm sorry, what?

Development is beginning to break loose in Niagara Falls? You are talking about the U.S. side of the Falls, correct? Because I see a plethora of development going on across the border, and I want to make sure we're talking about the same city.

Sooooooooo, are we talking the snow park that will be abandoned within a year? Are we talking about Hope VI, the $80,000,000 low-income housing community that is costing $280,000 per unit to construct? Are we talking about the desolate Third Street "entertainment corridor" that I saw a few tumbleweeds blowing through last week? Or do you consider crack houses development? Personally, I don't. And that's probably the one thing Howard Milstein and I have in common. Though I am a better writer.....but he has a nicer plane (ok, I don't have a plane).

When Howard comes into town ( I was going to say comes "back" into town, but I'm not sure he's ever been to Niagara Falls), what's your plan, Paul? What are you going to tell him about this development boon that's beginning? Are you going to tout the culinary institute? That would be a mistake, cuz I got news fer ya - it ain't happening (we'll have more on this at a later date).

Do I want Niagara Falls to succeed? Frankly, I could care less. That old adage of "how Niagara Falls goes, so goes Niagara County" is dead. The city has a 60% poverty rate and a 70% illiteracy rate. Why the hell would we want to follow their lead? The housing is a disaster, the roads are undrivable and there is nowhere to shop. If you want some good Italian food, it's the bomb. Other than that, the city could use a bomb.

So good luck with that meeting, fellas. I'm sure Howard will be wowed at all of the great things happening in the city!

November 13, 2009

Blurring The Lines

After Steve Reiter's thrashing of Fred Newlin in the Lewiston Supervisor race, one issue seems to continue to be the talk of the town, and it centers around a member of the Lewiston-Porter school board. Keep in mind, Lew-Port has had the most dysfunctional board of education in the county over the past few years, and it appears that the shenanigans haven't subsided one bit.

This time it’s board newcomer April Fideli who crossed the line. You’ll remember that April and her running mate, Wendy Swearingen ran a campaign that focused on bringing “an end to the dysfunction and infighting” amongst board members. They were strictly going to focus on the “needs of the children.”

Well all that ended on the eve of the Lewiston Supervisor election , when Mrs. Fideli’s voice was heard in homes all over Lewiston on a political phone call endorsing Fred Newlin as her choice for supervisor.

There were two problems with this phone call – 1. She addressed herself on the call as a member of the Lew-Port Board of Education and 2. – she doesn’t live in Lewiston.

A member of the town GOP committee questioned Fideli via email and received the following response from her:

“I have done a great job looking out for our children's best interest. When I ran to be a school board member no where did it say I had to give up my civic right to be involved with my community. I was in no way using the school board to promote Town Politics . I was simply identifying myself. I never said that I was representing the School District s beliefs, that was your interpretation.(And if this call had been for your candidate, I'm sure you would not have minded at all).

I have done nothing wrong, I stand by MY decision to make the call and you will receive no apology from me.”

April Fideli

Well, you should apologize, April. School board members that I have worked with continuously boast of their belief that school boards and their elections are apolitical. In fact, I've never heard of a school board candidate running on a political party line. There's a reason for that.

If you want to delve into local politics, knock yourself out. But to utilize your position as a member of the school board to attempt to influence the outcome of a race is wrong - and that is exactly what you did when you identified yourself as a member of the school board. Like it or not, when you say that you're a member of the school board in your call, you ARE representing the entire board. If you had simply stated your name without the school board reference, you'd have been fine - but you didn't.

Our sources have informed us that this issue is likely headed to the New York State Department of Education for review - good, it should.

So much for "focusing on the needs of the children", eh April?

November 12, 2009

DelMonte Disingenuous

So New York State Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte is taking a stand against domestic violence. In fact, DelMonte has sponsored the Kari Ann Gorman bill in the Legislature, requiring students in 7th and 12th grades to learn about dating and domestic violence.

What has inspired DelMonte to address this issue that is so pervasive in our society? That would be the actions of New York State Senator Hiram Monserrate, who continues to serve in the Senate, despite the fact that he was convicted of assault after slashing his girlfriend in the face, a wound that required 40 stitches to close.

Monserrate, a Democrat from Queens, has defiantly stated that he will not resign, but he could be removed.

DelMonte is quoted as saying "domestic violence is unacceptable under any circumstance".

The problem for DelMonte is that she's a day late and a dollar short. She jumped on the anti-Monserrate bandwagon long after many of her colleagues in Albany did, making us wonder if DelMonte does truly care about domestic violence and violence against women in general.

After all, she never called out Dan Rivera after he placed his hands on the Lewiston Democratic Committee Chairwoman, in addition to the profanity-filled verbal tirade he directed at her. And where was DelMonte when Rivera accepted $1,000 in political contributions from what was determined to be a sex-slave prostitution ring? Did DelMonte demand that the money be returned? Nope. Did she at least request that a contribution in the amount received from the leaders of the prostitution ring be made to a local women's shelter? No. Not a word out of her.

She was never a leader in calling for the resignation of Monserrate, and she hasn't all of the sudden seen the light of the tragedy of domestic violence. She saw an opportunity to score some political points, and she went for it. Unfortunately, her actions are disingenuous at best and an insult to anyone who's ever been a victim of domestic violence.

November 11, 2009

Adams: Enact Gay Marriage To Honor Veterans

With New York State facing a $3.2 billion deficit, Governor David Paterson called the state legislature back to Albany this week for a special session. The goal of the session was to address the massive hole in the state's budget. The budget was never addressed. Why? Because of gay marriage. In the eyes of Democrats in the Senate, this issue trumps the budget shortfall. This piece from Capitol Confidential illustrates part of the time line in yesterday's failed session.

Instead of debating the Deficit Reduction Package, the Senate Democrats spent the afternoon debating the merits of bringing the gay marriage bill to the floor. Glad to see these folks have their priorities in order. Ultimately, the Senate, because the Dems couldn't come to a consensus on gay marriage, did nothing to address the budget shortfall.

What they did do is spend some time thanking our past and current military personnel for their service to their country. Considering today is Veteran's Day, that is certainly an admirable gesture on their part.

Where the recognitions and accolades went horribly wrong is when Senator Eric Adams (D-Brooklyn), rose to speak. I'll try to encapsulate Adam's comments, but the below YouTube video truly captures the horribly misguided priorities of Adams and his Democratic colleagues in the Senate. In rising to acknowledge the military service of the men and women of this country, Adams stated that there is "no greater honor we can give to our veterans than to ensure that every American regardless of their gender have a right to marry."

I'm sorry, what? There is no greater honor we can give our veterans than the right of gays to marry? Are you completely freaking insane? I mean, forget about the Viet Nam Veteran's Memorial and the World War monuments. I'm not talking about War Memorial Stadium or Veterans Stadium. I'm not even looking at the local parades that are so prevalent throughout the year to celebrate the glorious men and women of this country that have sacrificed so much to ensure our freedom and way of life. Nope, in New York State Senator Eric Adams' delusional mind, we have gay marriage to honor our vets.

I'm not a vet, but family members and friends are or were. To think that this man has the audacity to diminish the service of anyone who ever had the courage to put on the uniform of the United States armed forces in this manner is sickening.

Is gay marriage a topic that is worthy of substantive discussion? Absolutely. But Adams' distorted view of reality does nothing to move that dialogue forward in a productive manner.

In addition, Adams and his Democratic colleagues have sufficiently taken the focus away from the enormous deficit that our state is facing.

Here's an idea for you, Eric: Why don't you honor veterans by simply thanking them for their strings attached. I know that's not how you do things in your neck of the woods, but I'm confident that even you are capable is showing some human decency - even if you don't mean it.

November 10, 2009

Political Advice For David Paterson

Elected officials don't always have to be politically savvy. It helps, but it's not necessarily a given when running for or holding office. It's quite obvious that Governor David Paterson has little political instinct. Not that this is incredibly shocking to anyone, but what I do find astounding is the political ineptitude of the people he has advising him.

Because I can't bear to see you continue to flounder I'm going to help you out, Dave. Please be assured, this not not because I have any interest in seeing you run for or win the governor's seat next year, but simply because it's painful watching you attempt to force what little political will you have on the Senate and Assembly.

Take for instance this piece from Tom Precious. It begins with "A somber Gov. David A. Paterson on Monday urged a rare joint session of the State Legislature to join him in making the unpopular decisions necessary to erase the state's $3.2 billion budget deficit." No, no, no, Dave. We don't want somber - we want defiant! When the press uses the adjective "somber", it makes people sad - it makes us think we're at a funeral, Dave. Do you want us to think that you are delivering New York State's eulogy?

It's courageous to state that you "will mortgage my political career on this plan, but I will not mortgage the fate of the State of New York", Dave. But you know and I know that there is very little in your plan that puts your political career on the line. You're not calling for tort reform, you're not clamoring for revisions to Wicks Law, Taylor Law or Scaffold Law and you're not pounding the lectern demanding the massive overhaul of Medicaid that is absolutely key to the state getting on a course of fiscal stability.

What you are doing is making suggested "cuts" that do nothing except pass the expenses on to the local governments. That's not reform, Dave, it's cowardice.

But let's get back to the political spin. If you truly are willing to put your political career on the line, use the bully pulpit.

All 212 legislators are up for re-election in less than a year, and they're scared. They know that the people sent a serious message last Tuesday that the status quo is not acceptable. What you need to be doing is using your power of access to the media to start shaming these guys into getting what you need done. If that doesn't work, stand up and tell everyone of them that you will do everything within your power to campaign against any of them that refuse to enact substantive changes and reforms.

At this point, they'd probably laugh at you because, no offense, you have virtually no power at this moment. But this isn't a sprint, Dave, it's a marathon. If you continue to fight the fight against Albany dysfunction, people will come around.

You must be willing to stand up to the public sector unions. The influence they have the ability to wield is significant and relevant, and they have boatloads of money to dump into campaigns.

If you are sincere with your willingness to mortgage your political career, none of this should be difficult. Unfortunately my cynicism has gotten the better of me and I think you'll fall back into the same old routine. Please prove me wrong, Dave - please show me some defiance.

November 9, 2009

Today's Diatribe

Despite my admitted right leanings, I believe that there are members of our society that are underprivileged and need governmental assistance in order to put food on the table. And I do believe that it is the responsibility of government to assist these people in need, at least temporarily.

What I have a problem with is what I witnessed today.

Stopping at a little sandwich stop in downtown Buffalo after a meeting, I found it appalling to see exactly how my tax dollars are used - or should I say misused.

Person after person ran through the single checkout with a bag full of food. We're not talking milk, bread, eggs and the other staples of life, we're talking two, three and four subs each, bags of chips, cookies, candy, sodas and practically any and every other junk food item in the store. Needless to say, other than the heroin and meth addicts next to me, none of these people looked like they had missed a meal anytime recently. Then they each broke out their "benefits card", which is another way of saying welfare.

So who gave these people the right to eat better than I do on MY tax dollars? Again, you're down on your luck, you need some help getting by, that's tolerable - but this is sickening. And it will go on forever. We don't encourage these people to get off of public assistance. In fact, we encourage them to stay on public assistance by allowing such abuses of the system to occur.

And if you're on social services and you abuse the system, meaning you have no intention of ever getting off and you're going to have lotsa babies and make sure they are on welfare their entire lives, let me clue you in on something: NOBODY OWES YOU A GODDAMN THING. Quit being a scourge on society and try to make something of your life. If Obamanation showed us one thing, it's that people of any socio-economic status, race or creed can ascend to the highest office in the country.

Of course, these people that I refer to are where they are partly because of the Democratic party's desire to keep them right where they are. After all, these people are the base of the Democrats voting block. And they can buy them off with vouchers for the local grocery store, or whatever means they deem necessary to get that vote.

Is it any wonder that the Dems control every single statewide office in the state, the Governor's seat, the State Senate and the State Assembly (with a 109-41 majority, no less). And is it any wonder that NYS has BY FAR the single most expensive Medicaid (welfare) program in the country? This is not a coincidence, people! This is how your Democratic elected officials have rigged the system to ensure their survival in NYS for many, many years to come.

Each and every one of us who gets up every day, goes to work and is a productive member of society are paying for it - and it's disgusting.

November 6, 2009

Rivera's Days Numbered

Yesterday we posted the Buffalo News piece detailing the resignation announcement of Niagara County GOP Chairman Henry Wojtsazek. Wojtaszek's success in local elections is unprecedented and he's leaving the organization with an extremely strong foundation that will likely remain intact for many years to come.

His counterpart can hardly say the same.

The era of Niagara County Democratic Chairman Dan Rivera has been an unmitigated disaster. His tenure has been marked by failure, scandal, internal strife and humiliation. His inability to identify issues that would resonate with voters is staggering. Even those of us at Niagara Times have made it a fairly regular pastime to point out the multitude of political deficiencies that Rivera brings to the table, as illustrated here, here, here and, one of my all-time favorite posts, here (it's worth reading again, really!)

But most of all, he just doesn't win elections.

He has failed to make any inroads into the GOP's super-majority in the county legislature, which was especially shocking when the entire country swung Democratic with the Obama wave two years ago. But even after the 2007 elections, he still had the Lewiston Supervisor seat and the North Tonawanda Mayoral seat to claim as Democratic stalwarts.

That changed Tuesday, when NT Mayor Larry Soos and Lewiston Supervisor Fred Newlin were pummeled by Rob Ortt and Steve Reiter, respectively. Apparently those two losses, coupled with the loss of Francine DelMonte's legislative aide Nick Melson to Vince Sandonato in the Fifth LD and no pickups in the county legislature, were enough to draw the fury of other prominent Democrats in the county.

In fact, Delmonte and Rivera are engaged in what can only be described as political warfare because of Rivera's abandoning of Melson in the middle of the campaign, and County Legislator Renae Kimble is openly calling for Rivera to step down as chairman. Since he was duly elected by the committee, he cannot be removed. If other Democrats want Rivera gone, they have to pressure him to resign.

That's exactly what's about to happen.

Niagara Times has learned that local Democratic leaders, other than Rivera, will be convening for a meeting on Saturday in Niagara Falls to discuss the future of their illustrious party leader. It's not going to bode well for Rivera.

Prominent Democrats, lead by DelMonte, have had enough of Rivera and are poised to force his resignation.

Those being mentioned as successors to Rivera include former county coroner Jim Joyce, soon-to-be former county legislator Sean O'Connor and former Assembly candidate Gary Parenti.

The reality is that no matter who steps into the role as Chairman of the Niagara County Democratic Party, the only direction he can take it is up. Maybe pick up a legislature seat here, a council seat there. But the damage done by Rivera will take years to recover from.

For all of his rhetoric and hyperbole, and his labeling of politics as a "blood sport", Rivera showed that he is nothing more than a sheep in wolf's clothing, incapable of effectively leading his party on a local level, or any level for that matter.

November 5, 2009

Wojtaszek To Resign Chairman's Post

The following is the story we were anticipating. Buffalo News political reporter Bob McCarthy's story follows in its entirety:

Henry F. Wojtaszek will resign next week as Niagara County Republican Chairman to return to his private law practice and spend more time with his family. "It's time to get back out there and get back to work, and maybe coach my son's basketball team," Wojtaszek said this morning.

Wojtaszek, 46, has led the Niagara County GOP since 2000. He said today he is leaving after a string of victories in Tuesday's elections, including capturing most offices in the City of North Tonawanda, winning almost all town supervisor posts, and building a 14-to-5 Republican majority in the County Legislature.

He said he leaves at a time when the party "has never been stronger."

"We recruited outstanding candidates at all levels for public office," he said. "Our candidates offered voters ideas for improving our community and then delivered. For that, the voters have consistently given us their support.

"I am most proud of our work at the county level, where voters have elected a Republican majority for four straight elections," he added. "That is proof that running a good government makes for good politics."

Wojtaszek, a North Tonawanda native, said he expects the party will name former Elections Commissioner Michael Norris as the new chairman when it convenes next Thursday in the Wheatfield Community Center. "Mike is an attorney, a great tactician, and very smart," he said.

Wojtaszek leaves the party helm after a bruising and unsuccessful effort to become the new chairman of the state party, losing to Manhattan attorney Edward F. Cox in September. He received substantial support around the state, including from former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

But as Wojtaszek deferred to former state Chairman Joseph N. Mondello of Nassau County, who delayed his decision to step aside, Cox gained overwhelming backing from county chairmen across the state.

Wojtaszek said his defeat has nothing to do with his decision to resign, and everything to do with returning to the Harris Beach law firm he left two months ago to pursue the state chairmanship.

"The time has come to hand the reins off to someone else and pursue some other interests and career goals," he said. "My work with the party takes up a lot of time and energy. My wife and three children have been more than patient with me."

Just A Little Class, Please

We're waiting on a pretty significant announcement this morning. We hope to have a post up related to the announcement within a couple of hours.

In the meantime, let's take a look at the sour grapes from some of Tuesday's losers.

Dave Mongielo, candidate for Town of Lockport Supervisor, was completely classless when he walked into town hall last night and whined like a little girl about losing to incumbent Marc Smith. If that tirade was any indication of what things would have been like under his "leadership", it's a damn good thing the majority of voters in Lockport were smart enough to pound this guy into oblivion.

As opposed to whining, soon-to-be-ex-Supervisor of Wheatfield Tim Demler simply chose to out and out lie about the slimey tactics he used in his run for re-election. Flyers about his opponent supporting moving sex offenders into the Summit Park Mall, spray painting grafitti for his write-in campaign, false robocalls and outright lies marked Demler's campaign. This is on top of the hundreds of dollars we as taxpayers had to fork over to protect the community from the goons on your campaign who are so slimey, Sheriffs Deputies had to be called in to oversee the voting in Wheatfield. You must be so proud of your tactics. Good riddance to this lowlife. Go get a real job for the first time in your life.

Outgoing North Tonawanda Mayor Larry Soos labeled winner Rob Ortt's campaign "all smoke & mirrors". Wow, way to insult the intelligence of 66% of your community. Why don't you just come out and say "the people of North Tonawanda are idiots for voting for Ortt", because that is sure what you insinuated.

Come on, guys, go out with a little dignity.

Again, we're following a significant local political story that we hope to have something concrete on soon. Stay tuned.

November 4, 2009

Election Recap

All I can say is WOW! I don't ever recall such an obliteration of the Niagara County Democratic Party like what occurred last night.

Let's start with the County Legislature. Every single GOP-backed candidate won except Jason Murgia. That surprised no one. Ric Marasco's win in the Primary Election ensured his win last night. The county legislature race that is sending shock waves through the Niagara Dems is the loss by Nick Melson to Vince Sandonato in the 5th LD. Melson, a legislative aide for Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte, was thought to have the resources of DelMonte and Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster behind him. The 23 year-old Sandonato pulled a whopping 56% of the vote. This loss is especially disconcerting to the Dems considering it was held by a Dem for over two decades. DelMonte should be extremely concerned with the prospect of facing off against Sandonato in a few years.

The other race the Niagara Dems were counting in the "Win" column was Chris Perna over Russ Rizzo in the 9th Legislative District, the seat vacated by Andrea McNulty, in the heart of NC Dem Chairman Dan Rivera's home turf. Rizzo won with 55%.

While I'm sure there was some token attempt by the Dems to put up opposition in other Legislature races, the results didn't fair well for their efforts. Butch Farnham pulled 65% in the 7th LD; Bill Ross won with 69% in the 8th LD, Pete Smolinski pulled 57% in the 10th LD; John Ceretto won with 64% in the 12th LD; and in the 15th LD, Tony Nemi won with 61%. Not many close races.

The GOP will maintain its current 14-5 super-majority.

Three other races around the county have devastated the Niagara Dems. In Lewiston, Republican Steve Reiter crushed incumbent Fred Newlin 55% - 39%, in North Tonawanda, Rob Ortt annihilated incumbent Mayor Larry Soos 66% - 34% and in Wheatfield, Bob Cliffe beat Sam Conti 59% - 41%.

The wins in North Tonwanda and Lewiston are crushing defeats of DelMonte. She only had three political allies left in Niagara County, the two who were defeated last night, and Dyster. Yesterday's election leaves her with just Dyster, which is just fine, they deserve each other.

What this means for Rivera remains to be seen. He'll probably remain on as chairman simply because no one wants the job. The GOP is okay with that.

Lastly, hats off to Niagara County GOP Chairman Henry Wojtaszek, he had another phenomenal election - a much better election than Ed Cox.

Oh, one more thing - we at Niagara Times would like to point out that we accurately predicted every race that we had prognosticated last week. In fact, we called Cliffe with 57%, Reiter with 54% & Ortt with 60. They pulled 59%, 55% & 66% respectively. Hey, when you're good, you're good.

November 3, 2009

Election Day

Today is of course Election Day in New York. Please take a few minutes out of your day to vote. Too many Americans have put their lives on the line to allow each and every one of us that privilege.

We'll leave you with these words from a letter sent to Samuel Kercheval, Monticello, July 12, 1816 from Thomas Jefferson.

We must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must make our election between economy and liberty or profusion and servitude. If we run into such debt, as that we must be taxed in our meat and in our drink, in our necessaries and our comforts, in our labors and our amusements, for our calling and our creeds...

[we will] have no time to think, no means of calling our miss-managers to account but be glad to obtain subsistence by hiring ourselves to rivet their chains on the necks of our fellow-sufferers... And this is the tendency of all human governments.

A departure from principle in one instance becomes a precedent for[ another]... till the bulk of society is reduced to be mere automatons of misery... And the fore-horse of this frightful team is public debt. Taxation follows that, and in its train wretchedness and oppression.

Pretty prophetic, Tom.

November 2, 2009

Election Preview II

We began our 2009 Election Preview on Friday with a look at some of the more exciting races in Niagara County. Today we'll lay out our predictions for the contested county legislature races.

District 1 - Richard A. Marasco defeats incumbent Jason Murgia.

District 2 - Renae Kimble is unopposed.

District 3 - Jason Cafarella is unopposed.

District 4 - Incumbent Dennis Virtuoso defeats Mark Onesi.

District 5 - Vince Sandonato defeats Nick Melson in the battle for retiring Sean O'Connor's seat.

District 6 - Danny Sklarski is unopposed.

District 7 - Jerry Farnham defeats challenger Roger Chenez.

District 8 - Incumbent Bill Ross beats Robert Collins.

District 9 - Russ Rizzo defeats Chris Perna in the battle for Andrea McNulty's seat.

District 10 - Incumbent Pete Smolinski beats Katie Rich.

District 11 - Paul Wojtaszek is unopposed.

District 12 - John Ceretto beats challenger Dan Antonucci.

District 13 - Clyde Burmaster is unopposed.

District 14 - Kyle Andrews is unopposed.

District 15 - Incumbent Tony Nemi handles Scott Stopa.

District 16 - Keith McNall is unopposed.

District 17 - Rick Updegrove is unopposed.

District 18 - John Syracuse is unopposed.

District 19 - Mike Hill is unopposed.

The county legislature should come out of this year's elections with the same 14-5 majority for the GOP, meaning no gains for the Dems.

This consistent inability of Niagara County Dem Chairman Dan Rivera to make substantive inroads into the Republican's majority in the legislature, coupled with what will likely be huge losses in North Tonawanda, Lewiston and Wheatfield, could mean the end for Rivera.

October 30, 2009

Election Preview

Another election season is nearly complete, so we're going to offer up some analysis and maybe a prediction or two.

What has stood out to me is the fact that too many county legislature candidates in Niagara Falls, including incumbents, have come out against downsizing of the Niagara County Legislature. Dennis Virtuoso, Nick Melson & Ric Marasco have all stated that they do not support it because Niagara Falls will lose representation.

Look - this is a byproduct of consolidation. Residents of Western New York have resoundingly stated their desire for smaller government. Yes, Niagara Falls will likely lose some representation, but that is because the city has lost population. The irony of Virtuoso crying out against consolidation is that he has done nothing in his nearly 20 years in the county legislature to make Niagara Falls a more attractive place to live, work and do business. If Virtuoso had spent 1/100th of the time he plays politics working for the betterment of the city he allegedly represents, maybe the city wouldn't be talking about a shrinking population and loss of representation.

The race for Wheatfield Supervisor has certainly taken a pleasant turn after a nasty primary election. Tuesday's race will feature former Town Justice Bob Cliffe against union rep Sam Conti. It seems both Cliffe and Conti are gentlemen and the only ingredient missing is the contentiousness of soon-to-be former supervisor Tim Demler. He started the mud-slinging in the primary against Cliffe when he revealed Cliffe's confidential personnel records to the media and hasn't stopped his nasty mud-slinging yet, despite the fact that he is completely irrelevant. A write-in vote for Demler is a wasted one. Cliffe wins with 57% of the vote.

In Lewiston, incumbent Supervisor Fred Newlin is facing a strong challenge from Highway Superintendent Steve Reiter. Kathryn Lake Mazierski is also on the ballot on the I line. Newlin has gone on the defensive, accusing Reiter of doing favors for political allies, allegations which Newlin subsequently withdrew and apologized for. Reiter is well-known and well-liked. The 37% pay raise for Newlin and the huge jump in homeowner's utility bills over the past month are extremely problematic for Newlin. Reiter wins with 54% of the vote.

The race for North Tonawanda Mayor pits incumbent Larry Soos against current City Clerk/Treasurer Rob Ortt. Soos had a back-door victory for the position last election when two other candidates split the vote allowing him to sneak in. He won't be so lucky this time. Ortt is young, vibrant and will take a more aggressive approach to solving the city's problem. Ortt takes 60% of the vote.

We'll look at some of the county legislature races Monday. Have a nice weekend.

Should you be out and about tomorrow tonight, I'll be dressed as Barack Obama. Hell, he masquerades as a leader every day of the the year, I can pull it off for Halloween.

October 29, 2009

How Can We Miss You If You Won't Go Away

We here at your favorite blog have always had mixed feelings about former Niagara Falls Superintendent Carmen Granto. On one hand, he seemed to do a good job keeping taxes down where possible and managing a school district that, given the socioeconomic situation of Niagara Falls, isn't easy to manage. And the Niagara Falls High school project is clearly a crowning achievement.

At the same time, Granto didn't exactly run a transparent school board. Nor did he seem to do anything significant when he sat on major boards like NCCC, IDA & NFTA. He seemed more interested accumulating power on these boards than doing anything.

But the stinging comptroller's audit that blew the lid off the Niagara Falls School District really showed Granto's true colors. Credit card spending run amok, accumulation of time off that led to a huge payout when he retired, bookeeping beyond shoddy.....and it goes on and on. How he was able to operate the school board in that manner for so long really tells you something about governance in Niagara Falls.

When Granto mercifully retired and handed the superintendent's job off to his sister (only in NF can you pull that off as well), much of the stink from the school district left with him.

Which brings us to today's point: Who the hell on the Niagara Falls Library Board thought that appointing Granto to a vacant position there was a good idea? Given everything we know about a school district run amok, how can any public or quasi-public board that has any fiduciary responsibility at all, justify this appointment?

Granto was better served (as were we all) when he simply faded from the scene with a mixed legacy. Now, how can we miss him when he won't go away.

October 28, 2009

A Happy Ending In Niagara Falls

After spending most of a lifetime here on the Niagara Frontier, nothing out of the Cataract City should surprise me anymore. I mean, this is a city where corruption is shrugged at and it’s sometimes hard to know who to root against when a political brouhaha flares up.

But I still managed to be shocked when I read that Mayor Paul Dyster’s Tourism Advisory Board is about to urge spending city funds on pole-dancing GoGo girls, a “lingerie show” and a VIP gentlemen’s lounge.

That’s after the promoter of an event being called the “Dream Toys Show” pitched his “economic development” plan to Niagara Falls officials. The article also notes that the Dream Toys Show will feature a “children’s play area with bounce houses.”

Maybe they should invite James McKinney.

Look, ol’ Hobbes is no prude. I mean, you can’t spend your formative years just across the Rainbow Bridge from Lundy’s Lane and not have a somewhat jaded view of adult entertainment. And, honestly, I found myself laughing far more than cringing when the swingers descended on Grand Island. (Not that I plan to ever stay at the Grand Island Holiday Inn ever again, mind you.)

But this article is really disturbing.

Now, in any other city this side of San Francisco, such a proposal would be laughed out of town. But the event’s promoter, Carmen Toromino, has already secured the venerable Niagara Falls Convention Center for his smut show, and the Tourism Advisory Board seems close to urging a green-light for public funding:

“Such a draw would be a welcome sight downtown during one of the slowest times of the year tourism-wise, said board member Vince Mameli.“‘I think there’s going to be a lot of money flying around,’ said Mameli, who was among those encouraging Toromino to bring the show to Niagara Falls.“In the past year, the city has allocated $175,000 to sponsor or support various events, festivals and concerts. Tourism Board Chairman Jerry Genova chose his words carefully when asked Monday if he supported making a financial contribution to the Dream Toys Show.“‘I’m not in agreement with all of what will be going on but I think you always have to look at things across the board before drawing a conclusion,’ he said. ‘You have to see the process through.’”

And this is the city that needed everyone else’s casino money to fix its streets.

October 27, 2009

Fallout From Lobbyist Memo Continues

When we first broke the story detailing a memo sent to the Niagara County Legislature and County Manager Greg Lewis referencing the New York Power Authority's refusal to meet with the county's lobbyists on the proposed wind-farm project because of a win by the county in their suit against NYPA, we figured there would be some fallout. Legislator Renae Kimble took the ball and ran with it by questioning Lewis, and we commend her for that.

Subsequently, there are have been several articles referencing the issue (here, here & here). They contain statements like "We absolutely want Niagara County to be part of the offshore wind project", "I am 100 percent in line with having the Niagara County Legislature and Niagara County participate fully in this project", "that litigation is irrelevant to our relationship with that Legislature". All of these quotes came from NYPA CEO Richard Kessel.

We're going to make this real easy on everyone. If the memo is erroneous, which everyone from NYPA adamantly states, why hasn't the meeting been scheduled?

October 26, 2009

Soos Short-Circuits At Neighborhood Cleanup Event

Last week, Niagara Times encouraged candidates and party officials to email us with information relevant to the 2009 elections. We didn’t, however, anticipate hearing interesting election tidbits from ordinary citizens.

That’s why, when this email arrived in our inbox following yesterday’s Bills game, we were a bit surprised. Out of fairness to the email’s author, we’ve omitted names and email addresses; we’ll let you be the judge, though, of what it says about the fitness of North Tonawanda Mayor Larry Soos to continue holding office:

Dear Niagara Times,

I wanted to take you up on your challenge to the public to provide information about the candidates running for office this year. I have a story about something that happened this morning in North Tonawanda that I think you and your readers will find very interesting.

As you may have heard, every year for the past three or four years, several city aldermen have organized an event they call a “Clean Sweep.” The aldermen get some volunteers together and go and clean up one of our neighborhoods. This year, Alderwoman Nancy Donovan of the 3rd Ward was responsible for organizing the event, and the aldermen picked Oliver Street (which I’m sure you know is North Tonawanda’s historic business district).

The volunteers all met up at 11:30 this morning at Oliver and Sommer Street. Mrs. Donovan was there, along with two other alderman (Mr. Pasiak and Mrs. Schwandt). They began to hand out garbage bags, brooms, and rakes to everyone.

Just then, Larry Soos, the mayor of NT, and his wife pulled up in their car. Mrs. Donovan welcomed them both, thinking that they had come to help out.

Instead, Mr. Soos attacked Mrs. Donovan and the other two aldermen! He was swearing at them and saying the whole Clean Sweep was a “political stunt.” He then hollered at them for not attending some clean-up he said he’d held earlier in the year, and kept repeating that this was just “typical republican politics.”

What he didn’t realize was that he managed to draw quite a crowd. About four volunteers were standing behind him the whole time, and they all later said that they hadn’t been committed before but now are going to vote for Robert Ortt. Apparently they like “typical republican politics” if it’s the opposite of what Mr. Soos was offering and it cleans the streets.

I hope you find this informative. I was an eyewitness to this event, and am still surprised and saddened. Mrs. Donovan, Mr. Pasiak, and Mrs. Schwandt tried to do a nice thing, and Larry Soos had to come out and attack them for it. I really hope that things are different, and better, in January.

Yours truly,

[Name Withheld]

Well, there you have it, folks. You stay classy, North Tonawanda.