Watching the Leg’s Minority Leader, Dennis Virtuoso, in action is like watching the greatest comedy men of all time all rolled into one. His deadpan, serious delivery of his howlers puts even Johnny Carson to shame.
And so it was the other night in Lockport, as Virtuoso rode out to challenge the Majority Caucus and defend the honor of his patron like a third-grader defending his not-so-secret crush.
Let me set the scene, for those of you who haven’t had the, um, privilege of watching Tuesday night’s Legislature meeting on LCTV yet:
Setting up one of Virtuoso’s comedy routines was Rick Updegrove from Lockport, who introduced, along Legislature Chairman Bill Ross and Lewiston Republican John Ceretto, a pair of resolutions urging the state to rescind a memorandum of understanding that frees the New York Power Authority from giving $8 million a year to four state parks, including Artpark in Ceretto’s Lewiston district and the Niagara Falls State Park in, well, in Virtuoso’s own hometown. The annual $8 million is part of NYPA’s relicensing agreement for its Niagara and St. Lawrence power projects; it goes directly into the operation and maintenance of the four state parks.
Now, you’d think a guy like Virtuoso, who is so proud to be from Niagara Falls that he defends the Cataract City at every turn, might be a bit perturbed to find out that that the big tourist draw in his hometown just got short-changed a few million bucks, right? But where would righteous outrage about a real slight to the Falls leave Dennis? Without a comedy routine, that’s where!
Now, just to remind you all of where this issue comes from, you might recall that a couple months back, Governor David Paterson, along with his new BFF Francine DelMonte, raided NYPA’s fund balance to the tune of $550 million. Updegrove and other members asked the obvious question: how do you raid NYPA’s fund balance to the tune of half a billion dollars, and then forgive NYPA’s annual contribution to parks, and then still tell people that the sweep isn’t hurting them?
Deadpan Dennis found a way, and here, I quote from the Buffalo News: "That sweep did not affect the $8 million,’ (Virtuoso) said, although he acknowledged that a general 15 percent reduction in parks funding resulted in reduced hours and dates of operation.”
Yeah. It wasn’t that the money was swept. It was all the other cuts that did it.
Actually, come to think of it, this guy’s comedy routine isn’t so funny after all.