A friend who has worked for years in the office of a Democratic member of the New York State Assembly tells us that Francine DelMonte's colleagues in her own party have a nickname for her: Wicked Witch of Western New York. It seems her brand of hyperpartisan hardball politics is even off-putting for many of her fellow Dems.
And, frankly, it should be. After all, sometimes Democrats themselves end up among the biggest losers in Francine’s constant efforts to wage all-out partisan warfare.
Readers of this space already know about Francine’s seizure of the county taxpayers’ paltry share of revenues from the Seneca Niagara Casino—this despite Niagara County being defined as one of the casino’s host communities and not receiving a dime in taxes from the casino. This has left organizers of events like last weekend’s successful Olcott Pirate Festival—an event critical to the tiny lakefront hamlet’s economy for its ability to draw tourists and their dollars—scrambling to find ways to fund such events next year.
So bad is it, in fact, that Clyde Burmaster, the venerable vice chairman of the County Legislature, was left apologizing to the Youngstown Village Board last week as he told them that $10,000 he was providing to help them put together a brochure marketing their downtown businesses and to market the annual Youngstown Level Regatta would be the last such funds he could promise.
For those reasons, news that comes to us now sickens us, and reminds us that Francine’s nickname is justly earned.
You’ll all remember back in the spring, when Francine first engineered her grab of Niagara County’s share of the casino dollars. At the time, Francine told us she was redirecting dollars owed to residents of the Town of Niagara, Lewiston, Porter, North Tonawanda, Wheatfield, Cambria, Wilson, Pendleton, the Town of Lockport, the City of Lockport, Newfane, Somerset, Royalton, and Hartland to repair the decrepit roads in Niagara Falls. As she told the Buffalo News in March: “If the road issue wasn’t the priority it is, you wouldn’t have so many people calling out for funding to be diverted to help the city come to grips with the situation.”
Well, apparently Francine has forgotten all about those decrepit roads.
New promotional materials paid for by the Niagara County Democratic Committee include the following comments from the Wicked Wi—er, Assemblywoman DelMonte: “After [seizing the casino funds], I was able to see to it that the economic development money from the casino goes directly to the City of Niagara Falls, where I know it will be used for real economic development,” she reports. “Right now we are working on a project that will develop the areas of the City which were part of the Underground Railroad. It’s a program that will bring thousands of tourists to our community, one that will create jobs as well as highlighting the role Niagara Falls played in the historic movement to help slaves escape to freedom.”
So, which is it, Francine? Was the county’s share of casino dollars going to pay to re-pave Pine Avenue, or was it going to market Underground Railroad tourism? And, if it is Underground Railroad tourism, then how is that more legit than the tourists brought in by the Peach Festival, which benefits Democrat Supervisor Fred Newlin’s Lewiston, or the Electric Lights Parade, which benefits the Town of Niagara, where Democrats enjoy a healthy enrollment edge, or Canal Fest, which benefits a North Tonawanda that has otherwise languished under Democrat Larry Soos?
The truth is, this was nothing more than hardball, bitter politics, aimed at hurting the more Republican areas of the county to benefit Francine’s loyal political allies on Pine Avenue. And it’s proof that her Democratic colleagues in the Assembly know her best after all.
We suggest Francine should watch out for falling houses.