April 30, 2009

Byron Brown Buffaloes Buffalo

An article in Wednesday’s Buffalo News by reporter Bryan Meyer contains some wonderful news: Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown has a plan to fix Buffalo’s poverty problem. It turns out that all that is necessary is “boosting literacy rates, expanding job training, reducing neighborhood blight and promoting affordable housing.” Wow. That’s some bold thinking. In other words, every Big Government solution offered since the Johnson Presidency. Maybe Byron could declare war on poverty in a Texas drawl while he’s at it.

But wait, it gets better:

“More than 15 months after Brown hired a deputy mayor to forge an anti-poverty strategy, administration officials released the long-awaited plan at a City Hall news conference. They were joined by more than 40 community activists and service-providers, some of whom provided input during the review process. Brown acknowledged that the 77-page report is ‘just a starting document’ that will require many collaborations and extensive work.”

Okay, so it took 15 months for the new deputy mayor, Donna Brown, to write a 77-page report that is “just a starting document.” And mind you, this deputy mayor’s whole purpose in life—the reason she comes in to Buffalo City Hall and punches the clock every day—was to “forge an anti-poverty strategy.” In case you’re wondering, that means Donna cranked out less than a quarter-page of his report per day since she’s been in office, give or take a noun and a couple adjectives.

Here’s a suggestion for that anti-poverty strategy, Byron. And ol’ Hobbes is gonna offer it to you free of charge: stop hiring bureaucrats who work at a snail’s pace and spit out platitudes.

But wait. It’s not done getting better:

“While the plan does not attach cost estimates to any of the initiatives, it mentions federal stimulus aid through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act as a potential funding source for some anti-poverty efforts.”

Okay, so just to recap: Byron Brown hired a deputy mayor to come up with an anti-poverty plan. It took her 15-plus months to come up with a 77-page document. (The copy of “Everyday with Rachel Ray” I was perusing at my dentist’s office today had 168 pages—and the muffin recipe looked yum-o. But I digress.) Best of all, this slim booklet of platitudes doesn’t even offer any idea about costs or how to pay for them, except the brilliant, “Maybe we can get someone else to pay for it!”

Okay, the subject of the story was itself a bit irksome. But more irksome is the fact that “reporter” Bryan Meyer cranked his copy out without once challenging any of Byron Brown’s assertions. Didn’t a single penetrating question about this boondoggle cross his mind? Heck, couldn’t he at least have looked up Donna Brown’s salary? I mean, if she couldn’t tell us what her “plan” was gonna cost, couldn’t Meyer at least told us what SHE costs?

Whatever it is, I’m pretty sure it’s a root cause of Buffalo’s poverty.

April 29, 2009

Who Is Cafarella Fighting For?

I was more than a little disappointed by the story in the Buffalo News about Jason Cafarella, the Niagara Falls legislator and one-time renegade Democrat.

The truth is, I’ve always had a soft spot for Cafarella. He bucked his own party establishment a bit to get where he is, and for a while he showed some degree of independence from the hyper-partisan Dennis Virtuoso in the Legislature. Actually, I always thought he was kind of a straight shooter. Lately, though, he’s been voting the party line far more than bucking it, and, quite frankly, has been acting a lot like, well, like a Niagara Falls politician.

And I don’t mean that as a compliment.

So, when it broke that the Pine Avenue Business Association had allowed its members’ health insurance policies to lapse, despite taking payments from the members for insurance they thought they were getting, my first thought was, “Slimeballs.” But when I found out that Cafarella was the attorney for these guys and offering up lawyerly platitudes, I was more than disheartened.

See, when Jason Cafarella says things like “the Association had been making payments to Independent Health, but ‘did fall behind’” and the best explanation he can offer for his client’s bad behavior is “I feel very bad for all the people who were negatively impacted, and I do agree it’s taken too long to resolve this issue,” and tells the press he advised the Association’s board not to comment, I wonder what became of that straight shooter.

Look, I get that lawyers have to protect the interests of their clients. But it’s the PINE AVENUE Business Association. And that means that these were businesses not only right in the heart of Niagara Falls, but businesses right in the heart of Cafarella’s own district. And it sure looks like they got gypped.

Jason Cafarella needs to choose between his constituents and his client.

April 28, 2009

On The Wrong Track

In yesterday's Buffalo News, I read that new high-speed rail service will stop short of Niagara Falls. Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, the Fairport Democrat who is leading the congressional efforts to land funding for the Empire Corridor, said she envisions Niagara Falls as part of a long-term high-speed rail system that could connect Buffalo with Toronto, Montreal and Cleveland.

But she acknowledged that Niagara Falls would not likely be included in the first parts of the project, simply because a new route would have to be set to accommodate high-speed trains between Buffalo and the Falls.

Just a month ago, New York’s least popular governor ever, David Paterson, and Mayor Paul Dyster of Niagara Falls, were exuberant, telling us that high-speed commuter trains would be coming right to Niagara Falls.

In fact, Dyster had this to say, courtesy of Mark Scheer, the Gazette reporter who has already told us he’ll never utter a bad word about the Falls again.

Mayor Paul Dyster and City Planner Tom DeSantis, who attended Paterson’s news conference at the Rensselaer Amtrak station near Albany, expressed confidence that inclusion of Niagara Falls in the strategy will make it more likely for local projects — including the proposed $33 million inter-modal rail station near the Whirlpool Rapids Bridge — to receive much-needed state and federal funding. “It’s just a tremendous announcement from our perspective,” Dyster said. “It’s a big deal. This is a battle we won. It makes us available for funding under the appropriations bills and under the stimulus package.”

Nice job “winning that battle,” Mayor. George S. Patton, you ain’t.

April 27, 2009

Yeah, That's The Ticket

Sometimes, I’m tempted to add sound effects to Niagara Times. Just insert a big HTML button in the middle of a post that readers could hit and hear a sound effect that summed everything up. Today's, for instance, would play Jon Lovitz’s catch-phrase from Saturday Night Live, back when it was funny.

So it is with the latest news out of Paul Dyster’s dystopia: The Niagara Falls Planning Board has finally figured out what ails the Cataract City. It’s not corrupt city politicians running Niagara Falls like their own third-world fiefdom. It’s not a disproportionately high portion of the population being on some form of public assistance. (Did I say disproportionately? Try ludicrously. Ridiculously. Insanely.) It’s not that the current mayor thinks that dumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into “public art” in the center of a traffic circle is more pressing than repairing his crumbling roads.

Nope.

It’s that the current zoning codes don’t allow 60-story buildings. That, the city planning board tells us, is what’s keeping the Niagara Falls economy down and preventing a renaissance in that city.

Now, say it with me: Yeah, that’s the ticket.

Look, I’m all for urban planning, but this seems a bit like putting the cart before the horse. The Seneca Niagara Casino’s hotel is the tallest building by far on the city skyline, and it’s only 27 stories tall. The United Office Building, which went up back in the 1920s, is shorter. The rest of the skyline generally tops out at six stories or less, with only one or two exceptions—and neither one of them is giving the casino a run for its money.

By the way, the Empire State Building is only 102 stories tall.

So, while the streets of Niagara Falls crumble and its economy continues to shrink (the Niagara Falls unemployment rate stands at 12.7%, which is the highest in the region—much higher than both Niagara County and the City of Buffalo), Mayor Dyster and his merry men build public art and pass zoning codes for skylines that no one is even pondering.

I realize, too, that there are those who will point to Canada’s booming skyline and say, “It could happen here.” Maybe. But maybe the fact that Clifton Hill doesn’t destroy your car’s alignment has something to do with it, too.

Mayor Dyster should spend his time worrying about things like water mains and blacktop, not his quixotic effort to duplicate the New York City skyline.

Come to think of it, that would be the ticket.

April 24, 2009

Deadpan Dennis Not So Funny

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.

April 23, 2009

Newfane Superintendent's Dumb Comments

It's become all too common and all too unfortunate to pick up the paper or turn on the t.v. news to learn of another story about sexual misconduct between a teacher and a student. Quite frankly, it seems to be bordering on an epidemic.

On the day that a female South Buffalo Charter School teacher was sent behind bars for four years for sleeping with a 14-year old student, a Newfane Special Ed teacher was arrested on misconduct charges with one of his students.

And what was Newfane School Superintendent Gary J. Pogorzelski's comments on this tragedy? "We are standing tall because we did initiate this investigation."

Well, whoopdeedoo.....congratulations. I'm sure that makes everyone feel better. You're standing tall today because your school district that less than a decade ago was considered one of the better small school districts in WNY has become known more for it's place in the police blotter rather than the school rankings?

Mr. Pogorzelski, you are a joke. You have no leadership skills and your school district is in shambles. Let's recap:

1) Most recent incident as outlined above
2) The debacle over whether a music teacher did or did not hit a student with a mallet. You bungled that and managed to piss everyone off.
3) The middle school principal who was "playing games" with other fellas in the bathrooms at Ellicott Creek Park.
4) The middle school teacher who was pushed out for an inappropriate (though I don't think it reached sexual) relationship with a 13-year old.
5) The student band debacle on the roof of the high school that was handled terribly.

Rather than standing tall, perhaps you should working a little harder and a little smarter to change what is clearly a poisoned culture in your system. Until you accomplish that...and you haven't shown you have the skill set to do that...you have no reason to be standing tall.

April 22, 2009

Where's Larry?

North Tonawanda Mayor Larry Soos has seemingly been absent without leave the past few weeks, even as a predator from the wild stalked NT’s citizens.

A rash of coyote attacks in the Lumber City was apparently left to county officials to deal with. The only voice speaking on the matter was Jim Devald, the county health department’s environmental health director, whose job title means, basically, that he gets to deal with rabid animals and radioactive waste. From North Tonawanda City Hall, no word from Soos, but instead his “administrative assistant,” giving a vague notice that the city would set up a presentation by a state official and try to “get permission” to trap the coyote.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect Larry Soos to go out and wrestle the coyotes to the ground himself. But a few words to calm the public after their city became ground zero for coyote attacks might have been nice. Might have even been Giuliani-esque.

Come to think of it, Rudy Giuliani probably would have tried to rescue a coyote to the ground. But Soos’s bizarre absence continued last week with the unveiling of a new apartment and office building in the former Remington Rand factory along the canal. Tuning in to coverage of the event, which sources tell me was heavily-attended by county legislators and local politicians, I only heard the voices of Legislature Chairman Bill Ross and Lockport Legislator Rick Updegrove. News articles on the unveiling included throw away quotes from Soos:

In the Buffalo News,”Mayor Lawrence V. Soos called Kissling’s project ‘a piece of the puzzle’ to improving the downtown area around Main and Webster streets.”

In the Tonawanda News, “Mayor Larry Soos commended the ‘guts and fortitude’ Kissling showed in pushing the project through a national economic crisis.”Larry Soos faces what is, by all accounts, an uphill battle to get reelected this fall.

I’m not so sure that going AWOL now is the best campaign strategy.

April 20, 2009

Dyster Just Doesn't Get It

Finally, some political leaders in Niagara Falls, namely Councilmembers Fruschione and Anderson, have spoke out against spending $435,000 for a piece of art for a Rainbow Boulevard traffic circle to honor the centennial of the Border Waters Treaty.

Contrary to what some might think, I am not a heathen and can actually appreciate the need to beautify public gateways to cities and mark historic occasions. Such beautification is certainly needed in Niagara Falls.

Here's my rub: you don't go buy a fancy piece of art to hang on your living room wall when the washing machine is shot, the lawn mower is broken and the kids needs new shoes. I don't know why that is so hard for Mayor Dyster to understand.

Dyster seems generally perplexed that people would be against this. Maybe blowing out their tires on Buffalo Avenue has dampened their appreciation for fine art in the public square. Or maybe as they see taxes going up on everything and anything, the timing is just not appropriate.

While we have always thought that Dyster is an honest man with good intentions, the fact is he seems to be in over his head and has a tin ear to what people are thinking.

At least Fruschione and Anderson get it.

April 17, 2009

WNY Screwed Again By NYPA

As I began today's post, my first line was to be, "For the life of me I cannot understand what makes the Power Authority tick". As I was typing it out, I stopped as I came to the realization that I know exactly what makes the Power Authority tick. They don't care one iota about Western New York, other than the fact that the region is the Authority's, and subsequently the state's, cash cow.

The latest screwing of Western New York comes courtesy of NYPA's decision not to make 35 mw of low cost power available to Steel Development for a plant in Orleans County. This is on top of the unwillingness of the Power Authority to meet the power needs of both Wacker Chemie and Google, both of whom were looking to locate here in Western New York.

Between these three projects, thousands of temporary construction and permanent jobs would have been created. But because the Power Authority and it's spineless leader Richie Kessel refuse to assist our region, we get the short end of the stick again.

And where the hell are the unions? The same unions that support pieces of garbage like Francine DelMonte and Antoine Thompson as they allow thousands of construction jobs to slip through away from this community, are stunningly silent on this issue. How the hell can any union claiming to work for the betterment of its membership be sitting on their hands on this one? This is thousands of construction jobs that are not coming to our region because a state agency is raping our community and two of our state representatives are not only allowing it to happen, they're supporting it. What the hell is wrong with the unions in this community? Step up and do your damn jobs, even if it means taking a position that may be at odds with your sacred cows.

Federal elected representatives like Charles Schumer and Brian Higgins are calling out NYPA, but not a damn word out of DelMonte, Thompson or the unions. Goddamn cowards, all of you.

April 16, 2009

Der Kommissar’s in Town

President Obama continues to offer us his unique brand of “change you can believe in.” First, he and his allies on Capitol Hill essentially locked Republicans out of any discussions shaping the stimulus bill, testily telling Republican lawmakers who objected, “I won.”

Now, word comes that the Anointed One’s Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, has found the real threat to America. And it’s not al Qaeda.

A report issued by Napolitano’s department warns of the danger posed by “the return of military veterans facing significant challenges reintegrating into their communities could lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks.” You see, it’s not Muslim extremists armed with box cutters we need to be on the lookout for, it’s future members of the American Legion.

What’s galling about all this is that, back during the Dark Years of the Bush Presidency, folks on the left regularly railed against the Patriot Act. They warned us that intercepting calls between U.S. citizens and foreign terrorists was the worst attack on civil liberties since Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus. (Strangely, when President Obama compared himself openly to Lincoln a few weeks back, no one brought Lincoln’s disregard for civil liberties up.)

Now, though, the Secretary of Homeland Security can label returning veterans, as well as “groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single-issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration,” potential domestic terrorists. It’s a wonder Napolitano’s report didn’t list listening to Rush Limbaugh or owning Toby Keith CDs as prima facie evidence of membership in a right-wing hate group.

Particularly alarming is that the report says the federal government “will be working with its state and local partners over the next several months” to gather information on “rightwing extremist activity in the United States” and that the joint federal-state intelligence-gathering activities will have “a particular emphasis” on the causes of "rightwing extremist radicalization.”

That’s right: the federal government is going to be keeping tabs on those pesky right-wingers.

This is the stuff of the old East German Stasi. It has no place in America. It’s time for Barry to send Janet packing.

April 15, 2009

DelMonte, Thompson Support Raid Of County Park Funds

The saga of the Paterson-DelMonte NYPA sweep just keeps getting more sordid with every new revelation.

The latest is the report in Tuesday’s Buffalo News that “$24 million from the New York Power Authority that was to include support for two prominent area parks will now be paid into the state’s general fund as part of an agreement made by state leaders during the budget process.”

News reporter Aaron Besecker broke the story that reveals the latest piece of chicanery being used to pay for the sweep of more than $550 million from NYPA’s fund balance: the state quietly inserted a provision in the budget that allows NYPA to opt out of previous promises to provide funds for both Lewiston’s Artpark and the Niagara Falls State Park through 2017.

Unsurprisingly, but still outrageously, Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte and New York State Senator Antoine Thompson voted in favor of this provision of the budget. That’s right: Francine DelMonte and Antoine Thompson just voted to scale back expenditures on the local tourism industry so that Governor David Paterson could direct that money toward other “priorities.” It was bad enough that Francine DelMonte voted to take money from her constituents in Lewiston, Porter, Wheatfield, Niagara, Cambria, Wilson, Newfane, and Hartland, depriving them of a measly few hundred thousand bucks and stuffing it into potholes in the City of Niagara Falls. But now we find out that she just deprived Niagara Falls itself of millions.

Constantly we’re reminded that Niagara Falls is the “crown jewel” of the county’s tourism industry and other similar claims, often made by the head of the Niagara Falls delegation to the County Legislature. I happen to think Dennis Virtuoso’s words will ring hollow now that it comes out that his political patron and mentor diverted millions of dollars that were supposed to fund the operation of the state park. And, come to think of it, the Niagara Falls State Park and Artpark both are known as hot jobs spots for local high school- and college-aged kids during tourism season. Good luck with those summer jobs this year!

Still, it’s voters in the Falls who keep returning DelMonte to office despite her disregard for her constituents. Maybe they should have heeded John Lennon’s warning: instant karma’s gonna get you.

April 14, 2009

Gaughn's Deception Continues

Everybody in Western New York knows we need less government, less villages, less boards and less bureaucracy. So I find it baffling that government downsizing advocate Kevin Gaughan finds it necessary to misrepresent and distort the facts regarding our government to make his point.

The premise for his advocacy is cost. He recites the fact that the price tag for politicians in Erie County is $32 million. If government in Erie County was cut in half, from every Town and Village and school board and the City of Buffalo and the County, the savings would be, in theory, $16 million dollars. Now for some perspective: the overtime budget for firefighters in the City of Buffalo is almost $12 million a YEAR. Just overtime!

Gaughan also compares the size of the Erie County and Niagara County legislatures and, based on population, concludes that Niagara County government is even larger than Erie County’s. But nowhere in this analysis does he even bother to mention the cost differential between the two. Erie County legislators are full time, are paid about $46,000 per year and have district offices and staffers. Niagara County legislators are paid $15,000 per year, have no offices, and share three clerks among them. Why would Kevin ignore such a huge disparity when drawing conclusions regarding the size of our government?

Gaughan also asserts that “after just eight years, most of these folks are eligible for lifelong health care.” I have made several calls and have been unable to find any local governments that provide this benefit. In fact, the Niagara County legislature eliminated their lifetime health care benefits altogether. But yet Kevin does not even mention that. Our legislators had the courage- yes, I call it courage when an elected official reduces his own compensation- to do this and yet get absolutely no recognition for this move.

So why the half-truths and lies? What is his agenda?

If Kevin Gaughan really cared about saving us money and returning our region to prosperity, he would use this opportunity to focus on the real issues: unsustainable Medicaid spending and a government workforce that costs us more than we can afford, from their lifetime health insurance to their pensions to their wages to their overtime. The City of Buffalo has a cop that made $190,000 last year. That is more than the Governor of the State of New York. That is more than an Appellate Court Judge. (I just read that Sarah Palin, Governor of Alaska, is paid $125,000 per year. Buffalo has dozens of public servants that earn more than her too.) Yet where is Kevin? It’s like finding Waldo. I will tell you why he doesn’t talk about this. It is uncomfortable. The second he mentions the Taylor Law or binding arbitration or pensions based on the last years of service, every cop and firefighter on the government payroll will show up in force and accuse him of ignoring public safety.

So choose politicians, the path of least resistance. No union or special interest group will say a word. It is the easy way out. But out of what? Kevin, I know you have a plan. What is it?

April 13, 2009

With Billions In Stimulus, Taxes Going Up

The following is a must-read from the Wall Street Journal detailing how states, despite billions in "stimulus money", are raising taxes. New York, not surprisingly, is number one. Assembly leader Sheldon Silver's are among the most arrogant comments ever uttered by a politician.

Like the old competition to have the world's tallest building, New York can't resist having the nation's highest taxes. So after California raised its top income tax rate to 10.55% last month, Albany's politicians leapt into action to reclaim high-tax honors. Maybe C-Span can make this tax competition a new reality TV series; Carla Bruni, the first lady of France, could host.

They can invite politicians from the at least 10 other states that are also considering major tax hikes, including Oregon, Illinois, Wisconsin, Washington, Arizona and New Jersey. One explicit argument for the $787 billion "stimulus" bill was to help states avoid these tax increases that even Keynesians understand are contractionary. Instead, the state politicians are pocketing the federal cash to maintain spending, and raising taxes anyway. Just another spend-and-tax bait and switch.

In New York, Assembly Speaker (and de facto Governor) Sheldon Silver and other Democrats will impose a two percentage point "millionaire tax" on New Yorkers who earn more than $200,000 a year ($300,000 for couples). This will lift the top state tax rate to 8.97% and the New York City rate to 12.62%. Since capital gains and dividends are taxed as ordinary income, New York will impose the nation's highest taxes on investment income -- at a time when Wall Street is in jeopardy of losing its status as the world's financial capital.

The rest of the story may be found here.

April 10, 2009

Good Friday Ruminations

Since it's Good Friday, we're going to have an abridged version of Friday Ruminations.

I'm sure being in the majority of the State Senate has its perks, but one really has to wonder if Senator Bill Stachowski, after 27 years of being invisible in the minority, would prefer the old way. He is, rightfully so, getting hammered for his actions in the Senate. He never had to deal with Buffalo News editorials like this one before.

Something tell me that the state beaches in New York City are not being closed for the season. You just plain suck, Thompson and Stachowski.

Can someone please tell me why there is a town of Lewiston and a village of Lewiston? Doesn't Barker have the same setup? Get on that one, Gaughn, you snake oil salesman.

Kudos to the Niagara County Leg for moving forward with plans to sue for a bigger portion of the casino revenue. And when they win, not one dime better go to Niagara Falls. Payback is a bitch, Francine.

North Tonawanda will have a new Mayor come January 1. Let me be the first to say congratulations on your victory, Mayor Ortt.

Niagara County Community College is moving forward with plans for a culinary school. The college is negotiating a lease with NS Partners, a firm that has sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, but college officials said they don’t believe that the proceeding puts their project at risk. Really?

In all fairness, Bill Stachowski has brought one thing to Buffalo: More patronage. An office that had two Republicans will now have 10 Democrats. Shameful.

April 9, 2009

Donohue Crosses The Line

Sure, we take some liberties with David Paterson. It's not that we don't like the governor, we simply believe that he is so far in over his head that no matter what he does he's going to screw it up.

Yesterday we touched on Paterson's intention to lay off about 8,700 state employees as part of his efforts to balance the state's finances. Paterson has been asking the unions to reopen their contracts and waive a salary increase for this fiscal year, which began April 1. Of course they have refused.

The unions say that Paterson has refused to accept any of their suggested alternatives to layoffs. At this point, the dialogue follows the usual rhetoric you're going to hear from labor and management.

When it becomes problematic is when Civil Service Employees Association president Danny Donohue opens his pie hole. Donohue responded to the prospect of layoffs with this gem: "We think he [Paterson] needs a good psychiatrist, or he at least needs to share what drugs he’s on, because he’s not making any sense to our members."

As if that was not enough, Donohue followed up with, "If this governor doesn’t need mental health services, I don’t know who does."

What a douchebag.

Good people in this state have mental health issues and good people in this state have drug problems. To trivialize their battles by so recklessly using them as a way to attack Paterson is unconscionable.

Unfortunately that's the public sector union way. Forget about coming to the table to have a productive dialogue, let's fight the fight in the press. Even better, let's not talk about the issue itself, let's just throw out some "mental health and drug use" analogies to make our point.

How 'bout this suggestion, Danny? You go home, put a pistol in your mouth and pull the trigger. I mean, what's to differentiate what you've suggested with those who battle with depression and suicide every day?

As a man with a handicap, Paterson has lived with labels his entire life. Unfortunately, punks like Danny Donahue only know how to use labels to make a point.

Paterson is far from the top of our favorite elected official in the state right now, but he needs to hold his ground on this one on principle alone.

April 8, 2009

Kermit Paterson

As part of his plan to reduce spending, in a budget that increases spending by $10 billion, Governor David Paterson is planning to layoff about 8,000 state workers. In the below video, Kermit the Frog is announcing layoffs on Sesame Street. Kermit reads from a press release and then takes questions from rank-and-file Sesame Street characters. I'm thinking Kermit's P.R. people are more effective than Paterson's.

Scheer Madness At The Gazette

I’ve never thought it was good practice for journalists to write op-ed pieces, particularly about subjects they’re supposed to be covering. Monday's "Political Notebook" from reporter Mark Scheer only served to reinforce my belief.

The piece, aside from being laugh-out-loud funny, confirmed my suspicions about that being the more prudent course for members of the Fourth Estate. I’ll quote at length from Scheer’s piece because, well, I just don’t think I can capture the tone as well by paraphrasing:

Residents across Niagara County took a stand against racism on Friday. Elected officials denounced discrimination in all of its forms. Participants called for equality of all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender or religious belief. I’d like to add one to the list. Admittedly, it’s not as offensive as the others, but it certainly doesn’t help Niagara County either. I’m not sure what to call this “ism” or how to define it exactly. I just know it when I hear it. I’ve noticed it more since I started covering the county Legislature.

In some circles, Niagara Falls is viewed as nothing more than a favorite joke — the pathetic sister city that gets a kick whenever lazy minds in places like Lewiston or Lockport or North Tonawanda need a reason to feel better about themselves.

That’s right. Reporter Mark Scheer thinks that voicing disdain for the corrupt political cesspool that is Niagara Falls is on par with denying Rosa Parks her seat on the bus.

Worse, though, in the same piece where he whines about people saying unkind things about the City of Niagara Falls, he assails the intellect of citizens of “places like” Lewiston, Lockport, and North Tonawanda. But Scheer’s puff piece for the Cataract City gets better:

I’ve listened many times to people from outside the city proudly exclaim that they no longer take friends and family members to the Falls because they are so embarrassed by the place. They openly mock the roads and knock the neighborhoods. They remind everyone within ear shot how Niagara Falls has made a lot of stupid decisions over the years and used to be such a beautiful place when they were kids.

I get the sense that they’ve been saying such things for so long that they aren’t even really aware of what they are doing anymore. They do realize that Niagara Falls is part of Niagara County. They must know that the Falls is the so-called “crown jewel” of the county’s tourism industry.

Hey, Mark, here’s a newsflash for you: I had to have the alignment on my car redone after spending a few hours driving in your beloved city recently. On that drive, I saw a boarded-up house advertising “No Copper Pipes.” Maybe the fact that, as journalist Mike Hudson wryly noted in the latest issue of the Niagara Falls Reporter, “I seriously doubt that drivers in Beirut, Lebanon, are forced to drive on streets as poorly maintained as those in Niagara Falls,” has something to do with it. Or that citizens of that city have given up fighting against crime and now advertise which houses have already been gutted by criminals, to save them time and effort.

Having a waterfall doesn’t change all that. The real kicker, though, in Scheer’s piece is this:

I’ve lived in the city for going on 10 years now. I’m not blind. I know all about the city’s problems. I’ve been writing about many of the same ones for years. The city has certainly done a lot on its own to earn a tarnished reputation. It’s difficult, even for me at times, to find ways to defend it. But, while it may not be much, it is home.

Way to be objective, Mark. The next time Scheer writes anything about the relationship between the city and the county, which is sure to be strained by Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte’s decision to rip the county’s pitiful share of casino revenue away from county taxpayers and divert it to her political allies in the city, we’ll be reading his reporting with a jaundiced eye. Because what Mark Scheer declared in Monday’s Gazette is pretty clear: he’s in the tank for Niagara Falls, and no amount of evidence of mismanagement by the city’s political class will change that. And he’ll keep trying to “find ways to defend it.”

April 7, 2009

DelMonte Hits The Trifecta

There are few in Niagara County that would confuse Niagara Times, the Niagara Falls Reporter and the Niagara Gazette. Since each appeals to a different segment of the population, as well as the fact that all three have their own political ideology, it's quite rare that all three would be on exactly the same page on an issue. I'm going to go as far as saying that since this blog has existed, that has never happened. Until now.

What has brought all three together as one? The idiocy of Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte.

We've repeatedly taken DelMonte to task for her actions, or inactions, on issues such as supporting the raid of the New York Power Authority of $500 million of our money, refusing to take a stand on the secrecy surrounding the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission and her flip flop on the Rockefeller Drug Laws.

But it is her most recent insanity that has piqued the interest of not only Niagara Times, but of the Gazette and the Reporter.

DelMonte, who introduced language into the now passed state budget to steal the sliver of casino revenue that is shared among all of the municipalities of Niagara County to divert it to Niagara Falls, is catching heat from all sides.

The Reporter stated, "While Gov. David Paterson waxes eloquent about how we will all have to learn to make do with less, he, Del Monte and (Antoine) Thompson, along with (Shelly) Silver, (Malcolm) Smith and the rest of the majority in the state Legislature, plunder the wealth generated right here for the benefit of the beautiful people living downstate."

Mike Hudson goes on to say, "She believes that the people here are so stupid that her impassioned fight against the county, over a few hundred grand in chump change, will somehow make us forget about the $200 million in lost casino revenue, the $500 million looted from the coffers of the Power Authority, and the $10 billion in new taxes and fees we're about to be hit with by a governor she adamantly supports".

A Governor, by the way, with the lowest approval rating in decades. But there's DelMonte standing right there with him as he decimates Niagara County. The entire Reporter piece can be found here.

Not to be outdone, the Niagara Gazette has also come to the realization of just how twisted the mind of DelMonte is. In their editorial criticizing DelMonte on the casino cash issue, the Gazette stated, "No doubt, those pointed questions about who she really serves did smart, but DelMonte rebounded quickly and moved to teach her critics a lesson....Too bad DelMonte’s zinging her own constituents while she’s at it." Political retribution at its worst.

The Gazette goes on to say, "What’s not debatable is DelMonte’s narrow vision for representing the 138th district. Too much of the time, her sights are trained only on Niagara Falls. Read her campaign literature, listen when she lists the most significant things going on in her district. Falls, Falls, Falls. Man, it does get monotonous." The entire Gazette piece can be found here.

If you live in the Hartland, Newfane, Wilson, Cambria, Porter, Lewiston, Wheatfield and the Town of Niagara portions of DelMonte's district, you're just plain SOL.

April 6, 2009

Maziarz Leads, Thompson & Stack Fail Us

The following is a compelling speech that New York State Senator George Maziarz gave in the Senate chambers last week during the discussion related to the now passed state budget that hikes energy costs for consumers. Maziarz presents the staggering reality that companies such as General Motors and Delphi will be making difficult decisions related to the future of their facilities soon.

Considering the challenges that employers in this state already face, it's unconscionable that Senators Antoine Thompson and Bill Stachowski would support this astounding increase in utility expenses that may lead GM and Delphi to shutter their local facilities.

Kudos to Maziarz for his advocacy on this issue and shame on Thompson and Stachowski for their cowardly actions in not standing up to their party leaders - or for their constituents.



April 3, 2009

DelMonte Targeted

We haven't obtained it, but word is that Tom Golisano's Responsible New York dropped the same piece into Francine DelMonte's district. Obviously he is keeping a watchful eye on her, and rightly so. Her actions related to the shroud of secrecy at the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission, her ridiculous legislation to screw Niagara County out of their 1/50th share of the casino revenue, her flip flop on Rockefeller Drug Laws and now her support of raiding NYPA are reason for all of us to keep a watchful eye on her.







April 2, 2009

Stick To Football, Kelly

Jim Kelly is the epitome of why athletes should stay our of politics. Kelly cut a commercial in support of Bill Stachowski for State Senate while Stachowski was embroiled in the political fight of his life against upstart challenger Dennis Delano last fall. Stachowski ultimately squeaked out a win.

There is no doubt that the Kelly ad carried some weight with a public that is more concerned with their adoration of a bankruptcy-filing, local business-stiffing choker.

In the commercial, Kelly twice mentions Stachowski's leadership. He's no leader, Jimbo. If he were a leader, he'd stand up to Malcolm Smith and tell him to go screw himself. He'd do what he knows down to the core of his soul is the right thing and vote against this budget that will devastate our community with massive increases in taxes and fees.

A leader bucks the system when the system is flawed. A leader stands up and shouts when the Chairmanship of the Finance Committee that he was promised is given to someone else. Not Stachowski, he sat there like a coward taking it. That's not a leader.

If you think you can skate by without wearing some of the responsibility that your endorsement carried with the voters, you're wrong, Jim.

So the next time you see Jim Kelly, thank him for the increase in your utlity bills. Thank him for the tax on your health insurance. Thank him for your increased DMV fees and the increased tax on that bottle of water. Better yet, ask him what he's going to do to make up for the elimination of your STAR rebate that he supports by supporting Bill Stachowski. In fact, don't wait until you see him, call him directly at 204-1212 and ask him why he supports putting small businesses out of business. Better yet, ask him to cut a check to you to make up for your lost STAR rebate that he supports; he can afford it.

The text from the commercial and the commercial itself follow below.

“Hi, I’m Jim Kelly, and tough times, whether it’s football or in our community, turning things around requires teamwork and leadership. That’s why even though I’m a Republican, I’m supporting Senator Bill Stachowski. I’ve seen Senator Stachowski’s leadership firsthand, working to expand screening for babies born with genetic diseases. In Albany he’s leading the effort to cap property taxes and make Buffalo competitive again. That’s why I’m proud to be on Bill’s team.”


April 1, 2009

Socialization Of Our Country

Is this really what we've come to? Is this what you hoped for when you pulled the lever for Barack Obama? In this video from last year, Congresswoman Maxine Waters actually uses the word "socialize" when referring to her position on the oil companies. She then explicitly states that the government should take over the oil industry. Right, we want the government running private sector industries.

I looked up the word "communism" in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary and the first definition that came up is "a theory advocating elimination of private property". Someone please explain the difference to me between that definition and what Waters advocates to do with the oil industry.

Folks, we are smack dab in the middle of the "de-Americanization" of this country. We all better take a good, hard look at the direction we're heading. When our elected leaders start using words like "socializing" and "nationalizing" private industries, it had better come as a serious reality check to everyone, regardless of your political affiliation.