May 29, 2009

Friday Ruminations

Sounds like the Niagara County GOP committee meeting had some interesting moments last night. Seems Wheatfield Supervisor Tim Demler is being accused of an inappropriate relationship with another committeeman's wife, and was thus denied the party's endorsement. I'm not sure what the two have to do with each other, but it sure looks like its got the making of some good drama. I can see the reality TV show cameras rolling into Wheatfield any day now. I wonder if this will impede the progress of the Oz project (sorry, I had coffee come out my nose after writing that from laughing so hard).

I'm not sure what the LaSalle Business Association is or how they grade their award recipients, but someone there seriously needs to stay off of the pipe. The group awarded Antoine Thompson their Business Person of the Year. Really? Is this the same Thompson that supported a massively bloated budget that raised taxes and fees on businesses? Or the same Antoine that supported stealing $550 million from our community with the NYPA sweep? Or the same Thompson that has proposed IDA reform legislation that would cripple employers in this community? Why do I get the feeling that the LBA is in line for a nice little member item.

The potential sale of a home in North Tonawanda where a vicious attack occurred last year is causing much emotion to rise to the surface. The city wants to sell the property to recoup some of the expenses incurred from maintaining the property, while the mother of the victim wants the house torn down. The city believes that the $15,000 demolition expenses are too much. We say you can't put a price on the devastation this girl experienced. Find a way to get the money to tear it down.

We're often critical of our state leaders, and usually rightly so. But when we read that the state is removing many companies from a state-approved Empire Zone tax credits program for failing to meet the requirements of job creation, we thought that was a strong, positive message to send. Then after further thought, we realized that the state is trying to enforce the rules during the most difficult economic times in generations, which is completely ludicrous. Maybe the state should consider the fact that so many employers are struggling because of the massive burdens placed on them by this same government.

Get ready for a host of new taxes passed as part of the state budget this spring and last month as part of a plan to bail out the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Never heard of the MTA? It's New York City's transportation system, and you are bailing it out with your hard earned tax dollars.

The Buffalo News has an excellent editorial on our state leaders' extremely successful efforts to drive New Yorkers out of the state. Great job, Antoine.

David Paterson is proposing a bill to reform Albany's ethic commissions. Talk about putting the fox in charge of the hen house. I mean, really....the home of scumbags like Hiram Montserrate and Kevin Parker is going to enact ethical standards? Hell, that's the best joke I've heard all year!

May 28, 2009

DiMillo Rock Solid

Major kudos to Lockport City Court Judge Tom DiMillo for doing what too many weak-minded judges have been unwilling to do: take on absentee landlords that do little to enhance the quality of life in a community.

DiMillo whacked Martiza Brown-Igwe, owner of two properties in the city who was found guilty of 14 building code violations, with a whopping $18, 420 in fines.

This is exactly the type of action that needs to be taken in Lockport. For too long, the building inspection has allowed absentee landlords to run roughshod over the community. When they did do their job with any level of effectiveness, there was never a prosecuting attorney or a judge to actually enforce the law.

That's changed. There's a new sheriff in town, and his name is Tom DiMillo. Scumbag absentee landlords beware.

May 27, 2009

GM Plans To Retain Delphi

For many of us who've spent any significant time in Niagara County, the demise of Harrison Radiator/Delphi Thermal has been a slow, painful one. The facility had flourished at one time, spurring many spin off businesses, from smaller parts suppliers to bars and lunch spots. They've seen employment levels that at one time were approximately 13,000 fall to 2,100, and their assessment has been cut by a third in recent years, to its current $22 million level. There's also been boatloads of public cash dumped into the facility to keep it solvent.

Most people in the Lockport area will tell you that it's not a matter of if the plant will close, but when.

That doom and gloom prediction of the facility's future may be a bit premature. General Motors has announced plans to take back six Delphi facilities, including its Lockport plant, as it tries to restructure outside of bankruptcy.

This certainly doesn't mean the facility will once again be the thriving entity it once was, but it does give us hope. The loss of 2,100 jobs would be pretty devastating to the community. Keep in mind, GM plans to announce the closing of 14 more factories as part of its previously announced effort to shutter 16 plants to trim production and cut costs. The moves will lay off 21,000 workers. Be glad we're not on those lists.

Obviously this means that there are many communities that aren't so fortunate.

As one observer noted, it's not likely that GM would try to reclaim the Delphi operations unless it were serious about returning them to the fold. That's a good sign.

Projects like the possible Yahoo! one are great, and they're sure to create jobs, but let's not forget who brought us to the dance. Companies like Harrison/Delphi have been a part of this community for decades. Let's keep 'em here for at least a few more.

May 26, 2009

Yahoo!

We've all heard the excitement surrounding the possible arrival of Yahoo! into our community. As you've likely heard, the Internet giant is considering a location in Western New York, possibly in Niagara or Orleans County. As part of the negotiations, Yahoo! is seeking 15 megawatts of low cost power, which NYPA, apparently sick of being humiliated due to their repeated failures, has seen fit to allocate for this project.

We certainly hope that this deal comes to fruition. Tech jobs are the wave of the future and Yahoo! is leading that wave.

Our problem is the inability of elected officials to keep their mouths shut. Competing press conferences from both Governor David Paterson and United States Senator Charles Schumer do little to help the process along. You see, corporations prefer to have potential investments of this magnitude kept under wraps. There is no need for their competitors to know what they're doing.

What is even more disconcerting is the inability of Schumer and Paterson to understand that their asses are now on the line. They've publicly stated that Yahoo! is coming - if the deal falls through, they're going to look bad - really bad.

What they obviously don't understand is that by coming out publicly, they've strenghtened the hand of Yahoo! on these ongoing negotiations. Yahoo! is well aware of the fact that two extremely high profile elected officials have much riding on this deal. They are now in a position to not only ask for low-cost power, they're in a position to ask for much more. Frankly, I hope they do.

Our community desperately needs good paying jobs. Of course, virtually every community in the country could say the same thing. That's what makes this deal so critical, the competition for these jobs. We are hopeful that our community economic development leaders can seal the deal. If not, Schumer and Paterson will have some serious 'splainin' to do.

May 22, 2009

Mesi & Friends, Screwing The Taxpayers

We all know the story with Baby Joe Mesi; a guy who made a name for himself fighting tomato cans while gaining fame and fortune in the boxing world. He also made a name for himself on the local bar circuit.

After his boxing career flamed out, some Democrats thought he might make a good candidate for office, despite his having sustained brain damage, and he ran for State Senate last fall. Mesi ultimately fell short of his quest, losing to former Erie County Legislator Mike Ranzenhofer.

Mesi, though, landed on his feet. He was given a do-nothing job with the State Senate Democrats, leading a staff of what is reported to be 10 people in the Buffalo office of the Senate Majority.

In case you were wondering, there are just two state senators in the Buffalo area, Bill Stachowski and Antoine Thompson, who currently serve in the Democratic Majority. So, in addition to their own bloated staffs, there are ten additional people (supposedly) working for two senators. It's estimated that the office will cost the taxpayers of the state about $700,000.

In addition, it's been reported that Mesi has been on the senate payroll since January 1, despite the fact that the office didn't even physically exist until recently. One must wonder what Mesi was doing to earn that nice $70k salary, considering he hadn't had a place to go to work.

Sadly, Mesi wasn't the only political hack to benefit from the Dems takeover of the senate. In a Niagara Times exclusive, we have learned of those who sought work, or are working, in the Democrat's State Senate Majority office. They include:

  • Diane Wellenc
  • Erie Paul
  • Geraldine Ford
  • Matt Makowski
  • Tashene Erbanks
  • Heather Leaderstorf
  • Angela McNeal
  • Marthe Ngwashi
  • David Pfaff
  • Christopher Walsh
  • Willie Morris
  • Melissa Sanchez
  • Bernard Ryan
  • Joseph Deomond
  • Steve Spillman
  • Joseph Malczerski
  • Jonathan Rivera
  • Kristin Keane

All are connected to the Democratic Party.

Makowski is a former associate with Lippes Mathias Wexler Freedman, with a Business Law, Political Science BA from the University of Miami.

Ford and Eubanks serve on the staff of Buffalo Council member Demone Smith. Obviously if they move over to the senate office, that creates two more openings for Smith, and the patronage gravy train keeps rolling on.

Leaderstorf works for Byron Brown in the city of Buffalo's Finance, Policy & Urban Affairs department.

Ngwashi works at the Buffalo Office of the NYS Attorney General. She previously worked as the Regional Director of the NYS Democratic Committee.

Wellenc, according to NYS BOE records, gave two separate political contributions to Mesi's campaign in 2008, one for $667.50 and the second for $996.44. Who says politics doesn't pay?

Pfaff is formerly the executive director of the Erie County Democratic Committee under Steve Pigeon. He was nailed in Comptroller Mark Poloncarz’s 2006 cell phone audit as one of two political operatives who still possessed and used county cell phones at taxpayer expense for more than a year after involuntarily leaving the county. Pfaff also was involved in a highly publicized incident in which Erie County Leg Lynn Marinelli used her pork money allocation to hire Pfaff.

One seriously has to wonder, where is the outrage? How are people like Bill Stachowski and Antoine Thompson allowed to continue to rape the taxpayers of this state without justifying their actions? They've screwed us time and time again and they just go about their merry way.

These tea parties make for fine TV, but they don't accomplish a thing. People need to get up, get together and stop this insanity. Until we do, we deserve exactly what is being shoved straight down our throats.

May 21, 2009

Up, Up and Lost

It's a beautiful day in Western New York, we have along weekend coming up, and doggonit, I'm in a jovial mood today. So, I thought a little levity would be nice. Of course, the following is indeed funny, but unfortunately, so painfully on point as well. Enjoy....

A woman in a hot air balloon realized she was lost. She lowered her altitude and spotted a man in a boat below. She shouted to him, “Excuse me, can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but I don’t know where I am.”

The man consulted his portable GPS and replied, “You’re in a hot air balloon, approximately 30 feet above a ground elevation of 2,346 feet above sea level. You are at 31 degrees, 14.97 minutes north latitude and 100 degrees, 49.09 minutes west longitude.”

She rolled her eyes and said, “You must be a Republican.”

“I am,” replied the man. “How did you know?”

“Well,” answered the balloonist, “everything you told me is technically correct. But I have no idea what to do with your information, and I’m still lost. Frankly, you’ve not been much help to me.”

The man smiled and responded, “You must be an Obama Democrat.”

“I am,” replied the balloonist. “How did you know?”

“Well,” said the man, “you don’t know where you are or where you are going. You’ve risen to where you are, due to a large quantity of hot air. You made a promise you have no idea how to keep, and you expect me to solve your problem. You’re in exactly the same position you were in before we met, but somehow, now it’s my fault.”

May 20, 2009

County To Sue NYPA

Kudos to the Niagara County Legislature for moving forward with plans to sue the state over the move of New York Power Authority surpluses into the general state budget. The county will make an effort to overturn the State Legislature action that “swept” some $544 million out of the NYPA’s coffers.

NYPA states that they are only allowed to charge what they are paying for power. If that's the case, how on earth did they compile a surplus of at least $500 million? We know they took half a billion out of our community, but does anyone really know how much they make? If nothing else, this lawsuit is going to shine a big, bright light on NYPA, and hopefully, disclose the shroud of secrecy under which the organization operates.

Unfortunately, not all county legislators see a benefit of promoting open government. Falls legislators Jason Cafarella and Dennis Virtuoso voted against supporting the litigation. Cafarella, in one of the most twisted justifications ever uttered at the courthouse, stated, "We’re going to spend taxpayers’ money to raise taxes for the rest of the state." You putz, you weren't elected to represent the rest of the state; you were elected to represent the people of Niagara Falls and Niagara County, and those people are hurting. You care so much about the rest of the state....well la-de-freakin-da. What a hero you are.

Why don't you stop being Francine DelMonte's poop boy and start doing the job you're being paid to do? We all know that you cast your vote against this resolution because DelMonte gave you your marching orders. How do you feel every morning when you look in the mirror knowing you've sold your soul?

As for the lawsuit, the county will seek a permanent injunction barring the authority from making any so-called “sweeps” or voluntary payments to the state in the future. I'm not even saying it needs to be that extreme. They can still do the sweeps, just allocate a percentage off of the top to be allocated to Niagara County. Even if 10% of their profits was returned to the county for economic development efforts, we'd have significant resources to entice businesses to relocate here and current businesses to stay here. What's the downside?

May 19, 2009

Rivera's Conspiracy Theories Misguided

On Monday, we commented on the misogynistic pattern that Democrat Party Boss Dan Rivera has exhibited the past couple of years, culminating in his repulsive attacks on Legislator Andrea McNulty—attacks that have focused not on Ms. McNulty, per se, but rather on her son, giving McNulty the choice of defending her seat, or defending her family.

Now, news comes out that McNulty has chosen the latter option, and we can’t blame her. Having seen the lows to which Rivera will stoop in his illegal use of information gleaned from his employer to destroy Gary Parenti, we would, no doubt, choose the same path as McNulty.

Still, the things that are coming out of Rivera’s mouth continue to stun.

As Democrat Party errand-boy Mark Scheer recounts in today’s Niagara Gazette, “County Democratic Party Chairman Dan Rivera questioned [Independence Party Legislature candidate Russ] Rizzo’s intentions and the timing of the two announcements, suggesting they were coordinated by the powers-that-be in the rival Republican Party. Rivera contends that prior to issues being raised about McNulty’s residency, the local GOP was attempting to position McNulty as a potential replacement for Gerald Farnham, a Republican who currently represents Pendleton in the seventh legislative district. Rivera said the GOP had hoped to continue to maintain McNulty’s Ninth District seat by replacing her with another candidate, which he said now appears to be Rizzo.”

As Mr. Spock might say, fascinating.

Dan Rivera has such an insight into the thinking of the Niagara County Republican Party, that he knew their plans before they even hatched them! Yes, no doubt the wily Henry Wojtaszek planned to replace Legislator Gerald Farnham with McNulty. One wonders if Farnham was in on this dastardly plan, because sources tell us he’s been gearing up for his re-election campaign.

Even better, a member of the Independence Party announces his candidacy for office hours before McNulty declares her intentions of not contesting her seat, and we see the nefarious hand of Republican Senator George Maziarz!

Apparently, any candidate in the Ninth District (or anywhere in Niagara County) not chosen by Rivera and the Democrat high command is to be treated as suspect, and, no doubt, part of this dastardly conspiracy.

Perhaps, for good measure, Rivera can begin linking political candidates who won’t kiss his ring to the Freemasons, the Knights Templar, the Illuminati, the Bilderbergers, the Men in Black, UN black helicopters, the Vatican Police, and the Cigarette-Smoking Man from the X-Files.

Those of us with both feet planted firmly in reality are going to go about our lives and be glad that this sordid episode has now drawn to a close. We won’t miss images of Rivera and Jimmy Sacco Jr. sneaking around McNulty’s properties early in the morning trying to catch a glimpse of her in her bathrobe. And we hope this ends Rivera’s misguided rantings about conspiracies reaching all the way to the highest office in the land.

Until then, though, we suggest those who need it get the help they need. Paranoid delusions are not something that should be left untreated.

May 18, 2009

Brown & T.O. - A Match Made In Heaven

In one of the most moronic displays of political showmanship ever seen, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown is slated to give new Buffalo Bills wide receiver Terrell Owens the Key to the City today. Why? The guy hasn't spent a single day in the city, probably ever.

I like T.O. I've had him on my fantasy team a few times, and he's an entertaining figure. He's also 35 years-old and has been at or near the top of the league in the number of dropped passes for years. Anyone under the delusion that he signed here because he wanted to needs a reality check. He needed a job and the Bills needed something to stimulate some interest in a team that currently has the longest streak in the NFL of not making the playoffs. If you're expecting 1,300 yards and 12 TDs, you're in for a rude awakening.

He's also proven to be one of the most divisive forces in NFL locker rooms in the past 10 years. His resume in San Fran, Philly and now Dallas speak for themselves.

But I digress, this isn't about T.O., it's about Brown trying to score a public relations touchdown by giving T.O. the key. So, why Owens? What the hell has this guy done to deserve this? There are hundreds, if not thousands, of people in or from Buffalo that would be so much more worthy of this honor than Owens.

Do I want Owens to be a big hit in Buffalo? The answer is two-fold: Frankly I don't care, because Bills fans are among the biggest idiots I've ever encountered, but, I do want Owens to do well because I think the region could use some good news, and something to make people feel good about themselves.

But giving the key to the city when there are so many more deserving people from this community is just insulting to those people who've done so much. How the hell Brown doesn't see that is beyond me.

May 15, 2009

Rivera Continues To Target Women

I really don't know what Niagara County Democratic Chairman Dan Rivera's relationship status is, and frankly I'm not quite sure I want to know. But one thing that is difficult for anyone to refute is Rivera's propensity for less than stellar interaction with women.

We're all quite familiar with the incident in which allegations of physical and verbal abuse were levied against Rivera by former Lewiston Dem Chairwoman Diane Roberts, which lead to her resignation.

We've also touched on the involvement with the Niagara Dems in what turned out to be a front for a sex-slave ring. As you may recall, the Dems received boatloads of campaign cash from the owners of the chain of "massage parlors", and even after they were arrested, the Dems refused to give any of that money back. These were dollars that were made by women who were literally imprisoned and forced to perform sexual acts for money.

In addition, there was Rivera's highly publicized battle with former ally Kelly Taylor, which culminated with Rivera asking the Niagara County District Attorney to investigate the nominating petitions Taylor circulated for former Congressional candidate Jack Davis.

Now, Rivera is going after another woman, and another Democratic woman at that. Rivera has unleashed his attacks on Niagara County Legislator Andrea McNulty, alleging that she doesn't live in the same house she did when she was elected.

Now, I don't know too much about the law that governs this, and frankly, I don't care. She states that she lives in the district she was elected to represent. Until someone with some actual legal standing says different, I'll chalk this up to political rhetoric. The problem, though, is Rivera. He's not waiting for someone with legal standing to issue an opinion, he's going right for the jugular of, you guessed it, another woman.

In today's Buffalo News, he doesn't state something to the effect of "we might want to take a look at this" or "I've heard she may have moved, but I'll let those who are responsible for oversight of these matters to make that determination". Nope, Rivera comes right out with this gem: “My contention is, not only is the office vacant, she’s been defrauding the public. She owes the county back her salary for the months since she moved out of her district.” Really Dan? So you think it's okay to slander someone before anyone actually has any facts on the situation? Or, is it that you think it's okay to slander a woman before anyone actually has the facts on the situation?

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I think women abusers are the absolute lowest form of scum in the human race. I'm not saying Rivera is or he isn't. But if it walks like a duck, talks like a duck...well, you know the rest.

Given Rivera's propensity for going after women, especially Dem women, Renae Kimble best cover her ass. Danny boy just may be looking for his next target. Of course, I'm pretty sure Renae could hold her own in a battle with Dan. In fact, I'd go as far as to say I think she could take him.

May 14, 2009

Parkway Angst Misguided

The Niagara County Legislature has made the decision not to take a position on the issue of whether to keep or remove the Robert Moses Parkway between downtown Niagara Falls and Lewiston.

My question is, who was even looking to the county leg to take a position on this issue, and more importantly, why? This roadway was not designed by the county, nor was it constructed by the county, owned by the county or maintained by the county. The Parkway is a state (DOT) road and it's maintained by State Parks.

For over eight years, various entities have been studying the long-term use of the Parkway. They've studied whether or not to remove it, whether to cuts the number of lanes, whether or not to upgrade it or to simply maintain it as is. In eight years of studies, not a single tangible recommendation has been implemented.

But why anyone is looking at the county leg to make this decision is beyond me. This a state decision, and the one state elected official that represents both Lewiston and Niagara Falls is Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte. She is the one person that is in the best position to determine the direction of this debate.

Her problem is this. If she comes out in support of removing the Parkway, she pisses off the residents of Lewiston. If she comes out in support of keeping the Parkway, she alienates the people of Niagara Falls. Why? Because everyone needs to protect their little fiefdom. The "leaders" in Niagara Falls believe that the Parkway gives visitors a way out of their city, and they want a captive audience. The folks in Lewiston want to keep the Parkway because it allows visitors to Niagara Falls a quick getaway to scenic Lewiston. It's all very unseemly.

That being said, the people that control this decision are refusing to make a decision. This is 1,000 miles away from being in the hands of the county leg. Francine, who has completely alienated people outside of the Falls, is the one who needs to make this call. As usual, unfortunately, she continues to pass the buck - except when it comes to supporting her pimp, Shelly Silver.

This issue has dragged on way too long. This is a state issue, I only wish we had a state legislator representing that end of the county who actually has the ability to take responsibility for her responsibilities.

May 13, 2009

Tailgunner Dennis: No Sense Of Decency

Niagara Gazette reporter Mark Scheer has quite an interesting article up this morning about what sources tell us was a more-than-embarrassing evening for Dennis Virtuoso, the Joe McCarthy of the Niagara County Legislature.

It seems Virtuoso pursued his witch-hunt of County Treasurer Dave Broderick last night at a meeting of the Legislature’s Administration Committee, and came away looking like the aforementioned McCarthy, Elmer Fudd, and Wile E. Coyote all wrapped up in one.

Niagara Times will preface our comments with this note: We continue to agree with Virtuoso in principle about Dave Broderick’s handling of the public administrator responsibilities inherent in his county treasurer job. Broderick’s failure to accord transparency to that role has damaged his personal standing and his office. Likewise, we do not condone Broderick’s decision to award real estate work associated with the disposal of estates to his wife.

But we find Virtuoso’s McCarthyesque tactics even more damaging to the institutions of county government, and even more deserving of condemnation.

The problem with Virtuoso’s pursuit of Broderick has never been whether or not Broderick’s actions needed to be scrutinized: They do. But Virtuoso was never interested in justice. Virtuoso has been trying to bully a veteran officeholder into resigning his post at risk of his good name—a post that would then be filled by a governor’s appointee.

In other words, Dennis Virtuoso has been trying to use a witch hunt to overturn a democratic election and replace a Republican chosen by the voters with a Democrat chosen by David Paterson.

And that we can’t condone.

When Surrogates Court judges Sara Sheldon Sperrazza and Matt Murphy asked New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli to conduct an audit of Broderick’s practices in the wake of revelations that he had turned to his real-estate agent wife to dispose of estates on several occasions, the issue was both taken out of the county’s hands and placed in those of the appropriate body. The Comptroller’s office is obviously the best-equipped agency to scrutinize financial practices by an officeholder. It’s also the appropriate body given that the role of public administrator was itself assigned to Broderick by judges of a state-level court, and not a county court. Niagara County never had a legitimate oversight role. Niagara County’s government could no more investigate Broderick’s conduct of the public administrator office—a state-assigned office—than it could investigate the actions of a state trooper acting within its borders.

A level-headed reading of the law would have led any reasonable person to that conclusion.

And, indeed, from what Scheer reports, and a friend inside the county government tells us, that is precisely the case that County Attorney Claude Joerg made before the Administration Committee last night.

In the process, we are told, Virtuoso—who we’ll affectionately refer to as Tailgunner Dennis from now on—was rocked back on his heels, much like Joe McCarthy was 54 years ago, by another lawyer. Apparently, Tailgunner Dennis quite literally stuttered and stammered his response after Joerg read aloud a three page legal opinion that cited case law related to the public administrator office going all the way back to 1902. Scheer’s description of Tailgunner Dennis’s reaction is a bit kinder to the Minority Leader, but only slightly: “While Virtuoso bristled at the notion the county is required to continue to pick up costs related to Broderick’s estate work, Joerg suggested it is an obligation of the county based on the laws covering the public administration of estates. In essence, he said, it amounted to another unfunded mandate from New York state.”

Anyone who has ever seen Virtuoso in action knows that he once loved to denounce those same unfunded mandates from New York state. Well, at least until his party came to control every part of the state government.

We are also told that Joerg cautioned county legislators that the audit of Broderick’s office will likely result in a demand that the county treasurer of Niagara County provide additional services in the appointed capacity of public administrator—requiring even more time, energy, and county resources to be dedicated to this task. While it was not Virtuoso who initiated this audit, we can’t help but wonder if his—and his party’s—incessant fanning of the flames might have just made government more expensive for everyone living in Niagara County. Thanks, Dennis!

We agree with Virtuoso that Broderick has failed enormously in carrying out his office in the manner that the public expects. But unlike Virtuoso, we’re not ready to shred more than a hundred years of case law and the state constitution. Dave Broderick may have to answer for his failings in a Comptroller’s audit, and he may have to answer to the voters at the polls.

But he shouldn’t have to answer to a hyper-partisan and petty tyrant on a witch-hunt. That went out of style in 1954:

May 12, 2009

DelMonte Gets Left In The Dust...Again

The recent actions of Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte have made her a figure for whom Niagara Times has very little sympathy anymore. But even if that weren’t the case, we still would have gotten a chuckle out of an article in Monday’s Buffalo News.

The News broke a story—er, reported on news released by U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, that Yahoo! (as in the search engine company) was considering siting a data center in either Genesee or Orleans County.

Great news, and something we hope happens.

But, like a precocious, know-it-all child who has long since worn out her teachers’ willingness to call on her, Francine DelMonte rushed to put out her own press release announcing that Yahoo! was also considering siting their facility in Cambria. (You can almost picture Francine, having been left in the dust by Schumer, with her hand stretched skyward, waving it to get the teacher’s, or the press’s, attention…)

So, why do we chuckle? After all, being of Niagara County ourselves, we’d actually like Francine to be right on this one. But does anyone believe for a second that Chuck Schumer would rush to announce that Yahoo! was looking to build its data center, and create jobs, in the middle of a Republican-dominated county like Orleans or Genesee, and totally ignore Niagara County, where Democrats at least have more than a token a presence? Heck, come to think of it, Kyle Andrews, who represents Cambria, is himself a Democrat. As is DelMonte, who represents a district that includes Cambria.

It would, of course, defy logic for Schumer to do that.

Which means Francine is, in essence, telling a political whopper, and trying to look important after her own party’s senior U.S. senator just left her high and dry.

Francine DelMonte talks a big game, but between this, and her inability to get Niagara County’s stimulus funding priorities in front of U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand before Legislature Chairman Bill Ross did so, makes us wonder if Francine has any political juice in her own party at all.

May 11, 2009

Kimble: The True Leader In The Minority Caucus

We really have to commend Niagara County Legislator Renae Kimble.

There was a time, here at Niagara Times, that we thought we’d never type those words. Kimble once was, after all, one of the most radical members of the county legislature and the local Democratic Party. But since her party’s been out of power locally, Kimble has proven herself the most adept and far-thinking member of the Minority Caucus.

So it is with the news, reported in yesterday's Niagara Gazette, that Niagara County now has a lobbyist on the payroll. Niagara Times more often than not finds itself in the position of supporting Majority members, but in this case, one of the best ideas so far this year came from Kimble. It was she—and she alone, without support, other than lip-service, from supposed Minority Leader Dennis Virtuoso—who moved the notion forward as the county was looking for ways to reel in stimulus dollars.

Bigger governments, such as New York City, have had lobbyists on the payroll for years. Erie County as well, despite the fact that their county legislators are full time, and paid accordingly. But Niagara has had to go it alone, and rely on dedicated representatives in Albany like Senator George Maziarz to bring home the bacon. In the changed political climate since November, where people like Francine DelMonte seemingly have more power, yet are more concerned with settling political scores than seeing to it that the county taxpayers get their fair share of the tax dollars they send to Albany, this is an idea whose time has come.

Actually, it would have been a welcome idea years ago. But it’s honestly critical now, and Kimble deserves applause for being the brains behind the idea.

We also have to commend the bi-partisan spirit Kimble seems to be working under lately. In the Gazette article linked above, Kimble recounts to reporter Mark Scheer that Legislature Chairman Bill Ross had the chutzpah to take Niagara County’s stimulus-dollar case right to U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. (One would think that a fellow Democrat lawmaker like Francine DelMonte would have already done that, but as Scheer’s article implies, apparently not…go figure.)

Still, it’s refreshing to see that Kimble sees herself as part of a bi-partisan team working for the county taxpayers’ interests, instead of playing petty partisan gotcha games like Virtuoso always does. That’s not to say that Kimble doesn’t occasionally make a stand for a position we find just plain wrong. But that’s why we have two parties. Virtuoso, in his quest to make everything about party and turn everything into a war, forgets that.

It hardly seems a stretch to opine that if Kimble was leading the Democratic Caucus in the Legislature, a lot more might get done—and a lot more might get done in a much more open and bi-partisan spirit.

May 8, 2009

May 7, 2009

Broderick Must Repay Funds

The mess surrounding Niagara County Treasurer Dave Broderick appears to be on a fast track to nowhere. Two measures aimed at changing the way Broderick handles private estate work were forwarded to a County Legislature committee Tuesday with little discussion.

One of the measures, proposed by Dennis Virtuoso, called for the county to conduct an audit to determine what public resources have been used by Broderick for his private work. Virtuoso also wants the county to bill Broderick for the audit and then seek reimbursement for any public resources he has used for estate work for which he has earned private pay. There is no gray area here...this needs to pass.

I've always said I like Broderick. He seems like a pretty decent guy, and 30 years of public service is something he should be very proud of. But if one penny of my money was used to fund his handling of private estates, work that he has been compensated very handsomely for, I want it back.

Yes, Broderick, as treasurer, is permitted by state law to handle the estates of people who die without valid wills or where problems arise with executors. But that law doesn't say one thing those duties being conducted on the public's time or the public's dime. You want to administer estates, Dave? Do it after work. Reimburse us for the expenses we've incurred for previous expenses, then just stop doing it from 9-5.

This is not a small deal. This is a misuse of public funds. As far as I'm concerned, the best Broderick should hope for is only reimbursing the county for previous expenses, and he should do it quietly and glady. Raising a stink about this will only bring more attention to it - and I'm not quite sure that's the kind of attention Broderick wants.

May 6, 2009

Ross Truly Has A Pair

Word has come to Niagara Times that Legislature Chairman Bill Ross pulled off quite the political coup on Monday.

As most of you know, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand did a rapid-fire tour of Western New York on Monday. While much of the local media decided her stop at a grocery store was more newsworthy than the higher-level discussions that took place right in Niagara County, apparently the real story took place inside the Niagara Falls Convention Center.

Gillibrand held an economic summit, attended by Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster, Ross, Legislators Andrea McNulty, Dennis Virtuoso, and Renae Kimble, Lewiston Mayor Dick Soluri, and representatives of a few assorted other community interests. Niagara Times is also told that Ross had the county’s hard-working economic development director, Sam Ferraro, in tow.

Apparently, as Gillibrand circled the table shaking hands, Ross — like a quick-drawing gunslinger from the old, Wild West — thrust a copy of the county’s stimulus request into Gillibrand’s outstretched hands, before enthusiastically welcoming her to the county.

The stimulus request, which Ferraro put together some months ago, has been a centerpiece of Ross’s strategy to make sure that Niagara County gets all the federal dollars it is due. While the stimulus bill that Congress passed, and David Paterson eviscerated, is open to criticism, bringing home dollars that were yanked from our pockets—and our children’s—is a goal we can get behind.

Anyway, Gillibrand is said to have spent several minutes perusing the county’s detailed funding request, and found it to her liking. (That’s probably because of Ferraro’s rumored stringent demand that most of the items the county put forward truly met the original definition of “shovel-ready” projects.) After reviewing the report, Gillibrand announced to the room that Niagara County had her full backing for their requests, and that her office would be adding its voice in support of any project that Niagara seeks to fund at the federal or state level. Apparently she even offered to seek federal grants for projects not greenlighted by the state.

Ross and Ferraro deserve some applause for this maneuver. It was, if you’ll excuse the term, ballsy. It also just improved Niagara County’s chances of getting a return from the stimulus. For that, Bill Ross deserves a lot of gratitude.

May 5, 2009

Fournier Should Resign

When news broke Monday morning that a Niagara Falls councilman had been involved in a bar brawl, our first instinct was to roll over and hit the snooze bar. It was hardly becoming of an elected official, but it didn’t exactly rise to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors, either. Frankly, the only redeeming quality of the story at all was that it was less dull than the latest rehashing of the AES snooze-fest.

But as more details have emerged it has become clear that Falls City Councilman Steve Fournier must resign.

The Niagara Times has always been a staunch defender of the notion of “innocent until proven guilty.” However, the troubling details revealed in today’s Niagara Gazette story by ace crime-and-cops-beat reporter Rick Pfeiffer make it clear that Fournier can no longer effectively govern.

The police report against Mr. Fournier is damning. Of particular note is this passage, and here, we’ll lift directly from Pfeiffer: “‘That (expletive, racial slur) was trying to start (expletive) with me and you’re not gonna (expletive) do anything about it?’ [NFPD Officer Scott] Warme wrote Fournier said to him.”

Classy. And stupid, given that 24% of the population of Niagara Falls is non-white. Certainly, not a good re-election strategy. But moreover, not a bright governing strategy, either.

Of course, Fournier compounds his stupidity—excuse us, allegedly compounds his alleged stupidity: “‘Do you guys know who you just (expletive) arrested?’ Warme quoted Fournier as saying as he was led to the car.”

Yeah, that’s always been an effective argument.

We also got a kick out of this: “‘I don’t remember using those words,’ the councilman said. ‘Honestly, I don’t know what I said.’ Fournier also absolutely denied making a racial slur. ‘I really don’t remember saying that,’ he said. ‘I have so many African American friends, I don’t believe I would have said that.’”

Ah, yes, the favorite fallback of bigots: But, I have lots of black friends!

Still, more embarrassing might be the behavior of Fournier’s fellow elected officials in the Falls. At least Fournier has the excuse of not being sober; Mayor Paul Dyster and Council President Chris Robins have no excuses for their simpering behavior. Leaders stand up for what’s right. These clowns just mouth clichéd lawyer weasel words to protect their bar-brawling buffoon of a buddy. And, given the lows to which racial relations have sunk under Mayor Dyster, you would think he’d want to get out in front on this one.

His deafening silence on Fournier’s choice of words is no better than condoning the DPW’s whites-only drinking fountain. It’s time for Dyster to lead, for a change.

May 4, 2009

The Godfather, The Undertaker & The Assemblywoman

(Please load the youtube video/audio prior to reading).

Thanks to the efforts of Mike Hudson (of Niagara Falls Reporter fame), Stefano “The Undertaker” Magaddino’s thuggish behavior will never be forgotten. In fact, you can still get Hudson’s book on Amazon; it’s worth the price of admission. But based on some recent developments, I am hoping Hudson has a sequel in mind, involving a woman who would have given The Undertaker a run for his money.

Several sources have told us that Niagara County Legislature Chairman Bill Ross got more than he bargained for during a recent reception for dozens of foreign trade reps from Europe, Asia, the Caribbean, and elsewhere. The tour was organized using—irony of ironies—Niagara County’s share of casino revenue (along with money kicked in by Erie and Chautauqua counties).

Anyway, we hear Ross was enjoying the first night’s reception at the Hyatt in Buffalo, when who comes up to him but Francine “The Assemblywoman” DelMonte. Now, Ross had to be looking for the nearest exit, as readers of this blog know what happened the last time he and DelMonte crossed paths in a public place.

Fortunately for Ross, this time The Assemblywoman spared him a humiliating public dressing down. Instead, she came up to him, made some comment about “I want you all to see this,” and proceeded to plant a big kiss on Ross. Maybe she thought it was a warm gesture, but those of us who grew up watching films like The Godfather, Goodfellas, and Casino, and who still miss The Sopranos, we know what a kiss like that usually means.

Given The Assemblywoman’s actions immediately afterwards, I’m ruling out “warm gesture.” Ross would do well to not go on any fishing trips anytime soon.

Just days later, a letter from Francine “The Assemblywoman” DelMonte began running in local newspapers. In it, The Assemblywoman tells us that it wasn’t personal, it was just business, her taking that money from the county’s taxpayers. You see, the County Family didn’t have what she considered a good enough “signature project,” and didn’t have the kind of strong policies in place for spending money that the Niagara Falls Family has. Naturally, all the signature projects she proposes are things in Niagara Falls, like NCCC’s failed culinary institute.

So, The Assemblywoman and Antoine Thompson decided to make the County Family an offer we couldn’t refuse, and took money from all of our families to give to her cronies in the Falls.

More laughable, though, was the notion that The Assemblywoman forth in her letter, that Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, one of the recipients of casino cash, “serves the county.” Uh…yeah. That’s why Lockport, Newfane, Lewiston, and North Tonawanda all have hospitals of their own, Francine. I guess they can expect their checks soon?

Still, the best line, though, in The Assemblywoman’s letter has to be this: “I have also received thanks from many Niagara Falls residents who support the action taken by Sen. Thompson and me in the recent budget.”

No doubt, she told them all that someday, The Assemblywoman might call upon them to do her a favor.

May 1, 2009

This Broderick Stuff Smells

I don't know anything about the role the County Treasurer is supposed to play in being the executor of estates. Clearly, the State Legislature had something in mind for smaller counties when they wrote the law that gave the Treasurer this power.

I don't know who is and isn't telling the truth in this debacle Dave Broderick got himself into with the Snyder family. Lots of allegations, lots of charges.....and no one appearing overly honorable.

I do know that Dave Broderick has appeared to be a good public servant for the people of Niagara County for a lot of years. That record earns you some benefit of the doubt.

So, with all that said, I can't help but agree with much of the Buffalo News editorial that beats Broderick up over this estate stuff. It just doesn't smell right.

Giving real estate work to your wife from the estates you are administering...even just one....isn't right. Giving your brother legal work is wrong. Hooking up long time friends isn't acceptable. And doing it all away from the public spotlight....well, that creates the mess Broderick finds himself in right now.

It's time Broderick stand up, answer all questions, comes clean and lets the chips fall where they may. Sure, the other side is playing politics with this...that's what politicians do. But playing politics doesn't necessarily mean they are wrong.

Hey Buddy, Can Ya Spare A Quarter?

It’s the rare day when I find myself in complete agreement with both Governor David Paterson and Sen. Chuck Schumer. Okay, come to think of it, I don’t think it’s ever happened.

And I don’t normally like to get bogged down on issues of relatively minor consequence. But Schumer and Paterson’s call for a quarter-dollar depicting Niagara Falls on the obverse is a case of a small issue worth making a fuss over.

After the blazing success of the Fifty States quarter series, the U.S. mint is now pursuing an “America’s Beautiful National Parks” quarter series. As the name implies, the quarters will depict national parks from the 50 U.S. states.

The problem is, the most worthy site to engrave on the back of New York’s quarter is actually a state park.

While the City of Niagara Falls has, itself, seen better days, and I place the blame for that squarely on the shoulders of politicians, Niagara Falls the landmark never ceases to amaze. And every reader who has ever gazed across from the catwalk in Ontario or lunched at Top of the Falls or gotten drenched on the Maid of the Mist or stood in a poncho inside the Cave of the Winds knows that Niagara Falls deserves its place as one of the wonders of the world.

Likewise, the role that the Niagara Falls State Park, or, more accurately at the time, the Niagara Reservation, played as a contemporary of Yosemite cannot be overstated in helping to bring about our national park system. Frederick Law Olmsted’s ideas about parks, which were really set in motion at Niagara Falls, would prove critical in developing much of the modern national park system.

Besides, a quick perusal of the national parks in New York is a bit disappointing, and, in the case of the Statue of Liberty, clichéd.

The U.S. Mint should, in this instance, make an exception and honor real American beauty.