June 30, 2009

Stachowski's Shameless Rhetoric

The following is a letter that appeared in the "Everybody's Column" of the Buffalo News opinion section on June 26. It was written by a gentleman by the name of Vincent Blasio of Lake View:

Last week the 58th Senate District received a mailing from Sen. Bill Stachowski. In this mailing, it lists why Stachowski so proudly voted yes for what he calls a “balanced, responsible budget.” Now we know that this is the furthest thing from the truth.

The truth about this year’s budget is that it was done by downstate leaders at the expense of upstate residents and done behind closed doors with little transparency. Stachowski didn’t even stand up for himself, let alone stand up for his constituents, during this budget. To send out a mailing paid for by the taxpayers at a time when the Senate can’t and won’t even meet is just appalling and an insult.

I would ask that the senator please save the rhetoric for campaign time and save the taxpayers the expense in these mailings. With this in mind, I have decided to petition and become a candidate for the New York Senate 58th District. We cannot afford to keep business as usual!

Given that I wouldn't trade Stachowski for a bag of pucks if he were a hockey player, I had to get my hands on this piece of literature. It appears below:

It really is amazing that Stachowski has the audacity to put out a piece of literature that is so full of blatant lies. I mean, come on...."Senator Stachowski and his colleagues were able to pass a balanced, responsible budget that will serve the best interests of Western New Yorkers and their families while putting the state back on the right track"? Really, Bill? You think that we're on the right track now? By "best interests of WNY families", do you mean that they'll be able to garner boatloads of frequent flier miles because we'll have to fly to visit our children who will be living somewhere else since they can't find a job here?

By "responsible", do you mean a budget that raises taxes and fees by $9 BILLION smack dab in the middle of the largest fiscal crisis in generations?

I agree with Vince - keep your damn pie hole shut, save the political rhetoric for those who are stupid enough to believe that bullshit you're spewing and get your sorry ass back to Albany so you can continue to be the same ineffective legislator you've been for 27 years.

June 29, 2009

"Referendum on the Separation of New York" ipetition

We came across an interesting ipetition entitled " Referendum on the Separation of New York" recently.

The petition sponsors state that the petition "has been initiated by a group of citizens who are very concerned with the current direction of the state. We represent all walks of life, and believe that extreme measures must be undertaken to ensure the survival of Upstate New York.

We believe that the people of this state have earned the right to have our voice heard, and implore upon all elected officials from across the state to support this legislation to put the separation of the State of New York to a referendum."

Since we've been highly vocal on the upstate/downstate disconnect, we're going to go ahead and sign the petition. We'd like to encourage our readers to do the same. Please feel free to pass along the ipetition to anyone you believe would support sending this issue to a referendum.

The ipetition can be found by clicking here.

By the way, your email address is not displayed when you sign the petition. After you click "Sign the Petition", ipetitions will ask you for a contribution. Just hit "Next", then "Cancel and return to ipetitions". You do NOT need to make a contribution to sign the petition.

June 26, 2009

Friday Ruminations

Geez Tom, is it really that difficult to acknowledge the source of your story by name? Come on, type it with me...N-I-A-G-A-R-A-T-I-M-E-S. That wasn't so hard, was it? Seems our posting of Lewis' plan has put him on the defensive. Too damn bad.

For those of us who live in the eastern end of the county, the relocating of the YMCA from downtown Lockport to the town has been a big issue for years. Many want the Y to remain in the city, while the Y board wants to move into a palatial facility in the town. The letter to the editor by prominent Lockportian Ben May and subsequent article on the issue are likely sending shockwaves through the plans for the project. And as the article insinuates, Mark Albeiz is one of the most arrogant people you'll ever meet. Where he gets that, who knows? You run a freakin' YMCA, and badly at that.

Talk about throwing your own under the bus. Dem State Senator Kevin Parker, furious over David Paterson's order that senators pay and per diems be withheld, called Paterson a "coke-snorting, staff-banging" governor. Wow, that's harsh. Funny as hell, but harsh.

The Niagara Falls School Board hired the sister of former Superintendent Carmen Granto without so much as an interview of any other candidates. Talk about nepotism at it's worst. Maybe she'd have ultimately gotten the job anyway, but at least try to not give the appearance of being a bunch of in-breds.

Western New York's own state senator, Bill Stachowski, has earned the dubious distinction of billing the taxpayers for the most expenses of any senator in the state, raking in $30,000 for travel and other expenses last year, in addition to his nearly $100,000 salary.

We're going to go out on a limb and predict that the corruption charges against former Niagara Falls Mayor Vince Anello will be tossed out. Was the loan squeaky clean? Probably not, but there's not enough to convict either. Irregardless, the charges are just another black eye on a city that has been the epitome of political corruption for decades.

The Niagara County Sheriff's Department has an new website which is chock-full of interesting and helpful information. The site address is www.niagarasheriff.com.

Lastly, God bless to the families of Farrah Fawcett and Ed McMahon. Michael Jackson, on the other hand, can rot in hell with the rest of the pedophiles. How the hell anyone can celebrate the life of this piece of shit is beyond me. Did he make some decent music? I suppose. Does that overshadow the multitude of allegations related to his preying on children and fact that he spent tens of millions of dollars to keep his victims quiet? Absolutely not.

June 25, 2009

Lewis' Restructuring Plan Lacks Substance

On April 7, the Niagara County Legislature unanimously passed a resolution "authorizing the county manager to begin the process of restructuring all Niagara County departments due to proposed funding cuts to New York State programs proposed by Governor David A. Paterson, and due to the proposed receipt of federal stimulus money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009." Fair enough, having a plan in place for contingencies cannot be a bad thing.

What's somewhat befuddling is the "restructuring" that County Manager Greg Lewis has identified. While some may have merit, others are cause for concern. For example, as part of his "restructuring", Lewis wants to adopt a mortgage tax with revenues to be dedicated to his $60 million+ campus concept. In other words, his plan for restructuring calls for a multi-million dollar tax on homeowners of this county.

Other recommendations may meet with some opposition as well. His idea to transfer all county parks to the towns will be challenging as the towns will likely not want to take ownership of the parks.

He also wants to increase the "recordation fees" with revenues to be allocated to the public works facility. If simply raising taxes is being presented as "restructuring", we don't need him or the position. Garnering a share of the cell phone tax from the Sheriff's Department - good luck with that one. And asking all other jurisdictions in the county to use the county's communications center will never, ever happen.

Lewis' full list of restructuring recommendations follows:

- Replace the 5 standing committee process with a committee of the whole process with the committee of the whole to meet the Tuesday prior to each regular County Legislature meeting.
a. The committee of the whole meeting agenda to be divided into segments with each segment to be devoted to a core tier (i.e., CSS, CS, PW, ED, and ADM)
b. The tier segments within the committee meetings to be presided over by Tier Chairs/Vice Chairs
c. The Clerk of the Legislature’s Office to provide support, staff, and recordation for the committee of the whole meetings
d. A robust meeting, agenda, resolutions, minutes, and other documentation software program to be implemented to support all Legislature meetings.

· Realign mail room and print shop to be under the management of the Office of Management & Budget.

· Realign the support and staffing for coroners to no longer be provided by the Clerk.

· Implement the Public Works Facility to centralize and consolidate the Public Works operations.

· Realign the Office of Weights and Measures to be under Public Works.

· Implement the Homeland Security and Management Director position/Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management per the Administrative Code.

· Transfer all County parks to the Towns in which they are located and provide Greenway funding to the towns to assist in funding park operations.

· Adopt a mortgage tax with revenues to the County to fund public works operations.

· Adopt increased recordation fees with revenues to the County to fund public works operations.

· Institute having a share of cell phone usage sales tax go to the County to fund Sheriff’s Communications Center.

· Promote all other jurisdictions within Niagara County using the Niagara County Communications Center.

· Implement the Niagara County Communities Comprehensive Plan.

· Immediately set aside remaining casino revenue to offset property tax used to fund the Economic Development Department in the 2011 County Budget.

June 24, 2009

Senate Dems Sit Through Pledge of Allegiance

Prepare to feel your jaw drop and your blood boil.

Here’s shocking video of State Senate Democrats, including Antoine Thompson, Darrel Aubertine, Dave Valesky, Bill Stachowski and Brian Foley sitting through the Pledge of Allegiance in protest over their loss of power in Albany.

The video shows one Democrat, Brooklyn’s Martin Dilan, trying to join in reciting the Pledge, but he is immediately and forcefully pulled down by two fellow Democrats, Kevin Parker of Brooklyn and Ruth Hassell-Thompson of Westchester.

Not a single Democrat lawmaker stood during the Pledge.

The Democrats’ protest was an outrageous mixing of common civics and politics. But it shouldn’t be surprising, considering their refusal even to show up for nearly three weeks leading to yesterday, when they locked themselves in the Chamber ahead of Republicans in a stunt reminiscent of the child’s game, “King of the Mountain.”

June 23, 2009

WNY's Geographically-Challenged Assemblywoman

Perhaps all those years ignoring her non-Niagara Falls constituents have confused poor Francine DelMonte. That’s the kindest explanation we can offer, here at Niagara Times, for her increasing confusion about what’s in her district, and, more importantly, what isn’t.

Regular readers of this blog already know that Francine, in her zeal to claim credit for something—anything!—positive that happens in this region, singlehandedly almost scuttled the very promising Yahoo! deal that Town of Lockport and county officials have been negotiating quietly for months. It irked us to no end that Francine not only desperately wanted credit for a deal that she had nothing to do with, but more importantly, an economic development project that wasn’t even in her district.

We hoped that this was just a bizarre aberration, maybe the result of stress from watching her new-found power evaporate during the State Senate coup.

Unfortunately, it was just the tip of the iceberg.

This weekend, DelMonte again wandered out of her district and tried to take credit for events in Lockport AGAIN, this time showing up at Spring Lake Winery. Now, if Francine were just showing up to buy a few bottles of Spring Lake’s excellent cabernet sauvignon, it would be understandable. Instead, though, she was at the successful vineyard to put on a big show, complete with pronouncements of her support for Niagara County’s wine industry—and she did this despite the fact that there are several wineries IN her district! (For those unaccustomed to the rules of the political world, politicians holding official events in other politicians’ districts is considered quite gauche and a strict political no-no. No wonder Francine is rumored to have few friends even on her own side of the aisle in the state Legislature.)

Even that wouldn’t be so damn peculiar, if it weren’t for the fact that on Sunday, a significant event actually did occur inside Francine's district, and she totally ignored it! Up in Newfane, Budwey’s opened up a 20,000 square-foot store that will employ close to 100 people. Francine, who allegedly represents Newfane, was nowhere to be seen. She didn’t even send a staffer, or even a congratulatory note to be read aloud. (Granted, we’re willing to chalk much of this up to the fact that Francine had absolutely nothing to do with this, either, unlike Sen. George Maziarz, Newfane Supervisor Tim Horanburg, and County Legislature Economic Development Chairman Rick Updegrove, who were all given a hero’s welcome by Frank Budwey himself.)

We’d suggest that if Francine wants to try to horn in on the credit for economic development successes in Niagara County, maybe her staff could help her out by letting her know just what towns are part of her district. But we also realize that the county is a lot bigger than Pine Avenue, so maybe she gets a little confused sometimes.

So in that spirit, Niagara Times offers the following handy map for Francine. Her staff can go ahead and print it out, and refer to it whenever Francine is confused about what’s in her district, and what isn’t. Think of it as ol’ Hobbes doing his civic duty to help a wayward and geographically-challenged politician:

June 22, 2009

Senate Dems Friends & Family Plan Thrives

I'm not for one second going to pretend that when the GOP was in control of the State Senate, they didn't have their share of patronage. In fact, there's probably not a governmental body in existence that doesn't have some level of patronage.

But what the Democrats have done in Albany should disgust anyone who lives in this state, regardless of party. Under then Majority Leader Malcolm Smith, the Democrat-led Senate Majority hired over 100 new staffers since April alone. To add insult to injury, they did this after raising taxes and fees by $8 billion.

Smith had said that the Democrats had cut close to 200 Senate positions. But state records show that the 186 Senate job cuts Smith spoke of had been reduced to just 74 between April and the June 6 payroll, meaning 112 new staffers were added.

Most of the job cuts were Republicans who were fired or retired as a result of the GOP losing the majority. They were quickly replaced by Democrats, many of them making six-figure salaries.

According to a report in The Daily News Saturday, that the Senate payroll jumped by $3 million the first six months the Dems controlled the Senate.

This is so offensive on so many levels. And I know, people will come in and say "the Republicans did it!" Maybe they did, but not nearly to the level as we've seen this year. And didn't the Dems sweep into office under the premise of change? What change were they talking about...vote us into office and we'll screw you even more than you were getting screwed? Because that's exactly what happened.

This is just another example of why the State Senate is better off in the hands of the of the GOP. There's no accountability with the Dems. They are looking out for their NYC interests and those of their friends and nobody from Upstate better stand in their way.

June 19, 2009

Abusing The System

If there was ever a doubt why so many people, myself included, have disdain for public sector employees, look no further than today's excellent story in the Union Sun & Journal by Joyce Miles.

The story focuses on Michael Collette, an 18-year member of the Lockport Fire Department. He has not worked since March 20 due to a back injury he says he suffered on the job. Was he hurt saving a life? Nope, he was lifting a box. Collette alleges that because of this box-lifting injury, he can't work. But on his Facebook page, Collette boasts about yachting on the Hudson River, traveling to Florida, buying a home and opening a second limo outlet in Naples — and planning a month-long “Great RV Tour” of the western United States. But he can't work. Oh, and he's collecting his full, taxpayer-funded salary of $67,000.

Yes, you are paying for this guy to live his twisted life of luxury. Not only are Lockport residents paying him to jaunt across the country, you are paying overtime for the personnel that is forced to work because he's off yachting. How freakin' sickening is that?

Collette is quite angered that the city would dare question the validity of his claim. In Miles' piece, he states, "It’s a slap in the face. I was injured at work; it’s on the record,” he said. “Plain and simple, the city has been illegally using my sick days. ... They’re jeopardizing my career, my future, my retirement and my hard-earned benefits." Well boo-freakin-hoo.

You are jeopardizing the ability of people to stay in their homes because stunts like this out of public sector leeches like you have driven our property taxes insanely high.

The city of Lockport is willing to put Collette on "light duty", which means he'd be assigned to dispatch. The union president, Randall Parker, insists the city has to “negotiate” terms before the union would allow a disabled member to be employed differently. I'm so sick and tired of these clowns with their bloated salaries, free health insurance, lifetime benefits, exquisite retirement package and their disgusting sense of entitlement. You are not entitled to a goddamn thing. Go out and get a job in the private sector and get a real taste of life.

I know, I know, you'll say come do my job. I don't want your job. What I want is to see every municipality evaluate every service they provide to see if the private sector can do it cheaper, including public safety, because this has to stop. We are being taxed to death and leeches like this guy will keep taking and taking until there's nothing left to take.

June 18, 2009

Local Races Taking Shape.....Kind Of

There are some interesting rumblings coming out of both the Republican and Democratic camps as some of the local races start shaping up. Over the next couple of weeks, we'll take a look at some of those races, including those for county legislature.

One race that seems to be generating much conversation is the contest for the 6th Legislative District, currently held by Danny Sklarski (D-Niagara). Sklarski is being challenged by Town of Niagara Councilman Rob Clark.

What is at the center of the discussion is the apparent unwillingness of Clark to move forward with his campaign, while Dem Chairman Dan Rivera pushes Clark to continue. Clark, it seems, is apprehensive about what may come out during the campaign. As we have alluded to before, Clark was one of several local candidates who received campaign contributions from business interests that turned out to be a front for prostitution ring that forced women into sex slavery.

We've also questioned Clark's response to demands that he either give the money back or make a donation in the same amount to a local cause for women. On this blog, when challenged by a commenter about the donation, Clark stated "No I didn't give it back. Who would I give it to? I haven`t seen the shop owners in almost 2 years. What good would it do if I gave the $100 to the "employees" of the ring. They wouldn`t see it. The Government would probably keep it. I'm willing to bet that they are probably doing better than most of us right now."

Personally, I think that's a garbage answer. "I'm willing to bet that they are probably doing better than most of us right now"? These are women who spoke no English, were forced into sexual slavery and lived in virtual cages when not being forced to perform sex acts. How the hell would you think they're doing better than most of us right now? But, that aside, the answer is still garbage. You could have very easily, very quietly made a donation to a local women's shelter to, if nothing else, clean your conscience.

Anyway, I digress.

Rivera has made a promise of significant resources to Clark, but Clark's heart is not in it. Word is that there is a combination of two things weighing on Clark. Some of the things we already alluded to coming out as well as his lack of faith in Rivera to deliver on his promise of help.

On the latter, we can't say we blame Clark. Rivera has been (in)famous for not delivering for his candidates. We've learned that Rivera's fractured relationship with former congressional candidate Jack Davis is still damaged. Rivera recently approached Davis, who pumped $30k of his own money into the Dem's campaign coffers two years ago, with an offer of reconciliation. Davis wanted nothing to do with it. In fact, Davis still plans to swing those campaign dollars into the GOP's campaign war chest. That will indeed make it difficult for Rivera to keep his promises of resources to potential candidates.

As the petition deadline approaches within the next few weeks, it's going to be very interesting to see if Clark does indeed submit his petitions. Don't be surprised if you see a swichteroo from the Dems in this race. If nothing else, this year should be an interesting one in local politics. Stay tuned, there's much more to come.

June 17, 2009

Another Perspective

Senate Dems Use Dirty Tricks/ACORN Thugs To Halt NYS Government - from Monroe Rising

The senate democrats’ actions speak for themselves. After the newly formed bipartisan coalition state senate passed historic reforms never before seen in New York’s history, Malcolm Smith immediately sprang into action in an effort to unravel the coalition and re-secure absolute power for himself and his members.

First up on the Senate Dems “block reform” agenda, have your top government hack shut off the lights in the chambers and kill the live public video feed to prevent access by the public and the press. This also helps stop the new group from holding the meeting.

Next, send your taxpayer-funded attorneys out judge-shopping to get injunctions filed in order to stall the process so you can create a game plan.

Then, start running robo calls attacking your two members for joining the bipartisan reform coalition. Use/leak information on them you previously kept under wraps when they were on your side.

Reach out to Al Sharpton and have him call in the troops. Get them to protest at the homes of the two Democrat Senators and maybe even have them break into one of the homes for a little added scare.

Have your government staffers reach out to their political blog friends and use them for political messaging spin.

Have one of your top government hacks lock the door to the chambers to prevent the bipartisan reform coalition from conducting the people’s business.

If you can’t stop government from moving forward in the courts, bus in the federally funded ACORN protesters to physically intimidate senators and their staffs. Spitting in the face of a female staffer might just get her to back down and shut up, in a kinda spousal abuse sorta way.
Finally, if all else fails and the Senate Democrats can’t figure out a way to gain back the absolute power they so desperately want to ensure the senate remains a New York City driven chamber, simply don’t show up for work, ensuring nothing gets done in state government.

In effect, hold the state senate and the public hostage until you get your power back. Somehow, I don’t think this is what voters had in mind when they supposedly pulled the Democrat Absolute Power lever in their voting booths last year.

June 16, 2009

Virtuoso's Fuzzy Math

At Niagara Times, we frequently think that Dennis Virtuoso has finally sunk as low as he’s capable of.

Usually, he manages to prove us wrong within a couple of weeks.

And, so it is with the issue of downsizing the county Legislature.

Republican Majority Leader Rick Updegrove of Lockport and Legislator Paul Wojtaszek of North Tonawanda, who many view as a rising star in the Majority, took the strong step of introducing legislation to downsize the Legislature following the 2010 census.

At Niagara Times, we certainly see the value in this approach. With the county manager form of government and Niagara County’s Administrative Code, frankly, there’s just no need to have 19 legislators anymore. Any fool could see that.

Which brings us back to Dennis Virtuoso. We imagine Dennis found himself in quite the pickle when Buffalo News reporter Tom Prohaska called him and asked him if he supported downsizing the Legislature. After all, even Dennis must know how popular downsizing government is on the tail of the recent referendum in West Seneca and Evans. So, coming out against government downsizing would do him no good politically.

And yet, Dennis has to know that with its plunging population Niagara Falls stands to lose the most in any redistricting. Heck, we’d even venture a guess that Dennis’s seat will probably be in the cross hairs of any redrawing of the maps by the GOP-led majority. So, how does a guy like Dennis avoid being against something hugely popular, and yet try to kill it?

He lies, that’s how.

Which is exactly what he did: “‘I don’t have a problem with it being reduced as long as the public understands they’re going to have to maybe wait longer for a response to a problem,’ [Virtuoso] said.”

“Where it’s going to hurt is the towns and villages more than anything. I know we’re going to lose a seat in the city [of Niagara Falls], but that doesn’t hurt as much. Some legislators might be representing as many as four towns.”


There’s just one little problem with Dennis’s math. A quick check with the U.S. Census Bureau shows us that Niagara Falls has, from 2000 to 2006, seen a projected 5.9% drop in its population. Meanwhile, the entire county population only shrank by 2.4% (and much of that number includes losses in the City of Niagara Falls). To use raw numbers, the population of the Falls shrank by 3,267. The entire population of the county, meanwhile, shrank by 5,380. Subtract the Falls number from the county’s, and you get a difference of 2,113.

In other words, while Niagara Falls lost 3,267 people, the rest of the county lost 2,113. There’s no way mathematically that the towns and villages will lose more seats than Niagara Falls. You don’t even have to be smarter than a Fifth Grader to figure that one out.

Breaking it down even further, each legislator currently represents about 11,600 constituents. If the Leg downsizes to 15, each will represent approximately 14,667 residents. If indeed the projections related to the plummeting Niagara Falls population are confirmed in the 2010 census, Niagara Falls is sure to lose at least two seats, likely two and a half.

Which means that, once again, Dennis Virtuoso is caught telling an untruth—and he’s doing so to scare people out in the towns who would otherwise support this measure into opposing it on false grounds.

We just wish members of the press could figure stuff like this out before they let him spew his lies.

June 15, 2009

Stachowski's Dilemma

Odds are that before recent events, you'd never heard of New York State Senator Bill Stachowski. This despite his having served over 27 years in the Senate. For most of his career, Stack toiled in virtual obscurity. He sat in the minority for those 27 years, until the Senate majority flipped with the 2008 election. All of the sudden, what Stachowski does matters.

He was identified by the Buffalo News as being the swing vote in the debate over gay marriage, and has been a strong ally of the union-dominated Working Families Party. Stachowski is faced with something he had never encountered in his previous 27 years in office: Relevance.

After last week's coup on the floor left the Republicans with a fragile 32-30 majority, one of the rogue senators, Hiram Monserrate, insinuated that the now "coalition" will fall apart if more Democrats don't join in.

Bill Stachowski, a Dem from Lake View, is one of the senators being heavily targeted by Upstate and Western New York interests to flip. Anthony Baynes, the former chairman of the Erie County control board and Buffalo-based Mark Hamister are just two of the prominent local businessmen that are said to be exerting pressure on Stack to side with the new coalition form of government.

As part of the enticement to flip, Stachowski has been offered the Chairmanship of the Senate Finance Committee by the GOP-led coalition. During last year's election, when Stachowski was facing a significant challenge from former Buffalo cop Dennis Delano, Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith promised this chairmanship to Stack. He failed to deliver on his promise. The chairmanship of Finance is one of the three most powerful positions in the Senate. The chairman of Finance is in a position to bring millions of dollars in funding back to his district, as well as wield significant power over the direction of legislation in this state. In essence, this position puts the person holding it in a position to do tremendous things for his district.

Which brings us to Stachowski's dilemma. If he says no to those who are pushing him to align with the new coalition and take the Chairmanship of Finance, he is saying that he is SO strongly aligned with the downstate Dems that he is willing to put the interests of New York City-based politicians ahead of the people whom he has been elected to represent. That is downright offensive.

Out of the 62 Senate seats, Stachowski is just one of five Democrats who do not represent a constituency in or around New York City. Please, someone tell me what NYC and WNY have in common. Whether he likes it or not, Stack has more in common with Dale Volker, George Maziarz, Cathy Young, Mike Ranzenhofer and every other Senator that represents Upstate.

He needs to put political parties aside, tell the NYC political bosses that he was elected to represent the interests of Western New York, and for the first time in his career, start doing just that.

June 12, 2009

DelMonte's Recklessness

Niagara Times has succeeded in winning friends throughout government, politics, the business sector, non-profits, even the mainstream media. So, very little of what happens in this community ends up a total surprise to us.

The truth is, we have known for some time that Lockport had become the leading contender for the proposed Yahoo! data center. We also knew that both Niagara County and Town of Lockport officials were doing their best to keep any announcement under wraps until early next week, when the town would have a legal obligation to reveal that a deal was in the works with the Internet giant.

And, by all accounts, they were doing a helluva job keeping Lockport’s potential selection off the radar—press accounts were talking about Cambria and Pembroke instead. Lockport’s economic development team had even gone so far as to hide references to it in official communications, emails, even phone conversations, calling it “Project Pilgrim.”

Negotiations of this nature are a tricky thing, after all. One misstep, one bad news article, and the whole applecart can end up upended. And what’s at stake for our region is no small thing: 125 jobs, three-quarters of which will pay north of $65,000 per year.

So, if we’re a little perturbed this morning, it’s probably because one local politician, in her desperate flailing about for credit for something that she had nothing—abso-frickin-lutely nothing!—to do with, managed to jeopardize one of the best economic development projects our region has seen in quite some time.

As Buffalo News reporter Tom Prohaska notes in his missive this morning, and Niagara Times has known since a tip from a friend yesterday afternoon, Francine recklessly sent a press release about Yahoo!’s possible siting to the press—while negotiations for the Yahoo! package were entering their critical final stages.

Here’s how Prohaska put it:

“As reporters dug into ‘Project Pilgrim,’ with The News having already obtained a confirmation of the Yahoo! selection from one source who insisted on anonymity, Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte, D-Lewiston, issued a news release Thursday afternoon that Yahoo! was ‘inching closer’ to selecting a site in Niagara County.”

“About 90 minutes later, the town issued its own news release.”

Do you understand how incredibly stupid a move Francine made? How potentially devastating for this project? Yahoo! wants to make sure they’re partnering with people who can be trusted to run a successful business-siting operation. Instead, they may be wondering today if they’re getting into bed with a bunch of, well, yahoos.

Understand, the town didn’t plan to issue its own release. Instead, Francine’s decision to keep pushing the issue (in fact, one source in the news business told us quite bluntly, she is the whole reason the press was digging in the first place) forced town officials to prematurely announce this, because they had no other choice. (Except, well, lie—which is not the brightest strategy in politics. Well, unless you’ve been spending months telling everyone that Cambria would get the Yahoo! facility—and are shameless enough to claim credit when it doesn’t even land in your district. Then, lying is probably your best bet.)

We are very optimistic about the Yahoo! project, because friends inside both town and county government have assured us that this project is very much on track, and Yahoo! is very happy with the level of support and openness that both Lockport and Niagara County have provided. And, certainly, if this moves forward, this is a feather in the caps of people like Lockport’s economic development guru Dave Kinyon, County Economic Development Commissioner Sam Ferraro, and Lockport Legislator/Economic Development Committee Chairman Rick Updegrove.

But if it does come to pass, it will be no thanks to Francine, her big mouth, and her need to take credit for things that she had nothing to do with.

Stay the hell out of Lockport’s affairs, Francine, you reckless fool.

June 11, 2009

The Coup II

I must say, I'm a little confused. The people of this state have duly elected 62 state senators to represent us in Albany. The last time I checked, each of them has the right to vote any way they see fit on an issue, hopefully in the best interests of those people that elected them. So, when they walked into the senate chambers on Monday, and voted for the person they believed would be best suited to lead the senate, who'd have imagined the chaos that ensued.

The prior leadership refused to acknowledge the vote, turned off the Internet feed, called for an adjournment to the meeting, shut off the lights and left the chambers.

Last I checked, this country is still a democracy. Elected officials have the right to vote how they choose. For the Democratic former leadership to have acted the way that they did is unconscionable. Nobody anointed you the leaders of the senate, you were elected, then you were unelected.

Meanwhile, with two weeks left in the session, nothing is getting done in Albany because the Dems refuse to open the chambers. How asinine and immature. It is exactly this type of (lack of) leadership that helped two Dems make the decision to oust Malcolm Smith.

A word of advice to the Dems: Sack up, take your medicine like men and get back to conducting the business of the state.

June 10, 2009

The Coup

There are so many angles to what went down in Albany this week, there is no way we could cover them all.

Should you like to get a perspective from outside of the local media coverage, you can find some articles related to the state Senate coup here, here, here and here.

It has been no secret that we have vehemently opposed one political party controlling the Senate, Assembly and Governor's seat. The last five+ months reinforce that concern. Former Majority Leader Malcolm Smith has been a complete disaster for the Senate, Governor David Paterson has been worse, and Shelly Silver, well, Shelly is a disaster every day.

Even if the personalities were different, one party controlling all three levels was and would have continued to be a nightmare for Upstate and Western New York. From the sweep of the NYPA funds to the IDA legislation that would have crippled employers, we would have gotten screwed over and over again. The thought of Antoine Thompson in a position of power was just downright frightening.

With the coup, Upstate and Western New York once again have some level of representation. Niagara's own state Senator, George Maziarz, was said to have played an integral role in the change in power. This is a good thing for our region. Having non-NYC-centric Senators like Maziarz, Tom Libous from Binghamton and George Winner from Elmira in positions of power will only help this region get its fair share of representation.

Great job, gentlemen. Our faith in the democratic process has been restored. Don't let us down.

June 9, 2009

Rivera’s Ancestry.com Membership Pays Off

There is much to blog on in our state today, and yet we keep returning to the latest “reporting” by our favorite local “reporter.”

We put both words in quotes because, well, neither is really accurate anymore. Over the past several months, we’ve watched the Niagara Gazette’s Mark Scheer’s writing move from the realm of legitimate journalism to something more akin to writing press releases for Francine DelMonte and Dan Rivera.

And so it is today, as Scheer, no doubt thinking himself the Gazette’s answer to Bob Woodward, breathlessly informs us of the latest scandal to plague Niagara County government: it seems that the county hired a law firm where County Republican Chairman Henry Wojtaszek’s THIRD COUSIN works.

What a scoop.

Yes, you can see the machinations of the wily Republican Chairman at work here. No doubt, Henry W. cracked the whip on the Majority Caucus and demanded that his THIRD COUSIN’s employer get the job.

We suppose it could happen. Just like we can suppose Scheer could have met Rivera, played by Hal Holbrook, in the Rainbow Mall’s parking garage at 3 in the morning. (Sorry, but if Mark’s not going to take his role as a journalist seriously, well, then neither are we.)

Of course, a reading of the lead paragraph of Scheer’s press rele—er, “news article” manages to tell us the real story: “The head of the Niagara County Democratic Party believes political and personal connections may have played a part in the hiring of a Buffalo law firm that is currently representing Niagara County interests in a pair of high-profile lawsuits.”

In fairness, we’ve thought Scheer was a putz for months, ever since his famous “Stop Pointing Out to Niagara Falls That We Suck” column ran in the Gazette. But today’s hit-piece just cracked us up. If Dan Rivera “believes” it, well, it must be newsworthy.

Still, we hope to one day be in a position of influence in local politics so Rivera can go digging through our family tree. He’s apparently quite the genealogist. Heck, we don’t even know who most of our SECOND COUSINS are. Looks like Rivera’s Ancestry.com membership is really paying off!

What Scheer doesn’t know, but ol’ Hobbes does, is that Scheer didn’t even have this story first. Rivera actually pushed it on Buffalo News reporter Tom Prohaska several days ago. Prohaska asked around, including several individuals with whom the Niagara Times has communicated, concluded Rivera’s accusations had no real merit, and ended up writing an article about the merits of the lawsuits instead.

Prohaska has been in the news business a bit longer than Scheer, and knows a turkey of a story when he sees it. Moreover, though, he’s not a putz.

We still hold out hope that Scheer will one day become a real journalist. But the Gazette isn’t exactly a place where wannabes should learn their trade. Maybe it’s time that the Greater Niagara Newspapers send him down to the minors.

June 8, 2009

Selective Enforcement

As a rule, Niagara Times has tried to avoid discussing Lewiston-Porter School Board politics. We, after all, have learned the lesson of post-Vietnam geopolitics: don’t wade into a quagmire.

However, we’re also getting sick of one school district’s constant ability to embarrass Niagara County (and we’re not talking about the Niagara Falls School District, where they’re unfamiliar with the term “nepotism”). For every good, positive thing that folks in this county do, it seems that the Lew-Port district has always been ready to steal the headlines with its latest embarrassing antics.

And so it is again now that School Board President Robert J. Weller’s penchant for forwarding less-than-politically-correct emails to colleagues has come to light. Of course, it only came to light because, following the latest school board election, there is a desire by Weller’s union-backed opponents to force him out as president of the school board at the re-organization meeting that’s coming real soon.

Let’s be honest: Weller is a moron. He probably should resign. He may even be a racist, a sexist, and everything else that’s said about him.

And yet, this morning, we’re finding him more and more a sympathetic figure.


Because the Rev. Darius G. Pridgen of Buffalo has vowed to bring his entire congregation to Lew-Port’s next board meeting to raise holy hell if Weller doesn’t meet with him and grovel beforehand.

These tactics sound eerily familiar to us. Okay, they actually sound like a page right out of the playbooks of America’s two favorite shakedown artists: Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.

And we’d prefer to see such nonsense kept out of our community.

Moreover, though, we got a laugh this morning when we googled the Rev. Pridgen’s name and found his biography at his church. The first line of that bio is great: “Pastor Darius G. Pridgen is a man that has been chosen by God to lead and change a generation.” Nothing like a little humility.

But we decided to press on with our Google search. And, sure enough, strings including Rev. Pridgen’s name and Niagara Fall Councilman Steve Fournier produced not even one hit.

So, let’s get this straight: The president of a fairly conservative school board way out in the sticks, practically in Canada, forwarding stupid jokes to his colleagues elicits loud, chest-thumping outrage from Rev. Pridgen. A Democrat Niagara Falls councilman screaming racial epithets in a bar at 3 a.m.? Never heard of him. Gotta love that selective outrage!

Weller probably should resign. But Darius Pridgen and his traveling roadshow really should stay the hell out of Niagara County. Especially when it’s so clear that Pridgen is little more than an overinflated windbag who wants, so desperately, to be the next Al Sharpton.

Go back to Buffalo, Darius.

June 5, 2009

Friday Ruminations

Do we have another "f-ing steamroller" in our midst? Governor David Paterson's secretary, Lawrence Schwartz, has labeled himself "the enforcer". You work for an unelected governor who happens to be the lowest rated governor in the state's history. Save the pro wrestling nicknames for the ring.

It's funny that the day after Schwartz announces what a tough guy he is going to be, Paterson is announcing today that he is caving into the unions he had previously talked so tough about dealing with.

The Niagara Falls Water Authority will receive an $11 million grant from federal stimulus funds to clean out a sewer tunnel along the Niagara River Gorge. This is designed to stimulate what, more people taking a dump?

New York Power Authority President and CEO Richie Kessel thinks that the lawsuit over the sweep is more about politics than reality. NYPA bylaws state that they can only charge what they pay for electricity. I'm no math wiz, but if they can only charge what they pay, how do they accumulate a surplus that exceeds $550 million? Well, we're going to find out. I cannot wait until NYPA has to open their books in a court of law.

Word around town is that the allegations surrounding Wheatfield Supervisor Tim Demler are going to get even more inflammatory. Surveillance pictures and a video are said to exist. I'm not sure being a supervisor in a rural town in the middle of nowhere is worth that humiliation.

Lastly, it's concert season time here in Niagara County. The Labatt Blue Light Concert Series at Gateway Harbor Park in North Tonawanda will feature: June 20 -- Firefall • June 27 -- Gator Country• July 4 -- Salute to America with Terry Buchwald • July 11 -- Badfinger• Aug. 1 -- Marshall Tucker Band• Aug. 8 -- Pat Travers• Aug. 29 -- Poco.

The Lockport Molson Canal Concert Series will feature: June 26 - Rusted Root; July 3 - Our Lady Peace; July 10 - The Cult; July 17 - Kim Mitchell; July 24 - Lita Ford; July 31 - Queensryche; Aug. 7 - Eddie Money; Aug. 14 - Charlie Daniels; Aug. 21 - Randy Bachman.

The lineup for Artpark's excellent outdoor concert series can be found here.

Have a safe & happy weekend.

June 4, 2009

DelMonte Fails To Deliver - Again

Is Francine DelMonte completely worthless?

We don’t mean that as a rhetorical aside. We’re completely serious. We know that previously we put a shot across Francine’s bow over her treatment of Niagara County’s taxpayers in her little power-play involving the Seneca Niagara Casino. (Incidentally, we don’t mean to beat a dead horse, but how is it that all the mainstream media around here can write stories about her money-grab without reminding us who the Senecas’ favorite lawyer is?

But back to our main point. Other than securing a whopping $900,000 or so to fix Niagara Falls’s bombed-out, devastated excuses for streets (and mind you, she didn’t secure even that paltry sum from New York state—she stole it from other Niagara County residents), we suddenly realized she hasn’t done that much for her beloved Niagara Falls, even. We accept that she has brazenly screwed everyone in Wheatfield except Tim Demler, and everyone who lives in all the other towns in her district. (If you live in the Town of Niagara, the Town of Lewiston, the Town of Porter, the Town of Wilson, the Town of Cambria, the Town of Newfane, or the Town of Hartland, we’re talking about you.) But it suddenly occurred to us that she hasn’t actually accomplished anything of note for the Falls, either.

Perhaps we make this post this morning because we made the mistake, yet again, of watching LCTV’s coverage of the Niagara County Legislature. At the meeting, we saw a woman who heads a state-funded program essentially beg the county to pony up some funds for people who live in the worst neighborhoods in Niagara Falls, so that something called “Healthy Neighborhoods” can give free smoke detectors to people living in the firetraps that pass for homes in Paul Dyster’s dystopia.

Now, we’re not about to debate the merits of this program. We, obviously, see both good and bad in it as a concept. But what struck us was the lead paragraph in Niagara Gazette reporter Mark Scheer’s copy from earlier this week: “State budget cuts are putting a dent in a program aimed at helping residents in Niagara Falls and other parts of the county guard against fire. Theresa McCabe, public health educator for the county health department’s Healthy Neighborhood program, told members of the Legislature on Tuesday her office could use their help in maintaining services that are at risk due to cuts in state spending.”

Did you get that? Francine can’t even protect a state giveaway in her own district—her own city! According to Scheer’s article, the state cut Healthy Neighborhoods’ budget by around $10,000. Amazing, isn’t it? Francine can’t even preserve a measly $10K for a program that benefits her own core constituents.

It’s almost as if she takes them for granted.

Of course, we genuinely started to feel sorry for Ms. McCabe as she pitched her program. At one point, Niagara Falls Legislator Jason Murgia even had to pimp the program to any civic groups watching and willing to write a check.

You’d think that a supposedly powerful and influential Albany Democrat like Francine could get them a simple member item.

How pathetic. And yet, they keep voting for her.

June 3, 2009

Tax Stabilization Fund

There are certain things that need legislation, and there are certain things that are simply good government. Passing a law that caps future property tax increases at 2.5 percent per year shouldn't be required, it should simply be done to the best of their ability. Unfortunately, this is what the Niagara County Legislature is considering.

Legislator Danny Sklarski, sponsor of the measure that would create a tax stabilization fund "specifies that this money is to be used only to reduce property taxes". Do we really need a law to state that excess revenues should be dedicated to reducing taxes?

The county legislature has done a good job of keeping taxes in check, especially while many counties across the state grapple with the impact of the economic downturn, reducing the tax rate each of the past four years.

But this resolution does the same thing as the state's proposed four percent tax cap - it allows legislators to raise taxes 2.5% each year, and that's too much. Personal incomes are not rising at that rate, nor should our county taxes.

Sklarski's idea of keeping a lid on taxes is an admirable one, but it shouldn't require a law to do it.....just do it.

June 2, 2009

D.D.T - Still Toxic

Talk about a dog and pony show. Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster, Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte and Senator Antoine Thompson held a press conference last week to show all the world their justification for stealing the share of the casino revenue that had belonged to all of the cities and towns of this county and diverting it all back to Niagara Falls.

That justification? The roads in Niagara Falls need paving. That's fantastic, Fran. Make sure you use that rationale when you're traveling through the towns of Lewiston, Porter, Cambria, Niagara, Wheatfield, Wilson, Newfane, and Hartland when your sorry ass is up for re-election next year. Make sure you tell them that they don't mean as much to you as Niagara Falls does.

You can lie and say there's some other justification for what you've done, but we know the truth, don't we Fran; you're pissed off at the Niagara County Legislature for calling you out on the plethora of spineless decisions you've made this year, and you don't like it. You'll show them, Franny, won't you?

It's interesting that this trio is holding a press conference to announce that this roughly $1 million is going to cure all that ails the streets of Niagara Falls, especially when the city has remained a shithole even after receiving the $50 million that was dumped into it, but now that you've taken the $1 million from the county residents, everything is going to be great? Do you think we're that stupid?

I hope...no, I pray...that this thing goes to court and a judge awards the county a 50% share of the casino revenue, as opposed to the 2% it was getting before. You three are going to have so much egg on your face, you'll just need a little flour to make a nice big cake. And I'm going to be there to turn on the oven.

June 1, 2009

Thompson's Deceit Extends To Staff

We've made no secret of our belief that New York State Senator Antoine Thompson is completely useless as a legislator. Well, completely useless to those in WNY who elected him to represent us. They love him in NYC.

He supported the "sweep" of $550 million in NYPA funds to fill the state's budget hole, he voted for a state budget that increases spending by $9 billion, and he has lead the charge on anti-business legislation, such as the bottle bill.

Although we'll rarely cite another news source in its entirety, we felt this was a necessary story to convey to those in Western New York. It is a story that appeared in the May 31 edition of the New York Post. This is what you get when you surround yourself with those who are just as deceitful and deceptive as you are. Thompson, please do all of us in Western New York who look to you to represent us in Albany a favor and resign; you're a disgrace.

The story follows in its entirety.....

New York State Senator Antoine Thompson needs to check who he has working in his office -- for all is not as it seems. The Post called Thompson, chairman of the Environmental Conservation Committee and the driving force behind the "Bigger Better Bottle Bill," which seeks to slap a five-cent deposit on bottles of water, last week to see how Coca-Cola-owned Vitamin Water managed to be written out of the law.

Water drinks containing sugar -- like all of Vitamin Water's line -- are exempt from the deposit under the new law -- which was put on ice last week by a federal judge.

A staffer who identified himself as John Taylor answered the phone at Thompson's Albany office. He said the Buffalo-area senator was on his way back home and agreed to pass on a message. After a couple of days and several calls placed to both Thompson's Buffalo and Albany offices failed to get any response, another call was made to the home office to complain about the ineffectiveness of Taylor.

There, the staff was perplexed. They claimed to have nobody on staff called John Taylor. They said the Albany staffer is Shawn Curry, a recent hire as a legislative assistant.

So who is John Taylor? That's what we wanted to know. So we called him up.

The Post: "Hi, is this John Taylor?"


The Post: " But isn't your name really Shawn Curry? And if so why are you giving out a fake name from the Senator's office?"

"Could you hold please . . .[in the same voice] This is Shawn Curry."

The Post: "Why are you using a fake name from the Senator's office, Shawn?"

"I am very busy, I have business to attend to, I can't answer your question."

We finally reached the good senator and explained the Taylor/Curry episode. Thompson said Curry/Taylor was "young and inexperienced" but that he would be "dealt with very aggressively."

The lawmaker also allowed that "we are rewriting the bottle bill to include Vitamin Water and all other waters with sugar in them. Nobody will be left out," he said.

The bottle bill has faced stiff legal opposition from bottled-water manufacturers who claim the expense of changing packaging to comply with the law placed them at a disadvantage in the market.

Following a court ruling in Manhattan on Friday, the new bill -- with Vitamin Water included -- looks set to go into effect next April 1.