November 30, 2009

NFMMC Mental Health Facility

The sad reality of our society is that not enough resources are devoted to treating mental illness. With Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center currently in in the midst of a $6.9 million project to update its mental health treatment facilities, we're hopeful that those in our community that can get the help that they need.

We're not going to harp on the fact that this project is being paid for with slot machine revenues, dollars that are supposed to be used for economic development (right Francine, you stinkin' hypocrite?) or the fact that NFMMC CEO Joe Ruffalo has driven the facility to the brink of financial ruin while making sure to blame everyone and their mothers for the desperate financial situation that the facility has faced.

No, we're simply going to embrace this project on its face value, despite the ancillary concerns, and follow the lead of Lynne Shuster, of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Buffalo and Erie County who is taking a wait-and-see approach to determining whether the newly renovated center will mean better care. It can hardly get worse.

November 25, 2009

Lewis Picks A Fight With....Everyone!

Greg Lewis must be the dumbest man in Niagara County.

We write that today because of the documents below, which have wandered into our possession. Niagara County’s county manager—who, when we last checked in, was busily sending resumes to every county with an opening at the top of its bureaucracy—has decided to expand upon his earlier set of “recommendations” to county leaders, offered several months ago.

NCCC President Jim Klyczek will be thrilled to hear that Lewis is recommending that the county “freeze the NCCC Budget for the next three years.” Aside from the fact that such a move would effectively kill the college’s proposed Culinary Arts Institute, we’re kind of curious how Klyczek will be able to meet payroll. Maybe Lewis just sees NCCC as another Mount View, waiting to be financially euthanized. We’re dying to see what Mr. Klyczek has to say, though, about this recommendation. (And, actually, we kinda wish we hadn’t banned Larry Castellani from this board, because we’d like to know what he thinks, after all of his support for Greg Lewis.)

We’re sure, too, that Lockport Supervisor Marc Smith will be excited to hear that Greg wants to “close the County Golf Course and transfer property to the Town of Lockport.” Now, we’re not sure what the rationale for that decision is—the course is, after all, not a money loser—but we’re pretty confident Mr. Smith has never had any conversations with the county’s bloated figurehead about such a move. Taking over the golf course is a rather involved process. There are liability issues, union issues and state issues. There are costs, such as personnel and maintenance. There’s the whole question of whether Lockport would even want to get into the golf business, or whether Lewis just wants a popular county recreation facility to go to seed because he, well, doesn’t golf.

And then there’s Sheriff Jim Voutour. Now, in his 11 months in office, Voutour has shown himself to be a strong advocate for his Department. So, we’re kind of wondering about Lewis’ plans to “conduct Multi-Agency Incarceration Study and implement study’s findings and conclusions.” Um…it just seems to us that something like that should fall under the county’s top lawman, who was elected by a helluva lot more people than Chief Bureaucrat Greg Lewis. We also are curious if Lewis ever talked to Sheriff Voutour about planning a “cell phone usage sales tax go to the County to fund Sheriff’s Communications Center.” We also wonder how the cities, towns, and villages in the county will feel about this one: “Require other jurisdictions to use and pay a share of centralized dispatch through Sheriff’s Communications Center to qualify for Homeland Security funding through the County.”

Greg seems to be doing a lot in Sheriff Voutour’s name.

Of course, those aren’t the only new costs. Lewis also is pushing, again, for the county to “adopt a mortgage tax with revenues to the County to fund public works operations.” And he’s added this one: “Adopt increased recordation fees with revenues to the County to fund public works operations.”

What public works operations are so expensive we need new taxes and fees, you ask?

We’re going out on a limb and thinking it has something to do with this recommendation: “Implement the Public Works Facility to centralize and consolidate the Public Works operations.”

Ah! The Greg Lewis Memorial Public Works Facility and Taj Mahal. We seem to remember having written about that in the past. Apparently the Lewis strategy is keep throwing around your massive weight, and eventually you get your way, and the taxpayers in “places like this that are penny-ante pound foolish” pay for it.

We’re sure that plenty of other folks will get a kick out of Lewis’ recommendations that his office “absorb” their positions, like an amoeba feeding. But we’re dying to know how his plans for NCCC, Lockport, and the Sheriff’s Office turn out.













November 24, 2009

Francine DelMonte: Born to Run Away From Her Responsibilities

I’m On Fire ever since word reached us that Francine DelMonte, Niagara County’s self-styled Local Hero, had shown up at a ribbon-cutting Monday morning. After all, the last we heard, Governor Paterson had called the Legislature back into session. Now, granted, Paterson himself decided cutting that same ribbon and smiling for the TV cameras was somehow more important than reaching agreement on how to fix the state’s appalling budget mess, so we thought it was possible Frannie had managed to catch a ride out with the erstwhile Guv.

Turns out we were wrong.

A friend of Francine’s revealed to us that the real reason that Francine was in town was because she was busy Dancing in the Dark at the HSBC Arena late into the night on Sunday.

That’s right: even as she and her colleagues were grossly failing the taxpayers who elected them and Waitin’ On A Sunny Day to miraculously fix the state’s budget mess, Francine was, Surprise, Surprise, making time to take in a Bruce Springsteen concert.

Now, we don’t mean to demean The Boss. Frankly, we enjoy his music. In our teen years, we even listened to a cassette tape of Born in the U.S.A. until it wore out. But our only responsibility in those days was a part-time afterschool job, not fixing a self-made budget mess affecting 19 million citizens.

But while Francine is reliving her Glory Days, Rockin’ All Over the World to The Boss, she’s not in Albany fighting for WNY’s interests as the budget-cutting sharks circle. So, when your school district’s aid gets slashed and your school taxes go up, make sure you ask Francine how Bruce’s rendition of Hungry Heart sounded. Of course, if you voted for Francine, you’re Your Own Worst Enemy. As New York continues Goin’ Cali, Francine DelMonte is not only dithering—she’s letting us all go straight Into The Fire.

Francine’s constituents would have been better served had she gotten into her Pink Cadillac or a Downbound Train to Albany and done her job. And given the price of tickets to the Springsteen concert, and realizing that she bought those overpriced tickets with the pay she received for not doing her job, it’s even more disheartening. Maybe expecting her to do her job is just Countin’ on a Miracle, but given the damage that this state government has done in the past year, we don’t think expecting Francine to go to Albany and do the job she’s being paid to do should be a Leap of Faith.

Maybe since she moved to her Mansion On The Hill in Lewiston, Francine has forgotten that the little people who work in places like My Hometown don’t get to blow off their jobs and their responsibilities.

But for the rest of us, it’s as if we’re being Held Up Without a Gun by Francine and her Assembly colleagues.

November 23, 2009

NT Moving In The Right Direction With Tax Break

The plan by North Tonwanda lawmakers to give tax breaks for owners who turn commercial buildings into multiple-use properties is a great step. Under the proposal, the entire value of the improvements would be kept out of an assessment for the first eight years. In each of the next four years, assessments would increase by 20 percent of the value of the improvements.

Because our area was heavily dependent upon manufacturing in the past, we have a multitude of older buildings that can no longer serve in the capacity they were originally designed for. Giving property owners and investors an incentive to convert these properties into multi-use entities will only strengthen our infrastructure.

While we're quick to give kudos on this one, we'd like to make one suggestion - enact similar rules for residential homeowners. Too frequently the residential homeowners in our community invest significant amounts of money into their property only to see a tax increase as their reward.

A few years back the county legislature passed a provision to address just this issue, as it related to county taxes, giving residential homeowners a break on their assessment after a substantive improvement to their home. Every municipality in the county should be following suit.

November 20, 2009

Upstate's Survival Depends on Giuliani

The news that former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is no longer considering a run for governor, instead setting his sights on incumbent United States Senator Kirstin Gillibrand, has the pundits in an all-out frenzy. Anyone and everyone from the political arena is speculating about what Rudy's forgoing of the one seat for a shot at another means to the political landscape across the state.

This blog has had a plethora of posts about the Upstate/Downstate disconnect. I've tried to emphasize the point that it's not about political parties per se, but about the need to have all regions of this state represented in positions of authority, not just New York City. That being said, it's hard to ignore the differences between the regions when you see this:











What the above images show is what the State Senate Majority looked like prior to the Democrats successful attempt to regain the Senate, and after. The before picture, on the left, shows strong representation across the entire state. The after picture, on the right, shows what the State Senate Majority looks like today.

Yes, there are five senators from Upstate New York in the Senate Majority. Yes, this is a problem for those of us who live north of the Tappan Zee Bridge. And the reality of the situation is that if we have to rely on Stachowski, Thompson, Breslin, Aubertine and Valesky to carry the torch for Upstate, we are unequivocally screwed. Stachowski showed what a coward he is after Malcolm Smith promised him the powerful Finance Committee Chairmanship throughout the election last year, only to pull the plug on that promise. Did Stachowski say a word about it? Nope, he took it in the arse without a whimper.

When you couple the geography of the power in this state with the mentality of most of the Downstate senators, as illustrated by bully Kevin Parker (see below), Upstate has a real problem.



So what does all of this mean as it relates to Rudy? Simple: the GOP needs a very strong candidate on the ballot next year if they are to have a shot at regaining the Senate Majority. Rudy would lead that ticket. How is this relevant to Upstate? If the GOP does not regain the Senate next year, it will never happen. With redistricting to happen after the 2010 census, whichever party is in control of the Senate will redraw the lines to ensure their survival in that majority for decades to come. If the Democrats retain the majority, the map above on the right will become permanent. That should be very disturbing , regardless of political affiliation.

Let's hope Rudy does confirm the rumors of his political intentions - the survival of Upstate depends on it.

November 18, 2009

Jauron Being Airbrushed Out of History

At Niagara Times, we try to weigh in on the pressing issues of the day: county budgets…elections…the ongoing competition between Antoine Thompson, Kevin Parker, and Eric Adams to say the dumbest thing on the Senate floor…

So, you could accuse us of having an ideological tilt. Still, we think it’s significant that a little after 3 o’clock yesterday we saw one of our more liberal office colleagues, who gave us a big, heart-felt thumbs-up.

We’d like to think it was a sign he was coming around. But then he told us that the long-awaited event had occurred: Dick Jauron had been mercifully put to sleep.

Okay, it wasn’t that dramatic, but still, it could have happened.

What struck us as particularly funny, though, was that, after our colleague told us the news, we naturally decided to go read about it online, and stumbled upon Jauron’s Wikipedia entry: “Richard Manual Jauron (born October 7, 1950 in Peoria, Illinois) is a former American football coach. He was a former head coach of the Buffalo Bills from 2006 until November 2009. Jauron has previously held head coaching positions with the Chicago Bears and, on an interim basis, with the Detroit Lions. Despite initially enjoying success in Chicago where he was named the AP Coach of the Year in 2001 after leading the Bears to a 13-3 record, he has not had a winning season since.”

Now, we’re not about to start endorsing the veracity of Wikipedia as an information source. Frankly, we have always found it sketchy at best. But it’s amazing just how fast the online editor community can write a truthful, and un-PC, epitaph for a despised figure.

It also occurred to us, though, that this is little more than an effort by the good people at 1 Bills Drive to appease a fan base that, like us, has seen its enthusiasm flag. It’s not that we aren’t happy to see Jauron go—surely some prep school someplace is looking for a nice-guy coach who can’t find it in him to lay into his players. (Actually, there’s even a webpage devoted to finding jobs for such people—if someone knows Dick’s email and wants to forward that to him, be our guest.) Rather, though, we’re annoyed that Bills management couldn’t make this tough decision when it mattered.

The 2009-10 season is already a loss for a team that’s 3-6. It’s hard to imagine the Bills now running the table and showing up in the postseason. So, firing Jauron now was little more than an effort to appease us, the fans.

The problem for Ralph Wilson is, it’s going to take a hell of a lot more to revive interest in this franchise.

Good luck with that.

November 17, 2009

Breaking Loose

I don't read the Greater Niagara Newspapers much, simply because their coverage stinks and the writing is so sub par. The GNN papers, which include the Niagara Gazette, the Union Sun & Journal, the Tonawanda News and the Medina Journal do little for me other than another option when the Buffalo News doesn't have a relevant issue covered, which is rare.

So this morning, being a slow news day, I figured I'd take a gander at the Gazette. Lo and behold, there it was, the impetus for today's post.

Our old friend Howard Milstein (not really, I don't have any billionaire friends), has agreed to meet with United States Senator Chuck "Never Get Between Me And A Camera" Schumer and Niagara Falls Mayor Paul "I Got the Hippy Hippy Shakes" Dyster about the hundreds of acres of undeveloped property in the city that Milstein owns.

Now, this is all well and good, and I'm sure all of the parties involved will get a nice little photo op out of the gig. They'll come out smiling, talking about the progress that is being made, Schumer will boast about how interested Milstein is in the revitalization of Niagara Falls and Dyster will stand there looking incompetent, which he does very well.

But Dyster needs a serious reality check before he walks into a room with someone like Milstein. Howard will chew Dyster up and spit him out if he senses one iota of bullshit from Dyster. Which brings me to the disconcerting quote from today's Gazette story, in which Dyster stated, “With development beginning to break loose (in the Falls), we thought it was important to bring Mr. Milstein back.” I'm sorry, what?

Development is beginning to break loose in Niagara Falls? You are talking about the U.S. side of the Falls, correct? Because I see a plethora of development going on across the border, and I want to make sure we're talking about the same city.

Sooooooooo, are we talking the snow park that will be abandoned within a year? Are we talking about Hope VI, the $80,000,000 low-income housing community that is costing $280,000 per unit to construct? Are we talking about the desolate Third Street "entertainment corridor" that I saw a few tumbleweeds blowing through last week? Or do you consider crack houses development? Personally, I don't. And that's probably the one thing Howard Milstein and I have in common. Though I am a better writer.....but he has a nicer plane (ok, I don't have a plane).

When Howard comes into town ( I was going to say comes "back" into town, but I'm not sure he's ever been to Niagara Falls), what's your plan, Paul? What are you going to tell him about this development boon that's beginning? Are you going to tout the culinary institute? That would be a mistake, cuz I got news fer ya - it ain't happening (we'll have more on this at a later date).

Do I want Niagara Falls to succeed? Frankly, I could care less. That old adage of "how Niagara Falls goes, so goes Niagara County" is dead. The city has a 60% poverty rate and a 70% illiteracy rate. Why the hell would we want to follow their lead? The housing is a disaster, the roads are undrivable and there is nowhere to shop. If you want some good Italian food, it's the bomb. Other than that, the city could use a bomb.

So good luck with that meeting, fellas. I'm sure Howard will be wowed at all of the great things happening in the city!

November 13, 2009

Blurring The Lines

After Steve Reiter's thrashing of Fred Newlin in the Lewiston Supervisor race, one issue seems to continue to be the talk of the town, and it centers around a member of the Lewiston-Porter school board. Keep in mind, Lew-Port has had the most dysfunctional board of education in the county over the past few years, and it appears that the shenanigans haven't subsided one bit.

This time it’s board newcomer April Fideli who crossed the line. You’ll remember that April and her running mate, Wendy Swearingen ran a campaign that focused on bringing “an end to the dysfunction and infighting” amongst board members. They were strictly going to focus on the “needs of the children.”

Well all that ended on the eve of the Lewiston Supervisor election , when Mrs. Fideli’s voice was heard in homes all over Lewiston on a political phone call endorsing Fred Newlin as her choice for supervisor.

There were two problems with this phone call – 1. She addressed herself on the call as a member of the Lew-Port Board of Education and 2. – she doesn’t live in Lewiston.

A member of the town GOP committee questioned Fideli via email and received the following response from her:

“I have done a great job looking out for our children's best interest. When I ran to be a school board member no where did it say I had to give up my civic right to be involved with my community. I was in no way using the school board to promote Town Politics . I was simply identifying myself. I never said that I was representing the School District s beliefs, that was your interpretation.(And if this call had been for your candidate, I'm sure you would not have minded at all).

I have done nothing wrong, I stand by MY decision to make the call and you will receive no apology from me.”

April Fideli

Well, you should apologize, April. School board members that I have worked with continuously boast of their belief that school boards and their elections are apolitical. In fact, I've never heard of a school board candidate running on a political party line. There's a reason for that.

If you want to delve into local politics, knock yourself out. But to utilize your position as a member of the school board to attempt to influence the outcome of a race is wrong - and that is exactly what you did when you identified yourself as a member of the school board. Like it or not, when you say that you're a member of the school board in your call, you ARE representing the entire board. If you had simply stated your name without the school board reference, you'd have been fine - but you didn't.

Our sources have informed us that this issue is likely headed to the New York State Department of Education for review - good, it should.

So much for "focusing on the needs of the children", eh April?

November 12, 2009

DelMonte Disingenuous

So New York State Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte is taking a stand against domestic violence. In fact, DelMonte has sponsored the Kari Ann Gorman bill in the Legislature, requiring students in 7th and 12th grades to learn about dating and domestic violence.

What has inspired DelMonte to address this issue that is so pervasive in our society? That would be the actions of New York State Senator Hiram Monserrate, who continues to serve in the Senate, despite the fact that he was convicted of assault after slashing his girlfriend in the face, a wound that required 40 stitches to close.

Monserrate, a Democrat from Queens, has defiantly stated that he will not resign, but he could be removed.

DelMonte is quoted as saying "domestic violence is unacceptable under any circumstance".

The problem for DelMonte is that she's a day late and a dollar short. She jumped on the anti-Monserrate bandwagon long after many of her colleagues in Albany did, making us wonder if DelMonte does truly care about domestic violence and violence against women in general.

After all, she never called out Dan Rivera after he placed his hands on the Lewiston Democratic Committee Chairwoman, in addition to the profanity-filled verbal tirade he directed at her. And where was DelMonte when Rivera accepted $1,000 in political contributions from what was determined to be a sex-slave prostitution ring? Did DelMonte demand that the money be returned? Nope. Did she at least request that a contribution in the amount received from the leaders of the prostitution ring be made to a local women's shelter? No. Not a word out of her.

She was never a leader in calling for the resignation of Monserrate, and she hasn't all of the sudden seen the light of the tragedy of domestic violence. She saw an opportunity to score some political points, and she went for it. Unfortunately, her actions are disingenuous at best and an insult to anyone who's ever been a victim of domestic violence.

November 11, 2009

Adams: Enact Gay Marriage To Honor Veterans

With New York State facing a $3.2 billion deficit, Governor David Paterson called the state legislature back to Albany this week for a special session. The goal of the session was to address the massive hole in the state's budget. The budget was never addressed. Why? Because of gay marriage. In the eyes of Democrats in the Senate, this issue trumps the budget shortfall. This piece from Capitol Confidential illustrates part of the time line in yesterday's failed session.

Instead of debating the Deficit Reduction Package, the Senate Democrats spent the afternoon debating the merits of bringing the gay marriage bill to the floor. Glad to see these folks have their priorities in order. Ultimately, the Senate, because the Dems couldn't come to a consensus on gay marriage, did nothing to address the budget shortfall.

What they did do is spend some time thanking our past and current military personnel for their service to their country. Considering today is Veteran's Day, that is certainly an admirable gesture on their part.

Where the recognitions and accolades went horribly wrong is when Senator Eric Adams (D-Brooklyn), rose to speak. I'll try to encapsulate Adam's comments, but the below YouTube video truly captures the horribly misguided priorities of Adams and his Democratic colleagues in the Senate. In rising to acknowledge the military service of the men and women of this country, Adams stated that there is "no greater honor we can give to our veterans than to ensure that every American regardless of their gender have a right to marry."

I'm sorry, what? There is no greater honor we can give our veterans than the right of gays to marry? Are you completely freaking insane? I mean, forget about the Viet Nam Veteran's Memorial and the World War monuments. I'm not talking about War Memorial Stadium or Veterans Stadium. I'm not even looking at the local parades that are so prevalent throughout the year to celebrate the glorious men and women of this country that have sacrificed so much to ensure our freedom and way of life. Nope, in New York State Senator Eric Adams' delusional mind, we have gay marriage to honor our vets.

I'm not a vet, but family members and friends are or were. To think that this man has the audacity to diminish the service of anyone who ever had the courage to put on the uniform of the United States armed forces in this manner is sickening.

Is gay marriage a topic that is worthy of substantive discussion? Absolutely. But Adams' distorted view of reality does nothing to move that dialogue forward in a productive manner.

In addition, Adams and his Democratic colleagues have sufficiently taken the focus away from the enormous deficit that our state is facing.

Here's an idea for you, Eric: Why don't you honor veterans by simply thanking them for their service.....no strings attached. I know that's not how you do things in your neck of the woods, but I'm confident that even you are capable is showing some human decency - even if you don't mean it.

November 10, 2009

Political Advice For David Paterson

Elected officials don't always have to be politically savvy. It helps, but it's not necessarily a given when running for or holding office. It's quite obvious that Governor David Paterson has little political instinct. Not that this is incredibly shocking to anyone, but what I do find astounding is the political ineptitude of the people he has advising him.

Because I can't bear to see you continue to flounder I'm going to help you out, Dave. Please be assured, this not not because I have any interest in seeing you run for or win the governor's seat next year, but simply because it's painful watching you attempt to force what little political will you have on the Senate and Assembly.

Take for instance this piece from Tom Precious. It begins with "A somber Gov. David A. Paterson on Monday urged a rare joint session of the State Legislature to join him in making the unpopular decisions necessary to erase the state's $3.2 billion budget deficit." No, no, no, Dave. We don't want somber - we want defiant! When the press uses the adjective "somber", it makes people sad - it makes us think we're at a funeral, Dave. Do you want us to think that you are delivering New York State's eulogy?

It's courageous to state that you "will mortgage my political career on this plan, but I will not mortgage the fate of the State of New York", Dave. But you know and I know that there is very little in your plan that puts your political career on the line. You're not calling for tort reform, you're not clamoring for revisions to Wicks Law, Taylor Law or Scaffold Law and you're not pounding the lectern demanding the massive overhaul of Medicaid that is absolutely key to the state getting on a course of fiscal stability.

What you are doing is making suggested "cuts" that do nothing except pass the expenses on to the local governments. That's not reform, Dave, it's cowardice.

But let's get back to the political spin. If you truly are willing to put your political career on the line, use the bully pulpit.

All 212 legislators are up for re-election in less than a year, and they're scared. They know that the people sent a serious message last Tuesday that the status quo is not acceptable. What you need to be doing is using your power of access to the media to start shaming these guys into getting what you need done. If that doesn't work, stand up and tell everyone of them that you will do everything within your power to campaign against any of them that refuse to enact substantive changes and reforms.

At this point, they'd probably laugh at you because, no offense, you have virtually no power at this moment. But this isn't a sprint, Dave, it's a marathon. If you continue to fight the fight against Albany dysfunction, people will come around.

You must be willing to stand up to the public sector unions. The influence they have the ability to wield is significant and relevant, and they have boatloads of money to dump into campaigns.

If you are sincere with your willingness to mortgage your political career, none of this should be difficult. Unfortunately my cynicism has gotten the better of me and I think you'll fall back into the same old routine. Please prove me wrong, Dave - please show me some defiance.

November 9, 2009

Today's Diatribe

Despite my admitted right leanings, I believe that there are members of our society that are underprivileged and need governmental assistance in order to put food on the table. And I do believe that it is the responsibility of government to assist these people in need, at least temporarily.

What I have a problem with is what I witnessed today.

Stopping at a little sandwich stop in downtown Buffalo after a meeting, I found it appalling to see exactly how my tax dollars are used - or should I say misused.

Person after person ran through the single checkout with a bag full of food. We're not talking milk, bread, eggs and the other staples of life, we're talking two, three and four subs each, bags of chips, cookies, candy, sodas and practically any and every other junk food item in the store. Needless to say, other than the heroin and meth addicts next to me, none of these people looked like they had missed a meal anytime recently. Then they each broke out their "benefits card", which is another way of saying welfare.

So who gave these people the right to eat better than I do on MY tax dollars? Again, you're down on your luck, you need some help getting by, that's tolerable - but this is sickening. And it will go on forever. We don't encourage these people to get off of public assistance. In fact, we encourage them to stay on public assistance by allowing such abuses of the system to occur.

And if you're on social services and you abuse the system, meaning you have no intention of ever getting off and you're going to have lotsa babies and make sure they are on welfare their entire lives, let me clue you in on something: NOBODY OWES YOU A GODDAMN THING. Quit being a scourge on society and try to make something of your life. If Obamanation showed us one thing, it's that people of any socio-economic status, race or creed can ascend to the highest office in the country.

Of course, these people that I refer to are where they are partly because of the Democratic party's desire to keep them right where they are. After all, these people are the base of the Democrats voting block. And they can buy them off with vouchers for the local grocery store, or whatever means they deem necessary to get that vote.

Is it any wonder that the Dems control every single statewide office in the state, the Governor's seat, the State Senate and the State Assembly (with a 109-41 majority, no less). And is it any wonder that NYS has BY FAR the single most expensive Medicaid (welfare) program in the country? This is not a coincidence, people! This is how your Democratic elected officials have rigged the system to ensure their survival in NYS for many, many years to come.

Each and every one of us who gets up every day, goes to work and is a productive member of society are paying for it - and it's disgusting.

November 6, 2009

Rivera's Days Numbered

Yesterday we posted the Buffalo News piece detailing the resignation announcement of Niagara County GOP Chairman Henry Wojtsazek. Wojtaszek's success in local elections is unprecedented and he's leaving the organization with an extremely strong foundation that will likely remain intact for many years to come.

His counterpart can hardly say the same.

The era of Niagara County Democratic Chairman Dan Rivera has been an unmitigated disaster. His tenure has been marked by failure, scandal, internal strife and humiliation. His inability to identify issues that would resonate with voters is staggering. Even those of us at Niagara Times have made it a fairly regular pastime to point out the multitude of political deficiencies that Rivera brings to the table, as illustrated here, here, here and, one of my all-time favorite posts, here (it's worth reading again, really!)

But most of all, he just doesn't win elections.

He has failed to make any inroads into the GOP's super-majority in the county legislature, which was especially shocking when the entire country swung Democratic with the Obama wave two years ago. But even after the 2007 elections, he still had the Lewiston Supervisor seat and the North Tonawanda Mayoral seat to claim as Democratic stalwarts.

That changed Tuesday, when NT Mayor Larry Soos and Lewiston Supervisor Fred Newlin were pummeled by Rob Ortt and Steve Reiter, respectively. Apparently those two losses, coupled with the loss of Francine DelMonte's legislative aide Nick Melson to Vince Sandonato in the Fifth LD and no pickups in the county legislature, were enough to draw the fury of other prominent Democrats in the county.

In fact, Delmonte and Rivera are engaged in what can only be described as political warfare because of Rivera's abandoning of Melson in the middle of the campaign, and County Legislator Renae Kimble is openly calling for Rivera to step down as chairman. Since he was duly elected by the committee, he cannot be removed. If other Democrats want Rivera gone, they have to pressure him to resign.

That's exactly what's about to happen.

Niagara Times has learned that local Democratic leaders, other than Rivera, will be convening for a meeting on Saturday in Niagara Falls to discuss the future of their illustrious party leader. It's not going to bode well for Rivera.

Prominent Democrats, lead by DelMonte, have had enough of Rivera and are poised to force his resignation.

Those being mentioned as successors to Rivera include former county coroner Jim Joyce, soon-to-be former county legislator Sean O'Connor and former Assembly candidate Gary Parenti.

The reality is that no matter who steps into the role as Chairman of the Niagara County Democratic Party, the only direction he can take it is up. Maybe pick up a legislature seat here, a council seat there. But the damage done by Rivera will take years to recover from.

For all of his rhetoric and hyperbole, and his labeling of politics as a "blood sport", Rivera showed that he is nothing more than a sheep in wolf's clothing, incapable of effectively leading his party on a local level, or any level for that matter.

November 5, 2009

Wojtaszek To Resign Chairman's Post

The following is the story we were anticipating. Buffalo News political reporter Bob McCarthy's story follows in its entirety:

Henry F. Wojtaszek will resign next week as Niagara County Republican Chairman to return to his private law practice and spend more time with his family. "It's time to get back out there and get back to work, and maybe coach my son's basketball team," Wojtaszek said this morning.

Wojtaszek, 46, has led the Niagara County GOP since 2000. He said today he is leaving after a string of victories in Tuesday's elections, including capturing most offices in the City of North Tonawanda, winning almost all town supervisor posts, and building a 14-to-5 Republican majority in the County Legislature.

He said he leaves at a time when the party "has never been stronger."

"We recruited outstanding candidates at all levels for public office," he said. "Our candidates offered voters ideas for improving our community and then delivered. For that, the voters have consistently given us their support.

"I am most proud of our work at the county level, where voters have elected a Republican majority for four straight elections," he added. "That is proof that running a good government makes for good politics."

Wojtaszek, a North Tonawanda native, said he expects the party will name former Elections Commissioner Michael Norris as the new chairman when it convenes next Thursday in the Wheatfield Community Center. "Mike is an attorney, a great tactician, and very smart," he said.

Wojtaszek leaves the party helm after a bruising and unsuccessful effort to become the new chairman of the state party, losing to Manhattan attorney Edward F. Cox in September. He received substantial support around the state, including from former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

But as Wojtaszek deferred to former state Chairman Joseph N. Mondello of Nassau County, who delayed his decision to step aside, Cox gained overwhelming backing from county chairmen across the state.

Wojtaszek said his defeat has nothing to do with his decision to resign, and everything to do with returning to the Harris Beach law firm he left two months ago to pursue the state chairmanship.

"The time has come to hand the reins off to someone else and pursue some other interests and career goals," he said. "My work with the party takes up a lot of time and energy. My wife and three children have been more than patient with me."

Just A Little Class, Please

We're waiting on a pretty significant announcement this morning. We hope to have a post up related to the announcement within a couple of hours.

In the meantime, let's take a look at the sour grapes from some of Tuesday's losers.

Dave Mongielo, candidate for Town of Lockport Supervisor, was completely classless when he walked into town hall last night and whined like a little girl about losing to incumbent Marc Smith. If that tirade was any indication of what things would have been like under his "leadership", it's a damn good thing the majority of voters in Lockport were smart enough to pound this guy into oblivion.

As opposed to whining, soon-to-be-ex-Supervisor of Wheatfield Tim Demler simply chose to out and out lie about the slimey tactics he used in his run for re-election. Flyers about his opponent supporting moving sex offenders into the Summit Park Mall, spray painting grafitti for his write-in campaign, false robocalls and outright lies marked Demler's campaign. This is on top of the hundreds of dollars we as taxpayers had to fork over to protect the community from the goons on your campaign who are so slimey, Sheriffs Deputies had to be called in to oversee the voting in Wheatfield. You must be so proud of your tactics. Good riddance to this lowlife. Go get a real job for the first time in your life.

Outgoing North Tonawanda Mayor Larry Soos labeled winner Rob Ortt's campaign "all smoke & mirrors". Wow, way to insult the intelligence of 66% of your community. Why don't you just come out and say "the people of North Tonawanda are idiots for voting for Ortt", because that is sure what you insinuated.

Come on, guys, go out with a little dignity.

Again, we're following a significant local political story that we hope to have something concrete on soon. Stay tuned.

November 4, 2009

Election Recap

All I can say is WOW! I don't ever recall such an obliteration of the Niagara County Democratic Party like what occurred last night.

Let's start with the County Legislature. Every single GOP-backed candidate won except Jason Murgia. That surprised no one. Ric Marasco's win in the Primary Election ensured his win last night. The county legislature race that is sending shock waves through the Niagara Dems is the loss by Nick Melson to Vince Sandonato in the 5th LD. Melson, a legislative aide for Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte, was thought to have the resources of DelMonte and Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster behind him. The 23 year-old Sandonato pulled a whopping 56% of the vote. This loss is especially disconcerting to the Dems considering it was held by a Dem for over two decades. DelMonte should be extremely concerned with the prospect of facing off against Sandonato in a few years.

The other race the Niagara Dems were counting in the "Win" column was Chris Perna over Russ Rizzo in the 9th Legislative District, the seat vacated by Andrea McNulty, in the heart of NC Dem Chairman Dan Rivera's home turf. Rizzo won with 55%.

While I'm sure there was some token attempt by the Dems to put up opposition in other Legislature races, the results didn't fair well for their efforts. Butch Farnham pulled 65% in the 7th LD; Bill Ross won with 69% in the 8th LD, Pete Smolinski pulled 57% in the 10th LD; John Ceretto won with 64% in the 12th LD; and in the 15th LD, Tony Nemi won with 61%. Not many close races.

The GOP will maintain its current 14-5 super-majority.

Three other races around the county have devastated the Niagara Dems. In Lewiston, Republican Steve Reiter crushed incumbent Fred Newlin 55% - 39%, in North Tonawanda, Rob Ortt annihilated incumbent Mayor Larry Soos 66% - 34% and in Wheatfield, Bob Cliffe beat Sam Conti 59% - 41%.

The wins in North Tonwanda and Lewiston are crushing defeats of DelMonte. She only had three political allies left in Niagara County, the two who were defeated last night, and Dyster. Yesterday's election leaves her with just Dyster, which is just fine, they deserve each other.

What this means for Rivera remains to be seen. He'll probably remain on as chairman simply because no one wants the job. The GOP is okay with that.

Lastly, hats off to Niagara County GOP Chairman Henry Wojtaszek, he had another phenomenal election - a much better election than Ed Cox.

Oh, one more thing - we at Niagara Times would like to point out that we accurately predicted every race that we had prognosticated last week. In fact, we called Cliffe with 57%, Reiter with 54% & Ortt with 60. They pulled 59%, 55% & 66% respectively. Hey, when you're good, you're good.

November 3, 2009

Election Day

Today is of course Election Day in New York. Please take a few minutes out of your day to vote. Too many Americans have put their lives on the line to allow each and every one of us that privilege.

We'll leave you with these words from a letter sent to Samuel Kercheval, Monticello, July 12, 1816 from Thomas Jefferson.

We must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must make our election between economy and liberty or profusion and servitude. If we run into such debt, as that we must be taxed in our meat and in our drink, in our necessaries and our comforts, in our labors and our amusements, for our calling and our creeds...

[we will] have no time to think, no means of calling our miss-managers to account but be glad to obtain subsistence by hiring ourselves to rivet their chains on the necks of our fellow-sufferers... And this is the tendency of all human governments.

A departure from principle in one instance becomes a precedent for[ another]... till the bulk of society is reduced to be mere automatons of misery... And the fore-horse of this frightful team is public debt. Taxation follows that, and in its train wretchedness and oppression.

Pretty prophetic, Tom.

November 2, 2009

Election Preview II

We began our 2009 Election Preview on Friday with a look at some of the more exciting races in Niagara County. Today we'll lay out our predictions for the contested county legislature races.

District 1 - Richard A. Marasco defeats incumbent Jason Murgia.

District 2 - Renae Kimble is unopposed.

District 3 - Jason Cafarella is unopposed.

District 4 - Incumbent Dennis Virtuoso defeats Mark Onesi.

District 5 - Vince Sandonato defeats Nick Melson in the battle for retiring Sean O'Connor's seat.

District 6 - Danny Sklarski is unopposed.

District 7 - Jerry Farnham defeats challenger Roger Chenez.

District 8 - Incumbent Bill Ross beats Robert Collins.

District 9 - Russ Rizzo defeats Chris Perna in the battle for Andrea McNulty's seat.

District 10 - Incumbent Pete Smolinski beats Katie Rich.

District 11 - Paul Wojtaszek is unopposed.

District 12 - John Ceretto beats challenger Dan Antonucci.

District 13 - Clyde Burmaster is unopposed.

District 14 - Kyle Andrews is unopposed.

District 15 - Incumbent Tony Nemi handles Scott Stopa.

District 16 - Keith McNall is unopposed.

District 17 - Rick Updegrove is unopposed.

District 18 - John Syracuse is unopposed.

District 19 - Mike Hill is unopposed.

The county legislature should come out of this year's elections with the same 14-5 majority for the GOP, meaning no gains for the Dems.

This consistent inability of Niagara County Dem Chairman Dan Rivera to make substantive inroads into the Republican's majority in the legislature, coupled with what will likely be huge losses in North Tonawanda, Lewiston and Wheatfield, could mean the end for Rivera.