December 30, 2010

Union Thugs

News in this morning's New York Post basically validates everything we've ever said about creepy, thuggish public sector unions and their slimy bosses:

Selfish Sanitation Department bosses from the snow-slammed outer boroughs ordered their drivers to snarl the blizzard cleanup to protest budget cuts -- a disastrous move that turned streets into a minefield for emergency-services vehicles, The Post has learned.

Miles of roads stretching from as north as Whitestone, Queens, to the south shore of Staten Island still remained treacherously unplowed last night because of the shameless job action, several sources and a city lawmaker said, which was over a raft of demotions, attrition and budget cuts.

"They sent a message to the rest of the city that these particular labor issues are more important," said City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Queens), who was visited yesterday by a group of guilt-ridden sanitation workers who confessed the shameless plot.

Halloran said he met with three plow workers from the Sanitation Department -- and two Department of Transportation supervisors who were on loan -- at his office after he was flooded with irate calls from constituents.

The snitches "didn't want to be identified because they were afraid of retaliation," Halloran said. "They were told [by supervisors] to take off routes [and] not do the plowing of some of the major arteries in a timely manner. They were told to make the mayor pay for the layoffs, the reductions in rank for the supervisors, shrinking the rolls of the rank-and-file."

New York's Strongest used a variety of tactics to drag out the plowing process -- and pad overtime checks -- which included keeping plows slightly higher than the roadways and skipping over streets along their routes, the sources said.

The result of these thuggish tactics?

Well, headlines like this:

Woman Waits 30 Hours for Ambulance in Blizzard


Death of Newborn Baby Among Several Blizzard Tragedies as City is Accused of 'Dropping the Ball'

and, of course, this delightful video:

December 29, 2010

Riester Leaves Pendleton Residents Under Water

The failure of Pendleton Supervisor Jim Riester to protect the financial interests of residents of his town isn’t exactly news to those of us who’ve been watching the badly-flawed efforts by federal FEMA bureaucrats to force more area residents to buy costly federal flood insurance, but it is a lesson in the value of good local leadership.

In Lockport, Supervisor Marc Smith, a smart businessman who understands the danger of costly government mandates, immediately moved to hire an engineering firm to challenge FEMA’s efforts—and ultimately protected many Lockport residents from being forced to buy the costly insurance. In Wheatfield, the battle was even more direct, with anti-FEMA signs dotting the roadways and engineering consultants challenging FEMA parcel-for-parcel.

In Pendleton, Riester did little, publicly, to challenge FEMA, even as 2009 Republican supervisor candidate Dave Leible was trying to sound the alarm on this issue. This was a time to commit town resources to fight a menace facing hundreds of town families, and Riester looked the other way. Marc Smith, Bob Cliffe, and yes, even Tim Demler were visible in this fight. Honestly, this morning is the first time we’ve even seen Riester acknowledge there was a problem.

Worse still, it appears that FEMA used maps more than 20 years out of date to decide who should be socked with a flood insurance bill—all while Riester was publicly silent.

And now, the fruits of Riester’s non-labor are in full bloom: 330 Pendleton families will be socked with flood insurance bills from the federal government—bills that will average those families $150 a month.

Today, Pendleton’s families are learning the hard way that elections have consequences.

December 28, 2010

Obama to Bo: Drop Dead

Sometimes, life hands you a news story that would have seemed a bit ridiculous even in the hallowed pages of The Onion.

And so it was last night, when we encountered this article in Politico, which we reproduce in full because, well, because it makes Barack Obama calling the Cambridge, Mass. police "stupid" seem downright politically smart by comparison:


By Karin Tanabe

Everyone deserves a second chance was President Barack Obama’s message when he called Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie last week to congratulate him and the team for giving quarterback Michael Vick a take two.

NBC’s Peter King reported the call during “Football Night in America” on Sunday.

“I talked to Jeffrey Lurie, the owner of the Eagles this week, and he said he was surprised to pick up the phone one day and Barack Obama calls him to praise the Philadelphia Eagles for signing Vick and giving him a second chance,” King said from NBC’s Rockefeller Plaza studios. “Lurie told me that the president was passionate about the fact that it’s rarely a level playing field for prisoners once they leave jail. And he said the message was, what the Eagles had done with Vick was important for society,” said King.

A spokesman for the Eagles confirmed to POLITICO that King’s statement was accurate.

King later tweeted, “Yes, Obama called Eagle owner Jeffrey Lurie to praise the Eagles for giving Vick a chance. Said too many prisoners never get fair 2d chance.”

Vick signed on as the Eagles quarterback following an 21-month stint in prison and two months in home confinement after being convicted of running a dog-fighting ring in Virginia.

While some are praising Obama for reaching out and making a statement about the stigma former prisoners often face, others argue that Obama’s call came more than a year too late, since Vick was picked up by the Eagles in August 2009. Now that Vick is playing well and enjoying a resurgence in popularity, the timing of the call could be deemed safe.

Obama may have had nothing but love for the Eagles last week, but Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell felt differently on Sunday when he told FOX 29 News that he was fuming over the postponement of the Eagles-Vikings game due to snow. "I think it is a joke," said the governor of the NFL’s decision to cancel. "This is no way, shape or form a blizzard!"

FOX 29 reported that “In the end, more than 12 inches of snow fell in Philadelphia with wind gusts over 40 miles per hour.” The game has been rescheduled for Tuesday.

Update: The Huffington Post reported on Monday that it connected with White House spokesman Bill Burton about Obama's phone call, and Burton issued the following statement:

"The President did place a call to Mr. Lurie to discuss plans for the use of alternative energy at Lincoln Financial Field, during which they spoke about that and other issues. He of course condemns the crimes that Michael Vick was convicted of but, as he's said previously, he does think that individuals who have paid for their crimes should have an opportunity to contribute to society again."

Really? We mean, look, we're all for reformed criminals being allowed to return to society, but somehow we think the average guy who gets convicted of the sick shit Michael Vick was convicted of won't be in line for a multi-million-dollar contract. So, this is kind of insane.

Reading this latest insanity from the White House, we can't help but wonder what First Dog Bo must think. And, come to think of it, it's pretty damn stupid politically. Last time we checked, there were a lot more dog lovers out there who vote than convicted felons.

Some weeks ago, when Rush Limbaugh called the president a "jackass," it became a minor kerfuffle, something that one doesn't say about the Commander in Chief. We're starting to really agree with Limbaugh.

December 27, 2010

One Helluva War Story

We had really expected to blog today about Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster's whining and, frankly, humiliating interview about the departure of his economic development czar, Peter Kay. We found lines like this one to be hysterical:

Dyster praised Kay’s dedication. “It’s very gracious of him to continue working through this week,” the mayor said. “He’s trying hard to make sure the transition moves smoothly.”

But it’s a transition to—what? Dyster said he met with City Administrator Donna D. Owens and other municipal officials to discuss who could take over the city’s Office of Economic Development and under what circumstances. He said they have yet to come up with an answer.

Ah, yes, Kay is collecting the final days of his bloated, six-figure salary out of "graciousness."

Still, we honestly were more drawn to another article in the Buffalo News, and think that many of you will find it a much more fascinating study in will power than the ministrations of Dyster, Owens & Co.

A story of World War II bravery, it reads like a Hollywood script, like something out of U-571:

Ditcher’s most memorable honor, which earned him the Bronze Star, took place on dry land in Japan.

As the war was coming to end and most of the enemy’s ships had been sunk or docked in port, the number of targets had been drastically reduced.

“There really weren’t many targets, so the skipper decided to blow up a train. We’d been in an area off Japan for several days, and every night we saw a train go by. The skipper sent six of us out on a raft with machine guns and explosives.

“We left the submarine at midnight July 22, 1945, and we were on the raft maybe 10 or 15 minutes before we made land. We felt edgy because as we went through people’s backyards to get to the train trestle, dogs started barking. That was the last thing we expected.

“When we got to the edge of the trestle, a couple of the guys dug under the tracks and set the explosives, so that when the train came by, it would push the rail down and ignite. The rest us served as lookouts...”

Which kind of puts Dyster's travails in perspective, doesn't it?

December 22, 2010

Merry Christmas

With Christmas nearly upon us, we're going to take a few days off. We'd like to wish each of you a very Merry Christmas. We'll leave you with the below video, which has had over eight million hits on Youtube. Talk to you next week.

December 21, 2010

Niagara Fails, New York

With the race for Mayor of Niagara Falls already begun, we're going to hear all the buzzwords for the next 11 1/2 months: taxes, economic development, jobs, responsibility, accountability, leadership, experience, etc, etc, etc.

Everyone focuses on the how bad the economy is in the city, including us, but maybe there's a deeper problem. Maybe the absolute culture of corruption that has permeated every aspect of the city over the past 50 years lies at the heart of the city's inability to crawl out of its hole.

Anyone who has even an inkling of the city's history knows that it is filled with a vast array of problems. Strangely, it seems that officials in the city think that if they ignore their history, it will go away. Even current one-term mayor Paul Dyster, in his re-election announcement, condemned those who would look to the city's past and not its future. As the famous saying goes, "Those who do not learn from the past are condemned to repeat it". If people like Dyster refuse to acknowledge the city's past, how can they learn from it? Sadly, they can't.

Yesterday's sentencing of former mayor Vince Anello for filing false statements, though far from the worst offense in the city's crooked history, is just another black eye on a community that can never seem to get out of its own way.

What bothers me the most is that no one from within the city says a word about it. Where is Dyster? Where are the members of the City Council? Do they truly believe that this does not reflect on them? Granted, Anello skated on the more serious charges, but people must be reassured that corruption is being addressed and the city is taking steps to ensure that the highest of ethical standards will be demanded of all city officials.

Unfortunately, it appears that it's easier to talk about how great things are going; how the city is turning the corner; how now only 85% of Third Street is boarded up; how a train station is going to revitalize the city. Denial ain't just a river in Egypt, boys.

December 20, 2010

"The Day of Reckoning"

It's funny...when you talk to members of public sector unions, you've either got to be with them or your against them. Considering that we regularly tee off on them, I guess it's safe to say we're against them. But we're not against them as people - I'm sure they're very nice on an individual basis. What we have a problem with is the never-ending sense of entitlement that they collectively have.

They're never willing to budge an inch in negotiations. Even locally, I can recall when the county legislature asked the unions for $600,000 in concessions in order to keep Mt. View open. Not only did they refuse to come up with the $600k, which essentially amounted to a two-year wage freeze, they came back with an offer that required an even greater subsidy from the county. Subsequently, as we all know, Mt. View closed and 200 union jobs went with it. The only ones who caused Mt. View to close were members of the union leadership who failed to properly represent their employees.

Across the country, public sector unions are putting local and state governments on the verge of bankruptcy. Within New York State, the Empire Center estimates the New York State and Local Retirement Systems are $71 billion short of what is needed to fund pension obligations, while the state retirement system for teachers has a funding shortfall of $49 billion.

If you think this isn't affecting you, you're dead wrong. In Niagara County, the tax rate is going up 1.9% in 2011. That equates to about $1.5 million. This year alone, Niagara County's contribution to the state's pension is increasing $3 million, for a total of $11 million for 2011.

Local governments are being forced to subsidize an out of control and unsustainable pension system. Why? Because state officials have been unwilling to challenge the all-mighty public sector unions and their lavish benefit packages. To make matters worse, state pension costs are expected to double over the next five years. You and I will be paying that bill.

We are talking billions of dollars. Now, I understand that because Obama tosses around the term "billions" like it's nothing, the word has been severely watered-down. But the reality is that these dollar amounts are staggering. If states don't start getting a handle on them, local governments, after taxing homeowners right out of their homes, will face bankruptcy.

The below video from last night's 60 Minutes is entitled "The Day of Reckoning". It talks about the the costs associated with public sector unions and the inability or unwillingness of states to deal with them, as well as the future ramifications of not addressing the impending disaster. It is an amazing segment that is well worth your time.

December 17, 2010

BREAKING: We're Just Wild About Larry

A hearty Niagara Times congratulations to former North Tonawanda Mayor Larry Soos, who, sources inside Niagara County's government tell us, will be starting his highly-anticipated patronage gig at the Niagara County Board of Elections on Monday.

This is, of course, a big promotion for Larry, who has spent the past 11 months begging, desperately, for patronage somewhere, anywhere. Regular readers of this blog know that back in August, Larry was knocking on NYPA Boss Richie Kessel's door in the hopes of landing a low-level patronage job at the Power Authority. We are told that NYPA brass found Larry, um, lacking. It seems that one Democratic appointee at the Authority even insinuated he doubted whether Soos was equipped to be the agency's shoe-shine boy.

And, apparently the image of one their former top officials begging for the opportunity to shine Richie Kessel's shoes was too much for some Niagara Democrats to stomach. So, odious Democrat Party Chair Dan Rivera leaned on Democrat Elections Commissioner Nancy Smith to end Soos' humiliation.

Anyway, congratulations to Larry Soos. His new gig comes just in time for the holidays.

But remember, Larry, Nancy Smith likes to be able to see her own reflection in her shoes. And she wants two coats of polish on the pumps. Get busy.

Florida School Board Shooting

By now, you've likely seen the below video of the shooting at a Florida school board meeting. If you haven't, prepare yourself - it is shocking. Thankfully, none of the board members were injured; at least not physically. The gunman ultimately took his own life after being wounded by a school security resource officer.

December 16, 2010

Cafarella Plan To Slash NF Library Funds Nixed

People who know me have often said that I'm too analytical. They're probably right, but I'll need some time to thoroughly scrutinize that statement. Nevertheless, I do try to look for the little things that often get overlooked in a bigger picture.

Take for instance yesterday's piece in the Union Sun. Now, I didn't watch the recent county legislature meeting at which they voted on the 2011 budget, so I can only go by the media reports. In the US&J report, Joyce Miles did an excellent job of encapsulating the key components of the budget debate and its subsequent vote.

What caught my eye was the debate about funding literacy training for the Niagara Falls Library through NIOGA. Granted this is a minuscule portion of the $310 million budget, but it's worth noting that Niagara Falls Legislator Jason Cafarella sought a 5% reduction in that line item.

Now, we've repeatedly written about the woes of Niagara Falls. Poverty is sky high and unemployment is even higher. Much of the city's woes can be directly attributed to the fact that a significant portion of the city is uneducated, or simply put, illiterate. The last thing the city needs is a reduction in programs that can help people find jobs. The fact that this budget cut recommendation came from a legislator elected to represent the people of Niagara Falls is pretty astounding.

Personally, I don't get the logic. I've tried to evaluate the move from every possible perspective, and I'm not seeing it. It's certainly not politically prudent for Cafarella to advocate cutting literacy programs in a community as downtrodden as Niagara Falls. If there's some logical rationale behind the move, I'd love for someone to enlighten me as to what it is. Then again, maybe I'm just being overly analytical.

December 15, 2010

Random Thoughts

It's always satisfying to see the old saying "karma is a bitch" at work. In 2008, Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte removed then-Lewiston Village Mayor Dick Soluri from the Greenway Commission, a committee that Soluri loved serving on, purely out of spite. On January 1st, Soluri will be serving the people of the 12th Legislative District while DelMonte tries to find her place in the world.

The Niagara Falls City Council cut the salary of the city's economic development director Peter Kay from $100,000 a year to $1 a year. He's worth every penny of it.

Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada released a 34-page taxpayer-funded report detailing all of the great things he did while serving in that capacity. Oh, he was also indicted on federal embezzlement and theft charges for stealing money from health clinics that he runs in the Bronx to fund his lavish lifestyle. Gives new meaning to the term "robbing Peter to pay Pedro".

Barry Obama pledged to eliminate earmarks throughout the 2008 presidential campaign. Yesterday, Senate Dems presented a bill to Republicans that contains $1.1 billion in earmarks. Harry Reid called the bill "a very good piece of legislation" and vowed to fight for its passage. I'd actually like to see it pass the Senate just to see what Obama does with it when it's time for him to sign it.

Matt Damon is a douchebag. This video of him lobbying for the New York arm of ACORN, otherwise known as the Working Families Party, makes me want to punch him in his smug little face. Stick to your bad movies and bad accents and stay the hell out of New York. He fell 16,293 votes short of having to don the Yankees cap - as if anyone who has a life actually gives a shit.

In a move likely to send shockwaves across the country, we're going to give kudos to outgoing State Senator Antoine Thompson. At one point, the Niagara Gazette criticized Thompson for not conceding the race. Not only has he conceded, we hear that he's scheduled to meet with Mark Grisanti to facilitate the transition. The problem is, not once has the Gazette called out DelMonte for never calling John Ceretto or at least conceding the race. Come on, guys - a little consistency please.

Kudos to board member Johnny Destino for trying to break through the army of incompetents who've run the Niagara Falls school district into the ground for decades. As the Gazette reported, "the hiring practices of the Niagara Falls School District have constantly been called to question with more than two dozen immediate relatives of (Superintendent Cynthia) Bianco, her brother and former Superintendent Carmen Granto and five school board members currently employed by the school district." The sickening sense of entitlement that these people have makes public sector unions look grateful. And they will contend to their graves that they were only acting in the best interests of the district.

Lastly, while it's not exactly right for the season, we'd like to share this card that a reader sent along. I suppose this could be a collector's item since Thompson, and taxpayers, will no longer be footing the bill for this sickening waste of our money. Having never received one almost makes regret never having lived in Niagara Falls. Okay, maybe not.

December 14, 2010

Cuomo vs. Unions - Round One

Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo is saying all the right things when it comes to property taxes. He has vowed to implement a two-percent property tax cap, recognizing the fact that the burden of taxes in the state is crushing homeowners and is the single biggest impediment to private sector investment within the state. Cuomo is so intent on enacting a tax cap that he is using his leftover campaign funds to wage a public relations battle against the unions that oppose such a cap.

Make no mistake about it - this will be no easy task. While the new Republican-controlled State Senate will likely go along with it, the Sheldon Silver-led State Assembly will balk at the idea. Cuomo will also have to fight the onslaught of unions and special interest groups that will surely come out in full force to oppose the proposal.

Case in point, yesterday's statement by the New York State School Boards Association. "The long-term health of our state demands limitations on the growth of taxes and a sound educational system," said NYSSBA Executive Director Timothy Kremer in a statement. "But a hard tax cap would clearly threaten the quality of public education by forcing drastic cuts in classroom teachers and academic programs."

The long-term health of our state demands a sound educational system? The long-term health of our state demands that our elected officials get their collective heads out of their asses and start addressing the crushing tax burden. If they don't, this state will be filled with welfare recipients who don't contribute a dime to society, while those of us who don't feel the government owes us a living get the hell out.

And what "sound educational system" is this guy talking about? New York spent $17,173 per student for public education in 2007-08, more than any other state and 67% above the national average. SIXTY-SEVEN PERCENT!

$14.8 billion worth of property taxes went to education that year. Despite the state's massive spending, New York consistently fails to crack the top ten in performance. What's even more disturbing is the assertion that more spending will equate to better results. "The Report Card on American Education clearly shows there is no correlation between educational dollars spent and student achievement in our traditional public school system," said Andrew T. LeFevre, author of the report and executive director of the REACH Foundation. "At some point, state policymakers must ask themselves if more of the same is going to produce a different result."

I think we've reached that point.

The one thing that the NYSSBA does have right is that there must be a reduction in spending if there's going to be a tax cap. Unfortunately, this is New York. The concept of reducing spending is as far-fetched as a Beatles reunion. That being said, we're going to continue to hold out hope for Cuomo's tax cap plan. While we'd rather see him advocating for a reduction in taxes as opposed to just a cap, we understand the dynamics of Albany. Nevertheless, it will not be dull watching him battle the very unions and special interest groups that supported his candidacy.

December 13, 2010

The Power & Danger of Iconography

Since I took a marketing class in college, I've always been fascinated with the concept of branding. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, branding is defined as "the promoting of a product or service by identifying it with a particular brand". We know the companies and their brands just by looking at a logo - Nike, Polo, Pepsi, Marlboro, Budweiser, Mercedes Benz - we can identify any of them by their respective logos. In politics, we've never seen a better job of branding than Obama did two years ago with his "O".

The below video provides a fascinating analysis of the branding of Obama, in 2008 through today, analyzing both the positive and negative effects of the branding. Whether you're interested in politics or business, this video is worth the eight minutes.

December 10, 2010

Lee Gets Ways & Means

We'd like to congratulate Congressman Chris Lee on his appointment to the House Ways & Means Committee yesterday. Ways & Means is the very powerful committee that writes U.S. tax law, laws on trade, Medicare, Social Security and unemployment benefits.

In just his second term, Lee continues to impress. He has shown an excellent ability to familiarize himself with the complexities of his position, while articulating the issues to his constituency in a clear and concise manner. His ascension in such a short time has been no accident. He possesses the rare combination of private sector experience and strong political acumen that we need more of at all levels of government. That combination has been both recognized and rewarded by his colleagues in Congress.

As New York continues to lose population, and thus seats in Congress, it is imperative that we in Western New York have a strong voice in Washington advocating on our behalf, especially when you see things like this, which highlight just how ineffective Louise Slaughter and Brian Higgins are for New York. We're confident that Lee will be that voice, especially as his star continues to rise in D.C.

December 9, 2010

Maybe a Peter Kay Countdown Clock?

Now that County Manager Greg Lewis has moved on, we have been thinking about others who might qualify as addition by subtraction....meaning their departure from our community actually helps make things better. We think Niagara Falls Economic Development Guru....ok, we're laughing out loud as we write that phrase... Peter Kay might qualify.

Kay earns a fat six-figure salary and has absolutely nothing to show for it. When Dyster talks about the two hotels being renovated as an accomplishment, he forgets that he and Peter Kay fought the NCIDA package of incentives that were critical to making it happen.

When Dyster highlights the Cordish donation of the mall that makes the NCCC Culinary School a possibility, he conveniently forgets that he had nothing to do with it. Cordish hated the city, and as we recall, talks with the city on the Rainbow Center fell apart. It was NCCC President Jim Klyczek who resurrected this by talking Cordish into donating the mall to the NCCC foundation. No one needed Peter Kay to make that happen.

Quite frankly, we think the NF Council has it right when they eliminated funding for Peter Kay's job, as they did last year as well. Hopefully, they'll have the gumption to override the Mayor's veto, unlike last year.

Hmm...maybe Peter Kay's job should be de-funded but he should spend the next year working gratis. After all, he has earned hundreds of thousands of taxpayers dollars do nothing, so he probably owes the community a little something.

Then again, let's dust off that countdown's time to for Peter Kay to join Greg Lewis as nothing more than a bad memory on the scrap heap of local history.

December 8, 2010

Parker Faces Jail Time

You remember the State Senate's Chief Thug, Democrat Kevin Parker. He was the one who refused to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, called Governor Paterson a "coke-sniffing, staff-banging" governor, openly supported former state senator turned slasher Hiram Monserrate, compared the Tea Party movement to the KKK, punched a traffic ticket agent, underwent court-ordered anger management and lashed out at colleague John DeFrancisco with a racial tirade.

Now the law has caught up with Parker.

Yesterday he was convicted of two misdemeanor counts of criminal mischief after being charged with beating up a NY Post reporter. Of course, Parker didn't just toss a few punches; he beat the crap out of the photog, tore the door off his car, destroyed the interior of the vehicle and broke the photographer's finger. Being the sociopath that he is, Parker probably wears the conviction as a badge of honor.

It will be very interesting to see how the Senate deals with Parker. Having already set a precedent with the expulsion of Monserrate after he plead guilty to slashing his girlfriend's face, one would think that Parker would face the same discipline. Unfortunately, Senate Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson is already backtracking, stating that there is no comparison between violence against a woman and violence towards a man.

Senator Ruben Diaz, formerly a close ally of Monserrate, opposed his expulsion to the end. He now expects Parker to receive the same punishment from the Senate that Monserrate did, and rightfully so.

I'm going out on a limb right now and saying that Diaz flips to the GOP conference, if they'll have him, if Parker doesn't get the boot. The racial divides run so deep within the Democratic Conference that Diaz will split-off if equivalent punishment is not levied. Carl Kruger, the only Dem to hold a Chairmanship the last time the GOP held the majority, may join him.

Of course, what would a Kevin Parker post be without the below video of Parker showing just what an ignorant prick he is. I still get goosebumps watching Jim Wright giving Parker a verbal beatdown on the floor of the Senate. The only surprise with the video is that Parker didn't get up from his chair, walk up to Wright and punch him square in the face. Of course, we don't know what happened once the cameras were turned off.

Parker, who faces two years in prison, will be sentenced on January 27th. He easily won re-election in November, defeating his opponent 35,426 to 5,950.

December 7, 2010

Edwards Must Be Part Of State GOP's Future

One aspect of this year's elections that hasn't been closely analyzed is the performance of former Lieutenant Governor candidate and current Chautauqua County Executive Greg Edwards.

As you recall, Edwards was initially the running mate of Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio while Tom Ognibene was the running mate of GOP gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino. On Primary Day, Paladino overwhelmingly took the GOP nomination while Edwards won the Lieutenant Governor primary. This dynamic created what was ultimately the Paladino/Edwards ticket.

But the showing of Edwards cannot be underestimated. Despite the massive Paladino wave, the voters rejected Paladino's running mate and chose Edwards. By the numbers, Paladino won the Primary Election with 295,336 votes to Lazio's 184,348. That's a margin of 110,000 votes, a spread that most thought would have been more than sufficient to carry Ognibene to victory - but it wasn't. Edwards won the state with 227,093 votes to Ognibene's 202,081. Interestingly, Edwards won New York City 20,175 to 18,550 over Ognibene. Conversely, Lazio won New York City 24,538 to 19,649 over Paladino. Edwards also won areas outside of New York City 206,918 to 183,531.

What this means is that voters find Edwards very appealing. At 50 years-old, he is a relative political newcomer, winning his first county executive race in 2005 against a two-term incumbent and re-election in 2009. He has quickly developed a reputation as a politically astute and professional executive who's built a solid political organization.

More importantly, he has positioned himself as someone who must be factored into the discussion when the Republican Party in New York State analyzes its future. Look...we've said it before and we'll say it again: Ed Cox is not the right person to lead the GOP. He failed miserably at the statewide elections while trying to take credit for regional wins that he had nothing to do with; these are not the characteristics of an effective leader.

Edwards is someone who's shown that he can raise money, deliver a message that resonates with voters across the state and, most importantly to the state GOP, build the necessary consensus and unity that has been so glaringly absent in the recent past. The New York State Republican Party would be well served to welcome Edwards into the organization - let's hope they're able to put their petty internal squabbling aside for the betterment of the party by welcoming him.

December 6, 2010

Paul Dyster: Rebuilding Niagara Falls' Image

When a local municipality is featured prominently in a national publication with a large readership, you expect local media to pick up on it.

That’s why we were a bit surprised that local media seemed to be AWOL in reporting on BusinessWeek’s fantastic article about Niagara Falls and its mayor. The article, a brutal—and lengthy—exposé of life in Niagara County’s own Third World hellhole, read like an indictment. That the article's title was "The Fall of Niagara Falls" indicates just how bad a shellacking Dyster's Dystopia takes throughout.

We got a kick out of the article's first few paragraphs: Niagara Falls Reporter editor Mike Hudson—arguably the best journalist in Niagara County, and certainly among the most talented in all of Western New York—gave an unabashed analysis of life in the Falls, calling the Cataract City “a godforsaken place” and “a slum.”

Frankly, we didn’t think the article could get any better than that. Boy, were we wrong.

One of our favorite sentences in the entire article had to be this one:

"Precisely because the community was so excited by the promise of an enormous amount of development over a decade ago, I think today many people in our community feel let down by their inability to build something," said the city's mayor, Paul Dyster.

Let’s see, you’ve been mayor for three years…and you’re still blaming who for the failure of your city to move forward? Vince Anello? Irene Elia? Jim Galie???

But Dyster was just getting started:

"One of the things that I said that I would do as mayor would be to try and rebuild the city's image," Dyster said, "and to be a mayor that the people of the city wouldn't be ashamed of."

Let’s see by a show of hands how many people think he succeeded on either count. Dyster seems to think that by not currently being under investigation by the FBI, he's truly accomplished something. Meanwhile, only a lunatic, or Ric Marasco, would say that the image of Niagara Falls has improved in the last three years.

Of course, the article isn’t entirely snarky about Dyster; in fact, it devotes several paragraphs to extolling his background as a professor and the fact he has yet to be indicted. But, despite that, perhaps the best line in the entire story—aside from “godforsaken place”—is that uttered by indefatigable Hudson, poking a lethal hole in any efforts to inflate Dyster: "He's a wonk, for sure, but he hasn't produced any results."

Honestly, we couldn’t have said it better ourselves, so we won’t even bother to try.

December 3, 2010

Tonko's Twisted Diatribe

Congressman Paul Tonko (D-Albany) needs a serious reality check. In this op-ed, Tonko asks the question, "where are the jobs"? The problem is, he's asking it of former President George W. Bush. I've got a little secret for freshman Congressman Tonko: GWB isn't the President anymore - hasn't been for two years now. The President is Barack Hussein Obama.

Now, I'm not defending Bush. He did some good things and he did some bad things. As someone who voted for him, I am man enough to acknowledge this. That being said, this continual blaming of Bush as the reason for the country's woes is sickeningly pathetic. Obama has had two years to enact his own policies. I take responsibility for my President's failures and successes, Tonko should learn to do the same.

When Obama was running, he promised Hope & Change. Millions of people bought this garbage. They didn't ask for specifics or action plans, they simply believed. Now that their savior has proven to be an unmitigated disaster, they are scrambling to deflect attention away from him. Thus we get moronic propaganda pieces like the one from Tonko.

This would be the same Paul Tonko that spent 24 years in the New York State Assembly, from 1983-2007. He presided over the most dysfunctional state government in the country during a two-decade era of massive decline in the state's prosperity. Obviously he's well qualified to speak about governmental failures.

Tonko's misdirected diatribe reminds me of the scene in Silence of the Lambs when, after Hannibal Lecter verbally dissects Clarice Starling's psyche, Starling retorts, "You see a lot, Dr. Lecter. But are you strong enough to point that high-powered perception at yourself? How about it...? Look at yourself and write down the truth. Or maybe you're afraid to".

How about it, Paul...are you strong enough?

December 2, 2010


Okay, one more Twan post. Purely for entertainment purposes, take a few minutes to follow this link to audio which features some of AnTron Thompson's best/worst sound bites put to music. Simply priceless.

December 1, 2010

Thompson Reluctantly Concedes

Senator Mark Grisanti - DAMN that has a nice ring to it!

In case you missed it, outgoing Senator Antoine Thompson threw in the towel yesterday on his silly attempt to drag out the election for the 60th Senate District. Of course, Thompson went out just as we expected - classless. Not once did he even acknowledge Grisanti, let alone congratulate him on the win.

One can only assume that Thompson begrudgingly ended the recount farce. With the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee facing a $2.4 million debt from this year's elections, the well had run dry for Twan. In addition, while we know that Thompson had $147,000 left in his campaign coffers at the time of his last campaign finance disclosure report, we don't know what he has in there as of today since he failed to meet the deadline for the legally-required filing of campaign finance disclosure reports. Thompson simply couldn't afford to continue to pay for lawyers and DSCC doesn't have the cash to continue to litigate the outcome.

Thompson now lives with the fact that he was on the losing end of one of the greatest upsets in New York politics. He also lives with knowing that because of his incompetence and arrogance, Democrats lose control of the Senate. The ramifications of this loss will reverberate throughout this state for the next 10 years.

I'll say what Thompson was incapable of: congratulations to Mark Grisanti and his team for a great race and a great win. We're confident that Grisanti will be a true voice for Western New York. His statement that he will vote in the best interests of WNY regardless of who sponsors the legislation is what we're most enthusiastic about. Too bad that Twan never understood that concept (see UB2020).

And while some say that we're purely partisan in eschewing the virtues of the GOP, we've always said that representing the interests of Upstate New York is not about parties, but about Upstate vs. Downstate. With Grisanti in the 60th and the GOP back in control of the Senate, Upstate will once again have the representation that has been so lacking.

November 30, 2010

"I Don't Do Freakin' Exit Interviews"

Today, of course, is the last work day of outgoing County Manager Greg Lewis. Now, here at Niagara Times, this is not, despite rumors to the contrary, a day of celebration. No, we view today as a day of mourning.

We’re mourning the passing of a giant—the man who guaranteed us comedy material on a regular basis. Even when he said nothing, he managed to do so in a way that kept us—and you, our Dear Readers—rolling in the aisles.

But Greg, being the kind of guy he is, saw fit to leave us all with one of his howlers on the way out—a gesture we both respect and appreciate. You see, when the dean of the Niagara County press corps, Tom Prohaska, approached him last week for his parting thoughts, Greg was—well, Greg was Greg:

Still looking for his next job, he declined to be interviewed for this retrospective.

“I don’t do any freakin’ exit interviews,” Lewis said. “I’m a man of the future, not the past.”

That’s vintage Greg Lewis, right there: “I don’t do any freakin’ exit interviews.”

Of course, the problem with Lewis was, any time he wanted to push an agenda contra the one being advocated by the elected Legislature, Lewis was all too happy to talk to the press. It’s only when such communications required a certain grace that Greg could never be found.

But Greg’s exit interview didn’t require grace, or even delicacy. Heck, this was his big chance to sound off on all the bogeymen he regularly complained to county department heads about: Sen. George Maziarz, County Legislators Rick Updegrove, Tony Nemi, Keith McNall, Vince Sandonato, and John Syracuse (all of whom he denounced to department heads by name at one time or another), the clerk of the Legislature, the county auditor, County Attorney Claude Joerg (who he once forbade department heads to talk to), the county public information officer, various Maziarz staffers, County Treasurer Kyle Andrews, North Tonawanda Mayor Rob Ortt, and the latest burr in his side, Assemblyman-elect John Ceretto—not to mention a certain blogger, whom, we’ll note, Prohaska was kind enough to cite in his article. Every last individual on this list, reliable sources tell us, was derided by name by Lewis at meetings with his little band of loyalist department heads, a group he called “the A Team.”

And yet, given this opportunity by Prohaska to connect all the dots and show the evil conspiracy against his grand vision, Lewis fell mute. Why?

Well, we’re pretty confident the Man of the Future no doubt would have much to say, if it weren’t for the fact that Prohaska very bluntly assessed: Lewis’ next job hasn’t exactly landed in his lap yet. So, rather than leave with a bang, he leaves with a whimper. Prospective employers might be turned off reading in print the things Lewis said out loud so many times before.

It’s a pity, really. It would have been one very entertaining piece of copy, the Man of the Future’s freakin’ exit interview.

November 29, 2010

Virtuoso Takes On County Unions

To this day, it boggles my mind how Niagara County Legislator Dennis Virtuoso continues to get a free ride from the county unions. This guy has been the biggest anti-union Democrat in the county legislature that I can recall. It started with his hiring of outgoing county manager Greg Lewis, and continues to this day with his recent statements about the county budget.

In this Buffalo News piece, which details the legislature's challenge of closing a $4 million budget gap stemming from huge increases in the county's mandated Medicaid and state pension contributions, Virtuoso states, "I’m certainly not going to vote for a tax increase. The people of Niagara County can’t afford it. We’re going to have to make some serious cuts".

Serious cuts. Virtuoso is like the Bill Murray character in Groundhog Day. Every year he comes to the table with his pathetic political posturing, seeking cuts in positions like the legislature clerk, the conflicts attorneys (who were hired because of a judicial mandate) and the county auditor.

For the sake of argument, let's say these positions are eliminated or reduced. The auditor and the clerk are about $100k. You can't dump the conflict attorneys, you can only reduce them. Although anyone with half a brain knows that reducing the number of conflict attorneys will actually increase county costs, let's say we find some magical way to save $100k on conflict attorneys. That leaves the county with a $3.8 million budget shortfall.

Virtuoso said that we need to make "serious cuts" and that he is "certainly not going to vote for a tax increase". The county is facing a $6.9 million increase in Medicaid and state pension costs this year alone. That's not the total, that this year's increase. Considering that 79% of the county's budget is mandated, and that the single biggest variable that is under the control of the legislature is personnel, Virtuoso's threats of needing to make "serious cuts" and his vow not to vote for a tax increase leaves one option: personnel cuts.

Because he is incapable of keeping his piehole shut, Virtuoso's tough stance puts him in a real bind. If he insists on enacting these alleged "serious cuts", he can only do it by screwing the county unions; if he refuses to vote for a tax increase, he screws the unions. The only way he appeases the unions is to support a tax increase - thus the predicament.

It will be interesting to see how he attempts to manipulate his way out of this one - and if the unions continue to give him a free pass after he sticks it to them once again.

November 26, 2010

DelMonte's Job Hunt

For the past two weeks, we've been sitting on a rumor that outgoing Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte had been appointed to a $90,000/year job with the New York Power Authority. We haven't run it because, despite multiple attempts, we have been unable to confirm it.

Now we've learned that she has her sights set somewhat higher.

Sources have told Niagara Times that DelMonte has been involved in discussions with state officials to assume the position of President of USA Niagara Development Corporation. There's just one problem: that job is currently held by Chris Schoepflin. Odds are that Schoepflin is not quite ready to vacate the position.

According to their website, USA Niagara Development Corporation, a subsidiary of Empire State Development Corporation, is solely dedicated to the support and promotion of economic development initiatives in Niagara Falls by leveraging private investment and encouraging growth and renewal of the tourism industry in the City of Niagara Falls.

I think we can all agree that USA Niagara has completely failed at their mission. Schoepflin, during his tenure there, has not created a single private-sector job. He's also pulling in a hefty six-figure salary. The opportunity to make good for Niagara Falls while maintaining some relevance with a nice paycheck is very appealing to DelMonte.

Historically, DelMonte has had a decent relationship with USA Niagara and Schoepflin. But she is still very, very bitter about her loss, and she is not going to allow anyone to stand in the way of the desperately needed redemption that she seeks.

Make no mistake about it, DelMonte will be taken care of with a job. It's just a matter of where and when.

November 25, 2010

So Much To Be Thankful For

It's Thanksgiving Day, a time to reflect upon our lives and to appreciate just how well off must of us are. Of course, when you bring family together, toss in some bird and add some football, it makes for a great day. It's also important on this day to thank the men and women who are serving our country both near and abroad for their military service.

Personally, I'm thankful for so many things; a great family, terrific friends, good health, a job I love, a nice house and all of the fixings. Of course, I'm thankful for those things every day. It's a few other things this Thanksgiving Day that I am thankful for, things that will never occur in unison again.

When you think about it, it's somewhat astounding. Within a few short weeks, we will no longer say any of the following: Niagara County Manager Greg Lewis, New York State Senator Antoine Thompson and New York State Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte.

In case you haven't noticed, the Greg Lewis countdown clock has just five days left. Although we could spend hours rehashing his disastrous seven-year stint in Niagara County, we're just going to say "peace out, Greg".

What can we say about Twan and Fran? It's been a helluva ride watching these two screw Niagara County time and time again. The fact that the voters are kicking them to the curb should make them look inside themselves to analyze the people they became during their time in office, not blame anyone and everyone around them for their losses.

This Thanksgiving Day, we at Niagara Times are thankful that the Niagara County Legislature had the foresight to deny Lewis another contract and we're thankful that the people of the 138th Assembly District and 60th Senate District said "enough is enough" and voted out Thompson and DelMonte. Onward and upward to better days in Niagara County.

November 24, 2010

Where's Pauldo?

Each year, the Buffalo Niagara Partnership hosts an event to launch their Regional Agenda. This document is a collaboration between Erie County, Niagara County and the cities of Buffalo and Niagara Falls. It identifies the top economic development priorities of the region and outlines the rationale for moving forward with each of them.

The Buffalo Niagara Partnership is the leading business advocacy organization in Western New York, with over 2,500 employer members. They lobby elected officials at every level in an effort to keep Western New York relevant in a state that is more concerned with taking our assets and resources away from us.

So one has to wonder why Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster, for the second year in a row, saw fit to snub the BNP at the unveiling of their 2011 Regional Agenda earlier this week. Leaders from all of the other entities that contributed to the compilation were there. Chris Collins from Erie County, Bill Ross from Niagara County and Byron Brown from the City of Buffalo all understood the importance of this event. Not Dyster, he skipped it - again.

One truly has to wonder where Dyster's priorities are. Obviously with DelMonte and Thompson gone, he does not have a single political ally left in Albany. You would think that he would be willing to show just a little bit of respect for one of the few organizations that actually takes Niagara Falls seriously and is willing to lobby on behalf of the city. Apparently that is too much to ask of him.

With Dyster at the helm, the city will continue on its path to oblivion. Thankfully, the election for mayor is less than 12 months away. In the meantime, we'd like to alert all citizens to keep an eye out for Dyster. He may be right under your nose.

November 23, 2010

Twan Begs For Bucks

Speaking of Senator Antoine Thompson, we're going to do our second favorite do-nothing, outgoing state legislator (Francine DelMonte will always be number one in our hearts) a favor.

It seems that Twan is a few bucks short on cash. Despite the fact that he spent more time fundraising during his time in office than actually working for the betterment of this state and his constituency, Thompson is appealing to everyone and anyone he can to muster up more bucks from to keep his overpaid, albeit ineffective, lawyers employed through his Quixotic attempt to change the outcome of his Senate race.

In fact, Twan recently sent out the following email solicitation to quite a number of individuals, organizations, PACs and special interest groups:

From: Antoine Thompson []
Sent: Monday, November 15, 2010 4:57 PM
Subject: Request for A Critical Contribution


I am reaching out to you in hopes of your support. There is an aggressive recount underway for my re-election to the State Senate. Recounts require the mobilization of staff, volunteers, and lawyers to ensure that every vote is counted. This is very close race with more thousands of absentee and affadavit ballots must be counted. Your contribution will make a huge difference. Please contribute today online at or Supporters of Antoine Thompson, P.O. Box 714, Buffalo, NY 14201.

Antoine M. Thompson
Senator, 60th District

Reply Form
Name_____________________________ Company__________________________
Address________________________ City ____________ State ___ Zip _________
Phone _________________ Fax ___________ Email __________

Please contribute online at: or by mail
Supporters of Antoine Thompson, P.O. Box 714, Buffalo, NY 14201

Where do I begin? The spelling errors? The grammatical missteps? How about the outright butchering of the English language? I would be absolutely mortified if my name was attached to such a communication. For Christ's sake, hit the damn "spell check" button before you send it out!

Anyways, Twan is still needin' a few bucks. I truly hope that this communication serves as reason not to send a dime to this moron. I hope he and DelMonte are very happy together in irrelevance.

November 22, 2010

Today's Post is Sponsored by the Number 951...

...and the letter "Duh."

Calling Antoine Thompson the dumbest member of the New York State Senate is like calling the Pope the most noteworthy Catholic. It's kinda pointless after a while.

Still, we ask you, our readers, to ponder something: Had Antoine Thompson manned up and conceded on Election Night, he'd be remembered as having lost a squeaker, less than 500 votes.

Now, though, incoming Senator Mark Grisanti's lead has swelled to 951. He's closing in on a 1,000-vote margin of victory.

And the longer Antoine delays, the worse it gets. It's almost like Karma.

Keep fighting the inevitable, jackass.

November 19, 2010

November 18, 2010

Glick Criticism Of Schroeder Off-Base

I don't know who Assemblywoman Deborah Glick is, and frankly I don't care. What I do know is that her assertion that the Assembly cares about the "big 5 Cities" shows just how ignorant she is.

In this piece from Capital Confidential, Glick has the audacity to criticize Buffalo Assemblyman Mark Schroeder, her Democratic colleague in the lower house, for Schroeder's demand of Assembly Leader Sheldon Silver to pay more attention to Western New York.

Schroeder is doing what any good elected official should do: look out for the best interests of his constituents. She is the one who needs to shut her big pie hole and get off of Schroeder's back.

Schroeder is rightfully pissed off that Silver and his downstate minions killed UB2020 and SUNY Empowerment, and he called Silver out on it. Glick responded with "I don't understand how you (Schroeder) can mischaracterize those issues as being ignored. We engaged in several Democratic Conferences, which you attended, where these items were very thoroughly discussed."

These items were thoroughly discussed? I suppose that must be some type of rationalization for killing UB2020 - they "discussed" it.

It also exposes just how out of touch Glick is with the real world. Here in the private sector, we don't try to pass off "discussions" as productivity. We need to show results. Although, maybe I'll try that tomorrow - maybe when my client asks me how things are moving forward on an issue he needs resolved, I'll tell him that I discussed it, but didn't actually accomplish anything. I'm thinking he'd likely go Trump on me.

The most disgraceful aspect of Glick's actions is sending this communication to every member of the Assembly. If she truly felt this way, she should have taken her concerns to Schroeder directly and addressed them with him privately. The fact that she attempted to humiliate and intimidate Schroeder in front of his colleagues is truly shameful. Unfortunately, this is the power that Silver wields. That being said, don't shed a tear for Glick - there is no doubt that she will be handsomely rewarded for her loyalty to Silver - and for doing his dirty work for him.

November 17, 2010

Bidding Us Adieu

We were as surprised as most yesterday morning when we read of Niagara County Manager Greg Lewis’ final budget, which includes a 5.4% tax hike for county residents. We would have commented yesterday, but we wanted to make a few discrete inquiries to friends in county government.

First off, we will accept the premise that this year’s budget environment is tougher than years past. That being said, after speaking with several sources in county government, we are confident that Majority Caucus lawmakers will be able to drop Lewis’ proposed tax hike significantly. Our contacts are sounding a note of caution about eliminating the tax increase all together, which they warm could hamper future years’ budgets, but they reassured us that Lewis has left plenty of stones unturned.

We’ll leave it to you, our readers, to decide if this is a kiss-off by a soon-to-be-former employee of the county, angered at not being offered a new contract, or if this is just, as Lewis asserted, a consequence of mismanagement by Albany’s bureaucrats.

November 16, 2010

Rizzo v. Verizon

Welcome to the spotlight, Mary Ann Rizzo of Amherst, NY. In case you missed it, Rizzo has filed a lawsuit to block the construction of a $4.5 billion Verizon data center in Somerset.

Now, we're not going to spend a whole lot of time on this one. But have you ever wondered why Western New York has such a difficult time attracting and retaining employers? Yes, there are stifling taxes and burdensome regulations, but you'll find that across New York. Still, businesses invest billions of dollars in this state every year - but not in our region.

Now we have a company that is willing to invest in our community, creating hundreds of permanent employment opportunities and thousands of construction jobs, and one woman is going to try to stop it because it will block the view of Lake Ontario from a piece of property that she doesn't even live in. Brilliant. By the way, this same property that Rizzo claims will lose value if this project is completed also houses the AES coal-burning plant - hardly Utopia.

While there has been much discussion on the investment asked of local and state development agencies to make this project happen, make no mistake about it: this project is good for Niagara County. Our region has lagged behind other parts of the state and country when it comes to the economic recovery.

With companies like Edwards Vacuum, Globe Metals, Yahoo! and Verizon investing in Niagara, we are finally taking advantage of our two greatest natural resources, hydropower and fresh water. Let's hope our other greatest resource, our people, don't stand in the way of much-needed economic development.

November 15, 2010

DelMonte Recruits Restaino

On October 14th, Tom Prohaska of the Buffalo News wrote a very interesting article about the refusal of certain Niagara Falls Democrats to publicly support either Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte or her primary challenger John Accardo after their ugly primary, which Accardo won.

Post-primary, Prohaska attempted to reach Mayor Paul Dyster, City Council Chairman Samuel Fruscione, County Legislator Minority Leader Dennis Virtuoso and County Legislators Jason Cafarella and Renae Kimble for their respective positions on who they will be supporting in the General Election, Accardo or DelMonte. Virtuoso and Cafarella were non-committal and Kimble was supporting Accardo. Dyster and Fruscione didn't respond to Prohaska and never publicly declared who they'd be supporting.

Dyster made his position on the 60th Senate District clear, as he endorsed Antoine Thompson. With DelMonte, however, his position was much more ambiguous. He had DelMonte's yard sign up, he had her sign down. He dodged the question. Maybe he figured no one would notice. Therein lies what's become a big problem for the county Dems. Someone did notice - DelMonte. And she is mighty pissed.

Not one to sit idly by while her supposed friends abandon her, whether they're right or wrong doesn't matter, DelMonte has set her sights on Dyster.

Sources have told Niagara Times that DelMonte has had multiple conversations with former Niagara Falls Judge Bob Restaino in an effort to persuade Restaino to run against Dyster, who is up for re-election in less than 12 months. Remember that it was Restaino, before Accardo, who gave significant consideration to running against DelMonte. Once Restaino did DelMonte the favor of bowing out, Accardo jumped in. (As a side note, how do you think Bobby is feeling about that decision these days?)

Frankly, it makes perfect sense; DelMonte is a vindictive witch who is wild with anger and wanting revenge, Dyster is vulnerable and Restaino could win. The fact that it will inevitably divide the hell out of the county Dems doesn't matter to DelMonte.

Stay tuned - this one is bound to get very interesting.

November 12, 2010

Protesters Unite Against Taxpayers

In politics, especially during campaign season, we get inundated with messages from challengers and incumbents alike of their intentions to reduce taxes and cut spending. I'm sure the vast majority of them are well-intentioned, but the reality is that very few are successful in their efforts to cut spending.

The reason local, county, state and federal governments are so hesitant to make the necessary cuts was made abundantly clear in this Buffalo News piece, which focused on Erie County Executive Chris Collins' correct attempt to prioritize county spending. I know this statement will come as a shock to some, but government cannot be all things to all people. The role of government, at least on the county level, is to provide core services to the residents of that county.

In this case, Collins is proposing to cut funding to all but 10 cultural agencies in the county and reduce the county's subsidy to public libraries by $4 million. His efforts to control spending and not raise taxes were greeted with hundreds of protesters, including those below (from the Buffalo News):

Collins understands the role of government and he understands how the seemingly unending burden of taxes negatively impacts both residents and businesses, and he's trying to do his part to control county taxes. No matter what he proposes to cut, he's gonna piss someone or some group off. Therein lies the problem.

These groups and organizations have become so reliant on the taxpayer's subsidy of them, via the county, that they expect it. If they don't get it, they raise holy hell. Most elected officials will then run for the hills because a public protest is too much for them to handle. That's why we see protests like the one above. Fortunately for the taxpayers, Collins is not going to be threatened or intimidated.

There are hundreds of groups asking for money, yet they each serve a minute fraction of our community. While I'm sure they serve a purpose, it is not the role of government to ensure their existence. Let's hope Collins sticks to his guns and the rest of the county legislature backs him. After all, if we're serious about addressing the region's tax burden, difficult decisions must be made.

November 11, 2010

What Today is All About

We doubt we will ever see a photo that captures what today is all about so poignantly as this one, snapped six years ago in Dallas, Texas.

Pictured are Pearl Harbor survivor Houston James and Iraq War survivor Staff Sgt. Mark Graunke Jr. Graunke was a member of an ordnance disposal team who lost his left hand, his left eye,his right leg, and the thumb and forefinger from his right hand while attempting to defuse a bomb in Iraq in 2003. James, on the other hand, still clearly bore the psychological wounds of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor all those years later.

Incidentally, for those who care to look beyond this stunning photograph, a bit more about James' experiences in Oahu on Dec. 7, 1941 can be found here:

“I thought every one of those airplanes over Ford Island was personally trying to seek me out. I was trying to time my runs between buildings to get down to the hangar between airplanes flying over me,” James says. “I was scared to death.”

We don't think calling this two men heroes is at all a stretch. But we suspect they'd settle for a simpler word, like "comrades."

Today, here at Niagara Times, we offer a respectful bow of the head, the closest thing we can offer to a much-deserved salute, not just to Graunke and James, but to veterans everywhere, so many of whom gave all for their country—so that we wouldn't have to.

November 10, 2010

Schroeder Stands Tall

Buffalo Assemblyman Mark Schroeder is a man on an island. Yesterday, he once again stated that he will not support Manhattanite Sheldon Silver for Assembly Leader. From our perspective, we love it. Schroeder has shown that he will not be intimidated into making a decision that he knows is bad for Western New York and New York State as a whole.

Hand-delivering a letter to Silver's office stating his intention, Schroeder stated in a press release:
"In a disastrous, scandal ridden year for state government, it has become obvious that Upstate New York has no voice in the Capitol."
"When another late budget was finalized without UB2020 and SUNY Empowerment, it became abundantly clear that those of us who live north of New York City have no say in how we are governed, and have no power to save our struggling cities."
"It is impossible for me to support Silver for another term as speaker if the needs and priorities of my constituents, and millions of New Yorkers across Upstate, continue to be ignored. This is an opportunity for the speaker to demonstrate that he is genuinely serious about addressing the issues that are plaguing Upstate New York."

Outstanding, Mark. We just wish you had some company. Where are the other Western New York Democrats in standing with you in your fight to bring proper representation to our region? Sam Hoyt, Crystal Peoples, Robin Schimminger and Dennis Gabryszak all represent Western New York as Democrats in the Assembly (DelMonte, not so much, though she surely would have rubber-stamped Silver's retention of power and stranglehold on New York as one of the "three men in a room"). What do you see that they are incapable of? Don't they also believe that Western New York is getting short-changed?

Of course, there are those who will say that Schroeder will be punished through the multitude of mechanisms that Silver has in place to penalize anyone who would dare to question his leadership. That's okay, Mark. While the size of your office is somewhat relevant in the Albany culture, there are things that are much more important - like honor, integrity and standing up for what you believe in.

There are people in Western New York who believe in what Schroeder is fighting for, even if his own Democratic colleagues in the Assembly don't. It's too bad that they refuse to put the interests of this community above all else. Then again, the voters just put Hoyt, Peoples, Schimminger and Gabryszak right back into office. Who's really to blame?

November 9, 2010

Conservatives, WFP Movin' on Up...

There’s a nasty battle brewing between two minor parties: the Independence Party, product of Tom Golisano’s past runs for high office, and the Working Families Party, which is little more than a ballot line for the union bosses—and a corrupt organization under investigation, at that.

The latest figures from the Working Families camp shows the left-wing party a little more than 2,000 votes ahead of the Independence Party in votes cast on its line in last Tuesday’s elections.

Why is this important?

Because in New York State, the number of votes cast for governor determine, first, if a party gets a permanent spot on the ballot for four years, and second, where the party is positioned.

If the 2,000-vote lead holds, the Working Families Party will leapfrog ahead of the Independence Party on the ballot, giving them Row D and dropping the Independence Party to Row E.

Incidentally, a very good piece of news in all of this: the New York State Conservative Party positive crushed its third-party rivals, winning well over 200,000 votes in Tuesday’s elections. (This is no doubt a reflection of the Tea Party movement, Carl Paladino’s run, and massive support for the line in Erie, Niagara, and Nassau counties.) This gives the Conservatives Row C, which they held for decades before losing the row to the Independence Party a few years back.

These lines will have significant implications in future electoral contests. Consider the importance that the Working Families line played in the 138th Assembly District race this year.

Stay tuned.

November 8, 2010

State GOP Could Learn Much From Niagara

While the Republican Party enjoyed a multitude of regional successes across New York, statewide GOP candidates fared much worse. In fact, not a single statewide Republican candidate won last Tuesday. Now, I understand the huge Democratic overlay in the state, but that's an unacceptable excuse. Republicans won in areas that the concept of electing a Republican was once as inconceivable as the Cubs winning the World Series.

I have subsequently heard a multitude of excuses for the failures of the statewide ticket, but they're garbage. It wasn't voter apathy and it wasn't Carl Paladino's comments. It was the failure of state GOP Chairman Ed Cox to properly lead the organization.

From his misguided attempt to get his kid elected, to his drafting of a Dem to run for governor, to his absolute failure to raise sufficient funds for statewide races, Cox has been an unmitigated disaster.

What I find most bothersome is how quick he is to take credit for Tuesday's regional wins, while refusing to acknowledge any responsibility for the same night's statewide losses. These are not the actions of a man of honor. A man of honor is humble in victory and learns from defeat. I'm not saying that one must accept defeat, but you must learn from it. Cox won't learn from it because he hasn't acknowledged any responsibility for it.

What Tuesday night's outcomes do tell us is that the Niagara County Republican Committee is unequivocally the best Republican organization in the state. Every single statewide GOP candidate in New York won Niagara County on Election Day. And yes, there are more Democrats than Republicans in Niagara County.

The win by Republican John Ceretto over incumbent Francine DelMonte in the 138th Assembly race was an amazing win, but it pales in comparison to the impending defeat of Antoine Thompson at the hands of Mark Grisanti. Political pundits have said that a win by Grisanti would go down as one of the greatest political upsets in the state's history. While this race was a fantastic collaboration between the Erie and Niagara County GOP organizations, this win, if/when it is confirmed, is due to an absolute thumping of Thompson in Niagara.

The credit for that goes to the entire GOP organization in Niagara. From Chairman Mike Norris, to the town & city chairs and committeepersons to all of the volunteers, this is a motivated and impactful organization.

In addition to Tuesday's regional wins and strong showings for statewide candidates, the Niagara GOP already has an unprecedented 15 of 19 county legislature seats, 11 of 12 town supervisors and two of three mayors. That is simply astounding in this state. That level of continued success doesn't happen by accident or luck. Of course, Cox & Co. will likely downplay the local GOP's success, passing it off as, "Oh, it's just Niagara County". Well, winning is winning, a concept Cox is painfully unfamiliar with. Winning is contagious. Obviously for Cox, so is losing.

Another person that deserves much credit for Niagara GOP's years of successes, and Tuesday night's phenomenal showing, is Henry Wojtaszek. Although he turned the reins of the party over to Norris earlier this year, after nine years as Chairman, Wojtaszek remains an integral part of the Niagara County GOP organization. He and Norris form the best one-two combo in the state. All they do is win elections - and they do it with honor.

November 5, 2010

Friday Ruminations

Thompson Effort at Electoral Theft Despicable

News that defeated 60th District Senator Antoine Thompson is planning courtroom shenanigans to invalidate the election that ousted him is disconcerting to anyone who believes in the democratic process.

It’s doubly disconcerting, though, to those of us who know Antoine. We could rehash all the ridiculousness of the past year—Thompson’s efforts to “find jobs” in Jamaica, his personal enrichment from the AEG scandal, his making taxpayers pay for a 102-page campaign mailer/coffee table book, his making taxpayers pay for birthday cards for his constituents

But what really galls us, more than anything, is that even before absentee ballots that most observers expect to break for Grisanti are counted, Thompson trails by 598 votes. That would be a difficult deficit for anyone to overcome with just 2,500 absentee ballots out. But to us, the really galling thing, is knowing that Antoine Thompson can’t count to 598—and still, is intent on paralyzing the state government in a pathetic effort to hang onto a job he was hired from.

Three Cheers for Updegrove

This blog has never been particularly impressed by the Niagara County Community College’s proposed Culinary Arts Institute, and we remain skeptical. Frankly, we worry that the college will be flooding an already-saturated labor market—hospitality and cuisine—with well-trained, but underemployed workers.

All that being said, we acknowledge that the project is likely to move forward, and in light of that, we hope it succeeds at all of its goals.

Despite our misgivings, however, we must applaud the Majority Leader of the County Legislature, Rick Updegrove of Lockport. Local media missed it, but watching the recap of Wednesday night’s meeting on LCTV, we got a chuckle out of Updegrove’s grilling of NCCC President James Klyczek, Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster, and USA Niagara Development Corp. President Chris Schoepflin. The trio essentially gave away the farm to secure the County Legislature’s blessing to build the institute, with Dyster and Schoepflin vowing that Niagara Falls would take over maintenance of the Rainbow Centre Mall—and its decrepit parking ramp “in perpetuity” and that the city would surrender any and all sales tax revenues raised in the mall, which county taxpayers now essentially own, to county coffers.

Not a bad outing for Updegrove, who, as we’ve noted before, is reputed to be a pretty good lawyer in his day job. And not such a good outing for Dyster, who, as we’ve noted before, is reputed to be Niagara Falls’ mayor in his day job.

Who Ya Gonna Call?

We’ve always admired and respected the governance that Town of Niagara Supervisor Steve Richards has brought that once-dysfunctional town over the past two decades.

But we never knew about his unusual hobby.

For those of you who missed it in the white-hot heat of Election Day, Richards is an amateur ghost-hunter. Rather than delve too far into the story, we just offer it up here for your entertainment.

Don’t cross the streams, Steve.

An Idea We Can Endorse

We read this morning that outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is thinking about staying on—both as a Member of Congress and as leader of her party.

Given our own general preference for Republican-leaning policies, we think this is a fantastic idea.

While we’re at it, may we also suggest that Niagara County Democrats follow Pelosi’s lead and keep Dan Rivera around, too?

Salt in the Wound

We know that we should be offering soothing, conciliatory words to our Democratic brethren after their annihilation at the polls.

And yet, we found this video clip from an old Bob Hope movie far more pertinent:

See you Monday.

November 4, 2010

Election Day Re-Cap II

Because we presented a not-so-thorough analysis of Tuesday's election returns yesterday, we're going to take a bit further look at the results from a couple of races.

First off, the 138th Assembly District. The race, which featured a three-way contest between John Ceretto, John Accardo and Francine DelMonte, ended with Ceretto winning with just over 45% of the vote and DelMonte finishing a distant third with about 20% of the vote.

In the 138th, there are 97 election districts. Of the 97 districts, DelMonte won exactly zero. Despite the fact that this race was an overwhelming rejection of DelMonte and her failure to properly represent the the people of Niagara County in Albany, she has shown that she is incapable of understanding why she was annihilated Tuesday.

In fact, her post-election comments show what a vindictive, angry woman she is. While it is customary for an election loser to call the winner to express congratulations, DelMonte articulated to the press, "Voters in Niagara County decided in my race to go from effective representation to ineffective representation. That should bother people." Ineffective representation? He hasn't even taken office yet! Who the hell are you to say that he will be ineffective? Did you look into your crystal ball, witch?

In the days leading up to Election Day, she showed her true colors. In an interview with the Niagara Gazette, she repeatedly referred to Accardo and Ceretto as "idiots". Ceretto has a Masters degree and Accardo owns and runs a very successful insurance agency; DelMonte has worked in Albany for 30 years. As if the repeated use of the adjective wasn't offensive enough, these comments show how classless she is.

She did robocalls in the days leading up to the election slandering Accardo, knowing full well that her statements were false. And her conduct at the Niagara Falls Block Club debate was utterly reprehensible. (As a side note, the failure of the debate moderator to properly maintain decorum was disgraceful.)

In the end, DelMonte was soundly rejected by the voters of the 138th. They saw her for what she is and voted accordingly. In fact, she lost her base, Niagara Falls. For her to think that she will be back in two years is laughable. Of course, when you spend your entire adult life sucking off the public teet, as she has, it's not surprising that her first thought is that she will be back. After all, the thought of actually having to take her sorry ass out into the private sector to make a living has got to be an inconceivable thought for her.

A final note on this race: since the results of this race came in, DelMonte has repeatedly blamed Accardo for her loss. The reason? Because he challenged her in the Primary Election. I find it truly disgusting that her sense of entitlement to this seat is so great that she would have the audacity to criticize Accardo for running against her. It is incredibly unfortunate that DelMonte hates democracy and the right of any individual to run for public office.

The other race that we'd like to take a further look at is the 60th Senate District, where incumbent Antoine Thompson is currently down to challenger Mark Grisanti by about 500 votes.

This race is the epitome of being caught off-guard. You can chalk that up to one thing: Thompson's arrogance. His failure to empathize with voter anger is astounding. He has repeatedly been the face of Albany incompetence and dysfunction. But his arrogance, in a district in which Dems outnumber Republicans by 85,000, is the reason why he will find his ass out on the streets come January 1st.

His sickening attempts to justify actions that cost the taxpayers of his district millions of dollars would have been comical if they weren't so offensive. From his trip to Jamaica to spur economic development initiatives to his spending millions of taxpayer dollars to promote himself, he has been an unmitigated disaster.

Most recently, he spent most of the same Block Club debate bashing Sen. George Maziarz, instead of focusing on the issues that are important to his constituency. The theory of bashing an incumbent senator like Maziarz, who consistently maintains an amazingly high approval rating of 70, shows what a moron Thompson is.

In fact, Thompson went as far during the debate to assert, in attempt to demean Maziarz and prop himself up, that "there is a new sheriff in town". Yes there is, Antoine - and his name is Mark Grisanti.

I hope you and DelMonte are very happy together in the unemployment line.

November 3, 2010

November 1, 2010

Election Eve Ruminations

Those Who Know Her Best…

As Niagara Falls Reporter Editor Mike Hudson is
fond of pointing out, once upon a time Francine DelMonte was a young cub reporter for the Niagara Gazette. Hudson often attributes DelMonte’s frequent past kid-glove treatment by that publication to her former-employee status; given Hudson’s uncanny record of gaining accurate insights into all things Niagara Falls, we won’t second-guess his wisdom here.

That’s why this weekend was positively delicious for those of us who’ve long viewed DelMonte as a spiteful harridan whose tenure in office has done more harm than good to the very people she swore an oath to represent. First, on Saturday, the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal chose to endorse Republican John Ceretto in the 138th Assembly District; then, on Sunday, the Gazette chose to endorse Democrat John Accardo.

We’re not ones to keep score, but we’re pretty sure that means Francine went 0-2. It’s almost as if
Chan Gailey were her campaign manager.

In all seriousness, though, this shouldn’t surprise anyone. The Gazette and the Union-Sun have very different readerships, varied by geography, dominant political composition, ethnic backgrounds, and employment sectors. That they would break over Ceretto and Accardo is not a surprise to us. But what is a welcome development here is that both newspapers agree on one very simple point: for whatever problems ail us, here in Western New York, Francine DelMonte is not the answer.

As the Union-Sun put it, in their endorsement of Ceretto: “We want lawmakers representing us who have the stomach for cutting taxes and have the wisdom to build bipartisan support for better government. Ceretto has the temperament, ideas and experience to make a difference in Albany.”

Indeed, that requirement is the antithesis of anything DelMonte has to offer. From her
shameful performance at a debate last week where a group of her last remaining political allies showed up to heckle Ceretto—who stoically ran their gauntlet and stared her down over issues and substance—and her earlier display of derision for Accardo, who left in disgust and anger, DelMonte came across as the politician who long ago earned the moniker “Wicked Witch of Western New York.”

We never dreamed it would be the editorial writers at her hometown newspaper—and former employer—who threw the bucket of water on her.

Surf’s Up

Ever since last fall, when the Tea Partiers arrived on the scene to protest Washington’s obsession with controlling our lives and picking our pockets, it’s been apparent to us that the Democrats were going to take some pretty heavy incoming fire this election.

We had no idea, though, until sometime in September, that the GOP tidal wave would be so massive.

Gallup, the prestigious polling firm, has a model for Tuesday night’s elections that promises to be positively catastrophic for the Democrats, and will ensure the end of Nancy Pelosi’s political career. Perhaps even more damning, the Politico has a story that says top Democrat operatives are now speaking in terms of massive losses, with GOP gains well past the 60-seat mark. shows the House completely lost for the Democrats and a lot of seats still in play, meaning the size of the GOP’s win is the only question mark. Political prognosticators Larry Sabato and Charlie Cook are offering similarly grim predictions for the Dems.

Add to that the truly exceptional mathematical model over at—one of our absolute favorite websites—that says the same, and the only question going into Tuesday is how many more Dems will be swept away when the wave comes crashing ashore.

Wilson on the Cusp

While Democrats will likely retain the governorship of the State of New York, continuing the successful policies of Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson in the person of Andrew M. Cuomo, there is reason to be optimistic about one race: the battle for New York State’s comptroller job.

This job, which has been performed dismally by the unqualified Sheldon Silver-backed appointee, Tom DiNapoli, for nearly four years, is crucial. Among other things, the comptroller manages the state’s pension fund—something DiNapoli has done extremely poorly.

A spate of Wilson endorsements by newspapers across New York State that don’t normally tend to break for Republicans, including
The New York Times, the Buffalo News, the Syracuse Post-Standard, and the Albany Times Union, has made this contest interesting—and unusual.

Now, a
Siena Poll shows the race all tied up and the incumbent Democrat well below 50%. Given Siena’s pro-Democrat polling bias, we have to believe this is a good sign for Wilson, and frankly, it’s a good sign for a healthy democracy.

Harry Wilson is one of the most qualified candidates running for any office anywhere on Tuesday, and we wish him well. We hope that, like us, you’ll give him your vote.

Man is Not Free, Unless Government is Limited

Tuesday is a time for choosing—and there have been other such points in American history. The battle, as always, is the same: a choice between government bowing to our will, or we the people bowing to the government’s.

We leave you with Ronald Reagan’s stirring words:

See you at the polls.