October 15, 2010

Friday Ruminations


An item by Niagara Gazette reporter Mark Scheer left us scratching our heads. It seems that, even as Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster prepares to ram through a significant tax hike, his inept police superintendent, John Chella, is looking to add nearly a half-million bucks to his budget.

So, where is all this money going?

Well, according to Chella, it’s going to “fight crime.” (Much like increases in school budgets, which are always going to “teach kids,” increases in police budgets always go to “fight crime.” In both cases, these goals are ostensibly accomplished by expanding payrolls.)

What really got our attention was this paragraph:

One of the department’s biggest challenges remains overtime which has been on the rise in recent years. The department spent $828,000 on overtime in 2008. The number jumped to $1.2 million last year. Through Oct. 1, the department has incurred $1.1 million in overtime costs.

"Challenges," huh? Well...let’s see. In New York State, pension payments are paid out based on the average of the three highest-paid years…and that includes overtime…so, if retiring police officers got more overtime, they could max out their pensions…

Nah, that can’t be it.

It must be all those successful efforts to fight crime in the Falls.

George Washington, He’s Not

We’ve always had mixed feelings on Buffalo School Superintendent James Williams here at Niagara Times. On the one hand, we view him as about as good a schools chief as a place like Buffalo is going to get. On the other hand, we view him as about as good a schools chief as a place like Buffalo is going to get.

You see our dilemma.

We were disappointed, though, when it came out late yesterday that, unlike George Washington, Williams quite can tell a lie. Williams has, as of late, been toeing the union line a lot more closely, particularly on the issue of charter schools—long a burr in the side of public teachers unions. He once spoke very favorably of the institutions, but this fall began to parrot Buffalo teachers union boss Phil Rumore on the subject.

However, his decision to go public with dire predictions of “900 layoffs” if charter schools continued to receive payments they were due sounded a little fishy to us, and it turns out that Williams was saying one thing to Buffalo’s parents and another to the Board of Education—and told two diametrically-opposed things to the two groups in less than 24 hours.

We hope that the Buffalo schools add some classes on the importance of telling the truth to its curriculum next year.

A Worthy Cause

We noted in the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal a notice about the Tony Nemi Sportsman League fundraiser set for Oct. 24. It’s no secret to us that a number of our readers are politically-involved, and this is the season when those folks are asked to open their hearts—and their checkbooks—for the candidacies of any number of would-be politicians. And we salute that kind of hands-on participation in democracy.

But the Tony Nemi League, from our understanding, is one of the best examples of hands-on participation in community around. The League has donated a figure somewhere north of $70,000 over the years to youth athletics in Eastern Niagara County and to Lockport High School’s athletic squads.

The League, incidentally, is not named for County Legislator Tony Nemi, but rather his late father, who was very big into sports. (As, we are told, is the son, who apparently is one of the few people left in Western New York who is still watching the Buffalo Bills.)

This year’s fundraiser is being held at Taboo in downtown Lockport, and tickets are $20 at the door—which includes beer, pop, pizza, and the rest of the standard WNY fare we’ve come to expect at such events. It starts at noon, and attendees will be treated to the Baltimore Ravens' inevitable thrashing of the Bills. But, hey, it’s for a good cause.

Another Worthy Cause

We are pleased to see U.S. District Judge Joseph Arcara’s decision, yesterday, to extend, indefinitely, his stay on New York State collecting taxes on Indian cigarettes.

We’ve long agreed with the tribes on this issue—even as we’ve found many of their tactics in their fight with New York State reprehensible. However, while we don’t know enough about law to weigh the legal merits of Arcara’s decision, which is based on his belief that collection of taxes would result in the loss of jobs at smoke shops (actually, we know a lot about law, and can’t recall that ever being a fully valid reason to stop the enforcement of the law) we are glad for his ruling.

We don’t smoke, but we’re sick of New York State’s war on those who do. And we always felt like they were bullies of the worst sort when they tried to steamroll a handful of Indian smoke shops, especially in light of all that we, as a state and a nation, had done to the Indians over the years.

This is a small, but good, victory for common sense.

Much More Affordable Than Roger Waters

As regular readers know, we’re still nursing a grudge over not being paid highly enough by our boss to be able to afford tickets to last week’s Roger Waters “The Wall” show at the HSBC Arena. That being said, we see that the Seneca Allegany Casino is offering up a decent fall-back options.

The Black Crowes, who we admit to having listened to more than a few times in our misspent youth, will play the Salamanca casino tomorrow night, and there are still plenty of good—and reasonably-priced—seats left.

While you’re deciding whether to buy tickets, we’ll leave you with this classic from the Crowes:

See you Monday.

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