August 31, 2010

How'd All That Work Out, Antoine?

If Sen. Antoine Thompson fails in his bid for re-election (which's he's "very committed to"), we're truly going to miss him here at Niagara Times. The Buffalo Democrat is the political gift that keeps on giving. Here he is, back in January, talking about his planned accomplishments for the year ahead:

So, how'd all that work out?

Let's see...
  • Property Tax relief. Nope.

  • The issue of jobs—jobs, jobs, jobs. Uh...not so much, huh, Antoine?

August 30, 2010

Time to Walk the Plank

Friday night, the Buffalo News reported that our old friend, Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster, had issued a statement demanding a line-by-line explanation of expenses by the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp. following last week’s blistering audit of the tourism agency.

“From the perspective of an elected official, just given the nature of some of the expenditures, there has to be additional information provided. I think it's just common sense,” Dyster wrote. He then demanded the detailed explanation of the expenses that NTCC CEO John Percy has racked up—things ranging from the infamous $18,000 in massages from Gaylord Spa to lesser-known abuses, such as a $180 tuxedo rental by a man who receives a six-figure salary and a $25,000 annual bonus.

We agree with what Dyster is demanding. The problem is, however, Dyster is playing a dishonest shell game.

Sources inside the NTCC tell us that on Friday afternoon, NTCC Board Chairman Frank Strangio sent a detailed email to members of the agency’s board of directors listing all the various times he, Percy, and NTCC staff had called Dyster over the past week seeking to answer his questions. Every time, Dyster refused their calls or was “unavailable.” (This, after he failed to attend a meeting of the NTCC board last Friday because he was on one of his frequent vacations.)

Strangio’s email was very specific about times and numbers of attempted contacts. If Dyster truly wanted those explanations, he had plenty of chances to tell Strangio or Percy. Instead, he decided to make his demands in the press. In other words, Dyster’s actions were all for show—that is, the actions of a politician trying to turn his own failings into victimhood.

The problem is, Paul Dyster isn’t an outside observer. He’s a member of the NTCC board of directors (and has been since January 2008). And he is not, as he insisted to WLVL newscaster John Raymond the other day, a non-voting ex officio member. Dyster is, in fact, a director with full voting privileges who has served on the board for more than two and a half years. That means he has served on the board for the entire period covered by the audit—that is, the years 2008 and 2009. And remember, Percy was handpicked four years ago by Dyster’s political matron, Francine DelMonte, to run the NTCC. So, Dyster had plenty of opportunity to obtain detailed explanations of John Percy's spending. And this isn't exactly the first time Percy's spending has raised eyebrows.

Dyster’s not alone in his failure to control Percy’s drunken-sailor-like spending binges. Tricia Mezhir, who represents odious Maid of the Mist operator Jimmy Glynn on the board of directors, was board chair while the worst of Percy’s abuses occurred. Heck, she and Percy even charged the NTCC $110.72 for dinner for two following a joint presentation to the County Legislature. (We don’t know about where you work, but our employer does cover meals when we’re on the road. However, we usually have to go just a tad bit farther than Lockport.) That makes Mezhir, at the very least, an accessory to the crime.

Strangely, though, Dyster has directed his full criticism at Strangio, who only took over as board chair in January. Dyster has yet to say one word about Mezhir. But, then again, Dyster is Jimmy Glynn’s handpicked mayor, and Mezhir is Jimmy Glynn’s handpicked errand girl.

Like many a drunken sailor before him, John Percy should have to walk the plank. But Dyster and Mezhir should be made to walk the plank right after him—right off the deck of the Maid of the Mist.

August 26, 2010

Kiley & Company

The word in political circles across the state is that New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, the individual who presides over the Assembly, is expecting to lose between 15-20 seats in November's elections. Considering that the Democrats hold 105 of the 150 seats in the Assembly, Silver is in no danger whatsoever of losing his majority. But he could be losing many of his supporters, including Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte.

It is no secret that DelMonte is in serious trouble. She is facing an extremely formidable challenge from Democratic candidate John Accardo, and should she win that contest, which is in doubt, she must face Niagara County Legislator John Ceretto in the General Election. As Mike Hudson recently reported in the Niagara Falls Reporter, recent poll numbers in the Accardo/DelMonte primary race indicate that DelMonte is in for the race(s) of her political life.

The poll that Hudson elaborates on is not the only poll that has been commissioned recently. Sources have told Niagara Times that DelMonte has recently did some polling of her own, but the story doesn't end there.

DelMonte spent $19,000 from her campaign war chest to employ the services of a company by the name of Kiley and Company, a Boston, Massachusetts "market research" firm. This raises multiple questions. Firstly, why would DelMonte use a firm from Massachusetts to poll her Assembly District in Niagara County? Secondly, why on God's green earth would she spend $19,000 on a poll that could be done by any firm for about $4,000? Fortunately, we have the answers to those questions.

It seems that Silver, the one individual that many point to as the single biggest reason that New York state government is regularly labeled the most dysfunctional government in the country, has a vested interest in Kiley and Company. Kiley is Silver's favored polling organization for the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee (DACC), the fund raising arm of the Dems in the Assembly. In fact, Silver demands that many Democratic candidates for New York State Assembly, regardless of whether the candidate is a long-term incumbent or a newcomer, utilize the services of Kiley and Company before DACC will provide the candidate with financial support. That is why Francine DelMonte dropped $19k on what should have been a $4,000 poll to a firm in Massachusetts.

This is what we like to refer to as legal extortion.

DelMonte has no one to blame but herself. Every two years for the past 10 years, DelMonte has voted for Sheldon Silver to retain his position as Assembly Speaker. The fact that she is willing to spend $19,000 on a poll to be conducted by a Massachusetts company shows just how willing she is to sell her soul to Silver. She knows that if she doesn't spend the money up front, there will be no DACC money on the back end.

Silver knows that he can count on DelMonte to support his bid for re-election to Speaker come January. He also knows that DelMonte doesn't have the courage to stand up to him, like Mark Schroeder from Buffalo does. So he forces her to drop $19k to his favored firm in Boston, with the promise of tens or hundreds of thousands of DACC dollars to come.

This is just another example of DelMonte's unwavering devotion to Silver and his Manhattan bureaucrats. If she was even slightly concerned with retaining jobs in our community, she would utilize one of the many firms in Western New York that provide the exact same service at a fraction of the cost. Unfortunately for us, her only concerns are kowtowing to downstate special interests and getting re-elected. It seems that the residents of the 138th have finally come to this realization.

August 25, 2010

DelMonte Denies Kimble NYPA Board Seat

With the state Senate and Assembly finally departing Albany after the passage of the state budget a few weeks back, one of the more interesting angles missed by the local media has to do with our friends at the New York Power Authority (NYPA).

For several months, the NYPA Board of Trustees, which consists of seven seats, has had at least two openings. There were three for quite some time, but Mark O'Luck was named to one of the open spots a couple of months ago.

Back in May, H. Carl McCall, former New York State Comptroller and 2002 gubernatorial candidate, put forth Niagara County Legislator Renae Kimble for consideration for one of the, at that time, three openings for the NYPA Board of Trustees. Now, McCall is a heavyweight in New York politics. He has a significant amount of clout, and when he asks for something, he usually gets it.

Kimble, for her part, has been quite critical of the Power Authority, and rightly so. Unlike her supposed Minority Leader in the county legislature, Dennis Virtuoso, who wouldn't know what a megawatt of power is if it hit him in his taxpayer-funded hair weave, Kimble has had the courage to recognize how badly NYPA has screwed Niagara County. Kimble deserves much credit for being honest and direct on this topic. Frankly, Kimble would make an excellent addition to the NYPA Board.

Unfortunately for Kimble, she has an enemy in Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte. In fact, DelMonte's hatred for Kimble runs so deep that when DelMonte found out that McCall had put forth Kimble's name for consideration to the board, DelMonte stormed the office of Marty Mack, Paterson's appointment secretary, demanding that Mack remove Kimble's name from the list of potential board appointees. Mack obliged, depriving Niagara County the opportunity to finally have a representative on the board.

As astounding as it may read, DelMonte actually put forth the name of Mort Abramowitz for consideration. If you aren't familiar with Abramowitz, that's okay. He was quite a player in county politics right around the time that the Treaty of Versailles was signed. Ol' Morty was denied.

But the bottom line is that there was no way in hell that DelMonte was going to allow Kimble, who along with the other coherent members of the county legislature understands the need to have a representative from Niagara on the board, to have the opportunity.

This is just another chapter in the very colorful history between DelMonte and Kimble. Unfortunately for you and I, it's just another instance of DelMonte using her powers for evil. Flame on, Wicked Witch. Flame on.

August 24, 2010

Whiny Freeloaders

"It sucks. New York has the best public transportation, but it's fading. Maybe I'll just ride my skateboard."

—Gideon Blumenthal, New York City subway frequent rider

Why is Gideon Blumenthal mad?

It seems that the MTA—the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the body that runs New York City's subway systems and buses—is contemplating some steep toll hikes. For those of you unfamiliar with the MTA, you shouldn't be. After all, one of the first actions by the Democratic majority running the state Senate was to ram through a bailout, by a 32-29 vote, of the poorly-run New York City agency. At state taxpayer expense, of course. Which, er, probably means you, even if you've never had the distinct pleasure of riding on a New York City subway.

So, Gideon Blumenthal, and many other subway riders, are mad today because the monthly cost of riding the subway may go as high as $130.

In other words, Gideon Blumenthal is mad because someone else isn't going to be stuck with the tab to pay his way in life anymore.

We realize that to many of our readers, $130 sounds like a lot. But let's put that number in context: it's what people who don't own, or need to own, cars are paying to travel all over New York City and out into Long Island. We don't know what you pay for your car, but we would guess your monthly car payment is somewhere between $350 and $500 if you're driving a no-frills reliable family sedan with a 4- or 6-cylinder engine. And maybe another $70 or so a month for insurance. And around $150-$200 a month in gas. Plus the occasional trip to the car wash. Plus oil changes. Plus tire rotations. Plus new tires every 60,000 miles or so. Plus new headlights, windshield fluid, alignment jobs...we could go on.

The point is, you pay for the full cost associated with owning your transportation here in the more rural stretches of New York State. Why should people living in New York City, the Sewer with a ZIP Code, not be expected to pay their own freight as well? And why on earth should you have to pay for their ride?

No doubt, New York State's current leaders will find a way to spare Gideon Blumenthal his pain, but really, we'd be just fine with him riding his skateboard.

Especially if the alternative is continuing to make us pay for Gideon Blumenthal's subway token.

August 23, 2010

Money Well Spent

Western New York is blessed to have a visionary like Sen. Antoine Thompson representing us. It took us a little while to dig this video up from the archives, but you, Dear Readers, are worth it:
Yes, you saw correctly: Antoine Thompson and Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster last year, extolling the virtue of giving half a million taxpayer dollars to former drug dealers who have “turned their lives around," and are now “running programs to fight crime.”
So, what dividends is the Thompson-Dyster effort paying here in WNY, a year later?
Heckuva job, Antoine.

August 20, 2010

Friday Ruminations

Birthday Wishes from Buffalo’s Rocket Scientist

We are aware of the recent trend that has made the word “retarded” an offensive term that’s effectively off-limits. Given that particular restriction, we’re not sure we can continue to offer insightful posts about Sen. Antoine Thompson. Still, this news story, courtesy of WGRZ, is just too good to pass by:

Within your "allocation," huh? We just wish Antoine Thompson had received his allocation of brain cells. Now blow out the candles.

Lookin’ for Love in All the Wrong Places

News reaches us that Greg Lewis has gone from losing out to other candidates for county manager to losing out to None of the Above.

It seems that in Delaware County, Ohio, the search committee entrusted with finding a new county administrator there had (like so many, many, many other counties around this nation) named Lewis among their finalists. But, in this case, Lewis didn’t lose to the former manager of a village of 5,000, or to a former DOT employee, or any of the other assorted characters who’ve managed to put the puck in the net before him. No, in Delaware County’s case, the county commissioners were so distressed at the quality of candidates before them that they actually pulled the plug on everyone—Lewis included.

Losing to another candidate with a weaker resume is bad. But what does it say about Lewis as a candidate that a county would rather start their costly search process all over again than hire him? And what does it say about Dennis Virtuoso and Renae Kimble—the human resources geniuses who brought Lewis to Niagara County in the first place?

I Walked Through Bedford-Stuy Alone—But Not Pine Avenue

Niagara Times offers a tip of the hat to Niagara Falls Reporter editor Mike Hudson. Hudson delved into the real reason that the rap group Public Enemy recently shot a video in Niagara Falls: Dyster’s Dystopia has gone gangsta.

No, really. Apparently, the Falls is a much sleazier place than most New York City neighborhoods—the kind of place a thug with street cred would hang out. For Public Enemy, the boarded-up slums that make up so much of Niagara Falls below Hyde Park Boulevard presented the right kind of a backdrop to restore their image of being from the mean streets. So, congratulations Mayor Dyster. People are really taking notice of the changes taking place on your watch.

Just Fill the Cup

We are told that County Legislator John Ceretto—the Lewiston Republican many think is poised to end Francine DelMonte’s Reign of Error this November—will be introducing a resolution in the County Legislature Tuesday night calling on both chambers of the State Legislature to stop bottling up a bill authored by Sen. George D. Maziarz that would require welfare and Medicaid applicants to take a drug test to receive benefits. That Maziarz’s bill continues to languish in committee is a dark reflection on Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and the Senate’s bizarre triumvirate of Democratic leaders.

We’re also told that one Democratic county lawmaker has already expressed angry opposition to Ceretto’s resolution, and plans to try to throw up roadblocks to block the resolution’s passage.

As far as Niagara Times is concerned, they can’t start handing out Dixie cups to welfare applicants fast enough.

Talk Low, Talk Slow, and Don’t Say Too Much

A friend passed the following video onto us yesterday. It’s a reminder of the America we remember from our very early childhood, when giants still roamed the earth. John Wayne was an American original, and he truly loved this great country. We may never see the like of him again—a fact that makes us miss him all the more:

Until Monday—talk low, talk slow, and don’t say too much. It worked for the Duke.

August 19, 2010

Nero’s Heirs

When word broke, finally, about Lockport developer David Ulrich’s proposal to put Niagara County Community College’s Culinary Arts Institute back on track—while simultaneously locating the Institute in Lockport, rather than in Dyster’s Dystopia—we found ourselves chuckling.

Longtime readers know, of course, that we’ve found plenty to criticize about the proposed Culinary Institute since its inception. But it is the course that NCCC—both President James Klyczek and a majority of the Board of Trustees—seems committed to.

Sadly, though, it is the latest thing to unmask the utter ineptness of both Paul Dyster and Francine DelMonte.

The Dynamic Democratic Duo have, after all, spent years stumbling from one failed site in the Falls to another. First, there was the Crowne Plaza. Well, that is, until the Crowne Plaza went bankrupt. (Apparently, neither Dyster nor DelMonte bothered to check the Crowne’s financials before deeming it their site of choice.) So, the DelMonte-Dyster Brain Trust came up with a new plan: to site the proposed Culinary Institute in the Rainbow Centre Mall.

And yet, even with a $6.6 million matching grant from New York State, a commitment of $1.5 million from the City of Niagara Falls, and another $1.5 million available from Niagara County, somehow, they screwed up the negotiations.

That’s two Dyster-DelMonte sites down. In baseball parlance, Dyster has no balls and two strikes against him. Of course, given the decrepit condition of Niagara Falls—a city that seems to get worse by the day—we can’t help but wonder if even NCCC has been secretly squeamish about putting its assets into a captainless ship that just keeps on taking on water.

Of course, since the Rainbow Centre deal imploded earlier this year, no fewer than six sites in Niagara Falls—some downtown and one as far apace as LaSalle—have been proposed for the culinary center. Unfortunately, though, Paul and Francine have been stalled since then, unsure what to do next.

It would appear, however, that Ulrich—a no-nonsense developer with a penchant for making the trains run on time—hasn’t been stalled. For the few remaining businessmen in the Falls, the failure of their own leaders to act may be the thing that dooms them.

Given the heavy Italian-American population of the Falls, many of our readers there will recall the story of Emperor Nero playing his lyre—“fiddling”—as Rome burned to the ground around him. It would seem that, in Dyster and DelMonte, Nero has two worthy heirs.

August 18, 2010

Snake Oil Loses its Flavor

We are heartened by the news out of Williamsville and Sloan. We already commented in this space a few days back predicting that local huckster and snake oil salesman Kevin Gaughan was about to meet his Waterloo with his carpetbagging attempt to totally wipe two communities off the face of the earth, so we won't re-hash our previous comments.

We do want to offer our condolences to Buffalo News "reporter" Sandra Tan this morning, however. Sandy put all of her credibility on the line writing articles that amounted to little more than press releases for Gaughan and his little band of Gaughan Groupies. No doubt she can hear the snickering of her colleagues down at 1 News Plaza every time she turns her back this morning; those News employees who still deserve to be called "journalists" know a no-talent, partisan hack when they see one. Sorry, Sandy. Maybe you can find a shoulder to cry on over at Journo-List.

As to Gaughan, all we can say is: ha ha ha ha ha... Yes, we realize that pronouncement is a bit juvenile, but after spending months and months on your latest stunt (what Sandy Tan called a "crusade"), you lost by five-to-one ratios in both villages. So, for just a moment, we'll give in to the schadenfreude.

Still, Gaughan deserves a bit of credit for one accomplishment. Observers in both municipalities said turnout was higher than they could remember for any village election. Kevin Gaughan's legacy is that he brought a whole lot of people into the electoral process. Unfortunately for Kevin, they came out in force to reject him.

August 17, 2010

It's Paladino's Time

The news of the Niagara County Republican Party’s decision to abandon its previous endorsement of GOP gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio and jump to Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino’s camp is, of course, everywhere in local media this a.m., so here at Niagara Times, we’ll offer our thoughts on the matter as well.

Truth be told, we have mixed feelings about it. We’ve actually rather liked Rick Lazio ever since he “invaded Hillary Clinton’s personal space” all those years ago; even though the liberal media burned him in effigy for the stunt, frankly, we understood Lazio’s point: Hillary was all talk and no action then, and has remained so.

Unfortunately, though, some of the same problems that plagued his 2000 Senate run hobbled his 2010 gubernatorial run. While we do believe he has improved with age, a slowness to react to problems and a certain aloofness and inability to foresee the same has left his campaign limping. Add to that a state GOP chairman unwilling to provide Lazio with party resources, and his campaign had, at this late stage, only rigor mortis to look forward to.

Even at this late point, there were signs that our initial support for Lazio was not misplaced. And yet Paladino, the man Niagara County’s—and most of Western New York’s—GOP will rally around today, has at the same time delivered the coup de grace to Lazio’s campaign because of one simple thing: it’s his time.

Paladino has offered a directness in his campaign that has been, often, a liability, and yet as November looms closer, even moreso a strength. Take, for example, his response to the proposed Ground Zero Mosque, set to open on 9/11/2011—the tenth anniversary of the Islamofascist attacks on American soil:

This ad is a bit reminiscent of some of Ronald Reagan’s old campaign ads:

And perhaps that is why, today, we’re inclined to nod in agreement with the actions of Niagara County GOP Chief Mike Norris. Norris no doubt has noticed all of those orange signs cropping up around his county. And, as any wise chieftain would, he must have taken stock of the situation and realized this was not mere regional loyalty. Carl Paladino has, simply, struck a nerve in a year when voters are poised to reject liberalism as soundly as they did when they turned to Reagan three decades ago.

The businessman from Buffalo will face an uphill battle against a candidate with high name ID and a huge war chest, but this year is shaping up to be unlike any other. And Carl Paladino is the man for this time:

August 16, 2010

You Work for Them!

Gary Franklin is the reason your taxes are so high.

Or, more accurately, public sector union members with Gary Franklin’s attitude are the reason your taxes are so high.

Who’s Gary Franklin?

Gary Franklin is the public works director for the City of North Tonawanda. He’s also the acting wastewater superintendent. He’s been acting in that capacity ever since the City of Niagara Falls decided to lure away NT’s long-time wastewater superintendent by paying him a higher salary composed of casino dollars.

He’s also the man who singlehandedly prevented the City of North Tonawanda and the City of Lockport from an innovative move that would save both cities’ significant taxpayer dollars—the merging of the two cities’ water and wastewater superintendents.

How did he do this?

Well, as we alluded to on Friday, North Tonawanda is a strange little place, where the rules of normalcy that balance the rest of the galaxy don’t apply. In North Tonawanda—and, we guess, Bizzaro World—department heads have a union. Everywhere else, of course, new administrations get to hire new department heads. They’re, um, what’s that expression? Oh yeah: Management. But not in NT. Nope. There, they’re virtually immune to firing, or to doing anything that might rock the union boat. So, unlike virtually everyplace else in America, in NT, a mayor can’t even count on his department heads to help him implement the policies that the voters elected him to implement.

So, back to Gary Franklin. In addition to being the head of the DPW—which normally would make him answerable to the mayor, but again, not in NT!—Gary Franklin is also the president of the department head union, something called the Office of Professional Employees International Union. And his objection, according to the Buffalo News, goes something like this:

Acting Wastewater Superintendent and Public Works Superintendent Gary J. Franklin said the majority of the union members believes that combining the two jobs, while maintaining current staffing levels, creates a position with more responsibility than one person can handle. Such a deal is not in North Tonawanda's "best interests," he said.

Ah, yes, North Tonawanda’s best interests.

Unfortunately, the Buffalo News, itself a union shop, stops there. Maybe a little bit of investigative journalism—something so often lacking at the once-great News—is in order here.

What News reporters don’t tell you, but we will, is this: the total payroll and benefits for the 10 unionized department heads in North Tonawanda comes to $1,138,588. That is to say, the average salary and benefits paid to each department head comes out to $113,859. (And incidentally, the highest salary and benefits in the group comes to $149,806.)

Now, think about that: ten people are costing their neighbors way north of $1 million—every single year. A million dollars. Their average compensation is well over $100,000 per person, per year. And Gary Franklin is worried that a combined position with Lockport would be too hard for someone making those kind of bucks.

Of course, Gary Franklin has a novel solution: If North Tonawanda Mayor Rob Ortt would just agree to create some additional union positions, then the union would be happy to support merging the two jobs.

Which, of course, defeats the whole purpose of the merger.

To protect the union’s turf and their high-paying union jobs, Gary Franklin and his public sector union friends have no problem taxing their neighbors to death.

Thanks, Gary.

August 13, 2010

Friday Ruminations

Dumb Quote of the Day

“He is 21 years old and he should be in school. Instead, in the last four or five months he has become well known to us. He is very well known to us.”

Niagara Falls Police Superintendent John Chella, speaking about Brandon “Bizz” Carter, a member of the Bloods gang, who was in Niagara County Court after a failed drive-by shooting.

“Should be in school”?!? Um, no, you silly little bureaucrat in a blue uniform, he should be in prison. There’s a subtle difference.

You Work for Them

We’re still scratching our heads about North Tonawanda. It seems that there, all rules of normalcy are suspended, and the various department heads in city government belong to a union. Everywhere else, of course, department heads serve at the pleasure of the sitting administration and can be fired at will. This is kind of important when an administration is trying to implement the policies that the voters gave them a mandate to implement.

But not in NT. There, with Mayor Rob Ortt facing an uphill battle undoing some creative budgeting by his predecessor,
the department head union is fighting him tooth and nail to protect a high-paying department head job, while Ortt is in talks to share the services of one man between NT and Lockport. It should be noted that similar proposals to share services with Niagara Falls were roundly endorsed by the same union—as those proposals didn’t eliminate any union jobs.

This is typical public sector union arroganceespecially at a time when the people paying the bills are facing record-high unemployment. We wish Ortt well, and will be following this story closely over the next several days. Stay tuned.

Fuzzy Math

The Buffalo News, perhaps the biggest cheerleader for faux populist Kevin Gaughan, is at it again with
another dishonest article by Sandra Tan, who has whored herself profusely to the carpetbagging failed politician from the Southtowns. Think of her as “Goebbels for the Gaughanites.”

This time, in a piece that is little more than propaganda for the News-Gaughan effort to dissolve the Village of Williamsville, we are breathlessly informed about a “$3,195 disparity” in the property taxes on two similar homes—one in the Village, and one in the Town of Amherst.

Only when we read further in Tan’s dishonest propaganda, though, do we learn this key fact: “Over the past decade, the Williamsville homeowner paid $3,195 more in taxes and fees for the privilege of living within the village's boundaries.”

Um, that works out to around $26 a month. And Tan only identifies the houses as having “similar value”—not identical assessments. Now, it’s been a while since we purchased Hobbes Manor, but we seem to recall being most concerned about our monthly payment and escrow, not how much more we’d pay in taxes over the next decade. But an article about a $26 difference doesn’t exactly sell newspapers, or get Sandy Tan front page billing, does it?

Calling this article objective would be like calling Sandra Tan a journalist. Neither statement is accurate.

Reliving Our Misspent Youth

Tonight, we’ll be heading into Lockport to enjoy that city’s Molson Canal Concert Series. We’re actually kind of excited about tonight’s concert: Tears for Fears. Yes, we realize they were like two-hit wonders. But all the same, this takes us back to the Decade of Reagan, Rubik’s Cubes, and Really Bad Hair.

Enjoy the video:

August 12, 2010

The Gang that Can’t Shoot Straight

At a certain point in politics, one has to ask if they are being simply too hard on those in power. That point comes today for this blog.

We’ve often criticized the Assembly Majority, of which our own Francine DelMonte is a part, for what we’ve often seen as evidence of either outright corruption, or, at the very least, a callous disregard for the realities facing ordinary, tax-paying New Yorkers. Today, though, we think it’s entirely possible we’ve got it all wrong, and that the only sin of the Assembly Majority is that they are simply incompetent.

What, you ask, has pointed us to this conclusion? It seems that, after the Democrat-controlled New York State Legislature rammed through a tax-hiking, free-spending budget, Gov. David A. Paterson*
signed the wrong budget, putting this year’s dismal performance by Albany on track to produce the actual, honest-to-God, latest budget in the history of a state with lots of late budgets.

No, really. He signed the wrong budget. As in, a document that the Assembly never actually passed.

Now, we realize some of our readers out there have reached the inescapable conclusion that this may have something to do with Gov. Paterson’s, er, um, ocular condition. But, no, it’s
actually not his fault.

It seems that the responsibility of the Assembly—where budget bills must, constitutionally, originate—is to send the final, approved budget to the Governor for his signature. This would seem a simple enough task—rather straightforward, the kind of thing that a third-grader with some hall monitor experience could handle. I mean, you just take the bill that passed, you pick it up, and you walk it downstairs to the second floor, where the Governor’s office is. Pretty simple—at least for legislative aides who aren’t functionally illiterate.

But that kind of excludes the New York State Assembly’s Majority Democrats. Somehow, these geniuses took a different budget bill, one that never actually formally passed the Assembly, to the Governor, and had him sign it. Which, as anyone who ever saw the old Schoolhouse Rock “How a Bill Becomes a Law” video knows, is an entirely meaningless act with no legal standing.

No, we now know we’ve been too hard on Francine DelMonte’s Assembly colleagues. They’re not evil. They’re just illiterate morons.

Which, of course, is no more comforting a thought when you realize these people have the power to control virtually every aspect of life here in New York State.

* Soon to be reduced to a footnote in political history.

August 11, 2010

Leffler Chimes in About Stupidity of Dialog Audience

We are posting the following, a snapshot of a recent Facebook post by radio host-turned-pizza delivery boy Scott Leffler, without comment.

Well, almost without comment. Hopefully our loyal readers will permit us just this one observation: the audience ain't changed that much since you left, Scott.

August 10, 2010

Lew-Port Continues to &^%(#@$ Embarrass

We’re going to, for the third time in less than a year, violate our longstanding rule against wading into the fever swamps of the Lewiston-Porter Central School District.


Because the antics of the Lew-Port crowd are just so damn funny, that’s why.
Where else would you get to read a newspaper headline like this?

Lew-Port Soccer Coach Made Up Tourette Claim: Sam Ricotta Lied to Refs, Opponents to Allow for Inappropriate Behavior of Player

That’s so impossibly awesome.

We don’t know Sam Ricotta. He’s probably a jerk. Heck, the first clue that he is, in fact, a jerk is that he coaches soccer, which, as most of our readers know, is a sport that annually helps countries like Uruguay, Portugal, and the Ivory Coast compete for bragging rights as the champions of the world. But, yet, we really want to thank him for giving us something to laugh about this morning.

That’s actually one of the most clever cheats in all time. No “hand of God” here. His players are just frothing-at-the-mouth, out-of-control nuts—and if you don’t like it, they have the Americans with Disabilities Act on their side.

We can’t help but think, however, that such lawless behavior and wanton lying by a Lew-Port teacher may be a reflection of the lawless behavior and wanton lying of the organization that represents those same teachers: the LPUT, or Lewiston-Porter United Teachers. Like a microscopic version of the Buffalo Teachers Federation and their odious union boss, Phil Rumore, the LPUT has spent the past decade and a half clouding issues in Lew-Port to ram through some of the highest teachers’ salaries in the county, along with a slush fund that is legendary—and likely to cause real problems for the district in coming budget years.

Or maybe it’s a reflection of the total lack of respect that the district’s teachers have for a wishy-washy school board that turned away $50,000 in free money from a large, local employer and taxpayer—all so it could advance the political agendas of two school board members.

So, while we really applaud Sam Ricotta for blatantly ripping off South Park, we can’t help but wonder if he is just a reflection of a broken system.

Anyway, fortunately for Ricotta, there are no more consequences for his actions than there were for Byron Brown’s shoplifting offspring. He has to give up the coaching job, but gets to keep his sweet gig in Niagara County’s most overpaid school district.

Here at Niagara Times, our hat’s off to you, Sir. Our &*#&%$%^ hat’s off to you.

August 9, 2010

Foul Odor Emanating from Niagara Gazette

Saturday, I took a drive to Niagara Falls to pick up some ziti and meatballs at the Como at the Airport. For all of the Cataract City’s flaws, good Italian food has always been its singular redeeming quality.

While waiting for my order, I flipped through a well-worn copy of the Niagara Gazette sitting at one of the tables. And I found myself laughing at the abysmal copy the hometown news-rag was putting out.

Aside from all of the typos—I lost count after the fourth paragraph in one article—what really blew my mind was Saturday morning’s lead story: It seems a Falls woman picked up the torch for her deceased author-husband and finished the sequel to his earlier book.

The Gazette devoted considerable attention to this. And, indeed, if this were, say, Will and Ariel Durant’s The Story of Civilization, the notion of a husband-wife writing team might have been special. And motivating. And a reason for Niagara Falls to be proud. And a reason for the Niagara Gazette to write a glowing story as if the Bard himself were in their midst.

But no, this is Niagara Falls. The community that makes it its job to embarrass the rest of this county and wish we could change the name of our county.

No, this woman, featured so prominently in the Niagara Gazette for her literary feat had just published Captain Pharto Disciplines the Brats. And this delightfully titled tome is the follow-up to Phartom of the Opera: A Classic of the Gasses.

Yes, the Niagara Gazette believes that someone publishing jokes about flatulence is worthy of front-page coverage. But then again, our old pal “reporter” Mark Scheer’s latest column could be described in such terms, too, so what’s the difference?

You stay classy, Niagara Falls.

August 6, 2010

Virtuoso: Not Italian for Virtuous

We’ve always supported the notion that justice must be blind—to both those factors that can unfairly damn a defendant with an undesirable background or family name, and to those that can confer impunity and immunity on the powerful and connected.

Indeed, that’s the allegation that we’ve heard these past two weeks against a 23-year-old girl from North Tonawanda who, after a night of celebrating, got behind the wheel—and then found a degree of leniency in the courtroom that raised some eyebrows. But then hyper-partisan bomb-thrower Dennis Virtuoso had to turn the matter into a political witch-hunt. And that act alone reminds us why we so often find the Niagara Falls Democrat so detestable.

However, documents that have wandered into our possession reveal Virtuoso is not merely detestable: He’s also a hypocrite. Or, actually, something far worse than a hypocrite. If a hypocrite is someone who says one thing and does another, what do you call someone who says one thing and then does something ten times worse?

Some readers may recall that Virtuoso’s pride and joy, his son Vincent J. Virtuoso, had a bit of a brush with the law himself back in 2002. Only Vinnie Virtuoso didn’t stand accused of having one too many cosmopolitans out at a bar. This would-be scion of the Virtuoso political dynasty instead got in trouble when he decided to compete with the Medellin Cartel. Word is he was making a pretty good buck, until he sold a pound of marijuana and an ounce of cocaine to an undercover officer. Then, the 20-year-old’s world came crashing down.

We might be sympathetic for his father. After all, for Dennis Virtuoso, then majority leader of the Niagara County Legislature, this had to be a rather significant embarrassment. And, knowing how passionate Dennis is about seeing those accused of law-breaking punished to the fullest extent of the law, having to condemn his son to life in prison must have been tough.

Oh, wait, but that’s not quite what happened. As you will see by the documents below—the indictment against Vincent J. Virtuoso—young Vinnie was accused of Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Second Degree, Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree, Criminal Sale of Marijuana in the Second Degree, and Criminal Possession of Marijuana in the Third Degree.

At the time of Virtuoso’s arrest, this constituted a Class A-II felony in New York State. That means he could have been given a sentence of up to life in prison. To make matters worse, Virtuoso could have been given consecutive sentences because his criminal acts occurred on two separate dates—something we are told is quite common in criminal prosecutions.

Fortunately for Virtuoso, Democratic District Attorney Matt Murphy and Assistant D.A. Robert A. Zucco decided that life in prison was too harsh for Dennis Virtuoso’s baby boy. So, they gave him a plea deal.

For selling .92 ounces of white powder and 15.29 ounces of marijuana, Vincent Virtuoso received the absolute minimum sentence then allowed under New York State law: 1 1/3 years in prison. They also gave him concurrent terms for the counts he faced, rather than consecutive. And, mind you, Section 220.10 of the state’s criminal procedure tied their hands and prevented them from going even lower, thanks to minimum sentencing rules.

Now, we’re not saying anything illegal happened here. After all, it appears that Virtuoso was, in fact, held to the absolute minimum standard the law required. We’re also not going to make any insinuations about the Democratic Majority Leader of the County Legislature’s son getting a very lenient plea deal from the Democratic District Attorney and his Assistant D.A., who just happened to be best friends with Paul A. Dyster, then an up-and-coming Democratic councilman on the Niagara Falls City Council—the same city council that Virtuoso, a building inspector for the city, worked for. What we are saying, though, is that Vincent Virtuoso was a lucky young man to get the most lenient sentence available to prosecutors.

We hope Vincent Virtuoso, now free from state prison, is working to become a model citizen. Unfortunately, though, we must wish the same thing for his father, as he engages in one of the grossest examples of hypocrisy we’ve seen in a long time.

August 5, 2010


Niagara Times has never had any problem articulating our feelings about Kevin Gaughan: Snake oil salesman, charlatan, political opportunist—we’ve used all of these terms to describe him, as well as carpetbagger and just, simply, creep.
Unfortunately, though, we’ve long felt that arguing against this huckster was a losing battle. As West Seneca showed us not that long ago, people always seem willing to cast a ballot against what they perceive as the interests of the political class—even when their vote actually strengthens the power of that very same elite.
But it’s starting to look like this phony may have finally met his Waterloo, down in the charming Village of Williamsville. There, Gaughan brought out his army of zombies to place a village dissolution measure on the ballot.
If reports we’re hearing from Williamsville bear out—and certainly the Buffalo News’ latest filing admits as much, even as it does everything possible to sell Gaughan’s “plan”—then village dissolution is going down in flames there. (Note to Kevin: If people greet you at the doors with flyers that read “Trust your neighbors, not some outsider with an agenda!!” and you don’t live there, then you’re the outsider they’re talking about.) It seems that Gaughan’s “study” showing all the money people would save by dissolving their quaint little village was fatally flawed in that he never bothered to include the special district taxes paid by Amherst residents—taxes that Village of Williamsville residents avoid. And when those facts came out, support for Gaughan’s plan began to tank.
We certainly hope that the trends we’re seeing in Williamsville continue. If Williamsville should at some future point seek dissolution, that’s fine. But it should be an initiative that comes from the citizens of Williamsville, not a guy from the Southtowns with an axe to grind and self-proclaimed “tour dates.” Color us skeptical, but if you don’t have to stick around and live with the results of your little experiment, we’re not so certain it’s good for our communities and our families. And that goes doubly so if you put your plan together with free help from a bunch of college students who’ve never held real jobs, paid taxes, or paid a mortgage.
As for our readers, should Kevin Gaughan show up in your community, take a page from Williamsville, and make sure you get the real numbers before you swallow the snake oil:

August 4, 2010

Stachowski's UB 180

"UB 2020 is the biggest economic development project we can get for this community."

“As the Legislature looks to return to Albany in the coming days to finalize the remaining piece of the state budget, I wish to inform residents in the 58th Senate District that I will unreservedly continue my fight for the inclusion of UB 2020 Flexibility and Economic Growth Act in our final negotiations.”

“I am certain that this measure will have momentous benefits for the University of Buffalo, residents of Erie County and for Western New York in general, and as we conclude our negotiations on the final state budget, I am determined to do everything within my power to ensure the enactment of this ground-breaking legislation.”

"I just try to do my job, and part of my job is to carry the UB 2020 bill."

NYS Budget Passes Without UB 2020 Plans

“More than four months late, the state budget was finally approved Tuesday night after a Western New York senator retreated on his vow to withhold his vote until a new financing measure was approved for the state university system.

August 3, 2010

Brown Arrest is a Sad Commentary on Buffalo

Since the news broke yesterday afternoon that the son of Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, Byron Brown Jr., had been arrested for shoplifting, both public comment and our own thoughts have been on a rollercoaster.
Honestly, even though we generally despise Brown on policy matters, we wouldn’t wish such a thing on anyone. It must be heart-rending for a father to watch his son and namesake arrested for a crime that will, in the Internet age, follow him for the rest of his life.
However, we must also consider what’s good for the community as well. Unfortunately, this isn’t Byron Brown Jr.’s first brush with the law. And this time, unlike the last, Byron Jr. was caught in the act.
Rewind to 2007. On Feb. 24th of that year, Byron Jr. could have still qualified for youthful offender status. A 5 a.m. joyride by Brown the Younger became the stuff of legend when, in an attempt to cover up their son’s involvement after he successfully lied to his parents about his involvement in three hit-and-runs, Mrs. Byron Brown reported the family SUV stolen. Boy Genius had rammed the vehicle into three different parked cars at Canisius College.
Aside from the fact the earlier case was downright bizarre (Since Brown was out joyriding still at 7:05 that morning, and had to walk home from the site where he dumped the SUV, we find it really hard to imagine his absence wasn’t noted…on the same day the SUV was “stolen.” But we digress) this points to the beginnings of a pattern in Mini-B's behavior. And that's a problem.
Young Byron is going to have a hard time in court. The truth of things is, the justice system tries to be lenient to first-time offenders. Why? Because people—especially young people—make mistakes. And so it was with the judge in Li’l Byron’s case. The mayor’s son walked away after paying a $275 fine. Which, for a boy who had managed to find a seat at City Honors, seemed like a fair warning about future behavior: we’ll let you reevaluate the direction you’re going, and if we never see you again, you’ll eventually forget about this little scrape, and so will we.
When they show up in front of a judge again, however, that balance tends to change. And Byron Brown Jr. just became a repeat offender. He has, in the parlance of cops, or at least cop shows, a rap sheet. Something tells us that Sonny Brown may not walk away unscathed this time.
There’s much that can be observed in this affair. Maybe the justice system was too lenient the first time. Maybe fathers who spend their lives in politics need to devote more attention to what their own families are doing, rather than trying to stack the local police force with loyal allies. Maybe James A. Williams, the superintendent of Buffalo’s schools, was right when he blamed the culture in Buffalo for juvenile crime—as well as an absence of parental involvement.
Of one thing, though, we are certain. The Brown family—and this blog—hope that Byron Brown Jr. avoids incarceration at the Erie County Holding Center.

August 2, 2010

NYPA Chronicles

It's been awhile since we've talked about the buffoonery at the New York Power Authority. It's not that we haven't had plenty of fodder, but we've been laying low as the discussions of what NYPA is going to come to the table with for Niagara County play out. Unfortunately for NYPA President & CEO Richie Kessel and his cronies at the Power Authority, this one is just too good to pass up.

Sources have told Niagara Times that none other than former North Tonawanda Mayor Larry Soos is to interview for the Senior Community Relations position with NYPA tomorrow. Yes, that would be the same Larry Soos who got crushed in the North Tonawanda mayoral contest last year, garnering just 30% of the vote. The same Larry Soos who chased not one, but two extremely successful concert series out of NT (Lockport still thanks Soos each and every Friday night during the summer). The same Larry Soos who went on LCTV for a live, one-hour interview with a huge wad of gum in his mouth, smacking and chomping like a cow. That was only overshadowed his answering of his cell phone during the show. Right...I want him in that Community Relations position.

Of course, Soos and NYPA have had a relationship for some time. After all, it was Soos who put $250,000 in anticipated revenue from the Power Authority in the 2010 North Tonawanda city budget. Unfortunately for the residents of NT, they will be forced to make up for Soos' deception in the 2011 budget. Thanks Larry, way to represent. But back to the position with NYPA.

The circumstances that have created this vacancy in the Senior Community Relations position are quite interesting. Up until a few weeks ago, the job was held by Khisha Arnold. She was hired at the direction of Senator Antoine Thompson. In fact, it was for Arnold that Thompson had demanded that NYPA relax its job requirements, eliminating the education requirement. Unfortunately for Arnold, she did something very bad to a man by the name of David Valley, who just happens to be a good friend of Assemblyman Sam Hoyt (we know what she did, but we're holding that for now). Now, we're not going to say that Arnold was terminated from her position, but we will say that the circumstances surrounding her departure are questionable.

All of this leaves the Power Authority with an opening, presumably for Soos. Obviously someone from North Tonawanda is on good terms with NYPA since they were able to hook up Mark Houghton, former clerk of the city market and current chairman of the NT Democratic Committee, with a nice patronage gig with the Power Authority. Maybe Niagara County Democratic Committee Chairman Dan Rivera, who hails from North Tonawanda, is being rewarded for his many, many successes in local elections (roll of the eyes).

I'm not sure how much a Senior Community Relations position with the New York Power Authority pays. What I do know is that this is a freakin' travesty and another indication of everything that is wrong with NYPA and the State of New York. Folks, we have a $9.2 billion deficit. Authorities across this state, like NYPA, are allowed to conduct business without answering to anyone. People like Francine DelMonte and Antoine Thompson not only turn a blind eye, they perpetuate the problem by using the Power Authority as their own personal job placement service. Every single one of us should be outraged at what is going on here. Everyone except Larry Soos.