January 6, 2011

Virtuoso Sandbags Falls Dems for Wheatfield Party Boss

Yesterday, Buffalo News reporter Tom Prohaska wrote an article listing the men and women named to the Niagara County Legislature's five-member redistricting commission. Unsurprisingly, the County Legislature, now firmly under the control of a Republican-led majority, that holds 15 out of 19 votes, set up a committee that reflects the political composition of the Legislature.

Legislature Chairman Bill Ross, himself a Majority Caucus member but not a Republican, got to name two committee members. Majority Leader Rick Updegrove, who again, leads a caucus that holds 15 out of 19 seats, got to name two members. And Dennis Virtuoso, whose party holds a mere four seats in the body, got to name one.

Frankly, we expected Virtuoso would gripe about this arrangement. But we were surprised by the direction his attack came from:

“I don’t think it’s geographically balanced,” Virtuoso said. “Niagara Falls is the biggest city, and there should have been more representation [for the Falls].”

Okay, did you get that? Virtuoso is mad because no members of the redistricting commission came from Niagara Falls—which, in fairness, does hold slightly more than one-fifth of the county's population.

Now, we might be inclined to think Virtuoso has a valid point. Except for one thing: he, more than anyone, had the ability to ensure representation for the Falls.

Think about that: He leads a caucus whose members are ALL from Niagara Falls, while the Majority Caucus he opposes represents all the county's towns and its other two cities. And, Virtuoso was allowed to appoint virtually anyone he wanted to fill a seat on the commission.

So, what did Virtuoso do?

He chose Charles Naughton, a former Niagara County Democrat Party chairman, who happens to hail from Wheatfield, to serve on a commission that was supposed to give non-political people a voice in how their electoral districts are drawn up.

Think about that!

Dennis F. Virtuoso, the guy who has made whining about Niagara Falls supposedly not getting treated fairly into a two-decade political career, had the ability to make sure Niagara Falls had a seat at the table. Instead, he not only kicked his own constituents and neighbors to the curb in favor of a party hack, but then had the gall to whine when the Majority Caucus actually chose constituents from the districts they represent to serve on the commission.

Meanwhile, Dennis Virtuoso just protected the interests of Wheatfield at the expense of his own home town. If we were the Niagara Falls Democrat Committee, we might want to have a word or two with Mr. Virtuoso.

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