April 12, 2011

Dennis the Menace Demeans Redistricing

Dennis Virtuoso may have to pay a visit to the Niagara Falls Public Works Department while he’s at work tomorrow to pick up a dumping permit.

It seems his 18-year stockpile of campaign signs that identify him as the 4th District’s legislator will no longer be valid, and he’s steaming mad about it.

So mad, in fact, that he spent all of Monday on the phone with fellow Niagara County legislators trying to persuade them to completely change the new district numbers for the downsized Niagara County Legislature just so he could bank on one of the little perks of incumbency: being able to avoid spending money on new campaign materials.

We realize that this may sound like a harsh accusation, but several witnesses—including virtually every member of the Niagara County Legislature and two newspaper reporters—heard Virtuoso make the following statement on the floor:

“I suggested changing the numbering so some of us could keep our old district numbers. I was trying to look out for the taxpayers. Now, we’re all going to have to order new stationery and new business cards. Not to mention, some of us will have to order new campaign signs.”

Let’s be very clear here: Virtuoso was trying to turn the redistricting process, and a voter-ordered downsizing of the Legislature, into an incumbent-protection plan. The incumbent he was most interested in protecting was, well, was himself.

Apparently the $15,075 a year paid to county legislators isn’t enough for Dennis. Nor is all the cash he receives from various union bosses, the Niagara County Democratic Party, and Niagara Falls Redevelopment. Despite all that money, Dennis has been building up a cache of dog-eared campaign signs and other materials that he has used in one election after another to put any and all opponents at a serious disadvantage.

Frankly, that he’s done this doesn’t bother us: all incumbents try to increase their cash edge. But rarely do they actually try to rig a redistricting process to maintain their cash advantage—and then brazenly admit that’s what they’re trying to do.

Who does that?

Apparently, Dennis Virtuoso. Perhaps he’s grown so used to fawning news coverage—newspaper reporters still hang on his every word and make sure they credit him with being “Minority Leader Dennis F. Virtuoso” even though his entire caucus has been reduced, essentially, to himself and Renae Kimble—that he just doesn’t expect to ever get called out on it.

Well, we’re calling him out on it. By attempting to gain slimy political advantage from even a task as mundane as numbering new electoral districts, Dennis has shown his true color: Yellow.

Try campaigning like a man, Dennis.

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