January 31, 2011

Reigning in the Rhetoric

With Governor Cuomo slated to present his executive budget on Tuesday, virtually everyone agrees that it's not going to be pretty. A $10 billion budget deficit will do that. The public sector unions have been ramping up their rhetoric, attempting to discredit the intentions of the man they all supported just a couple short months ago.

The teacher's union, NYSUT, has been leading the charge. With Cuomo openly discussing the implementation of a property tax cap and the layoff of thousands of state workers, the union is not going to sit idly and allow its gravy train to come to a halt without a fight.

Take, for instance, this quote from yesterday's Buffalo News by Timothy Kremer, executive director of the New York State School Boards Association: "School districts already are talking about ending full-day kindergarten classes, shutting down programs like music education and scrubbing all extracurricular offerings". Kremer goes on to say, "I’m seeing a sense of inevitability of a very dramatic cut in public education and a tax cap".

Now, we've talked about the fact that New York State spends more per pupil per student, $17,000, than every other state in the union. Still, the state continuously ranks outside of the top 10 in terms of performance. Throwing more money at education is absolutely not the answer.

Nonetheless, we have people like Kremer spreading their warped propaganda to the media. He talks about the spending cap killing kindergarten, music and sports programs. A property tax cap will devastate the children, according to Kremer. When does it stop? What will it take for people like Kremer to understand that we as taxpayers cannot continue to subsidize the most lavish public sector benefits packages on the planet?

Even more sickening is their insistence on repeatedly using children as the reason they must continue to rape the taxpayers. It's been awhile since I was a kid, but I have more faith in children than those opposed to the tax cap. I believe that the children will endure having five more kids in their classroom. People like Kremer don't. They believe that the the lives of the children will fall apart.

Then again, why, when someone talks about controlling school spending, is it only the children who must make the sacrifices? How come no one ever talks about the teachers or the administrations doing more with less? Because that doesn't invoke emotion. It doesn't scare people. Sadly, that's what makes people like Kremer tick.

As a Republican, I didn't vote for Cuomo. That being said, I am more than happy with his first weeks in office. He's shown himself to be a no bullshit governor who understands the magnitude of the fiscal crisis plaguing the state and is willing to address it head on, even if it means taking action that no governor, Republican or Democrat, has had the balls to do. His battle to reign in the massive overspending that has sent the state's finances spiraling out of control won't be easy - especially when you have people like Kremer ready to wreak havoc on anyone who'd dare to challenge the status quo.

January 28, 2011

Rename Bridge to Honor All Veterans

The City of Lockport is absolutely right in not agreeing to name a city bridge after fallen soldier Spc. Albert R. Jex. As the story states, the family of Jex is hoping that the bridge that crosses the Erie Canal at Stevens and High streets be named after her son.

The story of Jex is very sad. I've followed it since Albert's death, and I can't begin to fathom the pain that his family and friends have suffered. Their intentions are truly honorable, but the concern of city officials of the precedent that the bridge naming would set are legitimate.

Sadly, over one million soldiers have died serving our country; thousands from right here in Western New York. Every soldier came from some town; lived on some street. It would be virtually impossible to name a piece of public property after every soldier who's ever died in combat.

What the city could consider doing is naming the currently unnamed bridge the Veterans Memorial Bridge and place a plaque on or near the bridge listing each of the soldiers from the community who have made the ultimate sacrifice. While it wouldn't be the same as naming the bridge for one person, it would provide a memorial for all of the men and women who should be remembered and honored - as they deserve.

January 27, 2011

"They" Are Not the Problem

I really can't stand whiners. In fact, when I whine, I can't stand myself. What really gets me is when people whine about things that didn't turn out the way they'd have liked, despite the fact that could have influenced the outcome.

Take for instance this article in yesterday's Niagara Gazette. The piece is intended to encourage residents of Niagara Falls to go to last night's public forum before the Niagara County Redistricting Committee, the group charged with redrawing legislative districts as the county legislature is reduced from 19 to 15 members. That's all well and good - the public should be encouraged to express themselves in public forums as much as possible.

The piece goes awry when Legislature Minority Leader Dennis Virtuoso enters the discussion. Now, it's no secret that Niagara Falls, the area that Virtuoso allegedly represents, has lost population over the past 10 years (or 50 years for that matter). In the article, Virtuoso is quoted as saying, "They are going to try to take representatives away from the city of Niagara Falls." What a dolt.

First of all, no one is "trying" to do anything except draw the legislature lines based on federally-generated population numbers while reducing the number of legislators by four. By the way, the directive of reducing the legislature came from a public referendum on November's ballot that passed with a resounding 87% of the vote. So who is "trying" to take representation away from the Falls - the people who sent a clear message that they want less government? It's certainly not the five volunteers who were chosen to donate their time and expertise to ensure a fair redistricting process.

But what truly galls me is that Virtuoso has the audacity to whine about a problem that he has been in a position to rectify for decades. Now, there are many factors that have contributed to the decline of Niagara Falls over the years, and there's certainly enough blame to go around. That being said, few can argue with the perspective that the massive decline of the city's housing stock has been the single largest contributing factor to the city's current deplorable conditions.

Virtuoso has had 20 years to enforce laws on the books specifically created to prevent exactly what has transpired over the past two decades and he has failed to enforce those laws. No one wants to live in a shit hole. No one wants to live next to a shit hole. Nobody wants to live in a community that's become a shit hole. That type of environment breeds an influx of transient residents who have no interest in keeping up their neighborhoods while chasing out contributing members of society who refuse to be subjected to that type of influence. Thus you get a loss of population. Thus you get a loss of representation when census number are released. It's not freakin' complicated and there's no conspiracy theory behind it.

The bottom line is that Virtuoso has been two things for 20 years: a Niagara County Legislator and a Niagara Falls building inspector. No one has been in a better position to stem the tide of poverty that has overtaken the city. For him to once again claim that "they" are trying to do harm to Niagara Falls is baseless and irresponsible. For once in his life, Virtuoso needs to man-up and take responsibility for his role in the community. Unfortunately, that's not the type of man he is - it's easier to blame everyone else. That, my friends, is the epitome of what's wrong with Niagara Falls and the number one reason it will never crawl out of its own hole.

January 26, 2011

"Endless Borrowing is Not a Strategy"

This morning, we pondered writing some penetrating thoughts about President Obama's being born again as a budget-cutter, but since he's not really driving that train, we decided instead to look to the man who is.

Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan will, more than anyone, have the authority to cut the bloated federal budget, and was a splendid choice to deliver the GOP response last night. And, frankly, in 10 minutes he said a lot more than Barry said in an hour-plus. If you missed the GOP response, it's well worth 10 minutes of your day:

January 25, 2011

A Starks Contrast

I've always felt that the Western New York community is a desperate community. The region is desperate for anything and anyone, no matter how insignificant, to latch on to that will make people feel good about themselves.

The latest is James Starks, the Niagara Falls native now playing for the Green Bay Packers. Newspapers are devoting front pages to the story of a local kid who's playing in the NFL. Woopdeefreakindoo. We have so many problems in this state and country, a one-time mention of Starks is more than sufficient. But not in WNY. It's on the TV news. It's on the radio. It's all over the newspapers. Intimate details of what flavor dip Starks' brother's cousin's uncle likes with his Fritos. I mean, come on, does anyone really give a shit? And like the old football saying goes, "act like you've been there before".

Sadly, I'm not surprised. Western New Yorkers have had loads of bad breaks and few good ones - well, okay, no good breaks. We love to not only wallow in our self-pity, but brag about it. It feeds us. We love to talk about O.J., Bobbit, McVeigh, missed field goals, skates in the crease, huge snowfalls, rusted-out steel mills, glory days of the past and anything else that allows us to take pity on ourselves. The opportunity to latch on to Starks' very limited-to-date success lets people who have nothing else to latch onto feel special. I mean, really....we need to know that Paul Dyster watched the game with Starks' relatives? Who gives a shit?

This is so typical Buffalo and it's indicative of the small-mindedness of the region. Newspapers and TV stations in any other major city in the country aren't devoting front page stories and lead news stories to one kid who's played five games in the NFL. Am I happy for Starks? Sure, good for him. But move on. How about a front page story about a person from Western New York who made a difference in someone's life instead of a damn football game? Of course, when you have idiots like Byron Brown giving the Key to the City to people like Terrell Owens, this is where we end up - holding athletes above people who actually contribute something positive to society. It's sad, pathetic and another reason that WNY will never dig itself out of its hole.

January 24, 2011

Let the City Take Care of Itself

I can't recall a time when we so strongly agreed with a New York Times editorial as this piece from Friday titled "Give Back New York City". In essence, the article laments the hard times that NYC had gone through and how the city managed to get its financial house in order. It ends with the statement "It is time to let New York City take care of itself".

In fact, let's take it a step further. I mean, if New York City is so capable of taking care of itself, by all means, take care of yourself. I'd be more than willing to say goodbye to the rampant crime that dominates the city; I'd be happy to give up the millions of Medicaid recipients that cripple the state budget; I'd love to alleviate the financial burden of thousands of illegal immigrants that have infested the city. New York City: the 51st state.

Why NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg hasn't proposed this is beyond me. He has whined incessantly for years that the city contributes more to the state's coffers than the city gets back. So put your billions where your mouth is, Mike - have one of your NYC lackey politicians propose legislation splitting NYC off into its own state. If you don't want to take it that far, then propose a referendum on the issue - allow all of the people from across the state to decide. After all, New York City can take care of itself.

January 20, 2011

Port-au-Prince with a Waterfall

News reached us this past weekend that Baby Doc Duvalier had returned to Haiti. Haiti, as you know, has been a human disaster since a massive earthquake one year ago basically leveled the place. Before that, it was still a pretty awful place, but at least most of the buildings were standing.

And that set us to thinking about Niagara County’s own Third World hellhole, Niagara Falls. “Port-au-Prince with a Waterfall,” you might call it.

Now, before you deem us insensitive or accuse us of hyperbole, consider the latest statistics out about the conditions facing school-age children in the Niagara Falls City School District. Buffalo Business First, a truly indispensable publication when it comes to statistical research, released its 2011 Socioeconomic Index for Western New York School Districts. It’s really quite eye-opening:

Out of 98 school districts, Niagara Falls placed 94th in terms of its “socioeconomic climate”—a score derived from factors including the percentage of kids living below the poverty line and the percentage receiving free or reduced lunches, as well as a measurement of wealth within the district.

First off, if you live in Niagara Falls, you can be thankful your kids don’t go to Jamestown, Lackawanna, Dunkirk, or Buffalo public schools. But that’s like telling a Haitian he’s just lucky he doesn’t live in Somalia or North Korea.

(It should also be noted that the Falls School District sucks academically, as well. Apparently years of rule by Carmen “Papa Doc” Granto and Cynthia “Baby Doc” Bianco couldn’t elevate the district above 91st place in the academic ranks. But we digress.)

No, we keep coming back to the very blunt statistics about life for children growing up in Port-au-Dyster. Fully 68% of the kids in the Falls School District qualify for a free or reduced-price lunch. Think about that: more than two-thirds of the kids are getting a handout every day! And 28% are considered to be living below the poverty line.

We realize, of course, that this is the product of decades of decline. But we also cringe, regularly, when Paul Dyster begins speeches by saying, “I am the mayor of a poor city.” We become even more uncomfortable when the remedy that Dyster prescribes for what ails Niagara Falls is more very expensive government housing, like the disastrous Hope VI project, instead of jobs. Remember—Dyster and former Economic Development Guru Peter Kay actually tried to stop several job-creating efforts by the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency just last year.

Conditions in Niagara Falls are deplorable. While our comparison to Haiti may rankle some, we don’t think it’s far-off at all, which is doubly-distressing considering Niagara Falls hasn't even had an earthquake. But our question for the people who live there is, when is enough going to be enough? When will you stop wallowing, electing politicians who promise more handouts, and start demanding your government stop interfering with the creation of jobs?

When will you stop living in the mud waiting for UN aid workers to bring you bottled water and start rebuilding your community?

January 19, 2011

Witryol, Show Us the Money!

For someone who campaigned on "taking the money out of politics", former State Senate candidate Amy Witryol certainly seems to have something to hide. Nowhere in her legally required campaign disclosure reports has she shown where her money came from, and it doesn't appear that she has any intention of doing so.

Her latest financial filing shows that she owes herself nearly $74,000. But where did this money come from? Was it her personal money? If it was, that's fine, but we don't know, because she's never disclosed it. It's also quite astonishing that no one from the mainstream media has demanded an answer to this lingering question. They're not difficult inquiries to make: How did you finance your campaign, Amy? Where did the funds come from, Amy? Do you plan to repay the $74,000 you owe yourself, Amy?

Witryol also campaigned on the premises of reforming Albany and bringing transparency to state government. Her campaign financial disclosure reports show just how insincere she was with her empty campaign rhetoric. How she thinks that she has any credibility after this financial shell-game she is playing with the public is beyond me. Personally, I hope she continues to rear her hypocritical head in the future - I have a feeling that she's going to provide plenty of blog fodder for years to come.

January 18, 2011

Let the Games Begin

Yesterday, Niagara County Legislator Renae Kimble, a leader in the area's African-American community, hosted her annual Martin Luther King Jr luncheon. This is certainly a great event that commemorates the work of Dr. King and his ongoing contributions to our society.

What is interesting to note is that, in addition to the usual politicos that you'd find at such an event, John Accardo and Bobby Restaino also made appearances at the commemoration. Now, I'm sure it's likely that Accardo and Restaino understand the importance of King's work and simply attended to show their appreciation. But an even more likely scenario is that Accardo and Restaino are starting to put feelers out to the community in anticipation of mayoral runs by each of them in Niagara Falls.

It makes perfect sense. Accardo is coming off of a strong run for State Assembly and Restaino is well-known and well-liked in the city. And, as you'll recall, Restaino seriously contemplated a primary run against Francine DelMonte, only to change his mind, opening the door for Accardo, who would go on to defeat DelMonte in the Dem primary for Assembly. In addition, despite all the rhetoric about how things are on the "right path" in the city, incumbent Mayor Paul Dyster is vulnerable.

There is also no love loss between the three. Dyster did nothing to help Accardo after the primary, despite the fact that Accardo was the candidate supported by the city's Democrats. Frankly, that was a horrendous political move by Dyster - his refusal to support Accardo post-primary shows just how politically inept he is.

This is really going to be fun to watch. It will also be interesting to see how the city and county Dem committees handle what will likely be a multi-candidate Dem primary. Of course, we don't want to get too far ahead of ourselves - it is after all, still January. Let the games begin.

January 17, 2011

January 14, 2011

Protesting the Constitution

As we know, members of Congress recently took the time to read the U.S. Constitution. Personally, I think this a a great move. Periodically reminding people of the principles of what this country was founded on is a good thing. Unfortunately, not everyone feels the same way, as the below video shows.

January 13, 2011

Rob Ortt: Dyster, He's Not

We have been generally impressed by North Tonawanda Mayor Rob Ortt's performance over the course of his first year in office. From his arrival on the scene, he has exuded a certain cool competence that is lacking in some of his "peers" here in Western New York. And his latest major action as mayor, the hiring of a new DPW chief for the Lumber City, just reinforces that appearance of competence.

By all accounts, DPW Director-in-waiting Brad Rowles is a competent guy. He's put in a long career in public works in the Town of Tonawanda, serving since 2003 as that town's highway superintendent. The voters of that community returned him to office twice since then.

We also understand he's got extensive training and schooling in his professional field, a trait second only to real-world experience in value.

Best of all, though, North Tonawanda insiders tell us that, by retiring from his post in the Town of Tonawanda, and coming in at substantially less than his predecessor in North Tonawanda was making before his end-of-year retirement, Rowles (and Ortt) will be saving the taxpayers of NT on the order of $30,000 a year in retirement system contributions and pay.

So, did you get all that? Local candidate...lower salary...lower costs to taxpayers...fully qualified and competent.

Now, let's contrast that with someone, shall we? Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster has had, shall we say, a bumpy road when it comes to hiring department heads.

Actually, we're not alone in saying it. The Niagara Falls Reporter just said it the other day.

With Dyster, the pattern's always the same: launch a "national search" for the "best and brightest." Ignore competent locals. Throw LOTS of money at the person you hire. Fail spectacularly. Pass the costs along to the taxpayers. Launch a new national search a year later...

No, we'll take Ortt's model. It may lack Dyster's breathless delivery, but in the end, it seems to work a lot better.

January 12, 2011

Extended Magazines

With the massacre in Tucson once again thrusting Second Amendment rights into the spotlight, advocates on both sides of the aisle are filling the airwaves with rhetoric on the issue. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, who no one can dispute is as familiar with the pain inflicted due to gun violence as one can be, is once again broaching the subject of banning high-capacity bullet magazines for guns. We couldn't agree more with McCarthy's efforts.

As anyone who's read this blog knows, our writings almost always lean to the right. We support the Second Amendment of the Constitution, which protects the right of the people to keep and bear arms, and believe people who are thoroughly screened should always have that right.

That being said, I have yet to see, hear or read one substantive argument as to why someone who owns a handgun needs a clip with a capacity of 31 bullets, as Tucson shooter Jared Loughner had in his Glock. Simply saying "it's my right" is a bullshit position. Saying that "the Constitution allows it" is a lie. Our forefathers, who had amazing wisdom and foresight, wrote that portion of the Constitution at a time when defense of one's home against tyranny and mayhem was priority number one. It hardly applies today.

Some will say that it wouldn't have made a difference in Tucson; we'll never know if that's accurate or not. What we do know is that Loughner was stopped when he, after exhausting his initial 31-round clip, dropped the about-to-be-inserted second clip with an additional 31 rounds. Those seconds allowed bystanders to pounce on him and subdue him until law enforcement authorities arrived.

A standard Glock 19 (9mm) can hold up to 16 rounds - 15+1. So what if that clip that Loughner had didn't contain 31 rounds? What if it contained 16, and he managed to drop the magazine in the same manner that he did on Saturday while attempting to reload? Would less people have been shot on that fateful day? The reality is that we'll never know because the clip that he used did in fact contain 31 rounds.

What we do know is that no rational person needs a clip with 31 rounds - you don't need it to hunt and you don't need it for personal protection. Would it be suitable for members of the law enforcement community or military personnel? Absolutely. But for the average person, a 16-round clip should be more than sufficient to provide the type of personal protection afforded by the Second Amendment.

If I'm wrong on this, I would welcome anyone the opportunity to provide me the rationale as to why a 31-round clip is needed or even wanted. I won't hold my breath.

January 11, 2011

Law & Order: Niagara Falls

We got a chuckle reading an article by Niagara Gazette crime-beat reporter Rick Pfeiffer that revealed some interested stats about life under Paul Dyster: It seems that, in 2010, burglaries are up 18.82% in the Cataract City.

And, honestly, we aren’t the least bit surprised. Niagara Falls is what could be charitably described as a Third World hellhole, and the Niagara Falls Police Department sure as heck hasn’t managed to restore order. If Niagara Falls were a foreign country, we’d be talking about an “exit strategy” right about now.

Look, we’ve done little to hide our disdain for bureaucrat-in-blue John Chella, the police superintendent whose grandiose vision of a public safety facility has turned into a costly mess for city taxpayers. But really, we don’t blame him for his department’s failure to deliver. We’re not even sure if General Petraeus could fix that mess.

No, we blame the political leadership of Niagara Falls.

We blame Donna Owens, who keeps an able-bodied police officer off the streets every day so he can sit outside her office in City Hall.

We blame Paul Dyster, who seized on the shooting of an Arizona congresswoman to generate headlines by boosting security near Louise Slaughter’s Niagara Falls office (which, we hear, she can’t even find without her GPS) and sending out a press release about it.

And we blame Dennis F. Virtuoso, whose day job is heading up the city’s inspections department, more than anyone. Every time his “ZOOM” teams are out using police to cite homeowners for not cleaning their rain gutters, it seems like other crimes spike in the city. You see, as long as police are busy running political errands and setting up photo ops for smarmy politicians like Dennis in the Niagara Gazette, law and order will suffer. (And in case you think we're being too harsh, ask yourself this: who inspects dilapidated houses in a wool-blend suit?)

Mostly, though, we blame the residents of Niagara Falls for putting up with the inept leadership of Dyster & Co.—and their antecedents. You can only do the lemming routine for so long before the rest of us stop feeling sorry for you.

You stay classy, Niagara Falls.

January 10, 2011

January 7, 2011

Shattered Dreams

There's an old adage that I'm quite fond of that goes something like this: Excuses are like assholes - everyone's got one and they all stink. These days, it seems like the city of Niagara Falls has become one huge asshole, because all we seem to get out everybody and anybody who has anything to do with the city has one excuse or another for what ails them.

The latest one hasn't formally been made yet, but rest assured, it's coming. In fact, Gazette reporter Mark Scheer laid the foundation for the coming onslaught of excuses with this piece from Tuesday's paper surrounding the cancellation of a $400,000 state grant to billionaire Howard Milstein to refurbish the former Magaddino funeral home.

The grant, which was arranged by former State Senator Antoine Thompson, the recipient of sizable campaign contributions from Milstein, was to be part of a project called the Niagara Falls Gateway Redevelopment Project to turn the old funeral home property into a state-of-the-art administrative, operations and preview center. That sounds wonderful.

How the state could rescind funds for such a scintillating project as this one is beyond me. In fact, there is no doubt in my mind that this project of sprucing up an old funeral home would have been exactly what the city needed to turn visions of prosperity into reality. Why else would Scheer devote nearly 450 words to the revocation of the grant, which came at the urging of the state Senate’s Office of Fiscal Integrity? Not to mention that virtually everyone agrees with the fact that Thompson shouldn't have been giving state grants to billionaire contributors in the first place. If nothing else, breathing new life into the old funeral home would have given the credibility of Milstein's Niagara Falls Redevelopment Corp. a huge jump after years of completely screwing Niagara Falls.

Now the dream is gone. The impact on Niagara Falls will be devastating - it will take decades to recover. Mayor Paul Dyster will have to find new and innovative ways to revitalize the city. Since they don't have a funeral home to pin the city's revitalization hopes on, maybe there's an old whore house they could pump some money into; maybe there's a boarded up asbestos factory that could use some love. Then again, even if one of my suggestions comes to fruition, it can't possibly match the economic development potential that the refurbishing of that funeral home would have brought.

And so the saga continues.

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.

January 5, 2011

NYPA, LIPA "Partnership"

We must admit, we've got high hopes for today's State of the State Address by Andrew Cuomo. So far, Cuomo is saying all the right things - he's focused on the state's economy, creating jobs, getting taxes under control, Medicaid reform, reducing unfunded mandates and improving the overall climate of the state. Of course, saying the right things and actually enacting the critically important reforms that are so vital to the state's future will be no easy task. Nonetheless, we're going to remain optimistic until Cuomo proves otherwise.

That being said, we have an ongoing concern with Cuomo's intentions when it comes to the New York Power Authority. While most readers of Niagara Times are familiar with NYPA, few know that there is a downstate counterpart by the name of LIPA (Long Island Power Authority). LIPA provides electrical service to Nassau County, Suffolk County and part of Queens.

LIPA, which incidentally was previously run by current NYPA President & CEO Richie Kessel, is in a heap of trouble. The public authority currently carries a $7 billion debt load, mothballed and inefficient facilities, huge expenses and rates that are among the highest in the nation.

Now, you're probably asking why those of us on the Niagara Frontier should care what the Long Island Power Authority does. After all, what they do 450 miles away can't possibly impact us here. That may or may not be the case.

As we know, the Niagara Power Project is NYPA's cash cow. Of the 17 NYPA facilities across the state, only two are profitable, Niagara and Massena. Billions of dollars have been "swept" from NYPA over the years to fund economic development initiatives (except last year, when $550 million was swept to fill the gaping hole in the state's budget). Needless to say, they've got boatloads of cash to go around.

LIPA, on the other hand, needs a huge infusion of cash. That can come from one of two sources: ratepayers or, you guessed it, NYPA. There is no way that Cuomo is going to let LIPA raise rates to the point necessary to finance their huge debt load, so he's looking to NYPA to bail them out. Of course, everyone is denying this publicly at this point. Even Cuomo, on his Cuomo 2010 campaign website, was very ambiguous in choosing his words.

Buried on page 30 of his "New York Works" vision on his campaign website, Cuomo states the following:
New York State already has ambitious goals to
improve energy efficiency and increase the use of
renewable fuels, but not nearly enough is being done
to meet those goals. To make more rapid progress,
the New York State Power Authority and the Long
Island Power Authority must be made full partners in
advancing energy related projects that will create
jobs and grow the economy.

Did you catch it? "Full partners". Now, that's a very careful use of words, but make no mistake about his intentions here - he is broaching the subject of a NYPA takeover of LIPA. With that, NYPA will assume all of the debt of LIPA - $7 billion worth. If people in this region were pissed off about NYPA sending $550 million to Albany, how does the prospect of sending $7 billion, primarily generated in Niagara County, to Long Island sound? Not too good.

We're going to continue to give Cuomo the benefit of the doubt, but this scenario is very disturbing. It certainly deserves watching, as this "partnering" seems to be something that NYPA, LIPA and Cuomo would try to do without drawing too much attention to it.

January 4, 2011

The View from the Eighth Circle

This blog was hopeful when news reports suggested that former Senator Antoine Thompson—"Twan" to those of us who followed his memorable Albany career—had opened the door to a smooth transition in the best traditions of our little American experiment in democracy.

We should have known better.

As many of our readers no doubt saw on last night's newscasts, when staffers for new state Senator Mark Grisanti arrived to take over Thompson's suite of offices, they found almost every file had been shredded. In fact, the only document waiting for them was a copy of Twan's infamous "2010 State of the 60th Senate District" coffee table book—the same self-promotional taxpayer-funded volume many consider the straw that broke Twan's back.

But to the end, Twan was Twan:

"There's nothing that belongs to the state that was discarded. In fact, we left the office nice and clean for him," said Thompson.

That's the very definition of chutzpah.

We could chalk this up to Twan's, er, mental handicaps, we suppose. But honestly, we're content to give props to a competitor's blog when it delves into poetic eloquence, so we quote here, directly, from the generally liberal WNYMedia.net:

Will this seriously affect Grisanti’s agenda? No. But it does reek of a douchebag move on Thompson’s part, and by extension, is an “Up Yours” to the people of the 60th Senatorial District.

But douchebag moves aren't limited to Twan's legally-ambiguous temper tantrum as Republicans sweep to power.

So far largely unreported are the similarly-nasty shenanigans of the Wicked Witch of Western New York and her band of flying monkeys.

Sources tell us that despite a gracious effort by newly-elected Assemblyman John Ceretto to execute a friendly and mutually-respectful transition, Francine was having none of it.

In fact, several days after Ceretto sent a letter asking DelMonte to meet with him to discuss a transition, DelMonte's staff set the tone by hanging up on Ceretto's chief of staff.

Then the vile Louise Slaughter—a woman who truly has the Wicked Witch look down to an art form—decided to attempt to rent Ceretto's office right out from underneath him. Only the intervention of nonpartisan lawyers from the New York State Assembly—and the threat of a lawsuit—put Ceretto's lease back on track.

But the asshole moves didn't stop there.

We are told that Grisanti actually inherited more paperwork from his dim-bulb predecessor than did Ceretto, whose staff found their office had been ransacked of paperwork involving ongoing constituent matters, and worse, had been cleared of all but one ancient computer. The whereabouts of the other 138th Assembly District computers remains a question mark this morning.

But DelMonte staffers, ever classy, were just getting started. In a gesture that sums up their contempt for the voters that showed them the door—and the man those voters turned to—they even declined to flush the toilet on the way out.

And nothing says classy like Francine's floater.

Still, despite our contempt for these acts, we can't help but imagine that somewhere in the eighth circle of hell, the demonic spirit of Richard Nixon is grinning. After all, this is the kind of stuff he specialized in.

January 3, 2011

Ceretto's New Friends

The swearing-in of Niagara County's newest State Assemblyman, John Ceretto, was a pretty standard affair. You had dozens of supporters, GOP party leadership, elected officials and family & friends.

What wasn't so standard was the plethora of Democrats who showed up to support Ceretto on his special day. First and foremost was county legislator Renae Kimble. Not only did Kimble attend, she lead the invocation to commence the ceremony. There is no doubt that Kimble's participation was a great, big "f#%@ you" to former Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte.

Anyone who has followed Niagara County politics knows that Kimble and DelMonte have had an extremely contentious relationship that included DelMonte personally sabotaging Kimble's appointment to the NYPA Board. You know that Kimble was going to take any and every opportunity she could to bask in the glory of DelMonte's defeat, including taking an active role in the swearing-in of a Republican.

But Kimble wasn't the only high-profile Dem to grace the Como. Also in attendance were Niagara Falls Councilmen Charlie Walker and Sam Fruscione as well as Sheriff Jim Voutour.

One can only presume that DelMonte would be none-to-happy to learn that her former allies are so quick to jump on board with Ceretto. Now, I understand the rationale of bipartisanship and working together, which is all fine and dandy. But that can come after the pomp and circumstance of a purely ceremonial event (the legal swearing-in is done in Albany).

In the meantime, we'll keep an eye on which Dems cozy up to Ceretto. We won't hold our breath for Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster to be among that group- he's got things going so well in the city that he doesn't need to cooperate with anyone else.