March 31, 2011

Hope on the Horizon

We've made no secret of our disdain for New York Power Authority (NYPA) President & CEO Richard Kessel. Time and time again he has shown that he is little more than a bureaucratic blowhard who looks at the Lewiston Power Project as his personal political piggy bank. Already under the gun for his complete mismanagement of the Power Authority, Kessel has recently drawn the ire of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for improper distribution of NYPA funds to Kessel's favored charities.

With the appointment of John Dyson to the Power Authority Board of Trustees on Monday, Kessel's days with NYPA may be coming to an end. Many are speculating that Dyson was brought in to fire Kessel. We can only hope.

While one never knows what may lie behind the curtain, it's hard to imagine any replacement of Kessel being any worse, especially for Niagara County. While Kessel gets off on touting how much he's been here, the reality is that he never comes here unless it's beneficial for him, not us. For Kessel, it's not about acting in the best interests of Niagara County, it's about getting his face in in front of the cameras and getting his name in the paper. I've known some arrogant people in my life, but Kessel takes the cake. He makes Narcissus look humble.

As the story in the hyperlink above states, Kessel is not without his friends. That being said, because the contentiousness between Andrew Cuomo and Kessel is so significant, Cuomo's wishes will likely supersede the power of Richie's pals. We can hardly wait.

March 30, 2011

Phil Rumore Flunks the Big Test

Buffalo Teachers Federation President Phil Rumore got a big, fat ‘F’ on his big test yesterday.

Our regular readers all remember Rumore: an arrogant little man who usually spends his time defending taxpayer-funded benefits for Buffalo teachers, like elective cosmetic surgery. (By elective, we mean boob jobs, liposuction, ass lifts—you get the idea.) But what he’s really spent more than half a decade staking his union presidency on has been his assertion that Buffalo teachers (and other union employees) were due back pay for raises that didn’t occur during a three-year pay freeze put in place by the Buffalo Fiscal Stability Authority.

The BFSA was created to help dig Buffalo out of a very deep financial hole, and they were given broad powers to do whatever it took to get Buffalo and its institutions to solvency, including stepping on the perks normally paid out to unions. So, one of their first actions was to impose a three-year freeze on wages. Given that Buffalo’s fiscal picture was dark then, and still isn’t exactly rosy, we kind of thought the prudent course for the Rumore and the BTF way back then might have been to negotiate a reasonable middle-ground with the city school board and Mayor Byron Brown.

But this is the same Phil Rumore who, a decade ago, led his union into repeated illegal strikes. So instead of negotiating, the BTF sued. Actually, first they picketed in front of the home of the woman serving as director of the BFSA. Then, they sued. And, of course, they promptly lost—and they lost big time, being shot down by the U.S. Supreme Court four years ago on the merits of, essentially, the exact same lawsuit.

Unfortunately for Buffalo’s teachers, and their families, Rumore has proven time and again that he’s little more than a bomb-thrower with a penchant for pissing off even his allies—as he did when he called liberal Democrat Assemblyman Sam Hoyt a “publicity-seeking, pathetic excuse for a human being” last year. Those kinds of tactics no doubt impressed the hell out of the staid jurists who comprise the New York State Court of Appeals, even as Rumore pissed away his members’ union dues on a case he had no chance of winning.

And, so, Rumore lost yesterday. He lost big, and he lost again. Instead of taking any of several offers for peace that Buffalo quietly offered the BTF to end its long, expensive lawsuit, Rumore decided to roll the dice and go all-or-nothing.

Rumore could have, at any time, brought a partial victory home to his teachers—but, try as we might, we can’t really remember the last time Phil Rumore actually won a fight worth winning. Instead, his union’s members suffer, as his most significant wins these days tend to be efforts to keep teachers arrested for serious crimes from losing their jobs while his union’s benefits go down the drain.

We only hope that Buffalo’s teachers aren’t paying attention. After all, for Buffalo’s unionized teachers, Phil Rumore just became a very expensive liability. For the taxpayers, though, growing used to watching him lose, he’s becoming comic relief, kind of a court jester for Western New York.

And, as we’ve never been that fond of public-sector unions to begin with, we can’t think of a better way for them to continue losing power than keeping Phil Rumore around.

March 29, 2011

Houghton Looks to Poach for Niagara Falls

In Business First's annual review of the 97 school districts of Western New York's eight counties, Niagara Falls came in at an appalling 91st place. They were also ranked, by far, the worst district in Niagara County, with the next closest district in the county coming in at 54th place. It should come as no surprise, then, to see the extremely fuzzy math of Niagara Falls Democratic Committee Chairman David Houghton, an obvious product of the city's schooling.

In case you missed it, the Niagara Gazette devoted the front page, top-half to this story, which focuses on the demand of Houghton to see Niagara Falls get four full seats in the county legislature at the culmination of the legislature's downsizing/redistricting process.

For those who are not familiar, the legislature, after a referendum on the ballot last year, which passed with 86% of the vote, is going from 19 to 15 members. The legislature empowered a bipartisan committee, reflective of the make-up of the legislature, to seek public input and ultimately make a recommendation to the body for approval.

The commission is to make their recommendation based on the reduction in the number of seats, as well as population shifts within the county as determined by the 2010 census results, which just came in. One would think this is a pretty uncomplicated process. The legislature is going from 19 to 15, and the county's population has been determined to be 216, 469. You divide the population of the county by 15 seats, and you come up with a figure of 14,431 residents per legislative district.

Apparently it's a little too difficult a concept for Houghton. He believes that Niagara Falls "deserves" at least four seats in the post-redistricting era. He doesn't care about a legitimate process, he just wants what he wants. Forget about a solid rationale and forget about sound reasoning - Houghton wants to completely ignore the legitimacy of the process and simply annoint Niagara Falls at least four seats. It simply does not work.

The census figures tell us that the current population of Niagara Falls stands at 50,193. If each legislative district has approximately 14,431 residents, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that there will ultimately be slightly under 3.5 county legislators representing the city, down from the current five. It's not a conspiracy theory to screw the Falls, it's mathematics - the universal language.

The redistricting is supposed to be an apolitical process that will not be influenced by party bosses. As much as the Democrats whine about wanting the process to be apolitical, here is their city party chairman entering what has been a quiet, cooperative process. Leave it to Niagara Falls.

Houghton, in his ultimate ignorance, doesn't care about a fair and balanced reapportionment - he only cares about circumventing the work of a group of volunteers who have approached their task with the utmost professionalism. In addition, Houghton's demand epitomizes the self-serving nature of all of Niagara Falls due to the unquestionable fact that simply giving more representatives to the city because they want it will assuredly take representation away from other parts of the county. It is the height of arrogance.

If Houghton and other supposed city leaders were truly concerned with garnering what they perceive to be proper representation, they wouldn't have allowed their city to become the absolute rat-infested, crime ridden shit hole that it's become. Good people don't want to live in that type of environment.

Maybe if the city leaders didn't allow the school district to be run like a family business, the city wouldn't have seen the massive shift in population. I mean, really...when a husband and wife, the core of the family, decide where they want to raise their growing family, what do they look at first and foremost? Schools. Niagara Falls schools are absolutely abysmal. Again, good people will not be subjected to that type of lifestyle.

That point cannot have been made more clear than with the census results. Niagara Falls saw a nearly 10% drop in population, an extremely disturbing number.

In contrast, its neighbor Wheatfield saw an increase in population of 28%, one of the most significant increases in the entire state. While Wheatfield does draw folks from many areas within Western New York, its clear that the town has benefited from the outflow of clean-living, hardworking men and women from Niagara Falls. Who can blame them? Who wants to live in a city that has no future; a city that has become overrun with gangs, drugs and decrepit housing, with not a prayer of turning things around anywhere in sight?

If these trends continue, which we have no reason to believe they won't, Niagara Falls will be left with nothing but criminals and senior citizens locked in their homes because they're afraid to venture out. If Houghton thinks that an extra body in the legislature is going to change that, he's delusional. He'd be better served working on recruiting a Democratic candidate for mayor who has the balls to address the multitude of problems plaguing this once proud city head on because incumbent Paul Dyster is nothing but a sniveling weasel, incapable of handling his responsibilities.

Houghton would also be better served stopping the pandering and rhetoric. Every single person in the county is deserving of equal representation, regardless of their geographical location. Let the commission complete the task they've been charged with without the political influence of self-serving opportunists.

March 28, 2011

County Health Dept Proposes Unfunded Mandate

Two physicians who serve on the Niagara County Board of Health are advocating for blood tests for lead exposure for all children entering school. The doctors, Jerome Ulatowski II of Lewiston and Thomas Hughes of Lockport, plan to ask the state to pass the mandate. I'm sure they're going to go on to say that it's all about the kids, as if we don't hear that excuse enough.

Let's agree on one point: lead is bad. But the two bureaucrats never talk about the cost associated with such a directive; a cost that inevitably will be forced upon the taxpayers of Niagara County. Now, I'm not sure how many kids enter school every year, but I'd think it'd be safe to assume that it's in the thousands. Why should taxpayers be forced to pay for a standard examination that any competent pediatrician would perform?

The fact that these two individuals would propose such an unfunded mandate without any discussion of the associated costs is disconcerting. Let's call it the way it is: these guys are doctors. They are in business to make money. They know that if this mandate is passed, it will push more patients through the door. Frankly, it is the epitome of self-serving.

If they truly are concerned with the issue of lead poisoning, let them create a non-profit coalition that will conduct the screenings free of charge, not a program that will be subsidized by the federal, state or county governments.

We're assuming that any further discussion of this issue will include the county legislature. We can only hope that the majority of Republicans, who were elected on their belief in smaller, less intrusive government, will stick to the ideals.

March 25, 2011

Paul Dyster's Ghost Town

“Looking at the large number of vacant residential units in the city you can tell we’ve suffered a significant population decline over the past decade,” Dyster said. “The question is: What do you do about it? We’re trying to treat the symptoms. The disease is population loss.”

Wow. Inspirational words, Paul. We suppose that, like an alcoholic at his first AA meeting, it’s good that you finally admit you’ve got a problem.

We just wish that the mayor of the Cataract City could offer up something approximating a plan for addressing that problem. But, maybe the strain of losing one in ten Falls residents over the past decade was too much for Dyster—so much so that he just can’t figure out the root cause of his problem.

Of course, we don’t really expect such things from Mayor Dyster. His inept leadership over the past three years has shown us that all he’s really good for is waiting around for Louise Slaughter to show up with her latest giant check from the federal government, when he dutifully trots out for the photo op and accepts someone else’s federal income taxes like a handout.

Honestly, given the clowns that surround Dyster, this isn’t surprising. Consider how the man Dyster entrusted with “community development” spun the loss of a tenth of his city’s population:

“It’s a very good thing for Niagara Falls,” Community Development Director Robert Antonucci said, referring to the 50,000-plus population figure. “Fifty thousand is the first benchmark that they look at. To fall below it would potentially jeopardize our entitlement status.”

Well, we suppose looking for the silver lining is better than the alternative, which would be to admit that, if you’re tasked with community development, and you lost a tenth of your city’s residents, maybe you’re not doing a very good job. But, hey, you can always brag about your “entitlement status.” It would be easier than trying to find the real problem.

Niagara Falls finds itself down to 50,193 people. Some of our readers will recall that this city was not that long ago home to 120,000 people. We can’t help but wonder what it is that those 70,000 people figured out that the other 50,000 haven’t yet.

Fortunately, though, even without addressing the real problem, prosperity is just around the corner:

Dyster said research by organizations like the Washington, D.C. think tank, the Brookings Institution, suggest demographics and consumer preferences in America are beginning to change and in the years ahead younger, educated people in particular will be looking for the type of “walkable” urban environments cities like Niagara Falls will have to offer if they continue to make wise decisions and sound investments in their infrastructure and offerings.

Which is just great news. Niagara Falls may not have jobs, but if you don’t own a car, it’s gonna be a great place to live. A liberal think tank said so!

Now, if only the Brookings Institution could explain the 29% population growth in the very un-walkable Town of Wheatfield.

After all, it couldn’t have anything to do with municipal tax rates.

March 24, 2011

This Tax is Crap

Here at Niagara Times, we've grown accustomed to politicians, particularly of the Democrat variety and/or Mike Bloomberg, coming up with unique ways to control what every single American does.

But never have we seen anything this obnoxious.

It seems that Jim Suttle, the Mayor of Omaha, Nebraska, went to Washington the other day to offer some helpful advice to our federal overlords. Now, we really didn't think the clowns in Washington needed any help coming up with ways to tax us, so we're hoping they haven't outsourced brainstorming new taxes to far-off Omaha. But if they have, we'll say right now that Mayor Suttle is full of crap, and so are his ideas.

Suttle has a simple solution for financing sewer upgrades for, well, for big cities like the one he presides over: tax our toilet paper. You see, under the Suttle Plan, the feds would slap a 10-cent tax on every single roll of toilet paper you bought.

Proponents of a national sales tax always pointed out that it rewarded frugal living: the less you consumed, the less you paid in taxes. We suppose the Suttle Shit Tax probably follows the same logic: clench hard enough, and you can drop an entire tax bracket.

We shouldn't be surprised. For every Democrat politician, it seems like there is a dumb scheme to tax us.

So, here's hoping that the feds flush this obnoxious idea, and that the voters of Omaha wipe Suttle out at the first opportunity.

March 23, 2011

DelMonte Sets Her Sights on 2012

As regular readers of Niagara Times have likely noticed, we've periodically extended the closing date of the poll question to the left. The reason we've done so is because former State Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte hasn't landed any of the listed positions, or anything else for that matter. While we'd like to thank the 110 folks who did vote in it, we're likely to take the poll down within the next day or two since it is likely that DelMonte has her sights set on a comeback.

Multiple sources have told us that DelMonte is hellbent on regaining her old seat. She is mighty bitter about her loss at the hands of John Ceretto, and she's been spotted at a multitude of events doing the handshake/kissing babies thing. She's also using any and every platform at her disposal to bad mouth the likable Ceretto.

It's clear why DelMonte hasn't taken any of the likely employment possibilities her buddy Shelly Silver could have lined up for her on the public tit - she knows it'd be a public relations disaster that would be used against her in next year's campaign. And God knows she has absolutely no qualifications whatsoever to work in the private sector, since she worked on the public's dime for 30 years, her entire adult life. She wouldn't know a balance sheet from a dryer sheet.

Frankly, it's a good strategy if DelMonte is going to attempt a comeback. Next year will be a presidential election year, theoretically increasing voter turnout over last year. In addition, district lines will likely be redrawn to aid DelMonte by Silver, the man she voted for to lead the Assembly each and every time during her tenure. One good turn deserves another, right Francine - "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" type of thing?

DelMonte's problem is that she thinks the public has a short memory - they don't. They're not going to forget about DelMonte's destruction of every single document or the wiping out of all computer data in her office when her term was up, despite the fact that Ceretto personally reached out to her to ensure a smooth transition for his current and her former constituents.

They're also not going to forget about her undying devotion to Silver. Or her support for the $550 million sweep of NYPA funds by the state. Or her screwing of Renae Kimble when Kimble's name was brought forth by Carl McCall for a seat on the NYPA Board of Trustees. Or her failure to bring any private capital investment to Niagara Falls, capping her 30 years of failure (remember, she served as an Assembly staffer for 20 years in the office of Assemblyman Joe Pillitiere, a man who never endorsed her Assembly candidacies, prior to her 10 years wasted in the Assembly).

They're not going to forget what an absolute witch she was during and after last year's race, when she brought campaign nastiness to a new level. They won't forget that she screwed her own party by staying in the Assembly race after losing the Primary to John Accardo, ensuring a Democratic split of the vote and guaranteeing a Ceretto win. In staying in the race after the loss, DelMonte showed that she had no interest in keeping the seat in the hands of the Democrats, only that she is a wicked, selfish person.

Voters across the county won't forget that DelMonte stole their share of the casino revenue and diverted all of it to Niagara Falls, only to see the city use it to fund a series of free concerts - concerts that hurt businesses like the Rapids Theatre. They won't forget her allocating public dollars to the Niagara Tourism and Convention, only to see the NTCC abuse the public's trust by spending their money on such lavish and tourism-generating expenses as massages.

They won't forget that DelMonte has used the Power Authority as her personal employment agency, sending as many of her cronies as possible to Lewiston as a reward for her support of NYPA boss Richie Kessel's twisted priorities. They won't forget that DelMonte voted against a much stricter version of the state's civil confinement legislation, a measure that was passed by the State Senate, instead opting for Gladys Carrion-esque legislation and policies that allow societies biggest scumbags, child molesters, to walk the streets among us.

Voters won't forget that time and time again DelMonte supported the giving of more and more generous benefits to Medicaid recipients, creating the country's most lavish and expensive Medicaid program - a program that costs county taxpayers just about the same amount as the county's entire tax levy.

Obviously we can go on and one, but the point's been made. If DelMonte thinks that two years out of office is going to make all of these issues go away, she is delusional. Frankly, I'd love to see her jump into the race - it will certainly give us plenty of blog fodder. But in terms of wiping the slate clean, she will have a difficult time putting her political sins of the past behind her.

March 22, 2011

You're Not in Wisconsin Anymore

A friend sent along the below list of major union political contributions for the 1990 - 2010 period to the Republican and Democratic parties. For the sake of discussion, I took the liberty of adding up the contributions. Over the 20 year period, the below unions gave about $28 million to Republican candidates and approximately $487 million to Democrats. Yes, that would be just shy of half a billion dollars.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out who's in whose pocket. Not surprisingly, public sector unions dominate the list, donating hundreds of millions of dollars to Democratic candidates who are paid off through campaign contributions to do their bidding.

As much as they squawk about campaign finance reform, the Dems would be obliterated without the deep pockets of the unions. The same unions, by the way, that force their membership to donate a portion of their salaries through unions dues.

The unions bitched when the unconstitutional McCain Feingold was repealed, but in reality all the repealing did was level the playing field for contributions. People who choose to donate can now do so constitutionally protected, instead of being manipulated into contributing under some misguided pretense. The list:

Leading Union Political Campaign Contributors


American Fed. of State, County, & Municipal Employees

Intel Brotherhood of Electrical Workers

National Education Association

Service Employees International Union

Communication Workers of America

Service Employees International Union

Laborers Union

American Federation of Teachers

United Auto Workers

Teamsters Union

Carpenters and Joiners Union

Machinists & Aerospace Workers Union

United Food and Commercial Workers Union


Sheet Metal Workers Union

Plumbers & Pipefitters Union

Operating Engineers Union

Airline Pilots Association

International Association of Firefighters

United Transportation Workers

Ironworkers Union

American Postal Workers Union

Nat'l Active & Retired Fed. Employees Association

Seafarers International Union

Source: Center for Responsive Politics, Washington, D.C.

March 21, 2011

Detached from Reality in the Lock City

Last Wednesday, Lockport Council President Richelle Pasceri introduced a resolution urging Governor Andrew Cuomo to fire Commissioner of Children & Family Services Gladys Carrion for, among other things, failing to introduce any reforms at the Office of Children & Family Services following the murder of group home worker Renee Greco. Since the group home where Greco was killed was in Pasceri’s district, you might say she has some concerns about the issue.

Media reports and inside information tell us the resolution was virtually identical to one passed earlier this month by the County Legislature. We should note that the Legislature passed it unanimously. As in, Dennis Virtuoso even voted for it.

If anyone has made a career of standing athwart common sense yelling “Stop!” it’s Virtuoso. And yet, even he grasps just how dangerous Gladys Carrion’s tenure really has been. Why, Google her name, or the name of her agency, and one embarrassing story after another comes up:

Lap dances for juvenile delinquents.

Murder plots involving knives and bombs at an Erie County group home.

Sobbing in her car over how depressing youth incarceration facilities are.

A rash of videotaped incidents where the lives of OCFS staffers were endangered by violent youth.

Add to all that the fact that, for Lockport, the effects of Carrion's reign are easy enough to see, and you realize that voting yes on Pasceri's resolution was a no-brainer.
So, what was Alderman Andrew Chapman’s take on Pasceri’s resolution? In the words of US&J reporter Joyce Miles:

He said he’d vote “no” if it went to the floor Wednesday night, because he didn’t know whether he really agrees with it or not — and got two other aldermen thinking aloud about voting no for the same reason.

The other two were Chapman’s enablers, Jack Smith, who has made increasing welfare housing in Lockport his sole reason for existing, and Flora McKenzie, who went on an
diatribe about whether the criminal justice system is fair to black defendants, which, of course, had absolutely nothing to do with Pasceri’s resolution.

Of course, Buffalo News reporter Tom Prohaska may have written a far more damning synopsis:
Smith and Chapman said they weren’t given enough opportunity to read the resolution and determine if the charges were factual.

If the charges were "factual"? We’ll leave it to Renee Greco’s family to answer that one.

Seriously...where have they been throughout this entire ordeal? There is nothing wrong with doing due diligence, but this story has been in the headlines for nearly three years. It is your job as an elected official to not only have the pulse of your own constituency, but also to have a thorough understanding of any and all issues of relevance, whether they be local, county, school district, state or federal, within the area you are serving.

To state, at this point, that they need to determine if the charges against Carrion are factual shows a huge disconnect between these three aldermen and the community. There are entities across the entire state calling on Carrion to be fired - except in the community that saw the most heinous example of Carrion's failed leadership. There should have been no hesitancy on their part whatsoever. The fact that there was seriously raises the question of their ability to lead their community.

March 18, 2011

Wyoming? There's a Map for That.

How do we begin? In what can only be described as a horrible opportunity lost, Verizon decided to pull the plug on its proposed data center in Somerset. The data center, which would have brought a multi-billion dollar investment to our area, will likely now be built in Laramie, Wyoming. Gone with the data center are hundreds of well-paying permanent jobs and thousands of temporary, albeit long-term, construction jobs.

Verizon opted out of Niagara County because of one person: Mary Ann Rizzo of Amherst. Rizzo filed a lawsuit, through her attorney Arthur Giacalone, to block the proposed data center. After Niagara County Court Judge Matt Murphy ruled against Rizzo in January, she filed an appeal with the Appellate Court. Herein lies another huge part of the problem.

The 4th Department of the Appellate Division ruled against Verizon's request for an expedited appeal, ruling that the request was premature. The decision by the courts meant that the appeal wouldn't have been heard until fall, since the court takes the entire summer off. Frankly, I don't know what the hell those five judges were thinking, but their decision was the height of irresponsibility, arrogance and ineptitude. Mary Ann Rizzo and her vile actions are the primary reason for Verizon's decision to bail on Niagara County, but the members of the 4th Department share a good part of the blame for this fiasco.

The 4th Department's decision to placate Rizzo and Giacalone, and then go sun themselves all summer, is unconscionable. They allowed Rizzo and Giacalone to take advantage of loopholes in the legal system to push a lawsuit that had already lost once on its non-existent merits. By dragging this legal game of chicken out, though, the 4th Department put billions of dollars in private capital investment at risk. The 4th Department gambled. Niagara County lost.

We all know how bad the economy in upstate New York is. Heck, how many conversations these days begin with the words, "In this economy..."? Coupled with Yahoo!, this project would have put Niagara County on the international radar for companies looking to construct the most efficient, high-tech data centers. One person saw to it that it would not happen.

People should be outraged. Not only people, but unions should be outraged. They just lost permanent and temporary work for thousands of their members. Frankly, I'm amazed that, with all the statements made about Verizon's decision yesterday, not a word was uttered by the plethora of unions that are supposedly working to ensure the job security of their members. I expected them to be screaming at the tops of their collective lungs.

Alas, not a peep.

Mary Ann Rizzo, for her part, should likely refrain from venturing into these parts anytime soon. How many people did she rob of their chances to improve their lots in life? Laid-off workers who would have found work on a Verizon construction site? People looking to advance careers or enter the workforce? Children who hoped to come home to Western New York after college and now have to think about careers in places like...well, in places like Laramie, Wyoming?

While I'd like to personally ask Mary Ann Rizzo if she can "hear me now," the truth is, she had a legal right to file her lawsuit, no matter how specious and lacking in merit it was. But the 4th Department's judges had a responsibility to do what judges do: exercise jurisprudence for the good of the community and to uphold the laws, all of which Niagara County and Somerset followed. The 4th Department didn't do this.

So, while you help your children pack for their new careers in places like Wyoming, take a few moments and imagine what might have been, were it not for one arrogant woman, her huckster media-whore lawyer, and a bunch of pampered, overpaid judges more concerned about keeping their calendars clear for summer vacation.

It's a crying shame.

March 17, 2011

Choke On Your Big, Rotten Apple, Bloomberg

We've talked time and time again about the disconnect between upstate and downstate, and no matter how many times we try to drive the point home that the two regions don't belong in the same state, we are continuously astounded each time another moron comes along to remind us just how different we are. This time the award goes to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

In case you missed it, the head of the crime capital of the world was quoted yesterday as saying, "There's an awful lot of free space up in Buffalo, New York, if you want to go there. I don't think you do." Now don't get me wrong, I'm no fan of the City of Buffalo and its horrendous leadership, but Bloomberg did little more than show that he is an ignorant, pompous asshole with his remark.

Bloomberg went on to say, "Our city's problems are problems of success. We don't have enough classrooms. We don't have enough roads. We don't have enough housing. Buffalo would love to have our problems." Let's think about that. New York City averages more than a murder a day. There is no portion of the city that is immune from the over 50,000 violent crimes that occur in The Big Crapple every year. Despite Bloomberg's hyperbole to the contrary, crime is soaring in the city. In fact, one of the most popular parks in the Bronx has seen a spike of 414% in crime over last year. Yes, you read that statistic correctly.

Problems of success, eh, Mike? Maybe he thinks getting murdered, raped, robbed, mugged or assaulted are the principles of success.

New York City drives everything that is wrong with this state. Overspending, taxes, crime rates, laws that impede economic development, political corruption, Medicaid fraud, abuse of the public's trust, illegal immigration, Wicks Law, Scaffold Law, Taylor Law, Triborough Amendment...they all started in New York City and remain the staples of their daily diet. They force every county in this state to pay for a NYC-driven Medicaid program that is by far the most expensive in the country just to satisfy their lazy, uneducated, unwilling-to-work, multi-generational welfare-dependent inhabitants.

Bloomberg would do well to get his own house in order before making such a comment about New York's second largest city. Unfortunately, when you're born with a silver spoon up your ass, you think you're entitled to treat others with disdain and disrespect. Bloomberg really showed his true colors with these comments.

Don't get me wrong, Buffalo has its issues; the city's leadership is far from competent. But the reality is that this city that once thrived has been hit hard by the country's conversion from a manufacturing economy to a service company. Plants that once employed tens of thousands of workers now sit vacant.

The region has done an admirable job of transitioning away from the manufacturing base that was once the foundation for a successful, thriving economy. That being said, much of the blame for the inability of many upstate New York cities to recover economically can be traced to those same laws and policies derived from NYC and the corrupt politicians that sell their souls for a vote.

Some area elected officials are now calling on Bloomberg to come to Buffalo to see what a great area it is. Why? We know what we have here and his coming here will never change his perspective. As far as I'm concerned, Bloomberg can stay in his rat-infested city. The last thing I want to see is his mug plastered all over WNY media outlets as phony Bloomberg struts around Buffalo telling everyone how lovely the town is.

Oh, and by the way, your poll numbers are at an eight-year low. More than one out of every two New Yorkers disapprove of the job your doing. Maybe the way you've treated people is finally catching up with you. Good luck with that presidential run, dickhead.

March 16, 2011

Circling the Drain

Paul Dyster’s Niagara Falls is in very dire financial straits these days.

Two stories, one written by the pro-Dyster propagandists at the Niagara Gazette, and the other in the Buffalo News, reveal that the Cataract City’s fiscal future is cloudy at best. Now, both publications blame external forces, and the Gazette article, which quotes from Democrat apparatchik Maria Brown at length is particularly laughable, but the message is very clear: revenue is drying up, and fast.

Blame the Senecas, if you want. Their illegal withholding of money due to New York State and local governments from their slot machines is contemptible. That it’s putting additional strain on Niagara Falls’ finances is, of course, unfortunate.

But that doesn’t make Paul Dyster a victim of external forces. And, just speaking the language of fiscal conservatism now shouldn’t allow him to hide from his own shameful actions that have led Niagara Falls to the brink of fiscal disaster:

“There are a variety of forces operating in New York state that are eventually going to affect all municipalities, including us,” Dyster said. “I think it’s very important for us to watch every dollar that we spend in municipal government.”

That’s Dyster now.

But two years ago, a different Paul Dyster had this to say:

"We're talking about putting something up there that is a public monument and that is public art," Dyster said. "So we're trying to spend money in order to create something that is going to be of lasting value."

Then, Dyster was justifying spending $435,000 to create “public art” in the middle of a downtown traffic circle.

Of course, we like Maria Brown’s take on things: “We’re very disappointed that we didn’t make budget and we are going to be looking at what’s going on and what the city needs to do to improve its operations,” she said.

Aw, shucks. When you put a big smiley-face on it, and reveal what a plucky optimist you are at heart, your absolute mismanagement of the city’s finances just doesn’t seem so bad, now, does it?

March 15, 2011

Solidarity, CSEA Style

For those of you who don’t know him, Bill Davignon is the CSEA head down in North Tonawanda. He has a pretty sweet gig, too, with the taxpayers forking over $110,000 for his salary and CSEA benefits package. Bill’s base salary, right now, is $61,453. But, as we said, when all of his very sweet CSEA benefits package is brought to bear, he’s raking in a cool $110,000. You’d think that, making that kind of a buck in this economy, he’d be happy.

Of course, you’d be wrong.

You see, Bill is supposed to be negotiating a new CSEA contract with NT Mayor Robert G. Ortt. Ortt kind of took the wind out of Bill’s sails, though, when he let it out of the bag that the average city employee in North Tonawanda is bringing home $92,000 in salary and benefits during his annual State of the City message. (That number really stood out when Ortt contrasted it with the median household income in NT, which is hovering around $40,000.) And Bill Davignon’s been mad ever since.

So mad, in fact, that he sent out an email to the members of his union the other day. Like a petulant child, Bill mostly whined, first about the local media just not paying enough attention to him:

I submitted my "letter to the editor" to the Tonawanda & Metro Community News last week - the METRO printed it on page 2 of this weeks paper. I've e-mailed and left a phone message for Tonawanda News Editor Eric DuVall asking him why my letter hasn't appeared in the news - he hasn't replied. (suprise). I'm hoping it's in tomorrow's Tonawanda news.

Then, he exposed the dark conspiracy at the heart of Ortt’s efforts to cut the bloat and cost of government in the Lumber City:

I don't know if any of you have read the BATTLEGROUND BULLETINS that I've sent you, but Wisconsin voted the other day to strip public employees of their right to negotiate their wages & health care benefits. If we are not careful this will happen in NY & NT. If they could, Mayor Ortt & Bob Welch would do that to us right now.

Ah, yes. If only Rob Ortt was, you know, governor, we suppose he could do that, Bill.

The problem with Bill Davignon, though, is he’s all bluster. Deep down, he knows that, no matter what cuts Mayor Ortt & Company push through, he’ll be just fine. You see, it seems that Davignon (who, you’ll remember, is supposed to be focused on renegotiating the CSEA’s contract) has, instead, been focusing his efforts on getting himself a pay raise—and getting it before any new contract goes through. Bill Davignon actually submitted his own upgrade, which is, well, kinda sleazy, when you think about it. Normally, people’s bosses do that. Under Davignon’s plan, his base salary would climb from $61,453 to $64,447.

This reclassification wouldn’t impact any other CSEA employees. Just Bill Davignon.

Of course, if you’re in CSEA with Bill, please don’t doubt his sincerity. After all, he signs all his emails “Yours in Solidarity, Bill Davignon.”

And that’s gotta count for something, right?

March 14, 2011

Sympathies to Japan

We'd like to take a break from the usual topics of discussion to wish the people of Japan and their families our best wishes and deepest condolences. We will also do our best to disregard the amazingly ignorant comments that seem to have infiltrated every message board on the devastation in Japan.

March 11, 2011

Add Kruger to the List

They just can't help themselves. Democrats in New York State continue to find new and innovative ways to embarrass themselves and this state. It's not enough that the party of corruption has had such glorious representatives as Kevin Parker, Hiram Monserrate, Pedro Espada, Eliot Spitzer, Charles Rangel, Alan Hevesi, David Paterson, Crystal Peoples and Tony Seminerio, you can now add soon-to-be-former State Senator Carl Kruger to this list of the state's worst of the worst.

In case you missed it, and it's likely you have since none of the local papers have seen fit to cover it, Kruger was charged yesterday with taking over $1 million in bribes from 2006 to 2011. Charges in the complaint include conspiracy and money laundering. The complaint alleges that Kruger, in addition to the bribes, pushed legislation benefiting a health care network.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who unveiled the complaint against Kruger and seven others, summed yesterday's events up quite nicely:
“It should be a jarring wake up call. Instead, it seems no matter how many times the alarm goes off, Albany just hits the snooze button." He went on to say, "Elective office is a privilege, not a right, that elected officials are there to serve the public, not themselves, and those who violate the public trust will end their career in prison. Albany, it seems, should see this as a moment of truth and a moment for change. Once again, it can clean up its act and its culture. Until then we will continue."

We're not too confident that the Dems in Albany will see it that way. In fact, the full brunt of this particular investigation may not have been felt yet. Dems insiders are speculating that Kruger may sing like a canary to federal investigators about the most egregious acts of corruption occurring at the hands of his own conference members. Considering what a self-serving prick Kruger is, it would not surprise us one bit if he throws his own guys under the bus to spare himself some jail time.

As Liz Benjamin pointed out, Kruger has been a prodigious fundraiser - now we know how. He currently has nearly $1.9 million in his campaign account. As Jimmy Vielkind writes, beneficiaries of Kruger's bribes, errr generosity, have included:

– $16,500 to former Senator Antoine Thompson in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

– $9,500 to Buffalo Senator Tim Kennedy, after he defeated Sen. Bill Stachowski in a primary.
– $450,000 in September and October of 2010 to the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee. He also gave $25,000 to the committee in 2009.
– $32,000 to the Kings County Democratic Committee between 2007 and 2010.
– $50,000 to the Democratic State Committee in 2008.
– $50,000 to Gov. David Paterson’s campaign in 2008. Ironically, much of Paterson’s campaign cash was later used to pay legal bills.
– $2,000 to Sen. Velmanette Montgomery in 2008 and 2009.
– $3,500 to Sen. Joe Addabbo in 2009 and 2010.
– $1,000 to Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny in 2010.
– $5,000 to the Bushwick United Democratic Club in 2009.
– $5,000 to Sen. David Carlucci in October of 2010.
– $1,000 to Sen. Eric Adams in March 2009.
– $1,000 to Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson in February 2009.
– $6,300 to Assemblyman Vito Lopez in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
– $1,000 to Senate Democratic Leader John Sampson in March of 2009.
– $14,500 to Sen. Pedro Espada in October 2008.
– $14,500 to Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. from 2008 to 2010.
– Bet hedging: $2,500 to Sen. Gustavo Rivera in October 2010, after he defeated Espada in a primary.
– $2,000 to Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras in August 2009.
– $1,000 each to former Senators Darrel Aubertine, Brian Foley and Craig Johnson in 2009.
– $750 to Assemblyman Bill Colton in 2007 and 2010.
– $2,475 to Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio in in 2009.
– $6,000 to Sen. Bill Perkins in 2009 and 2010.
– $5,000 to Sen. Kevin Parker in 2010.
– $7,000 to Sen. Neil Breslin in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
– $2,750 to Councilman Stephen Levin in 2009.
– $1,000 to Sen. Suzi Oppenheimer in 2009.
– $7,000 to Sen. Toby Stavisky in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
– $7,000 to Sen. Shirley Huntley in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
– $1,000 to Sen. Malcolm Smith in 2009.
– $13,000 to former Sen. Hiram Monserrate in 2010.
– $1,000 to Sen. Jeff Klein in 2009.
– $1,000 to Sen. Diane Savino in 2009.
– $1,000 to Sen. Jose M. Serrano in 2009.
– $1,000 to Sen. Tom Duane in 2009.
– $1,000 to Sen. David Valesky in 2009
Every single one of the above recipients is a Democrat and every single one of them should give this dirty money back, including the DSCC which took $450k from Kruger. The list is also chock full of other crooks who got what they deserved for their crimes and others whose time will come.
One time, one of these guys needs to be sent to Attica, not some country club prison. Since nothing else seems to be a deterrent, maybe the thought of being Bubba's bitch will provide these guys the incentive to stay on the straight and narrow. The again....maybe not.

March 10, 2011

Newtonian Politics

It has always irked us when so-called "hard science" majors used to scoff at political science, as if it weren't a science at all.

Those of us who took our fill of polisci courses knew better, of course. While campaigns and governing may be high art, politics itself follows scientific principle better than your average "climate change" model. We've always, in particular, believe that Newton's Laws—and particularly his Third Law—applied directly to politics. The Discovery Channel geeks in our readership will immediately know we're referring to Newton's concept that "for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction."

Well, we believe we are seeing that writ large on the political landscape.

In 2008, Barack Hussein Obama campaigned for office promising "hope" and "change." The thing is, he, and a compliant and complacent media, did little to define that change. Of course, those who paid particular attention to his pronouncements had a good idea—our readers will recall Joe the Plumber's confrontation with Candidate Obama, where he asked him just what the hell he meant by "share the wealth."

Today, more than two years into the Obama Administration, we know exactly what he meant. With the government reaching deeper into our lives, spending at historically-gargantuan levels, and using dangerous budgetary tricks to attempt to cover its tracks, we see the nightmare of Carter Era Big Government returned with a vengeance.

Such a radical shift to the Left could not, possibly, occur without causing just as radical a shift to the Right.

And so it was with November's historic Republican landslide, that netted 63 House seats for the GOP.

Now, in Wisconsin, Ohio, and elsewhere, government-employee unions—the same people that got Obama elected, and immediately profited—are
being eviscerated by anti-union measures. We can't imagine any other time in our lifetimes where state governments would have been able to muster the political will to actually strip unions of their collective bargaining "rights."

And now, we see that
Atlas Shrugged: The Movie is about to become a reality. Now, while we don't endorse every aspect of Ayn Rand's worldview, the fact that a Hollywood studio has produced a movie version of the uber-capitalist, arch-individualist, anti-collectivist tract is astonishing. What next? A biopic of Milton Friedman?

Regardless, Atlas Shrugged looks pretty compelling. But maybe that's because we always had a crush on Rand's character Dagny Taggart, and just like what Hollywood's done with her:

Adios, Amigo

We expect to offer some analysis of the
apparent political demise of Brooklyn Sen. Carl Kruger in the very near future. As one of the "four amigos," along with former Sen. Hiram Monserrate, former Sen. Pedro Espada, and Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr., Kruger briefly wielded enormous clout in his conference.

Today, he's being
processed by the feds.

Political fortunes are like that.

March 9, 2011


Yesterday, we tweeted our condolences to the family of Erin Bigler, the Clarence girl who, a day before her 15th birthday, was killed in a bizarre freak accident. We then pulled down our tweet because it just seemed so...inadequate. Oh, don't get us wrong: condolences are due her family. But they just don't really express what we're feeling.

The truth is, a random death from such a strange cause lends a certain appeal to the atheist worldview. After all, what loving God could allow—or, depending on your theological perspective, cause—such a thing to happen? There's just no justice in it.

Yes, we realize that children die everyday around the world. Some from freak accidents. Others from war or famine. Others from disease. But none of that was in play here, and still, a girl died the day before her 15th birthday.

When we turned 15, we were in a hurry to turn 16, to get our learner's permit, to drive a car, to go on dates that didn't require someone's parent driving them. We were eagerly noticing the opposite sex, but still devoting most of our time and energy to our status within our own gender's social circles. We were developing a few friendships that would last a lifetime, and putting too much effort into friendships that wouldn't make it to our high school graduation.

We imagine things were no different for Erin Bigler. After all, it seems she had a safe world to come home to, with loving parents, an intact family, a good community. And yet, a bizarre random accident brought death from above.

The colossal unfairness of it all leaves one reeling.

And, as we said before, it makes the atheist worldview seem that much more reasonable.

If this child's death were to shake our faith in a loving God and an ordered universe—and others' faith—this tragedy would be even more complete.

That's why we're grateful to Erin Bigler and her family today. We read in this morning's Buffalo News that her family had her organs harvested to help others while she remained on life support. An act that selfless amid such tragedy is jarring—but in a fundamentally Good way.

Erin Bigler's death was a tragedy. How her family is coping with it is not. Indeed, their faith in something bigger, whether it be a loving God or just a belief in protecting other innocents from similarly unfair fates, is refreshing. And it's enough to make us not give up our own faith.

We'll be back tomorrow, pondering the things we ponder so often. But today, the most significant thing happening here in Western New York is how one family is coping with tragedy. And they're doing a fantastic job.

So, instead of our condolences, we offer our gratitude and our awe-struck admiration to the Bigler family.

March 8, 2011

Who's Next?

As many of you have heard, Niagara County Legislator Renae Kimble has decided not to seek re-election this year. After 18 faithful years serving the community, Kimble has announced that she will be relocating at the end of her current term. While we haven't always agreed with her, we applaud Kimble's passion for representing Niagara Falls and the minority community. Her shoes will certainly be hard to fill.

That being said, one is forced to wonder about the void that her departure leaves in what's left of the Niagara County Democratic Party. They already are shamed with having just four of the 19 county legislature seats, and the vacancy in the 2nd District will certainly throw that district into play. Coupled with the impending departure of 3rd District Legislator Jason Cafarella and the health of 1st District Legislator Rick Marasco, 2011 is shaping up to be a tough year for the county Dems.

Even more disconcerting to the Dems is that we are hearing that Minority Leader Dennis Virtuoso is giving strong consideration to not seeking re-election this year. The scenario we mentioned about a month ago is becoming more and more of a reality, and Virtuoso knows it. While he is never one to shy away from a fight, Virtuoso may not be up to the battle that lies ahead, especially when he knows that even if he wins, he quite possibly may be the last man standing for the Dems in the legislature. That is not an enviable position for anyone, no matter how tough he is.

There is no doubt that the departure of Kimble leaves a big hole in the party. Other than the most bitter woman in the world, former Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte, county Dems will miss Kimble's knowledge and experience. As crazy as it seems, the county Dems could be going into the upcoming election cycle with none of their current incumbents seeking re-election. That would be Dan Rivera's worst nightmare come true.

March 7, 2011

Studies Gone Wild

Gazette reporter Mark Scheer pretty much hit the nail on the head with this piece detailing yet another study of what ails the City of Niagara Falls. This study, conducted by the completely incompetent organization USA Niagara Development, will cost the taxpayers of the state a cool $200k. Long after this study is completed, it will have served the same purpose as all the other studies that have been done on the city: collecting dust.

We've said it before and we'll say it again - we want Niagara Falls to succeed. But this isn't rocket science; you don't need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to understand why private capital investors shy away from Niagara Falls. Furthermore, you don't need a do-nothing organization like USA Niagara leading the effort. USA Niagara and its leader, Chris Schoepflin, have been nothing short of complete failures at encouraging investment in the city.

Mayor Paul Dyster has been a big cheerleader for the city, telling us time and time again how great Niagara Falls could be. While that's all well and good, that's not the job of the mayor; the job of the mayor is to get shit done. Dyster has failed. Granted, this is Niagara Falls, so there is no panacea. But any city that draws 11 million visitors per year should not have the amount of trouble that Niagara Falls does in landing any private capital investment of substance -or at all.

As we alluded to last week, Dyster has not proven that he can attract investors. We are still quite mystified by his failure to attend the Niagara USA Chamber (not to be confused with USA Niagara Development) dinner last week. That was a golden opportunity to mingle with many of the region's premier employers. He chose to skip it, and offered no explanation why. As my kids say, that's a fail.

March 4, 2011

The Excruciatingly High Price of Free Speech

Sometimes, the price of being an adult is understanding that the right answer isn't always the one you want to hear.

And so it was the other day, when the
Supreme Court ruled, 8-1, that the disgusting freaks associated with the Westboro Baptist Church have a right to picket military funerals.

Understand: in a perfect world, we'd love to see these miserable, wretched excuses for humanity locked away forever, or worse. Words fail us, frankly, when it comes to uttering our absolute revulsion for what these people do. And, the Christian part of us just hopes that the hottest place in hell will be waiting for them someday.

But that doesn't mean the Supreme Court was wrong to rule in their favor.

Most readers of this blog are fairly bright, and no doubt remember learning about Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes' famous treatise on where it becomes permissible to regulate speech: that the First Amendment didn't protect someone guilty of "
falsely shouting fire in a crowded theater." Indeed, doing so would represent a threat to public safety.

The problem is, no matter how grotesque the actions of the Westboro nuts, it's hard to demonstrate a threat to public safety. Heartbreaking, yes. But under the best-known precedent for regulating speech, this just doesn't reach Holmes' very easy-to-understand threshold. One would have to conclude that the hatemongers' words, no matter how vile, still amount to Constitutionally-protected free speech.

Jumping forward to this century, an even more relevant precedent must be considered:

In 1999, a federal judge named David Coar used a statute called RICO (the Racketeering-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) to essentially silence pro-life demonstrators nationwide. He did this after that particular course of action was strongly encouraged by the Clinton Justice Department. Under Coar's reasoning, anti-abortion demonstrators handing out leaflets or holding up pictures of aborted fetuses outside abortion clinics were really scary, and no different than the mafia, or the former leadership of Local 91, showing up at a construction site.

In February of 2003, the Supreme Court ruled, also 8-1, that Coar had overstepped his bounds. The outcome of the case,
Scheidler v. NOW, was a major triumph not just for pro-lifers, but for the First Amendment. We are fairly certain that a significant portion of this blog's readership would agree that pro-lifers have a right to demonstrate on a public sidewalk.

We believe the same principle applies with the Westboro flakes—and we would hope that those of our readers who were incensed by the attempt to apply RICO to the pro-lifers would share our view in this matter. Were the Supreme Court to rule against Westboro, and allow their speech to be abridged, they would be establishing a dangerous precedent. And rest assured, it wouldn't be long before the Westboro decision was cited to silence pro-lifers, Tea Partiers,
anti-affirmative action bake-salers, Mormon missionaries, and virtually anyone else whose speech offended another.

And that's an America we don't want to live in.

So yes, hate the Westboro nuts. If they show up in your town, applaud the motorcyclists who regularly show up to drown out their chants. But don't strip them of their Constitutional rights, unless you want to weaken your own.

March 3, 2011

Sheldon Schimminger

The overwhelming majority of taxpayers prefer an educational system where seniority plays no role in the decision to layoff or retain teachers. This is because we recognize the importance of rewarding success. Also, as layoffs loom due to decreased state aid, school districts will be afforded very little flexibility in determining which courses it can offer because they will have no control over which teachers to layoff.

But Sheldon Silver disagrees with the overwhelming majority of New York taxpayers. He agrees with NYSUT. Interestingly enough, do you know who else disagrees with the majority of taxpayers? Robin Schimminger. You see, Schimminger once again supported Silver as the leader of the Democratic Assembly caucus and had directly supported the agenda of Silver. If you don't like Silver and the antics which are raising your property taxes, then you cannot like Schimminger - he cannot support this man and then distance himself from his policies.

Unfortunately, the local media is unwilling to call him on this. Any local reporter covering the political beat could very easily pick up the phone and ask Schimminger, "Do you support Shelly Silver's resistance to allow school districts to keep the best teachers and not the oldest?" If not, then bring a public resolution denouncing his position and let us know where we can find it. Now that would be some good journalism.

March 2, 2011

Screwing the Taxpayers, Buffalo Style

People wonder why we have such disdain for public sector unions and the sickening sense of entitlement of their members. Wonder no more.

This article from yesterday's Buffalo News is truly nauseating. In case you decide not to click the link, the first paragraph reads, "Buffalo's fire union will urge hundreds of firefighters to switch to the most costly health insurance plan -- one that provides cosmetic surgery benefits -- as a sign of frustration over stalled contract talks." The piece then mentions the fact that city must pick up the full tab for firefighters' health insurance.

So if I read this right, the union is telling their members to gouge the city as much as possible in hopes of leveraging their position at the bargaining table. Actually, let me re-phrase that - the firefighters' union is telling their members to fuck the taxpayers to the point of forcing the city to give the union membership an even more generous salary and benefit package.

I truly love what Gov. Walker is trying to do in Wisconsin. He is representing my union, the taxpayers union. My union has had enough of subsidizing your union. Even here in New York, Gov. Cuomo has made it perfectly clear that the unions no longer rule the roost. Until someone at the state level has the balls to actually pull the trigger on layoffs, the unions will continue to play hardball. Why wouldn't they?

But this action from the union leadership of the Buffalo firefighters is absolutely appalling. While we don't give a shit what it means to Mayor Brown and his inept organization, it is absolutely an affront to the people of the city of Buffalo.

It also will be quite an effective method to keep anyone considering doing business in the city away. After all, who in their right mind would consider locating in Buffalo after reading that Buffalo News piece that accentuates the union's efforts to drive up costs for every business in the city not owned by a former basketball player?

This action is just another reason to despise public sector unions. I mean, seriously...elective cosmetic surgery? We had hoped that this benefit had gone the way of the Edsel - apparently not. Dan Cunningham, president of the union, should just fade away. He presents as some type of savior for the people, when in reality he is nothing. I hope Brown has the balls to do something drastic in response to Cunningham's directive, though we won't hold our breath. We will, however, continue to pile up reasons to hate public sector unions.

March 1, 2011

Welcome to Chernobyl at Niagara Falls

What does the Ukraine have in common with Niagara County, New York? We hear that Pripyat is wonderful this time of the year.

There are more than 100 spots (not counting landfills of more than one-trillion pounds and other radioactive burials at Niagara County) with similar activities spread around Niagara Falls streets, industrial sectors and private properties. For comparison please see:

The reconstruction of Lewiston Road in Niagara Falls is $1.4 million over
budget and months behind schedule, according to a Niagara Gazette report earlier this month, and city officials are trying to shed the West Seneca contractor they hired last year to do the work.
The trouble is that the radioactive material that everyone knew was in the roadbed has proved to be more widespread and difficult to handle than city and state officials were willing to acknowledge.
We’ve been warning for three years that the current reconstruction of Lewiston Road and the upcoming reconstruction of Buffalo Avenue pose significant risks to human health and home values. For three years we’ve been warning that studies conducted by the federal government in the 1970s and 1980s suggest that the fill used the last time these roads were rebuilt contained significant levels of dangerous, exotic radiological wastes, which should not simply be shrugged off as “slag” left over from some benign industrial process.

The pre-project environmental surveys performed by defense-contracting giant Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) seemed to confirm our claims: SAIC reported some pockets of contamination along Lewiston Road that registered 100,000 counts per minute on a Geiger counter survey meter, or 4,000 times a reasonable definition of background level radiation. A spokeswoman for DEC recently acknowledged that levels as high as 140,000 counts per minute were discovered in the course of excavating the roadway.
Our opinion of the way the project was undertaken darkened when we learned that the city engineer who signed off on the project parameters, Ali Marzban, turned out not to be an engineer at all. (He has since left the city’s employ.) Our fears were exacerbated when the city handed the work to Man O’ Trees, a construction firm with no experience handling radiological waste. (Indeed, we received reports that Man O’ Trees was falling behind schedule almost from day one of the project, because the volume and activity level of the radioactive materials was much higher than city officials claimed to anticipate.)

The US military and government regulators have stringent rules about the cleanup and handling of radioactive materials such as those found in these Niagara Falls roadways. Why was the city not following those rules, at a bare minimum?
The initial answer to that question is simple: It’s because they would not acknowledge the nature and the volume of the material involved.
With the Lewiston Road project in apparent disarray, it’s tempting to write an I-told-you-so piece. After all, we’ve been doing what we can to chronicle Niagara County’s atomic legacy for 11 years, and warning about these road projects for three. But we’ve got bigger fish to fry, and an even hotter road to fry it on: Buffalo Avenue. SAIC’s study of Buffalo Avenue, where construction is slated to begin this spring, indicates radiation levels as high as 1,000,000 counts per minute. That’s 10 times as hot as Lewiston Road.
Discussions about levels of radiation and the dangers it poses quickly devolve into debates about systems of measurement, what is “natural” and what is “background,” what constitutes exposure, etc. It might therefore be useful to find a simpler context in which to judge the seriousness of the situation in Niagara Falls. The map on the right measures exposure rates to radiation in the Ukraine as a result of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. The areas in red measure up to 20 microroentgens per hour (20 mR/h). These are the exclusion zones, where people are not supposed to live or travel. The lower range, in blue, is seven micro- roentgens per hour mR/h.
In the mid-1970s, the federal government commissioned a company called Edgerton, Germeshausen, and Grier, Inc., (EG&G) to perform an aerial radiation survey conducted 300 feet above the roadways of Niagara County. The survey identified dozens of hotspots near the Whirlpool, around the golf course, along Lewiston Road and Buffalo Avenue, and elsewhere around the city. Some of these peaked at 86 microroentgens per hour (with other, higher rates expected on the Buffalo Avenue project). That level of contamination would seem consistent with that detected in subsequent surveys performed by the Oak Ridge National Laboratories and the recent surveys performed by SAIC.
We can all agree that Chernobyl is bad news. When will we take the contamination in Niagara County as seriously?

Submitted by Geoff Kelly, Louis Ricciuti & Stephanie Berberick