May 31, 2011

Ending Lifetime Heatlh Care For Politicians

Serving as a town board member or some other local official is often a thankless job.  You spend lots of time trying to address quality of life issues for residents and more often than not serve as the punching bag for their frustrations.  With this in mind, I have no problem that local officials receive some compensation for their public service.  But when their service ends, so should their compensation.

The Buffalo News article on Tim Demler battling with the Wheatfield Town Board really struck a nerve with me and not because Demler is being his usual jackass self.  The article stated the town pays 50 percent of the health insurance premium for those who served at least 10 years in office, 75 percent for those who served 15 years, and 100 percent for those who served 20 years or more.  Lifetime health care for part-time local elected officials?  Really?

The Niagara County  Legislature eliminated lifetime health care years ago because they recognized it simply an unfair burden to place on taxpayers.  I had no idea that towns were offering this same kind of outrageous perk.  Local tea party activists (and the rest of us too) should be focused on ending things like this that are directly tied to our high property taxes.  I have no idea how many other towns and cities in Niagara County provide this but it's a practice that should end immediately.

May 27, 2011

Winners & Losers

If Mark Grisant's stunning victory over Antoine Thompson last year taught us anything, it's that anything is possible once voters go to the the polls. Kathy Hochul's victory over Jane Corwin shows that good candidates running good campaigns with good issues can get elected regardless of district. Corwin's camp bungled away this election in spectacular fashion, a failure that is every bit as legendary as Thompson's loss. Money can't buy elections. With that:

Winners

Hochul: Give her and her team credit for a flawless campaign. She was simply better.

Global Strategy Group: Got admire this Democrat consulting firm. They know how to win.

George Maziarz: This undoubtedly proves he should have been the GOP candidate.

David Bellavia: The Batavia war veteran was promised he'd get a chance to run next time the seat opened. He worked overtime against Corwin.

Jack Davis: Turned the tables on the whole video tape fiasco. He finally cost the GOP the seat.

Losers:

Team Corwin: A failure for the history books. How to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Congressional GOP: Need to find a much better answer to Mediscare and do it in a hurry.

Jack Davis: Seems kookier than ever. How many times do you have to lose before you take the hint.

Ed Cox: The state GOP Chairman is an absentee landlord. He was neither responsible for GOP wins in November or this loss. He just doesn't matter.

May 26, 2011

Media Inconsistency

When public officials find themselves on the wrong side of the law, it virtually always finds its way into the media. Even if the accused is ultimately found innocent, public perception is a powerful tool that brands a person with the allegations for a long time. So where does the media's responsibility begin and end when someone who is in the public spotlight is charged with a crime?

We ask this question because there seems to be a lack of consistency in the media's coverage of such happenings. Leaving names out of it, we've seen two arrests splashed all over the media in recent time; one was the child of a local elected official and the other is a local attorney with significant political connections.

Both of these arrests, which were DWI related, were covered incessantly by the media. The former lead to accusations of favoritism and cover-ups, FOIL requests and more coverage.

But the recent DWI arrest of the former Chairman of the Niagara County Legislature and current school administrator for the North Tonawanda School District, who is clearly well-connected politically, has not garnered one iota of coverage from the same media outlets that persecuted the hell out of the two prior individuals. How can this be?

We can all come up with our own conspiracy theories, so I'll throw mine out: the two aforementioned cases involved prominent Republicans. The latest case involves a Democrat. The local media has clearly defined themselves as left-leaning, which of course is no surprise, but where is the line drawn? Is it now okay to devote barrels of ink to a story but completely whitewash a virtually identical situation?

Nobody is claiming that all media outlets should be fair & balanced 100% of the time, but I don't think a little consistency is too much to ask for.

May 24, 2011

Vote Today

The 26th Congressional race mercifully comes to a close today when the nonsense stops and the voters take charge of the race from out of town consultants. Please tell your friends and neighbors that we all have an obligation to get out and vote. It's what makes democracy works.

I'll be voting Corwin today because I do not feel Hochul has done anything to try to connect with Niagara County in this campaign. She lives way down in Hamburg, knows nothing about us and has not tried to learn during the campaign. I'm particularly disturbed by Hochul's stance on the New York Power Authority. Corwin represents some of Niagara County in the Assembly and has been active on the local scene for some time. I feel she is one of us, more likely to listen to our concerns and deliver.

That's my choice. You have yours. Just make sure you make your voice heard.

May 20, 2011

The Partisan Attorney General

Judge Matt Murphy comes from a powerful political family and is particularly well-known in Eastern Niagara County. DA Mike Violante is a political powerhouse in the Western end. Family Court Judge Dave Seaman is beloved in almost every corner of the county. Anyone running for office would love the endorsement from these guys but they're not going to get it. Why? Because those charged with enforcing and ruling on laws stay out of politics. They recognize that it could compromise the appearance of fair and equal treatment for all. Judges in particular are barred from this sort of activity.

Which brings us to Attorney General Eric Schneidermann endorsement of Kathy Hochul for Congress. The AG is the highest law enforcement official in the State of New York yet he muddles right into the middle of a Congressional race that he knows little about. It's not like he lives anywhere near the district. Schneridmann immediately calls into question whether his office is a fair enforcer of state law or an arm of the Democrat Party, probably more the later.

After all, Schneiderman was a member of the disastrous and short-lived Senate Democrat Majority, a group that was all about politics and light on substance (think Antoine Thompson.) Schneiderman gets elected last year and rather than spend the first year establishing himself as representing ALL the people of the state, this endorsement shows he's still a partisan hack first and foremost.

The New York State Bar Association should weigh in on the appropriateness of political campaign activities by the Attorney General. It's in bad form and should cease.

May 18, 2011

Some Notes Collected....

Some notes collected while wondering whatever happened to Brad Erck.

* Francine DelMonte seems to be taking pseudo control of the County Democrat Committee which is a smart political move on her part. DelMonte must have realized that she, Dyster and Rivera ran the party in the ground over the last 5 plus years and that ultimately played a role in her defeat.

* Of course, DelMonte has never had the best political instincts, so it came as no surprise that one of her first moves in party building was to screw Bob Anderson out of the endorsement. Free advice Francine...build bridges, don't blow them up.

* Is it just me or does Governor Cuomo seemed most interested in just checking boxes to say he got something done? He is sending signals he'll water down the property tax cap merely to say that NY has a cap. I'm hearing rumblings of this approach on other issues. I hope this isn't the case.

* Kudos to N.T. school board voters for showing they do indeed care. Bob Arbeiter, finished dead last in the race. You have restored some of my lost faith in this process.

* Kathy Hochul has done of the best rope-a-dope strategies in recent memories by making the 26th Congressional Race all about Medicare. Corwin walked right into it and has been playing from behind ever since.

* On that same note, how does Hochul get away with saying she wants to cut the deficit but do it the right way and then say nothing more? This proves DC Democrats have no interest in really cutting the deficit.

* Last on that race, am I the only one who remembers that Hochul was at first fine with driver's licenses for illegal immigrants when Spitzer first proposed it and then hopped on the band wagon when the backlash started?

* Our friends over at the Niagara Falls Reporter have really gotten Dennis Virtuoso in a snit. I don't know all the facts about alleged investigations into demo contracts and the such. What I will say is that Dennis was never shy about ruining other people's reputations by filing bogus ethics charges, calling for Boards of Inquiry, firing off letters to the A.G. all with the sole purpose of creating smoke so he could say someone was under investigation. Karma can be a real bitch.

May 16, 2011

The Waste of School Board Elections

There is an old political saying that goes something like "when in doubt, let the voters decide." After all, in a free democracy, we are best suited to pick the governance we want. Yet, I really dislike school board elections. They're held in the middle of May when after a long winter, people are focused on other things. Turnout is abysmal. The candidates who run generally have represent some special interest group and accountability is zilch.

I noticed in Starpoint, there are three people running for three seats. Now that's voter choice. And these folks are there for the next five years I believe...way too long for a term.

And worse, there is no accountability for the actions school board members take. Take Bob Arbeiter running again for the N.T. school board after voters bounced him a few years ago. Here's a quote from Bob in the Tonawanda News:

“It seems like all the cuts are to sports and the aides and cleaners. I really think they could do more at the administration level,” he said. “I think there are lots of things that can be done without going after the kids all the time.”

Really, Bob? You gave administrators the best retirement packages in New York State. Heck, a deputy superintendent gets $170,000 a YEAR IN TAXPAYER DOLLARS thanks for your leadership. If it wasn't for your total incompetence, maybe N.T. could fund a few more things for the kids. It's your fault.

There are many more Bob Arbeiters out there and I'm not sure what the answer is. The choices always seem to be higher taxes or cutting programs because most people running for school board lack the ability or desire to look at new ways of doing things, like sharing services across district lines.

I don't have the answer but the whole thing seems like a big waste of time. I'll still go vote though...after all, another old saying is that you can't bitch if you don't vote.

May 11, 2011

Davis Tells Voter to "Shut Up"

The below video is a clip from a candidate's forum in which Jack Davis tells an individual asking him about his position on partial birth abortion to shut up. Now, for whatever reason, some people like Davis. Personally, I think the guy is a buffoon who would do nothing but embarrass us in D.C.

In three prior failed Congressional runs, Davis ran as a Democrat. I don't care that he was a Republican prior to his Congressional runs. All I know is that ran as a Democrat when he didn't get the support of the Republicans. If he is so willing to set aside his personal beliefs to advance his political career, he's not worthy of my vote. In fact, that is what I find most disturbing about him. He didn't care about his convictions; he cared so much about himself and his advancement that he was willing to set aside everything he believed in throughout his life. That's not a man of character, it's a man who will abandon everything he's ever believed in for political purposes.

The video, this 15 second clip, shows how incapable Davis is of handling a tough question. Although he claims that the individual asking the question is bothering him everywhere he goes, it doesn't matter. You're a public figure in a public place. This type of behavior is unacceptable under any circumstances. It also highlights Davis' inability to work well with others. That attitude won't do squat for us in Washington.

May 10, 2011

NF GOP Offers Support to Dem Councilman

The decision to offer support of the candidacy of Democrat Bob Anderson by Niagara Falls GOP head Bob Krause is an all-around good decision by Krause. Anyone who's crossed paths with Anderson knows he's a stand-up guy who doesn't let politics sway his decisions.

For Krause, the decision is a shrewd one politically. Throwing the support behind Dem Anderson shows a desire to work together, not solely based only political parties, but for the betterment of the city as a whole. That perspective has been absent from Niagara Falls for far too long and will likely resonate with voters.

For Anderson, it creates several options, including the ability to run in a Dem primary, while ensuring a spot on the November ballot on the GOP line. While the Dem candidates will surely try to paint Anderson as a Republican, it won't take much for him to overcome that minor obstacle.

The move also worked well for Krause because it forced City Dem Chair David Houghton to answer some very uncomfortable questions about the committee, namely who's running the show. More specifically, it put Houghton on the position of having to disclose the fact that former Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte, who is not a resident of Niagara Falls, is calling the shots within the city's Dem committee. That cannot be comfortable for Houghton.

According to the Gazette, Houghton said DelMonte is involved in the committee, but insisted she holds one vote and one voice in a larger group of decision makers. Anyone who's ever crossed paths with DelMonte knows that she is not one voice in any group - she dominates the conversation and will not stop until she gets consensus. In other words, she doesn't stop badgering the entire room until she gets her way. To suggest otherwise is laughable. As Krause stated, the decision by the committee to bypass proven vote-getter Anderson for to newbies is political retribution - nothing more and nothing less.

Krause also pointed out the fact that the Dems will not have a single minority candidate on the ballot for city council this year. If anyone thinks that point will go unnoticed by county legislator Renae Kimble, they're sadly mistaken. Her ability to rally the minority vote is unquestionable, and will certainly factor into the outcome of the primary. And she will never, ever stand down for Kimble.

May 9, 2011

Thoughts Collected......

I always used to like Larry Felser's sports column in the Buffalo News where he collected random thoughts and started off the column with "Thoughts collected while wondering whatever happened to ...(insert name of long-forgotten sports icon.)  So, in an homage to Larry and attempt to clear off my desk, I will follow Larry's format.

Some thoughts collected while wondering whatever happened to former Newfane Supervisor John Connolly.

* In firing back against an article in last week's Niagara Falls Reporter, Mayor Paul Dyster told the Niagara Gazette: “I had complete confidence in Mr. Virtuoso’s competence at that time and still have total confidence in him."  Confidence to do what?  The city is full of houses that seem to be falling down and yet Dennis seems to have plenty of time to attend to his political business.  Dyster has confidence that Dennis will watch his back politically and I guess that's what counts.

* Wayne Jagow could have his most serious race for County Clerk ever if rumors of Patrick Murphy running for the seat prove true.  Murphy comes from a well-known political family with good resources for the race.

* While Jagow may be in a tough race, Mayor Tucker in Lockport should not have too tough of a time with Jack Smith.  Smith said he thinks the Mayor should be like a CEO, taking direction from a Board of Directors.  Jack, here's a helpful hint:  CEOs and Mayors are hired/elected to provide strong leadership,  not be led around by the nose.  I see the bumper sticker:  Jack Smith for Mayor,  He Likes to Follow.

* The Verizon appeal may go forward in Somerset even though Verizon says it has no intention of building in Niagara County.  But that's still not good enough for the old Amherst Hag Rizzo and the most hated man in Niagara, her attorney, Art Giacolone who said in the Buffalo News, “My client (Rizzo) has to be comfortable that nobody else is going to build something along the lines of Verizon."  Really, we don't want clean, high-tech business ever?  Well, then lots put of fucking dump right across the street or maybe burn some extra crappy coal.  How about a refinery?  Ms. Rizzo, you're property is across the street from a coal burning plant but because you like to chase butterflies, you've killed hundreds of jobs, stopping people from feeding their family and paying their mortgage while you sit in your Amherst estate probably dining on surf and turf.  There's a special place in hell for people like you and your attorney.

May 5, 2011

Siskell & Twan

We would be completely remiss if we didn't share this little gem, compliments of Casey Seiler of Capitol Confidential. Apparently former New York State Senator Antoine "Twan" Thompson has finally landed a new gig. No, he's not serving as the Executive Director of MENSA, but he has taken to one of our favorite pastimes, blogging.

Now, being that the blog is about the WNY African-American community, we would think that Twan's contributions would center around providing some type of political perspective within the black community. After all, he has spent his entire adult life in that arena. Alas, the principles within the blog's organization see a different role for Twan.

In what is clearly an attempt to utilize Twan's full gamut of skills, he apparently will assume full responsibility for the website's movie reviews. After Thompson's initial review, it looks like Twan has found his niche. I mean, who else could provide such in-depth perspective of "Madea's Big Happy Family"? The line "The daughters are constantly berating and belittling their two hardworking and loving husbands" sends shivers down my spine. Roger Ebert, eat your heart out. 

Former Democratic state Sen. Antoine Thompson of Buffalo is one of the principals behind BlackWNY.com, a new online social and news magazine about western New York’s African-American community.

“It will be a source for social gathering and social networking featuring the best and the brightest of many areas of interest such as politics, cultural, entertainment, news, sports, and every day people,” the site explains.

The blog doesn’t yet have a deep inventory of posts, but be sure to check out Thompson’s review of Tyler Perry’s latest film, “Madea’s Big Happy Family.” Not to strangle the baby in the cradle, but Thompson’s review suggests he’s no Pauline Kael:
The only major criticism of the movie centers around the traditional stereotype of the angry Black Woman.  The daughters are constantly berating and belittling their two hardworking and loving husbands.  The movie has many adult themes and a must see for men and women.
OK, the site could use some copy-editing. What blog couldn’t?

May 4, 2011

Accardo Joins Falls Mayoral Race

With the announcement that John Accardo is throwing his hat into the ring for the mayor of Niagara Falls, the field just got a little more crowded. Accardo joins incumbent Paul Dyster, as well as recently announced candidates Jim Anthony and Carnell Burch, bringing the number of announced candidates to four. Considering that it's early May, more are sure to enter the contest.

What's interesting to note is that all four announced candidates are Democrats. That's problematic for Dyster. It's also problematic for the city's Democratic committee because it shows a non-cohesive, fractured group. While we're all for democracy and support the willingness of any individual to run for office, a party will typically coalesce behind one candidate, especially when that candidate is the incumbent, as in Dyster.

Despite the fact that Dyster continues to tout positive happenings in the city, there clearly are many people unhappy with him within his own party.  Otherwise, we wouldn't see so many intra-party candidates emerging. This scenario also creates a big problem for City Democratic Committee Chairman David Houghton. When committeemen are slated to go out and collect signatures for candidates, Lewis will be forced to deal with the fallout of a group of committeemen doing their own thing instead of uniting behind one candidate.

Frankly, this year presents a great opportunity for a member of the Republican Party to take the mayor's race. While we all know that the Democrats have a heavy enrollment advantage, that does not necessarily translate into an automatic win. That point was driven home when Francine DelMonte failed to win a single election district in Niagara Falls in her failed Assembly bid.

Nonetheless, this is shaping up to be a very interesting race. Anthony, with his strong union ties, cannot be underestimated in a primary. Burch, who's worked with the city's youth for years, has strong name recognition and a great reputation. Accardo, who previously sat on the city council, would likely be sitting in Albany right now if DelMonte had done the right thing and dropped out of the Assembly race last year after Accardo beat her in the primary. Any of them are capable of catching lightning in a bottle with a primary win. Stay tuned, this one's just getting started.

May 3, 2011

The War on Terror

Unlike many Americans, I had no interest in dancing in the streets upon the news of Osama bin Laden's death. While I certainly understood why people took to the streets with chants of "U.S.A, U.S.A." while waving the flag, the feeling that came to me wasn't jubilation, but fear.

People certainly have the right to celebrate the death of bin Laden; he was the mastermind behind the most heinous act of domestic terrorism our country has ever suffered. With the death of bin Laden comes a certain degree of closure for millions of people, especially the families of the victims. It also satisfies our most basic emotion of revenge.

Don't get me wrong, I love the move. Obama made the right call to send the SEAL team in, and their execution was apparently flawless. If there has ever been anyone who deserved to be killed, it's bin Laden. For me, the concern immediately flipped to "what does this mean for the future?".

These Muslim extremists don't think the way you and I do. They're labeled "extremists" because their minds don't function in a rational manner. They have an entirely different set of rules to play by, rules that are dictated by their culture and their religion. They're bound by and dedicated to the utter obliteration of those who don't think they way they do. Jihadists are our modern day Hitler. The problem is that this isn't a conventional war fought on the shores of Europe; this a war fought on multiple front across every continent. Therein lies my concern.

Bin Laden apparently left behind what's being called a "doomsday tape" to be released by his disciples in the event oh his death calling for a do-or-die jihad against the West. With their messiah gone, the backlash from al-Qaida could reignite the flames of hatred towards the United State and our allies. I hope I'm wrong.
Nonetheless, it's as important now as ever that our country maintain and enhance our anti-terrorism efforts.

Meanwhile, I will try to share in the jubilation of the moment, always cognizant of the fact that the war on terror will continue on as long as those who hate America continue to roam the planet - in other words, forever.

May 2, 2011

It Takes Two To Consolidate

There is an interesting article in today's Buffalo News about the Niagara Falls Water Board.  The system needs $33 million in work, was built for a population double the current size and will soon lose the benefit of a major settlement that Occidental Chemical has been paying.  Bottom line, the system is in big trouble and eventually Niagara Falls residents will be left paying even more in exorbitant fees for water that is just a few feet away.

Clearly, the only long-term answer is for Niagara Falls to consolidate it's water system with that of the county.  The Niagara County system is run far better, is in far superior shape and town residents pay a heck of a lot less for water than their neighbors in the Falls.  Of course, this consolidation will never happen.

First, the unions in Niagara Falls will never allow the system to go away.  It's a gravy train for those who work there.  But that's not the biggest obstacle, believe it or not.

The fact is the relationship between Niagara Falls and the rest of the County has never been worse and that's saying something.  When Dyster teamed up with former Senator Thompson and former Assemblywoman DelMonte to undo the casino agreement and take the county share away the bottom fell out of city/county relations.  The NCCC Culinary School almost was killed off by the county out of disgust with Dyster.

Then Dyster went out of his to attack the NCIDA for actually fostering economic development in the city.  While Peter Kay did nothing during his time with the City, the NCIDA has established a pretty good track record.  Still, Dyster picked a fight over some tax abatements that were nothing out of the ordinary.

Next, came redistricting where Niagara Falls virtually demanded extra representation that it was not entitled to.  Conversely, you saw representatives from the towns of Lewiston and Niagara publicly say what many feel......"we don't want anything to do with Niagara Falls."

The sad fact is that there could be significant collaboration, but that will never happen until Niagara Falls decides it wants to act as a partner with the rest of the county.  And the person who would have to eat some humble pie and take the first step would by Dyster.  This could actually be Dyster's legacy as Niagara Falls would benefit greatly from such a partnership.  But that would mean giving up control of some functions and Dyster has shown no inclination in that regard.

So the status quo remains and soon Falls residents will be paying even more through the nose to turn on their faucet.  Is it any surprise why people keep moving out?