June 30, 2011

Screw You, Larry Quinn

These are exciting days in Sabreland as new owner Terry Pegula has unleashed the purse strings on the team and in doing so, unleashed a lot of excitement about the future prospects of the Sabres.  Fans are downright giddy that the old regime led by Larry Quinn is nothing but a distant memory.

But this post isn't about Quinn's failed legacy in bringing a Stanley Cup to Buffalo.  It's about his failed legacy on Buffalo's watefront.  Quinn attacked Senator Maziarz in Sunday's Buffalo News because the Senator had the audacity to question what appears to be some ugly conflicts of interest in efforts to develop (OK, stop laughing) Buffalo's waterfront.  The issues raised by the Senator which were initially reported in other Buffalo News articles revolve around favored developers and a questionable procurement process.  Maziarz is particularly interested because $100 million in NYPA money is committed to this effort and as we all know, Maziarz always takes an interest in how NYPA is spending our money.

But good old Larry has a problem with the head of the Western New York state delegation questioning any of this phony baloney.  Larry Quinn seems like one of these guys who believes he's always the smartest guy in the room.  So, he is appalled that someone would question the wisdom of waterfront decision-making.  Larry believes the Senator's inquiry will delay waterfront development......yes, years of tilting at windmills waiting for Bass Pro was OK, but making sure the integrity of public money is maintained, that creates unnecessary delay.

We urge the Senator to keep going.  We're all tired of insider deals that benefit a few.  And if this makes Larry Quinn unhappy, he can go screw himself like he screwed up signing Drury and Briere.

June 28, 2011

Practice What You Preach

The gay marriage debate has, for the most part, come to a close. While the legislation is sure to face some legal challenges, gay couples across New York State are rejoicing at the signing of  the bill by Gov. Cuomo. Of course, the cynic in me says that the group that is just as happy about the passage of gay marriage legislation as gays is divorce attorneys. They have just significantly increased their potential client base.

Frankly, I couldn't care less about this issue. If gays want to share in the bliss and angst of marriage, knock yourselves out. What I do find galling about this debate is the sickening inability of some people to win with grace. I've checked a multitude of websites, Facebook pages, message boards and the like, and the comments are ridiculous.

Supporters of gay marriage have a reason to celebrate - good for you. But why is it necessary to continue to vilify those who chose not to support it after the vote was affirmed? Is it not enough to simply enjoy your victory and move on? Apparently for many, many gay marriage supporters, it is not. The hateful comments about members of the state legislature who chose to stand by their convictions show a level of hypocrisy from supporters of gay marriage that is unfathomable.

Gay marriage supporters preached up and down about tolerance of others. Apparently that only applies to those who share their beliefs. Even after the vote, members of the legislature who didn't support the bill have been called, among many other colorful adjectives, intolerant, bigots, scumbags and racists. Just so I'm clear here, advocates of gay marriage are calling those who didn't share their views these hate-filled names. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. So much for a rational conversation on the issue.

It reminds me of the rookie who scores his first touchdown in the NFL, then does some embarrassing end-zone celebration, only to have the veteran teammate come over to him and tell him to act like he's been there before. What the veteran is saying to the rookie is to, even in victory and celebration, have a little class and don't rub it in the face of your opposition. The analogy plays in this gay marriage vote. Supporters who continue to vilify those who opposed the legislation are the rookie dancing in the end zone. Maybe in time they'll learn to win with dignity and grace, but the immediate post-vote antics of some leave much to be desired.

June 27, 2011

Niagara Falls Has Gotten Exactly What It Deserves

Read Denise Jewell Gee's column in today's Buffalo News.  It's titled "Niagara Falls Deserves Better Than It's Received."  It's a well-written piece about how New York State takes too much money out of the Park revenue and Casino without investing enough of it back in the helping the city.  No argument here in that regard.  But the central premise is that Niagara Falls is some innocent dupe being taken advantage of by others.  That's not accurate.

The old saying is God  helps those who help themselves.  Along those lines, what has Niagara Falls done to help themselves?  Government has been both corrupt and/or inept forever.  The local share of casino money and the NYPA settlement money have not appeared to produce job one.  Money is pissed away on Chritsmas bizarres and promises of some Undeground Railroad attraction run by someone on the city payroll who only seems to producing for himself.  Accountability over these funds is zilch.

When other try to help, there hand is slapped.  Take the County IDA which has actually had some success in Niagara Falls.  The Mayor and his minions attack the IDA for actually creating wealth and jobs, seemingly because they can't claim credit for it.

And overall governance of the day to day is a disaster.  The roads suck.  Water rates are astronomical but the politicians all lack the balls to call for shutting down the Falls Water Authority, laying everyone off and begging the county to take over.  Vacant, abandoned houses line the street.

Last, as I stated a few days ago, good things happen in the Falls when you can work around City Government.  The bottom line is that Falls does indeed deserve better but that has to start by getting their own house in order first.

June 22, 2011

Legislation Expanding USA Niagara's Footprint Raise Questions

Senator Mark Grisanti and Assemblywman John Ceretto are sponsoring legislation that would expand USA Niagara Development Corporation's footprint to include the whole City of Niagara Falls. Right now, USA Niagara's charge is to focus in the tourist district immediately adjacent to the State Park.  I'm told the legislators are doing this at the request of the Aquarium which is seeking state assistance.  I'm told Paul Dyster is actively fighting this and former Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte has made sure her old boss Shelly Silver won't move the bill.  So, if this is all true, it raises many questions:

1) Why would Paul Dyster oppose this bill?  He's the mayor of the entire city and if this measure leads to some economic growth, you'd think he'd be jumping for joy.  After all, his economic development record pretty much sucks.  Clearly Paul has some political motive to oppose this but I'm not quite sure what this is.

2) Why would Grisanti and Ceretto carry this?  Both are aligned with Senator Maziarz who  has made it pretty clear that USA Niagara has been a complete failure.  Does it make sense to expand failure?  Plus, Maziarz voted for the bill.    The only thing I can guess is that this is a actually a way to redefine USA Niagara's mission and perhaps encourage some turnover.    Maybe it's a way to make lemonade from an agency that only seems to give the community lemons?

3) How does any of this actually help the Aquarium secure the funds they need.  First, there is no money anywhere in the state.  Second, USA Niagara's track record is rather abysmal (Experience Center, anyone?) This seems like an attempt to show progress on a project that no doubt would be great but clearly has no momentum right now and isn't going anywhere any time soon. 

4) Did Delmonte really weigh in? If so, why?  And isn't that a violation of her two-year ban on lobbying.  Is DelMonte bound and determined to stop anything and everything that Ceretto tries to do? Is she really that petty and vindictive?  If these answers are all yes, then even I underestimated the depths she might be wiling to sink.

With session ending in the next few days, the bill appears dead for now.  But the questions it raises aren't going away any time soon.

June 20, 2011

Maybe There Is A Chance For the Falls

OK, I know that headline grabbed your attention and maybe you're saying to yourself, "Is Hobbes finally going soft."  After all, what would make me every remotely optimistic about the future of the Falls? Well, hold onto your hat because it was a Mark Scheer column in the Niagara Gazette.  Now, I know you're blown away.

Explanation:  Scheer wrote a nice little column about partnerships in the Falls.  More specific, he talked about how NCCC and the Seneca Nation were teaming up regarding the culinary institute and how it could be a win/win for both.  NCCC President Jim Klyczek said he hoped to partner with the DiCienzo family, the new owners of the new Sheraton Hotel, as well.

What got me excited is that the realization that good things can happen and the key to that is NOT involving Paul Dyster and his inept city government in any meaningful way.  Dyster opposed the IDA deal for DiCienzo. Dyster would be still be fighting with David Corsdish at the Rainbow Mall. Dyster likes train stations with no train traffic.  He simply has no sense of what it means to create jobs and is an obstacle to economic development.  But, if you can work your way around the obstacle, then you might have a shot at progress.

So, good work NCCC and Senecas.  Keep it up.  And keep the city at arm's length.

June 16, 2011

Punishing Students at NCCC

Today's Buffalo News article on the NCCC Trustee meeting was a little disturbing.  First some quick background.  The College budget needs to be approved by the County Legislature every year.  The County makes a financial commitment to the College called local share.  For the last several years, NCCC has requested an increase in local share while the county has kept it flat.  This year that scenario played out again.

So, obviously the College then needs to go back and tweak its budget for the increase in money it wanted from the County but didn't get, in this case $350,000.  Apparently, one option being considered is an increase in student tuition above and beyond the 4 percent that has already been approved.  What an outrage.

It's no secret that many students, especially from working class families, turn to community colleges as a less expensive alternative to begin their higher education.  Many of these families have been hurt very badly by this recession, many parents have lost their jobs and the prospects for the next few years don't look good.

With that as the backdrop, how in good conscience could the trustees ever consider a tuition hike?  NCCC needs to find other ways to cut their budget starting with the fat faculty contract.  It's no secret that NCCC President Jim Klyczek has been trying to reign in these costs, but the faculty in their ivory tower refuse to do anything to help. 

Just remember while your struggling, the NCCC faculty still have ELECTIVE COSMETIC PLASTIC SURGERY in their contracts.  While they whine about wanting fat raises and haven't had  a contract for years, they still have been getting step increases each year.  Have you gotten a raise every year since the recession hit?  I'm told they pay little to nothing for their gold-plated health insurance that taxpayers on the hook for until they die.   OUTRAGEOUS and THEY WANT MORE!!!

So, to everyone involved, don't punish the kids who are trying to build their future so the fatcats can have more.  A four percent tuition hike is more than enough.

June 13, 2011

Some Notes Collected....

Some notes collected while wondering whatever happened to Dan Mocniak….

·        Councilman Sam Fruschione is calling into question a “report” given by the Idaho developer who is supposedly creating a Christmas Bizarre in Niagara Falls.  Seems the report is light on details.  Does anyone at all think this crazy scheme will come to fruition and if it somehow does, if it will last more than one winter?

·        Speaking of crazy schemes, seems I haven’t heard from the Wizard of Oz amusement folks in a while.  I’m sure their financing will be happening any day now.

·        It may have taken 3 major accidents on Dysinger Road in 16 months to get the DOT to move toward action, but at least they are finally moving.  Congrats to Supervisor Mark Smith and Senator Maziarz on getting this addressed.

·        Speaking of roads, I came off the Robert Moses Parkway past the casino the other day and cut down 7th Street headed toward my destination.  For all those complaining about street conditions in Niagara Falls, your complaints are not nearly strong enough.  Unless b-52 bombers are hitting Niagara Falls every night, I have no ideas how those streets can be in such disrepair.

·        Michael Pillot’s entry into a Democrat primary against Jack Smith for Lockport Mayor is good news for Mayor Tucker.  Sources say Democrats have not endorsed in this race because while Smith should be the stronger candidate his council record is less than impressive which gives Pillot a chance in the primary.

·        History is indeed repeating itself in N.T. where the same cast of unsuccessful candidates are running again.  What’s the old saying….insanity is doing the same thing over and over yet expecting a different result.

June 9, 2011

Good Luck Brittany Catchpole

18 year-old Brittany Catchpole is the newest Niagara County Legislator.  We do not know much about Ms. Catchpole other than she was an intern in the County Legislature who hoped to return to that body one day and has now indeed done so.  We also know that she is now the youngest person to ever serve in the Niagara County Legislature.

Congratulations to Ms. Catchpole on that accomplishment.  Too many times we hear about how disinterested young people are in government.  So few vote, especially in non-presidential years.  Ms. Catchpole will hopefully be an inspiration to other young people that you should get involved.

Ms. Catchpole will have to run for re-election this year in the new Town of Niagara/Niagara Falls district.  She is a Democrat and the County Dems have already endorsed a candidate right from Dan Rivera central casting....a Niagara Falls male union member.  But the Town of Niagara makes up a greater percent of the district and Ms .Catchpole could turn into the feel good story of this year's election season.  Plus, you certainly can't go negative on a young, earnest teenager.

My early prediction is Catchpole wins the primary and the general election, fueled by a strong turnout of young people she knows from Niagara Wheatfield and female voters who want more diversity in the Legislature.  We wish her the best.

June 8, 2011

26th Congressional Afterthought: Bouncing Back

Politics is a funny game, especially for those who've spent a good deal of time in the arena. Just this week we learned of revelations that will eventually lead to the resignation of Rep. Anthony Weiner, the Congressman who had his sights set on running for mayor of New York City when Mike Bloomberg's term is up. It really is amazing how quickly folks in the political arena can so quickly fall from grace.

Locally, a couple of familiar faces have taken some pretty serious hits lately, namely Erie County GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy and former Jane Corwin Chief of Staff Mike Mallia. Just eight short months ago, Langworthy had been riding high after helping Carl Paladino to a huge win in the GOP gubernatorial primary. Erie County carried the second highest vote percentage for Paladino in the state, just behind Niagara County. Of course, the Paladino campaign went on to a massive implosion, but Langworthy made his mark and received the credit he was due.

Turn the page to late May. Langworthy has taken his share of lumps for the loss in the 26th CD. That's the nature of the business - one second you are on top of the world, the next moment you're the goat. And it all happens on the front page of every newspaper, on the network news and on every blog that covers politics. If you don't have thick skin, you won't last. But that's the thing with Langworthy - he does have thick skin and he will bounce back.  And ultimately he will be wiser from the lessons of a race that went from slam dunk to disaster and he won't make those mistakes again.

Mallia's situation is a tougher one to gauge. People have told me that he's a bright kid with strong political instincts.  But the exuberance of young man trying to capture the "gotcha" moment on Jack Davis contributed to Corwin's loss.  The fact is there is no substitute in a campaign for good strategy, good messaging and hard work.  Mallia's mistake hopefully puts the brakes on the proliferation of the lazy campaign tactic of following the other side around.  And there should have been more adult supervision on this race to make sure Mallia didn't cross the line.  But we all make mistakes early in our careers and bounce back.

Indeed, politics is a game of resilience. One guy who knows the ups and downs of politics of Joel Giambra. Prominently featured on the front page of yesterday's Buffalo News, Giambra has seen a political resurrection unlike any I can recall. It wasn't long ago that Giambra was vilified for his red and green budgets that tried to get taxes and spending under control in Erie County. Unfortunately for Giambra, the redcoats at Channel 2 used the sage to make a name for themselve and he fell out of favor.

While his visibility in politics diminished, Giambra never stayed away. He laid low, reinvented himself, and emerged last year as the mastermind behind a little known candidate named Mark Grisanti. The rest is history. Giambra now serves as the Managing Director of Park Strategies, one of the most powerful lobbying firms from Buffalo to Washington, and is once again being prominently mentioned on the front pages of the Buffalo News for his great work for the community.

My point is this: politics is often a nasty game. People rise, people fall, and sometimes people rise again. 24/7/365 you've got people trying to bring you down in an effort to make themselves, their party or their candidate look "better". (As a side note, I never thought Chris Lee should have resigned - he'd have weathered the storm and persevered - and he'd have beaten Kathy Hochul, but that's another story for another time.) Joel Giambra is a warrior who proved this. He went from the highest of political highs to the lowest of political  lows and now he's riding high again.  It's the nature of the business.

June 7, 2011

The Robert Moses Parkway Saga

State Parks dropped by the other day to get input some ideas for the Robert Moses Parkway.  People north of Niagara Falls want it essentially left alone.  Falls advocates want it removed.  It's been the Hatfields and McCoys for some time and probably will be for a while.  My own thoughts is that there are far better things to spend precious resources on before we should even ENTERTAIN the idea of taking the Parkway out, ideas I think we could all agree on. For example:

1)  Take the parking out of Niagara Falls State Park and return it fully to Olmsted's vision.  This would push more people into the City, especially if parking were put up by Nabisco, creating more economic activity while making the greenies happy by returning the park to its natural state.

2) Build the Experience Center.  Remember this little gem of an idea to create a world class attraction on this side of the Falls.  How about we see that one through.

3) Re-open the walkway.  If we're moving parking, then let's have an alternative for bad weather days and winter days for people to be protected from the elements.  We all remember the connectors from the Convention Center (casino) to the Rainbow mall (culinary.)

4) Demolish, demolish, demolish.  The number of vacant homes in Niagara Falls is staggering and contributes to crime.  Get them down.

I welcome your other thoughts and suggestions.  And if you believe Parkway removal is indeed the right investment for scarce dollars right now and will have a good return on the investment, tell me how.

June 3, 2011

Public Service Announcement

We would be remiss in our duty to the community if we didn't take a moment to aid our old friend, Greg Lewis. As you'll certainly recall, the the former Niagara County Manager left the confines our fair community for Lebanon, NH this past February to serve as the town's city manager. We certainly wish the best to Greg as he updates the fine folks of Lebanon on such issues as dog re-licensing, police arrests, cemetery maintenance and building permits.

Taking a new job out of town is never easy. There are logistical issues, family concerns and potentially the problem of selling one's original abode after already having left for the new gig. That's where we come in. Apparently Greg has been unable to move his home in Niagara County, despite the fact that it's been on the market since late January. Of course, the housing market has been in the tank for some time now, so there are potentially a multitude of reasons why it hasn't moved. Frankly it must be very difficult to completely put his Niagara County past behind him until the house is sold, so I want to help out.

This Sunday, Greg's property at 99 Carolina Avenue in Lockport will have an open house from 1-3PM.  While the picture to the right is just one of many available in the listing, it does hint at the charm of the house.

The home's description goes on to state, "Spacious 3 BR, 2 full BA dutch colonial in great area of city. New flooring in FR-kit(ceramic), din room. New carpets in LR. Both BAs have updates: 1 is 2nd fl master. Water heater 04. All appliances included. FR w/sliders to deck & fully fenced yard, brick floor & wall for cleaned & serviced wd stove. Full bsmt w/22 x 20 finished rm. 1 room is unfinished & lg laun room. Roof 10 yrs. Near all schools, shopping! Owners relocating out of state, need to sell home!"

Clearly the listing cannot capture the intangibles the house has to offer. While I wouldn't go as far as to suggest that the property be listed on Niagara County Historic Property Registry, the thought of what genius and creativity that took place in that house is nearly too much for one man to comprehend. You cannot put a price on that. "Home of Niagara County's First County Manager". I can see it in lights. I can see bus tours. I can see admission fees. The possibilities are endless.

Therefore, we want to help both Greg and our readers out by passing on the word of Sunday's open house. I understand that the weather is supposed to be glorious that day, but opportunities like this only come about once in a lifetime. If you or anyone you know are in the market for a great deal and a piece of history, visit 99 Carolina Ave this Sunday.

June 2, 2011

More Health Care Outrage

Lockport's former highway chief Michael Hoffman got let go when Mayor Tucker reorganized City Hall to reduce costs.  Happens all the time in the private sector, but Hoffman feels he's been wronged and is entitled to keep his job forever.....of course, he does.  But this article isn't about Hoffman's job woes.  Following up on our last post, the Union Sun & Journal article on Hoffman had this tidbit:

"Hoffman was 18 days away from the five-year service mark that, under the Lockport City Managers Association’s labor contract, would have qualified him for lifetime city-paid health insurance."

WTF.....five years of employment and you suck taxpayers dry for health insurance for the rest of your life.  Are you friggin kidding me?  For all those clamoring for cutting spending, we need to start right here.  This is the low-hanging fruit that Democrats and Republicans together should be able to call outrageous and excessive.  And how this perks continue to fly under the radar is beyond me. 

If you are a Tea Party activist, you should be outraged.  If you are left leaning, then you should be pissed that education aid was whacked while at the same time we're paying for this nonsense.  And no government entity should agree to another contract that doesn't eliminate these types of provisions.