August 30, 2011

Virtuoso's Legacy

Word is that Niagara County Legislator Dennis Virtuoso has put in a resolution eliminating the health insurance option for members of the legislature. Let's forget for a second that Virtusoso has accumulated 20 lackluster years in the Leg, thus ensuring that he has the option of taking health insurance, paid for by taxpayers, for the rest of his life. The real conversation is about what's going to happen next.

In Virtuoso's little game of political one-upsmanship, his bluff is about to get called. Not only is the Niagara County Legislature going to move forward with eliminating health insurance for current legislators, they are prepared to eliminate the benefit for retired legislators as well. That means people like Lee Simonson, Mark Scott (who was convicted of a felony for selling his legislature vote but still gets health insurance paid for by county taxpayers), Art Crusione (Virtuoso's uncle), and Sean O'Connor can all kiss their lifetime health insurance goodbye. They all think that their benefit would be grandfathered in and thus untouchable, but they'd be wrong. Recent court cases support the legislature's efforts to strip retired legislature members of benefits, if they are forced by Virtuoso. Apparently the Leg is willing to go all the way.

Virtuoso has never learned the old credo, "Don't start something you can't finish". He's opened a can of worms that he thinks is going to save him politically, while screwing his present and past colleagues. Considering he's brought this after he made sure his health insurance was taken care of for the rest of the life, Virtuoso once again showed his true colors - the epitome of selfishness.

Frankly, I could care less what they do with the benefit. For some, it's offered and they take it, while others don't have the need. Considering they only make $15k for all of the assholes and bullshit they have to deal with, a health insurance benefit hardly seems exorbitant, and they did eliminate the lifetime benefit some years back, which was a good move. But Virtuoso's move smacks of political desperation designed to save his ass and his ass only two weeks before the primary. It's sad and pathetic, and only reinforces Virtuoso's legacy as the most arrogant, self-serving individual ever to walk the through county hall.

August 29, 2011

DelMonte Puts in for Retirement

Niagara Times has learned that former Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte has filed her New York State Retirement System paperwork. DelMonte, who turned 55 this year, will walk away with a nice little pension, courtesy of you and I. With her 10 years in the Assembly and her 20 years working for Joe Pillitiere, DelMonte will be getting at least $60,000 a year, state-tax free, for the rest of her life.

The filing does raise some questions related to DelMonte's future. As we are all painfully aware of, DelMonte has made a complete spectacle of herself since leaving office. Unable to come to terms with the fact that she lost to John Ceretto, DelMonte has been showing up at events, press conferences, meetings and anywhere else she can think of to try to keep herself relevant. She loads her Facebook page with unintelligible ramblings about those who've done her wrong, and still maintains a DelMonte political website. All of this has led many to believe that DelMonte has been attempting to line herself up for a rematch against Ceretto. Her retirement sheds a new light on that prospect.

If DelMonte follows through with the retirement and runs for the Assembly, she will be expecting taxpayers to subsidize her double-dipping. You see, she can retire from the state, get her pension, and still get her full Assembly salary if she wins. I have a feeling residents of the 138th Assembly District would have a huge issue with that. The problem with DelMonte is that she's arrogant enough to think she can overcome the double-dipping in her attempt to regain the seat that she believes she deserves and is owed. Time will tell.

Our advice to DelMonte is to ride off into the sunset with just a little bit of grace and dignity. Frankly, people aren't talking about the way she's meandering her way around Niagara County, they're asking, "What the hell is she doing here?" You had your time, the people have spoken. Get over it.

If DelMonte has any interest in politics, other that her self-serving ambitions, she should spend some time trying to build a Democratic Party. She should try to get her lone Democratic ally left in Niagara County, Paul Dyster, re-elected. Sadly for county Dems, DelMonte has never been about party building. If she did, she'd have withdrawn from the Assembly race after she lost the Primary Election to John Accardo, instead of running a vengeful no-win campaign on the Working Families Party line that split the Dem vote, ensuring a Ceretto win.

Better yet, just take your pension and go. Clearly no one in state government is interested in taking care of DelMonte. There's no job for her at NYPA, USA Niagara Development, ESDC or anywhere else she's been angling to gain employment at over the past eight months. We hear Bradenton has some fine retirement communities. And they have pinochle nights on Mondays.

August 23, 2011

Days Gone By

Oh how I long for the days gone by, when the sun shone brightly, the grass was greener, the eagles flew higher and Francine DelMonte loved the Republicans so much that she not only posed for a picture with them, she actually put her arm around George Maziarz!

August 22, 2011

Seefeldt/Chenier Letter

There's been a fair amount of coverage of a letter written to Democratic Committeepersons in Niagara County by a former and a current member of the same committee, Linda Seefeldt and Pete Chenier related to the campaign of Democrat Patrick Murphy in his quest to unseat Wayne Jagow. I've read at least a couple of letters to the editor in local papers criticizing Seefeldt and Chenier for writing the letter, but hadn't seen the original anywhere, until a kind reader forwarded it along.

I'll let you judge for yourself, other than one small commentary. The letters to the editor that I've read seem to focus on one piece of the Seefeldt and Chenier letter, the part about political contributions. Several writers have asked, "Why is the fact that Pat Murphy hasn't given money to local candidates relevant?" It's very convenient how they've managed to extract one piece of the letter in their criticism of Seefeldt and Chenier in an attempt to minimize the importance of fundraising in campaigns.

Guess what - it is relevant and it is important. Last I looked, the Niagara County GOP had about $130,000 in it's campaign coffers and the Niagara County Dems had about $12,000. Don't hold your breath waiting for sweeping changes across Niagara County's political landscape this year.

Here is the letter:

August 17, 2011

Why Does NY Insist on Going Over the Cliff for No Benefit

I have never head of the The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative until I read today's Union Sun & Journal and once again I'm amazed at how dumb New York State can be.  It's a 10-state initiative that apparently began with Governor Pataki that seeks to reduce greenhouse gases by punishing coal plants.

Now, whether your a big old tree hugger or you have a tired fire in your backyard, I would think common sense would say that New York entering into these dumb agreements when states like Ohio and Pennsylvania do not is plain stupid.  First, any benefit to clean air for us is lost since the prevailing winds travel west to east and if these states don't participate, we still breath their dirty air.  Worse, we drive up New York energy costs and drive out jobs from New York for green ideas that matter little if the whole country isn't engaged.

Furthermore, the AES Somerset plant is Niagara County's biggest taxpayer and is already suffering economically.  If AES goes under you can surely bet you will see a significant increase in your property taxes and again, for what gain?  Outside of a few whackos, does anyone want to see AES closed?

Unless the federal government is going to impose this crap on everyone....which they will never do, especially in a recession....New York should stop shooting itself in the foot.  Follow New Jersey's lead and drop the RGGI.   Niagara County taxpayers would be grateful.

August 15, 2011

Someones Gotta Pay for Richie's Spending Sprees

Take two stories of late regarding the New York Power Authority.  One, former head honcho Richie Kessel seems to be in trouble for his exorbitant spending at the authority.  Seems once Richie got his hands on the checkbook the sky was the limit.   It's been reported that all sorts groups with ties to Richie benefited from his largess.  But that's only what's been reported.

Sources have told as that salaries for those to tow the company line have been going through the roof.  For example, we're told one of the local NYPA mouthpieces got a $30,000 raise.  Wow.  And we're also told, though we can't confirm, that some version of the the NYPA bonus pay program called variable pay quietly returned when none of the politicians were looking.

Take all of this and move to the next story that NYPA says it needs to raise rates next year on  its preference power customers...which  means you.  Well, no shit.  If they're lighting their proverbial cigars at NYPA with $100 bills someone has to pay the cost.  And we're the lucky suckers.  NYPA has been clamoring for a rate increase for several years and they are sure to cry poor this time.

Our only hope is that Governor Cuomo's folks clean house over there and do it soon.  While state agencies have been forced to downsize, the authorities have been left untouched.  It's time for that to change.  Start by cleaning out all the cronies Kessel brought with him from Long Island.  Until that's done, NYPA has no business raising rates.

August 11, 2011

Historian's Hypocrisy on Wallenda Walk

In many of the local articles I've read about Nik Wallenda's proposed tightrope walk across Niagara Falls, a local historian by the name of Paul Gromosiak opines strongly against the walk because he believes that daredevils cheapen the natural value of the falls. In a story in the Buffalo News, Gromosiak stated, "Does he contribute to the natural wonder or does he take it away? I think he takes it away."

It's interesting that Gromosiak would take such a hypocritical position on the proposed walk, considering that he himself has capitalized on stunts at the falls with a book he wrote on that same topic. Gromosiak's book, ironically enough, is titled Daring Niagara: 50 Death Defying Stunts at the Falls. Apparently in Gromosiak's world, profiting personally from the litany of daredevil stunts that have been part of the falls' history is okay, but actually supporting one that would bring hundreds of thousands of visitors, tens of millions of dollars and an amount of publicity to the area that could not be quantified is a bad idea.

In his book's introduction, Gromosiak ponders why men and women have risked their lives performing stunts at the falls. He goes on to write, "After reading about the stunts, walk by the falls and gorge to see the places where they were done. Who knows? You might see another one being attempted. Undoubtedly, it is only a matter of time before another person adds his or her name to the roster of Niagara's challengers".

Clearly I bolded that section for a reason; to highlight just how hypocritical Gromosiak is. He's using the falls to make money for himself, glamorizing the same stunts that he now condemns. His book is filled with pictures of funambulists as far back as Jean Francis Gravelet, who tightroped across the falls in 1859. All the while, he has the audacity to criticize the proposed walk.

My advice for Gromosiak would be to stop doing Paul Dyster's dirty work (Dyster still refuses to get behind the walk and didn't even attend a critically important meeting about the event last week with Wallenda , his people and other stakeholders), get behind the Wallenda walk or just shut your mouth. You can't have it both ways. And by the way, you're welcome for the pimping of your book.

August 10, 2011

Some Notes Collected......

Some notes collected while wondering whatever happened to Steve D'Anna.......

*  I'm hearing rumblings that that an alliance of folks across the political spectrum are smelling blood in the water when it comes to Dennis Virtuoso.  Between a new district and general voter disgust, Dennis faces a very serious test.

* The results in Wisconsin last night that saw the GOP beat back an attempt to recall several members for their collective bargaining votes got me to thinking that recall elections aren't a really good idea.  I remember when Gray Davis was bumped from California for the Governator and at the time I thought that was a little bizarre as well.  Unless those elected do something illegal or unethical, shouldn't the results of an election stand?  If you don't like what they do, vote for someone else next election.  Politicians are already too timid to make tough decisions....this will make it worse regardless of where you stand on issues.

* The new teacher's contract in Lewiston seemed to be an exercise in reasonable compromise that saw raises in turn for givebacks and a pretty good deal for taxpayers.  I was struck by the fact that the deal goes back to 2008 but no teacher will receive any retroactive pay.  Are you listening NCCC faculty union?  No retroactive pay.  Kudos to those hardworking public employees in Lewiston who understand the need for shared sacrifice.

* I couldn't disagree more with Norton Douglas, candidate for Mayor of Niagara Falls, who believes that Dem Boss David Hougton's effort to knock African American candidates off the ballot wasn't race related.  Douglas, who is African American, seems naive.  While I doubt Hougton was being overtly racist in his challenges to African American candidates, the net result of his action would have been only one African Amercian candidate left for all local offices in the Falls.  Houghton had to know this and went ahead any way.  This is called de facto discrimination and is just as bad.

* Score a win for Sen. Grisanti and Assemblyman Ceretto on expanding the USA Niagara boundaries over the objection of Mayor Dyster and USA head Chris Schoepflin.  I'm not sure what this gains in the long run, but it does send a message that the Cuomo Administration really likes Grisanti.

* Tim Demler gets knocked off the Dem line.  Tim, don't go away mad, just go away.

* Has anyone seen Congresswoman Kathy Hochul anywhere in Niagara County since she got elected?  I guess the drive from Hamburg to Niagara is just too far to make it worth her while to visit constituents.

* I miss poking fun at Greg Lewis.  I really do.  Perhaps I need to talk to somebody.

August 5, 2011

Incompetence Squared

Just when you think Democrats in Niagara County can't get anymore incompetent, David Houghton and Paul Dyster put their heads together to form what can only be described as an awful Abbott & Costello routine.

Last week, Houghton, Chairman of the Niagara Falls Democratic Committee, and Dyster, temporarily the mayor of Niagara Falls, strolled into the Niagara County Courthouse together to file a slew of lawsuits against a multitude of candidates for office. Houghton, doing Dyster's dirty work, filed lawsuits to throw out the Democratic petitions of mayoral candidates John Accardo and Carnell Burch, the Conservative petitions of Accardo, council candidate Glenn Choolokian, council candidate Bob Anderson and the Democratic petitions of Matt Cole, who is running for county legislature against John Briglio.

According to state Election Law, Houghton needed to commence the action by July 28th. What this means is that he would have had to serve the papers on the candidates and the county Board of Elections by midnight on July 28th.  What he actually did is filed the lawsuits on the 28th, but he and his co-conspirators did not serve the respondents until the 29th, 30th & 31st. Houghton et al did not commence their actions in a timely manner. That is what we who follow politics call a major screw-up.

This is not rocket science. The law is very clear on the procedures in place when one party tries to boot another party off the ballot. To be so incompetent on such a massive scale is simply astounding. Of course, given Dyster's abysmal history of governing, no one should be surprised that he would oversee such a colossal failure.

Dan Rivera, Chairman of the county Dems, isn't without culpability either. Rivera, who works for a law firm, actually served papers to some of the respondents.

We'll never know if Houghton and Dyster would have been successful in their efforts to knock Accardo, Burch, Choolokian and Cole off the ballots, because their inability to follow simple instructions once again got the best of them. This may be a hard lesson to swallow come September 13th.

August 1, 2011

Houghton Has Much to Learn

The recent charge by Niagara County Legislator Renae Kimble of Niagara Falls that the Niagara Falls Democratic Committee is systematically attempting to eliminate all of the African-American candidates for citywide offices in Niagara Falls is a lesson in how not to respond to the media when questioned about something that is potentially extremely inflammatory.

When pressed on the matter, Niagara Falls Democratic Committee Chairman David Houghton responded with this gem: “She’s being racist". As my kids say, that would be a big, fat FAIL. Kimble has been one of the strongest advocates for the African-American community since I can remember. To make such an accusation does not help the matter. And if Houghton thinks that making such a statement helps his buddy Paul Dyster going into the primary election, which is six weeks away, he's delusional.

Here's some free advice for Houghton: Don't pick up the phone for the next six weeks if you don't know who is on the other end. You clearly are incapable of handling yourself in such a pressure-filled situation. But, should you find yourself in an inescapable position in which you are forced to answer such a question again, go with this: "I respect Ms. Kimble's position on this issue. She has been a fierce advocate for our city and the African-American community during her 20 years in the county legislature. The Niagara Falls Democratic Committee has worked with candidates of all races, creeds and ethnicities for many years and will continue to do so in the future." Then shut your pie hole.

I mean, seriously, what are you thinking, Dave? Did you come up with that gem on your own or did you consult with Dyster first? Whatever the reason, you need a boatload of work on how to deal with the media - especially if you're going to tangle with someone as experienced as Kimble.