September 30, 2011

DMV Putting Driver's Lives at Risk

The tragic accident at an Amherst restaurant last week that killed two Wilson residents when a senior citizen driver drove through the front window of Cheeburger Cheeburger sparked a lot of debate about older drivers.  You heard many people saying that testing of older drivers needs to be increased and more needs to be done to keep those who have impairments off the road.

So, it's tragically ironic that the state DMV comes out and says it will no longer be requiring eye tests of drivers renewing their licenses?  Huh?!!?  WTF?!?!!?  Who would ever think taking AWAY a safety precaution is a good idea.  And clearly, this impacts older drivers who are obviously more likely to have failing eyesight.

Think about it.  DMV's response (though not directly related of course) to a 72 year old driver killing two innocent people eating a burger is to make it easier for those with failing physical abilities to get licenses.  Now, what would make DMV do something so fucking stupid.

Of course, the cynical among you would say it must be about money.  But how could this related back tot he almighty dollar?  Allow me to enlighten.  When you head over to one of Niagara County's DMV offices to do a transaction of some sort, the money stays in Niagara County coffers.  When you do a DMV transactoin on-line like vehicle registration  (which is totally more convenient) that money goes directly to New York State.

Well, because of the eye exam requirement, people need to go to the local DMV office every for their drivers' license renewal, hence the money stays local. But New York State wants the cash.  Hence, they eliminate the eye exam requirement so people can renew on line and Albany is fat and happy.

All of this would be well and good, a battle between dueling bureaucrats, except for that pesky fact that eliminating the eye exam will undoubtedly cost someone their life when a driver (most likely elderly) runs them down.  Governor Cuomo needs to step in and undo this but it's unclear if this is actually his staff's idea to help with the budget crunch.

There's an old saying for putting people at risk to make a few dollars...."blood money."  It fits in this case.

September 29, 2011

Manipulation of a Tragedy

The following are excerpts from the September 26th edition of the Buffalo News related to a vigil for Jamie Rodemeyer, the Williamsville North freshman who committed suicide after enduring incessant bullying from fellow students:

A group of mourners gathered on Allen Street and walked four abreast with candles down Main Street to Club Marcella. Some had come in by bus from the University at Buffalo. Some had bused in from Ohio. They wore lots of purple. Some wore Lady Gaga "Born This Way" T-shirts. Other shirts read "Some Kids Are Gay. That's OK" and "It Gets Better." Speakers in a brief program included gay marriage activist Kitty Lambert Rudd.

Here's the problem: A tragic set of events that culminated with the death of a promising young man has turned into a cause celeb for the gay community. Even worse, it has minimized the overall issue of bullying into a microcosm of sexuality instead of staying focused on the issue at hand.

Bullying sucks - we all agree on that. Those of us who haven't graduated from high school within the past 15 years have no concept of what kids deal with today. Sure, we were all bullied to some extent - I even endured a few wedgies back in the day. But we could escape - we could go home, pop in a cassette and put the troubling day behind us. Not today. Cell phones, computers, iPods, text messages, instant messages, Facebook, Youtube, MySpace, Twitter mean that every message sent gets to its intended destination in seconds. Then it gets to its unintended destinations.

The case of Jamie Rodemeyer is an awful, awful situation. The people who drove him to suicide need to answer for the actions and they should be held responsible in a court of law. If they are found to have contributed to this young man's death, they should go to jail. If teachers, administrators or counselors from Williamsville North are found to have been negligent in their responsibility to protect Jamie, they should be fired and charged. Messages need to be sent that bullying in any form will not be tolerated under any circumstances.

What people seem to forget is that New York State already passed a law dealing with bullying in 2010. The act aims to do nothing short of affording "all students in public schools an environment free of discrimination and harassment." The law covers harassment or discrimination based on "a person's actual or perceived race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender or sex." That's nine different criteria that the state has identified.

Sadly, members of the gay community have taken this issue and made it about one: homosexuality. They've taken the death of Jamie Rodemeyer and are exploiting it to advance their cause of gay rights. They have completely lost sight of the fact that a young man's life has come to an end because of bullying, not because he was unsure of his sexuality. What if Jamie was bullied for being Jewish? Or disabled? Or overweight? Would the vigil have been held at Club Marcella, a well-known gay night club? Would Kitty Lambert, a leading activist for gay marriage, be speaking at the vigil? Would Lady Gaga be Tweeting about it? I don't think so.

Of course, some are going to read this and think it's some sort of anti-gay thing because frankly, that's what leaders of the gay community do - they twist words and circumstances in any way they can to suit their cause. Frankly, I don't give a shit what they think. A young man's life has come to a tragic end. Nothing will ever change that. Diverting attention away from that fact in an attempt to advance a personal cause is a goddamn disgrace. Kitty Lambert, who is nothing but a bully herself, puts herself out there as some champion of the people - a champion for Jamie Rodemeyer, when nothing is further from the truth. The media, when glamorizing people like Lambert in this tragedy, do a massive disservice to Jamie and his family.

Let's get our eyes back on what's important - eradicating bullying. The reason for the bullying isn't the primary issue - the act of bullying is. How are you going to change how someone "feels" towards a person? Frankly, in most cases, you're not going to be able to. But you can change how the person acts on those prejudices if we as a society send a message that this type of behavior will not be tolerated. Sadly, we've clearly got a long, long way to go.

September 21, 2011

NYPA Sucks

Kudos to Bill Ross, Renae Kimble and John Ceretto for basically telling the New York Power Authority to take their proposed rate hike and stick it up their ass at a public hearing yesterday.  It is time Gov. Cuomo turn both barrels on this Authority, eliminate the layers of six figure jobs and make the place run efficiently.

Chairman Mike Townsend should be immediately fired.  He led the way in agreeing to let New York State pillage the Power Authority for $550 million and had the gall to say it wouldn't really impact NYPA.  Now, Chairman Mike whines that NYPA needs rates increases to generate $480 million to be used to make the nebulous "improvements" at the power plants that we always hear about.  (I think improve means hire more cronies, but I could be wrong.)

Hmmm, I'm no fancy, big city lawyer like Chairman Mike, but let's try this logic.  If I didn't give New  York State $550 million, stolen from the Power Projects in Niagara and Massena, I probably would have the $480 million I need to upgrade these facilities since $480 is less than $550.  Makes sense to me. Perhaps they don't teach that in law school.

NYPA should eliminate the layers of patronage in PR, marketing, security guards who really don't secure anything other than a fat paycheck while eating donuts at the front counter, etc.  (why does a power company that already has a market for all of its power and is a government agency need any of that) before it asks for another nickel.

Governors come and go.  People change.  But NYPA still sucks.

September 15, 2011

Post Election Wrap Up

I think overall I did pretty well in most of my predictions, though I may have been off on some of the percentages.  It was clear in Niagara Falls Dyster, Virtuoso and Anderson would win.  Choolokian ran a close third.  I called the LaSalle seat correctly.  I nailed Wheatfield but that was shooting fish in a barrel because there was no way Tim Demler was making a comeback.  But we could spend hours talking about how smart I am.....well, maybe a few minutes at least...but what's the fun in that?  So let's take a look at a couple where I really whiffed.

1) Catchpole loses to Zona:  In retrospect, I should have seen this coming mainly because the mayoral primary in Niagara Falls would bring out Zona's people while the Town of Niagara had very little reason to go to the polls.  Catchpole is a fresh, likable face who I still believe can win the general election if Town of Niagara voters turnout in healthy numbers.  These primaries are always about turnout which leads me to....

2) Mike Tucker in big trouble in the GOP primary.  I have a few golden rules in politics and one of them is that hate and anger are much better motivators than love when it comes to voting.  There is strong contingent (the size of which is debatable) who are pissed off at Mike Tucker over the new garbage plan and reassessment.  They showed up and voted and they probably cost Tucker the election.  This is not an endorsement of Phylis Green it's an anger vote.

Now, the good thing about anger if you're Tucker is that it is hard to sustain.  Once we get into the meat of this campaign, Lockport resident are going to have an "oh shit!" moment when they realize there is the very real possibility that either Green or Mike Pillot could be Lockport Mayor and both are bat-shit crazy in their own way.  Once that light bulb goes on, Tucker wins it off the minor party lines.  And if Tucker does pull out the GOP primary race, he'll be fine one on one with Pillot.

That's my take on primary day.  Onto November!

September 12, 2011

From the Department of Irony

Paul Dyster must be nervous because someone just forward me his pretty sizable television media buy for his campaign.  What I found deliciously ironic is that Dyster bought several spots on Fox News, the media outlet that Democrats like Dyster love to hate.  And what about MSNBC, the liberal channel that is clearly right in line with Dyster's liberal views.  He bought nothing, nada, zip.

So, Dyster is hoping the Fox crowd will back him and is ignoring the MSNBC crowd.  Of course, given MSNBC's rating, everyone else is ignoring it too.

September 9, 2011

Primary Election Preview

With the Primary Election just a few days away, there are several races that we're going to take a look at and make our much anticipated prognostications. Okay, so maybe they're not "much anticipated", but they're fun nonetheless.
  • Let's start in Wheatfield's GOP primary, where Tim Demler, perhaps the biggest slime ever to grace local politics, is once again hoping to make himself relevant. Despite the fact that every audit and review of Wheatfield's finances over the past two years shows gross malfeasance on the part of Demler, he's come up with a way to blame everyone and anyone he can for his massive mismanagement of the town. This guy has never understood the concept of taking responsibility for one's own actions and never will. He'd sell his mother for a nickel to get back into any position of relevance. Bob Cliffe crushes Demler with 68% of the vote.
  • County Legislator - 5th District. Brittany Catchpole and Jason Zona square off in a Dem primary for the new seat composed of Niagara and Niagara Falls. Catchpole is an 18 year-old fireball who has met with Andrew Cuomo. Jason Zona is a thirtysomething firefighter who loves to post pictures of himself drinking, partying and flipping the bird on social media pages. They say that girls mature faster than guys. We have living proof in this race. Catchpole wins 53-47.
  • County Legislator - 6th District. Dennis Virtuoso takes on Kari Ann Bullman for the new 6th District seat in a Democratic primary. Virtuoso is the epitome of what is wrong with politics. He not only plays partisan politics, he consistently throws his own party and his supporters under the bus in order to ensure his own political survival. Case in point, his resolution to eliminate health insurance for county legislators was conveniently brought forward after Virtuoso made sure he got his health insurance paid for life by taxpayers. If the county legislature has any sack, they will not only pass Virtuoso's resolution, they will eliminate the benefit for all legislators, past and present. Despite the fact that Virtuoso's 20+ years in the legislature have coincided with the period of Niagara Falls' greatest decline in history, his name ends in a vowel so he'll win with 63%.
  • Lockport GOP Mayoral Primary. Incumbent Mike Tucker is being challenged by 143 year-old Phyllis Green. Green has openly stated that the only reason she is running is to screw with Tucker, knowing she has no shot to win. Classy actions from a seven-term council member. So much for caring about the best interests of the community. Tucker wins with 67%.
  • Lockport Democratic Mayoral Primary. Jack Smith and Mike Pillot square off for the Dem nod in the Lock City. Pillot has brought nothing of substance to the campaign in terms of solutions to what he believes to be the city's problems. Smith is a bit more articulate, but his Nixonian secret recordings of the council's executive sessions is a massive violation of the public's trust that will not be rewarded with a primary win. Pillot takes it with 56%.
  • Niagara Falls Democratic Mayoral Primary. Paul Dyster is facing a four-way primary with challenges from John Accardo, Carnell Burch and Norton Douglas. Dyster has been an unmitigated disaster during his first term in office, but none of the other candidates have run a campaign effective enough to beat him in the primary. Dyster wins the primary with 40%.
  • Niagara Falls City Council. A five-way primary for two seats, Robert Anderson, Candace Corsaro, Glenn Choolokian, Alicia Laible and Don Zambotti face off in this Dem primary. Anderson is a lock. Choolokian and Laible will fight for the second seat. We say Anderson and Choolokian take the two seats.  
  • County Legislator - 13th District. Incumbent Keith McNall is being challenged by city council member Andrew Chapman in this GOP primary. Chapman has done nothing to win this contest, while McNall has been working hard to take the primary. McNall take it with 64%.
  • Niagara County Family Court Judge. Kathleen Wojtaszek-Gariano takes on Jeremy Schnurr in the Dem primary. Like Chapman, Schnurr has done nothing to win this race. Wojtaszek-Gariano crushes Schnurr with 70%.
  • Niagara County Legislator - 4th District. Christian Green takes on Duane Thomas in this Dem primary for the right to succeed Renae Kimble. Green is supported by Kimble while Thomas' support comes from Ken Hamilton.  While this one hasn't garnered much attention, this is a very interesting contest to follow. Green, bolstered by Kimble, takes it with 58%.
  • Niagara County Legislator - 3rd District. (Added late, thanks Jessica!) In the GOP primary for the seat, Cheree Copelin is being challenged by former NF City Council member Mike Gawel. While Gawel thinks his stint in federal prison for money laundering and tax fraud is not cause for concern, the voters will think differently. Copelin is sharp - she takes the primary with 59%. In the Dem primary in the 3rd, Matt Cole squares off against John Briglio. Cole's comment in Sunday's Buffalo News that "The county taxes are criminal. I’m running to do something about it" shows just how clueless he is, as the county tax rate is only about $7/$1,000. What's criminal is that a candidate for county legislature wouldn't know that. Briglio takes the primary with 62%.
No matter who you support, get out and vote on Tuesday if there's an election in your community!

September 7, 2011

Why No One Runs for Office

I've had many conversations with people over the years about the lack of good people from all walks of life and all ideologies stepping forward to run for local office.  The conclusion always seems to the same:  who wants the hassle.  After all, no one ever got rich serving in the county legislature or on a town board.  It's rarely a stepping stone to bigger and better things.  For the most part, it is a labor of love.

Which brings me to last night's Legislature Meeting and one of the three-minute crowd, Joanne Dickey. The rules are you can't single out individual lawmakers.  So rather than name names, she used descriptors like Delphi retiree, etc.  This is obvious a violation.

Now, if you step into the public arena, you're going to need thick skin.  That's just the way it goes.  The media, political campaigns, opponents will all get their shots in.  But there comes a time when decorum has to rule and that should be when the Legislature is in official session trying to conduct business.  Legislators should not have to be subjected to insults and other nonsense from gadflies like Dickey who get off on berating lawmakers then heading down to Friendly's with the other losers to gloat about it over milkshakes.

This complete lack of respect is why people don't want to run for office any more and you end up with the Dennis Virtuoso's of the world...who incidentally loves to play to the three minute crowd.