Ulterior School Motives


There’s a tea party activist who lives in Clarence, who is leading the pack that’s trying to fail this year’s school budget. She actually used to be on the Clarence Democratic Committee – that is until I heard her distinct Boston accent voicing a radio ad for then-congressional candidate Len Roberto. As it happens, Roberto was running as a tea party Republican against Brian Higgins, a centrist Democrat. It was unseemly for a member of a local Democratic committee to so publicly support a tea party candidate, so she was asked to leave the Democratic committee.

Evidently, she was a supporter of Roberto’s “Primary Challenge” organization, which encouraged people to join local committees in order to control the candidate selection process.  I have no idea why she would have join the microscopic Clarence Democratic Committee rather than the vastly larger local Republican Committee, since I never heard her support a Democrat or utter a word that was in line with anything approaching a left-of-center opinion or philosophy.

And so it is that she went on to help other Republicans—always Republicans—until she decided that she would fail this year’s Clarence school budget—a budget that raises the levy (not the rate) 3.8% versus a tax cap of 4.8%. In 2013 when she and her buddies led the fight to actually fail a proposed budget, they demanded that levy hikes be within the cap. This year’s proposal is well under the cap, yet she’s fighting to fail it.

(I warned you guys that this was going to consume my attention for a few weeks. Sorry).

The campaign is now underway, and she and her group have identified two board candidates to run. Neither one of them is a homeowner in Clarence; neither one of them pays school taxes. Seriously. One lives in his mom and dad’s house and isn’t registered to vote; the other one lives in a house that mom and dad bought for him, and he isn’t registered to vote, and hasn’t even switched over to NY license plates, despite having lived in New York since 2013 – in Clarence only since early 2014, barely squeaking in under the residency requirement to run.

The pro-school contingent is supporting Michael Fuchs, an incumbent and executive at Rich’s who owns his own home, and Dennis Priore, a former Ken-Ton school administrator who also owns his own home. Both of them pay school taxes.

Yesterday, the leader of the anti-school “fail the budget again” campaign posted this to a Facebook page:


The Pro tax group believes we are not concerned about providing our children with a good education, but it is simply not true.

Money does not guarantee a good education. Motivated students, parents who care, and creative teachers do; and here in Clarence, we are fortunate to have just that.

At the same time, we have to consider the taxpayer who is already strapped or on a fixed income. We also have to keep taxes as low as possible to keep resale possible, make it attractive for more people to move here, and keep businesses flourishing.

Perhaps we’d be more inclined to support new taxes, if Superintendent Hicks had given the taxpayers a break this year. Instead, he received $21.3 million dollars from the state ( $1.1 million dollars more than last year), and is still looking to increase taxes.

Perhaps we’d be more inclined to support new taxes if Superintendent Hicks didn’t choose to restore 11 positions when enrollment is expected to decrease by 120 students in the fall, and 350 students in the next 5 years. Those eleven positions will mean more salaries, more pensions, more step increases, more TAXES.

Perhaps we’d be more inclined to support new taxes if we had been notified of the voting date last November for building repairs and artificial turf.

Perhaps we’d be more inclined to support new taxes, if solving education issues w/ Albany took priority instead of always depending on increased taxes.

Perhaps we’d be more inclined to support new taxes, if the teachers would pay more toward their health benefits instead of only 10%.

Perhaps we’d be more inclined to support new taxes if approximately 75% of the budget wasn’t for employee salaries and benefits. None of us are against good salaries for teachers, but is this sustainable?

Perhaps we’d be more inclined to support new taxes if the cap wasn’t more than the cost of living increase.

Perhaps we’d be more inclined to support new taxes, if the Triborough Amendment didn’t allow raises without new contracts.

Perhaps we’d be more inclined to support to new taxes, if Clarence Schools stuck to basics instead of courses in GOURMET FOODS, CULTURE AND FOODS AROUND THE WORLD, INTERIOR DESIGN ETC,


Such misguided mind-vomit deserves a response.

1. Over the past few years, the Clarence schools tax levy has gone up around 1.4% – less than the rate of inflation.

2. Over the past 15 years, the ranking of our school district has gone from “never below 2nd place” to 3rd two years in a row – starting in 2013. You’ll fail the budget for what – to get us to 4th? “5th or bust”?

3. Superintendent Geoff Hicks gave everyone a break. He gave your lot a break by proposing a levy at 3.8%, vs. the cap of 4.8%. He gave the kids a break by proposing to bring back 11 teachers whom the kids need. But you’ll fail the budget because it’s not enough of a break for you? When do our kids get smaller class sizes? When do kids get librarians back?

4. The voting date for the capital project was delayed due to Snowvember school closures. It was on the Bee’s FB page and lots of other places. In fact, it won overwhelmingly, and turnout was historically high. But you’ll fail a budget because you didn’t pay attention?

5. Your personal individual tax bill today is 33% lower than it was a decade ago. You want to fail the budget because of a 1/3rd drop in your tax burden?

6. The cap is what it is—by state law. You’ll punish the students and fail a budget because you don’t like the law?

7. My overall county, town, and school tax went up a whopping 0.3% last year, per my tax return. Of course, I also get to deduct my school taxes from my income tax, but that’s a whole other matter. 0.3% rise in local taxes, including school tax, is pretty much the definition of “sustainable”.

8. You’re going to punish students because you don’t like the Triborough Amendment—an obscure part of the NYS Taylor Law—a law that’s 47 years old? You’ll fail a budget because you don’t like a state law?

9. I know you resent the students, it’s quite obvious from everything you’ve written and said. I also know that you REALLY resent the teachers for having the gall and nerve to earn a living wage. But I can tell you that they don’t offer courses in “gourmet foods”, “culture and foods around the world” and “interior design” anymore. That’s because your crowd failed the 2013 budget and the entire home & careers department was abolished. Instead, your constant, annual, irrational threats to fail every single budget over matters that the district has no control over, matters you don’t understand, or matters that are irrelevant and beside the point, are leading to decreased enrollment as parents eschew Clarence for more stable districts like OP ($30/$1000) and Williamsville ($20/$1000) instead of Clarence ($14.57/$1000). Fail this budget, and it’s not the gourmet food kids who are going to lose out—they already lost. Fail this budget, and you can kiss goodbye some AP classes, science & technology programs, maybe the business academy.

10. If you had your way, my children’s education would be adversely affected by the acceleration of an already decade-long divestment in public education in Clarence. We’ve gone from 1st and never being below 2nd to two years in 3rd place. THAT’S unsustainable. Parents had to scrounge up $260,000 to make up what kids would have lost in 2013-2014. Did you contribute? Did you do anything at all to mitigate or ameliorate the harm you caused? Of course not. What a joke. You got yours, so what does anyone else matter? Your candidate—the one who voted against the capital project, who has Texas plates who lives in a house mommy and daddy bought for him—he wants to talk about “return on investment” and “total cost of ownership”? How about moving into the top district in WNY, and just by sitting still, I’m in #3?

Incidentally, the average home listing in Clarence right now tops $500,000; the median is $337,000. The average in Williamsville is $287,000, and the median is $214,000. So, when the anti-school people say Clarence homeowners pay more taxes than in Williamsville, they may be right—after all, our homes are larger, more valuable, and more expensive than those in Williamsville. But if you compare a $300,000 home in Williamsville to a $300,000 home in Clarence, the Williamsville home pays more school taxes, because their rate is $20/$1,000 of assessed value while Clarence’s is less than $15/$1,000. Furthermore, the tax rate in Clarence in 2003 was just under $17/$1,000 and went down steadily until 2011.

If we had increased the tax rate by the rate of inflation, using 2003 as the starting point, our tax rate now would be almost equal to Williamsville’s. Spending more on schools doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get a better education, but de-funding them isn’t going to give kids a good one, either.

Lancaster at a Crossroads


Who better to expound on whether “Redskins” is offensive to American Indians than two blonde non-Indians?

The Buffalo News reports that Brenda Christopher and Kelly Depczynski are running for the Lancaster school board, and sort-of-possibly-but-maybe-not-but-really-yes advocating for the voters to fail the Lancaster school budget and a capital bond proposal, all to the detriment of the community and her students.

I’ve already written about the imbroglio over “Redskins” here, here, and here.

The school board voted weeks ago to get rid of the patently offensive mascot, and to their credit, students are leading the way to selecting a new mascot. Kids looking forwards, adults looking backwards; how typical. Anyone who suggests that the character of the schools, teams, or town will be degraded by changing the name of a mascot from something offensive to something racially benign, is wrong.

It’s been intimated that Christopher helped to force the board’s hand in the way and time that it did specifically to manufacture this “Redskins” controversy so she could use it as the central platform of her bid to return to the school board. Depczynski has even made her way to Fox News, the news channel for misinformed elderly reactionaries, to try and make this nontroversy a national one.

It behooves these pro-racist-team-name candidates to claim that they’re not racists, and that “Redskins” is not offensive. That’s like saying that it’s not offensive to call Jewish people cheap because being cheap is a virtue. Take any stereotype – Asians are good at math, Germans are humorless, Polish are dumb, Italians are in the mob – and just repeat that it’s “not offensive.” That’s not how this works. The “Redskins” name is offensive, among other reasons, because it emphasizes the racial difference of the racial group being described. Would we tolerate a team called the “Whiteskins,” “Blackskins,” or “Yellowskins”?

But it’s even worse than just that.

Depczynski on March 9th responded positively on Facebook to another person’s Facebook rant,

If this American Indian at Lancaster and his family are so ‘offended’ … maybe the school board can gently refer him to go back to the reservation for his education,” Lin wrote.

Lin also argued that Native Americans in Lancaster, New York who are offended by the school’s mascot shouldn’t have moved there to begin with.

“Maybe if ‘Redskins’ is too offensive they shouldn’t have moved to that district,” Lin wrote.

At the end of Lin’s rant, school board candidate Depczynski responded, “Thank you, Lin! My thoughts exactly!”

Any claims of not being racist or having no anti-Indian animus sort of fly right out the window there. A DC-based Ojibwa tribal attorney writes,

“Ms. Depczynski supports the removal of Native children from public schools to reservations; I wonder if the Native mascot she fights for will suffice as remembrance of actual Native peoples,” [Tara] Houska wrote in an email. “It is deeply disturbing that someone who would deny Native American students access to an education in Lancaster is running for an office responsible for shaping policies that affect young minds.”

Deeply disturbing is an understatement. But that’s not the worst of it. Buffalo-based PhD candidate and Native rights activist Jodi Lynn Maracle, who shamed the West Side’s “Gypsy Parlor” for its “Pocahotties” event a couple of years ago, recounts how Depczynski assaulted and threatened to commit bodily harm on her for the crime of suggesting that the “Redskins” moniker is racist, demanding that Maracle and she “take it outside”. This is the sort of behavior that Lancaster will tolerate of a school board member?

One would hope that the town’s pride and heritage is more than just a patently racial and offensive mascot, and that the decision to remove it would be respected and that people could move on. But this is western New York, where every step forward is quickly followed by two steps back.

Indeed. But because “Redskins” is an obviously racial term, the best argument seems to me to be that it is wholly inappropriate to use in a school setting, particularly when the school’s own code of conduct holds that,

Students are expected to behave, and to treat all students, teachers, school staff and others, with honesty, tolerance, respect, courtesy and dignity as per the LCSD Policy #7552 — Bullying in the Schools. Students should respect their peers, teachers, and school staff. Individual behavior should not interfere with the rights of others. Students are expected to use language that is appropriate in demonstrating respect for self and others. Profanity, vulgar language including, but not limited to, racial comments, and/or obscene gestures toward others will not be tolerated. Appropriate disciplinary action will be taken.

If the school’s own mascot is violative of the school’s own code of conduct, what more do you really need? These are schoolkids, and the very last thing they should be taught is that it’s ok casually to insult an oppressed race of people with a team mascot.

Enough is enough. Follow the kids’ lead and bring about a new Lancaster tradition; one that isn’t a racial slur and one that every citizen of the town can be proud to shout and support. Maybe one that doesn’t co-opt Native culture through the use of an historical epithet.

Lying Liar Jul Thompson

WNY Tea Party: Objectively Pro-Horse Porn

The tea party have decided to come after me. Probably because Jul Thompson is friends with the woman who is running the effort to kill Clarence schools. That’s the only explanation for bringing up 5 and 6 year old lies.

Remember: Jul Thompson is a liar. 

Have you ever known someone who leaves a wake of destruction behind them? Case in point, Alan Bedenko, liberal blogger, formerly wrote for ArtVoice, then left with Jeff Kelly and other staff to write for The Public, another liberal rag.

*Geoff Kelly. But never mind.

I sat with a friend today and shared with her my frustrations over my inability to persuade Carl Paladino’s Campaign for Governor in 2010 to answer the ridiculous charge that he was a racist, which were predicated upon emails Bedenko fabricated to “take him out” of the race against Andrew “2nd-Amendment-be-damned” Cuomo. As I attempted to provide her with some documentation to that effect, I found this little gem below, that I had never seen before. I had, at the time, shared the article from the Niagara Falls Reporter in which Bedenko had admitted to having fabricated some emails to sully the reputation of then (real) Mayor of Buffalo Steve Casey.

Let’s be 100% clear here.

I have never fabricated any emails to sully the reputation of Steve Casey, or of Byron Brown. I have never fabricated any emails to anyone, anywhere, and I have never fabricated any emails about – or from – Carl Paladino.  Anyone suggesting that I did (or that I would) is a liar. 

I don’t know the author but he is spot-on.

[I omitted here a lengthy paean to Carl Paladino, the savior and messiah of the Buffalo School system].

If I had a million dollars… I would sue the pants off of Alan Bedenko, challenge him to take a lie detector test and let him perjure himself in a court of law. Carl Paladino is one of the finest men I’ve ever known, and he, students and families of the Buffalo Public Schools and the people of New York deserve far better than being lied to by a nutcase on a liberal jihad and held hostage by the race-baiters of the School Board and the Buffalo Teachers Union. It’s a rare bird with “intestinal fortitude” that would subject himself to the outrageous and unrelenting bogus accusations of racism. We who know Carl, know that he is making an enormous sacrifice committing himself to this otherwise impossible task. He has given up his precious time, reputation and personal comfort because he cares so deeply for raising the level of achievement and providing a better future for the residents and families of the City of Buffalo.

Jul Thompson
Founder, TEA New York

Jul: Presumably Uncle Carl can provide you with the filing fee to sue me. I mean, you wouldn’t have standing to sue me, and Carl’s well past the statute of limitations to do so.

If I had fabricated those emails – you know, the racist, pornographic emails that Carl had sent and forwarded, including the one showing a horse having anal sex with a human female – why didn’t Carl go ahead and sue me back in 2010? 2011? 2012? 2013? Go ask any of Carl’s bigshot buddies whether he sent them. Ask Jamie Moses. Ask Larry Quinn. I can give you more names, if you want – names of people who might not necessarily be public figures. Email me at buffalopundit[at]gmail.com and I will give you a list of the names of people who received the pornographic and racist emails that Carl sent. Any time. 

The reason why Carl never sued me? He sent them. They’re his. Now, let’s take a look at the nonsense that Jul Thompson (the wife of Rus Thompson) has found:

Could some of the Paladino e-mails been forgeries?

This, and other questions, that the Albany press refuses to ask
by Jerry Myrle Fuller
Sunday, April 18, 2010

(Note: Most of you know that I am not a reporter by trade or training, and that my area of expertise is meteorology, so if this reads like a first-person journal entry, that is part of the reason. It seems to flow a little better that way.)

By now, most of you have heard about the e-mail leak from a liberal blog known as wnymedia.net that purports, in big letters, to be displaying the scandalous “racist and sexist e-mails” put forth by Buffalo developer and Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl P. Paladino. Immediately I became suspicious. The article asserted that the e-mails were real with all the authority of a Facebook chain message. So, I did some research.

Initially, this article was going to be a plain old rant about how this state seems to treat upstate politicians with a lot less respect than downstaters, pointing out the curious parallel between this and Chris Collins’s alleged “lap dance” comments that were unverifiable and blown way out of proportion, killing his proposed campaign for governor. It is no coincidence that both came from Buffalo, and it is also no coincidence that it has been decades since the state of New York has had a governor from the upstate region. However, I began to notice something: while for a few days, it appeared that Paladino’s campaign would indeed go down in flames, as would-be supporters ranging from Curtis Sliwa to Mark Williams disavowed him over the controversy, something funny happened: Paladino’s die-hard supporters rallied around him harder than ever. Paladino has a strong cult following, with passionate and outspoken supporters– something I really don’t see outside the political class for Lazio or Levy. They began to see the outrage over the e-mails as over the top. This led to wnymedia.net trying to push its rebuttal and insist that Carl Paladino was a dirty racist unfit for the office of governor of New York.

So, I looked into wnymedia.net– specifically Alan Bedenko, the man who portrays himself as “buffalopundit–” to see who this guy was. To put it bluntly, he’s an ambulance chaser (i.e., an auto injury attorney) who joined the Democratic Party in 2003. Having sporadically read his commentary, he’s always been fairly strongly liberal. This was relatively mundane information, but then I stumbled on a little item from the Niagara Falls Reporter (a local alternative tabloid in the Niagara Falls area) that had something eerily familiar. The article dates to February 2009 and stems from an unrelated e-mail feud between Sam Hoyt and Buffalo City Hall (my emphasis added):

Well, let’s get one thing clear. The author admits that he’s no reporter, and boy is he right. I defend people against whom lawsuits have been brought. I am not an “ambulance chaser”, and haven’t done plaintiff’s personal injury work since 2001.

Big catfight in Buffalo last week between amateur bloggers Alan Bedenko of Buffalo Pundit and Glenn Gramigna of New WNY Politics, precipitated by the self-important Bedenko’s decision to publish what he even said was a series of fraudulent e-mails purporting to have been sent between some top aides to Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown last summer. Clearly, the e-mails were meant to slander and defame the people at Buffalo City Hall. Why Bedenko, who is an attorney in real life, chose to publish them is anyone’s guess. Enter Gramigna, who openly speculated that — since Bedenko was the only one to publish the lurid e-mails — perhaps Bedenko in fact had been their author. Actually, the theory makes a lot of sense. The e-mails were shopped to various news outlets last summer, and my impression was that they were created in response to the publication by the Niagara Falls Reporter of another series of e-mails between the married state Rep. Sam Hoyt and a young and comely Albany intern he was carrying on with. The Hoyt camp openly accused Brown’s first deputy mayor, Steve Casey, of being behind the leaking of the Hoyt e-mails — which were genuine — and Casey, perhaps coincidentally, figures prominently in the admittedly fraudulent e-mails published by Bedenko. Also perhaps coincidentally, Bedenko was a strong supporter of Hoyt during the last election cycle, has been a consistent critic of the Brown administration and was, after all, the only one to publish the garbage. Anyway, he phoned Gramigna “in a rage” and, being a lawyer, claimed his rival to be guilty of defamation. For his part, Gramigna is every bit the clueless lump comedians make fun of when discussing bloggers, and immediately posted a retraction. One question remains: Who did write the slanderous and potentially damaging e-mails Gramigna ascribed to Bedenko? Bedenko vehemently denies he wrote them, of course, but who knows?

Glenn Gramigna was being paid by one Syaed Ali, who is widely rumored to have been the author of the emails in question, and had no proof other than “open speculation” that I wrote the emails, because I published them. Makes perfect sense, right? It’s logic for idiots!

Alan Bedenko has a history of questionable e-mail “leaks” that pre-dates the Paladino e-mail flap. As I understood it, reporters are supposed to check the reliability of their sources before quoting their allegations as fact– something that did not appear to happen when these e-mails were leaked and subsequently went viral. Considering that I’m pretty sure wnymedia.net isn’t on most of the Albany press members’ must-read lists (their articles rarely show up on the major blogs), I’d venture to say there was also some shopping going around with the Paladino story as well.

What “history of questionable e-mail “leaks”? The Syaed Ali stuff? Hell, you can go right here and read all about that, from that time. Here is the article I wrote about Gramigna immediately after he published his “speculation”, and I expressly threatened to sue him. From that article:

UPDATED: Gramigna has retracted what he wrote, and what his source told him. That’s appreciated, but still horseshit.

Apart from this morning, when I called him in a rage, I can honestly say that I’ve never exchanged a single word with Gramigna, despite having helped him promote his dreck-laden site when he started it. His business model is: get local politicians to buy ads, print positive crap about them and negative crap about their opponents. Look for an alternative to completely decimate that business model, coming soon.

If I had written the offending emails – which I didn’t – I would have reprinted them last summer, when they were originally sent. They are alleged to have been sent by Mr. Gramigna’s newest advertising client, Syaed Ali. But I didn’t print them last summer. Indeed, I alluded to them a couple of times only in an off-handed manner. I had theories as to who might have been sending them, but someone in law enforcement somehow landed on Mr. Ali, and he alleges that he was subsequently placed into custody and that his belongings have been confiscated. I’ve gone on record saying that, if what Ali said is true, it’s a grave injustice.

Furthermore, if I had sent them, I wouldn’t have pimped them to mainstream media – I would have posted them on my site contemporaneously so that the TV and other reporters would give me linkage and credit.

But I didn’t write them, I wouldn’t have written them, I have nothing to gain from writing them, and never in my wildest dreams would ever conceive of writing something like that about anyone, much less an elected official.

For Gramigna, acting apparently as a conduit for the flailing Ali, to even suggestthat I was behind those emails is a disgrace – and a defamatory one, at that.

I have my disagreements with the Brown administration – I don’t like their secrecy, I don’t like their sense of entitlement, I don’t like their Machiavellian machinations to try and upset ECDC and its endorsed candidates, and I don’t necessarily think that they do the best job for Buffalo. That doesn’t mean I would ever stoop so low as to spread vicious, defamatory rumors about him or his officials.

I am not trying to claim that the entire thing is an absolute hoax. Paladino himself has acknowledged that at least some of the e-mails in question were in fact authentic. Many of them, knowing Paladino’s public persona and admitted racial insensitivity, aren’t even all that surprising. However, there is the question that if Paladino in fact did not author some of these alleged e-mails, why did he not come out and deny them? The best answer that I can give is that Michael Caputo didn’t even try to do so. Caputo, after the e-mail controversy broke, stated repeatedly that “We’re not sure about the authenticity of the emails, and we don’t care. I’m not even going to comment on the emails. It’s not something I care to look at.” He has characterized the leak as a “liberal Democrat blog smear” and has declined to delve into the details.

Carl is a fucking lawyer. It doesn’t matter what Caputo did or didn’t say. Carl had two and a half years to go ahead and sue the shit out of me. I’m just a middle-class lawyer/blogger and he’s a multimillionaire. Why didn’t he just sue me if it was false?

There could be lots of reasons. The biggest is that they’re provably genuine. Next would be that bringing that lawsuit would have opened up Carl’s own reputation to scrutiny. He knows better than to subject his reputation to the discovery process. Lots of reasons.

As for Syaed Ali, the idea that I wrote emails accusing Byron Brown of being gay is so palpably riduculous and false that Gramigna himself retracted the allegation. Mike Hudson didn’t because Mike Hudson knows how to write a story without crossing over the lines of libel, and didn’t directly accuse me of anything.

Jul Thompson is a liar. 

Groanfest ’15


We thought that Ray Walter taking on Mark Poloncarz would be fun, right? They’re each of them snarky, smart, partisan, and combative. But it’s already become supremely annoying.

Nothing substantive has been debated or discussed yet, and I doubt anything ever will be. Walter can hit Poloncarz on issues at DSS, and Poloncarz can hit Walter for a lack of accomplishments as a minority member of the legislatures he’s been elected to, and they’ll each try to string that out as much as possible. In the end, though, Poloncarz’s tenure has been deliberative, fiscally responsible, intelligent, inclusive, and – above all – looking to the future rather than skulking about the past.

Not to say Ray Walter would make a bad County Executive – just that Poloncarz hasn’t committed any act or omission that would adversely affect his overwhelming re-election.

What’s annoying about it is this: rapid campaign response is important; I get it. You can’t simply let some lie or nonsense stand, hoping it will just go away.

But did we really need a biting rapid response to each candidate’s campaign kickoff? In terms of setting the tone, it doesn’t bode well.

With Poloncarz’s kickoff, Walter pounced. The County has experienced some very good years lately, so Walter’s third sentence, “Myself, who understands the reality and challenges facing Erie County, its taxpayers and its businesses; and the incumbent who ignores reality and twists numbers for political gain“, is as eye-rollingly overaggressive as it is awkwardly worded. Furthermore, Walter is making an issue of horrible road conditions literally a month after one of the coldest and snowiest winters in WNY history. He is right that the DPW was unable to click its collective heels to fix all the roads instantly.

Likewise, when Walter held his campaign kickoff, during which he had to assail Poloncarz because Walter has little name recognition outside of Amherst, and because Poloncarz is running on a strong record, the Poloncarz camp sent this:

Poloncarz Campaign Counters Republican Claims

ERIE COUNTY, NY – Today, as a Republican announced his candidacy for Erie County Executive, many exaggerations and untruths were stated in an attempt to misrepresent and distort Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz’s proven record of job growth, fiscal discipline and strong leadership for the people of Erie County.

Not as aggressive as Walter’s, but also completely unnecessary.

Mark Poloncarz is proud to run on his record of accomplishments from the past four years, and is looking forward to a fact-based, spirited campaign that leaves aside petty political attacks while focusing on the issues that matter most to the people of Erie County.Poloncarz will detail his accomplishments, the issues that matter to the people of Erie County and his goals for the future when he announces his candidacy for reelection on Tuesday, April 21, 2015.

Then ignore the taunting. We all want a spirited, fact-based campaign, so if your opponent is making stuff up, deal with it with rebuttal, not simply by making the accusation.

This campaign has only just begun, and it’s already cringeworthy. Sometimes I wish political campaigns would tell it like it is, and that every ad was replete with profanity. At least then, this sort of hypersensitive overreaction would be fun.

We’re about 3 days in, and I’m already getting the sense that if one said the sky was blue, the other would blast the media with a press release heavy on insults, light on facts, insisting that the sky was red and anyone suggesting any differently was just repeating right-wing Koch Brothers / left-wing Soros talking points.

Make it stop.


Our Rightist Jacobin Congress


Earlier this week, people who believe that even the working poor deserve a raise from time to time marched throughout the US in support of a $15/hour minimum wage. #FightFor15 was the largest demonstration by low-wage workers in US history, involving about 60,000 individual demonstrators calling for the federal minimum wage to be raised from an anemic $7.25. Marchers took to the streets in Buffalo, where the minimum wage is $8.75, or about $350 per week gross.

The United States talks a lot about equal rights and freedom, but you can judge a country by how it treats its poorest or most vulnerable. These aren’t lazy dole-consumers, but people who are out there in a tough economy trying to make ends meet.

Some facts: the minimum wage only affects 3.3 million American workers, or 4.3% of the total hourly workforce. This is down from 4.7% in 2012 and 13.7% in 1979. While the minimum wage workforce used to be mostly made up of students with summer jobs, the average minumum wage worker is 35 years old; 88% of them are at least 20 years old, and half of them are older than 30. Although the minimum wage may not have been created to support a family, given how much labor has been lost to third-world hellholes since the minimum wage was first implemented in 1938, it’s no surprise that unskilled workers find themselves doing menial work for minimal money.

Congress has refused to raise the federal minimum wage since 2009.

What Congress did instead this week was vote to abolish estate taxes. These represent a transfer tax of gross estates valued at over $5 million for individuals and over $10 million for couples. There are, of course, myriad ways for the ultrawealthy to avoid estate taxes through clever accounting, trusts, and transfers, but make no mistake – the only people affected are multimillionaires and billionaires. Were President Obama to miraculously sign such a bill, it would leave a $269 billion budget deficits – how would our right-wing jacobins pay for their next several wars?

You can’t even make a “trickle down” argument by repealing the estate tax – this is simply a giveaway to the superwealthy to whom the American right wing owes its holy fealty, while completely ignoring the plight of the working poor. This doesn’t even help the 1% – it helps the 0.2%. Only about 5,400 Americans are affected by it per year. Repeal of the estate tax would shift the burden of making up the difference onto the middle class and working poor. There is no benefit that this congress will not offer those who need no government assistance, and no impairment they will not impose upon average middle-class Americans.

Get a job, you bums! they cry, and when they get a job and can’t afford rent, they demand “get a better job!”

Our depraved aristocrats in their domed volcano lair in Washington have waged war (their favorite thing) against the poor and middle class for decades. Someday, they’ll overplay their hand and there will be a dramatic swing back towards social justice and help for our most vulnerable Americans. It never astonishes me how in just 40 years, the Woodstock generation went from love & peace to Bill O’Reilly yelling about open season on white male Christians.

This country can and should do better.

Everything and Nothing is Going On


It’s been tough to come up with stuff to write about lately. It’s an odd time of year, with nothing and everything going on all at once. The stuff I usually write about is quiet – the inside baseball parade of political fumfering and failure. The stuff I generally avoid is really hot – Hillary, Cruz, Rubio, Bush, I can’t care. Not yet. In the meantime, the school budgets are being formulated and that has almost all my free attention as I work with a great team of dedicated volunteers to make sure we do right by schoolkids. Of course, there’s also the imbroglio over “high stakes” testing of whether elementary school kids are learning anything, and the idiotic war that Governor Cuomo has decided to wage on teachers, basically upsetting a long-dormant hornet’s nest, as someone characterized it to me Tuesday night.

I’m up to two (maybe three) people who are running as Democrats for the County Legislature this year who have announced, and whose press releases I’ve received. One in Lancaster/Cheektowaga, one in Amherst. I couldn’t tell you their names, what they stand for, or anything else about them. My guess is that Pigeon’s JV squad will sit this year out, seeing as how Preet’s all up in their business right now. Pigeon’s too busy calling Bob McCarthy every day and chatting him up about Hillary or how Preet’s got nothing on him, etc. To his credit, Bob’s Transcription Service, Ltd. is only too pleased to serve.

On Facebook, I’ve already seen a Hitler / Hillary comparison, so that was quick. I’m also reminded of the 2008 election and how much all the right-wing commentators had effusive praise for Hillary because she wasn’t Obama. Now, of course, she’s Satan, Stalin, and Hitler wrapped up in an ISIS flag waving over Benghazi, and a bucket of deleted emails.  Is she the best candidate the Democrats could put up? I don’t know, but never count the Clintons out. Given the state of the GOP roster so far, she should win in a walk, because Ted Cruz is a hateful demagogue, Jeb Bush is this year’s Romney, Rubio has tons of empathy for the beleaguered ultrawealthy and a healthy hatred of gays, and Rand Paul is an intemperate pseudo-libertarian. Know this: Paris Hilton doesn’t need any more tax cuts, and it’s sickening to witness families whine about paying taxes on estates valued in excess of $10 million. How are we supposed to pay for all of your guys’ wars?

I occasionally switch on Sky News on my Apple TV, and the UK is in the middle of a general election they called on March 31st, and which is being held on May 7th. By contrast, we’re talking about an Iowa Caucus process that’s nine months away, and an election that is a year and a half away. Billions will be spent on our election, voters will be treated like brainless sheep, Hillary will win, and we’ll have four (maybe eight) more years of utter nonsense. Anyone who says our system is the bestest in the whole world, ever, is not very informed.

In the meantime, my Facebook timeline is absolutely overrun with people opting their kids out of the state exams. We did not opt our 3rd grader out because exams are a part of life. I don’t have to like them, and neither does she, but if they’re there, she’ll take them. We don’t put any pressure on her, nor did her teacher. She was told it was all stuff they had already learned, and to just do her best. She came home exclaiming how “easy” they were the first two days, and she high-fived me.

I don’t begrudge parents opting out, nor do I mean them any disrespect – they know their own kids best & you do what you need to do. But in my experience, if I’m anxious about a thing, my kids are going to pick up on that and, in turn, also be anxious about that thing. If I’m ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ NBD do your best, there won’t be tears or trauma.

I understand that it’s unfair the way that Cuomo wants to evaluate teachers (see the hornet’s nest comment, above), and if they manage to legislate these tests away, good for everyone. But some of what I saw being used to advocate for opting out – whether it was tests that the parents can’t understand or don’t like, or the fact that a private company – Pearson – is involved – just wasn’t persuasive. Ultimately, I don’t like teaching a 3rd grader that it’s ok to disobey authority or break the rules. No one’s being asked to do anything untoward or outlandish – just to read a passage and answer questions, or to maybe write a short essay.

I’m not embracing the tests – I’m just not going to intervene to save her from participating in pointless, harmless nuisances because there’s suddenly a movement to do so. Finland, for instance, doesn’t do memorization and testing. Are we going to become like Finland? Not in a million years, but if that’s not the goal, then what is?

if we want young people with the competencies to innovate and make our economy more competitive, we need to model our schools after how innovation actually happens. “Teaching and learning have traditionally been conceptualized as linear, deterministic procedures,” he wrote in a paper on economic competitiveness and education. “Innovation is an organic entity. Teaching and learning in schools should rely on principles of active participation, social interaction and reflection”…

All of this school reform that’s sprung up since “No Child Left Behind” had pretty widespread support a decade ago, and few alternatives have been publicly discussed or debated beyond just going back to how things used to be. Instead of focusing on the tests, which are merely a symptom of the testing & accountability scheme, why aren’t we discussing adopting the Finnish model? Or something.

As for the “I can’t do my kid’s homework”, frankly, I should hope that education has progressed enough in the 30 years since I graduated high school that the work my kids do is somehow done differently, and something I can’t comprehend or recognize. I should hope that ways of teaching concepts has evolved over time, and that maybe my kids can teach me a thing or two.  The whole thing reminds me of jokes in Mad Magazines from the 1960s with obscure jokes about the “new math”.

I also saw articles excoriating Governor Cuomo because StartupNY has only created about 76 jobs. The Conservative Fusion Party has entered an unholy alliance with the the Working Families Fusion Party and other progressive activist organizations to demand its destruction. They’ve declared StartupNY to be a failure because it’s spent a lot on marketing, and has little to show for it.

StartupNY, however, cannot by definition add millions of jobs in just a few years. It is set up to help new and existing businesses grow tax-free within certain areas, but these companies are either small or brand-new. According to the last press release from the governor’s office, the 83 businesses that have joined the program have pledged to create over 2,000 new jobs. The program launched in 2013, and how many jobs did people expect in less than two years? If you look at the roster of companies, they’re all brand-new, still developing their product, or otherwise in transition. I know that people can’t be patient anymore, but maybe we can take a little bit of time and let this program run its course. Simply abolishing it in mid-stream, violating agreements with the schools and companies who have signed on, doesn’t seem very prudent.

But the most obnoxious, most cynical thing about this is the Conservative Fusion Party or Working Families Fusion Party demanding StartupNY be abolished and that taxes be lowered across the board. Great, guys! Considering how you’ve both been in existence for at least a decade, and how each of you purportedly vets, endorses, and runs candidates on your line who eventually win and enter government, why is it that none of this has happened? Are you so weak and ineffectual that you can’t influence your own candidates to accomplish things you agitate for? If anything, the ineffectiveness of StartupNY is dwarfed by the collossal pointless waste of the fusion system and its beneficiaries throwing shade at a Cuomo program that’s still in its infancy.

Here’s something new, though. I was recently appointed a trustee of the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library. Everyone there has been so welcoming, and I’ve learned a tremendous amount about the library system that I never before knew. The system itself, and the staff at the central branch are simply incredible. They are so knowledgable, so enthusiastic about what they do, and incredibly eager to make the library a safe, welcoming place to learn.

But the rare books – Tuesday night I attended a reception hosted by trustee Wayne Wisbaum, and library staff were present along with priceless, incredible treasures. These materials are owned by a library system in a small city that’s just starting to, at least psychically, overcome generations of decline. Yet here is an original edition of the Federalist Papers that John Jay gave to Thomas Jefferson, and in the margins of the book are Jefferson’s hand-written annotations and notes. I was inches away from it, and I could have stared at that annotation for hours, mesmerised. There were cuneiform tablets, a handwritten letter from George Washington asking for troop reinforcements, a handwritten letter from Thomas Jefferson about smallpox innoculation, a letter from Mark Twain that had been found in a first edition of one of his books, a book with incredible, intricate fore-edge art, and a unique and incredible map of the world from 1475. These are things that I had never seen, or was completely ignorant about, or had no idea existed in Buffalo before a few months ago.

Hey, at least it stopped snowing.