Dino Fudoli: Redskin 4Evah!

fudoli

God bless Dino Fudoli, the Lancaster town supervisor. Having solved every other problem that exists in his town, he’s taken on the very important work of protecting a racist school mascot name. He even went on the air at WBEN, that brave enabler of anachronistic racist ignorance, to put his foot down about this critically important issue.

For the uninitiated, Fudoli is a tax evading caricature of a WBEN caller, who spouts nonsense about the government being your “enemy“, an accused former drug pusher, an anti-democratic Collins stooge, and a former county legislator who is apparently ignorant about procedures for town requests for county resources during natural disasters.

Fudoli wants a referendum on the critically important, existential “Redskins” crisis in Lancaster because, well, the town elected him, so chances are it might vote to maintain a patently racist team name.

On Wednesday, I was in meetings from about 12:45 until 6pm. During that time, people baited Fudoli on Twitter, and he clearly doesn’t know how to use it. But he sure is feisty!

Dino Fudoli: Leadership

dfThis is an astonishing interview from an elected official, where he talks over the anchors, gets upset, and calls everyone who got stuck in the Snowvember storm “irresponsible”.

The first thing you’ll notice is that Dino Fudoli talks really, really fast. The next thing you’ll notice is the astonishing content of what he has to say.

LET THE FREE MARKET MELT THE SNOW!

But seriously, this is what you get when you elect someone to government who thinks that government is “the enemy“.

Dino from Lancaster

Although I honed in on his, “government is your enemy” quote, I missed his, “public employees are the non-producing part of society” quip. On WIVB, he explained that he really meant it within the context of Marxist economic theory – that teachers, sanitation workers, cops, and firefighters don’t toil in the factories operating the means of production. 

Dino Fudoli is what happens when you elect a WBEN caller to government. 

Dino the Disgrace

I don’t live in Lancaster, so I don’t really care very much whether its rude, glibertarian supervisor, Dino Fudoli, fails or succeeds. However, Wednesday’s Buffalo News published a profile of Fudoli which revealed that some are turned off by his aggressive, obnoxious behavior, and that he’s occasionally willing to take unpopular stands. BFD. 

But it also featured this quote: 

“Sometimes I feel like I’m on an island, that nobody else is looking out for the taxpayers but me. People need to start waking up and realizing that the government’s not their friend, the government’s their enemy,”

I added the emphasis there, because it took me aback. I had to re-read that second sentence several times. Here’s a sitting supervisor – the government executive for a municipal entity – informing his constituents that he’s their enemy – after all, he is the chief executive of that government. That their neighbors are their enemy. 

What does government do? It provides us with the foundation for a civilized society. Because our government(s) are representative democracies, the government is us. The people who work as clerks and highway workers and teachers crossing guards and cops and firefighters and librarians and assessors and plow drivers and garbagemen – you know, these guys (NSFW):

These people do hard work, and they’re not monsters or the enemy or Hitler or Tojo or mad King George. They’re your neighbors. They’re your family and friends. They’re also part of “government”. Do you think they’re your “enemy“? 

I can’t think of a more fundamentally stupid notion than for an American elected official to promote the notion that government is the people’s enemy. Even if you disagree with a person or a policy or how money is being spent – do you think Boehner or Pelosi or Obama or Romney are your enemy? Do you think that your town supervisor or your county legislator are your enemy? Do you operate under the mindset that, if the town of Lancaster thinks that it really needs another cop, and the entire town board votes to hire a new cop – these people are all your enemy, and here’s Dino Fudoli to protect you from the tyranny of the extra cop? 

Fudoli is promoting not just a ridiculous, tea-partyist, idiotic idea of town government as someone’s “enemy”, but brewing up a recipe for anger, aggression, violence, and harm. It’s much, much easier for some lunatic to commit a physical assault of some sort on a government official if he’s been told by some simpleton that this official is the “enemy”. You go to war with enemies. Anyone with an ounce of decency should condemn this fundamentally un-American, un-democratic view of what our system of government is, especially on the local level.

Accused former drug dealer and undemocratic Collins apparatchik Dino Fudoli is a disgrace to his office, to Lancaster, and to WNY. 

#WNYVotes 2015

Mark_Poloncarz

Mark Poloncarz cruised to an overwhelming victory last night, defeating Assemblyman Ray Walter 65% – 34%. As a karmic aside, Poloncarz accomplished what Chris Collins couldn’t – re-election to that post.  In Lancaster, the town’s Republican slate – including thuggish incumbent supervisor Dino Fudoli – fared pretty horribly. Winning 58 – 42, Democrat Johanna Metz Coleman will become the town’s first female supervisor, and Democrat Diane Terranova will become town clerk. It was almost a clean sweep for the Democrats, and a humiliating rebuke for the Fudoli experiment.

What Fudoli seems to have learned from his erstwhile mentor Chris Collins is that western New Yorkers’ patience for obnoxious and thuggish political behavior has a short window.

Yesterday, an off-duty police officer coming in to vote at a fire hall in Lancaster overheard and accused Fudoli of muttering something about punching him in the face, and confronted him. It’s unknown whether Fudoli will be prosecuted, but it was emblematic of his ugly, bellicose, and childish behavior. The spectacle culminated in Fudoli and a representative from the Lancaster Police Benevolent Association calling in to Tom Bauerle’s show to explain their side of the story, Fudoli acknowledging he said something about punching the officer out, and that he had apologized. The gentleman from the PBA went on to explain Fudoli’s complaints about alleged police harassment by going into some detail about “suspicious vehicle” calls that prompted those incidents.

Western New York and Lancaster will be better off without Fudoli in elected office. I’m sure that “good government” and “good person” are not mutually exclusive.

Ray Walter – a good person – will go back to the Assembly and lives to fight another day. His campaign for County Executive was a bit quixotic, his sales tax proposal was fundamentally cynical, and he sell the idea of jettisoning a competent and hard-working incumbent. His inability to break 40% speaks volumes about Poloncarz’s continued political aptitude, both in policy and salesmanship.

We shouldn’t be electing judges at all, judicial candidates shouldn’t have to pander to an electorate, and cute ads with their kids hardly gives you an idea of a judge’s temperament or qualifications. Brenda Freedman defeated Kelly Brinkworth to go to Family Court, helped along by an ability to get her name on every fusion line while Brinkworth was only on the D line. No one voted for Freedman or Brinkworth on the merits, because no one had a clue about their respective merits. This was all about ballot placement and electoral fusion.

The County Legislature will maintain status quo, with Democrat Tom Loughran defeating challenger Guy Marlette, and Ted Morton easily defeated Democratic challenger Deb Liegl, in a hotly contested race.

On Grand Island, only two votes separate the two town supervisor candidates, so voting does matter. In West Seneca, incumbent Sheila Meegan defeated challenger Christina Bove. In something of a spectacle, apparent RINO Carl Paladino, in an email co-written by his dog, endorsed Democrat Meegan. The nexus of West Seneca shenanigans right now is that Scott Congel project by the Thruway near Ridge Road.

In Niagara Falls, incumbent Democrat Paul Dyster won re-election to become only the second three-term mayor in Niagara Falls history.

Finally, I watched with some interest that two TV stations use a Buffalo native but current New York City resident as a Democratic analyst. This person is a professional lobbyist and has been disloyal to Erie County Democratic Headquarters since Steve Pigeon was deposed from his chairmanship 15-ish years ago. (As an aside, this lobbyist wrote a book. At the book’s website, there were three glowing reviews; one from the author’s former boss, and the other two came from two newspapers the author co-owns). This person’s somewhat predictable analysis was that pretty much everything – any prospective result – was going to be bad news for Erie County Democratic Committee chairman Jeremy Zellner.

While the Democrats couldn’t seal the deal in the Liegl and Brinkworth races – in both cases due in part to the Republicans outmaneuvering the Democrats in setting up the minor fusion party lines – I think Zellner had a pretty good night, as his close confidant Mark Poloncarz won an overwhelming victory. Maybe WKBW and Time Warner Cable could find a more loyal, and local Democrat to comment on Democratic politics, they don’t seem to have a problem extending that courtesy to Republicans.

Buffalopundit Endorsements 2015

dino (1)

Greetings, Goodenoughistan!

Usually around this time of year, I do a list of endorsements. I try to have fun with them; last year, whilst writing for a competing publication, I did my endorsement in verse.

Despite a high-profile County Executive race, this has been a very sleepy election season. Turnout will likely be pretty low – 20% is optimistic. That means that fully 80% of the eligible and registered electorate can’t be bothered to take literally a few minutes out of their day to exercise their franchise. People have fought and died for your right to vote. You pay lip service to supporting the troops for protecting our freedoms, but here you’re handed the right and ability to control the future direction of your town, city, and county, and chances are you can’t find five minutes between 6am – 9pm to fill in a few scantron boxes and feed your ballot into a scanning machine.

As far as being a responsible citizen of a representative democracy, voting is quite literally the least you can do. Yet 80% of you won’t do it.

You people who are registered to vote, but don’t bother – you’re useless. You should be ashamed. You’re a disgrace. Go to elections.erie.gov and find out where you’re supposed to vote, and go. Plenty of campaigns and party committees will give you a ride if you need one – just ask them.

Here are my endorsements. They are mine alone, and do not in any way represent the opinion or decision of the Public, its authors, editors, or publishers, nor of the place I work, nor of the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library, where I am a member of the board of trustees.

County Executive

Mark Poloncarz is a personal friend of mine. I met him in 2003 when I was working to elect Wesley Clark and he was working to elect John Kerry. We then served together on the WNY Coalition for Progress. I have lit dropped for him, campaigned for him, and my firm represents the County in a small handful of cases. I also know and like Ray Walter. I don’t know him as well as Mark, but he’s a good guy – a mensch, I once called him – and he went to the Thruway with specific questions I once asked on Twitter.

Both of these candidates want the county to do well. Mark, however, is my pick.

Big surprise, right?

Substantively, do you remember when Republicans wanted a county manager as part of the charter revision process a decade ago? The elected County Executive would be sort of a charismatic leader, promoting the county, while a non-partisan professional manager would run the day-to-day operations. Mark Poloncarz is a policy wonk and a guy who is a strong and effective manager. He is as close as you’re likely to get to a day-to-day manager looking for ways to improve the delivery of county services, and also a tireless promoter of our region. He’s incorruptible, and he loves what he does, not afraid to get into the weeds of county government.

Ray’s hilariously named “fair share” tax proposal is an effort to rob from the poor to give to the rich and not-so-poor. Population alone isn’t how the 3% permanent sales tax revenue was meant to be shared among the various municipalties, and Ray’s effort to pit city vs. suburb when that’s pretty much the last thing we need to do is shameful. His shoot-first-ask-questions-later effort to scandalize a non-scandal also called his seriousness and judgment into question.

Judicial Races

A lot of people have complained about how the party bosses pick the judicial candidates, thus depriving the electorate of a choice.

My response: the electorate shouldn’t be choosing judges in the first place.

You don’t get to elect federal judges. Many other states also have governors appoint judges as vacancies come about. In Massachusetts, a nominating commission submits a name to the governor, who then passes it along to an elected “governor’s council“, which vets the candidate for qualifications and likelihood of impartiality, and then approves the lifetime appointment. The judge chosen never has to pander to voters, concoct silly commercials with their kids, or make any sorts of promises of any kind.

The judicial branch should be free from campaigns and elections, and you shouldn’t have to vote for a judge because of a cute video with their kids in it.

County Legislature

There are only two competitive races: Morton v. Liegl and Loughran v. Marlette. If Loughran holds on to his seat and Liegl defeats Morton, the legislature swings to a one-vote Democratic majority. Ted Morton has already been vetted based on his questionably ethical and un-declared loans from financial planning clients, and the electorate shrugged. For his part, Morton tried to smear Liegl with the taint of “fraud”, but it backfired because it was completely untrue. Yelling “fraud” is a lot easier than explaining the ins and outs of bankruptcy law, but the Republicans played too fast and too loose with the facts, as they did when accusing Poloncarz of being under some phantom investigation.

The attack pieces against Liegl are far more misleading. Those pieces accuse her of “bankruptcy fraud,” “cheating the system” and “concocting a scam.” A Buffalo News review of the claims found none of that to be true.

…David Jaworski, an attorney for Liegl and her family, called the Republican allegations “untrue and libelous” based on his personal knowledge and investigation into the records. Republicans have been unable to produce any other supporting evidence of their claims, beyond the initial bankruptcy trustee claim.

Morton’s ethics are questionable, his required disclosures were incomplete, and he essentially lied about his opponent. I don’t know what more you need.

As for Loughran, that’s easy: Loughran is sufficiently independent (he’s pissed the Democrats off here and there), and is a knowledgable and likeable business owner who definitely deserves re-election.

Town of Lancaster

If you live in the town of Lancaster and you vote for Dino Fudoli, I don’t  know what’s wrong with you. Mr. Fudoli is a petty and vindictive glibertarian who considers government to be the “enemy” and public employees to be moocher/taker garbage. In December 2014, Fudoli blamed the people who got stuck in the Snowvember storm for their own predicaments. Fudoli whined about a lack of county plows, but he never requested any using the decade-old computerized system towns use to do so – a system he ostensibly oversaw whilst in the County Legislature.

Fudoli is now fighting with the police union in his town because why not.

And Dino Fudoli doesn’t think it’s important for him to pay his property taxes on time, or possibly at all.

If you live in Lancaster, this is the best 8 minutes you’ll spend today:

If Fudoli thinks it’s unfair for the Department of Environmental Conservation to declare his property a wetlands, then he has the right and ability to bring suit for whatever redress to which he’s entitled. Nothing gives him the right unilaterally to stop paying his property taxes, nor does it explain his refusal to pay the property taxes on his former residence.

Who is thug “Richard Heaney”?

When a taxpayer fails to pay property and school taxes on time, the county must make the town and district whole, and then has to chase the delinquent taxpayer down. This sort of behavior is unconscionable from a public official and disqualifies this person from public office. Fudoli also took a very important stand in favor of maintaining a blatantly racist team name for the high school. He also doesn’t know how the internet works.

Polls are open from 6am – 9pm on Tuesday the 3rd of November.

Find your polling place and candidate choices here.

Please go vote like your democracy depends on it.

Erie County’s D-LAN and Right-Wing Stormtrolls

Logo_ErieCo_tpDuring the Snowvember / Knife storm, some municipalities made complaints about county or state aid, and there was a concerted push on local Squadrismo Radio (traffic, weather, and sedition on the tens – these guys, who think it’s cute to assault & batter former First Ladies), to criticize elected officials (all of them Democrats) for, e.g., not getting small town side streets plowed as soon as people would have liked. There was some legitimate debate over the speed with which the Thruway was closed, and how quickly people were freed from their cars, but as we discovered later on, when Cuomo allegedly criticized the National Weather Service’s forecast, there was ample warning of a historic snow event on Monday night into Tuesday.

All of a sudden, personal responsibility goes out the window when there’s a Democrat available to criticize. The WBEN Snowtrolling was amazing and unprecedented.

County Executive Poloncarz sent a warning about the storm to his disaster response team on Sunday night, and by all reasonable and impartial accounts, they performed admirably; “real leadership”, the Buffalo News called it.

But some towns have been complaining about the lack of county plows, despite the fact that they apparently had not bothered to use the decade-old computerized system to request them. In 2004, the County implemented the “DisasterLAN” or “DLAN” system for municipalities to use to request – and the county to coordinate – disaster response, including county plows.

The DLAN system is specialized for disasters and is heavily used around New York State, he said, but ignored by many Western New York highway officials.

“The problem was that only one or two people even knew about the system,” he said, despite county insistence upon its use.

Even conference calls proved inconsistent, he said, with Boston never participating in the daily planning and Orchard Park “hit and miss.”

The county executive pointed to Lake Avenue in Hamburg, a hard-hit road visited by Cuomo on Thursday. It was inserted into the DLAN system because of the volume and underlying ice pack, and therefore became a priority.

“The county knows how to use it, and 95 percent of the towns know how to use it, but not all did,” Poloncarz said. “If those people don’t utilize it, we can’t help it.”

And Lancaster Village Mayor (because we totally need a village overlaying a town government) Paul Maute “never heard of” DLAN, which is apparently everybody’s fault but his own, despite the fact that it’s been used for 10 years.

According to both Fudoli and Hoffman, halfway through the storm they became aware that in order to receive resources such as additional plows and other machinery, they had to use a Web-based system called DLan, but they had little success in doing so.

“The entire storm we were told we had equipment coming,” said Hoffman.

“We never heard of DLan until a couple of days into it,” added Maute.

According to Fudoli, requests submitted by Lancaster employees were not fulfilled, but the system repeatedly labeled them as “completed.”

So, there’s a computerized system that’s a decade old that works perfectly well, but a few highway superintendents don’t understand or use it, so it’s everybody else’s fault that, e.g., the Town of Boston didn’t get a call from the County, or the Mayor of Lancaster never heard of the county’s disaster system. How about using the DLAN or picking up your own phone? All you need to use DLAN is a connected browser. Personal responsibility gone, waiting for big government to bail them out.

Lancaster Supervisor Dino Fudoli learned that he was supposed to use DLAN “halfway through the storm”, but he was a legislator for the entity that set up and runs DLAN – Erie County?! 

That’s before we get to the concept of there being 7 feet of snow on the ground as another 2 feet dumped down just a couple of days later. You can’t just snap your fingers and get every side street in WNY plowed out overnight under those conditions.

Another meme that’s popped up has to do with how Governor Cuomo was preening for the cameras when he showed up with his entourage (read: cabinet) to stay in WNY for several days to help coordinate storm clean-up and response.

Right. Photo-op. Except that Governor Cuomo did exactly what any rational person would expect a governor to do – show up and offer state aid, money, and manpower to get the Southtowns up and running again. Had he not showed up, these same people would be whining about how Cuomo abandoned WNY again.

Cuomo is an arrogant downstater who doesn’t brook much dissent and is rude to the press and critics, plus he took some guns off the market and limited how many bullets can go in there, so he’s been likened to Hitler.

If you want to criticize the speed with which the Thruway closed, or how he came across poorly when talking about the weather service, that’s fine. But hammering the governor for showing up at a disaster area and ordering that help be given? Don’t be a dick.

Chris Collins and the Dictatorship of Petty Bureaucracy

Chris Collins

In March 2007, the Erie County Republican Party unanimously endorsed Chris Collins as its candidate for County Executive. After two Giambra terms, replete with cheap politicking and fiscal disasters, Collins seemed to be a successful guy with novel ideas on how to take the county forward.  He pledged to reform county government, rebuild our economy, and restore jobs. I predicted that he would win as early as April of that year.

During the campaign, it was revealed that Collins had loaned money to an East Side slumlord and the debt went bad. When that happened, Collins could have foreclosed and re-sold the properties, or write it off and let them rot. Collins chose the latter, and it’s indicative of his complete lack of any empathy or engagement on urban issues.

He did win, and within the first 12 hours he pledged to hire a “Six Sigma black belt” at tremendous public expense to implement what average people call “common sense”. He eventually hired six-figure Six Sigma people. He even hired someone at over $100,000 to determine how to use county space. But he was doing good, simple things, too. Things that didn’t need million-dollar consultants.  However, in looking back on his first 100 days, there was a lot of stuff I liked.

By July 2008, top people were leaving his administration.  By August, it was becoming clear that Collins wasn’t one of us. He was one of them.  Let’s call it the dictatorship of the bureaucrats – elected officials and their hangers-on cutting petty deals over petty things, rather than addressing the big picture and providing this region with a vision.

Here, we are run by people like Brown and Casey, who are busy trying to engineer a party-political coup (and failing), or by people like Chris Collins who sweats the small stuff just fine (GPS in cars, running government “like a business”), but doesn’t really have any sort of overall vision for what he wants WNY to become. Brown and Casey are hacky members of a cliquey politburo; Collins is bureaucrat-in-chief.

He managed to do an end run around a sleepy legislature to get rid of Tim Kennedy’s Apprenticeship Law.  Under the law, companies bidding on county-funded construction work over a certain dollar amount had to maintain and participate in a state-certified apprenticeship program to teach young workers a trade.  As a commenter below notes, the program “demonstrates a commitment from a contractor the willingness to invest in our own area’s youth.  Also, the program provides for the base and structure that will allow for a competent, unbiased and impartial approach to ensure that when a graduate of the program earns the title of journeyman that they are indeed schooled in all of the requisite work a person with that title should be able to perform within a specified jurisdiction.  Finally, the law would ensure that New York State and local residents had a better chance of being employed on county projects.  The law was in fact largely passed due the discovery of circa 10 illegal workers being found performing asbestos removal in the Rath Building after the award of a contract to do the work to an out of town contractor.”

People like Chris Collins and Carl Paladino vehemently opposed the law for a reason and a pretext – the reason was that it helped keep private-sector union trades strong, which is anathema to Buffalo’s puny plutocrats. The pretext was that it drove up the cost of this sort of work. Yet as far as anyone can tell, there doesn’t seem to have been some sudden surge in construction since – and due to its – repeal. It’s part of the contemporary Republican ethos to destroy any protection for workers, whether it be good benefits, a living wage, and collective bargaining rights – the right of management and owners to dictate the terms of employment as an adhesion contract with absolutely zero regulation over wages and conditions; a reversion to the days of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory.

Taxes. Chris Collins pledged to lower them. Even today, he rails against job-killing high taxes. Are you totally incensed by Mark Poloncarz’s proposed 2013 budget, which includes a 3.4% property tax hike? Then Chris Collins’ October 2008 3.6% tax hike proposal must have really made you angry.  You must have been even more outraged with what happened later on, when he ended up demanding a 4.8% tax hike. Collins started cutting programs that help the urban poor and diverting money to fixing up suburban roads, calling them a quality of life issue. It was soon revealed that Collins kept a $16 million Medicaid liability off the books.

In the meantime, there was no explanation why 10 months’ worth of Six Sigma implementation at great public cost had not resulted in any palpable cost savings. The Democratic legislature amended Collins’ proposed budget to change its priorities and decrease the tax hike. Collins claims that Six Sigma saved a couple million dollars. Never has that claim been audited, reviewed, or backed up with any facts or evidence.  By all accounts, it cost taxpayers a couple million dollars, and few people know that Collins isn’t even certified as a Six Sigma anything. It’s as if government was being run by a malevolent, trendy management tome.

In the end, it was a choice between a Collins-backed 4.8% property tax hike, and the Legislature’s 0.0% hike. A Supreme Court Justice ruled that taxes would go up 1.6%. Chris Collins didn’t just raise your taxes, he went to court to make sure he could do it.

Meanwhile, you’ve probably heard Collins rail against the Obama stimulus, a collection of tax cuts and appropriations for public works; Keynesian pump-priming to address a growing crisis of falling economic demand. Back in 2009, however, Collins sang the stimulus’ praises.

“As County Executive, I believe strongly that infrastructure improvements are critical to the growth of Erie County,” said Erie County Executive Chris Collins.  “At a time when county resources are scarce, a possible injection of federal dollars could have a tremendous impact on Erie County’s aging and neglected infrastructure.  Funding for even a fraction of these projects would represent a significant investment in our community, the opportunity to hire thousands of local workers, and reduce our need for capital borrowing in the future.”

Senator Schumer made sure that the county received $750,000 in stimulus funding to balance the budget and offset Medicaid expenses. When all was said and done, Collins has $41 million in Obama stimulus money to thank for padding the county’s coffers. Money that was intended to be used to help spur demand and create jobs was instead shunted – like Giambra’s tobacco settlement money – into one-shot salves for budgetary shortfalls. He was downright cavalier about sitting on a pool of free money that was supposed to be put into the economy.

Unlike in his private business affairs, County Executive Collins was subject to financial oversight. This was not something he enjoyed, and he pushed vindictive cuts to the Comptroller’s office, which would have laid waste to any meaningful accountability for what Collins was doing.

Frankly, someone should ask Collins’ former spokesman, Stefan Mychajliw – who is now himself running for County Comptroller – what he thinks about what Collins tried to do to then-Comptroller Poloncarz’s office’s ability to do its job.

In April 2009, Collins completely disregarded an effort to implement a regional framework for planning and growth in a region where we have sprawl without population growth. Again- a lack of vision in favor of bureaucratic stasis. But his gamesmanship became epic, whereby the Legislature would legally override a Collins veto, and Collins would respond by simply jettisoning democratic procedure aside and declaring the override “null and void”

Throughout his administration, Chris Collins was fighting the Justice Department, which demanded that the county improve conditions in its jails. 2009 brought a legislative election, and Collins was set on jury-rigging the system in order to ensure that the second half of his term would be less litigious. He hired Kathy Konst as part of a ploy to leave the (D) line unoccupied. Collins pick Dino Fudoli went to court to keep his Democratic opponent’s name off the ballot. Fundamentally undemocratic gamesmanship, and it should taint Collins and Fudoli in perpetuity. Hell, Collins used an official Twitter account for electioneering purposes.

Collins’ proposed 2010 budget played with the numbers to keep taxes steady, but no spending was cut. None.

Most of you will remember his horrible thing Collins said, calling Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver the “anti-Christ”. It wasn’t the first time he used it, and it was a theme that Carl Paladino picked up on the following year, with similar electoral effect. Even though Collins had a good 2009 election, it didn’t make him happy; it made him angry. But as 2010 began, Erie County finally settled its disputes over payments to ECMC. Soon after that, Collins conspired with the Mayor’s people and Pigeon’s people to obtain a de facto Republican majority on the Legislature. All it took was Barbara Miller-Williams, Christina Bove, and Tim Kennedy to agree to join a so-called “reform coalition”, which reformed nothing. Except hirings and firings. Tim Kennedy did this in spite of Collins’ destruction of his beloved Apprenticeship Law, in order to secure the Independence Party line and be elevated to the State Senate.

In January 2010, Collins was again caught with his foot in his mouth, having asked Republican fundraiser Laura Montante Zaepfel to give him a “lapdance” before she could get to her seat at the State of the State address. Next on his agenda was to take away day care benefits from the working poor in Buffalo and WNY. But we did finally get rid of the Convention Center’s FailSignWhen not declaring legislative veto overrides “null and void”, Collins decided simply to refuse to fund things he didn’t like. Nevertheless, in running government like a failing, closely-held business, Collins created new jobs for pet projects, didn’t cut spending overall, and was facing a massive 2011 deficit. At least he had a compliant, but horribly run legislature

collins-20121016-233135.jpgCollins then turned his ire towards the culturals, and this teed off the central theme of the 2011 County Executive race. The budget process in late 2010 was uglier than ever, and more shenanigan-laden than usual.

Six Sigma – Collins claims it worked. How did it work? The control board granted the county about $1.1 million in efficiency grants to set the program up. Six Sigma salaries: just over $470,000. Six Sigma fringe (60%): Just over $280,000. Vendors (5 vendors, including UB): Just over $610,000. TOTAL:  Just over $1.37 million. How much did it save? You can hear the crickets chirping.

Debating Kathy Hochul, Collins blasted the Obama administration for “picking winners and losers” by having the government take GM and Chrysler bankrupt and using public money to invest in those companies and effectively bailing them out. By doing so, about a million jobs were directly saved, keeping the economy from going from recession to depressionary spiral. But Collins didn’t have a problem using the Erie County IDA to pick winners and losers, did he? That uses public money to help private business. He even went so far as to reward Paladino crony Rus Thompson with a sweetheart IDA loan for his cement truck business. Must be nice to have friends on the IDA like Chris Collins and his neighbor, Jane Corwin’s husband. At the CVB, Collins withheld funding until he packed it with his hand-picked people – after that, he increased its budget.  For real.  Under Collins, the IDA specialized in granting money and tax breaks to businesses that didn’t create many jobs, moved businesses around from town to town.

When Chris Lee got caught shirtless on Craigslist, soliciting dates from people not his wife, a scramble to replace him ensued. David Bellavia had a deal that he would be next when Lee was done. Lee was done. Yet Chris Collins and Carl Paladino tried to intimidate Bellavia out of the race. It was like something out of Goodfellas.

2011 saw Collins and Poloncarz do battle. As usual, Collins and the Republicans cut a deal with Mayor Brown in an effort to depress city turnout. In July 2011, Collins got caught marching at the front of the July 4th parade in Lancaster – even ahead of the flag and veterans. When polls showed that Collins wasn’t doing well, he called the polls a pack of lies. He went out of his way to say that downstate was no friend of upstate’s. Don’t forget that Collins got caught parking illegally several times – including using a spot reserved for the disabled.

And Collins left a mess. In July 2012, Poloncarz revealed,

In the first six months of my term alone, we have identified more than $50 million in unanticipated expense and declining revenue projections not included in Mr. Collins’ 2012 Budget or Four-Year Financial Plan – many of which he, in all likelihood, knew about but failed to address and chose to hide from me as comptroller, the legislature and even the control board.

After leaving office, Collins was caught using his Rath Building office to hold private business meetings to intimidate investors.  In July 2012, Collins basically said that people don’t die from breast and prostate cancer anymore. Seriously. He disrespectfully refused to debate his primary opponent. He apparently bought Facebook likes. Collins is a big backer of the Ryan budget. Collins has not released any of his tax returns to the voters.

Chris Collins can say “Barack Obama” and “Nancy Pelosi” every minute of every hour. He can pretend to be some conservative Republican who will somehow magically work with people across the aisle – something he only did locally when he could derive some short-term political benefit therefrom; something he only did when he could exert control over them and the legislative process through his proxy, Barbara Miller-Williams. Kathy Hochul’s record stands on its own merits. So does Chris Collins’ record, such as it is.

In the end, Chris Collins did not reform county government – in fact, he resisted and blocked reforms almost routinely (another “r”); he did not rebuild the local economy, but ensured that stimulus funds were hoarded to artificially improve his balance sheet; and he did not reduce – but raised – taxes.

 

Away

It’s nice to not think about politics for a week. It’s nice to not pay attention to any news, except maybe for the weather, for a week. It’s nice to get away from western New York for a time.

(All that was excepted only by a flurry of text messages I received and sent in the wake of Jim Heaney’s report about Dino Fudoli’s deliberate, knowing, unjustified refusal to pay property taxes on various properties, of course. What a joke this guy is. Hey, Lancaster, next time why don’t you just elect Bauerle caller “Rambo Jim” as supervisor?)

If I have a non-food related passion, it’s travel. We spent a little less than a week in Williamsburg, VA and about a day in Washington, DC.

In DC, we continued our slow, interrupted process of seeing all there is to see. This particular instance involved a walk to the Tidal Basin, where we took out some pedal boats, and around to see the Jefferson Memorial, FDR Memorial, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. We hadn’t seen the last two yet, and they’re magnificent additions. The FDR memorial is a series of dark stone reliefs, waterfalls, statuary, and quotes from the President’s speeches. He presided over a particularly tumultuous period in American history, and the memorial reflects that. The King memorial also features quotes and a magnificent statue of the man carved out of solid rock – the “stone of hope”, hewn out of the “mountain of despair”.  It accurately reflects the fact that the civil rights struggle of the 50s and 60s involved, to a degree, a cult of personality regarding Dr. King. 

We enjoy eating at chef Jose Andres’ restaurants in DC, and this time we tried Zaytinya, which features eastern Mediterranean (Ottoman?) dishes, and a newly reconstituted Jaleo, which offers Spanish tapas. It was our first visit to Zaytinya, and the food there was fantastically done – it’s a new favorite. 

From there we drove down to Colonial Williamsburg, the preserved and reconstructed colonial capital of Virginia. For a reasonable fee that goes to fund the foundation that operates the village and interpretations thereof, you get a great 200 year-old experience. On one end of the town, you see the houses and facilities that supported the gentry and the King’s governors. A walk through the town lets you visit the various trades that supported colonial life, including brickmaking, textiles, wheelmaking, the jail, government buildings, shoemaking, etc. There, artisans use period technology to create today what was used 200 years ago – oftentimes contracted for by other, similar facilities. The town of Williamsburg itself also hosts William and Mary College – only Harvard is older – so, it’s not just a tourist town, but a college town, as well. 

One added attraction that was great for kids and adults is called “RevQuest“. Participants get a packet of clues and props, and wander the town following these clues and send text messages when they solve puzzles. In the end, you get a prize and you’ve seen a lot of the town, but you also learn something – in this case, the quest is to be a colonial spy for George Washington. A spy whom the British never suspected because he was a slave. I can’t stress enough how much fun this is for kids and adults – the day we participated, it was raining, so we were tagging along with a couple who worked at the stables and got the day off because of the weather. This is the second RevQuest they’ve hosted, and they’re so popular that they will be writing more and cycling through them year after year. 

Now, I return home where people are actually pushing Chuck Swanick for elected office. Where can I go next? Get me out of here. 

2015: The Year in Verse

December in Buffalo: snowless and mild.

Politically, this year was especially wild.

We rang in the New Year somewhat aghast,

as we learned that Mario Cuomo had passed.

One loss that cut deeply is one you all know;

Entertainer Lance Diamond was the next one to go.

Our icon of funk had no imitation,

And Buffalo gave him a worthy ovation.

 

Dave DiPietro, needing something to do,

learned of a library book—maybe two,

which told kids to read and to learn—that’s all right,

but these books involved Muslims, so he picked a fight,

and, pretending to be so concerned that he asked,

whether both of these books should be banished at last!

But these volumes explained that in Afghanistan,

kids can’t do what ours do, thanks to the Taliban.

 

In Albany, meanwhile, something awesome occurred.

An indictment! Shelly Silver was charged, so we heard.

The Skeloses, too, were found on the hot seat,

courtesy of an attorney named Preet.

They all were convicted, Shelly, Dean, and his kid.

They’re going to jail thanks to quos pro that quid.

Nevertheless, these wins seem awfully pyrrhic,

and the Albany culture seems downright satiric.

 

Quickly thereafter, we heard—more than a smidgen,

That agents were sniffing ’round G. Stephen Pigeon.

In late May, you’ll recall, a series of raids,

caught Pigeon and Casey and one or two aides,

but the Preetsmas Day massacre tale is still pending;

nothing new to report, and no news of its ending.

 

While here, we found that we’ve really been blessed.

For hipsters, a kingdom became manifest.

The listicle writers in Brooklyn and Queens,

know that five-borough living isn’t all that it seems.

For Wegmans and cheap housing rates, we get envied,

and economists say our job market’s quite frenzied.

 

In Lancaster, the school board humbly proposed,

to change the team’s name, but were harshly opposed,

by some who thought “Redskins” a suitable name,

for kids to play sports in, without any shame.

But Native Americans quickly caught on,

and argued that “Redskin” needs to be gone.

They turned to the kids, after much agitation,

who came up with “Legends,” after due contemplation.

But to this very day, you can go to a game,

and find people still angry over a racist team name.

 

Carl Paladino characteristically fought,

against logic and reason, and thickened the plot,

as he bullied a guy here to track civil rights,

Carl turned the board into a joke on most nights.

One thing’s for sure, as the district descends,

into receivership, Carl and his friends,

must work better with others, just as we’d expect,

a young student to do, and to have self-respect.

 

In the BMHA, a commissioner said,

some unspeakable words, and when caught, quickly pled

that he never would say the “n” word—not at night or in morning,

but the problem for him was the cell phone recording.

Joe Mascia was running for Franczyk’s position,

in an effort that honestly needed magicians.

You won’t win in Fillmore—it’d be quite absurd,

if you casually pepper your speech with that word.

 

Now Donald Trump’s surging, unemployment is down,

Musk’s Solar City’s the new game in town.

The Green Code is here, and the billion gets spent,

Investigative Post tells us what it all meant.

 

When election time came, it was really a snooze,

Poloncarz re-elected, but there was some news,

Fudoli was gone, but legislature incumbents,

all won, and it all seemed a bit too redundant,

turnout was low and the races were boring,

hell, Democrats didn’t even deign to be warring.

 

In August, our town went a little insane,

after a woman alleged Patrick Kane,

had raped her—she went to the cops right away,

and some blamed the victim within a few days.

In the end, Tom Eoannou had showed off a bag,

that purported to be the rape kit—a red flag.

But it wasn’t, and the case simply ended in days,

and Kane skated—his problems have melted away.

 

Joseph Lorigo, as the year drew to a close,

Tweeted some questions he wanted to pose.

Expressing concerns about the criteria,

used to bring refugees over from Syria.

A big demonstration was held here downtown,

and refugee services wouldn’t back down.

The community welcomes the tired, the poor,

who help to make Buffalo better than before.

It wasn’t too long ago Brahmins and such,

hated Irish, Italians, and Poles just as much.

 

It’s 2016, let’s all hoist a craft beer,

wishing all of you peace and a Happy New Year.

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