Collins’ Exit Interview

Outgoing County Executive Chris Collins granted an exit interview to the Buffalo News’ Bob McCarthy. This is no surprise, as McCarthy had been quite vocally assuming all summer that, solely on the basis of Collins’ own deep pockets, he would cruise to an easy re-election.

We all know that didn’t happen.

A week after the election, McCarthy transcribed the concern-trolling from several grumbling Republican insiders. Among their concerns,

How did a county executive who fulfilled all his promises with minimal effects on taxes and no scandals manage to lose?

And in yesterday’s Collins interview, McCarthy repeats – almost verbatim – the same Collinsphilia nonsense.

This time, the defeat seems to genuinely hurt. Collins struggles to grasp how he lost after keeping all his campaign promises of 2007 while running Erie County without a hint of scandal.

Setting aside Collins’ sour grapes and complete lack of self-awareness, it is untrue that he “kept all his campaign promises” and was somehow free from scandal.  The first step to getting better, they say, is admitting you have a problem.

The Buffalo News' Bob McCarthy

First of all, to say Collins didn’t have scandals is to ignore the time when he referred to the Jewish Assembly Speaker as the “anti-Christ”, and the time when Collins jokingly demanded a “lap dance” in order to save a seat at the State of the State address for a well-connected female executive at a local construction company. It ignores the fact that, to some people, informing them days before Christmas that they’d be losing their state-funded daycare services and that they’d have to quit their jobs to watch their kids, is quite scandalous indeed.  It ignores how Collins and his newfound nouveau-riche friend Carl tried to bully David Bellavia to drop out of the NY-26 race.

Secondly, Collins did not “fulfill all his promises“. Collins raised taxes, deepened regional cleaves, and ran on“Three Rs – Reforming Erie County government, Rebuilding the local economy, and ultimately, Reducing taxes.”

He 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.

That’s breaking your promises, and that’s failure under any measure. It’s no wonder he lost

As for the remainder of Collins’ pity party,

Over and over again, the county executive turns to a consoling statistic — 39 out of 44.

That’s the number of county municipalities that voted for him on Nov. 8, only to be “overruled” by the cities of Buffalo and Lackawanna, and towns of Cheektowaga, Tonawanda and West Seneca.

That he won a plurality of small-population towns means nothing. People vote – not square footage.

Practically everyone he meets on the street, he said, says they cast their vote for him. His friends and supporters still tell him he was on the right track, and he firmly believes that the struggles and turmoil of his first term had set the stage for a second term of unparalleled success.

“With everything we had fixed,” he said, “frankly, the next four years would have been cruise control.”

Gee, that “cruise control” quip would have made a great campaign slogan. I guess this reveals that people are polite to Mr. Collins when they encounter him on the street.

Collins lost in the cities and big towns, he now says, because of the “polarizing” nature of politics and a stagnant economy that brought home Erie County’s Democratic plurality of 135,000 voters.

The influence of unions in the Poloncarz campaign energized city Democrats, he said, while stoking a “class warfare” mentality that piggybacked on the rhetoric of Washington and Albany.

That’s rich, coming from a guy whose entire agenda involved marginalizing and harming the poorest in the cities in an effort to gain political support in the wealthier suburbs. It’s a hallmark of current Republican thought that it’s important to kick the poor when they’re down. Slackers.

He rejects opponents’ claims of “arrogance” in running government, instead reasoning that his “noisy” four years energized entrenched interests and the status quo.

The “arrogant” label he now says, stuck with voters as part of a four-year “agenda” of The Buffalo News.

Chris Collins attended exactly zero candidate forums this past election cycle. He begrudgingly attended the one televised debate, and the two that weren’t. He couldn’t even be bothered to drive .5 miles up Goodrich Road to speak with voters at Clarence Town Hall at a candidates’ forum hosted by the nonpartisan League of Women Voters. It’s not his money that makes him arrogant – it’s his arrogance that makes him arrogant.

“I don’t believe people voted against me because I was successful in business or I live in a nice house,” he said. “I didn’t grow up with a silver spoon in my mouth.

“It’s just that class warfare polarizes the country,” he added, “so certainly there is an impact now in local elections, and it plays a role in polarizing people back to party affiliation.”

Never forget that Collins was phenomenally successful at exploiting suburban phobias and resentments at the expense of the poorest in the cities. No one played the class warfare game better than he.  Erie County is better off for returning first Chris Lee, and now Chris Collins back to their lives of gentlemanly leisure. Jane Corwin is the last of the hyperwealthy GOP troika left standing, and her loss to Kathy Hochul last May foreshadowed what happened to her next-door neighbor in November.

Cars To a Tax-Free Main Street

Inch by inch, block by block, the city of Buffalo is getting ready to correct what’s turned out to be a mistake that hastened downtown’s demise. The federal government has given the city a $15 million grant to return vehicular traffic to Main Street’s 500 block, approximately Mohawk to Huron – Lloyd‘s downtown corner to the Hyatt.  The 700 block has been done, and the 600 block is in the works.

Pedestrian zone in Delft, Holland

In my experience, most successful pedestrian-only shopping zones aren’t located along main thoroughfares; they’re instead made up of a jumble of side streets, creating what amounts to an outdoor pedestrian retail zone.  Simply removing cars from a main arterial street doesn’t seem to have worked, and the decline of downtown shopping that was hastened by Metro Rail construction disruption never had a chance to rebound.

Although hundreds of thousands of people come into downtown from all parts of WNY every day, it’s a retail wasteland at all times. It’s doubtful that there’s very much that can be done at this point to reverse that.

But as we plan for a reborn waterfront at Canal Side, which will soon expand onto the Aud block and other surrounding areas, if becoming a retail as well as cultural destination is desired, then creating a sales tax-free zone downtown would have a great stimulative effect. Part of the question is – how do you attract people to shop downtown merchants as opposed to the Niagara Falls outlets or the Walden Galleria – an 8.75% discount in the downtown core would probably be a great draw.

No, it’s not fair to merchants outside the zone. But life isn’t fair. Furthermore, most of the merchants in Buffalo and outside the zone serve the surrounding residents and will still be patronized out of sheer convenience. Furthermore, the influx of people and businesses attracted by what amounts to a Buffalo Special Economic Zone will ultimately help those businesses thrive, as well.

Main Street in the 50s

Development would still be subject to Buffalo’s zoning and planning bureaucracies, but the rules would be simplified and permits & approval would be harmonized and streamlined. Property taxes would be reduced or eliminated, depending on the parcel. However, properties would be assessed not based on what they are (e.g., empty lots), but on what their value ought rightly be if developed.

By turning the central business district into a tax-free special economic zone, you give people 8.75 reasons to do business and conduct commerce in downtown Buffalo over anywhere else. Creation of a waterfront district while ignoring the decline and blight of the rest of downtown seems to me to be counterintuitive.

By executing a plan such as this, zoning the waterfront districts, and having the ECHDC or state spend public money solely on the improvement and installation of necessary infrastructure, transfer of title for all parcels to one single entity to speed development, institution of a design and zoning plan that cannot be deviated from, and – most importantly – remediating the environmental nightmares under the soil throughout ECHDC’s mandated districts, we can then auction the parcels off to qualified buyers.

That is how downtowns revive organically – through private initiative and private money. Government can do its job and merely provide the private sector with the proper environment to do business and build. It doesn’t get faster, quicker, or cheaper than that.

Merely returning cars to Main Street isn’t going to return downtown to its former glory. A coordinated effort and plan to make downtown competitive and attractive to people and businesses is needed.

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Tobe to be Deputy County Executive

County Executive-elect Poloncarz has appointed Richard Tobe to be his Deputy County Executive. Tobe is a lawyer and held the Erie County post of Commissioner of Environment and Planning for a decade, and was Mayor Byron Brown’s Commissioner for Economic Development until 2008.

During the County Executive campaign, Poloncarz said that his deputy would be a “jobs czar”, concentrating on growing the economy and job creation.  From the press release:

Poloncarz stated, “As I have said, my Deputy County Executive’s will focus on job creation and creating a streamlined, sustainable and efficient approach to economic development in Erie County.  This position required an individual that not only had a proven track record of successfully navigating the often turbulent local economic development process but who could also help create a better system for tomorrow. Today, I am proud to announce Richard Tobe will serve in that role.  It is time that Erie County taxpayers see a return on the investment of their tax dollars into economic development initiatives that show results.  Richard’s decades of successful and multi-faceted economic development experience in the public and private sectors make him the perfect choice to lead these efforts.”

Transition Chairman Michael Joseph added, “The County Executive-elect has made an excellent choice in recruiting Rich Tobe to serve the county. Mr. Tobe’s decades of public service in economic development and planning, including a lead role in negotiating complex deals and public infrastructure projects makes him an ideal candidate to serve in the key role as Deputy County Executive.”

Mr. Tobe has more than 30 years of economic development experience in the public and private sectors as well as academia.  During his 12 years serving the Gorski administration as Commissioner of Environment and Planning, Tobe led the County’s successful effort to negotiate a new long-term lease agreement with the Buffalo Bills, and construct the Buffalo Sabres’ arena (now First Niagara Center) in downtown Buffalo, while serving as the point-person with New York State and local municipalities on economic development initiatives.

Since then Tobe has served as an adjunct professor at the University at Buffalo’s Graduate School of Planning and School of Law, Vice President of the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, and Commissioner of the City of Buffalo’s Department of Economic Development, Permit and Inspection Services.

Tobe said, “I am supremely honored to serve County Executive-elect Poloncarz as the Deputy County Executive.  I strongly agree with the County Executive-elect that, for too long, Erie County has been devoid of a cohesive and focused economic development strategy.  I know and love this community and I am confident that by working together with local, state and federal economic development agencies and by leveraging our abundance of resources and strategic location we can realize real, sustainable growth.”

The Hospital Business

When Chris Collins said that Erie County was out of the hospital business, he was being deceitful – in this year’s case, to the tune of $23.8 million.  That figure would have been $40 million, but for a credit that the hospital is holding to the county’s credit.

It may be a tough nut, and depending on to whom you listen, it may  be fair and lawful. But it’s a huge subsidy that goes disproportionately to assist poor families in a poor county, and the county remains decidedly in the “hospital business” as long as the payouts continue.


I was unable to attend the Erie County Legislature’s final session of 2011, which was the last for six lawmakers, including Chairwoman Barbara Miller-Williams.

Miller-Williams led a breakaway faction of three Democratic legislators who aligned themselves with the Republican majority, thus helping Chris Collins move forward with an agenda that was oftentimes at odds with that of Miller-Williams’ constituents.

Chris Smith and I did this video two years ago to explain it all (language NSFW)

The Buffalo News reports this:

“I implore you to please put people before politics,” Miller-Williams told her colleagues as the meeting wrapped up. “It’s always the right thing to do.”

Ironic, seeing as how Ms. Miller-Williams seldom took her own advice on that point. Unless, of course “putting people before politics” has something to do with ensuring political jobs for certain people.

Reacting to Miller-Williams, Joseph N. Welch had this to say:

Erie County Posturing

I’m hearing that the Democratic majority in the Erie County Legislature may be in jeopardy; that a couple of legislators are busily trying to cut side deals regarding jobs and the chairmanship.

Are we looking at another January of fail, or will people get to work and start tackling big problems and big ideas, rather than angling for patronage and influence?

Lipsey / Paladino Rapprochement?

Something struck me today regarding Paladino’s newest insult billboard-a-torium. Take a look, if you will, at the last two:

Paladino Billboard the First

Paladino Billboard the Second

And here’s the most recent iteration:

Notice the difference?

Did you also notice Bob McCarthy’s seemingly perfectly normal Sunday opinion piece detailing how Paladino intends to become politically active again?

Several sources tell me that Carl Paladino and Buffalo News publisher Stan Lipsey broke bread recently to bury the hatchet. This explains Lipsey’s absence from the “bucket list” sign, and the friendly tete-a-tete with McCarthy. That is the perfect explanation for the abrupt end to the Paladino-Lipsey feud.

To go from two consecutive “Fuck Stan Lipsey” signs, to a glowing, uncritical profile in The Buffalo News to including “nobody-from-the-Buffalo-News” on his new ‘fuck you’ sign is quite a swing

Might be time to update this to include Carl.

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Carl Haz a Sad

I aspire to someday find my name on the side of a decrepit, crumbling eyesore and embodiment of a bitter millionaire’s land speculation.

When the Paladinists aren’t recommending burning periodicals with which they disagree, their leader is busy sending out this sort of thing.

Also, this:

Without directly addressing the little put-upon millionaire’s temper tantrum (if the piece was so off the mark, why mention it, Carl?) wouldn’t it be great if a group of, say, #OccupyBuffalo protesters took a bunch of Artvoices every week and hawked them outside the perimeter of the Ellicott Square Building?

The Caputo Arrest: Curious

On March 12, 2011, the Buffalo News reported on two seemingly unrelated matters:

1. Investigative reporter Jim Heaney wrote that former campaign workers and contractors retained by the Paladino for the People gubernatorial campaign were accusing Mr. Paladino for non-payment; and

2. T.J. Pignataro and Bob McCarthy wrote that former Paladino campaign manager Michael Caputo and his father had been arrested and charged by Orchard Park police on March 1st with various and sundry disorderly conduct-type offenses.

I’m not one for grand conspiracies, but could the two be related?

Heaney claimed in this online chat that he first learned of the non-payment issue via online chat that took place on March 6th.  But the bad blood between Caputo and Paladino can be traced back at least to February 2011, when Caputo publicly endorsed Governor Cuomo’s budget plan, calling it, “conservative, responsible and absolutely necessary“, and asked tea party members throughout the state to join him.

In response to that, the New York State tea party movement was thrust into more turmoil than usual, with accusations and counter-accusations over whether they should back Cuomo or not. The kicker, however, was this email that Carl Paladino sent out to some of his trusted associates on February 6, 2011. I’ve cut out the irrelevant portions, but check out the highlighted bit:

From: “Carl Paladino”

Date: Sun, 6 Feb 2011 20:53:54

Subject: Re: Caputo’s reach and breach

Well this is a second attempt to write you.  I’m terrible on the computer and accidentally erased the first 3 hour version of this? Everyone please be assured that Caputo does not work or speak for me. He is in the wind and probably on Cuomo’s payroll.  The last conversation I had with him the week before Oneonta I told him that Cuomo’s budget was unacceptable and at best a very small step in the right direction.  He went on to interpret that as an ok to tell the group that I supported Cuomo and to issue a letter and oped which are totally unacceptable to me.

The result was a week of rhetoric wHich I believe was healthy for all.  It coalesced the group and pointed out the need for a strong organizer/coordinator who commands the respect of all, is resourceful, determined, loyal and smart which defines all of you but I also think when you think about it the one name that sticks for the great majority is Sheryl, and don’t you dare spell her name wrong.  Remember that in every group there are extremes and that is good as long as the center is strong and well planted.  Some will push the envelope. Others want to be hanging off the end of the merry-go-round where everything is a blur and the wind blows in your face.  Still others are content in the middle where they can see everything clearly.  It takes a little of each to have a winning team.

Forget about Caputo.  He can’t hurt anyone.  He’s off on a trip to his home planet thinking that he can revise history.  At the NYC press debriefing event he was the only person to dump on me.  Not even the Cuomo people said anything. He said I liked the sound of a turd in the punchbowl never acknowledging that he was solely responsible for the Hassidic/homosexual tragedy in NYC.  He’s a political junkie/whore with no values, for sale to anyone.  The authorities are aware of his misuse of the lists assembled on my nickel and what goes around will come around.

Seems like “what goes around” came around on March 1st, just three weeks later.

It’s also worth noting that Paladino has interests in Orchard Park, namely Skibbereen Farms, the website for which indicates that it’s owned by “The 1147 Group, Inc., owned by Chrissie Hannon, Paladino’s niece. His wife and daughter are the property managers there.  It’s the largest horse farm of its kind in Orchard Park, with about 50 horses. It’s not like he has no pull in that particular one of the Southtowns, where Caputo lives.

It certainly seems like a retaliatory set-up, but no one’s talking. For his part, when asked whether he thinks Paladino might be behind this, the usually loquacious Caputo gave me a very uncharacteristic, “no comment”.  Yet one thing’s for sure – Caputo was tailed for some time before being pulled over, and he and his father were arrested on charges dubious enough that an Aurora town justice dismissed each one.

Caputo Dismissal


The question now becomes – why did Orchard Park bring out the big guns over what should have been a routine traffic stop?

To Catch a Predator

The only thing missing from Carl Paladino’s newest ironic sign, (placed on the side of a building recently cited for multiple code violations), is a Palinist gun sight, AMIRITE?

I’ll bet he wishes that billboard was bigger.

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