Buffalopundit Endorsements 2015

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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.

Buffalopundit Endorsements 2014

Caveat: Artvoice does not do political endorsements. Nothing written in this post should be interpreted, construed, or cited as an endorsement by the owners or editors of Artvoice itself. This endorsement is mine alone. No person or campaign has directly or indirectly paid for or otherwise sponsored any post or endorsement.  I do not know whether any candidate or party has ever paid for an advertisement in Artvoice, nor would I be in a position to know. I am an independent contractor and have no involvement or employment with Artvoice or its advertising or editorial staff. Any questions or issues can be directed to me at buffalopundit[at]gmail.com. I recommend you click the links – especially in NY-27. Now, on with the countdown. 

United States Congress (NY-26): Brian Higgins

I did this already, I’m sure you all know.

I posted it here just a short week ago

Kathy Weppner talks nonsense, her utterings, laughable; 

Congressman Higgins belongs in the Capitol

United States Congress (NY-27): No Endorsement

I admit that this pick came to me as a shock, 

but I got information I can’t simply mock.  

It shows that the Democrat, not long ago, 

worked for the campaign of Paladino

He helped with debate prep – and this made me cross –

he helped Carl defame a planned downtown mosque

Chris Collins is there, and he’s one of the worst. 

But principle matters; it ought to come first. 

Chris Collins? You kidding? At least he’s consistent. 

Not “Democrat now!”, but once Carl’s assistant

The incumbent, he voted for Cruz’s shutdown, 

harmed our economy and then, like a clown, 

claimed to be against it, despite his own vote

And (of course) blamed Obama, repeat, edit, rote. 

But Collins was for it, before he was not; 

he blamed the “extremists”, rejected the plot

Although Collins’ tenure has been ineffective

I won’t back a Carl guy, he must be rejected. 

Governor and Lieutenant Governor of New York State: Cuomo/Hochul

Listen, Cuomo’s got flaws, and of that I’m aware. 

But Rob Astorino I just cannot bear.

His running mate –  Hochul – I respect a great deal,

and the great things he’s done for our region are real.

The Buffalo Billion and Startup New York,

should not be dismissed as cheap welfare and pork.

Never before has an Albany pol,

done this much for Buffalo, as I can recall.  

I do want to see much more effort to end

corrupt fusion and graft – those Albany trends. 

Transparency now is the name of the game, 

and Cuomo’s too secretive, to his own shame. 

After all that he’s done, though, I can’t just reject, 

Cuomo and Hochul, whom I hope you’ll elect. 

Attorney General: Eric Schneiderman

Did you see the debate? Whoa, that Cahill’s a twit. 

He screamed, interrupted, behaved like a shit. 

And kudos to Bob – wow! A substantive question!

I’m voting for Schneiderman this coming election. 

His office protects every one of us from, 

fraud and abuse, and the criminal scum. 

For those who take pills for pain they can’t stop, 

he set up I-STOP, so they can’t doctor shop

Schneiderman’s strong on consumer protection,

And Cahill deserves this year’s voters’ rejection.

State Senate District 63: Tim Kennedy

Given the choice between sellout or dummy, 

the outlook for voters just isn’t too sunny. 

Tim Kennedy isn’t my favorite guy

his opponent, however, should make you ask, “why…

“…would local Republicans beclown themselves so…

“…by running a guy who’d make Weppner say, ‘whoa’“.

Kennedy may have some bridges to fix, 

but Donovan? Please, voters, no, nada, nix

State Senate District 62: Rob Ortt

Oh, great. For fuck’s sake. What a choice – I’m aghast. 

Two Republicans, one Paladino backed last.

Ortt is the Mayor of North Tonawanda,

Destino’s a Dem whom I’m not wholly fond of. 

Paladino endorsed him the last time around

and that’s generally something I can’t just write down. 

Destino was backed by the goons who had tried

–  in a spurious way that I cannot abide – 

to smear Maziarz as a closeted gay

and failed, like the cretins they are, by the way. 

Ortt is a vet with conservative views. 

But defeated that Gia – so, he’s reasonable, too

When assholes supporting you campaign on hate, 

it behooves you to answer with outrage, and state

something where you reject their assistance and views,

and you do it quite loudly, and make it big news.

I’m sorry you didn’t, and I hope that you’ll scorn

that loudmouthed old hater who forwards horse porn. 

State Senate District 61: Elaine Altman

Hah! Mike Ranzenhofer? Career politician. 

Dear reader, what was his agenda or vision? 

Say “no” and do nothing, for 20-odd years? 

It’s time for a change, and it’s time to switch gears. 

Altman’s a teacher, she knows Common Core, 

and she’ll fight to fund schools, and absolutely do more

to help out a district that’s been represented 

by someone who’s done not a lot, I’ve lamented. 

Send a teacher to Albany!”, that’s where she belongs. 

Ranz’s tenure in government’s two decades too long.

State Senate District 60: Not Stocker

I mean no disrespect to Dem Marc Panepinto, 

I don’t mean to leave him out hanging in limbo. 

Think Again, Turn Away

A vote for the Dem would be great and just swell,

but Grisanti deserves to go back for a spell

As senator, he’s been unfazed and courageous. 

“Profile in Courage” would not seem outrageous. 

He helped us to pass same-sex marriage, and took

a risk to pass SAFE Act after Sandy Hook.

It showed us that people don’t need a damn armory,

and schools should be havens of peace and of harmony. 

So, whatever you do, and don’t think it’s a shocker

vote for anyone, just not the tea party’s Stocker

NYS Assembly 146: Ray Walter

Did you know that Ray Walter is in a real race? 

Against a young Dem with a fresh, stubbled face? 

I’m sure that Steve Meyer’s an earnest young chap, 

with ideas and energy. Aside from all that, 

I have to agree that he’s lacking know-how, 

and has yet to consider what furrows our brow. 

He’s just out of school, and has loads of more time, 

to get a career, pay some taxes and climb

up to a level where he really can get, 

the problems that we New York families fret. 

Ray and I see eye to eye on the tolls, 

that the Thruway Authority always controls, 

with antiquity formed in the shape of a booth, 

within it a person, who I doubt, in his youth, 

Imagined his life would be handing out slips.  

Yet throughout the world, the traffic just zips, 

through camera tolls without stopping to pay.

This dreary old system, it pisses off Ray, 

So, send my friend back to fight Albany pols, 

besides, the Assembly’s in firm Dem control. 

OTHER

For a number of races, there is no opponent. 

For a real democracy, that’s a missing component. 

For all of these races, you have a blank check,

vote whomever you please, except for Mazurek

I’ll note, on the side, that Ray Walter’s a friend, 

and he’s running against a young Dem 

 

But no matter what, do not let the time pass. 

Just remember to vote, and Donn Esmonde’s an ass. 

General Election Endorsements 2013

Greetings, citizens of Goodenoughistan, where good enough is good enough

Please note: these are not Artvoice endorsements, nor are they to be cited as suchThey have not been approved or made by the Artvoice editors, publisher, or any combination thereof. All endorsements are mine and mine alone. They are preferences – not predictions.

This has been an exhaustingly ugly campaign season. It is ever thus, when Pedro Espada’s patronage hire, Steve Pigeon, decides to interject himself, his friends, and their dirty money into an election cycle. As always, these efforts are replete with personal destruction, negative campaigns, lies, deceit, and widespread allegations of brazen election law violations.

This happens more often than not, and it underscores the need for Governor’s Moreland Commission on public corruption, as much as it does the commission’s typical, politically motivetaed reluctance to carry out its stated mission.

New York politics are dirty by design, and the people who benefit therefrom have zero incentive to change that; Cuomo included. Tea Party nudniks and good government hippies can whine and cry about whatever outrage – SAFE ACT! IDA ABUSE! – but all of it stems from a common denominator of a horribly broken political system. In 2014, you and I should be more strident in demanding that the Moreland Commission on public corruption do its job. Abuse of the fusion system should be ended. Election law violations should be punished. Campaign finance rules must be followed, and complaints ought be acted upon. 

COUNTYWIDE

Erie County Sheriff (DICK DOBSON)

During primary season, Bert Dunn and Dick Dobson squared off in a Democratic primary. Steve Pigeon’s WNY Progressive Caucus threw a hundred thousand dollars into Dobson’s defeat of the self-funded Dunn. Since then? Nothing. One could credibly argue that Pigeon doesn’t care about Democrats being elected, but only that the Democratic county committee being embarrassed.

Dick Dobson, as it turns out, is a thoughtful and credible professional. Incumbent Tim Howard is running for a third term, and has been nothing but a bitter embarrassment and disappointment. When he wasn’t screwing up the Joan Diver search or letting Ralph “Bucky” Philips escape from custody, he was catching the attention of the federal Department of Justice due to conditions at the county holding centers. Howard needs to go.

Dobson sure could have used another influx of cash in October from whoever bankrolled Pigeon in September, but it didn’t happen. That’s a shame, so let’s just call the Pigeonistas “Democrats for Tim Howard”. I saw Dobson speak at a candidate forum a few weeks ago, and came away impressed. Neither Dunn nor Howard deigned to show up, and Dobson spoke compellingly about his time setting up a professional police force in a third world nation, and how it’s imperative that the holding center be safe because of its duty to hold inmates and deliver them safely to court.  

Dunn got himself a minor party line, and appears on the ballot (way down on the ballot) on Tuesday. Don’t look for him. He should have abandoned the race when he lost the September primary, but didn’t. Call it hubris or cash-fueled ignorance, but when Dunn should have rallied his support and money around Dobson, he was just as absent as Pigeon. 

Dobson deserves your support and your vote. 

COUNTY COMPTROLLER (KEVIN GAUGHAN)

This is a tough one. On the one hand, Gaughan had his personal tax issue. On the other hand, incumbent Stefan Mychajliw has no idea what he’s doing. The edge goes to Gaughan, who has a legal and financial background and has worked for a generation to help make western New York run better and more efficiently. He spent years promoting regional cooperation, to eliminate governmental layers of taxation, and to bring about economies of scale. He then spent time urging smaller governments to downsize, saving taxpayer money while underscoring the fact that a 3-person village board is just as competent as a 5-person board. 

Mychajliw’s tenure has been little more than a year-long campaign, chasing headlines rather than results. Audits take about three months to complete, and in his 10 months in office he’s released one flawed audit of a county gas card system, which uncovered no monetary waste and saved taxpayers nothing. Promised audits of the water authority never came about. A DSS audit was effectively rendered incredible thanks to his deputy comptroller’s made-up claims that confidential records were left out in unsecured totes for anyone to access – they were behind locked doors in a Rath Building sub-basement, and the county had the testimony and video to prove it. 

Mindful of his lack of experience and education, Mychajliw promised to hire the best and the brightest. His deputy comptroller for audit – a CPA – left the job after the DSS tote scandal, and hasn’t been replaced. To top it off, Mychajliw hasn’t reached out to the rating agencies to hustle for an improved credit rating for Erie County – something that the Comptroller routinely does to help show that the county’s finances are in good order, and to help bring about cheaper borrowing rates. This hasn’t happened, and is a dereliction of duty. 

And don’t kid yourself about Mychajliw’s inevitability – if he was so secure in his re-election, he wouldn’t be spending all his TV money on negative ads against Gaughan. To his credit, Gaughan hasn’t done the same. 

Don’t send amateurs back in to do the work of professionals – vote Gaughan. 

MAYOR OF BUFFALO (SERGIO RODRIGUEZ)

Incumbent Byron Brown is running for his third term as mayor of a struggling, poor rust belt city who runs a hyper-politicized, allegedly corrupt petty fiefdom. With a million in the bank, he can steamroll over most challengers and has built an interdependent political machine, cavalierly flaunting the laws that ostensibly limit municipal employees’ electioneering, and his ability to compel it.

Byron Brown is a nice enough guy and people like him, but I don’t think he’s the mayor Buffalo needs. Sergio Rodriguez has run a strong, issues-based race against Mayor Brown, and he’s done so despite being forced to navigate a figurative minefield to do it. He has no support from the county Republican committee, and doesn’t have enough money to do much of anything. He’s bought some lawn signs, but doesn’t have the scratch to do a set of mailings, much less to get on radio or TV.  Instead, he’s been wearing out his shoes, going directly to voters, and he’s been using social media in a town where promotion on Instagram or Foursquare isn’t going to go far. 

Because of the feudal system that Byron Brown has inherited and enhanced, big donors know that helping Sergio is the kiss of death – Brown and his consiglieri would shun you, and no one wants to get sidetracked to discuss what’s happening. Being a Brown outlaw and attempting to do business in the City of Buffalo – any business requiring a permit or license – is untenable. The political class in Buffalo, which is dependent on Brown for its livelihood, knows better than to back Rodriguez. 

Almost all of the major projects taking place in the showy Buffalo we consider being “real” and having a “sense of place”, exist in spite of Brown, rather than because of him. More often than not, they come about when he gets out of the way. He gets to show up at the ribbon-cutting and make a proclamation, and then skulks back to the 2nd floor, behind armed guards, to oversee fiefdom. 

The boom is, after all, illusory. For every new restaurant, medical building, and waterfront announcement, the city’s problems with poverty, crime, joblessness, hopelessness, and failing schools all continue unabated. The big-ticket items are good, but if a city can’t get the fundamentals right, what point is there? People point to positive changes along Grant Street, but gentrification without population or income growth is as unsustainable as sprawl without growth. What the city needs is a leader, not a caretaker. 

Brown hasn’t even deigned to compete against Rodriguez, which is the ultimate insult – denying voters a race they deserve. But whether or not you think Sergio is the leader Buffalo needs, he has spent months talking about thefundamentals – talking to residents and business owners (small ones, the ones who serve the community rather than big-money interests) about the problems that they face on a daily basis. It’s not pretty – Brown is busy on the radio promoting jobs at Geico way the hell up in north Amherst, so you’re all set if you have a reliable car. Buffalo needs jobs for Buffalonians in Buffalo. There’s no regional plan for much of anything, and one would expect a Buffalo mayor to focus on the quality of life basics, not to ensure his re-election, but to make sure his constituents are better-off.

If you’re one of the preservationist elites, Mayor Brown has had almost 10 years to develop a strategic plan to market and help people finance the purchase and renovation of dilapidated and vacant city-owned foreclosed homes. Just recently, a vacant city-owned house near Grant Street was demolished, and no one knew it was for sale because the city doesn’t put up signs or list them properly.

Sergio Rodriguez deserves your vote. He’s identified and is discussing the bigger picture, and recognizes that a leader requires a vision. In a town where the mayor has touted the number of demolitions he’s overseen, Sergio has instead addressed the issues of joblessness, crumbling infrastructure, failing schools, vacancies, and crime – things that don’t particularly matter to big developers with Rolls-Royces. But Sergio is also the guy who says City Hall will be open and inviting to all, and where good ideas will find a home. It will be inclusive and transparent, rather than an impenetrable fortress. It is Sergio’s time. I think he’s talking about the important things no one wants meaningfully to discuss. Get out on Tuesday and vote Sergio.  At the very least, make it close enough to send Brown a message about complacency.

COUNTY LEGISLATURE

Certain races will be closely watched because it takes one seat to flip the Democratic majority into a Republican one.  Therefore, I urge you to vote for the Democrat rather than the Republican whenever that choice exists, and frankly, only one race is competitive – I highlight it for that reason, and also because it represents the worst and most egregious form of personal destruction. 

I’ll also note that in LD-4 and LD-6, incumbents Kevin Hardwick and Ed Rath went as far as the appellate division to try and kick their opponents off the ballot and sail to re-election unopposed. For that reason alone, please vote for their challengers. 

District 8 (WYNNIE FISHER)

Democrat Wynnie Fisher is running a competitive race against Republican Ted Morton, who breached ethical rules and was fired from his job as a result. The Buffalo News says he wasn’t fit to be elected to office. So, last week, the Republicans retaliated. 

To be more precise, information that was sent to known Pigeon associate Kristy Mazurek was funneled to the Republicans, who used it to assault Fisher’s character over a dispute with a neighbor and to label her as “crazy”.  So, in case it wasn’t yet clear, so-called “progressives” affiliated with Pigeon are not above being Republican stooges and destroying Democrats. 

Let’s be clear – the attempts to destroy Fisher’s character are defamatory and false, brought up by people who hold a personal animus towards her. The people promoting these distortions and lies about Fisher being a crazy person with a criminal record have established in just one week why it is that good people don’t want to get involved in politics. 

So, here is what one of Fisher’s friends and colleagues has to say about Wynnie Fisher: 

I wanted to reach out regarding the negative mailers you probably received regarding Wynnie Fisher, candidate for Erie County Legislature. For what it’s worth, I’m not involved in any way in Wynnie’s campaign. I work with her at Buffalo State, and wanted to share my perspective.

I have worked with Wynnie for eight years, perhaps as closely as two people can work together. She is a phenomenal colleague. Her work at Buffalo State has been superb. As Field Experience coordinator, she works with teachers and administrators across Western New York and has built partnerships with schools from the ground up through years of hard work and nurturing relationships. Prior to working at BSC, she was a secondary English teacher for a number of years, and was entirely successful in that position. She recently defended her dissertation in higher education administration, which was a rigorous statistical research report on the impact of service learning; she now holds a Ph.D. On top of all that, she rescues and rehabilitates animals, volunteers endlessly with community organizations like Project FLIGHT (a family literacy initiative) and Lions club, and has chaired the democratic committee in Alden for several years. Professionally and personally speaking, I have only known Wynnie to be one of the most productive and positive people I’ve ever worked with, capable of dealing with myriad challenges.

Wynnie’s family has had an ongoing dispute for many years with some neighbors, which has sometimes erupted into public disagreements. Wynnie explains that a misunderstanding in 2004 resulted in an arrest for disorderly conduct. The charges were dismissed, and she has NO criminal record. She has shared with me in the past that she has had many challenges with her neighbors, and I take her at her word regarding the nature of the 2004 arrest. I was not aware of it prior to it coming to light this week. I feel badly for her, knowing how embarrassing this must be.

Ultimately, though, I respect any voter’s prerogative, and realize that there will be some who will choose not to support Wynnie because of these revelations. Is it reasonable to expect a public servant to never have had any disputes with neighbors or run-ins with the police? Perhaps. I think some folks would say, “Absolutely.” I don’t know. But I do know this: She’s not “crazy.” She is a good, hard-working, highly educated woman who is a dedicated professional and warm-hearted person.

I hope this helps answer any questions you may have about Wynnie. Thanks for taking the time to read this.

Kind-hearted educator with a Ph.D.? We could use more of that kind of person in county hall. 

TOWN OF CLARENCE

In this coming election, you can choose to vote for two people. If you think “checks and balances” is a good concept, let’s maybe add a Democratic woman (shock! horror!) to what’s now a one-party, all-male dictatorship. I endorse Pat Casilio and Tracy Francisco. 

PROPOSITIONS

1:  Authorizing Casino Gaming 

Vote yes. I don’t gamble, but some people do. I’d rather see the state tax all gambling, including table games, which doesn’t happen with respect to the Indian casinos, which only pay the state part of the take from slots. This proposition would permit seven casinos to be built in the state. 

2: Additional Civil Service Credit for Veterans with Disabilities Certified Post-Appointment

Vote yes. This lets disabled veterans get an extra credit on civil service appointments due to their disability. 

3. Exclusion of Indebtedness Contracted for Sewage Facilities

Vote yes. The law on this is on a 10-year cycle, which is up this year. 

4. Settling Disputed Title in the Forest Preserve

Vote yes. This is interconnected with #5, and settles a century-old land dispute in the Adirondacks. It involves an exchange of land between private owners and expands the Adirondack preserve. 

5. In Relation to a Land Exchange in the State Forest Preserve with NYCO Minerals, Inc.

From the League of Women Voters

NYCO Minerals is a producer and supplier of wollastonite (calcium metasilicate), which is a  rare, white mineral having commercial application as a reinforcement or additive in ceramics, paints, plastics, friction products and various building products. The Lewis mine produces 60,000 tons of wollastonite annually. NYCO Minerals has indicated that its mine is approaching the end of its pit life because the remainder of the wollastonite vein extends onto adjacent forest
preserve land.

Proponents of the amendment argue that the land swap would (1) preserve jobs and ensure one of the largest employers in Essex County remains viable; (2) provide new access to mountain peaks and trout streams for outdoor recreation; and (3) result in the state preserve acquiring a greater quantity of land and higher-quality land than the land it is trading to NYCO Minerals.

Opponents of the amendment argue that the land swap is not vital to NYCO’s survival and that it would diminish the strength of the “Forever Wild” clause. They say that (1) the land swap would set a dangerous and historic precedent because it would be the first forest preserve constitutional amendment to be undertaken for private commercial gain rather than for a clear public municipal purpose and public benefit and; (2) there are viable alternatives to the land swap, given that there are considerable permitted reserves of wollastonite available on NYCO’s current land and that such reserves are expected to last for 15-20 years.

Vote yes. 

6. Increasing Age until which Certain State Judges Can Serve 

Vote yes. It gives judges the ability to work until age 80, if they want. Some of them do, and mandatory retirement is sucky. 

[BN]dorsed

The post-Sullivan Buffalo News is releasing its endorsements for the upcoming election. Its endorsement of Stefan Mychajliw over incumbent David Shenk is almost begrudging (registration may be required), reading like an elementary school essay. 

 Mychajliw recognizes his strengths and shortcomings, and would continue the Poloncarz-era oversight of county government.

The editorial board believes Shenk has failed to exert any real independence during his short tenure, and Mychajliw’s education and background is totally inconsistent with accounting, auditing, or any other financial control whatsoever. Mychajliw comes across as the least-bad choice because he’s of the other party. But hasn’t he been campaigning on his independence, rather than his partisanship? 

In the race for the 60th Senate District, it gives incumbent Republican Mark Grisanti the nod, thanks to his votes for marriage equality, a new tier for the state pension system, and his push for UB 2020. The paper’s editorial board gives Democrat Amodeo a one-line “whatever, dude”, and notes that the Conservative Party’s Swanick is a carrer opportunist who embodies homophobic anachronism. At least they got one of those right.  

In the 62nd, incumbent Republican George Maziarz is preferred over Democrat Amy Hope Witryol, mostly because he has clout in Albany, or something. 

There is no mention made, yet, of the 61st District where Newstead’s Justin Rooney is taking on 20-year career politician Mike Ranzenhofer. 

In the congressional races, the Buffalo News wanted to see even a smidge of willingness by the candidates to cross the aisle and act bipartisanly for the good of the country and their districts. In the 23rd District, it picks Republican Tom Reed over Nate Shinagawa, because he said he’d work with Democrats to fix the deficit. The News prefers Democratic incumbent Brian Higgins because he’s a doer who doesn’t take no for an answer, over tea party activist Mike Madigan who had to eschew all of his tea-party ideas in favor of something that might actually sell in a Democratic district – school reform. The News noted that this is a local issue, so he should run for local office. 

But the most striking language came in the News’ endorsement of incumbent Democrat Kathy Hochul over Republican Chris Collins. Noting that Hochul has shown significant independent streaks during her short tenure, Collins is quite the opposite. In fact, the News writes that the choice of Hochul over Collins is “clear and obvious”. 

More than that, her Republican opponent, former Erie County Executive Chris Collins, flat-out has no business in Congress, unless voters want to see more of the division and rancor that has already made this Congress the lowest-rated ever in an election year.

Collins has a chief executive mindset and lacks both the willingness to compromise and the people skills that effective lawmakers need. Many voters seem to recognize that, given that polling shows a dead-even race in the overwhelmingly Republican district.

What Congress desperately needs are representatives who are passionate about their districts and their country, but who recognize that their political adversaries may also have legitimate viewpoints that their constituents endorse. Hochul has already demonstrated her commitment to that kind of leadership. She is devoted to representing a largely conservative district well.

I can only imagine how that editorial board interview went. Other papers live-Tweet, videotape, or otherwise release those interviews. The Buffalo News should do the same. It continues, 

Collins, meanwhile, lacks the ability to perceive shades of difference in issues. He says he would be willing to compromise with Democrats as long as they first agree to his vision. That, in fact, is a barely disguised pledge not to compromise. That destructive tactic, routinely practiced by House Republicans, nearly led the country to default on its debt last year and consequently led to this January’s looming – and economically disastrous – fiscal cliff.

Collins is a single-minded, intensely focused individual, a quality that has no doubt helped produce his notable success as a businessman. But it didn’t work well for him as county executive and it will work even worse in what should be the collaborative process of lawmaking.

The late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, a staunch Massachusetts liberal, was widely regarded by his peers – Democratic and Republican – as a top-notch legislator. Why? Because he was willing to form relationships across the aisle to achieve important national goals. He worked with Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who is at least as far to the right as Kennedy was to the left.

Hochul has the necessary combination of vision, pragmatism and friendliness to adopt that model. Collins does not.

Collins clearly has an interest in public affairs and we encourage him to continue that interest. But he is not cut out for legislative office. Sometimes leaders have to play different roles than the ones they imagine. Collins should find that role and Hochul should go back to Congress.

I can’t remember ever reading a more strongly worded editorial against a particular candidate’s bona fides from any paper, ever. 

Endorsements: State Senate Primaries


Please note: these are not Artvoice endorsements, nor are they to be cited as such. They have not been approved or made by the Artvoice editors, publisher, or any combination thereof. Any endorsements are mine and mine alone. They are preferences – not predictions. 

The primary elections are taking place this Thursday. Please vote, if you can.

State Senate District 60 (Mark Grisanti (R) incumbent)

Democratic Primary: Mike Amodeo

Mike Amodeo is a progressive Democrat who wants Albany term limits, a ban on hydrofracking, reducing the red tape the state imposes to create a business, and you can read the rest of his campaign platform here. It’s solid, smart, and full of things Democrats should be supporting. So, I’m at a loss to explain why it is that we need a “Democrat” like Chuck Swanick to run against him with the express support of homophobic, fundamentally transactional bad actor, Conservative Party boss Ralph Lorigo

If you’re a registered Democrat in the district, you should be voting for Amodeo. Period. 

In what way is Chuck Swanick more progressive on anything than Amodeo? I will grant you, he’s more progressive in terms of, e.g., becoming a Republican, cozying up with Joel Giambra, earning personal perks, privileges, patronage, and pay. I will grant you that he’s more progressive in terms of looking out for #1 above all else, that he is without peer in the business of “protecting Chuck Swanick” and “looking out for Chuck Swanick”. I will also concede that he is unique in that his bad-government bona fides are unparalleled, and that he and his supporters are undeterred by them. If ever there was an advertisement made to highlight “how government and politics in WNY are horrible things populated by horrible people”, Chuck Swanick’s name and image would be plastered all over it. He should be perpetually and serially unelectable – not just unelectable, but the mere suggestion of his election should send average citizens screaming.

Democrats in this region are obsessed with our perpetual, counterproductive, ill-considered factionalism (e.g., Lenihan vs. Pigeon; City Hall vs. everybody). But the net result of that is hatred and failure. Chuck Swanick isn’t a Democrat any more than he is a Republican. He is an opportunist, and a corrupt one, at that. He is a member of the Swanick party, and Christ alone knows why any self-proclaimed Democrat wouldn’t back a perfectly reasonable Democratic Party candidate in Mike Amodeo. No one on Earth has given a single, solitary reason why Swanick is preferable to Amodeo on the merits, or – more to the point – why Amodeo is unacceptable. (Except for factionalism and some bizarre, unproven opinion about Swanick’s “progressive” bona fides). How much easier would it be if we had Democrats united behind the singular Democrat who (a) isn’t a patronage whore; and (b) isn’t a careerist.

Some argue that Swanick’s backing by the execrable homophobes at the National Organization for Marriage is beside the point; marriage equality is settled, they say. But it isn’t. Here you have an opportunity to have a Republican (Grisanti) and a Democrat (Amodeo) run in November, both of whom would be unwavering supporters of marriage equality. Yet instead, some supporters of same sex marriage are backing a Democrat who won support from Vomit (Ralph) Lorigo and NOM, thus putting the issue of marriage equality back in the race. If not for factionalism, and the promise of future hack job, on what merits does anyone select Swanick against Amodeo? In what way is Amodeo unacceptable as a “progressive” Democrat? How, precisely, is someone funded by NOM acceptable to anyone as a “progressive” Democrat. This primary is about Chuck Swanick, money,  patronage and factionalism, full stop, end of story.

I’m not a Dem committeeman – not for the county committee, and not for my town committee. I have no say or stake in who becomes ECDC chair. However, I think that once the committee selects a chair, the party faithful should default to supporting the committee’s activities, absent some compelling reason not to. Instead, we have factions who openly and relentlessly challenge the committee, but don’t have the balls or the votes to actually change its makeup. (Who showed up to vote for Sundra Rice?)  Now, you’ve successfully deflected the argument away from my question to you, which is – why do you support the Conservative Party’s candidate, Chuck Swanick? Democrats should run screaming from Ralph Lorigo. All Democrats

Al Coppola is also running. So what?

tl;dr: AFAIC, Democrats should stop backing candidates who seek and obtain the Conservative Party endorsement, full stop. 

A New Way from WNYMedia Services on Vimeo.

Republican Primary: Mark Grisanti

Last year, Mark Grisanti, in a massive and systemically uncharacteristic display of balls, bucked his party to vote in favor of same sex marriage. For that alone, he deserves re-election. His opponent has a track record of questionable campaign tactics, and is running almost exclusively on the “Grisanti said he wasn’t going to vote for same-sex marriage” platform, such as it is. 

What that amounts to is, “Grisanti broke his promise to do the wrong thing, and did the right thing instead“. 

Grisanti’s vote was a real-life, contemporary profile in courage.

Grisanti’s vote wasn’t influenced by phone calls or internet chatter. Instead, he performed legal research on the matter, finding out that civil unions don’t really work, and that married couples enjoy 1,300+ rights and privileges that unmarried couples don’t. He had to compartmentalize his faith and examine the issue purely on the facts and the law, resulting in a conversion.  However, he would not agree to vote in favor of this law without strong religious exemptions and an inseverability clause, which would render the entire law null and void should a future court change so much as one word.  Grisanti said that the clergy to whom he’s spoken since his vote appreciate that language.

At the time, traditional media were intensely interested in the “betrayal” angle, and whether Grisanti had committed “political suicide”. Grisanti smiled and replied that he’s new to politics and didn’t make his decision under pressure. He said it was going to pass anyway, but he could not in good conscience refuse to extend basic civil rights to his taxpaying constituents. He said he doesn’t know – or care – whether he committed political suicide with this vote. He didn’t get into politics to be re-elected, but to do good by his constituents. If they decide he should leave Albany, so be it.

I guess in western New York politics, we’ve become so cynical and jaded, expecting our electeds to be dirty, dishonorable deal-makers that when we see true leadership, hard work, and conscientious research and analysis, we really don’t know how to react and assume we’re being played. Grisanti wasn’t playing anyone. 

Furthermore, people who may or may not be on Grisanti’s opponent’s payroll have been engaged in an utterly disgusting, obscene campaign against the incumbent – so bad that it serves only to enhance Grisanti’s standing. That Grisanti’s opponent expressly or tacitly permits this to happen reflects poorly on him and should be punished. 

If you’d like to know the genesis of that “mailer” emailed around by a conservative “committee” (i.e., by polterpol Matt Ricchiazzi) and the anti-Grisanti animus behind it, it all has to do with a reason and a pretext. The reason is that Grisanti refused to hire Ricchiazzi. The pretext is that Ricchiazzi is somehow insulted by an uncorroborated account of Grisanti’s behavior in that bar fight up in the Falls.  Click below to see a series of text messages that Ricchiazzi sent to Senator Grisanti and members of his staff around the time of the bar fight. Note his initial offer to “help” Grisanti sue the Senecas, and quickly degenerated into a demand for a job. 

State Senate District 58 (Tim Kennedy (D) incumbent)

Democratic Primary: Tim Kennedy

I am a big fan of Betty Jean Grant’s, and I think she would make a fantastic State Senator. She is a tireless advocate for the poor and disadvantaged, and doesn’t cut deals with horrible Republican technocrats for political gain. I am a huge fan of the symbolism of her run. I don’t mean the fact that she’s an African-American or a woman – I mean the fact that Kennedy very deliberately and openly betrayed what should have been a Democratic county legislature majority in 2010 – 2011 and handed the reins of power almost unchecked to the execrable Chris Collins. The so-called “reform coalition” reformed nothing and brought little more than strife and hatred to the county legislature – a body that is about 90% uncontroversial ministerial work, and 10% visceral combat. 

However, I won’t be guided by factionalism here any more than I will be in the 60th. As much as I like her, Betty Jean hasn’t articulated specific policy reasons why she would be an improvement over Kennedy, so I’ll reluctantly give it to the incumbent. While Kennedy touted his no-brainer work on cyberbullying and texting-while-driving statutes, I’d like to see him get out front of more controversial issues and stick his neck out for important reasons. So far,  his tenure has been adequate, not excellent.