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.

Waltergate

scandal

On Tuesday – on the eve of the WNED debate between incumbent Democrat Mark Poloncarz and his Republican challenger Ray Walter, City & State published this article:

That was it. Multiple sources were telling City & State that there was an ongoing investigation involving your typical western New York brand of petty corruption – bid rigging for road work projects. The article as it first appeared – reproduced above – didn’t go into many details, except to pre-emptively exonerate Poloncarz and his administration of any misdeeds.

The Republicans, however, pounced so quickly and so heartily, you’d almost suspect they knew it was coming.

Frantically trying to gin this up a bit more? Yep. But also giddy. They were giddy. Can you blame them? Whether you like or hate Poloncarz, his honesty as a political leader is his stock in trade. If he’s not likeable, he’s competent, and to poke holes in that perception would certainly help the Republican candidate, who is running to be County Executive of WBEN’s listenership (which is, on a good day, around 10% of all people listening to the radio at any given time). 

Literally within minutes of the City & State story being published, Ray Walter’s campaign was busy readying the hay, complete with an allusion to Watergate!

Ringing alarm bells isn’t serious leadership. It’s grasping for headlines and an effort to manufacture controversy and relevance. The meme was carefully crafted within moments of the City and State article’s appearance. Poloncarz is a crook! Poloncarz’s administration is under investigation! Why is Poloncarz covering up this investigation into his administration? Why won’t Poloncarz speak publicly about an investigation being conducted by the Attorney General’s office? Why all the secrecy? Why the cover-up? What is he hiding? 

City and State later updated its original story several times, resulting in this newer, more complete version that includes quotes from various and sundry people, including Poloncarz and a spokesman for Attorney General Eric Schneiderman

Getting Schneiderman’s office to respond must have been quite the feat, you’d think at first blush. After all, it has a policy of not commenting on ongoing investigations. The trick here is that there is no ongoing investigation. It’s over. So, knowing what we know now, let’s examine the Republican quick-memes, and judge how well they’ve held up in under 24 hours’ worth of factual scrutiny: 

 

Poloncarz is a crook!

No, he’s not. 

 

This administration runs a clean administration,” Poloncarz said. “We became aware of certain potential improper actions leveled during the final years of the Chris Collins administration. We performed an internal investigation and we turned that information over to the state attorney general’s office for them to perform a more definitive investigation to determine whether inappropriate actions were taken in the Department of Public Works in 2010 and 2011.

 

 

Poloncarz’s administration is under investigation!

No, it’s not. 

 

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz on Tuesday responded to a report of an ongoing probe, saying that the only investigation into the county Department of Public Works he was aware of stems from actions during 2010 and 2011, which predate his administration.

 

 

Why is Poloncarz covering up this investigation into his administration?

He’s not. It’s not. 

 

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office has confirmed that it investigated alleged bidding irregularities at the Erie County Department of Public Works, but Schneiderman’s office also said that its probe of the county agency is now closed. 

 

 

Why won’t Poloncarz speak publicly about an investigation being conducted by the Attorney General’s office?

Easy! Because (a) the investigation didn’t involve anything that happened during Poloncarz’s administration; (b) because Poloncarz is not the Attorney General and has no business commenting on or publicizing an ongoing investigation being conducted by a state agency; and (c) it’s not being conducted because it’s closed. 

 

Why all the secrecy?

 

Poloncarz, reached by phone, said his office began its investigation into bid processing shortly after he took office in 2012 and turned over the results of the probe to Schneiderman’s office in January 2013.

 

 

Why the cover-up?

 

On Tuesday afternoon after this story was published, the attorney general’s office said it had investigated the matter but had closed the case.

 

“In January 2013, County Executive Mark Poloncarz requested that our office look into alleged past issues related to competitive bidding for projects at the Erie County Department of Public Works,” the Schneiderman spokesman said in an email. “After a thorough review, and with the full support and cooperation of County Executive Poloncarz, our office closed the case with no further action.”

 

 

What is he hiding? 

 

Poloncarz, reached by phone, said his office began its investigation into bid processing shortly after he took office in 2012 and turned over the results of the probe to Schneiderman’s office in January 2013…

…On Tuesday afternoon after this story was published, the attorney general’s office said it had investigated the matter but had closed the case.

“In January 2013, County Executive Mark Poloncarz requested that our office look into alleged past issues related to competitive bidding for projects at the Erie County Department of Public Works,” the Schneiderman spokesman said in an email. “After a thorough review, and with the full support and cooperation of County Executive Poloncarz, our office closed the case with no further action.”

 

What did Poloncarz know and when did he know it? He knew that a Collins appointee had acted improperly when it came to roadwork contracts, and he knew in 2012. He then contacted the proper authorities – the Attorney General’s office. Not just because it was a matter for law enforcement, but because it would be unseemly for Collins’ successor and rival to investigate these specific allegations. 

Every single allegation – every attempted smear – turned out to have been completely false. But not only was it all false, but the overheated, reflexive over-reaction from Walter and his surrogates seems nothing less than childish now. In less than 24 hours it went from them screaming bloody murder to Bob McCarthy explaining that it was a Democratic-led probe into misdeeds under the previous Republican administration, with which Walter was closely aligned

 

The attorney general’s statement contradicted the Walter claim that a state investigation was currently in progress, which he based on a Tuesday report in City and State magazine.

“We know an investigation is going on; it’s been reported,” Walter claimed at a hastily called news conference Tuesday afternoon in Erie County Republican Headquarters.

When asked if he knew for sure an investigation was ongoing, he replied: “I know what I read in the article.”

Walter also suggested Schneiderman was working with Poloncarz to cover up a probe he said had been kept “secret.”“Is he protecting a political ally?” Walter said. “He very well may be.”

 

and 

 

Poloncarz said he didn’t further pursue the investigation himself, or publicize it, because he didn’t want to influence or compromise the Attorney General’s investigation, he said, and he didn’t want it to appear as if he was “kicking dirt” on defeated Republican incumbent Chris Collins.

Poloncarz noted that he changed the top leadership of the Department of Public Works after he took over, though the change was not precipitated by the probe.

To his knowledge, he said, no one in the department has been disciplined or fired for improprieties related to the Eden Evans Center Road project because the Attorney General’s Office has issued no finding of criminal conduct, and the county did not have definitive proof of wrongdoing.

 

It is a palpable testament to the competence and professionalism of the current administration that the best Walter can do is jump the gun and falsely accuse Poloncarz of a Watergate scandal before the facts are in; to reflexively try and make up a controversy where none exists.

 

It’s not so much Watergate as it is Waltergate – a scandal only in his mind. Sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Fusion Voting Jamboree

The 5th Legislative District seat is so hot that people are tripping over themselves to obtain an infinitesimal electoral advantage through ballot shenanigans, including the outrageous and corrupt practice of electoral fusion. “Opportunity to Ballot” petitions were filed for two party lines in that district race. Republican county legislature staffer and Lancaster GOP Committee Chair Robert J. Matthews filed an OTB last Thursday for the Working Families Party – a fusion party not known for its close ties to the anti-labor Republicans. This is the same district where Nick Langworthy filed Green Party petitions for Lynnette Batt.

That’s some abrupt Republican love-fest with left/labor political parties!

An OTB for the Green Party and Working Families Party was also filed in LD-8, currently held by Republican Ted Morton.

All of this is a cheap farce. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a Dem filing a Green or WFP petition, or a Republican filing a Green or WFP OTB petition. All of it is sleazy, all of it treats the electorate like cattle, and the entire ballot access and fusion systems in New York.

Somewhere recently, I stumbled upon these digital leavings from an obsessed fan:

Alan Bedenko, a local Democratic blogger and self-styled paragon of political virtue, has complained bitterly about these Republican efforts, but remains mysteriously silent on the activities of his pals Poloncarz and Zellner.   Maybe Bendeko wants to safeguard his law firm’s business with Erie County by not biting the hand that feeds?   Or is it Poloncarz appointments he so covets?  At least Langworthy isn’t attempting to steal the Green line.  If he was, he would have circulated an OTB petition for his candidate, Guy Marlette.   Looks like Langworthy didn’t start the war, he’s just playing defense.

I’m not sure that this article was “complaining bitterly” rather than simply pointing out how ridiculous the system has become. My mysterious silence had to do with the simple fact that Langworthy had submitted the petitions in the past tense, while “my pals Poloncarz and Zellner” had done no such thing by that point. So, it would seem to me to be premature to condemn something that hadn’t yet happened; after all, it doesn’t matter for whom you circulate petitions if you don’t file them.

I certainly don’t “covet” any further appointments – my appointment to serve as an unpaid volunteer on the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library board wasn’t something I sought, and I have already disclosed my firm’s representation of Erie County on multiple occasions. So, I suppose I’d respond by noting that probably no one in western New York has written more articles critical of New York’s fusion voting system than I. Indeed, ever since the days of Joe Illuzzi’s politico-financial love affair with one-time Independence Party chair Tony Orsini, I have written countless articles about how fusion and cross-endorsements count among the very roots of corruption in New York politics – unless you abolish fusion, no effort to clean up politics can be successful.

I think that the Green Party’s ballot should be unmolested by Democrats and Republicans alike – I find it unseemly that a Green OTB was filed for any candidate of any other party. As for the others – Working Families, Independence, Conservative – all of them should be forced either to run their own candidates or fold. The Independence fusion Party is a patronage pit designed to trick voters who intended to register as what New York calls “unenrolled”. It’s no accident that, at various times its line has been within the sole control of Steve Pigeon. The Conservative fusion Party also has an unholy alliance with Pigeon from time to time, especially insofar as it helps serve the dual purpose of (a) helping Republicans; and (b) sabotaging the Democratic committee.

As a partisan Democrat (I’m also a committeeman – full disclosure!) I deplore and denounce the use of fusion voting and minor parties, regardless of who’s doing it. All of it is designed to cheapen and degrade our system.

The Heroin Epidemic & Erie County

The Buffalo News’ headline announces that there have been ten heroin overdoses in just 24 hours. People throughout WNY are dying after taking a deadly mixture of heroin and fentanyl. Erie County Health Commissioner Gale Burstein calls it a “public health crisis”. It’s not limited to any one neighborhood or town – it’s regional. We are apparently on track for overdoses to double those of 2014.

In 2007, the Erie County Legislature received $1.4 million from Albany to fund a program “targeting drug abuse among young people.” Then-County Executive Joel Giambra supported the program, and the control board was on board with the county’s participation.

In 2008, new County Executive Chris Collins abruptly pulled the county out of the program before it had even had a chance to begin. Why?

Collins’ deputy, Mark Davis, who has been reviewing a long list of county contracts, deemed it not in the best interest of county taxpayers, aides said.

…Collins administration officials reasoned that county caseworkers already focus on drug abuse, as do numerous not-for-profit organizations. The county also was expected to provide an office and computer equipment for what was going to become a new unit, so the program was not totally free to Erie County taxpayers.

Further, Collins and Davis did not want the 20 new unionized employees, to be represented by Local 815, Civil Service Employees Association, to become the county’s responsibility if the grant money dried up after the first three years, the aides said.

The County under Chris Collins pulled out of a specialized program to tackle drug abuse because “the taxpayer”.

“Under the grant, New York State dictated how the program would run,” said Collins spokesman Grant Loomis, “and the administration does not feel those terms make for an efficient program.”

Loomis said the county is asking the state and its Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services whether Erie can use the money to hire private or nonprofit agencies that target drug abuse.

So, a program that was funded by Albany and approved by a prior administration, the county legislature, and the control board were just set aside unilaterally by Chris Collins. To be fair, Collins had an alternative proposal – that the county would spend the $1.4 million to hire more counselors at ECMC, but that’s not the same.

“I’m really not happy about this,” said Legislator Robert B. Reynolds, D-Hamburg, one of the lawmakers who want to know how Collins can abandon a program, especially one that helps young people, after the Legislature and the control board had approved.

Since Erie is New York’s largest upstate county, with a large number of child-protective cases, it was to be an “evaluation county” whose experience with the program would determine whether it should continue.

At the time, people were scrambling even to find out if what Collins had done was legal. Did he have the authority to simply disregard previously voted-on and approved county actions?

The Legislature gives the county executive authority to sign contracts, but it is unclear what happens when the county executive decides not to or wants to cancel a contract.

The county’s state-appointed Fiscal Stability Authority cannot affect Collins’ decision.

“Under our authority, we review and approve or disapprove county contracts of $50,000 and above,” said Chairman Anthony J. Baynes. “Even if we approve a contract, if someone decides at a later date that they do not want to enter into the contract or to cancel that agreement, that’s not within our scope.”

Collins’ staff is drafting a letter to lawmakers explaining his reasoning. Meanwhile, Legislator Thomas J. Mazur, D-Cheektowaga, is among those who want an opinion from the Legislature’s new lawyer.

“I don’t think he can just pull the plug on a project like that,” Mazur said.

The County Legislature reacted in May 2008 with a resolution, “Opposition to the County Executive’s Termination of a 100% State-Funded Grant to Provide Substance Abuse Services for At-Risk Families“:

2008 Erie County Resolution Re: Substance Abuse

The matter was referred to the committee on health and human services, and the only member to vote against sending it to the full legislative body was Ed Rath. The full legislature voted on the resolution, and the minutes record: “MR. MAZUR moved to approve item Number 3. MR. REYNOLDS seconded. MR. MILLS, MR. RANZENHOFER, MR. RATH and MS. IANNELLO voted in the negative. CARRIED. (10-4).”

In hindsight, it’s shameful and anti-democratic that the County Executive was permitted to simply refuse to implement a program that the legislature and his predecessor had pushed forward and approved, with support from the control board. Government ought to help and protect its poorest and most vulnerable, and Mr. Collins – who has since been promoted to Congress – not only abdicated that role repeatedly during his tenure as County Executive, but did so by simply ignoring duly enacted laws and procedures. Having pledged to run government “like a business”, I’d be wary of any business that would act with such cavalier disregard to the dictates of its board of directors. I’d avoid any business that would refuse to participate in a cost-free program to help vulnerable customers struggling with substance abuse.

Groanfest ’15

PoloncarzWalter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poloncarz Campaign Counters Republican Claims

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

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

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

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

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

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

Make it stop.

 

Republican Infighting Over the Erie County Legislature’s Leaked Email

Logo_ErieCo_tpThe Erie County Legislature has one elected member of the Conservative fusion Party – Joe Lorigo, whose father happens to be the chairman of the county committee. This particular fusion party is very influential in New York politics because it helps both Democratic and Republican candidates burnish whatever “conservative” bona fides they think might be necessary to win a general election. In conservative towns like Clarence, Democrats have a tough (read: almost impossible) time getting elected without the Conservative Fusion Line.

Lorigo caucuses with the Republican majority coalition, which also includes Independence Fusion Party member Lynne Dixon, and they hold their majority by one vote. John Mills is the chairman, and Lorigo is majority leader.

A few articles appeared recently (Buffalo News; Bob McCarthy column; Daily Public) concerning an incident whereby an email was leaked from someone likely associated with the Republican caucus. The email, written by the Republican chief of staff, was critical of the Democratic minority and its staff, and was over the seemingly minor issue of flexible time – employees seeking the option to work 8 – 4 instead of 9 – 5. Here’s the email thread:

The GOP Leg Leak

It’s sort of funny. How is 8 – 4 lazier than 9 – 5? I think you could argue the opposite. The, “news…writing stories” about all this was somewhat prescient, albeit for different reasons.  Nice of the legislature to hand out 2% raises and I’m pleased to see that even Republican hacks think that “phenomenal health care” [sic] is a good thing.

Nevertheless, whoever leaked it was smart in one specific way – if you’re going to leak an email, do it by US Mail, because it’s going to be impossible to trace back to the source. If you were to just forward it – even a few times, via your personal email address – there would be a way for savvy IT people to trace the computer from which it came.

So, that’s what the leaker did – sent the email by regular mail to Democratic legislators’ field offices. The News and Public reported that an aide to Republican legislator Kevin Hardwick was implicated as the source of the leak, and suspended without pay. The aide – Susan Gregg – is a longtime friend of Hardwick’s, and her anxiety over the whole thing has adversely affected her health.

Hardwick reacted angrily to the suspension, and expressed to people that he thought it was untrue at least, and unproven at best.

There has been speculation that this is Lorigo’s payback against Hardwick over the shutting down of Amigone Funeral Home’s crematorium in Hardwick’s district over pollution concerns. In a telephone interview with me last week, Lorigo denied this, citing the Amigone issue as just a routine legislative defeat, unworthy of revenge.

Earlier in December, the legislature considered the 2015 county budget. Lorigo and the Republicans had a package of about 60 amendments that they intended to present and have the legislature consider, but refused to let the Democrats see any of the amendments they’d be asked to vote up or down.

As each amendment came to the floor, Democratic legislator Pat Burke would immediately move for a recess to have a chance to review each one. The first time, he asked for an hour. Hardwick crossed party lines and voted with the Democrats for the recess.

This continued on for a few amendments – each one would come up, Burke would ask for a recess (he requested 15 minutes for subsequent ones), and Hardwick would vote with the Democrats to give the minority a chance to read and consider each one. In the end, a deal was struck giving Democrats a half-hour to review all remaining amendments. Some of them were important – for instance, the Republicans mistook a merger of two part-time library positions for the creation of a new full-time position and intended to eliminate it, until the Democrats advised them otherwise. In one instance, the Republicans almost eliminated a measure put in to settle a pending employee grievance.

Democratic sources at the legislature, speaking on the condition that they not be identified, characterize the Republican caucus as “hating each other”, and point the blame squarely at Lorigo. Some at the legislature have begun to refer to Lorigo using fictional or historical pejoratives. Despite this, his behavior is excused by people who covet his father’s club’s endorsement. The word “enablers” was uttered by more than one person with whom I spoke.

In the end, the legislature passed the budget unanimously, and Hardwick thwarted Lorigo’s efforts to jam the amendments through without review or debate. As one Democratic source said, “[Lorigo needlessly] violated his own rules to fuck the Democrats in the budget process.”

When I specifically asked several people at the legislature whether Joe Lorigo is given wide berth so as to not piss Ralph off and lose a future Lorigo party endorsement, the answer was strongly and uniformly affirmative.

News reports have focused on Lorigo’s efforts to find out the source of the leak, going so far as to demand the email passwords of Republican staffers. Susan Gregg has retained the services of attorney Jim Ostrowski, who told me that he had served the County with a “notice of claim”; a statutory prerequisite to filing suit over this personnel matter. Lorigo refused to comment, citing the pending litigation.

Republican sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, counter that Gregg has been a “disciplinary problem” and a “shit-stirrer” in the past, so they argue that it’s not far-fetched to suspect her as the leak. Lorigo interviewed everyone in the email string and asked for their login and password to see what was sent and received, and rumor has it that there was an agreement among Republicans at the leg to terminate whomever was determined to be the leak, but that Hardwick balked when Gregg was accused; hence, the suspension.

Hardwick was extremely angry, and claimed that there was no proof whatsoever of Gregg’s guilt – there was no way of knowing when or from where the emails were copied or printed, but Gregg had allegedly forwarded that email to her personal email address. When the letter hit Democrats’ mailboxes, Betty Jean Grant and Barbara Miller-Williams were upset, and Republicans were embarrassed.

Hardwick asserts that he doesn’t know who sent the letter, but he’s convinced it’s not Gregg, who denies having done so.

It takes special skill to mess up an historic majority, but it would seem that infighting isn’t a disease that affects only Erie County Democrats. It can, however, have the same deleterious effects.

BREAKING: Erie County Legislature Does its Job

Logo_ErieCo_tpKudos to the members of the Erie County Legislature for acting like grown-ups (for the most part), and reasonably negotiating a 2015 budget that will lower the tax rate to under $5.00/$1,000 of assessed value, and ensuring that cultural and library funding remains in place.

The Republican majority trimmed about $2 million from County Executive Mark Poloncarz’s original budget proposal, and $300,000 was added to protect culturals.

There was some acrimony at the start of the session, with the Democratic minority complaining that the Republicans had not provided a breakdown of its proposals to them in advance. The session likely took longer than it needed to because of that, but in the end the budget was passed unanimously.

I’m still of the opinion that county government, whose main job is to act as a pass-through for state funding, is superfluous and unnecessary.  Abolishing county government is something I’ve been talking about since the budget crisis from the last decade, but it’s no less relevant now. The vast majority of what the legislature does is mandated and ministerial. Do we need this entire stratum of government to debate the small percentage of stuff that’s discretionary?

Campaign Finance Irregularity Wednesday

Cheers to Steve Pigeon and Kristy Mazurek, who have managed to crowbar their names back into the news. They have either found or manufactured a crisis, accusing Board of Election workers of destroying NYSUT apparatchik Mike Deely’s petitions for county committee.

Is it true? Who knows, but the accusation has been trumpeted, and it’s now Dennis Ward’s and Jeremy Zellner’s problem to unfuck. From Caputo’s PoliticsNY.net

Mike Deely, regional staff director of the New York State United Teachers Union. He’s one of the largest donors to the ECDC over the years and a longtime member of the party’s executive board. Deely recently joined PMB forces, upset with the direction headquarters has taken in the last year.

In the meantime, West Seneca has (naturally) been the epicenter of Pigeon’s and local Conservative Party head Ralph Lorigo.  Steve Casey’s departure from City Hall to become the CEO of the monstrous Scott Congel-led Seneca Mall project underscores the political nature of that project. 

Floridian billionaire Tom Golisano is talking about joining with Congel for the location of the Seneca Mall, near the I-90 and Ridge Road. That land deal has been on simmer since late 2013, at least. 

Pyramid Management Group out of Syracuse have been sniffing around the Seneca Mall since at least last summer.  Look at this August 2013 article from the West Seneca Bee regarding the approval of $50k for town SEQR review of the Seneca Mall site. 

Though not much other detail was offered at Monday night’s Town Board meeting, the board unanimously approved a feasibility study to be performed regarding the proposed development of the former Seneca Mall site at a cost not to exceed $30,000…

…[Town Councilman Eugene P.] Hart said he had just learned of this resolution the day of the vote. Henry said it all came together “pretty quick.” He said the town was required to have the grant application submitted by Aug. 12, hence the need for immediate action.

“It seems very cryptic when you read it,” said Hart. “People will wonder what’s going on.”

[Supervisor Sheila] Meegan said she realized that, but they can’t “spill the beans.”

Hart also told the public that it is the intent of the board to rezone the former Seneca Mall site from industrial to commercial, as per the owner’s request. He said he could not offer much information but did say the proposed development would be a “game-changer” for the town.

Councilman John M. Rusinski said a delicate balance must be struck between the needs of the taxpayers and the needs of the developer. Both he and Hart said the feasibility study is being done in order to protect the interests of the taxpayers.

“Economic development is important to the town,” Rusinski said. “This project is a good thing.”

The Town Board Minutes of October 17, 2013 reflect that Supervisor Meegan made a motion, seconded by Rusinski, to authorize Meegan “to execute an agreement with Camoin Associates to conduct an economic and fiscal analysis for the Seneca Mall site.” 

On the question, Councilman Rusinski stated he agrees with the study but expressed concern about the verbage. He referred to a previously passed resolution which states the dollar amount is not to exceed $30,000, yet an attachment in the agreement shows a fixed fee of $25,000.

Town Engineer Richard Henry responded this was his mistake. The fixed fee language will be removed and the agreement will be amended to read “not to exceed.”
 
Councilman Hart stated he has numerous concerns and commented if this project were to go forward it will be considered huge and impact all of Western New York, yet they do not have a lot of information about the developer. He did not feel they had enough information to go forward at this time and questioned spending $25,000 when there are so many unanswered questions such as infrastructure and sewage.
 
Mr. Henry responded he has spoken with Camoin and they are aware they have to have more information from the developer in order to go forward. Upon approval, Camoin will present the developer with a list of questions. Mr. Henry stated the purpose of the study is to assess the fiscal impacts to get the answers so they can go forward.
 
Councilman Hart suggested the developer provide the town with $25,000 and the town will spend it on their behalf and do the study.
 
Town Attorney Shawn Martin responded the developer should not pay for a study that the town is requesting.
 
Supervisor Meegan stated they will be finding out what the potential is for the town’s investment and whether or not the investment will have a return for taxpayers. She commented that the town has an opportunity to do something and they cannot continue to let the site sit there as it has for so many years. The developer is asking for assistance to pursue a Seneca Place project of 3 million square feet of mixed use buildings, community center, retail, residential, office, hotels, parking, etc. Supervisor Meegan stated this project will not go forward at risk to the Town of West Seneca taxpayers.
 
Councilman Rusinski stated that West Seneca is screaming for economic development and the town has made the mistake of being too idle in the past.  The analysis will provide insight as to whether this type of development has economic potential for West Seneca. He did not feel any board member would put taxpayers at risk.
 
Councilman Hart stated there doesn’t seem to be any involvement by the IDA’s or the development corporation of New York State and he feels there should be more substance with regard to the developer’s marketing and business plan. Councilman Hart questioned how soon information will be provided to the board members and if the recommendations and numbers will be made public at that time.
 
Mr. Henry responded they have a total of 60 days; 30 days to gather the information and another 30 days to compile the information and report back to the town.
 
Mr. Martin stated if the report has an exception with regard to acquiring property or contract negotiations involving costs, information will not be made public.  He will have to see the report before he can make a determination as to whether or not the information provided will be made public at that time.
 
Councilman Hart stated he is ready to discuss the entire project with the public so they are fully aware of what the proposal is. He would like to see the Seneca Mall property developed and is willing to look for his own developer and take the property by eminent domain to acquire a reasonable project.
The motion carried unanimously. Lorigo’s involvement, at minimum, has to do with the fact that his office is located at the Seneca Mall parcel. Why did this come up last summer? Because of what I called the AwfulPAC; the now-defunct “WNY Progressive Caucus” was the Steve Pigeon / Frank Max / Kristy Mazurek effort to disrupt the Democratic Party and defeat certain of its county-level candidates.
 
AwfulPAC benefited from a huge cash injection from nominal Democrat and pro-life-oh-wait-pro-choice Tim Kennedy. But at the time, a singular donation of $25,000 from the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Local 3 was quite puzzling, and no one reported on it. 
 
 
No one understood why it was made, and it’s glaringly odd because a $25,000 donation would have practically emptied the union’s account. The image above is taken from Mazurek’s AwfulPAC 11-day pre-primary filing. By contrast, this is what the Bricklayer’s union’s disclosure shows on its 11-day pre-primary filing: 
 
 
We’re meant to believe that a union with only $28,000 on hand is emptying its account to fund the AwfulPAC? Indeed, a scan of this union local’s intake and outflow shows modest amounts – a few thousand coming in, a few hundred going out. It reports $5,000 to current Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren in its 11-day pre-General. It gave Sean Ryan $500 bucks. Its July 2013 report shows a little over $1,000 to Tim Kennedy, but at no time did the BAC Local 3 report $25,000 to the “WNY Progressive Caucus”, and such an outflow appears on no disclosure report whatsoever
 
So, what’s going on? 
 
 
 
As Pigeon and Mazurek hyperventilate over allegations of supposed petition-destruction – something that despite years and years of open and obvious, internecine Democratic warfare has never happened before – let’s not let them off the hook for their own, more glaring and apparent sloppy campaign finance irregularities. 
 
New York State Democrats’ inability to get out of their own damn way is neither novel nor unique. Witness the spectacle just this week,  as a liberal gubernatorial challenger, Zephyr Teachout, is holding anti-Cuomo press conferences with right-wing Putin lookalike winner Rob Astorino. Hell no.
 
You want to make a point about the shutting down of the Moreland Commission? Do it. You want to call out the governor with his Republican challenger standing next to you? You just lost me. 
 
Here in Erie County, Nick Langworthy has the easiest  job in the world. He doesn’t need to do a thing when he has an endless parade of job-hungry nominal Democrats around to repeatedly sabotage whatever the county committee tries to do. 

All in the (Howard) Family

Sheriff Tim Howard has hired his wife to be on “Scientific Staff Reserve”. I have feelers out to see what background she has in law enforcement, and whether Howard created the position for her, or if she filled an existing one. 

Via Facebook


Via Facebook

 

County Leg: Making it Rain

The County Legislature bipartisanly took the bold step of literally just wildly throwing money – $5 million of it – at the beleaguered road network. Surely our roads are in need of repair, thanks to a brutal and relentless winter, but is it too much to ask Republican legislators to actually set up a plan, or maybe name some priorities, before they shame everyone to spend money so prospective opponents can’t label them as anti-road? 

Seriously. This kind of spending is typically what Republicans criticize Democrats for.  But it’s ok if it’s roads, because almost all county roads are in the suburban districts. 

We need to review the county road network, which grew without control under the old Board of Supervisors, and determine what roads should be maintained by the regional government, and which should revert to local control. 

1 2 3 4