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The Morning Grumpy 2/20/2012

All the news and views fit to consume during your morning grumpy.

Seems legit

1. I haven’t written much about State Senator Mark Grisanti’s Rumble At the Falls.  Now that the full police report has been published, it seems appropriate to comment. From the time that initial reports of the fracas surfaced, the idea that a sober Sen. Grisanti simply attempted to break up a fight and was then attacked by two drunken native americans due to his lack of native friendly legislative accomplishments seemed (to this writer, at least) a bit contrived.

To make matters worse, Grisanti and his staff simply lost control of the narrative as the story developed last week. Allegations surfaced that Grisanti and his wife were drunk, that Grisanti used racial epithets, and that it was Grisanti who instigated the fight.

Oh, this also happened. Weird.

While the other parties involved in the donnybrook took control of the public relations battle, Grisanti and his young staff were being pummeled with conflicting advice from all of Grisanti’s political bosses, mentors and unofficial advisers like Henry Wojtaszek, Joel Giambra, Michael Caputo, and many others. To make matters worse, Grisanti didn’t seem to know that it’s o.k. to simply say “no” to an interview.

The media had a field day playing with Grisanti’s tenuous memory of the melee, what with his Nixonian claims that he “didn’t recall” using a racial epithet and the incremental changes in his story throughout the week. During this entire process, all I could wonder were two things.

  • Why isn’t Senator Grisanti pressing charges against the person who severely concussed and injured his wife?
  • Why aren’t any of the parties involved demanding that the casino surveillance tape be released?

Until one of those two things happened, it seemed that everyone had something to hide and we were simply dealing with bullshit “spin”. Now, news has emerged that Grisanti intends to press charges, the police report has surfaced, and the full surveillance video is rumored to be on its way to the media; it sure seems as if the Senator has retaken control of the narrative and has the facts on his side. This story has shifted frequently and I suspect that it will continue to do so throughout the week. Stay tuned.

2. Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz most likely kicked back with a beer last night and celebrated a pretty excellent week.  The man is currently THE Bruce Dickinson of Erie County politics.

His pick to fill the now vacant Erie County Comptroller’s office was confirmed by the Legislature and he was rewarded with a nice column in the Sunday edition of The Buffalo News supporting his claim that the county IDA system needs significant reform. Poloncarz even took the opportunity to call Kevin Hardwick and other legislature Republicans ignorant. However, his biggest win of the week was the restoration of funding to the child care subsidy program cut by the previous administration. As reported in The Buffalo News:

Starting March 5, a family of three will be able to make up to $37,060 this year and still qualify for subsidized child care, as opposed to the current rules setting the limit at $32,427. The projections allowing that increase run through 2013, bringing some stability to a program that has had its ups and downs in recent years.

This program is a critical tool for working families as parents struggle to stay off public assistance, progress through job training programs or return to school. The availability of subsidized day care is absolutely crucial to thousands of families in WNY and the funding was restored without adding to the budget. Anyone missing Collins yet? Didn’t think so.

3. When digesting the news last week that The Buffalo News posted its lowest profit in decades last year, please consider this speech given by a former newspaper executive.

Crappy newspaper executives are a bigger threat to journalism’s future than any changes wrought by the Internet.

As you read through his speech, I think you’re going to see The Buffalo News making many of the same mistakes that every other newspaper in the country is making.  Think about it the next time you consider how much better the daily product would be if Brian Meyer, Jim Heaney, and dozens of other talented writers and editors were still on the job. Think about it the next time Margaret Sullivan proudly boasts of the latest results from reader surveys and the popularity of coupons.

The greatest irony of the devolution of newspapers is that journalism itself is more vital and relevant than ever. The cost of production has radically scaled down for startups, talent is plentiful, distribution of content has never been easier, and audiences never more receptive to new and engaging voices. Meanwhile, executives in the newspaper industry struggle to maintain the legacy distribution model rather than embrace new, cooperative and engaged models of production and distribution. Due to a lack of competition in daily news production, The Buffalo News still has a few years to figure this out. Will they? Or will someone dedicate the capital necessary to take them on and beat them on the web?

4. Speaking of Jim Heaney, have you heard about his new project? The ol’ man is getting back into the journalism game with a very exciting new organization called the Investigative Post.

Investigative Post is collaborating with major media outlets and university journalism programs to produce and distribute investigations and analyses on the major issues confronting Buffalo and Western New York.

Jim Heaney, a veteran investigative reporter formerly with The Buffalo News, is spearheading the venture as editor and executive director.

“We’re going to produce hard-nosed investigations and in-depth analyses intended to help shape the debate over how to get this community back on its feet,” said Heaney, a former Pulitzer Prize finalist who departed The News in August to launch Investigative Post.

“We’ll be a watchdog with both bite and brains,” he added.

Members of the board of directors include Tom Toles, who won a Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning with The News before joining the Washington Post, and Lee Coppola, an award-winning newspaper and television investigative reporter and former dean of the School of Journalism at St. Bonaventure University.

Rather than competing with established news outlets, investigative centers collaborate with them. Investigative Post will share selected content with News 4, WIVB-TV; WBFO-FM, 88.7 FM and AM 970, the region’s National Public Radio stations; The Buffalo News; and Artvoice.

Heaney has been a wonderful mentor for hundreds of young students, bloggers, and reporters in the region for years. I’m excited to see him leading this new project and look forward to reading and contributing whenever and however I am able.

5. Red states hate being taxed, but they sure as hell love to bathe in that sweet, sweet federal spending! Tea Party!

Republican states, on average, received $1.46 in federal spending for every tax dollar paid; Democratic states, on average, received $1.16.

Fact Of The Day:On Feb. 20, 1962, astronaut John Glenn became the first American to orbit Earth as he flew aboard the Friendship 7 Mercury capsule.

Quote Of The Day: “Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them.” – Frederick Douglass

Cartoon Of The Day: “Magic Highway USA” – Disney

Song Of The Day: “Ramblin’ Rose” – MC5

Follow me on Twitter: @ChrisSmithAV

Email me links, tips, story ideas: chris@artvoice.com


  • Bbill

    RIP Michael Davis.

    Tea Party! RonPaul cultists no longer have to move to Somalia to experience Libertarian Paradise anymore, looks like we’ve got one right here in the US of A:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/19/business/jefferson-county-ala-falls-off-the-bankruptcy-cliff.html

    There is no money for a lot of things around here, not since Jefferson County, population 658,000, went bankrupt last fall. There is no money for holiday D.U.I. checkpoints, litter patrols or overtime pay at the courthouse. None for crews to pull weeds or pick up road kill — not even when, as happened recently, an unlucky cow was hit near the town of Wylam.

    “We don’t do that any more,” E. Wayne Sullivan, director of the roads and transportation department, said of such roadside cleanup.

    This is life today in Jefferson County — Bankrupt, U.S.A. For all the talk in Washington about taxes and deficits, here is a place where government finances, and government itself, have simply broken down. The county, which includes the city of Birmingham, is drowning under $4 billion in debt, the legacy of a big sewer project and corrupt financial dealings that sent 17 people to prison.

    If you want to take a broad view, the trouble really began with the Constitutional Convention of the State of Alabama in 1901. The document that emerged there — written to empower business interests and disenfranchise African-Americans and poor whites — gives towns and counties little authority over local issues. Local taxing power rests with the state, though state lawmakers are loath to wield it today, in an age of anti-tax populism. Last summer, the Supreme Court of Alabama struck down a tax that was a crucial source of revenue for Jefferson County, finally pushing the county over the brink.

  • Joseph Coppola

    I learned really fast as a young sailor in the Atlantic Fleet;
    When 2 guys are yelling at eachother in a bar; STAY OUT OF IT. I’d either:

    1.Stay put & let them sort it out.
    2. Go visit the “head” for awhile to dodge the Shore Patrol. (“I did’t see nothing Chief. I was in the head takin’ a leak”)
    3. Shove off to another gin mill.
    4. Call it a night & head back to the ship.

    Grisnati should have let those 2 fellows sort it out, and keep the Mrs. and the kid (and himself) out of harms way. Nows he’s opened a can of worms.

  • RaChaCha

    Help this dense bumpkin from the hinterlands east of Buffalo comprehend the Bruce Dickinson metaphor. R U saying that Erie County is FINALLY about to get enough COWBELL to truly rock–? For years I’ve read those Esmonde columns & attended those public forums in which and at which our opinion leaders have beaten the drum for MORE COWBELL (like that?). IT’S ABOUT TIME.

    Or, alternatively, R U saying we should stop fearing the reaper–?

  • Regardless as to how you think events transpired on the night in question, this much is true; grownups don’t get in bar fights, especially state senators. I haven’t been in a bar fight since I was 18 years old and I’ve had drinks in some real hellholes on five continents. Unless your name is Hiram Monserrate, NY State Senators and Assemblymen have been adroit at avoiding similar situations. However you slice it, footage of a state senator being restrained in a chokehold by several security guards while a woman screams “Mark Grisanti punched me in the face” is certainly going to be a campaign issue.

  • RaChaCha, what I’m saying is that by the time Mark Poloncarz is done with us, we’ll all be wearing gold plated die-puhs! He’s THE Bruce Dickinson. Cock of the walk, baby!

  • Eric Saldanha

    I read it as Buffalo, like Joan Crawford, has risen from its grave.

    Also – I wasn’t aware that assault victims “get what they have coming” merely by asking their assailants-to-be to calm down in a public place. Good to know.

  • RaChaCha

    He’s THE Bruce Dickinson. Cock of the walk, baby!

    Now I got ya. But I’d recommend against that as a future campaign theme — there’s a remote chance it might possibly come across as just a tad bit phallic.

  • Frank

    It seems you forgot to mention the lack of a borrowing agreement for the settlement to the woman who almost drowned. Big black eye to the guy who wants to spend us back to red and green. I would suspect he kicked back and had a 12 pack of beer trying to drown his sorrows.

  • Max

    I read The Buffalo News on-line from time-to-time. The experience is like eating stale bread; you need something else to sop up with it, because it never stands by itself. The headings of the community pages still feature Christmas pictures, suggesting BN’s prevailing attitude that nobody notices, cares or more likely, nobody’s reading. Long term, that won’t bear Warren Buffet’s desired return on equity.

  • Claude

    Yes cha cha spot on I moved a little bowl in my pants hooting at you sharp wit, you never miss a chance, never I mean never

  • Claude

    Polo is wrong about the libraries, it needs to be taken out of the hands of the leg and put in the hands of the end users, the public. He kept saying it was a Collins deal and that was never the case Collins didn’t like it at all until he saw the use in it, also let the people decide why not put it to vote?