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Political Shorts and a Hot Dog Stand

1. Schneiderman Kickoff

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman kicked off the WNY leg of his 2014 re-election campaign in Niagara Square on Tuesday, flanked by a wide variety of politicians, activists, and union leaders from throughout the area, some of whom don’t always get along (more on that later). Throughout his first term, the former State Senator from New York’s Upper West Side has brought a new energy to the Attorney General’s office, with his most significant focus being the protection of the average consumer from predatory, unfair, and deceptive business practices.

After glowing speeches from former Congresswoman Kathy Hochul and Mayor Byron Brown, Schneiderman was introduced by Avi Israel, an average guy from North Buffalo. Israel’s son, Michael, tragically committed suicide a few years ago in part  because he was taking several prescription medications that different doctors had prescribed.  Because there was no mechanism in place for the physicians to see what others had prescribed, and at the time of his suicide, Michael was taking about 20 different medications

With Schneiderman’s help and lobbying, New York passed the I-STOP prescription monitoring program last year. The program requires providers to review a patient’s medical history before prescribing any opioid pain medication. It also requires any such medications to be e-prescribed, and the filling of any prescription by a New York pharmacy updates the database in real time. This has decreased doctor-shopping in New York by an incredible 75%

Just this week, the AG’s office cut a deal with Wal*Mart over a fraudulent “sugar tax” it was levying on sales of soda

Schneiderman’s opponent is hitting the incumbent on his silence over the Moreland Commission debacle. But consider this

I think you may have heard that that is the subject of an ongoing federal investigation, and I don’t comment on ongoing investigations,” Schneiderman told reporters in Schenectady, where he announced $20 million for a land bank initiative. “My office is cooperating with the United States Attorney and we’ll leave it at that.”

Schneiderman has said little about the Moreland Commission’s demise or whether he knew about claims that Cuomo’s administration was interfering in the panel’s work and steering them away from Cuomo’s allies.

Schneiderman’s office deputized the members of the commission, and has been cooperating with U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office in connection with its ongoing investigation. Meanwhile, Schneiderman’s opponent touts his work with George Pataki, a governor who didn’t need to shut down his own investigation into public corruption because it never made its way to his agenda. 

For his part, Schneiderman noted that his office had prosecuted over 50 cases of public employees and electeds stealing taxpayer money and abuse of power. 

2. Scratch that!

State Sellout Tim Kennedy is not challenging Jeremy Zellner for the chairmanship of the Erie County Democratic Committee at this Saturday’s re-organization meeting. Instead, it will be Amherst Town Councilman Mark Manna. Manna reportedly has the backing of Mike Deely from NYSUT, State Sellout Tim Kennedy, and Mayor Byron Brown. 

This is all very interesting mostly because Zellner and ECDC endorsed Brown’s re-election campaign last year on the express condition and guarantee that the Mayor would back Zellner’s re-election as chairman. That’s honor for you. I’m not 100% sure what it is about Steve Pigeon’s track record of running the party in the late 90s is so desirable to people, so it must come down to who doles out the jobs, and possibly something to do with the judicial nominations. There’s no other objectively rational explanation. 

I like Mark, so I’m not going to bash him, but I will say this: Zellner’s opposition is running on a “peace and progress” platform. It seems to me that Erie County Democrats could easily have had peace and progress over the course of the last decade if there wasn’t a conspiratorial opposition working feverishly to sabotage the county committee every so often. A group of malcontents (Deely, for example, was for Teachout/Wu and now he’s aligned with people who sell out to the GOP regularly?) conspiring in Steve Pigeon’s house to overthrow the guy they’ve been working feverishly to weaken over the last few years is hardly the picture of party unity anyone needs. This time, at least, they don’t have Governor Cuomo’s blessing or support. 

Let it be clear: if you hand over the reins of the party committee to Steve Pigeon, the last things you’ll get are peace or progress. 

3. Grisanti Staying In The Race

State Senator Mark Grisanti remains on the Independence Fusion Party’s ballot, and dammit he’s got bank, and he’s gonna spend it. Right now, it would be a 4-way race involving Grisanti, Marc Panepinto on the (D) line, Kevin Stocker on the (R) line, and Timothy Gallagher (who?) on the Conservative Fusion Party line. Stocker and Gallagher split the gun-fetish vote, so look for Stocker to somehow wrangle the Conservative Fusion line in the next few weeks. With Stocker picking up the anti-Cuomo vote, Grisanti and Panepinto duke it out for the general electorate, which is overwhelmingly Democratic, but not especially liberal. 

126,000 people voted in 2012, and turnout might be about that high, given the gubernatorial race. But when Paladino ran in 2010, only 65,000 people voted overall, and Grisanti narrowly beat incumbent Antoine Thompson. 2012 gave voters a chance to express their outrage at Grisanti’s same sex marriage vote, and 2014 gives the NY SAFE Act opponents a similar opportunity. But Grisanti can tout the fact that both major parties have rejected him and posit himself as the centrist alternative to ultra-left-wing Panepinto and extreme right-wing Stocker. Don’t count Grisanti out just yet. In November,  the tea party’s influence is significantly more diluted than it was in September. 

4. How hard is it to operate a bridge,

for God’s sake? The Peace Bridge is the steel emblem of western New York. It is our physical connection to a huge, wealthy Canadian marketplace, and stands as a symbol of political gridlock, secrecy, inaction, failure, and idiocy. 

5. Reverse Cowdog Taken?

The contrived use of shipping containers – whatever. But I quite literally hate everything else about this “Dog e Style” from the name, to the font, to the sign, to the mascot. Get it? The hot dog is wearing a tux, so is “é” “is” in Portuguese? But the double entendre is “doggy style”, which will make parents of pre-adolescents cringe the hell away from that place because, really. The day my kid asks to get a “gourmet” hot dog at a place pronounced “doggy style” is not a day that will ever happen. 

Via @buffalovebirds at Twitter

Via @buffalovebirds at Twitter

 


“New York Revolution” Goes Eliminationist

This was found at this Facebook page around lunchtime on Monday September 15th. 

 

I have no words for this. 

This “New York Revolution” group had the support of Republican challenger for the SD-62 (Maziarz, incumbent) seat, Gia Arnold. 


Antoine Thompson: Alleged Assailant

A campaign worker went down to Antoine Thompson’s campaign HQ this past Thursday – two days after Thompson lost a primary to incumbent Crystal Peoples-Stokes – and says he got the crap beat out of him

Christopher Patterson, 37, said in a police report that Thompson held him down at his Assembly campaign headquarters on East Delavan Avenue, two days after the candidate’s defeat in the Democratic primary for Assembly. He also said two others, Neil Mack and Rashad Howard, punched and kicked him. He said that the assault caused him pain and abrasions to the back of his neck and that he needed to seek treatment at Sisters Hospital.

That whole thing will play itself out on the criminal and civil dockets, but congratulations seem to be in order for Mr. Thompson, who has evidently recovered nicely from the injuries he allegedly suffered in a fender-bender; injuries that were so mild that he used the experience as an effort to weaken the state’s no-fault threshold of “serious injury” for car crash lawsuits

The most amazing thing about Thompson’s attempt to re-enter the political arena is that Crystal Peoples-Stokes and Byron Brown basically gave him the best gift – a job when he needed one, a couple of years after Mark Grisanti kicked him out of the State Senate. 

Maybe he can get a job advising the Weppner campaign? They seem made for each other. 


Trolling Erie County Democrats

Word has it that Steve Pigeon’s biennial attempt to troll the Erie County Democratic Committee comes in the form of a new challenge to Jeremy Zellner’s chairmanship. Reportedly going around calling himself the most powerful Democrat in WNY, in comes State Senator Tim Kennedy, who is allegedly putting his name in contention as county chair. 

You might remember Tim Kennedy, who recently won re-election by wildly out-spending his opponent, orchestrated a coup in the Erie County Legislature in 2010. That coup took a Democratic majority and handed over a de facto Republican majority to Chris Collins. In exchange, Kennedy’s path to the state Senate was cleared. 

So, to be clear, Tim Kennedy sold out Democrats and his constituents in favor of Chris Collins and the Conservative Party to ease his path to the Senate. 

Because this isn’t remotely serious, they’re unlikely to show up. Being chair is actually difficult work. This crowd is content to play fast and loose with campaign finance rules, and to sabotage the committee and its candidates for the next couple of years. 

 


#Placemaking #Buffalo

 

Look at me! I’m an urban planner! 

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The Curse of the Donn Esmonde Column

What better way to explain away systemic failure than to do what they did in the Middle Ages and just blame it on some supernatural curse? 

The Boston Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy first articulated the concept of the Red Sox “Curse of the Bambino” in a book released in 1990.  It soon became lore – during fall Sox games, the “Reverse Curve” sign on an overpass on the outbound Storrow Drive became “Reverse Curse”. 

So Donn Esmonde, a semi-retired Buffalo News columnist/asshole, came up with a “curse” for Buffalo. This is, naturally, not at all original. Some believe that Buffalo is cursed because President McKinley was assassinated here. It’s much easier than, say, absorbing the details and lessons from Diana Dillaway’s “Power Failure and addressing longstanding ways in which Buffalo continues to stand in the way of its own progress. 

Esmonde’s way of cheering the Pegula family’s purchase of the Buffalo Bills reads more like the rantings of an obsessed geek fanboy writing erotic fanfiction featuring Karen Gillan and Kari from “Mythbusters“. 

If the stars and fates were – for reasons unknown – lined up for decades against the city, those fortunes indisputably have changed. The U-turn has been so dramatic – and the reversal so long overdue – that the dark cloud may have lifted for generations to come.

Note to Fate: It’s about time.

It’s not fate. There is not a single thing about Buffalo and WNY that has fundamentally changed in the last 10 years, except perhaps locals’ attitudes about the city. When the governor throws a billion dollars at your city for economic development, good things would happen anywhere. The funding of ECHDC with money from the power authority helped bring about Canalside, and that was thanks to smart politicians exercising their clout. But do we really need NYPA? Shouldn’t WNY have been benefiting from cheap hydropower for the last century? Couldn’t Albany do something about making it easier to start and do business in New York State instead of just making it rain cash? Our recent election results show just how same old same old our area is.  Lucking into finding a sports-fan billionaire is just that – luck. His purchase of the Bills changes none of the fundamental, underlying problems that we face. 

Any “curse” is of our own creation, and we maintain it lovingly every time we “participate” in our electoral system. 

If indeed there was a dark cloud hanging for decades over our sporting teams and civic fortunes, it’s safe to conclude it has been mugged, mauled, pummeled and smothered into submission.

The way things are going, there will be a shiny Stanley Cup in our trophy case and a Super Bowl parade down Main Street sometime in the next decade. Crazy talk, I know. But who could have imagined that a Pegula would suddenly appear, as if brought to life by our collective wishful thinking?

We suffered the misfortunes of Wide Right, four straight Super Bowl losses, No Goal and various other sporting calamities. The supposed prior salvation of the Sabres – and a downtown-reviving Adelphia empire – offered by the Rigas family vaporized in false promises and prison sentences.

The sports calamities pale in comparison to our social, economic, and political calamities, all of which continue apace. Another article in the News details the process whereby amateur, unqualified “planners” dictate the future of the Outer Harbor by passive-aggressive sticky note.  Don’t tell me that any curse is lifted when we have people whining about people living in gorgeous new housing near the Lake. I mean, just look at what waterfront development did to those unlivable hellholes like Vancouver, Toronto, New York, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Singapore, and Chicago! We’d never want to be like those places! By God, that Outer Harbor has been a contaminated wasteland for the last 80 years, and by God a contaminated wasteland it should stay!

Apart from Silicon Valley, newly minted billionaires don’t generally fall from the sky – particularly around here. Pegula, in essence, emerged from the earth – or, at least, the source of his billions did. Advancements in the technology of natural gas extraction, called fracking, in recent years turned natural gas deposits mile-deep in shale into 21st-century treasure. Though environmentally controversial, fracking transformed Pegula seemingly overnight into a multibillionaire. With decades in the industry, Pegula – a native Pennsylvanian whose Western New York roots are nearly 40 years deep – saw the coming technology early on and acquired massive stretches of shale-rich land. He has, over the last five years, sold pieces of his stake for billions of dollars.

Luckily for us.

This one is fantastic. Esmonde is glossing over the environmental disaster that is natural gas extraction through hydrofracking. The modern fracking they do in Pennsylvania and other places is not yet allowed in New York, and while some think it would be a boon for economically depressed parts of central New York – mostly around Utica and Binghamton – it comes with huge environmental risks. 

You need look no further than this Donn Esmonde column from 2011, wherein he recounts how fracking rigs in Springville made a young family sick, and turned their well water suddenly flammable. Heartbreaking:

“I couldn’t understand why my kids were getting sick,” said Brant. “Are they going to have health problems for the rest of their lives? I have six girls, will they be able to have children?”

One could argue that fracking may have “cursed” that family, because looking at it all scientifically, empirically, and objectively is far too complicated and difficult. But what’s a little poisoned water, poisoned kids, and geological trauma when a billionaire can buy our sports team? 

I understand that we’re willing to hold our collective civic nose and ignore how Pegula made his billions, but to gloss over it and cheer the lifting of a “curse” is going a bit too far, even for Tea Party Donn

With Pegula’s emergence, Buffalo really stepped in it – but this time, instead of stomping into something odoriferous, we walked into a bed of roses. Mesh the reversal of our sporting fortunes with the ongoing repopulation of downtown, the development of the waterfront, the revival of the West Side, the emergence of Canalside and the rise of the Medical Campus, and there is just one rational rhetorical question begging to be asked: Curse? What Curse?

Buffalo’s population continues to decline. Our politics remain hopelessly dysfunctional and corrupt, and all of these things are happening in spite of that. Buffalonians and WNYers may have more optimism and hope, but it’s not because one billionaire bought the Bills – it’s because in the last 20 years, we’ve been forced at last to get past our post-industrial malaise and figure out a path to the future. We may not always agree, and we may fight and argue about the details of how to move forward, but it’s because of the work of visionary businesspeople, tax credits and incentives, activists, volunteers, and organizations that our region seems to be moving forward. For every billionaire sports team owner, the real hard work is being done by people who live paycheck to paycheck, or freelance check to freelance check. It’s being done by entrepreneurs who put their talent and passion into various projects. It’s not the grand shopping sprees that make Buffalo better, it’s all the little things that people do with minimal fanfare and very hard work. 

As for me, I’m convinced that Buffalo’s “curse” won’t be lifted until Donn Esmonde stops writing trite, humorless nonsense in the local paper and retires to his suburban tract home in Florida


Bucky Gleason tl;dr

Kim Pegula, as described by the Buffalo News

Buffalo is so thankful that naïve, pussy-whipped Terry Pegula and ice-bitch-queen Kim Pegula will be buying the Bills. 

I could go on, but this article nicely sums up the culture war that’s being waged by and against women, and how women are winning. 

(For the uninitiated (remember BobbyCat?), tl;dr stands for “too long; didn’t read”) 


A Tuesday For the Books

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Eligible WNY Voter

Antoine Loses: Faith in Humanity Restored

Crystal Peoples-Stokes easily halted Antoine Thompson’s effort to go back to Albany, this time as an Assemblyman. That’s enough, Antoine. You had your chance and the power and prestige went to your head. There’s plenty of other ways to help the community – including, but not limited to, just getting a job and paying your taxes.

Tim Kennedy Wins Handily

Tim Kennedy also defeated Betty Jean Grant. This is, to me, a shame because Tim Kennedy is a sellout. He sold out the Democrats and his constituents when he cut a deal with Steve Pigeon and Chris Collins to hand over a Democratic legislature to the Republicans. He sold out to further his own political career – to replace Bill Stachowski in the state Senate. He out-spent Betty Jean by a huge margin, and she simply couldn’t raise the money to get the word out against someone who was, this time, ready for her.  Kennedy ran on legislation to strengthen child abuse laws, and securing some back-office jobs for our Bangalore-on-the-Lake. One thing is for sure – Betty Jean can go to sleep every night secure in the knowledge that she’s no sellout. 

Tea Party Finally Gets Grisanti

Oh, you tea party. You got a huge victory last night! You finally got rid of Mark Grisanti. Your disgust for him began when he voted for same-sex marriage – you still bring it up today. The SAFE Act vote mobilized you, because guns > gays for you; guns are your common denominator. Congratulations! I saw sponsored posts in my Facebook timeline from Rus Thompson’s extremist “Tea NY” and from former GOP challenger against Brian Higgins, Mike Madigan.  The visceral hatred that the right wing has for Grisanti finally manifested itself in an electoral victory – they got Kevin Stocker.  On the other side, we have Marc Panepinto, a Democratic activist and personal injury lawyer. The district in question is predominately Democratic and people with Italian surnames tend to do well in that district.

But here’s one possibility: Grisanti and Panepinto are both lawyers. Wouldn’t it be funny if Panepinto dropped out, Grisanti switched to the Democratic Party and was appointed to replace Panepinto on the Democratic ballot in November? Panepinto would have to run for Supreme Court somewhere – anywhere in the state. This is a thing that can happen. Wouldn’t it be awesome if the tea party spent all this time and effort just to expel Grisanti from the GOP and have him win in November as a Democrat? 

Teachout’s 35%

Cuomo and Hochul easily defeated Teachout and Wu, which is no surprise. What was a surprise was the fact that Teachout earned about 35% of the statewide vote with almost no money, very little name recognition, and a pretty short race. Hopefully a message was sent to the Governor’s mansion about the importance of fighting corruption. Or maybe not. Maybe we should shut up because of the Buffalo billion and other stuff, and just be satisfied with what we have. What difference does it make if the state is still run like it’s 1953? Shut up, you. 

Tea Party Didn’t Back Gia

Robert Ortt easily defeated on-again, off-again candidate Gia Arnold. Arnold’s entire campaign centered around getting rid of George Maziarz. Once Maziarz announced he wasn’t running again, he stole a ton of her thunder and she was stuck becoming a silly kid, talking about guns, guns, and guns, going so far as to wear a clip as a prop jewelry. In the end, Ortt was the serious and credible Republican guy, and he won handily. 

Mazurek Defeats Brandon

It should come as no surprise that the guy with the Polish name came out ahead in what was once Gabryszak’s Cheektowaga/Sloan district. 

Pegulas Buy Bills

All of this political nonsense was overshadowed by the palpable civic sign of relief when it was confirmed that the Pegula family had won the bidding war to buy the Bills. Not only is the uncertainty over the Bills staying in WNY over for the foreseeable future, but the team can now begin its second chapter in earnest. What amazing news. 

Shredd & Ragan Will Not Be Intimidated

I called in to Shredd & Ragan’s show on 103.3 WEDG Tuesday morning at 7am.  When they asked me something about guns and the SAFE Act, I accidentally said, “I don’t give a shit about guns”, forgetting in my uncaffeinated haze that I was on terrestrial radio and not a podcast. A thousand apologies for that. 

But what would you say if you knew that someone attempted to intimidate WEDG into not having me on the air? 

On Monday around lunchtime, I posted my standard September primary endorsement post, and noted at its conclusion that I’d be appearing on Shredd & Ragan’s show at 7am Tuesday morning. 

After my appearance on WEDG, I spoke with a few people who work behind the scenes for Shredd & Ragan’s show. It turns out that one particularly noxious politically connected individual had contacted the station about my upcoming appearance. This poor creature started out almost eerily polite, explaining that he or she was a friend of the show,  calling as a courtesy to advise them that – now, they’re not threatening anyone – but that I was “under investigation” by a “team of lawyers” and that WEDG – and anyone who gives me a “platform” might be held responsible if I said something slanderous. To say this is completely bizarre, outrageous,  and uncalled-for is an understatement. 

To their credit, the people at WEDG would not be intimidated into keeping me off the air, and directed this complainant to contact the station’s legal department if there were any further issues. 

I’m not altogether sure that the public figure who called the station wants to litigate his or her reputation, but empty threats and petty bullying will not intimidate me into shutting up. 




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