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A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Rally

So I was cutting through the McCarley Gardens apartment complex on my way to the rally organized by the McCarley Gardens Tenant Association yesterday, when I walked right past Reverend Darius Pridgen. He was collecting signatures for something.

I was running a few minutes late, so I kept walking on to the rally. Plus, you never know if the guy is packing heat.

By the time I got there, organizers were moving the meeting out to the sidewalk on Michigan street, directly across from St. John Baptist Church, as directed by three Buffalo police officers and an apartment security officer.

Apparently, the powers that be did not appreciate the tenants gathering together to voice resistance to Reverend Michael Chapman’s plan to sell the HUD subsidized housing to the UB Foundation for $15 million dollars, uprooting some who’ve lived there over 30 years.

Property officials were so touchy they called the cops to push the peaceful group from the contained courtyard out to the sidewalk, where they were all the more visible to the traffic passing by.

According to one tenant, Reverend Pridgen said he needed ten more signatures for something, and she told him to go over to the crowd of a hundred protesters and ask. He would have no part of it. After all, he served as a master of ceremonies at a public meeting promoting the plan to uproot them.

Speakers included Lorraine Chambley, Debra Rose, and Gwen Walker, President,  Vice President, and Secretary, respectively, of the McCarley Gardens Tenant Association, Firefighter/Substitute Teacher Bryon McIntyre (who, like Pridgen, will be running for the Ellicott District Common Council seat), and Colin O’Malley, organizer of a new group called Buffalo Tenants United. Activist/lawyer Peter A. Reese provoked laughter and cheers with a hilarious sendup of the secretive UB Foundations that are dangling the money for the sale.

O’Malley’s group is trying to unite renters throughout the city to drive home the idea that housing is a right, not a privilege. “Millions of tax dollars go to projects like the Avant building to offer high-end condos, while there are still 2,000 homeless people in Buffalo,” he pointed out.

One young man testified that McCarley is the nicest place he’s lived, and that he loves it there.

You can support the McCarley Tenants in their struggle by filling out this card and contacting HUD. In order for Chapman to sell the place to the UB Foundation, HUD would have to let him out of the contract he signed in 2005, which was an agreement to keep McCarley Gardens around until 2025.

And since SUNYAB President John Simpson is now calling the “UB2020” plan “UB2030,” it’s hard to see the urgency of kicking people out of their homes so quickly anyway.

Click here to read the testy email Simpson sent out to alumni in New York State when UB2020/PHEEIA fell through.

Buffalo School Board Elections: Signature Moves

Buffalo School Board Elections are just two weeks away, and candidates in the various districts and their champions have started to challenge their opponents’ nominating petitions in hopes of clearing the field.

In the West District, the candidates may succeed in that effort too well. Board President Ralph Hernandez and challenger Philip Lomax are contesting the validity of each other’s signatures, and word is both challenges may succeed. If they knock each other off the ballot, the West District race will be a wide open write-in campaign.

In the North District, young Matthew Ricchiazzi, whose quick mind impressed many in last year’s mayoral race, is having his signatures challenged by another candidate, Jay “Microparks” McCarthy. I’m told Ricchiazzi’s petitions have problems. Candidate Patricia Devis had trouble with her petitions when she ran for school board last go-round and may have trouble again. I have not heard if there will be challenges to McCarthy’s signatures, or to those of the fourth candidate in that race, Larry Scott. The North District seat is being vacated by Catherine Nugent Panepinto, who is pursuing a judgeship.

In the Central District, Buffalo fireman Bryon McIntyre is challenging the petitions of both incumbent Mary Ruth Kapsiak and fellow challenger Jim Williams. I haven’t seen Williams’s petitions, but take a look at the first page of Kapsiak’s submission to the Erie County Board of Elections:

You’d think that if you had a page of “signatures” all in exactly the same handwriting, you’d at least try to bury it in the middle of your sheaf of petitions, rather than flaunt it on the first page. (Perhaps this is a testament to the rigorous penmanship training delivered by the Buffalo Public Schools: absolute conformity of stroke.) The guy who signed the bottom of this page as witness to its validity is Carl Thompson, son of Grassroots operative Al Thompson, late of the Erie County Board of Elections. In addition to this obviously fraudulent page, McIntyre’s campaign charges that the petitions include signatures attributed to the supposed occupants of long-abandoned houses and to dead people, and that many pages were illegally witnessed by folks who are not citizens of Buffalo.

I hope Kapsiak didn’t pay these people.

Lou Petrucci is running unopposed in the South District. Incumbent Vivian Evans faces Theresa A. Harris-Tigg in the East, and incumbent Pamela D. Cahill faces Kinzer Pointer in Ferry.

Ellicott Vacancy: The Answer Is Not Don Allen

The candidacy of Don Allen for Ellicott District councilman, buoyed by Lovejoy Councilman’s statement of support last week, died of two wounds this weekend. First, the disclosure in the Buffalo News this weekend that his financial history is sketchy. None of the majority five on the Common Council want to replace the disgraced Brian Davis with someone who appears irresponsible with money.

The second blow was his dismal showing at Saturday’s Ellicott District committee vote, in which Democratic committee members gave a narrow victory to Pastor Darius Pridgen. So goodbye, Don Allen.

Pridgen is a long shot, too, despite his committee endorsement. The majority five are generally opposed to his candidacy, principally because he is considered too close to Mayor Byron Brown. The mayor insists he did not encourage Pridgen to enter the race, and Pridgen insists he will be a rubberstamp for nobody, but the Council majority doesn’t seem to buy that. And at least two of the majority five feel that Saturday’s vote was sufficiently close to give them political cover to chose one of the other candidates who fared well.

Firefighter Bryon McIntyre came in second on Saturday; one committee member could have swung the vote to him. He has the support of South District Councilman Mickey Kearns. The financial irregularities uncovered by the News on McIntyre were relatively minor. He could win when the Council votes to fill the seat, probable Wednesday or Thursday.

Attorney Bill Trezevant is on the periphery now—he didn’t get enough votes on Saturday to make him a serious contender, and his support on the Council is thinner than one might expect, given his resume. Plus he, too, was nailed in Saturday’s News article over past tax problems—perhaps unfairly, since those problems have been resolved.

IThe only candidate whose finances proved impeccable is Buffalo State economist Curtis Haynes, who finished third in the committee voting. Haynes was supported by Champ Eve and (unofficially) by Democratic Party HQ. Last week, a leading member of Grassroots—a Pridgen supporter—allowed that Haynes is an impressive candidate. If the Council majority rejects Pridgen, and if some of them are ambivalent about McIntyre, Haynes may emerge as a compromise candidate whom all five can accept, and in whom their opponents will find little to criticize.

Lovejoy Councilman Rich Fontana and Council President Dave Franczyk, who represents Fillmore, may feel some pressure to vote for Pridgen: Brown’s overwhelming primary victories in their districts last fall bodes ill for their re-elections. Grassroots candidates might kill them, especially if a scorned Pridgen joins in the attack. But Franczyk may not seek re-election in 2011, and Fontana may decide that Eve’s Unity Coalition can help him stave off a Grassroots- or Pridgen-backed challenger. Plus, two years is a long time—the political landscape may change dramatically between now and then.

I’m told that if he’s not selected, Pridgen will certainly run in the fall. McIntyre, too. Haynes? I doubt it.

Brian Davis Takes Plea, (Maybe?) To Resign Office

brian davis dancingWord is that Brian Davis will resign claims he is not resigning the Ellicott District Common Council seat this afternoon at one o’clock, after pleading guilty this morning to two criminal charges brought by New York State Police in Judge Thomas Amodeo’s court.

Not a lot of callbacks on this story: Brian Davis isn’t answering his cell phone (his voicemail is full); Davis’s staff isn’t answering their phones, though a friend just strolled by his office and says they’re in there; the troopers have not returned calls.

So who will fill the Ellicott District seat? Word is that Mayor Byron Brown’s camp favors moving Erie County Legislator Barbara Miller-Williams into Davis’s seat, and with Janique Curry filling Miller-Williams’s seat. Attorney Bill Trezevant has had his eye on the seat for some times, as has firefighter Bryon McIntyre, who primaried Davis two years ago.

Under the rule adopted after Mickey Kearns won the South District seat vacated by Jimmy Griffin in 2005, the Common Council must advertise the vacancy, accept resumes, interview qualified candidates in public hearings, then vote in a replacement. In the past, the recommendation of Democratic district committee members was sacrosanct when it came to filling vacant seats, but the Common Council itself has the final say — if the committee members recommend someone the majority doesn’t care for, the Council could vote in someone else.

Champ Eve, son of the the legendary Arthur Eve, controls a substantial number of Democratic committee seats in the Ellicott District, as does Niagara District Councilman David Rivera and a number of others generally opposed to Grassroots, the mayor’s political organization. (Grassroots has some committee seats, too, but was greatly weakened in Ellicott in last year’s election.) So any candidate recommended by the party in Ellicott District is likely to be independent of the mayor. The question is whether that candidate will give the current five-member mjaority voting bloc and six-member super-majority that could ovverride Brown’s veto.

Just in time for the annual haggle over the capital budget.

UPDATE: Oh, right the charges: Jim Heaney of the Buffalo News, who’s been bird-dogging Davis all year, says it was personal use of campaign funds.He also pled guilty to filing incomplete campaign finance disclosure forms.

Davis’s lawyer said in court that the councilman did not intend to resign. I guess we’ll see: Erie County Legislator Butch Holt was removed from office when he ran afoul of the law, under the auspices of New York State’s Public Officers Law. Davis is reportedly  on his way to be fingerprinted and photographed right now. How can he stay in office if Holt had to go?

Erie County DA Frank Sedita will hold a press conference at 2pm.

McIntyre Falls Short

Bryon McIntyre

Bryon McIntyre

Buffalo fireman Bryon McIntyre lost his tenuous lead in the three-way race for the third and final at-large seat on the Buffalo school board today, when absentee ballots were tallied. Incumbent Florence Johnson won the seat; McIntyre fell behind both Johnson and incumbent Catherine Collins.

So it’s John Licata, Chris Jacobs, and Florence Johnson in the at-large seats.

McIntyre stopped by the Artvoice offices after the voted were counted. You can watch Buck Quigley’s interview with him on AVTV in the morning.

Over at the Buffalo News, Peter Simon keeps insisting that the election was a referendum on Superintendent James Williams. I guess there’s an argument to be made there, though I think that’s simplistic.

This, though is puzzling. Simon writes:

The chances of Buffalo Schools Superintendent James A. Williams retaining majority support on the Buffalo Board of Education brightened today when incumbent Florence D. Johnson captured the board’s third at-large seat…

With Johnson, Williams has four supporters on the board. With Licata, he’s got five critics. Are things really so bright for Williams?

School Board Election Update

Yesterday the Erie County Board of Elections double-checked the voting machines retallied the ballots cast last Tuesday in the Board of Education at-large races. Incumbent Florence Johnson picked up 20 votes, while challenger Bryon McIntyre picked up 12. So, in the race for the still contested third seat, McIntryre leads Johnson by 50 votes and incumbent Catherine Collins by 63 votes.

The absentee ballots will be counted tomorrow at 10am.

Buffalo-Niagara Partnership: Thinning the Herd of School Board Candidates

665-mainOn Saturday, Fred Yellen was scratched from the list of school board candidates for having insufficient signatures on his nomination petitions. Count this as a win for Herbert Bellamy, Jr., and Buffalo-Niagara Partnership Director of Government Relations Glenn Aronow—whose signatures appear on the specific objections paperwork, filed April 18.

The Buffalo-Niagara Partnership backs the incumbent slate of Collins, Jacobs, and Johnson through a “coalition” they call Buffalo Students First. Aronow claims they have also raised money and donated staff assistance to these candidates.

Challengers Rebekah Williams and John Licata’s petitions were still being challenged as of this morning. In the event they too are struck from the ballot, the field would shrink from nine candidates to six, one week before the election. This would leave Patricia Devis, Rosanna Hampton, and Bryon McIntyre as the only challengers to Collins, Jacobs, and Johnson.

No challenges were ever filed for the signature petitions of the incumbents.

Don’t forget tonight’s candidates forum at the Polish Cadets Hall, Grant and Amherst Street, 7-9pm.

Election Day is next Tuesday, May 5. In the last at-large Buffalo school board election, in 2004, fewer than 13,000 people voted. That’s only around 8% of registered voters. The winners will serve Buffalo’s schoolchildren for the next five years.

Buffalo School Board Candidates Forum

Tomorrow, Tuesday, April 21 at 6:30pm, stop by the True Bethel Baptist Church (907 East Ferry) where all of the candidates but one have agreed to attend a forum organized by the Coalition for Economic Justice. Incumbent Florence Johnson has not yet confirmed her participation, according to an event coordinator.

Candidates will have (This post continues; click to read more…)

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