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This Modern World: Plutocrat Pete & Tea Party Tim in… “The Breakup”

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Middle Man and Invisible Hand of the Free Market Man

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This Modern World: Science Stuff

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About that Democratic Vacancy at the County Board of Elections

1. Somebody somewhere writes that the position of Democratic Commissioner of the Board of Elections comes, “with a $135,000 annual salary and with no requirements to hold regular office hours.” False. The salary is closer to $105,000, and the hours take into account that the person is a professional and an executive of a large public organization. 

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

2. This same outlet claims that Tonawanda Democratic Committee Chair Gayle Syposs is “likely” to be the Democrats’ pick. False. Syposs is not likely to be the Democrats’ pick.  It’s more likely to be Champ Eve or Mike Keane, and all of it is subject to an executive committee meeting that will likely take place in late October (it must be within 30 days of the Dennis Ward vacancy), and then subject to county legislative approval. 

Facts are sometimes easy to just look up. 


Buffalopundit Endorsements: NYS Primary Day Sept 9th

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

Tuesday September 9th is primary day throughout New York State. Here are the races people are watching in western New York, and my comments and picks for each.  As always, these choices are mine alone and do not constitute an endorsement by Artvoice or any of its staff. They are not predictions, but preferences. 

Governor and Lieutenant Governor: Democratic Party

Zephyr Teachout and Kathy Hochul

I wrote about it with some detail at this link.  Andrew Cuomo seems more interested in an historically wide margin of victory than in dealing with the corruption that rots the core of New York State politics. Practically every problem with state, regional, or local policy and politics that you can imagine stem at least indirectly from some form of petty corruption. Until and unless someone in Albany has the guts to do what’s right, this will continue to harm and haunt every New Yorker, from Montauk to Niagara. When given a chance to undertake a profile in courage vis-a-vis corrupt Albany politics, Andrew Cuomo’s response was an epic profile in cowardice. He didn’t just punt – he forfeited.  

Despite all the good he’s done for the state in general and WNY in particular, given a choice in this race at this time between Cuomo and Teachout, I have to go with the political neophyte with the funny name and upstate ignorance. She recognizes what the problem is, and pledges to do something about it. Cuomo told us he knew what the problem was, and he told us he was going to do something about it, but in the end he chose an on-time budget deal with Skelos and Silver over the people. 

As for Lieutenant Governor, @superwuster doesn’t know anything about upstate or WNY, nor does he care to educate himself. Those reasons alone would be enough to pick Kathy Hochul to take the #2 slot. 

State Senate: 60th District: Republican Party

Mark Grisanti

Mark Grisanti is controversial because he takes risks and votes his conscience. Grisanti is detested on the right for his votes in favor of same-sex marriage, and the NY SAFE Act. He is being attacked from the right by the likes of the tea party, and from the left by NYSUT’s PAC, which is backing likely Democratic challenger Marc Panepinto. NYSUT figures that it can throw some shade at Grisanti and help Stocker win the nomination, and that this will make the November race easier for Panepinto. I’m not a big fan of disingenuousness like that, but hey – it’s politics. I respect Grisanti because he sticks his neck out to do what he thinks is right – not just for his constituents, but for the state in general. 

State Senate: 60th District: Democratic Party

Marc Panepinto

Panepinto over Al Coppola should be a no-brainer, even with the former’s past election law issues. Al Coppola most recently gained notoriety for his brave opposition to any Peace Bridge expansion, etc., but prior to that he helped get Antoine Thompson elected to the State Senate by pulling votes away from Marc Coppola. So, even Panepinto’s reported alliance with Steve Pigeon is a minor issue because no one’s sabotaging any Democrats today. 

State Senate: 62nd District: Republican Party

Robert Ortt

Mostly because Gia Arnold showed herself to be woefully unready for prime time with her cheating non-scandal, abrupt withdrawal, and silly re-entry. Ortt is a serious candidate with a serious job. Arnold is an inexperienced and unserious candidate who has, in her very short political life, displayed breathtaking immaturity, and she’s running a one-issue campaign on guns. The winner of this race will face Democrat Johnny Destino, who, like Ortt, is a serious adult person. 

State Senate: 63rd District: Democratic Party

Betty Jean Grant

Given his behavior over the last few years, incumbent Tim Kennedy has a lot of shit behavior to answer for. In 2010, he helped to spearhead a petty Republican coup of what should have been a Democratic majority during the last couple of years of Chris Collins’ tenure as County Executive. Kennedy conspired to hand control over to the Republicans, and the legislature effectively rubber-stamped anything Collins wanted during that time. More recently, Kennedy’s campaign funds provided over $85,000 to the “AwfulPAC” (a.k.a. “Progressive Caucus of WNY”) to defeat endorsed Democrats in primaries and hand races over to Republicans in order to embarrass Erie County Democratic Committee chairman Jeremy Zellner and hand control of the party – and patronage jobs – back over to people friendly with Steve Pigeon. 

If people want to get rid of Jeremy Zellner, then do what’s necessary to accomplish that goal. But if you sabotage the party and Democratic candidates, and help Republicans, you’re doing it wrong.  Tim Kennedy has been doing it wrong, and Betty Jean has been doing it right. In fact, Betty Jean was the stalwart during the legislative coup – calling Kennedy and his henchmen out publicly and relentlessly. She is a warrior for what’s right, and for her constituents. She deserves this. 

New York State Assembly: 141: Democratic Party

Crystal Peoples-Stokes

Seriously, you’d vote for Antoine Thompson? What is it with the political herpes, coming back every few years to make WNYers feel uncomfortable and itchy? Remember how two years ago, Chuck Swanick went gunning for Mark Grisanti by trying to capture the homophobe vote? Now deadbeat extraordinaire Antoine Thompson returns from a cushy city exile to try and weasel his way back into elected office. Do not forget that Thompson was an Albany pol for a few years, and rather widely regarded to be just awful. Don’t believe me? Here’s something I wrote in 2012, when the city hired Thompson:

What can’t be forgotten in this instance is that Antoine Thompson’s tenure in the state senate was pockmarked with scandal. There was the bizarre  junket to Jamaica, where Thompson claimed to be on a trade missionpaid for with campaign funds. During the short-lived and wildly corrupt Democratic leadership of the state senate, Thompson’s behavior became brazen and strange. He got his staff to lie for him, had been accused of accepting money in exchange for influence on Racino management, and developed a reputation for being thought of as a statewide laughingstock.  He stiffed groups that relied on his member item handouts.  In his own life, Thompson stiffed his creditors to the tune of $5,700.  Thompson gave $1000 to the legal defense fund for convicted fraudster and woman-slasher Hiram Monseratte.

Thompson arranged for a $400,000 subsidy to Howard Milstein’s Niagara Falls Redevelopment, an outfit run by a billionaire chairman of the Thruway Authority that has redeveloped absolutely nothing. When Thompson suffered a minor pulled-muscle injury in a car crash and discovered that he wasn’t hurt enough to meet the tort threshold and file a personal injury suit, he tried to change the law

Then there was this:

They claimed to have nobody on staff called John Taylor. They said the Albany staffer is Shawn Curry, a recent hire as a legislative assistant.

So who is John Taylor? That’s what we wanted to know. So we called him up.

The Post: “Hi, is this John Taylor?”

“Yes”

The Post: ” But isn’t your name really Shawn Curry? And if so why are you giving out a fake name from the Senator’s office?”

“Could you hold please . . .[in the same voice] This is Shawn Curry.”

The Post: “Why are you using a fake name from the Senator’s office, Shawn?”

“I am very busy, I have business to attend to, I can’t answer your question.”

Antoine Thompson’s political aspirations should be little more than a punch line, regardless of his opponent’s merits. 

New York State Assembly: 143: Democratic Party

Camille Brandon

Brandon worked closely with Kathy Hochul at the County Clerk’s office, and she’s got a good reputation for being a hard worker. By contrast, note the surname of Brandon’s opponent, and scroll up to read what I wrote about Tim Kennedy and AwfulPAC. You’ll note a similarity, and you’d be right – they’re related, and they have no business being anywhere near any sort of elected office of any sort. 

I’ll be on with Shredd and Ragan at 7am Tuesday on 103.3 WEDG to talk about how awful all of this is. Whatever you do, please go out and vote!


Zephyr Teachout Attempts to Greet Andrew Cuomo, Shake Hand

Her tenacity is met with a wall of staffers and bodyguards, and a governor who is quite deliberately snubbing her. 

Remember, Democrats: Vote Teachout/Hochul tomorrow!


Democrats: Vote Teachout / Hochul September 9th

Tuesday September 9th is primary day, and Democrats throughout New York State have an important choice to make for Governor and Lieutenant Governor.

I’m voting for Zephyr Teachout for Governor, and Kathy Hochul for Lieutenant Governor, and you should, too. 

I am deeply disappointed in Governor Cuomo’s mishandling and abrupt cessation of the Moreland Commission’s investigation into Albany cronyism and corruption. These two topics are, to me, among the most important challenges facing the state today.  The role and power of money in politics, the unmitigated power of incumbency, the dictatorship of Albany authorities and bureaucracies, and the quid-pro-quo legalized bribery of electoral fusion all conspire to keep New York politics dysfunctional, slowly reactionary, and self-indulgent. For this reason, as well as Cuomo’s apparent lies about meddling in the state Senate, I have to register my disgust with the status quo.

These are huge, persistent problems, yet no one in or near power has any incentive to address or change them. Zephyr Teachout has made this the centerpiece of her campaign. 

I don’t do this lightly – my hesitation to denounce Cuomo is informed by how obviously good he’s been for western New York, helping to rebuild the foundation on which a new economy might emerge. We are finally making big leaps into the information age, having long-ago shed our reliance on big industry. We’re also rediscovering the value of skilled trades as an avenue for personal success and entrepreneurship. Having lost the WNY vote to Carl Paladino pretty decisively, Cuomo has paid remarkable attention to our region.  Imagine how good it would be for him to run for national office at some future date, and be able to campaign on how he turned around 50 years of Buffalo’s economic depression. I will enthusiastically vote for Andrew Cuomo in November if he is the party’s nominee. 

Furthermore, the Teachout/Wu ticket is focused on issues that matter only to the 5 boroughs of New York City – risibly so. As the old joke goes, ‘what’s the difference between ignorance and indifference? I don’t know and I don’t care’. Take a look at the five pillars of the Teachout/Wu platform, and the words “Buffalo” and “Western New York” appear exactly zero times. This ticket, as presented, has nothing to say about WNY or upstate issues (except for spotty broadband service and fracking) because they don’t know the first thing about it.  Teachout fumbled questions about keeping the Bills in WNY. Teachout/Wu presents a wide spectrum of points of view about New York State – Upper West and Lower East Side. 

Teachout’s “economy” piece deals mostly with consolidation of power, and the parts about infrastructure deal with the MTA and the effects of Hurricane Sandy. Upstate gets an abrupt shout-out about broadband, but that’s it.  The “education” piece is of general applicability to all of New York, and is replete with positions any Democrat should support – especially when it comes to the shameful way Albany has been balancing budgets on the schools’ backs for several years. On the “environment“, Teachout is the only serious candidate who opposes hydrofracking, full stop. Let Pennyslvania destroy its own aquifers – we like ours just fine, thanks. On “an open democracy“, Teachout talks about reforms that really have little to do with opening up democracy, and talks instead of reforming criminal justice, marijuana laws, and preventing abuse of the disabled. 

But the bigger picture has to do with the way the system itself is rigged – even when it benefits us as western New Yorkers.  It’s simply not being treated like the serious problem it is. That’s why the position on “corruption” is so important to me. The only thing missing – because Working Families Party – is an entry denouncing and promising an end to electoral fusion in New York State. Not incidentally, Teachout has written a scholarly work attempting to prove that embedded in our Constitution is an “anti-corruption principle” every bit as important as, say, separation of powers. 

So, because Teachout’s platform imagines that New York consists – with the exception of the Albany exclave – mainly of territories East of the Hudson and South of Poughkeepsie, I will be voting for Kathy Hochul for Lieutenant Governor. 

Hochul has the administrative and governmental chops to make up for Teachout’s utter lack of experience, and Hochul brings with her a native’s passion and knowledge about rural and western New York realities to help balance out Teachout’s geographically limited platform. Hochul was an independent-minded, conservative Democrat and balances out Teachout’s progressive-left worldview and mindset. Remember – although Teachout is running with Wu and Hochul is running with Cuomo, you can split these slates up however you’d like. Vote Cuomo/Wu, if you prefer. 

This isn’t about conspiratorial fantasies, either. I’m not trying to punish Cuomo for the NY SAFE Act or the dictatorship of the bureaucracy, except insofar as he’s doing nothing to make state bureaucrats answerable (at least indirectly) to their bosses – the people. 

For all the good he’s done for western New York, Andrew Cuomo has deceived Democrats and reformists in this state to the point of outrage. The brazen horse-trading with Senate President Dean Skelos and Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver to abruptly end the Moreland Commission on corruption was the last straw. No on-time budget is worth sacrificing the public trust yet again. It also speaks to the fundamental anti-democratic unfairness of the continued all-powerful triumverate that presides over Albany’s body politic. Cuomo’s apparent involvement in maintaining a Republican-led Senate is a betrayal made worse by lies

Albany graft and corruption help to stall and demean economic, political, and social progress in every corner of New York State. Teachout deserves support in the upcoming primary because she’s the only candidate who perceives and identifies the problem, and is assigning it the importance it deserves. But Teachout’s political novelty and ignorance about rural and upstate issues demand that the ticket be balanced with someone with experience and a WNY worldview.

Democrats should vote Teachout/Hochul on September 9th. 


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. 



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