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Kearns Defeats Fahey in A-145

Kearns, LoCurto, Rivera

Photo by Flickr user Whitney Arlene

Mickey Kearns? Really? 

The 15% of the electorate who turned out elected a Democrat running as a Republican whose only recognizable platform plank was to do battle with Shelly Silver?  Kearns has said he’ll caucus with the Democrats – so Republican efforts to spin this as a victory will ring particularly hollow. 

The New York State Assembly is a particularly malignant and useless construct. On the one hand, you have majority leader Sheldon Silver, who rules his Democratic caucus with an iron fist. On the other hand, you have a collection of the most useless political castrati – the Assembly Republicans. To call the Assembly a legislature is an insult to the notion of democratic representative lawmaking. To call a member “independent” is synonymous with “impotent”. 

That’s why, when I have in the past advocated for a nonpartisan unicameral legislature, I’ve made it clear that we can’t just abolish the Senate and supplant it with the Assembly. Each redundant body is dysfunctional in its own way. 

Yesterday I posted a perfectly benign reminder that an election was taking place and that people who live in that district should go out and vote. I didn’t endorse or attack either candidate, except to say that Kearns’ run as a “Republican” was, to me, inexplicable. Of course, I had some knuckle-dragging Republican attack me for that, and longtime commenter Starbuck, who is quite reasonable although I disagree with him, pointed out that it was “quite explicable” because of party bosses and giving people a choice and Sheldon Silver and Len Lenihan. 

Yes, I understand that Kearns’ ambition would not be stopped by such trivial matters such as party loyalty or ideological consistency. Such is the nature of politics and politicians – win at all costs, even if you jettison your principles.

(By the way, if Carl Paladino and his insult billboardatorium really want to be rid of Sheldon Silver, perhaps he could help find, fund, and support a challenger to Sheldon Silver down in Manhattan. That might actually work.) 

Chris Fahey isn’t a Higgins puppet despite his ties to Higgins’ office, and so what if he was? Brian Higgins is – and has been – among the best representatives of Buffalo and Western New York throughout his political career. While not perfect, he has done tremendous good especially when it comes to waterfront revitalization. Fahey is a bright guy and he’ll do great things – he’s a well-respected and thoughtful behind-the-scenes policy researcher and formulator – a wonk’s wonk. 

Much was made of Kearns’ ties to Carl Paladino, but that support amounted to a few thousand dollars and a Palinesque Facebook post here and there. 

The winner here isn’t Paladino, it’s Byron Brown, who has rid himself of another troublesome common councilmember. Kearns’ vacancy will be filled by the other councilmembers – and the council is now made up primarily of Brown allies, so Brown has an opportunity to further consolidate his control of the city’s policies. Probably one of those unintended circumstances we often read about.  I suppose this indirectly benefits any Republican running in a countywide race, thanks to the longstanding, well-known but denied agreement between Brown and the GOP that no Republican challenger will come to the plate in November, thus suppressing city turnout.

Funny how similar it is to write about Erie County politics as it is to write about, say, organized crime. 

The coverage of this contest was a ridiculous recitation of who’s ahead, who’s behind in the horserace. Aside from his rejection of Sheldon Silver, what’s Mickey Kearns going to do in Albany? Aside from his ties to Brian Higgins, what would Fahey have done there? Well, Fahey outlined a few plans he has to make the environment better for creating jobs. These guys deserved pointed questions about reform, Albany dysfunction, the Cuomo agenda, abolishing authorities, reduction of state corruption, etc. Instead, we got questions about party labels and who was whose puppet. 

Being a maverick isn’t policy – it’s politics. 

Congratulations to Mickey Kearns. I look forward to the analysis of his almost-inevitable rapprochement with Shelly Silver, or his switch to the Republican Party (one of these is going to have to happen if Kearns is going to accomplish much else besides becoming a master Sudoku player.)

Now, let’s see whom Paladino recruits to run against Higgins himself this November.  


Faith & Begorrah!

South Buffalo legislator Mickey Kearns was a winner at the 2011 Sorrento Cheese Italian Heritage Festival Bocce Tournament over the weekend.

Paladino for Mayor?

It has been suggested, right? Even before the curtains closed on Tuesday, Carl Paladino’s local partisans were suggesting that their man might run for mayor of Buffalo in 2013.

How would he do? There’s no predicting such a thing: The political environment three years in the future in an utter mystery. But at least we can look at the numbers Paladino racked up in the city on Tuesday and compare them to the last two candidates to challenge Mayor Byron Brown, Democrat Mickey Kearns in 2009 and Republican Kevin Helfer in 2005.

Both Helfer and Kearns, of course, were heavily financed by Paladino.

Overall, Andrew Cuomo destroyed Paladino inside city limits. That’s to be expected: Buffalo’s got about 107,000 Democrats and just 15,000 Republicans, with a smattering of third party voters. Cuomo won 37,253 votes and Paladino won 18,777.

That’s not quite as good as Helfer did in the 2005 general election for mayor—19,853. Of course, there were almost 75,000 votes cast in the 2005 general election for mayor, compared to just shy of 60,000 votes cast for governor in the city on Tuesday. Paladino did better by percentage of votes cast than Helfer. And Paladino did better that Kearns did in 2009 Democratic primary—14,866—though Kearns took a a bigger percentage of the votes cast in his election (about 42,000) than Paladino managed on Tuesday.

And that’s the best news Carl’s got. In raw votes, both Kearns and Helfer outperformed Paladino in the Delaware, Ellicott, and Fillmore districts. Kearns did better in the Lovejoy District by percentage of votes cast. (And that’s where Paladino was born and raised.) It’s comical to compare the three men’s anemic performances in Masten, but Kearns beat Paladino by percentage there, too, and Helfer scored more votes. Same thing in Niagara, North, and University.

The South District is the only place where Paladino beat Cuomo, taking 5,173 votes, or 62.7 percent. That’s better than either Helfer or Kearns in raw votes. In percentage of votes cast, however, Kearns did far better, with 77 percent.

Okay, you may say, but isn’t this a big basket of apples and oranges? Maybe so. But some of the data from these three elections obtain: In an election open to his Republican and Conservative base, Paladino did not poll as well by percentage as Kearns did last year. He didn’t poll as well by percentage as Helfer did five years ago, when turnout was comparatively heavy. And his candidacy didn’t inspire a record number of Buffalonians to hit the polls—turnout for the governor’s race in the city was down slightly compared to 2006.

In any case, the real numbers Paladino, or any challenger to Brown, must mind are the mayor’s: 46,613 in the 2005 general election, and 26,314 in last year’s Democratic primary.

There are always rumors of fissures within the Grassroots political machine, but on election day Grassroots and its juggernaut of a get-out-the-vote operation always seems to hang together. A lot can change in three years, but it’s hard to see, based on Tuesday’s results, how Paladino, or any Republican, can break Brown’s hold on the office in 2013—assuming he’s still in office and running for re-election. Maybe a Democrat running in the general election could give him a run for his money, a model that seems to have succeeded for Mark Grisanti in his challenge to State Senator Antoine Thompson.

But a Republican like Paladino? No way: Demographics matter.

Correction on Land Transfer Vote

When I wrote this post (or just scroll down a few posts), I fundamentally misunderstood the resolution South District Councilman Mickey Kearns put forward during yesterday’s special session of the Common Council. The Kearns resolution, which passed 5-4, instructs the city’s law department to draw up a contract whereby just the Webster block — the portion of the 7.8 acres of city land which was in dispute yesterday, and in which HSBC has expressed interest — be conveyed to the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation. If ECHDC fails to develop the Webster block within one year of the transfer, ownership reverts to the city.

Though the mayor and his allies rebuffed that proposal to give HSBC what it apparently wants. (I say apparently because HSBC is not making a lot of public comment on this fireworks show. And why should they be? At this rate every developer and municipal government in Western New York will be tripping over each other to offer the bank land and incentives.) Russell, Smith, Fontana, and Golombek voted against it.

So what was unsatisfactory to the mayor and ECHDC about the Kearns resolution? Why must ECHDC get the entire 7.8-acre parcel if HSBC only wants the Webster block? I understand Gerald Buchheit and his partners have made a pitch to HSBC for a new-build on the old Freezer Queen site in the Outer Harbor. Is the land transfer urgent because the city might lose HSBC—or because Benderson Development, which is pitching HSBC on the Webster block, can’t compete against the various other local proposals being made to HSBC unless ECHDC gets a hold of the Webster block?

Council Says No to Rodriguez

Today’s Common Council session opened, as it always does, with a prayer. (Does anyone pray publicly so often and so audibly as the elected official?) The University District’s Bonnie Russell’s message in a nutshell: Please, God, save us from being political.

Fat chance. The Council voted five to four to deny David Rodriguez the post of corporation counsel, to which Mayor Byron Brown had nominated him two weeks earlier. (Lovejoy’s Rich Fontana jumped the majority coalition;s ship and joined Russell, the North’s Joe Golombek, and Masten’s Demone Smith in supporting Rodriguez.) The rationale: Rodriguez is running against Niagara District Councilman David Rivera for a Democratic Party committee seat. In today’s session, Delaware’s Mike LoCurto argued that in doing so Rodriguez showed poor judgment—he is the city’s lawyer, and is supposed to represent all branches of government, not just the mayor who appoints him. LoCurto said the race against Rivera, who Rodriguez theoretically represents, coupled with his failure to deliver any timely or helpful opinions during the Brian Davis meltdown last fall, had convinced him that Rodriguez was incapable of acting independently of the mayor’s office. And that, LoCurto said, made him incapable of representing the entire city.

One might have expected fireworks. There were none. Maybe the room will light up tomorrow, when the appointment of Dan Derenda to police commissioner may be the cause of a special session. Last week, Derenda’s nomination was tabled in the Legislation Committee, seemingly dooming Derenda to purgatory until after the Council’s August recess. Today Brown threatened to resubmit Derenda’s name, but then pulled that punch at the last minute. Now we hear that a special session will be called tomorrow, and the mayor will likely have the votes to discharge Derenda’s nomination from committee and confirm him. The only stalwarts against the appointment are LoCurto, Rivera, and the South’s Mickey Kearns. Ellicott’s Curtis Haynes is a cipher, though he voted to table the matter last week. Fontana will vote to confirm.

If Haynes sticks to his guns, then Council President Dave Franczyk is the swing vote here. Franczyk voted to table last week, but he is inclined to confirm Derenda unless given a powerful reason not to. Will he help to pull the appointment out of committee or will he allow the others to continue to scrutinize the clearly flawed and opaque process by which Derenda was nominated?

And when will mayoral spokesman Peter Cutler call me back to tell me if the mayor’s human resources ace, Karla “TMI” Thomas, lied to councilmembers yesterday about where and when she’d posted the opening for a police commissioner to online job sites?

Kevin Helfer was approved unanimously as the city’s new parking czar.

New Poll May Not Be So Authoritative

Old abandoned telephone booth at junkyard.A new telephone poll commissioned by WGRZ TV has already been posted with a story in the online version of Buffalo Business First. This, the “final poll” commissioned by the TV station from Survey USA, puts Mayor Byron Brown ahead of challenger Mickey Kearns.

Survey USA also conducted a poll for WTVD-TV in Raleigh-Durham, NC last fall, for the Presidential election. There, three previous Survey USA polls had put McCain up by eight, five, and four points, while the fourth one put him up 20. Said McCain would get 58% of the vote, Obama 38%.

On election day, Obama won North Carolina and picked up 15 electoral votes.

So remember, polls are good space fillers for media outlets, but they aren’t always accurate, and they don’t even have to be, no offense to Survey USA.

People seem to love ’em, though, so I figured I’d get a little mileage off this one, seeing as somebody else paid for it.

Over the Weekend

Four items of interest:

—Byron Brown wins the endorsement of Goin’ South, the South Buffalo political organization stacked with city employees. No surprise there; there was no chance that Ray McGurn and Goin’ South would buck the mayor and his allies Brian Higgins, Mark Schroeder, and Tim Kennedy. Still, it’s a show of force for Brown.

—Mickey Kearns wins the endorsement of the Police Benevolent Association. No surprise there, either: What was Bob Meegan to do, spin around and embrace a mayor who keeps dragging the PBA to court and losing? (It’d be informative to get a breakdown of the City of Buffalo’s legal expenses fighting the PBA over the past three years, including time spent by the Corporation Counsel.) The PBA is Kearns’s first union endorsement, but how much good will it do him? There are 700-odd cops in the BPD, plus support staff, but lot of cops live and vote in the suburbs. Nonetheless, Kearns needed an endoresement like this and now he has it.

—Jim Heaney reported in Sunday’s Buffalo News that the FBI, US Attorney, Erie County DA, and New York State Police are all in some manner or another investigating Buffalo’s City Hall. Some are looking at Brian Davis’s finances, some at BERC and One Sunset, some at the city’s use of HUD money. Heaney did well to confirm these investigations are occurring; it’s hard to get beyond a no comment on these matters. His article also offers a review of the cavalcade of scandals rolling out of City Hall over the past few months.

—Most interesting to me, however, is this story by Susan Schulman, about a Cleveland developer whose East Side housing project was nixed after the Jeremiah Project, a group run by the influential Reverend Richard Stenhouse, failed to win a contract to oversee minority hiring on the project. (For the sake of argument, I’m leaving alone the merits of NRP’s project. In any case, Stenhouse’s objections seem thin, since the Jeremiah Project has been lead agency in similar low/mod rental housing development themselves.) Schulman is admirably careful about what she implies in her story, but it reads to me like a classic Buffalo shakedown: Stenhouse, in a position to stall a project, seeks a part of it. When he doesn’t get the contract, he helps to kill the project.

Why is this much more to me interesting than Heaney’s article? Because, whereas a local developer might take this setback stoically in hopes of working another day, a developer from Cleveland may not fear the consequences of speaking out. This is the sort of thing that raises eyebrows at the FBI.

Red Light Rally Today!

red-lightPopular 103.3 The Edge radio team Shredd & Ragan continue their opposition to the city’s red light camera plan with a live broadcast from Niagara Square in front of city hall today, from 3-7pm. The plan calls for putting cameras at 50 intersections around the city. City officials, including Mayor Byron Brown, claim it is a safety measure that will simultaneously generate millions of dollars annually through the issuance of $50 tickets.

Protesters are encouraged to “bring themselves, their voices and any signs they may want to create.” But leave the profanity behind.

Council member Richard Fontana and council member/mayoral candidate Mickey Kearns, who has described the camera plan as a “money grab,” are both expected to attend. Shredd & Ragan will be ready for interviews.

Click here to read how 80% of the tickets in L.A. are issued to people making right-on-red turns.

Safety or scam? See you at city hall. Let your voice be heard.

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