Archive | April, 2008

Powers to Rivals: GLOW ME

30 Apr

Congratulations to Democratic candidate for Congress from NY-26, Jon Powers, who last night scored the last and decisive county committee endorsement in NY-26, earning the endorsement of the Erie County Democratic Committee.

Len Lenihan said, “Jon Powers is running an incredibly effective grassroots campaign and he represents a new generation of leadership that people are hoping for in this country.”

Throw Jon a couple of bucks, or else attend his fundraiser May 6th.

(In case you’re wondering, the title reflects that Powers has the endorsements of Genesee, Livingston, Orleans, Wyoming, Monroe, and Erie Counties.)

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Mayor's Impact Team: More to It

30 Apr

Is Bill Buyers from the Mayor’s Impact Team a sinner or a saint?

In response to my post about him yesterday, “Viking” posted this comment:

Is this the same Buyers who allegedly donates his pay to charity, and volunteers his time to the needy and homeless. The political hack who can get more done with a strategically placed phone call, then all most any elected local official. The guy every politically ambitious individuals takes counsel from and panders to. The old man, who you see sweeping the streets and shoveling snow in the winter with two bad knees. The former deputy sheriff, public safety officer, councilman, deputy human resource commissioner and human resource commissioner. Holy shit, the nerve of this guy to take advantage of his position, you’d think he’d know better.

Viking posted the same comment at Artvoice’s blog here.

Buyers is accused of having city workers use city equipment and vehicles to do private work in his backyard. That is an obvious and grave violation of the law and the public trust. I don’t care how much of his pay he “allegedly donates” to charity (proof, please – and the “allegedly” says it all). I don’t care how much time he volunteers to anyone. Does that somehow entitle him to a pass when violating the law? Oh, Bill cost the city hundreds of dollars in public time, fuel, and money, but he’s generous to charitable causes, so it’s ok. Doesn’t work that way. The rest of it sounds pretty much like any other person who avoids the dreaded private sector like the plague.

In any event, Geoff Kelly was thereby prompted to reveal the rumor he’s investigating:

I heard that the Mayor’s Impact Team has used public money to purchase goods for private use.

I don’t know if Buyers is a good guy or not, or how much good work he’s done. I know he’s been in government a long time. If he’s cheating the taxpayer, being a good guy is no defense. And if an audit shows that the Mayor’s Impact Team does this sort of thing regularly and suggests that higher-ups in the administration have turned a blind eye to the practice, then those higher-ups have no defense either.

Precisely.

While the Big Dig was being dug, a contractor was accused of stealing tile to use in his home. Damned if I can find anything about it now on Google, but I remember it distinctly. God only knows how much of that goes on in this area.

Paladino Pisses Everybody Off

30 Apr

Carl Paladino – a private, albeit well-connected and well-known, citizen – said some mean things about Buffalo School Superintendent James Williams. In fact, they were downright stupid.

If you say something stupid, does your local legislature come down on you for it?

Common Council members, in a 5-4 vote Tuesday, condemned as “racially divisive” recent remarks by developer Carl P. Paladino, who said Buffalo’s school superintendent was hired because he’s black.

Some Council members also said Paladino owes Superintendent James A. Williams an apology.

“I think this individual really needs to be run out of Buffalo,” said Ellicott Council Member Brian C. Davis, who said Paladino’s frequent “rampages” and “inflammatory” remarks negate much of the good of his development projects.

Do I agree with or condone Paladino’s remarks? Not in the least. Would I condemn them? Sure.

Would I say that he needs to be “run out of Buffalo”? WTF is this, the wild West?

The Buffalo Common Council blew a gasket. How heartening it is to learn that every other problem in Buffalo has been solved that the city’s legislature can direct its attention towards a private citizen’s mean words.

Williams’ office did not return calls seeking comment, but five of Buffalo’s nine lawmakers have rebuked Paladino for comments he made Thursday at a Niagara Frontier Industry Education Council breakfast. Business leaders, educators and students attended the Cheektowaga forum.

Davis said it was unconscionable that Paladino made the comments in front of children — youngsters who should be taught that hard work, not handouts, get people ahead in life. “The message that was sent there to these kids was absolutely horrendous,” Davis said.

Paladino said he has since apologized to the children — but only because they probably didn’t understand the point he was trying to make. He said he will not apologize to Williams, contending that he and the School Board are mismanaging the district.

“I don’t like incompetent people,” Paladino said, alleging that hundreds of millions of dollars are being squandered on what he views as a substandard education for city children.

At the very least, Davis said, Paladino should resign from Buffalo Place and Buffalo Civic Auto Ramps, or be ousted from the not-for-profit entities’ boards.

Or perhaps a six-shooter at high noon. On what basis should Paladino resign from anything? He said something mean and insensitive? OK, that’s fine. Council members can bluster all they want for the press. One thing they oughtn’t do, however, is try and pass laws that are patently unconstitutional.

But Davis and Masten Council Member Demone A. Smith also want the state to consider passing a law that would ban people who engage in “racially offensive” conduct from obtaining public leases or contracts. The state rents office space in some of Paladino’s buildings. Most Council members were uncomfortable with this clause. They sent it to committee for further debate.

Does Paladino’s statement rise to the level of “racially offensive conduct”? Does speech = conduct in this instance? Who is the arbiter of what is and is not racially “offensive”? Since when does the Common Council tell the state what laws to pass? Doesn’t Buffalo have enough real, genuine problems

North Council Member Joseph Golombek Jr. questioned the constitutionality of such a rule, a concern that was echoed by Council President David A. Franczyk. Speech can be “stupid, offensive or wrong” and still be protected by the First Amendment, Franczyk said.

Government would be “treading on dangerous waters” if it tried to punish people who said offensive things, said Delaware Council Member Michael J. LoCurto.

Council members voting in favor of the bill condemning Paladino’s remarks were Davis; bill co-sponsor Smith; Lo- Curto; Richard A. Fontana, Lovejoy District; and Bonnie E. Russell, University. Voting against it were Golombek; Franczyk, Fillmore; Michael P. Kearns, South; and David A. Rivera, Niagara.

Some who opposed the bill said they found Paladino’s comments unacceptable. But they want to review transcripts of what he said — if such transcripts exist — and want the entire bill to be discussed in committee.

Wow. What a novel concept. Let’s find out what the guy actually said before we start talking about violating the 1st Amendment to the Constitution.

Here’s a novel thought – everyone’s an embarassment.

Milestones

30 Apr

This year, my wife and I both turn 40 years of age. She goes first – today. To my beautiful wife who loves me and keeps me sane, Happiest of Happy Birthdays.

Also, when I first moved here, there was a little crew of four of us at work who used to have lunch together just about every day in this little windowed conference room in our office. We’d read the paper and talk and laugh about, well everything. As of tomorrow, they’ll all be gone ‘cept for me. I wish the other three all the best and miss mocking the News’ trivia quiz and perusing the real estate transactions and obits.

Civilization Breaks Down on the Bus to Wilson

29 Apr

Um, hi.

Look – I was never that athletic in high school. I’m sure that comes as a jaw-dropping shock to you all. I participated in some junior varsity sports, and otherwise just did what the state required me to do in phys ed. That’s about it.

A lack of interest, speed, and coordination kept me out of sports.

I’ll tell you one thing I know for sure. No one on the varsity teams at my high school was ever sodomized as an initiation rite.

On the Wilson, NY baseball team, however, that’s exactly what happened.

Now, let’s look at the Buffalo News article through a lawyer’s lenses.

Varsity coach Tom Baia and junior varsity coach Bill Atlas were among at least three adults and about 30 students aboard a bus April 17 that was headed from a pair of baseball games in Niagara Falls back to Wilson when some of the varsity players took some of the JV players to the back of the bus, state police said.

At least two of the younger players were sexually abused when teasing turned into hazing and then spun out of control, troopers said during a Monday afternoon news conference.

Initially, the students were “subjected to physical abuse involving slapping, punching and kicking,” but then things “progressed to a level that rose to criminal activity,” said State Police Major Christopher L. Cummings.

Stop right there. Hold that thought. Now read on:

Three varsity baseball team members were arraigned Friday in Town Court on felony counts of third-degree aggravated sexual abuse and misdemeanor charges of endangering the welfare of a child. One of the players was charged with two counts of sex abuse.

The sex-abuse charges involve crimes in which an object is forcibly inserted into another person, according to troopers, who declined to elaborate on that aspect of the Wilson case.

According to the New York Penal Law,

120.00 Assault in the third degree

A person is guilty of assault in the third degree when:

1. With intent to cause physical injury to another person, he causes such injury to such person or to a third person; or

2. He recklessly causes physical injury to another person; or

3. With criminal negligence, he causes physical injury to another person by means of a deadly weapon or a dangerous instrument.

Assault in the third degree is a class A misdemeanor.

The “slapping, punching, and kicking,” was in itself “criminal activity”.

Hopefully, the perpetrators of this senseless crime will be charged with:

Section 130.70 Aggravated sexual abuse in the first degree

1. A person is guilty of aggravated sexual abuse in the first degree when he inserts a foreign object in the vagina, urethra, penis or rectum of another person causing physical injury to such person:

(a) By forcible compulsion; or

(b) When the other person is incapable of consent by reason of being physically helpless; or

(c) When the other person is less than eleven years old.

2. Conduct performed for a valid medical purpose does not violate the provisions of this section.

Aggravated sexual abuse in the first degree is a class B felony.

I also hope they all get charged as adults, and I hope every one of them, if convicted, is added to the sex offender registry.

When a parent sends his kid to school, that kid is there to learn – whether it be academics or sports. A kid is not sent to school to be assaulted, menaced, or to have a baseball bat shoved up his ass. When something like this happens, there is a breakdown in civilization itself. Where did these kids get the idea that it’s ok to forcibly sodomize a younger classmate? What the eff were the “coaches” thinking when there was most likely a ruckus going on in the back of the bus with some kids probably screaming in terror?

When there is a breakdown in civilization like this, it is only fitting that the full weight of civilization’s laws be brought to bear against the perpetrators upon conviction. Just because they might be first offender teenagers from allegedly good homes in a good school ought not in any way ameliorate their punishment.

This is not a case of “boys will be boys” or “let’s let them off easy because ______”.

How frickin “good” could that home be if a kid doesn’t have it in his mind that shoving things forcibly up another kid’s ass is acceptable behavior? I need parents and teachers to cool it with the self-esteem, and instead start teaching basic human mother effing compassion.

If this happened to my kid, it would take all my effort not to take a baseball bat myself and beat the perpetrator about the head with it. In other words, it would take a tremendous effort to not meet barbarism with barbarism.

If I discovered that my kid did this, I would consider myself to be a grave and fundamental failure as a parent – a parent who raised a monster.

Update: This is Tom Bauerle’s topic today, and he makes the point (as do most callers) that the Wilson schools administration has reacted admirably to this incident. I think that’s right. The cops were called, suspensions were issued, and an investigation is underway. He also mentions that there were three other adults on that bus in addition to the coaches. Where was the parental supervision when these kids were having things shoved up their recta?

Missing the Non-Existent Bus

29 Apr

Talk about finding out about something too late.

Today – April 29th – is Albany “Reform Day”. Citizens from across the state will be converging on Albany to promote the following agenda:

Enough… of rules that concentrate Albany’s power in the hands of only three men.

Enough… of sham ethics investigations conducted by partisan boards.

Enough… of campaign finance rules that allow incumbents to scare off high-quality, first-time candidates.

Enough… of district lines drawn by a majority party, with nothing in mind but the preservation of that majority.

Enough… of campaign funds subsidizing the personal lives of elected officials.

I don’t care if you’re a Goldwater conservative or a Kennedy liberal, that’s the kind of Albany reform just about everyone can agree on. (Everyone, that is, who isn’t on Albany’s payroll).

Today is the 29th, and today is the first I’ve heard of this via this post at the Albany Project. People are even being bused to Albany:

Buses will leave from Binghamton, Ithaca, Kingston, Long Island, New York City, Oneonta, Rochester, and Westchester.

That’s correct. A bus is not leaving from the second-largest city in the state.

You know, if I had known about this I would have promoted the bloody hell out of it, and tried to organize a Buffalo contingent to go along. Western New York is in a world of hurt due to the mismanagement and dysfunction of state government, and it’d be important that we join in this effort.

Oh, well. Maybe next time.

Been There, Done That

29 Apr

I accidentally stumbled on this:

In the 1860s an Act of the State Legislature created the Niagara Frontier Police District, which encompassed Buffalo and Tonawanda in Erie County and Wheatfield in Niagara County.

Six to eight constables comprised the early membership of the Buffalo Police Department around the late 1830s. It was not until 1855 that the first police chief was appointed. Officers first received uniforms in the 1860s. During this period the State

Legislature created the Niagara Frontier Police District, which encompassed Buffalo and Tonawanda in Erie County and Wheatfield in Niagara County. This new organization included a board of commissioners, a superintendent, captains, detectives, and over one hundred patrolmen. In 1870 the district was divided and the City of Buffalo has been served by a single police district ever since.

So, when Giambra and other proponents of consolidation propose consolidation of police services, note that it had been done before, 140 years ago. The City’s own police department as it exists today was created in 1871 as the city’s population grew.

Ontario’s Niagara Regional Police District is the model.

Caught in the Act!

29 Apr

Kudos to Steve Barber and embattled Channel 7, which caught members of the Mayor’s Impact Team doing yardwork at another member’s North Buffalo home using city equipment and vehicles. The City Comptroller is now conducting an audit, and Artvoice’s Geoff Kelly has his FOIL requests out. But note from this post that his request is to follow-up on a separate, unrelated rumor he heard and has nothing to do with this particular incident.

The Boston Herald used to do these types of “gotcha” stories all the time, and frankly I thought they were great. They not only led to big sales, but kept people working on the people’s dime on their toes.

I suspect that this is only the very tippy-top of a massive iceberg.

Photo courtesy of Calanan via Flickr

Westchester County Looking to Abolish Itself

29 Apr

From the Politics on the Hudson blog, looks like my old stomping grounds are getting radical.

Spurred on by anger over high taxes and proposed raises for County Legislators, the move to abolish Westchester County government may not be rolling yet, but it’s at least at the starting line. Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner and Yonkers City Councilwoman Joan Gronowski hold their first joint meeting of the Committee to Abolish County Government, Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at the Will Library on Central Avenue near Tuckahoe Road in Yonkers. The meeting is open to the public.

Among the first actions the committee plans will be a petition drive calling on New York State to commission an independent study to look into Connecticut’s experiences and how that state, which abolished county government several decades ago, manages.

Ask Massachusetts, too. They did it in 1997. Here’s how you do it. It’s quite simple.

1. Counties continue to exist as geographical entities.
2. County sheriffs continue to exist and be elected from the county constituency. They and their deputies become state employees.
3. County clerks continue to be elected from the county constituency. They and their staff and registries become state employees and entities.
4. The middleman is eliminated, your sales tax is 5%, your property tax is lower, and yet essential services are maintained. Remember – it’s Massachusetts, not Mississippi.

Massachusetts is smaller than New York in every way, so it might all be easier in practice, but perhaps it’s time to more seriously look into this.

Photo from MV Jantzen @ Flickr

Higgins' Take on the Common Tern Abattoir

29 Apr

The Federal Highway Administration finds that Buffalo can’t have the kind of bridge that so many other cities have because birds might become confused, and their food – little fish in the river – might also become confused. Brian Higgins (D-NY) responds:

“In 2005 a public panel recommended a cable stayed, Menn designed bridge as their first choice for a new crossing to be constructed beside the existing Peace Bridge. We recently learned that federal agencies may push to drop this design based on weak arguments related to the environmental impact of the design. In late February I objected to the Federal Highway Administration’s claims in general terms. Today I submit further evidence which renders their allegations unfounded.

Well over 1000 cable stayed bridges currently exist around the world today without any devastating impact on the avian and fish population. Furthermore, a Hong Kong study examining bird collisions found that only 0.02% of bird deaths could be blamed on impact with a tall structure, including buildings, bridges and towers. Finally, mitigating factors, such as lighting, can be incorporated into the design of the bridge to further lessen the likelihood of bird mortality.

For well over a decade this community has fought for a more efficient and predictable crossing between Canada and the US. We cannot allow federal bureaucrats to come in at the eleventh hour and delay a project this region has worked so hard for. Using the data already available we can quickly conclude the Menn designed bridge is an acceptable choice which respects the work of the jury, the natural environment and the urgent need to move forward on this project.”

Yes, but that .02% represents the best and brightest of the common tern population. How many more must die?!