Archive | October, 2008

Collins Running County Like a Business?

31 Oct

Which one?

Check out this BuffNews editorial:

By purposely omitting a $16 million liability from his proposed budget and still presenting the document as balanced, Erie County executive Chris collins has demonstrated a troubling disregard for ethical budgeting practices as well as the public trust.

Indeed, by deliberately misleading legislators, the control board and the public on a matter of finance, Collins has undermined his own assertive style. Collins is supposed to run the county like a business, but omitting expenses from a critical legal document doesn’t meet that test. As an unpolitician, he is supposed to be immune from pressures that can cause traditional officeholders to play fast and loose with taxpayers. Yet that is what he has done.

Collins explains that he’s trying to negotiate the liability away. But he hasn’t yet. So it’s still there and should be on the books.

The county Comptroller called it a “serious breach”. Collins calls Poloncarz “chicken little” for having the gall and nerve to do his job as the people’s financial watchdog.

Collins, who is more a politician than he lets on, thought he’d just keep the Comptroller out of the loop.

More recently, Collins hid from Poloncarz the fact the county owes ECMC $16 million in Medicaid-related charges and that he’s bargaining with the hospital to forgive the payment because the county provides it with other support.

“The comptroller cannot be trusted to maintain any confidence,” Collins explained.

Countered Poloncarz: “As the chief financial officer, our office has to be involved, whether he likes it or not.”

By design, the comptroller provides an independently elected set of eyes over the county’s books. But the county executive and comptroller also are to work in tandem.

County Government. Is there anything it can’t do?

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Kryzan on Working Families Party Line

31 Oct

From a Kryzan campaign press release:

Court Rules Kryzan Name Must be Put on Ballot

Amherst, NY — Last night, the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division, Third Department ruled that Alice Kryzan’s name must appear on the ballot next Tuesday as the nominee of both the Working Families Party and the Democratic Party.

The court ruling makes official what has been the case for several months: Alice Kryzan is the Working Families Party candidate in this election. Alice received the endorsement of the Working Families Party, Jon Powers, the Buffalo News and the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.

“Alice is proud to have the support of the Working Families Party, of Jon Powers, and of voters across this district who want a new direction for Western New York’s economy,” said spokesperson Anne Wadsworth. “Despite Chris Lee and the Republican machine’s attempts to block Alice’s name from appearing on the Working Families Party ballot line, today’s ruling will allow voters to have a clear choice when they vote on Tuesday.”

Quality Control

31 Oct

I know a lot of people are not pleased at all with the Mesi and Delano candidacies. But the alternatives are just as mediocre, if not worse (depending on your point-of-view). People like Ranzenhofer and Stachowski, who have been in the political arena for multiple decades and have the connections and contacts to raise the money needed to run a race have a huge advantage. Stachowski is a full-time State Senator and doesn’t have to be in Albany right now. Ranzenhofer is self-employed and can take whatever time he thinks he needs to campaign. Delano can run on his name recognition, and the fact that he’s been suspended and doesn’t have a day job. Mesi, too, is self-employed and has all the time in the world to canvass and campaign.

People like Chris Lee, Dan Humiston, and Jane Corwin are independently super-wealthy and don’t hold down regular jobs. (Humiston is, still, employed by his company – but Corwin and Lee sold their companies for megabucks). They, too, have not only the time, but the resources to run a costly race.

All of these people claim to know and understand the regular person’s problems. Do they? Do the super-wealthy know what the middle class faces each day? Does Chris Lee, with $400 million in the bank, understand the concerns of a farmer in Livingston county or a single mother earning $40,000 living in Williamsville?

It’s extraordinarily difficult to run a political campaign and be a regular, average person. It’s very hard to have to show up to work every day from 8 – 5 and raise money or go door-to-door. It’s hard to be a no-name candidate and go out and get your name out there if you’re not already bankrolled in a big way.

The system is stacked against regular people who actually understand people’s problems, and is stacked in favor of the wealthy, the people already in office, and people blessed to have some sort of flexible schedule during the week.

When we complain about the lack of quality candidates, we need to examine what, if anything, can be done to make it easier for you or your neighbor to run for office in a competitive manner.

Joe the Plumber FAIL

31 Oct

Evidently, Joe the Plumber – who was soooooo angry at the media for finding out what he does, the fact that he’d benefit from Obama’s tax plan, and that he doesn’t pay taxes himself – now has an agent and is looking to get a country music deal.

Wonkette also brought this up, which is dead-on:

As for this clusterf*ck yesterday, one wonders whether McCain’s campaign could have one day done right.

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WGRZ pwns Dennis Delano

31 Oct

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Buffalopundit Endorses

30 Oct

Although I realize that this is about as worthless and useless as just about anything, I still do it every year. Why? Because I feel like it! Some of the following are people who will be on my ballot, and others aren’t. No one has paid me a red cent for an ad or endorsement, ever – these are based on my own judgment and opinion. I am not including the unopposed and almost-unopposed races. So, coming up Tuesday the 4th, I recommend voting for the following candidates:

President: Barack Obama

My coming around to Obama didn’t come quickly or reflexively. I was a big fan of Bill Richardson’s, but he ran a crap campaign. I saw that it was between Clinton and Obama in December 2007, and began leaning Obama. In January, Obama amazingly won Iowa. That was all she wrote.

The moment came when I started listening to Obama’s speeches on race, on family, on America as that shining city on the hill – a place that aspires to greatness, and which people from around the world seek to emulate. Barack Obama is the closest thing to Ronald Reagan the Democrats have ever had. In a time when Americans are fearful and uncertain about their future, Obama talks about hope, change, and a brighter future.

It’s what he’s been doing for the past 22 months. It won him the nomination. It will win him the election. It will be win for the USA.

In a time when Americans are sick and tired of the politics of hatred, division, and polarization, Obama extends a hand and says, let’s work together in a spirit of compromise and cooperation to bring about a 21st century America – a better, leaner and more efficient government – to bring about change to our economy, to our foreign policy, to our domestic affairs.

The economy has been battered over the last few months, and throughout the crisis, Obama was – well, presidential. No crazy tactics or erratic grandstanding – Obama listened, learned, consulted, and deliberated. He did the same with respect to Iraq. There have been many times over the past 11 months that I’ve listened to or read something from Obama that has simply taken me aback – that a candidate doesn’t talk down to me like some kind of idiot. That a candidate has a reasoned, intelligent, well-executed set of ideas and plans is something we’ve frankly been without for the past 8 years. By way of example, on Tuesday while having lunch on Allen Street, I read this article in Time Magazine.

General David Petraeus deployed overwhelming force when he briefed Barack Obama and two other Senators in Baghdad last July. He knew Obama favored a 16-month timetable for the withdrawal of most U.S. troops from Iraq, and he wanted to make the strongest possible case against it. And so, after he had presented an array of maps and charts and PowerPoint slides describing the current situation on the ground in great detail, Petraeus closed with a vigorous plea for “maximum flexibility” going forward.

Obama had a choice at that moment. He could thank Petraeus for the briefing and promise to take his views “under advisement.” Or he could tell Petraeus what he really thought, a potentially contentious course of action — especially with a general not used to being confronted. Obama chose to speak his mind. “You know, if I were in your shoes, I would be making the exact same argument,” he began. “Your job is to succeed in Iraq on as favorable terms as we can get. But my job as a potential Commander in Chief is to view your counsel and interests through the prism of our overall national security.” Obama talked about the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, the financial costs of the occupation of Iraq, the stress it was putting on the military.

A “spirited” conversation ensued, one person who was in the room told me. “It wasn’t a perfunctory recitation of talking points. They were arguing their respective positions, in a respectful way.” The other two Senators — Chuck Hagel and Jack Reed — told Petraeus they agreed with Obama. According to both Obama and Petraeus, the meeting — which lasted twice as long as the usual congressional briefing — ended agreeably. Petraeus said he understood that Obama’s perspective was, necessarily, going to be more strategic. Obama said that the timetable obviously would have to be flexible. But the Senator from Illinois had laid down his marker: if elected President, he would be in charge. Unlike George W. Bush, who had given Petraeus complete authority over the war — an unprecedented abdication of presidential responsibility (and unlike John McCain, whose hero worship of Petraeus bordered on the unseemly) — Obama would insist on a rigorous chain of command.

Again – Obama listened, learned, consulted, and deliberated. And in this instance, he challenged. We can’t have a President who just rolls over for whatever anyone’s telling him. We’ve had 8 years of a President who abandons pragmatism and deliberation in favor of ideology and inflexibility. We can’t have a President who doesn’t demand frank answers to tough questions from his subordinates, and we can’t have a President who doesn’t ensure adherence to constitutional constructs with respect to who’s in charge of what.

In 2004, I heard an unknown guy with a funny name give a speech at the Democratic National Convention. I will never forget hearing this passage:

The pundits, the pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them, too. We worship an “awesome God” in the Blue States, and we don’t like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and yes, we’ve got some gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.

At the time – the Iraq war was a year and a half old and going sour – it was a blockbuster speech and a concept so completely foreign to many ears turned numb from Roveian division. I thought then that this was Obama’s entry into the 2008 election. I was right. I am so ready for this guy to become President, and to have someone in Washington working hard to ensure a brighter future and a more perfect union. Website here.

NY-26: Alice Kryzan

There is no question that the 26th district has been ill-served for too long by former clout-wielding Republican Tom Reynolds. Reynolds is the kind of guy who lives in the past – old divisions, old issues, old ways of thinking. There is hardly an initiative anyone can point to as the “Reynolds record of excellence”, which really is what any legislator should aspire to, given the opportunity to go to Washington and do right by his constituents and the country. (Not to mention get paid a lot of public money and benefits-for-life).

There are two rookies vying for this seat this year, Democrat Alice Kryzan and Republican Chris Lee. There is not one thing that Lee has done or said that has been even remotely impressive, except perhaps for his fundraising prowess. His ideas are the same recycled, old Republican pablum that we’ve endured for 8 years under Bush, and longer still being represented by Reynolds. Lee seems like a nice enough guy, and I credit anyone willing to stand up and take a shot at a run, but in this year, in this climate, with the problems we’re facing, it’s patently time for something new.

Alice Kryzan is a brilliant and well-respected veteran environmental litigator who, by trade and training, can (and must) see both sides of an issue. She offers a platform not dissimilar to that of Barack Obama, with his focus on trickle-up tax breaks for the middle class and poor, more accessible health care, an as-soon-as-possible end to the war in Iraq in a safe and controlled manner, and the promotion of “what’s next” for Western New York’s (and the country’s) economy. Western New York was a pioneer in sustainable energy production, and we need to reclaim that mantle with whatever non-fossil-fuel options are out there that are available. Alice will bring renewed energy to these issues, and more responsiveness and care to constituent issues. Website here.

NY-27: Brian Higgins

You know how I mentioned above that Reynolds doesn’t really have much of a record fighting for positive change in WNY? Brian Higgins has accomplished more in 4 years than Reynolds has in 10. Western New York is better off having him in Washington fighting for a fair shake from NYPA, holding the Thruway Authority’s feet to the fire over tolls by highlighting its federal funding, being in the forefront – really, the go-to guy – of waterfront development in the City of Buffalo. Brian Higgins is no knee-jerk liberal, and he’s drawn the ire of the far left for many of his votes with respect to security and police powers, but that shows me that he’s a principled and pragmatic politician who is willing to be independent of Democratic orthodoxy. I don’t like robots – I need someone who thinks and gets things done. Higgins’ opponent, like Lee, offers nothing really new to the table. Both he and Lee repeat how they’ve met a payroll and run successful businesses. Lee inherited his, but Humiston built his. That is admirable, regardless of how you feel about tanning beds. But the job of a congressman isn’t to build a business, make a profit, or make a payroll. It’s to make and shape public policy. Higgins has proven that he is good at it, and that what he does benefits WNY. Website here.

NY-29: Eric Massa

Does what’s happened over the last 8 years really get you pumped? No? Randy Kuhl was an enthusiastic supporter of George W. Bush. He accused Democrats of wanting to see the country do badly. He is a detestable, bullying figure who hasn’t earned re-election. By contrast, Eric Massa is a smart and energetic veteran. He’s a cancer survivor and has intimate, first-hand knowledge of foreign policy and military issues from his tenure as Retired General Wesley Clark’s chief aide while Clark was Supreme Allied Commander of NATO’s European forces. Massa is on board with the renewed concentration on the hardships of the middle class, which will be a refreshing change from the Bush Administration’s obsession for giving the superrich a hand. Website here.

SD-61: Joe Mesi

Did you really expect the guy who ran against Mike Ranzenhofer for a county leg seat to endorse Mike Ranzenhofer for a State Senate seat?

I am well-versed in Ranzenhofer’s legislative record, and to say it’s unimpressive is an understatement. Has he ever voted for a tax increase? No. But he’s voted for a great many budgets containing spending hikes, and what makes that so egregious is that it is patently fiscally unconservative to do that. Ranzenhofer was all too happy to plow Giambra’s policies of borrow & spend through the legislature as minority and majority leader. He complains about roads not being repaired – including many in his own district – yet refuses to vote for budgets that would fund them (as if it would all be done for free).

The Buffalo News noted that Mesi is not as well-versed on the issues as Ranzenhofer. Well, neither would you be if you were a rookie running against a 20-year veteran. I find Mesi to be smart, accessible, and above all a good listener. A guy who is as regular as they come, but has a major stake in this community and wants to ensure that his family and everyone’s gets a fair shake going forward. He is in favor of maintenance of the STAR program, and is pushing for measured, intelligent cuts to the state budget that don’t arbitrarily slash items that people not only depend on, but that are critical to our future. Like schools and public safety. He is dedicated to the expansion of green jobs and industry in New York, and for a ban on unfunded Albany mandates. He is in favor of a tax cap with a circuit breaker, and isn’t just looking at what the state’s problems are now, but is looking into the future to try and work towards longer-term goals to growth and prosperity. I also appreciate the fact that he’s not playing the upstate Republican game of demonizing downstate New York. It’s not productive.

The involvement of Steve Pigeon in Mesi’s campaign is troubling, but not enough so that I would for some reason say, “gee, I’ll vote for Ranz”. Website here.

SD-59: Kathy Konst

When Dale Volker went to Albany as an Assemblyman, Richard Nixon was being inaugurated for his second term. Pink Floyd released Dark Side of the Moon. New York’s World Trade Center had its ribbon-cutting. The Watergate scandal hadn’t yet hit. Nelson Rockefeller was Governor. Stanley Makowski had just taken over the mayor’s office from Frank Sedita, Sr.

And in that 36 years, Volker has done – what, exactly? The state has seen tragic decline in population and economic growth. Albany is as dysfunctional as it’s ever been. In 36 years, Volker should be able to point to a vast, proven record of service and excellence. Instead, he and his goon squad insult and threaten anyone who might unseat this unprincipled thug with a $1 million state payroll all his own. First, he and his people threatened and insulted Republican challenger David DiPietro, and now he’s doing just about everything in his power to not only defeat Kathy Konst, but to destroy her.

And in a year when people talk of mavericks, Kathy Konst really is one. She’s a Democrat, but she is neither beholden to Democratic Headquarters, nor is there very much love lost between the two. Although Konst and her husband are not beloved figures in local Democratic circles, we’re not voting for the Konsts’ friends or enemies – we’re voting for Konst. She has a proven record of transparency and hard work towards reform in the county legislature – both substantive and procedural. If ever there was someone we should send to Albany to give her a chance to shake things up, it’s Konst. Website here.

SD-58: Bill Stachowski

Dennis Delano may be a hero cop, but his political views and positions are unknown, since he won’t debate or appear anywhere to discuss the issues on voters’ minds. Seriously, Stachowski wins almost by default, and as ranking minority member of the finance committee, he is well-positioned to do a lot of good for WNY and the state-at-large. And if that doesn’t do it for you, Republican Jim Kelly endorses him, too. Website here.

Supreme Court: John Michalek, Tracey Bannister

Michalek is running for his second term. Bannister is the only candidate running who has earned the Erie County Bar Association’s highest ranking – Outstanding. As confidential law clerk to Justice Gorski in Supreme Court and in the Appellate Division, she has the experience and skills needed to be an excellent Justice.

Clarence:

David Donohue for Town Justice

David is running on the WFP line and is an excellent attorney and dedicated deputy town attorney. He is a lifelong resident of the town and very active in the community.

Tim Pazda for Town Board

Tim Pazda is a community juggernaut in his own right. He has volunteered for just about every local committee and charity imaginable, including the bicentennial celebrations this year, and many years with the Clarence Center VFD. He is a member of the planning board and extraordinarily knowledgable about development issues in the town. One of his initiatives was to institute design guidelines for certain areas of town to ensure that development follows the character of the surrounding area. That’s why the Dunkin Donuts at Goodrich & Main won’t be a beige eyesore, and it’s an idea that every community in WNY could learn from. Website here.

No matter what you do, please go out and vote. You may not think that your vote counts when you think, e.g., of the Presidential race – but it sure as hell matters to the downticket candidates.

Andrew Cuomo vs. Theft

30 Oct

No joke – New York’s Attorney General is looking into whether or not banks are using the receipt of federal bailout funds as part of their yearly bonus calculations.

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is demanding information about executive compensation and bonuses at nine banks that have received federal funds under TARP, the U.S. Treasury’s Troubled Asset Relief Program.

In a letter to each institution’s Board of Directors, Cuomo warns the bonuses could violate New York’s state fraudulent conveyance law.

“Obviously,” he writes, “we will have grave concerns if your expected bonus pool has increased in any way as a result of your receipt or expected receipt of taxpayer funds from TARP.”

In the letter, Cuomo demands information on how this year’s bonus pools were calculated, as well as details on each bank’s 2006 and 2007 bonus payments.

The bailout was very painful and controversial, and the money is to be used for very specific purposes. Bonuses for executives was not among them.

Anti-Delano Site

30 Oct

Evidently, Mr. Delano has lied about not seeking endorsements – he sought them, alright, but the scuttlebutt is that he performed laughably. There’s the absence of policy positions, and the fact that Delano took credit for others’ work. Also added to the mix is the fact that Delano isn’t a big fan of voting. The site, as you may suspect, is here.

McCain: For “Socialism” Before he was against it

29 Oct

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Blogs, Comments & New York State Law

29 Oct

From the New York Law Journal (sub. only) comes a case from New York County Supreme Court, holding that blog authors and publishers are immune from liability for libel published by commenters. The ISP may be required to divulge information concerning IP addresses and such, but only if the threshold question of defamatory content is satisfied. Here, the court looks at 40 allegedly defamatory comments, and is bound by law to read them within the general context of all 300 comments posted.

My occasional decision to delete comments that I find to be somehow objectionable does not alter my immunity from liability. Huzzah. Continue reading