Archive | March, 2010

PolitiFAIL Final Four, Byron Brown vs. Dale Volker

31 Mar

Byron Brown’s failure stems from his promise.

In 2005, so many people had so much hope that this young, energetic, bright son of Montserratian immigrants could yank this city out of years and years of status quo cronyism.  He would implement new technology to help track city work and ensure that it was done more efficiently, saving money.  He would employ the best and brightest.  A new mayor for a new Buffalo.

Astonishingly, unnecessarily, his first term was marred by mediocrity, pettiness, and inaction.  Yes, good things have happened in town, but many of them thanks to the state or federal government.  Everyone wants to like the Mayor, and everyone really roots for him to succeed – to rise above the political power plays he engages in with his enemies, real and perceived.

Time after time, he and his cronies disappoint us.  Time after time, the political games distract us from real problems, harming our ability to find real solutions to them.

Yet after a first term of mediocrity, he wasn’t just re-elected, he was re-elected overwhelmingly.  In landslides.  A rout or two, in fact.

Byron Brown has the political capital to be a real agent for positive change in this city.  He has the unique ability to appeal to all city residents and bring them all together for the greater good.

The moment he decides to do that, we’ll let you know.

And then there’s Dale.  An Archie Bunker type who was heard this week on the radio bitching and moaning about the “downstate people”.

Dale, here’s a clue:  we’re not stupid.  We know that when you berate and blame “downstate people”, you’re talking about New York City Jews and minorities.  You might as well just man up and admit it; just call it what it is.

And this divisive, ignorant little toad, he of massive ego and sense of entitlement, continues to get re-elected thanks more to sharp elbows than merit.  Unlike Byron Brown, no one expects – or gets – great things from Dale Volker.  He is not a transformative figure.  He is not a guy who appeals to anybody except the beneficiaries of his member item largesse, and angry, threatened octogenarians.

So, with Dale we expect devastating mediocrity, and get exactly that.  For 40 bloody years.  Volker costs the taxpayers over a million dollars per year to do absolutely nothing.  Seriously, name one thing Dale Volker does that can’t be done some other way by some other government actor.  You can’t.  I can’t.   At least the Mayor goes out there and promotes Buffalo.

Dale Volker goes out there and promotes the antediluvian status quo.  There isn’t a new idea about anything rattling around in that empty head, nor has there been in two generations.

So, which is more insidious – great promise wasted, or 40 years’ worth of a D-minus?


PolitiFAIL Final Four, WNY Voters vs. Chris Collins

31 Mar

Here it is the final four, and the voters of WNY find ourselves up against a nouveau riche weasel who goes out of his way to screw the little guy day in and day out.

Collins was the top seed in the county bracket, and sure enough, here he is, playing the 4th local seed.  The WNY Voter has defeated such remarkable failures as Steve Pigeon and Andrew Rudnick.  That’s no small feat.  That’s a massive upset.

But consider the fact that Collins wouldn’t be a household name were it not for the WNY Voter.  The WNY Voter let Giambra before him get away with shoving the county’s head down the toilet and flushing over and over.  All of these elected people on the original bracket owe their political existence to the WNY Voter.

We’ve repeated Collins’ misdeeds over and over.  He’s a petty technocrat who, like his overwhelming white, suburban political base, doesn’t give a shit about the city or its poors.  Oh, they may “care” by, e.g., allowing the United Way to withdraw a few bucks out of every paycheck.  But in an overarching socioeconomic way, the Collins types figure urban problems just get solved by a few feel-good drop-offs of cans at a suburban Tops for the Food Bank of WNY.

Collins’ policies hurt the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.  The ones who need help the most.  The ones who are powerless, who have nothing, who are more likely than not represented by feckless wastes who concern themselves more with Machiavellian power plays than with applying 21st century solutions to late 20th century problems.

But the voter – we, as voters – we continually settle for mediocrity.

You know why Collins won? Because the other side put up Jim fucking Goddamned Keane to run for county executive.  I mean, why not just run a guy named Hacky McPatronagejob?  If the Democrats had run a candidate who didn’t make Dale Volker look like a forward-thinking go-getter, maybe the result would have been different.

While other people in other parts of the country strive for excellence, we struggle for adequacy.  Dale Volker hasn’t been in elected office since 1973 by accident.  Antoine Thompson didn’t win an uncontested election last year by a fluke. Byron Brown didn’t win by a landslide by mistake, and he didn’t run unopposed in November by chance.

All of these things happen because the average voter lets them.

Whether it’s the semi-informed ignoramus who listens to the Sandy Bauerle show, or the professional who carefully reads the paper, it doesn’t take much to get involved.  I may not agree with a single solitary thing the tea partiers stand for, but at least they’re trying to effect change they believe in.  Would that everyone did that.  Would that everyone took as much of an interest in political matters as they do with the goings-on of the Sabres and Bills.  We’d all be better off as a community.

Sports teams aren’t what make a city or a region a major-league place; a contender.

In this match-up, you have to decide from a FAIL standpoint: do we select the Six Sigma poindexter who puts the poors in a closet?  Or do we select the real culprits behind Collins’, Brown’s, Thompson’s, Volker’s, Maziarz’s, Howard’s, etc., ascension to elected office?

For the most part, our public servants aren’t.


Paladino’s Conundrum

31 Mar

If I was a Republican in New York State, I’d be pretty ticked off, too, by the late entry of unlikely candidate Stephen Levy, the Democratic Suffolk County Executive, into the race.  Lazio has been running for governor for over a year, and if nothing else, he’s a dedicated Republican.  Levy’s a late switcher, and the whole thing reeks of desperation.

(I don’t know how the mustachioed Democrat from Long Island is meant to defeat the Cuomo juggernaut, but then I don’t make Ed Cox money).

But forget Republicans – we have a genuine tea party candidate announcing next Monday. Noted Buffalo professional loudmouth and sometime developer Carl Paladino is running as a real Republican; right down to the fact that he’s got Roger Stone’s BFF Michael Caputo as campaign manager.  They’ve gone the whole mockery route, essentially ignoring Lazio and instead running guns-a-blazing against Levy.

Don’t ignore the Cox/Stone Nixon connection.  There’s also allegations of a quid pro quo whereby Cox threw Levy the nod in exchange for his son, Chris Cox, getting support for an unlikely congressional run in Suffolk County.

Paladino would have you believe he’s a lifelong conservative Republican.  A guy so politically principled, with tea party credentials so pure, that he’s mocking Steve Levy’s recent Democratic past, and his support of Sheldon Silver’s Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee. Naturally, a good tea party candidate includes Biblical language implying that Cox and Levy are not unlike Judas; 30 pieces of silver was Judas’ payoff for betraying Jesus to the Romans.

But since Paladino is blasting Levy as being a Johnny-come-lately to the Republican fold, what about his own contributions and electoral history?

As Chris Smith reports, Paladino was a registered Democrat between 1974 – 2005.  He switched in late October 2005, coincidentally just a week or so before Byron Brown won election as Mayor of the City of Buffalo.  Paladino was tight with Tony Masiello.  With Brown’s election imminent, he switched parties.

Paladino was a big Helfer backer in 2005. In fact, the Brown campaign attacked Helfer for his very close ties to Kevin Helfer, whom Paladino employed to run BCAR.

But you can’t just erase a 30-year history as a loyal Democrat and generous donor to Democratic candidates and causes.  Including the dreaded  Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee that Paladino now berates Steve Levy for having donated to.

Levy’s donations to the DACC amount to a paltry $650 since 1999.

But Paladino’s donated – and continues to donate – quite generously to Democratic candidates. From Chris’ post:

Staats Street Group, Inc. has given nearly $5,000 to local and statewide Democrats, including $150 to the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee, which Paladino uses as evidence that Levy is really a Democrat.

Swan Group LP, has given nearly $27,000 to various Democrats, including Robin Schimminger, Byron Brown, Brian Higgins, the New York State Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee, Erie County Democratic Party (ECDC), Len Lenihan, Jim Keane, and Dennis Gabryszak.

Mohawk Group LP, has given $9,600 to Democrats including David Paterson, Mark Poloncarz, Sam Hoyt, the ECDC and the Lackawanna Democratic Committee.

Niagara Group, LP has given $4,790 to local and statewide Democrats including Spitzer for Attorney General, Higgins, Dan Ward, Paul Tokasz, Hoyt and the ECDC.

Slade Group, LLC has given $10,500 to corrupt former candidate for Erie County Executive Paul Clark.

Michigan/Seneca Group, LP has given $14,750 to local and statewide Democrats including Spitzer for Attorney General, Paul Clark, Len Lenihan, the ECDC, Denise O’Donnell, Higgins, Paterson and Spitzer for Governor.

8246 Group, LP has given $6,600 to local and statewide Democrats including the ECDC, Spitzer, Paul Clark and Jim Keane.

2468 Group, LP has given $13,600 to local and statewide Democrats including Hoyt, Higgins, Denise O’Donnell, the ECDC, Jim Keane, Carl McCall,  Spitzer, Paul Clark, and Crystal Peoples.

Ellicott Development has given over $12,500 to local and statewide Democrats including Denise O’Donnell, Gary Parenti, Joe Nicoletti and Spitzer

Ellicott Group has given $700 to local Democrats including Hoyt and Higgins.

Ellicott Group, LLC has given $1,200 to local Democrats including the ECDC.

Ellicott Group A Partnership has given $5,600 to local Democrats including the ECDC, Hoyt, Paterson and Mickey Kearns.

JP Group has donated nearly $20,000 to local and statewide Democrats including Spitzer, Bonnie Russell, the ECDC, Paul Clark, Alan Hevesi, Lynn Marinelli and Joe Mesi.

Jefferson Utica Group, LP has given $1,200 to local Democrats.

9274 Group, LP (Who by the way have won 62 GSA contracts for a total of $738,171 in government money) has given $4,200 to local Democrats.

Paladino and his various shell companies and associations have donated over $135,000 to Democratic candidates since 2000, including several hundred dollars for Sheldon Silver’s Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee.  We’d have to consult paper records to go further back than that.

The appeal of the tea party movement is that it attracts and energizes people who believe themselves to be disenfranchised or otherwise ignored by government. Paladino is the consummate insider. He knows all the players. He donates generously to his favored candidates – to the people who will best help him and his businesses. He is not a principled player but a fundamentally transactional one.

Just look above at the various legally constituted entities he uses to donate money to candidates. He can donate far, far above the individual or corporate maximum by peppering his donations across several entities. It’s an insider’s trick, designed to maximize influence and minimize public scrutiny. (No one’s heard of “Niagara Group, LP”, for instance).

He can play conservative make-believe all he wants, but he can’t change the past. No matter how he explains the difference between “gun owners” and “sportsmen”.

And turning back again to the party switch in 2005, Paladino has been relentlessly critical of the Brown Administration. Of course, Brown has decided that Rocco Termini is his local developer of choice, thus shunting Paladino off to the side. I have no doubt that this:

…has nothing to do with a change in political belief and ideology and everything to do with the imminent Masiello exit and Brown entry, and quite likely the difference in how the Brown administration handled the downtown casino issue. (Read: stopped using Paladino to help negotiate on the city’s behalf with the Senecas). It’s no secret that Carl Paladino is the owner of all that attractive surface parking in the Cobblestone near where the permanent casino is supposed to go.

But in the end, this exchange from an interview Artvoice’s Bruce Jackson conducted with Carl Paladino is quite telling:

CP: I’m on your side on that one, Mr. Jackson. Totally. We could have protected ourselves, but they didn’t do it. And your buddy Byron Brown—

BJ: My buddy?

CP: Yeah, your buddy. He’s a liberal. He’s a liberal like you are. They’re your buddies.

BJ: Aren’t you a liberal? What are you?

CP: You tell me: How was that deal made?

BJ: What are you?

CP: I don’t know what I am. I’m a whatever. I don’t care. Any way you want to define me.

That was in 2006. Just four years later, Paladino has morphed from left-leaning transactional political player to right-leaning transactional political player. But he’s not in any position to accuse others of not passing a political purity test.

Common Council Approves Domestic Partnership Benefits

30 Mar

At the regular meeting of the City of Buffalo Common Council held today, the Council voted unanimously to approve an ordinance amendment sponsored by Council Members David Rivera and Michael LoCurto establishing Domestic Partnership Benefits for city employees.

After a thorough review of the potential costs associated with the domestic partnership benefit, the Council Members voted to approve the amendment with the following stipulations:

  • Both domestic partner members are of the same sex
  • Both persons currently share or have shared a common residence for at least six months as evidenced by proofs of residency required by the City’s medical insurance provider
  • Both persons are financially interdependent as evidenced by proofs of financial interdependence required by the City’s medical insurance provider.

This legislation extends to the registered domestic partner and eligible members of the families of city employees health, medical and dental benefits, and will take effect in 30 days.

(From a Common Council Press Release)

Collins vs. Howard, PolitiFAIL 2010, Elite Eight

30 Mar

It’s a battle between an indolent and incompetent county sheriff and an arrogant plutocrat who has ascended to the position of Erie County Executive.

This should be entertaining.

Both are evidence of a shift in our local politics and their failure transcends the simple day-to-day numbskullery and duplicitous deviance that we encounter on a daily basis in our local politics.

Collins has only been in power for eighteen months, but he is racking up a FAIL resume that is impressive in its breadth while Howard is on to his second term of constant and documented epic unaccountable failure.  One might say this is a showdown between Boss Hogg and Rosco P. Coltrane.

Let’s start with Chris Collins and we’ll pull from some of the different articles written about him on WNYMedia in the 18 months since his election.  First up, Alan’s profile of Collins from January:

Chris Collins: The current Erie County Executive, and another in a long line of Republican chief executives – interrupted by only one Democrat, Dennis Gorski, from 1988 – 1999. Collins is the CEO of several local closely-held companies, and specializes in taking failing businesses and turning them around. He campaigned on a pledge to do the same thing for Erie County, pledging to run it like a business and to institute cost savings, rational use of resources, and fiscal responsibility through the use of  Lean Six Sigma. Although he pledged not to become a “chief politician”, his critics have noted that he has become exactly that, brokering political backroom deals and quids pro quos in order to ease his agenda through with minimal opposition and oversight. Biggest governmental success so far has been the reversion of the Erie County Fiscal Stability Authority to advisory status.

Up next, we’ll go to Colin’s preview from yesterday:

You know Collins’ record by now: behaving like the new George Wallace and standing in the doorway of the Erie County Holding Center, cutting county support for nutrition programs for children and pregnant women, and generally acting like a chauvinist ass.  He’s a real piece of shit.

Colin is direct, impolitic, but spot-on.

And finally from Alan’s first round preview:

Collins was elected Erie County Executive in 2007, pledging to run county government “like a business”.  The centerpiece of his plan was to implement “Six Sigma Lean” manufacturing process concepts to the delivery and management of county government services.  Administering a $1.1BN county budget, about 80% of which is dedicated to state mandates, Collins came into office while the county was operating under a hard control board, and with a flourish promised to accept only $1 per month in salary until such time as the control board switched to advisory status, which it did in early 2009.

But all of the businesses Collins ever ran were closely-held entities over which he always had the final word and more or less complete control.  His efforts to run county government closely follow that same model – far more confrontational and micromanaging than cooperative and trusting.  His administration has been heavy-handed in its dealings with anyone it perceives to be an enemy or threat, and he has taken a page from the Byron Brown playbook, running candidates against that enemies list.  In 2009, he won some and lost some.  Collins ran as a non-politician, but he’s a quick learner and has become quite the transactional actor, relying on principle only when absolutely necessary.  His administration’s mishandling of the Erie County Jails issue is inexplicable and dangerous.  Although he claims that Six Sigma has been a success, there is little evidence presented.  His decisions often pit wealthier suburbs against poorer city – for instance, his decision to get the county out of the WIC and health clinic businesses – both of which were funded fully by the federal government.  His excuse?  They were non-mandated services, and the county was still on the hook for legacy costs.  Yet the county also administers golf courses, which are non-mandated services operated by county workers with legacy costs, but the county remains in the golf course business.  His arrogance is matched by his wealth and dictatorial attitude, and his public pronouncements are mere parroting of talking points that have become tired cliches.

What Chris Collins fundamentally represents in this region is the new guard.  He is a nouveau riche entrepreneur infiltrating the old guard of Buffalo’s elite and filling board slots and patronage positions with members of the Amherst/Clarence business class.  A guy from the outer ring suburbs who doesn’t demonstrate loyalty to the urban core in policy decisions and wants to change the way we approach public policy and regional decisions.

Is it a good thing?  We’re certainly going to find out.

Sheriff Tim Howard

As for Sheriff Howard, what more can I add that hasn’t already been covered here?  Well, maybe I can wrap some context around that summary of misery and incompetence.  We have been the leading biographers of the Sheriff Howard era and we have carefully documented every piece of FAIL since Day One.  He is a disaster of elected proportions.  There is no way that this man, with this record should have been re-elected in 2009.

This point speaks to what I highlighted in the other matchup thread of the day, our inability or unwillingness to hold elected officials accountable.  Howard was able to win re-election last year by making the election about his opponent rather than his own record.  Captain John Glascott of the Cheektowaga Police Department was, by all measure, a good man with the qualifications to be Sheriff of Erie County.  As far as I’m concerned, as long as he hadn’t let a prisoner escape (after receiving reports on how to prevent said escape), he was eminently more qualified than Howard to fill the position.

Howard was able to distract from his failures and play upon the idea that prisoners aren’t staying at the Holiday Inn, they’re criminals, after all.  However, we’re talking about fundamental  violations of human rights and reckless abuse of the public trust.

We paid more attention to the talking points and the shiny baubles of superficiality than we did the fundamental issues, and we hose unwisely.  Since being re-elected, suicides in our jails are rampant, lawsuits are piling up and millions of taxpayer dollars are being spent to defend against those lawsuits and prep the prisons for inspection.

We need to be smarter.

Wait, there is one more recent development we can add to the Sheriff’s impressive FAIL portfolio. In Sunday’s Buffalo News, we learned of the Sheriff’s crafty end-around on county limits on overtime pay in order to line the pockets of his appointees – “lineup pay”

Secretaries, special assistants, accountants and even top administrators already given cars and six-figure salaries can charge a half hour of overtime each day — not necessarily because the workload demands more of their time but because the system lets them. Because of an arbitrator’s decision last decade, both union and non-union employees can collect lineup pay even when on vacation. The income ratchets up their pension payments when they retire.

County Executive Collins, right, and Sheriff Tim Howard, left, compare beverages for Howard's next fundraiser

The article mentions that CE Collins “hopes” that Howard limits his lineup pay scheme….just like Boss Hogg used to “hope” Rosco P. Coltrane would ease up on setting up those illegal speed traps and pop-up hospital zone signs in an effort to get those Duke boys. Kew-kew-kew!

Sheriff Coltrane explains that he merely wants to reward “the best and brightest in management-confidential positions” – you know, the ultra-achievers who have turned the county’s department into a statewide (and national) laughingstock and one on which the Justice Department is training its sights to arrest (and, hopefully, correct) the multitude of abuses, neglect and utter incompetence in running a county sheriff’s department.

I can’t resist one more item….have you seen the Sheriff’s Message page on the EC Sheriff’s Office site? You would assume that it would be similar to most government official welcome messages – bland, benign, positive. Not ol’ Sheriff Timmy, though….check out the first line of his “welcome” message:

“The Erie County jails have five times that national rate for suicide as others”. That’s a memorable sound bite. But that is all it is- other than it being completely and utterly FALSE.

That’s not a welcome message from a high-ranking county official – that’s a blog comment from an unhinged crank. Complete with CAPS SO YOU KNOW HE’S SERIOUS, DAMN YOU!

Sheriff Tim Howard is treating this tournament like it was just booked into his Holding Center, he might pull an upset over Boss Hogg.


Rudnick vs. The WNY Voter, PolitiFAIL 2010, Elite Eight

30 Mar

In the final matchup in the “Other” bracket of the PolitiFAIL tournament, it’s come down the nominal leader of the business community, Andrew Rudnick versus The Voters of Western New York.

This is an interesting matchup as a sizable portion of the voting community has swallowed Rudnick’s message…hook, line and sinker.  His regular pleadings for corporate welfare, reduction in public spending (aside from projects he and the BNP favor) and tax cuts for the wealthy have endeared him to a chattering class of right wing blue collar voters.

On the other hand, we have a group of people who fail to show up en masse to the voting booth to effect the change they so desperately demand on talk radio, blogs, call in shows and on bar stools throughout the county.  Their failure to act in a reasonable way has empowered a state of dysfunction and graft so complete and so widespread that even the people of California think our state government is a mess.

Let’s break it down.

Andrew Rudnick

Andrew Rudnick is the Smithers to Robert Wilmers’ Mr. Burns.  A feckless bow-tied sycophant who collects failure the way Smithers collects Malibu Stacy dolls.


Rudnick is the carnival barker in charge of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership.  He routinely claims that his organization is fighting for lower spending in New York, lower taxes for businesses, but he then endorses status quo politicians and advocates for billions in local spending.  Remember last year when Rudnick and the BNP took out a full page advertisement in The Buffalo News crowing about their pile of invisible success?  Yeah, that was awesome.

Rudnick heads a half-assed, unaccountable chamber of commerce that bleats endlessly about excessive taxes and government spending on the one hand, but demands $500 million in government handouts for its members’ pet projects on the other hand.  I’d like to sum up the message of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership as follows:

“Stop taxing us to death, you’re making it hard to do business in this state with all of your spending that does not directly benefit us and what we deem to to be the priorities.  Also, please make the money appear from thin air because as mentioned above, we hate taxes and government dependence and whatnot!”

His two-fisted ham sandwich of uncoordinated messaging earns him roughly $300,000 per year in salary and the right to stick his nose in just about every planning or governmental decision in the region.

The WNY Voter

Since 1950, the WNY region has seen its population decline by half, industries shuttered, and an exportation of our younger generations to other areas of the country.  Certainly, there are macroeconomic reasons for this continual decline, but we all bear some ownership for the problem.  To blame others or to simply shrug things off as a change in the national priorities is short sighted.

We lack visionary leaders and at critical times in our past, we have elected leaders who work for short-term, transactional accomplishments rather than those who set aspirational goals and rally the community to achieve them.  While we spend a lot of time griping, we do very little acting to effect the change we want.  It’s much easier to place an angry call to the daily conservative circle jerk on WBEN than to canvass and volunteer for candidates who might implement the changes you seek.

We’re so busy paying attention to the little bullshit battles the politicians construct for us, the picayune legislative battles, the abuse of the franking privilege, the utter contempt for reason or reality in our politics, and the shiny baubles of doomed-to-fail silver bullet projects, that they hope we just won’t see the FAIL and graft.  Results from 50 years of elections demonstrate that they have us figured out.  That we are either so beaten down, dismayed, discontent, ambivalent or fed up that we just don’t want to see the sum total of failure which comes from our failure to hold anyone accountable . We do still have a choice in our politics, we need to start exercising it.

As FDR once said, “Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country.”

We’d be wise to remember that.


PolitiFAIL Elite Eight: Casey vs. Brown

30 Mar

One could credibly make the argument that Casey and Brown are, politically, the same person.  As Colin Eager put it, Casey is Willie Tyler to Brown’s Lester.

Since Casey and Brown’s political histories are so tightly wound together, who is more responsible for the FAIL?

Is it Byron Brown, the likeable guy who rose from Grassroots activist to Gorski aide to Councilman to Senator to Mayor?  Or is it Steve Casey, who has gone from Gorski aide to Brown aide?  Is it Byron Brown, whose Senate career highlight was a few streets being re-named, or Steve Casey, whose entire career can be summed up as: Steve Pigeon wannabe.

The best analogy to pop culture I can make is to suggest to you that Steve Casey is Grima Wormtongue to Brown’s Theoden.  Not a perfect analogy, and exquisitely nerdy, but it takes up the issue of evil, which the Lester/Willie example doesn’t.

Casey’s misdeeds are legion, and they are the stuff of Buffalo political legend.  Live in his neighborhood and dare to put up a political sign in support of a candidate whom City Hall doesn’t support?  Watch out.  Piss him off at City Hall?  You could find your computer vandalized.  Write something unflattering about the Mayor?  No soup for you.  He allegedly managed Brown’s mayoral campaign on the state’s dime, on state time.  He led city inspectors to harass a neighbor whose garden he didn’t like.  He took a good idea – Citystat – and made sure it was thoroughly politicized beyond all recognition, thus rendered toothlessly useless.

Like the portrayal of soup guy Al Yeganeh in Seinfeld, Casey’s the Byron Nazi.


This is all a long-winded way of saying Steve Casey is a Volkeresque, Pigeon-flavored asshole, and one wonders why Byron Brown lets it happen.  Unless Byron Brown is also an asshole.  In which case, who’s the bigger asshole?

Who is our political goatse?

There are no stories, necessarily, about Byron Brown doing similarly petty things.  By all accounts, Byron Brown is not just a guy who you want to like – he’s a guy most people do like.  He has stumbled with the handling of his kid’s joyride, and the BERC disaster was truly epic, and one gets a very strong sense that it was just the tip of a corrupt iceberg.

The problem here pivots back to Casey .

Part of the reason for Byron Brown’s presence this far in the tournament is that he is an enabler.  He’s like the wife who knows that daddy beats the kids when he gets drunk, but keeps buying booze anyway.  Petty power plays are like crack to Steve Casey, and Byron Brown is the guy who gives him a lift to buy his shit.

The rumor going around this past year had to do with the fact that the city suddenly found itself without a lot of department heads and key appointees – they saw City Hall as a mere stepping stone.  Byron would sit in as like a caretaker mayor for a term, not make any big mistakes, and then move on to Congress, thus paving the way for Antoine Thompson to become mayor.

A more arrogant and chilling scenario, I could not paint.


So, the issue is: who is more at fault for the general disappointment – the failure, the broken promises and crushing of the high expectations people had for the Brown administration?  Is it the puppet or the puppetmaster?  Is it the shrewd, sharp-elbowed, tactician, or the mild-mannered, likeable enabler?

This one, dear reader, is harder than it seems.


PolitiFAIL Elite Eight: Volker vs. Thompson

30 Mar

The decision here comes down to this: do you vote for the guy who’s been in office for 40 years and been instrumental in fucking up the State of New York in general, and WNY in particular? Or do you vote for the guy who aspires to do just that?

Thompson’s problem is that he makes stupid mistakes, which makes people pretty much think he’s stupid. You don’t gain the confidence of voters by railing against a bill you co-sponsored. You don’t inspire a lot of confidence by being flip-floppedly incoherent on Hiram Monserrate’s expulsion.

In a normal place, Thompson would be so easily defeated in any fair election that it would make people’s heads spin. But this isn’t a normal place, and our voters are a bit askew, as well.

I’ll bring this up again because it’s so telling. When asked why we even need a State Senate, this is the best Thompson could come up with. Not good enough:


Ah, but dear reader, if there were any other competitor, it would be a blow-out for Antoine. His opponent, however, is Dale Volker – a malignant cancer; a polyp in the colon that is Western New York.

Volker is a veritable piece of shit who has been in office probably since before you were born. He’s that old fart going 30 in the left lane, driving the tan Buick of our politics. His tough-guy pandering to cops and corrections officers stems from the fact that without Attica and other correctional facilities, his district would cease to exist.

His political survival is dependent on murderers and rapists.

A renowned asshole, Volker dispatches sycophants and surrogates to bully and threaten political opponents on a regular basis. He is so bad that even the Republicans and teabaggers hate him.

He is so odious, in fact, that even Jim Domagalski – the chairman of the Erie County Republican Committee is considering a primary run against him.  Primaries are like kryptonite to Republicans.

That’s as if Len Lenihan decided to run against Bill Stachowski.

Both of these guys are useless entities in a useless legislative body. Good luck choosing the guy close to retirement vs. the guy who’s just getting started.


But the Children! And Other Crappy Memes

30 Mar

A Brooklyn Assemblyman writes in to the Buffalo News to explain to us semi-literate rubes why it’d be bad for Wegmans to sell wine. Like a fifth grader’s book report, he begins by establishing his themes: Won’t somebody think of the money?! Won’t somebody think of the children?!

The whole thing is merely an emotional re-working of the liquor store industry‘s own talking points.

When evaluating Gov. David A. Paterson’s proposal to legalize wine sales in 19,000 new outlets, including grocery stores, delis, gas stations and bodegas, I considered two factors: the impact on jobs and our economy, and the impact on our teenagers. The plan fails on both counts.

Some wine store owners say 40 percent of the stores will go out of business. Even if that number is twice as high as reality, that still means more than 2,200 people would be put out of work. That doesn’t make any sense, especially considering that grocery stores will not create a single new job just because they add a new product.

I am telling you that those numbers are the uninvestigated regurgitation of propaganda. The idea that liquor stores that sell wine would suddenly go out of business ignores the simple fact that they’d still retain their exclusive rights to sell hard liquor. There are a lot of very knowledgable wine shops in town that place a premium on education and service – something that wine sales at Tops simply won’t be able to match.

And think about this – Consumers’ Beverage sells beer and soda. Amazingly, beer and soda sales at convenience stores and supermarkets didn’t run them out of business.

No word yet on whether the bill would prevent Nutcracker sales to tweens and teens in local New York bodegas.

I would also fully expect the more upscale supermarkets to hire people to enable them to compete better with a Premier. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Wegmans and Whole Foods employ someone with a basic wine knowledge to help customers select wines to best go with the meals they’re going to prepare with the ingredients in their carts.

Proponents contend it will help upstate by bolstering New York State wineries, but that argument falls short. There are about 100 state wineries opposed to this legislation because it will hurt their industry, not help it. These small businesses make a limited amount of wine each year and could never sell to grocery stores simply because they don’t have enough supply.

Grocery stores look to buy in bulk, and will go for the discount wines so they can sell them quickly. That means cheap, imported wines will get shelf space, while New York wines will be left out. New York wineries count on the small wine retailers to reach customers, and will suffer a double insult as these stores go out of business and they find themselves shut out of grocery stores.

But don’t the big liquor stores buy in bulk? We’ve retarded the whole liquor store industry in New York to prevent the three local Premier outlets from even being part of the same company. All people want to do is grab a cab to go with their steak. The way I figure it, the more places sell wine, the more wine gets sold, the more attention is paid to New York wines, and the more New York wine gets sold.

The idea that expansion of wine sales would contract sales of New York wines is mind-bogglingly stupid.


A few winery owners, who did not wish to be named, said they felt pressured to support the liquor stores.

So, there’s that.

So from a jobs perspective, and economic development perspective, this plan doesn’t measure up. Any plan that reduces jobs and doesn’t deliver real economic growth is simply a non-starter.

Clearly, we also have an obligation to first “do no harm” as it relates to our teenagers. Our young people face enormous challenges today, much more than when I was growing up, and they need our help and support. Because this plan would make wine more accessible to teenagers, it must be rejected.

Wine is not a food and it is not beer. Wine has three to four times more alcohol in it than beer. And we know from a Columbia University study that teenage girls who have tried alcohol would rather drink wine than beer if given a choice. That’s a recipe for trouble.

The best thing to do would be to lower the drinking age back to 18 and eliminate the rebellion aspect of binge drinking. Part of the allure is that between the ages of 18 – 21, when most kids are of college age, they’re not legally allowed to drink. Can you name a single, solitary college student who was dissuaded from drinking beer because the law said you had to be 21? Let’s stop pretending that college kids don’t drink, and let them have it. If a college freshman was able to order a few pitchers with his friends on a weekend, so what? It’s the prohibition that leads to excess.

New York already spends $3.2 billion every year to deal with the impacts of underage drinking, from accidents and violence, to teen pregnancies and diseases. In fact, officials at the State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services say that underage drinking is the No. 1 substance abuse problem in New York State today.

It is a hard truth that teens will have an easy time getting wine if it’s available in every deli, gas station, bodega and corner store, rather than limited to small, owner-operated wine and liquor stores. That is where it belongs and where it should stay.

We need to do more to protect our young people, and create jobs and opportunity for all New Yorkers. That’s why I oppose Paterson’s wine in grocery stores plan.

Premier is “small”? Give me a break. We should protect our young people by lowering the drinking age to 18, and basically do what we did when we let states raise speed limits – legalize behavior that was already happening with the overwhelming majority of the population. Furthermore,

Also, Assemblyman Abbate – Chairman of the Labor Committee – should probably disclose his campaign contributions from Anheiser-Busch, the NYS Beer Wholesalers’ Association, Phillip Morris, all of which harm the economy and drive kids to drink.

The address listed for the anti-wine-sales-in-supermarkets group is that of Mercury Public Affairs.

PolitiFAIL Tourney Results, Sweet Sixteen

30 Mar

We have now reached the Epic Elite Eight of FAIL.  It was a fun round with some of the best matchup previews to date.  A reminder, the winner of the WNY PolitiFAIL Tournament will be announced at a press conference in front of the Rusted Hulk of Invisible Casino FAIL on Fulton Street in Downtown Buffalo at 5PM on April Fool’s Day.  I hope you’ll be able to join us, we’ll be streaming it live on the site and we’ll invite the winner to receive our FAIL Trophy.

Let’s revisit the day in FAIL.

Joe Illuzzi vs. Andrew Rudnick

This contest was much closer than originally predicted.  In the matchup thread, Illuzzi was compared to both Omar Little and a used condom.  I employed every tactic and insult I had in my quiver to establish a resume of FAIL that would get Mr. Illuzzi past the Bow-Tied Boss of Business Bologna, Andrew Rudnick and into the Elite Eight.  However, the voters rewarded Rudnick’s  seeming lack of accomplishments, high salary and inability to attract women with his feral scent of failure by sending him forward in this tournament with a victory of 204-182.

Byron Brown vs. Mickey Kearns

A rematch of Mayorpaloozer 2009 with Brown once again besting Kearns in a rout.  I thought this contest might be closer than the shellacking Kearns received at the polls last November, but it is pretty clear that the Mayor has no friends among the readership of WNYMedia.  We had expected that a last minute blast of campaign cash from Carl Paladino to help get Mickey over the hump, but he failed to organize his campaign and fell flat on his face, again.  When asked for comment on his victory, the Mayor said, “Ummm, ahhh, ummm, victory in this contest, ummm, ahh”

Dale Volker vs. George Maziarz

This was a clash of FAIL heavyweights.  Two of the most senior members of the FAIL delegation facing off in an epic battle of weak prostates and frivolous mailers to voters.  In the end, Volker’s resume of FAIL, lack of distinguished legislative record, general arrogance and general dickishness carried the day by a margin of 262-198.  Volker can credit his victory to Pundit’s epic matchup preview, which will serve as his magnum opus to local political failure.  Maziarz was last seen hightailing it back to Albany where he can be found spooning up with downstate interests, union insiders and other toxic assets.

The WNY Voter vs. Steve Pigeon

This was a showdown between the citizenry of WNY, who each year shuffle to the polls like labotomized minions of the monied insider club of local politics and the king of inside political baseball, Steve Pigeon.  The WNY voters shook off their thorazine induced shuffle to yank Pigeon from his closet and spank him in the light of day.  The voters rout Mr. Pigeon to move on to the next round after winning by  margin of 296-178.

Antoine Thompson vs. Bill Stachowski

Antoine routed in this one, primarily because most people in the area don’t know who the fuck Bill Stachowski is.  Thompson’s ratio of FAIL/Tenure seems to have struck a chord with the voting audience, 281-167.

Tim Howard vs. Lynn Marinelli

I’m getting tired…Rosco P. Coltrane took it to the high priestess of parliamentary procedures, 271-114.

Chris Collins vs. Barbara Miller-Williams

This wasn’t even close.  It was rumored that BMW tried to buy off voters with the proceeds from her three pensions, but Collins’ Six Sigma’d his way to victory, 311-98.

Steve Casey vs. Bonnie Russell

Casey in a cakewalk over a common councilwoman who few know of and less care about.  She snuck through the early rounds due to weak matchups and once faced with a quality opponent, shrunk faster than Casey’s manhood in a cold pool.  Casey wins 161-72.

Our elite eight matchups are as follows:

City Bracket:

Byron Brown vs. Steve Casey or as others are referring to it, Willie Tyler versus Lester.

State Bracket:

Dale Volker vs. Antoine Thompson

County Bracket:

Chris “Boss Hogg” Collins vs. Tim “Rosco P. Coltrane” Howard

Other Bracket:

The WNY Voter vs. Andrew Rudnick

Matchup previews will be published through the course of the day, stay tuned and keep voting!