Press Release Tuesday

21 Sep

Today was a gorgeous late summer’s day in Buffalo.  The temperature reached 80 delightfully breezy degrees, and there were two events we were asked to cover.

Firstly, a businesswoman named Sundra Ryce is running to replace Len Lenihan as the Erie County Democratic Committee chair.  Owner of a construction company called SLR Contracting & Service Co., Inc., Ryce promised that she would use her credentials as a businesswoman to help create jobs for Western New York, and to unite a party that’s been riven into about three distinct camps.

Despite her claims of independence and bridge-building, Ryce has both feet firmly planted in Byron Brown’s and Maurice Garner’s Grassroots political club, and has – personally or through her business – donated no less than $8,600 to Antoine Thompson alone over the past decade.   She’s also somewhat cozy with County Executive Chris Collins, who had appointed her to a transition team when elected, and to an upstate mandate relief commission.  More evidence of the Collins-Brown synergy we’ve come to know and love lately.

Next, State Senator and Democratic Attorney General nominee Eric Schneiderman was in Buffalo for a campaign stop hosted by Erie County Comptroller Mark Poloncarz, who was one of a few local politicos to have endorsed Schneiderman during the primary.

Promising to continue as a “sheriff of Wall Street”, Schneiderman praised Poloncarz’s, “aggressive, fair-minded approach to the [comptroller’s] audit function” as an example of what the attorney general’s office should do to “restore public confidence in the market and financial sector”.  Schneiderman focused not so much on the financial meltdown’s affect on the banks, but more on the “grassroots consequences” of Wall Street’s collapse.  Noting that Americans had withdrawn $33 billion from the markets in recent months, Schneiderman promised to be a “watchdog” for the people of New York.

Poloncarz noted that the Republican candidate for AG, Dan Donahue, is opposed to using that office to regulate or monitor Wall Street, and characterized that as “wrong for New York”.

When asked how he felt about being in the heart of “Carl Country”, Schneiderman retorted, “I don’t feel like I’m in Carl Paladino Country.  I feel like this is Mark Poloncarz Country”.

On a less serious note, right before the Schneiderman presser, a truck engine failed next to a police car on Church Street, exploding a load of thick, black oil all over the street and a police cruiser.


11 Responses to “Press Release Tuesday”

  1. Adam K September 21, 2010 at 4:12 pm #

    I just don’t see Lenihan losing, and I don’t see why anyone would want him to. He’s the fairest chair I think we’ve ever had, often going outside his home circle (kinda-sorta-Hoyt i guess) to keep the party together – not just endorsing Brown, but throwing him and Grassroots a bunch of judges and going with their city council and state candidates like Crystal Peoples over and over, and letting things go as they may in Cheektowaga, West Seneca and Hamburg even though the candidates may not exactly be on “Lenny’s team”. 

    Plus he found Mark Poloncarz, who is one of the only politicians in all of WNY who cares more about doing his job well than getting reelected or becoming famous.

  2. BuffaloGirl September 21, 2010 at 4:28 pm #


  3. TuWanner Cleveland, LMSW September 21, 2010 at 7:13 pm #

    I am noticing a pattern over and over again where WNYMedia has taken a personal attack approach to reporting stories about political candidates. So you attack the political contributions that have been made over the past 10 years without making mention of the successful business career that Ms. Rice has acheived in the WNY community. SAD! If this was a white, male candidate, we would be reading a different story. I supported Ms. Rice during this press conference and I encourage all Democratic voters in Erie County to join me in supporting candidates that will move our community forward. I charge ALL Democratic Party Committee Members to not only voice their concerns about change, but to also “Be The Change” that they desire to see within the Party. What better way to bring about change throughout the Democratic Party than by electing a African-American Woman with a successful company that has created jobs, who has played fair, and who also represents the best interests of Minority and Women Owned Businesses in the WNY area.

    • Alan Bedenko September 22, 2010 at 6:13 am #

      @TuWanner Cleveland, With respect, that’s a load of BS. Ms. Ryce’s business success and acumen is completely irrelevant to the job of Erie County Democratic Committee Chairman. The job of ECDC is to elect Democrats. Ms. Ryce isn’t a committeewoman, isn’t well known in Democratic circles, and has only donated money to about four candidates; Byron Brown, Antoine Thompson, Crystal Peoples, and Jim Keane – basically she is a Grassroots activist, not a Democratic Party worker. One would expect a prospective county chair to at least have been loyal and borderline hyperactive in assisting not just one faction’s candidates, but all Democrats. Furthermore, her closeness with Chris Collins – a man who should be no friend to Buffalo’s inner city, but with whom Mayor Brown and Grassroots have established a convenient and cynical working relationship – troubles real Democrats throughout the county.

      It’s no secret that we here at think that Antoine Thompson is the worst politician WNY sends anywhere and that he’s generally a civic embarrassment. So for someone to have given him almost $10,000 for any reason whatsoever boggles the mind.

      And when Frank Max challenged Len Lenihan for chair last time around (Frank Max, BTW, is a white male), it really wasn’t a different story. Of the three distinct factions within the Democratic Party, we prefer the ECDC wing of it, not being fans of either Grassroots or Steve Pigeon. You know, if you think ECDC is broken and corrupt, the last thing we need to do to fix it is replace it with something even more broken and more corrupt.

      Oh, and since you bring it up, if you go to the SLR Contracting website, Ms. Ryce appears to be the singular African-American and singular woman on the entire payroll. If you look at the “key personnel” and “our team” websites, everyone is male, and the only non-caucasian is an Indian man. It looks to me as if Ms. Ryce is uniquely positioned to help African-American men and women get a foot in the door of the local construction industry, and if she has, it’s not reflected in the roster of key officers.

  4. BobbyCat September 21, 2010 at 7:53 pm #

    I’m a Dem. Always have been. Lenihan and the Democratic Committee don’t get it. They keep winning seats because of the enormous enrollment edge and they keep thinking they are winners. Look at the sorry state of this area under Dem leadership. Look at the sorry slate of democratic leaders. Is that the best we can do? Hell no!! The ship is going down and the band keeps playing.and Lenihan keeps celebrating. I don’t want Lenihan’s faction. nor Mayor Browns’. Both are limp leaders. Poloncarz is an honest broker and an independent voice. I’d follow his lead.

  5. Alan Bedenko September 22, 2010 at 9:18 am #

    Tim, it’s typical of the violent protofascist right to wish physical harm on a political opponent.

    The Conservative Squadristi personified.

  6. Riley M. September 22, 2010 at 12:37 pm #

    With all due respect Mr. Bedenko, I feel the need to cry foul.  While I understand your preference to the ECDC faction, and I can even take your points of criticism of Ms. Ryce under consideration, I cannot understand how you can be complicit in the actions of Len Lenihan and imply that he is still the better choice for Chair of the Democratic Party in this county. You may not like Grassroots, or Steve Pigeon, but please do not pretend that the ECDC faction is any different and does not play the same games.  The only real difference is that the ECDC pretends to be above it all, and claims that they are as pure as the white snow, which is total BS.  This is politics after all.  
    I completely agree that any prospective county chair should be loyal and supportive of all Democrats, but does Lenihan truly embody that set of criteria?  If the point of the ECDC is to support ALL Democrats, then why endorse one Democratic candidate over another in a primary?  Why not just stay out of it until the general election, once the voters have decided who the Dem candidate should be?  It is these endorsements in primaries, that Lenihan makes, which allows for the continued divisions and disjuncture within the party itself.  
    If you sincerely want real change, then you need to recognize that it has to come from the top down, and this includes a new Chair.  It is time to elect a chair that wants to unite the party and heal some of the wounds, and not continue to be divisive and only endorse Dems that meet their personal preference and who will ultimately guarantee their continued power. I want to hear more from Ms. Ryce and including her ideas on which direction the party needs to go.  She has every right to challenge Lenihan despite your objections and those of ECDC.  This is not a dictatorship.  As a committee person, I now have an option, and I have every right to explore it.  Even if you are correct, and I do not necessarily believe you are, and she is aligned with Grassroots, so what?  One faction is not better and more qualified over another despite our personal preferences.  Len Lenihan is representative of the status quo, and he is certainly not entitled to remain in power simply because he desires to.   
    Lastly, you mentioned Ms. Ryce has contributed money to Democratic candidates and there is nothing wrong with that.  Furthermore, that does not make her less qualified or any less of a Democrat.  I donated to Barack Obama in the primaries two years ago. Did that make me less of a Democrat, or aligned with some malicious faction because I chose not to support Hilary Clinton?  Does that mean I need to be stopped?  We all have our inclinations and people whom we support, and that does not mean that we are disloyal to our party.  We have the right to challenge party bosses and incumbents in order to affect real change, and should not be criticized for it.  

    • Alan Bedenko September 22, 2010 at 1:40 pm #

      Thank you, @Riley, for your comment. I’ll take your points one by one.

      1. I never said that Lenny was perfect. But I do know from personal experience that Lenny is a pretty open-door type of guy who will listen to anybody and consider just about anything. The only reason why Grassroots has a bug up its ass about Lenny has to do with the fact that Lenny didn’t and wouldn’t let Byron Brown hand-pick Antoine Thompson as his successor – a privilege that neither Masiello nor Griffin enjoyed when they left the senate to become mayor. It’s been bad blood ever since, to everyone’s detriment.

      2. I never said that a county chair should be “loyal and supportive of all Democrats”, but I do believe that a county chair should be loyal and supportive _only_ of Democrats. Why would I want an ECDC chair who is cozy with Chris Collins? I don’t even want a EC Leg chair who is cozy with Collins. While I agree with you that the party apparatus should not endorse candidates during the primaries, are you suggesting that an ECDC controlled by Byron Brown and Steve Casey through Sundra Ryce will do that? Because that’s simply not true. Casey and Brown are so hyperpoliticized that they’ll make whatever your complaints about Lenny are look like child’s play by comparison.

      3. You want unity? That’s a two-way street, dontcha think? And I know for a fact that Lenny and ECDC have reached out to Byron’s people, and less often to Pigeon’s to try to bury hatchets. That hasn’t happened, and the blame can’t be lain solely at Lenny’s feet. What’s in it, after all, for Brown/Casey or Pigeon to cozy up to ECDC? None. They don’t want to unite and get along – they want to overthrow it. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but let’s at least be honest about it, shall we?

      4. If you can point out where I suggested that Ryce has no “right to challenge Lenihan”, I’d sure appreciate you doing so. Because I never said she couldn’t. I never said she shouldn’t. What I said was that she is a clearly partisan player who belongs solely in one faction’s camp and people should be informed about that. You think people’s decisions should be informed, don’t you?

      5. All you have to do is click the links above that take you to the Board of Elections website and show Ryce’s and SLR’s contributions. They are exclusively to Grassroots-backed candidates. The gold Buffalo lapel pin on Mr. Ricotta’s jacket was also a dead giveaway. You

      6. As to your last paragraph. Your entire comment lauds unity and assails Lenny for not bringing it about. Yet Ryce’s own campaign contributions don’t reveal any sort of great donation of money to different Democratic candidates from all three camps. She uniformly and exclusively gives to candidates deemed worthy by Grassroots. There’s nothing wrong with that, and doesn’t make her any less of a Democrat, per se. But it puts the lie to the very notion that she’d somehow be a unifying figure. The only unifying she’d do is to re-unite the Brown/Casey/Pigeon state senate alumni club, setting the stage for a new dawn in dirty, transactional politics in WNY. We might as well elect Chris Collins to be ECDC chair.

      Thanks for reading.

  7. Hank September 22, 2010 at 1:55 pm #

    BP Wrote
    ” if you think ECDC is broken and corrupt, the last thing we need to do to fix it is replace it with something even more broken and more corrupt.”

    I think that pretty much said it all.

  8. TuWanner Cleveland, LMSW September 24, 2010 at 4:01 pm #

    Thanks Alan, for exercising your first amendment right to free speech! Bottom line, collaboration is the movement, we need Andrew Cuomo in office by any means necessary! Whether that be within the Democratic Party or between the Democratic Party and other “factions”, the time is NOW for a CHANGE! I am a member of the Democratic Party, I have been in the WNY area for four years now and I can care less about how the “factions” (ie. Grassroots, New Dems of WNY, etc) have been on opposite sides of issues. I want to see change within the Democratic Party so that the constituents that are affected by this are represented fairly and justly. You make numerous references to Grassroots like it has to be Grassroots involved because she is a Black Woman. Please help me understand the connection because I am an avid supporter for justice within my Black Community and I am not enrolled in, nor have I donated funding to the organization. So please explain to me and the rest of the internet blog world why WNYMedia continues to make reference to Grassroots as being involved at the planning of this? And why is everybody so mad at Grassroots? Yes, I could go and ask members of the Black Community about the history of Grassroots but I have chosen not to because I feel as though the work of that organization is not in cohouts or in competition with the work my colleagues and I are engaging in. So if you have some insight to share please do. Also too, in an industry that historically has ostracized minorities, what pool of minority candidates does Ms. Rice have at her disposal to hire? And why would we not want a chairperson with PROVEN leadership? Help me better understand your frustration with Antoine Thompson? Is it because he has managed to collaborate with his down state colleagues instead of further dividing the state? We need a change in leadership that will allow us to educate the voters on Andrew Cuomo so that we will not get stuck with Carl Pallodino, bottom line. Anything else is irrelevant at this point in the General Election cycle.

    • Alan Bedenko September 24, 2010 at 8:25 pm #

      I don’t know if Grassroots is involved because Ms. Ryce is a Black woman, nor did I offhandedly assume her to be affiliated with Grassroots because she’s a Black woman.

      I made the connection between Ms. Ryce and Grassroots thanks to her record of political campaign donations, which went exclusively to Grassroots candidates. It’s in my post. Today’s endorsement of her by Byron Brown, Barbara Miller-Williams, and Crystal Peoples-Stokes sort of confirmed it.

      My frustration with Antoine Thompson is that he’s a horrible politician. He has a staff that costs almost a million dollars. He has a long and undistinguished record of making mistakes that are so embarrassingly careless.

      If you think that the rift between ECDC and Grassroots is somehow good for Democrats or WNY, you’re wrong.
      If you think that having Steve Pigeon (a Grassroots ally and downright awful person) involved in WNY politics is good, you’re wrong.

      The whole thing is ridiculous.

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