Archive | June, 2011

BREAKING: Sam Hoyt to Cuomo Administration (UPDATED)

30 Jun

We’re trying to get additional confirmation, but sources tell us that Sam Hoyt will be resigning his Assembly seat to go accept a job with the Cuomo administration.  We’ll update the site as more information trickles in.

UPDATE: It’s confirmed. Sam Hoyt has resigned the Assembly seat he’s held since 1993 and will be accepting a job with the Cuomo Administration at the Empire State Development Corporation. The now-vacant Assembly seat in A-144 will be filled by special election to be called by the governor. Names are already popping up, including City Councilman David Rivera, former Erie County Legislative counsel Sean Ryan, former State Senate candidate Sean Cooney and City Councilman Joe Golombek.  The winner of the special election would serve through the end of 2012, and a regular election would be held in November of that year.

We’re also hearing that this move is part of the same Erie County Democratic peacemaking that led to Len Lenihan’s resignation from his county party chairmanship, and unity more or less across the Democratic ticket for 2011.

UPDATE 2: I’m hearing that Sean Ryan is the likely nominee, already determined as part of the Democratic detente between ECDC, City Hall, and Grassroots.

UPDATE 3: Sam Hoyt has issued a statement:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Date:             June 30, 2011

 

STATEMENT FROM SAM HOYT

REGARDING HIS RESIGNATION

 

Dear Friends:

Governor Cuomo has offered me an exciting and important opportunity within his administration, a senior position with the Empire State Development Corporation, about which more details will be available tomorrow. I have accepted his offer with enthusiasm, which necessarily means that I will also be stepping down after 19 years of service in the New York State Assembly. After the most productive legislative session I have experienced – both for me personally and the Legislature as a whole – I can hardly imagine a better moment to make this transition. The last few hours of this last session were by far the most thrilling I have been a part of in all of my years in the Assembly. I was proud to help Governor Cuomo pass key elements of his legislative agenda including SUNY 2020, the strongest property tax cap in the nation, and most historically, marriage equality for all New Yorkers, an issue I have advocated for years.

While the work of the Legislature will never be finished, this session marks the successful completion of many of the projects I have worked on throughout my career. One of my primary goals has always been revitalizing our upstate cities, with a focus, of course, on Buffalo. In the past three years, I have authored and passed into law three bills in particular that I believe will have a transformational impact on our upstate cities. They are the Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit, the State’s first Smart Growth law, and most recently the Land Bank bill that was passed by both houses just two weeks ago. These three pieces of legislation have the potential to make a significant impact on the repopulation and revitalization of Upstate New York.

Over the past 19 years, I have worked hard to represent the interests of the people of the 144th District, not just in Albany but here at home as well. For me, elected office has been about more than legislation alone. It has been about helping the people in my district when they need it the most, and about making Buffalo a better place to live and work. Over the years, that has meant things like helping protect and preserve the historic H. H. Richardson Complex, stopping the closure of Children’s Hospital, and fighting for community-driven projects like the Jesse Kregal Bike Path along Scajacquada Creek and Black Rock Canal Park. It has also meant hours and hours of constituent service, helping the people of Western New York straighten out bureaucratic problems with Medicaid or unemployment insurance, lending a hand to block clubs in their efforts to clean up problem properties in their neighborhoods, and fighting to ensure that above all, the government works for the people.

Of course in my duties as a Legislator, I have also worked hard for my legislative successes. From the Protections for Health Care Workers Act to the Local Government Consolidation Law to Race to the Top education reform to the Main Street Grants Program and more, I have consistently fought for economic and social justice legislation that would benefit all New Yorkers. All of this work has culminated in the great accomplishments of this most recent legislative session.

It is no coincidence that the Legislature’s most successful year coincides with Governor Cuomo’s first year. I have long felt a sense of partnership with Governor Cuomo, indeed long before he was Governor. There has been no daylight between his priorities and my own. It has therefore not been difficult to conclude that the best way to advance those priorities further on behalf of Western New York and the entire state is to join his team.

I was first elected to the Assembly under sad circumstances – the seat opened upon the premature passing of my father, Bill Hoyt.  My initial motivation was to continue the family legacy – that of both Bill and my mother, Carol of progressive leadership. During the ensuring two decades that motivation has married well with the needs and aspirations of the people of Buffalo and Grand Island, who I have had the honor to serve. And while I enter this new phase under much happier circumstances, those motivations will continue to inspire me every day I will be working for the most dynamic leader this State has seen in generations.

Although this moment marks the end of my career in the Assembly, it is far from a goodbye. More than anything else, every success attributed to me has been a team effort. I am so grateful for the many dedicated staff members I have had over the years who made enormous personal sacrifices to serve along side me to help improve the lives of the people of the 144th District. Both in Albany and throughout the district, they worked long hours behind the scenes on legislation, local projects, constituent service, and beyond. It is through their efforts that I was able to represent the interests of the people of Western New York, and for that I am thankful.

All of you have been my partners in so many of those efforts as well, and Governor Cuomo and I will continue to need your support going forward. The future has never looked brighter. I am grateful for this new opportunity to get to that bright future, and I am eternally grateful for your help, support and friendship in our shared goal of getting there together.

Sincerely,

 

SAM HOYT

 

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Redistricting: Broken, Like Everything Else

30 Jun

The Democrats on the Erie County Legislature picked one map. Chris Collins doesn’t like it. He liked another map. The Democrats don’t like it. So Collins vetoed the Democrats’ map, and the veto override vote is likely to take place sometime today in the legislature.

Of course, what should have happened is we should have had not a bipartisan – but a nonpartisan – commission made up of academics and professionals to help draw new district lines. What we had was political appointees who had marching orders and acted as proxies for larger interests.

Assuming the veto cannot be overridden (there aren’t enough votes, regardless of whether any Democrats align themselves with the Republican minority), the legislature has a big problem. The thing is going to go to court regardless of what happens, but don’t forget that the voters overwhelmingly voted to reduce the legislature from 15 to 11. Now what happens with that?

No one really knows.

It’s my hope that the legislature is dissolved by default and we can go back to the drawing board and create something less horrible to serve the people.  After all, 90% of their work is rubber-stamping and 10% seems to involve temper-tantrums.

I guess we’ll find out this afternoon.

Cowed CanalSide Crowdsources

30 Jun

The Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation’s implementation of “placemaking” is happening, guys!  Instead of ground being broken on a big store, (pshaw! – everyone hates big stores like what AM&A’s used to be!), which would, in turn, attract other businesses, we have this:

Food stand 1

No, seriously, the food shack under the Skyway is almost done! Soon, you’ll be able to eat food near the water. (Bathrooms may come shortly, too, ZOMG! And CHAIRS, GUYS! CHAIRS!)

Naturally, I’m coming off as snarky because I’m disappointed in the pace of progress, which has mostly been hampered by protests and threatened litigation.  Par for the course for any Buffalo development, really.  I hope – truly hope – that the most recent plans that ECHDC has for Canal Side, involving interpretive canals, a public market space, and build-outs for other retail and food outlets will happen soon.

We’re close to ten years out from the first announcement of Bass Pro. We’re now supposed to get excited over a shack that would look at home at any little league field.

To make matters more bizarre, the ECHDC is so proud of this shack that it’s holding a naming contest for it.

Not everything needs to be crowdsourced, guys. How about you bid out the food operation, and let the food operator choose the name?  Fred Kent and his PPS were paid six figures of taxpayer money for their Google Image Search and unscientific “power of ten” feel-good hocus-pocus. I seriously want our money back. After all, we could have built a second shack with it.

But we held our own contest on Twitter last week under the #ecshack (Erie Canal Shack) hashtag. Some of the entries:

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/wnymediachris/status/84334020174938112″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/wnymediachris/status/84332632447516672″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/labgrrl/status/84333084278927361″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/84332153952935936″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/ccharvella/status/84335083980472321″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/84330606359621635″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/TomDolina/status/84336873652232192″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/redsbasement/status/84336917436567552″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/84329793084080128″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/drwarner29/status/84328763004948480″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/TomDolina/status/84324953847119872″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/84324833210540032″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/84321213501018113″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/84321068101275648″%5D

For some reason, the Twitter search function isn’t working quite right, so a lot of my favorites aren’t available. Suffice it to say many of them involved “Shack” or “Shed”.

Disappointment breeds cynicism and sarcastic reaction – all three are growth industries in Buffalo.

The Morning Grumpy

30 Jun

6/30/2011


I have a voracious appetite for internet memes, video, podcasts, news and analysis, so each morning I’ll share several links that you can consume during your “morning grumpy”.

1. Last week, the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation announced the completion of a new “restaurant” at the Inner Harbor. This is what it looks like:

What was supposed to be announced instead of this slanty-roofed Kone King replica was a restaurant at the Naval and Military Park. Well, that worked out as well as expected.

A waterfront agency was expected to approve $200,000 in April to pay for the buildout of a restaurant with an outdoor patio at Buffalo & Erie County Naval and Military Park.

Then the mayor, who said he had been left out of the loop, put the brakes on the project. Now, a refreshment stand on the wharf, but not the restaurant in the museum, will be opening Friday.

Essentially, Mayor Brown wanted the restaurant contract to be directed to former Erie County Legislator George Holt, who turned down the opportunity. Then, the usual palm greasing, crumb hoarding, and backroom haggling began and we end up with a half-assed lean-to which will serve up snacky cakes.

The ECHDC, always desperate to please the Mark Goldman and his 40 friends, decided to put a positive face on this “food shack” and asked for the community for input on what to name the “exciting new development”. Seriously, what exactly are we paying the people at this authority for at this point? Let’s just put Mark Goldman on contract, hire Fred Kent from PPS to do some more Google Image Searches for us and have Goldman’s millionaire brother Tony laugh at the very idea of investing his own money into Canalside. I’ve had enough.

Reminder, the waterfront would have looked something like this, right now, if we hadn’t completely restarted the process:

2. The bane of our political existence is two party rule and First Past The Post (FPTP) voting. It leads to electoral fusion, minimizing variance of opinion and a system which encourages consolidation of power. A solution would be something called Instant Run Off Voting.  Learn about it here and watch a video that explains it in a very simple fashion.

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3. An economist blogger has been writing an ongoing series about health care system “memes” that continue to permeate our debate, even when evidence shows them to be false. The introductory post in his series contains links to all entries. This particular entry is about the myth that “tort reform” would result in a significant reduction in national healthcare spending. I link to it today because I watched the documentary “Hot Coffee” last night and you should as well.

For better or for worse, whenever many are asked about how they would help control the cost of the health-care system, tort reform always seems to be one of the first things offered as a solution.

This image should sum up the argument against tort reform nicely.

4. The Economist created a useful interactive graph displaying state-level economic, political, and demographic data. The screenshot below shows GDP numbers by state:

Click here to read the full story

5.new report out of Brown University estimates that the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq–together with the counterinsurgency efforts in Pakistan–will, all told, cost $4 trillion and leave 225,000 dead, both civilians and soldiers. That doesn’t include the current Libyan conflict nor incursions into Yemen. In estimating the $4 trillion total, they did not take into account the $5.3 billion in reconstruction spending the government has promised Afghanistan, state and local contributions to veteran care, interest payments on war debt, or the costs of Medicare for veterans when they reach 65.

6. On to lighter fare, ever wonder how a hard drive works? It’s extraordinary technology.

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7. Yeah, Grover Norquist is completely rational. Fast forward to 5:30 in the video. I know he was in a jokey environment and all, but Norquist truly believes it is never acceptable to ever raises taxes on anyone in America under any circumstances. This guy is at the heart of the current conservative movement.

8. What’s happening with the national debt ceiling? Here’s an explanation.

9. I’ll close with a life lesson from Leon. Rough language, but advice worth hearing. Curb Your Enthusiasm returns to HBO on July 10th.

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The Grisanti Situation

29 Jun

The last several days have been a whirlwind for NY State Senator Mark Grisanti, but that’s what happens when you make history. After casting a crucial vote in favor of marriage equality in New York State, the Senator has found himself featured on The Daily Show, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and in media outlets across the country. He’s held press conferences here in Buffalo and done numerous interviews. He’s kind of a big deal.

With that sudden notoriety also came some serious questions from local officials in the Republican and Conservative Parties who were not happy with Sen. Grisanti’s decision to vote in favor of marriage equality. There have been local stories all week about how disappointed the members of those parties are with Grisanti’s actions.

When contacted for comment, Erie County Republican Chariman Nick Langworthy said, “As I’ve said a few times, I’m disappointed with Mark’s choice to vote in favor of gay marriage. He went back on his word to support the institution of marriage being between one man and one woman.”

But what are the political consequences that Grisanti now faces after “disappointing” his party chairman and senior members of the party? Yesterday, we heard a rumor from three different sources that Langworthy had arranged a meeting of at least some of the members of the Erie County Republican Executive Committee to determine what the roadmap would be for dealing with Grisanti. The sources reported that Langworthy and other Republican leaders were considering a move to sever political ties with the Senator. When asked, Langworthy said that meeting was not happening and added, “I’m not out rattling cages about this, but I think Senator Grisanti should spend some time with his constituents.”

The rumor of a secret Republican cabal to kick Grisanti out of the party, as it were, seems unlikely. After all, the decision to force Grisanti into the arms of an eager Democratic Party is not Langworthy’s alone to make. A decision like that has tremendous statewide consequences that would affect redistricting and the overall balance of power in the state senate. Any move on Grisanti would need approval from the state party chairman and other members of the party apparatus. Langworthy may be a lot of things, but a move like that would be politically tone deaf.

With that said, Democratic party regulars are chasing Grisanti like hormonal tweens chasing Justin Bieber at the airport. Pulling Grisanti back into the Democrat party from whence he came would be a massive coup. When asked for comment, Erie County Democratic Committee Chairman Len Lenihan said, “There are always informal discussions locally and in Albany over issues like this, but nothing formal or direct has happened. I have not spoken with Senator Grisanti about this.” Lenihan continued, “Senator Grisanti was a lifelong Democrat until this past election and he is now a hero in this party after voting his conscience.”

Senator Grisanti’s Chief of Staff, Doug Curella said, ” Right now we are dealing with real issues like creating jobs, lowering taxes and bringing people back to the Western New York area. We have never really thought about running on the Democratic line in 2012, it’s a year in a half away, we are interested in the policy, not the politics of government.”

The stakes are high for a first term Senator who earned praise not only for his marriage equality vote but for his entire body of work during his first year. An independent report done by the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) shows Grisanti was one of the state’s busiest and most effective lawmakers, according to a recently released study of legislation that passed this session in both the New York State Senate and New York State Assembly.

Grisanti sponsored a total of 103 bills and had 23 pass both houses ranking him 8th out of the 212 combined members who represent the state in the Senate and Assembly. These 23 bills also placed him 7th in terms of numbers of bills passed by senators. Grisanti passed the most bills of any first term senator or Assembly member. He also is the only first-year legislator among the list of 10 who passed at least 20 bills, with the other nine who made the list having served in office for at least five terms.

It seems to me that the battle for Senator Grisanti is just getting started. “The situation is ripe for discussion and Senator Grisanti essentially holds the majority for the Republicans in the State Senate.” said Lenihan.

To be continued…

The Case for Paladino: Fisked

29 Jun

It’s been a while since I’ve properly fisked something. This article from Buffalo Business First, penned by the Buffalo Law Journal’s Matt Chandler, is ripe for this treatment.  It deals with oppressed, local, rich, connected person, Carl Paladino.

Though the gubernatorial election has long since passed, opponents of Buffalo developer (and attorney) Carl Paladino aren’t ready to put down their collective sticks and stop whacking away at the Paladino pinata.

In fairness, Paladino brings on many of these attacks with his own words, including the scathing letters he regularly pens attacking those who he thinks are doing wrong by this once great city. In spite of that, and putting politics aside (I know that can be difficult for a lot of people) not only is Paladino good for Buffalo, Buffalo needs him.

The opening paragraphs set up the argument – that it is Paladino’s critics and opponents who are unreasonable, wielding “sticks” with which they “whack” away at the poor, oppressed, wealthy, and connected kvetcher. Chandler acknowledges that Paladino is an abrasive loudmouth, but argues that, for some reason, we need that?

Buffalo has long had a reputation as a dying rust-belt city buried in snow 13 months out of the year and is viewed by many as about as desirable a place to live as a hornet’s nest. Paladino is, at the core of the issue, a passionate voice fighting to overcome those challenges and return Buffalo to the powerful city it once was.

Is he outrageous at times? Absolutely. Does he speak off the cuff and on occasion toss the politically correct handbook aside? Without a doubt. But Paladino has never apologized for who he is, and that is refreshing.

Carl Paladino ran for governor and was such a polarizing and hateful character that not only did his admittedly attractive and baseball-bat laden platform of Albany disdain fail to propel him to the governor’s mansion, but he helped turn Buffalo into an even bigger statewide laughingstock than it already was.  I grew up downstate – I’ve heard all the jokes. Paladino is a caricature of the sort of unenlightened, brash, uncultured upstate loudmouth with a misguided sense of entitlement that the part of the state with all the people in it loves to hate. For a city with low self-esteem and a serious inferiority complex, Paladino’s frequent mouth-craps serve to bring us down further.

Visit Lovely Buffalo!

While I would agree that, at one time, Paladino’s civic involvement and bomb-throwing may have been compelling and entertaining, if not productive, now it seems much more bitter – as if he’s just angry for anger’s sake.

And he’s angry at anybody who doesn’t do exactly what Carl wants.

As for Paladino “never apologiz[ing] for who he is”, that’s not refreshing; that’s depressing. We know him to be entertained by the most base defamation against women, gays, blacks, the President, etc. There’s not much there of which to be proud.

Disingenuous cries of “political correctness” are, in cases like this, merely complaining that society demands a certain amount of courtesy, temperance, and politeness. Carl has money; he doesn’t need to be any of those things. Right?

Part of what makes our country great is that we have the ability to speak our mind without persecution or prosecution. Paladino personifies that and though we may not always agree with him, I respect not only his right to say what many other people are thinking, but his willingness to do so.

That paragraph more properly belongs in the comments section of this blog. Whenever we criticize someone for being an intemperate asshole, some dummy will type something similar to it. Who ever said that Paladino didn’t have a “right” to say the hateful things that he has said? Just because “other people are thinking” that way doesn’t make it socially acceptable, or something that we should all applaud, regardless of its legality.

Over the last year, I’ve been privy to countless conversations between people bent on crushing Carl Paladino. Those conversations, as of late, have centered around a series of letters the former Republican gubernatorial nominee has written, then mass-emailed to seemingly everyone on earth. For those of you not on his email list, he fired off a caustic letter last week to Buffalo News Publisher Stan Lipsey where, among other things, he called Lipsey “spineless” and predicted the longtime publisher would soon resign.

Lipsey is so “spineless” (a synonym of “coward”), that he’s let loose the reporters at the News to start paying attention to matters that Paladino – through his money, power, and influence – had gotten away with for years. Crumbling buildings, code violations, threats to health and safety, lies. Lipsey is anything but spineless – he’s taken the fight to Paladino, who isn’t used to being confronted negatively.

Carl's Insult Billboardatorium

He followed that letter with one aimed at Brendan K*******, the attorney for the Buffalo Board of Education. The letter was directed to the Erie County Bar Association Grievance Committee and, in a nutshell, called for Mr. K******* to be disbarred based on his conduct in various school board related issues.

This is ironic. In his zeal to destroy the lives and livelihoods of those whom he dislikes, Paladino has publicly released a complaint he filed with the attorney’s grievance committee? That’s patently improper. Under Section 90(10) of the Judiciary Law, “…all papers, records and documents upon the application or examination of any person for admission as an attorney and counsellor at law and upon any complaint, inquiry, investigation or proceeding relating to the conduct or discipline of an attorney or attorneys, shall be sealed and be deemed private and confidential. “

Only Supreme Court Justices can unseal or otherwise make public any such documents. Because an allegation against a lawyer is just that – an unsubstantiated complaint to be reviewed and investigated, nothing is made public about the committee’s work until and unless a negative finding is rendered. By violating this section of the Judiciary Law, Paladino may have, himself, opened himself up to scrutiny by the grievance committee.

And what did K******* do? He did his job! He is zealously representing the client who is paying him. Nothing he is doing – or that Paladino accuses him of doing – is improper, or frankly much different from what any lawyer does every day on behalf of every client. You’re not supposed to agree with it – he’s advocating for a particular position.

Although I have a copy of Paladino’s letter regarding Mr. K******* in my possession, I will not publish or link to it here until and unless I obtain approval from the grievance committee to do that.

I’ve never met Lipsey, so I can’t speak to his character, but I certainly believe that having people willing to question the press and call them out when they cross the line is critical (the News used Wikipedia as a source in questioning Paladino’s military service).

I’ve also never met K******* and I have no idea if Paladino’s charges are true, but in a state known for crooked politicians and public figures who put their own interests above those of John Q. Public, I think Paladino keeps people honest. If he crosses the line with any of his rants, those in his cross hairs can fight back through legal channels. But if he doesn’t, then he is someone using his pulpit to turn over the rocks, look in the corners and make sure the I’s are being dotted and the T’s are being crossed.

Squalor: For the People

The Buffalo News wrote a poorly sourced screed blasting Paladino on its editorial page, and that makes Stan Lipsey “spineless” how, exactly?

Paladino’s apparent, alleged breach of grievance committee confidentiality is honorable? No, it is quite the direct opposite. “If he crosses the line”, people can sue him? Have you ever tried to sue someone for defamation? Doesn’t this guy work for the local legal newspaper? Don’t you know how much a defamation case costs, Matt? Now try doing that against someone who owns his own law firm. This is a facile and clumsy apologia for the schoolyard bully – hey, if the bully sends you to the hospital, you can sue the family to pay the bill! What price would you assign to your reputation in the community?

As for that pulpit, I also find it curious how quickly Paladino’s detractors are willing to overlook what he has done for this region. It seems as though “creating jobs” is the big national buzz phrase and Paladino has made a career in his development business of creating jobs.

Paladino has a proud record of renting space to state agencies, thanks to his political connections and financial largesse, and has a massive stable of vacant properties, as well as a handful of properties that are currently subjecting him to housing court prosecution. He’s run a successful business.  So do a lot of people.  Carl has made a lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing. What, exactly, is Carl Paladino’s big political legacy? Jane Corwin? Jim Domagalski? His own race? Kevin Helfer? Mickey Kearns?

Going back to the Paladino bashers I’ve listened to over the last 12 months, those engaged in the mud-slinging have never created a single job among them, nor have they ever built anything. Yet their wrath is finely honed in on, among other things, the fact that he had the “arrogance” to put a billboard on one of his buildings overlooking the I-190 attacking the aforementioned Buffalo News.

Pride

Wait, the publisher of the Buffalo News has never “created a job”? No one who has ever criticized Paladino has created a job? Who are these strawmen “bashers”, exactly? They’re not named, or even alluded to, so there’s no effective way to rebut this fantasy paragraph.  Not all of us can build brand new Rite-Aids directly across the street from older Rite-Aids we built a few decades ago. Not all of us have the juice to get that rich off the public’s dime.

Knowing the folks on the other side of the argument, I chalk it up to pure jealousy. Who among us wouldn’t love to have the financial resources to put up a giant billboard overlooking a highly-traveled road attacking our foes? I only wish I had Paladino’s resources; the biggest problem I would have is deciding who I would choose to call out if given only a single billboard. I’d probably have to convert it to one of those fancy digital billboards.

 

Crumbling. For Real.

 

Well, shit, I wish I was rich, too. I’ll tell you, however, what I’d do if I was rich like Carl. I’d make sure my family was taken care of. I’d treat people the way I want to be treated. I’d help the less fortunate – not demonize them. I’d work hard to make sure the properties I owned were kept up in compliance with all relevant health, safety, and building codes.

If I had money and influence like Carl, I’d work to make Buffalo better. I’d work to make it less of a laughingstock. I’d make sure I kept my nose clean. We need more mensch, less schmuck.

Let’s don’t forget that Paladino ran for Governor of this state.  Juxtapose that thought against the epic first 6 months of the Cuomo governorship.

We’ve got local school mandate relief, ethics reform, marriage equality, UB 2020, and a property tax cap. And that’s just in the last month.

Under a Paladino regime, the sides would be further entrenched, there would be no negotiations, the government would likely be shut down with a flourish, Paladino would be compiling his enemies list, and homosexual New Yorkers would still flock to Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Ontario to legalize what their own state frowns upon.

If I had Carl’s money, power, and connections, I’d choose to be either quiet or inspiring – someone people look up to, than down on. I’m sure there are some who like Carl, some who respect him. But there are far more who wish he would use his bully pulpit, his voice, his money, his resources for good, rather than ill. He had so much promise to do good by the little people in this city. As time went on, he became more polarizing, more angry. Just what this region, this city, this community don’t need.

At the end of the day, his detractors won’t be deterred, and they can say what they will about his style, but Carl Paladino invests in the community, creates jobs, appears to love Western New York and isn’t afraid to take a stand.

While a growing faction of angry malcontents continue to bash Paladino, I wish we had more people like him. Buffalo could use more people with that kind of a commitment to a community so desperately in need of people willing to stand up and fight for it.

I like how Mr. Chandler dismisses people who disagree with Carl Paladino as being “angry malcontents”. As if there’s no way you could say a negative thing against such a great and beloved madman without being a disaffected jerk yourself. Nothing, happily, could be further from the truth.

Here’s what I wrote about Paladino and his platform – before the horse porn emails, before the fight with Fred Dicker, before Paladino’s implosion at his own hands:

Running on an “angry at Albany” platform is one thing, but we don’t stay in New York State because of our anger.

We stay here in spite of it.

We’re all angry, but we want solutions to the problems that make us angry. Railing against welfare queens and proposing stricter ethical rules are facile non-solutions. If suddenly Dictator Paladino changed the rules tomorrow to prevent Sheldon Silver from profiting from his law practice, that would not reform state government or help Buffalo in any remote way. If King Paladino changed the welfare eligibility rules tomorrow, the state’s population would still drop or stay the same.

We’re all angry at Albany. But like every other politician who has promise, Paladino’s platform fails to deliver. Byron Brown squanders a huge mandate and enviable likability. Chris Collins wastes his power and prestige on picayune micromanagement. Likewise, Paladino will take a unique opportunity to go to Albany and make big change, and instead promises to make little ones that will please a particular upstate, suburban constituency.

Not even lip-service was paid to good government…

We have plenty of people standing up and fighting for this region. Some you’ll agree with, some you won’t. But why do we honor a belligerent loudmouth with lots of money and a thin record, while ignoring the real heroes in this community?

Some are working with underprivileged kids, getting them back on the education track. Where’s Carl? Some of them are building and rebuilding homes throughout the city, rebuilding a broken community house by house. Where’s Carl? Some of them are braving the real risk of personal harm to get kids off drugs and out of gangs. Where’s Carl? Some are venture capitalists and investors in small businesses, taking a financial risk on new ideas and inventions. Where’s Carl? Some are promoting the beauty and sights and people of this area, trying to get new businesses, residents, and visitors. Where’s Carl? Some people are working to ensure that kids are clothed, fed, housed, taught a trade, and re-educated. Where’s Carl? Some are helping to introduce new immigrants and refugees to their new home in the United States, setting them up with homes, language courses, jobs. Where’s Carl?

Every day, scores everyday heroes do hard work – often without remuneration or praise – to help make this region a better place, to help lift people up from disadvantage. Few of them spend tens of thousands of dollars to call their political opponents assholes.

We do need people who are committed to the community, who are willing to stand up and fight for it.  We don’t need obnoxious, belligerent rich bullies calling everyone and their mother a motherf*cker when they dare to not be his sycophants.

(Updated to redact the attorney’s name in the hopes it never comes up in a Google search and harms his ability to earn a living). 

Book Review: The Longships

29 Jun

Your summer beach read doesn’t have to be the latest Top 10 disposable dreck, the literary equivalent of Ke$ha and Katie Perry. Challenge yourself just a little, and try on this entertaining romp: The Longships by Frans G. Bengtsson.

I am often humbled to learn that the “new” book I just “discovered” from a friend’s recommendation is actually classic beloved literature in its home country. The Longships is now nearly seventy years old and still immensely popular in Scandinavia. My first dog-eared paperback copy was appropriately loaned to me by a Danish friend when we studied together fifteen years ago in England, and viking voyages of exploration around Europe and Asia coincided with my own train rides across new lands. A nice symmetry, to be sure, but not required to appreciate the adventures of the Poet-Warrior Chieftain Red Orm, as I learned upon acquiring the newly released handsome New York Review Books Classic edition and re-reading it again for the first time this year.

You can read The Longships for the action, battles and pillaging good fun. You can read it for insight into the world view of tenth century Europe and the vikings who harried it. I recommend, however, that you read it for the humor. Can bashing someone’s head in be laugh-out-loud funny? It is when Bengtsson is at the helm.

Perhaps the tale’s most fascinating attribute is how the clever turn of phrase survives the translation. Deft wordsmiths are required on both sides of the writer/translator divide for sarcasm and dry wit to survive the process. But survive it does, in spades. As an example, here are typical thoughts on the hazards of long voyages:

Toke said that the thing that troubled him most was the fact that the ale was now finished. He was, he assured them, not a fussy man, and he reckoned he could stomach most things when necessity demanded it, not excluding his sealskin shoes, but only if he had good ale to wash them down. It would be a fearful prospect, he said, to envisage a life with out ale, either on sea or ashore.

Or the challenges of fighting a duel to the death during winter:

 “It is not the fighting that worries me,” said Orm, “but the cold. I have always been a man of delicate health, and cold is the thing I can least endure. Nothing is more dangerous for my health than to go out from a hot room, after heavy drinking, into the cold night air. I do not see why, to please this Sigtrygg, [that I after I kill him] I should have to endure being racked with coughs for the rest of the winter…my mother always used to say that they would be the death of me if I did not take good care of myself.”

At last King Harald said: “I am sorry to see that young men are growing soft nowadays. They are not what they used to be. The sons of Ragnar Hairy-Breeks never bothered about such trivial considerations as their health or the weather.”

Gems like these pervade the book, and augment would already be a harrowing tale of Orm’s capture, sale into slavery, travels throughout Arabia, escape, sacking of the English coast, personal growth into responsible Chieftain, and final quest to steal Bulgar gold hidden deep within feudal Russia. While this is no deep character study, Orm and his compatriots are not two-dimensional caricatures. When Orm is wounded in a duel he sinks into deep melancholy that he will never sail and sack again. We may not share the specifics of his anxieties (sacrifices to sea gods for Weather Luck and defending against brigands burning down his farm), but worries build genuine endearment and interest in his ultimate fate. Throw in Orm’s love of composing the perfect poem for each battle, birth, or drinking game, and you have a genuinely compelling character that keeps the pages turning on your summer vacation. I’ll leave you with such poetry, to whet your appetite for more:

In my throat there is a feeling
Of dry rot most unblest.
Do physicians know the healing
For me, that ale is best?
Thirsting I rowed for many a year,
And thirsting did good slaughter.
All praise to thee, Gorm’s gracious heir!
Thou knowest my favorite water.

Carl Paladino’s Properties

29 Jun

Later this morning, Alan Bedenko will publish our fisking of this journalistic blowjob of Carl Paladino published in yesterday’s Buffalo Business First. The column, written by Matt Chandler, included a paragraph that I thought required an entirely separate response from Alan’s article.

Going back to the Paladino bashers I’ve listened to over the last 12 months, those engaged in the mud-slinging have never created a single job among them, nor have they ever built anything. Yet their wrath is finely honed in on, among other things, the fact that he had the “arrogance” to put a billboard on one of his buildings overlooking the I-190 attacking the aforementioned Buffalo News.

Now, I know I am just some “angry malcontent” with an ax to grind due to my “overwhelming jealousy”, but I’m not pissed off that he has turned the historic Fairmont Creamery building into, as Alan calls it, “The Carl Paladino Insult Billboardatorium”. I am pissed off that he has neglected that historic building to the point that an emergency demolition order will certainly be in it’s future. Paladino has owned the property since 2001 and has been cited for ten housing court violations as per this article in The Buffalo News by Jim Heaney.

The building was purchased in 2001 by the 5277 Group, a limited liability corporation that Paladino controls. He announced plans to convert the building into apartments or condominiums, but the plans went nowhere, and the building was cited in March 2007 for 10 code violations, including a damaged roof, missing windows, loose bricks, rusty metalwork holding up the billboard and piles of dirt, trash and other litter.

The building was in such poor condition that the city immediately moved the case into Housing Court. Inspectors, in court documents, said the building is “posing a possible fire hazard and [has a] blighting effect on the City of Buffalo.”

Subsequent inspection reports showed no progress until two of the 10 violations were partly corrected in May 2008. While reports note some work to clean up the building’s interior, they repeatedly noted Paladino’s failure to correct most of the code violations and frequently mentioned piles of dirt and other debris and overgrown weeds.

The most-current report, dated Dec. 8 of last year, said only three of the 10 original violations have been corrected, while two others were partly repaired. Among the outstanding violations: missing windows, a deteriorated roof, and loose and falling bricks.

I decided to take a visit to the property yesterday to check on progress and ascertain whether any construction activity could be seen onsite. Unfortunately, the building was found to be in worse shape than it was found at the time of Heaney’s last article. This is what it looked like then:

And this is what it looks like today. It would appear that the top of the building, which faces the Seneca Garden Shed/Slot Machine Emporium is crumbing. Click on all images to “embiggen”.

Also noticed while touring the property is that bricks along the eastern roofline are still falling to the ground.

You can see the piles of blue bricks from the “Rich’s Coffee Rich” sign strewn about the grounds.

 

As Brian Castner wrote a few months back, The Fairmont Creamery is the embodiment of Buffalo.

No single structure in Buffalo combines as many hopes and failures, or as much political pettiness and small time crumb-scraping, as that poor abandoned building, passed daily by tens of thousands on a main highway artery. A gutted, century-old eight-story brick warehouse, it would be at home nearly anywhere within the city, discarded like much of our industry and left to rot.

It is bounded on four sides by an over-large highway, the newish Elk Lofts, rotting steel of a potential casino, and parking lots, each of which individually could have been chosen as a potential symbol of Buffalo themselves. The former Creamery also lies proximate to HSBC Arena, the stagnant Canalside, and the Cobblestone “District” (two streets and three bars does not make a destination), all in their time touted as indicative of Buffalo’s bright future. Sandwiched as it is between the symbol of Buffalo’s population growth and renewal strategy  (loft living), our infrastructure built for a city of twice the size (highway), and the epitome of the power of the lawsuit by the few to stop the development for the many (casino), it could not lie in a better geographic location for selection in the poll, or for actual redevelopment itself.

And yet it waits, like all of Buffalo, for market conditions to be right for investment. Will it be lofts itself? A hotel? Retail and offices? All of the above? We wait to find out, as we could ask the same question for much of shovel-ready and investment-ready Buffalo.

Mr. Paladino should be held accountable for the shame of this building. Held to account to pay the fines and remedy the myriad building code violations he has allowed to fester for a decade. Instead, he is lauded in the city’s business journal for hanging insulting billboards from this derelict property. Those billboards are middle finger to the denizens of a city desperate for a sign of hope and reinvestment.

The blight on our community is Carl Paladino, too bad the Buffalo Business Journal feels he’s just “misunderstood”.

The Morning Grumpy

29 Jun

I have a voracious appetite for internet memes, video, podcasts, news and analysis, so each morning I’ll share several that you can read during your “morning grumpy”.

1. Elena Cala is a lot of things; assistant to Buffalo Schools Superintendent Dr. James Williams, former editor of Buffalo Rising, Former Teacher, Mom, and Chanteuse, but she certainly isn’t known for handling the media very well. On Monday, her ongoing Sicilian blood feud with Buffalo News education beat reporter Mary Pasciak came to  a head. You see, Elena and other BPS staff are still upset over an article Pasciak wrote in which she demonstrated that several members of the superintendent’s staff did not hold the qualifications posted for their jobs, including Cala. There have been dozens of other perceived slights during Cala’s dealing with Pasciak, but the outcome of this one was fun to watch.Click through to watch the video tutorial from Elena on how NOT to handle media members who buy ink by the barrel.

My personal dealings with Elena have always been pleasant, but during her short tenure as an employee of Dr. Williams and the BPS, she has earned a horrible reputation as the most difficult press person in the region. That’s saying a lot, as there are a lot of pompous former media pros working in these PR departments around town.

As Pasciak reported in April,

Cala, special assistant to the superintendent for community relations, is supposed to have “seven years full-time experience in public or community relations in a large institution or educational setting,” according to the posting for her position.

The only such experience listed on her resume is a stint as a public relations assistant at Westinghouse Communities of Naples Inc. in 1985.

Cala, who makes $80,000 a year, worked most recently as an editor at Buffalo Rising for four years. Prior to that, she taught at a Catholic elementary school for four years. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Buffalo State College, where she became close friends with Mayor Byron W. Brown.

Questions remain whether it was her connections with Brown, her personal relationship with Joy McDuffie, or her efforts as editor at Buffalo Rising to drive favorable turnout during a critical school board election which got her the job, but Cala will probably not have to worry about dealing with oppositional media much longer.

2. As the seemingly pointless war in Afghanistan drags on, two stories came across my radar screen that I thought drove home the futility of the conflict and the long term human costs.

The BBC’s Ben Anderson spends 24 hours in Afghanistan’s bloody Helmand Province and shares his experience with analysts at VBS.tv.

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The utter futility of the entire conflict is palpable. Bring them home.

Meanwhile, the children of our deployed soldiers face horrible conditions in military schools and deal with the mental strain and anguish of their Fathers and Mothers fighting on the front lines half a world away for over a decade.

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The shame.

3. This just in from The Brookings Institute. Cleveland, Detroit, Youngstown and Buffalo are among 36 of the top 100 metropolitan areas whose population below the age of 45 declined during the last decade. At the opposite end of the spectrum, college towns such as Austin, Raleigh, Provo and Madison, experienced significant growth in pre-senior population. Think the Mayor or County Executive might be interested in addressing these problems or are we doomed to another couple of years of crumb hoarding at the political poker table?

4. Jon Stewart is America’s finest media critic and satirist and in this clip he very succinctly analyzes the entire strategy of Fox News. Nailed it.

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5. Actual news headlines versus Fox News headlines.

6. Every national political reporter who has an opportunity to interview Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney needs to read this article first.

7. Should You Change Your Password?

8. Enjoy 57 minutes of excellence by The Hood Internet.

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See ya tomorrow.

The Daily Show on Grisanti

28 Jun

The Daily Show on Grisanti’s marriage equality vote (about 2 minutes in):

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