Clarence Supervisor Race: Unethical Republican Fundraising

12 Sep

Fundraising & Primary Day

Tuesday the 13th is Primary Day throughout western New York, and I’ve taken quite an interest in the politics of my own town of Clarence. The politics have taken on a new shade of ugly there this season, mostly because certain Republicans find themselves unwilling to work with current Supervisor, Scott Bylewski.

First, two-time councilman Joe Weiss decided that his political feelings were more important than the Free Speech guarantees of the United States Constitution.

Then the Republican candidate for Supervisor, David Hartzell, politicized a routine IDA meeting and warned of an IDA “backlash” against those who dared to politically oppose him and otherwise engage in the lawful political process.

A palpable pattern of retaliation and threats from Weiss and Hartzell against those who oppose them has emerged.

Now? We have this letter sent by Mr. Hartzell to a prominent local law firm, soliciting for campaign donations and hinting not-at-all subtly about the possibility that, y’know, maybe a firm that gives him a nice sum of money might be, y’know, more likely to be selected to do outside legal work for the town, hint-hint, nudge-nudge.

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If you’re going to send out a letter soliciting for a political donation, you might put something in about why you’re the better candidate; why you think the other guy is a loser; what your plan is, should you be elected; how the town is going down the wrong path, etc. Something – anything – that outlines to the prospective donor why their money is well-spent on your candidacy.

Everyone knows that large political donations are often seen as investments in a candidate; that the donors believe that their money should at least buy them access to an unhostile ear. That in itself is bad, but this isn’t a post about why we need public funding of elections.

This is a post about a subtle promise for future favoritism. Hartzell’s letter contains no pretextual B.S. about why the law firm should give him money – it gets right to the point and hints around about the fact that, should he win, the town’s going to hire a new outside firm. Reading between the lines, the implication couldn’t be clearer:

Throw me some cash, and maybe it’ll be your firm.

Is it illegal? Maybe. Unethical? Definitely. Unseemly? Hell yeah.

I’ve heard from loads of Clarence residents and businesses over the past few weeks, all of whom have thanked me for helping to expose Joe Weiss for the bullying, intimidating creep they – but few others – knew him to be. The battle in Clarence right now may be over signs, but signs don’t vote – people do.

Although I absolutely abhor fusion voting, if you’re a registered Independence Party or Conservative Party voter in the town of Clarence, you have a primary Tuesday, and I urge you to write Scott Bylewski’s name in on those party lines. The IP line has been pretty uniformly denied to Democrats this year throughout the state, and the Conservative Party line, which is controlled by Ralph Lorigo, went to Mr. Hartzell.

Please fan/follow Supervisor Scott Bylewski on Facebook and Twitter:

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Why Should You Care?

The reason why this race is important has to do with Mr. Lorigo, actually. Clarence politics isn’t really controlled by party affiliation – not as much as you’d like to think.

What’s really going on is a battle over the growth of the town.

Clarence has a very precise and detailed Master Plan (map here) dating back eleven years. Some in the town consider that document to be advisory, and stand ready to disregard it for development by friendly developers. Others in the town, including Bylewski, believe that the Master Plan is the law of the town, and should only be changed, and variances granted, if the political process has been scrupulously adhered-to. Clarence may be a growing suburb, but it still retains a great deal of its exurban and rural roots, and while growth and development aren’t frowned upon, they are regulated and controlled.

Conservative Party chairman Ralph Lorigo was personally, directly involved in the now-abandoned plan to build a large Wegmans’ on Transit Road in Clarence, just north of Transit Road. Lorigo represents local developers like Benderson, but in this case Lorigo owned the real estate proposed to be used for the Wegmans project, half of which was zoned residential. The process was followed, the people (directly, and by & through their elected representatives) spoke, and Wegmans won’t be building there – that’s democracy how it should work. In less ethical places, the wishes of the politically-well-connected owner or developer might have taken precedence over the wishes of the public. Apparently, because Clarence went against Mr. Lorigo’s personal pecuniary interests, he retaliated against Mr. Bylewski by refusing him the Conservative Party endorsement; ironic, since following the law and democratic process is what one might expect a doctrinaire conservative to support.

This goes back to my entreaties to abolish electoral fusion because it’s rife with corruption from corruptables, and has very little – if anything – to do with political ideology.

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12 Responses to “Clarence Supervisor Race: Unethical Republican Fundraising”

  1. Jeremy September 12, 2011 at 6:04 pm #

    Okay. I’ll buy the Bylewski as scrupulous Master Plan & procedure follower pitch. But I want to support a candidate who will be able to work with at least some (preferably decent, honorable) developers to make actual progress in improving this area. What is Scott’s plan for working with Wegmans to build in a mutually agreeable place, rather than just letting their interest wither on the vine?
    WNY is full of obstructionists and people protecting their turf, but devoid of visionaries even on a micro scale. When politicians here start thinking of can-do solutions rather than can’t-do excuses, they will win votes (and start contributing to this area’s future).

  2. RaChaCha September 12, 2011 at 6:08 pm #

    That letter from Hartzell is sickening.

  3. NoozHound September 12, 2011 at 9:01 pm #

    Hmmm, now WHAT “prominent local law firm” might have been the target of such a piece of extor, urrrrr, marketing? How many of such firms have suddenly sprouted offices on Main Street in that particular town in recent belt-tightening times? I’m sure you’re unable to be Namon names; we’ll need More-y information.

    (All kidding aside: I worked with Scott in his creditor attorney days. Scott was a friend of mine. These pieces of slime mold are no Scott.)

  4. Mike in Buffalo September 12, 2011 at 9:11 pm #

    What a disgrace. This guy should be in prison.

  5. Andy September 12, 2011 at 10:51 pm #

    Must be an arrogant novice. A CEO of a Wealth Management Co.HMMM.

    Wouldn’t want him investing my money

  6. Rocco Magadino September 12, 2011 at 11:50 pm #

    @Jeremy: Too much of what you call contributions to this areas future is nothing more than urban sprawl. Master Plans and Zoning shouldn’t be ignored just because some developer gets control of a parcel.

    Strong Zoning maintains property values.
    Laizez-faire = a crappy landscape.

    I was driving through Clarence the other day and marveling at how crappy it’s become yet how smug the peeps are. Main St and Goodrich — some nice houses on Goodrich but then you come upon Main St and it’s just crappy bldgs, with a nasty dumpster (NE corner). I said to my wife, why would you build that nice house behind that ugly bldg on that busy road?

    I lived in Holland for a time and as you drive across the border to Belgium you could tell where the border was based upon how shitty and random the landscape became as you left Holland. There’s no coordination, little planning, and trying to have actual progress around here is a waste of time because around here progress is yet another Wegmans with 200k sq ft of asphalt.

  7. Jeremy September 13, 2011 at 7:12 am #

    I came for the discussion about progress and left with yet another person griping about supposed sprawl. Major businesses avoid this area like the plague because the chances of actually opening a new store in a timely fashion, without opposition over some ultimately trivial issue, are close to nil. 

    Here’s an idea: let’s put together a master plan that provides only one relatively shallow street worth of major commercial zoning, then turn away any business that can’t fit on that street. Let’s not just turn them away, but chase them off with angry rhetoric and leave them wondering why they even bothered to consider developing here. Sound good? Well, you’re in the right place, because that’s what happened. 

    WNY: where great ideas come to die at the hands of people who have never built or accomplished anything of significance.

  8. WhoCares September 13, 2011 at 1:28 pm #

    Clarence: where the wealthy snobs argue amongst themselves.

    Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

  9. Fat Tony September 13, 2011 at 4:21 pm #

    Shock, a quid pro quo in a political contribution. That wouldn’t stop me for voting for any candidate. The fact that he is so fucking stupid to actually put it in writing….now that’s a reason to deem the idiot unqualified.

  10. Peggy September 13, 2011 at 7:22 pm #

    Clarence is limited for bigger business development because it lacks sewers in many locations-especially along Main Street. So unless all residents in that area band together with businesses and help pay for sewers with the Town, then that area will develop sporadically, at best. No politician whatever their party can say otherwise.
    I was told that Clarence had politicians and friends of politicians on town committees many years ago. Development was a rubber stamp process back then. You want something – you got it. Times then changed.
    As to anti-development/anti-developer- it was the last Supervisor that said that she was pulling the welcome mat from the Town. I don’t think that was a healthy philosophy or statement to make to developers or residents. Arguably it was offensive and self-righteous.
    Bylewski is different than the last Supervisor. From what I have seen, Bylewski is trying to find the appropriate balance between developers’ and residents’ interests. Does that mean everyone will be happy? No. It means there is a process that is applied to everyone- developer and resident. I may not always agree with every decision a Supervisor or Councilman make but, at least, I want them to listen to me and show somw respect.

  11. Rocco Magadino September 14, 2011 at 12:14 am #

    Stupid is what stupid does.
    I moved to the country to get away from the traffic but then the traffic followed me…

    The funny thing which I discovered about living in Holland is that the taxes and regulations were through the roof but (at the time) unemployment was two percent. Two Percent Jeremy.

    You know why? Cognition

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Ralph Lorigo and the Conservative Party Endorsement « WNYMedia.net - September 16, 2011

    […] one of my recent posts about Clarence politics, I wrote this: Conservative Party chairman Ralph Lorigo was personally, directly involved in […]

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