The 2011 Clarence League of Women Voters Candidate Forum

25 Oct

Last night I attended the always entertaining Clarence candidates’ forum, sponsored by the League of Women Voters. I interviewed a few participants last night and will have a podcast of that up later on. Here’s what I saw:

1. Chris Collins lives in Spaulding Lake, which is about a 1/2 mile from Clarence Town Hall, where the debate was held. Mark Poloncarz lives in the city of Buffalo, about 25 miles away.  Poloncarz was there last night, but no one from Collins’ campaign bothered to show up. There was just one piece of lit. Poloncarz had the floor and answered tough questions from the audience about library financing, whether he’d take a salary (yes, and so does Collins, BTW), infrastructure, the Bills, volunteer fire departments, and cultural funding. He answered all with aplomb, got in some shots at his opponent’s hyperpolitics and mismanagement, and in the end reminded the audience that someone asking for their vote should have the balls to come before them and do it in person. Astonishing that Collins can’t be bothered to talk to us commoners.

2. Councilmember Joe Weiss showed up and, even though he resigned from the town board in September and is only on a minor party line, decided to take an opportunity to “debate” Bob Geiger and Bernie Kolber in the council race. Weiss took the opportunity to mock Geiger, to call Kolber always late and unprepared, and to denigrate Scott Bylewski with obnoxious falsehoods. He insisted he isn’t a bully, and no one in the room was having it. Weiss ambushed everyone and a large audience saw just what a dick he is.

3. Ed Rath met his opponent Toni Vazquez. Ms. Vazquez talked about her knowledge of health care issues and how the county is instrumental in administering and paying for health care for the needy. Rath talked about his record. The first question – why do we need a county government. Awesome – but Rath sort of punted and answered much like Antoine Thompson did when we asked the same of the state Senate, reciting what the county does, but not answering the larger existential question. We clean that up in the upcoming podcast.

4. Maria Whyte is an energetic campaigner, and she’s running for County Clerk.  This is a largely ministerial position and the best anyone can do is make it less of a horror for people to use the clerk’s office. Both she and her opponent, Chris Jacobs, pledge to innovate and reform so that people’s involvement with county government is as swift and un-horrible as possible. Jacobs touted his foundation (I’m rich!), which donates scholarships to underprivileged kids to attend private and parochial schools in the area. Interesting, that. First of all, it has nothing to do with anything – so, he’s loaded and wants to help poor inner city kids. That’s great. So would I if I was born into billions. But secondly, the only elected office Jacobs has ever held has been in the City of Buffalo’s board of education. He can’t run on his record there, so the best he can do is point to the fact that he has helped kids escape the horrible learning conditions in the city schools over which he helped preside. Not a winning strategy, IMO, and look for Whyte to capitalize on this.

5. The Clarence Supervisor’s race between David Hartzell and incumbent Scott Bylewski. It’s no secret that Scott is a friend of mine, so my bias is quite clear. At one point, Hartzell needed a question repeated to him – “what is your vision for Clarence”? Bylewski had answered about how he wants to preserve the town’s rural and agricultural character, and cited our master plan and other growth strategies to achieve that. Hartzell mocked Bylewski’s answer, and then gave his own – that his vision was business development. As the debate wore on, Hartzell’s only answer to everything was to give stuff away to businesses. He’s a consummate beancounter who sees everything as a balance sheet, rather than something that has a positive or negative net effect on people. But his counting? Not so good. When asked about volunteer fire department consolidation (a non-issue in town, by the way), Hartzell said he had studied similar suburban towns throughout the country, and all of them were just like Clarence; that they all had about 3 fire districts.  The crowd murmured at that – we have 6 VFD special districts in town, one overarching fire district. He doesn’t have his facts right.  Another big issue is a prospective ice rink proposed by Eastern Hills Mall. It would ultimately cost the town money, and it’s in the early planning stages. Weiss and Hartzell enjoyed complaining (a) that the process was going too slowly; and (b) it shouldn’t cost the town money and should go to referendum. That’s quite a dance.

The most powerful part of this debate? When Scott cited Hartzell’s own endorsement of him on LinkedIn:

Scott Bylewski is an excellent supervisor. He loves Clarence, and is always working for the good of the town. Prior to his assuming the office of Supervisor, he excelled as a committeeman. Scott was well known for his preparation, presentation and firm grasp of local issues. As supervisor, Scott is constantly fighting to keep taxes down. Scott is an unusually successful politican…able to reach across the asile to work with members of both parties for the good of the town.

Scott will not retire as Supervisor of the Town of Clarence…his energy and talent will carry him far from the confines of One Town Place.The citizens of the Town of Clarence are lucky to have a man of Scott’s caliber to steward the continued growth and development of this special place called Clarence, New York.” January 9, 2009

2ndDavid HartzellPresident and CEO, Cornell Capital Management
was with another company when working with Scott at Town of Clarence

Bylewski read excerpts from it out loud, and said he was proud of that and agrees with it. Hartzell? He mouthed some nonsense about it being 4 years ago, and that Scott was now a “career politician”. People laughed.

November 8th is election day, and you should be attending as many of these candidates’ forums as you can to see these people up close. Watch them answer questions and offer their visions and plans. It’s quite eye-opening.

As I mentioned earlier, a podcast will be up shortly.

17 Responses to “The 2011 Clarence League of Women Voters Candidate Forum”

  1. wolfpack October 25, 2011 at 7:58 am #

    some wise once said “all politics is local” and “don’t forget to ask for our vote”
    to meet Chris Collins is to be talked at, so his handlers keep him away from the voters. all the money in the world doesnt buy a single vote. I attended two charitable events in clarence and collins did not show up at either. imagine working for a guy who doesn’t ever care what you think. magine 4 more years of his arrogance

  2. Tracy Diina October 25, 2011 at 8:38 am #

    For the record, Chris Jacobs may be rich BUT the foundation that he founded operates by raising money from the community. It does not rely on Chris’ $–in fact, the fulltime staff spends enormous amounts of time writing grants and finding donors. I have worked with them extensively and truly value what they do. I have seen the results and they are outstanding, and even though Chris’ money may have seeded the foundation initially (not even sure that is the case), it was his vision, drive, hard work and passion that grew the Bison Fund into the successful organization that it is today. Many people want to make the world a better place—Chris has been able to, yes, perhaps because he had the means but he has nevertheless.

    • Alan Bedenko October 25, 2011 at 8:49 am #

      The larger point has to do with the school system he was elected to help improve.

  3. Colin October 25, 2011 at 8:50 am #

    Wouldn’t it be much, much better if he gave his own money away? He’s rich, but he started a foundation to compete for the limited number of charitable dollars out there — dollars that might have otherwise gone to a cause without a sugar daddy?

    • Alan Bedenko October 25, 2011 at 8:58 am #

      And is it at all clear from the ads that it isn’t his money?

  4. Black Rock Lifer October 25, 2011 at 8:59 am #

    Chris Collins, like so many of our elected officials is out of touch with the people. He lives in what is basically a gated community far from the reality of life in Erie County. His wealth brings out an arrogance and has distorted his perception in that he believes conspicious consumption and materialism is the route to happiness. Modesty is a foreign idea to him and he lacks the basic values most of us learned as children. We need to recognize the flawed character of such politicians and support leaders with a clear sense of the challenges we all face in our life and in our communities.

  5. Tracy Diina October 25, 2011 at 9:09 am #

    Alan & Colin…I get it! It is just nice to see someone actually DO something! And do something positive 🙂 So many times people just bitch and do nothing, it is very refreshing to see!!!

  6. Brian October 25, 2011 at 10:19 am #

    A better question about the BISON Fund is are they jeopardizing their 501(c)(3) status with the Chris Jacob’s ad that is running? 

  7. Peggy October 25, 2011 at 12:42 pm #

    I attended the debate last night and thought Supervisor Bylewski once again showed that he is the best person for the job. I find Hartzell to be an unabashed promoter, a side show barker who would make sure that all the good done by the Town Board and the Supervisor towards stopping sprawl and managing growth are flushed down the septic system (Clarence does not have sufficient sewers to support all the businesses Hartzell imagines he can attract to the Town. You would think that as the head of the IDA he would already do that.) Hartzell left me cold. He may be a bean counter but he proved he is not very good at simple counting nor knowing much about how to handle a real world emergency.I found it sad that he twice thanked people for coming to see him on this November evening – another problem – he did not realize it was 10/24/11 with November still a week away. God help us if he gets elected to any type of leadership position. We would be better served if he will just continue to run with the bulls rather than spreading his line of bullshit.

    Excuse me I really meant if anyone knows since Hartzell boasted that he is a successful financial planner and most likely will keep that as his full time job, why doesn’t he list any affiliations and or certifications by any of the Financial Planning Bodies like Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards/

  8. BuffaloBornLady October 25, 2011 at 2:05 pm #

    My husband and I were at the debate last night and were very impressed by this young Erie County Legislator Maria Whyte. First off, it was an absolute pleasure to have a candidate who actually follows the rules of the debate! When Maria’s time was up (by the way, Maria was not allotted her full time to speak my husband timed everyone) she stop speaking and thanked everyone for the time she had. This Jacobs fellow just kept going on and on as the poor women furiously waved the times up sign. I thought the poor women’s arm was going to fly off! It just shows me that he does not follow the rules. Maybe it is because he was born into a rich and powerful family, never really had to work for anything in his life, and feels a sense of entitlement for some odd reason.

    What is this nonsense of Jacobs likening himself to Kathy Hochul? I know Kathy Hochul. Kathy was a friend of mine. Chris Jacobs you are NO Kathy Hochul! For those of you that missed it during the debate, Kathy has openly endorsed Maria Whyte for Erie County Clerk! She believes that Maria will actually do the job and continue to improve the clerk’s office. One last comment, after the debate was all over my husband turned to me and said, “Did you notice how he never once mentioned he is on the Buffalo School Board? I would like to know why he so variously continued to support Dr. Williams even after the guy failed to do his job. Does that mean he will just implement and support failing ideas in the clerk’s office?”

  9. BuffaloBornLady October 25, 2011 at 3:20 pm #

    I am so embarrassed! This should read, This Jacobs fellow just kept going on and on as the poor woman furiously waved the times up sign. I thought the poor woman’s arm was going to fly off!

  10. BuffaloBornLady October 25, 2011 at 3:22 pm #

    Thank you to my son Dave for pointing it out to me. Good luck on you exam! Love you, Mom

  11. Kevin Hayes October 25, 2011 at 7:05 pm #

    I renewed my driver’s license at the Cheektowaga Auto Bureau on Saturday. I was impressed – in and out in around ten minutes, despite a crowd. Very little waiting in lines, good use of technology, efficient service by the clerks. Now maybe I got better service because I was getting an enhanced license and paying the extra bucks for it ($95), maybe not, but it was far from a bad experience.
    And guess what – Erie County doesn’t have a County Clerk! Go to their website and click “Meet the County Clerk” and it’s a blank page. I suspect the person running the office now was running the office before Kathy Hochul was elected to Congress. Nothing against Kathy, but why don’t we just hire that person to be the Clerk and be done with all this political gameplaying?
    I completely fail to get excited about political races for County Legislator or any other County office. As Alan says, most of the function of the County government is ministerial and can (and actually is) performed by non-elected professionals, civil servants. Individual candidates and officials may indeed be fine people, but most of what I see is ambitious people using lower offices as stepping stones to higher ones, where they can be irrelevant to even more people.

  12. RaChaCha October 26, 2011 at 12:13 am #

    Jacobs is the 1% of the 1%.

  13. Tony Fracasso October 26, 2011 at 3:59 pm #

    Good Call Kevin

    “I suspect the person running the office now was running the office before Kathy Hochul was elected to Congress. Nothing against Kathy, but why don’t we just hire that person to be the Clerk and be done with all this political gameplaying?”

    Were you happy with the service? According to Maria Whyte she wants to improve the system. Do you think the current system is working rather well?

  14. Kevin Hayes October 27, 2011 at 10:06 am #


    Every County Clerk candidate wants to “improve the system”. Maybe Maria wants the Auto Bureau to make house calls, I don’t know.

    It seemed to be working OK in my experience – if they send me the actual license in the promised time I’ll be impressed. Services like this do need to be funded adequately – they don’t just happen. It was clear to me that competent people were involved at some level, and I suspect it’s the level that keeps running the department no matter who is elected Clerk.


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