Archive | October, 2011

Podcast the Third: Candidates’ Night

26 Oct

As promised, the podcast I recorded featuring interviews with Maria Whyte, Ed Rath, and Mark Poloncarz.

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You can click here to subscribe to it on iTunes.

The #BUFTruck Legislation: Tabled Again

26 Oct

Yesterday, the Common Council’s Legislation Committee met again to take up the issue of food truck legislation. Attorneys for both sides spoke, indicating that some progress had been made – some of it by the attorneys over beers – but that significant issues remain unresolved.

In some ways, this sort of legislation-by-committee of stakeholders is a textbook example of how not to push a legislative initiative. Evidently, the meetings between the food truck and brick & mortar representatives degenerated into shouting. It’s time for the common council to understand that it’s never going to satisfy everybody, and that life isn’t fair. So, it needs to craft some reasonable rules, implement them, pass it, and let the market figure out what happens.

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One of the proposals includes a sunset provision – after one year, the law expires unless the common council takes action to amend or renew it. This gives everyone an opportunity to see how the law works in practice over four seasons, and both sides seemed amenable to it.

One of yesterday’s speakers was Christina Walsh from the Institute of Justice.  The WNY Food Truck Association retained her to explain to the Council that fewer regulations are better than more, and that complicated regulations in some cities have essentially turned trucks into outlaws. She indicated that these food trucks help get feet on the streets and generate their own jobs and economic activity. Most significantly, she helped to rebut the canard that the food trucks have all the advantages over brick & mortar restaurants. Tell it to someone who (a) doesn’t know where the truck is on any given day; and (b) has to wait in inclement weather to get food they need to eat in inclement weather.

How pathetic is it that the Food Trucks had to retain the services of a freedom expert in order to fight for the right to serve tacos, burgers, coffee, and BBQ from mobile canteens?

Councilmember David Rivera indicated that the meeting yesterday had been set up to get input from additional voices, but that none of them had shown up.  The meeting was somewhat abruptly adjourned after 45 minutes.

I have some questions out to various people involved in this issue, and as I get more details I’ll relay them here. In the meantime, be sure to join the WNY Food Truck Association Facebook page, and follow your local food trucks:

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Collins & Fudoli: Rewind & Remix

25 Oct

Shocking  revelations in today’s Buffalo News that Erie County Legislator Dino Fudoli is accused of being a former ecstasy dealer who allegedly provided the drugs to one girl who subsequently died, and another who ended up in the hospital. Fudoli is now running for election as Town of Lancaster supervisor. So, let’s revisit the events of 2009 whereby Chris Collins conspired with turncoat Democrat Kathy Konst to put the fix in Konst’s former legislative seat to essentially guarantee Dino Fudoli a Collins-friendly slot on the legislature, elbowing out Konst’s replacement, Diane Terranova.

Let’s also recall the fact that Konst had no relevant experience in environment and planning, where she now works, and that supposed libertarian Fudoli pulled out every legal stop – right up to the Appellate Division of the 4th Department – to try and guarantee that the fix was in and prevent Terranova from appearing on the ballot.  You see, Konst’s defection was timed perfectly to try and ensure that no one could replace her on the Democratic Ballot.

So, what follows are two rewinds. First, a rewind of this post from 2009, detailing the legal shenanigans that led to an alleged former ecstasy dealer ascending to the county legislature seemingly out of nowhere. After that, a rewind of my obligatory endorsement post from 2009, where I asked voters not to elect a Collins-friendly slate, and I detail why Collins has been such a disappointment. I think it dovetails nicely into current events.

Terranova v. Fudoli

On Friday, a Supreme Court Judge ordered that Kathy Konst’s name be removed from the ballot for Erie County Legislator for the 5th District and that the name of the legislator who was appointed to replace her, Diane Terranova, be added. This means that Dino Fudoli, a conservative Republican who received the endorsement of the Glenn Beck Appreciation Club will have a race on November 3d.

But let me turn to the issue of the Konst-Collins conspiracy to all but guarantee Fudoli’s election.

Currently, the legislature operates on a 10 – 3 Democratic majority. By manufacturing a Fudoli win, that brings the number to 9 – 4, and Collins has to rely on one fewer race to get to that magical switch of 7 Reps, 6 Dems.

I don’t really know whether Collins and Konst conspired to help force a Fudoli win, but it sure looks that way from the outside. Collins appointed Konst to a 6-figure job in charge of environment and planning matters after the deadline to name a replacement had passed. Let’s just say that was no accident.

So, Terranova wanted to get on the ballot and have the privilege of running for re-election to a job she’s held for about two months. Everyone except the Democratic Board of Elections Commissioner and Party worked tirelessly to prevent Terranova’s name from replacing the happily ensconced Konst on November’s ballot.

There was an Independence Party lawyer from Albany, Ralph Lorigo representing the Conservative Party, Ralph Mohr as Republican BOE Commissioner, and Dino Fudoli’s campaign all came to court to keep Kathy Konst’s name on the ballot, even though she isn’t running. They all wanted Dino Fudoli to get a free ride into office. And they’re not satisfied with the Judge’s ruling.

John R. Drexelius, Fudoli’s attorney, said he and his client, the owner of a property development company, also are considering an appeal.

Drexelius? You mean Dale Volker’s counsel at the State Senate? The guy who went ballistic after Channel 2’s Scott Brown had the nerve to ask Dale Volker a tough question? Wow, that just screams “reform” and “transparency”, doesn’t it? What a joke.

Now, the law is the law, but the laws in this state are so heavily weighed in favor of the political bosses getting their way. Getting one’s name on a ballot is notoriously difficult and fraught with peril. When Konst left the race, replacing her with a Democrat who was ready, willing, and able to run that race should have been a no-brainer. It should have been a ministerial afterthought. Instead, it’s become a last-minute battle in court. That’s unacceptable.

I don’t really care enough about minor fusion parties to give a crap about their problems. The Fudoli campaign is all about reform and “tak[ing] your county back”. Reducing the size of the legislature, cutting legislative pay, eliminating the district offices are all low-hanging fruit of Republican candidates for county leg. Other than that, he’s in favor of great results (isn’t everybody?) and Chris Collins.

But going to court to prevent the voters of the 5th district from having a choice in November is, to me, fundamentally undemocratic and doesn’t at all jibe with the happy reform that Fudoli is selling. To anyone parroting the line that Chris Collins hasn’t set up his own political machine – a rather powerful one that talks a good game about reform but hardly delivers, and actively takes away people’s electoral choice wherever possible – is either ignorant or stupid.

Congratulations to Diane Terranova for getting her name on the ballot, and giving the people of the 5th from Lancaster to Sardinia a choice on November 3rd. And a big middle finger to everyone who actively tried to prevent that choice from happening.

Endorsements 2009

Much like his chief executive counterpart in Buffalo City Hall, Chris Collins brings to that office charisma and remarkable sum of banked political capital.  Tony Masiello or Joel Giambra were middling apparatchiks who talked a good game but left the office having done more bad than good.  To his credit, Giambra pushed for, but failed to bring about, any sort of regionalism.  Byron Brown and Chris Collins won in recent landslides and have the power, but lack the will, to do very much with it.

Regional metropolitan government could save this region.  We discard it like the morning’s Charmin.

Collins in particular won on a platform of “running government like a business”, being apolitical, reining in costs, lowering taxes, and asking tough questions through, among other things, Six Sigma initiatives.  In practice, however, he has failed at all of those things.

It’s as popular as it is facile to blame his failings on the Democrats, on the unions, on the legislature.  Politics is not a one-person sport.  Part of what makes a good politician is the ability to build consensus – to make the assumption that everyone in government is there to do good by those who sent them there.  Collins bypassed that, and behaved like a bull in a china shop from jump street.  His efforts, like Brown’s, amount to tinpot Machiavellianism – exploiting, for instance, a rift between Lynn Marinelli and Len Lenihan to his advantage, rather than genuinely reaching out to to a stark Democratic legislative majority to enlist their help to develop a strategy for betterment of the region.

The notion that Collins is apolitical is a falsity.

“Running government like a business” is a happy-sounding mantra that makes the electorate believe that he’s going to go after waste and fraud, and really streamline government.  That’s happened only on the fringes, and has been almost exclusively directed at the poor, the sick, the single parents – people who need help, but people on whom Collins could never count to support him.  He gave them even less reason to, arguing that 100% federal reimbursement of certain programs that assist the poor was irrelevant, and shunted these responsibilities off to charities.  He’s saving money on legacy costs, he argues.  Yet he has made no moves to, e.g., close golf courses that also employ county workers who also represent legacy costs.  That choice is neither political nor businesslike.

In other words, whatever little streamlining there’s been, it’s been decided politically.

Cutting waste and spending?  Like his predecessor, Collins hired people whom he knew (nothing wrong with that) and asked the legislature (which, for the most part, granted his requests) to give raises and variable minimums to his appointees.  This way, a new hire could have, say, 5 years’ worth of seniority on day one.  That’s not how businesses are run, is it?  That’s not a reduction in spending, is it?  And Collins blames Albany on 88% of the county budget problems, ignoring the fact that there are opportunities available to maximize savings even on that end of the budgetary spectrum.

It’s not the pablum you should pay attention to – it’s the deeds.

So, Chris Collins has allegedly struck a deal with Byron Brown where the Republicans run no one in city-based races for Mayor or County Legislature.  This guarantees Brown’s re-election unopposed tomorrow, and artifically depresses turnout in the city for the comptroller’s and sheriff’s races, thus helping Kadet and Howard.

And for the suburban races, Collins has deliberately done exactly what Byron Brown did back in 2007 – hand-picked or otherwise supported candidates to challenge elected officials whom Collins has deemed are obstructing his plan for oddly selected spending cuts, tax hikes, and union demonization. Collins’ complained-of inability to get his agenda through the legislature is as much his fault as anyone else’s.  When you treat the legislature like some meddlesome hoop through which you need to jump, rather than a co-equal branch of government, you’re going to run into some problems.

There has been practically zero substance to any of the county legislature races this year.  All anyone wants to talk about is minutiae – how many legislators; how much do they get paid; are they full- or part-time; are there extended terms; are there term limits; do they keep district offices.  There’s no referendum on Collins’ initiatives versus anyone else’s.  There’s been no analysis of Six Sigma or taxes or spending or practically any policies whatsoever.  Collins is just trying to stack the leg in his favor so there’s a better chance he’ll get done what he wants done.  I’m not saying that’s abnormal or wrong, per se.  Just true.

One thing’s for sure, if he’s successful, then being a legislator really won’t be full-time.  Introducing and rubber-stamping the executive’s initiatives takes little time or thought.

The sheriff’s race shouldn’t even be close.

The race for comptroller is laughable.  Collins is somehow trying to sell the public on the notion that it’s better that his guy is in that office, rather than someone independent from him.  That way, I guess, we can get the hard-hitting fiscal reporting and analysis we got when Nancy Naples kept an eye on Joel Giambra. Win!

And all of this, remember, is over what everyone will tell you is 12-ish% of the overall county budget.  $1.1 billion altogether, and they’re engaging in blood feuds over $130,000,000.

Since only 12% of the budget is allegedly subject to the political whims and desires of our elected officials, it would appear to me that most of their tasks are ministerial in nature.  In other words, we have no use for county government at all, as currently structured.  We could just as easily just have counties be geographical municipal divisions made up of a handful of elected overseers and a competent bureaucracy.  Make sure the parks are open.  Make sure you can reserve a shelter easily.  Pave the roads.  Fix the bridges.  Plow the streets.  You don’t need 15 elected legislators and a bunch of pointless fighting for that.

But since it’s more fun to bicker over WIC and golf courses, let’s not really get to the heart of the problem, but just skim the surface to please everyone’s constituencies.

Vote however you want on Tuesday.  But for as long as we remain saddled with that pointless anachronism we call county government, let’s maintain a check on the arrogant and misguided county executive until such time as he learns that politics is a game of give and take – not take and shiv.

And let’s start talking about abolishing county government.  Srsly.

Anyhow,

We all remember what came of that. Remember in November: Chris Collins and his team of turncoats and alleged former dealers in illegal narcotics brought this to you.

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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.

Food Truck Tuesday & Nickel City Chef

25 Oct

1. The food truck debate continues apace. The food trucks and the brick & mortars on the ad hoc committee created to help draw up regulations that everyone could agree on has met a few times, and from what I can gather from the Twitter stream of Roaming Buffalo truck owner, Christopher Taylor, it didn’t go well.

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/RoamingBuffalo1/status/128213060295983104″%5D

The Common Council is to meet on the issue today at 2pm at City Hall, and the Food Truck Association is urging its supporters to join them. They suspect that a vote may be taken on proposed regulations today.  I’m not so sure it’ll all be resolved today, but one can always hope.

2. I’m very proud of my association with Nickel City Chef, and have been honored to judge several really epic battles between talented local chefs. I had urged its organizer, Spree food editor and Feed Your Soul owner Christa Glennie Seychew, to pull together a cookbook by the chefs, highlighting the food they prepared during their battles. That book is out, and its unveiling will be tonight at a party at Artisan Kitchen & Baths on Amherst Street between 6 and 9. 

If you can’t attend the party, you can order the book and DVD through this link. It makes a great gift for any Buffalo foodie, and celebrates Buffalo’s best chefs, and our best ingredients from small local farms.

Czarism

24 Oct

During the televised debate at WNED, and again (a couple of times) at the untelevised debate at St. Joe’s (WBFO has the audio here), Collins trotted out an allegation that Mark Poloncarz doesn’t want to be the County Executive, he wants to be the county “czar”. I have no doubt that this attack was crafted in order to appeal to Collins’ base – the WBEN-listening Obama haters who associate Democrats with communism and unfettered government spending and power.

The problem for Collins is that he unwittingly set a trap for himself, and then fell into it.

At the St. Joe’s debate, Poloncarz discussed how he’d look at reducing the size and scope of county government. He says we shouldn’t just arbitrarily cut things for the sake of cutting them, but instead we should examine and investigate what works, what doesn’t, and then use that as a starting point.

That’s not czarism. That’s good government; being inquisitive and innovative.

Collins, in calling Poloncarz a prospective “czar”, cited three issues:

1. Poloncarz’s 2008 call for a study to examine consolidating volunteer fire departments. Is that a discussion worth having if it maintains current services and protection by saving taxpayers money? Joe Weiss in Clarence learned that this is a third rail of suburban politics, but that was compounded by his belligerent and hateful attitude. It’s a discussion worth having.  Of course, Collins lied to the audience, stating that Poloncarz wants to eliminate volunteer fire departments.  Either way, it’s not part of Poloncarz’s platform and a facile attack by a desperate politician.

2. Poloncarz’s 2008 recommendation that we study moving from the current assessing scheme – whereby almost every town and village has its own assessor, and centralizing those functions to save money. That statistic that Collins loves to cite about New York’s Medicaid program costing more than Texas’ and California’s combined? New York State has 1,133 assessing entities, while California has 59. Which do you think is cheaper and more efficent?

3. Erie County maintains six separate and distinct Industrial Development Agencies, which have in the past poached businesses from one part of the county and moved it to another, and called that re-arrangement of deck chairs a “win”. Poloncarz believes that there should be a unified, one-stop-shop for businesses to go to for development and growth assistance, and that our continued reluctance to do this costs us money and opportunities. He is incredulous over the fact that states like North Carolina have business development offices in Toronto while Erie County does not.

Collins – the dictatorial micro-manager, the county coup plotter-in-chief – takes his biggest weakness and tries to hurl it at Poloncarz. But think about it – aside from demonizing and further marginalizing the poorest people in Erie County, what has Collins’ big idea been? Like his counterpart in Buffalo City Hall, Collins is a ribbon-cutter and little else; the bean counter di tutti bean counters. He exists to enrich his friends and satisfy his suburban base. That’s why he privatized the fully federally funded WIC program, but not the golf courses.  That’s why he paid for toboggan runs, but shuttered health clinics that made money for the county.  It’s why rumors are growing that Collins is going to hire a private outside firm (and big Republican donor) to manage Medicaid for the county.

And I’m not saying the county shouldn’t be paying for improvements and upkeep at its parks, and I’m not saying the county should be out of the golf business if it’s not a net drain on taxpayers. What I am saying is that priorities for government should also include care for the needy or sick, education, maintaining a vibrant arts community not just for visitors, but also for locals.

Poloncarz doesn’t want to be the county czar; on the contrary, he wants to fire the one we’ve got.

Stupidest Thing Ever?

24 Oct

Just a few days ago, it was revealed that some cretin in the Board of Elections sent out absentee ballots that were pre-marked for Chris Collins. They were sent out to at least 10 Lackawanna Independence Party voters, and the Sheriff’s Department quickly mounted an investigation, as both parties’ BOE commissioners expressed shock and anger.

I rushed to judgment and assumed that the cretin who would do such a brazen and stupid thing would be a Republican proponent of Chris Collins.  Yet based on information from several sources, not to mention Stefan Mychajliw’s proxy outrage for his boss, it would appear that the culprit is actually a BOE Democratic appointee with close ties to Collins’ last opponent, Jim Keane. On Friday, Poloncarz released this statement:

Ballot tampering is a serious issue and I hope for a quick resolution of this recent issue at the Board of Elections. I support the investigation conducted by the Sheriff’s Office. Whether it is a Democrat or Republican who is at fault, it is my hope that the Sheriff’s Office will get the true facts of the case, make a swift prosecution to the extent of the law, and the individual should be immediately terminated. At the end of the day, he or she denied someone the opportunity to vote fairly in this race.

I apologize for thinking logically and assuming that only a Collins partisan would do something so stupid. I never considered that an even more stupid individual would try and do this – commit fraud to make Collins look bad, and have it backfire. I don’t know if an arrest is imminent, but when it happens I can expect Collins’ camp to make as much hay of this as possible. Who can blame them? Playing the victim is a great ploy in a campaign, and they’ll milk it for all it’s worth.

Thankfully, the Sheriff’s Department has confirmed that neither campaign had anything to do with this, so there’s that, but this absolute idiot, in trying to get Collins in trouble, has gotten himself into trouble and has caused the Poloncarz campaign to do damage control for something they had nothing to do with.

Escape the Urban: Preservation Edition

23 Oct

This week I’ll bend my own self-imposed “rules” on profiling urban venues to let you in on a preservation-related little known fact of the outdoor variety: you can walk out to the Buffalo Lighthouse again.

This is a secret few are seeking to keep; the opening was timed with the arrival of this week’s historic preservation conference, and stories ran in local news outlets. But based purely on my own experience, the word doesn’t seem to have g0tten out yet. I and my out-of-school sons were the only visitors over the lunch hour on Friday, and when I posted pictures on Twitter, several responded back in surprise that I was granted access. No special VIP pass here – just an open gate and a newly laid brick path.

Much works remains to transform public access into public destination. Grass seed covers chewed up mud fields, a consequence of the construction of new old tyme lamp posts and wrought iron-esque fences that separate the Coast Guard Station from the waterside right of way. Interpretive signage that hasn’t been scrutinized by curious eyes in a decade requires a bit of polish and repair. But these are garnishes that don’t distract from the main course: a view of Buffalo and Lake Erie that we’ve missed for a long time.

The term “windswept” barely begins to describe this spit of land and its 179 year old crown jutting out into the lake. The breeze makes itself known far up the mouth of the Inner Harbor, while pedestrians are still sheltered by ancient maples and a hardscrabble cluster of low coast guard structures. The wind builds along the narrow walkway out to the lighthouse landing, white crests forming on wave tops only a couple feet away.

A full gale is in effect by the time you arrive at the limestone spire, a howl that cuts through clutched clothing even on a relatively mild autumn day. The combined wind and water of all of Lake Erie is funneled and blown horizontally onto the very spot you stand, a low mound of dirt and rock reinforced with sheet metal retaining walls, a flimsy bulwark against the ceaseless assault. We didn’t stay long admiring the view, and I can only imagine life for those of the former lighthouse service, spending years or decades in such conditions, tending the lamp that separated storm from shelter.

Chris Collins’ Direction Deficit Disorder

21 Oct

Yesterday, the second and final debate was held between County Executive Chris Collins and Comptroller Mark Poloncarz. It was held at St. Joseph’s Collegiate Academy at 8:30 am, a great educational opportunity for that school and its AP Government class, but a

horrible opportunity for average voters to get a second opportunity to vet the two candidates for county executive. The debate wasn’t just held at a time of day when most people are at work on en route, it wasn’t aired on radio or television. Your only opportunity to see it was to watch a poor quality live stream at Channel 4’s website, or inaudible audio at the Buffalo News’ site.  Here’s Channel 4’s report. Here’s the Buffalo News report. I have to hand it to the students, they asked some great and relevant questions.

Unfortunately, nary a voter will ever see it.

However, one interesting thing occurred. The Poloncarz and Collins campaigns were specifically ordered not to film the debate in any way. The school didn’t want this educational event sullied by politics (i.e., didn’t want the campaigns to use video from the event for campaign purposes). Indeed, when I inquired of debate organizer Ted Lina, he did not issue a denial, but sent along this:

We sought to provide an educational experience for our students with this morning’s debate. We do not wish to involve them or St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute in the politics of the debate itself. We have no further comment at this time.

I had inquired about reports I was hearing that, despite the school’s prohibition against videotaping the debate, the Collins campaign blatantly refused to abide by this simple request. Poloncarz’s camp did not record it, but here’s a picture of Collins’ press guy, Stefan Mychajliw, videotaping after being asked repeatedly to stop – and refusing.

What is it about Chris Collins that makes him above the law? What is it about Chris Collins that he and his people can disobey the reasonable request of a Catholic high school that’s hosting a debate? It’s a sense of entitlement that lets Collins think it’s ok to park his car in a handicapped spot, or in a no parking zone.

Apparently, rules are for other people.

Nation Building

21 Oct

Libya’s Gadhafi was the bin Laden of the 80s. Yesterday, thanks to a Libyan rebellion and NATO help, Gadhafi met the fate he had long deserved, not only for murdering innocents abroad, but those at home as well.

As a partisan Democrat, I’ll point out that bin Laden and Gadhafi were both eliminated either by America or with American help, yet with no American casualties. In the 90s, NATO made quick work of ending the Serb nationalist socialist expansionism throughout the Balkans.

As we wind down in Iraq, and build up for the eventual wind down in Afghanistan, it’s time to re-visit the Powell Doctrine and, perhaps, codify it. War isn’t just dangerous, it’s expensive – we’re spending $300 million per day in Afghanistan. Almost $110 billion per year – it would be better if that money was being spent by the government domestically on infrastructure or education.

The Arab Spring reminds me of the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, and the way in which each country’s specific personality or situation dictated the way in which its revolution came about. Tunisia deposed its ruler, while Libya’s was shot. The Poles, Czechs & Slovaks, East Germans, and others peacefully built a mass movement, the Romanians had to take up arms – while Husak and Honecker and Krenz retired, went on trial, and/or were exiled, Ceausescu and his wife were shot like dogs – an altogether reasonable way for those two to go.

Now that Gaddafi is gone, Saleh in Yemen and Assad in Syria cling to power in the face of popular uprisings. Iran’s people tried valiantly, but were defeated once the secret police began killing them. Once the people in these countries bring change about and rid themselves of their oppressors, there is hope that regional peace might again have a chance. Without cynical authoritarian dictators at the helm, there’s hope that the new governments will stop blaming Israel for all their people’s woes and start building a modern, free, prosperous, and democratic Arab world.  I’ve always believed that, for the most part, average people in most countries just want to have a job, a home, a family, some vacation time, and the ability to drive to that country’s version of Denny’s for a Grand Slam every once in a while. They don’t want to live like serfs, and they don’t want to fight endless wars. (Neither should Americans, by the way).

You’ll note that the Arab Spring hasn’t brought about Talibanesque Islamic Republics; these people don’t seem eager to replace one form of despotism for another. Maybe the United States will have learned from its recent successes and failures in nation building and provide needed assistance, if invited to do so.

I know it’s unlikely, but one can always hope.