Wrapping My Head Around Last Week

14 Nov

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I’ve been thinking about the County Executive’s race all week, and I can’t seem to crystallize my thoughts into a coherent post, so here you go.

I’m not quite sure why regional campaigns would leave their messaging and communications in the hands of outsiders. Someone in Albany or Washington isn’t going to have his finger on the pulse of western New York, no matter whether they’re Buffalo expats or not.  Buy local, and use local talent.  Peter Anderson for Poloncarz was always cool as a cucumber. Stefan Mychajliw for Collins probably had a really difficult boss, and he got bogged down in making his boss look like the victim of union/Democratic fraud and dirty tricks. Collins, however, was too widely unliked.

Poloncarz and his team out-everythinged Collins’. While Collins and his people were busy whining about ballot tampering and signs “stolen” from public property in Williamsville, Poloncarz was undeterred from his central message of jobs and returning government to the people. Poloncarz showed up at candidates’ forums – friendly and unfriendly – that Collins completely avoided. Poloncarz walked door to door, attended fundraisers, shook hands, and – most importantly – listened to people.

Just three years ago, Collins was a rising Republican star. He was the millionaire model for conservative beancounters everywhere, even being invited to speak at the GOP Convention in 2008. Now? He’s going back to the private sector, where he can treat his businesses and employees however he’d like. Those people get paid to deal with him. Not so the voters of Erie County. Any talk of Collins running for statewide office is now quieted.

The people told him that they don’t like taxes, but they like the stuff they pay for, like libraries.

Running government like a business was a great platform to run against a reheated old pol like Jim Keane. But Collins didn’t run it like a business – he ran it like his business. He surrounded himself with very young staffers who were as sycophantic to their boss as they were arrogant to others. Their political prowess had become legendary, yet they had never run a competitive race against anyone. Kathy Hochul showed that they were weak; that was the first clue that Collins would lose. That he generally kept the same crew around was hubris, and they lost their second competitive race.

Correspondents tell me that the collective mood in the Rath Building has improved dramatically since last Tuesday’s surprisingly  convincing Poloncarz win. It’s not because Poloncarz is suddenly going to hire back everyone his union masters demand, as some would think; instead, it’s because county workers know that this victory will quiet down the incessant scapegoating. Despite all the talk of Six Sigma, the time will soon come where these workers will be judged on their merits; on their efficiency – not on arbitrary beancounting. The days of cutting off our nose to spite our face will be over.

The public-sector unions, however, are kidding themselves if they think they own the incoming County Executive. They will be treated fairly, but won’t be given the keys to the candy store.

Leading into election day, I was afraid it would be too close to call – that Poloncarz would win, but not for weeks, and that Collins would be yelling about election fraud. His win wasn’t exactly a landslide, but it was a much bigger margin than anyone expected, and it’s due to hard work.

Poloncarz insiders told me on Election Night that Bob McCarthy had slagged them off all summer, complaining about how boring the race was, and what a shoo-in Collins was to win re-election. They perceived McCarthy’s coverage of their effort as being unnecessarily negative and excessively dismissive. He pretended that there was a potential conflict of interest by SEIU – which has no contract with the county – paying Poloncarz’s campaign manager’s salary. There wasn’t, and it’s not as unusual as he suggested. McCarthy’s interest in the race began and ended with financial disclosures – Collins was the winner because he could afford to self-fund, and Poloncarz was the loser because until that first Siena poll was released, he hadn’t raised as much. Yet McCarthy didn’t do the math, and Poloncarz had even then out-raised Collins. After Siena, Poloncarz out-raised Collins by 4:1.

Bob, cash doesn’t vote. People do.

Political junkies like to follow the financial filings at the BOE; the general public, not so much. McCarthy comes out of this campaign looking downright shortsighted and foolish. His coverage was practically negligent.

By the way, city turnout last week approached 25%. Remember when the Siena polls came out and the city sample was 21% and 19%, respectively, and how the Collins camp and others had a conniption fit over that? That was fun.

They were right – Siena was inaccurate. They showed a dead heat when Poloncarz was out ahead. Collins’ people touted magical internal polls showing him up, up, up, but that didn’t materialize.

Ballot tampering – Collins’ crew’s attempts to link that to Poloncarz was pathetic and whiny. Granted, Poloncarz jumped the gun when he accused the Republicans of engineering that attempted fraud, but in the end, Collins was clearly trying to set this up for post-election-night litigation. But everyone knew the cops had absolved both campaigns of responsibility, so Collins came off as whiny.

I think a reason why the margin was so wide has to do with Collins’ appearance on the Fox News Channel in the days leading up to the election. Here’s a guy who won’t talk to voters in his own town, yet he has the time to go on a divisive Republican propaganda outlet with a miniscule national audience? Collins could have influenced more voters by yelling out his window in Clarence than appearing on some obscure Fox News show no one heard of.

The election, I think, was ultimately about re-assessing our community priorities. We may not be ready for true regionalism, but we’re over pitting one population against another. We’re bored with political scapegoating of certain sectors of our society. We want the county to move forward into the 21st century and stop bickering. We don’t like how high our taxes are, but enjoy the things they pay for that lift up our quality of life, and we need to find a comfortable balance. We’re tired of unfunded mandates, and we’re sick of redundancy.

What I’m most hopeful for isn’t a different kind of beancounting, but big ideas. When Poloncarz spoke of closer ties with Canada, an examination of redundant IDAs that poach business from each other, de-politicizing processes that Collins had hyperpoliticized, I get excited. When I consider that regional cooperation and consolidation of redundancies may re-emerge, I’m quite pleased. When I consider that the comptroller will now be in a position to fix issues he had identified as plaguing Collins’ budgets, I’m hopeful.

After the mess Giambra made, Collins’ policies may have been what we needed, but his obnoxious arrogance gave him a very short shelf-life indeed.

32 Responses to “Wrapping My Head Around Last Week”

  1. michaelrcaputo November 14, 2011 at 8:10 am #

    There you are. I was wondering what happened to your post-election analysis. The after party must have gone on for days!

    • Alan Bedenko November 14, 2011 at 9:15 am #

      BTW, I used “prowess’ and “legendary” in the same sentence.

  2. Jack N. November 14, 2011 at 8:40 am #

    Alan, can you shed any light on the Bylewski-Hartzell race? It was a close race and both camps appear to be very tight lipped, almost like something’s in the works…. Or they might just be waiting until all the absentee’s are counted… It was a real shame to see the results of that election. The amount of people that vote down party lines is amazing. I don’t honestly think a lot of Hartzell voters realize what they have just done. Things began to improve the day Dan Herberger left office years ago and Kathy Hallock was voted in. Then when Hallock left office and Bylewski took the reigns, he continued the town in the right direction and his performance was stellar. Now, the town has come full circle and we are right back to square one with Hartzell. What the hell were the residents thinking?? Wow! This guy is just going to look like a big douche bag running town board meetings etc. I honestly don’t think he has what it takes to be in the position of Town Supervisor. I’m sure that Joe Weiss will be in the mix somehow to “guide” him (puppet). Good luck with that Clarence! At least i’m comforted by knowing the fact that I voted for the right person and can’t take any responsibility for the state of the town in the next 4 years….

    • Alan Bedenko November 14, 2011 at 9:12 am #

      Jack – They are counting absentees, etc., and I’ll note that more people voted for Bylewski on the D line than voted for Hartzell on the R line. What Bylewski had showed is that bipartisan cooperation in town government can happen, and can work. If Bylewski had secured either the IP or CON line, he’d have won. This brings up a separate point about the inherent horribleness of electoral fusion, dealt with in other, previous posts.

      I have absolutely no faith or hope that Hartzell will run a sound or competent town government, given that he is but a puppet of the recently ousted, toxic Joe Weiss. I know that the Republicans went to great pains to overtly smear Bylewski over that last weekend before election day, and that smear is something I won’t soon forget and will work very hard to boomerang next time around. I hope every Republican and Conservative committeeperson’s nose is clean like the driven snow.

      Hartzell made a fool of himself at least 3 or 4 separate times, and I think the consensus was that the Repubs and CONs in town were sick of Bylewski being all “competent” and “fair”, and decided it’s time to divvy up town spoils only amongst themselves. This was a concerted effort. I have no doubt that Hartzell will sell out the town’s principles and abandon smart growth strategies in order to enrich himself, his friends, and do his level-best to take the worst of Amherst and re-make Clarence in its image.

  3. Ray November 14, 2011 at 8:51 am #

    So now can we retire those allegations of the “inaccurate Siena poll” giving Mark undeserved momentum? Unless the claim is now going to be that “those ignorant city voters only turned out because the poll told them to!” There’ll probably be some mention of free cheese.

  4. Jesse November 14, 2011 at 8:51 am #

    “the time will soon come where these workers will be judged on their merits; on their efficiency – not on arbitrary beancounting.”

    I’m just curious what makes you believe this to be true, or if it’s just hopeful platitudes.

    I hope you’re right about things looking up, but I have a lot of history that says otherwise…

  5. whitney November 14, 2011 at 9:54 am #

    I’m glad you included McCarthy in this round up. His reporting on this race (and most races he covers) is shameful and lazy. He has also has a weekly radio gig on WNED and it was the same old thing: Collins has a lot of money, Poloncarz doesn’t, it’s over, etc. 

  6. Jack N. November 14, 2011 at 10:01 am #

    I did notice the tally on the D and R lines… I see your point about the IP and CON lines. I will have to research your posts about electoral fusion, I have seen you mention this a few times, but I have never had a chance to read up on it. Thank you for your input on the Clarence race…

  7. Brian Wood November 14, 2011 at 10:48 am #

    Run it like a business. I often think, in these parlous times, of Enron, Tyco, the Savings and Loan bunch, Lehman Bros., and, of course, Madoff Enterprises. Further references about slimeball and stupid businessmen upon request.

  8. Brian B November 14, 2011 at 10:52 am #

    So two good candidates went down on Election night due to electoral fusion… Maria Whyte received 12000 more votes on the Dem line than Jacobs did on the Repub line, but he had both the IP and Con lines that made up the difference. If the IP, Con, and WFP want to have candidates in the race, then they should sponsor their own. Electoral fusion has got to go. Good candidates typically lose b/c of the shenanigans that go on in the minor party lines. It makes me sick…

  9. MJC November 14, 2011 at 11:30 am #

    I understand the arguments regarding electoral fusion but do we really know if the minor party lines make any difference whatsoever?

    Sure, Maria Whyte received 12000 more major party votes than Chris Jacob. If the IP and Conservative parties were somehow forced to run their own candidates, my guess is that almost all of their votes would have shifted to Jacob.

    I think these people are voting for the candidate rather than the party. For the most part, they are conservative thinking people who hate to be labeled as Republicans, yet vote for the Republican every single time.

  10. Allen Miller November 14, 2011 at 11:36 am #

    @Brain Wood

    Excellent examples of why government should not be run like a business. I could name a dozen well run business and I still would not want to see government run like a business. They are two very different operational models.

    The opposite very true as well. I would not want to see a business run like a government. I could name hundreds of slime ball politicians (of both parties). The government should operate and perform with the interest of all it’s citizens. Roads, Military, mail delivery etc. The government should also be either managing the money supply or at minimal seriously auditing in an open environment. The Federal Reserve is no more a government institution that Federal Express.

    The government should not be running or bailing out auto companies,private financial institutions. That is a message about OWS that I completely agree with.

  11. Ward November 14, 2011 at 12:10 pm #

    So, Collins accusing the Dems of engineering the ballot shenanigans was “whining”, but Poloncarz doing the same to Repubs was merely “jumping the gun”.

    Thanks for the clarification. (BTW, it was a Dem hack who did it, was it not?)

  12. Brian B November 14, 2011 at 12:13 pm #

    @MJC, I understand that is probably what would happen. However, the Independence Party is nothing but confusing to a LOT of people who do not follow along because they are against the D and R parties. These people vote on the Independence line thinking it is the Independent Party line, not realizing that it’s not and is basically an apparatus of the Repubs in the area. The Independence Party we have here is the love child Tom Golisano and Pidgeon’s marriage of backdoor politics. I think that if they all had to run their own candidates, I don’t think Jacobs gets the 27000 extra votes from those lines. I’d say he gets maybe 1/3 of them. This is b/c as you say they are made up of people “who hate to be labeled as Republicans” and probably wouldn’t vote for the R if they have their own candidate.
    Also, it’s not that they would be “somehow forced to run their own candidates.” Most states in the country don’t allow for this fusion of lines. They have rules that say you can only run on one line. It’s that simple. I have yet to see anyone give me one example of how electoral fusion has produced a good outcome. In all honesty, the fusion really doesn’t come into play in the general elections (but it does have a small role.) The biggest thing I see it provide is a way for those defeated in a primary to continue their campaigns on to the general. And in the meantime, it just allows for more people to be indebted to a small few. I think the guys here at WNYMedia have done a good job at showing the fiasco that is the Conservative Party to be what it truly is. Especially with their bullying of candidates that had been certified correctly in accordance with their State party, but pissed off the local head.

  13. Fat Tony November 14, 2011 at 12:18 pm #

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but Poloncarz killed Collins in the city and first ring burbs and Collins won everywhere else. That means your hopes for IDA consolidation and other regionalism initiatives are DOA. There’s a reason people live where they do, even if they can be short-sighted at times.

    • Alan Bedenko November 14, 2011 at 1:36 pm #

      What does where people live have to do with where they open businesses, or whether they poach businesses from one community to re-arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic? I don’t see IDA consolidation as a horse race. I see it as a pretty fundamental thing that needs to happen to lurch this area into the present.

  14. Black Rock Lifer November 14, 2011 at 1:31 pm #

    Fat Tony- Maybe people in the city and first ring suburbs are just brighter and nicer. 🙂

  15. Fat Tony November 14, 2011 at 3:05 pm #

    Black Rock Lifer — I’ll give you nicer, but if they were brighter they’d be the next ring out, where the sun always shines and your next door neighbor lives more than 10 feet away. Just kidding….we don’t need another city/burbs rant.

    BP, I happen to agree with IDA piece, but my point was the election results show nothing has changed about how we think across the region. Lancaster and Amherst will never, ever merge their IDAs and the County Exec can push for it all he wants, but he is powerless to do anything about it. Ask Joel.

  16. jimd November 14, 2011 at 4:24 pm #

    I don’t know why the reason for Collins’ losing has to be any more than him hiding 40 million in stimulus money. It was a sheer dereliction of his office. He may not like the current administration but fuck him, he is supposed to work in the best interest of the county.

  17. Jason November 14, 2011 at 6:19 pm #

    Since when is Fox News some obscure news network you idiot? They only trounce every other cable news network in every single time slot.

    The most recent ratings:
    http://tvbythenumbers.zap2it.com/2011/11/11/cable-news-ratings-for-thursday-november-10-2011/110409/

    • Alan Bedenko November 14, 2011 at 8:34 pm #

      Actually, I referred to the SHOW on Fox News as “obscure”, which it palpably is, you “idiot”.

      Also, as Eric points out, Fox is the biggest cable news network, which means it gets very few viewers. Enjoy!

  18. Eric Saldanha November 14, 2011 at 8:00 pm #

    @ Jason – BP wasn’t calling Fox News “some obscure (cable) news network”…as per the cable news ratings you linked to, Fox News is, clearly, the dominant cable news network.

    However, in terms of total viewership in the U.S., that claim is akin to boasting that the Bills are the most successful pro football team in Upstate New York. Broadcast network shows draw millions more viewers than Fox News…FNC is even outdrawn by Spongebob Square Pants on basic cable.
    Fox News’ most popular program, The O’Reilly Factor,” drew 2.8 million viewers last Thursday. In the same time slot, NBC’s Community, one of the lowest-rated network shows on the schedule, drew >a href=”http://tvbythenumbers.zap2it.com/2011/11/11/thursday-final-ratings-big-bang-theory-greys-prime-suspect-adjusted-up-bones-rules-private-practice-adjusted-down/110412/”>more than double the viewers.

  19. Eric Saldanha November 14, 2011 at 8:28 pm #

    sorry, here’s the correct link for Community‘s ratings

  20. RaChaCha November 14, 2011 at 9:22 pm #

    Pundit: can the Hartzell win be due to one-off circumstances of a coattail effect from those voting to retain their fellow town resident as county exec–?

  21. Chris Smith November 15, 2011 at 12:10 am #

    “So, Collins accusing the Dems of engineering the ballot shenanigans was ‘whining’, but Poloncarz doing the same to Repubs was merely ‘jumping the gun’.”

    Yes, it was. Poloncarz jumped the gun and made an accusation based on assumptions, once the facts were in, he recanted, apologized and moved on…like a grown-up. Collins made constant accusations after the investigating authority said neither campaign was involved. Thus, one is whining and trying to make a mountain out of a molehill in order to set up post-election legal wrangling and the other was just “jumping the gun”.

  22. James November 15, 2011 at 12:29 am #

    Well if this column is any indication, I can look forward to it being a Mark-love feat for the next four years.

    I hope you curb your apologist-ism a bit, and over his term actually critically look at him much like you did Collins… though I’m not optimistic the rose colored glasses will come off anytime soon

    • Alan Bedenko November 15, 2011 at 9:10 am #

      “apologist-ism” – I don’t know what that is.

  23. wolfpack November 15, 2011 at 9:39 am #

    Curious: IDAs and the Buffalo connection. Bonds are issued in Buffalo and in various towns and at the county. The county ones involve county roads (in suburbs) and their partners at ECC ECMC football etc The IDA typically sells tax free bonds and gives sales tax credits to suburban companies (very few in teh City). Buffalo politicians don’t really trust that the ECIDA will help their companies so they have the BERC and the millions of federal monie sin BURA and their $255 million annual bond sales. Consolidation makes a lot of sense BUT guarantees need to be there that the economy of WNY is of prime concern. They each want assurances that they (each municipality) gets its fair share (oops,it will look like the 1/9 th policy in City Hall for the districts. Best of luck

  24. wolfpack November 15, 2011 at 9:41 am #

    sorry $25 million in bonds for Buffalo (a typo)

  25. Jack N. November 15, 2011 at 9:49 am #

    @RaChaCha – You bring up a good point. I never thought about that effect, it kinda makes sense…

  26. Peter A Reese November 15, 2011 at 5:12 pm #

    I really think there are some simple answers here.    Collins was very much overrated.    We only had one data point to assess his electability (2007).      As County Exec, he alienated all county employees and did whatever he could to trash Buffalo, while carrying out a strategy designed to appeal to the suburbs.     Understandably, the unions were gunning for him.     (The Artvoice golf score article was all over County Hall and the Rath Building the day before the election.)    Completely out of touch with ordinary people, Collins really couldn’t campaign on any kind of human level.      Think about it.    Who is going to like this guy outside the country club crowd and Buffalo Niagara Partnership?   So he ran a media campaign designed to appeal to the Townies while praying that the City would stay home.     The suburban strategy worked.    He won the county outside Buffalo by about 13,000 votes.      Fortunately, the Buffalo turnout was higher than expected and the City differential was plus 24,000 votes.  Game over.    

  27. RaChaCha November 15, 2011 at 10:27 pm #

    @Jack N Thank you. It’s really a speculation I’m throwing out — hoping that someone closer to that race than I (like Pundit) will weigh in.

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