Search results for 'weiss'

Weiss Defeated

14 Sep

Clarence Town Councilman Joseph “Masses are Asses” Weiss was voted out of office last night, earning just 23% of the votes in the Republican “pick 2 out of 3” councilman primary, and 34% of the vote in the Independence Party primary. He’s gone for three reasons. Firstly, he made an enemy of a man as wealthy as he is, who was happy to spend his money to let people know all about it. Secondly, his awful and intimidating personality and style alienated a lot of people over the past 8 years he’s been on the board. Thirdly, he made enemies of the volunteer fire departments and the volunteers who work there. Bad move, as they’re the backbone of the community, know everyone, and aren’t afraid to get politically active when attacked. Fourthly, my work here was picked up by the Bee and made it onto lit that was forwarded to hundreds of Clarence households.

Weiss’ hand-picked supervisor candidate will mount a formidable challenge in November, and I have no doubt that a defeated Weiss will be out for revenge. I know many of you don’t care about what happens in Clarence politics, (and I fully understand), but it’s a community that’s wealthy, has few real problems, is fiscally stable, has good schools, low taxes, yet a political climate that’s suddenly become ruthlessly ugly and is in the midst of an epic WNY battle between sprawl growth and maintenance of its rural character.

At least we’re not Amherst.

Dear Joe Weiss:

9 Sep

I know you’re reading this, so I figured I’d address you directly.

It has come to my attention that you sent out another email to your many admirers referring to me as “Scott Bylewski’s personal blogger,” or something to that effect. It’s no secret that I’m friends with Scott and his family, nor that I am a political supporter of his. But personal blogger? Not quite. News trickles out of Clarence, and some of the political threats and intimidation that you and your Republican counterparts have been engaging in deserve wider exposure and discussion.

There’s a pattern here. Both you and your friend, Republican candidate for Supervisor David Hartzell, have taken a political disagreement and transformed it into something more sinister, as if you guys were little wanna-be mafiosos.

When Dan Snyder took you on in an unprecedented, and well-funded, way, you blew your stack and came close to ignorantly and defiantly pushing the town into an unnecessary constitutional litigation. Luckily, Mr. DiCostanzo realized the gravity of the situation and helped avoid such a costly crisis by changing his vote. Oh, I know that you’ve obtained a legal opinion that says what you were doing was perfectly reasonable, but I’d consider that to be money poorly spent.

When a local supporter of Snyder’s and Bylewski’s sent this to several local politicos and officials, praising DiCostanzo:

This is how you replied:

That’s classy for a public, elected, town, at-large legislator! All electeds should use profanity when communicating with constituents! Unfortunately, when Ms. Okonowski-Dunlap wrote about this exchange in the Bee, the full context was unable to be seen.

But that’s not the only Paladinoesque email bomb from you. This one is my favorite – a person had a mild complaint about a profile of you that was printed in the Bee, and sent you this, and you replied by telling her she had too much time on her hands:

Again, not exactly a good way to communicate with unhappy constituents, but you topped it off by forwarding that exchange to the members of the town’s Republican Committee thusly:

Now we really know what your attitude is towards the voters in the town of Clarence. Now we know what you really think of people who disagree with you, we see your style of governance, and we know how you handle dissent and disagreement. Now we really know that, when people fill in the box to vote for you, you think they’re “asses” (and you can’t even spell it correctly). What an offensive and elitist way to conduct yourself – that you think you’re somehow better than anyone else in the town. What an incredibly telling statement – and you readily admit to just about every Republican in town that this is something you “say” often.

Then there’s this flyer that’s going around, quoting something you allegedly said to people during (of all things) the Clarence Center Volunteer Fire Department’s annual Labor Day fair:

 

It’s not the masses that are asses, Mr. Weiss. The real asses are elected officials who take political disputes and turn them into personal affronts, and let it affect their judgment. When your supervisor candidate tells the Clarence IDA that a marketing bid placed by a supporter of Bylewski’s should be withdrawn, or that it will be subject to a “backlash”, that’s directly out of the playbook you used to deal with Dan Snyder – if you dare to buck the Republican apparatus or apparatchiks in the Town of Clarence, prepare to suffer severe consequences, whether it be Dan Snyder and his request to do something he’s done for years, or Jeff Feinen filling out a general objection to ensure the legality of petition signatures and then being treated punitively for it.

That’s not how constitutional democracies work – that’s how they do it in backwards banana republic dictatorships. Now we know that if you and Hartzell are elected, the town will be run like a dysfunctional little fiefdom that will be hostile to the “masses”, and those who dare to disagree.

I never really cared much about town politics until I started seeing Snyder’s “Weiss Must Go” signs around town, and I wanted to learn more about what was going on. Now I see how right he is. The town runs quite well in spite of your belligerent shenanigans, and I’m happy to help a wider audience see what’s really going on here.

Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

Love,

BP

The Daily Five – Holiday Beers

5 Dec

I’d like to introduce a new AV Daily blog feature, “The Daily Five”.

Each day around noon, I’ll introduce a “Top 5” list from a local community subject matter expert for you to read, share, and discuss. We dabbled with it last week, but settled on a format which allows us to bring new and different voices to the blog each day.

Today is the 78th anniversary of the passage of the 21st amendment (aka Prohibition Repeal Day), and I couldn’t think of a better way to start this new feature than with a discussion about beer. As holiday party season kicks off, I thought we should help you appear distinguished and cultured by having one or several classic holiday beers available for your guests.

So, in order to make this list, I went to two of the leading beer experts in Buffalo, Ethan Cox (certified cicerone) and Rudy Watkins (Brewmaster) of the fledgling Community Beer Works Brewery on Lafayette Street in Buffalo.

When CBW’s president Ethan Cox and head brewer Bob “Rudy” Watkins get together to think about holiday beers, they don’t produce your typical list of spiced-up, thin-bodied, 4.5% “winter warmers” from krapht breweries like the staff writers at Maxim do; oh, hell no.

They think about blankets of snow, feet-up by the fireside, and late-night, contemplative beers. These aren’t the party beers- these are the after-party beers.

1. Quelque Chose | Unibroue | Montreal, Canada | 8% ABV | Blended, spiced ale

The name is French for “Something” and it’s true, this beer is something… else. First, it’s a blend of two beers: their own spiced brown ale, bringing clove and cinnamon to the party, and a cherry lambic, or kriek, for dark fruit complexity and a hint of sour tang. Better than that, it is a beer they intend to be served warm. Though it is delicious at the standard cellar temperature range as well, we like it best out of a crock-pot. Throw in some dried cherries and a cinnamon stick for extra cheer.

2. Old Foghorn | Anchor Brewing Co. | San Francisco, California | 8-10% ABV (varies) | Barleywine style ale

Anchor is in many ways the ground zero of American craft brewing, alongside Sierra Nevada. From reviving classic Steam Beer to inventing American IPA in Liberty Ale, and producing the first seasonal, holiday beer–which is not the one making this list, as it happens–they’ve been consummate craft pioneers. They also make Old Foghorn, the first American barleywine of this new era of craft brewing since 1975. This beer varies bit from year to year, and also ages quite well. But, it is always a chewy, malty-rich but still quite hoppy delight.

3. Aventinus | G. Schneider & Sohn | Kelheim, Germany | 8.2% ABV | Weizenbock

It’s easy to imagine that a weizenbock might be like a bock, but with wheat- and you’d be, well, sorta wrong about that. Sure, it’s got wheat in it, and in fact it’s really more another kind of weissbier or wheat ale than a bock–one of many types of lager–at all. However, as a dunkle or dark-weizen brewed to dopplebock strength, it somehow acquired that reference in the name. Like other German weizen beers, there’s a load of clove and banana in the nose in this deep mahogany brew topped with a thick, light tan head. The sip reveals those aromas as flavors joined with caramel, raisin, licorice & faint vanilla notes in a creamy, full-bodied beer.

4. St. Bernadus Christmas | Brouwerij St. Bernadus | Watou, Belgium | 10% ABV | Belgian Strong Dark, spiced

Clearly, we didn’t think “nothing with spices,” we just wanted them done right: orange peel and nutmeg melding perfectly with big malt-fruit flavors and deep Belgian abbey yeast complexity, all contained in a heady, unctuous liquid: this is a real “winter warmer,” though certainly not of the English type. Though technically not a Trappist beer, as it does not come from an actual monastery, the happy monk on the label has all kinds of reasons to smile when drinking this divine seasonal offering.

5. Black Chocolate Stout | Brooklyn Brewery | Brooklyn, NY |  10% ABV | Imperial Stout

This beer is justly famous as the beer that got Garrett Oliver, Brooklyn’s esteemed brewmaster, hired in 1994.  Pour this one into a snifter at 55 degrees, or “castle temperature,” grab a book and a seat by the fireside.  You’ll catch a whiff of the alcohol in the nose, alsongside a whole lot of roasted barley all coming off the deep tan head atop the beer.

These beers are available at your neighborhood good beer store, like Premier and/or Consumers or other outlets of similar ilk. Pick up a few and celebrate the holidays in style.

Embeer Buffalo!

Endorsements 2011

7 Nov

These are not predictions. These are preferences. Please be sure to join WNYMedia.net Tuesday for election night coverage starting around 9pm. Your mileage may vary. Offer void where prohibited.

1. Erie County Executive: Mark Poloncarz

No surprise here. Mark is a personal friend and I believe in the work that he’s accomplished on behalf of all the taxpayers of Erie County. His office has been run with excellence in mind, and with the taxpayers’ best interests at heart. He is a middle-class kid who hasn’t forgotten from whence he came, and wants to go up 5 floors in the Rath Building in order to represent all the people of Erie County – city, suburb, rich, poor, black, white – everybody. I won’t repeat four years’ worth of posts exposing Chris Collins for being the tax-hiking, elitist hyperpolitical tinpot Machiavelli he is – just do a search for “Chris Collins” on our site.  What I will say is that Poloncarz is going to bring not just competence, but excellence to the County Executive’s office. Despite lots of pressure to do otherwise, Mark is a believer in maintaining a meritocracy in his office. He hires and retains people who do the best and most thorough work for their county pay. He’s a hard worker who doesn’t back down from a challenge or a fight. When it comes to dealing with a dysfunctional legislature, a county control board, and his enemies’ slings and arrows, Poloncarz has proven that he’s up to it, time and time again. He fought to make sure his office did county borrowing because he got the better financing deals. He’s exposed waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer money large and small. He doesn’t think you need to substitute creative thinking and common sense with some expensive cluster of management-speak to get the best and most efficient results for your tax dollar.

But on top of that, Mark has his priorities straight. He doesn’t think you should privatize WIC or shutter clinics to score political points with a certain population of voter. On the contrary, he thinks that the county should save money wherever possible; clinics are cheaper than emergency room visits. WIC is now less convenient for its users. It wasn’t Six Sigma that found how DSS was using 19th century technology to maintain its files – it was a vigilant comptroller’s office. It’s not simply about frugality for its own sake – it’s about being smart with money.

All of the fights that take place in our largely redundant and pointless county government center around the very small (8 – 12%) of the budget that’s discretionary. That’s what most of our anger and derision flows from.  Given that this percentage is so small, it’s best for everyone – politicians and the community-at-large – if it’s spent thoughtfully, if at all. Instead, the incumbent County Executive has hyper-politicized the funding of libraries and cultural organizations rather than used real merit or apolitical considerations. Collins needlessly created a funding crisis for the county libraries out of whole cloth, which he’d prefer to resolve through a brand-new tax and special taxing district; just the sort of authority-creation that New York State is trying to abolish. That’s old-style spendthrift liberal thinking. It lazily shunts responsibility off of the county and on to some other entity, whether it be a new tax and bureaucracy, or the towns.

Remember – when it comes down to brass tacks, we like these services that we get with our taxes. It’s only in the abstract that we yell about taxes, until we’re reminded what they pay for.

Likewise, the process to fund cultural organizations shouldn’t be at the County Executive’s whim; it shouldn’t be, as it is now, just a newer version of old-style spendthrift liberal thinking like the member items of yore. Instead, Poloncarz would return that duty to the apolitical, non-partisan Erie County Cultural Resources Advisory Board, or ECCRAB. It was a system with which everyone was on board, and it took politics out of the equation. We didn’t have the huge fights then that we have now, as Collins artificially picks winners and losers with zero input from public stakeholders.

Finally, Collins is nothing more than an old-fashioned tax & spend liberal. Although Collins likes to say he’s looking out for the taxpayers, he’s raised taxes on us, and gone to court to prevent the legislature from keeping those hikes lower. Although he says he’s careful with our money, he’s spent millions on his friends and cronies, without regard to results or merit. Although Collins likes to seem as if he’s a good government type, he’s in ongoing violation of the county charter in terms of providing monthly budget monitoring reports. Although Collins says he’s trying to create a brighter future, he maintains the tired, failed status-quo when it comes to attracting and keeping businesses in western New York; he eschews the notion of IDA consolidation, and hasn’t set up a one-stop-shop for businesses to use when considering a move to our region.

For someone who promised to run the county like a business, why has he behaved like that?

So, on Tuesday, I’ll join Governor Cuomo, Senator Schumer, Senator Gillibrand, Representatives Higgins and Hochul, and Mayor Byron Brown to vote for Mark Poloncarz for County Executive.

2. County Clerk: Maria Whyte

As a county legislator and community activist, Maria’s been a tireless advocate for the poor and underprivileged on Buffalo’s west side.  It will be a huge loss to lose her to the quiet administrative work of the clerk’s office, but she has pledged to improve the public’s access to county information, to improve efficiency and wait times, to build upon the DMV improvements already built-in to the system under Dave Swarts and Kathy Hochul, and to modernize recordkeeping to reflect a 21st century where people look stuff up on computers and read PDF files.  Although I have nothing against Chris Jacobs, he has run from his tenure on the Buffalo Board of Education when he’s mentioned it at all, and he has illegally played politics with the 501(c)(3) foundation he created to help underprivileged, bright kids escape the crushing hopelessness of the very public school system he helped run. These, I think, disqualify him from running the largely ministerial clerk’s office – if you can’t follow simple rules and you’re embarrassed by your own record, maybe go back and fix those before asking for a promotion.

3. Assembly 148: Ray Walter

I like Craig Bucki, and I think he’d make a fine Assemblyman.  I also like Ray Walter, and I find that he’s as thoughtful as he is brash; as willing to debate the finer points of policy and the law as he is to roll his eyes when Betty Jean Grant is speaking. Let’s face it, being an Assembly Republican is a thankless job – just ask Jane Corwin. It’s replete with big smiles and bigger checks, and yelling about Shelly Silver and the evil downstate Democrats. All of this comes back to my thought that we need a unicameral legislature. Because I think that Ray is a smart guy and an independent thinker, and because I know that he has big ideas on how to reform government and includes people who don’t always agree with him into the conversation, I’m going to give Ray the edge. I’m not convinced that Bucki would do better or worse – I just don’t know him well enough to make that determination. I am confident, however, that Ray is the kind of legislator who doesn’t suffer fools gladly, isn’t afraid to speak his mind, and is willing to take the time to research and examine ways for government to do its job better. I know his nickname in the county legislature is “Rush”, as in Limbaugh, but maybe the Assembly needs that.

4. Erie County Legislature

As a side note, I’m appalled by the number of uncontested races this year.

District 1: Tim Hogues over Barbara Miller-Williams and Joe Mascia: Hogues will replace the Democrat-in-Name-Only who currently occupies this seat and chairs the legislature. Miller-Williams’ tenure has been replete with her doing her BFF Chris Collins’ bidding, oftentimes to her own benefit and her constituents’ detriment. She doesn’t belong anywhere near county hall.

District 2: Betty Jean Grant is unopposed. 

District 3: Lynn Marinelli is unopposed. 

District 4: Jeremy Zellner over Kevin Hardwick: I like the professor personally, but he had an opportunity to establish his bona fides as an independent thinker rather than a Collins rubber-stamp when it came time to over-ride many of Collins’ 2010 cuts. He didn’t take it, even going so far as to acquiescing to Collins’ continual petty attempts to decimate the personnel and effectiveness of the Comptroller’s office.

District 5: Tom Loughran over Shelly Schratz: Unlike Hardwick, Loughran has shown himself to be an independent legislative thinker from time to time. Schratz is a perennial candidate who is aligned with the noxious tea party movement. We need fewer Collins acolytes in the legislature, not more.

District 6: Ed Rath over Toni Vazquez: Vazquez didn’t seem to really have a firm grasp on county issues in general, or district issues in particular. Rath is poised to do something with the office he’s in, but I’d like to see some more independence and aggressiveness from him in the future.

District 7: Tom Mazur is unopposed. 

District 8: Terry McCracken over Mike Cole: I have no idea about anything having to do with McCracken, except that he’s not Mike Cole. Cole, you’ll remember, was, in effect, an Assemblyman-for-life until his drunken Albany shenanigans with interns got him in trouble with oft-hypocritical conservative family values types. Hey, Mike: it’s too soon.

District 9: Jon Gorman over Lynne Dixon: Gorman’s is a brilliant mind, and he’s a hard worker. Dedicated to the people’s business, he’d be one less Collins follower in the legislature, and would bring a legal eye to the proceedings to help minimize any recurrences of “null and void” declarations, should Collins win.

District 10: No Endorsement: I will not endorse Christina Bove, as she helped create the de facto Collins majority in the legislature as a consummate follower and “what’s in it for me” type politician. On the other hand, the Lorigo name should be drummed out of our collective body politic, firstly by abolishing the family nest egg that’s built upon the hyper-corrupt electoral fusion system. Lorigo’s efforts to bully Bove by having daddy file a $3MM defamation suit over an ad in – of all things – the f’king PENNYSAVER, takes pettiness to a whole new level – the fact that this prominent law firm can’t even be bothered to actually file and serve a Summons and Complaint, with the alleged libel plead with the requisite particularity, instead relying on the lazy lawyers’ “Summons with Notice”, which gives them indignant headlines and nothing else.

District 11: John Mills in unopposed. 

Town of Clarence: Scott Bylewski

The town race has been exquisitely ugly this year, thanks in no small part to the execrable Joe Weiss and his puppet, Dave Hartzell. Bylewski enjoys bipartisan support from people who truly care about the town and the direction in which it’s going. His opponents have proven themselves to be a dirty, hypocritical collection of fetid assholes whose idea of good government is to lie to town residents when they’re not berating them. Don’t be fooled by the lies and deception – Bylewski is working hard to keep the town on the right track, despite myriad pressures from many sides to go against the town’s land use constitution.


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.

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.

One Sign to Rule them All: My Precioussss

1 Oct

Hartzell stands next to his most prized sign

Clarence’s most clownish town supervisor candidate has managed to offend (a) a fellow Republican; (b) a campaign contributor; (c) a prospective ally on the town board; and (d) a well-liked councilmember who is likely to coast to re-election! Bonus? (a) through (d) is the same guy!

Dr. Bernie Kolber, Republican town councilman, sent the following missive to members of the town Republican committee this week, and it was forwarded to me by a disgusted tipster. Shoot first, ask questions later may work…well, it never really works. But that’s just the kind of guy Hartzell is.

Talk about a circus.

Before the rumor mill hits, as fellow town Committeemen, I wanted to make you aware of a situation that happened to me today. I would rather take a proactive approach to situations.
This morning I was visited by a New York State Trooper who informed me that a complaint was filed against me by David Hartzell. On September 15th, two days after the primary election, someone saw me removing one of his signs on County Road. For the past 8 years that I have been involved in Clarence Town Government, there has been a tradition of quickly cleaning up our town immediately following an election. It was a matter of pride in the appearance of Clarence that 1-2 days following an election there would be little evidence that an election took place. As I am sure that you are aware, both major political parties and their candidates would quickly go out and by gentlemen’s agreement would remove most if not all campaign signs, which would be collected, sorted, and returned to the respective candidates, regardless of party. In the past a communal Uncle Bob’s storage location was even used to deposit all of the signs prior to distribution.
Knowing that I was working the following day, and that there was a Town Board meeting the following night, I wanted to get a “head start” in cleaning up the town. At approximately 11:00 PM on September 13th, the night of the election, I went out to begin removing my signs and to clean up some of the overwhelming sign clutter that was engulfing our town. I was out until 2:45 AM that morning cleaning up a number of polling locations, intersections, and whereever I could find signs. I worked my “butt” off to start to clean up Clarence. Prior to that I had joked with my wife that I was not going to remove Weiss signs, as he would likely have me arrested out of spite. I did not remove any of Weiss’s signs, and concentrated on the most cluttered areas as well as where my own signs were located. By the end of my efforts that night, I had an overflowing pickup truck. Despite being exhausted, I was quite proud of my efforts, especially when someone commented on the “for the good of the town” how nice it was that the town quickly had been cleaned up. I knew that I had done a large part of it.
On the evening of Thursday September 15th, I continued with my efforts primarily re-tracing the routes where I had put my signs up. While I was on County Road, I noticed 2 large “Hartzell” signs and a number of “Bylewski “still up. I took down dozens of Bylewski signs already. By this point in time likely combined efforts had removed most of the campaign signs in town, with just strays remaining. Having just spoken to Republican Chairman Michnik several minutes earlier, I called Chairman Michnik back, and stated that there were a couple of large “Hartzell” signs still up on County Road. I asked if he wanted me to “leave them up or take them down”. He said to “take them down”, which I did. Someone saw me taking the signs down and informed Mr. Hartzell. No good deed goes unpunished. While trying to help clean up the town and save others the work in removing what needed to come down, I get a complaint filed against me, and the embarassment of having the State Police show up at my office. Shoot first, ask questions later.
Town of Clarence sign code dictates that the permitted “window” for campaign signs allows for placement no more than 30 days prior to an election or political event. Said code dictates that all signs have to be removed within 1 week after the election or event. At this time Mr. Hartzell has numerous signs up, some placed recently, that are illegal and not in compliance with the code.
Rather than calling me, or Chairman Michnik, Mr. Hartzell then filed a criminal complaint against me. Couldn’t he have had the courtesy to make a simple phone call? This is despite the fact that we are both on the Republican line together, that I had made a financial contribution to his campaign, and that I was supporting him by party affiliation over his opponent, Supervisor Bylewski who is also my friend. I am obviously withdrawing my support for Mr. Hartzell and am requesting the return of my contribution to his campaign. I have to question the lack of intelligent reasoning, and continued poor decision making that would lead him to take such an action. Such spontaneous actions in my opinion do not lend themselves to the skill set and character needed to act in the capacity of Town Supervisor.
I was not going to send this, but the rumor mill seems to be at full steam.I wanted to address this issue in a forthright manner. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.
Bernard J. Kolber
Looks like Dr. Kolber got the last laugh in this situation.

All Quiet Along This Front

21 Sep

Anyone else notice that nobody is complaining about anything anymore?

Drawing courtesy Sven Yrvind at http://www.yrvind.com

Let me be more specific. While Washington is more shrill than ever, we here in Buffalo and Western New York seem to be more sedate. We’ve followed Jules’ advice and chilled this mother out. Not hope (false or not) for the future, but not resignation and apathetic despair either. Just . . . even keel. Whether this break is a lull, a calm before the storm, or more long lasting is impossible to know. But locally, nobody seems to be too riled up, and this is in stark contrast to the last decade.

Maybe it’s because the lightning rod projects have finally drawn towards a conclusion. Mark Croce, by all accounts, is pouring real money into the Statler and bringing it back. That was the last item in the Silver Bullet checklist of Buffalo. The Peace Bridge second span is dead. The Seneca Casino downtown is morphed into a smaller project, sans hotel, that seeks to embrace businesses in the growing neighborhood. Canalside is poking along, and most citizens seem more interested in enjoying sunshine on the water and a new concert series than get worked up over a couple hundred grand to over-priced Fred Kent and company. The Medical Campus adds new buildings every couple months, and UB 2020 has passed in an abbreviated form; the ink had barely dried on Cuomo’s signature and already the silence was deafening from all sides, for and against. Even Benderson’s “lifestyle center” on Maple died with a whimper. The next Silver Bullet checklist is currently being drawn up – for now it only includes new bridges across the Buffalo River to connect the Inner and Outer Harbors. Perhaps the collective bile will rise as new projects are added. 

Maybe it’s because the instigators have faded away, in victory, defeat or irrelevance. Paladino has mostly kept his turds out of punchbowls since his drubbing. Williams is out as Buffalo Schools Superintendent, Simpson is gone from UB, and Quinn from the ECHDC. I haven’t heard Tim Tielman’s name in months, and Goldman faded as quickly as the paint job on the Adirondack chairs. Esmonde took a (partial) buyout and no one except the insiders care if Lenihan follows the governor’s career advice or not.

Maybe it’s because shoes have yet to drop. The HSBC pullout from Buffalo seemed inevitable earlier in the year. Now First Niagara has a branch network and hockey arena to its name, and the first round of global HSBC cuts have passed us by unscathed. The tower HSBC occupies is in danger of emptying (Phillips Lytle moving two blocks if nothing else), but the main leases there expire in several years.

Maybe it’s because our political season is suddenly a snooze fest. Only six weeks out, Erie County residents may be excused for forgetting there is a County Executive race this November. In contrast to Senator Mark Grisanti’s race for a district that covers roughly the same territory, the recent special election to replace Sam Hoyt in the Assembly passed a week ago with barely a whisper. The local Tea Party groups stopped holding rallies at the waterfront, and no highway tolls are currently on the chopping block. We downsized our Erie County legislature with the help of a judge, and Maria Whyte finds herself stumping for upgrades to the county clerk’s office (Kathy Hochul presided over the Dark Ages?) instead of lighting evil fat cats on fire. We have a Governor who earns the begrudging respect of everyone in the room, and through pragmatic competent leadership, Albany’s tone has actually changed. Alan Bedenko’s coverage of petty politics in Clarence is as insightful as it is ordinary. A fascinating glimpse into crumb gathering to be sure, and effective at the ballot box, but the fish are so much smaller than what we’re used to.

Maybe it’s because no one of the above really matters all that much. It was a beautiful summer, the Bills are 2-0 (and so is my fantasy football team), and Terry Pegula has Sabres fans walking in a perpetual blissful dream world. The worst of the catholic church closings have passed, there are more urban gardens every year, the roads are full of construction workers (read: jobs), and Gordon Biersch has landed at the Galleria. Small improvements, from Riverfest Park to Buffalo River dredging to three-story brownstone renovations all over the city, are quietly creating a swelling avalanche of pebble-sized bits of good news.

Artwork by Christopher Carter

So the Jersey Livery renovation hasn’t happened yet. Neither has the Wingate Hotel of Doom. No one is chaining themselves to piles of bricks to thwart the wrecking ball. Instead, orphanages that I considered lost causes are undergoing rehab in forgotten corners of the city. The Tonawanda Powertrain workers are back, and GM is dumping in nearly a billion in new investment. The Great Recession was bad in Buffalo, but our 7.6% unemployment rate and tiny housing price growth is the envy of the nation.

Has this placated us? It’s not like every problem has gone away. We still have a caretaker, over-politicized mayor. We still have a shrinking population and blighted neighborhoods. A rash of industrial fires in residential neighborhoods have spurred the Clean Air Coalition of WNY to expose how little we know about air quality during major accidents.  But I hear little generally from the activist community locally. I’m not being asked to attend rallies to save anything, stop anything, or make anyone change their mind. 

Why? What do you think? Has the tone changed or have I missed it? I look forward to input and comments.

Ralph Lorigo and the Conservative Party Endorsement (UPDATED)

16 Sep

It’s no secret that I detest New York’s archaic electoral fusion system, which enables platform-free, principle-free minor parties to exert undue influence on the political system.

In one of my recent posts about Clarence politics, I wrote this:

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.

I wasn’t talking out of turn there, either. I’ve heard from several sources whom I consider to be beyond reproach that Lorigo was proudly proclaiming that he’d withhold the Conservative endorsement from Bylewski because Wegmans didn’t go through. Beyond. Reproach.

Color me intrigued when Mr. Lorigo sent me this email yesterday:

I know you and I are politically on opposite ends of the spectrum but you have your fact wrong about Clarence . First it was the town committee that made the recommendations for endorsements and it was Wegmans that withdrew in the face of neighborhood opposition .

What I’ve learned is that, in politics, there’s the reason something happens, and then there’s the real reason.  Lorigo has just lost his best friend on the Clarence Town Board – Joe Weiss, who was trounced at the polls on Tuesday and abruptly resigned on Thursday (effective the 28th).  The local committee’s recommendation is often, and routinely, overruled by the county committee.

I asked Bylewski for his reaction to Lorigo’s email, and he sent this along:

I did not receive the local endorsement.  However, the County Conservative Party has stepped in the past in our Town’s local elections to either give the endorsement to someone else or open the line for a Primary.  This was recently done in a local judicial contest where the local committee endorsed one candidate and the County endorsed another.  This year, the Town Board race was opened up for all three candidates.

I had called the Chairman multiple times to talk with him.  However, he never returned the courtesy of the call.  When I saw the Chairman at a Conservative fundraiser, I reminded him of my calls and that I thought it would be best to meet and clear the air.  He agreed that it was a good idea and would call me.  At that same fundraiser, other high level Conservatives indicated they were working on my behalf.  Well, unfortunately, I am still waiting for that call.

As to the Wegmans’ project, we, as a Town, on multiple occasions wanted to and expressed a desire to work with the applicants.  However, it appeared that the applicants were unwilling to reconfigure their project more than a few feet.  This inability presented us with a project that would not work based on our Master Plan and extensive efforts internally to amend the Master Plan.  We provided detail developed by a UB Planning professor as to how the project could work on the existing site.  The applicants still refused.

I would receive calls from the applicant an hour or two in advance of a Town Board meeting.  Even though I was busy preparing for other matters, I took those calls because I wanted the process to work.

Ultimately, the process did work and the Master Plan has been adhered to.

If the Conservative Party was about conservative values, it wouldn’t hesitate to endorse Bylewski – a hard-working consensus-builder who has kept spending and taxes down, worked hard to promote the town’s best interests, and has expertly, calmly navigated some of Clarence’s biggest crises and development issues. A competent, meritorious Democrat in a Republican town is jarring to people who can’t see beyond labels. His opponent, meanwhile, is busy lying to the voters, treating them like uneducated, illiterate morons.

That the “Conservative Party”, which in the same breath endorses same-sex marriage proponent Tim Kennedy, and then heaps scorn and derision on same-sex marriage proponent Mark Grisanti, exerts any control or influence over our electoral politics in WNY is truly one of the reasons why this region (and state) is so rife with pay-to-play petty corruption and patronage. The electoral fusion system is perpetuated by the dealmaking that leaves both parties happy – the minor party gets favors and jobs, and the elected officials get re-re-re-elected with their help. It breeds cronyism and a dirty system in which the interests of the populace-at-large is left by the wayside.

Frankly, I won’t be fully convinced of Governor Cuomo’s reformist bona fides until he takes this dirty system on.

Ralph Lorigo may think he’s on the opposite end of the political spectrum from me, but it’s not because I’m a liberal and he fancies himself a conservative.  Instead, it’s because I’m for competent, good, meritorious government and he (and his party) is (are) looking out for number one.

It’s. Enough. Already.

UPDATE: Wegmans statement

When Wegmans was interested in building a new store in Clarence, there were obstacles to us moving forward; while we worked to make progress towards that end, we discovered that a better option for us and our customers was to stay right where we were and expand the Wegmans at 8270 Transit Road instead.  We are still in the early phases of making that happen, but this is the direction that we are taking toward our goal of offering expanded service and products to our customers in that area.

Theresa Jackson, Consumer Affairs Manager, Wegmans Food Markets

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.