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General Election Endorsements 2013

3 Nov

Greetings, citizens of Goodenoughistan, where good enough is good enough

Please note: these are not Artvoice endorsements, nor are they to be cited as suchThey have not been approved or made by the Artvoice editors, publisher, or any combination thereof. All endorsements are mine and mine alone. They are preferences – not predictions.

This has been an exhaustingly ugly campaign season. It is ever thus, when Pedro Espada’s patronage hire, Steve Pigeon, decides to interject himself, his friends, and their dirty money into an election cycle. As always, these efforts are replete with personal destruction, negative campaigns, lies, deceit, and widespread allegations of brazen election law violations.

This happens more often than not, and it underscores the need for Governor’s Moreland Commission on public corruption, as much as it does the commission’s typical, politically motivetaed reluctance to carry out its stated mission.

New York politics are dirty by design, and the people who benefit therefrom have zero incentive to change that; Cuomo included. Tea Party nudniks and good government hippies can whine and cry about whatever outrage – SAFE ACT! IDA ABUSE! – but all of it stems from a common denominator of a horribly broken political system. In 2014, you and I should be more strident in demanding that the Moreland Commission on public corruption do its job. Abuse of the fusion system should be ended. Election law violations should be punished. Campaign finance rules must be followed, and complaints ought be acted upon. 

COUNTYWIDE

Erie County Sheriff (DICK DOBSON)

During primary season, Bert Dunn and Dick Dobson squared off in a Democratic primary. Steve Pigeon’s WNY Progressive Caucus threw a hundred thousand dollars into Dobson’s defeat of the self-funded Dunn. Since then? Nothing. One could credibly argue that Pigeon doesn’t care about Democrats being elected, but only that the Democratic county committee being embarrassed.

Dick Dobson, as it turns out, is a thoughtful and credible professional. Incumbent Tim Howard is running for a third term, and has been nothing but a bitter embarrassment and disappointment. When he wasn’t screwing up the Joan Diver search or letting Ralph “Bucky” Philips escape from custody, he was catching the attention of the federal Department of Justice due to conditions at the county holding centers. Howard needs to go.

Dobson sure could have used another influx of cash in October from whoever bankrolled Pigeon in September, but it didn’t happen. That’s a shame, so let’s just call the Pigeonistas “Democrats for Tim Howard”. I saw Dobson speak at a candidate forum a few weeks ago, and came away impressed. Neither Dunn nor Howard deigned to show up, and Dobson spoke compellingly about his time setting up a professional police force in a third world nation, and how it’s imperative that the holding center be safe because of its duty to hold inmates and deliver them safely to court.  

Dunn got himself a minor party line, and appears on the ballot (way down on the ballot) on Tuesday. Don’t look for him. He should have abandoned the race when he lost the September primary, but didn’t. Call it hubris or cash-fueled ignorance, but when Dunn should have rallied his support and money around Dobson, he was just as absent as Pigeon. 

Dobson deserves your support and your vote. 

COUNTY COMPTROLLER (KEVIN GAUGHAN)

This is a tough one. On the one hand, Gaughan had his personal tax issue. On the other hand, incumbent Stefan Mychajliw has no idea what he’s doing. The edge goes to Gaughan, who has a legal and financial background and has worked for a generation to help make western New York run better and more efficiently. He spent years promoting regional cooperation, to eliminate governmental layers of taxation, and to bring about economies of scale. He then spent time urging smaller governments to downsize, saving taxpayer money while underscoring the fact that a 3-person village board is just as competent as a 5-person board. 

Mychajliw’s tenure has been little more than a year-long campaign, chasing headlines rather than results. Audits take about three months to complete, and in his 10 months in office he’s released one flawed audit of a county gas card system, which uncovered no monetary waste and saved taxpayers nothing. Promised audits of the water authority never came about. A DSS audit was effectively rendered incredible thanks to his deputy comptroller’s made-up claims that confidential records were left out in unsecured totes for anyone to access – they were behind locked doors in a Rath Building sub-basement, and the county had the testimony and video to prove it. 

Mindful of his lack of experience and education, Mychajliw promised to hire the best and the brightest. His deputy comptroller for audit – a CPA – left the job after the DSS tote scandal, and hasn’t been replaced. To top it off, Mychajliw hasn’t reached out to the rating agencies to hustle for an improved credit rating for Erie County – something that the Comptroller routinely does to help show that the county’s finances are in good order, and to help bring about cheaper borrowing rates. This hasn’t happened, and is a dereliction of duty. 

And don’t kid yourself about Mychajliw’s inevitability – if he was so secure in his re-election, he wouldn’t be spending all his TV money on negative ads against Gaughan. To his credit, Gaughan hasn’t done the same. 

Don’t send amateurs back in to do the work of professionals – vote Gaughan. 

MAYOR OF BUFFALO (SERGIO RODRIGUEZ)

Incumbent Byron Brown is running for his third term as mayor of a struggling, poor rust belt city who runs a hyper-politicized, allegedly corrupt petty fiefdom. With a million in the bank, he can steamroll over most challengers and has built an interdependent political machine, cavalierly flaunting the laws that ostensibly limit municipal employees’ electioneering, and his ability to compel it.

Byron Brown is a nice enough guy and people like him, but I don’t think he’s the mayor Buffalo needs. Sergio Rodriguez has run a strong, issues-based race against Mayor Brown, and he’s done so despite being forced to navigate a figurative minefield to do it. He has no support from the county Republican committee, and doesn’t have enough money to do much of anything. He’s bought some lawn signs, but doesn’t have the scratch to do a set of mailings, much less to get on radio or TV.  Instead, he’s been wearing out his shoes, going directly to voters, and he’s been using social media in a town where promotion on Instagram or Foursquare isn’t going to go far. 

Because of the feudal system that Byron Brown has inherited and enhanced, big donors know that helping Sergio is the kiss of death – Brown and his consiglieri would shun you, and no one wants to get sidetracked to discuss what’s happening. Being a Brown outlaw and attempting to do business in the City of Buffalo – any business requiring a permit or license – is untenable. The political class in Buffalo, which is dependent on Brown for its livelihood, knows better than to back Rodriguez. 

Almost all of the major projects taking place in the showy Buffalo we consider being “real” and having a “sense of place”, exist in spite of Brown, rather than because of him. More often than not, they come about when he gets out of the way. He gets to show up at the ribbon-cutting and make a proclamation, and then skulks back to the 2nd floor, behind armed guards, to oversee fiefdom. 

The boom is, after all, illusory. For every new restaurant, medical building, and waterfront announcement, the city’s problems with poverty, crime, joblessness, hopelessness, and failing schools all continue unabated. The big-ticket items are good, but if a city can’t get the fundamentals right, what point is there? People point to positive changes along Grant Street, but gentrification without population or income growth is as unsustainable as sprawl without growth. What the city needs is a leader, not a caretaker. 

Brown hasn’t even deigned to compete against Rodriguez, which is the ultimate insult – denying voters a race they deserve. But whether or not you think Sergio is the leader Buffalo needs, he has spent months talking about thefundamentals – talking to residents and business owners (small ones, the ones who serve the community rather than big-money interests) about the problems that they face on a daily basis. It’s not pretty – Brown is busy on the radio promoting jobs at Geico way the hell up in north Amherst, so you’re all set if you have a reliable car. Buffalo needs jobs for Buffalonians in Buffalo. There’s no regional plan for much of anything, and one would expect a Buffalo mayor to focus on the quality of life basics, not to ensure his re-election, but to make sure his constituents are better-off.

If you’re one of the preservationist elites, Mayor Brown has had almost 10 years to develop a strategic plan to market and help people finance the purchase and renovation of dilapidated and vacant city-owned foreclosed homes. Just recently, a vacant city-owned house near Grant Street was demolished, and no one knew it was for sale because the city doesn’t put up signs or list them properly.

Sergio Rodriguez deserves your vote. He’s identified and is discussing the bigger picture, and recognizes that a leader requires a vision. In a town where the mayor has touted the number of demolitions he’s overseen, Sergio has instead addressed the issues of joblessness, crumbling infrastructure, failing schools, vacancies, and crime – things that don’t particularly matter to big developers with Rolls-Royces. But Sergio is also the guy who says City Hall will be open and inviting to all, and where good ideas will find a home. It will be inclusive and transparent, rather than an impenetrable fortress. It is Sergio’s time. I think he’s talking about the important things no one wants meaningfully to discuss. Get out on Tuesday and vote Sergio.  At the very least, make it close enough to send Brown a message about complacency.

COUNTY LEGISLATURE

Certain races will be closely watched because it takes one seat to flip the Democratic majority into a Republican one.  Therefore, I urge you to vote for the Democrat rather than the Republican whenever that choice exists, and frankly, only one race is competitive – I highlight it for that reason, and also because it represents the worst and most egregious form of personal destruction. 

I’ll also note that in LD-4 and LD-6, incumbents Kevin Hardwick and Ed Rath went as far as the appellate division to try and kick their opponents off the ballot and sail to re-election unopposed. For that reason alone, please vote for their challengers. 

District 8 (WYNNIE FISHER)

Democrat Wynnie Fisher is running a competitive race against Republican Ted Morton, who breached ethical rules and was fired from his job as a result. The Buffalo News says he wasn’t fit to be elected to office. So, last week, the Republicans retaliated. 

To be more precise, information that was sent to known Pigeon associate Kristy Mazurek was funneled to the Republicans, who used it to assault Fisher’s character over a dispute with a neighbor and to label her as “crazy”.  So, in case it wasn’t yet clear, so-called “progressives” affiliated with Pigeon are not above being Republican stooges and destroying Democrats. 

Let’s be clear – the attempts to destroy Fisher’s character are defamatory and false, brought up by people who hold a personal animus towards her. The people promoting these distortions and lies about Fisher being a crazy person with a criminal record have established in just one week why it is that good people don’t want to get involved in politics. 

So, here is what one of Fisher’s friends and colleagues has to say about Wynnie Fisher: 

I wanted to reach out regarding the negative mailers you probably received regarding Wynnie Fisher, candidate for Erie County Legislature. For what it’s worth, I’m not involved in any way in Wynnie’s campaign. I work with her at Buffalo State, and wanted to share my perspective.

I have worked with Wynnie for eight years, perhaps as closely as two people can work together. She is a phenomenal colleague. Her work at Buffalo State has been superb. As Field Experience coordinator, she works with teachers and administrators across Western New York and has built partnerships with schools from the ground up through years of hard work and nurturing relationships. Prior to working at BSC, she was a secondary English teacher for a number of years, and was entirely successful in that position. She recently defended her dissertation in higher education administration, which was a rigorous statistical research report on the impact of service learning; she now holds a Ph.D. On top of all that, she rescues and rehabilitates animals, volunteers endlessly with community organizations like Project FLIGHT (a family literacy initiative) and Lions club, and has chaired the democratic committee in Alden for several years. Professionally and personally speaking, I have only known Wynnie to be one of the most productive and positive people I’ve ever worked with, capable of dealing with myriad challenges.

Wynnie’s family has had an ongoing dispute for many years with some neighbors, which has sometimes erupted into public disagreements. Wynnie explains that a misunderstanding in 2004 resulted in an arrest for disorderly conduct. The charges were dismissed, and she has NO criminal record. She has shared with me in the past that she has had many challenges with her neighbors, and I take her at her word regarding the nature of the 2004 arrest. I was not aware of it prior to it coming to light this week. I feel badly for her, knowing how embarrassing this must be.

Ultimately, though, I respect any voter’s prerogative, and realize that there will be some who will choose not to support Wynnie because of these revelations. Is it reasonable to expect a public servant to never have had any disputes with neighbors or run-ins with the police? Perhaps. I think some folks would say, “Absolutely.” I don’t know. But I do know this: She’s not “crazy.” She is a good, hard-working, highly educated woman who is a dedicated professional and warm-hearted person.

I hope this helps answer any questions you may have about Wynnie. Thanks for taking the time to read this.

Kind-hearted educator with a Ph.D.? We could use more of that kind of person in county hall. 

TOWN OF CLARENCE

In this coming election, you can choose to vote for two people. If you think “checks and balances” is a good concept, let’s maybe add a Democratic woman (shock! horror!) to what’s now a one-party, all-male dictatorship. I endorse Pat Casilio and Tracy Francisco. 

PROPOSITIONS

1:  Authorizing Casino Gaming 

Vote yes. I don’t gamble, but some people do. I’d rather see the state tax all gambling, including table games, which doesn’t happen with respect to the Indian casinos, which only pay the state part of the take from slots. This proposition would permit seven casinos to be built in the state. 

2: Additional Civil Service Credit for Veterans with Disabilities Certified Post-Appointment

Vote yes. This lets disabled veterans get an extra credit on civil service appointments due to their disability. 

3. Exclusion of Indebtedness Contracted for Sewage Facilities

Vote yes. The law on this is on a 10-year cycle, which is up this year. 

4. Settling Disputed Title in the Forest Preserve

Vote yes. This is interconnected with #5, and settles a century-old land dispute in the Adirondacks. It involves an exchange of land between private owners and expands the Adirondack preserve. 

5. In Relation to a Land Exchange in the State Forest Preserve with NYCO Minerals, Inc.

From the League of Women Voters

NYCO Minerals is a producer and supplier of wollastonite (calcium metasilicate), which is a  rare, white mineral having commercial application as a reinforcement or additive in ceramics, paints, plastics, friction products and various building products. The Lewis mine produces 60,000 tons of wollastonite annually. NYCO Minerals has indicated that its mine is approaching the end of its pit life because the remainder of the wollastonite vein extends onto adjacent forest
preserve land.

Proponents of the amendment argue that the land swap would (1) preserve jobs and ensure one of the largest employers in Essex County remains viable; (2) provide new access to mountain peaks and trout streams for outdoor recreation; and (3) result in the state preserve acquiring a greater quantity of land and higher-quality land than the land it is trading to NYCO Minerals.

Opponents of the amendment argue that the land swap is not vital to NYCO’s survival and that it would diminish the strength of the “Forever Wild” clause. They say that (1) the land swap would set a dangerous and historic precedent because it would be the first forest preserve constitutional amendment to be undertaken for private commercial gain rather than for a clear public municipal purpose and public benefit and; (2) there are viable alternatives to the land swap, given that there are considerable permitted reserves of wollastonite available on NYCO’s current land and that such reserves are expected to last for 15-20 years.

Vote yes. 

6. Increasing Age until which Certain State Judges Can Serve 

Vote yes. It gives judges the ability to work until age 80, if they want. Some of them do, and mandatory retirement is sucky. 

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