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Election Night Interviews

11 Nov

I’m still catching up on sleep and recovering from Election Night, and I’m still mulling over what I think Tuesday meant for our body politic, and for WNY’s near future.

So, in the meantime, here are interviews I conducted early Wednesday morning in a noisy and raucous Buffalo Adams Mark Hotel (which is quite literally a journey back in time to Hotel 1989). I spoke with Poloncarz spokesman Peter Anderson, County Clerk candidate Maria Whyte, and County Executive-elect Mark Poloncarz.

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Doc Maelstrom Re-Emerges

10 Nov

Doc Maelstrom was a thorn in Collins’ side during the early days of the campaign, but abruptly stopped posting over the summer.

On Election night, I received an email from him, reproduced below.

Had to lay low the past few months because Collins had them turning over every stone looking for me, but you can bet the mood in the Rath building tomorrow will be different. Collins and his band of young turks proved arrogance and a smug disdain for people can come back to bite you in the ass. Collins speech tonight said his young staff had fun for four years. Yes, they had fun making light of other people’s misfortunes and raising the level of sexual high jinx beyond anything Giambra could have dreamed of. The hiring of Chris Grant and Grant Loomis was a huge blunder and after they fucked up the Corwin campaign they added another moral misfit in Stefan Mowhighlou (sp?) and lost a campaign that again no one thought they could lose. Poloncarz was the default candidate after Hochul passed and he had a snow flake’s chance in hell of winning this race and yet here he is the next County Executive.Collins will sting from this loss until the day he takes his last breath because he always feels he’s the smartest man in the room and tonight he discovered that he’s not.

Post Election Predictions

9 Nov

After a short campaign that was more yawn than scream, Mark Poloncarz succeeded last night in breaking an important glass ceiling: first WNYMedia commenter elected County Executive. Congrats, Mark – like the Bills, enjoy the win for 24 hours, then get down to work.

How predictable was Chris Collins’ four year slide from competent businessman to arrogant and out of touch Six Sigma aficionado? Looking back, the signs were there; his fate a possible scenario, not an inevitability.

In that vein, let’s have a little fun making some predictions about Poloncarz’s next four years. Here are mine – be sure to add your own witty additions below. And before these get too accusatory vis a vis my supposed partisanship, there are my best guess, not my wish.

– Arts and Libraries: The libraries will get more money. The arts will get more money. Colin Dabkowski will declare victory, and the theater scene safe once again in Erie County. The average citizen won’t notice the difference. The City of Buffalo will continue to have no arts budget whatsoever, and will keep getting a free pass.

– Control Board back in the news: Collins’ mattress stuffing of stimulus dollars and reductions in the county payroll may have been bashed on this site, but they did keep the county control board (read: adult supervision) at bay. If Poloncarz rehires staff, reopens clinics, funds the libraries, gives more bed tax to the CVB, and/or spends stimulus money on road projects, expect the control board to step in. Plus, don’t forget Collins’ budget projections contained future deficits, wiping out Poloncarz’s opportunities to fund election promises.

– Speaking of staff: The largest organization Poloncarz had run previous to this new role as chief executive was the comptroller’s office, a small manpower pool by any measure. Whether because of a feud with Collins or from original desire, Poloncarz often tried to increase the size of his staff, a trend that seems destined to continue if he hires his “czars” for economic development and other issues. I bet we’re talking about a bloated county staff in four years: official positions, patronage hires, and extra advisors.

– Old tensions reignite: With no Republican politician of any stature left in Erie County (sorry Chris Jacobs) to serve as a convenient foil, the internal divisions of the local Democrats leap to prominence, a more high profile version of the Buffalo Common Council’s 9-0 in-fighting. Lenihan continues his Brett Favre impression, the Democrat majority in the county legislature fails to coalesce, and we hear more talk about Cuomo requesting a peace. Ironically, these divisions may magnify (or at least perpetuate) a city vs suburb division. Collins and Brown were at least partners in crime, and their truce eased difficult ECMC and parks negotiations. The Poloncarz/Brown tiff will not allow such official mutual public support.

Grand solutions: Poloncarz issued a number of audits and reports as comptroller, his clear duty to find efficiencies and waste. Some were small issues (cell phones and parking spaces), and some were bombshells: reorganizing all volunteer fire departments, for instance, a recommendation that landed him in hot water with local fire halls. Now that Poloncarz is in charge, he has the power to not just advise but implement. How many big radical solutions will we see from his office? How much support will he get from rank and file county staff if he sweeps in and “fixes” everything?

– Medicaid Savings: Of this prediction I am the most confident – fighting Medicaid fraud is the new Six Sigma. The effort will be public and deliberate. The individual cases will be private (of course) and the actual savings hard to quantify. The supporters of Poloncarz will declare victory before November 2015. The Republican candidate will note that Medicaid spending continued to rise each year despite fraud investigations. Your view of its record will depend on the tint of your partisan sunglasses.

Collins Concedes

9 Nov

The View from Poloncarz HQ

Long story short: He had fun. Also, “The public has spoken. I don’t quite know what to make of that”.

Right before that quip, Collins wonders aloud that he doesn’t know what else his campaign could have done. I’ll analyze this more – and more in-depth – later, but I think a lot of it had to do with communication and messaging.

Collins was always perceived as aloof and arrogant – he was an asshole, but a lot of people figured, he’s our asshole. But he couldn’t afford not to attend functions where he would listen and speak directly with voters. He stayed away from candidates’ fora, he avoided televised debates (only one was actually shown on TV), and instead kept himself safely ensconced among sycophants both locally and on Fox News.

Make no mistake – this was the Corwin campaign without the Mallia incident.

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Joe Illuzzi: Deadbeat Tax Evader

8 Nov
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Joe Illuzzi when he had more than $13 in the bank

Remember that guy Joe Illuzzi?  He’s got a sordid past filled with robbing banks, being a deadbeat, bankruptcies, and generally being a massive part of the WNY political problem.

Turns out, he hasn’t stopped his deadbeat ways. Just within the last week, Illuzzi has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection for almost $233,000 in debts against $19,000 in assets. He claims to be earning just $1,600 per month, and has tax liens from the feds and state of over $66,000 – a tax debt means there was income earned to incu

Lots of his debts seem health care related, so one could assume Mr. Illuzzi would begin to advocate for a different type of healthcare system, instead of saddling local medical and nursing providers with zero cents on the dollar.

You can read Illuzzi’s bankruptcy filing here.

Highlights of his filing include the revelation that Illuzzi has $13 in his checking account, and $950 cash on hand. That’s WNY F-You money! He owes $18k on a 2008 Buick that’s worth $13k.  There are federal tax liens for 2006, 2009, 2010, and 2011, and a 2009 state tax warrant.

Deadbeat.

He owes the Bon Ton $26,000+ from a 1996 judgment against him, we’ll cover the sordid details of that judgment in a future article. The Buffalo News judgment from 2001 is for $2,300. He maxed out his Capital One credit card to the tune of $25,000. He owes E-Trade $15,000. He even owes his dentist $90.

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As much as Illuzzi has become some kind of Republican mouthpiece and a hateful holy roller, this is his second bankruptcy in 25 years, and it seems as if he has a hard time accepting and paying the debts he incurs. That local politicians continue to want to be associated with this homophobic spewer of hatred and rumors is astonishing.

Yes, it was absolutely worth coming out of blogging “retirement” to publish this article. Yes, there will be more details tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after that. Also, I’ll be at the courthouse to cover Mr. Illuzzi’s bankruptcy hearing on December 12th.

A few background posts on Mr. Illuzzi:

Joe Illuzzi, Shakedown Artist

Illuzzi, Lying As Usual

 

 

Imagine What We Can Do Together In and For Erie County

8 Nov

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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.


Special Poloncarz Announcement 6:59 on Ch 7 & 7:59 on Ch 2

7 Nov

County Executive Candidate Mark Poloncarz will air a special message  Monday evening at 6:59 p.m. on ABC and at 7:59 p.m. on NBC. The message will highlight Mark’s positive vision for a better Erie County and will include Mark speaking directly to the voters.

Siena Poll on the Erie County Executive Race: Dead Heat

6 Nov

Things I find interesting from the Siena Poll for the County Executive’s race that was released last night, apart from the fact that the race swung from a statistical dead heat of 49/46 for Collins with a MOE of +/- 3.4%, to a genuine dead heat of 48/48 with a MOE of +/- 2.7%.  Undecideds went from 6% to 5% overall.

Low & High Earners: County on Wrong Track.

49% of Erie County Residents think the county is going in the wrong direction. 45% think it’s going in the right direction. Among those making over $100,000 per year, the split is 49/47. Among earners of less than $50,000, the split is 53/42. The only earners who think the county is on the right track more than wrong are those earning $50k – $100k, where the split is 48/47.

Poloncarz Has Higher Favorables and Lower Unfavorables than Collins

Collins’ overall favorable/unfavorable is 51/45. Among those making more than $100,000 per year, Collins is less liked than among those earning less; among people making $100,000, Collins’ favorable/unfavorable is 49/50.  Among earners of less than $50,000, the split is 52/49, and among earners of between $50,000 – $100,000, that range is 53/44.

Poloncarz’ overall favorable/unfavorable is 52/44. Among $100k+, that split is 55/42. Middle earners? 53/41. Less than $50k give Poloncarz a favorable/unfavorable of 52/37.  Compare that to October, when Poloncarz’s overall favorable/unfavorable was 49/27 – the last 3 weeks of lies and negativity from Collins have hurt, but not badly enough that Poloncarz’s favorable went up 3 points. By contrast, Collins’ favorables dropped from 55%, and his unfavorables went up from 41%.

Dead Heat

48/48 as between Poloncarz and Collins. Men prefer Collins, women prefer Poloncarz 49/46. 5% of voters remain undecided.  Interestingly, those making under $50k and those making over $100k prefer Poloncarz – 49/47, and 51/45 respectively. Those earning between $50k and $100k prefer Collins 50/46.

The sample this time reduced people from the city of Buffalo from 25% to 19% of the sample, reflecting what Siena says is the fact that city voters said they were less likely to vote. The largest income bracket sampled is that middle one that prefers Collins, and note that people across the board overwhelmingly think that Collins is going to win, in spite of the fact that the race is a dead heat with Democrats coming home and undecideds breaking more for Poloncarz.

GOTV

People are locking in their votes, and there’s less room for the candidates to maneuver. Everything now comes down to party apparatus and getting out the vote. This should be interesting, since Poloncarz and the Democrats have entire machines ready to hit the streets on Tuesday, while the Republicans simply won’t have the same amount of boots on the ground.

In 2007, only 291,244 votes were cast in Erie County, and Keane only won the City of Buffalo, where 46,517 votes were cast in total.  16% of the turnout was in the City of Buffalo, where Clark smeared Keane in the African-American press as being a Klansman, or worse.  No such shenanigans will be taking place on Tuesday, where Poloncarz has strong support in the city, and turnout is expected to be higher than in 2007.  Collins and his allies know they’re in trouble because they can’t match the Democrats on turnout, which explains the last-minute push to pin the absentee voter fraud on Poloncarz and turn it into an issue – an effort that’s failed completely.

As far as predictions, I think it will be as close as the SD-60 race between Grisanti and Thompson. In other words, I think that Poloncarz will have a 3-digit edge in the unofficial BOE tally, and it will come down to hand-counts and absentees.

Escape the Urban: Soak Up Fall

5 Nov

I’ve said it before: autumn is my favorite time of year. This season is proving it true again, with enviable temperatures, brilliant deep blue skies, and fully hued trees that seemingly refuse to give up their leaves. Three months in and it hasn’t let up yet.

Day after day, my wife stands in front of the large picture window at our house and soaks up the sun like a dog following warming beams to slumber in. She just stares into our forested back yard, watching waves of orange leaves flutter to the ground like paper snowflakes. I cast a questioning look at her.

“I’m forming a mental picture picture in my head. I’m absorbing as much sun and color and life as possible while I can. It’ll sustain me through grey February.”

Not a bad solution to survive our overcast and monochrome winters.

I’ve posted this article a day early to help you plan your weekend (the last nice weekend, finally?), to absorb as much fall as you can. But where to go? Let me make the following suggestions, from my Escape the Urban archives, in case you missed any key installments:

Go paddle to Strawberry and Motor Islands

Take the apple picking tour of the Lake Ontario shoreline in Niagara County

Hike Zoar Valley

Hike the east rim of Letchworth

Bike the Chatauqua Rail Trail (BTW, shameless plug, pick up a copy of this months Buffalo Spree for a guide to the Pat McGee Trail too)

Rediscover the Buffalo Lighthouse

Bike from Delaware Park to the Inner Harbor

Drop down into Devil’s Hole

Hike to the Eternal Flame at Chestnut Ridge