Tag Archives: abolish county government

The “Audit” that Wasn’t an Audit

2 May

Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw took a break from his busy schedule visiting random cultural sites and eating lunches at various and sundry senior centers, and released an “audit” revealing $70,000 in expenditures over five years that Mr. Mychajliw doesn’t like. The new Republican majority in the legislature commissioned this “audit”, and the best anyone could do was to find about $14,000 per year in allegedly excessive spending each year between  2009 – 2013.

“Audit” gets scarequotes because it wasn’t an audit. Even Mychajliw’s office calls it what it was – a review. It was not subject to any of the requirements or restrictions necessary within an audit environment.

For a $1.1 billion operation, $14,000 per year isn’t that horrible. But don’t tell the Comptroller that.

The manner in which taxpayer dollars were spent is troubling. We are concerned by the blatant misuse of county funds. The lack of oversight on spending leaves us disheartened,” Mychajliw said in a statement announcing the release of the audit

That strong language is out of proportion with the actual findings. The findings showed some pretty mild incidents of  unnecessary and excessive spending, but no “blatant misuse” or some pervasive “lack of oversight”. When does Stefan’s campaign end?

Wasteful? There are a few items that could have been handled differently, but nothing excessive.  Take a look at the major findings.

The 45-page report details nearly $5,000 that the Legislature spent on personal items. These included expenditures for snacks that were provided to outside guests who were honored by legislators at their bimonthly meetings; flowers; a shoe rack and the cost to stock some district offices with toilet paper.

Here’s what Democratic minority chairwoman Betty Jean Grant said about the snacks:

…most the food was purchased for World War II, Korean, Vietnam and the current War Veterans who have served their Country and who are members of the Valor for Valor Committee I created to assist our veterans. The refreshment they consumed after the county hall meetings, were not nearly as expensive as some of the things they lost such as limbs and even the lives for those who did not make it back. Someone needs to be ashamed of this despicable show of narrow-mindedness.

And toilet paper. Toilet paper? Do you remember during the red/green budget fiasco of the last decade, when the county couldn’t afford to stock the bathrooms in the Rath Building with toilet paper, so Charmin donated a truck’s worth?  Setting aside for a moment whether district offices are necessary, if we’re going to have them, are we going to begrudge their bathrooms having county-funded toilet paper? What’s next? Toner? Paper?

The report also notes how the Legislature spent too much on toner for the printers it leased and how it continued to cover the cost of Internet access for one of the Democratic legislator’s district office nine months after it was destroyed by fire.

But better still is how Mychajliw’s release characterizes this:

The Legislature spent almost $5,000 for personal items like flowers, cakes, meals, shoe racks, toilet paper, stamps, potato chips, plastic utensils, tissues, cookies, even soil.

OMG EVEN SOIL!!1!

And if you still don’t think this was a wholly political play, regard this line from the exit conference section of the review:

During the Exit Conference, some concerns were addressed regarding the severity of some of these issues and the verbiage which was used in defining them. Due to this, verbiage in some instances within this report has been changed to more accurately reflect the issues found.

UPDATE: Did you catch this line? 

“I think the most important thing to note is the fact that the Legislature initially wanted us to look at just one year of spending,” Mychajliw said. “When we showed them what we found just over one year, they formally asked us to expand it to five years and go deeper.”

A correspondent notes that this comment is false.This letter from Legislator John Mills, dated February 18 specifically requests a five-year review. The Comptroller’s office’s review entrance letter is dated the same day (efficient!), and notes – ab initiothat the review will be for the 5 year period of Jan 1, 2009 to Dec 31, 2013.  So, the 5 year period was decided on day one, before any data had been compiled, transmitted, and well before any data had been reviewed. Indeed, none of the information was due until February 25th. Nobody ever “formally asked” anyone to “expand it to five years”. There exists no earlier letter asking for a one-year review.

I’ll grant you the internet access thing is, I suppose, “wasteful”, as is the retention of an official photographer – although the photographs are presented to recipients of various awards, and make these people feel appreciated.  But the review itself reveals that Time Warner is refunding the money. There is the matter of a 45-cent stamp for which a staffer was reimbursed three times. I offer that staffer my thoughts and prayers, as he or she works to repay that $0.90 debt to the county. This is petty within the literal meaning of that word, coming from the French petit or small.

We already know that honoring people is most of what the legislature accomplishes.  If you want to talk about wasteful spending, it’s can rationally be argued that having an Erie County Legislature is, itself, fundamentally wasteful; its ministerial, rote “functions” outweigh its discretionary ones.

To give you some perspective, here’s what I wrote about the toilet paper fiasco of ’05.

Charmin wants to donate a truck’s worth of Charmin to the Rath Building. George Holt has already allocated some of his member money to his brother’s son’s girlfriend’s shell company, which knows a guy who can get some toilet paper that fell off a truck. So, they don’t need Charmin.

Thankfully, that sort of intentional and pervasive George Holt/Chuck Swanick style corruption is long gone. So is member money.

This whole thing is a persuasive argument against the continuation of partisan elections for the legislature. If this had been in any way legitimate, it would have been undertaken without the “aha” confrontational tone. None of this stuff is a big, earth-shattering deal, and there is no evidence whatsoever of deliberate waste or wrongdoing. The excessive rhetoric in the review and its accompanying press materials belies the notion that this was an apolitical review of allegedly excessive spending.  It is, instead, a wholly political piece of campaign literature.

And you paid for it.

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.


Rewind: A Collins Carol (2008)

28 Sep

‘Twas 2008, and the county was screwed
the people were not in a holiday mood.
The taxes, they said, were quite high, thanks, enough,
and people agreed that the times were quite tough.

On a floor called sixteen, a man crunched up some numbers
Six Sigma, he thought, would drag us out of our slumber.
Amid raises for managers, programs were cut.
The lawmakers’ charges, he’d always rebut.

In order to pay for his raises so steep,
the people’d fish money from pockets less deep.
Thanks to meltdowns and layoffs – economy dire,
taxpayers had little up there to admire.

But lawmakers thought they could do him one better
and changed his proposals – some letter by letter.
They cut all the raises, revived some dead funding,
and wondered, who died and made this guy the king?

On the floor of sixteen, Collins grew quite enraged,
and the comptroller soon had to become more engaged.
Explaining to Collins his budget was faulty,
but not using language one might think was too salty.

He told the lawmakers that they were wrong, too.
Their outlook was based on too blissful a view.
A budget like theirs, higher taxes required,
a result that really quite no one desired.

The leg passed its budget, some vetoes were used.
The leg overrode some, those cuts they refused.
Then from the Rath Building arose some weird chatter.
The People then wondered, “NOW, what was the matter?”

It seemed a dispute had arisen quite great,
as to which branch of power could set the tax rate.
The executive said, he’s the man with the pen,
while the leg thought that it could. It told him, and then…

To court they all went, led by Lynn Marinelli.
against Collins and Green, (I saw her on the telly).
Judge Feroleto granted Lynn an injunction,
who argued that Collins had usurped a leg function.

Then Judge Peradotto, the leg soon lamented,
ordered that Collins’ bills could be printed.
So from Springville to Amherst and then Lackawanna,
we’ll pay more for less stuff, sort of anti-nirvana.

When green and red budgets were part of existence,
we complained and cajoled, and put up some resistance.
the problems keep coming, they should all feel shame.
For now everything new can seem old again.

(Originally published December 27, 2008).

Miller-Williams Forcing County Leg Workers to Electioneer?

23 Sep

I’ve deliberately been ignoring the comings and goings of the ridiculous, court-governed county legislature race because, really, it’s something that just shouldn’t be.  We don’t need it, and we don’t need them – not to do its largely ministerial functions.

But this comment made in reply to this Artvoice piece stood out:

Many Erie County Legislature’s Democratic staffers are complaing that Chairwoman Miller-Williams is forcing them to canvas the 3rd Legislative District for the Independence Party Line.They are complaining because they are being made to work for Chris Collins and the other Republican Legislators who received the Independence Party’s endorsement and against endorsed Democrats. Miller-Williams was also the only Democrat endorsed by them. These workers are caught in the middle because they are being told that they will be fired if they did not do this political work. Isn’t this illegal under New York State election laws?

Yes, it’s illegal.  If it isn’t, it should be. If it isn’t, it’s palpably unethical.

Barbara Miller-Williams has proven herself to be a loyal Collins Republican, and as with most Byron Brown allies, she blurs the line between government and campaigning into illegality that sometimes does – and sometimes doesn’t – get exposed, but is seldom, if ever, prosecuted. Ask Tanya Perrin-Johnson.  I frankly don’t know why Ms. Miller-Williams doesn’t just switch to the party with which she is most closely aligned.

I don’t know why she continues to pretend to be a Democrat, but that’s her business. In the long term, would be great for the community if we could restructure government into something more streamlined and effective. In the short term, as with Antoine Thompson, it would be good to be rid of bad political actors like Ms. Miller-Williams.

Redistricting: Broken, Like Everything Else

30 Jun

The Democrats on the Erie County Legislature picked one map. Chris Collins doesn’t like it. He liked another map. The Democrats don’t like it. So Collins vetoed the Democrats’ map, and the veto override vote is likely to take place sometime today in the legislature.

Of course, what should have happened is we should have had not a bipartisan – but a nonpartisan – commission made up of academics and professionals to help draw new district lines. What we had was political appointees who had marching orders and acted as proxies for larger interests.

Assuming the veto cannot be overridden (there aren’t enough votes, regardless of whether any Democrats align themselves with the Republican minority), the legislature has a big problem. The thing is going to go to court regardless of what happens, but don’t forget that the voters overwhelmingly voted to reduce the legislature from 15 to 11. Now what happens with that?

No one really knows.

It’s my hope that the legislature is dissolved by default and we can go back to the drawing board and create something less horrible to serve the people.  After all, 90% of their work is rubber-stamping and 10% seems to involve temper-tantrums.

I guess we’ll find out this afternoon.

Collins Finds New Enemies

31 May

The big question going on in local politics-land is Who is Doc Maelstrom?

Whoever it is, it’s an insider with ties to a growing, bolder anti-Collins contingent of the local Republican Party.

Collins can see the planets starting to lineup against him, alliances forming where none existed before, all because Hochul’s team showed a way to victory. That and the fact someone is talking on the inside.

Chris Collins has good reason to wonder what’s up. Collins has created plenty of enemies over his term and none more than in the Rath Building. His iron fist has come down on those he opposes but also on some who had supported him. For that reason it’s tough for Collins to look everyone in the eye he passes in the halls. However, now Collins must look for that face wearing the smile, wondering if its owner is friend or foe.

Apparently, it’s not just Democrats who have a problem with our county executive.  It was the Collins brain trust that mismanaged Corwin’s loss in a +6 Republican district. It was the Collins campaign crew that sent Michael L. Mallia to harass an old man in a parking lot and then giddily posted it to YouTube. It was Collins’ people who expected the Corwin race to be a cakewalk dry run for November against Poloncarz. The fact that it wasn’t has them in finger-pointing disarray.

 

When even some in Collins’ own party are ready to throw him under the metaphorical bus, it’s interesting, isn’t it, that some of the people Collins can count among his most loyal supporters are a couple of Democrats in the legislature.

Learning Massachusetts’ Lessons

6 Feb
Massachusetts coat of arms.png

We Could Learn a Thing or Two

This is an extraordinarily significant article. Massachusetts, a Northeast liberal bastion if ever there was one, taxes its people far, far less than New York. The Buffalo News’ Tom Precious likens the commonwealth’s Proposition 2 1/2 to Cuomo’s current tax-cap proposal.

How has that shaken things out in the 30 years since Massachusetts property taxes have been limited in growth?

“I can’t remember the last time I talked about anyone’s property taxes,” said Carl Bradford, a retired financial planner whose large colonial home sits a couple miles from the New York border. His property tax bill is at least a third less than that of a comparable home across the border.

Bradford looked a bit confused when asked if property taxes ever made him think about retiring elsewhere.

“It’s never occurred to me,” Bradford said as he cleaned snow off a neighbor’s car one recent day.

His house in western Massachusetts — a mostly rural area but a cultural mecca, especially in the summertime — is worth nearly $600,000. His tax bill is about $4,500.

Just 45 minutes away, in the Albany suburbs, the owner of a house worth half as much is likely to pay nearly twice as much in property taxes.

We can talk about our culturals, preservation of old buildings, and a sense of place all day and night, but the bottom line is that people won’t come here, participate in our economy, and enable us to do all of those wonderful things until and unless the political and taxation climate in New York is fundamentally altered.  Luckily, we’ve just elected a governor who not only promised to do that, but is actually doing so, and has the political capital to get it accomplished.

But how has Massachusetts compensated?  Have services been reduced to something resembling Alabama or New Hampshire?  Do they have a high sales tax?  Nope. They changed their culture.  They adapted.  They learned.

Critics say it reduced services, especially in the early years, in such areas as public education before the state stepped in during the early 1990s with more money for school districts.

But Massachusetts also has undergone a tax attitude change.

Soon after the limit was imposed, more fire agencies and schools merged. Some villages got rid of their local police departments. By the end of the 1990s, county governments — which cannot impose their own separate sales tax — were all but abolished, except for providing a few services such as running jails. Unlike New York, where property owners can receive separate bills for county, municipal and school taxes, Massachusetts residents receive a single bill.

The limit has affected other taxation.

In 1980, Massachusetts had the nation’s second highest state and local tax burden, only slightly behind New York.

By 2008, Massachusetts was number 23 — at $3,600 per capita.

By comparison, New York, at $4,850 per capita, ranked second and was waging a pitched battle against New Jersey for first place, according to U.S. Census data compiled by the Tax Foundation.

New York has the sixth highest sales taxes, while Massachusetts is number 31.

Let’s learn from others’ successes, not repeat our own failure.

Redrawing the Lines

14 Jan
Erie County Hall. Buffalo NY
Image via Wikipedia

An article submitted by the Chairwoman of the Erie County Legislature, Barbara Miller-Williams.

Getting Ready to Draw the Lines
By Erie County Legislature Chair Barbara Miller-Williams

Changes are on the horizon regarding who will represent your interests in government on the local, state and national level.  And while this may seem like a mundane activity, it becomes important when you think about the resources that an elected official can bring to your neighborhood.

For Erie County we will be redrawing the lines of each of our Legislative Districts.  We do this every 10 years but this time it will be more than just a shifting of the lines, we are also reducing the number of Legislators from the current 15 to 11.

To facilitate the process of drawing the lines the Erie County Charter calls for the formation of an Advisory Committee on Reapportionment by the Erie County Legislature.  The purpose of the Committee is to advise the Legislature on how the county legislature should be reapportioned consistent with federal and state law.  We will be appointing members to the Committee in January and February and then as we are given the new population data from the Census Bureau the Committee will meet to create a proposal for the new districts.

This year I feel the Advisory Committee on Reapportionment is more important than ever. Insuring that the entire process of drawing new lines for the legislative districts is a fair, open and transparent process is imperative.  There will be additional challenges this year as we reduce the size of this body from 15 members to 11 and we need to make sure that facts, and not politics, govern the process.

And the very best way to assure that we are open and transparent is to have strong community involvement. So I am asking each of you to do your part to assure that the County Government is responsive to your needs and the needs of your neighborhood by staying informed about the redistricting process.  You can check the website for the Legislature for updates and there will be News reports as the process unfolds.  As always I encourage you to call my office with questions about the process with regards to the County Legislature redistricting.  (For questions about Federal, State or City redistricting call the office of your representative).

Also if you are involved in a group that is interested in suggesting advisory committee members or you are an individual interested in serving on this committee I encourage you to submit a letter of interest to the Clerk of the Legislature no later than February 4, 2011.  Letters of interest should be addressed to:

Robert M. Graber
Clerk, Erie County Legislature
92 Franklin Street, 4th Floor
Buffalo, NY  14202

I thank you for helping us, as your elected officials, to keep the political process open and fair to all members of our community by staying informed about the redistricting process.

Let them Wear Contacts!

12 Jan

King Collins du Lac has evidently decided to completely disrespect and ignore a legitimate judge’s ruling.

We know he has contempt for the democratic process as manifested through the legislature and the checks that it places on his power.

We also know he has contempt for the comptroller’s office and the checks that it places on his power.

We knew he had contempt for the federal government and its meddling in the affairs of his jails.

But now we also know that he has contempt for the third branch of government  – the courts.  The problem is that “contempt of court” – where, as here, someone knowingly disobeys a judge’s order, one wonders whether his royal highness might be haled into court to answer for his contempt and possibly end up locked behind federally-investigated Erie County bars.

The tax bills are going out now. Tax officials have printed them with a rate calculated as though [Supreme Court Justice Joseph R.] Glownia had never ruled, except for that $457,000. The rate remains at about $5.03 for every $1,000 of assessed value, before certain charges that vary by municipality.

What it means is that county tax bills that are going out soon will be $8 million higher than they’re legally supposed to be.  So, Collins gets his spending cuts, but grants no tax reduction?  That should play well in November.

He has also decreed that the destitute deadbeats can buy their own goddamned optometrist visit and their own goddamned glasses.  Collins doesn’t wear glasses, so I don’t know if he realizes how much all of that costs, but his decree must now simply wait out the pesky political process he so despises. Let them wear contacts!

The Erie County Legislature of 2011: More of the Same

10 Jan
Chris Collins, New Erie County Executive

His Highness, King Chris du Lac

By the way, last Thursday, the Erie County Legislature held its annual “reorganization” session to elect this year’s Chair.

Despite the backstabbing and rancor of the 2011 budget process, three Democrats yet again broke away from the rest of their caucus to reconstitute the so-called “reform coalition” with the Republican minority (including Lynne Dixon, of the Independence Party).

Buffalo’s Grassroots political club is aligned with Chris Collins and Steve Pigeon, the former county Democratic chair.  Grassroots and Byron Brown basically have a deal whereby they stay out of the county’s business, and Collins largely stays out of the city’s business. Barbara Miller-Williams, who is aligned with Grassroots, was joined by Christina Bove, who is closely linked with Pigeon, and Tim Kennedy’s replacement, Tim Whalen to vote with the Republicans for Miller-Williams as chair.

This means nothing changes and the county legislature will operate in 2011 much as it did in 2010.  There will be no changes in the way the county puts its budget together, there will be no progress on the issue of spending or taxes, there will be no examination of better ways in which the county could do its largely ministerial duties.

Seriously, I might as well just re-submit this paragraph from my 2010 roundup:

In the meantime, a so-called “reform coalition” was formulated in the county legislature, giving County Executive Chris Collins a de facto majority. Democrats Tim Kennedy, Christina Bove, and Barbara Miller-Williams broke away from the remainder of the Democratic caucus to form a coalition with the minority Republicans and help progress the Collins – Pigeon – Brown agenda. It was the embodiment of the alliance of the Collins and Brown political machines, and died hard just 12 months later. Some of our writing got a bit inside basebally, so Chris and I wrote  “Profiles in Fail” to help fill in some blanks. The legislature became what we termed an “orgy of transactional politics”, and we explained the legislature coup in some more detail here:

Two things: firstly, Democratic counsel Jen Persico was summarily dismissed on Thursday, replaced by Shawn Martin, the West Seneca town attorney.  Persico was appointed a few years ago by then-chair Lynn Marinelli, and this change appears to be Bove’s price for her continued role in the “reform coalition”.  The second is redistricting.  Over the next several months, a seemingly democratic process will be implemented to reduce the number of legislative districts, but in the end Chris Collins will pull out all the stops to get his way and eliminate districts represented by legislators who give him trouble.  Think “Kozub” or “Marinelli”.  Maybe “Loughran”.

So, we leave you again with a video we did last year to explain what’s behind this process.  The language is NSFW.

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