Tag Archives: Barbara Miller-Williams


9 Dec

I was unable to attend the Erie County Legislature’s final session of 2011, which was the last for six lawmakers, including Chairwoman Barbara Miller-Williams.

Miller-Williams led a breakaway faction of three Democratic legislators who aligned themselves with the Republican majority, thus helping Chris Collins move forward with an agenda that was oftentimes at odds with that of Miller-Williams’ constituents.

Chris Smith and I did this video two years ago to explain it all (language NSFW)

The Buffalo News reports this:

“I implore you to please put people before politics,” Miller-Williams told her colleagues as the meeting wrapped up. “It’s always the right thing to do.”

Ironic, seeing as how Ms. Miller-Williams seldom took her own advice on that point. Unless, of course “putting people before politics” has something to do with ensuring political jobs for certain people.

Reacting to Miller-Williams, Joseph N. Welch had this to say:

County Government: What a Treasure!

1 Nov

1. Did you see the story about Barbara Miller-Williams sending her county legislature staff out to do personal errands for her? Did you see that she didn’t deny it, but instead suggested that those workers were doing it – apparently without remuneration – on their own time?! Did you see that she treats legislative staff like a personal bank of servants? Did you see the accusation of sexism and colorism? What nobility we have running County Government! No wonder she gets along so swimmingly with the Duke of Cobblestone Lane.

2. Tom Precious picks up again on the real central issue in this year’s County Executive race. No, silly – it’s not roads or clinics or schools or regionalism or planning or Medicaid or mandates. It’s fundraising! Poloncarz has raised $10,000 per day over the past couple of weeks, which means his campaign is gaining momentum, while Collins remains largely self-funded.  Also don’t forget that the Democrats’ get out the vote effort is less dependent on spending money that the Republicans’.

Legislature Downsizing & Hoyt for Marriage Equality

27 May

Needless Collection of Humans

Jerry, let me tell you something, a man without hand is not a man.  I got so much hand I’m coming out of my gloves. – George Costanza, “The Pez Dispenser

1. I haven’t written much of anything about the county redistricting clusterfiasco because NY-26 has been a preoccupation. Most of what I’m going to write sort of re-hashes what Chris posted yesterday, but I want to add some additional thoughts about how we got here and what it means.

The process was broken from the get-go. It was ground zero for the blood feud between Chris Collins and the Democrats, and Grassroots “Democrats” against the party apparatus led by Len Lenihan. Predictably, it degenerated into ugliness, and the redistricting commission became a joke and a sham to ram through whatever Chris Collins wants; and there were people who call themselves Democrats who were going along with this.

Now that there seem to be two competing maps that are to be voted on by the legislature next week, and that one map is being promoted by the Chris Collins – Republican – Miller-Williams coalition, and the other one is being promoted by the Legislature Democrats. Regardless of which map wins, the people have already lost. The process has been farcical and hypercharged with political idiocy. (Here is the Republican map) (Here is the Democratic map)

Reader and commenter RaChaCha forwarded to me an editorial on the process that was published in the Bee Newspapers. It excoriates the redistricting committee that was chaired by Adam Perry for failing to hold three promised public hearings in more remote parts of the county. I have emailed the Bee to ask whether I can reprint it in its entirety, but offer this key passage:

The committee could have used the opinions and concerns of the public to draw a map that would best serve the people.  Instead, we got a map that best serves the interests of politicians, with continued gerrymandering.  Lines weren’t drawn to best represent the communities but to boost the chances for re-election among the legislators.

In the end, the concerns of the people were overshadowed by the concerns of the politicians looking to remain in office and hold on to a slice of power.

The committee failed us.

Neither plan is perfect, but the Democratic plan is less un-perfect than the Republican/Miller-Williams plan. One has to imagine that Collins will veto the Democratic plan if it passes, and this would set up a very interesting County Executive race in November. Right now, of the three Democrats who are aligned with Collins as part of the ridiculously named “reform coalition”, Miller-Williams is definitely voting for the Republican plan, and Tim Whalen is definitely voting for the Democratic plan. Everyone is waiting to see what West Seneca legislator Tina Bove will do, as she is the swing vote and is probably milking that fact for all it’s worth. We’ll find out next Wednesday at 2.

But remember this: right now, ECDC has hand. Time and time again over the past two years, nominal “Democrats” on the County Legislature have collaborated with Chris Collins against the interests of their own constituents. Real Democrats worked damn hard in 2009 to ensure that the Legislature retained a Democratic majority to check King Collins’ power. Unfortunately, three so-called “Democrats” align themselves instead with Collins when convenient in exchange for a growth of personal power, and at the expense of their constituents, and Democrats who helped them get elected. These people who act out of self-interest to help themselves and Chris Collins aren’t Democrats. Barbara Miller-Williams has become, for all intents and purposes, a mere Collins puppet. Now that ECDC has quite a bit of momentum coming out of the Hochul win, her shenanigans have weakened her and her cohorts considerably. It’s time for Miller-Williams to recognize that (a) she’s the chairwoman of the Legislature; and (b) she sticks a (D) after her name. It’s time for her to consciously decide to act like she is both of those things.

2. Assemblyman Sam Hoyt penned an excellent editorial to the Buffalo News in support of marriage equality.  I’m sure Sam won’t mind if I reprint it here in its entirety:

New York State is at a crossroads. The Legislature is presented with the opportunity to pass a bill that would allow gay and lesbian couples to marry, granting them access to the same rights already afforded to straight couples. This comes at a time when national and statewide polls have shown an enormous increase in public support for marriage equality. More New Yorkers than ever recognize that denying our gay and lesbian family members, friends, coworkers and neighbors the right to marry is simply not fair.

Marriage equality is about fairness. It is about ending discrimination. It is about the freedom to marry the person you love and the legal rights that go along with it.

Throughout my career in public service, I have worked for equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender New Yorkers. It is an issue that is close to me personally, but beyond that it is a public issue that has the power to change society’s perception. I believe that as an elected official, I have an obligation to help the people in my district who need it the most. It is time for us as representatives to acknowledge the will of the people both in New York and beyond and pass marriage equality legislation.

Some opponents argue that civil unions are a compromise solution that would allow gay and lesbian couples some limited rights. Yet a recent evaluation of the civil union system instituted in neighboring New Jersey showed that the two are not equivalent in practice. Couples joined in civil union faced bureaucratic hurdles that married couples did not. The two institutions were in effect separate, but not equal. Civil unions are not the answer. There is just no substitute for marriage.

To be clear, this legislation expands the legal definition of marriages recognized by the state. No religious institution would be forced to perform marriage for gay or lesbian couples, nor would any religion be compelled to recognize their marriages.

As majority whip, I will do all that I can to ensure that true marriage equality passes for a fourth time in the State Assembly. But once again, the State Senate will be the battleground for this vote. My colleagues in the State Senate must understand that this discrimination against lesbian and gay couples and their families cannot continue any longer. They must understand that a “yes” vote for marriage equality is a “yes” for justice, equality and fairness.

New York State was once a progressive leader in civil rights. It is time for our State Legislature to stand up and make our state a leader once again. We must end this injustice that has gone on for too long by making marriage equality law.



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.

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.


The Erie County Legislature: Ugh.

30 Nov

You may recall last week’s county leg shenanigans where chairwoman Barbara Miller-Williams forbade a vote from taking place on either the Republican or Democratic amendments to County Executive Chris Collins’ 2011 budget.  As you probably already know, that budget slashes funding to all but a small handful of cultural organizations, as well as a tremendous chunk from the independent comptroller’s office – most ominously to his auditors.  Funding for the libraries is also at risk.

Miller-Williams claimed last week not to have known that she could submit her own amendments, and promised to do so by Friday.  The leg was closed on Friday, so they came yesterday.  West Seneca “Democrat” Christina Bove joined Miller-Williams’ proposed amendments, which sources say were crafted with careful and pervasive input from Collins himself.  The Republicans on the legislature are expected to back the Miller-Williams/Bove proposal pursuant to the “reform coalition” they formed with the input of Steve Pigeon, Byron Brown, and Chris Collins earlier this year. (The third member of the coalition, Tim Kennedy, is readying himself for his move to Albany).  This coalition (language NSFW):


The Collins/Miller-Williams/Bove amendments will probably pass, there will be epic bickering and maneuvering during tomorrow’s meeting. It restores 3 auditors to the Comptroller’s office, $370k to operation primetime (a reduction of $30k), $1 million to the libraries, and $775k to 29 cultural organizations.  The Dem caucus had proposed $1.2 m to 47 organizations.

This afternoon will be just horrible.  Have a great day!

In the Race for Attorney General

24 Aug

The Erie County Democratic Committee is (unofficially) supporting Sean Coffey.

Mayor Byron Brown and Legislature Chairwoman Barbara Miller-Williams are supporting Eric Schneiderman.

Steve Pigeon and Congressman Brian Higgins are supporting Kathleen Rice.

Coffey and Pigeon have been doing some bickering, and people should remember that it’s good to bicker with Pedro Espada’s patronage hire.

Meanwhile, when the NY Post’s Fred Dicker asked Republican AG candidate Dan Donovan what he thought about Rick Lazio’s call to investigate the funding of the Park51 community center. Donovan’s reply,

You know, again I saw you on “Good Day New York” this morning on Channel 5, Fred. Great piece. And as you pointed out, no money’s been raised yet, so I don’t know what there is to investigate. But I have never had a discussion about the mosque situation with Mr. Lazio so I don’t know where — what he’s thinking in that area and why he’s calling upon the attorney general. He just never discussed it with me.

The Erie County Legislature Redefines Dysfunction #ecleg (UPDATED)

23 Jul


There’s dysfunction, and then there’s vaudevillian dysfunction.

The Erie County Legislature devolved into the latter during Thursday afternoon’s session.

Now, admittedly, I arrived late and left early, which means that I was the envy of everyone who had to be present. As I arrived, the legislature had just voted to send a bill to create a Community Corrections Advisory Board back to the Public Safety Committee, chaired by renegade Democrat Christina Bove.

But the real fun came when the legislature took up the issue of separation of powers.

When the 2010 budget was passed, the legislature made an appropriation of $15.6 million to Erie Community College. But that represented an increase of about $200,000 over the previous year’s budget. County Executive Chris Collins had vetoed that increase, and the legislature overrode that veto.

UPDATE: It isn’t even that cut & dry. Collins didn’t veto anything. While Republican legislators claim that the Democrats played shenanigans with the budget numbers and used that to create a phantom $200,000 out of whole cloth, (a) the ECFSA (control board) told them it was ok to do; (b) the Democrats admitted using what’s called the turnover account to fund some budget pieces, but they used it for the culturals – not ECC; and (c) part of the money used for culturals through the increase via the turnover account went for funding for the Colored Musicians’ Club, which is also known as the bribe that Chris Collins paid Barbara Miller-Williams to secure her obeisance in the leg on whatever Collins deems important.

End of story, right? Veto overidden, money goes to ECC.

Not so fast. This is Erie County.

Here, Chris Collins has refused to write a check for the $15.6 million the legislature appropriated. Collins has decided to disregard the legislature and the fact that it overrode his veto, and instead is simply refusing to pay more than he wants to pay. The legislature took up a resolution yesterday pledging to take whatever action is legally available to it to force Collins to do his duty under the county charter. Here’s how it appeared in the legislative agenda:

Pretty partisan, right? All Democrats, not one Republican. Not even the ones who are political science professors and teach kids about separation of powers and checks & balances all the time.

But what happened when this item was brought to the floor can only be described as chaos. It was like watching a pen of well-suited chickens with their heads cut off, appealing to the lawyers and parliamentarian on hand about the finer points of legislative procedure. There was vigorous debate, with most arguments centering around the dictatorial way in which Collins was behaving – that he was rendering the legislature useless and powerless. At one point, there was argument, disagreement, and confusion over whether a motion to recess had been approved. For real.

Although I’m as big a proponent of abolishing county government as exists, the existing rules and laws ought to be followed.

Legislator Betty Jean Grant argued that Collins doesn’t view the legislature as being a co-equal branch of government. Maria Whyte said that Collins was behaving like a dictator, and that his attitude was, “sue me if you don’t like it”.

But even more astonishing was the fact that two of the sponsors of the resolution – Christina Bove and Barbara Miller-Williams – voted against it. Right out of the Antoine Thompson school of bill advocacy, Bove said that mid-term budget review had shown a drop in sales tax revenue, so Collins’ thwarting of legislative will was justified. Barbara Miller-Williams said Collins had until August 31st to pay the entire appropriation, so the resolution was premature. A last-second effort by Maria Whyte to send the matter to committee was too late.

I was informed by at least a few people that Bove and Miller-Williams had met with or spoke with Collins earlier in the day and that something happened during that meeting to prompt them to vote against the resolution they had co-sponsored.

Ray Walter tweeted afterwards that a “few bad apples” were disrupting the sessions, and he lauded the defeat of the anti-Collins measure. But by letting Collins do whatever he wants, the legislature has set a precedent for itself to be rendered completely useless.

Abolishing the legislature is all well and good, but the selection of county executive as dictator needs to be done with that understanding. I hope the Republicans on the legislature don’t someday find themselves with a Democratic County Executive who decides to completely disregard what they pass.

But make no mistake – no matter what money was appropriated for infrastructure projects today (will Collins cut the check?) neither the words “good” nor “government” can fairly describe what the hell happened at the Legislature yesterday. It was an abomination – an embarrassment.

The leg is on hiatus now until September, but when they come back, make sure to follow #ecleg on Twitter.

The biggest regret was that there wasn’t a single reporter (Corr: Matt Spina was present for the Buffalo News.) or camera present in that chamber for that display. It was like watching grown men and women mimic a high school Model UN, and every country is a pariah state.

Dueling Legislators

9 Jul

Yesterday during the Erie County Legislative session, there was a very big confrontation between Betty Jean Grant and Barbara Miller-Williams over the legislature’s implementation of sections of the county’s settlement with the USDOJ over Erie County jail conditions. Betty Jean Grant complained that the community-at-large – and she – had had no opportunity to be heard on these changes and how they might be implemented.

Part of the problem, she said, is that Christina Bove, the renegade Democratic chair of the Public Safety Committee, had repeatedly refused to call a committee meeting so that these items may be discussed.

Grant said that Miller-Williams, as chairwoman of the legislature, has the power to convene such a committee meeting, or at least persuade her “reform coalition” ally to do so. The verbal back and forth became quite heated, with Grant at one point daring Miller-Williams to have her forcibly removed from the chamber.

We got both legislators’ comments after session ended.



Walter vs. Miller-Williams – PolitiFAIL Tourney 2010

24 Mar

Stranger bedfellows there probably haven’t been in county government in quite some time, but here we have two members of the county legislature’s “reform coalition” of eager Republicans and opportunistic Democrats.

Ray Walter is the 6th seed in the county bracket, and was selected to replace Mike Ranzenhofer in the 4th LD upon his election to the state senate. Walter is a somewhat libertarian Republican who is pretty much the perfect legislator for a district that doesn’t really care about or have much use for county government. As a former member of the Charter Revision Commission, he was involved in many of the changes that swept through county government a few years back, but upon ascension to the legislature, he was one of three very lonely Republican legislators who didn’t do much else but complain and sigh. That is, when they weren’t busy mouthing Chris Collins’ words. With the creation of the reform coalition and after the 2009 election, Walter’s clout grew somewhat and while some legislators (un)affectionately call him “Rush”, he’s the guy in the leg who seems wicked annoyed by what everyone else is doing and saying. He’s only been in elected office for a term and a half, so his opportunity to FAIL and grow our FAIL has been limited.

Barbara Miller-Williams has no fewer than three jobs, none of which are in the private sector. A national guard volunteer, a cop, and a legislator, she will be set for life when she retires. It came to light that Miller-Williams must have been quite overworked last year, as she maximizes her overtime so as to inflate her lifetime state-tax-free pension. As the Chairwoman of the legislature, she gets a nice little stipend, Lynn Marinelli’s scorn, faint praise from her temporary Republican allies, all while stumbling and bumbling through procedure. She joins the prestigious ranks of other Democrat-pisser-offers like Joel Giambra, Chuck Swanick, and Chris Collins. Evidently, Collins bought her cooperation with a $300,000 county check payable to the Colored Musicians’ Club, where Miller-Williams’ husband is VP of the Board. Miller-Williams was also an appointee to the legislature, selected to serve out the remainder of convict George Holt’s term. While procedural nonsense may be going on in the Leg, most of Miller-Williams’ substantive votes have been with the remaining Democrats. Adding to the overall FAIL, when Miller-Williams ascended to the chairmanship, she jettisoned a group of dedicated Democratic leg staff so that Pigeon-friendly and Grassroots-friendly folks could waltz in, some of whom had no other qualification other than knowing someone powerful. The legislative payroll appears to have gone up significantly under Miller-Williams’ strange definition of “reform”. The FAIL is strong with this one.