Tag Archives: county legislature

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.


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.

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.

 

 

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!

Erie County Government Bucks Collins, Process Termed “Absurd”, “Insane”

1 Dec

The Erie County Legislature yesterday pushed through amendments to the 2011 county budget that would restore 2010-level funding to a broad range of cultural organizations that had been cut off by County Executive Chris Collins’ proposed budget.  Shockingly, the county library system’s funding was restored completely, and done so unanimously.  Because each amended line item was voted for separately, some may have the 10 votes necessary to override a Collins veto.

While yesterday I had predicted that “reform coalition” Democratic legislators Barbara Miller-Williams and Christina Bove would submit amendments that the Republicans, including Collins, would likely approve, that’s not what ended up happening.  Apparently, at some point over the last few days, Bove had a change of heart and joined in the Marinelli/Whyte package of amendments, which left Miller-Williams out to dry.

Query what happens to Collins’ “Reform Coalition” now that Bove has effectively left it and Tim Kennedy is moving on to the state senate.

We’ll have the complete list of culturals and the individual votes up later today, but also notable was a restoration of funding for the Comptroller’s auditing staff and reductions elsewhere to pay for it all.

As legislators left their chambers, County Executive Collins held a hastily assembled news conference where he pitched a fit,

The Erie County taxpayers were not well served today.  What we saw across the street was politics at its worst.

Collins also made allusions to the legislature being Santa Claus, money growing on trees, and fumbled a comparative, stating that he wouldn’t trust the legislators “to balance the county budget, much less their own checkbooks”.

During the session, Miller-Williams, who suddenly had no ally in that chamber, kept reminding legislators about the fact that Collins would veto a lot of this stuff, urging them instead to pass her Collins-approved version.  Instead, the legislature showed leadership and re-asserted its co-equal independence from Collins.  That sound and fury from the 16th floor of the Rath Building may very well be Collins’ anger that his carefully crafted de facto majority has crumbled – when it really counts.  His veto pen will fly, and he’ll have to defend his cuts – one by one – to the people in next year’s election.  He’s not the boss of the county – the people are.

But Democratic legislators noted that not one person who contacted them ever expressed any support for Collins’ cuts.  Their constituents want the county to continue to fund cultural organizations and the libraries.  Ultimately, that is whom the legislators serve.

But the most memorable moment of yesterday’s session, as far as what I was able to see, was an outburst by 4th District Legislator Ray Walter.  He very rightly assailed the entire budget process as a failure, saying that “fifteen people fighting over $6 million of a $1 billion budget each year is absurd”, and in a pointed shot at cultural proponents protesting in the legislative chambers added, “this is insane.  Want to protest something?  Protest Albany.  $267 million in property taxes (from one of the poorest counties in New York State) directly to fund Medicaid”.  He blasted unfunded Albany mandates as being the root of all county budget evils, that this is a “fundamentally dysfunctional way to run a state”, urging State Senator-elect Tim Kennedy to “do something about it” when he gets to Albany.  He concluded, “we need to fix the way this system works, or fix the way that we run this county.”

Ray Walter may have voted against the restoration of funding for just about everything yesterday, but he’s absolutely correct when it comes to the absurdity of this process and how harmfully Albany runs this state and its programs.  When he says we need to fix Albany, or fix the way the county is run, he’s absolutely correct.  To my mind, politics should be extracted from the system to the greatest degree possible.  A professional county manager to replace either the County Executive or his deputy would be a great start.

Collins’ vetoes come next, and the budget process concludes next week.