Tag Archives: County politics

Collins & Fudoli: Rewind & Remix

25 Oct

Shocking  revelations in today’s Buffalo News that Erie County Legislator Dino Fudoli is accused of being a former ecstasy dealer who allegedly provided the drugs to one girl who subsequently died, and another who ended up in the hospital. Fudoli is now running for election as Town of Lancaster supervisor. So, let’s revisit the events of 2009 whereby Chris Collins conspired with turncoat Democrat Kathy Konst to put the fix in Konst’s former legislative seat to essentially guarantee Dino Fudoli a Collins-friendly slot on the legislature, elbowing out Konst’s replacement, Diane Terranova.

Let’s also recall the fact that Konst had no relevant experience in environment and planning, where she now works, and that supposed libertarian Fudoli pulled out every legal stop – right up to the Appellate Division of the 4th Department – to try and guarantee that the fix was in and prevent Terranova from appearing on the ballot.  You see, Konst’s defection was timed perfectly to try and ensure that no one could replace her on the Democratic Ballot.

So, what follows are two rewinds. First, a rewind of this post from 2009, detailing the legal shenanigans that led to an alleged former ecstasy dealer ascending to the county legislature seemingly out of nowhere. After that, a rewind of my obligatory endorsement post from 2009, where I asked voters not to elect a Collins-friendly slate, and I detail why Collins has been such a disappointment. I think it dovetails nicely into current events.

Terranova v. Fudoli

On Friday, a Supreme Court Judge ordered that Kathy Konst’s name be removed from the ballot for Erie County Legislator for the 5th District and that the name of the legislator who was appointed to replace her, Diane Terranova, be added. This means that Dino Fudoli, a conservative Republican who received the endorsement of the Glenn Beck Appreciation Club will have a race on November 3d.

But let me turn to the issue of the Konst-Collins conspiracy to all but guarantee Fudoli’s election.

Currently, the legislature operates on a 10 – 3 Democratic majority. By manufacturing a Fudoli win, that brings the number to 9 – 4, and Collins has to rely on one fewer race to get to that magical switch of 7 Reps, 6 Dems.

I don’t really know whether Collins and Konst conspired to help force a Fudoli win, but it sure looks that way from the outside. Collins appointed Konst to a 6-figure job in charge of environment and planning matters after the deadline to name a replacement had passed. Let’s just say that was no accident.

So, Terranova wanted to get on the ballot and have the privilege of running for re-election to a job she’s held for about two months. Everyone except the Democratic Board of Elections Commissioner and Party worked tirelessly to prevent Terranova’s name from replacing the happily ensconced Konst on November’s ballot.

There was an Independence Party lawyer from Albany, Ralph Lorigo representing the Conservative Party, Ralph Mohr as Republican BOE Commissioner, and Dino Fudoli’s campaign all came to court to keep Kathy Konst’s name on the ballot, even though she isn’t running. They all wanted Dino Fudoli to get a free ride into office. And they’re not satisfied with the Judge’s ruling.

John R. Drexelius, Fudoli’s attorney, said he and his client, the owner of a property development company, also are considering an appeal.

Drexelius? You mean Dale Volker’s counsel at the State Senate? The guy who went ballistic after Channel 2’s Scott Brown had the nerve to ask Dale Volker a tough question? Wow, that just screams “reform” and “transparency”, doesn’t it? What a joke.

Now, the law is the law, but the laws in this state are so heavily weighed in favor of the political bosses getting their way. Getting one’s name on a ballot is notoriously difficult and fraught with peril. When Konst left the race, replacing her with a Democrat who was ready, willing, and able to run that race should have been a no-brainer. It should have been a ministerial afterthought. Instead, it’s become a last-minute battle in court. That’s unacceptable.

I don’t really care enough about minor fusion parties to give a crap about their problems. The Fudoli campaign is all about reform and “tak[ing] your county back”. Reducing the size of the legislature, cutting legislative pay, eliminating the district offices are all low-hanging fruit of Republican candidates for county leg. Other than that, he’s in favor of great results (isn’t everybody?) and Chris Collins.

But going to court to prevent the voters of the 5th district from having a choice in November is, to me, fundamentally undemocratic and doesn’t at all jibe with the happy reform that Fudoli is selling. To anyone parroting the line that Chris Collins hasn’t set up his own political machine – a rather powerful one that talks a good game about reform but hardly delivers, and actively takes away people’s electoral choice wherever possible – is either ignorant or stupid.

Congratulations to Diane Terranova for getting her name on the ballot, and giving the people of the 5th from Lancaster to Sardinia a choice on November 3rd. And a big middle finger to everyone who actively tried to prevent that choice from happening.

Endorsements 2009

Much like his chief executive counterpart in Buffalo City Hall, Chris Collins brings to that office charisma and remarkable sum of banked political capital.  Tony Masiello or Joel Giambra were middling apparatchiks who talked a good game but left the office having done more bad than good.  To his credit, Giambra pushed for, but failed to bring about, any sort of regionalism.  Byron Brown and Chris Collins won in recent landslides and have the power, but lack the will, to do very much with it.

Regional metropolitan government could save this region.  We discard it like the morning’s Charmin.

Collins in particular won on a platform of “running government like a business”, being apolitical, reining in costs, lowering taxes, and asking tough questions through, among other things, Six Sigma initiatives.  In practice, however, he has failed at all of those things.

It’s as popular as it is facile to blame his failings on the Democrats, on the unions, on the legislature.  Politics is not a one-person sport.  Part of what makes a good politician is the ability to build consensus – to make the assumption that everyone in government is there to do good by those who sent them there.  Collins bypassed that, and behaved like a bull in a china shop from jump street.  His efforts, like Brown’s, amount to tinpot Machiavellianism – exploiting, for instance, a rift between Lynn Marinelli and Len Lenihan to his advantage, rather than genuinely reaching out to to a stark Democratic legislative majority to enlist their help to develop a strategy for betterment of the region.

The notion that Collins is apolitical is a falsity.

“Running government like a business” is a happy-sounding mantra that makes the electorate believe that he’s going to go after waste and fraud, and really streamline government.  That’s happened only on the fringes, and has been almost exclusively directed at the poor, the sick, the single parents – people who need help, but people on whom Collins could never count to support him.  He gave them even less reason to, arguing that 100% federal reimbursement of certain programs that assist the poor was irrelevant, and shunted these responsibilities off to charities.  He’s saving money on legacy costs, he argues.  Yet he has made no moves to, e.g., close golf courses that also employ county workers who also represent legacy costs.  That choice is neither political nor businesslike.

In other words, whatever little streamlining there’s been, it’s been decided politically.

Cutting waste and spending?  Like his predecessor, Collins hired people whom he knew (nothing wrong with that) and asked the legislature (which, for the most part, granted his requests) to give raises and variable minimums to his appointees.  This way, a new hire could have, say, 5 years’ worth of seniority on day one.  That’s not how businesses are run, is it?  That’s not a reduction in spending, is it?  And Collins blames Albany on 88% of the county budget problems, ignoring the fact that there are opportunities available to maximize savings even on that end of the budgetary spectrum.

It’s not the pablum you should pay attention to – it’s the deeds.

So, Chris Collins has allegedly struck a deal with Byron Brown where the Republicans run no one in city-based races for Mayor or County Legislature.  This guarantees Brown’s re-election unopposed tomorrow, and artifically depresses turnout in the city for the comptroller’s and sheriff’s races, thus helping Kadet and Howard.

And for the suburban races, Collins has deliberately done exactly what Byron Brown did back in 2007 – hand-picked or otherwise supported candidates to challenge elected officials whom Collins has deemed are obstructing his plan for oddly selected spending cuts, tax hikes, and union demonization. Collins’ complained-of inability to get his agenda through the legislature is as much his fault as anyone else’s.  When you treat the legislature like some meddlesome hoop through which you need to jump, rather than a co-equal branch of government, you’re going to run into some problems.

There has been practically zero substance to any of the county legislature races this year.  All anyone wants to talk about is minutiae – how many legislators; how much do they get paid; are they full- or part-time; are there extended terms; are there term limits; do they keep district offices.  There’s no referendum on Collins’ initiatives versus anyone else’s.  There’s been no analysis of Six Sigma or taxes or spending or practically any policies whatsoever.  Collins is just trying to stack the leg in his favor so there’s a better chance he’ll get done what he wants done.  I’m not saying that’s abnormal or wrong, per se.  Just true.

One thing’s for sure, if he’s successful, then being a legislator really won’t be full-time.  Introducing and rubber-stamping the executive’s initiatives takes little time or thought.

The sheriff’s race shouldn’t even be close.

The race for comptroller is laughable.  Collins is somehow trying to sell the public on the notion that it’s better that his guy is in that office, rather than someone independent from him.  That way, I guess, we can get the hard-hitting fiscal reporting and analysis we got when Nancy Naples kept an eye on Joel Giambra. Win!

And all of this, remember, is over what everyone will tell you is 12-ish% of the overall county budget.  $1.1 billion altogether, and they’re engaging in blood feuds over $130,000,000.

Since only 12% of the budget is allegedly subject to the political whims and desires of our elected officials, it would appear to me that most of their tasks are ministerial in nature.  In other words, we have no use for county government at all, as currently structured.  We could just as easily just have counties be geographical municipal divisions made up of a handful of elected overseers and a competent bureaucracy.  Make sure the parks are open.  Make sure you can reserve a shelter easily.  Pave the roads.  Fix the bridges.  Plow the streets.  You don’t need 15 elected legislators and a bunch of pointless fighting for that.

But since it’s more fun to bicker over WIC and golf courses, let’s not really get to the heart of the problem, but just skim the surface to please everyone’s constituencies.

Vote however you want on Tuesday.  But for as long as we remain saddled with that pointless anachronism we call county government, let’s maintain a check on the arrogant and misguided county executive until such time as he learns that politics is a game of give and take – not take and shiv.

And let’s start talking about abolishing county government.  Srsly.

Anyhow,

We all remember what came of that. Remember in November: Chris Collins and his team of turncoats and alleged former dealers in illegal narcotics brought this to you.

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Kevin Hardwick For County Legislator

6 Jul

Kevin_Hardwick_Pose

In the fall of 1992, I was an idealistic freshman at Canisius College.  As an active volunteer for the Clinton/Gore campaign, I was excited to cast my first vote for President in November.  I was certain that voting Republican was pretty close to killing kittens on the ethical scale and I wasn’t really open to hearing any different.  You remember how you knew it all back in college?  Yeah, me too.

And then I met a professor who changed the way I thought about politics and government.  His name was Dr. Kevin Hardwick.  After some introductory chatter between the Professor and the students, it was clear that Dr. Hardwick was of a Republican political bent and very interested in how we each came to our particular spot on the electoral spectrum.

Over the course of two semesters, he spoke reverently about American government and politics.  His respect for the country was impressive and his knowledge obvious.  Slowly, I came to adopt some newly found critical thinking muscles about politics that I hadn’t really exercised to that point.  Kevin never advocated a particular ideology, he simply encouraged us to look at things from uncomfortable angles and new viewpoints.

While I still voted for Clinton in 1992, I have always tried to keep an open mind and to never be a reactionary party ideologue.  My politics is a mix of principles from across the spectrum and I try to always look at each candidate and issue from as many angles as possible.  I like to feel that I’m of no party and evaluate each candidate on their merits.  I’d like to think that has a lot to do with spending two semesters under the tutelage of Dr. Hardwick who has had hundreds, if not thousands, of students pass through his doors over the years.

When he informed me that he was running for County Legislature this year, I was excited to support him.  I’ve never been a particular fan of his opponent and I think Dr. Hardwick brings a level of experience, knowledge and maturity to a governing body which has lacked many of those qualities in recent memory.

There are those who might disregard him due to party affiliation, but Kevin is exactly the kind of guy we need in the legislature if we hope to build a better community.  He has a record of cutting costs, consolidating government and realizing efficiencies in his previous elected positions and he’s currently recommending several ways to cut costs and make government less partisan and more efficient.

I hope you’ll give consideration to Dr. Hardwick as he ramps us his campaign.  He is posting videos to YouTube, charming as they are in their lack of production quality, it’s pretty straight forward stuff.

Mr. Ranzenhofer to the Principal’s Office

28 Oct

A press release from Citizen Action of New York:

BUFFALO, NY – Citizen Action of New York has released a report card for the Erie County Legislature, studying the attendance records of legislators from the past four years. CANY focused on committee meetings instead of full legislature sessions in order to get a better sense of how engaged Legislators are in the work they do to discuss and study various initiatives and issues.

“The Committee meetings are the ones in which legislators are supposed to roll up their sleeves and look at all sides of each issue. We have been registering concern about the level of accountability and transparency in Erie County government for years, and we believe that working families deserve to know how their representatives are doing,” said Jim Anderson, the Western New York chair of CANY.

The report revealed generally high levels of attendance by the vast majority of legislators, especially those that were elected on reform platforms over the last three years. Highlights from the report include:

  • Michael Ranzenhofer missed more committee meetings than any other sitting legislator in Erie County. Legislator Ranzenhofer currently serves on the Community Enrichment Committee and served on two other committees over the last four years as well, and he missed 14 of the committee meetings listed on the County website between 2004 and 2007. The meetings covered matters such as reviewing the county’s policy on take home vehicles for political appointees and ensuring the protection of community resources like libraries, parks and health centers. Mr. Ranzenhofer receives a D from Citizen Action for his poor attendance record.
  • Three legislators, Grant, Mazur and Rath, had a perfect committee attendance record from 2004 to 2007 (based on records available on the Erie County website; some meetings are not available). All three receive an A+.
  • Only four legislators missed more than 5 meetings, and one of them serves as a reservist.
  • Anderson added, “Mr. Ranzenhofer’s truancy record during a time of extreme challenges for the county is troubling to us, particularly as he runs for the State Senate where he will immediately be faced with balancing yet another budget during a time of financial hardship – and this time with far greater consequences for his constituents and the citizens of New York,” said Jim Anderson, head of Citizen Action WNY.

    Apart from Barbara Miller-Williams, who is a reservist, the next-lowest grade for a legislator is Tim Kennedy, who gets a B. If Ranzenhofer can’t be bothered to show up to 92 Franklin Street, how are we to expect him to show up in Albany?