Tag Archives: David Hartzell

The Williamsville Tolls Are Nobody’s Golden Goose

2 Aug

They’ve been talking about and doing the inevitable, repetitive “studies” to determine how, when, and where they might move the Williamsville toll plaza a bit further East and possibly upgrade the facility to work better. We are still using 1920s technology in 2013 – we actually hire human beings to take toll tickets from a dispenser and hand them  to non-transponder motorists. Is there some compelling reason why we need to pay someone 50 large to act as a middleman between the ticket dispenser and you? Except for job #1 being “don’t kill the job”, no. 

Frankly, the upgrades the Thruway Authority is planning, suck. “Could possibly include 35-mph E-ZPass toll lanes to to cut down on traffic jams” is the Thruway Authority taking a pointed stick and jamming it in your eye. 35 MPH? 

There are massive flaws with the existing Williamsville tolls. Firstly, for some reason upstate toll plazas do not adhere to the downstate toll plaza rule that commercial trucks stay to the right and leave the E-ZPass lanes towards the left for car traffic. Secondly, we have absolutely zero number of high-speed E-ZPass plazas here, and it doesn’t sound like we’re going to get any.  35 MPH is not high-speed; it is well below regular highway speeds.  Your E-ZPass and license plate are perfectly capable of being read at regular highway speeds. In Florida, they make non-transponder traffic pull to a plaza on the side of the road while transponder traffic just keeps moving at 65 MPH. The 407 in Toronto has no toll plazas at all – it takes a picture of your plate and sends you a bill.

Florida

 

Toronto’s 407 uses the Ferrovial “Free Flow” toll collection system

Thirdly, if the plaza was re-made to accommodate high-speed transponder traffic, you eliminate a lot of noise and pollution from idling vehicles, and you can move the plaza further east to not only enlarge the toll-free commuter area for Buffalo, but also to alleviate Main Street traffic and put the plaza somewhere in the middle of nowhere farmland to minimize NIMBYism.

The Clarence town board debated the issue this week, and Supervisor David Hartzell voted against a resolution in favor of moving the plaza East. He explained that the toll plaza is

the town’s “golden goose,” because of the traffic it drives there. Take away the barrier, he said, and “Transit Road would just dry up.” 

That’s nonsense. Pembroke is within the toll area, and Route 77 isn’t some five-lane juggernaut of strip plazas and Wal*Marts. Transit Road isn’t what it is today because of the location of a toll barrier in Williamsville. On the contrary, Main Street in Williamsville is the mess it is today because of the toll barrier – people use Main Street to avoid the barrier, which backs up much more often and worse than exit 49 at Transit. Bernie Kolber has it right, but only partly.

The present location of the Williamsville toll barrier hinders economic activity, wastes travelers’ time, wastes fuel, adds to traffic congestion on adjacent roads, decreases efficiency of travel, contributes to air pollution and in general detracts from the quality of life of suburban residents,” he said, arguing that improving the current barrier won’t solve those problems. 

You need to do both. If the Thruway insists on maintaining tolls on a road that was supposed to be toll-free when it was paid off in 1997, then it needs to do so in a way that is most beneficial to motorists. Furthermore, it should move the toll barrier back from Williamsville to somewhere between exits 48A and 49. There is plenty of emptiness in that stretch to minimize difficulty for nearby residents. Hell, you could put it near the quarry between Gunnville and Harris Hill Roads – if Buffalo Crushed Stone doesn’t bother you, neither will a state-of-the-art high-speed (not 35 MPH, but 65 MPH) toll plaza. 

Then trucks and other traffic coming from points east will more readily use the Thruway to access the 290 and 33, and alleviate the through traffic now congesting Main Street in Williamsville, which is planning traffic calming and other measures to render that ugly five-lane mess something more pedestrian-friendly. 

Or maybe we can just pretend it’s still 1965, and hire state workers to make us stop so they can hold our E-ZPasses up to the windshield for us before we pass through. 

April Fools’ 2010 “Clarence to buy Buffalo”: Is Hartzell Behind it?

4 Nov

On April 1, 2010, some cretin sent a fax to various media outlets purporting to be from Clarence Town Supervisor Scott Bylewski. The fax was, to put it mildly, an April Fools’ prank gone awry. It looked to be a press release announcing that the town of Clarence had purchased the City of Buffalo, was asking the city to be emptied and turned into a park.

It was obnoxious, mean-spirited, racist, and totally unfunny. It made the whole town look bad.

The person who sent it faxed a follow-up apology the next day. But who sent it? Here, watch the Channel 2 report from 2010:

Something there caught my eye. The phone number under Bylewski’s name. Bylewski can’t be reached at 741-0149.

That’s pretty damning evidence that the offensive April Fools’ letter from 2010 was sent out by current Republican supervisor candidate David Hartzell. It’s also his business’ phone number.

Here’s what the prank letter said:

Town of Clarence completes record setting purchase of the City of Buffalo, New York and kindly asks all city residents to leave.

Clarence Supervisor Scott Bylewski is proud to announce that the town of Clarence has completed the purchase of the City of Buffalo from cash-strapped New York State for two hundred and thirty one million dollars.” It’s a win-win for all involved” said Governor David Patterson, “Clarence gets to expand their park system and we get rid of a cash-sucking rat hole of a city”. When asked if Clarence could afford the purchase, Town Clerk Nancy Metzger said “two hundred and thirty one million dollars…that’s chump change. In fact, I have an envelope in my desk for that I use for lunch money for the office staff that has more than that in it”. Metzger indicated that the town would pay for Buffalo ‘in cash’, adding that the sum would be most likely paid in tens and twenties. “We have a ton of cash left over from last Wednesday nights traffic court” she continued “that Judge Schmedrick is a real bastard.” The town plans on converting the City of Buffalo into the largest park in New York. “We will give the people two weeks to leave” added Bylewski, “and after all the people leave, we plan on importing some deer, turkey and other wild stuff from Clarence to give the city that homey, suburban, Clarence kind of feel. While we want all the residents to leave, Pano can stay. After all, every park needs a good place to eat. We plan on turning the City of Buffalo into the biggest park in New York…bigger than central park, but without the crime.” When asked where he plans on sending all the current residents of the city, Bylewski suggested Eden. “Its kind of rural down there, plus there are jobs at the kazoo factory.”

Bylewski continued “after all the people leave, we may open the gates of the zoo and let the animals out. We can create a giant jungle safari, just like they have in Canada.”

As with any major purchase, new personnel assignments will have to be made.

Bylewski said that current Highway Supervisor Ted Donner will move over to the position of top cop. “Ted has that young Clint Eastwood thing going” said Bylewski, “if we let his hair grow and give him an allowance to buy some of those mini cigars that Clint loved in his spaghetti westerns, he will fit in. The new commissioner of parks will be Karen Jurek. No one knows trees like the Jureks” added Bylewski, “Karen can grow mold on a rock.” I plan on appointing Clarence resident Reese Graber as the new mayor. He’s been the unofficial mayor of Clarence for years, why not make it official?”

Lastly, “we planning on inviting Jose to say and live on the West Side in his current apartment. All of our high school kids know Jose,” adds Bylewski, “and we need someone who is good at selling dimes bags without getting jumped. Every time that Forest Buhler’s Day Off runs on the Movie Channel, I get barraged by complains that our aging hippies and high school kids have to drive all the way to the west side to buy a bag. One of the results of the master plan, updated in 2006, was that we lack a reliable source of weed in Clarence. I tried to take the Town Controller, Myron Goldman, and teach him to deal, but he kept getting beaten up. Plus, Jose will make Clarence diversified and politically correct, as we have exactly zero Puerto Ricans at this time. Now, out kids can drive from Clarence to…Clarence! to buy a bag. Progress…it’s a beautiful thing”

Let me tell you what I think.

I don’t know for sure if Hartzell sent that prank letter, but someone using his phone number did, and did so well over a year before there was a political race for supervisor. It’s not funny – it’s offensive. Whoever wrote it is a sick and twisted individual.

After Channel 2 aired its story, an apology was delivered reading as follows:

To the people of the Great State of New York, The City of Buffalo, The Town of Clarence, and The Honorable Scott Bylewski,

I am truly sorry for the e-mail that I wrote on April 1st. It was not meant to disparage, but simply to amuse. Obviously, it did not, and for that I am humbly and deeply sorry for any consternation, discomfort, or hard feelings that my letter may have caused. My sincerest apology to any of the hard working Clarence Town Employees that I may have offended. That was not my aim, and if I have caused you any grief, I am very, very sorry.

I also want to apologize to the good folks in Buffalo. Buffalo has had an amazing rebound over the last 20+ years and it is your hard work that has brought it back.

Lastly, the letter was not meant to be racist, and I apologize to any people of color that I have offended.

We all make mistakes, and I am no exception. I humbly beg your forgiveness as we head into the Easter holidays. I hope you will find it in your hearts to forgive me for this terrible lack of judgment.

It’s my opinion, based on the poor attempt at humor, the neanderthal thinking, and the phone number match, that Hartzell likely sent the letter. Anyone who would concoct such nonsense is unfit for public office; is unfit to represent the town.

Hey, What About Clarence?

2 Nov

About a month ago, I wrote this post, which included the text of an email that Republican Clarence Town Councilmember Bernie Kolber sent to the town’s Republican committee. Former clown and current Republican supervisor candidate David Hartzell had called the cops on Kolber the day after the September primary, accusing Kolber of stealing campaign signs. Hartzell even called the cops.

Well, Hartzell got a “see me” from the town Republicans, and sent this along:

Kolber’s reply is below, and I might be wrong, but I don’t think he’s happy with his fellow Republican.

Dear Republican Committee Members,

This year, the election for Supervisor is not about absurd 35% tax increases and ice rinks, with everything else being a distraction according to Mr. Hartzell, but it is about something much more basic, ethics, integrity, and the truth. These are areas in which Mr. Hartzell is devoid and substantively lacking in character. It is like the Wizard of Oz, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

After his antics with the State police, I have asked for the return of my donation to his campaign, but still have yet to receive it.

I have reviewed the Email that hartzell sent on October 3rd, to which I want to comment. I held off immediately afterward so that Dan Michnik could enjoy his daughter’s wedding without distractions. I have discussed this with Danm already. I have filed a FOIL request with the NYS Troopers, but am still awaiting a response. I am requesting all statements, witnesses, and information relating to said accusations. I have the copies of my cell phone records showing Dan’s phone call to me on September 15, at 10:02 PM.

My contact at the State Police has informed us that Mr. Hartzell knew immediately that it was my truck. The State Police did not want to get involved and deemed it to be petty. Mr. Hartzell repeatedly demanded that they take his complaint and that they take it to the District Attorney. He did not relent until they took his complaint. A fellow Committee member is aware of this firsthand and took it on his own to call many of the Executive Committee members.

As for Mr. Hartzell’s Email explaination, which I have copied and reprinted below for your use, I will cite the following that question the very basic truthfulness of his comments and make them illogical.

1) Mr. Hartzell states that 2 people were standing in their parking lot and saw me take down the sign.

If I was taking down this sign and they were watching me why would they have not said something then? I saw no one out that night aside from passing traffic. it takes about 5-6 minutes for me to take down a 4×4 sign and place it in my truck. That would allow plenty of time for them to approach me. In addition, I had my 4 way flashers on. They should have noticed me right away.

Thet then said that they gave chase. I THEN STOPPED TO TAKE DOWN ANOTHER SIGN ??????? This is completely illogical. If someone is chasing me down the road, would I stop to take down another sign? It is absurd and a complete lie.

2) When the friend approached the pickup truck to ask the owner what was going on, the owner was unwilling to talk and sped away at a high rate of speed

Why would they not have approached me the first time. No one approached me. No one said a word to me because there was no one out that night. Another complete lie. Again, 4 way flashers on, unlikely that I sped away as I then went to the next sign location on Stahley where one of my signs was. Remember, I was only doing what we do after every election, AND doing it after getting the approval from Dan Michnik.

We have a candidate for Supervisor who screwed up, even according to Ralph Mohr with his “pay to play” letter if it wasn’t illegal it certainly was not in good judgement. Rather than admitting his “screw up” and taking the high road he hangs up on the reporter calling and stupidly tries to shift the blame for his own poor judgement. He illegally threatens a vendor in the IDA in political retribution. Then he blames me for taking his signs down likely in an attempt to shift the scrutiny off of his own stupidity. These are the TRUE ISSUES. Don’t be blinded.

I am asking the Clarence Republican Committee, and the Erie County Republican Committee to initiate a complete investigation into this incident. In addition, I am asking that no Committee funds be allocated to any Town Candidate until this investigation is complete.

I still am a diehard Republican. However, There is something that supercedes politics and R’s and D’s, and that is integrity. It is time that the Clarence Republican Committee sees that “the emperor has no clothes on”. WE in no way have a quality or qualified candidate in this race. I have already told Chairman Michnik that my name is not to be used in any way with Mr. Hartzells. I cannot speak for him, but I suggest that you ask Bob Geiger this as well.

Thanks for your time,

B. Kolber

Now, the other issue I should bring up is Hartzell’s continued lie about the budget. There is no “proposal” to raise taxes 35%. There is no effort underway to ram an $8 million ice rink down the taxpayers’ throats.

Hartzell is another Republican lying liar.  The actual numbers show the TAX RATE DECREASING– not increasing.  What Hartzell is trying to do is use an extreme worst case projection included in last year’s budget and lie to taxpayers, calling it a “proposal”.  Either Hartzell is stupid, or he assumes voters are –  a good financial planner would know better.  He continues to say it even though the ACTUAL numbers fly against his statements.  He is basically desperate and throwing anything to see if it sticks.  This tactic is deplorable and continues a trend of him not knowing or caring what the facts are:

(1)    See his attorney “pay for play” or “selling the job” letter where he clearly states that we will have a new Town Attorney even though the Town Attorney is appointed by the Town Board.  When Channel 2 called Hartzell about his prospective corruption, he hung up on them.

(2)    Hartzell politicized the IDA without explanation or justification. He is unfit for elected office.

(3)    Hartzell doesn’t know the facts, or else he can’t count.  At the candidates’ forum last week, he said the town has three fire districts, just like similarly situated towns throughout America. He researched it! Problem for Hartzell is, the town has 5 fire protection districts within one fire district.  Hartzell also lied about the Wegmans proposal, claiming that the town didn’t want Wegmans. That’s a load of bull. Finally, Hartzell endorsed Bylewski via LinkedIn, and then lied at the forum, saying he only did so when Bylewski was a councilman, not supervisor.

(4)    Hartzell claims that the town “needlessly” spent money on renovating the Town Hall.  Well, yeah, except of course for the asbestos abatement, the seats that crumbled to the touch, and the bathrooms walls that had become so soft you could move them with only a little pressure. Hartzell would go all Barbrady on that.

(5)    Hartzell claims that Bylewski’s office in Town Hall was renovated. Yes, it was painted. And Scott moved his desk. SCANDAL!11!!!!

(6)   Hartzell claims the Highway budget was raided by almost $800,000.  Where the heck is this from?  There is no transfer of monies from Highway to General funds.  The General fund subsidizes the Highway fund to the tune of $2 MILLION (adding the transfers from the 2009 budget up to and including the 2012 Preliminary Budget)!

(7)  While General Fund appropriations have increased, the tax rate is actually decreasing, and Clarence continues to grow with a greater demand for services.  Town spending is less than inflation, and we still are paying for additional services due to growth.  Our growth exceeds new construction which basically exceeds inflation which exceeds spending.  Hartzell evidently thinks you can get something for nothing.

(8)    Finally, Hartzell questions Bylewski’s leadership.  To see Bylewski’s leadership in action, look at the town’s quality of life, the way town government handled all manmade and natural disasters thrown at us, and the fact that Clarence enjoys a 93% townwide rate of satisfaction with town government.

Hartzell and the truth – they go together like oil and water. Don’t believe his desperate, pathetic lies. Vote Bylewski, Geiger, and Kolber on November 8th.

 

The 2011 Clarence League of Women Voters Candidate Forum

25 Oct

Last night I attended the always entertaining Clarence candidates’ forum, sponsored by the League of Women Voters. I interviewed a few participants last night and will have a podcast of that up later on. Here’s what I saw:

1. Chris Collins lives in Spaulding Lake, which is about a 1/2 mile from Clarence Town Hall, where the debate was held. Mark Poloncarz lives in the city of Buffalo, about 25 miles away.  Poloncarz was there last night, but no one from Collins’ campaign bothered to show up. There was just one piece of lit. Poloncarz had the floor and answered tough questions from the audience about library financing, whether he’d take a salary (yes, and so does Collins, BTW), infrastructure, the Bills, volunteer fire departments, and cultural funding. He answered all with aplomb, got in some shots at his opponent’s hyperpolitics and mismanagement, and in the end reminded the audience that someone asking for their vote should have the balls to come before them and do it in person. Astonishing that Collins can’t be bothered to talk to us commoners.

2. Councilmember Joe Weiss showed up and, even though he resigned from the town board in September and is only on a minor party line, decided to take an opportunity to “debate” Bob Geiger and Bernie Kolber in the council race. Weiss took the opportunity to mock Geiger, to call Kolber always late and unprepared, and to denigrate Scott Bylewski with obnoxious falsehoods. He insisted he isn’t a bully, and no one in the room was having it. Weiss ambushed everyone and a large audience saw just what a dick he is.

3. Ed Rath met his opponent Toni Vazquez. Ms. Vazquez talked about her knowledge of health care issues and how the county is instrumental in administering and paying for health care for the needy. Rath talked about his record. The first question – why do we need a county government. Awesome – but Rath sort of punted and answered much like Antoine Thompson did when we asked the same of the state Senate, reciting what the county does, but not answering the larger existential question. We clean that up in the upcoming podcast.

4. Maria Whyte is an energetic campaigner, and she’s running for County Clerk.  This is a largely ministerial position and the best anyone can do is make it less of a horror for people to use the clerk’s office. Both she and her opponent, Chris Jacobs, pledge to innovate and reform so that people’s involvement with county government is as swift and un-horrible as possible. Jacobs touted his foundation (I’m rich!), which donates scholarships to underprivileged kids to attend private and parochial schools in the area. Interesting, that. First of all, it has nothing to do with anything – so, he’s loaded and wants to help poor inner city kids. That’s great. So would I if I was born into billions. But secondly, the only elected office Jacobs has ever held has been in the City of Buffalo’s board of education. He can’t run on his record there, so the best he can do is point to the fact that he has helped kids escape the horrible learning conditions in the city schools over which he helped preside. Not a winning strategy, IMO, and look for Whyte to capitalize on this.

5. The Clarence Supervisor’s race between David Hartzell and incumbent Scott Bylewski. It’s no secret that Scott is a friend of mine, so my bias is quite clear. At one point, Hartzell needed a question repeated to him – “what is your vision for Clarence”? Bylewski had answered about how he wants to preserve the town’s rural and agricultural character, and cited our master plan and other growth strategies to achieve that. Hartzell mocked Bylewski’s answer, and then gave his own – that his vision was business development. As the debate wore on, Hartzell’s only answer to everything was to give stuff away to businesses. He’s a consummate beancounter who sees everything as a balance sheet, rather than something that has a positive or negative net effect on people. But his counting? Not so good. When asked about volunteer fire department consolidation (a non-issue in town, by the way), Hartzell said he had studied similar suburban towns throughout the country, and all of them were just like Clarence; that they all had about 3 fire districts.  The crowd murmured at that – we have 6 VFD special districts in town, one overarching fire district. He doesn’t have his facts right.  Another big issue is a prospective ice rink proposed by Eastern Hills Mall. It would ultimately cost the town money, and it’s in the early planning stages. Weiss and Hartzell enjoyed complaining (a) that the process was going too slowly; and (b) it shouldn’t cost the town money and should go to referendum. That’s quite a dance.

The most powerful part of this debate? When Scott cited Hartzell’s own endorsement of him on LinkedIn:

Scott Bylewski is an excellent supervisor. He loves Clarence, and is always working for the good of the town. Prior to his assuming the office of Supervisor, he excelled as a committeeman. Scott was well known for his preparation, presentation and firm grasp of local issues. As supervisor, Scott is constantly fighting to keep taxes down. Scott is an unusually successful politican…able to reach across the asile to work with members of both parties for the good of the town.

Scott will not retire as Supervisor of the Town of Clarence…his energy and talent will carry him far from the confines of One Town Place.The citizens of the Town of Clarence are lucky to have a man of Scott’s caliber to steward the continued growth and development of this special place called Clarence, New York.” January 9, 2009

2ndDavid HartzellPresident and CEO, Cornell Capital Management
was with another company when working with Scott at Town of Clarence

Bylewski read excerpts from it out loud, and said he was proud of that and agrees with it. Hartzell? He mouthed some nonsense about it being 4 years ago, and that Scott was now a “career politician”. People laughed.

November 8th is election day, and you should be attending as many of these candidates’ forums as you can to see these people up close. Watch them answer questions and offer their visions and plans. It’s quite eye-opening.

As I mentioned earlier, a podcast will be up shortly.

One Sign to Rule them All: My Precioussss

1 Oct

Hartzell stands next to his most prized sign

Clarence’s most clownish town supervisor candidate has managed to offend (a) a fellow Republican; (b) a campaign contributor; (c) a prospective ally on the town board; and (d) a well-liked councilmember who is likely to coast to re-election! Bonus? (a) through (d) is the same guy!

Dr. Bernie Kolber, Republican town councilman, sent the following missive to members of the town Republican committee this week, and it was forwarded to me by a disgusted tipster. Shoot first, ask questions later may work…well, it never really works. But that’s just the kind of guy Hartzell is.

Talk about a circus.

Before the rumor mill hits, as fellow town Committeemen, I wanted to make you aware of a situation that happened to me today. I would rather take a proactive approach to situations.
This morning I was visited by a New York State Trooper who informed me that a complaint was filed against me by David Hartzell. On September 15th, two days after the primary election, someone saw me removing one of his signs on County Road. For the past 8 years that I have been involved in Clarence Town Government, there has been a tradition of quickly cleaning up our town immediately following an election. It was a matter of pride in the appearance of Clarence that 1-2 days following an election there would be little evidence that an election took place. As I am sure that you are aware, both major political parties and their candidates would quickly go out and by gentlemen’s agreement would remove most if not all campaign signs, which would be collected, sorted, and returned to the respective candidates, regardless of party. In the past a communal Uncle Bob’s storage location was even used to deposit all of the signs prior to distribution.
Knowing that I was working the following day, and that there was a Town Board meeting the following night, I wanted to get a “head start” in cleaning up the town. At approximately 11:00 PM on September 13th, the night of the election, I went out to begin removing my signs and to clean up some of the overwhelming sign clutter that was engulfing our town. I was out until 2:45 AM that morning cleaning up a number of polling locations, intersections, and whereever I could find signs. I worked my “butt” off to start to clean up Clarence. Prior to that I had joked with my wife that I was not going to remove Weiss signs, as he would likely have me arrested out of spite. I did not remove any of Weiss’s signs, and concentrated on the most cluttered areas as well as where my own signs were located. By the end of my efforts that night, I had an overflowing pickup truck. Despite being exhausted, I was quite proud of my efforts, especially when someone commented on the “for the good of the town” how nice it was that the town quickly had been cleaned up. I knew that I had done a large part of it.
On the evening of Thursday September 15th, I continued with my efforts primarily re-tracing the routes where I had put my signs up. While I was on County Road, I noticed 2 large “Hartzell” signs and a number of “Bylewski “still up. I took down dozens of Bylewski signs already. By this point in time likely combined efforts had removed most of the campaign signs in town, with just strays remaining. Having just spoken to Republican Chairman Michnik several minutes earlier, I called Chairman Michnik back, and stated that there were a couple of large “Hartzell” signs still up on County Road. I asked if he wanted me to “leave them up or take them down”. He said to “take them down”, which I did. Someone saw me taking the signs down and informed Mr. Hartzell. No good deed goes unpunished. While trying to help clean up the town and save others the work in removing what needed to come down, I get a complaint filed against me, and the embarassment of having the State Police show up at my office. Shoot first, ask questions later.
Town of Clarence sign code dictates that the permitted “window” for campaign signs allows for placement no more than 30 days prior to an election or political event. Said code dictates that all signs have to be removed within 1 week after the election or event. At this time Mr. Hartzell has numerous signs up, some placed recently, that are illegal and not in compliance with the code.
Rather than calling me, or Chairman Michnik, Mr. Hartzell then filed a criminal complaint against me. Couldn’t he have had the courtesy to make a simple phone call? This is despite the fact that we are both on the Republican line together, that I had made a financial contribution to his campaign, and that I was supporting him by party affiliation over his opponent, Supervisor Bylewski who is also my friend. I am obviously withdrawing my support for Mr. Hartzell and am requesting the return of my contribution to his campaign. I have to question the lack of intelligent reasoning, and continued poor decision making that would lead him to take such an action. Such spontaneous actions in my opinion do not lend themselves to the skill set and character needed to act in the capacity of Town Supervisor.
I was not going to send this, but the rumor mill seems to be at full steam.I wanted to address this issue in a forthright manner. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.
Bernard J. Kolber
Looks like Dr. Kolber got the last laugh in this situation.

Weiss Defeated

14 Sep

Clarence Town Councilman Joseph “Masses are Asses” Weiss was voted out of office last night, earning just 23% of the votes in the Republican “pick 2 out of 3” councilman primary, and 34% of the vote in the Independence Party primary. He’s gone for three reasons. Firstly, he made an enemy of a man as wealthy as he is, who was happy to spend his money to let people know all about it. Secondly, his awful and intimidating personality and style alienated a lot of people over the past 8 years he’s been on the board. Thirdly, he made enemies of the volunteer fire departments and the volunteers who work there. Bad move, as they’re the backbone of the community, know everyone, and aren’t afraid to get politically active when attacked. Fourthly, my work here was picked up by the Bee and made it onto lit that was forwarded to hundreds of Clarence households.

Weiss’ hand-picked supervisor candidate will mount a formidable challenge in November, and I have no doubt that a defeated Weiss will be out for revenge. I know many of you don’t care about what happens in Clarence politics, (and I fully understand), but it’s a community that’s wealthy, has few real problems, is fiscally stable, has good schools, low taxes, yet a political climate that’s suddenly become ruthlessly ugly and is in the midst of an epic WNY battle between sprawl growth and maintenance of its rural character.

At least we’re not Amherst.

Primary Day Today

13 Sep

This little story about a pay-for-play solicitation letter is becoming something of a regional nanoscandal. Yesterday, Channel 2’s Marissa Bailey tried to interview Republican candidate for Supervisor, David Hartzell.  It went hilariously.

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Finally, Hartzell sent along a statement reading:

I am fighting to end the “Pay to Play” mentality that is rampant in the Town of Clarence.

Quite obviously, what he really means is that he wants the pay to come to him, and he’ll control who plays, because as I’ve discussed, the current  town administration is hardly corruptible by money or influence – even the money and influence of a Wegmans.

Here’s what the Republican candidate says on his Facebook page:

All independence and Conservative voters who care about the future of the Town of Clarence need to get out and vote next Tuesday for the only ENDORSED candidate for Supervisor, Dave Hartzell. REFUSE to accept the current supervisors 35% tax increase over the next four years. YOU truly have the FUTURE of Clarence in YOUR hands!!

Setting aside the poor punctuation, you see where he accuses incumbent Supervisor Scott Bylewski of a “35% tax increase over the next four years”? That means that Dave Hartzell – former circus performer and current financial advisor – doesn’t understand how to read the town budget. That Facebook post echoes something Hartzell wrote in an ad that appeared in the Clarence Bee, where he referred to out-year projections as “proposals”.  They’re not.

Proposal vs. projection. There are either two explanations for this:

1. Hartzell knows exactly what’s in that document, and he’s lying to the electorate; or

2. Hartzell has no idea what the difference is, and is unqualified to be Supervisor.

Either way, it’s an insult to the voters in the town of Clarence.

If you’re a registered Independent Party voter or Conservative Party voter in the town of Clarence, I urge you to go to the polls today – Tuesday the 13th – and write-in Scott Bylewski for Supervisor.

He was denied these horrific minor party lines due to outright corruption. The Erie County Independence Party had recommended to the state committee that Bylewski be endorsed, but was overruled by a corrupt apparatus that has cast its lot with the Republicans in exchange for favors and patronage. The chairman of the Erie County Conservative Party withheld his personal party’s nomination due to the fact that Bylewski didn’t steamroll the Wegmans proposal through the zoning and town boards, and instead followed established process.

A vote for Scott is a vote against patronage, intimidation, pay-for-play, and the typical corruption one finds in the WNY politico-developer alliance.

Also on the ballot today are the special election for Sam Hoyt’s old seat, and the Democratic primaries for City Court and Common Council. Niagara Falls and Lackawanna also have primaries for Mayor.

 

Clarence Supervisor Race: Unethical Republican Fundraising

12 Sep

Fundraising & Primary Day

Tuesday the 13th is Primary Day throughout western New York, and I’ve taken quite an interest in the politics of my own town of Clarence. The politics have taken on a new shade of ugly there this season, mostly because certain Republicans find themselves unwilling to work with current Supervisor, Scott Bylewski.

First, two-time councilman Joe Weiss decided that his political feelings were more important than the Free Speech guarantees of the United States Constitution.

Then the Republican candidate for Supervisor, David Hartzell, politicized a routine IDA meeting and warned of an IDA “backlash” against those who dared to politically oppose him and otherwise engage in the lawful political process.

A palpable pattern of retaliation and threats from Weiss and Hartzell against those who oppose them has emerged.

Now? We have this letter sent by Mr. Hartzell to a prominent local law firm, soliciting for campaign donations and hinting not-at-all subtly about the possibility that, y’know, maybe a firm that gives him a nice sum of money might be, y’know, more likely to be selected to do outside legal work for the town, hint-hint, nudge-nudge.

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If you’re going to send out a letter soliciting for a political donation, you might put something in about why you’re the better candidate; why you think the other guy is a loser; what your plan is, should you be elected; how the town is going down the wrong path, etc. Something – anything – that outlines to the prospective donor why their money is well-spent on your candidacy.

Everyone knows that large political donations are often seen as investments in a candidate; that the donors believe that their money should at least buy them access to an unhostile ear. That in itself is bad, but this isn’t a post about why we need public funding of elections.

This is a post about a subtle promise for future favoritism. Hartzell’s letter contains no pretextual B.S. about why the law firm should give him money – it gets right to the point and hints around about the fact that, should he win, the town’s going to hire a new outside firm. Reading between the lines, the implication couldn’t be clearer:

Throw me some cash, and maybe it’ll be your firm.

Is it illegal? Maybe. Unethical? Definitely. Unseemly? Hell yeah.

I’ve heard from loads of Clarence residents and businesses over the past few weeks, all of whom have thanked me for helping to expose Joe Weiss for the bullying, intimidating creep they – but few others – knew him to be. The battle in Clarence right now may be over signs, but signs don’t vote – people do.

Although I absolutely abhor fusion voting, if you’re a registered Independence Party or Conservative Party voter in the town of Clarence, you have a primary Tuesday, and I urge you to write Scott Bylewski’s name in on those party lines. The IP line has been pretty uniformly denied to Democrats this year throughout the state, and the Conservative Party line, which is controlled by Ralph Lorigo, went to Mr. Hartzell.

Please fan/follow Supervisor Scott Bylewski on Facebook and Twitter:

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Why Should You Care?

The reason why this race is important has to do with Mr. Lorigo, actually. Clarence politics isn’t really controlled by party affiliation – not as much as you’d like to think.

What’s really going on is a battle over the growth of the town.

Clarence has a very precise and detailed Master Plan (map here) dating back eleven years. Some in the town consider that document to be advisory, and stand ready to disregard it for development by friendly developers. Others in the town, including Bylewski, believe that the Master Plan is the law of the town, and should only be changed, and variances granted, if the political process has been scrupulously adhered-to. Clarence may be a growing suburb, but it still retains a great deal of its exurban and rural roots, and while growth and development aren’t frowned upon, they are regulated and controlled.

Conservative Party chairman Ralph Lorigo was personally, directly involved in the now-abandoned plan to build a large Wegmans’ on Transit Road in Clarence, just north of Transit Road. Lorigo represents local developers like Benderson, but in this case Lorigo owned the real estate proposed to be used for the Wegmans project, half of which was zoned residential. The process was followed, the people (directly, and by & through their elected representatives) spoke, and Wegmans won’t be building there – that’s democracy how it should work. In less ethical places, the wishes of the politically-well-connected owner or developer might have taken precedence over the wishes of the public. Apparently, because Clarence went against Mr. Lorigo’s personal pecuniary interests, he retaliated against Mr. Bylewski by refusing him the Conservative Party endorsement; ironic, since following the law and democratic process is what one might expect a doctrinaire conservative to support.

This goes back to my entreaties to abolish electoral fusion because it’s rife with corruption from corruptables, and has very little – if anything – to do with political ideology.

The Buffalopundit Podcast, Episode 1: Clarence Shenanigans

8 Sep

What follows is a first for me – a podcast. It’s a bit long, and done mostly because the information I have to convey to you is in an audio file. It has to do with the Clarence IDA, its chairman, David Hartzell, and the fact that Hartzell is running for town supervisor as a Republican against Democratic incumbent Scott Bylewski.

It’s a tale about hypocrisy and politicization of nominally apolitical body.

Jeff Feinen applied to do marketing work for the IDA. Feinen also happened to execute a general objection to certain of Hartzell’s Conservative Party nominating petitions, because he’s helping the Bylewski campaign. What follows is commentary, followed by the entire exchange between Hartzell, Bylewski, and town attorney Steve Bengart over what Hartzell calls Feinen’s and Bylewski’s politicization of the IDA:

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Download the audio file here.

Clarence, Politics, and the Constitution

9 Aug

Metaphor

The Clarence Town Board is wading in very perilous constitutional waters.

Town resident Dan Snyder has routinely sought and received town permission to set off a fireworks display at his home on July 4th. A similar request for 2012 was recently before the town board.  Mr. Snyder is a very strong supporter of the town’s local volunteer fire districts, and based on what he believes to be Town Councilman Joseph Weiss’ poor support of them, has mounted a very public and visible campaign against Mr. Weiss this election season.  Among other things, Mr. Snyder has paid for paid political flyers to appear in the Clarence Bee, and has erected several anti-Weiss signs throughout Clarence:

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Here is the text of a press release that was sent on Snyder’s behalf on August 4th:

Two Clarence Town Board members don’t want Town resident and prominent businessman Daniel Snyder expressing his political views, especially in an election year in which one of them is trying to hold on to his council seat.

Last week the two councilmen, allies Peter DiCostanzo and Joseph Weiss, refused to grant Snyder’s entertainment company a permit to hold a patriotic Labor Day fireworks display on his own  property unless Snyder would agree to a political gag order.

The Town officials responsible for reviewing fireworks permit applications, Community Development Director James Callahan and Fire Chief Michael Rogowski both said Snyder met all the legal requirements for a permit.   And the Town Attorney, Steven Bengart, told the Board there was no legal reason to deny Snyder, who traditionally has held fireworks displays on other national holidays, including Independence Day.

Snyder has participated in this year’s political debate in Clarence by erecting signs on his properties and sponsoring newspaper ads critical of Weiss’ mean-spirited, intimidating style and his failure to support volunteer firemen, teachers and other public servants and residents.

When the Board considered Snyder’s long-pending permit request at its July 27 meeting,  DiCostanzo conditioned the permit on an agreement to ban all political signs.  When Snyder refused DiCostanzo and Weiss denied the permit–even though other council members cautioned that the illegal gag violates the U.S. Constitution.

But while the nay-saying Councilmen have silenced the fireworks for now, they may have ignited an explosive–and potentially expensive–constitutional crisis for the Town, and maybe for themselves personally.

Snyder has hired Buffalo First Amendment lawyer Joseph Finnerty to help resolve the situation.

“This is Clarence, New York, USA; not Communist China” said Snyder.  “Public officials can’t stifle political debate through threats, brow-beating and punishing tactics.  I’ve lived in Clarence a long time.  I support the community.  I just relocated my corporate headquarters here.  This just isn’t right.”

Finnerty said: “I’ve been defending the First Amendment as a lawyer for almost thirty years.  In all that time, I personally have not encountered locally such a blatant public attack on political speech as Board Members Weiss and DiCostanzo made last week.   Civil libertarians should be outraged.  The issue isn’t fireworks anymore (if it ever was); it’s freedom of speech.”

Finnerty and Snyder are right on this. The First Amendment is specifically designed to prevent the government from imposing prior restraint, chilling, or punishing political speech – which is accorded the most constitutional protection of any speech.  Yet here, DiCostanzo and Weiss have specifically refused to grant a lawfully sought permit because they are unhappy with Mr. Snyder’s opinion, and the way in which he voices it; they have unconstitutionally politicized a completely ministerial function of the town board.

The board minutes are attached below, and pages 168 – 170 memorialize the matter:

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Snyder is threatening a lawsuit, and followed up with this press release on Friday:

            The First Amendment lawyer representing Clarence resident Dan Snyder took another step late yesterday toward breaking the constitutional stalemate created by two Republican elected officials. Councilmen Peter DiCostanzo and Joseph Weiss refused to grant him a permit to hold a patriotic fireworks display unless he agreed to remove from his property election signs critical of Weiss’ performance in office.

Attorney Joseph Finnerty served Clarence Town Clerk Nancy C. Metzger with two Freedom of Information requests.  “We are using the principles of open government to expose just how utterly illegal their conduct has been,” said Finnerty.

Snyder has asked for records showing how the Town has treated other applicants for fireworks permits, as well as all documentation concerning how his own application was treated.  Town administrators charged with reviewing permit requests said Snyder’s should have been approved, and so did the Town’s Attorney.

“The public comments of Mr. DiCostanzo at last week’s board meeting are damning enough,” the attorney said.  “We believe the rest of the information we’ve requested will leave the perpetrators of this constitutional injustice exposed in the court of public opinion and without a place to hide in a court of law.”

DiCostanzo and Weiss told Snyder he could not entertain the Town with Labor Day fireworks until he stopped expressing his dissatisfaction with Weiss’ performance in office.

Weiss and DiCostanzo’s unconstitutional grandstanding may be related to the 2011 race for town supervisor. Incumbent Scott Bylewski, a lone Democrat in a Republican sea, is in an increasingly heated re-election campaign against a Republican opponent who is closely supported by Mssrs. Weiss and DiCostanzo, who voted against this fireworks request based on Mr. Snyder’s political speech. That’s bad government, and it’s dumb politics. But above that, Snyder’s team is right that this is a pretty blatant constitutional violation for petty political purposes. It reeks of political intimidation and violates the law, decency, and any notion of fair play.

What’s happening here is a concerted effort – Constitution be damned – by Weiss and DiCostanzo to paint Bylewski as somehow unethical. Bylewski’s opponent David Hartzell is already beating that drum with his own insert in the Clarence Bee.

A political ally of Bylewski’s filed a general objection to Republican supervisor candidate David Hartzell’s Conservative party petitions, and has submitted a bid to the town’s IDA to do some marketing work. Startlingly, sources tell me that Hartzell, as town IDA chairman Hartzell, said in an open meeting that the bidder could expect a “backlash” from the IDA; that the applicant would be rejected solely because he is a political supporter of Hartzell’s opponent.  (I have sent a FOIL to the town clerk to obtain a recording of that meeting’s proceedings.)

If true, there appears to be a growing pattern among town Republicans to threaten and exact retribution against political opponents, even if it violates the United States Constitution.

For their disregard for the Constitution, Weiss and DiCostanzo should be ashamed, and their re-election should be prevented.  To find out more, send your contact information to ClarenceBetterGov[at]Gmail.com.