Tag Archives: ECWA

Managing the Water Authority

11 Feb

When it comes to attorney Chris O’Brien’s application to join the board of the Erie County Water Authority, one has to remember that Mr. O’Brien stands to gain absolutely naught from this appointment. He won’t get new clients or cases through his association with the ECWA, he won’t gain or lose any political clout – he’s a generous contributor, and asks nothing in return, and the position isn’t one with a high enough profile that it might enable him to market his personal political brand in some way. 

Staffing a public authority involves political considerations? Fetch me my fainting couch. I guess the installation of Jack O’Donnell in 2010 and the pending application of Chris O’Brien reveal that, in the end, elections matter. 

By way of full disclosure, Chris is a personal friend of mine, and there’s no upside here for him. All he’s doing is applying to someday appear on an Al Vaughters expose of the way the Water Authority conducts its business; he’s applying for a headache. It’s an administrative board, and he’s been the principal of a law firm for decades. Sometimes, people just want to commit public service in the first degree. That this application is remotely controversial is just dumb. 

Legislature Selects Jack O’Donnell as Erie County Water Commissioner

27 May

It is emblematic of a horrifically broken political system that an hours’ worth of political fighting and hatred stems from giving a do-nothing Erie County Water Authority patronage position paying about $20k as payback to political figures. John Elmore may be a phenomenal lawyer, but has no experience running – or qualifications to run – a water authority. Jack O’Donnell may be the best political consultant in the free world, but has no experience running – or qualifications to run -a water authority.

So, the Republicans, Lynne Dixon (IP) and “reform coalition” Democrats (Kennedy, Bove, Miller-Williams) promoted the name of O’Donnell, a Steve Pigeon associate, for the ECWA position at issue. John Elmore had been the choice of Grassroots, which is somewhat allied with Pigeon at this time. (The Democratic legislators who remain loyal to the county committee run by Len Lenihan had supported Frank Swiatek).

(Yes, in Erie County the Democrats have now split into three separate and distinct cliques. That’s a recipe for disaster not just for the party, but for the region as a whole.)

So, when the Republicans cut a deal with the three rogue Democrats to promote Jack O’Donnell to the water authority, the ECDC Democrats played a shrewd hand – nominating attorney John Elmore, the Grassroots candidate, at the last minute – after it was clear that Miller-Williams had jettisoned him to make a deal with Pigeon’s folks to ensure Independence Party endorsements for everybody in important races (Collins wins, Kennedy wins).

As Lynn Marinelli noted, not for nothing the County Executive’s chief of staff attended this particular legislative session. Deals had been made. Deals were being executed today. Political expediency, as usual in WNY, vanquished merit.

Betty Jean Grant entered Elmore’s name into consideration, and when Miller-Williams indicated that she would be supporting O’Donnell, Grant called Miller-Williams a “hypocrite” and indicated that the chairwoman was either lying before, (when she expressed support for Elmore in the paper), or was lying now.

With the clever outmaneuvering of Miller-Williams, I can’t think of a WNY politician being so quickly out-witted, or looking more foolish in recent memory. In the video below, Grant goes after Miller-Williams like I’ve seldom seen anyone go after a local politician before in an open forum.

Given the sudden … confusion … Maria Whyte recommended the matter be returned to committee to suss out who was for Elmore and who was for O’Donnell. This was defeated. The vote was taken, and the Republican minority voted for purely political reasons to support a Democratic associate of Steve Pigeon.

This is fantastic political theater.

This is depressing to anyone who cares about good government and smart policy.

The fun starts at 19:11

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Erie County Patronage Authority

21 Apr

Except for the fact that it’s always been thus – which seems to be the chief justification for just about anything in WNY – why is it that the Erie County Water Authority Board continues its existence as a patronage pit?

Aaron Saykin embarrasses everyone except Jack O’Donnell:

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