Tag Archives: Ed Rath

Politics in a One-Party Town

22 Oct

Last night, I did  my civic duty and attended a candidate forum in the town of Clarence, sponsored by my local chamber of commerce. (Note: I am a member of my local Democratic Committee). The entire panel of candidates was made up of white males. There is one female candidate for town board, Tracy Francisco, but she was unable to attend.  The forum had been sponsored by the League of Women Voters in the past, but is now run by the Chamber of Commerce. 

Stefan Mychajliw was there, and he delivered his well-polished shtick. His knowledge of audits and finances is thin, so he spends time doing what he does best – being gregarious and charming. He talks much of his family, heritage, and upbringing, and he loves to talk about leading by example – his first audit was his own office, e.g. Unfortunately, Kevin Gaughan did not appear. This is a shame, because he’s smart and people like what he has to say. 

Alan Getter is a Clarence CPA who is running against incumbent Ed Rath. They were asked a few questions about the recent Child Protective Services issues, and about county roads. Rath pointed out that Clarence has more county roads than any other town (although not the most lane-miles). Some of the roads in town are crumbling, and the small, discretionary portion of the county budget doesn’t allow for everything to be fixed right away. The long-gone Board of Supervisors enjoyed shunting responsibility for maintaining rural and suburban roads to the county, and it might be time to start un-doing that, and returning responsibility to the towns. 

There was an overarching theme in all of these matters in a town where Democrats are treated as mythical creatures, like unicorns or the Loch Ness Monster: 

Can you explain how you’ll properly staff & fund your particular government office, while simultaneously demagoguing public spending and taxes?” 

In Clarence, town races also come down to, “Please expound on your dedication to maintaining parks and green space, and explain how we will encourage commercial investment to help prop up the tax base“. 

Everyone hates taxes, and everyone made the point that they would keep a close eye on runaway government spending, but the same people are concerned about the quality of roads and whether the town is getting its “fair share” of county money. I mean, we rely on the county and state for police services, so really there’s not a lot of room for complaint. If Clarence wants green space (a hot-button issue) and to improve its roadways, then it should do it, and stop waiting for others to do so. 

I got a chance to hear Democratic Sheriff candidate Dick Dobson speak for the first time last night – Tim Howard was absent. Dobson is very articulate and persuasive, and explained how his work organizing a police force in East Timor gave him a unique perspective in how a police force should operate. He also gave the best rationale for maintaining a quality, secure holding center I’ve ever heard a Democratic candidate for that office give, and the way in which he delivered it had the crowd really paying attention. Dobson’s really polished, and if Bert Dunn would get the hell out of the race, Dobson would have an excellent shot. 

Finally, “highway supervisor” seems like a purely ministerial thing – maintain town roads, plow them, and clear debris. The only reason it’s an elected position is because it’s a patronage pit in every town, and the best way to grow and maintain political power is to control a handful of jobs – this is now completely controlled by the town’s one-party system. There is no reason why it should be elected, and towns should make it an appointed position. 

Maybe Gaughan’s government downsizing effort was a good idea in terms of saving people money. 

Podcast the Third: Candidates’ Night

26 Oct

As promised, the podcast I recorded featuring interviews with Maria Whyte, Ed Rath, and Mark Poloncarz.

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You can click here to subscribe to it on iTunes.

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.