Tag Archives: Erie County Legislator Tim Kennedy

Kennedy Slams Quinn III on Aqueduct

23 Oct

In the wake of a New York Inspector General’s report alleging that Antoine Thompson (SD-60) received a contribution of $8,600 from Aqueduct Entertainment Group (AEG), an entity that was heavily lobbying Senate leadership to obtain a racino operation contract at Aqueduct Racetrack, it’s being alleged that a local Assemblyman took over $50,000 in politically motivated, Aqueduct-related contributions and voted to set aside the regular procurement process to enable the Aqueduct contract to be awarded on political considerations.

Tim Kennedy, the Democrat running for State Senate in SD-58 hit his Republican opponent, Jack Quinn III in a press release yesterday:

KENNEDY: ‘IT’S AN ALBANY PROBLEM’

Kennedy campaign notes Albany incumbent Jack Quinn III is embroiled in Aqueduct scandal.

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Albany incumbent Jack Quinn III is embroiled in the Aqueduct scandal that has grabbed the state’s attention, voting to side-step standard procurement procedures and avoid transparency measures while taking money from parties involved in the bidding process.

In 2008, Quinn III voted “yes” on Assembly Bill No. 9998 that removed the standard procurement process for the Aqueduct VLT. His vote facilitated the entire scandal. Quinn cast his vote to keep politics involved in the bidding process and to keep the process out of the light of transparency.

An initial review of the inspector general’s report shows that Quinn III has taken approximately $50,000 from companies vying for the state business and firms associated with individuals named in the report.

Quinn III took a $9500 maximum contribution from Douglaston Development LLC, which was founded by Jeffrey Levine. Levine was named in the inspector general’s report as an “AEG representative.” Levine currently serves as the chairman of Douglaston Development. Levine also owns Levine Builders, a company named in the report.

Quinn III took a maximum contribution of $9500 from SL Green, one firm that was competing in the bidding process. He also took $4000 from a subsidiary of another company competing for the contract.

Quinn III also took two $9500 contributions from Tishman Speyer Australia Asset Management, a firm lobbying for SL Green. Quinn also accepted $5,500 from eEmerge, which is a subsidiary of SL Green.

For years, Albany incumbent Jack Quinn III has lived and participated in Albany’s pay-to-play culture,” said Tim Kennedy, a candidate for New York State Senate. “Quinn III’s vote to keep politics in the bidding process involving AEG and then financially benefiting to the tune of approximately $50,000 from those involved is a perfect example of why Western New Yorkers are hungry for change in Albany, and it’s why I’m fighting to bring change to Albany. It’s time we put politics aside to fight for progress in Western New York. Albany incumbent Jack Quinn III has voted to maintain the failed Albany status quo. I’m standing up for Western New York to make sure we build a government that we can trust.”

According to Kennedy, the root of the problem is Albany.

“After decades in control, Republican leadership corroded the State Senate into a rotten mess of corruption and dysfunction. The leader of the Republican Senate, Joe Bruno, was indicted by the FBI, and now, we see an Albany mentality persisting among certain members of the Senate Democrats,” Kennedy said. “This isn’t a party problem. It’s an Albany problem.”

The Independence Party: Independent from Steve Pigeon?

20 Jul

Permit me to preface this post by re-stating my profound hatred for fusion voting in general and the Independence Party in particular.

I was flabbergasted yesterday to receive a press release from Assemblyman Sam Hoyt announcing that he had received the endorsement of the New York State Independence Party. Anyone with even a passing knowledge of local politics knows two things: (a) Steve Pigeon has become the de facto go-to guy for IP endorsements locally; and (b) Steve Pigeon and Sam Hoyt hate each other with a passion unbridled and would go to the ends of the Earth to destroy each other.

Not only that, but Bill Stachowski in SD-58 and Jim Domagalski in SD-59.

Joe Golombek is challenging Sam Hoyt in A-144, and it’s no secret that he’s aligned himself with Mayor Brown, who is aligned with Grassroots, which is aligned with Steve Pigeon, who is supposed to be the guy who controls whom the IP endorses. Golombek’s website already touted his IP endorsement. So did Kennedy’s.

Tim Kennedy is challenging Bill Stachowski in SD-58, and it’s no secret that he’s aligned himself with Chris Collins, who has aligned himself with Grassroots and Steve Pigeon, who is supposed to be the guy who controls whom the IP endorses.

One could almost argue that Golombek’s and Kennedy’s entire campaign strategy in terms of whom they’ve aligned themselves with have been completely blown to shreds in the last 24 hours.

In SD-59, it’s a Republican war going on between the tea party factions, Tom Reynolds, and Chris Collins. DiPietro is supposed to be the tea party guy, but now Ostrowski and his 2 supporters have turned on him, so he’s only got the support of the Rus Thompson faction. Domagalski is the Chris Collins pick, and Pat Gallivan is the revenge of Tom Reynolds. In the end, Domagalski got the IP nod, giving his campaign a boost.

Indeed, the conventional wisdom behind getting the IP line is that it gives party-line adherents an opportunity to throw you a vote without having to fill in a box with an “R” or “D” next to it. Here, it also ensures that the candidate is still around in November, regardless of what happens at the polls in the primary races in September.

For Sam Hoyt and Bill Stachowski to get the IP endorsement is a huge coup for them both, and seems to significantly undercut Steve Pigeon’s power in local electoral politics. I’m sure he’s owed enough favors that he’ll find a way to get himself and his friends jobs some other way. But it seems that there are people in this state who currently enjoy exponentially more political clout than Pedro Espada’s patronage hire.

Flabbergasted Whilst Ignoring the Bleeding Obvious

11 Jul

In Sunday’s Buffalo News Bob McCarthy metaphorically sticks his head in the sand about the Detestable Independence Party’s endorsement of Tim Kennedy over Bill Stachowski in the SD-58 Democratic Primary.

That minor party founded in New York by Buffalo Sabres owner Tom Golisano is essentially controlled upstate by Democratic operative Steve Pigeon. Why? Because state Independence Chairman Frank MacKay said so, that’s why.

Rosenswie begs to differ. But she works in the same County Legislature where Pigeon helped assemble a majority friendly to County Executive Chris Collins. Legislator Christina Wleklinski Bove, a Rosenswie ally, is part of that majority. So is Kennedy.

Pigeon is also the $150,000 counsel to Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada, one of two New York City members who threw the Senate into a tizzy last year when they joined a coup orchestrated by Pigeon and his political patron—Golisano.

So political insiders everywhere were flabbergasted last week when Pigeon-controlled Independence bypassed a Senate stalwart — Stachowski—for Kennedy. Did the move by a top Senate staffer amount to the Democratic leadership throwing a vulnerable member under the bus? Especially because the Stachowski seat is crucial to continued Democratic control?

Pigeon won’t talk, but a source familiar with his thinking said the Independence move signals the belief Stachowski can’t win.

Other Senate sources, however, say Pigeon’s move reflects uncertainity surrounding Espada, who was basically read out of the Democratic Party last week by Chairman Jay Jacobs.

“Steve Pigeon’s only alliance in the Senate is with Pedro Espada, and Espada’s days are numbered,” said one top Albany source. “Steve knows he has to have another horse in the game.”

Back here on earth, it’s pretty easy to sniff out the blatantly obvious quid pro quo. Kennedy signed on to Pigeon’s “reform coalition” in the leg with the understanding that Pigeon could deliver the Detestable IP (hereafter DIP) line. And when Espada loses / does his perp walk, perhaps Kennedy will help Pigeon retain a position with the needless State Senate.

Everybody wins!

PolitiFAIL Tourney 2010, Collins vs. Kennedy

22 Mar

Game 9 of the tournament is underway today, matching up County Executive Chris Collins against District 2 Erie County Legislator Tim Kennedy.

Chris Collins was elected Erie County Executive in 2007, pledging to run county government “like a business”.  The centerpiece of his plan was to implement “Six Sigma Lean” manufacturing process concepts to the delivery and management of county government services.  Administering a $1.1BN county budget, about 80% of which is dedicated to state mandates, Collins came into office while the county was operating under a hard control board, and with a flourish promised to accept only $1 per month in salary until such time as the control board switched to advisory status, which it did in early 2009.

But all of the businesses Collins ever ran were closely-held entities over which he always had the final word and more or less complete control.  His efforts to run county government closely follow that same model – far more confrontational and micromanaging than cooperative and trusting.  His administration has been heavy-handed in its dealings with anyone it perceives to be an enemy or threat, and he has taken a page from the Byron Brown playbook, running candidates against that enemies list.  In 2009, he won some and lost some.  Collins ran as a non-politician, but he’s a quick learner and has become quite the transactional actor, relying on principle only when absolutely necessary.  His administration’s mishandling of the Erie County Jails issue is inexplicable and dangerous.  Although he claims that Six Sigma has been a success, there is little evidence presented.  His decisions often pit wealthier suburbs against poorer city – for instance, his decision to get the county out of the WIC and health clinic businesses – both of which were funded fully by the federal government.  His excuse?  They were non-mandated services, and the county was still on the hook for legacy costs.  Yet the county also administers golf courses, which are non-mandated services operated by county workers with legacy costs, but the county remains in the golf course business.  His arrogance is matched by his wealth and dictatorial attitude, and his public pronouncements are mere parroting of talking points that have become tired cliches.

Tim Kennedy was appointed to the legislature in 2004, and won re-election in November 2005, 2007, and 2009.   He is currently running for the State Senate, challenging longtime SD-58 incumbent Senator William Stachowski in a crowded Democratic primary.  Kennedy’s own Legislative website claims:

Throughout his first term in County Hall, Tim Kennedy has distinguished himself as one of the most accomplished and finest leaders in county government.

You don’t get that kind of strange self-promotion that often, especially given the fact that county government very seldom churns out accomplished, fine leaders.   Kennedy is a South Buffalo kid who is an occupational therapist by trade.  He has been known in county government as a vigorous advocate for organized labor, and was instrumental in the passage of the apprenticeship program for county public construction projects – a program that County Executive Collins killed by procedural sleight-of-hand.

In January of this year, Kennedy joined up with a bloc of Democrats who joined up with Republicans to create a so-called “reform coalition” allied with Collins, and orchestrated by annoying political mosquito Steve Pigeon.  Clearly done in an effort to rally support behind his state senate challenge, Kennedy now stands to receive monetary support from billionaire Independence Party activist Tom Golisano.  Kennedy may be pledging to go to Albany to change it, but he’s shown himself in the process to be a wholly transactional political actor.

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County Leg Reform? Costing You More

4 Mar

The Erie County Legislature’s reform coalition, which enabled the Republican minority to become a de facto majority, had pledged to be fiscally responsible and save the taxpayers money. They clamor for legislative downsizing, the closing of district offices, and other incremental baby-steps that might save literally tens of thousands of dollars.

Not the biggest chunk to take out of a $1.1 billion budget, but every little bit helps, right?

Not so fast.

A report from the Erie County Comptroller’s office finds that there has been reform, but not necessarily the kind everyone expected.

One would presume that a group of legislators whose drive to reduce their own numbers and to close district offices would ensure that the ranks of the staff would also be reduced, and that salaries would – at the very least – stay the same for those who remain.

The resolution that implemented these changes promised that they would “result in immediate [and future] savings to the taxpayers of Erie County”.

The 2010 budget enacted by the prior legislature allowed for 17 central staff positions and 20 district staff positions at a total cost of $1,219,464.

The reform coalition’s reform? 16 central staff positions and 17 district staff positions at a total cost of $1,262,305.

Factoring in the raises given to some staffers, the net increase to Erie County taxpayers is $42,841.

As political philosopher and chicken rotisserie salesman Ron Popeil would say, “but wait! There’s more!”

There are also two vacant legislative positions budgeted at almost $80,000 that still exist in the county’s employee database, and a new hire for the Republican minority will be eligible for a $2,672 raise in 2010 which is not budgeted for.

So, when all is said and done, the net impact on the county budget from the reform coalition’s alleged reforms is a net increase of $121,958 – a total of $1,341,422 to pay people to help serve a legislative body that exists almost exclusively to pay well-connected people $1,341,422 and rubber-stamp Albany mandates.

The Republican legislators have indeed closed their district offices, which may result in a savings of $60,000 per year in rent and utilities. They didn’t concomitantly omit funding for the staffers who manned those offices, however. They’ll just be moved downtown.

So, in quite literally its first act as a “reform” coalition, it bumped up the legislature’s budget by a net 5%. The savings derived from the closing of offices merely acts to halve the cost of new patronage hires, and raises for certain positions.

For a legislature that is fundamentally a useless exercise in ministerial futility, this is outrageous. Given the position we as Erie County taxpayers are in – living in a dysfunctional high-tax county in a dysfunctional high-tax state – it’s an insult. To me, it underscores the fact that no one in this political cesspool is serious about real reform, or cost savings.

At least one of the people in the cost-hike-coalition is running for higher office. Tim Kennedy ought to have to explain day in and day out on the campaign trail why it is that he voted to impose an extra $120k upon the taxpayers of Erie County so that connected friends and friends of connections could get jobs and raises.

It’s as disgusting as it is outrageous. Shame.

Tastes Like Pigeon

8 Jan

Everything that happened on the fourth floor of Erie County Hall yesterday was made for TV.  It was reform theater; a series of motions, statements and votes intended to provide the feeling of reform while doing little or nothing to actually “reform”.

The veneer of smug ideological “bipartisanship” which needed to be cracked would take way too much time to explain on the evening newscast.  Which is exactly what the “Reform Coalition” aka “The Repigeonista Coalition” wanted.

The backstory of the Repigeonistas is a lengthy tale of power politics, score settling and horse trading that goes back nearly six months.  Later this morning, I’m going to give a video chalk talk on the connections, deals and reasons behind this mess.  That’s about the only way I can think of explaining it without banging out a 7000 word article.

Cutting to the chase, this was a small town version of the New York State Senate Coup which happened in August of last year.  That coup was also orchestrated by one G. Steve Pigeon and done in the name of “reform”.

Two dissident Democrats, who had been secretly strategizing with Republicans for weeks, bucked their party’s leaders and joined with 30 Republican senators to form what they said would be a bipartisan power-sharing deal. But the arrangement effectively re-establishes Republican control.

Democratic leaders were caught off guard as the Republicans and the two Democratic dissidents, Pedro Espada Jr. of the Bronx and Hiram Monserrate of Queens, moved to topple them.

In this minor league Buffalo version of the “reform” coup, Barbara Miller-Williams played the role of Pedro Espada and Tim Kennedy played the role of Hiram Monserrate.  Behind the scenes, an unlikely coalition of power brokers addressed numerous political problems, old scores and future electoral problems.  That coalition included Erie County Executive Chris Collins, Rep. Brian Higgins, Steve Pigeon, and Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown.

Republican Legislator Ray Walter countered this criticism by saying “This isn’t the result of any bogeyman in the room, orchestrating things. This is the result of an election.”  Yes, an election in which the people voted for a 9-6 Democratic legislative majority.  As Erie County Comptroller Mark Poloncarz stated on Twitter, “The stench of hypocrisy is wafting through the Erie Co. Legislature’s chambers”

Let’s take a look at the winners and losers in yesterday’s reform theater and we’ll start to see how the pieces fall together.

WINNERS:

Barbara Miller-Williams gets a $10K bonus in salary and several hundred thousand dollars added to the budget for pet projects.  She also gets the leadership position she has sought for some time.

Tim Kennedy has the support of Steve Pigeon, Tom Golisano and Chris Collins as he seeks to unseat Bill Stachowski in New York State Senate District 58.

Christina Bove gets new patronage jobs for her fawning coterie of Independence Party hacks as the entirety of the Erie County Legislature staff (excluding Crystal Peoples’ family member John Calvin Davis) will be replaced with IP and Grassroots personnel.

Brian Higgins has a promise that he won’t have to face former Erie County Sheriff Pat Gallivan in the 2010 general election.

Byron Brown gets additional jobs for his Grassroots supporters, takes care of crony Miller-WIlliams, and was paid his tribute when he faced no general election opponent in last November’s election.

Chris Collins gets a compliant legislative majority to handle affairs while he seeks the Republican Gubernatorial nomination.  He can’t be out on the campaign trail with a $50MM budget deficit looming and a Democratic majority nipping at his heels.  Also, his work with Pigeon behind the scenes on this helps him get one step closer to getting the statewide IP line for Governor, which I’ll cover later in the “chalk talk of corruption”.  Collins was also able to depress city turnout in the 2009 elections, which was crucial for winning seats in the legislature and the Sheriff’s race.

Walter, Fudoli, Mills, Dixon, Rath and Hardwick essentially get additional staff positions and assume the role of majority without having to win a majority of seats.

Their first order of business?  Adding additional jobs to the county legislature payroll and increasing salaries for those new positions.  They also failed to account for the benefits or as Collins calls them, “legacy costs”, when they added these positions to the payroll.  Potentially putting the legislature into a structural deficit after holding the majority for less than an hour.  Even though several of the Repigeonistas speak of doing away with the majority/minority definitions in the name of “bipartisanship”, they added separate majority/minority positions to the staff as part of their amendments yesterday, thereby codifying the distinction.  Doublespeak, FTW!

Nothing says reform like an influx of Grassroots and IP hacks as staffers as well as a structural deficit and threatening former staffers with arrest.  FEEL THE REFORMINESS!@#!#!

LOSERS:

Erie County Democratic Chairman Len Lenihan does not have the Buffalo Mayor, the City’s leading Congressman, the Erie County Legislature nor the Erie County Sheriff’s office under his umbrella.  Lenihan is a good man, but the factions have split so severely that one wonders whether he is the right man to keep everyone in line.

The ECDC aligned legislators, Marinelli, Whyte, Kozub, Mazur and Grant are on the outside looking in for this legislative session.  They’ve lost their support staff, they’ve lost their power, they’ve lost the ability to check or balance the County Executive.

The people of Erie County who elected a Democratic Majority to the Erie County Legislature.

All of this begs the question, can this coalition of convenience be maintained?  Mills and Miller-Williams had a frosty relationship prior to today and Tina Bove is a wild card.  Will Kennedy sell out his labor base to support the anti-labor Collins agenda?  Can the Republicans keep their egos in check, especially when they have to capitulate to the wants and needs of the Pigeonistas?  Steve Pigeon nearly destroyed Kevin Hardwick several years ago when Kevin ran against Chuck Swanick, can these two stay in the same camp for the long term?

The questions are innumerable and the egos huge, we’ll see how it plays out.

Stay tuned for the video chalk talk.