Tag Archives: erie county

Campaign Finance Irregularity Wednesday

23 Jul

Cheers to Steve Pigeon and Kristy Mazurek, who have managed to crowbar their names back into the news. They have either found or manufactured a crisis, accusing Board of Election workers of destroying NYSUT apparatchik Mike Deely’s petitions for county committee.

Is it true? Who knows, but the accusation has been trumpeted, and it’s now Dennis Ward’s and Jeremy Zellner’s problem to unfuck. From Caputo’s PoliticsNY.net

Mike Deely, regional staff director of the New York State United Teachers Union. He’s one of the largest donors to the ECDC over the years and a longtime member of the party’s executive board. Deely recently joined PMB forces, upset with the direction headquarters has taken in the last year.

In the meantime, West Seneca has (naturally) been the epicenter of Pigeon’s and local Conservative Party head Ralph Lorigo.  Steve Casey’s departure from City Hall to become the CEO of the monstrous Scott Congel-led Seneca Mall project underscores the political nature of that project. 

Floridian billionaire Tom Golisano is talking about joining with Congel for the location of the Seneca Mall, near the I-90 and Ridge Road. That land deal has been on simmer since late 2013, at least. 

Pyramid Management Group out of Syracuse have been sniffing around the Seneca Mall since at least last summer.  Look at this August 2013 article from the West Seneca Bee regarding the approval of $50k for town SEQR review of the Seneca Mall site. 

Though not much other detail was offered at Monday night’s Town Board meeting, the board unanimously approved a feasibility study to be performed regarding the proposed development of the former Seneca Mall site at a cost not to exceed $30,000…

…[Town Councilman Eugene P.] Hart said he had just learned of this resolution the day of the vote. Henry said it all came together “pretty quick.” He said the town was required to have the grant application submitted by Aug. 12, hence the need for immediate action.

“It seems very cryptic when you read it,” said Hart. “People will wonder what’s going on.”

[Supervisor Sheila] Meegan said she realized that, but they can’t “spill the beans.”

Hart also told the public that it is the intent of the board to rezone the former Seneca Mall site from industrial to commercial, as per the owner’s request. He said he could not offer much information but did say the proposed development would be a “game-changer” for the town.

Councilman John M. Rusinski said a delicate balance must be struck between the needs of the taxpayers and the needs of the developer. Both he and Hart said the feasibility study is being done in order to protect the interests of the taxpayers.

“Economic development is important to the town,” Rusinski said. “This project is a good thing.”

The Town Board Minutes of October 17, 2013 reflect that Supervisor Meegan made a motion, seconded by Rusinski, to authorize Meegan “to execute an agreement with Camoin Associates to conduct an economic and fiscal analysis for the Seneca Mall site.” 

On the question, Councilman Rusinski stated he agrees with the study but expressed concern about the verbage. He referred to a previously passed resolution which states the dollar amount is not to exceed $30,000, yet an attachment in the agreement shows a fixed fee of $25,000.

Town Engineer Richard Henry responded this was his mistake. The fixed fee language will be removed and the agreement will be amended to read “not to exceed.”
 
Councilman Hart stated he has numerous concerns and commented if this project were to go forward it will be considered huge and impact all of Western New York, yet they do not have a lot of information about the developer. He did not feel they had enough information to go forward at this time and questioned spending $25,000 when there are so many unanswered questions such as infrastructure and sewage.
 
Mr. Henry responded he has spoken with Camoin and they are aware they have to have more information from the developer in order to go forward. Upon approval, Camoin will present the developer with a list of questions. Mr. Henry stated the purpose of the study is to assess the fiscal impacts to get the answers so they can go forward.
 
Councilman Hart suggested the developer provide the town with $25,000 and the town will spend it on their behalf and do the study.
 
Town Attorney Shawn Martin responded the developer should not pay for a study that the town is requesting.
 
Supervisor Meegan stated they will be finding out what the potential is for the town’s investment and whether or not the investment will have a return for taxpayers. She commented that the town has an opportunity to do something and they cannot continue to let the site sit there as it has for so many years. The developer is asking for assistance to pursue a Seneca Place project of 3 million square feet of mixed use buildings, community center, retail, residential, office, hotels, parking, etc. Supervisor Meegan stated this project will not go forward at risk to the Town of West Seneca taxpayers.
 
Councilman Rusinski stated that West Seneca is screaming for economic development and the town has made the mistake of being too idle in the past.  The analysis will provide insight as to whether this type of development has economic potential for West Seneca. He did not feel any board member would put taxpayers at risk.
 
Councilman Hart stated there doesn’t seem to be any involvement by the IDA’s or the development corporation of New York State and he feels there should be more substance with regard to the developer’s marketing and business plan. Councilman Hart questioned how soon information will be provided to the board members and if the recommendations and numbers will be made public at that time.
 
Mr. Henry responded they have a total of 60 days; 30 days to gather the information and another 30 days to compile the information and report back to the town.
 
Mr. Martin stated if the report has an exception with regard to acquiring property or contract negotiations involving costs, information will not be made public.  He will have to see the report before he can make a determination as to whether or not the information provided will be made public at that time.
 
Councilman Hart stated he is ready to discuss the entire project with the public so they are fully aware of what the proposal is. He would like to see the Seneca Mall property developed and is willing to look for his own developer and take the property by eminent domain to acquire a reasonable project.
The motion carried unanimously. Lorigo’s involvement, at minimum, has to do with the fact that his office is located at the Seneca Mall parcel. Why did this come up last summer? Because of what I called the AwfulPAC; the now-defunct “WNY Progressive Caucus” was the Steve Pigeon / Frank Max / Kristy Mazurek effort to disrupt the Democratic Party and defeat certain of its county-level candidates.
 
AwfulPAC benefited from a huge cash injection from nominal Democrat and pro-life-oh-wait-pro-choice Tim Kennedy. But at the time, a singular donation of $25,000 from the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Local 3 was quite puzzling, and no one reported on it. 
 
 
No one understood why it was made, and it’s glaringly odd because a $25,000 donation would have practically emptied the union’s account. The image above is taken from Mazurek’s AwfulPAC 11-day pre-primary filing. By contrast, this is what the Bricklayer’s union’s disclosure shows on its 11-day pre-primary filing: 
 
 
We’re meant to believe that a union with only $28,000 on hand is emptying its account to fund the AwfulPAC? Indeed, a scan of this union local’s intake and outflow shows modest amounts – a few thousand coming in, a few hundred going out. It reports $5,000 to current Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren in its 11-day pre-General. It gave Sean Ryan $500 bucks. Its July 2013 report shows a little over $1,000 to Tim Kennedy, but at no time did the BAC Local 3 report $25,000 to the “WNY Progressive Caucus”, and such an outflow appears on no disclosure report whatsoever
 
So, what’s going on? 
 
 
 
As Pigeon and Mazurek hyperventilate over allegations of supposed petition-destruction – something that despite years and years of open and obvious, internecine Democratic warfare has never happened before – let’s not let them off the hook for their own, more glaring and apparent sloppy campaign finance irregularities. 
 
New York State Democrats’ inability to get out of their own damn way is neither novel nor unique. Witness the spectacle just this week,  as a liberal gubernatorial challenger, Zephyr Teachout, is holding anti-Cuomo press conferences with right-wing Putin lookalike winner Rob Astorino. Hell no.
 
You want to make a point about the shutting down of the Moreland Commission? Do it. You want to call out the governor with his Republican challenger standing next to you? You just lost me. 
 
Here in Erie County, Nick Langworthy has the easiest  job in the world. He doesn’t need to do a thing when he has an endless parade of job-hungry nominal Democrats around to repeatedly sabotage whatever the county committee tries to do. 

All in the (Howard) Family

24 May

Sheriff Tim Howard has hired his wife to be on “Scientific Staff Reserve”. I have feelers out to see what background she has in law enforcement, and whether Howard created the position for her, or if she filled an existing one. 

Via Facebook


Via Facebook

 

County Leg: Making it Rain

23 May

The County Legislature bipartisanly took the bold step of literally just wildly throwing money – $5 million of it – at the beleaguered road network. Surely our roads are in need of repair, thanks to a brutal and relentless winter, but is it too much to ask Republican legislators to actually set up a plan, or maybe name some priorities, before they shame everyone to spend money so prospective opponents can’t label them as anti-road? 

Seriously. This kind of spending is typically what Republicans criticize Democrats for.  But it’s ok if it’s roads, because almost all county roads are in the suburban districts. 

We need to review the county road network, which grew without control under the old Board of Supervisors, and determine what roads should be maintained by the regional government, and which should revert to local control. 

Tim Howard’s Spycraft

7 May

America’s Worst Sheriffs

Add to the laundry list of “why Sheriff Tim Howard is awful” the fact that his department bought a $350,000 device that mimics a cell tower and allows police to surveil every cell phone call and text in range. Since this story broke, big 2nd Amendment “I won’t enforce the law” hero has dummied up. He won’t comment, and his department won’t explain why and how it’s used this device, or whether it’s obtained the needed warrants to do so.

Without a warrant, any evidence gather from, or as a result of, intercepted conversations is no good in court.

Erie County Legislator Pat Burke is calling for hearings on this, and hopefully everyone gets some answers.

I guess Tim Howard isn’t going to enforce the 4th and 5th Amendments, either.

The “Audit” that Wasn’t an Audit

2 May

Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw took a break from his busy schedule visiting random cultural sites and eating lunches at various and sundry senior centers, and released an “audit” revealing $70,000 in expenditures over five years that Mr. Mychajliw doesn’t like. The new Republican majority in the legislature commissioned this “audit”, and the best anyone could do was to find about $14,000 per year in allegedly excessive spending each year between  2009 – 2013.

“Audit” gets scarequotes because it wasn’t an audit. Even Mychajliw’s office calls it what it was – a review. It was not subject to any of the requirements or restrictions necessary within an audit environment.

For a $1.1 billion operation, $14,000 per year isn’t that horrible. But don’t tell the Comptroller that.

The manner in which taxpayer dollars were spent is troubling. We are concerned by the blatant misuse of county funds. The lack of oversight on spending leaves us disheartened,” Mychajliw said in a statement announcing the release of the audit

That strong language is out of proportion with the actual findings. The findings showed some pretty mild incidents of  unnecessary and excessive spending, but no “blatant misuse” or some pervasive “lack of oversight”. When does Stefan’s campaign end?

Wasteful? There are a few items that could have been handled differently, but nothing excessive.  Take a look at the major findings.

The 45-page report details nearly $5,000 that the Legislature spent on personal items. These included expenditures for snacks that were provided to outside guests who were honored by legislators at their bimonthly meetings; flowers; a shoe rack and the cost to stock some district offices with toilet paper.

Here’s what Democratic minority chairwoman Betty Jean Grant said about the snacks:

…most the food was purchased for World War II, Korean, Vietnam and the current War Veterans who have served their Country and who are members of the Valor for Valor Committee I created to assist our veterans. The refreshment they consumed after the county hall meetings, were not nearly as expensive as some of the things they lost such as limbs and even the lives for those who did not make it back. Someone needs to be ashamed of this despicable show of narrow-mindedness.

And toilet paper. Toilet paper? Do you remember during the red/green budget fiasco of the last decade, when the county couldn’t afford to stock the bathrooms in the Rath Building with toilet paper, so Charmin donated a truck’s worth?  Setting aside for a moment whether district offices are necessary, if we’re going to have them, are we going to begrudge their bathrooms having county-funded toilet paper? What’s next? Toner? Paper?

The report also notes how the Legislature spent too much on toner for the printers it leased and how it continued to cover the cost of Internet access for one of the Democratic legislator’s district office nine months after it was destroyed by fire.

But better still is how Mychajliw’s release characterizes this:

The Legislature spent almost $5,000 for personal items like flowers, cakes, meals, shoe racks, toilet paper, stamps, potato chips, plastic utensils, tissues, cookies, even soil.

OMG EVEN SOIL!!1!

And if you still don’t think this was a wholly political play, regard this line from the exit conference section of the review:

During the Exit Conference, some concerns were addressed regarding the severity of some of these issues and the verbiage which was used in defining them. Due to this, verbiage in some instances within this report has been changed to more accurately reflect the issues found.

UPDATE: Did you catch this line? 

“I think the most important thing to note is the fact that the Legislature initially wanted us to look at just one year of spending,” Mychajliw said. “When we showed them what we found just over one year, they formally asked us to expand it to five years and go deeper.”

A correspondent notes that this comment is false.This letter from Legislator John Mills, dated February 18 specifically requests a five-year review. The Comptroller’s office’s review entrance letter is dated the same day (efficient!), and notes – ab initiothat the review will be for the 5 year period of Jan 1, 2009 to Dec 31, 2013.  So, the 5 year period was decided on day one, before any data had been compiled, transmitted, and well before any data had been reviewed. Indeed, none of the information was due until February 25th. Nobody ever “formally asked” anyone to “expand it to five years”. There exists no earlier letter asking for a one-year review.

I’ll grant you the internet access thing is, I suppose, “wasteful”, as is the retention of an official photographer – although the photographs are presented to recipients of various awards, and make these people feel appreciated.  But the review itself reveals that Time Warner is refunding the money. There is the matter of a 45-cent stamp for which a staffer was reimbursed three times. I offer that staffer my thoughts and prayers, as he or she works to repay that $0.90 debt to the county. This is petty within the literal meaning of that word, coming from the French petit or small.

We already know that honoring people is most of what the legislature accomplishes.  If you want to talk about wasteful spending, it’s can rationally be argued that having an Erie County Legislature is, itself, fundamentally wasteful; its ministerial, rote “functions” outweigh its discretionary ones.

To give you some perspective, here’s what I wrote about the toilet paper fiasco of ’05.

Charmin wants to donate a truck’s worth of Charmin to the Rath Building. George Holt has already allocated some of his member money to his brother’s son’s girlfriend’s shell company, which knows a guy who can get some toilet paper that fell off a truck. So, they don’t need Charmin.

Thankfully, that sort of intentional and pervasive George Holt/Chuck Swanick style corruption is long gone. So is member money.

This whole thing is a persuasive argument against the continuation of partisan elections for the legislature. If this had been in any way legitimate, it would have been undertaken without the “aha” confrontational tone. None of this stuff is a big, earth-shattering deal, and there is no evidence whatsoever of deliberate waste or wrongdoing. The excessive rhetoric in the review and its accompanying press materials belies the notion that this was an apolitical review of allegedly excessive spending.  It is, instead, a wholly political piece of campaign literature.

And you paid for it.

Blizzard Things

9 Jan

The blizzard of 2014 showed that government can work. The way in which the county in particular handled the storm, public affairs, and its response was impressive. County leadership, led by County Executive Mark Poloncarz, used social media in particular in one of the most effective ways I’ve seen any local elected use it. Poloncarz was tweeting live updates from the county’s command center day and night during the storm, and was answering people’s questions and otherwise keeping us informed about conditions.

City government, however, was attempting to maintain a “business as usual” mode, not declaring driving bans while surrounded by them, and with Mayor Brown silent on social media. It led to a short-lived #whereisByron hashtag on Tuesday night, as people wondered where the Mayor was (answer: trying to get to Albany for a pre-state-of-the-state fundraiser. He didn’t make it.) 

With that said, in light of the State of the State Address on Wednesday, where Andrew Cuomo again pointed to “too many governments” as the main reason why taxes are so high, there is no reason why we need to maintain a county government as a separate deliberative taxing authority. Since almost all of its tasks are ministerial in nature – mandates from Albany amounting to imperatives like, “feed the hungry”, “heat the homes of the poor”, “administer Medicaid”, “administer [insert state program here]”, and “plow the roads”, we don’t need a separate legislature and all of its ancillary costs in order to accomplish these basic tasks.

Speaking of the State of the State, Cuomo indicated that Buffalo will get a $100 million to research genome therapy. This is huge – the ability to treat disease by replacing defective genes is the next frontier in medical research. 

The Politics of Resentment

8 Nov

What does the Rob Ford scandal have to do with Erie County politics? At first glance, there are no similarities. 

While Buffalo’s mayor is a mild-mannered, African-American professional who has henchmen and cronies to do his dirty work whilst he is out cutting ribbons, Toronto’s mayor is a blond-haired, 300-pound, lying, crack-smoking drunkard who is as completely in denial as he is out of control and enabled by his own henchmen and cronies

As Buffalo struggles to find its way amidst a storm of population loss, educational crisis, crime, lack of jobs, and crushing poverty, Toronto is now the 4th largest city on the continent and growing. Toronto’s boom over the last 30 years has been amazing to see, and the city has invested in the infrastructure and quality of life changes that attract residents and businesses. It’s as if the Swiss ran New York City. 

Rob Ford, however, would not be mayor of Toronto if that city hadn’t undergone a change in the mid-50s to regional government, culminating in amalgamation in the late 1990s. Rob Ford is a politician who is of, and for, the Toronto suburbs. His home and political base of operations is in the western suburb of Etobicoke (the k is silent), which was dissolved as a separate political entity in 1998 and became part of Toronto. 

Ford’s refusal to resign has to do with his loyal fan base, known as “Ford Nation”. Xenophobic, urbanophobic, and virulently anti-tax, Ford Nation will back Rob and his city councillor brother Doug without question. This constituency sees in them the only hope for reducing government waste and lowering taxes; it is, simply put, a tax revolt cult of personality. 

No longer run by the Swiss, Toronto is instead being run by a loud tea party addict. Rob Ford has the personal cult and conservative anti-tax ethos of a Carl Paladino, the in-your-face obnoxiousness of Chris Christie, and the personal problems of a Marion Barry, Chris Farley, John Belushi, and Artie Lange. 

The City of Buffalo has almost nothing in common with Toronto, except perhaps a Great Lakes locus and climate, and having “City of” preceding its name. Toronto is a world-class city with a booming economy based on knowledge and creativity, while Buffalo is a grande dame-turned -provincial backwater with a struggling economy based on government handouts and nostalgia porn. Amalgamated Toronto has 44 city councillors, each representing about 55,000 residents, and a non-partisan city council, overseeing an $11 billion budget. 

But the lessons Toronto teaches us are the perils of regionalism, and the ugliness of the politics of insular suburban resentment. Rob Ford ran on a platform whereby he attacked former mayor David Miller. Miller was a charismatic Harvard-educated lawyer who cleaned up the lobbying system, rejuvenated Toronto’s waterfront, improved public transit, attacked unaccountable public authorities, demanded that landed immigrants be enfranchised, and made huge investments in public housing, child care, and other civic services. 

But with taxes being spent on social services for inner-city poor, the Ford Nation backlash came in 2010 with Ford’s platform of, “putting people and families first, focusing on the fundamentals, reducing waste and eliminating unnecessary taxes”.  He would do all this without cutting services. 

There’s nothing magical about suburban politicians sowing resentment against inner-city poor. We know that sort of thing all too well in Buffalo.

I’m not a big fan of the suburb/urban divide, and firmly believe that it’s incumbent on everyone to realize that our shrinking, poor region sinks or swims together. Toronto is swimming. At best, Buffalo is treading water. In a storm. Without a life vest. In winter. 

But what we saw on election day this past Tuesday was primarily brought about by one thing – low turnout. For the vast majority of people who aren’t political junkies, Tuesday’s elections were hardly exciting or compelling. Races for sheriff or comptroller don’t bring out the non-prime voters. When you add to the mix the fact that Byron Brown’s conspiracy with the county Republicans to completely ignore Republican Mayoral candidate Sergio Rodriguez helped to depress city turnout, Republican countywide candidates could be guaranteed an anemic Democratic turnout.

This wasn’t a campaign season based on ideas as much as it was based on tactical cynicism. So, Democrats had a bad cycle and will have to endure another year’s worth of concern-trolling from nominal Democrats who actively and passively helped to sabotage Democratic candidates to gain some unknown advantage in an internecine war they could end tomorrow. 

The only mandate anyone can claim based on Tuesday’s election is that people are so unmotivated and uninspired by local politics that 70% of them stayed home. “None of the above” won in a landslide, which allowed flawed incumbents to skate without breaking much of a sweat. 

Who can blame them? Who cares? What’s Stefan Mychajliw going to do? Chase headlines for 1 or 2 more years until he finds himself a promotion. Tim Howard will sit there and wait to collect his pension. The County Legislature will fight with Poloncarz over the small fraction of the county budget over which they have discretion in spending. They will demand more money for suburban roads and less money for things that people in the city count on, like culturals and social services. Our own Ford Nation will cynically deepen further the chasm between the city and suburbs – a chasm that distracts from ways to bridge the joys and richness of city living with the good government and prosperity of the suburbs.

The “us vs. them” mentality rings about resentment and bad policy in Toronto, as it does here. Urbanist philosopher Richard Florida is promoting a governmental “rethink” as he watches Toronto’s mayor embarrass itself with no recourse to deal with the problem. Part of this has to do with the new suburbanization of Canada, 60 years after America’s. Canadian commentators call the anti-urbanist suburban political blocs as the “New Hosers” with hockey commentator Don Cherry as their lord and king. 

Florida says cities succeed when they embrace diversity and creativity. He says that “creativity is the new economy“. He has a point, and Toronto is still growing and thriving in spite of its political problems. Buffalo, by contrast, has a political and regulatory system that stifles growth and creativity. It has a horrible transit system and dumb infrastructure. But most importantly, it is busy looking for silver bullets and attracting outsiders instead of making life better for the people already there. The schools are a Ford-like embarrassment on a daily basis, crime hasn’t been meaningfully addressed, there is no opportunity for poor residents, and jobs are few, far-between, and pay too little to attract talent to town. 

A good start would be a regional vision and plan. One that lifts all boats and reduces achievement gaps and resentment. A good start would be to focus on people’s quality of life and figure how to achieve the bare minimum of what constitutes good government.  Let’s give people good schools, safe streets, and fewer barriers to prosperity and growth. 

Accounting is Spooky!

31 Oct

Campaign finance is fun. Let’s look at the accounting for the Republican candidate for comptroller. Specifically, about $2,000 in donations. The following amounts are disclosed as contributions to “Taxpayers for Stefan”: 

     
FRIENDS OF ELISE CUSACK 8/31/2012 $385.11
FRIENDS OF ELISE CUSACK 8/31/2012 $337.58
Friends of Dr. Barry Weinstein 9/25/2012 $100.00
MIKE RANZENHOFER FOR STATE SENATE 10/2/2012 $250.00
HUMISTON FOR ASSEMBLY 10/3/2012 $350.00
COMMITTEE TO REELECT JUDGE HOWE SURROGATE 10/16/2012 $250.00
Friends of Dr. Barry Weinstein 10/17/2012 $150.00
FRIENDS OF RON PILOZZI 9/4/2013 $150.00
 TOTAL:    $1,972.69

Oddly enough, not a single one of these donations turns up in the “other monetary” disclosure section of Mychajliw’s campaign account. 

Cusack’s donations from 2012 show up nowhere in Mychajliw’s reports from that time. (11 day pre-primary, 10 day post-primary). 

Weinstein’s late-2012 contributions show up in his January 2013 report, but not Mychajliw’s January or 10 day27 day post-General reports 

Humiston’s Assembly campaign fund reveals its donation in the January 2013 report, but not in any report of Mychajliw’s. (10 day post-General)

Same with Ranzenhofer’s 2012 money. As for Pilozzi’s 2013 money

In June and early July, there is $198 from the campaign funds of Judge Howe, $250 from Guy Marlette, and $5,500 from ECGOP and the West Seneca town committee

In July 2013, we have a $250.00 contribution from M&T PAC

In August 2013, there is $250 from Ranzenhofer’s campaign, and another $300 from Howe’s

In late August and early September, there is $300 from the Clarence and Boston committees, and $150 from National Fuel Gas PAC

Later in September, we have $250 from John Mills’ campaign, and $100 from David DiPietro’s campaign, and $100 from an Amherst political club

Mid-October brings a contribution of $500 from Guy Marlette’s treasury, and $1000 from the ECGOP

I have omitted some unreported donations (Kevin Hardwick, Tom Wik) because they were under the $100 threshold for reporting itemized donations. However, the amounts shown above are disclosed by their donors, but not disclosed by the recipient, as required by law.  

Awful Endorsements for an Awful Primary Day: #WNYVotes

9 Sep

Greetings, citizens of Goodenoughistan, where good enough is good enough! First things first.

Please note: these are not Artvoice endorsements, nor are they to be cited as such. They have not been approved or made by the Artvoice editors, publisher, or any combination thereof. All endorsements are mine and mine alone. They are preferences – not predictions.

Secondly, here is audio of a podcast I recorded with Artvoice editor Geoff Kelly and Trending Buffalo‘s Brad Riter. In it, we discuss the primary, the state of (mostly) Democratic politics in WNY, and how we got to this awful place.

http://www.trendingbuffalo.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/TB09-09-13primary1.mp3

Thirdly, here is some background. Jeremy Zellner defeated Frank Max last year in a hotly contested race for chairmanship of the Erie County Democratic Committee – a win that was ultimately challenged in court, where Zellner’s win was upheld. Since then, Max and a group of dissident Democrats commonly affiliated with former party chair Steve Pigeon have turned their dissidence from passive neglect to active sabotage; chaos for chaos’ sake, as there is very little chance of success and barely any upside whatsoever.

The Mascot for the WNY Progressive Caucus PAC (not real)

In just the last two weeks, the Pigeon faction has created a brand new political action committee called the “WNY Progressive Caucus PAC“. It is operated by Kristy Mazurek, funded by Steve Pigeon, Frank Max, and Senator Tim Kennedy, and has as its spokesman a young Pigeon protege originally from Genesee County.

Typically, these sorts of things used to fly well under the radar, but this year it got blown wide open when a Buffalo News freedom of information request traced inflammatory mailers in two county legislature races to this new entity. Since then, the organization has been effectively outed, as it has begrudgingly (and arguably incompletely) disclosed donor and payee information, showing over $100,000 going in and out of the PAC in just about a week in support of certain Democratic candidates not backed by the party committee.

In addition, the PAC was found to be behind mailers that were sent throughout Niagara Falls in support of one city councilman who is working to halt progress on a prospective hotel project that Buffalo businessman Mark Hamister has proposed. The defamatory mailing went so far as to accuse Hamister of being a criminal.

If you want to get into deep background, consider this: when Max and Zellner squared off against each other for the chairmanship of the Erie County Democratic Committee, conventional wisdom was that Governor Cuomo was backing Max. When Max lost, conventional wisdom was that Cuomo’s people were continuing to back Max against Zellner, and that relations were chilly between Zellner and the Governor.

But a lot has changed in the last year, and the Governor is just fine, thank you, with Zellner, and Max has not been seen with Cuomo as much in recent months, if at all.

To make matters worse, the PAC’s mailer in the Falls was so inflammatory that Hamister was about to pull out of the deal altogether until Governor Cuomo called all parties to intervene and save it. I wonder what Cuomo thinks of Frank Max now that his PAC almost destroyed a development project in a city starved for them?

So, we turn to the races. These are Democratic primaries, mostly in Erie County. I don’t really care about the fusion parties, or whatever the Republicans might be up to.

COUNTYWIDE

Erie County Sheriff (BERT DUNN)

None of this matters if we don’t first come to an agreement on what incumbent Sheriff Tim Howard is. He is looking for a third term, and has been nothing but a bitter embarrassment and disappointment. When he wasn’t screwing up the Joan Diver search or letting Ralph “Bucky” Philips escape from custody, he was catching the attention of the federal Department of Justice due to conditions at the county holding centers. Howard needs to go.

Bert Dunn is the scion to the Bert’s Bikes empire, and his family also founded Dunn Tire. This means he can operate a campaign that is completely self-funded and reliant on nobody. Why is this important? Because Richard Dobson – a nice guy who retired over a decade ago – has no money at his disposal, and there won’t be a lot coming his way. The only way Howard goes is against a credibly well-funded challenger.

The last two Democrats to take Howard on – Fieramusca and Glascott – lost because they were retirees with little money and no political experience. Dobson may be the best guy in the world, but he is exactly like the last two challengers. Democrats need to try something different this time, and Bert Dunn helps them accomplish that.

Dobson allies will point out that Dunn wrote something mean about Obama and Cuomo in a text message to a friend. Who cares? Being Sheriff isn’t about partisan politics or whether Obama is great. It’s about competence, justice, and professionalism, and I have no reason to doubt that Dunn could bring that to the table.

COUNTY LEGISLATURE

Certain races will be closely watched because it takes one seat to flip the Democratic majority into a Republican one. That one seat doesn’t necessarily mean a Republican pickup, by the way – there are at least four nominal “Democrats” vying for a seat, any one or all of whom would gladly strike a deal to share power with the Republicans, just like under Barbara Miller-Williams period of dysfunction and collaboration.

District 1 (TIMOTHY HOGUES)

Tim Hogues is the incumbent. Hogues is chairman of the public safety committee and has helped to restore all the Collins cuts to libraries, rodent control, and a soon to open clinic on Broadway. Hogues is a rising star in the party and someone to watch. Barbara Miller-Williams sold out her party and her community to do Chris Collins’ bidding back in 2009. The de facto Republican legislative majority over which she presided was devastating to her constituents, and she was so politically inept that she approved the redistricting plan that ended up costing her re-election. She is being materially supported by the Max/Mazurek/Pigeon PAC, which has launched a vicious smear campaign against Hogues for having the audacity to act in exactly the way a legislator in a regional governmental entity should act.

District 2 (BETTY JEAN GRANT)

Rumor has it that Tim Kennedy’s $45,000 donation to the Max/Mazurek/Pigeon PAC is revenge for Grant coming very close to unseating him in the state Senate through a write-in campaign last year. Democrat Grant is still smarting over how Kennedy conspired with Steve Pigeon, Barbara Miller-Williams, and Chris Collins to deliver Collins a de facto Republican legislature. Betty Jean is a great advocate for her community, and deserves re-election.

District 7 (LYNN DEARMYER)

This is the Tom Mazur district. This is ground zero for the battle between the Democratic factions. The Pigeonistas are backing former Cheektowaga Councilman Rick Zydel. Zellner (although not the county committee) is backing Lynn Dearmyer, who ran for the seat in 2009. I went online to look and see what the candidates stand for. Zydel doesn’t even have a website where one can look at his platform. That by itself should disqualify him in this day and age. Dearmyer makes much of her personality and biography, and that stuff is all messed up and stuff, but doesn’t really explain what she’d do to change anything, or how she’d be different. Pat Burke also has a website, and it touts his background and achievements, as well. The “issues” section is pretty light, though. He definitely identifies some serious problems, but doesn’t quite get into specifics of any solutions.

Based on that, I would back Dearmyer or Burke. I think I would lean Dearmyer because the outgoing rep is backing her. But for the love of God, people, put some damn ideas up on the internet.

District 8 (WYNNIE FISHER)

So, again – the Pigeon people are backing Wes Moore. Remember that thing I wrote up a few paragraphs about not having a website? Sheesh, neither Moore nor Wynnie Fisher have any significant web presence. They are on Facebook, though. On Fisher’s page, I see her with Mark Poloncarz and Maria Whyte. On Moore’s page, I see an August 28th post from Kristy Mazurek thanking people for coming to a Moore shindig, indicating some form of involvement in the campaign. The problem with that is that Mazurek’s PAC came into existence on the 22nd, and she shouldn’t be coordinating between the PAC and the campaign. I suppose the definition of “coordination” is subject to some debate, but this sure as hell smells like it.

I don’t want another turncoat legislature that hands the body over to the Republicans. Fisher it is.

BUFFALO MAYOR (DEMOCRATIC PARTY): (NO ENDORSEMENT)

I’ve never endorsed Byron Brown before, and I’m not about to start. While Brown hasn’t delivered on the “progress”, as he claims, his challenger Bernie Tolbert has been all over the place in this race. Tolbert’s effort has been so weak that he didn’t just fail to define himself, he was such a nonentity that Brown didn’t find a need to try to define Tolbert, either. Tolbert said people “Believe in Bernie” but didn’t explain why, or for what. Tolbert offers up a choice without a rationale – yeah, Byron is terrible in a lot of ways; a caretaker mayor, but Tolbert only went as far as pointing that out, never giving voters a positive reason why they should choose him instead.

For me, President Obama’s visit – and the way each campaign used it – said it all. While Tolbert got out a quick one-liner about Obama mixing up Higgins and Brown, the Mayor used glowing things Obama said about Buffalo’s recent successes as the template for his own, positive, ad. It was as if Obama was not only endorsing Brown, but telling people that Brown was behind them all. It was the last nail in a coffin that only needed maybe 3.

(CONSERVATIVE PARTY): SERGIO RODRIGUEZ

Seriously, I hope all of the fusion parties go straight to hell, but you go to war with the army you have, not the one you want. Sergio Rodriguez is the Republican candidate who is also vying for the Conservative Party line. I would love for him to have it, because the only thing conservative about Byron Brown (whom that committee has endorsed) is his quiet passivity as mayor over the last two terms. I apologize for omitting this originally, but this is an excellent way to send a message to the “politics as usual” crowd that money and jobs don’t always rule the day. 

NIAGARA FALLS CITY COUNCIL

If you are fortunate enough to live in the Cataract City, and unfortunate enough to deal with its ever-crisis, then do yourself a favor, Democrat, and vote for Andrew Touma, Kristen Grandinetti, and Charles Walker. (It’s a vote-for-any-three election). I don’t know the first thing about them, but I have seen enough about Sam Fruscione in the last week to know that you should never, ever vote for him again for anything, ever.

Questions/comments & hate mail: buffalopundit[at]gmail.com

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Paid for by Citizens for a Horrible WNY

4 Sep

It’s not the fault of the newly constituted “WNY Progressive Caucus” that it (or someone using its mail permit) sent out anonymous, no-attribution lit blasting incumbent legislators Betty Jean Grant and Tim Hogues, and praising challengers Joyce Wilson Nixon and Barbara Miller-Williams. So long as people aligned with the breakaway Steve Pigeon faction of disgruntled nominal Democrats exist, there will be nonsense. It is ever thus. 

The literature in question accuses Betty Jean Grant of being evil and bad with money, and accuses Hogues of helping Republican towns with their roads. Smearing Grant is baseless and offensive, but Hogues is running against Barbara Miller-Williams, who collaborated with former Republican County Executive Chris Collins to give the GOP minority a de facto majority for two years. Miller-Williams sold out her district, her community, and her principles for political gain which, thankfully, was short-lived. The hypocrisy is thick as molasses. 

Do you think that these people need to reveal who they are on that literature? You’re wrong. In a state race, there is no requirement whatsoever that the sponsor of an advertisement reveal themselves. “Paid for by” isn’t a requirement. Typical New York, that – protecting shenanigans, instead of informing the voting public. 

Generally, a PAC like the “WNY Progressive Caucus” would need to disclose where its money is coming from. But here, it’s so new, it hasn’t filed anything. A woman named Kristi Mazurek is listed as the group’s treasurer. She is a commentator for WGRZ’s Sunday political show, 2Sides, and has been running the campaigns of a few Democratic legislature candidates who are challenging people endorsed by the county Democratic committee. As I wrote in August

It should be noted that WGRZ 2Sides co-host Kristy Mazurek is [Wes] Moore’s and [Rick] Zydel’s campaign manager. Query why [her former co-host Stefan] Mychajliw would have felt the need to abandon the show when he ran for public office, yet the Democrat on the show feels no similar ethical obligation to do so, going so far as to attempt to ridicule an opponent on Facebook who wasn’t interested in going on the show. 

Mazurek had taken to Facebook to ridicule Moore’s opponent Wynnie Fisher for refusing to appear on 2Sides. Yet why on Earth would a candidate appear on a show to be interrogated by her opponent’s campaign manager? It’s an insane proposition. (N.B., David Pfaff is a known Pigeon associate): 

And so, Mazurek has Palinistically taken to Facebook again to issue a non-denial denial about the WNY Progressive Caucus’ literature: 

Translation: Zellner didn’t hire / get me hired for something-or-other, and so I’m going to align myself with the people who are working to undermine and unseat him. Note that Mazurek doesn’t deny that she or her PAC sent out the anti-Hogues and anti-Grant mailings. She simply says the complaints “don’t have merit”. So, I replied: 

Reply, (right under one from Erick Mullen, who did all of Jack Davis’ ads that relentlessly went after endorsed Democrat Jon Powers in ’08): 

I have no idea what that means. So, 

There was no reply, natch.I don’t think Ms. Mazurek knows what “meritless” means.

These types of anonymous mailers come out all the time, and when anonymous, you can bet that the people behind it want to keep you in the dark. You should be insulted by them – they figure you’re an idiot; an ignoramus. Yet there’s no law that says they have to disclose who they are. 

So, if you’re outraged when your candidate gets anonymously and unfairly slammed by anonyms, you’re going to have to lobby Albany to demand that the Election Law be amended to (a) require that all campaign advertisements and literature clearly disclose who paid for them; and (b) institute a hefty penalty for any violations – penalties that are confiscatory deterrents. 

I’m sick and tired of nasty people with unclean hands making electoral politics dirtier than it has to be. If Mazurek and the people behind the group for which she is treasurer think that Tim Hogues is a closet Clarence Republican and that Barbara Miller-Williams is the reincarnation of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, then they should disclose who they are. 

By the way, if you’re a disgruntled Frank Max supporter or in league with Steve Pigeon, that’s swell – but instead of working with Republicans and the fusion parties actively to undermine endorsed Democrats, why not convince the various and sundry committee members why they should vote for Max over Zellner for party chair next time around? If you’re in league with the Conservative Party, why even pretend to be a Democrat? 

We’re a region with a lot of dummies running too many horrible governments, and at a bare minimum we should know who’s behind what.