Tag Archives: erie county

Szalkowski Drops Out, Mychajliw Pitches Fit

12 Jul

Erie County Comptroller candidate Lynn Szalkowski dropped out yesterday, the day petitions were due. Her name appeared on Democratic nominating petitions that have been circulated throughout Erie County for the past several weeks because she was the candidate whom the party had recruited to run. As it turns out, she had second thoughts and effectively dropped out of the race weeks ago. That posed a problem for the party, because the only way to keep the ballot line alive for November would be to keep circulating her petitions and then let a committee replace her when she formally drops out. That’s what’s about to happen in the next week or so.

Just about every news story everywhere has made the point that Ms. Szalkowski has suffered some personal tragedies in recent weeks, and that she may also have some sort of personal health issue. While her Facebook page shows her doing fun things with friends and her kids, that doesn’t necessarily mean she isn’t also tackling some sort of health problem. People live with chronic pain and disease all the time yet are still able to go out and maintain some semblance of a normal life – it doesn’t mean they also have the energy or will to go out and attend every chicken BBQ and every fundraiser and every debate as part of a grueling, months-long campaign for a countywide office.

So, when she dropped out yesterday, her putative opponent, incumbent Stefan Mychajliw, took to Facebook to comment on the situation. Before becoming Comptroller, Mychajliw was the owner of a public relations firm. As a public relations professional, I would likely counsel a candidate to take the high road, and leave the backhanded smacks and insults for surrogates.

In other words, Mychajliw’s Facebook post or whatever other public statement he made should have read something like this:

I am disappointed to learn that Ms. Szalkowski has decided not to accept her party’s nomination to run for Erie County Comptroller on the Democratic line. I am proud of my accomplishments over the last several months, and looked forward to a lively campaign on the issues. I wish Ms. Szalkowski and her family well, and look forward to running a positive campaign against whomever the Democrats select as their candidate.

Because, honestly, Mychajliw shouldn’t necessarily care who runs against him, or what the internal Democratic party machinations and intrigue might be. He is running to win in November, and he’ll take all comers, right?

Well, instead of some sort of gracious send-off, Mychajliw inexplicably spat this venom at the Democratic committee:

I don’t quite understand why this makes Mr. Mychajliw so upset, and why he didn’t so much as wish Ms. Szalkowski well, whatever his feelings are about the legal process that results from a candidate dropping out of a race. The party committee recruited Szalkowski, and it will now have to recruit someone else. It’s really six of one, half-dozen of the other, and Mychajliw’s Facebook excreta seems utterly classless to me.

Maybe Mychajliw’s office could trick a custodian into letting them into the locked basement room in the Rath Building where the Democrats keep all the Comptroller candidates.

Open Letter to the Erie County Legislature

23 May

Greetings.

I am a constituent of Mr. Rath’s but am writing to you to inquire about a resolution sponsored by Mssrs. Lorigo, Rath, and Hardwick, which will oppose Governor Cuomo’s proposal to eliminate the “Wilson-Pakula” law, which enables party bosses to endorse other parties’ candidates.

I submit that eliminating Wilson-Pakula is hardly enough to reduce the power of money and patronage in politics, and our entire system of electoral fusion should be abolished, full stop. Electoral fusion and Wilson-Pakula are not used for good; they are used for political advantage and power. The Independence Party is essentially controlled by one marginally intelligent character from Long Island, and exists to enrich and employ him and his close followers. Its name is constructed so as to confuse low-information voters who think they’re registering as unenrolled.

The Conservative Party is controlled locally by Mr. Lorigo’s father, and has shown itself to be exquisitely flexible – when convenient – with respect to the “principles” on which it purports to base its endorsements.

In my town of Clarence, the Conservative endorsement for Supervisor was allegedly withheld not on any ideological grounds, but partly due to personal animus, and partly due to private business interests. That’s the stuff of petty banana republics.

Political decisions and government leadership should be based on merit, not on personal vendettas or misinformation. The system of electoral fusion should be well known to the legislature, as the Independence Party was intimately involved in the so-called “coup” which took place in early 2010 whereby the Republican caucus joined with several breakaway Democrats to create an ersatz “majority”.

That was one of the most embarrassingly tumultuous periods for the Legislature and cheapened it and its mission, such as it is. If the Conservative and Independence Parties want to participate in New York or Erie County politics, Mr. Lorigo and Ms. Dixon have established that members of those parties can run and win.

But if anyone’s goal – at any point – is to establish a cleaner, more honest, and less corrupt political environment, then eliminating Wilson-Pakula is a great first step. Banning fusion altogether is an ultimate goal.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Alan Bedenko

Bee Stings

20 Mar

In the Buffalo News’ Tuesday article regarding Mark Poloncarz’s hard work and competence, it was revealed that Conservative County Legislator Joe Lorigo didn’t like a letter that Poloncarz sent to him in response to an op/ed piece Lorigo had published in the Bee.

“Some people don’t like it that I’m willing to stand up for what I believe and sit there and say, ‘I think you’re wrong and here’s why,’ ” Poloncarz said. “They’re used to the back-slapper elected official who will say anything to anyone to get a vote and keep them happy.”

He knows that can rub people the wrong way, but he sees it as standing up for what he sees as right. He’ll put it in writing, too.

Last April, after Legislator Joseph C. Lorigo, a West Seneca Conservative, criticized Poloncarz’s four-year plan in a column that appeared in the West Seneca Bee, Poloncarz sent out a four-page letter picking apart the piece and accusing Lorigo of leveling “factually inaccurate partisan attacks towards my administration in a cheap attempt to score political points.”

The letter was copied to the entire County Legislature, the county control board and the county comptroller.

“It was completely over the top,” said Lorigo, a frequent critic of the Poloncarz administration. “He doesn’t know how to respond rationally. I think the best leaders, whether it be county executive, mayor or president, are people that can effectively communicate their point of view without being so partisan.”

Note that Poloncarz didn’t publish his rebuttal in the Bee, or in any other paper – he just sent Lorigo a letter explaining to him – in detail – how he was wrong. Telling someone who is wrong that they are wrong is neither irrational nor partisan

Joseph Lorigo’s 4/19/12 West Seneca Bee column by Alan Bedenko

Mark Poloncarz’s Letter to Legislator Joe Lorigo

 

More like this, please. 

SAFE Hysterics

13 Feb

I vaguely remember a White Plains police officer visiting my elementary school to instruct us on safety or being polite or some other inculcation of “how to be a civilized person”. Most of the boys in my class, myself included, were fascinated with the handgun the officer carried on his Batman-like utility belt. He was peppered with questions about how he likes it, whether he’s ever shot it, whether he’s ever had to use it, whether he’s ever shot anyone with it, and – naturally, whether we could touch it. The answers were all in the negative. Yet something stuck with me that day; not only had the officer never used the gun in the line of duty, but his respect for his weapon was matched only by his dislike for it. He hadn’t used it, and he expressed a hope that he would never have to. It was there, but only as a last resort – and he seemed aware that it wasn’t just loaded with bullets, but that each bullet could do as much damage to a human body as it could to the officer’s own psyche. 

Forget Sandy Hook and the federal government for a second – let’s talk about New York and the SAFE Act, which Albany passed a month ago. A lot of New York gun owners are upset about the law, and they will be going to Albany lawfully to protest it. They seem particularly aggrieved by the fact that; (a) Governor Cuomo executed a message of necessity, speeding the passage and avoiding legislators’ amendments to it; and (b) the technicalities with respect to some of the law’s definitions. 

You can disagree with those matters, of course, but they don’t amount to dictatorship, nor do they seem violative of the 2nd Amendment

Here is a nonbinding resolution that the Erie County Legislature’s Republican caucus will be introducing shortly: 

SAFE ACT Resolution by

(You don’t use an apostrophe to pluralize “New Yorkers”)

So, basically it praises every single portion of the NY SAFE Act, except that the definition of an assault weapon may allegedly include one particular pump-action shotgun (a particularly tenuous argument), and because it limits magazines to 7 bullets, rather than the previous 10. 

How is it that 10 bullet magazines are not violative of the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms, but 7 bullet magazines are tantamount to King George III stepping on the necks of patriots? 

Carl Paladino sponsored a bus trip / gun rally in Albany Tuesday, and his mass email doesn’t think the SAFE Act was legally passed, or a good idea at all. One unifying theme between Paladino and the County Legislature’s Republicans is the notion that there wasn’t enough time to “request and receive the input of constituents” regarding the law; but 2/3 of New Yorkers support it. Paladino’s list of grievances is amusing, however, for alleging that “there is no need for any change to current gun-control laws because it’s not the honest people who commit crimes.”  

You know what might be contributing to the gun violence? The Randian individualism that many gun huggers love – the ethos that nothing is greater than self, civilization and a functioning society be damned. The hippie peace and love individualist awakening has gone dramatically wrong in the last 40-some years. 

Another favorite argument is that registration is just a step towards confiscation. Just like the state has confiscated all our motor vehicles, which we are required to register from time to time. 

While Paladino’s protest reflects exactly how our system is supposed to work – government does something you don’t like, you protest and petition or agitate for something different, the legislature’s grandstanding is an utter waste of time and effort. Its nonbinding resolution is pointless, and its grievances largely without substance. 

Back to that mid-70s White Plains cop – I get the impression nowadays that gun owners have become gun huggers. They no longer view their weapons as tools they may someday be forced to use as a last resort for protection, but as objects for which they have almost a jealous longing.  They want to use them. 

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. 

Money, Money, Money

5 Dec

1. Anyone else getting the sense that the Cuomo billion for Buffalo is just a new way for our local Very Important People® to further enrich themselves and their friends on the public teat? We’re attracting a business from Albany?! What does Albany have to say about that? 

2. Congratulations to the Republicans + Tom Loughran for passing a 2013 county budget with an $8.5 million shortfall.  That’s just the kind of fiscal conservatism we need in Erie County. This is precisely the sort of “parental supervision” that the control board was put in place to provide, right? Oh, wait – you say the control board also has problems with what the Republicans and Tom Loughran did? Wait, you say that it’s somewhat suspicious that Amherst’s Democrat joined the Republicans and one of the few increases in the budget is for something called the “Amherst Symphony Orchestra”? 

While Democratic legislators tend to fight for things like funding the culturals and social services, Republicans tend to like things like road maintenance – things that the towns should be handling, but got the county to subsidize for them over the years. So now, with the budget as passed, the county executive needs to find $8.5 million worth of things to cut beyond what the legislature Republicans allegedly “cut” to eliminate the extra $18 additional bucks per year a $100,000 house in Erie County would have paid to help maintain a healthy cultural scene, and our roads.

I’m also especially disgusted by the Legislature’s right wing refusing to negotiate or compromise with the Democrats. As I pointed out yesterday, young Joe Lorigo should be held up for especial scorn for his ignorant, disingenuous statement about how hard people are fighting to raise taxes; Chris Collins went to court to raise them higher in 2008.  

Someday, Erie County will be free of the despicable stranglehold the Lorigo family holds over its politics. They are neither conservative nor proponents of good government, and they would rather promote an unbalanced budget than compromise and otherwise govern. 

The Comptroller’s office said Poloncarz’s budget is sound and reasonable. The control board conducted its own independent analysis, and found that Poloncarz’s budget is balanced and reasonable, and its board unanimously approved the budget and Four Year Financial Plan on October 26th.  By contrast, the control board’s chairman publicly expressed the control board’s concerns that the Republican amendments are unbalanced and unreasonable when he testified at the Legislature on December 3rd.

Here’s what Poloncarz said last night: 

…the Legislature has voted 6 to 5 to approve a 2013 Erie County Budget with the set of amendments proposed by Legislators Mills, Dixon, Hardwick, Lorigo, Rath and Loughran that we have talked so much about over the past week…

…Although I have earnestly kept the lines of communication open throughout this process in hopes of reaching a compromise that ensures the fiscally stability of the county and protects the programs and services demanded by the public, none could be reached.

In fact, earlier this afternoon, I proposed a package to Legislator Hardwick that would meet them half-way.  It cut the proposed property tax in half—to about $4 million, or 9 cents per $1,000—along with a set of difficult, yet real, cuts in discretionary spending to make up the rest.  I was told that it doesn’t go far enough to meet their definition of compromise.

So here we are.   Although the people spoke when they elected me as their County Executive, their voices have been muted by this Legislature.  And while the legislature has a role in the process, all I can say is that I am disappointed in its action.

I am disappointed that a majority did not agree that after closing more than $20 million of a $33 million gap with targeted cuts across the board, and a responsible use of fund balance—in order to ensure the quality of life programs and services mandated by the people remain, we needed to propose a small property tax increase to find that last $8 million.

I am disappointed that when it was clear they would not accept any property tax increase—no matter what—instead of proposing real cuts in spending to offset the loss of revenue, they, instead, chose gimmicks that look good on paper but do nothing to reduce our obligated costs—not a single dollar.

Throughout this process, no matter how many times they said it, their math simply doesn’t add up.  And their refusal to present a single piece of data in support of their claims shows me they knew that as well. It sounds eerily similar to the debate we recently witnessed on the national level: it all comes down to arithmetic and their numbers don’t add up.

I can accept that we have different opinions on how we should spend our finite resources.  But, I cannot accept a difference in facts on what we have to pay and what we don’t. 

Instead of doing what is right, though difficult, they chose to do what was easy and wrong.

They chose to adopt a budget that is not balanced—from day one—and a Four Year Plan that isn’t balanced today or in the future.

Throughout this process, we’ve fixated on whether or not there is or is not a property tax increase, on this number or that number but what we need to really ask ourselves about this budget is what have we accomplished?

That’s frankly, what I am most disappointed about of all.  I am disappointed that instead of a budget that builds upon the many great successes we have had already this year, we now have a budget that takes us a step backwards towards the fiscal crises of years past.

Instead of moving forward on the many exciting economic development initiatives we have worked so hard on—and are beginning to come to fruition—we will be forced to shift that focus on correcting the structural issues within this budget and Four Year Plan in an attempt to stave off a hard control board.

This was entirely avoidable.  All it would have taken was one more Legislator to stand up and show the kind of leadership this community deserves from them.

In the coming days and weeks, I will begin to do everything in my power to rebalance this budget and the corresponding Four Year Plan. 

 The only thing missing from this scenario is a deep inhale of one-shot tobacco money.  Happily, Poloncarz will veto every spending increase that the right wing put in place. Yes – increase; almost $200,000 worth. They didn’t just make phony cuts on paper, they also increased spending on some items. Because protect the taxpayer. 

More despicable to me than bullshitting their way into an unbalanced budget is the legislature’s right wing refusing to compromise with Poloncarz. Compromise, as any political science professor will tell you, is what government is all about. Or supposed to, anyway. 

Of course, most local media are simply parroting the notion that your property taxes won’t be going up. Let’s don’t discuss what else is going on. Just keep it stupid and incomplete – the way you perceive your audience to be. 

Welcome back, Failboat. We missed you. 

The 2013 Erie County Budget: It's a Thing

4 Dec

It includes everything the voters said they wanted. It includes a minimal property tax increase – smaller than what Collins imposed when he came to office. It takes care of new, expensive mandates from the state. It is in balance, and the control board has signed off on it. “It” is County Executive Poloncarz’s proposed 2013 budget.

By contrast, the Republican minority, joined by Democrat Tom Loughran, are pushing an alternative budget with no tax increase, but one that the control board is unhappy with, and one which will be woefully out of balance.

James Sampson, chairman of the Erie County Fiscal Stability Authority, also told legislators that the control board has concerns over how the proposed cuts would impact the budget – including how jail overtime would be managed to stay within budget and how the county would meet additional projections for savings for vacant positions. The board last month found Poloncarz’s budget projections reasonable, but has identified potential “risk” factors in both Poloncarz’s proposed budget and the changes proposed by the legislators.

The stability authority operates currently in a “soft” advisory status, but its members could determine whether to remain advisory or increase its oversight to a “hard” control board if they find the budget is out of balance early next year.

“No one wants that latter option to happen,” Sampson said. “The county executive doesn’t. We don’t, and I’m sure the people and the Legislature don’t want to see the control board having to go hard again.”

Here, Poloncarz makes his final pitch for doing the fiscally right and responsible thing.

Republican Legislator Joseph Lorigo gets honorable mention for best demagoguery:

“Quite frankly, I’ve never seen people fight so hard to increase taxes.”

Well, he must not have been around when Chris Collins did so in 2008.

The 2013 Erie County Budget: It’s a Thing

4 Dec

It includes everything the voters said they wanted. It includes a minimal property tax increase – smaller than what Collins imposed when he came to office. It takes care of new, expensive mandates from the state. It is in balance, and the control board has signed off on it. “It” is County Executive Poloncarz’s proposed 2013 budget.

By contrast, the Republican minority, joined by Democrat Tom Loughran, are pushing an alternative budget with no tax increase, but one that the control board is unhappy with, and one which will be woefully out of balance.

James Sampson, chairman of the Erie County Fiscal Stability Authority, also told legislators that the control board has concerns over how the proposed cuts would impact the budget – including how jail overtime would be managed to stay within budget and how the county would meet additional projections for savings for vacant positions. The board last month found Poloncarz’s budget projections reasonable, but has identified potential “risk” factors in both Poloncarz’s proposed budget and the changes proposed by the legislators.

The stability authority operates currently in a “soft” advisory status, but its members could determine whether to remain advisory or increase its oversight to a “hard” control board if they find the budget is out of balance early next year.

“No one wants that latter option to happen,” Sampson said. “The county executive doesn’t. We don’t, and I’m sure the people and the Legislature don’t want to see the control board having to go hard again.”

Here, Poloncarz makes his final pitch for doing the fiscally right and responsible thing.

Republican Legislator Joseph Lorigo gets honorable mention for best demagoguery:

“Quite frankly, I’ve never seen people fight so hard to increase taxes.”

Well, he must not have been around when Chris Collins did so in 2008.

Erie County Democrats, Politics, and Governing

9 Nov

The Democratic Party in Erie County needs to change, and it needs to do so fast. 

In just a short period of time – less than 10 years – the Erie County Republican Party has gotten its act together while the Democrats have foundered. The fault for this lies not with Len Lenihan or Jeremy Zellner. It doesn’t lie with Erie County Conservative Party chairman Ralph Lorigo or with the state Independence Party chair Frank MacKay. It doesn’t lie with Steve Pigeon. It lies with everyone. 

Frank Max partisans will go out of their way to blame Jeremy Zellner. What good does that do? From a micro standpoint, it might make you feel better – even though we are without any evidence that any electoral outcomes would have been different had he been the party’s chairman. But from a macro standpoint – for the overall good of Democratic politics in Erie County, it is a further descent down a rabbit hole of recriminations and unnecessary shaming and blaming, which is wholly counterproductive. 

Want to blame someone? Look in the mirror. 

I’m writing this because I want Democrats in Erie County to succeed. 

Republicans don’t even have to do battle with Democrats. Democrats are perfectly fine battling amongst themselves. It’s dumb, it’s counterproductive, and it needs to stop

On Election Night, the Erie County Democratic Party lost key high-profile races, Kirsten Gillbrand, Barack Obama, and Brian Higgins will serve new terms. Mike Amodeo lost, Kathy Hochul lost, and David Shenk lost. While some factions will gloat about this, and declare that it proves some intramural point, it reflects poorly on everybody in every faction

In the last ten years the Republicans in Erie County have gone from being an elitist club of enduring failure (excepting some safe suburban zones), and completely reinvented themselves into a party with young candidates, brash candidates, new and controversial ideas, and – most importantly – a large pot of money.

Let’s look at the Comptroller’s race. After two Poloncarz victories – countywide milestones for Democrats – we lost this time. Millionaires and developers like the Collinses, the Corwins, Paladino and his collection of companies have used their deep pockets to expand their political influence. That new reality allowed races like Stefan Mychajliw’s to be exceedingly well funded against an awkward Democratic unknown from a small exurb whose selection was almost cynical in its electoral tone-deafness. After 2010, Democrats lost Paladino’s money for good – he was sometimes a reliable Democratic donor in certain, key races. Mychajliw has no personal fortune from which to draw – indeed, he made much of his thrift during the campaign – beater car, cracked-screen smartphone. Whereas just 6 or 7 years ago, a Republican candidate like Stefan would have been expected to self-fund and expect little help from the party, there is now a vat of reliable fundraising from within and without the region. This is in large part thanks to the rise of suburban new-money political activism, but also the unchallenged leadership of its party committee, led by all-around nice guy/hardnosed warrior Nick Langworthy. 

Republicans also suffer from infighting; they just don’t turn it into World War III. 

Shenk was poorly funded, unlike his opponent. Shenk was an unknown, unlike his opponent. Shenk seemed out-of-place, awkward, unlike his polished opponent. What Shenk had was a large Democratic enrollment advantage. His job performance as interim comptroller? He literally sent out a release critical of Poloncarz’s proposed property tax hikes the day before election day – too little, far too late, and completely overshadowed by other news.  His first advertisement was introductory; in a 30-second spot, he wasted 5 seconds telling you he commuted to work every morning. His script had him emphasize that he was “your” county comptroller, as if that was somehow persuasive to viewers who probably don’t know what the comptroller does. Hell, the comptroller-elect ran on an  “I’ll stop patronage” platform – well outside a comptroller’s job description.  Shenk the unknown battling against Stefan Mychajliw – a person who came into your living rooms every night for years as “red coat” asking the “tough questions” of politicians – had to go directly on offense. He had to knock down Mychajliw’s favorables immediately to have a fighting chance. It wouldn’t have been hard – Mychajliw is uniquely unqualified to be comptroller; after the Republicans spent so much effort explaining that Phil Kadet (2009) or John Canavan (2005) were CPAs, now we had a Republican who had no finance background whatsoever. Instead, we learned about Shenk’s commute. 

Shenk’s second ad was much better, but it was too late. In the end, it was a closer race than I expected it to be, but it was a failure nonetheless. Mychajliw had already wrapped up the Conservative and Independence fusion party lines, theoretically giving Democrats a way to vote for him without using the (R) line. Advantage: Stefan. 

The Amodeo race was even more shambolic; he was never given a fair shot. Like Shenk, he was underfunded. Like Shenk, he didn’t set out to contrast himself against his opponent’s weakness. Like Shenk, he was the victim of the anti-Lenihan/Zellner faction, which used Steve Pigeon’s ties with Ralph Lorigo’s Conservative Party to run Chuck Swanick, first in a Democratic primary, and later in the general election, gleaning the 12% homophobe vote. Despite their protestations to the contrary, Swanick’s sole reason for being in that State Senate race was to punish Grisanti for his vote in favor of same-sex marriage. He was funded almost exclusively by “loans” and money from the gay-hating “National Organization for Marriage”. When he failed to get the Democratic endorsement, Swanick continued with his campaign, appearing in exactly one TV spot, paid for by the Conservative Party. In it, he looked like Ralph Lorigo’s kidnap victim.

There was nothing whatsoever wrong with Amodeo as a Democrat, by the way – the whole thing had to do with the fact that Lenihan wouldn’t endorse Swanick. And why should he have? Swanick was most recently a failed party-switcher; reeking still from the stench of the recent Erie County budget meltdown and tax hikes. Why would Lenihan have endorsed someone so virulently anti-marriage-equality and anti-gay that he accepted money from a PAC totally opposed to the type of progressive policies the Democratic Party should be promoting? Grisanti had buckets of money and support from bipartisan sources. He outspent Amodeo by a ridiculous amount, even going negative against him for no apparent reason. It was a uniquely vicious and relentless campaign from someone who really had the race sewn up tight. $20,000 per day in advertising, the Democrats were caught looking like beggars. 

Yet Democrats I spoke with in the waning days of the campaign brought up Amodeo within their first breath. It was their big hope – he could still pull it off!  But Amodeo wasn’t just underfunded – he was the direct victim of an epic battle for control of the party, and had only one party line against a guy with the (C) and (I) endorsements lined up.

Some of the recriminations are hilarious. For instance, when Shenk personally asked Buffalo’s Mayor for help with his campaign, the Mayor flatly refused. When others in the party tried to intervene for help from the Mayor’s faction with the Hochul, Shenk, and Amodeo races, they were met with the mayor explaining that none of those people concerned him. Pigeon’s faction went one step further – they actively opposed the Democratic candidates for Comptroller and State Senate. When Democrats are in the trenches, all Democrats should pull together to help out; to do their part. Primary season is one thing, but when they’re over, that’s no time to go AWOL because your guy lost. 

Here is the most important lessons the Democrats in Erie County should take from the whole thing: you need to recruit new blood to what’s become a shallow bench of candidates. Too often we see the same names over and over again, and most of them do absolutely nothing, except ensure their own longevity. You need to locate and cultivate new sources of campaign funding. You need to come to the realization that an enrollment advantage means nothing in the face of a Republican candidate who can credibly appeal to Democrats.

One of my biggest criticisms of Mayor Byron Brown is that he is too concentrated on the politics and interoffice management of the city’s government, and offers up no broad, aspirational goals, nor any plan to achieve them. Democrats in Erie County need to maintain existing relationships with labor, and continue the hard work to reverse years’ worth of right-wing demagoguery against worker rights, but start coming up with some new ideas and better plans for the future that can appeal across party lines. 

Finally, Kathy Hochul’s loss to Chris Collins was particularly devastating. The blame for that loss cannot be affixed to the party apparatus, or to any sort of factionalism. Instead, she was out-spent in a district that became even more red than the one she won in 2011. She had her own funding and her own excellent campaign infrastructure at her disposal, and she lost because she lost. She ran an aggressive campaign and did as well as any Democrat could be expected to do. 

On the other hand, Justin Rooney from Newstead mounted a credible challenge to Mike Ranzenhofer in SD-61, which has recently expanded to the Rochester area – new territory for them both. We need more Justin Rooneys, and Justin Rooneys need more support and more money. 

So, what can we do immediately to stop this? First of all, the best way to maintain weakness through factional squabbles is to start laying blame for it on anyone, or any side. Whether you’re in with the Mayor, with Pigeon, or with Zellner: you’re a Democrat. Start acting like one. That means the governing should be more important than the politics should be more important than the power. The factionalism exists because it’s a battle over control – a battle over patronage and the money and political loyalty that comes from it. (The Republicans are not immune here – their cozy relationships with the (I) and (C) fusion parties has to do with overcoming their enrollment disadvantage in exchange for patronage and favors. This is why electoral fusion is a horror that anyone with any interest in good government should strongly oppose). I don’t care how the factions decide to make peace and unify, but without it, the party will continue to fail or underperform. Things Democrats stand for will lose in the battle of ideas to things Republicans do  – fiscal meltdowns, “trickle down” fantasies, union-busting, homophobia, corporate welfare, punishing the poor and working class, playing budgetary games to hide fiscal time bombs. 

We need to not only stop associating with the likes of Ralph Lorigo, we should be openly challenging his party’s entire platform (such as it is), and electoral fusion itself. 

We need to not only stop associating with the so-called “Independence Party” and add “abolition of electoral fusion” as a platform plank. 

We need to stop playing factions off each other and get back to the work of electing good-quality Democrats to office. 

We need to overhaul our messaging and become more transparent and inclusive. 

We need to start better appealing to suburban voters who self-identify as small-c conservatives. 

We need to come up with a specific vision for this county, and propose ways to get us there. 

We need to improve outreach to people who sit on the sidelines because the system is so sordid, and solicit ideas, advice, assistance, and counsel. 

We need to grow our bench, and encourage more people to come in from the private sector to make government work better. 

We need to locate and cultivate new and more reliable sources of funding of campaigns. 

We need to especially target elected officials who have spent more than 20 years in office and have little achievement to show for it – regardless of party. 

We need to start thinking outside the traditional Democratic box and realize that western New York’s unique position within a unique statewide power structure leaves us as a political, economic afterthought, but with that comes flexibility and freedom. 

We need to identify structural and infrastructural problems that cost us money due to years’ worth of bad planning, bad politics, and bad government. 

We need to outperform the Republicans on the battleground of ideas. 

We need to change how we perceive ourselves before we can change how others perceive us. 

We need to consider abandoning the practice of endorsing candidates in a Democratic primary. 

When the primaries are over, Democrats should back Democrats, period. 

We need to create and implement policy-based criteria for endorsements.  Why, at the reorganization, did the party not consider adopting marriage equality, anti-fracking, or minimum wage platforms? Then use them as criteria for endorsements.

You know who cares about trivial gossip fed to the Gramignas and other Illuzzi heirs about this faction and that faction? No one, that’s who. 

We need to come to the stark realization that the infighting and toxic recriminations are repelling good people from becoming (or staying) involved in the system. What you’ll have left is people with their hands out, looking for their cush jobs, and the region will be stuck in neutral, if not reverse. 

We need to stop fighting Democrats and start fighting Republicans and Conservatives and the Independence Party. 

By the same token, we should welcome, support, and encourage good ideas, regardless of their source. 

At the very least, we should be having open, honest, vibrant debate about these ideas in a transparent process. 

I’ve been writing about this stuff for almost ten years. I’m still hopeful about this region’s future, despite how acutely screwed up everything is. I see a lot of good things happening on the fringes – things happening not because of government or politics, but in spite of them. There is so much love for this area, and so much energy out there just waiting to be unleashed if someone would just take the lead. If someone would come out and say, this is what we should be doing,  and here’s how we can get there together. Democrats in Erie County should be at the forefront, helping to lead that discussion and helping to formulate that plan. 

But the longer we continue down the same, generations-long path of 50s era thinking, pandering to fusion opportunists, and reluctance to change, plan, and expand, the longer we’ll keep seeing results like Tuesday’s. Let’s stop being Pigeonistas and Headquarters guys and Byron’s people and start being Democrats. 

 

Quick Take

7 Nov

Quick take because President Obama didn’t start giving his acceptance speech until almost 2am. If you see me today, steer clear. I’m tired and filled with mixed emotion. 

POTUS: Barack Obama won re-election rather handily, and a great deal of people – mostly made up the disingenuous and the dumb – owe Nate Silver from 538 a massive apology for doubting his predictive models and for complaining about “skewed” polls. Silver was right on the money, and people like the always-wrong Dick Morris, and a whole set of mostly Republican “pundits” were beyond wrong. Science and math win over “gut” and “feelings”. Maybe it has to do with boomer conservatives all being former hippies. You know, “me, myself, and I”. I’ll write more about this later, but a win is a win, and watching Fox News during part of last night, I found the most amazing Vaudeville show ever produced

NY-27: This is devastating. Make no mistake, the electorate of the 27th Congressional District has left me – themselves – effectively without Congressional representation. For all intents and purposes, I’m an inadvertent, unvoluntary liberal tea partier.  Only for real. Late last night, Kathy Hochul, who has served in Congress with excellence and bipartisanship sent this: 

“Early this morning I called Chris Collins and congratulated him on being elected to Congress.  I encouraged him to work across the aisle and offered to assist him in any way I can.  I also volunteered to help him make a smooth transition in January to ensure our constituents are well served.  Congress can do better, and the people of this country deserve better than what Washington has given them.”

Collins is all over the air saying Hochul lost because of her Buffalo China ads. I’ll agree that they went too hard on that tack, and didn’t push the real issue – that she’s bipartisan and he’s completely partisan. Mr. Obamapelosi has no business claiming not to have been more negative than Hochul in the race. Thank God Obama won, otherwise you’d see the rapid dismantling of Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and a whole variety of so-called “entitlements” that you depend on and pay for

Comptroller: Voters chose name recognition over qualifications, such as they were. No surprise there. Now what, Stefan? 

Other than that – marriage equality won referenda in Maine and Maryland – a first. Horrible red-baiting Congressman Allen West is gone. Michele Bachmann almost lost. Elizabeth Warren defeated Scott Brown in Massachusetts; democrats took back “Teddy Kennedy’s seat”. 

A mixed night, but a relief that we will continue to move forward with President Obama. Hopefully Washington will start to get things done, now that the Republican’s chief policy aim of preventing Obama’s re-election is extinguished, they can get back to governing