Tag Archives: Grassroots

Grassroots vs. ECDC in Thunderdome

28 May

This Buffalo News article is exactly right.  Especially this line:

The gamesmanship and speculation leading up to the final vote is transparently self-serving and hard to take. Indeed, Perry’s commission cut off public input by disbanding before holding its final three hearings.

Frankly, since the de facto legislature “majority” is already doing his work for him, it might be better to just amend the Charter to have the County Executive submit a map, run it by the lawyers, and throw it to a vote. As an alternative, maybe it would be better to excrete four or five different maps out of the redistricting commission, bypass the legislature and executive altogether, and just let people vote on them.

This episode should shame the shameless Barbara Miller-Williams, and the redistricting commission should have been disbanded before it was ever put together. What a glaring example it is of dysfunctional politics and government. And I’m not just blaming the people on it who were aligned with Collins and Miller-Williams.  I’m also talking about the people on the Democratic side. There was so much ridiculous and embarrassing rancor and resentment.  All over maps!  It never should have been handled this way.  By comparison, the Charter Revision Commission from 2006-7 was downright professional and thoughtful.

In the meantime, the Democrats should be energized and unified given the incredible Hochul win and the momentum it brings. What a great opportunity to set aside personal and factional bickering and celebrate the fact that our party has its shit together and the Republicans are in disarray.  Instead, short-sighted and power-hungry politicians like Barbara Miller-Williams are busily scuttling that momentum – in an election year, no less. She is handing cushy districts to her Republican allies while throwing fellow Democrats Mazur and Loughran under the bus. (I wouldn’t mind if that happened due to some objective reality, or as a result of a truly independent commission, but this entire process has been hyper-politicized, and those running it are to blame).

So, again, the Republicans in the legislature have dummied up because BMW is doing their work for them, stabbing the Democrats in the back.  I, for one, am sick and tired of the factionalism in the Democratic Party and wish a wand could be waved to just re-assign an (R) after these turncoats’ names.

I’m not talking about cutting deals with Collins and the Republicans, as long as it benefits one’s constituents. I’m not talking about one Democrat primarying another – that’s part of the process. What I’m talking about is the systematic and constant kneecapping between ECDC Democrats and Grassroots Democrats.  Under normal circumstances, Grassroots would try and take control of the party apparatus by convincing people it could do a better job.  It would run candidates for county chair who would win. But they don’t do either. Instead, they just sabotage headquarters day in and day out, and then whine like babies when headquarters tries to undo or counter the damage. Just. stop. it. You couldn’t get the incumbent Antoine elected in a heavily Democratic district last year, but downtown just got Kathy elected in an (R)+6 district against two multi-millionaires and Karl Rove. ‘Nuff said.

Yes. This is undoubtedly small potatoes shit. This is definitely engaging in an Albanian blood feud over scraps. This underscores the political impotence of a legislature that only controls about 10% of the money it handles, and the rancor that comes with anything that affects political influence. It would be better if the county was run by a nonpartisan professional manager who didn’t hyperpoliticize everything. It would be better if we had no legislature, since its functions are mostly ministerial anyway. It would be better if elections were held and funded in a way that didn’t so strongly benefit incumbents. It would be better if state law was amended to make it easier for candidates to access the ballot and run for office.

But in the meantime, under the system we have – not the system we want – people who call themselves Democrats should start acting like it.

Free Meals and Hotels to Canvass for Corwin

22 May

 

Click to enlarge

 

Click the email above to enlarge and read how those liberal Democrats like the well-liked, competent, Medicare-preserving Kathy Hochul is going to “steal” a seat in Congress from its rightful nobility in Spaulding-sur-Lac. In fact, those dastardly communards are bringing in “liberal downstate unions and radical special interests”. I’m shocked that the Democrats aren’t bringing Satan, Hitler, and our Muslim President, to boot.

And what of those brave young grassroots Republicans, inundating the district with cars sporting “Nobama” bumper stickers?

Hotels and meals! What a bargain! Grassroots!  By the way, Lisa Thrun is the “grassroots director” (oxymoron, sorta) of a Republican PAC called “Americans for Prosperity“.  Of course, Americans for Prosperity is David Koch’s group, which is an astroturf front group purporting to be a grassroots organization. They hate unions, the middle class, anti-smoking efforts, and any effort to bring about universal health coverage. They’re also huge climate change deniers.

It doesn’t get more extreme and radical than anything that David Koch advocates and pays for. The Corwin campaign is clearly in bed with this extreme John Birchist association run by millionaires, for millionaires, and there’s clearly some coordination between the campaign and this group.

Redistricting Shenanigans

19 Apr

In the “Cow Days” episode of the Comedy Central series South Park, Officer Barbrady, officially declares “shenanigans” after discovering a carnival game is rigged.  The declaration of shenanigans by an officer of the law gives the townspeople free rein to destroy the carnival with brooms.

I think its high time to declare “shenanigans” on the Erie County Legislature redistricting process.  As I understand the law, declaration of shenanigans in Erie County gives the locals free rein to turn Spaulding Lake into a flexible lawn.

Due to the approval of a referendum measure in 2010, Erie County will be downsizing the number of legislators in time for the 2011 countywide election.

With the decision, next year’s candidates will run for 11 new legislative districts, drawn to reflect census-based shifts in population. If all goes according to plan, 11 lawmakers will take their oaths of office in January 2012.

The question then became, who will draw those new legislature districts and what methodology will be used to draw them?  The existing county law requires the Legislature to create a citizens advisory committee on redistricting, but that law does not stipulate that the Legislature follow the recommendations of the committee.

That Citizens Advisory committee, advertised as “non-partisan” is filled with active members of the Republican Party apparatus and various members of the Democratic Grassroots political club and the Erie County Democratic Committee.  It also offers positions to the two Board of Elections chairmen, Dennis Ward (D) and Ralph Mohr (R).  So, partisan arguing and bickering is the order of the day, as documented by Geoff Kelly from Artvoice after he attended the first meeting of the committee in early March.

So I wondered, as I considered these and other thorny issues, if many commission members on both sides of the political fence might secretly hope that time constraints would prevent the downsizing from occurring this year at all—that, come November, we will still have 15 legislators running along the current district lines, while the reapportionment process grinds slowly forward in the courts.

As the process has slowly marched on, I’ve been copied on several communications between the members of the committee that demonstrate Kelly was right to wonder if anyone was interested in meeting the deadlines for reapportionment.  Or, these emails show that the most petty and awful among our community are spending way too much time arguing over such horrible nonsense.  I report, you decide, or something like that.

Below are a series of e-mails between the Chairman of the Reapportionment Committee/Grassroots Muckety Muck Adam Perry and Democratic Elections Commissioner Dennis Ward which then branches off to include others. The exchange stems from Dennis Ward’s request that Legislative Staff bring, and display, his “examples” of newly apportioned legislature districts at the public hearings so that they can be discussed. An objection was raised because it would give the public the impression that the maps being discussed at the hearing are official proposals and they are not. Ostensibly, the purpose of the public hearings was to get public feedback on reapportionment, not to discuss specific examples.

On to the rancorous nonsense…

From: Perry, Adam [mailto:APerry@xxxxxx.com]
Sent: Wed 4/13/2011 11:40 AM
To: Perry, Adam; ‘Jeremy Toth’; ‘bbiggie@xxxxxx.com’; ‘dboody@xxxxxx.org’; ‘chapjc@xxxxxx.com’; ‘ecolaiac@xxxxxx.com’; ‘jderosas@xxxxxx.com’; ‘jsh@xxxxxx.com’; Mohr, Ralph; ‘jondrivera@xxxxxx.com’; ‘dsovinsky@xxxxxx.com’; Ward, Dennis; ‘bwittmeyermspt@xxxxxx.net’; ‘jwilmartjr@xxxxxx.com’; ‘lamparelli@xxxxxx.net’
Cc: Davis, John; Fiume, Bryan
Subject: Public Hearing Issues

Committee Members:

First, I apologize for my early departure last night. I did advise staff and a couple of Committee members that I would have to leave early, but I should have made that clear to all members and the audience at the beginning of the hearing. I do think attendance by all Committee members at all public hearings is important, which is another reason why it is my personal preference for fewer and better attended hearings at larger venues familiar to most citizens of the County.

Second, I understand that there has been a request by Mr. Ward to have the examples, maps, or whatever we are calling them (I’ll call them diagrams), displayed at the next two public hearings. I also understand that there is a disagreement as to whether such a process should occur. I am stating for myself that I don’t currently object to showing one of those diagrams as an example in the absence of substantial objections, but I oppose showing more than one. I also personally feel that the diagrams may be misleading and I would be inclined to vote against their use if there is substantial objection and we vote on the matter. Accordingly, I intend to poll the Committee by e-mail (and verifying with anyone who does not respond by e-mail tonight) as to whether the showing should be allowed. Assuming we vote to show a diagram, I also personally have no objection to allowing Mr. Ward a very short explanation of the diagram and an opposing view — if there is one — of his explanation. However, I do intend to subject this issue to a vote before the showing will be allowed within the public hearing venue. In any case, I do think we should re-emphasize that the diagrams are available on the website to the public.

Third, I believe we need to ask for a clarification from the Board of Elections commissioners on the issue of the software availability (I thought it was available some time ago and we were just waiting for the data), and how we address the counting issues based on the opinion of the County Attorney which is directly contrary to the opinion given by the Board of Elections on prisoner populations. I feel this is an important issue to have a clear understanding of in order to defend our process. Indeed, we were being urged by some to produce and distribute maps to the public which would have counted a statistically significant numbers of ineligible people and would have to have been produced without final Census date, and without correct designation of Census tracts, and without input from the public based on actual Census data, and without the software we were told was available to prepare the maps.

Adam W. Perry, Esq.

The vote to which Mr. Perry refers resulted in a decision from the committee to not display the maps.  Of course, Mr. Ward was not very happy with that decision and rapidly took fingers to keyboard to send his indignant response.  Note that he publicly copied Jay Rey of The Buffalo News on his reply.

—–Original Message—–
From: Ward, Dennis [mailto:Dennis.Ward@xxxxxx.gov]
Sent: Wednesday, April 13, 2011 1:46 PM
To: Perry, Adam; Jeremy Toth; bbiggie@xxxxxx.com; dboody@xxxxxx.org; chapjc@xxxxxx.com; ecolaiac@xxxxxx.com; jderosas@xxxxxx.com; jsh@xxxxxx.com; Mohr, Ralph; jondrivera@xxxxxx.com; dsovinsky@xxxxxx.com; bwittmeyermspt@xxxxxx.net; jwilmartjr@xxxxxx.com; lamparelli@xxxxxx.net
Cc: Davis, John; Fiume, Bryan; jrey@xxxxxx.com
Subject: RE: Public Hearing Issues

Members of the Commission:

I have never heard such absolute hypocracy about displaying the “examples” of how the ultimate map of the county Legislative Districts can be partially drawn. What is quite clear is that certain members of the Commission – those appointed by the ruling coalition of the County (the Chair and the Republican minority) have already made up their minds that they will split towns in violation of the provision of MHRL,  Section 10 (1) and, more importantly, in violation of good public policy. It is apparent that the so-called “gerrymandering” of the drawing of lines has already begun – among those appointed to at least try to avoid that at the advisory commission stage.

The examples that I had submitted were merely suggestions of how to avoid dividing towns – assuming that the commission wishes to follow the law, and more importantly, what is good public policy. It was in no way meant to preclude any commission member from doing the same, with other groupings of towns which differ from those I included. On the day I presented them and when we decided to put them up on our webpage, the invitation was extended to all other commission members (indeed, any members of the public) to produce additional such examples of the grouping of towns, to assist the commission in its task of drawing lines. The fact that no other commission members have bothered to do any work outside of appearing at meetings it is not my concern. Maybe it should be.

At some point, this commission will be sitting down in so-called “work sessions” and reviewing whatever has been submitted to the commission for its consideration – be they maps, partial maps, examples of how drafting can be done, together with a background of what has been derived from the hearings and public comment we receive. We will need it all so that an intelligent discussion can be had and work can be done in arriving at a map (or maps) we will be recommending to the full Legislature. At least, I assume that we will have work sessions since otherwise, it will be clear that members of the commission are merely “tools” of those in the ruling “coalition” in the Legislature that has appointed them, who are only interested in retaining the incumbents.

That is not to say that commission members cannot bring maps, or partial maps, that they would like to discuss, to those commission work sessions. Any such submissions will be of help to the commission and will be the subject of discussion, in public, by the members of the commission. That is what “transparency” is all about. That will allow the public to watch the process and ensure that the rationale for any such maps is well grounded in the law and good public policy – not just a furtive effort to advance the agenda of certain incumbents.

I am particularly amused that a commission member would suggest that the displaying of such examples of how to draw the district lines without dividing towns would be “misleading”. How, pray tell, and who would be misled? And misled about what – that it isn’t possible to do? How will the public be able to evaluate the position of whether it is possible to avoid dividing towns without actually looking at examples of how it can be done?

What is quite clear is that certain members of this commission are now all weighing in on the side of not allowing the public to see something that is in the record of the commission and which apparently will become the focus of an internal debate about the legality and the wisdom of dividing towns in arriving at a “gerrymandered” legislative plan. There are members have generally remained silent throughout the proceedings, so far, but now are moved to speak (in the security of e-mail) to deny the public the right to see what will be debated by the commission. What are they afraid of?

If they have some secret “plan” that is superior to adherring to the principle of not dividing towns, let’s hear from them – and let’s see something as a work product. To this point, we have seen nothing. Are we to truly believe that a map will sometime in the future just suddenly “materialize” – and drop on to the laps of the commission – which will then simply rubber stamp it? Is there no willingness on the part of the commission members to do any work for the public to observe?

And finally, let us allow the public to see both sides of the argument. Lets have them able to comment on what is clearly becoming a major (if not the issue) of dispute – whether the age old practice of dividing towns to promote a gerrymandered plan is really a desirable tool. Perhaps people from the many towns will come in to actually request that their town to be divided – who knows? But those who do attend these public hearings ought to have the tools and the information to know the issues involved and to be able to speak on them.

As for the “permission” of the commission to display the “examples” – I don’t need that nor will I abide by that. I will simply retrieve them myself from the Legislature as my work product. Since you are apparently taking the position that they are not a part of the commission’s body of information. I will bring them to every public hearing and I will have them displayed – period. The public and the media have a right to all information available, and which will be used in the commission doing its work. That’s what “open meetings” are all about.

I am shocked that any member of this commission, and in particular the chair, would be a part of suppressing public information. That reveals a story that itself needs to be told in public. I will see all my fellow members of the commission at the next public hearing tonight at 5 PM at ECC North.

Dennis E. Ward
Commission Member

This email about hypocrisy and undermining the will of the people from the elections commissioner who worked with his partner, Mr. Mohr, to keep the downsizing initiative off the ballot last November on technicalities.  Mr. Perry replied to Ward’s email with the following:

From: Perry, Adam [mailto:APerry@xxxxxx.com]
Sent: Wednesday, April 13, 2011 2:50 PM
To: Ward, Dennis; ‘Jeremy Toth’; ‘bbiggie@xxxxxx.com’; ‘dboody@xxxxxx.org’; ‘chapjc@xxxxxx.com’; ‘ecolaiac@xxxxxx.com’; ‘jderosas@xxxxxx.com’; ‘jsh@xxxxxx.com’; Mohr, Ralph; ‘jondrivera@xxxxxx.com’; ‘dsovinsky@xxxxxx.com’; ‘bwittmeyermspt@xxxxxx.net’; ‘jwilmartjr@xxxxxx.com’; ‘lamparelli@xxxxxx.net’; Perry, Adam
Cc: Davis, John; Fiume, Bryan; ‘jrey@xxxxxx.com’
Subject: RE: Public Hearing Issues

I will not respond to Mr. Ward’s defamatory, misleading, and self-serving diatribe. I encourage others not to respond. His statements are not worthy of a response and not worthy of an individual admitted to practice law where duties of candor and civility are the rule and not an option. I intend to conduct all proceedings and communications with my colleagues in a professional and civil manner.

We’re 2200 words in, still with me?  If so, it appears Mr. Perry’s guidance to not respond to Mr. Ward was ignored by committee member Emilio Colaiacovo.

—– Original Message —–
From: Emilio Colaiacovo
To: chapjc@xxxxxx.com ; jsh@xxxxxx.com ; jderosas@xxxxxx.com ; dboody@xxxxxx.org ; Ward, Dennis; Mohr, Ralph; dsovinsky@xxxxxx.com ; bbiggie@xxxxxx.com ; Adam Perry ; Jeremy Toth ; lamparelli@xxxxxx.net ; bwittmeyermspt@xxxxxx.net ; jondrivera@xxxxxx.com ; jwilmartjr@xxxxxx.com
Cc: jrey@xxxxxx.com ; Fiume, Bryan; Davis, John
Sent: Thu Apr 14 13:55:37 2011
Subject: RE: Public Hearing Issues

I find this amusing, since you were instrumental in trying to keep the public referendum on downsizing off the ballot last year. Does this constitute suppressing the will of the public or at the very least suppressing public information? I really don’t want to get into this type of exchange with you, as I don’t have the free time to go on and on. This isn’t a contest on who can say more or the loudest. I think the process has been very deliberative and open. Many of us have concerns about your maps – my concern is I do not want the public to think that they constitute the work product of our committee, as they represent only your opinion (or the opinion of those you serve). I find the comments elicited from our public hearings important. I certainly do not wish to engage in map-drawing without first hearing from the public. While I don’t believe my comments are hollow, you need not disparage others who take a contrary opinion of what you believe to be gospel. See you tonight. Emilio

Emilio Colaiacovo, Esq.

The email chain here continues on with some explanation from Mr. Ward and another reply from Mr. Colaiacovo.  I’ve killed it here because I think we’re past the point of it being informative.

The larger point here is that this process for reapportioning our legislative districts is being undertaken by a political class which seems more interested in sweeping together and hoarding the crumbs on the table as if they were political chits to be cashed in at a future date.  Nowhere in this chain of emails does one find legitimate discussion about how to best realign our legislative districts to better represent the public and make government more efficient.  This small-minded political bickering is exactly why Kevin Gaughan had recommended outside consultants to design a reapportionment proposal for the Legislature itself to consider and vote upon.

Instead, we’ll get weeks of foot dragging, and backroom political bickering in order to avoid making a decision before petitions circulate for legislature candidates in early June.

Hooray!

 

Karla Thomas blasts Steve Casey as a “Cancer” in Mayor Brown’s Cabinet

23 Oct
Byron Brown speaking at Medaille College
Image via Wikipedia

The Buffalo Challenger doesn’t have much of a web presence, so a lot of what gets published there flies under the radar, but a reader directs my attention to an “open letter” that Buffalo HR Commissioner Karla Thomas published in the Challenger this past week.  The theme of the letter is that Byron Brown isn’t the leader he could be thanks to a “cancer” in his cabinet: Mayoral underboss Steve Casey.

Thomas’ letter follows, verbatim as printed in the Buffalo Challenger:

The Karla Kronicles
An Open Letter to the Mayor:
There is a Cancer in Your Cabinet…


Dear Byron,
This letter is not intended for Mayor Brown.  It is addressed to the man whose leadership I have followed for over two decades.  Its’ intent is not to be mistaken as malicious, but to be accepted with the love it is being sent.  On behalf of myself and our community, I am appealing to the sensibilities of the man who this community entrusted their safety and caretaking through the electoral process.

Byron, there is a cancer in your cabinet.  Its name is Steve Casey.  His presence in your camp has derailed the direction of your purpose.  It has inflicted pain and confusion on innocent people and employees and brought organized chaos to your leadership.  His quest to become powerful through your anointing must be stopped.

If there was ever one thing our peers always believed about you, Byron, is that you were fair.  In evaluating the up and down side of a situation, you always opted for what was right.  That was your leadership style, pre-Casey.

Your decision however, to fire me without due process and refusal to pay out the remainder of my term is reflective of Deputy Mayor Casey’s influence on your decision making.  This decision serves no real purpose nor is it politically prudent.  It is, however, definitely politically motivated.  The timing of my termination (right before Golembek’s primary) speaks volumes about the real purpose behind your actions.  You simply gave in to some heavy political pressure from people who had nothing to do with getting you re-elected.  I am respectfully requesting you return to the leadership style hat got you elected Masten District Councilman, NYS Senator and Mayor of the City of Buffalo.

This Social Security Death Master has been given God status.  The $800,000 spent on health care premiums for dead retirees is not lost.  It was stolen by those families who knowingly used insurance they were not entitled to.  Our Comptroller should be trying to get that money back from those families–not trying to help fire me.

Relations with our labor unions are greatly improved.  The new Director of Compensation and Benefits is making phenomenal strides in finding and correcting decades old systemic problems with service delivery and overall division functioning.  The Civil Service Division is operating efficiently and the Personnel Division is gearing up to conduct collective bargaining agreement training.  All of these things have occurred under my watch.  I have no more business being fired than Casey does remaining your Deputy Mayor.

Our detractors are ecstatic watching us prepare to commit suicide on the spirit ofour beloved Grassroots legacy and do irreparable damage to any opportunity or dreams you may have for higher office.  I besiege you – look for an exit route for Steve Casey.  As long as he breathes in your cabinet, it will be on life support, leaving our city gasping for air as he continues to negatively impact your leadership with clandestine poison.

The final destination of this journey we have embarked on is a place called disaster.  Neither one of us will arrive safely if you opt to take this trip to the end of the road.  While the outcome for me may impact my employability, it will leave an indelible mark on your political career.

Byron, the best chemotherapy you can give your advisory cabinet is to change its composition.  Give it a make over.  Replenish it with diversity and some good old fashioned Buffalo born and bred loyal statisticians.  Then and only then will this community’s confidence be restored in your leadership of the City that loves you, embraced you and that God has strategically placed you at the head of.

Respectfully submitted,
Commissioner Karla Thomas


#SD-60 Drama #NYSEN

13 Sep

The hot rumor on the street is that Antoine Thompson is in big trouble in SD-60.

So much so that Grassroots is pulling people off the Golombek campaign‘s GOTV effort and devoting all of their resources to Thompson’s own effort on the East Side of Buffalo.

If true, this would be epic.   And it probably is, as I’ve got it from multiple sources.

Erie County: An Orgy of Transactional Politics

5 Jul

Steve Pigeon is de facto dictator of the Independence Party, and its endorsements in Erie County.

Steve Pigeon is Pedro Espada’s employee, earning receiving $150,000 in taxpayer dollars per year.

Steve Pigeon, working with Senate candidate Tim Kennedy, longtime associate Christina Bove, and sole Grassroots-connected legislator Barbara Miller-Williams, orchestrated an alliance between them and the Republican minority, thus effectively obliterating the Democratic legislative majority that was hard-fought during the 2009 elections.

In order for Pigeon to retain his Senate position, he is dependent on the continuation of a Democratic Senate majority. He calculated early on that Kennedy may be a better Democratic Senate candidate than Bill Stachowski.

Sandy Rosenswie is the nominal chair of the Erie County Independence Party (IP).

Sandy Rosenswie was hired by the Erie County Legislature’s “reform coalition” majority.

Tim Kennedy, who is a member of that “reform coalition”, is reportedly going to receive the IP endorsement.

It’s an orgy of transactional politics that ensures exactly one thing only: that Steve Pigeon retains his highly paid position suckling at the public teat. It’s also a scenario that never could have occurred in quite that way without the existence of electoral fusion, the root of many electoral evils in New York State.

Also see (NSFW):

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Collins’ “Course” is Equal Parts Dictatorial and Transactional

28 Jun

Here’s a short review of Chris Collins’ first 29 months in office. Some successes, some failures. Running county government “like a [closely-held, non-public] business”.

I don’t fully understand why the Democratic “majority” hasn’t yet taken Collins to court over his repeated refusals to carry out decisions and make appropriations for which the legislature has voted. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that three of them are aligned with him, and their staffers are busy sending “let’s get her!” texts to legislators whose names happen to appear next to “Grant, Chris” in their address books.

Collins runs county government not so much like a business – because there are several kinds and constructs of businesses – but more like a petit dictatorship. The most telling part of the News’ article:

I let people picket me, chirp at me, editorialize against me, write letters about me. It doesn’t matter.

I let?!” The only thing missing there is the majestic plural. Chris Collins all but admits that he thinks he has the power to place prior restraint on press and criticism he doesn’t like.

What the Buffalo News doesn’t do in this piece is pull the trigger on the only clear conclusion to be drawn from Collins’ tenure.

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While running, he pledged to not be “chief politician”. Yet he is the most hyper-political, transactional person in county government today, cutting deals with Grassroots and Steve Pigeon in order to weaken the Democratic establishment. Cutting deals with the ECFSA to get one over on the county comptroller he so detests.

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