Tag Archives: joel giambra

[From the Vault] Regionalism: Time to Party Like it’s 1999

25 May

photo.JPGI’ve heard it said that Buffalo is where good ideas go to die. I don’t think of it like that.

Buffalo is where good ideas are made to inhale chloroform, dragged around to the back of the abandoned house, and murdered by status-quo driven self-interest.

Buffalo in 2011 (and 2012) is besotted with the same problems, the same issues, the same concerns, and – strikingly – the same debates it had a decade ago.  Save one.

Regionalism.

Regionalism was murdered in 2005 after being debilitated by people who have an interest in maintaining the status quo, and then unintentionally killed by a politically beleaguered Joel Giambra; it was manslaughter.  After all, during the last few years of his 16th floor Rath Building tenancy, Joel Giambra was political poison. If he was for pink bunny rabbits and sun-shiny days, polls would show that 20% of WNYers agreed with him, while 70% hated bunnies and sunshine, and a further 10% didn’t know.

But as wrong as Joel Giambra was about a lot of things, he was right about one – that western New York needed to seriously consider the implementation of regional, metropolitan government. The champion of this idea was Kevin Gaughan.

Gaughan recognized that regionalism – a concept whose entry in the regional socio-economic-political discussion began through a forum held in 1997 at the Chautauqua Institution – was a non-starter due to its support from, and association with the toxic Giambra.  He turned his attention to another crusade – the “Cost“, which studied and determined that we ought to remedy a symptom of too many governments in WNY – i.e., too many politicians and appointees – and begin eliminating villages and downsizing town boards and other legislatures.  That has been met with some success, more failure, and bypasses the disease itself.

Yet those familiar with the internet’s Way Back Machine can still access Gaughan’s arguments for regional metropolitan government.

One of the opinions I’m most known for is the idea that county government ought to be abolished. It was done in 1997 in Massachusetts, which recognized that county government largely adds no value to the work already done by cities, towns, villages, and – most importantly – the state.

We have so many redundant and needless governments in western New York that the regional is factionalized and fragmented.  The Balkanization of western New York helps ensure that there is no unified plan – with a set vision, and a series of distinct goals – for moving a region into a 21st century reality.

We rely on the Sabres and the Bills to keep convincing ourselves that this is a major league city. It isn’t. Our infrastructure planning assumed that the City of Buffalo and Erie County would grow to a population of over 2 million people. It hasn’t; it’s shrunken. People clamor for change, yet moan about its actual implementation. As if by abolishing a village government you abolish the village itself and displace its people.

We are the ultimate hoarders; hoarders of pointless governmental entities that add no value to the civic equation. Why? Could it be as simple as my hypothesis – that there are too many people dependent on the maintenance of the status quo to permit change to be implemented?

It’s time for us, the people of Erie County and western New York, to start talking again about looking forward.  The governmental number and structure of the 50s needs to change, or this region will continue to decline.  The age of industry has given way to the age of knowledge and information.

The city of Toronto, Ontario is a municipal entity comprising over 2 million people. It has a directly elected mayor and a unicameral legislature made up of 44 councilmembers representing a geographical constituency. In 1998, Toronto and six surrounding municipalities joined, making up the amalgamated Metro Toronto. Buffalo also has a changed demographic reality, one that could do with some radical change.  You mean to tell me that 45 elected officials to handle a population of 900,000 isn’t doable? Western New York has 45 separate and distinct governments, comprised of well over 300 elected officials.

This is the first in a series, and it’s my hope that we can re-spark this discussion and come up with ways to implement and design this new reality for western New York. I sincerely think that by making this switch to metropolitan government is the best chance for lurching us out of a 50s growth & infrastructure mentality that has been an anachronism for decades. This is an idea that will be fought tooth & nail by those who benefit from our stagnated status quo, but some of their points will be valid and need to be addressed.  I hope to conclude with an action plan that will enable people to lobby, advocate, agitate, and cajole for this idea.

Downsize? Let’s downsize from 45 to 1.

Sometimes, old forgotten ideas are worth reviving.  Let’s do that.

The foregoing article was first published on March 8, 2011. Unfortunately, it didn’t really become a “series”, and that’s my own fault. Maybe by re-publishing it here, thanks to the archives of my old 2006 – 2011 posts that is now back online, I’ll remind myself further to pursue this line of thought and debate. 

Household Help to Remove Corwins’ Sour Grapes?

6 Jul

Corwin? More like Cor-LOSE...

Both major political parties in western New York, it seems, are going through some upheaval. The Democrats have been fractured into oft-warring factions since time immemorial, but a massive push by Governor Cuomo to broker peace has been largely successful, at least for the current election cycle. There has been some grumbling, but when the most popular governor in America tells you to knock it off, you probably will.

On the other hand, the Republicans are just now getting a taste of what “disunity” means. Chris Collins is a wholly unliked and unlikable personality, and his brain trust just got through handing Jane Corwin an incredible, epic loss to a Democrat in Tom Reynolds’ hand-made NY-26. The strife was on full display during this past weekend’s Hardline program on WBEN, with Dave Debo hosting former Erie County Executive (and no friend of Collins’) Joel Giambra, Artvoice’s Geoff Kelly, Rus Thompson by phone to talk tea party, and Michael Caputo, Paladino campaign manager also by phone to talk about how Collins’ people screwed Batavia Iraq War veteran David Bellavia.

The discussion was touched off by this Buffalo News article and this commentary, written by Caputo and posted to WBEN.com. Caputo made the point that, in his opinion, the young guys running the Erie County GOP and Collins’ campaign apparatus are blatantly anti-veteran, pointing to their treatment of Gary Berntsen in 2010, and David Bellavia in 2011.

After Caputo emailed a link to the WBEN commentary to his contact list, he received the following email from Assemblywoman Jane Corwin’s husband, Phil. (Phil is the treasurer for the Collins campaign):

On Tue, Jul 5, 2011 at 3:40 PM, philcorwin1@__.com wrote:
Michael,David Bellavia is a spoiled child who didn t get his way. I ve watched his public temper tantrum with disgust. He is also a liar who distorted my wife’s voting record. For the record she was the best candidate endorsed by Republican, Conservative, and Indepence parties based on her record in the Assembly, involvement in the Community and private sector job creation. David is a war hero and we all acknowledge it and respect him for his service but that doesn’t automatically make him a good person or a qualified candidate.

Take me off your email list and get a fucking life!

Phil Corwin

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

How about that! A demand that Caputo “get a fucking life” from an unemployed Range Rover Republican millionaire in the Chris Lee inheritance-mold. Remember: when Corwin says that Bellavia “didn’t get his way”, what that translates into is: Bellavia was promised the Republican nomination by Nick Langworthy in 2008 in exchange for Bellavia’s exit from the NY-26 race and endorsement of Chris Lee, along with a promise from Tom Reynolds that Langworthy would set up a PAC for that very reason. Seems as if Bellavia held up his end of the bargain, but the party apparatchiks lied. Twice, minimum. Phil Corwin likens Bellavia’s reaction to that breach an agreement to a “temper tantrum”.

Seems like he should know.

In response, Caputo sent the following to Mr. Corwin:

Phil:Until this email I thought you were a good guy, that you and your wife were just poorly served by a childish group of gutless punk kids. I believed you were above all the dirty tricks and so did David. But I was wrong: now I know you were a part of it, and you disgust me.Don’t tell me what David Bellavia said about Jane’s record; I know precisely what he said. He was truthful at all times, albeit in opposition. You have clearly never been in a competitive campaign because your sensitive skin is chafing.I know you don’t understand the honor and integrity inherent in a veteran’s service: you never deigned to serve your country. Many of us did that for you. We feel a man who is decorated for heroism – for taking bullets for your family, for watching his men die for your family, for holding the head of a friend as he gasped his last breath for your family – is far above the crap you, your wife and your sick allies in the Erie GOP pulled on him.

In fact, now that I know you and Jane were clearly behind all the dirty tricks, it may be time for a primary in Assembly District 142.

When a man fuels his campaign with integrity, he becomes the target of those who have none…

…Click on the “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of your email. Most folks understand that’s the easy and legal way to stop political mail, protected speech under the First Amendment. Maybe your butler can show you.

Finally, keep your foul language to yourself; it reveals your education. You’ve already shown your patriotism.

Don’t poke bears, Phil. They bite.

Sincerely,
Michael Caputo

There’s a battle being waged for the heart and soul of the local Republican Party – a war brought by those who see the Collins camp as dishonorable and led by a bunch of incompetents. Could Collins get his come-uppance this year due to his own hubris?

UPDATE: I inadvertently wrote that Phil Corwin is an “unemployed Range Rover Republican”. This ignores the fact that Mr. Corwin has an office on the 16th floor of the Manor Rath Building, as a Director of Noblesse-Oblige Vice-Chairman of the Erie County IDA. Even though he’s a dollar-a-year type of guy, he is not technically “unemployed” and reports directly to the man for whom he is the re-election campaign treasurer.

Regionalism: Time to Party Like it’s 1999

8 Mar
Erie County Hall. Buffalo NY

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve heard it said that Buffalo is where good ideas go to die.

I don’t think of it like that. Buffalo is where good ideas are made to inhale chloroform, dragged around to the back of the abandoned house, and murdered by status-quo driven self-interest.

Buffalo in 2011 is besotted with the same problems, the same issues, the same concerns, and – strikingly – the same debates it had a decade ago.  Save one.

Regionalism.

Regionalism was murdered in 2005 after being debilitated by people who have an interest in maintaining the status quo, and then unintentionally killed by a politically beleaguered Joel Giambra; it was manslaughter.  After all, during the last few years of his 16th floor Rath Building tenancy, Joel Giambra was political poison. If he was for pink bunny rabbits and sun-shiny days, polls would show that 20% of WNYers agreed with him, while 70% hated bunnies and sunshine, and a further 10% didn’t know.

But as wrong as Joel Giambra was about a lot of things, he was right about one – that western New York needed to seriously consider the implementation of regional, metropolitan government. The champion of this idea was Kevin Gaughan.

Gaughan recognized that regionalism – a concept whose entry in the regional socio-economic-political discussion began through a forum held in 1997 at the Chautauqua Institution – was a non-starter due to its support from, and association with the toxic Giambra.  He turned his attention to another crusade – the “Cost“, which studied and determined that we ought to remedy a symptom of too many governments in WNY – i.e., too many politicians and appointees – and begin eliminating villages and downsizing town boards and other legislatures.  That has been met with some success, more failure, and bypasses the disease itself.

Yet those familiar with the internet’s Way Back Machine can still access Gaughan’s arguments for regional metropolitan government.

One of the opinions I’m most known for is the idea that county government ought to be abolished. It was done in 1997 in Massachusetts, which recognized that county government largely adds no value to the work already done by cities, towns, villages, and – most importantly – the state.

We have so many redundant and needless governments in western New York that the regional is factionalized and fragmented.  The Balkanization of western New York helps ensure that there is no unified plan – with a set vision, and a series of distinct goals – for moving a region into a 21st century reality.

We rely on the Sabres and the Bills to keep convincing ourselves that this is a major league city. It isn’t. Our infrastructure planning assumed that the City of Buffalo and Erie County would grow to a population of over 2 million people. It hasn’t; it’s shrunken. People clamor for change, yet moan about its actual implementation. As if by abolishing a village government you abolish the village itself and displace its people.

We are the ultimate hoarders; hoarders of pointless governmental entities that add no value to the civic equation. Why? Could it be as simple as my hypothesis – that there are too many people dependent on the maintenance of the status quo to permit change to be implemented?

It’s time for us, the people of Erie County and western New York, to start talking again about looking forward.  The governmental number and structure of the 50s needs to change, or this region will continue to decline.  The age of industry has given way to the age of knowledge and information.

The city of Toronto, Ontario is a municipal entity comprising over 2 million people. It has a directly elected mayor and a unicameral legislature made up of 44 councilmembers representing a geographical constituency. In 1998, Toronto and six surrounding municipalities joined, making up the amalgamated Metro Toronto. Buffalo also has a changed demographic reality, one that could do with some radical change.  You mean to tell me that 45 elected officials to handle a population of 900,000 isn’t doable? Western New York has 45 separate and distinct governments, comprised of well over 300 elected officials.

This is the first in a series, and it’s my hope that we can re-spark this discussion and come up with ways to implement and design this new reality for western New York. I sincerely think that by making this switch to metropolitan government is the best chance for lurching us out of a 50s growth & infrastructure mentality that has been an anachronism for decades. This is an idea that will be fought tooth & nail by those who benefit from our stagnated status quo, but some of their points will be valid and need to be addressed.  I hope to conclude with an action plan that will enable people to lobby, advocate, agitate, and cajole for this idea.

Downsize? Let’s downsize from 45 to 1.

Sometimes, old forgotten ideas are worth reviving.  Let’s do that.

The Unwanted Return of Nancy Naples

8 Oct
Joel Giambra, Erie County Executive

Bad Memories are bad

Imagine the nerve of a millionaire begging you to send money to fund another millionaire’s vanity campaign.

Now imagine the millionaire doing the begging is the elected official who was charged with being the people’s fiscal watchdog in the run-up to, and during the green/red budget crisis of aught-four.  Now imagine that the millionaire begging you to send a few pennies to her friend, the other millionaire, has the audacity to insult Albany “insiders” when she herself is the consummate insider.

Nancy Naples was appointed by Governor George Pataki to become the DMV Commissioner in 2006.  It doesn’t really get any more Albany insider-y than that.  Now?  Now she’s an appointed member of the Amtrak Board of Directors, thanks to George W. Bush.

Next time, Ms. Naples – who, along with Joel Giambra, came to personify the epic fail of the budget crisis; who left office in 2005 after it was revealed that she had failed to pay her property taxes, and had funneled county work to a campaign donor – should keep her megacarat ring at home when asking Buffalo’s Joe and Jane Blow to send “emergency” money to a guy with $150 million in the bank.

Three Renegades, Three Points

8 Jan

Let’s get the dictionary out again

Maria Whyte quipped about the definition of “reform” during her floor speech on behalf of Lynn Marinelli, and Barbara Miller-Williams later said she thinks “reform” means “moving Erie County forward”, whatever the anus that means. But this is what the Collins/Pigeon reform coalition means by “reform”:

The document outlining the changes was kept hidden until after the meeting began, inciting protests from the six Democrats, who tried to kill the measure. The changes allow the payroll to grow from $1.88 million to $1.92 million this year. Marinelli predicted that with fringe benefits, the Legislature will exceed its budget by year’s end.

I asked Miller-Williams at the press conference whether any new jobs were created, or whether the payroll was increased in any way. She hemmed, hawed, and then said it wasn’t.

First day, first lie, within the first 2 hours of her chairwomanship. That must be some sort of record or something.

How Many Jobs?

Also at the press conference, Miller-Williams was asked how many people would be losing jobs. Even though she (hopefully) knew the correct answer, she hemmed, hawed, and said “four or five”. Turns out, it was closer to 8.

First day, second lie, within the first 2 hours of her chairwomanship. Now we’re in Olympic record territory.

Abolish County Government, Then

All of the Republican legislators are closing their district offices, if they still exist. They argue that their more rural and suburban constituents simply don’t visit them.

The reason they don’t visit them is because they don’t need their legislator for anything, because they don’t need the Erie County Legislature for anything. The Legislature as an entity adds no value whatsoever – none, zero, zip – to the lives of any person in Erie County. To the contrary, the legislature is nothing more (especially now) than a rubber-stamp for decisions sent down from Albany or the Rath Building. A very small percentage of 10% of the annual budget of Erie County actually gets fought over. Frankly, I don’t see the point of the taxpayers of Erie County supporting an entire governmental apparatus and legislative bureaucracy to do almost entirely pre-ordained things.

If the so-called “reform coalition” has proven anything over the last 24 hours, it is that we have absolutely no use for 15 of them, for 9 of them, for 5 of them, or for any of them. They are an irrelevance – an anachronism handed down to make us all feel important, when really Albany pulls almost all of the strings. We don’t need to elect people to decide whether parks or clinics or Medicaid should be funded. These are ministerial, not political, considerations.

Thank you for proving my point, all of you.

I’ve tweeted and posted a lot about this issue over the past 12 hours, and much of the response boils down to, “well, what do you expect?”

I expect BETTER

It’s so alive, it’s dead

9 May

Lest anyone think that the Greiner-Masiello-Giambra proposal for a city-county merger were still a viable option, today’s Buffalo News article merely serves as its obituary.

Tony Masiello is all out of political clout. Ditto HRH Joel Giambra. Former UB President rounds out the triumverate of de facto and de jure ex officios.

Advocates trying to revive a merger of Buffalo and Erie County say they no longer believe they need the state’s blessing to establish the “Regional City of Buffalo.”

“We’d like it to be a local process,” said William R. Greiner, the former University at Buffalo president whose so-called “Greater Buffalo” commission unveiled its recommendations Jan. 18, during Erie County’s worst financial crisis in decades.

“I think the governor and the Legislature have enough to do,” Greiner said.

At one time, the panel established by County Executive Joel A. Giambra and Mayor Anthony M. Masiello wanted voters to decide in November on its plan to fold the Common Council into an expanded County Legislature.

It’s not going to happen.

In September 2005, we all thought that the city was a basket case, while the county was well-run. I can still remember Sandy Beach sweetly singing Giambra’s praises while stabbing Tony in the back. My mind’s eye sees a Donn Esmonde column holding out one last hope for King Joel. December 2005 changed all that.

While the city is actually rather well-run now (with the help of a state control board), the county is run poorly and getting poorer.

Many are now clamoring for a control board for Erie County. Why? Because the only short-term solution is raising taxes, and not one person has either the political will or capital to make that happen. Of course, the only real solution is completely restructuring Albany, but that will take years to do, and even longer to have a positive impact on county coffers. A control board would come in, notice that Erie County hasn’t yet reached its constitutional taxation limit, and instantly raise property and sales taxes. Hooray.

While Greiner et al call it a city-county merger, it’s really a county swallowing of the city. As things stand now, it should be the other way around. I’ve advocated for an abolition of county government for many months because it’s wasteful, redundant, and permits Albany to get away with its persistent punishment of the people of New York. The events in the County of Erie since about November have only reinforced my position on that point. What’s remarkable is that not many others have taken on my position.

The State should abolish county government. We need fundamental, constitutional reform in Albany to permit New York’s upstate cities to flourish again. We need lower taxes, fewer taxes and smarter regulation. We need people in Albany who don’t kowtow to the lobbyists and unions, but instead think to themselves: what can I do today to better the lot of my constituents?

Until that happens, New York State is doomed.

Joel Giambra: double-o zero

29 Apr

From the WNY Media Group’s Buffalo Watchdog:

This has to be one of the biggest slap in the face from the Giambra administration yet. Channel 2 reports today that County Attorney’s spent $95 an hour after two private investigators were hired to watch people waiting in line at one of the Auto Bureau’s and the Registrar’s Office. It’s time for Fred Wolf to go as well…

According to Erie County Clerk Dave Swarts, the Erie County Attorney’s Office (Fred Wolf) authorized the hiring of two private investigators to try and dispute claims that lines at the Auto Bureau and Registrar’s office would be longer because of budget cuts.
This information came out the other day in court where the County Clerk suing Erie County cuts.

One private investigators testified their rate of pay was $95 an hour.

“The law firm for the County retained the services of a private investigator and sent them into the County Clerk’s office and the Auto Bureau to observe what we did. We were kind of shocked that this private investigator was hired,” said Swarts.

Swarts said he knew one female private investigator testified that she spent eight to ten hours watching people at the Registrar’s Office.

County Executive Chocula

Erie County Executive Joel “Chocula” Giambra strikes again!