Tag Archives: Kevin Gaughan

Donn Esmonde Makes Kevin Gaughan, Poor People Unlikeable,

29 Jul

Friday

Because Donn Esmonde is such an ass, everything is somehow magically about him. Everything. Including the Erie County Democratic Committee’s decision to ask regionalism and downsizing advocate Kevin Gaughan to run on for County Comptroller on the Democratic line. The ECDC has finally come around to Donn’s way of thinking, so smell the told-ya-so snark waft through the air. Esmonde’s egotistical descent into self-parody is hilarious.

Me, me, me. Me. I did this. I am the seer – you are the unwashed mouth-breathers. That’s Esmonde’s political thought about Gaughan, in a nutshell.

Don’t hurt your back patting it so damned hard, Donn.

Pigs have sprouted wings, lost souls have donned parkas in Hades, and lambs have lain down with lions.

The day many thought would never happen has come: Kevin Gaughan – eternal maverick, inveterate outsider and longtime critic of the political establishment – was endorsed last week as a candidate for Erie County comptroller by the Democratic Party.

To steal a line from sportscaster Al Michaels: Do you believe in miracles?

I am not sure if local Democrats finally came to their senses or if Gaughan – whom I have known for a quarter-century – has lost his. I suspect it is the former.

The fact of the matter is that Gaughan hasn’t been taken seriously before because he hasn’t performed all that well in any campaign in which he’s been involved. Part of it has to do with the fact that he is professorial in his demeanor – something we just don’t get in politicians around here. Part of it has to do with the fact that the size and political activity of his base of support is small – he eschews the quid-pro-quo with political clubs, which, on the one hand, help with petitions, canvassing, and calls; and, on the other hand, provide a well of ready and willing patronage hires. That’s not a criticism of Gaughan, whom I respect, but a reality. He’s a thinker, a philosopher, a tinkerer, but he’s just not your typical politician. This is a blessing and a curse.

The tone of the article is so unbelievably condescending – as if all the rest of you backwards-ass cretins have finally seen the light that Esmonde has been shining for nigh these many years.

Granted, he replaces the party’s original choice, who withdrew for health reasons. Even so, I think this day has been too long in coming. Gaughan’s government-reform efforts in the last two decades even prompted futile endorsement offers from rival Republicans. Only now have fellow Democrats opened their arms.

Credit County Democratic Chairman Jeremy Zellner, who took over last year at age 34, for bringing Gaughan, 59, in from the cold to run against Republican incumbent Stefan Mychajliw.

“From Day One, I said I wanted to make the party more progressive,” Zellner told me. “Some, in years past, maybe would have shut Kevin out. I think this shows that the thinking of the party is changing.”

Given our grandstanding comptroller, who has absolutely zero financial background and has worn out his shoes running to the nearest microphone to declare today’s reasonable sounding of alarms, it is imperative that the Democrats put up a challenger who has some bona fide experience in trying to find ways to dramatically improve the efficiency of government in both macro (regionalism) and micro (board downsizing) ways. Frankly, putting up Mychajliw’s red coat against Gaughan’s decade and a half of efficiency activism is brilliant, and Gaughan has done all of that for very little reward. Also, Donn Esmonde had absolutely nothing to do with any of it.

The reed-thin, Harvard-educated attorney and civic activist has for years carried the smaller-government flag. He has done more, in my view, to help the community than most elected officials. Instead of seizing the voter appeal of a no-strings reformer, the party – under the likes of Len Lenihan and Steve Pigeon – for years slammed the door.

The rejection said more about the party’s march-in-place myopia than it did about Gaughan. Although, in fairness, he did little to endear himself – thrice taking on party favorites in primaries and generally avoiding party functions and parades he wasn’t leading. His style attracts some people, repels others. With a patrician air that seems at odds with a common-man philosophy, Gaughan often sounds like he is reading from a civics textbook.

Gaughan has rankled the unions, which make up much of the Democrats’ base. Gaughan has upset many protectors of the inefficient, wasteful status quo. He wants to kill the job in a place where job number one is to not kill the job. Esmonde’s condescending “f you” to past party bosses completely ignores the reasons why Gaughan has been a tough sell in Democratic circles. To ignore that is to ignore facts.

Like him or not, there is no arguing with success. His 1997 Chautauqua Regionalism Conference helped to turn “sprawl” and “consolidation” into household words. His subsequent public “Conversations” hammered politicians for a lack of post-Chautauqua reforms. His downsizing crusade led to the shrinking of seven town and village boards and the County Legislature – angering numerous politicians for threatening their power bases.

Eight downsized boards are palpable achievements. The introduction of two words into the WNY vernacular, and that’s over the course of 16 years. The only phrases missing from this Esmonde lesson are, “lighter, quicker, cheaper” and “placemaking”.

His stabs at elective office were a different story. Gaughan’s failed efforts underline how tough it is for an “outsider” of modest means – despite name recognition and a core following – to take on an endorsed candidate with a legion of party workers, money and institutional backing. He lost Democratic primaries for Congress, mayor and the Assembly.

Gaughan seemed resigned, after getting pounded in the Assembly race last year, to a future of practicing law and digging into academia. But a recent courtesy call to Zellner led, to his surprise, to an endorsement offer.

After decades of separation, the historically fractured Democratic Party has discovered its foremost progressive. Check the thermostat in Hades.

I’m not sure whether Gaughan is progressive or conservative. Isn’t “less government” typically seen as a conservative thing? Perhaps that explains why his is a hard sell in true-blue New York and union-friendly WNY. And what do Gaughan’s “modest means” have to do with anything? If anything, it points to a dramatic need for a fundraising blitz, and that’s something you recruit people to do – people who are good at it.

But Esmonde misses a key point that Gaughan will be asked about – one that has nothing to do with the fact that Gaughan was once sued for a debt owed to the Buffalo Hyatt – for someone who is so opposed to the political class, why is he so eager to join them? Congress, Mayor, State Senate, Erie County Clerk – Gaughan went for all of them in just the last 23 years. That drubbing he took when he primaried a perfectly reasonable progressive Democrat for the Assembly Sean Ryan? Ryan is also an attorney and has made his bones working his way up the party ranks, doing the grunt work and getting the eventual party nod. He is uniquely close to the unions in town and there’s simply no way you can, as a Democrat, outflank Ryan on either end of the political spectrum.

So this isn’t about people finally seeing the Esmonde light about Gaughan – this is about Gaughan finding a race where Democrats are left with no other choice.

Sunday

Also, there was a Sunday column where he was able to tsk-tsk the fact that the city of Buffalo has a lot of bad students populating its schools, and that a kid’s educational output is largely predetermined by his socioeconomic reality and the educational output of the parents. If a parent dropped out of school pregnant and with failing grades in 9th grade, chances are pretty good that the child’s experience will be similar. Rather than addressing the complete breakdown of society that accompanies that sort of spiraling descent into intergenerational poverty and despair,

Esmonde figures we should just bus inner city kids to the boondocks and vice-versa. Because nothing helps education more than an hour-and-a-half bus ride, twice a day, right? This “solution” also gets to avoid one of the most troubling components of this reality – that some people just place no value on education whatsoever. How do you convince someone with that mindset to change anything? Isn’t this the same Esmonde who blamed these negligent parents for chronic student absences? Does he think shipping such a student to Sardinia is going to magically reduce truancy?

Esmonde’s concern-trolling of the extremely complicated and difficult issue of school reform is counterproductive. His tired, prejudicial pablum (underscored by him quoting racist anonymous emails as indicators of widespread suburban opinion), is only made worse by his constant advocating for de-funding suburban schools, incessant charter-fellating, and hypocritical good-enough-for-me-but-not-for-thee union scapegoating. There are probably ways we can help break the pattern of poverty and devalued education in America’s inner cities, but Esmonde looks at putting band-aids on the symptoms, and completely ignores the underlying disease.

Maybe education is devalued because Buffalo was always a manufacturing town. Maybe the loss of manufacturing over the last 40 years has completely devastated families without the means to leave and go where the jobs are. Maybe decades’ worth of demolishing the very socioeconomic foundation of entire communities have led to despair and poverty and despair. Maybe these are the issues we should focus on if we want to lift people up and not lose yet another generation of people who really just need a job and some hope for social mobility.

Endorsements: And the Rest

12 Sep

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

See Erie County Senate Race endorsements here. 

The primary elections are taking place this Thursday. Please vote, if you can.

State Senate: 62d District (George Maziarz (R) Incumbent)

Republican Primary: George Maziarz

Yesterday, I accidentally omitted this race, since I was working off an Erie County list. In Niagara County, longtime incumbent George Maziarz has suddenly found himself on the receiving end of a barrage of hatred and vitriol spewed his way by the likes of Carl Paladino and his compliant sidekick, Rus Thompson. For more about this – and how it’s degenerated from exposing Maziarz’s cronyism to outing him as a closeted gay – click this link and this link

I have no doubt that Maziarz is yet another Republican careerist officeholders who talks up private enterprise while being unencumbered by it; who wants to reduce the size and scope of government while ensuring that he continues to be coddled and supported by its largesse. He is no different in that respect from any of them. He even went so far as to pander to the tea party movement a few years ago, which was quite odd. 

Senator Maziarz and the tea party in happier times

I don’t know the ins and outs of Niagara County politics, except to say that what little I know makes Erie County look urbane by comparison. I’m sure Maziarz’s opponent, Johnny Destino, is a swell guy, but in this case the support of his campaign by the abusive Paladino tea party inures against him, and – leaving most observers amazed and shocked – actually makes Maziarz out to be a sympathetic figure. 

It’s reminiscent of what Pigeon and his collection of goons tried to do to Sam Hoyt a few years ago – in trying to help Barbra Kavanaugh, they unleashed a barrage of negativity on Hoyt that was so relentlessly vicious, that people felt sorry for Hoyt and Kavanaugh lost. I called it the “Kavanaugh flip” – that moment when a negative campaign injures itself, rather than its intended target

That’s what Thompson and Paladino – two guys who couldn’t get elected, and have had little success helping others do the same – have done with Maziarz. 

Assembly 147th District (New)

Republicans: David DiPietro

David DiPietro may be something of a tea party loon and a perennial candidate, and he is unfortunately associated with the likes of Paladino, but I’d actually like to see him go to Albany and have a chance at accomplishing something. He’s a lot of talk, let’s see some action. The rest of this collection are no great shakes, anyway. Dan Humiston? Really? 

Independence Party: Christina Abt

Setting aside for a moment my natural aversion to electoral fusion, given that Abt is up against IP member Humiston, I think it apt that you go to the polls and support her. She is good people and needs the IP line. 

Assembly 149th District: (Sean Ryan (D)Incumbent): 

I’m torn by this choice. On the one hand, I like what Sean Ryan has done since going to Albany, and I think his mission to re-invent IDAs and the way they encourage inter-regional poaching of businesses through weak, poorly vetted promises that are seldom kept. By the same token, I am a huge fan of Kevin Gaughan‘s – more for his promotion of regional government than for his downsizing effort – and would very much like to see him get elected to public office, so that we can see him in action. 

So, I’m not making an endorsement in this race, except to urge Democrats to go to the polls and not vote for Mascia

 

[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. 

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!

 

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.

Erie County Legislature Downsizing: On Ballot Tuesday #WNYVotes #ECLEG

27 Oct

The Erie County Legislature downsizing referendum (15 to 11) will appear on the ballot next week.  My understanding is that it may even make it to the front page of that ballot, which will be helpful.

The Appellate Division in Rochester yesterday affirmed Judge Sedita’s earlier ruling, noting that minor technicalities should not thwart the will of the people, and that the board of elections abused its discretion by rejecting the referendum in the first place.

What we need to do is merge Erie County with the City of Buffalo, have a metropolitan government, a unified school system, 9 city councilpeople, 3 at-large seats, and a Metropolitan professional city manager.  The upcoming green code and a regional planning board with actual powers ought also be implemented.

All done reform.

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