Tag Archives: Legislature

County Leg: Making it Rain

23 May

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

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

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

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.

Redrawing the Lines

14 Jan
Erie County Hall. Buffalo NY
Image via Wikipedia

An article submitted by the Chairwoman of the Erie County Legislature, Barbara Miller-Williams.

Getting Ready to Draw the Lines
By Erie County Legislature Chair Barbara Miller-Williams

Changes are on the horizon regarding who will represent your interests in government on the local, state and national level.  And while this may seem like a mundane activity, it becomes important when you think about the resources that an elected official can bring to your neighborhood.

For Erie County we will be redrawing the lines of each of our Legislative Districts.  We do this every 10 years but this time it will be more than just a shifting of the lines, we are also reducing the number of Legislators from the current 15 to 11.

To facilitate the process of drawing the lines the Erie County Charter calls for the formation of an Advisory Committee on Reapportionment by the Erie County Legislature.  The purpose of the Committee is to advise the Legislature on how the county legislature should be reapportioned consistent with federal and state law.  We will be appointing members to the Committee in January and February and then as we are given the new population data from the Census Bureau the Committee will meet to create a proposal for the new districts.

This year I feel the Advisory Committee on Reapportionment is more important than ever. Insuring that the entire process of drawing new lines for the legislative districts is a fair, open and transparent process is imperative.  There will be additional challenges this year as we reduce the size of this body from 15 members to 11 and we need to make sure that facts, and not politics, govern the process.

And the very best way to assure that we are open and transparent is to have strong community involvement. So I am asking each of you to do your part to assure that the County Government is responsive to your needs and the needs of your neighborhood by staying informed about the redistricting process.  You can check the website for the Legislature for updates and there will be News reports as the process unfolds.  As always I encourage you to call my office with questions about the process with regards to the County Legislature redistricting.  (For questions about Federal, State or City redistricting call the office of your representative).

Also if you are involved in a group that is interested in suggesting advisory committee members or you are an individual interested in serving on this committee I encourage you to submit a letter of interest to the Clerk of the Legislature no later than February 4, 2011.  Letters of interest should be addressed to:

Robert M. Graber
Clerk, Erie County Legislature
92 Franklin Street, 4th Floor
Buffalo, NY  14202

I thank you for helping us, as your elected officials, to keep the political process open and fair to all members of our community by staying informed about the redistricting process.

Marc Coppola for State Senate SD-61 #WNYVotes

22 Sep

By way of full disclosure, I ran against Mike Ranzenhofer for the county legislature in 2007.  I think he’s just as ineffective and feckless now as he was then.

Ranzenhofer has been in elected office for over 20 years, and has helped preside over the precipitous decline in WNY’s fortunes during that time.  While he was in the minority during most of his tenure in the county legislature and state senate, someone who believes in good government can still make a positive difference for his constituents beyond just saying, “no” and proposing pie-in-the-sky tax cuts without actually doing the work necessary to get it done.  During his short time in the majority, he advocated for, and passed, the Giambra budgets that led to fiscal meltdown in 2004.

Marc Coppola, former Buffalo City Councilman and pre-Antoine SD-60 senator has moved into Tonawanda and is running to replace Ranzenhofer in SD-61.  He made a splash when he announced by renouncing our corrupt system of electoral fusion, refusing to accept or seek the WFP or IP or CP lines.  He pledges to work to abolish fusion. By contrast, Ranzenhofer sought and received the endorsements of the IP and CP, and no doubt some IP and CP low-level, semi-intelligent apparatchik will get some sort of state job or contract in exchange for that endorsement.  You scratch my back politics is de rigeur in New York if you play the fusion game.

Coppola is the first person with a high profile to so vocally criticize and renounce fusion – a system that helps and is helped by the party establishment.

Yet Ranzenhofer goes to the Senate, helps the Republicans cut deals with corrupt friend-of-Pigeon, Pedro Espada, and criticizes the budget process in Albany.   He has zero independence whatsoever and goes along with whatever the minority does.  Coppola rightfully criticized Ranzenhofer’s disingenuous complaints about the budget process thusly,

There are 62 members in the New York State Senate and it only takes 32 to pass a bill. Even with nine members absent, the remaining 53 are more than enough to get something accomplished. The fact that nothing is getting done is due to senators like Mike Ranzenhofer who would rather accomplish nothing so that they can play partisan blame games.”

Ranzenhofer has also been missing in action when it comes to the battle to pass the UB 20/20 legislation. The university is the district’s largest employer and in desperate need of help.

“I challenge the incumbent senator to show some independence and work for the people who elected him, not his party leader. I challenge him to do something for his district and WNY. New York State is in its most difficult financial crisis since the Great Depression. This is no time for partisan politics. It is a time for all members to act like adults and work together for the good of all New Yorkers.”

Coppola isn’t just blowing smoke.  During his abbreviated (4-month session) tenure in the state Senate, Coppola submitted many  bills, four of which passed and were signed into law by the Governor, all while being in the minority and the most freshman member of the Senate at the time.  That’s about the same number that former state senator Byron Brown passed during his entire 5 years there.

The fiscally conservative Republican incumbent, isn’t.  Just yesterday, Coppola pointed out that Ranzenhofer is all too happy to spend public money when it directly benefits his re-election campaign.

[Ranzenhofer] is an outright hypocrite, claiming to be a fiscal conservative, while spending like a liberal.

“Ranzenhofer continues to call for budget cuts and less spending, but what does he do? He spends, and spends, and then spends more taxpayer money,” Coppola said.

Ranzenhofer sent out taxpayer-funded mailings through his government offices. This most recent mailer simply invites people to come and meet his staff. Another mailer informs people to be safe on Halloween.

“Are these messages really important enough to spend thousands of taxpayers’ dollars on?” asked Coppola.

The practice is widely criticized as wasteful.

Coppola believes Ranzenhofer is misleading the public when he sounds the alarm about state spending and reducing taxes, yet he continues to spend more than any other WNY Senator in his conference on useless mailers.

Ranzenhofer wants it both ways contends Coppola, “He’s telling his constituents that he’s trying to reduce state spending, but nobody will listen to him. He is ineffective because he has no credibility and doesn’t practice what he preaches.”

Coppola also criticized Ranzenhofer for using the system to further his re-election campaign with mailers close to the election at taxpayer expense. Ranzenhofer should have used campaign funds, said Coppola.

“He has over a quarter of a million dollars in his campaign war chest, why not lead by example and use that, rather than taxpayer money when the state is virtually bankrupt,” he added.

Ranzenhofer really is just a suburban, Republican variation on the Antoine Thompson theme.  He gets a free pass on everything he does (or, more often than not, doesn’t do) because he’s a Republican with a gaping enrollment advantage in his district.  But can you name a singular Ranzenhofer legislative success?  Can you name one initiative that he’s brought forth to make your life better?  Hell, can you name a time he actually accomplished something – whether it be lowering taxes or controlling spending?

A cynic would say that Ranzenhofer’s political tenure are mere efforts to get great benefits and a sweet pension – something his small Akron law firm could never offer and remain solvent.

By contrast, Coppola wants to return to Albany and actually bring about some political change that would matter.  Abolishing electoral fusion would matter. Changing the way in which the state budget is passed would matter.  Instituting rules changes to render the legislative process in New York more democratic and fair would matter.  The highlights of his platform include,

  • A Constitutional Budget Deadline, ending late state budgets forever.
  • A Mandate Relief Task Force, that will review and recommend changes to state laws that increase property taxes
  • A Regional Economic Development plan that will grow jobs by consolidating agencies, streamlining the process, and adding consistency
  • Adding full investigatory powers and abilities to both the State Board of Elections and the Legislative Ethics Commission in order to hold elected officials, candidates for office, and their staffs accountable for violations
  • An end to Fusion Voting, which allows candidates to run on multiple party lines. This has become a breeding ground for corruption and has outlived its usefulness in New York State

When you talk to Marc Coppola, you sense his passion for good government and public service.  He knows the importance of that work, and understands the process and its nuances. He’s a guy who would go to Albany and actually do something – not just cut deals with Pedro Espada, then sit back and do nothing.  Coppola is hosting a fundraiser at Caputi’s on Sheridan in Tonawanda tonight, and you can contribute to his campaign here via ActBlue.

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