Tag Archives: local politics

All Quiet Along This Front

21 Sep

Anyone else notice that nobody is complaining about anything anymore?

Drawing courtesy Sven Yrvind at http://www.yrvind.com

Let me be more specific. While Washington is more shrill than ever, we here in Buffalo and Western New York seem to be more sedate. We’ve followed Jules’ advice and chilled this mother out. Not hope (false or not) for the future, but not resignation and apathetic despair either. Just . . . even keel. Whether this break is a lull, a calm before the storm, or more long lasting is impossible to know. But locally, nobody seems to be too riled up, and this is in stark contrast to the last decade.

Maybe it’s because the lightning rod projects have finally drawn towards a conclusion. Mark Croce, by all accounts, is pouring real money into the Statler and bringing it back. That was the last item in the Silver Bullet checklist of Buffalo. The Peace Bridge second span is dead. The Seneca Casino downtown is morphed into a smaller project, sans hotel, that seeks to embrace businesses in the growing neighborhood. Canalside is poking along, and most citizens seem more interested in enjoying sunshine on the water and a new concert series than get worked up over a couple hundred grand to over-priced Fred Kent and company. The Medical Campus adds new buildings every couple months, and UB 2020 has passed in an abbreviated form; the ink had barely dried on Cuomo’s signature and already the silence was deafening from all sides, for and against. Even Benderson’s “lifestyle center” on Maple died with a whimper. The next Silver Bullet checklist is currently being drawn up – for now it only includes new bridges across the Buffalo River to connect the Inner and Outer Harbors. Perhaps the collective bile will rise as new projects are added. 

Maybe it’s because the instigators have faded away, in victory, defeat or irrelevance. Paladino has mostly kept his turds out of punchbowls since his drubbing. Williams is out as Buffalo Schools Superintendent, Simpson is gone from UB, and Quinn from the ECHDC. I haven’t heard Tim Tielman’s name in months, and Goldman faded as quickly as the paint job on the Adirondack chairs. Esmonde took a (partial) buyout and no one except the insiders care if Lenihan follows the governor’s career advice or not.

Maybe it’s because shoes have yet to drop. The HSBC pullout from Buffalo seemed inevitable earlier in the year. Now First Niagara has a branch network and hockey arena to its name, and the first round of global HSBC cuts have passed us by unscathed. The tower HSBC occupies is in danger of emptying (Phillips Lytle moving two blocks if nothing else), but the main leases there expire in several years.

Maybe it’s because our political season is suddenly a snooze fest. Only six weeks out, Erie County residents may be excused for forgetting there is a County Executive race this November. In contrast to Senator Mark Grisanti’s race for a district that covers roughly the same territory, the recent special election to replace Sam Hoyt in the Assembly passed a week ago with barely a whisper. The local Tea Party groups stopped holding rallies at the waterfront, and no highway tolls are currently on the chopping block. We downsized our Erie County legislature with the help of a judge, and Maria Whyte finds herself stumping for upgrades to the county clerk’s office (Kathy Hochul presided over the Dark Ages?) instead of lighting evil fat cats on fire. We have a Governor who earns the begrudging respect of everyone in the room, and through pragmatic competent leadership, Albany’s tone has actually changed. Alan Bedenko’s coverage of petty politics in Clarence is as insightful as it is ordinary. A fascinating glimpse into crumb gathering to be sure, and effective at the ballot box, but the fish are so much smaller than what we’re used to.

Maybe it’s because no one of the above really matters all that much. It was a beautiful summer, the Bills are 2-0 (and so is my fantasy football team), and Terry Pegula has Sabres fans walking in a perpetual blissful dream world. The worst of the catholic church closings have passed, there are more urban gardens every year, the roads are full of construction workers (read: jobs), and Gordon Biersch has landed at the Galleria. Small improvements, from Riverfest Park to Buffalo River dredging to three-story brownstone renovations all over the city, are quietly creating a swelling avalanche of pebble-sized bits of good news.

Artwork by Christopher Carter

So the Jersey Livery renovation hasn’t happened yet. Neither has the Wingate Hotel of Doom. No one is chaining themselves to piles of bricks to thwart the wrecking ball. Instead, orphanages that I considered lost causes are undergoing rehab in forgotten corners of the city. The Tonawanda Powertrain workers are back, and GM is dumping in nearly a billion in new investment. The Great Recession was bad in Buffalo, but our 7.6% unemployment rate and tiny housing price growth is the envy of the nation.

Has this placated us? It’s not like every problem has gone away. We still have a caretaker, over-politicized mayor. We still have a shrinking population and blighted neighborhoods. A rash of industrial fires in residential neighborhoods have spurred the Clean Air Coalition of WNY to expose how little we know about air quality during major accidents.  But I hear little generally from the activist community locally. I’m not being asked to attend rallies to save anything, stop anything, or make anyone change their mind. 

Why? What do you think? Has the tone changed or have I missed it? I look forward to input and comments.

Vote, Then Listen to & Watch Our Primary Night Programming

14 Sep

When I was a kid, in March 1982, I went to Yugoslavia over spring break and they were smack in the middle of election season. Back then, under communism, the “elections” were held on Sundays and attendance was compulsory, to show that the regime had the unanimous consent of the proletarian masses. Naturally, there was only one list of candidates, and voters got to vote “yes” or “no”. Miraculously, the slate of candidates from the League of Communists of Yugoslavia won with 99.9% of the vote. Every time.

That’s how a totalitarian dictatorship does things, and unfortunately there are still a bunch of them around the world.

We’re lucky. We get to choose our winners and, ultimately, the direction of our future. Unfortunately, because party loyalty runs almost irrationally deep in WNY, oftentimes primary races are the only races that matter. So, even though primaries are little-discussed and their elections poorly attended, it’s as important as showing up in November. If you’re a Democrat – no matter where in New York you live – you have an Attorney General’s race to decide. If you’re a Republican – no matter where in New York you live – you have a Gubernatorial race to decide. If you’re a member of the Independence Party or Conservative Party, then you’re probably already a prime voter and know to show up. Unless you’re one of those people who is enrolled in the IP because you think it means you’re independent & unenrolled.

Polls in Erie County are open from 6am – 9pm; 12pm – 9pm in other counties. Please show up and make your voice heard.

As for us at WNYMedia.net, we’ll be doing an election night show live from WECK studios from 8pm – 11pm. Our show will be hosted by Nick Mendola, featuring me, Chris Smith, Marc Odien, Brian Castner, and Geoff Kelly. Thanks to the WECK board, we’ll be able to feature phone calls from candidates, and maybe calls from listeners/viewers. But please note – because there’s a Yankee game on tonight, our audio will only be heard on the online stream, and we’ll be poaching WECK’s stream, as well. That means those of you who use programs like Pocket Tunes or similar to listen to audio streams on your smartphone will be able to easily listen to our stream on the go – you won’t be tethered to a computer. We’ll also run a video stream on the site here.

If you’re a candidate and want to participate in the show, please shoot me an email. Ditto if you’re on the inside and want to shoot us a tip.

See you tonight.

Local Election Predictions

4 Nov

Normally, I would have made an endorsement post like I have for the previous three years, but there are few local candidates to whom I would give an endorsement.  So, I just skipped it.  I figured it would be more interesting to make some predictions on election eve…but only for the races I’m interested in.  It’s my blog and that’s how I roll.

When it comes to winning elections, there are four things a candidate needs to do to win a race.

1.)  Define yourself

2.)  Define your opponent

3.)  Define the stakes

4.)  Raise a fuckload of money

Who has done the best job accomplishing these four things in their respective race?

Let’s start with the local Congressional races…

Projected Winner:  NY-26 Christopher Lee (R)

The DCCC has dumped nearly $2MM into this race and I am still trying to figure out why they bothered.  Alice Kryzan is going to get smoked in this district, it’s not even gonna be close.  While Chris Lee has nothing in his past which would indicate even a shred of credibility as a candidate (aside from winning membership in the lucky sperm club), Alice Kryzan is exactly the kind of candidate that can’t win in a rural/new money Republican district.  Lee’s money advantage and his enrollment advantage in the district make it simple for him to simply play defense and win.  Kryzan was defined early as a traditional liberal trial attorney who wants to raise taxes, take away your Doctor and help fix the environment.  Not winning issues in this district.

For all of Jon Powers flaws, he was the one Democrat who could win this district.  He had crossover appeal as a vet and former Republican.  It was easy to project McCain/Powers voters in the hinterlands of this district, but very few McCain/Kryzan voters.  Unfortunately, this seat goes to a douche like Lee by default.  He’ll take the the GLOW counties 70-30 and Erie/Monroe County 52-48 based on heavy Obama turnout which will give a slight boost to Kryzan and arm people with false hope as the early returns trickle in.

Projected Winner NY-27:  Brian Higgins (D)

Brian Higgins has turned out to be a pretty damn good Congressman, eh?  He is in tune with his district on local issues and is a leader for progress on the waterfront.  He has also exercised independence from the party on national security, war funding and ethics reform.

Dan Humiston appears to be a guy who felt like wasting a couple hundred grand on a Congressional run to help market his company.  There is no explanation for his half-assed campaign and he has done absolutely nothing to define himself, his opponent, or the race.  His slogan is “It’s Time”.  What the fuck is that supposed to mean?  Ya know what, “it’s time” for Higgins to win by a landslide, I’ll go with 80-20 as heavy Obama turnout bumps up Higgins numbers.

State Senate Races:

SD-58:  Bill Stachowski (D)

Whoa!  Someone woke Bill Stachowski up.  After 30 years of simply being present, the Chauncey Gardner of local state politicians woke up in August to find he had an actual race on his hands.  Stachowski is the most unexciting of our local state delegation and has little to show for thirty years of unfettered incumbency.

Enter bejoweled sideshow Dennis Delano.  The Buffalo cop did a good job early of defining himself and raising money but he didn’t do enough work on defining his opponent as a do nothing boil on the ass of the WNY political scene.  Delano didn’t do that because in so doing he would have exposed himself to be less than literate on the issues and also exposed himself to criticism from the local Dem machine.  He had hoped to get enough of an early lead to play defense, but it hasn’t worked.  Heavy turnout for Obama in the heavily Democratic 58th will swamp Delano and ensure that Stachowski can go back to his regular schedule of naps and ignoring problems.

SD-59:  Dale Volker (R)

Yes, the epitome of everything that is wrong with Albany will be sent back for yet another term of spending $1MM on staff and thumbing his nose at responsible, ethical government.  What a dick.

Early on, Kathy Konst couldn’t seem to decide between running for Congress in the 26th or taking Golisano’s money to run in SD-59.  She got off to a lousy start and Volker had a tough primary battle on his hands.  Konst should have used that time to better define herself with a solid ground game, biographical mailers and some limited media buys in the far reaches of the district.  For some reason, she didn’t get her house in order.  After his primary win, Volker immediately went for the jugular and defined Kathy as a quasi-felon for voting chicanery and exposed her husband to be the worst businessman this side of Ken Lay.  Her seeming lack of answers and slowfooted response to Volker’s charges absolutely destroyed her.  She has gotten her shit together in recent weeks, but it’s too late in the game for a candidate with a short budget.  Golisano didn’t seem to come through with the money needed to win and now she’s damaged.  ‘Tis a shame, she would have been a phenomenal state senator.  Let’s hope she recovers and can seek another office in the future.

SD-61:  Joe Mesi (D)

Would I tell Joe Mesi he was unqualified to serve in the State Senate?  Would I tell him that I think he’s not smart enough for the job?  Would I tell him to his face that he is one of the least qualified candidates to ever run for political office in WNY?  Not a chance, he’d punch my face in.  So, I’ll predict that most voters in SD-61 will be intimidated by Mesi showing up at their house to deliver a ferocious beatdown if he finds out they voted for a joke like Mike Ranzenhofer rather than him.

There are no winners in this election, especially those who will be represented by either one of the laziest and most uninspired county legislators in recent history or a guy who until last year made a living by getting punched in the mouth.  Democratic turnout in this district should be strong, especially in Mesi’s stronghold of Tonawanda and I think it’ll be enough for him to eke out a win.  Ranzenhofer did a poor job of defining himself since he has 20 years of doing pretty much nothing as a legislator.  What a FAILboat of an election.

The rest of the races were over after the primaries due to gerrymandering or I just don’t care.

As my friend DJ Lance Rock would say…