Tag Archives: NYS

Eddie Egriu: Ordinary Guy, Extraordinary Problems

10 Mar

Last week, walking, talking chain e-mail Kathy Weppner decided that she was throwing her hat in the ring to challenge Democratic incumbent Brian Higgins for the congressional seat in the 26th district. Weppner is a stereotypical low-information WBEN caller, and she somehow managed to parlay “Kathy from Williamsville” into an actual, paying radio gig. You should note that Weppner has gone back and scrubbed her webpage of the especially racist and vile things that used to be there. 

That’s ok. The Google cache and waybackmachine will help us to revisit the ideas that were convenient when she was a WBEN personality, but somehow inconvenient now. 

But from the left (ostensibly) we have another challenger – Emin “Eddie” Egriu. Egriu is set to announce that he is running in a Democratic primary against Higgins. Egriu is something of a perennial candidate – think “Kosovar Rus Thompson” – and used to pay Illuzzi and Gramigna off to get articles written about him. Both individuals are now deceased. 

Egriu is something of a character, but the problem is that he’s been lax about his duties as a citizen. Here’s what we know: 

1. The federal government filed liens against Egriu for unpaid taxes, most recently in November 2013 for $90,225.69. He evidently failed to pay his 2005 and 2006 income taxes. In 2009, a federal lien for almost $7,000 was filed, and in 2008 there was one for almost $8,000. 

2. New York filed warrants against him for failure to pay unemployment insurance premiums (under his bizarre dba, “Violation Enterprise”) in 2006 and 2007. He also failed to obtain necessary worker’s compensation insurance, and a judgment was filed against him for $3,000.

3. Egriu is late on his 2013 and 2014 Erie County property taxes. It’s not a lot – less than $200, but then again it’s not a lot – less than $200. 

4. In 1998, he lost two properties to foreclosure for unwillingness or inability to pay his bills. 

5. Since 1995, over $32,000 in civil judgments have been filed arising out of lawsuits against him. 

 Egriu says this in a press release this morning: 

He will make his announcement at the corner of Pulman Place and Shepard Street, near Broadway and Bailey avenues, in the heart of Higgins’ decaying district.

 It’s Pullman Place, and that part of town was decaying long before Mr. Higgins went to Washington. 

Eddie is a liberal anti-war populist challenging Higgins, a right-of-center neo-conservative, in the Democratic Primary.

  • Eddie supports universal single payer healthcare and will fight to eliminate the profit seeking industry that has been leeching the life out of our healthcare system. Higgins voted for Mitt Romney’s plan. 

Higgins voted for Obama’s plan. In 2012 Mitt Romney ran – and lost – opposing Obamacare. 

  • Eddie is anti-war. Higgins is a neo-con who sits on the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Homeland Security Committee.

It’s easy to be anti-war when you’re, at best, a local housing activist. 

  • Eddie opposes the bank bailouts. Higgins voted for them. 

Yes, but is Higgins in favor of the needed Egriu bailout? 

  • Eddie supports the legalization of marijuana for adults. Higgins does not.

Pandering. 

Mr. Egriu’s heart may be in the right place, but his track record reveals a fundamental inability to be taken seriously, and to pay the taxes and fees we all pay to maintain a civilized society. 

Attica U.

19 Feb

Via Wikimedia Commons

New York State’s prisons are not necessarily filled with bad people. 

They are, however, filled with people who have made bad – sometimes violent – choices. They are filled with people who have broken our laws. 

Many of them, for instance, have been imprisoned falsely. Some are imprisoned for nonviolent crimes. Many are just straight up murderers, rapists, assailants, batterers, burglars, armed robbers, kidnappers – people who have deliberately or recklessly done harm to innocent people. 

It’s very, very easy to forget the purposes of incarcerating criminals. It’s not always just punitive – there is supposed to be a degree of redemption and rehabilitation built into the system. However, it hasn’t worked that way, and people are loath to try because “coddling criminals”. 

How we treat New York’s inmates reflects on us as human beings. It also speaks to whether we’re smart or not. As it stands, we’re not. 

America has the highest incarceration rate in the world; about 3/4th of 1% of our population is behind bars. About 22% of America’s detainees are awaiting trial; presumed innocent, having been convicted of nothing. Incarceration rates have skyrocketed since the early 1980s, and New York is 37th in the nation in terms of the rate of its people who are behind bars – about 1/3 of 1% of New Yorkers. Of those, the prison population is overwhelmingly black and Latino – the disparity between the general population and the prison population is dramatic. Most state prisons are upstate, and these newpats are counted as part of the local population for election purposes. 

It costs $60,000 to house, feed, and guard New York prisoners, and also to give them just enough entertainment so they don’t murder each other or the men and women who guard them. Anyone who thinks that New York’s prisoners are guests at a country club facility should arrange a visit to, say, Attica. These are grim fortresses housing a great many people who never had a fighting chance at doing anything else with their lives. 

Earlier this week, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that he wanted to implement a program to give inmates a chance to earn a free college degree. A private initiative operated by Bard College has found that recidivism rates among prisoners who earned a degree while behind bars plummeted from 40% to 4%

The knee-jerk reactions from outraged people was swift, furious, and downright disheartening. I believe that people deserve a chance, and even a second chance, at least.  I believe that a $5,000 annual investment to provide an eager, motivated inmate with a second chance at a productive life outside prison is an investment well made. Would we rather shove him out of the prison environment back into the environment from where he came, with no help, services, skills, or education? What do you think is going to happen? Shall we do the same thing over and over again, expecting different results? Would you rather that a man fresh out of prison with nothing more than a probation officer is going to magically find his way to building the sort of life that you or I enjoy, without any guidance, mentoring, or life skills? 

I would rather not pay for an inmate’s return to prison. I would rather that society save the money on pretrial detention, police services, court time, court personnel, transportation, post-conviction detention, food, housing, clothes, etc., through a program to redirect and truly attempt to rehabilitate people motivated to find a new way. 

This doesn’t mean we’re going to be handing out Bachelor’s degrees to murderers, but if there’s a drug dealer behind bars at 21 who’s due to be released in his 30s, doesn’t it make sense to give that person hope and life skills for a future where he’s not relying on crime or the victimization of others? 

In 1995, Governor Pataki dismantled an already existing program. This Huffington Post contributor wrote this, at the time

We the imprisoned people of New York State, 85% of whom are black and Latino, 75% of whom come from 26 assembly districts in 7 neighborhoods in New York City, to which 98% will someday return, possibly no better off than when we left, uneducated and lacking employable skills, declare this Kairos in response to the elimination of the prison college programs, GED and vocational training programs and education beyond the eighth-grade level. The elimination of prison education programs is part of Governor Pataki’s proposed budget cuts. It amounts to less than one third of one percent of the total state budget, but it will cost taxpayers billions of dollars in the years to come.

I went on to state that many studies, even one conducted by the New York State Department of Correctional Services, have demonstrated empirically what people know intuitively: that prisoners who earn college degrees are far less likely to return to a life of crime upon release. According to research conducted by the Department, of the inmates who earned a college degree in 1986, 26% had returned to state prison, whereas 45% of inmates who did not earn a degree were returned to custody. For many prisoners, gaining an education signals an end to personal failure and a ladder out of poverty and crime. Without it, the governor may as well change the name “Department of Correctional Services” to “Department of Correctional Warehousing.” As the former Chief Justice Warren Burger stated: “To confine offenders without trying to rehabilitate them is expensive folly.”

The author of that passage was imprisoned at Sing Sing for a nonviolent drug offense under the draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws – he went in the system in 1985 and was released in 1997.  During that time, he took advantage of a then-extant program at Sing Sing operated by the Bronx Community College. 

My two year degree opened my eyes to the value of getting a college education. After that I received my B.S. in Behavioral Science from Mercy College, then went on to receive a graduate degree from New York Theological Seminary. I survived imprisonment because of my ability to transcend the negativity around me because of the rehabilitative qualities of a college education.

When I was released from prison after receiving executive clemency for Governor George Pataki in 1997 my reentry into society was eased because of my college education. But it was not an easy deal. When some people found out about where I got my college education they were not too happy. I remember going on a few television shows and talking about my college education. Instead of being happy for me they talked about how I got a free college education instead of being punished. My response was that I did not get a free education, I paid dearly for it serving 12 years in prison and I did everything I could to make a bad situation good.

Our prisons should not be equipped with revolving doors for poor, uneducated, downstate black and Latinos; kids who more often than not came from dysfunctional homes, bad neighborhoods, and who had no one to teach them the value of anything. At some point, some effort should be made to ensure that there is no return visit. Through that investment, we can – in the long run – help save the taxpayers billions. 

Former inmate Anthony Cardenales, 39, of the Bronx, earned degrees from Bard College during his 16-year prison sentence on manslaughter charges. He is now vice president of an electronics recycling company in Mount Vernon.

 The costs of our high recidivism rate is throwing good money after bad. The people convicted of crimes deserve to be punished, yes. But we as a society are completely ignorant and blind to the societal costs of reintroducing ex-cons to society without the support and tools they need to make it. We don’t spend $60,000 per year to rehabilitate them – just to cage them. The New York system already uses their slave labor to build furniture. (Here is another article about other penitentiary work programs).

We already run GED programs and high-school level courses for inmates. 

If we can exploit their labor, certainly we can give those who want it an education and a chance at a better life as productive members of society. 

Shorter Everything

10 Jan

1. Dennis Gabryszak is a creep who is accused of doing creepy things to at least 7 women, who have the courage to come forward and publicly air the ways in which this schmuck humiliated them. Gabryszak has not denied or otherwise addressed the allegations and is unfit for public service. 

2. It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up was the lesson learned during Watergate, and on Thursday New Jersey Governor Chris Christie took 2 hours to explain how he was completely in the dark about some really despicable things that his very close advisors and confidants were doing. When his appointee to the NYNJ Port Authority, David Wildstein, resigned in December – a month ago – over September’s politically manufactured bridge debacle. For Christie to suggest that this is all news to him strains credulity. For him to suggest that he was completely in the dark about these things seems unlikely. Ultimately, if you surround yourself with petty, vindictive people, and you maintain a public demeanor that is, at times, petty and vindictive, you can hardly stand there with a straight face and claim that you are, like, totally shocked that people in your employ behaved in a petty and vindictive manner. 

3. Yesterday, GOP gadfly Michael Caputo was sitting in for Tom Bauerle on WBEN, and he had legendary dirty trickster Roger Stone call in – that’s quite a get. They talked about a meeting Friday put together in an effort to convince billionaire birther Donald Trump to run for Governor of the state of New York. Stone got it exactly right – Trump doesn’t have a chance. Ultimately, New York State is as blue as it gets, and while Democrats and left independents might consider a Republican who portrays himself as a centrist who is liberal on social issues (see: Pataki), there’s no way in hell any self-respecting Democrat would support a Donald Trump for governor – not after his dramatic and absurd lurch to the very fringes of the right wing in the last few years. For all the Freudian bleating about the NY SAFE Act, the metropolitan area around the five boroughs – how did Glenn Beck phrase it? Oh yeah, “they surround you”. 

4. Declared dead several years ago, it turns out that shared border management still has a pulse. Because Canadian border agents are now armed, like their American counterparts, one of the big obstacles to pre-clearing traffic on the Canadian side and eliminating the inspection booths on the American side has been eliminated. For now, it’s a pilot program and it’s only for commercial traffic, but if it’s successful there’s no reason why it couldn’t also be used for passenger vehicles, too. If that happens, all of the alarmist talk about the adverse health effects from idling traffic at a bridge crossing that has existed for 100 years can stop. I never quite understood how adding lanes to alleviate traffic congestion would aggravate health problems on the west side of Buffalo, nor did I understand why the anti-bridge rhetoric was effectively arguing for the complete removal of the bridge altogether. But hopefully the saga of the Hundredyearbridge will make a millimeter’s worth of progress. 

5. If your town government decides to hold a “public hearing” about a local controversy at 4:30 pm on a weekday, and doesn’t bother to invite representatives of the locality’s regional governmental entity, then it’s safe to say that the town government isn’t interested in dealing with conflict or problems. The one-party system in the town of Clarence is not showing itself to be particularly responsive or concerned about legitimate gripes from people in the northern flood plain.

Unbelievable. 

6. Chris Collins (NY-27) is playing to type

7. Subset cars: 

– did you know that it is perfectly legal for any American to import any car from anywhere in the world, provided it is 25+ years old? Not only legal to import, but legal to put on the road. Here’s a cool story about a dream come true

– I told you a few weeks ago to get yourself a set of snow tires. That’s not all. When it’s snowing and sloppery out, you should also (a) keep your washer fluid topped off; (b) keep an extra gallon of fluid in your trunk; (c) physically wipe the slop off your wipers every once in a while to keep them clean and clear; (d) take a squeegee to your front headlights at every fill-up to get the road sludge off of them and enable you to actually see at night. To that end, if your local Noco or whatever doesn’t keep a proper squeegee bucket around with some form of unfrozen cleaning solution, stop going there or complain. It is inexcusable in a cold climate. 

Have a good weekend!

 

 

 

So You Want to do Business in New York

18 May
Inflatable Rat

Inflatable Rat was unavailable for comment

Governor Cuomo is wildly popular, and he’s getting loads of credit for helping to fix the state’s fiscal crisis, and also for implementing and advocating for reforms of the way in which the state does its business. Perhaps, however, the change he’s brought has been too tentative and not wide-reaching enough.  

Take, for instance, the case of Howard Nielsen, the owner of Sticky Lips BBQ in Rochester. I first became aware of his restaurant when I saw the new one being constructed along Jefferson Road, and I had a very nice lunch there recently. He’s written an exasperated open letter right on the front page of his restaurant’s website, called “So You Want to do Business in New York“.  

The land on which the restaurant sits is owned by the Genesee Valley Regional Market Authority and leased to Sticky Lips, which owns the building. It’s a small property – a former Roadhouse restaurant – and Sticky Lips completed its renovations through a private non-union contractor. It’s not a “public work”, he’s not required under any regulation or statute to retain the services of union labor, and he is just a guy who owns a restaurant who built it out and paid a bunch of people a lot of money to renovate and build it out. He didn’t use any public money to do so. 

But the shakedown began when, halfway through the project, a guy from the carpenter’s union showed up. It was a small job, and he was told, “no thanks”.  Two days later, there was an OSHA guy camped out across the street with “a telephoto lens”. A few weeks later, a guy from the electrical union showed up. They were also told, “no thanks.” Two days later, an inspector from the state Department of Labor was on site, demanding to see the contracts to determine whether prevailing wages were being paid. 

I’m generally pro-union, and I respect the notion of collective bargaining to ensure that workers who choose to unionize are treated fairly. But that should apply to big business, or public works. Ultimately – it’s the workers’ choice whether to work for a union shop or not, and small businesses renovating a non-chain restaurant should, frankly, be left alone, much less harassed. And why is it that state and federal inspectors are seemingly acting in concert – one could even say on behalf of – the union? 

Now? Sticky Lips’ contractors were all subpoenaed for a May 16th hearing at the Labor Department for an investigation of whether laws were broken. Nielsen continues, 

Bob Bibbins pressured me to go online to register this project with the labor department, which would automatically commit me or my contractors to pay prevailing wages.  He said he would start the violation from the date he showed up, but wouldn’t put that deal in writing.  I did not submit to this online filing. My lawyer at Woods Oviatt Gilman gave Bibbins our stance that we own the building privately and we are only making improvements to the building and not the land which it sits on.

Furthermore,

In the meantime, Bibbins is going to push this and see that I pay these prevailing wages. He has subpoenaed the contractors, who have to show up May 16th and attend before Ralph Gleason, public work wage investigator. He has been designated by the Commissioner of Labor to conduct an investigation concerning Sticky Lips BBQ, “an entity subject to an investigation by the New York State Department of Labor concerning a public work project pursuant to the provisions of Article 8, New York State Labor Law.”

All I did was to put many construction workers to work. I bought hundreds of thousands of dollars of construction materials from local companies. At this restaurant, I have created over 120 good-paying jobs. The business will collect and pay hundreds of thousands dollars in sales, property, employment, and other taxes. Between my three restaurants, I have over 200 employees. I am contributing to the state, I am creating jobs. I am the type of businessman the state wants. I feel like I am being attacked by these two unions, who have put pressure on the N.Y.S. Labor Department to see this through.

Not only do I need to reinvest my profits to grow my business, but now I have to pay thousands of dollars in legal fees and worst case scenario – if the Labor Department wins, many more thousands for this prevailing wage issue.

Is this the type of business practice I should expect from New York State as I try to grow my business in the upcoming years?

Nielsen has appended some documents to his letter to prove his point. So, why exactly was this relatively small venture targeted?

Here’s Where Carl Paladino Threatens to Kill Fred Dicker

29 Sep

(With updated video courtesy WIVB). Fred Dicker is the dean of the Albany press corps. Well-respected and thorough, he writes for the right-wing Murdoch rag the New York Post. He’s been at it for decades and has received every award available for him to receive.

As the scrutiny from press corps outside Buffalo intensifies around the locally untouchable developer, Paladino made a vulgar, pointless accusation about Andrew Cuomo’s first marriage to Kerry Kennedyolder news is hard to come by.

When Dicker confronted Paladino – a belligerent egomaniac – Paladino struck back with threats up to and including, “I’ll take you out”. Let me rephrase this:

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Republican Gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino threatened to murder columnist Fred Dicker.

I don’t really know what the hell Carl’s problem is – if he’s willing to go nuclear on Cuomo’s failed marriage (which ended long ago), then Carl’s protestations against inquiries into his own sordid personal life ring hollow. You can’t have it both ways. Evidently, Carl’s campaign doesn’t like that a grown woman with whom Carl slept 10 years ago was spoken to and photographed by the NY Post.

But I hope people like Dicker keep pushing, prodding, looking, and provoking. We already know Paladino doesn’t have the character to be governor. We already know he has no strategy for policy success should he win. We’re coming to learn he doesn’t even remotely possess anything approaching the temperament to handle life as a public servant.

I think Billy Batts is Fred Dicker, and Carl is Tommy DeVito, and Dicker sort of told Carl to get his f-ing shinebox.

What Business is He In?

27 Sep

Governor Paterson appears on Saturday Night Live, which takes on Albany, Paladino, Cuomo, Buffalo, and New Jersey.

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Cuomo Goes Positive and Negative

23 Sep

Andrew Cuomo

Cuomo’s campaign woke up and released two ads today.  One positive, one negative.  First, “Nancy”:

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Next, “One Job?”

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Which do you think is more effective?

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Flabbergasted Whilst Ignoring the Bleeding Obvious

11 Jul

In Sunday’s Buffalo News Bob McCarthy metaphorically sticks his head in the sand about the Detestable Independence Party’s endorsement of Tim Kennedy over Bill Stachowski in the SD-58 Democratic Primary.

That minor party founded in New York by Buffalo Sabres owner Tom Golisano is essentially controlled upstate by Democratic operative Steve Pigeon. Why? Because state Independence Chairman Frank MacKay said so, that’s why.

Rosenswie begs to differ. But she works in the same County Legislature where Pigeon helped assemble a majority friendly to County Executive Chris Collins. Legislator Christina Wleklinski Bove, a Rosenswie ally, is part of that majority. So is Kennedy.

Pigeon is also the $150,000 counsel to Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada, one of two New York City members who threw the Senate into a tizzy last year when they joined a coup orchestrated by Pigeon and his political patron—Golisano.

So political insiders everywhere were flabbergasted last week when Pigeon-controlled Independence bypassed a Senate stalwart — Stachowski—for Kennedy. Did the move by a top Senate staffer amount to the Democratic leadership throwing a vulnerable member under the bus? Especially because the Stachowski seat is crucial to continued Democratic control?

Pigeon won’t talk, but a source familiar with his thinking said the Independence move signals the belief Stachowski can’t win.

Other Senate sources, however, say Pigeon’s move reflects uncertainity surrounding Espada, who was basically read out of the Democratic Party last week by Chairman Jay Jacobs.

“Steve Pigeon’s only alliance in the Senate is with Pedro Espada, and Espada’s days are numbered,” said one top Albany source. “Steve knows he has to have another horse in the game.”

Back here on earth, it’s pretty easy to sniff out the blatantly obvious quid pro quo. Kennedy signed on to Pigeon’s “reform coalition” in the leg with the understanding that Pigeon could deliver the Detestable IP (hereafter DIP) line. And when Espada loses / does his perp walk, perhaps Kennedy will help Pigeon retain a position with the needless State Senate.

Everybody wins!

Pedro Espada: All About the Public Service

28 Apr

The thing about embattled State Senator Pedro Espada, Jr. is that he’s not so much a political leader as he is a petty mafia kingpin. I would have made a comparison to some small potatoes dictator, but really – petty dictator and mafia don? Six of one, half dozen of the other. He’s got the sense of self-importance, he’s got the personal empire, he’s got the third person self-referral, he’s got the self-entitlement, and he’s excellent at portraying himself as the victim.

He has no business anywhere near elected office, and when the hoped-for indictments come down, it would be quite handy if he’d be Monserrated right out of the state senate.

Here he is on WCBS’ “Eye on New York” enjoying what might reasonably described as a “bad interview“, culminating in his premature departure when asked one too many unfriendly questions, including about his real home in Mamaroneck which is nowhere near his senate district.

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Excelsior!

Fracking Hydro

28 Apr