Tag Archives: unicameral

Endorsements 2011

7 Nov

These are not predictions. These are preferences. Please be sure to join WNYMedia.net Tuesday for election night coverage starting around 9pm. Your mileage may vary. Offer void where prohibited.

1. Erie County Executive: Mark Poloncarz

No surprise here. Mark is a personal friend and I believe in the work that he’s accomplished on behalf of all the taxpayers of Erie County. His office has been run with excellence in mind, and with the taxpayers’ best interests at heart. He is a middle-class kid who hasn’t forgotten from whence he came, and wants to go up 5 floors in the Rath Building in order to represent all the people of Erie County – city, suburb, rich, poor, black, white – everybody. I won’t repeat four years’ worth of posts exposing Chris Collins for being the tax-hiking, elitist hyperpolitical tinpot Machiavelli he is – just do a search for “Chris Collins” on our site.  What I will say is that Poloncarz is going to bring not just competence, but excellence to the County Executive’s office. Despite lots of pressure to do otherwise, Mark is a believer in maintaining a meritocracy in his office. He hires and retains people who do the best and most thorough work for their county pay. He’s a hard worker who doesn’t back down from a challenge or a fight. When it comes to dealing with a dysfunctional legislature, a county control board, and his enemies’ slings and arrows, Poloncarz has proven that he’s up to it, time and time again. He fought to make sure his office did county borrowing because he got the better financing deals. He’s exposed waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer money large and small. He doesn’t think you need to substitute creative thinking and common sense with some expensive cluster of management-speak to get the best and most efficient results for your tax dollar.

But on top of that, Mark has his priorities straight. He doesn’t think you should privatize WIC or shutter clinics to score political points with a certain population of voter. On the contrary, he thinks that the county should save money wherever possible; clinics are cheaper than emergency room visits. WIC is now less convenient for its users. It wasn’t Six Sigma that found how DSS was using 19th century technology to maintain its files – it was a vigilant comptroller’s office. It’s not simply about frugality for its own sake – it’s about being smart with money.

All of the fights that take place in our largely redundant and pointless county government center around the very small (8 – 12%) of the budget that’s discretionary. That’s what most of our anger and derision flows from.  Given that this percentage is so small, it’s best for everyone – politicians and the community-at-large – if it’s spent thoughtfully, if at all. Instead, the incumbent County Executive has hyper-politicized the funding of libraries and cultural organizations rather than used real merit or apolitical considerations. Collins needlessly created a funding crisis for the county libraries out of whole cloth, which he’d prefer to resolve through a brand-new tax and special taxing district; just the sort of authority-creation that New York State is trying to abolish. That’s old-style spendthrift liberal thinking. It lazily shunts responsibility off of the county and on to some other entity, whether it be a new tax and bureaucracy, or the towns.

Remember – when it comes down to brass tacks, we like these services that we get with our taxes. It’s only in the abstract that we yell about taxes, until we’re reminded what they pay for.

Likewise, the process to fund cultural organizations shouldn’t be at the County Executive’s whim; it shouldn’t be, as it is now, just a newer version of old-style spendthrift liberal thinking like the member items of yore. Instead, Poloncarz would return that duty to the apolitical, non-partisan Erie County Cultural Resources Advisory Board, or ECCRAB. It was a system with which everyone was on board, and it took politics out of the equation. We didn’t have the huge fights then that we have now, as Collins artificially picks winners and losers with zero input from public stakeholders.

Finally, Collins is nothing more than an old-fashioned tax & spend liberal. Although Collins likes to say he’s looking out for the taxpayers, he’s raised taxes on us, and gone to court to prevent the legislature from keeping those hikes lower. Although he says he’s careful with our money, he’s spent millions on his friends and cronies, without regard to results or merit. Although Collins likes to seem as if he’s a good government type, he’s in ongoing violation of the county charter in terms of providing monthly budget monitoring reports. Although Collins says he’s trying to create a brighter future, he maintains the tired, failed status-quo when it comes to attracting and keeping businesses in western New York; he eschews the notion of IDA consolidation, and hasn’t set up a one-stop-shop for businesses to use when considering a move to our region.

For someone who promised to run the county like a business, why has he behaved like that?

So, on Tuesday, I’ll join Governor Cuomo, Senator Schumer, Senator Gillibrand, Representatives Higgins and Hochul, and Mayor Byron Brown to vote for Mark Poloncarz for County Executive.

2. County Clerk: Maria Whyte

As a county legislator and community activist, Maria’s been a tireless advocate for the poor and underprivileged on Buffalo’s west side.  It will be a huge loss to lose her to the quiet administrative work of the clerk’s office, but she has pledged to improve the public’s access to county information, to improve efficiency and wait times, to build upon the DMV improvements already built-in to the system under Dave Swarts and Kathy Hochul, and to modernize recordkeeping to reflect a 21st century where people look stuff up on computers and read PDF files.  Although I have nothing against Chris Jacobs, he has run from his tenure on the Buffalo Board of Education when he’s mentioned it at all, and he has illegally played politics with the 501(c)(3) foundation he created to help underprivileged, bright kids escape the crushing hopelessness of the very public school system he helped run. These, I think, disqualify him from running the largely ministerial clerk’s office – if you can’t follow simple rules and you’re embarrassed by your own record, maybe go back and fix those before asking for a promotion.

3. Assembly 148: Ray Walter

I like Craig Bucki, and I think he’d make a fine Assemblyman.  I also like Ray Walter, and I find that he’s as thoughtful as he is brash; as willing to debate the finer points of policy and the law as he is to roll his eyes when Betty Jean Grant is speaking. Let’s face it, being an Assembly Republican is a thankless job – just ask Jane Corwin. It’s replete with big smiles and bigger checks, and yelling about Shelly Silver and the evil downstate Democrats. All of this comes back to my thought that we need a unicameral legislature. Because I think that Ray is a smart guy and an independent thinker, and because I know that he has big ideas on how to reform government and includes people who don’t always agree with him into the conversation, I’m going to give Ray the edge. I’m not convinced that Bucki would do better or worse – I just don’t know him well enough to make that determination. I am confident, however, that Ray is the kind of legislator who doesn’t suffer fools gladly, isn’t afraid to speak his mind, and is willing to take the time to research and examine ways for government to do its job better. I know his nickname in the county legislature is “Rush”, as in Limbaugh, but maybe the Assembly needs that.

4. Erie County Legislature

As a side note, I’m appalled by the number of uncontested races this year.

District 1: Tim Hogues over Barbara Miller-Williams and Joe Mascia: Hogues will replace the Democrat-in-Name-Only who currently occupies this seat and chairs the legislature. Miller-Williams’ tenure has been replete with her doing her BFF Chris Collins’ bidding, oftentimes to her own benefit and her constituents’ detriment. She doesn’t belong anywhere near county hall.

District 2: Betty Jean Grant is unopposed. 

District 3: Lynn Marinelli is unopposed. 

District 4: Jeremy Zellner over Kevin Hardwick: I like the professor personally, but he had an opportunity to establish his bona fides as an independent thinker rather than a Collins rubber-stamp when it came time to over-ride many of Collins’ 2010 cuts. He didn’t take it, even going so far as to acquiescing to Collins’ continual petty attempts to decimate the personnel and effectiveness of the Comptroller’s office.

District 5: Tom Loughran over Shelly Schratz: Unlike Hardwick, Loughran has shown himself to be an independent legislative thinker from time to time. Schratz is a perennial candidate who is aligned with the noxious tea party movement. We need fewer Collins acolytes in the legislature, not more.

District 6: Ed Rath over Toni Vazquez: Vazquez didn’t seem to really have a firm grasp on county issues in general, or district issues in particular. Rath is poised to do something with the office he’s in, but I’d like to see some more independence and aggressiveness from him in the future.

District 7: Tom Mazur is unopposed. 

District 8: Terry McCracken over Mike Cole: I have no idea about anything having to do with McCracken, except that he’s not Mike Cole. Cole, you’ll remember, was, in effect, an Assemblyman-for-life until his drunken Albany shenanigans with interns got him in trouble with oft-hypocritical conservative family values types. Hey, Mike: it’s too soon.

District 9: Jon Gorman over Lynne Dixon: Gorman’s is a brilliant mind, and he’s a hard worker. Dedicated to the people’s business, he’d be one less Collins follower in the legislature, and would bring a legal eye to the proceedings to help minimize any recurrences of “null and void” declarations, should Collins win.

District 10: No Endorsement: I will not endorse Christina Bove, as she helped create the de facto Collins majority in the legislature as a consummate follower and “what’s in it for me” type politician. On the other hand, the Lorigo name should be drummed out of our collective body politic, firstly by abolishing the family nest egg that’s built upon the hyper-corrupt electoral fusion system. Lorigo’s efforts to bully Bove by having daddy file a $3MM defamation suit over an ad in – of all things – the f’king PENNYSAVER, takes pettiness to a whole new level – the fact that this prominent law firm can’t even be bothered to actually file and serve a Summons and Complaint, with the alleged libel plead with the requisite particularity, instead relying on the lazy lawyers’ “Summons with Notice”, which gives them indignant headlines and nothing else.

District 11: John Mills in unopposed. 

Town of Clarence: Scott Bylewski

The town race has been exquisitely ugly this year, thanks in no small part to the execrable Joe Weiss and his puppet, Dave Hartzell. Bylewski enjoys bipartisan support from people who truly care about the town and the direction in which it’s going. His opponents have proven themselves to be a dirty, hypocritical collection of fetid assholes whose idea of good government is to lie to town residents when they’re not berating them. Don’t be fooled by the lies and deception – Bylewski is working hard to keep the town on the right track, despite myriad pressures from many sides to go against the town’s land use constitution.

Marriage Equality Fails in New York

2 Dec

Did you know that in the state of New York, a 14 year-old can get married, provided he or she has parental consent and also obtains the approval of the court?

Yet it is illegal for a gay couple to be married and not only legalize and solemnize their union, but to enjoy the rights and privileges that married couples take for granted.

Did you know that about 130,000 weddings were performed in New York State last year?

Chances are you maybe attended or cared about only a handful of them.  A dozen, tops?  The other 129,988 or so know nothing about and have no effect on your life.  If gay marriage was added to that mix, it would have just as negligible an effect.

On Wednesday, the New York State Senate did something quite remarkable.  As the Brennan Center’s ReformNY blog points out, the state Senate committed premeditated democracy in the first degree.

today, for the first time, the Senate created a public record as to where its members stand on the issue of marriage. While some Senators were outspoken in their support for or opposition to the bill, it was never 100% clear until today who the five or six democratic holdouts were, and the fact that the bill lost by the margin it did was a surprise to most who have been following this issue closely.

Openness and accountability are critically important to representative government. In the past, leadership has shielded members from having to take votes on controversial issues and the result has been that voters haven’t known who to blame for a bill’s failure to pass. That’s bad for New York, because it keeps the legislature from tackling difficult issues, and it’s bad for New Yorkers, because they lose the ability to hold their members accountable.

One thing we are pretty sure of is that many, many New Yorkers will know how their Senators voted on gay marriage when they go to the polls next November. That’s the kind of significant information they haven’t had in the past. The majority of New Yorkers who support same-sex marriage and those who oppose it will now have a better opportunity to make sure that their views are reflected in the votes of their elected representatives.

The Senate leadership permitted a bill to reach the floor without a guarantee of passage.  That is practically unheard-of, and represents a silver lining to the crushing disappointment of today’s vote.

The fact that this is a practically unprecedented silver lining is as pathetic as it is significant.

As far as our local Senators are concerned, only Antoine Thompson voted in favor of permitting gay couples to marry.  Republican Senator Dale Volker, who has been in the Senate since the early 70s and is a glaring symbol of entrenched Albany failure and out-of-touchedness voted against marriage equality.  Republican Senator from Newfane George Maziarz, who is a pretty smart and talented politician voted against it, too.  East Amherst’s Michael Ranzenhofer also predictably voted to keep gay marriage illegal.  Notably, Democratic State Senator Bill Stachowski continues to prove on a daily basis that he is as useless an anachronism as Volker, and he voted to maintain the ban on gay marriage.

Stachowski’s vote is explained by this press release:

“On behalf of the Bishops of New York State, we are extremely pleased and grateful that the New York State Senate in a bipartisan vote rejected the concept that marriage can be anything other than the union of one man and one woman.

“While the Catholic Church rejects unjust discrimination against homosexual men and women, there is no question that marriage by its nature is the union of one man and one woman. Advocates for same-sex ‘marriage’ have attempted to portray their cause as inevitable. However, it has become clear that Americans continue to understand marriage the way it has always been understood, and New York is not different in that regard. This is a victory for the basic building block of our society.”

The Catholic Conference represents New York State’s Bishops in matters of public policy.

Imagine that.  A group of celibates injecting themselves into a secular political debate over marriage.  Bishops throwing their weight around over matters of public policy that affect not just Catholics, but New Yorkers of every faith, or none.  To me, it’s despicable.  The proposed legislation posed no threat – real or imagined – to the exercise of the Catholic faith.  The same clergy that for decades denied and covered up the most despicable crimes against children has the nerve to moralize over the relationships entered into by consenting adults.  The Church’s moral authority on this evaporated years ago.

And the “National Organization for Marriage” (which runs the coincidentally named 2M4M) veritably gloated:

The New York state senate just rejected gay marriage 38 to 24. Praise God!

And thank you. NOM spent $600,000 reaching out to voters through phone calls and television and radio ads to make sure politicians heard from ordinary voters like you.

Gay marriage inevitable? Don’t believe the lie! You can make a difference and we at NOM are so proud to work with you and millions of other ordinary Americans who know in their hearts that marriage IS the union of husband and wife.

It has been a real privilege to work alongside so many state leaders determined to protect marriage in New York. Special thanks to Rev. Jason McGuire of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms for his tireless efforts on the ground, and to State Senator Ruben Diaz who was in his office praying before the vote and has been a true leader on this issue.

And to all of you in New York, a special thank you. I know sometimes we ask you over and over again to make phone calls and emails to your elected officials, but it is your phone calls and emails that ultimately made the difference today. Up until the last minute, Sen. Tom Duane was assuring everyone that he had the votes to pass the bill. But when push came to shove, New York legislators listened to their constituents and soundly rejected same-sex marriage.

This great victory will reverberate up and down America, putting the fear of God–and the American voter–into the hearts of weak-kneed and weak-willed politicians everywhere.

Usually, I don’t ask for donations in victory emails like this, but I feel I must make you aware of our urgent needs today. We have totally over-extended ourselves in the fight to protect marriage in Maine, New York, and New Jersey. Our accounts are empty, and we desperately need to raise funds now so that we are ready when the next fight arises.

Will you please give generously today? Click here to make a secure online donation of $35, $50, $100, or even $1000 if you have the means. Thank you! Today is a day to celebrate!

Imagine a group gloating like that after preventing, say, the passage of a bill legalizing the marriage between a black person and white person.

Two things about gay marriage:  1. it’s a basic human right to let a loving couple legalize their union.  Preventing gays from marrying is no different from Jim Crow’s anti-miscegenation laws. 2. Even if you are personally vehemently opposed to gay marriage on religious or moral grounds, so?  It doesn’t hurt you, doesn’t affect you, doesn’t touch your life in any way.  None whatsoever.  It isn’t just a victimless crime like pot-smoking, it’s a victimless non-crime.

I frankly don’t care about which lobbying group the Pride Agenda retained to ensure that the votes would be there, because in the end the votes weren’t there.  But the people of New York are in favor of gay marriage.  By a small margin, but in favor of legalization nonetheless.

In a state where a 14 year-old pre-teen can be married with relative ease, it defies logic, decency, and common-sense to prevent a gay couple from obtaining a marriage license and getting hitched.  The law never would have required churches to perform ceremonies that they’re opposed to.  It wasn’t going to be a rule that took away religious rights, but one that bestowed the same rights to gay couples that straight couples enjoy.

I’m sorry that this simple, humane legislation failed today, and I hope that Volker, Ranzenhofer, Stachowski, and Maziarz are made to answer for their votes day in, day out until their re-election bids come up. And thanks to Antoine Thompson for being the only local state Senator for doing the right and fair thing today.

Dale Volker: volker@senate.state.ny.us

Bill Stachowski: stachows@senate.state.ny.us

George Maziarz: maziarz@senate.state.ny.us

Mike Ranzenhofer: ranz@senate.state.ny.us

Antoine Thompson: athompso@senate.state.ny.us