Tag Archives: year in review

10 Worst of 2013

31 Dec

Because it’s the end of the year, it’s compulsory to do a nostalgia listicle, right? This is culled from my own posts here at Artvoice daily, and not intended to be comprehensive.  Everything chosen essentially at random.  

10. Dennis Gabryszak

Oh, look. Another entitled do-nothing superfluous, self-important Albany hack who sexually harasses female staffers. If it was one staffer, it’d be worth a listen. Two staffers, and it’s going to raise eyebrows. Three staffers? Now it’s a thing. Four, and the fourth is still working there? Cringeworthy. The fact that Gabryszak has said nothing is thanks to some fantastic legal advice, but equally horrible political advice. 

9. Donn Esmonde

Donn Esmonde proved himself to be an ass throughout 2013.

It started when this retired suburban Long Island native decided that he is against quality education for children in suburban districts. One with questionable ethics, to boot. I look forward to more Tielman quotes, self-congratubation, and cheery, irony-free invocations of “lighter, quicker, cheaper”. 

8. The Conservative Party

To paraphrase Linda Richman, the Conservative Party is neither conservative nor a party. Discuss.

Ralph Lorigo’s personal fiefdom proves that political feudalism is alive and well in the 21st century. While the deceptively named Independence Party is now running all its endorsements through its statewide committee (and the NYGOP), Lorigo’s faction will endorse the occasional Democrat, but the criteria are always murky. This year, the CPWNY went out of its way to defame Republican Buffalo mayoral candidate Sergio Rodriguez

7. Tim Kennedy

See Number 6, below.

This guy came up with over $80,000 – much of it from inactive campaign accounts with no money in them, and none of which was properly disclosed – to sabotage Democrats in 2013. 

6.  Pigeon, Max, Mazurek & the AwfulPAC

It’s like a shit-stained comet, coming back to streak across our pleasant skies every few election seasons.

Yet again, former Erie County Democratic chairman G. Steven Pigeon assembled a horrible band du jour to sabotage the county committee’s election year efforts. Cheektowaga town Democratic chairman Frank Max believes himself entitled to the office of county chairman, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that he’s the only one who thinks so. (He’s been rather silent on the whole Gabryszak thing, don’t you think?) Pigeon and Max, their EmoDems, along with Kristy Mazurek, whose elbows are as sharp as her tongue, got AwfulPAC going just in time for the September primaries. Add in some dubiously sourced campaign cash from various entities, as well as $80k+ from state Senator Tim Kennedy, who owes Pigeon one for maneuvering him into that office, and you’ve got this year’s comet’s skidmarks. 

What did they accomplish? Wes Moore lost, but viciously sabotaged Democrat Wynnie Fisher. Rick Zydel lost, and Pat Burke came out of nowhere to beat everybody. Dick Dobson defeated the politically tone-deaf Bert Dunn, but AwfulPAC abandoned Dobson in October, proving that they were really just Democrats for Tim Howard all along. They tried to take credit for a win in Rochester with which they had nothing to do. Oh, and they returned the queen of transactional politics, Barbara Miller Williams, to the county legislature. But because it’s easier to cast it all as a big loss for Erie County Democratic Chairman Jeremy Zellner, that was the narrative we were all fed

5. Donald Trump

Everyone’s favorite birther started out the year by releasing a forgery of a birth certificate. Why won’t Donald Trump address the allegations that he is the spawn of an orangutan? 

Oh, and now he’s “considering” a run for Governor of the state of New York.

4. The WNY Voter

Byron Brown coasts? Barbara Miller Williams elected again? Carl Paladino elected to the Buffalo school board? Horrible turnout numbers for elections? Can’t we do better than this? 

3. Tim Howard

The elected Erie County Sheriff decided to also appoint himself to a Supreme Court judgeship, but elevated himself to the New York Court of Appeals – maybe even the Supreme Court! 

He unilaterally decided that he wasn’t going to enforce the NY SAFE Act (see #1, below), thus completely misunderstanding how the constitution works and what roles the various governmental branches play. 

2. Chris Collins

Seriously, take your pick – whether it’s his criticism of an historic deal with Iran, Collins’ vigorous support of a government shutdown in a hopeless effort to get the President to ditch Obamacare – and then claiming he didn’t support it at all, or his jejune “poll” of his constituents, Chris Collins proved time and again that he is the worst Congressman WNY has sent to Washington in perhaps forever. No amount of Buffalo News rehabilitation will change this. 

1. Concern-trolling and the NY SAFE Act

If you really think that limiting magazine capacity and requiring more stringent background checks in order to purchase a firearm is a tyrannical usurpation of your 2nd Amendment right to bear arms, in a state that already has among the strictest gun laws in the country, you’re having a bit of an overreaction.

I liken it to the kid in class who craves attention, so he casts himself in the role of victim in order to feed the craving. We see you, and your Gadsen flag. However, society has a similar compulsion to balance the right of people to, e.g., send their kids to school and not have them come home in the box because an unhinged lunatic had an arsenal versus your right to own an arsenal

Dishonorable mention:

The same collection of Buffalo plutocrats who gave us such hits as “Dr. James Williams” are now agitating to pay off Buffalo School superintendent Pamela Brown in an effort to be rid of her. Forget that there have been incremental improvements in results under her tenure; forget that Williams was a trainwreck of a disaster, bought and paid for by M&T Bank’s Robert Wilmers; and forget that Brown has been in her current position since June 2012. The bottomless pit of racist, sexist, misogynist invective that some are hurling at her for not adequately herding all her myriad feline coalitions has been appalling. I don’t know why the likes of Paladino don’t just come right out and say what they mean – that she and the board members who appointed her are a sordid collection of incompetent negresses. Brown isn’t perfect, but relentlessly sabotaging her, dehumanizing her, and delegitimizing her isn’t going to fix much. At least give her a chance to succeed or fail. 

Coming soon: best of 2013. If you have a nomination, email me here

2010: This Year in Fail

27 Dec

Every media outlet does a “this year in” retrospective. However, no one else will kick theirs off by pointing out that 2010 was a year of chaps-free Cejkas.  2010’s prowess is legendary.

County government started out 2010 having settled a longstanding dispute with ECMC over yearly contributions. Over at City Hall, the Karla Thomas / HR problem was just getting going, and I asked why it was, precisely, that it all happened in spite of CitiStat. As new Senator Kirsten Gillibrand got used to her new Washington digs, the New York City elites were scrambling to find someone – anyone – to primary her. (Tennessee’s most famous Wall Street ex-pol sent up a Pigeon-assisted trial balloon, to no avail). You see, she’s one of those upstate, northern women. They had written her off before they even gave her a chance. Now, she’s well-regarded for her leadership on DADT repeal, 9/11 health workers, and health care reform. What a difference 12 months make.

In the meantime, a so-called “reform coalition” was formulated in the county legislature, giving County Executive Chris Collins a de facto majority. Democrats Tim Kennedy, Christina Bove, and Barbara Miller-Williams broke away from the remainder of the Democratic caucus to form a coalition with the minority Republicans and help progress the Collins – Pigeon – Brown agenda. It was the embodiment of the alliance of the Collins and Brown political machines, and died hard just 12 months later. Some of our writing got a bit inside basebally, so Chris and I wrote  “Profiles in Fail” to help fill in some blanks. The legislature became what we termed an “orgy of transactional politics”, and we explained the legislature coup in some more detail here:

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The first WNY-based Republican to start sniffing around the governor’s race was Chris Collins. He was also the first WNY-based Republican gubernatorial-race-sniffer to say something really, really stupid. In Collins’ case, he said in 2009 that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (a despicable little toad, for sure) was the third anti-Christ, and then quickly followed it up in January by jokingly asking Laura Montante-Zaepfel – a politically super-connected Uniland bigshot – for a lapdance during Governor Paterson’s State of the State address. Collins, true to form, is too proud and perfect to admit he made a mistake, much less apologize.  Collins and Paladino were similar in their patent, unrepentant misogyny.

Speaking of Carl Paladino, February was the first time we caught wind of Carl Paladino possibly running for governor.

If nothing else, Paladino’s alleged candidacy would be entertaining, because he is unafraid to speak his mind. As wealthy as he is opinionated, he can self-fund any campaign for office. Likewise, he could easily commit daily Collinsesque gaffes and get away with it, thanks to his reputation for not having a filter between brain and mouth.

I like that Paladino has a “fire” in his belly. But it would be better channeled at treating the causes, rather than just the symptoms, of our malaise.

But let’s say he became Governor. Now what?

Our state government is not some kind of dictatorship where the governor can just parachute in, make fundamental structural and political changes, and then parachute out. Like it or not, there is a legislative process and the rules there give other people power, as well. If you run in like you own the place, you’re going to be met with massive pushback, and existing crises can be made more acute.

Not to say that’s what would happen, but if you multiply the dubious accomplishments of “steamroller” Spitzer by 100, you probably get close to the effectiveness a Governor Paladino might enjoy.

But the whole Paladino candidacy is part of our collective Western New York dysfunction – our penchant for top-down, silver bullet solutions to really big, really complicated fundamental, structural problems. Instead of the people taking charge from the roots and initiating complicated governmental change from the bottom-up, we expect and rely upon saviors to do it for us. Instead of building up a new entrepreneurial class – a bourgeois revolution redux, if you will – we expect our existing powerbrokers and loudmouth millionaires to do it for us.

After all, as I wrote almost two years ago, there’s not much difference between the problems ailing Cuba and the problems ailing WNY. And I’m not talking about socialism, per se. I’m talking about cynicism, stasis, and reliance on change from above.
Whether it’s Bass Pro, the Adelphia Tower, Chris Collins, or Carl Paladino.

We need to stop relying on gimmicks, one-shots, and silver bullets, and start attacking problems at their source. All the Paladinos in the world aren’t going to change Albany if you still have people in office like the dynastic Dale Volker or the hackish Bill Stachowski in office.

The execrable Antoine Thompson hemmed and hawed about how he’d vote re: expelling his slash-happy colleague, Hiram Monserrate. Later in the year, he got belligerent with Ron Plants, of all people.

Chris Collins decided he had had enough of poor working mothers having subsidized day care so they could go to work and earn a living. Eric Massa turned out to be something of a weirdo. Shame, that.

Collins and Sheriff Tim Howard found themselves targets of a federal inquiry into the extraordinarily high number of suicide incidents in the county jail system – an issue that still hasn’t been fully resolved. In response, Collins bitched and moaned that anyone who had a thought in his head that wasn’t in complete synchronicity with his own has an “agenda” and is in favor of the “status quo”. Shorter Collins: suicides, schmuicides.

But I never did end up writing that “Chris Collins should drop dead” post.

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Meanwhile, development in Buffalo was as inactive a laughingstock as ever. The Statler has stood empty all year – worthless, empty, crumbling, anachronistic. It is symbolic in many ways of Buffalo itself, a shadow of its former glory, struggling to find relevance in a world that’s largely passed it by. Rocco Termini’s Lafayette Hotel project moved forward in fits and starts, but that 10 year-old Artvoice billboard on the side of AM&A still serves to underscore that building’s emptiness.

Canal Side started making news in 2010 with talk of a living wage mandate for workers hired by businesses located within the project. It’s a requirement being pushed by the Canal Side Community Alliance and Coalition for Economic Justice, and backed by a handful of city councilpeople. Naturally, we can leave it to Carl Paladino to discuss it reasonably. Later in the year, Mark Goldman and the Fishers decided to sue the state because it was using public money on the Canal Side project, ignoring some patent irony.

Paladino’s campaign donned some makeup and sent up another trial balloon in the form of a nasty open letter to Brian Higgins on the issue of health care reform. He made his run official just a week later, coinciding nicely with the start of the 2010 WNYMedia.net Tournament of Political Failure. The complete rundown is shown here, and congratulations – you won!

At least Volker opted to bow out.

Carl held a big party in early April with all his employees and friends, appropriating the cry of madman Howard Beale as his campaign slogan.

A glowing, lengthy bio piece in the News revealed the existence of an extramarital child – a revelation that would sink mere mortals within minutes. Yet Paladino was unmoved, instead lecturing people about welfare queens and teh gayz, claiming, “I bring values, resiliency, a thick skin and I’m not afraid to be confrontational.”

Yet his values were non-existent, his skin was thinner than parchment, and we outed him as being a bit crazy when it came to forwarding emails. At least once a year, we break a big story – this year, it was Carl’s emails, and that story had some legs, still being talked about right up through election day. But contrary to popular belief, we never said Carl was racist.

But we had a great deal of fun with him, and the growing cleave within the local tea party groups. Rus Thompson, partly due to his close working relationship with Paladino, who was now accepted by the Republican establishment, drew criticism from former friends. But the “tea party coalition” did mighty battle against the “TeaGOP”. In the three-ringed circus of WNY politics, Allen Coniglio proved himself time and again to be its clown shoes. Again. And Again.

Although I later changed my mind twice, I originally predicted Paladino would never win.

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His campaign turned out to be quite touchy indeed; perhaps the touchiest ever. Andrew Cuomo officially announced in late May. Paladino ended up choosing a renegade Queens Republican as his running mate.

I went down to Westchester for the Democratic Convention, which was largely uneventful, save for a marathon session to permit all the AG candidates to remain on the September ballot, and an entertaining visit from “King Cuomo II”, i.e., Curtis Sliwa.

Somewhere, there is a place where competent government and taxation intersect. It behooves us to find that crossing whenever possible to at least avoid irreversable catastrophe.

There were other races, as well. Republicans fought to replace Volker. Marc Coppola announced he was running against Mike Ranzenhofer AND electoral fusion. Rory Allen tried to ride roughshod over Antoine Thompson. In a golf cart. The Democrats fought to replace Stachowski, with Tim Kennedy ultimately winning. In the summer, NYPA ponied up some more money to Canal Side, which was starting to talk Bass Pro again, and outer harbor connector.

The Buffalo News all but banned commenters, and then inexplicably forbade Jim Heaney from blogging about the goings-on in city and county government.

As the Republican gubernatorial primary “heated” up, it came down to: who hates Muslims and the so-called “Ground Zero mosque” more? Paladino won that argument. Handily. The execrable, ambiguous, mulleted freak heard daily on WBEN from 9 – 12 went along for the Mooslim-hatin’ ride, because he’s a conspiratorial bandwagon-riding cretin, and an intellectual coward, to boot.

Paladino then decided it’d be swell to throw welfare recipients into decommissioned prisons.

We found out this summer that finally, Bass Pro wasn’t coming to Buffalo, ever. All done. Enough. But now, HSBC was throwing a monkey wrench into the works.

The Buffalo News published Mark Goldman’s prissy “Obstructionist Manifesto”, and we responded with the “Regular Buffalo Person’s Manifesto”. The Coalition of Enough Already was reborn, and Chris and I punctured the myth of the singular Buffalo elite. I later wrote “New Buffalo’s” obituary.

The summer also saw the City Grill get shot up, and all hell broke loose. Will you also surrender to Rich Newberg?

Right before primary day, Rachel Maddow hosted our own Marc Odien, (more here and here), and there were rumors afloat about Antoine Thompson being vulnerable. Nothing came of that, but Paladino obliterated Rick Lazio. David DiPietro fought in court to stay on the ballot despite losing the GOP primary to Pat Gallivan. On the Democratic side, Cynthia Appleton ran a valiant race against the former Sheriff, Gallivan, and the bellicose tea partier, DiPietro. On the county side, we continued to question Chris Collins’ ideas and motivations.

Suddenly, Paladino was thrust into the national and state media spotlight. Despite a few missteps, the response from a Democratic side that was unprepared for his victory was so anemic that I went ahead and predicted Carl’s victory. It was all a big temper tantrum, though, and Paladino’s media handling was quite adept.

All that was needed was another opportunity for Carl to be caught unawares.

We got that opportunity when Carl decided he’d threaten to kill the New York Post’s Fred Dicker. On camera. Suddenly, Paladino was on the defensive again, and got ever-touchier.

In October, the Board of Elections claimed that the legislature downsizing ballot question could not be put before the voters on a technicality. That was defeated.

Carl Paladino tried to get back on-message after the Dicker fiasco, and bought some TV time to set the record straight and get back to “issues”. Instead, the 5:13 to Nowhere was just a whine-fest and little more. Featuring Nancy Naples, of all people, pointing her bejeweled finger at you, shaming you into giving money to Carl.

The final nail in the coffin of the Paladino campaign was his bumbling, fumbling handling of the Yehuda Levin anti-gay controversy. Having read remarks someone else handed him, Paladino said horrible things about gays, only to retract them days later. We decided that his invocation of “pornographers and perverts” in discussing gay marriage was particularly egregious. Paladino also insisted that all the gubernatorial candidates – even the fringe ones join in any debate. He got his wish, resulting in Jimmy McMillan’s 15 minutes of fame coming and going.

Even Carl’s friend David DiPietro got into the Carl email fun.

By the end of October, Carl’s race was all but over. He became less and less credible and relevant with each passing day. As it turns out, Carl’s gay nephew, who allegedly prompted Carl to flip flop on the Hasidic/gay thing, is something of  an asshole, but an asshole who should have the right to marry any other asshole.

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Not to be outdone by an imploding Carl Paladino, Antoine Thompson did everything he could in his re-election bid to become an even less relevant laughingstock. The last straw was his anti-lawyer vitriol directed at all-around-nice-guy Mark Grisanti. In the “race” in NY-27, Higgins’ opponent Lenny Roberto turned out to be a rank homophobe with questionable campaign funding.

A New York Observer piece named WNYMedia.net, “the site that saved Andrew Cuomo.” In November, the WNYMedia.net writers collaborated on our endorsements, as Carl Paladino threw his buddy DiPietro deep under the bus.

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Cuomo made his final argument, Kerplunk went the turd, and the vote was over. We WNYMedia.net types finally made the FCC-regulated airwaves to cover election night with Brad Riter on WECK 1230.

With the election season behind us, it was time to start bikeshedding development issues again. It started, more or less, with a call for the ECHDC to “pause” a decade-long process. We thought everyone should just relax. Seriously. We WNYMedia.net types came up with our own recommendations, and we attended the open houses. We saw the videos, and commented on them. “Lighter, Faster, Cheaper” was the mantra being thrown around, and became moot when the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation called Goldman’s bluff.

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I started reading the My View column out loud, most recently, one penned by Stefan Mychajliw.

Finally, the year was topped off by the Erie County Legislature doing battle with Chris Collins over 0.1% of the county budget. The regular fights and protests from the culturals came to fruition, and if there’s one bright spot, it’s what appears to be the demise of the detestable “reform coalition”. There’s got to be a better way. Some sort of solution should be discussed in earnest.

Thanks, everybody, for a great 2010 & have a great 2011!