Fighting for our Freedom in Western New York
An in depth look into the politics of Erie County, Albany and Western New York.
Many of us salt away a dollar here, a quarter there when circumstances allow and use the accumulated funds for a night on the town when the piggy bank becomes full enough.
Let's call it a personal slush fund.
State government does the same thing. A chunk of change here, a chunk of paper currency there and all of a sudden, it mounts up to real money. This year, $1 billion in "real money," to be more precise.Standard operating procedure is that the state's reigning leaders - currently Republicans George Pataki and Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, along with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat, have virtually total control of this $1 billion. As a source for state operations information check Secretary of State site at: www.dos.state.ny.us Here is where to find FOIL & Open Meetings Law
All of this spending should be easily accesible but they make it very difficult for us to find out what they are doing.
Albany - There will be property tax rebates, significantly more money for schools and a plan to get rid of the sales tax on clothing in legislative budget proposals set to be voted on next week.
By Saturday, the Senate and Assembly are expected to have finalized their own proposed state budgets. They are at odds with what Gov. George Pataki proposed in late January, but lay the groundwork for a final three weeks of political battles before a budget is due to be adopted.
Here we go, just when things appear to be moving ahead, as being reported everywhere, we will most likely watch things come to a screeching halt soon.
State Comptroller Alan Hevesi wants more accountability and transparency from the 215 public authorities when it comes to reporting the billions of dollars in transactions undertaken each year.
The comnptroller Monday introduced a reform package that he said will dramatically reform the budget practices of those agencies through more accurate financial reporting, development of four-year financial plans, and operating under GAAP rules. Doing so, Hevesi said, will make those state-funded authorities more accountable to taxpayers.
In Western New York, several authorities will now be required to submit their financial operations to the comptroller's office. Among those subject to the new regulations are: Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority and Niagara Frontier Transit Metro Systems Inc.; New York Power Authority; Roswell Park Cancer Institute Corp., and Roswell Park Alliance Foundation; Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp.; Erie County Stadium Corp.; Niagara Falls Development Corp.; USA Niagara Development Corp.; Buffalo Fiscal Stability Authority; and the Erie County Fiscal Stability Authority.
New York state has a total of 740 public authorities employing more than 100,000 workers. Debt related to public authorities represented 92 percent of the state's total debt, the comptroller said.
Unaccountable for over 28 Billion dollars of our money a year.. 28 Billion...
While the money from the Power Authority relicensing agreement hasn't even arrived yet, a newly formed state commission -- with the help of Democrats in the state Assembly -- is already trying to wrest much of it from the communities it was meant to benefit.
The Niagara River Greenway Commission was created by Gov. George Pataki last fall to come up with a plan for a park system along the Niagara River stretching from Buffalo to Youngstown. Unfortunately, little funding was set aside to implement the plan.
In Niagara County, $3 million was set aside annually under the agreement to be divided between the county, the city of Niagara Falls, the towns of Lewiston and Niagara and three school districts. The local officials who signed the relicensing said they were under the impression the money was to be used for the creation and improvement of parks and other recreational facilities under their care.
But last week, the Greenway Commission -- with the help of Democratic Assemblymen Paul Tokasz of Cheektowaga and Sam Hoyt of Buffalo -- attacked the Niagara County communities, saying that the money could only be spent on waterfront improvements. Tokasz and Hoyt went so far as to propose legislation mandating the money be spent on the banks of the Niagara.
"This is a money grab designed to take funding away from Niagara County and redistribute it to Erie County," said state Sen. George Maziarz. "What they're attempting to do borders on outright theft."
Oooo, looks like some battle lines have been drawn.. This could get interesting and fun to watch as they fight over money..
So much for the recovery.
After the Buffalo Niagara region finally scratched and clawed its way out of the recession in 2004, the area lost its grip and slid back into decline again last year, revised data from the state Labor Department showed last week.
So while roughly 85 percent of the country's major metropolitan areas were enjoying job growth by the end of last year, the Buffalo Niagara region fell back into its own rather unique double-dip recession.
The recovery lasted for all of 11 months in 2004, only to see the region give back almost two-thirds of those gains in 2005 as the decline commenced anew with job losses in 11 of last year's 12 months.
"The longer-term patterns seem to indicate that things are relatively flat," says Richard Deitz, the regional economist for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York's Buffalo branch.
That hurts, especially when you consider that the country has been adding jobs for the better part of the last 21/2 years. Nationally, we've already gained back all of the jobs that were lost during the 2001 recession
After last year's backslide, the Buffalo Niagara region needs to create 11,600 jobs just to get back to where we were before the recession started, the revised statistics show. For a region that has lost jobs in four of the last five years, that's no easy task.
Not a bright outlook for Erie County.
I stayed home from Church this morning to listen to Hardline with Hardwick his guests had me very curious as to the topics they were going to cover, I have never missed Church for Kevins show but I had to listen.
First up was Len Roberto from Primary Challenge, as the co-founder I was very curious what he was going to speak about. To my suprise he said there is going to be a major announcement Friday.. Something about P C's involvement in the state races, a possible judical candidate and a plan to change the original intent set forth by the orginization. If he is going to announce what I think he is going to, it is a mistake as far as I'm concerned. That's just my opinion. Jim Ostrowski was next and as always he was enlightening. He spoke about the evening with Satish Mohan. Yes, it was a great event and Satish told it as it is.
But the thing getting soundbites is the Buffalo ticket blitz and how it seems to have subsided. Jim also makes a valid point about the motive behind the ticket blitz.
Barry Weinstein was great and I knew he tried to take a 25% cut in pay and the Legislature wouldn't let him. He continues to point out that the major problems with the county is excessive spending and the culture of waste. Bingo and right on. Although he would not make a commitment I hope he does enter the race for County Executive. I know for a fact that Barry is independent, he and I were labeled lose cannons by the Republicans. Barry is a good man with a great mind and knows how county government works, that is why he would be a great county executive, he knows where things need to be fixed. Kevin, as always you are good at what you do. I have not taken time off from Church but have recorded the show on many occasions and listened when I got home. Stef, keep the red coat on and investigate why the LaSalle expressway was never finished and how the coming bridge work with the tolls will cripple traffic commuting across Grand Island.
Final results of the poll
Should Dale Volker get re-elected ?
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) _ State Assemblywoman Sandra Lee Wirth died Saturday at her western New York home after a two-year struggle with cancer. She was 60.
Wirth, a Republican, was a real estate agent who was inspired to run for office after an increase in the real estate transfer tax. That drive took her to the Erie County Legislature and State Assembly."Incumbent Sandra Lee Wirth may be a tad eccentric ... in conversation, she refers to herself as Sandra Lee," the Buffalo News editorial board wrote in her 2004 endorsement, "but she is as angry as a hive of hornets about the way the Assembly is run."
Prayers are offered up for her family. They should leave the seat empty until the election this November.
For much of last year, Fisher had been expected to use a pool vehicle when driving on county business. At the start of this year, County Executive Joel A. Giambra decided Fisher could again have a car around-the-clock, a benefit also given to Carl J. Calabrese when he was deputy county executive.
As Giambra's second-in-command, Fisher earns $107,397 a year - more than Giambra - and could be called to emergencies, so he can take the 2002 Impala home, said Arthur F. Telaak Jr., who heads the Department of Information and Support Services, which monitors county vehicles outside the Sheriff's Department.
Seven Public Works Department officials have take-home vehicles. So do six in the Department of Emergency Services, seven in the Department of Environment and Planning, six in the Health Department, two in the Parks and Recreation Department and two at Erie Community College, including its president, William Mariani.
The district attorney's office has 13 vehicles, though some are considered undercover cars, and for security reasons, there is no tally on how many are allowed for take-home use, Telaak said.
But District Attorney Frank J. Clark is given a take-home car. County Clerk David J. Swarts has a sport utility vehicle, which he has said he needs for driving between auto bureaus. Also for security reasons, there is no record of how many Sheriff's Department vehicles are driven home by employees, Telaak said.
This is ridiclous, except for emergency vehicles no one should have a take home vehicle. With the money that is being made by these people they can afford to pay for their own cars and fuel. Set the example and give up the perk.
ALBANY - There's almost no chance a bill to reinstate New York's death penalty will be revived this year.
Gov. George E. Pataki, a capital-punishment proponent, tried to raise the issue last week after two police officers were shot dead by robbery suspects in separate incidents; one in Chemung County, the other in Oneida County.
Immediately, Pataki called on legislators to allow the death penalty for cop killers. The governor said, "We can and must do more, particularly in regards to those who kill the brave men and women who dedicate their lives to keeping us safe."
One can only wonder how much money the Trial Attorneys make off of this.
It can be the only reason why Silver is demanding his assembly Democrats vote against this. If we can't have it for cop killers then they are showing complete disrespect for all the cops and the jobs they have to do every day.
They put their life on the line every day when they put on their uniform.
Sen. Joseph Bruno is much too guarded with information about the state budget
So this is how government, supposedly representative government, really works in New York. Say you wanted to know how the state Senate actually spends the millions of dollars in discretionary funds formally known as memorandums of understanding, among the governor, Senate majority leader and Assembly speaker, but more commonly known as pork barrel and even slush funds.
As far as Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno is concerned, no one -- except of course, the true political insiders -- should readily know. If they do, it will be despite Mr. Bruno's more obstinate efforts.
Want answers? Then go fill out a Freedom of Information Law request, or so Mr. Bruno said the other day.
But there's no good reason why obtaining such information about where the state's money -- which just happens to come, remember, from taxpayers -- has to involve undertaking the rather complex and arduous process of filing a Freedom of Information Law request.
The arrogance of Bruno, he will hide everything to cover up what they are actually doing in Albany.. more reasons to get rid of him and every other entrenched political hack in Albany including Silver. Pataki is leaving so the other leaders should join him.
UNITED NATIONS - For the first time in the U.N.'s history, the staff union yesterday issued "a statement of no-confidence in the secretary general and his senior management team."
Good and long past due, maybe now they will all pack up and leave.
This from an email and right on..
Everyone, (Especially you business owners),
The regions Unemployment rate rose last month to 5.6 % (from 5.1 % the month before).....this as the rest of America is adding hundreds of thousands of jobs to the workforce EVERY month.
In Buffalo, the Unemployment rate rose to 6.3 %
What is wrong around here ???? How can we change this??? or do we even care ????
Initial indications showed a job GROWTH of 300 jobs last year in this region.... however revised figures show, the Western New York area finished 2005 with seven straight months of job losses and the fourth year of job LOSSES since 2000.
"Instead of gaining 300 jobs last year, as the preliminary data showed, the revised figures indicate that the region LOST 1,700 jobs, wiping out almost all the jobs gained in 2004, the only year of job growth in the region since 2000. (This, as our country has added several MILLION jobs in the last few years).
The jobless rate in Niagara Falls jumped to 7.7 % (from 6.6 % a month earlier). Great to see how the Seneca Niagara CASINO has helped create job growth as predicted. (What a joke).
Hey, don't give up.........Bass Pro and a new Buffalo Casino are on the horizon to jumpstart an economic boom in this region.....!!!!!!!!
LAST ONE OUT...PLEASE TURN OFF THE LIGHTS !!!! (or taxes will have to be increased for keeping them on.)
Quick Saturday post..
Listening to Satish Mohan on Kathy's Straight Talk Satish revealed some more waste in spending. Seems that after you are employed by the Town of Amherst for 10 years you get birthday bonuses, starting at $1500 up to $7000 a year.. Isn't that just wonderful, the taxpayers give them a birthday present of cash.
This came to me via email in response to the post on taxes..
Just for your information, this week we found out that our annual hot dog fund raiser for boy scouts is going to have to apply for a two day health permit. That permit will cost $100 in Erie County ( no exceptions ) and it is $50 in Niagara County. How’s that for a huge tax bite! That will cut profits so much, that we are considering not having the fund raiser.
My daughter goes to Huth Rd School and I heard about this on the news on WBEN at 6PM.. Needless to say I was very concerned and got the whole story from her last night. Kudo's to the Law Enforcement community for their swift action.
A Grand Island elementary school went into lockdown mode Friday after several students reported seeing a man with a gun. News 4's Alysha Palumbo reports it triggered an exhaustive police manhunt.
A Sheriff's helicopter hovered overhead and SWAT teams rolled in after three students reported seeing a man with a gun at Huth Road Elementary School on Grand Island.
Seems there was another lock down at the High School last week that went unreported. I have a son in the 11th grade there. There was a suspicous person walking around looking for a review book.. He apparently went into the cafeteria asking for a review book and started swearing at kids. Then of course we had two bomb threats, both individuals were caught but it makes you wonder what the hell is going on here on Grand Island..
(Buffalo, NY, March 9, 2006) - - A proposal to move the Buffalo and Erie County control boards into rent-free government space would save taxpayers $48,000.
The executive directors of both boards appeared before the finance committee of the county legislature Thursday.
The Buffalo control board works out of the Market Arcade building and would have to move into county office space, but executive director Dorothy Johnson says that would present a problem.
Johnson said, "We want to maintain the appearance of independence from political influence, and on our board, of course, we do have the Erie County Executive."
Erie County control board executive director Lee Van Riper said the Erie County control board can decide nothing until the Governor appoints a new chairman and vice chairman.
So do I read this right? They are powerless until a new Chairman is appointed? This rent free idea should have been in place from the very beginning, instead they have wasted more money, they have been a useless control board. Ned came in like a Lion and went out like a Lamb. I had high hopes when he came storming into town.. Aren't we getting tired of useless committees like these, I am. Do Nothing but build us up to let us down.. It is getting harder and harder to be optomistic, especially when more jobs get created like the Professional County Manager and keeping the County Executive, that is redundent and planned to fail.
What we need desperately is an Ethics Board to review how this government operates. One with teeth to dig in and embarass the elected representatives into doing what is right for the people and not the unions and special interests.
Please allow me to be the first one to volunteer to serve. I will bring in people like Alfreda Slominski to work with me. The type of people that will work to represent The People..
This is a good explanation of how income taxes really work!!
Sometimes politicians, journalists and others exclaim; "It's just a tax cut for the rich!" and it is just accepted to be fact. But what does that really mean? Just in case you are not completely clear on this issue, I hope the following will help. Please read it carefully.
Let's put tax cuts in terms everyone can understand.
Suppose that every day, ten men go out for dinner and the bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:
The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing. The fifth would pay $1. The sixth would pay $3. The seventh would pay $7. The eighth would pay $12. The ninth would pay $18. The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.
So, that's what they decided to do.
The ten men ate dinner in the restaurant every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve. "Since you are all such good customers," he said, "I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily meal by $20." Dinner for the ten now cost just $80.
The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes so the first four men were unaffected. They would still eat for free. But what about the other six men the paying customers? How could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his 'fair share?'
They realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to eat their meal.
So, the restaurant owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.
And so: The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings). The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33% savings). The seventh now paid $5 instead of $7 (28% savings). The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings). The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% savings). The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings).
Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to eat for free. But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings.
"I only got a dollar out of the $20," declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man," but he got $10!"
"Yeah, that's right," exclaimed the fifth man. "I only saved a dollar, too. It's unfair that he got ten times more than me!"
"That's true!!" shouted the seventh man. "Why should he get $10 back when I got only two? The wealthy get all the breaks!"
"Wait a minute," yelled the first four men in unison. "We didn't get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!"
The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.
The next night the tenth man didn't show up for dinner, so the nine sat down and ate without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn't have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!
And that, boys and girls, journalists and college professors, is how our tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. In fact, they might start eating overseas where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.
David R. Kamerschen, Ph.D
Professor of Economics
University of Georgia
Fantastic meeting with Satish Mohan, Jim Ostrowski and FreeBuffalo.
Once again Thank you Satish for coming out and enlightening all in attendence.
7740 Transit Rd. at Sheridan Dr.
I will be there to start things off and introduce my friend Jim Ostrowski.
Jim will give a short speech and then introduce Satish Mohan..
Satish will speak for 30 minutes and then the floor will be open for Q & A
Each speaker will have 3 minutes.... Looking forward to seeing you all there.
Primary Challenge Update
Vacations over. With the beginning of March comes the beginning of the political year. Again this year Primary Challenge will be looking for volunteers to assist in making government more responsive to the people.
It is our hope that all citizens will exercise that most critical right, the right to vote, particularly in the primary. Primary Challenge will be supporting candidates for all offices available for election this year including State Senate and State Assembly.
Potential candidates are asked to contact Primary Challenge via email at www.primarychallenge.org or directly by phone at 716-207-7138 or 585-344-1797.
In an effort to prepare for this years election Primary Challenge has provided town coordinators to assist residents in the election process. We are still seeking volunteer coordinators for some of the towns and application can be made via phone or email.
Once again you have a chance to be apart of the process which is so critical to securing your liberties. Working together we can accomplish so much.
God bless each and every one of you.
Leonard A. Roberto
I am the coordinator for the 10th District, Grand Island, Kenmore, City of Tona and part of the Town of Tonawanda.
As I was reading the saved posts from the Police Blog, I found this..
Can we file a grievance to get working, functional computers in the Patrol cars ? I hate tying up the airwaves with plate runs. Anyone know if is a grievable problem ?
It is stated in the original MOU. But they violate that on many fronts, ie pay, step increases.
I think I held a Press Conference about the computer problems and the reasons why. Central Police Services software is so screwed up and there are reasons why. Nothing has been done about this problem I can see.
Gov. George Pataki and legislative leaders quietly make deals every year to spend more than $1 billion in "slush funds" without public disclosure of how its spent, Democratic senators said Tuesday.
A bill being introduced by the Senate Democrats would change that.
Each year, Pataki, Republican Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno and Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver reach "memorandums of understanding" on money earmarked for the pet projects of lawmakers and the governor. But most state lawmakers and the public are not allowed to see exactly where that "slush fund" money is being allocated in the budget, Senate Minority Leader David Paterson said.
"If you have three men making a secret deal, signing off on it and they still won't give you a copy, that should send a red flag," said state Sen. Liz Krueger. "People here have to know what is in these MOUs. ... New York state is the only state in the nation that uses this model for their budgets."
The bill sponsored by Krueger would make the MOUs public and require they be made available on an official Web site.
"You'd think that Sen. Paterson would know that the real secret in Albany is that the Legislature has exempted itself from the FOIL (Freedom of Information) law," he said. "Rather than leveling baseless charges at the executive, Sen. Paterson should focus his efforts on making the legislature equally accountable under the state's FOIL law."
Wouldn't this be juicy to see, I don't care what Party does this, it just needs to get out. Didn't Congressman get into alot of trouble when it was revealed they were exempt from their own Laws, matter of fact there is still one in jail.
A couple resigned in disgrace, anyone remember the post office scandal? Writing and cashing checks with no money in their account to cover it....
ALBANY, March 6 — Pop quiz: Who is allowed to take bigger campaign contributions, a New York State lawmaker or the president of the United States?
The answer, well known to those familiar with Albany's famously permissive campaign finance laws, is a New York lawmaker. While individuals can contribute up to only $2,100 to federal candidates, they can contribute up to $3,400 for Assembly candidates, $8,500 for Senate candidates and $33,900 for statewide candidates in the general election — which does not count what they can contribute for primaries.
A study of the state's campaign finance system released here on Monday by Common Cause New York, a nonprofit group that tracks the influence of money in politics, found that state candidates are taking full advantage of the state's lax laws. Common Cause and several other civic groups are seeking an overhaul of the campaign finance laws to reduce the influence of special-interest donors.
During the last three election cycles, the report found, 55 percent of the checks written to candidates for state office were made out for more than the federal government's $2,100 limit. The state continues to allow "soft money" contributions that were banned by the federal government, and the study found that New York's political parties have pulled in more than $47 million in such contributions since 1999.
Our politicans are exempt from everything apparently..