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NT lawmakers still tinkering with budget

With less than three weeks until the new year's budget kicks in, North Tonawanda lawmakers are considering further financial moves.

The Common Council has released its agenda for Tuesday night, which includes a proposal to cut some vacant positions.

Click here to check out what's on Tuesday's docket.

Here are some recent stories about what lawmakers have already done regarding the city's 2010 spending plan:

North Tonawanda Council rejects budget

Layoffs loom as city faces budget shortfall

Hiring freeze imposed in NT

Council blocks appointment for Brosius

The Council's meeting starts at 6 p.m. in City Hall, 216 Payne Ave. An agenda review session, which is also open to the public, begins at 5:45 p.m. in the city clerk-treasurer's office.

--Aaron Besecker

Power Coalition still going

Hey -- remember that group of governments and school districts in Niagara County that signed a 50-year deal with the New York Power Authority? In exchange for supporting a new federal operating license for the Niagara Power Project, they'll share $8 million annually through 2057?

Well, the Niagara Power Coalition is still around. In fact, members are meeting next Thursday, and its meetings are open to the public.

Here's the meeting agenda.

-- Aaron Besecker

Postponing pick for NT parks post

North Tonawanda lawmakers have withheld approval of Mayor Lawrence V. Soos' pick for the city's new parks and recreation director. Check out my most recent story on the topic here.

Here's the first story I wrote about the issue.

For those who want more background information:

-- Read Soos' appointment memo here.

-- Also, check out related documents: a memo from City Accountant David R. Jakubaszek recommending a hiring freeze, and Soos' veto of the hiring freeze, which was overturned during Tuesday night's Common Council meeting.

Here's an earlier Niagara Views blog post on the topic.

--Aaron Besecker

Playing politics with NT Walmart

Allegations that prominent Niagara County Republicans sought to delay a proposed Walmart project came to light Tuesday night, and are detailed in a story here.

Click on the story link to find snippets of audio recorded during the Common Council meeting. You can listen to Dennis J. Barberio, council candidate, Aldermen Brett M. Sommer and Kevin J. Brick Jr., along with Mayor Lawrence V. Soos, address the issue in their own words.

--Aaron Besecker

Chatter on low-cost power

I wrote a story published today about a hearing on the state's discount electricity programs held in Niagara Falls.

Some audio clips from the session -- including portions of comments by Niagara Falls Mayor Paul A. Dyster and the Citizens Budget Commission's Elizabeth Lynam -- are available under the "related content" section near the top of the story.

--Aaron Besecker

McNulty walking away, Rizzo wants in

 Niagara County Legislator Andrea L. McNulty has announced she will not run for re-election this year just days after questions about her residency had been raised, News Niagara Reporter Thomas J. Prohaska has reported.

   Read the full version of Tom's latest story here.

   McNulty has said she still lives in a home in North Tonawanda, though her husband has purchased a home in Pendleton.

   Under state law, McNulty would have had to forfeit her seat on the Legislature if she no longer lived in the district in which she was elected.

   McNulty, a registered Democrat who votes with the Legislature's Republican-led majority, blasted the Democratic Party organization for "the nasty political attacks that have been launched against me in the last week. It is because of these mean-spirited, personal and destructive tactics used in politics today that good people with new and fresh ideas do not get involved and run for office."

   She also blamed Niagara County Democratic Chairman Dan Rivera for trying "to turn this into a scandal," to which Rivera responded, "I didn't turn this into a scandal. She did, by moving."

   Former North Tonawanda Alderman Phillip "Russ" Rizzo today announced his candidacy for McNulty's Ninth District seat.

   Has McNulty been treated fairly by rivals of the GOP majority in the Legislature?

New U.S. senator makes her first stop in Niagara County

   U.S. Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand visited with business and elected leaders during an economic development roundtable this morning at Conference Center Niagara Falls.

   Listen to her opening remarks, which she made after an introduction from Falls Mayor Paul A. Dyster, here.

State parks visitors had no seat at this table

   It looks like one group came out on the short end of a recent budget agreement between the state and the New York Power Authority -- the millions of people who use four state parks, including one of the busiest parks in the nation.

   State budget-makers who decided to "sweep" $550 million out of the coffers of the state-controlled utility, to help address a budget crisis, decided to soften the blow for the Power Authority on the back of state parks.

   The deal-makers allowed the authority to skip some of the payments it had promised to provide to help cover the costs involved in running parks near its major hydroelectric stations in Lewiston and Massena.

   The spots that will feel the financial loss are Niagara Falls State Park, Artpark and two other state parks near the St. Lawrence River.

   State Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane, discovered the arrangement in a state budget bill and in minutes of a Feb. 3 special meeting of the authority board.

  "Nobody's seeing this coming," Maziarz told The Buffalo News.

   In exchange for the sweep of authority money into the state general fund, the state will "relieve" the authority of the $8 million in payments to the four parks from 2011 to 2017, not to exceed $43 million, according to a memorandum of understanding between the state and the Power Authority.

   A month after this deal was hammered out, Gov. David A. Paterson rolled into the Falls for a Town Hall meeting. One of the promises he made was to help the city with more resources to spur tourism.

   Apparently he forgot to share that strategy with his budget team.

- News Niagara Editor Scott Scanlon

Political season begins in North Tonawanda

   With the general election 209 days away, the political season in North Tonawanda looks like it may already be heating up.

   City Clerk-Treasurer Robert G. Ortt, 29, plans to announce tonight he's making a bid for the mayor's office.

   He's the first to announce a challenge to incumbent Lawrence V. Soos, a Democrat.
  
   Ortt, a member of the Army National Guard, recently returned from Afghanistan. He was appointed city treasurer in April 2007, and became clerk-treasurer this year after voters decided in a referendum to combine the offices.

   Ortt plans to run on the Republican line.
  
   In addition to the race for mayor, this year's election in North Tonawanda will include four Common Council races. The seats held by incumbents Brett Sommer, a four-year term, as well as Kevin Brick Jr., Nancy Donovan and Dennis Pasiak, each two-year terms, will be up for grabs.

   --Aaron Besecker

Party persuasions arrested for many voters in sheriff's race

Former Speaker of the House Thomas "Tip" O'Neill is famous for the line, "All politics is local."
  Many Niagara County voters proved it last week when they voted for Niagara County sheriff. Some GOP-dominated municipalities, including Wilson and Lockport, went for the winner,  Democrat James R. Voutour, who won the race with about 52 percent of the vote.
      Republican Ernest C. Palmer, the Niagara Falls chief of detectives, carried the heavily Democratic Falls, as well as Lewiston, where he lives and enrollment is fairly evenly split.
      "Palmer works in the Falls," Democratic Election Commissioner Nancy L. Smith said.
"Voutour's from this [eastern] end of the county. He has Wilson ties, his wife works in Barker."
    "In Niagara County politics, people sharpen their elbows and it gets a little rough, but the
fact is, these are two gentlemen who for the most part conducted themselves well. I thought it
was very refreshing," County Democratic Party Chairman Daniel Rivera said.
      County Legislature Chairman William L. Ross agreed. He said at Wednesday's Legislature meeting, which Voutour attended, "That race will go down in Niagara County history as the fairest and best race ever."
      What do you make of the close finish. Who did you vote for, and why? 

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