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Campaign shenanigans at City Hall

I've got a story running today that provides a glimpse into how Byron Brown and Steve Casey are leaning on the City Hall work force to work on the mayor's re-election campaign.

But before I get into the details, I want to ask city workers to contact me with any information they can provide how how the game is being played. I'm hearing all kinds of hair-raising stuff, but it's hard to differentiate the beef from the baloney. I need more intelligence.

Please send me an e-mail at, but do it from your private account. Please provide details and a cell or home phone number. I will treat your e-mail in the strictest of confidence;  I haven't burned a source in 35 years and am not about to do so now.

Back to the story: Tanya Perrin-Johnson, who Brown appointed commissioner of community services when he took office in 2006, has sent out a series of e-mails to about 20 members of her staff making it clear that she expects them to work on the mayor's re-election campaign.

Here's what she sent on June 2:

Subject: Volunteer opportunities to Re-elect Mayor Byron W. Brown  

Community Services Team:  

I sent an email regarding volunteer opportunities to assist in the re-election of Mayor Byron W. Brown on Monday and this is a follow-up with updated information.

This week, your help is needed at the campaign headquarters from 5:00 pm - 9:00 pm. Wednesday-Friday.

Again, select either Saturday or Sunday for a 4 hour block to volunteer your time.

Please make sure you sign in and that you work until 9:00 pm during the week and minimally 4 hours on the weekend. Your services are needed minimally 8 hours per week.

"Campaign hours on the weekend (Saturday and Sunday) are from 10:00 am - 9 pm.

Next week, Tuesday, June 9th, everyone is expected to be at the Headquarters after work ; a 4:00 pm, 4:30 pm or 5 pm until 9 pm. This is a busy day as it is the first official day for petitions. There is a lot of work to be done and your help is needed.

From that point on, Community Services team will be at Headquarters on Tuesday until 9:00 pm where you will receive your assignment. If you are unable to volunteer on that Tuesday or a weekend, please notify myself and Dana Bobinchek at the email above and accommodations will be made for you to make up the time during the week.

Due to the importance and volume of activity, it is important that that we all contribute to the re-election of Mayor Byron W. Brown. Also, recruit friends and family to assist.

Please respond that you have received this e-mail. Let me know the days and times you will work this week. If I don't hear from you by Wednesday, I will contact you.

Thanks. Tanya

Not much left to read between the lines, huh? I mean, if you get that e-mail from your boss, you're showing up to do campaign work, right?

As Blair Horner of NYPRIG put it, the e-mails are indicative of "an inherently coercive relationship between employer and employee, supervisor and subordinate."

PS: "If it's not illegal, it should be."
Perrin-Johnson didn't' stop with that e-mail, but has followed up with a number of other ditties, which I detail in my story.

Long story short, this is a no-no under the city charter, and perhaps under the city ethics code.

Yes, you can lean on appointees who serve at the pleasure of the mayor, and some of those receiving the e-mails fit that category. But you have to leave the rank and file alone, and they, too, have been targeted.

What I find surprising isn't that the Brown people are putting the arm to employees, but that they're sloppy enough to put it in writing.

And the mayor's crew can't claim this is one commissioner who is operating off the reservation, not when Dana Bobinchek, one of the mayor's top aides, is copied on the e-mails.

Again, no surprise.

Keep in mind that Casey and Bobinchek were on Brown's Senate payroll back in 2005 during the mayoral campaign. Casey, in particular, worked day and night on the campaign while claiming to also put in an honest day's work in the Senate job.

We are now to believe that he's sticking to his duties as deputy mayor 9 to 5. Not that he's willing to talk about it.

Others are talking, however. Among what I'm hearing is that Casey and Steve Pigeon are keeping hours at campaign HQ on nights and weekends, when the King of Coups isn't in Albany advising Pedro Espada.


Happy July 4 with Hendrix

Happy Xmas (War is Over) went over well at Christmas, so let me brighten this holiday with some patriotic finger picking.

Hit it, Jimi.

Our senators do downstate's bidding

Here's how clueless Bill Stachowski and Antoine Thomspon are: The Democratic leadership trotted them out in Albany Thursday to plead for passage of an extension of the Power For Jobs program.

Trouble is, the program does Western New York little good. In fact, it's one of the ways the profits from  the Niagara Power Project are used to benefit downstate business interests.

Here's what I reported on the program in 2007 in my Power Failure investigation of the New York Power Authority:

The program was started in 1997 and was supposed to end in 2000, but lawmakers continue to extend it. In the process, they have required the authority to reimburse the state for an increasing share of lost tax revenue, now 100 percent. The program involved 599 companies as of a year ago, including 89 from Erie and Niagara counties, whose allocation of discounted power accounted to 12 percent of the statewide total.

Power For Jobs is now slated to end this June, but the authority as it now stands remains on the hook for another contribution of $175 million.

While Niagara power isn't the sole source of funding for the voluntary contributions, the Power Authority acknowledges the plant's profits do go a long way.

In other words, profits from our plant are being used to subsidize the operations of downstate businesses.

Rep. Brian Higgins is negotiating with the New York Power Authority to secure a portion of the Niagara Power Project's profits to benefit Western New York. The expiration of the Power For Jobs program would free up money towards that end. But we've got Thompson and Stachowski doing the bidding of downstate interests instead.

They're team players, all right. Just not our team.


We're No. 3 - again

We interrupt this broadcast of another Byron Brown campaign commercial proclaiming Buffalo's revival for this Census update.

Buffalo has lost a larger share of its population this decade than all but two cities in the nation, if you factor out New Orleans. Ya know, Katrina and all that, and the Big Easy is gaining population again.

Buffalo has lost 7.4 percent of its population, trailing only Flint (down 9.6%) and Cleveland (9.2%)

Let's see, we're the third-poorest city our size in the nation and we're also No. 3 when it comes to population loss among all cities of 100,000 or more.

We're down about 22,000 residents since the start of the decade, with more than 4,000 voting with their feet since Brown took office. Here are the details.

In fairness to the mayor, the bleeding has slowed somewhat since he took office in 2006, although it's hardly reason to proclaim victory as he has been doing on the campaign trail.

Buffalo now ranks as the nation's 69th largest city, with a population of 270,919.

By comparison, our 7.4 percent drop this decade compares with increases of 4.4 percent in New York City and 2.9 percent in Yonkers, and decreases of 0.8 percent in Albany, 5.7 percent in Syracuse and 5.9 percent in Rochester.

Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Binghamton account for four of 11 cities experiencing the biggest losses as a percentage of their population in the nation.

Meanwhile, back in Albany, the food fight in the Senate continues. Fiddle on, boys - there's less and less left to burn.

To put it in further perspective, Buffalo has lost population this decade at more than twice the rate of Detroit.



This calls for a topical song.

Hey, I've got one.

Something having to do with a city replaced by parking spaces.

Hit it, Chrissie.

What?! Democracy in New York?!

I don't know if I'd vote for her or not, but I'm happy to read that Rep. Carolyn Maloney intends to challenge  Kirsten Gillibrand in the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate seat formerly held by Hillary Clinton.

No knock against Gillibrand. I just think voters ought to have a choice. Unlike, say, Chuck Schumer and the Obama crowd, who have been working to avoid a Democratic primary.

I understand, there's that magical 60 votes in the Senate to consider. Then again, there's that quaint notion that voters have a choice when they go to the polls.

I know that's not in vogue here in New York, where incumbents in the state Legislature win re-election 98 percent of the time. But given that Gillibrand has never run in a Democratic primary for her Senate seat, much less a general election, what's wrong with Democratic voters test driving her?

As for Maloney, I interviewed her this winter when she passed through to meet the locals when Hillary's seat was up for grabs. I wasn't particularly impressed, but then again, I don't know how Gillibrand would have struck me, either. (Those of you who read my blog on a regular basis know there's not many pols I'm impressed with.)

Speaking of Schumer, I see where he showed up the other day for a press conference (what a surprise!) in which Yahoo! made it official - it's coming to Lockport. Schumer declared that with Yahoo! here, the high tech world will beat a path to our door. That's not what the experts I've spoken to have said.

Data centers usually don’t act as a catalyst to other high-tech development, however, said Rob Atkinson, president of the Information Technology Innovation Foundation, a technology policy think tank in Washington, D. C.

“They tend to be relative stand-alone entities,” he said. “They don’t generally have a lot of spinoff.”

The whole scene involving Yahoo!'s announcement underscores to me what economic development in this town is really about - ribbon cuttings and press conferences. But hey, what do you want for a measly subsidy of $810,000 per job?

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