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Hard choices ahead on hydropower

We are approaching the moment of truth regarding cheap hydropower, the most potent economic development tool Western New York has at its disposal.

With the announcement that the New York Power Authority has awarded 18.7 megawatts of discounted hydropower to Steel Development, the region's inventory of unallocated power is 29 megawatts, down from a high of about 160 MW four years ago. That's out of a pool of 695 megawatts of so-called replacement and expansion power, WNY's share of the low-cost power produced at the Niagara Power Project in Lewiston.

At the same time, the folks at the Buffalo Niagara Partnership gave some interesting testimony last week to a group of state legislative leaders in town to hold public hearings on the nine economic development programs offered by the Power Authority.

Let me quote from the testimony:

The Buffalo Niagara Enterprise has made great strides working with solar panel and wind turbine manufacturers who have expressed interest in our region because of our proximity to both customers and supply chain, in addition to low cost hydropower. 

Currently, the BNE has nine active projects -- good projects, with real interest in our region, that come from the renewable energy industry, other advanced manufacturing sectors and that include brownfield cleanups and strong job creation as part of their plans.  Together these projects represent potential private sector investments of up to $4.7 billion here, and creation of nearly 5,500 new jobs. 

To land these projects, we (as a region) currently have approximately 40 MW of Expansion and Replacement power available…while the projects would likely require total allocations closer to 200 MW.

Indeed, Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster told me the other day that he feels the region is putting itself on the map as a potential home to clean-tech industry and stands a decent shot at developing an industrial cluster -- if we play our cards right.

I don't expect that all seven of the projects mentioned by the Partnership will actually happen. Two or three, maybe.

The investment for, say, three projects, would approach 100 megawatts, with a payoff of something like 2,000 jobs, if the Partnership's numbers are in the ballpark.

Problem is, we don't have 100 megawatts to invest. Nope, we're down to 29, and that number is likely to drop further as NYPA finds additional customers before any of the big clean-tech projects advance sufficiently to obtain power allocations.

But, alas, there is a potential solution.

Long-term contracts for the major replacement and expansion power customers come due in several years and the authority is preparing for negotiations. The battle lines are being formed.

On one side are those who want to continue to treat long-term customers as though their allocations are a birthright, regardless of the bang for the buck.

On the other side are those who say we need to make the best and highest use of the power, and if that means some existing customers lose out, well, so be it, provided there is a net gain in jobs.

(News business columnist David Robinson had an interesting take in Sunday's paper.)

The reality is that a continuation of the status quo favoring legacy industries is going to limit the region's ability to attract new economy enterprises.

That's not an opinion, that's the reality.

Which means hard choices are on the horizon.

(As an aside, I've costed out the Steel Development deal, and it's on the pricey side, although less so than  Yahoo! at $810,000 per job over 15 years.

The Steel Development deal works out to a discount worth $32,325 per job per year over 10 years. The average annual cost per job for power allocated since 2006 is $11,833, so you can see the state is paying a premium for the 200 jobs that Steel Development would bring to the region.

The deal fares better, but not great, using a second measurement that considers how much investment projects generate per kilowatt of discounted power. Steel Development's $200 million investment works out to $10,695 per KW, vs. $11,451 for other projects awarded power since 2006.

In short, this is a generous deal.)

 

Pigeon is just a part of our political problems

Buffalo has four major centers of political power. The piece Bob McCarthy and Mike Beebe did Sunday on the failure of the district attorney to prosecute Steve Pigeon got me thinking about how well this community is being served by those in power.

Let's take a look, starting with the aforementioned Steve Pigeon and his sugar daddy, Tom Golisano.

As Bob and Mike's story Monday details, Pigeon has been the focus of scrutiny for some time - not that anyone has pulled the trigger on a prosecution.

Matt Spina laid out the details a few months back with regards to Pigeon's questionable use of political action committees.

Then the state Board of Elections referred the results of its review of Responsible New York's actions during the elections late year to the Albany County District Attorney.

Now, revelation that the former head of the Erie County DA's public integrity unit wanted to prosecute Pigeon is going to put pressure on Sedita to name a special prosecutor. 

Then there is the central role Golisano and Pigeon played in the Senate coup earlier this year that result in, among other things, Pigeon landing a $150,000-a-year job as Pedro Espada's counsel.

Enough said.

Let's move onto Erie County Executive Chris Collins, the major player in the Erie County GOP.

Two things strike me.

First is the belligerent manner in which Collins, his county attorney, Cheryl Green, and Sheriff Tim Howard, a fellow Republican, are responding to findings that the county prison and holding center are violating the rights of prisoners, among other nasty things. Rather than fixing the problems, Collins and Co. have dug in their heels.

They'd rather fight than fix.

Then there is the county executive's dalliance with the local Tea Party movement, as detailed by the Buffalo Geek and the Buffalo Pundit.

In short, the Tea Party crowd has endorsed the so-called Collins Four, which are challenging incumbent Democrats on the County Legislature, in addition to seeking the open seat created when Collins hired Kathy Konst and commissioner of environment and planning.

I don't necessarily have a problem with all of the Tea Party folks. But their crowd includes some real wing nuts, as both the the Geek and Pundit note. Their posts are well worth the read.

Next up: Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown.

In a word - actually two words - "One Sunset."

Or many words. As in FBI investigations into the One Sunset deal and the mayor's role in the police department's decision to let Leonard Stokes walk after officers were prepared to arrest him on charges of possessing a stolen handicapped parking permit.

As in the investigation by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel into, at a minimum, the arm-twisting of city employees via e-mail to work on Brown's election campaign.

As in the review by the state Department of Housing and Community Renewal into allegations by a Cleveland developer that Brown and Co. essentially tried to impose an outfit headed by one of the mayor's favored preachers as a condition of doing business with the city.

And while Brian Davis made his own bed that has resulted in an investigation by the State Police and DA, what was he doing on stage at Brown's re-election party on primary night?

Then came news Sunday that Brown and Collins are deep-sixing the deal to have the county run city parks, one of the few concrete consolidation arrangements the region's two largest governments have in place.

True, the county wasn't doing such a great job with some of the non-Olmsted parks.

But the mayor's comments about the Olmsted Conservancy's future role are making some folks nervous. Let's face it, dumping the conservancy, which practically everyone agrees has done a good job, would open up a lot of patronage jobs for the mayor, and we know what makes his administration tick.

Finally, there is the Erie County Democratic Party.

It's done just a fine job in the city, where Democrats hold all the elected positions, hasn't i?

It couldn't see its way to endorse either Brown or Mickey Kearns. Not exactly decisive. Common Council elections come around in two years and remind me again who is indispensable on that body? Is there a Gene Fahey or David Rutecki among them? I didn't think so.

On the state front, the Dems are the party that has given us senators like Bill Stachowski and Antoine Thompson, their ying to the GOP's yang of Dale Volker and George Maziarz.

Stachowski, Thompson, Volker, Maziarz. Isn't that shorthand for "Pack the car honey, we're moving to North Carolina!"

I don't see things changing unless and until "none of the above" step up.

And by "none of the above," I mean people who are genuinely interested in good government. People who don't want to be buddies with the party bosses and check-writing business interests and public employee unions. People who want to step beyond ideology and self-interest and get about the business of fixing this community.

Hello. Is anybody out there?
 

Chris Collins isn't acting like a businessman

Maybe this is a time for Chris Collins to run county government like a business.

I assume that Collins does a cost-benefit analysis when considering options when he's got a problem to solve at one of his businesses.

Well, he's got one with the county right now - conditions and treatment of prisoners at the Erie County Holding Center. But I'm not seeing any numbers getting crunched to weigh costs and benefits.

Reports Matt Spina:

Behind the scenes, (Erie County Sheriff Timothy) Howard and County Executive Chris Collins are discussing a new multimillion-dollar downtown lockup — a quasi-jail that would take on the role the Holding Center plays in holding defendants awaiting arraignment and let Howard avoid a strict set of rules.

Inside a lockup, the sheriff need not give bedding, showers, toothbrushes and similar items to inmates who have not yet seen a judge. But the Holding Center is a jail under state law and must meet higher standards in the care of inmates.

The State Commission of Correction lawsuit was fueled largely by the Holding Center's failure to consistently provide items of personal hygiene to people detained there for several hours or in some cases days as they await their first court appearance.

What's it going to take to give prisoners blankets and tooth brushes? Not much.

What's the cost to tear down 134 West Eagle Street, a musty county-owned building still in use, to put up a new lockup? An estimated $3 million.

The cost of construction of a new lockup facility? Nothing has been calculated - or, if it has, no one is sharing a number - but the cost certainly would involve millions and millions and millions of dollars.

So, Collins and Howard want to spend millions to avoid spending thousands.

Dont_tread_on_me

While that doesn't make sense financially, it is in keeping with the county executive's MO of "I'll play by my own rules." His leadership style at times resembles the human embodiment of a "Don't Tread On Me" flag.

Thus, if Collins has to spend money -- our money -- to avoid being told what to do, well, that's what he'll do if he can get the County Legislature to sign off.

Up to this point, the controversy involving the holding center downtown and county correctional facility in Alden has gained only partial traction with the public. Prisoner rights and all that, ya know. Doesn't play well with the county executive's neighors at Spaulding Lake, among other diggs.

But Collins and Howard are running the risk of this becoming a tax-and-spend issue that could get the attention of both the Bud Light  and Grand Marnier crowds.

I think the entire saga is getting weirder and weirder. County Attorney Cheryl Green blocking efforts by the U.S. Justice Department to inspect the holding center and jail and likening the feds to a bunch of granola-crunching prisoner rights advocates. Then Howard allowing actor Keanu Reeves to tour the holding center and correctional facility to scout for locations for an upcoming movie.

Like I said, weird. I mean, has someone dosed the water coolers at County Hall?


Another thing I've noted in the coverage is that the city is helping to foot the bill for all this, about $1 million a year. That gives Mayor Byron Brown leverage to demand changes. After all, some of the people being mistreated are his constituents, and it is being done partly on his dime.

The mayor said the other week that, of course, he wants people treated humanely. Perhaps he and/or the Common Council need to back that up with some meaningful action.

There's something happening here

Kevin Gaughan isn't a hockey player, but he scored a hat trick Wednesday when voters in Orchard Park voted two-to-one to downsize their town council from five to three members.

This is the third such referendum Gaughan has put on the ballot and won.

Voters turned out in force and had to wait in long lines for at least part of the day, possibly by design, according to one voter quoted in our story:

In general elections, Orchard Park has several polling sites. For this vote, though, there was only one … the basement of the municipal building.

"To have one place to vote, one spot with stairs down to it, didn't seem like encouragement to vote," said Lena Priamo, a recent retiree from the Orchard Park School District. "I thought they made it harder than they had to to vote."

One can debate if downsizing town boards is the best way to reduce the size and scope of local government. Gaughan tried a more ambitious approach and didn't find takers among the politicians. He's opted to take his case directly to the voters - and is gaining traction for what he hopes will eventually lead to bigger and better things.

Elsewhere in the blogosphere, the Buffalo Pundit and Buffalo Geek have noteworthy posts on the referendum.

Said the Geek:

... lack of leadership and a surplus of government obstinacy was evident today in Orchard Park. 

By selecting a special election date on a Wednesday between the primary and general elections, choosing only one polling place, putting that polling place in the basement of the municipal building, lack of signs or directions to the voting booth, selecting odd voting hours which didn’t allow for people to vote before 11AM and blocking the parking lot this morning with barricades and police to reduce “congestion” in the parking lot.  It was a mess. 

Local voter Rich Wilson said, “Honestly, I planned to vote ‘No’ on downsizing until I got down here today and saw all these shenanigans.  If the local council members are so opposed to this and will go to these lengths to block participation, maybe Gaughan’s got it right.”

A reader with the pen name DAVEH21 posted this comment today on The News story on BuffaloNews.com.

Typical government... Nancy Ackerman, who is on the Board that they were voting on to downsize, agreed that the vote should be held for limited hours (start at 11:00am - then people cannot vote on their way to work) at only one place and then has the audacity to state: "I'm sorry that so few people voted". "That's pathetic, in a town of 27,000 people, so few people could make this happen. This is apathy at its worst." No Nancy. The fact that you would expect 27,000 people to vote in a limited time frame at only one place is much worse. And you still don't understand why people want smaller governments in everything? It starts at the local level and works its way up. The movement is on... 

My hunch is that pols in other towns may start to take note of Gaughan's success and decide they would be better off if they offered voters change before voters do it themselves in the form of further downsizing.



I'm No. 2 and trying harder

Uh-oh, it looks like the FBI is engaged in "dirty politics" as Byron Brown perceives it, but before I get to that bit of news I'd like to share that Outrages & Insights has been selected as the second-best newspaper blog in the state.

The New York State Associated Press Association announced the winners of its annual journalism contest today and Outrages & Insights placed second among newspapers with a circulation over 125,000, which includes the dailies in New York City and Rochester.

While Rochester Slept, by Chad Roberts of the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle placed first while Inside Pitch by Mike Harrington of The News was awarded third.

Mel brooks

My posts submitted for consideration included mini-exposes on Tom Golisano's and Steve Pigeon's slime job on Sam Hoyt and the Buffalo Police Department's suppression of crime reports, and, my favorite, the ongoing efforts by village mayors -- including the leader of Farnham, population 322 -- to save their "phony baloney jobs," in the legendary words of Governor William J. LePetomane.

To paraphrase the Elvis album, I guess 629,735 page views can't be wrong.

My live blogging of the crash of Flight 3407 was included in package that took first place for spot news coverage, although I was a bit player in the Herculean task by our staff to cover that tragedy. In all, The News won nine first-place awards.

In the print competition, the AP honored the One Sunset investigation Patrick Lakamp and I did as the top business story of the year in the large newspaper category.

My coverage of the New York Power Authority -- including this story on NYPA bonuses and this piece on how the authority is profitting at the expense of Western New York  -- placed third in the business reporting category.

But enough about me.

Back in City Hall, the FBI delivered a letter to Common Council President David Franczyk on Tuesday that many are reading between the lines to mean the Eliot Ness crowd is looking into the mayor's interceding into the police department's handling of Leonard Stokes when he was ticketed for having a stolen handicapped parking permit on his car.

We already know that the FBI has interviewed at least one of the police officers who was involved in questioning Stokes. Phil Fairbanks, in his story today, reports:

A number of Council members speculated privately that the FBI is probably not interested in the permit issue per se, but may be looking into what the handicapped parking issue reveals about Brown's relationship with Stokes. The question, they speculated, is whether that relationship influenced the city's handling of One Sunset.

 Fairbanks also reports that the city's Ethics Board has swung into action.

In a related matter, the city Board of Ethics voted unanimously Tuesday to ask Brown to respond to a separate Franczyk letter about Stokes and the handicapped permit.

 Board Chairman Douglas Coppola said the request is part of the normal process for reviewing any alleged ethics violation. Brown has repeatedly refused to comment on the permit allegations.

As I said the other day, this story is not going to go away, and the appearance of a coordinated effort by Brown and Co. to "disappear" the incident is only piquing curiosity.

Smart study on dumb use of discounted power

In 2001 the New York Power Authority paid consultants to tell them what they didn't want to hear -- that the entrenched Replacement and Expansion Power program providing cheap hydropower to some 100 industries in Western New York wasn't working very well. Among other things, the report the team of mostly UB professors produced determined that 85 percent of the hydropower could be put to more effective use.

Then, in the waning days of George Pataki's days as governor, a blue ribbon panel charged with studying the state's nine discounted power programs, including the aforementioned Replacement and Expansion Power, said an overhaul was in order from Long Island all the way to Niagara Falls.

In 2007, The Buffalo News published an investigation I wrote that can be summed up with this line lifted from the main story: "The region is home to cheap power, high rates and huge corporate subsidies to a select few."

And the beat goes on.

Today, the Citizens Budget Commission releases a well-researched study of the state's nine discount power programs.

Its conclusion: Throw the circuit break on them and start over.

The programs, set up by legislation and managed by the Power Authority, all leave a lot to be desired, the study said. They don't align with the state's energy and economic development objectives and are tough to quantify and qualify because NYPA shields cost information from the public.

That's the bad news.

The worse news: The hydropower programs - Replacement and Expansion Power in our backyard and Preservation Power in Massena, which amounts to a huge handout to Alcoa -- are the least-efficient programs of all.

Consider these numbers from the Budget Commission's study, lifted from my story today:

Discounts for other discount programs offered by the state range from $247 to $630 per job per year. For the hydro programs, the cost ranges from $5,836 to $7,883 annually per job.

A look at the major recipients of low-cost hydropower customers in Erie and Niagara counties further drove home the point.

Statewide, the authority allocated on average 4.4 kilowatts of power for every job created or preserved. But the allocation for Olin Corp. in Niagara Falls works out to 497 kilowatts per job. The allocation is 244 per kilowatt per job for BOC Gases in Buffalo and 202 for Occidental Chemical in Niagara Falls.

Ah yes, good old Olin and Occidental. As I reported in my 2007 investigation:

Olin gets a $24 million annual subsidy -- an estimated $150,359 per job. Occidental gets a $28.7 million subsidy -- calculated at $111,144 per job.

Occidental's employment has dropped over the past three decades to about 200 today, but the pay is pretty good, in the $40,000 to $60,000 range.

Candace Jaunzemis, Occidental's plant manager, noted the facility's current payroll, including benefits, is about $20 million a year.

The value of its discounted power is some $29 million.

Therein lies the problem.

You'd think the state lawmakers whose legislation allows for this would be shamed into action. But it hasn't happened.

Not when George Maziarz - who is now incessantly yapping about NYPA's shortcomings, real and imagined - was a power on the Senate Energy Committee back when the Republicans were in change.

And not ever when Robin Schimminger sat, and continues to sit, as chairman of the Assembly's Committee on Economic Development, Job Creation, Commerce and Industry.

Most of the legislation governing the nine power programs is coming up on expiration, as are most of the authority's contracts with replacement and Expansion Power customers. Thus, an opportunity presents itself.

Rest assured, the Olins and Occidentals of the world are lobbying behind the scenes for a continuation of the status quo. There is no organized voice for change, but a few brave folks like Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster are saying something has to give. So maybe there's hope.

After all, Gov. Paterson's folks reacted to the upcoming expiration of the legislation authorizing Empire Zones by proposing that the program be chucked.

I know this is short notice, but five Senate and Assembly committee chairmen. including the heads of both Energy Committees, are holding a hearing at 3 p.m. today at the offices of the Buffalo-Niagara Partnership, 665 Main Street, to take public comment on the future of the state's power programs.

On Wednesday, they'll do it all again at Niagara Falls City Hall at 10 a.m. The meeting notice for this hearing says the testimony is by invitation only, so you might want to get on the stick if you want to be heard.

It helps to have the mayor's cell phone number

It turns out that Leonard Stokes did benefit from Byron Brown's intervention after the soon-to-crash-and-burn-with-taxpayer-money restaurateur got picked up using a stolen handicapped parking permit back in January 2007.

Sue Schulman had an eye-opening story in Sunday's paper that found:

Buffalo police officers had intended to arrest and charge an unrepentant Leonard Stokes with criminal possession of stolen property before Mayor Byron W. Brown became involved in the case two years ago, according to legal sources who talked to The Buffalo News.

Other motorists caught using stolen handicapped parking permits have been embarrassed and cooperated with police, sources said, and they typically were given a summons.

But Stokes was not embarrassed -- he told police he wanted the handicapped tag because, as a basketball star, he's not accustomed to having to walk long distances from his car -- and boasted of his connections to City Hall while using his cell phone to call the mayor, sources said.

I was intrigued by another set of facts found deeper in the story. The stolen permits were being hustled outside Gigi's restaurant by Alfonso "Butch" Harvin, whose mother owns the establishment. Harvin, who was a city employee at the time the permits disappeared, was charged in their theft and later sentenced to probation. 

But wait, there's more.

Gigi's underwent $190,000 in renovations a couple of years ago financed in part by -- you guessed it, the Buffalo Economic Renaissance Corp. You know, the folks who brought us One Sunset.

Only in the case of Gigi's, no loans were involved. It was all grants. A total of $96,738, all since Brown took office.

There might have been more city money involved, but I can't say for sure because the Brown administration still hasn't honored a Freedom of Information request from The News that would allow us to look that up and inform our readers.

Hawaii 5-0

There's nothing necessarily wrong with the grants. But the fact the city helped out the restaurant owner, whose place is an East Side hot spot, only to have her kid use it as a staging ground for selling stolen city property, is delicious in the context of the larger story, don't you think?

It also makes me wonder what exactly was said between Brown and Stokes when the police delivered Stokes to the mayor's office.

Keep in mind, we now now know the cops were prepared to "Book him, Danno."

Brown thinks his victory in the mayoral primary last week makes all this a moot issue. After his win he declared: "People didn't care about that. The voters have spoken. That was a non-issue, as I've said all along."

I don't know about that. Last I heard, the FBI was still sniffing around. Along with several other law enforcement agencies looking at assorted actions of the Brown administration

Then there's lessons that can be drawn from history. A little caper called Watergate. I think the sequence of events was crime, coverup, re-election and resignation.

That's not to say Brown's involvement in the Stokes affair was necessarily criminal. But it is to say that winning an election doesn't make everything go away. Nor should it.

The reality is that there's a lot the public still doesn't know about what went on in the mayor's office that day.

What we do know is that Brown won't talk about it.

Nor will Deputy Police Commissioner Dan Derenda, who had Stokes sent to City Hall.

Stokes isn't talking either.

A police officer with knowledge has been prohibited from talking.

This effort to "disappear" the event can't help but raise suspicions that Brown and Co. have something to hide. There's too much of what appears to be a coordinated effort to keep people quiet.

So-called reformers gunshy about change

The defenders of the region's political status quo have gotten a boost from an unlikely source - the University at Buffalo's Regional Institute.

The institute has long noted the negative effects of the high cost of local government and is generally an advocate of reform. But you would not know it by reading the report it just released.

The report does not exactly come out and say Kevin Gaughan's efforts to get town voters to reduce the size of councils from five to three members is a bad idea. But it's not hard to read between the lines.

"Any cost savings would be negligible and must be weighed against disadvantages in representation and responsiveness," the report said.

Business First of Buffalo has this story on the report.

I caught up with Gaughan yesterday afternoon by phone just as he was reading the report. He was incredulous.

"The study shows a shocking lack of understanding of what is happening in town and village halls," he said.

'"Western New York is dying and the principal reason we are dying is because government costs too much. To suggest we should not reduce its size and cost is misguided."

He cited the findings of the comprehensive study he did several years back, starting with the number of elected officials we have here in Erie County -- 439.

That's a lot of mouths to feed.

Moreover, it's a lot of people to get in the way of reform - and that's what most of them are doing.Their self-interest involves self-preservation, which is not necessarily in the public's interest.

I asked Gaughan the question that's been on my mind for a while about his downsizing effort:

Why are you pushing to reduce the size of town councils rather than the consolidation of towns and villages, where the potential costs savings are a lot greater?

His response: Despite years of efforts, consolidation, regionalism, whatever you want to call it, had failed to gain traction. There was a need for Plan B. And Plan B is to cut the size of town councils -- a plan, I might add, that is gaining traction. Voters have approved downsizing referendums in two towns and have put three others on the ballot, including Orchard Park.

"This is the long, first essential step," he said.

OK, I get the strategy. Start with the winnable fights and go from there.

I also get the Regional Institute. I'm not sure the genesis of its study, but its slant reinforces the feeling I came away with when I dealt with some of the institute's people a couple of years ago.

I had convened a meeting of a half-dozen UB-types, including someone from the institute, in an effort to build and analyze a database that would track all government grants, subsidies and tax breaks given to companies in Erie and Niagara counties.

After an initial show of interest, the institute decided against participating (and the whole project eventually went by the wayside). When I asked why the institute didn't want in, I was essentially told that they didn't want to be involved in a project that might make it uncomfortable for individual companies, that if I planned on naming names, well, they were out of here.

In other words, they're all for reform, so long as it doesn't upset anyone.

Brown administration still suppressing public records

Now that the primary is over, perhaps Mayor Byron Brown's attorneys will finally provide the public records that they were required under the state Freedom of Information Act to provide several months ago.

The News on Aug. 10 called the administration out for its failure to provide the requested information and we thought we had reached a deal with City Hall after a meeting ten days later. We agreed on a series of deadlines for the release of documents, the last of which was Sept. 11. 

Mind you this for records that were requested June 19. The FOI law requires release within a matter of days, weeks at the longest, in most cases. We're coming up on three months for some of the material.

Since we met, the city and its two development agencies have provided some of the requested documents.

In other instances,they have provided only a portion of what we requested. 

In other cases, we've received nothing, including material that I consider the most politically sensitive. Sure enough, we won't get it until after the primary, which I'm sure was the plan all along.

In dealing with the attorney handling this portion of the request, it became clear to me that the administration did not even attempt to consider the request for this sensitive material until our meeting, two months after it was filed.

Moreover, despite assurances to the contrary, the city is dragging its feet in responding to an FOI request we filed after our Aug. 20 meeting.

Perhaps the three attorneys we're dealing with have been too busy with the campaign. Between them, they made 19 contributions totaling $4,000 to Brown's political committees.

Then again, I don't think they're the cause of the delay. That would be found on the second floor of City Hall.

I wonder if the "mandate" the mayor spoke about the other night in his victory speech includes the right to continue to violate the Freedom of Information Act.

Brown wins in a landslide - an update

I'm not surprised Byron Brown won the Democratic mayoral primary Tuesday. His margin of victory is bigger than I expected, however.

I suspect it's bigger than the mayor anticipated, as well, given how he went negative on Mickey Kearns the last week of the campaign. Candidates usually take the high road if their polls show them in a commanding position. Or perhaps Brown just didn't want to take any chances, given his desire to not just win, but win convincingly, for reasons I'll explain in a minute.

No matter. Brown won 63 to 37 percent, according to Board of Elections results.

Folks, that's a landslide, which on one level represents a mission accomplished if you are among the many who believe the mayor wanted to win by a wide margin in order to sell himself as a viable candidate for lieutenant governor on a potential ticket with Andrew Cuomo or as a successor to Louise Slaughter if and when she retires from Congress. If you want to travel in those circles, you have to demonstrate you command your own backyard.

Brown demonstrated he can raise money - more than $1.7 million - and get out the vote in the face of adversity.

The mayor is nevertheless coming out of the campaign damaged goods because of the numerous investigations and audits of him and/or his administration for everything from One Sunset to coercive campaign e-mails sent to city employees to his possible role in the decision to not charge Leonard Stokes after his car was ticketed with a stolen handicapped parking permit in the window.

How those investigations play out is yet to be determined. But I suspect Brown's troubles are going to give potential political suitors pause. But that's a story for another day.

The story for today is that Brown won - and won big. How did he do it?

Update: 11:37 a.m.: Brown won largely because he won the black vote overwhelming while doing reasonably well with white voters.

Brown won 97 percent in the predominantly black Masten District, 84 percent in University and 75 percent in Ellicot. Those three districts provided Brown 13,390 of his 24,595 votes.

While Kearns won four of nine Council districts - the same ones Kevin Gaughan won in the primary four years ago - he swamped Brown only in his home turf in South Buffalo. The South District had the highest turnout of any in the city - 45 percent, vs. a citywide average of 35 percent - and Kearns won 78 percent of the vote. (Take that, Brian Higgins.)

But the mayor picked up no less than 44 percent of the vote in the other Council districts that swung to Kearns, including 44 percent in Delaware.

Turnout appears to have played less of a role than you might think, although the percentage of voters making it to the polls was the lowest in districts like North and Niagara, where Kearns needed to have a strong showing to have any hope of winning.

Bob McCarthy has this analysis with the details and I put together this chart with turnout and vote by Council district. Take a look.

In the end, it looks like a Kearns upset was not in the cards, partly because of Brown's strengths - including money and the power of the incumbency - and partly because of Kearns' shortcomings as a candidate.

Yeah, he raised some cash at the 11th hour and made a push that made things interesting at the end, but for too long the Kearns campaign was missing in action. Even in the home stretch, when he started to get people's attention, Kearns did not impress. It wasn't enough for him to simply be the anti-Brown.

Also of note is the proxy fight involving the election of candidates for the Democratic nominating convention for State Supreme Court to be held later this month.

The race in the 141st Assembly District represented by Crystal Peoples pitted a Grassroots slate against one headed by Arthur O. Eve Jr., who is no friend of the mayor. The Grassroots slate picked up eight of nine seats, led by Peoples and Sen. Antoine Thompson. Another winner was Ellicot Common Council Member Brian C. Davis. Eve was the only non-Grassrooter to win.

Meanwhile, the race in the 144th Assembly District represented by Sam Hoyt saw the Hoyt slate pick up eight of nine seats, led by the assemblyman and several elected officials who had endorsed Kearns. The only pro-Brown candidate to win was North Common Council Member Joe Golombeck.

Here are the results for those races.

More update, 11:37 a.m.: So, Brown will be around for another four years, short of election to another office or legal troubles stemming from the assorted ongoing investigations. 

It will be interesting to see what kind of tone he sets for a second term. He was far from conciliatory  Tuesday night, continuing to attack his vanquished opponent and saying on one hand that he will reach out to his opponents while quickly adding that they also need to reach out to him. It's wasn't so much what he said, but how he said it.

Graceful in victory he was not.

Yet another update, Thursday, 1:30 p.m.: Chris Smith, aka Buffalo Geek, has an interesting analysis.

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