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Mayoral primary over almost before it began

It seems like the campaign for mayor just started in earnest and already it's primary day. What's a reporter to do but offer these last minute tidbits.

Let's start with contributions to the candidates.

For the record, Mayor Brown, since taking office, has raised a whopping $1,772,340. Here are the contributors to his Brown For Buffalo committee; ditto for his Leadership Council.

I've spent a little time looking over the list of contributors and a few things jumped out at me.

For starters, Brown is being bankrolled by three interest groups: businesses and lobbyists who do business with the city, or want to; and city employees.

Modern Disposal and its sister companies have given Brown more than anyone, $28,200. Modern is also one of the city's biggest vendors, having been paid $7.15 million the last year-and-a-half alone.


Brown, as of 11 days ago, the latest reporting period, had spent $722,499, which left him a little more than $1 million in the bank. He no doubt has spent a wad of that cash in the past week-and-a-half.

Kearns, meanwhile, had raised $153,909 as of 11 days ago and spent $114,661. Here's his list of contributors.

Big buck contributors? None to speak of. Certainly nothing along the lines of Brown.

But - and this is a big but - Kearns has said the money has been rolling in the past week or so, especially since Carl Paladino and his deep pockets decided to enter the fray. State election law requires candidates, during the 11 days leading up to the primary to report any contributions of $1,000 or more.

Kearns, however, has failed to report any additional contributions, according to the Board of Elections Web site about 7 p.m. last night.

Mickey, this is not cool.

In fact, it's against the law. Which is not a good resume builder when you're presenting yourself as a reformer who is going to clean up City Hall.

Yeah, yeah, I know you're busy campaigning. But it's no excuse. Voters have a right to know who is jumping in with big bucks at the last minute. I mean, Brown's people have reported $14,000 in 11th-hour contributions.

Then there's the matter of polls. The numbers are flying, showing Brown with anywhere from a 7 to 11 percent lead, depending on the poll.

Here's what WGRZ reported last night, based on its latest robo-poll:

The survey shows Kearns has a chance to win Tuesday's primary, but incumbent Brown appears to have the better chance as a spirited campaign enters its final day. Brown gets 51%, Kearns 44%, in Survey USA's final poll for WGRZ-TV.

The electorate is sharply divided along racial lines and across income levels, and any mis-measurement of the size of the relative constituencies could result in an upset. Brown, who is black, gets 90% of the black vote. Kearns, who is white, gets two thirds of the white vote, but loses one-third to Brown.

I did my own decidedly unscientific survey of this blog's readers yesterday and, well, I think it says more about the folks  who read my blog than it does the electorate.

As of 7:45 a.m. today, Kearns was favored by 69 percent of the 318 who participated in the poll, while Brown picked up 14 percent. Another 17 percent said the heck with both of them.

Finally, a word or ten about what the Buffalo Pundit has termed "Stokesgate."

You know, the trials and tribulations of Buffalo's most famous restaurateur this side of Frank and Theresa. Only a lot more notorious.

The mayor has been hootin' and hollerin' about reports that Stokes was somehow able to get a meeting with the mayor while police were in the middle of questioning him about the stolen handicapped parking permit he was ticketed for. Stokes stopped talking to the cops, started talking with the mayor and before you know it, no more cops, no more questions. 

Brown has refused to answer questions, claiming its all "dirty politics." He's gone so far as to challenge the police who were involved to tell their story if they have one.

Well, it turns out one of the principle cops has in fact asked to discuss what he knows. And, get this, the police brass - who, I must note, work for Brown - have told him to dummy up.

Reports Luke Moretti of WIVB TV:

Buffalo Police Detective Sergeant Thomas Donovan wants to talk about the Leonard Stokes incident. Sources tell News 4 Donovan is the one who transported Stokes to Mayor Byron Brown's office January 8th 2007 after Stokes was detained for possessing a stolen handicapped parking permit.

Here's what the mayor said Thursday.

Mayor Brown said, "No officer has come forward. Have you seen a single officer come forward and say anything?"

But Sgt. Donovan tells News 4 he'd be willing to talk if he gets approval from top police brass. They have said no, citing department policy involving an on-going investigation.

Of course, the police talk all the time about ongoing investigations.

I'm sure we haven't heard the last of this, however.

With all this said, get yourselves off to the polls if you haven't already.

Tuesday is a referendum on Byron Brown

Elections often serve as a referendum on the incumbent and I think that is especially true with Tuesday's mayoral primary between Byron Brown and Mickey Kearns.

There are five blocks of voters out there:

Those who are solidly behind Brown because of his track record, racial politics or their jobs depend on his re-election.

Those who are solidly behind Kearns because of his credentials or racial politics.

Those who are solidly against Brown because of of his track record.

Those who are undecided, not keen on Brown but uncertain about Kearns.

Those who don't care, aren't paying attention or think it's all hopeless.

Unfortunately, if Board of Elections officials are to be believed, the "what's the use?" block is far and away the largest. Which is to say, a fraction of voters will choose our next mayor.

That's sad, given what's at stake. Then again, it was even sadder when fewer than one in 10 voters turned out this spring for the School Board elections.

How will the election swing?

There's not a lot of polling data out there. The best we have to go on is a robo-poll commissioned by WGRZ-TV the week before last that showed Kearns had closed the gap with Brown and that the race is a tossup. Perhaps.

More telling was the way Brown consistently attacked Kearns during their debate Friday on Channel 2 and the tone of his advertising the past week.

Standard operating procedure is to be diplomatic if your polls show you're sitting on a big lead in the run-up to an election. You only attack if you're behind or your polls show your lead is too close for comfort.

So, methinks the race is going to be tight. Voter turnout is going to play a crucial role, as it does in any tight race with a modest turnout.

That should play to Brown's advantage, given he's got a stronger organization in place.

Then again, a ticked-off electorate often finds its way to the polls.

Just how unhappy are voters with Brown? We'll find out Tuesday.

If you're still not sure about who you prefer, read these two dueling endorsements from the Buffalo Pundit and The Buffalo News editorial board.

(And for you readers who have been predicting for months that The News would endorsement Kearns, no matter what we reporters uncovered, all I can say is '"don't shoot me, I'm only the piano player.")

Rather than wait until Tuesday, I say we get the fun started now with the poll below. One vote per person -- that's how the software is set up.

Leonard Stokes has a history of legal trouble

Byron Brown recently called Leonard Stokes a "young man with promise."

Authorities have been calling him "trouble" for quite some time.

Either city officials didn't know, or didn't care, about his history of legal troubles when they gave him $110,000 in loans and grants and encouraged the Erie County Industrial Development Agency to kick another $50,000 his way to help finance the now-notorious One Sunset restaurant.

Pat Lakamp and I first broke the One Sunset story in May and we've been peeling the layers of that onion since then with a lot of help from Brian Meyer.

In today's Buffalo News, I report the hot water Stokes has continually found himself in since 2006 -- before, during and after city and county officials opened the public vault for him.

Just Wednesday, he turned himself in on a noncriminal charge involving an altercation earlier this year with a woman he fathered a child with.

Last year, he was charged with pulling a gun on someone during an argument and he lost his driver's license for failing to make child support payments.

The Department of Motor Vehicles has suspended his auto registration four times after he let his insurance lapse and he was charged during one of the suspension periods for driving anyway.

No surprise there. His license was suspended late last year, but it didn't stop Stokes from driving up in a big, black Cadillac for an interview with Pat and me this spring.

Then there is the mother of all run-ins with the law, at least from a public relations perspective, when police detained him for using a stolen handicapped parking permit that somehow ended up with a trip to the mayor's office.

Sources tell us that Stokes told police he wanted the permit because, as an athlete, he's not accustomed to walking long distances.

This from a 6-foot, 6-inch, basketball star.

No wonder the cops were peeved.

Brown is continuing to insist the controversy surrounding the Stokes visit to his office is "dirty politics" and that he never went out of his way to help Stokes obtain city funding for the restaurant or treated him any different than any other fledgling entrepreneur.

But Scott Brown of WGRZ TV offered this interesting tid-bit in his report yesterday -- Stokes knows Brown's cell phone number.

Reported Brown, the Red Coat:

A source tells '2 On Your Side' that while Stokes was being questioned about where he got the sticker, he told a detective that he knew the mayor, and gave the officer the mayor's cell phone number.

Shortly after that, Stokes was taken to City Hall.

A show of hands, people, how many of you have the mayor's cell phone number?


I didn't think so.

On a related front, Geoff Kelly of Artvoice has a really good analysis of the mayoral primary. It's well worth the read.

My colleagues Sue Schulman and Brian Meyer also have an update on the latest developments in the parking permit controversy.

Sizing up Mickey Kearns

With the primary contest for mayor tightening, more voters are taking a look at Mickey Kearns to see if he's worth supporting. There's not a ton of insightful material on the guy out in the public domain, so I'm writing this post in an effort to fill a bit of the void.

I haven't had a lot of first-hand dealings with the guy, so I can't pretend to offer any deep insights. So I picked the brains of some people I respect who have had more extensive dealings with Kearns to see what they think of him.

Here's what I came away with:


Kearns has been a decent first-term Council member, but he's still got a lot to learn about city government.

He's no dummy, but not the sharpest knife in the drawer, either. 

He has, however, shown a healthy curiosity about issues and displayed a willingness to learn.

For example, he's traveled to Chicago, Milwaukee and Toronto to learn how those cities developed their waterfronts, to the Midwest to learn about ethanol production and to Rochester to see how it delivers services in the neighborhoods.

Kearns has displayed a reformist streak, at least by Common Council standards. He was one of the co-sponsors of a bill aimed at protecting city workers from pressure to work on political campaigns. He's been a leading critic of the way the city spends block grant funds. He was one of the councilmen serving on the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency board who opposed Brown's push to award a waterfront hotel project to a development team headed by Jim Pitts. And he's big on revamping the city's building and planning codes to make it easier to do business in the city.

He's shown a willingness to take unpopular stands, as evidenced by his taking on Brian Higgins on the reconstruction of Route 5.

He's part of the Council majority that often clashes with Brown and is especially tight with Mike LoCurto, who represents the Delaware District.

While he points to Jimmy Griffin as his role model, and is a South Buffalo guy through and through, Kearns doesn't have Griffin's nasty streak. Quite the contrary, in fact.

But Kearns does have Griffin's independent streak, bucking the South Buffalo political establishment headed by Higgins to win the South District Council seat in 2007.

While he doesn't have much experience as a legislator, he's gotten a flavor of city government working as a lifeguard and garbage man when he was going to school and later as an aide to then-South District Council Member Dennis Manley. His father was a city firefighter.

If The News were to do another survey asking community, business and political leaders to rate the Council, I suspect Kearns would end up in the middle of the pack, perhaps a tad better, in what is a pretty pedestrian body. But he is hardly regarded as a star.

Is Kearns ready for prime time?


That's not to say Byron Brown was or is, either.

In short, Kearns has shown some progressive sensibilities and comes across as an accessible, decent sort. But he's still pretty green and largely untested. His lackluster campaign for mayor this year is not reassuring.

What voters are left with is a choice between a middling councilman and a middling mayor.

The whole thing leaves me (1) wanting to say "don't blame me, I voted for Gene Fahey and (2) wishing the city's political culture and the Democratic Party that dominates it was producing bright reformers who are ready, willing and able to clean up the mess that is our city.

Don't look for them on this year's ballot, however.

If you want to know more about Kearns, check out the following:

Brian Meyer's profile of Kearns in The Buffalo News

Artvoice report on Kearns campaign appearance in Masten District

Artvoice interview with Kearns

Critique of Kearns' comments in Artvoice interview from blogger Paul Wolf.

Buffalo Rising video with Kearns fielding questions from readers.

Kearns' official campaign Web site

And, finally, the following WNYMediaNet interview with Kearns.

Any suggestions for additions, readers?

Brown and Paladino take the gloves off

The mayoral primary once dismissed as a snoozer is all of a sudden a screamer.

Before I say another word, I implore you to listen to this audio clip of Brown's exchange Tuesday with News reporter Brian Meyer. Intense, telling stuff. 

Done? OK, let's get to the latest developments.

For starters, we have Carl Paladino jumping into the primary -- wallet open, words flying.

It's not like "Mad Dog," and I say that with a smile, to sit on the sidelines, so I'm not surprised he's joined in the fun 'n' games. He's made no secret of his disdain for Mayor Byron Brown, but Mickey Kearns had left him cold -- at least until now.

Paladino told News political reporter Bob McCarthy, in a story published today:

"I was going to sit this one out because I was disgusted by the whole thing," he said Tuesday. "But I can't."

In typical fashion, Paladino has come out with guns blazing -- an incendiary radio spot airing on more than a half-dozen stations that rips just about everyone in sight -- Andrew Rudnick, Brian Davis and, of course, the mayor -- and concludes with him telling voters: "If we really want to fight crime, start with City Hall."

Take a listen.  But, first, hide the children.

Paladino has promised to follow up with a round of television commercials, and he said others are "coming out of the woodwork" to help finance the Kearns campaign.

This is all good news for Kearns, whose fund-raising has picked up in recent weeks, but still lags waaaaaaaaaay behind Brown. Paladino isn't saying how much he'll spend on behalf of Kearns, but he dropped $64,500 four years ago on Kevin Helfer, the Republican candidate for mayor.

Meanwhile, WGRZ News has released a poll showing the race is neck and neck.

I'm no fan of the Red Coats, and the type of robo-polling used by the pollster isn't exactly the best sampling money can buy. But in the absence of any other polling data released in the public domain, I figure it's worth sneaking a peak.

The poll, taken last week before Sunday's bombshell and the followup Monday, had Brown at 48 percent, Kearns at 47 percent, with 5 percent undecided. The poll's margin of error was 4.2 percent, meaning the race is a statistical dead heat. 

According to the poll, black voters are going for Brown 86-13 percent, while Kearns leads among whites 64-29 percent.

Here are the detailed numbers.

Given the closeness of the numbers, and the demographic bases the candidates are drawing from, the pollster suggests it will come down to turnout.

If any combination of women, seniors, blacks, the less-educated and the less-affluent vote in larger numbers than SurveyUSA here forecasts, Brown wins. If any combination of men, younger voters, whites, the more educated and the more affluent vote in larger numbers than SurveyUSA here forecasts, Kearns wins.

For the record, Brown's people say they don't put much stock in the poll.

"We really question the validity of those numbers," said spokesman Peter Cutler. "It is clear from our analysis of the methodology that the way they sampled voters is flawed. It does not present an accurate

Duly noted.

Finally, when I heard Brown complain Tuesday about "dirty politics" at an impromptu press conference in which he walked out on reporters while they were still posing questions, I couldn't help but think back to what Brown's political posse was up to a year ago.

You remember, the smear campaign against Sam Hoyt.

Responsible New York's fingerprints were all over the effort. While longtime Hoyt antagonist Steve Pigeon is widely regarded as the architect of the attack campaign, financed with Tom Golisano's money, you'd be hard pressed to find someone credible in the political community who thinks the Brown camp, starting with Steve Casey, wasn't in on the action, given (1) the deep animosity between the mayor and assemblyman and (2) the political alliance between Brown/Casey and Golisano/Pigeon.

The mayor may be correct in saying the timing of the most-recent round of allegations reeks of politics. But that's a separate issue from their merit.

Like it or not, the fallout from the One Sunset scandal has emerged as a major campaign issue. According to the WGRZ poll, voters supporting Kearns rank it their No. 1 issue.

Brown has had more than three months to defuse the issue, but he and his political team have instead added fuel to the fire. In the process, they have helped give life to what had been a moribund campaign by Kearns.

Hoyt, by contrast, fessed up and kept his cool under fire last fall, and it no doubt helped him handily defeat the Golisano-Pigeon-Brown-Casey candidate.

Brown is clearly in a snit, given the way he's handled the press this past week, even though the hand he's been dealt is child's play compared to the viciousness that Hoyt had to contend with last year. I mean, the mayor's political enemies aren't publishing his private e-mails or demanding he resign lest they release more of them.

I imagine Casey, even moreso than Brown, is seething over recent developments, but you know what they say: "What goes around, comes around."

Byron Brown is unraveling right before our very eyes

The political self-destruction of Byron Brown gained momentum this weekend.

And continued this morning (see updates below).

First there was the mayor's refusal to respond to questions posed last week by Brian Meyer while reporting his block-buster story in which three sources told The News that police, after apprehending Leonard Stokes two years ago on suspicion of using a stolen handicapped parking permit, were ordered to release him after a highly unusual trip to the mayor's office.

Brown, when asked if the allegations were true, instead offered a no-comment.

"I will say to you I have no comment on your story."

Which a lot of people read as an admission of guilt. The mayor followed up the next day by saying the accusations are politically motivated.

"This is clearly politically motivated. The timing is very questionable."

Yeah, maybe, but are the accusations true?

Brown continued to stonewall.

"This was two years ago," Brown repeated. "What we're trying to do is get all the facts."

What's the mayor going to do, interview himself?

I had my own suspicions as to what the "fact finding" might involve - perhaps trying to smoke out the police officers who the mayor suspects of spilling the beans -- and Niagara Common Council Member David Rivera accused Brown of doing just that at a press conference Sunday.

Rivera said he's been told by a source in the department that Joel Daniels, a prominent defense attorney, has started calling officers involved in Stokes' apprehension in an effort to question them. Rivera said Daniels has represented that he's acting on behalf of the mayor. The Councilman, a retired cop himself, said the very act of having Daniels call officers amounts to "a form of intimidation."

Calls to Daniels and Peter Cutler, the mayor's spokesman, brought strenuous denials that the mayor has "retained" Daniels.

But Daniels then gave a string of curious "no comments," when asked whether he was acting in a less-formal capacity and if he had started contacting officers.

As I report in Monday's News:

  "I'm not going to comment on whether I've made inquiries," he said.

   Is he working for the mayor in a capacity short of being formally retained?

   "I can't discuss that, can't comment on that," he said.

 Cutler, meanwhile, confirmed that the administration has started "fact finding" in the   Stokes matter, but declined to comment when asked for details.

   "I'm not going to go into detail. I don't think it's relevant," Cutler said.

Daniels issued his "no comments" after I had spoken to Cutler, so I called the mayor's spokesman back for further clarification. It was the administration's opportunity to dampen the speculation that arose from Daniel's comments. Let's face it, the string of "no comments" coming from a media savvy guy like Daniels can be easily construed as meaning "something is up, but I can't tell you the details." 

Cutler failed to return the phone call. I deal with Cutler a lot and consider his failure to return the call telling.

I'm not sure what they teach politicians and their flak at Damage Control 101, but I'm pretty sure it's not to issue "no comments" that are likely to be interpreted by many in the public as a confirmation of guilt.

And I'm pretty sure that they also don't teach the pols to ensure that the negative front-page story on Sunday is followed up by another negative front-page story on Monday by either (1) hiring a lawyer to smoke out the supposed rat finks or (2) have the attorney issue a string of no comments that only fuel speculation.

Brown and company just may have done what Mickey Kearns has failed miserably at: make a contest out of the Sept. 15 Democratic primary for mayor.

Brown had been considered a lock and remains a favorite. But the string of stories revealing the administration's misdeeds and missteps -- coupled with the mayor's pattern of responses that involve one part "I didn't know," one part "no comment," and one part "all my critics are politically motivated" -- have made a bad situation worse.

What little polling I'm aware of suggests that while Brown is leading, Kearns is gaining ground. Moreover, the polls supposedly show there are a lot of undecided voters and I can't image the news of the past month is going to win Brown many converts.

There are legitimate concerns as to whether Kearns would be a good mayor - lots of people think he's been a lousy candidate - but I sense that a growing number of voters are more unhappy about what they know about Brown than are uneasy about what they don't know about Kearns.

Whether that translates into an upset on primary day remains to be seen. I still think it's unlikely. But I no longer think it's inconceivable.

Update, Tuesday, 12:10 p.m. -- Brown got emotional in exchange with reporters this morning, said, among other things, that he's though talking about the matter. Brian Meyer has this story, which includes an audio clip of the exchange. 

Update, Tuesday, 12;50 p.m. -- The Buffalo Pundit has weighed in, as well, and his post includes a video clip of the Rivera's  press conference on Sunday.



What is it with these politicians?

It turns out Crystal Peoples has failed to file 14 campaign finance disclosure reports since she succeeded Arthur O. Eve in the Assembly. She's also failed to pay thousands of dollars in fines levied by the State Board of Elections.

Yet another reason to look up to our state legislators. Just 'cause they make laws, doesn't mean they have to obey them.

News Political Reporter Bob McCarthy broke the story in today's Buffalo News.

John Conklin, spokesman for the Board of Elections, said the state levied 14 judgments against Peoples totaling $5,455. While she filed six reports that were formerly delinquent, eight remain outstanding … as far back as July, 2003 and as recent as July, 2007.

Peoples insists, of course, that she has nothing to hide and offers a range of excuses along the lines of "the dog ate my homework."

I'm sorry, but failure to file 14 times shows a willful disregard for the law.

And what is her excuse for not paying the fines, some of which date to 2003, when she has $54,455 in her campaign account?

Peoples is venturing into Brian Davis territory. The Buffalo councilman is a chronic non-filer, approaching 20 missed reports, and it's prompted the Board of Elections to freeze his campaign accounts. 

Which prompts a question: When is the Board going to move against Peoples?



Short-changing students to benefit teachers

School districts don't tolerate a first grade teacher instructing high school biology.

But if that same first grade teacher wanted to coach, say, the volleyball or track team, it would be no problem in many districts, provided they had their paper credentials in order.

I was reminded of that sad reality by a story about the Depew School Board refusing to act on the recommended appointment of a -- gasp! -- non-teacher as assistant cross country coach. No one on the board would make a motion, much less a second, on the proposed appointment.

Board Member Diana Benczkowski told reporters that students want their coaches to be teachers.

Ah, actually, no.

You see, Diana, what students want is for their coaches to be good coaches. And a teaching certificate and a few courses on CPR, sports pysch and the like does not equate to coaching competency.

The problem is that too many school boards treat coaching as a jobs programs for teachers, and many districts have codified it in their labor contracts.

I've seen it with my own eyes. My three children have played high school sports while attending Buffalo public schools and while their school generally has had good luck attracting quality coaches who are teachers, too often they have played against teams where it was obvious the opposing coach (1) had never played the sport and (2) had not held many practices to improve the skills of their players.

In other words, those who can't, coach.

For the coaches, it's a way to pick up anywhere from $2,500 to $5,000 a season. Yeah, many work hard and are good at what they do. But then there's the coach I watched last season who spent a good part of the game sitting on the sidelines talking on her cell phone.

City schools, to their credit, are starting to introduce modified sports, giving 7th and 8th graders a chance to play. You'd think it would be especially important to get kids off on the right foot with good coaching, but under contract, coaching jobs have to go to teachers.

This is not to pick on Buffalo schools, as many a suburban district pulls the same stunt, giving teachers a stranglehold on coaching jobs.

It's a bit more troubling in the city, however, given that sports can serve as a lifeline for kids who sometimes have few other constructive outlets. What sort of incentive is there for a kid to play on a team when the coach doesn't know what  he/she is doing and sometimes is simply going through the motions to collect a paycheck?

This doesn't just represent a lost opportunity to play and learn the life lessons that come with play, but closes the door of opportunity for kids to parlay their sporting skills into a college education.

I'm not saying would-be Division I stars are losing out. But being an accomplished high school athlete can open doors, and sometimes free up scholarship money at Division III schools. Yeah, I know, officially, sports doesn't open doors and result in scholarship money at the D-III level. But the reality is otherwise.

The trouble is, at some schools, in some sports -- and I suspect women's sports get shortchanged more than men's -- students don't get a chance to fully develop as athletes and lose out on the potential benefits. That's what happens when school districts, rather than looking out for the best interest of kids, instead make employing adults their priority.

 And in the case of coaches, in too many places, outsiders need not apply.

You could be Marv Levy, but if the gym teacher wants to coach the football team, well, the kids are out of luck.

City officials say the darndest things

I came across two "you've got to be kidding me" quotes in Tuesday's paper that are worth sharing.

First, Mayor Byron Brown tried to blame Tony Masiello for the small army of state and federal investigators crawling all over City Hall these days.

Said Hizzoner:

“Anything that’s an audit or an investigation is stuff we inherited — legacy stuff."

He apparently has been saying it a lot on the campaign trail.

It's nonsense. But don't take my word for it. Listen to what John McEnroe had to say.


Let's examine the record.

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel is investigating the strong-arming of city employees to work on Brown's campaign, starting with the infamous e-mails sent by Human Services Commissioner Tanya Perrin-Johnson.

Memo to Byron: She is your commissioner, not Masiello's. (And you haven't disciplined her.)

The FBI has subpoenaed city records as part of an investigation into the One Sunset restaurant deal, in which the city's main economic development agency made dubious loans. The loans were made well after Brown took office.

Can't pin that one on Tony, either.

Then we have the inquiry of the State Department of Housing and Community Renewal into a low-income housing deal that, the allegation goes, the Brown administration put the kibosh on after the developer wouldn't give into city demands that he accommodate an organization headed by an East Side preacher favored by the mayor.

Masiello was long gone before the funny business started.

And let's not forget about the criminal investigation the State Police and Erie County District Attorney Frank Sedita are  conducting into the financial affairs of Ellicott Common Council Member Brian Davis, one of the mayor's allies on the Council and fellow member of the Grassroots political organization that was instrumental to both getting elected.

I've documented how Davis is a deadbeat who doctored his resume, but nary is heard a discouraging word from the mayor.

"Legacy stuff?"


The only half-leg Brown has to stand on is the pending audit by the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The city has been wasting block grant money since the days of Jimmy Griffin, so you can't pin this one all on Brown.

But then again, a scathing HUD review of the program released in March showed little has changed since Brown took office.

The mayor is not alone in the brazen quote department.

Schools Superintendent James Williams cried poverty in explaining why he and the School Board took bus service away from the Charter School for Applied Technologies because the school is located on the wrong side of the city line on Kenmore Avenue.

“We need to spend our limited resources helping families and children who live and receive their education inside the City of Buffalo,” Williams said.

Ah, for the record, the district's budget this year us $772,899,860.

As in three-quarters-of-a-billion dollars.

Billion, people, billion.

"Limited resources?"

I'd hate to see how much money it would require for Williams to think he's not in the poor house.

I think Williams and Brown are giving Tom "It's All About Reform" Golisano a run for his money.


The New York State Politburo

Majority rule in the New York State Legislature means walking in lock step with the party leadership.

An analysis recently released by the New York Public Interest Research Group provides all the depressing, though not surprising, detail.

Assembly Democrats voted with Speaker Sheldon Silver 97.4 percent of the time.

Senate Democrats were a bigger flock of sheep, voting with Temporary President Malcolm Smith 99.7 percent of the time.

Not that the Republicans were much better, voting the same way as Smith 96.5 percent of the time, which leaves me to wonder aloud:

What exactly is the difference between Senate Democrats and Republicans, once you get past their competition to be the majority party and enjoy the perks that come with it?

Because whatever it is, it's not showing up in their voting records.

Press releases, yes, but not on the legislative floor.

Also telling is the fact that 55 percent of Assembly bills and 76 percent of Senate bills passed unanimously this session.

The average vote in the Assembly was 132 "yes," nine "no" and eight members absent or abstaining.

The typical vote in the Senate was 58-2-2.

Also noteworthy: The amount of legislation passed this session dropped, especially in the Senate, which passed one-half to one-third the number of bills it did last year, depending on how you do the math.

Blame it on the coup, I guess.

I delved into the numbers to assess the track record of our Western New York delegation.

The good news, relatively speaking, is that our 13 Assembly members were a little more independent from Silver than legislators from around the state.

Our seven Democrats voted with Silver 91 percent of the time (vs. 97 percent for the entire Assembly), while our six Republicans sided with the speaker 67 percent of the time.

Sam Hoyt sided with Silver 98 percent of the time, followed by Crystal Peoples at 97 percent. Bill Parment was the Democrat most frequent to dissent, voting with Silver 83 percent of the time.

The NYPRIG report did not provide similar details on the voting pattern of individual senators, but did note that Bill Stachowksi was one of eight who voted with Smith 100 percent of the time.

Let's see, Smith screws him out of the Finance Committee chairmanship and Stachs sticks with him anyway. I know Stachowski prides himself as a team players, but geez.

The report noted that Republican senators were reluctant to break with their leadership, voting the same as Minority Leader Dean Skelos 94 to 98 percent of the time.

Michael Razenhofer differed with Skelos more often than anyone else in the GOP conference. But agreeing with the boss more than nine out of 10 times doesn't exactly make you a renegade.

I also took at look at the number of bills introduced and passed, one of the few measures of productivity available to the public. On balance, our local delegation fares OK, but then again, it's all relative.

On average, Assembly Democrats introduced 66 bills this past session. Our local Dems introduced an average of 61 bills. Assembly Democrats as a whole passed an average of the 10 of the bills they introduced; our guys got nine approved.

Schimminger and Hoyt got more bills passed than their colleagues locally, with 19 and 14 respectively. That's to be expected, given the reality that in the Assembly, seniority = power.

As for Assembly Republicans, they introduced an average of 41 bills, vs. 30 for the WNY delegation. Bills passed averaged three per lawmaker, both statewide and among our delegation.

One thing struck me in looking at the track record of local Republican Assemblymen.

Jim Hayes of Amherst did not get a single bill passed the whole session. Not one. Nada. Zippo.

Hello! Hello! Is anyone in there? Can I introduce you to the concept of pay for performance?

On the Senate side, Democrats statewide introduced an average of 114 bills this session, while our two Dems introduced an average of 140. The average Senator statewide got 13 bills passed, while our guys averaged 18.

The numbers for the Senate Republicans: 80 bills introduced statewide, while our four were 91. Bills passed per senator statewide were six; ours were seven.

So, statistically speaking, our delegation fared better than average. But keep in mind that none held a leadership position, so they didn't have a whole lot of influence. Not like the guys from NYC.

The thing that jumped out at me is how the productivity of the local Republicans dropped off this session after the GOP lost control of the Senate, only to regain it and then lose it again.

George Maziarz got 51 bills passed a year ago; this session, only 5.


Dale Volker dropped from 94 to nine.

Double ouch.

I massaged the spreadsheet NYPRIG produced to provide details on the voting patterns of our delegation, as well as the Legislature as a whole, which are noted in the tabs. Take a look here.

And remember, they're all up for re-election next year.

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