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Siena poll: good news for Obama, Occupy campers

ALBANY – President Obama holds a commanding lead over all would-be potential GOP challengers in the race for New York state voters, a new poll out this morning finds.

Not that confirmation was needed of New York’s blue state ways, but the Siena College poll of registered voters found Obama leading the field of Republicans by at least 25 points. The poll found the president enjoys a majority of voters’ backing in all regions of the state when respondents were asked to choose between him and the individual GOP candidates.

The poll would, if it stands, indicate Obama will have little need to spend time campaigning in New York, except for stops on the Manhattan fundraising circuit.

Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, would be the strongest GOP challenger to Obama, according to 46 percent of GOP respondents.

But, in a head-to-head matchup among all voters, Obama leads Romney 59 percent to 34 percent, with 7 percent either undecided or refusing to answer. Fifty-one percent of New York voters say they are prepared to re-elect Obama, compared to 42 percent who want someone else.

Just hours after New York City police removed Occupy Wall Street demonstrators from their 24-hour vigil in a lower Manhattan park, the poll also found 58 percent of voters think the protesters engaged in the movement across the state should be permitted to remain in parks overnight. The support for protesters being able to camp in parks was strongest among Democrats, liberals, union households and people between 18 and 34 years of age.

The poll came after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo carried through on his threat over the weekend to have protesters outside the Capitol arrested if they crossed from their safety zone of a city-owned park – where they have protested for several weeks – onto a state-owned chunk of the park. Remarkably, the Albany County district attorney, David Soares, has said he will not prosecute the 39 arrests by the State Police who acted on Cuomo’s orders. That comes after Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings last month defied Cuomo by permitting the demonstrators to stay in the city portion of the one-block park overnight. Cuomo, Soares and Jennings are all Democrats.

The poll also found that two-thirds of voters do not believe the Occupy protesters represent 99 percent of the people.

-- Tom Precious

Poloncarz seeks restoration of Comptroller's Office

Mark C. Poloncarz wants to bolster the ranks in the Comptroller's Office next year -- despite the fact it could become a political thorn for him as he moves into the county executive's office.

Poloncarz, who will leave the job of country comptroller in January, asked Erie County legislators this morning to restore seven jobs in the comptroller's office that County Executive Chris Collins has targeted for cuts or has failed to restore.

"If these jobs are not restored, my successor will be unable to do the work," Poloncarz told the Legislature's Finance, Management and Budget Committee this morning.

The cost of adding the salaries back in is about $380,000, plus benefits. The jobs include: four auditors, a supervising tax accountant, comptroller's secretary and the associate deputy comptroller.

Poloncarz called the cuts to his office "vindictive."

"It had nothing to do with running government," Poloncarz said. "It had everything to do with politics."

Collins, who last year tried to make similar cuts, said a year ago that he felt the office had been politicized. Five auditors in the 2011 were restored through a grant from the Erie County Fiscal Stability Authority.

That grant funding has dried up, and Collins' proposal for 2012 would leave the Division of Audit & Control with two auditors, according to information Poloncarz distributed this morning.

The county comptroller -- who serves as a fiscal watchdog for the county -- often ends up in an adversarial role with the county executive.

"Truthfully," Poloncarz told legislators this morning, "if you're doing a good job, you don't care if the watchdog is looking over your shoulder."

Poloncarz may benefit as county executive from the fact that the next county comptroller -- at least until an election is held -- will also be a Democrat. By county charter, the Legislature must pick someone to fill the seat from the same political party as the person who vacates it.

Poloncarz will appear before the Legislature again on Friday to detail his recommended changes for the overall 2012 proposed budget.

--Denise Jewell Gee

Council to take a stab at Brown's infrastructure plan

City lawmakers will hold a hearing on Mayor Byron W. Brown's proposed $22 million capital budget at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday in Room 1417 Council Chambers in City Hall.

(Update 5:40 p.m. Nov. 14 -- location of meeting was moved, per Common Council staff)

Last month, Brown proposed a spending plan for various infrastructure projects, including money for the Buffalo Zoo, Coca-Cola Field and street repaving.

(Read my story about Brown's proposal.)

Brown's spending plan called for $5 million for streets, curbs and sidewalks, $2.7 million for improvements at community centers and other city buildings, as well as $2.68 million for building demolitions.

Check out Brown's full proposal here.

The Council has until Dec. 15 to adopt a 2012 capital budget.

--Aaron Besecker

Greenan to serve as transition liaison between Poloncarz and Collins

GreenanThe man who helped Chris Collins transition into the county executive's office four years ago will help Mark C. Poloncarz as he moves to the 16th floor of the Rath Building.

Collins has asked County Personnel Commissioner John W. Greenan to serve as a liason for Poloncarz during the transition.

Greenan, who served a similar role when Collins took office, reached out to Poloncarz on Thursday, spokesmen for Collins and Poloncarz said.

"Certainly, John will be there to help in any way possible," said Grant Loomis, a spokesman for Collins. "And as the county executive said on election night, we'll ensure a smooth transition."

Greenan served as Republican majority leader in the county Legislature before then-County Executive Joel A. Giambra appointed him commissioner of personnel in 2002.

He's one of three county commissioners almost certain to stay on as Poloncarz takes office in January. By county charter, the commissioners of personnel, social services and real property services serve six-year terms. Collins reappointed Greenan in September 2008.

--Denise Jewell Gee

File Photo: Erie County Personnel Commissioner John W. Greenan addresses the County Legislature. (News Sharon Cantillon/ Buffalo News)

Rath hopes for vote on cyberbullying law next week

A proposal to make cyberbullying a misdemeanor in Erie County drew only one public comment during a hearing this morning.

Crystal J. Rodriguez, executive director of Buffalo's Commission on Citizens' Rights and Community Relations, urged county legislators to pass its own local law since state antibullying legislation approved last year did not address online bullying.

"The Dignity for All Students law does not address cyberbullying," Rodriguez said. "And quite honestly, that's where the bulk of the bullying -- especially the bullying that has the most emotional effects -- that's where it's coming from."

Two Erie County legislators -- Edward A. Rath III and Raymond W. Walter -- proposed the local law following the death of 14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer in September. Rodemeyer, a freshman at Williamsville North High School, complained of being bullied before committing suicide in September.

The proposal would make cyberbullying an "unclassified misdemeanor" that would carry a fine of up to $1,000 and up to one year in jail.

The legislation mirrors similar laws passed in three other New York counties last year. The Niagara County Legislature is also considering a cyberbullying law. 

Walter said students from Casey Middle School in Williamsville also submitted a petition with dozens of signatures in support of the proposed county law.

"We're dealing with kids," Rodriguez said. "This is something that will deter them, but it won't ruin the rest of their lives."

Rath and Walter, as well as legislators Christina W. Bove and Lynne M. Dixon, also spoke in support of the proposal during the hearing. Rath said he hopes the local law could come up for a vote during the Legislature's next meeting Nov. 17.

--Denise Jewell Gee


City lawmaker: Clean up election signs

Buffalo Common Council member Darius G. Pridgen wants political candidates to take down their campaign signs now that the election is over. Pridgen_head

The Ellicott Council member's office sent out a news release Wednesday, announcing that Pridgen would be sending a letter to candidates asking them to remove signs from vacant lots and city property in his district.

In his letter, Pridgen encourages campaigns to recycle the signs.

(Photo by News Staff Photographer Charles Lewis)

--Aaron Besecker

Audio: Bob McCarthy analyzes election results on WNED

News Political Reporter Robert J. McCarthy discussed Mark C. Poloncarz's victory on WNED-AM 970 during a segment with host Jay Moran:

Download audio

Cuomo says Poloncarz tapped into voter frustration

ALBANY -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo was on a taking-credit tour on two radio shows this morning for the election victories Tuesday by three Democrats he supported, including Erie County Executive-elect Mark Poloncarz.

While the state Democratic Party poured more money into races on Long Island than the Erie County contest, Cuomo did make a personal appearance with Poloncarz in a last-minute campaign event Friday. Cuomo did the most lifting for Steve Bellone, the Democrat who won the Suffolk County Executive race Tuesday, and appeared over the weekend with Mike Spano, a Democrat who won the mayor’s race in Yonkers.

The governor said Poloncarz won, in part, by a sense of frustration by Erie County residents “with the lack of progress’’ on jobs and tax matters. Chris Collins, the Republican who lost his county executive job Tuesday, paid the price, Cuomo said. “People want change, people want progress and their appetite for delay is very low,’’ he said on Albany radio station WGDJ.

Cuomo called the Poloncarz victory “stunning.’’

“I’m sure Siena breathed a sigh of relief,’’ the governor said of Siena College pollsters who were criticized by Republicans for a pre-election poll that showed Collins trailing.

Asked if he had a message for Poloncarz, Cuomo told the Capitol Pressroom, a public radio news show broadcast from Albany, that the County Executive-elect should get to work on his transition “and then buckle your seat belt for your first day in office because it is tough to be in office in these economic times.’’

Like his predecessor, David Paterson, Cuomo turns to a select group of radio shows when he wants to spread a certain message quickly.

One of those messages was about his popularity in the polls being a reflection that residents are feeling better about New York state government. "I am the government,'' Cuomo said.

-- Tom Precious

Hartzell wins Clarence supervisor race

Democrat Scott A. Bylewski, left, and Republican David C. Hartzell

Republican David C. Hartzell has defeated Democrat Scott A. Bylewski in the race to become Clarence town supervisor.

* Read race preview

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About Politics Now

Robert J. McCarthy

Robert J. McCarthy

A native of Schenectady, Robert J. McCarthy came to The Buffalo News in 1982 following a six-year stint at the Olean Times Herald. He is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University, and has been covering local, state and national politics since 1992.

Tom Precious

Tom Precious

Tom Precious joined The Buffalo News in 1997 as bureau chief at the state Capitol, where he covers everything from statewide politics and state government fiscal affairs to health care, environmental and municipal government matters. Prior to The News, he worked for news outlets in Albany and Washington, DC.

Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri is an Amherst native and has covered politics and government in upstate New York since 2003. She joined The Buffalo News in 2012 and covers City Hall.

@jillterreri |

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski, The Buffalo News Washington bureau chief, has reported from the nation's capital since 1989 after joining The News as a business reporter in 1984. A graduate of Syracuse University, Zremski is a former Nieman fellow in journalism at Harvard University. In 2007, he served as president of the National Press Club.

@JerryZremski |