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Jacobs accepting resumes for first deputy clerk

Chris Jacobs says he's created a committee to help choose a new first deputy county clerk.

Jacobs, a Republican who campaigned on a no-patronage job promise, announced Tuesday he is accepting resumes for his top deputy clerk.

The job of first deputy clerk, which is responsible for many of the day-to-day operations in the Erie County Clerk's Office, is currently filled by John Crangle. Crangle, who plans to retire Dec. 31, has also served as acting clerk since Kathy Hochul won a special election for the 26th Congressional District. He is also Tonawanda Democratic chairman.

Jacobs has named Lee Wortham, a former executive vice president of The Bank of New York, to head the search committee. The group will also include John Leonardi, CEO of the Buffalo Niagara Association of Realtors; Trey Barrett, of the Niagara Frontier Automobile Dealers Association; Melanie Marotto, real estate attorney with Colucci and Gallaher; and Kevin Horrigan, director of public affairs at People Inc.

The committee will accept resumes until Dec. 23 via e-mail at Eriecountyclerkrecruitment@gmail.com. A full job description is available online at www.erie.gov/clerk.

Jacobs, in a news release announcing the formation of the committee, said he campaigned on a promise to "de-politicize the hiring process."

“The individuals I asked to volunteer on this committee are all highly professional and represent industries that deal with the Clerk’s Office on a regular basis, and I’m confident they will recommend well qualified candidates," Jacobs said.

--Denise Jewell Gee

City website lacks information, group says

Skyline2
(photo by Harry Scull Jr. / Buffalo News file photo)

The City of Buffalo's website could use a little sunshine, according to an advocacy group's review.

The city tied Albany for the worst level of transparency among websites for six cities in the state, the Sunshine Review found.

Buffalo's website lacked information, including meeting minutes, meeting schedules and vendor contracts. The site also failed to provide information on lobbying activities, as well as the contact information for the person handling information requests, the review found.

Buffalo received a grade of "C" from the organization, a non-profit which launched in 2008, according to its website.

The city does provide a good amount of what the organization was looking for: contact information for elected officials and departments, current and previous budgets, meeting agendas, audits, bids, permit applications and tax information.

"The citizens and taxpayers of Buffalo should be pleased that Mayor Byron Brown is fulfilling his promise to add employee salary information the city's website. However, citizens would be better served if Buffalo also added information about access to public records and taxpayer funded lobbying to the site." Michael Barnhart, president of Sunshine Review, said in an emailed statement. "Transparency is about citizens having the information they need to hold officials accountable. Salary information is a good step forward. Several more steps would be even better." 

Check out the Sunshine Review's full evaluation of the city's website.

Buffalo and Albany got the same grade. Here's how the other four cities that were studied fared (click the links on each for that city's report):

Rochester: A-
New York City: B
Yonkers: B
Syracuse: B-

The only thing missing from Rochester's site, according to the Sunshine Review, was lobbying information.

Mayoral spokesman Michael J. DeGeorge said it's not easy to respond to the report, since several branches of government post information on the site.

"From the city's end, the site has improved and we want to continue to improve the site," DeGeorge said.

Aside from the city's website, Buffalo recently has run into other transparency issues with its Urban Renewal Agency. Some board members have called for more openness after the agency awarded federal grant money to a project involving a man convicted of fraud.

On the plus side, the city is planning on streaming more meetings online.

--Aaron Besecker
Follow me on Twitter: @BeseckerBN

 

Lenihan remains very much the chairman

   In yet another signal sent by Erie County Democratic Chairman Leonard R. Lenihan to his intra-party foes in Albany, more than 500 people gathered at the Creekside Banquet Center in Cheektowaga Thursday night to raise funds for his party organization.

   Lenihan pronounced the event a huge success, raking in about $45,000 for the Erie County Democratic Committee.

   "In my nine years [as chairman], it was the biggest event I have attended," he said. "It was a great night."

   The event honored County Executive-elect Mark C. Poloncarz on his election, and party faithful presented him with a new pen set for his desk in the Rath County Office Building. Rep. Kathleen C. Hochul of Amherst also attended the event, as did Rep. Brian Higgins of Buffalo.

   Higgins' attendance is viewed as especially significant, since his South Buffalo-based political organization has on occasion found itself butting heads with Democratic Headquarters.

   Lenihan has defied state party leaders who earlier this year sought his exit from the chairmanship in an effort to bring unity to the party's often warring factions. But on the day after several hundred people feted Lenihan at a going-away party in August, Lenihan changed his mind about retiring.

   Since then, he has remained at the party helm and notched a significant victory with Poloncarz's win  over Republican Chris Collins. He has also assumed a key role in the events surrounding Poloncarz's upcoming inauguration, the leadership of the County Legislature, and the search for a candidate to replace Poloncarz as county comptroller.

   He says he has made no decision about how long he will remain as chairman, but it appears he remains very much in charge of the Erie County Democratic Party.

--Robert J. McCarthy

Romney gains support from 24 GOP assemblymen

   Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney continues to garner support from New York State's GOP establishment, announcing Friday the endorsement of 24 members of the Assembly.

   Minority Leader Brian Kolb of Canandaigua led the initiative, which included Jane Corwin of Clarence, Joseph Giglio of Gowanda, Stephen Hawley of Batavia, and Raymond Walter of East Amherst.

   “Mitt Romney is the one candidate with the values and experience that will be needed to go up against President Obama in November," Kolb said. "Throughout his life, Mitt Romney has displayed leadership in tough situations – that is exactly what will be needed to turn around our economy.”

   Romney is so far leading the presidential pack in New York, also gaining the support of Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos of Rockville Centre. Romney is also set to benefit from a major fundraiser in early 2012 sponsored by GOP money men Anthony Gioia and Mark Hamister. Erie County Republican Chairman Nicholas Langworthy is also expected to join the Romney camp soon.

   The Politics Column in Sunday's Buffalo News will examine the local presidential scene in depth, including Erie County support for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's presidential bid.


--Robert J. McCarthy

Hochul gives Corzine donation to charity

WASHINGTON -- Beaten up by Republicans for taking a $2,500 campaign contribution from Jon Corzine, the former New Jersey governor who presided over the MF Global securities firm as it sank into bankruptcy, Rep. Kathleen C. Hochul Thursday donated that money to the Daemen College Center for Veteran and Veteran Family Services.

Hochul's action came after the National Republican Congressional Committee demanded that she get rid of the donation from Corzine, who told a congressional committee Thursday that he never intended to break rules aimed at forcing MF Global to protect its clients' money.

The NRCC said Hochul should give the donation to the compensation fund for those who lost money through MF Global, but Fabien Levy, Hochul's spokesman, said she wanted to keep the money in her congressional district.

But her action didn't exactly impress Nat Sillin, a spokesman for the Republican campaign committee.

“If Kathy Hochul cared about anything more than saving her political career, she would have given back Corzine’s money and denounced his actions long ago," Sillin said. "Hochul likes to pretend that she’s doing the right thing, but she’s simply running for cover now that the story is hitting a little too close to home." 

For his part, Levy dismissed the Republican charges as a political distraction.

"Congresswoman Hochul was elected to address the pressing issues facing Western New York families," Levy said. "This partisan attack is an attempt to distract attention from the work at hand, and an example of the type of Washington politics that continue to frustrate Americans.” 

-- Jerry Zremski

The regional cash going out the door

ALBANY -– The regional council funding breakdowns are in.

Four winners in the competition to share $140 million of the $200 million regional council funding are: Western New York, Central New York, the North Country and Long Island.

When parts of another $786 million pot of cash, tax breaks and other incentives are included, everyone comes away with dollars. As expected.

The overall breakdowns are: Western New York ($100.3 million), Southern Tier ($49.4 million), Finger Lakes ($68.8 million), Central New York ($103.7 million), Mohawk Valley ($60.2 million), North Country ($103.2 million), Capital Region ($62.7 million), Mid-Hudson Valley (67 million), New York City ($66.2 million) and Long Island ($101.6 million).

--Tom Precious

Regional council event underway

ALBANY – It’s a full-scale production. Video, darkened theater, speeches and more speeches, and even a media celebrity to headline the presentation: CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo.

But still no decision on which four regions will be selected to receive the major share of a $200 million pot of economic development funds.

“This was a competitive process,’’ said Bruce Katz, a member of the panel that judged the 10 different submissions, including the offering of a five-county area of Western New York.

Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy just got done calling Gov. Andrew Cuomo a “genius’’ and “the best governor in the country.’’

Speakers also sought to stress the final decision – within the hour – should not leave a taste of winners and losers, even though four regions will be in line for the biggest flow of dollars from the $200 million program. Indeed, Assembly Speaker Sheldon said the program will likely be continued next year so losing bidders today might be "winners of the future.''

-- By Tom Precious

"Jerry's Law?''

ALBANY -- This is what happens when lawmakers, staffers and lobbyists are standing around the Capitol hallways all day waiting for bills to emerge on the big tax hike-and-cut deal: the bill-naming game.

In this case, one of the best to emerge so far on the tax package: Jerry's Law.

As in Jerry Jennings, the Albany mayor who stood up to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and refused to have Albany police arrest Occupy Albany protesters across the street from the Capitol. Despite the small size, the Albany protest became a public relations headache for the governor after Jennings said the protesters  could remain in the park overnight.

The protesters made Cuomo, and his failure to back a tax on millionaires -- until Tuesday, anyway -- a major theme in recent weeks.

While Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, the Manhattan Democrat who pushed the tax hike all year in the face of opposition by Cuomo and Senate Republicans, is the immediate political winner, Jennings may be able to hold some small footnote in history for the deal that will result in higher taxes on the wealthy.

--Tom Precious

Control board approves contract for white-collar union

The city's state-appointed control board this afternoon approved a nine-year contract for the city school district's white-collar union.

Read more about the deal in Mary Pasciak's story from last month when the Buffalo School Board approved it.

--Aaron Besecker
Follow me on Twitter: @BeseckerBN

Senate Republicans: We are the 99 percent

ALBANY – After more than a year of insisting they’d take part in no effort to raise taxes, Senate Republicans were jumping on board this morning with a plan to bring in more than $2.5 billion in income tax levies by taxing rich people in New York.

“For 99.8 percent of New Yorkers, this is a great deal,’’ Sen. Thomas Libous, the deputy majority leader, said this afternoon about the $700 million in tax breaks for people making between $40,000 and $300,000.

“Middle class families. That’s what I’m here for," said the Binghamton Republican.

The Occupy Wall Street movement has promoted, among other things, raising taxes on the top 1 percent of income earners, and their chants from lower Manhattan to Albany to Buffalo have often included “We are the 99 percent.’’

For a couple making $50,000 a year, the tax break will be worth about $200 in the 2012 tax year.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a Long Island Republican, had an interesting spin when asked about past vows that the Senate would not hike taxes: “We’re cutting taxes. Maybe (Assembly Speaker) Shelly Silver is raising taxes, but we’re cutting taxes."

The Legislature’s top Republican made the comments to a few reporters outside his office as GOP lawmakers were getting ready to eat a catered lunch and discuss the specifics of the bills they will pass this afternoon.

The focus, Skelos said, should be on the tax cuts for moderate income families, as well as special tax breaks on a payroll tax on downstate businesses. He noted the deal is also supported by all the major business lobby groups. “The job creators are telling us this is the right way to go,’’ he said.

As for hallway chatter that the Legislature may have sought to include a deal on redistricting – the process of re-drawing all legislative and congressional district lines – Skelos said there were no such agreements.

“That’s a question you’ve asked, and I say this in a nice way, for the last eight months on anything that’s occurred, and there’s no deal on redistricting," Skelos said.

--- Tom Precious

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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.

rmccarthy@buffnews.com


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.

tprecious@buffnews.com


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 | jterreri@buffnews.com


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 | jzremski@buffnews.com

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