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Council reopens search for South District candidates

With no existing candidate garnering enough votes, the Common Council is again accepting applicants for the vacant South District seat.

"We want to open it up and see if there's anybody out there who's palatable to everybody," Majority Leader Demone A. Smith said this afternoon.

Interested persons must submit a letter and resume to the City Clerk's Office by 5 p.m. Friday.

In the Council's initial search to fill the spot vacated by Michael P. Kearns, 11 people submitted resumes and letters for the position. Six were interviewed by the Council.

Those six will remain eligible for the appointment, Smith said.

Continue reading "Council reopens search for South District candidates" »

Five Questions with Michael LoCurto

Every Sunday, we'll publish a quick Q&A with someone from the local political world. Instead of touching on the latest in policy issues and proposed legislation, the intent is to catch a glimpse of the person behind the title. The interviews are done via email.

Delaware Council Member Michael J. LoCurto speaks during a Feb. 7 meeting of the Buffalo Common Council. (Derek Gee / Buffalo News)

Michael J. LoCurto

The basics
Age: 40
Job title: Buffalo Common Council member, Delaware district
Family: Like most Italians, too many aunts, uncles and cousins to list in one blog post.
Education: B.A. in media study, University at Buffalo; master's of urban planning, UB.
Party affiliation: Democrat
Previous work experience: Special assistant to former State Assemblyman Sam Hoyt; adjunct professor, UB Planning Department.
City salary: $52,000 + $1,000 stipend for chairing Finance Committee

Continue reading "Five Questions with Michael LoCurto" »

NYS Senate Republicans: Obama Justice Department rocks!

ALBANY – It’s only three paragraphs long, but a letter today from the U.S. Justice Department is making Republicans giddy over their prospects of holding onto control of the state Senate.

Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez said in correspondence to a lawyer for Senate Republicans that the Justice Department “does not interpose any objection” to the GOP plan to add a 63rd seat to the current 62-member chamber.

Those five words – part of Justice’s clearance of the Senate’s redistricting plan, required under the federal Voting Rights Act - will become an important piece of evidence Senate GOP lawyers are certain to wave in court challenges to their redistricting measure. The new legislative lines were adopted in March, but are facing lawsuits challenging the Senate districts.

Senate Democrats claim that GOP plan, with its addition of a 63 seat, is an illegal gerrymandering effort designed only to keep the Republicans in charge of the Senate in the face of an overwhelming Democratic voter enrollment edge in New York. A similar legal cry was made 10 years ago, when the Senate GOP also increased the size of the chamber by one seat to 62; those court challenges failed then. On Thursday, the state’s highest court heard oral arguments over the Senate lines with part of the GOP legal logic pointing to redistricting precedents dating back to 1894.

Senate Republicans say the Justice Department clearance of the lines means litigants in lawsuits must now show “irreparable harm’’ if the proposed district boundaries are approved.

--- Tom Precious

Video: Kearns talks about transition to State Legislature

News Albany Correspondent Tom Precious caught up with Assemblyman Mickey Kearns on the floor of the State Legislature in Albany, to talk about his first move from the Common Council.


Washington Politics Now chat with Jerry Zremski

The News features a live chat on Politics Now weekly at 1 p.m. Thursdays. Today's is hosted by News Washington Bureau Chief Jerry Zremski, with the focus being on politics in the nation's capital and the resulting effect on Western New York.

The schedule for other Politics Now chats is: First Thursday of month: Aaron Besecker on Buffalo City Hall; third: Tom Precious on Albany; fourth: Jerry Zremski on Washington. The News' Bob McCarthy also joins the chats when available.


Analyzing the latest votes in Congress

WASHINGTON -- The House spent much of last week on natural resource and transportation issues, but two votes stand out -- both for their importance and for the willingness of local members of Congress to cross party lines.

When the House passed a three-month extension of transportation funding, 113 Democrats voted no, complaining that the stopgap measure was no way to run a highway system and that Congress should finally come to a long-term solution to pay for our nation's roads. But Rep. Kathleen C. Hochul, D-Amherst, and Rep. Brian Higgins, D-N.Y., were among the 69 Democrats who voted yes.

That's no surprise, really, given that both lawmakers have a keen interest in bringing highway funds back to New York.

But Hochul's vote for a Republican small business tax plan was a surprise.

Many Democrats lashed out at the bill as a blunt-object tax givaway that could end up benefitting hedge funds as well as corner bakeries, but that's not how Hochul saw it.

"We have to do everything we can to help our small businesses, and by giving them a tax break they will have the resources to expand inventory, but also they will be able to hire more employees," she said.

On the Senate side, one vote stood out last week. To no one's surprise, Sens. Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., voted for the "Buffett Rule" tax hike on millionaires and billionaires.

--Jerry Zremski

Here are the votes of Western New York's four members of the House of Representatives and the state's two U.S. senators on major legislation in Congress last week. A "Y" means the member voted for the measure; an "N" means the member voted against the measure; an "A" means the member did not vote.



* Hunting and Fishing in National Park System: The House rejected an amendment sponsored by Rep. Rush D. Holt, D-N.J., to the Sportsmen's Heritage Act. The amendment would have stated that all units of the National Park System were exempt from the bill's provisions for hunting, fishing and recreational shooting management of federal lands. Holt said his amendment would ensure that "we don't carelessly open up to gunfire consecrated grounds like the Civil War battlefields, like the parks and beaches and forests of our national recreation areas."

The vote April 17 was 152 yeas to 260 nays.

Reps. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, Y; Kathleen C. Hochul, D-Amherst, N; Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport, A; Tom Reed, R-Corning, N.

Continue reading "Analyzing the latest votes in Congress" »

Presidential race live chat with Washington Columnist Douglas Turner at 2 p.m.

Bain has support for Council vacancy

As I mentioned in this morning's paper, a new candidate has emerged to fill the vacant South District seat on the Buffalo Common Council.

Linda M. Bain, a registered nurse and block club founder, has the support of four Council members, University Council Member Bonnie E. Russell told me Monday. (Here's Bain's resume.)

That means Bain and Matthew Fisher, a former aide to Michael P. Kearns, both have four lawmakers behind them.

After last week's candidate interviews, Fisher, Bryan J. Bollman, a senior aide to Council President Richard Fontana, and Anthony "A.J" Verel were considered the leading three candidates.

Questions arose last week about Bollman's residency, and Verel has his own issues -- he was arrested twice for burglary and had a two-year prison stint.

In terms of Bain's emergence, Russell told me she believes it would be nice to have another woman on the Council, and that Bain has the qualifications, including background in the military and with block clubs, as well as community support.

Russell said that Bain has the support of herself, Fontana, Majority Leader Demone A. Smith and Ellicott Council Member Darius G. Pridgen.

"She was very honest and very fresh, very forthcoming," Russell said about Bain's interview with the Council last week.

Russell said she was contacted by "a couple women's organizations" asking that she take "a good look" at Bain. Russell would not disclose which groups contacted her.

Russell also said she plans to reach out to the lawmakers supporting Fisher to talk about Bain's candidacy.

--Aaron Besecker
Follow me on Twitter: @BeseckerBN

Jerry Zremski's Week in Washington, April 23, 2012


Recent hires in Buffalo City Hall

One of Mayor Byron W. Brown's key advisors recently received a promotion and pay raise.

Peter J. Savage III earlier this month was named senior deputy corporation counsel, filling a vacancy left after Timothy A. Ball was appointed as the city's top attorney. former acting Corporation Counsel David Rodriguez left for a job with the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority.

Rodriguez held the title of senior deputy corporation counsel before becoming acting corporation counsel (his appointment was never confirmed by the Common Council, hence the acting). Timothy A. Ball was appointed as the city's top attorney on Feb. 7, but Rodriguez did not leave for the housing authority for several weeks.

Savage, who was deputy corporation counsel, has a new salary of $84,564, up from $82,326. That amounts to about a 2.7-percent raise.

There were two new hires also made in the Law Department: Delia Cadle was named to Savage's old spot as deputy corporation counsel (with the $82,326 salary); and Bryan Dolin was hired as assistant corporation counsel, with a starting salary of $53,686.

In the Department of Public Works, Edward F. Anken and Richard M. Veroba were hired in late March as senior first-class stationary engineers at $15 an hour. The department also hired two laborers in its Streets Division: Bonita Brown, who had been an account clerk typist in the department, got a permanent job with a $34,139 salary; and Delano Fabor was hired for a seasonal position at $12.06 an hour.

University Council Member Bonnie E. Russell appointed Tanika Hubbard as a clerk in the City Clerk's Office. Hubbard will earn a starting salary of $30,507.

Two employees of the DPW's Buildings Division and two employees of Management Information Systems saw their jobs change from provisional to permanent status. In the Buildings Division, they were architect Joseph Fanara and engineering aide Joseph Ziemba. In MIS, they were computer programmers Kathryn Barker and Janet SanFilippo.

Previous editions: March 12Feb. 8Jan. 20

--Aaron Besecker
Follow me on Twitter: @BeseckerBN

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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 |