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By the numbers: Corner stores in the City of Buffalo

In order to operate a corner store in Buffalo, you have to get what's known as a food store license from the city.

Applications for the license filed in City Hall have to be approved by the Common Council. It costs $115 to apply.

Some city lawmakers have said they think the city has too many of these types of stores, which sometimes can cause problems in a neighborhood, including loitering, illegally high fees for check cashing and expired products.

Earlier this year, Ellicott Council Member Darius G. Pridgen said some gravy that expired in 2009 was found on one store's shelf.

Continue reading "By the numbers: Corner stores in the City of Buffalo" »

Grisanti fight makes for a song

ALBANY -- Last night's Legislative Correspondents Association show, an annual skit poking fun at Albany's politicians, zeroed heavily in on Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. (Lots of shoutouts, though, have been going to state GOP Chairman Ed Cox, who, while wearning a Richard Nixon mask, did an updated Watergate scene involving Cuomo's anticipated 2016 presidential bid; the normally stiff Cox is the son-in-law of the late former president.)

There was little doubt Sen. Mark Grisanti's infamous brawl at the Seneca Nation's Niagara Falls casino would be part of the show, and reporters did not disappoint.

So, here's the script of the song "Casino Fighting,'' to the music of "Kung Fu Fighting.'' The "Parker" reference in the song is Sen. Kevin Parker, who has earned a reputation for his fiery ways:

"Everybody’s casino fighting

Those cats was fast as lightning

In fact it was a little bit frightnin'

Continue reading "Grisanti fight makes for a song" »

Audio from Albany: Vocal State Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr.

As part of a regular weekly feature on the Politics Now blog, Tom Precious of The News' Albany Bureau posts an audio interview with a newsmaker from the Capitol.

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ALBANY — In a town where so many politicians save their best stuff for off-the-record whisper chats, Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. is an anomaly. His detractors dismiss him as too off the charts to have his opinions be taken seriously.

Diaz, the pastor of a Bronx church and fierce social conservative in a liberal Senate Democratic conference, often says, lawmakers acknowledge, what his Democratic colleagues are thinking — but too nervous to say in public.

"I cannot be a hypocrite," Diaz said in an interview today.

RubendiazSo when it comes to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, no Democrat has been more willing to — publicly — throw darts at the Democratic governor than Diaz. He does it on the floor of the Senate, in hallway press gaggles and in regular email blasts to reporters and fellow lawmakers.

In today's interview, Diaz says Cuomo has been "the worst" when it comes to helping minorities, and "the worst" when it comes to helping fellow Democrats in their bid this fall to try to take back the state Senate.

"He's been working with the Republicans to keep the Republicans in power. ... He has done everything possible to keep the Republicans in power and to make it difficult for us Democrats to regain control," he said.

Why? To Diaz, it is all about Cuomo's goal of running for president in 2016.

"That's all he wants to do," Diaz said. "Whatever is good for him as a presidential candidate, he's been successful. Whatever is good for the minorities, education, senior citizens, health issues like Medicaid for our poor people, he's been the worst."

Diaz said Cuomo needs to put his energy into a stalled measure that will help hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers: raising the minimum wage.

"When he wanted to push for gay marriage, he did everything in his power to make sure that happened," Diaz said.

With minimum wage, which is being pushed by Democrats over the objections of Senate Republicans, "If we don't get in this session minimum wage, it's all due to Gov. Cuomo. Stop blaming Republicans. Stop doing that like Barack Obama, blaming the Republicans for your failure.

Today, Diaz is the last of the Four Amigos, a group of New York City lawmakers who worked both Republicans and Democrats in the Senate to, in part, elevate their own standing in the chamber. The other three — Pedro Espada, Carl Kruger and Hiram Monserrate — are all gone from office and have encountered various, well-publicized legal troubles.

Diaz defends his public support for the legally challenged former senators.

"I stood by them until they have been found guilty, because politicians are hypocrites. They're with you when you are in good standing [and] as soon as they accuse you of something they abandon you."

Diaz, in the interview in his legislative office building suite, talks about politics, religion and the significance of the cowboy hat he wears with his smartly styled business suits.

"I am a cowboy," he said.

Diaz gives, or tries to give, one-word descriptions for everyone from Cuomo to Sheldon Silver to Dean Skelos to President Obama and Mitt Romney.

--Tom Precious

Listen to the full conversation with Diaz here:


Download audio

Cuomo selects Miner, Wright to lead state Dems

   New York State Democrats are reverting to an upstate-downstate partnership to govern the party after naming the mayor of Syracuse and a Harlem assemblyman as co-chairmen on Tuesday.

   The state Democratic Committee announced that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo named Mayor Stephanie Miner and Assemblyman Keith L.T. Wright to the posts. The upstate-downstate arrangement has been used in the past, as recently as under the administration of former Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer.

   "Mayor Miner and Assemblyman Wright are outstanding leaders both for our party and our state," Cuomo said. "They have been dedicated community leaders and champions of the key missions of the Democratic Party. I thank them for agreeing to serve in these critical positions and look forward to working with them in their new roles.”

   The pair replaces outgoing Chairman Jay Jacobs of Nassau County, who was appointed by former Gov. David A. Paterson and now departs in favor of a team hand picked by the new governor.

   Tuesday's announcement was accompanied by messages of support from Jacobs, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Sen. Charles E. Schumer.

--Robert J. McCarthy

Analyzing the latest votes in Congress

WASHINGTON -- The passage of a massive defense authorization bill for fiscal 2013 highlighted last week's House votes last week.

It's a good bill for the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, since it prevents the Pentagon's proposed shutdown of the 107th Airlift Wing there. That being the case, it is no surprise that the three Western New York lawmakers who voted on the bill -- Rep. Kathleen C. Hochul, D-Amherst; Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo; and Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning -- all voted for it.

A more typical partisan split occurred on an amendment to the defense bill that would have stripped out a provision allowing for the indefinite detention of terrorism suspects, even if they are U.S. citizens. Hochul and Higgins supported that amendment, while Reed did not.

Meanwhile, the highlight of the Senate's calendar for the week was the passage of legislation reauthorizing the Import-Export Bank. That measure won a great deal of bipartisan support, but tea party Republicans opposed it, saying the bank -- which promotes international trade -- was just another example of the government meddling too much in business. Both of New York's senators backed the reauthorization of the Import-Export Bank.

--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.

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HOUSE

* Blue Alert Network: The House passed the National Blue Alert Act, sponsored by Rep. Michael G. Grimm, R-N.Y. The bill would establish a national Blue Alert communications network within the U.S. Justice Department to disseminate information to the media and law enforcement agencies about suspects in the death or injury of a law enforcement officer. Grimm said it "will enhance the safety of our communities as well as the law enforcement officers who protect them."

The vote May 15 was 394 yeas to 1 nay.

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

Continue reading "Analyzing the latest votes in Congress" »

What's in a letter? More than what's said at the Erie County Legislature

The Erie County Legislature files away plenty of documents, letters and correspondence under the heading "receive and file" during its course of business.

Occasionally, a letter that quietly slips into the public record reveals a whole lot more than what is said at the public dais.

One of those missives was filed away last week during a Legislature Finance and Management Committee meeting. The four-page letter, sent from County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz to Legislator Joseph C. Lorigo in April, provides a glimpse into the evolving relationship between the Democratic county executive and members of the Legislature's minority coalition.

Continue reading "What's in a letter? More than what's said at the Erie County Legislature" »

Jerry Zremski's Week in Washington, May 21, 2012

 

Five Questions with Kevin Hardwick

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.

Hardwick
Kevin Hardwick speaks at Erie County Republican Committee campaign headquarters at the Adam's Mark Hotel after his election to the Legislature in November 2009. (Derek Gee/ Buffalo News)

Kevin Hardwick

The Basics:
Age: 55
Party: Republican
Job Title: 4th District Erie County Legislator
Family: Married for 32 ½ years to the former Deborah L. Maiurano; one daughter: Aubrey, 28; three sons: Jeremy, 28; Matthew, 20, and Brian, 19; two granddaughters: Kaile, 8, and Julianna, 5.
Town: City of Tonawanda
Education: Three degrees in political science from SUNY-Binghamton, B.A. (1979), M.A. (1983) and Ph.D. (1988).
Salary: $42,588 per year.

Continue reading "Five Questions with Kevin Hardwick" »

The Read: Political chatter from elsewhere

Each Saturday on the Politics Now blog, you'll find a list of stories that caught the eyes of The News' political reporters. Here's a sampling of what they were reading this week:

"O'Malley builds on tax-raising legacy," by Annie Linskey, Baltimore Sun. It's no secret that Gov. Andrew Cuomo is keeping an eye on Maryland Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley as the two maneuver their national ambition machine. The two have taken different approaches on tax hikes. Cuomo had opposed them, but then OK'd a $2 billion tax hike on millionaires last December. O'Malley has not been shy about raising taxes -- something the liberal base of the Democratic Party, who dominate many presidential primary contests, do not abhor when the choice is between tax hikes or spending cuts. Here the Baltimore Sun looks at taxes and 2016.

"The politics of generating power — and winning it," by Martin Regg Cohn, Toronto Star. Cheap power generated at Niagara Falls has set off political battles on this side of the Canadian border, but politicians in Ontario have their own debates that swirl around the future of hydropower. Tim Hudak, a Fort Erie, Ont., native who started his career as a Peace Bridge customs officer, has floated a plan to sell off part of Ontario Power Generation and Hydro One to public pension funds. The proposal has gotten fierce reaction. "The latest Conservative plan to partially privatize Ontario's electrical utilities looks like a bigger publicity stunt than the Flying Wallenda's careful balancing act," writes Cohn, Queen's Park columnist for the paper.

"Romney, Obama campaign staffers debate an actual issue on Twitter," by Natalie Jennings, Washington Post. It's a political argument, no more than 140 characters at a time. Top aides to the former Massachusetts governor and the president "traded Twitter barbs" over jobs and the economy, Jennings writes.

Video: McCarthy on 'Obama factor' affecting N.Y. Senate race

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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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