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Breakaway Senate Democrat speaks -- sort of

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- Besides just a couple media interviews Sen. Jeff Klein has done as leader of a four-member independent Senate Democratic caucus, including one with The Buffalo News, the other three members have remained silent the past couple weeks about the possibility of forming a coalition-type entity to run the state Senate featuring Republicans and Democrats.

Today, comes this written statement from Sen. David Valesky, a Madison County Democrat and member of the Independent Democratic Conference. We'll leave the interpretation to readers:

“As a legislator who has always placed a premium on bipartisan cooperation to produce results for the people of Central New York and the entire State, I believe the time is right for a true bipartisan coalition to govern the Senate. It is imperative that we do all we can to avoid a return to the days of dysfunction and chaos for which the Senate became known. I applaud Senator Klein, on behalf of the Independent Democratic Conference, for initiating discussion of a bold new model of Senate governance for the people of this State.”


Woodstock gets its say in Senate race; GOP need not apply

By Tom Precious

ALBANY – For you aging hippies, here are the ballot count numbers in the Senate race for the town of Woodstock in Ulster County.

Woodstock, a longtime art colony made famous by the 1969 concert that actually took place 70 miles south, is a town where many residents might consider the Democratic Party too right wing for their tastes.

Nonetheless, Democrat Cecilia Tkacyzk captured 249 of the 313 absentee and affidavit paper ballots counted yesterday compared to just 64 for Republican George Amedore for the still-raging election contest for the 46th district that will decide which party is in control of the Senate come January. [Republicans challenged 93 ballots from the town and Democrats objected to eight – meaning those will be included in the pile of more than 500 paper ballots a judge will have to decide whether to count or not.]

Today in City Hall

Good morning,

At 1 p.m. today, Mayor Byron W. Brown will be at Kleinhans Music Hall to announce a $668,000 construction project, which will include upgrades to the HVAC, plumbing and fire suppression systems. The city is using bond funds to pay for the project.

At 2 p.m., a busy Zoning Board of Appeals meeting will be held in Room 901. On the agenda, posted below, are: Plans for a Panera Bread on Elmwood, plans to convert a church on Kenmore Avenue into apartments, an addition on Nektar on Elmwood, which will soon be the new home of Ambrosia, and an addition at Elmwood's Karma Salon.

And from today's paper, look for "little libraries" to dot Parkside in the coming months.


Zoning Board of Appeals Agenda 11.28.12

Democrats narrow vote gap in crucial state Senate race

By Tom Precious

ALBANY – It seems so rare when the sport we call Albany politics is not just a truly predetermined card game. But, now, we have the Senate 46th.

After counting wrapped up a short while ago tonight in Ulster County, Republican George Amedore’s lead in the Senate race against Democrat Cecilia Tkaczyk is now down to a mere 110-vote difference (or 111 if you believe the GOP count). That is down from a 920-vote lead the GOP candidate held before paper ballots started being opened yesterday in Kingston, the county seat of Ulster and, of course, New York’s first state capital in the 1770s.

In either a sign of election law brilliance or desperation, the GOP lawyers challenged the legality of 462 paper ballots – a combination of absentee and affidavit votes – in just Ulster alone. Overall in the five counties that make up the new Senate district, Democrats say the GOP has set aside 660 paper ballots they say should not be counted for a variety of election law violations. Democrats, meanwhile, objected to 204 paper ballots in the five counties.

That means a state judge in Montgomery County -- on Thursday -- will start to determine which of those contested ballots will be counted and which will go in the garbage.

That decision will determine which party controls the state Senate come January.

UPDATE: Lawyers from both sides will take part in a conference call with the judge later today to start working out procedural issues for how the uncounted ballots will be handled.


Democrat slowly eating into GOP lead in control-deciding Senate race

By Tom Precious

ALBANY –  Here is the latest update from the Ulster County elections board where counting of paper ballots continue in the race between Republican George Amedore and Democrat Cecilia Tkacyzk in the contest that will decide which party controls the state Senate come January.

According to Democrats at about 5 p.m., Amedore’s lead has been cut to just 322 votes. That's down from a difference of nearly 720 before the final round of paper ballot counting began Monday in the last of five counties in the newly drawn Senate district.

That new district stretches from the Mohawk Valley west of Amsterdam to the Mid-Hudson Valley across the Hudson River from Poughkeepsie.

Republicans this evening put Amedore’s lead at 374 votes.

But Democrats claim the fight – if counting is finished tonight in Kingston in Ulster County – will be on to the courts where lawyers will battle before a judge later this week over contested paper ballots. [Those are the ones not counted – and there are hundreds of them – for any variety of election law reasons.]

Democrats say the GOP lawyers so far have objected to 500 paper ballots in the count of absentee and affidavit votes from the November 6 election. That means, they happily note, that the number of ballots still to be counted – if a state judge rules in favor of Democrats – is more than the lead Amedore holds over Tkacyzk. That, Democrats think, gives them a shot; Republicans earlier today were dismissive of Democratic optimism and were still predicting Amedore's victory. [Of the 500 ballots contested by election lawyers over the past week in the different county election boards in the 46th Senate district, Democrats say all but 158 came from GOP lawyers.]

One note: tonight’s numbers do not yet include paper ballots cast in Ulster County’s Woodstock – a community hardly known for right-leaning ways.

Earlier post: Republicans feeling good this morning in Senate paper ballot count

Silver talks of 'pure politics' of Senate coalition theories

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- Every so often, a politician in Albany can let it slip out how this town can operate.

Consider the theory by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. A story published on earlier today about Silver's belief he will be cleared of any wrongdoing in the Assemblyman Vito Lopez scandal also included his thinking on some other matters -- and a choice quote on Albany dealmaking.

Regarding the Capitol chatter about some sort of coalition being created between a handful of Democrats and the Republicans in the Senate to help the GOP keep control if it does not win a final election contest in which vote counting is still underway, the Manhattan lawmaker dismissed the term "coalition'' and said any such decisions would be made based on "pure politics.''


"Meaning whatever offers the best to the most," Silver said.

[By way of background, Silver and Senator Jeff Klein, a Bronx Democrat who has talked of such a coalition, are not in each other's fan club.]

Legislature to vote on Hicks for NFTA seat

By Denise Jewell Gee

Democrats in the Erie County Legislature plan to recommend a surgeon and professor to serve as a Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority commissioner.

Legislature Chairwoman Betty Jean Grant, a Buffalo Democrat, will seek a vote to recommend Dr. Wesley L. Hicks Jr., a head and neck surgeon, to fill a vacancy on the NFTA’s Board of Commissioners. If approved by the full Legislature on Thursday, the recommendation would go to Gov. Andrew Cuomo for an appointment.

Hicks is chairman of the Department of Head & Neck Surgery at Roswell Park Cancer Institute and is a professor at the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Services.

The Democrats, in a resolution submitted to the County Legislature, cited Hicks’ “solid credentials and a deep commitment to our region,” as well as his “energy and enthusiasm for the appointment.”

If his nomination is approved by Cuomo, Hicks would fill a commissioner’s seat left open after James J. Eagan resigned to become secretary of the Democratic State Committee. The remaining term would expire in June 2016.

Hicks was one of three people interviewed last week by a Legislature committee for the position. Former Council member Jeffrey Conrad, director of Erie County Center for Employment Opportunity, and Margaret A. Murphy, an attorney and former city court judge, also interviewed for the post.

NYT: Cuomo support group gets dollars from firm he once investigated

By Tom Precious

ALBANY – They’ve done their best to keep things secret, but little by little more is coming out about who has been donating to a Manhattan-based group that has helped push Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s political agenda in Albany.

The latest revelation comes today courtesy of The New York Times about a donation to the Committee to Save New York by a real estate company that had been under investigation by Cuomo when he was the state’s attorney general.

The group has been called by critics a political front organization for the governor by raising millions of dollars in secret and then spending it on major advertising campaigns to boost his policy agenda and poll numbers.

Today’s story in the Times says Fisher Brothers gave the Cuomo support organization $500,000; it noted the firm was among those examined during Cuomo’s time as attorney general during a sweeping probe into allegations of wrongdoing at the state’s pension fund for government workers. The Cuomo administration dismissed the story’s premise, saying Fisher Brothers engaged in no misconduct that warranted any legal action during that pension fund scandal when it was headed by former state Comptroller Alan Hevesi.

The Committee to Save New York is exempt from having to report millions of dollars it raised during its formative period after Cuomo was elected governor, though it, and other groups like it, will have some limited disclosure requirements in the future.

The Buffalo News earlier this year broke a story that $800,000 in donations by Western New York business interests was funneled through the Buffalo Niagara Partnership to the Committee to Save New York. Officials with the Buffalo commerce group have declined to name the donors of checks that were bundled and given as a group to the Manhattan organization.

Besides various real estate interests, the Times also reported earlier this year that casino interests donated $2 million to the committee at a time when the governor and lawmakers have been considering a dramatic expansion in gambling.

Republicans feeling good this morning in Senate paper ballot count

By Tom Precious

ALBANY – An overnight analysis by Republicans of yesterday’s paper ballot counting in Ulster County suggests today has to be an extraordinarily good day if Democrat Cecilia Tkacyzk is to catch up to GOP candidate George Amedore.

Amedore spokesman Kris Thompson said Tkacyzk won 68 percent of the city of Kingston in Ulster County on election day, but that on Monday she captured just 61 percent of the absentee and affidavit ballots election lawyers counted from what amounts to two-thirds of the city.

Ulster is the final of five counties where paper ballots are being counted – with work possibly done today depending on how late into the night work goes – to decide the fate of the winner of the 46th Senate seat. Who wins that seat will determine the partisan control of the state Senate. “She is underperforming based on yesterday’s results,’’ said Thompson.

He said the Democrat will need to get 80 percent of the remaining three wards in Kingston, the only city in Ulster County, to have her paper ballot performance for the city do as well – percentage-wise – as her election night results. Counting is already underway this morning and Amedore is up about 700 votes over Tkacyzk.

Democrats on Monday evening said she won 837 paper ballots out of 1,453 counted on Monday. They added that of the 200 objections to specific paper ballots – which will then later this week be brought to a judge to rule whether those votes will be counted – 184 were made by Republicans. They allege the ballot challenge by Republicans is an intentional strategy to slow down the counting process and to try to keep Democratic votes from being counted.

Democrats say the contest will not be decided in Ulster County today, but before a state judge in Montgomery County later this week who will end up ordering that ballots Republican lawyers are putting aside at the election board counting tables to be cast as qualified votes. At that point, Democrats insist, their candidate should be able to pull ahead of Amedore.

Today in City Hall

By Jill Terreri

Good morning,

The Common Council will meet at 2 p.m. today in Council Chambers. The agenda is posted below. 

A public hearing will be held on amending a land disposition agreement between the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency and Uniland Development, which will allow a new Catholic Health headquarters at the foot of Rt. 33 to move forward. The Council is expected to approve the changed agreement following the hearing. 

North Council Member Joseph Golombek is sponsoring a resolution urging the NHL to resolve the lockout. He admitted in a premeeting caucus yesterday that it probably won't have an impact but said he wants to put pressure on the organization. 

The Council is also expected to approve a budget from Buffalo Civic Auto Ramps. 

At 2:30 p.m., Mayor Byron W. Brown will unveil $1.1 million in new snow equipment at the Broadway garage, along with Public Works Commissioner Steven J. Stepniak and Snow Removal and Street Cleaning Director Henry Jackson. 

Also today, the Buffalo Urban Development Corporation will meet at 12:30 p.m. in the offices of the ECIDA, on Genesee Street. On their agenda is a proposal to award a $290,000 contract to Wedel engineers to investigate whether putting a golf course on a South Buffalo landfill is feasible. The funding will come from the state Department of State South Buffalo Brownfield Opportunity Area program grant. 



Common Council Agenda 11.27.12
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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 |