By Robert J. McCarthy
Erie County Democrats are fighting and squabbling again.
"What else is new?" you ask.
Not much, really, because a new brouhaha over a headquarters proposal to redraw zone lines in the City of Buffalo is resurrecting the semi-dormant battle between new Chairman Jeremy J. Zellner and his chief nemesis -- Cheektowaga Chairman Frank C. Max Jr.
It all revolves around a meeting slated for Tuesday evening that will draw new boundaries for city zones, which are ruled by zone chairmen just like town chairmen in the suburbs. But four current zone chairmen have now contacted the state party to protest Zellner's Tuesday meeting, complaining the effort is really designed to rid the party of four Max supporters.
"It is clear that secretive zone gerrymandering ignores what is best for the Democratic Party," the four chairmen said in a letter to state Co-chairs Stephanie Miner and Keith Wright. "It is designed to disenfranchise existing zone chairs and tilt the balance toward ... Mr. Zellner."
The four zone chairmen sending the letter are Gregory B. Olma, Peter A. Reese, Joseph A. Mascia and John Fracos -- all Max supporters. They support a suit expected to be heard soon in State Supreme Court challenging Zellner's September victory for chairman over Max.
"If these new zone boundaries are correct, it would mean these new zones completely divide neighborhoods within the City of Buffalo," the four chairmen wrote, "and changes the history of the zone-ward system which has been in place since the inception of the City of Buffalo."
Zellner, reached Monday while attending President Obama's inauguration in Washington, denied that the for zone chairmen were not given a chance to provide input to a zone reorganization he said is mandated by population shifts.
"They had all this time to talk, and now as we call meetings, they want input," Zellner said. "They're a day late and a dollar short."