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Wednesday's must-reads from Washington

By Jerry Zremski

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Post leads today's must-reads with a real scoop: an interview with Edward Snowden's father.

Meantime, The New York Times reveals that banks are blacklisting Americans who make even small errors in their finances.

And The Hill takes us inside the Republican civil war over Obamacare.

Larocca -- longtime Albany insider -- announces retirement from PSC

   By Robert J. McCarthy

   At one time the name of James L. Larocca ranked as one of the most recognized in state government.

   But though one of the best known Albany insiders, he was never able to capture elective office.

   Still, his retirement as a commissioner of the Public Serive Commission -- announced Tuesday -- marks a significant milestone in the career of a top state official who served five New York governors.

   "I would like to acknowledge and thank Commissioner Larocca for his dedication and professionalism, and for the keen insights he shared with the commission and staff during his four and a half years as commissioner,” said Commission Chairman Garry Brown.
     Larocca, who unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for governor in 1998, served under Governors Hugh L. Carey, Mario M. Cuomo, Eliot L. Spitzer, David A. Patterson, and Andrew M. Cuomo. His previous offices included director of federal affairs, commissioner of the State Energy Office, chairman of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, commissioner of the New York State Department of Transportation, trustee of the New York Power Authority, and chairman of the Long Island Power Authority. 
   He also served on  the Commission on Bias-Related Violence, the Commission on Constitutional Revision, and the Commission on Coastal Erosion.
   In addition, Larocca was president of the Long Island Association, the region’s largest business and civic organization, and as dean of Southampton College.  He is also an award-winning playwright whose play PENANG was presented off-Broadway in 2009.

New pizza parlor, health facility planned for West Side

By Jill Terreri

A new make-your-own pizza parlor in Allentown was approved by a panel of lawmakers on Tuesday, after it received the support of the city Planning Board.

Crust is planning to open in mid- to late-September at 244 Allen St., at the corner of College Street, in the former location of Sample restaurant. According to the architect, Elizabeth Buscaglia, the restaurant will have interior and patio seating. Slices will be offered, and customers will be allowed to make their own pizzas, she said. The fast-casual concept is popular on the West Coast. The general manager will be Peter McConeghy.

Continue reading "New pizza parlor, health facility planned for West Side" »

Tuesday's must-reads from Washington

By Jerry Zremski

WASHINGTON -- With Obamacare about to become a reality, the myths about it abound -- until now.

in today's top read, Politico debunks the rumors about health care reform.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post notes that daughters are now key to the nation's political dynasties.

And while this is not a Washington story, this opinion piece from the CNN website is definitely a must-read: A Jusuit priest's take on how Pope Francis is revolutionizing the church.

Today in City Hall

By Jill Terreri

Good morning,

Today is packed with meetings here in City Hall. Here's a run-down: 

  • The Planning Board meets at 8:15 a.m. today in Room 901. The agenda includes plans for a new doctor's office at 501 Seventh St., a new 300-space parking lot for the Larkin building, and exterior renovations to Trinity Tower Apartments at 33 Linwood Ave. and to Sinatra Realty's building at 400 Elmwood Ave., south of Bryant Street. James Nash will ask the board to re-establish a restaurant at 162 Allen St., and Crust Buffalo will ask to re-open a sit-in restaurant at 244 Allen St. T-Mobile will also appear before the board again about locating a 90-foot cell tower at 535 Northampton St. The board won't meet again until Sept. 10. 
  • The Common Council will hold a special session at 3 p.m. today to tie up loose ends before the Council takes its annual August break. Votes are expected on contracts for public works projects and other items that can't wait for September. 
  • The Council will have several committee meetings as well, including Civil Service at 9:45 a.m., Finance at 10 a.m., Community Development at 1 p.m. and Legislation at 2 p.m. All committees meet in Council Chambers. Discussion of "zombie foreclosures" will take place during the Finance Committee, specifically about what elected officials can do.  Discussion of new proposals regarding what Buffalo can do to reform its own foreclosure process is also possible at 10 a.m. At 2 p.m., the Legislation Committee will hear from residents upset with Time Warner, and the city's head of telecommunications, Tom Tarapacki, will update the committee about concerns at the Apollo Theatre
  • Over at the IDA headquarters at 143 Genesee St., the Buffalo Urban Development Corp. will meet at noon. The BUDC is expected to award a three-year contract for operations, monitoring and maintenance of the RiverBend site in South Buffalo to TurnKey Environmental Restoration. The first year will cost $93,340, and the subsequent two years will be negotiated.  

State Ed mandate confuses Council

By Jill Terreri

Concerns about the cost, loss of instructional time and apparent duplication in services were aired when a panel of city lawmakers brought in Board of Education members and school Superintendent Pamela Brown to Council Chambers today to discuss the recent mandate from state Education Commissioner John King, that the district partner with Erie 1 BOCES to turn around two failing schools, East and Lafayette high schools.

During an Education Committee meeting, Chairman Demone Smith said he was confused why the state would mandate that students be given the opportunity to take BOCES classes if they desired, when the district already offers many of the same programs.

Continue reading "State Ed mandate confuses Council" »

Video: The Week in Washington

News Washington Bureau Chief Jerry Zremski previews the stories he'll be working on this week, including one on the potential for the Community Development Block Grant to fall beneath the budget ax as Congress looks to 2014's fiscal plan.

Rodriguez to vie for Conservative line; will fight challenge

  By Robert J. McCarthy

   Republican Sergio R. Rodriguez is making good on his promise to challenge incumbent Democrat Byron W. Brown on the Conservative line.

   Rodriguez, the GOP candidate, said today he has submitted more than double the Conservative signatures for "an opportunity to ballot," which would allow him to challenge Brown -- the endorsed Conservative candidate -- for the line in the Sept. 10 Conservative primary.

   "During the petition process I encountered many registered Conservative party voters who are extremely unhappy with the leadership's decision to endorse a candidate who does not share their values," he said. "I look forward to restoring the Conservative party line back to where it belongs this September."

   The candidate said he intends to fight an objection filed to the signatures on his designating petitions by Vincent D. Lorigo.

Gaughan gains Working Families backing in comptroller bid

   By Robert J. McCarthy

   Attorney Kevin P. Gaughan now has an additional line on the November general election ballot for his challenge against Erie County Comptroller Stefan I. Mychajliw, the Republican incumbent.

   The Working Families Party has given its endorsement to the Democrat, according to spokesman Dave Chudy.

   He said Gaughan was endorsed by local, regional and state officials of the party, and will now compete on its line.

Rodriguez blames Brown for rise in neighborhood crime

By Robert J. McCarthy

   In another sign that crime will emerge as a major issue in this year's mayoral campaign, Republican candidate Sergio R. Rodriguez said Friday the Brown administration should recognize a worsening problem.

   The candidate pointed to a Friday story in The Buffalo News outlining several crimes in Allentown and the Elmwood Village.

    "If we are going to address the issue of crime in the city, there first needs to be a sense of urgency and an acknowledgement of the realities we are facing," he said.  "While the current mayor and his police commissioner blame the weather for this increase in crime, the areas that people consider safe in Buffalo are shrinking.

    "I hold their lack of leadership and vision accountable for the increase in crime," he added.

   Brown has defended his crime-fighting record by pointing to a 20 percent overall decrease in Buffalo, as well as efforts to recruit new police officers, introduce surveillance cameras aroound the city and buy back thousands of guns to remove them from the streets.

   Democratic primary opponent Bernard Tolbert has also stressed the need to better fight crime. He did not react to the Friday story.

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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 |