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Thursday's must-reads from Washington

By Jerry Zremski

WASHINGTON -- It's all-budget, all-the-time in the nation's capital these days, and so it is, too, with today's top reads.

First and foremost, The Washington Post delves deep into what sequestration has meant to real people.

Meantime, Politico notes that thanks to the budget deal, the GOP's private war has gone public.

And The New York Times tells us that Paul Ryan finds himself under fire from conservatives because of the deal.

State money for projectors at movie theaters

By Jill Terreri

While the Buffalo Common Council on Tuesday found out that it wouldn't be able to set aside city capital funds for downtown's only movie theater, New York state taxpayers will pitch in about $860,000 for similiar upgrades in at least 15 theaters all over the state, including North Tonawanda, Rochester, Binghamton, Jamestown, Little Falls, and even New York City.

The Regional Economic Development awards were announced today in Albany. It's not an accident there were so many awards for digital conversion projects. The state has a whole program to assist theaters in upgrading their equipment. 

Continue reading "State money for projectors at movie theaters" »

Wednesday's must-reads from Washington

By Jerry Zremski

WASHINGTON -- It's been a long day of reporting, but I have a few minutes now to squeeze in today's top reads, which start with The Washington Post's latest scoop on NSA spying.

Meanwhile, The New York Times takes a look at what the next year might hold for President Obama, given the history that other two-term presidents have experienced.

Lastly, Politico notes that once again, the Tea Party could upend Republican hopes of winning Senate seats.

Silver: I am secure in my job

By Tom Precious

ALBANY – Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver could not say if there will be any bitter feelings by Assembly Democrats directed at Gov. Andrew Cuomo over the Moreland Commission’s ongoing probe of state lawmakers.

"I can’t tell you at this time,’’ Silver said when asked if the governor’s Moreland panel investigation directed at legislators will lead to a lasting bad taste for lawmakers as the 2014 session nears its start next month.

“I really don’t know,’’ he added.

“We never had a conference about it so I can’t gauge that discussion right now. I think as we come back next year you’ll get a better feel of what’s involved,’’ Silver said after attending an economic development ceremony in Albany at which Cuomo praised the Manhattan Democrat's leadership.

After some high-profile controversies, including the secret settlement of a sexual harassment case involving a former Brooklyn lawmaker and the arrest of the husband of his closest adviser on kickback charges, Silver enters the 2014 session with some bruises. But he said he feels secure in his job.

“As strong as the members want it to be,’’ he said when asked how strong he feels in his post. “I serve at the pleasure of the members. I think I have the support of all the members and we go from here.’’

Newsday reported this afternoon that a Long Island insurance executive pleaded guilty to grand larceny and money laundering in connection with a scandal at the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, which had been headed by William Rapfogel until his arrest earlier this year. Rapfogel is the husband of Judy Rapfogel, Silver’s longtime adviser; Silver and the couple have been friends for decades. William Rapfogel is accused of steering some of the money he allegedly embezzled to New York City politicians.

Newsday reported that the terms of the plea deal with Joseph Ross, the insurance executive, have been sealed.

WNY gets regional council funding

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- Western New York's regional economic development council today was awarded $60.8 million in cash and tax subsidies to help proceed with 16 "priority'' projects it has identified in a five-county area.

The award was announced this morning at an annual event in Albany in which nearly $760 million will be handed out, when the ceremony ends, to 10 regions around the state.

The Western New York council last year got $50.8 million and in 2011 received $100.8 million.

The program is still underway, but the region was not among the top award winners. The southern tier, for instance, received $81.9 million and the Mohawk Valley got $82.4 million. The North Country received $81.3 million and the Capital Region got $82.8 million.


Poloncarz appoints political insider to administrative post.

By Harold McNeil

Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz has filled two of the three new administrative posts  created through a reorganization of the Department of Social Services earlier this year.

Brian Bray, who had been the county executive's liason to the county Legislature, will serve in one of them. Bray's new job, which he has already posted on his LinkedIn page, is as special assistant to Social Services Commissioner Carol Dankert-Maurer. Exactly what will be his specific duties and his qualifications for the job were unclear Tuesday. Bray has previously served as public affairs officer at the Erie County Water Authority, deputy clerk of the Legislature and a senior legislative assistant for the Buffalo Common Council.

Over the summer, Poloncarz sought and eventually received authorization from the Legislature to create three new administrative posts, along with hiring six new Child Protective Services caseworker in the Department of Social Services. It was a requested move that became critically important following the September beating death of 5-year-old Eain Brooks, allegedly at the hands of his mother's boyfriend. Relatives of the slain boy have charged that CPS caseworkers ignored numerous previous complaints of abuse against Eain by Matthew W. Kuzdzal. DSS officials, in turn, complained that CPS was understaffed and its caseload overburdened.   

When the requested reorganization came up for a vote in late September, the Legislature's Republican-aligned minority caucus favored hiring nine CPS caseworkers instead of six, and balked at the addition of three new administrative posts which, some had argued, would likely wind up being patronage hires.  

Meanwhile, Poloncarz spokesman Mark Cornell confirmed Tuesday that he will, on an interim basis, fill Bray's old position as Legislative liason. Cornell will also continue in his current role as Poloncarz's director of policy and communications.   

The other administrative post, second deputy to the commissioner of DSS, has been filled by Sharon Rochelle, who has a master’s degree of science in community and school health and is working on a second master’s degree in public administration. Rochelle also has experience working in child welfare programs at both the state and county level.

The remaining post, first deputy commissioner, is yet to be filled. Cornell said the job was offered to a candidate who later declined it after her current employer offered her a raise in salary. The administration continues to advertise and interview candidates for that position.


Grant an apparent lock for Erie County Legislature minority leader.

By Harold McNeil

It's not official yet, but it looks like Erie County Legislature Chairwoman Betty Jean Grant is in line to become the new minority leader when the new Republican-aligned majority takes control of the Legislature after January 1.

All five members of what will soon constitute the Legislature's Democratic minority caucus met on Tuesday for an informal vote and Grant got the support of both Thomas A. Loughran of Amherst and newcomer Patrick B. Burke of South Buffalo. Along with her own vote, that gives Grant three votes going forward, which is a majority of the minority.

Grant said no other names were submitted for the post. Unlike the Legislature chairman, the majority and minority leaders of the Legislature do not have to be ratified by the full 11-member body.

Meanwhile, the incoming GOP-aligned majority weeks ago decided on Republican John Mills of Orchard Park as its choice for chairman and Conservative Party MemberJoseph C. Lorigo of West Seneca for majority leader. The full Legislature will have to vote on the Legislature chairman selection at its January reorganization meeting.  

No city funds for new movie projectors

By Jill Terreri

The Common Council will not add $250,000 for new digital movie projectors for the Market Arcade Film & Arts Centre Inc. to the 2014 capital budget when it meets at 2 p.m. today. 

Majority Leader Demone A. Smith said that the city's Law Department informed him that it could not "legally justify" the purchase. 

Smith had inquired as to whether the city could use capital budget funds on the Market Arcade, which is owned by the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency Buffalo Economic Renaissance Corp., a city-affiliated organization that keeps its books separate from the city. He wanted to add the expense to the capital budget but was waiting on an opinion from city lawyers as to whether the city could borrow for a property that it does not directly own. 

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Rodriguez to run for school board

By Jill Terreri

Sergio Rodriguez, who waged a campaign against Mayor Byron Brown this fall, announced today that he will seek a seat on the Buffalo Board of Education.

Rodriguez, a South Buffalo resident, will run for one of three at-large seats that will be up for election in May. The seats are currently held by Board President Barbara Seals Nevergold and Board Members Florence Johnson and John Licata.   

Rodriguez had campaigned on a promise that he would seek a full mayoral takeover of the school district, and said during a chilly Niagara Square news conference today that running for the school board was a natural fit.

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Tuesday's must-reads from Washington

By Jerry Zremski

    WASHINGTON -- Obamacare tops our must-reads yet again today.

    Topping the list, The Washington Post tells us that some insurers are offering shoddy prescription drug coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

    Meantime, The New York Times reports that the Obamacare website is vastly improved.

    And off the beaten path, the Times warns us to beware of news stories that go viral.


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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 |