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Fire union turns to Council

By Jill Terreri

The Buffalo Professional Firefighters Association is turning to the Common Council for help in obtaining answers about a top Fire Department official's use of the county's criminal background check system to look in to the background of other firefighters

At least one firefighter, William Buyers, received confirmation from the county's department of Central Police Services that in 2009 Deputy Commissioner Joseph Tomizzi, then an arson investigator, ran Buyers' name through the background check system, which can be used only in the course of investigating crimes, according to state guidelines. 

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Eight seek University District seat

By Jill Terreri

The resumes for a vacant seat on the Buffalo Common Council have arrived in the city clerk's office, and they include the Council's chief of staff, a union representative at Goodyear/Dunlop Tire Corp., a longtime city employee and a video surveillance monitor for the Buffalo Police Department. 

The clerk's office has received eight resumes for a vacancy in the University District as of the end of the day today. 

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Today in City Hall: Pridgen's day

By Jill Terreri

A crowd of about 300 people is expected in Council Chambers today at 2 p.m., when Ellicott Council Member Darius Pridgen is elected Council president by his fellow city lawmakers. 

Pridgen, who surprised some in City Hall by his effort to quickly line up the support of all of his colleagues, is so confident that he will be elected Council president that his staff has already moved into the president's office on the 13th floor, and Lovejoy Council Member Rich Fontana has moved out. 

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Schroeder on Council changes: It's a 'good thing'

Comptrollers 12.30.13

Former City Comptrollers Anthony Nanula, Joel Giambra, Andrew SanFlippo and Comptroller Mark Schroeder this morning in a Hall of Comptrollers ceremony. New portraits of Nanula, Giambra and SanFlippo were unveiled. 

By Jill Terreri

Comptroller Mark Schroeder, who watches city finances from his 12th-floor offices and is a former member of the state Assembly, is thought to have ambitions to one day run for higher office.  

I asked him about the changes on the 13th floor, specifically the impending election of Ellicott Council Member Darius Pridgen to the Council presidency. Pridgen, if elected on Thursday by a majority of his Council peers, would assume the executive suite on the second floor if Mayor Byron W. Brown decides to leave office in the next two years (the term length for Council presidents.) As Council president, Pridgen would be in a very good position to run for mayor if Brown leaves office early , or even if he does not.

Schroeder said the change at the top of the Council was good, and that an opportunity to transition the job every two years is called for in the city charter. 

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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. 

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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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Back-and-forth on Brand-On

By Jill Terreri

The disagreement between the city and Brand-On Services over what the company owes under its contract to operate the Erie Basin Marina continues, and a deadline is looming. 

Tomorrow is the deadline for Brand-On to pay its invoice with the city, for $343,245. The company, run by the Wolasz family, has disputed that amount, and said it only owes $27,412. A meeting last week between the parties did not resolve the matter. 

The Common Council has urged that a compromise be reached, but that has not happened yet. Legal action by the city to recover the funds is possible. 

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Rodriguez says he's ready for 'upset'

By Jill Terreri

Mayoral candidate Sergio Rodriguez said this morning, one day before the election, that his uphill race against Mayor Byron Brown "has all the makings of an upset. "

"I really feel that this is a winnable race," said Rodriguez, a Republican who is also running on a Progressive ballot line. "We feel confident. We feel we have the people behind us."  

Rodriguez is facing Brown at a time when nearly eight in 10 Democratic voters think the city is on the right track, according to a September poll. 

Brown spent nearly $1.3 million on his campaign through mid-October, and early polls showed he was in the lead. There has not been a public poll since the primary, in which he easily defeated Bernie Tolbert. 

Rodriguez spoke to reporters in Niagara Square, in the shadow of City Hall, where the topic at hand was his desire to create a public advocate's office in the city, which would be an elected position, like the one in New York City.  

He said residents need an independently elected office to go to with problems they're facing in dealing with city departments. An elected public advocate would be free from political influence, he said.

"This is more of an investment to restore faith in city government," he said. "This position is critical to preserve some kind of checks and balances."  

Rodriguez knocks Brown's 'penchant for secrecy'

By Jill Terreri

Republican Sergio Rodriguez seized on a story today in The Buffalo News about the city's decision to put up license plate readers at intersections around the city without the public's knowledge. 

"The Mayor and his appointed Police Commissioner took the liberty to install these controversial devices without so much as informing the Common Council members whose districts are impacted," Rodriguez said today.  "When the public's privacy is compromised, they have the right to know and the right to weigh in on the issue." 

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Today in City Hall

By Jill Terreri

Final preparations are underway for the city's tax foreclosure auction, which starts tomorrow at 9:30 a.m., and lasts for three days, over at the convention center. A new list of 2,829 properties was posted on the city's web site this morning. The list has been cut from nearly 4,400 properties as people settle their tax bills or work out payment plans.  

The Common Council will also hold their pre-meeting caucus at 2 p.m. today, in which they'll discuss hiring DiDonato Associates for work on a second-floor addition to the Hatch Restaurant. They think the work - design, engineering, construction administration and inspection - can be done for $120,000. A request for bids to operate the Hatch is going out this month, and if the expansion is expedited, the city can realize more revenue from a new operator, according to a memo to lawmakers from City Engineer Peter Merlo. 

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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 |