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Another Poloncarz jab at Brown; Casey downplays significance

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's pre-election rally at an Amherst union hall last month for county executive candidate Mark C. Poloncarz never really produced the kumbaya effect sought by statewide Democrats.

Erie County Democratic Chairman Leonard R. Lenihan, for example, was never even invited onto the podium after feuding with Cuomo's party people for months. And Mayor Byron W. Brown made it clear he attended only because Cuomo asked him.

Since then, it is clear there will be little thaw in the frosty relations between Poloncarz and Brown. The county executive-elect threw some obvious jabs at Brown by naming a potential mayoral rival in 2013 -- former FBI honcho Bernie Tolbert -- to his transition tean. In addition, he recruited former Corporation Counsel Alicia Lukasiewicz -- forced out of City Hall by Brown -- to the panel.

This week the rift became even more obvious when Poloncarz named Richard M. Tobe as his deputy county executive. Tobe was also forced out of his City Hall economic development post in 2008 -- a move of which the county executive-elect clearly disagrees.

"It had less to do with Rich Tobe and more to do with the mayor, including his executive assistant deputy mayor," Poloncarz said at this week's announcement, referring to Tobe's resignation and Deputy Mayor Steven M. Casey.

The deputy mayor, considered Brown's political point man, this week dismissed any suggestion of a rift between City Hall and the Rath County Office Building.

"We look forward to sitting down and working with him," Casey said of Tobe. "If it has to do with jobs, we will work together with anybody.

"You don't see anybody on our side picking a fight," he added.

Casey said Brown on Dec. 9 sent a letter of congratulations to Poloncarz, suggesting the two men meet soon to discuss mutual goals.

--Robert J. McCarthy

Jacobs accepting resumes for first deputy clerk

Chris Jacobs says he's created a committee to help choose a new first deputy county clerk.

Jacobs, a Republican who campaigned on a no-patronage job promise, announced Tuesday he is accepting resumes for his top deputy clerk.

The job of first deputy clerk, which is responsible for many of the day-to-day operations in the Erie County Clerk's Office, is currently filled by John Crangle. Crangle, who plans to retire Dec. 31, has also served as acting clerk since Kathy Hochul won a special election for the 26th Congressional District. He is also Tonawanda Democratic chairman.

Jacobs has named Lee Wortham, a former executive vice president of The Bank of New York, to head the search committee. The group will also include John Leonardi, CEO of the Buffalo Niagara Association of Realtors; Trey Barrett, of the Niagara Frontier Automobile Dealers Association; Melanie Marotto, real estate attorney with Colucci and Gallaher; and Kevin Horrigan, director of public affairs at People Inc.

The committee will accept resumes until Dec. 23 via e-mail at A full job description is available online at

Jacobs, in a news release announcing the formation of the committee, said he campaigned on a promise to "de-politicize the hiring process."

“The individuals I asked to volunteer on this committee are all highly professional and represent industries that deal with the Clerk’s Office on a regular basis, and I’m confident they will recommend well qualified candidates," Jacobs said.

--Denise Jewell Gee

Live blog from Legislature session on restoring cultural funding at 2:30 p.m.

37 arts and culturals to be added to county budget

There's been plenty of talk of Shakespeare in the chambers of the Erie County Legislature lately.

On Tuesday, the Legislature expects to put money behind all that talk.

A bipartisan budget deal that came together Friday would give $931,841 to dozens of theaters, galleries and other cultural organizations shut out of the Erie County budget last year.

That's $45,000 more than what the Greater Buffalo Cultural Alliance requested last month when it asked county lawmakers to return to funding amounts allocated in the Legislature's adopted 2010 budget.

Legislators added three organizations -- the Colored Musicians Club, Langston Hughes Institute and the Michigan Street Preservation Corp./ Nash house -- to the list.

Here's the breakdown of what the county's Finance, Management and Budget committee approved on Friday:

  • African American Cultural Center $132,411.00
  • Alleyway Theatre $7,016.00
  • American Legion Band of Tonawandas $4,677.00
  • Ballet Artists of WNY (Neglia) $10,523.00
  • Big Orbit Gallery $17,142.00
  • Buffalo Arts Studio $30,000.00
  • Buffalo City Ballet $13,096.00
  • Buffalo Naval & Servicemans Park $20,000.00
  • Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus $25,000.00
  • CEPA $47,140.00
  • Colored Musicians Club $15,000.00
  • Community Music School of Buffalo $2,432.00
  • El Museo Gallery $6,548.00
  • Explore & More $23,808.00
  • Folkloric Dance $1,871.00
  • Hallwalls $51,426.00
  • Irish Classical Theatre $73,710.00
  • Just Buffalo $51,426.00
  • Kavinoky Theatre $10,523.00
  • Lancaster Opera House $11,225.00
  • Langston Hughes Institute $15,000.00
  • Locust St Neighborhood Art Classes $10,523.00
  • Michigan Street Preservation Corp/Nash House $15,000.00
  • Music Is Art $45,000.00
  • Musicalfare Theatre $33,332.00
  • New Phoenix Theatre $25,000.00
  • Pierce Arrow Museum $4,677.00
  • Polish Arts Club of Buffalo Inc $8,000.00
  • Road Less Traveled Productions $4,750.00
  • Roycroft Campus Corporation $9,677.00
  • Shakespeare In the Park $85,710.00
  • Springville Center for the Arts $14,031.00
  • Squeaky Wheel $13,714.00
  • Theatre of Youth $51,695.00
  • Ujima Company $30,000.00
  • Western New York Artists Group $3,742.00
  • Young Audiences of WNY $7,016.00

The full Legislature will vote on the proposal Tuesday. It will then go back to County Executive Chris Collins, who could veto the measure. Legislators on Friday said they did not anticipate a veto.

View all of the Legislature's proposed budget amendments on the table here.

--Denise Jewell Gee

With Walter out, could another Republican step in?

WALTERRaymond W. Walter's election to the state Assembly has left an open seat in the Erie County Legislature.(Derek Gee/ Buffalo News File Photo)

There's a short-term gig available in the Erie County Legislature.

Raymond W. Walter, an Amherst Republican, formally resigned his 4th District Legislature seat last week to head to Albany to represent the 148th Assembly District. Walter won the unexpired term of former Assemblyman James P.  Hayes, who resigned in September to take a private-sector job.

That leaves a vacancy in the 15-member county Legislature until the end of the year.

County Legislature Majority Leader John J. Mills said last week that Republicans are considering appointing someone to fill the seat -- which represents Clarence, Newstead, Akron and parts of Amherst and Cheektowaga -- for the remaining weeks in December.

Filling the job for only a few weeks, however, may be difficult.

The Legislature is scheduled to meet at least three more times before the end of the year, and could hold additional meetings if it needs to take up potential budget vetoes from County Executive Chris Collins.

Will Walter's absence change the voting power of GOP members of the Legislature as they take up Collins' 2012  budget proposal? Not likely.

Votes are still based on a 15-member Legislature, which means it will still take eight votes to make a budget change and 10 votes to override a veto. So the Dems, if they stick together, will have enough votes to make changes to the budget, but will still need to convince at least one of their Republican-caucusing colleagues to join them to override a veto.

By January, none of that will matter. The Legislature will downsize to 11 members, and Legislator Edward A. Rath  III will take over a newly formed district representing Clarence, Newstead and northeastern sections of Amherst.

--Denise Jewell Gee


Jacobs to assume clerk office next week

Republican Christopher L. Jacobs will be a few weeks ahead of other newly elected office holders when he officially assumes the title of Erie County clerk some time next week.

Jacobs, who defeated Democrat Maria R. Whyte on Election Day, now fills a clerk vacancy created by the May resignation of Kathleen C. Hochul, who won a special congressional election. And because the election fills a vacancy, election law allows him to assume the office once the Nov. 8 vote is officially certified, according to Democratic Elections Commissioner Dennis E. Ward.

"I'm planning to take the office when the vote is certified," Jacobs said, "considering how long the office has been vacant."

Ward said he expects the certification process to be completed some time next week. And as soon as Jacobs signs an "oath card" promising to uphold the Constitution, Ward said Jacobs is authorized to take over the office, begin his duties and draw a paycheck.

--Robert J. McCarthy

Staff levels for county executive's office seen as 'moot' as Collins prepares to exit

Erie County Executive Chris Collins won't be in office in January, but the Legislature still set aside 45 minutes for his office to talk about the 2012 budget for the county executive's administrative staff this morning.

Nobody showed up, and Chairwoman Barbara Miller-Williams said she received no word from his staff that they weren't coming.

"We're disappointed of course," Miller-Williams said. "We're here ready to take care of the people's business. I think it's disrespectful, and I feel that we're all still in office until the end of they year. It's our responsibility to review the budget."

Miller-Williams, who also lost a re-election bid for her seat last week, placed a call to the main line of the county executive's suite when it became apparent no one was coming. She got voice mail.

Grant Loomis, a spokesman for Collins, said it is the budget department that has handled the presentation for the county executive in the past. Budget Director Gregory Gach met with legislators on Monday and has had staff present for many of the presentations this week.

"The budget department has historically handled this presentation, which is simply related to personnel lines in the county executive's office," Loomis said of the 45-minute time slot scheduled this morning. "All discussion of the county executive's office budget is moot given last week's election."

The Legislature's Finance, Management and Budget Committee has meetings scheduled throughout the week to meet with department heads to review Collins' proposal for 2012. The Legislature will hold a public hearing on the budget at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 22, in Old County Hall. 

The slot reserved for the county executive's office was the first no-show of the week.

County Comptroller Mark C. Poloncarz, who will replace Collins as county executive in January after winning the election last week, is scheduled to appear before the Legislature on Friday to talk about his views on the budget.

--Denise Jewell Gee

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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 |