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Odds & Ends

In the same column referenced above, Buffalo News political reporter Bob McCarthy failed to note the most interesting entry in New York State Senator Mark Grisanti’s January campaign finance disclosure filing: Among those who rewarded Grisanti for his vote in favor of same sex marriage were David Koch and his wife, Julia, who each gave $16,800. David Koch and his brother, Charles, are the principle owners of Koch Industries, and use their billions to underwrite ultraconservative causes and movements, including tea party groups. The Koch brothers support same-sex marriage on libertarian grounds but are fierce adversaries of the unions that by and large supported Grisanti over Democratic incumbent Antoine Thompson in 2010. (You may recall that Buffalo Beast editor Ian Murphy made national news by impersonating David Koch in a phone call to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, congratulating Walker for his efforts to break public service unions in that state.) Both donations were made through Intrust Wealth Management of Wichita, Kansas, a Koch Industries company.

• A quick look at the fundraising of other state senators in the region: Democrat Tim Kennedy raised almost $274,000 in the last half of 2011, leaving him with $333,763.74 in the bank. Mike Ranzenhofer raised $72,260 and has $277,971.51. Pat Gallivan raised a modest $56,484, leaving him with $87,400.07.

Of those three, Kennedy will have the most to worry about in regard to a primary challenge if, as it is widely assumed will be the case, his district is redrawn to include more of Buffalo’s East Side and its predominantly African-American population.

George Maziarz raised more than $275,000, leaving him with a whopping $728,807.16 on hand, which should be sufficient to scare off any but token challengers to the Niagara County veteran, who is likely to absorb a fair number of Democrats from the City of Niagara Falls as Mark Grisanti’s 60th District draws back into Erie County, extending south of Buffalo along the lakefront, in the interest of making a whiter, more defensible district for the Democrat-turned-Republican.

• Democratic Party headquarters seems to be rallying around David Shenk, clerk for the Town of Boston, to succeed Mark Poloncarz as comptroller of Erie County.

Indeed, several Democrats tell us that Shenk has been the lead candidate since December, even before the party began interviewing candidates, despite, or perhaps because of, Shenk’s relatively low profile. The vacancy will be filled by the Erie County Legislature, where Democrats aligned with Erie County Democratic Party Chairman Len Lenihan enjoy a one-vote majority, so the endorsement of headquarters is likely to be all the qualification a candidate needs.

The other leading candidates are M&T Bank’s David Rutecki, who served in Dennis Gorski’s administration; Dan Ward, former Town of Amherst supervisor; and George Hasiotis, a successful businessman who once served as a commissioner of the Erie County Water Authority.

Leaving aside actual qualifications for the job, Shenk is a curious choice politically. Comptroller is a countywide elected position that Republicans typically have had a good chance of winning, despite the registration advantage enjoyed by Democrats. Whomever the Legislature appoints to the vacancy, he or she will have to run for election this fall, so it would behoove the Democrats to choose someone capable of defending the seat. Shenk has very little name recognition; he does not have political or fundraising connections as deep as those of Rutecki or Hasiotis; unlike Hasiotis, he is not wealthy enough to finance his own campaign.

Now with 15 percent less bus! (photo credit: Alan Gryfe)

• At the behest of Assemblyman Sean Ryan, the New York State Authorities Budget Office will conduct a review of the budgeting and operations of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority. Ryan requested the audit in response to the NFTA’s proposal to drastically cut routes in order close a projected $15 million deficit. In the last week, Ryan has also suggested that the acting chair of the NFTA’s board of commissioners, Henry Sloma, should resign over conflicts of interest. Sloma serves on the industrial development agencies for both Erie and Niagara counties, which in the past four years have waived $5.3 million in mortgage recording taxes—a quarter of which represents revenue to the NFTA.

“Sloma needs to step down immediately if the NFTA is to have any chance to reform its practices and move forward,” Ryan said. “It is outrageous that at the same time the NFTA is operating under a deficit, in his role with both of the IDA’s Henry Sloma is voting to deprive the NFTA of desperately needed revenue. His fiduciary responsibility to protect the NFTA, and his votes with the NCIDA and the ECIDA just don’t match up.”

Also this week, the NFTA suggested that it might forgo cutting routes, given the ferocious public response the cutbacks have provoked, and instead reconsider a fare hike.

• This Thursday, January 26, Buffalo First!—a not-for-profit that advocates for development of a local, sustainable economy—is hosting rally at the Perry Street offices of the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation. The message: An aggregation of locally owned businesses would make a better “anchor tenant” for Canalside than the sort of mammoth, national chain retailer that continues to be the obscure object of ECHDC’s desire, even after the agonizingly slow undoing of the Bass Pro.

Buffalo First! has collected 600 signatures (and counting) on a petition asking that at least 50 percent of all retail space contemplated and developed at Canalside should be devoted to locally owned businesses. The rally starts at 1pm at 95 Perry Street, which is convenient to several fine lunch spots and to the handsome new mural on the south-facing wall of the Hi-Temp Fabrications building on Illinois Street.

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