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The Week In Review

The Straight Dope From The Week That Was

Ralph Hernandez

Thursday, August

Ralph Hernandez, who hoped to run for Erie County Legislature in the 6th District against Maria Whyte, got knocked from the Democratic primary by State Supreme Court Justice Patrick NeMoyer. The judge ruled that Hernandez did not have enough valid signatures on his nominating petitions. Hernandez, who was elected president of the Buffalo Board of Education in July, needed 500 signatures to make the ballot. He turned in about 1,200, but nearly half of those were rejected by the Erie County Board of Elections, leaving him 623. The remaining signatures were challenged in court by Whyte supporters, who claimed that they’d been collected improperly. For example, some petition sheets were signed by Hernandez as witness, but attorney Sean Cooney presented witnesses who claimed that a woman, not Hernandez, had witnessed their signatures. Other petition sheets were allegedly left in shops and signed without a witness present. Cooney further alleged that several operatives were paid per signature they collected, in violation of state law. After hearing testimony from 24 witnesses over three days, NeMoyer tossed 182 more signatures, dropping Hernandez to 441 and knocking him off the ballot. As a result, Whyte will run unopposed this fall. This is good news for Whyte, of course, and for Democrats aligned with Assemblyman Sam Hoyt. Some supporters of Mickey Kearns’ bid for mayor, however, had hoped that a primary contest in the Niagara District would bring out votes for Kearns, on the theory that both supporters of Whyte and Hernandez are likely to be opposed to incumbent Byron Brown.

Friday, August 14

It’s like a holiday for local politics geeks: Campaign finance filing deadline! Today the 32-day pre-primary reports rolled in, thrilling horserace enthusiasts and conspiracy theorists while passing entirely unnoticed by the vast majority of citizens who have better things to do. But who doesn’t want to know that the Modern Corporation has kicked in another $5,000 to Byron Brown’s coffers, bringing the company’s official total to $28,400 since Brown was elected? Who doesn’t wonder what CRA Infrastructure and Engineering hopes to get in return for its $3,000 donation to Brown—$12,500 since the mayor was elected? And who doesn’t shake their head sadly, contemplating poor Mickey Kearns, going to battle with just $24,000 on hand against an incumbent who has amassed $1.1 million? Surely I’m not alone here.

In other news, Terrance Craig, 40, a bystander shot in the parking lot of a shopping center on Buffalo’s East Side on August 13, succumbed to his injuries. This was the second incident this week in which a stray bullet claimed an innocent victim, following the death of Larry Crosland, shot while sitting on his front porch. Police blame a spike in drug- and gang-related activity for the crossfire incidents. Condolences to all.

Saturday, August 15

Putting a cap on a week that saw 10 shootings and three people murdered, the Brown administration staged its third gun buyback. Folks turned in 711 guns in exchange for payouts ranging from $10 to $100, for a total of $34,000. In all, the federally funded gun buybacks have netted 23,312 guns. Critics have argued that few of these guns are the sorts most typically used in crimes, and many are dysfunctional. An audit of the guns bought on Saturday is due in a week or so. Last week’s three murders brought the total for the year to 38 homicides and put the city on pace for 60. There were 37 murders in all of 2008.

Sunday, August 16

Crickets chirping. A day of rest.

Monday, August 17

Michael Gainer, founder of Buffalo ReUse, was canned from the organization he envisioned and made reality by interim executive director Harvey Garrett. For full satisfaction, you’ll need to follow this story as it unfolds online on various blogs. (Try for starters.) But here are the bare bones:

Gainer was replaced as executive director in January by his board of directors, with which he’d had a contentious relationship. The board accused Gainer of poor financial management—a charge to which Gainer pleads guilty—while he suspected the board was more interested in bottom lines than in what he regards as the raisons d’etre for Buffalo ReUse: community development, neighborhood building, job training. Gainer was demoted to operations manager, and West Side housing activist Garrett was named ED. According to Garrett, Gainer continued to put Buffalo ReUse in legal and financial jeopardy, and his relationship with the board grew worse. Gainer says he felt undermined by both Garrett and the board, and that what he’d needed all along was a financial manager to put the organization’s books in order—not to be replaced. Last week, Garrett says, Gainer was put on unpaid leave, for reasons he would not divulge. On Monday, Garrett says the board told him to dismiss Gainer. Both Gainer and the board have released statements about the dismissal. Many members of the organization are furious. Many ReUse employees feel at sea. This is an interesting and fraught moment for ReUse, a young, celebrated not-for-profit; for Gainer, its dynamic but somewhat flawed founder; and for Garrett, a popular community activist with his reputation on the line.

Taxigate update #1: Patrick Kane, speaking publicly for the first time since his arrest on August 9 for the alledged assault of a cab driver, apologized for the pain he caused family, fans, and the cities of Buffalo and Chicago. Without discussing specific details of the incident and speaking for less than one minute, Kane called his actions an “immature lapse in judgement.” Who’d have thought a 20-year-old might lose his judment on the Chippewa Strip at 4am? Isn’t that what it’s there for?

Tuesday, August 18

A gaggle of über rich Republicans wooed a full house of rubes at HSBC Arena. Artvoice hot tipper on the scene writes: “The pristine blonde woman in four-inch gold pumps roars, elongating every vowel, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Steve Forbes!’ The PA system begins playing Gary Glitter’s arena-rock anthem ‘Rock and Roll, Part 2’ and the editor of Forbes magazine runs down the aisle like a superstar, high-fiving people on his way, and steps on stage pumping his fist in the air to pyrotechnics blowing up all around him.”

This weekend’s weather forecast: locusts and frogs.

Taxigate update #2: According to reports in the Buffalo News, sources say a plea deal may be in the works for hometown hero Patrick Kane. Kane could plead guilty to lesser charges, such as harassment or disorderly conduct, or seek an adjournment where the case would be dropped at a later date. In either scenario, it is unlikely Kane would face jailtime.

Wednesday, August 19

Bill Clinton’s birthday. The beloved philanderer and cigar aficionado turned 63. Governor David Paterson visited Buffalo to attend a board meeting of the Empire State Development Corporation, and to announce that GEICO expects to add 300 jobs at its service center in Amherst.

Taxigate update #3: Two days after apologizing, Patrick Kane was indicted on misdemeanor charges. No felonies.

geoff kelly

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