The Straight Dope From The Week That Was
by Geoff Kelly
Thursday, August 20
City Comptroller Andy SanFilippo held a press conference this afternoon to discuss a preliminary audit of Buffalo Economic Renaissance Corporation’s loans to One Sunset, which closed its doors last November, leaving a trail of unpaid debts (about $90,000) and embarrassed politicians. The city agency provided two $40,000 loans to One Sunset, one of which was approved even though the business failed to hit benchmarks the loan ostensibly required. BERC also provided the restaurant a $30,000 grant through the good graces of Ellicott District Councilmember Brian Davis. (The restaurant, at the corner of Delaware and Delavan, is in the Delaware District, but Davis apparently justified sending the business grant money intended for Ellicott by arguing that the owner and his family were residents of the Fruit Belt.) Two BERC officials, Michelle Barron and Eric Gadley, along with Deputy Mayor Donna Brown, helped to convince the Erie County Development Agency to kick in another $50,000 loan just two months before the business closed.
SanFilippo said he could find no documentary evidence that Mayor Byron Brown had urged BERC to pour so much money into an enterprise he deemed “doomed to failure.” But to reiterate that point, the mayor hastily called a press conference an hour and a half before SanFilippo’s, and insisted all he’d done was tell then economic development chief Tim Wanamaker to “see if you can be helpful.” “We could not account for a significant portion of the public money that went to One Sunset and more than $38,000 in missing inventory,” SanFilippo said. After the press conference, SanFilippo and his team adjourned to Mother’s for a post-audit cocktail.
Friday, August 21
Angry at the firing earlier in the week of founder Michael Gainer, a group of Buffalo ReUse members met to discuss how to respond. The strategy: They decided to call a special meeting of the membership, with the stated purpose of discussing with the board the organization’s mission and its structure. However, it is widely understood—and confirmed in emails between members—that on the table is the possibility that the members will vote to dismiss the entire board of directors, reinstate Gainer as executive director (a position from which he was demoted in January), and let go interim executive director Harvey Garrett, who fired Gainer on behalf of the board. The Oishei Foundation, which has been a major funder of Buffalo ReUse, “would seriously reevaluate our current and any future relationship” with Buffalo ReUse should that transpire, according to the foundation’s president, Robert Gioia. The special meeting takes place September 3.
Saturday, August 22
Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt was in town to attend a party for his lawyer of 34 years, Paul Cambria. A frequent defender of Flynt on behalf of free speech challenges, Cambria was with Flynt in Lawrenceville, Georgia, when he survived an assassin’s bullet that left him paralyzed. Cheers to two great patriots. Every day we be hustlin’, hustlin’!
Sunday, August 23 >>
Par for the course this summer. A triple shooting on the East Side left one dead and two injured. The victim, 30-year-old Alvin Livingston, appears to be another innocent bystander. His death makes 39 homicides citywide this year.
Monday, August 24
Two Buffalo firefighters, Lieutenant Charles W. McCarthy, Jr. and Firefighter Jonathan S. Croom, were killed in an early morning fire at a Genesee Street deli. The two men were searching the building for a civilian they believed to be trapped inside, based on reports by witnesses who heard cries for help from the engulfed building. Firefighters have not found another body in the wreckage.
That night, at a town hall meeting at True Bethel Baptist Church, mayoral candidate Mickey Kearns began the evening by asking the 60 or so audience members to observe a moment of silence for McCarthy and Croom. He then proceeded to take questions for an hour and a half from the Buffalo Association of Black Journalists, who sponsored the event, and from the audience. Many of the questions were one-size-fits-all: What managerial experience do you have? How will you fund the quality-of-life centers you propose? Will you reduce or eliminate the garbage fee? Many more questions were laden with race issues, which is hardly surprising: An Irishman from South Buffalo is taking on the city’s first African-American mayor, citing former mayor Jimmy Griffin—a man widely distrusted on the East Side—as his political mentor. Was it true, a young woman asked, that members of his campaign staff had taunted fellow South Buffalonians for supporting Byron Brown? Why, asked Masten District Councilmember Demone Smith, had he not voted for any minority representation in the Common Council leadership? Why had he voted against several African-American nominees for various city jobs?
Kearns handled these questions fairly well, but finally said, “Okay, let’s air this out. You want to talk about this? Let’s look at the current administration.” The fire commissioner, he said, is a Caucasian from South Buffalo. So is one of his deputy commissioners. The commissioner of public works is a Caucasian from South Buffalo. The manager of sewers is a Caucasian from South Buffalo. The director of real estate, the commissioner of assessment and taxation, the deputy commissioner in charge of inspections—all Caucasians from South Buffalo. “It looks to me like you’ve already got a mayor from South Buffalo,” Kearns said. Zing. The room roared with laughter. Even Demone Smith cracked a smile.
Tuesday, August 25
Without seeking approval of the Preservation Board, city contractors demolished a 19th-century brick building at 311 Genesee this morning. The city took title of the property in October 2007, and the building’s steady diet of neglect since then led inevitably toward demolition. In January, the city issued an emergency demolition order, though preservationists David Torke and Tim Tielman report that they saw no imminent threat posed by the building that would justify that order: no falling bricks, no collapsing roof. Indeed, the city did not act immediately on the emergency demolition order, nor did they seal and fence off the property to keep the public safe from whatever imminent danger the building posed—hardly, it would seem, an emergency. About two weeks ago, Torke saw the “red mark of death” on the building—a signal that the city intended to take it down soon. On Tuesday morning, a demolition crew sent the building to a landfill. Tielman, a member of the Preservation Board, understands that the inspections department has discovered a mechanism by which Preservation Board review of demolitions can be waived. The board is seeking a briefing from city inspections chief Jim Comerford.
Wednesday, August 26
The lieutenant governor of South Carolina attempted to put to rest the long, weird saga of his philandering boss, Governor Mark Sanford, by calling on Sanford to resign. (Two dollars says it won’t work.) The lieutenant governor, Andre Bauer, said he would not run for a full term if Sanford resigns.
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