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The Straight Dope From The Week That Was

Thursday, August 27

Michael Miller, who had just been hired as the first executive director of Preservation Buffalo Niagara, died of an apparent heart attack. He was just 51 years old. In addition to his new job as PBN, Miller succeeded Russ Pawlak as president of the Central Terminal Preservation Corporation, which is charged with reviving the old train station on Buffalo East Side. Pawlak, who stepped down from the organization late last year, passed away just two weeks ago. “Michael was so happy with his decision to join PBN,” said PBN’s board chair, Catherine Schweitzer. “Through his dedicated service to the Central Terminal and Broadway-Fillmore area, Michael earned the trust and respect of the preservation community.”

Friday, August 28

Oh Frank Serpico, where are you when we need you?

The New York Public Interest Research Group, or NYPIRG, released a study today confirming a fact that most New York voters already know and don’t seem motivated to change: Our state legislators are a flock of sheep driven by a handful of their powerful colleagues. According to the NYPIRG study, members of the State Assembly and Senate nearly always vote according to the wishes of the leaders of their chambers.

NYPIRG found that the Senate passed 76 percent of its bills unanimously. The Assembly passed 53 percent of its bills without a nay vote. Senate Democrats voted with Senate president Malcolm Smith 99.7 percent of the time, while Democrats in the Assembly voted with Speaker Sheldon Silver 97.4 percent of the time. Seven members of the Assemby never voted against a bill supported by Silver.

Despite this lockstep efficiency, our state legislature got less done than ever this year. The Senate passed just 640 bills in 2009, down from 1,794 in 2008, when Republicans controlled the chamber. Only 554 bills were passed by both the Senate and the Assembly, compared to 811 in 2008. Most of the fall-off can be attributed to June’s leadership coup and the ensuing circus, which prevented the usual last-minute flurry of legislation before summer recess—a process that often finds legislators voting on bills they’ve never read.

Saturday, August 29

Despite morning rains, Saturday was a lovely day for an outdoor music festival. The organizers of Silent Exchange at the Yard on Tonawanda Street—an electronic music party that drew in DJs from Boston and New York—had every reason to expect a successful event. Instead, Buffalo police quickly spoiled the fun. Around 12:30, just half an hour after the event began, the first squad car arrived. An officer said that there had been noise complaints. This seemed extraordinary, since the Yard is in the middle of a largely abandoned industrial neighborhood. Nonetheless, the officer warned organizers to turn the music down, though he would not say how loud was too loud or from which direction the compaints had come.

The cops came again after three o’clock, and at 6:30 they arrived in force, billy clubs drawn, and told everyone to clear out. They would not allow the event, which had all necessary permits from the city, to move inside the warehouse adjacent to the Yard. Show’s over, and the organizers are out whatever revenue they hoped to earn.

On Monday the organizers learned that Buffalo police had not received any complaints directly from neighbors. Rather, North District Councilmember Joe Golombek had called the precinct, saying that he had received three or four complaints. Golombek claimed that neighbors felt they’d been brushed off when they complained to organizers that afternoon. But in fact no neighbors had come to the Yard to complain. On Tuesday, Golombek held a come-to-Jesus meeting in his office and apologized for the situation, while insisting that the complaints were genuine. But the event organizers sound less than impressed: They are consulting an attorney and considering suing the city.

Sunday, August 30

Highlight dish of the Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts, located one mile west of Main Street: vegetarian quesadillas and onion rings. Highlight dish of the Unity Fest and “Taste of Soul,” located one mile east of Main Street: barbecue ribs and sweet potato fries.

Monday, August 31

Buffalo Bills Coach Dick Jauron assures the press and his players that he’s sticking with the no-huddle, after holding a closed practice.

Tuesday, September 1

Mayoral candidate Mickey Kearns arrived 25 minutes late to his mano y mano encounter with Mayor Byron Brown on Tuesday evening at Gallery 464 on Amherst Street in Black Rock, and when he got there he wasn’t terribly conversant with the topic at hand: arts and arts funding. Brown was certainly more facile—he could produce statistics and cite his re-empaneling of the Buffalo Arts Commission, for example—but he did not win over much of the crowd, either. The event became interesting only when Kearns abandoned the subject and turned on the mayor, criticizing him for moving too slowly with zoning code reform, for being reactive, for failing to take responsibility for his administration’s recent scandals. Brown accused Kearns of promulgating negativity that would “set back this community.” “I’m not being negative, I’m being honest,” Kearns replied.

Brown gave his closing statement then excused himself—he had another event to attend. He did not listen to Kearns’s closing statement, but rather answered questions from the electronic media on the sidewalk outside the courtyard while Kearns spoke. The South District Councilmember spoke louder and louder to drown out the voices of the mayor and the TV reporters, and his talk turned tougher. Finally, he said that if elected he would not fire all the hardworking bureaucrats who rely on patronage for their jobs, as is traditional for incoming mayors.

“Those are good people,” he said. “I don’t want their jobs.” He jacked his thumb at the hubbub out on the sidewalk. “I want his job. That’s the job I want.”

In other news, a 56-year-old woman handed her purse to a stranger on the Rainbow Bridge, then jumped into the Niagara River.

Wednesday, September 2

Honestly, what can follow that? Her body has not been found.

—geoff kelly

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