by Geoff Kelly
The straight dope from the week that was...
Thursday, September 3
Was ever a tempest so neatly tamed? On Thursday night, there was a special meeting called by members of Buffalo ReUse who were dismayed by the firing of Michael Gainer, the organization’s founder, on August 17. Gainer was accused of, and confessed to, being a poor manager of the nonprofit’s finances, and of being a tremendous pain in the ass to his board of directors. Over the next two weeks, a subset of the city’s circle of progressives went to war, many supporting Gainer and others supporting the board and interim executive director Harvey Garrett, the West Side community activist who’d been brought in at the beginning of the year to mend ReUse’s finances and structural problems. Meantime, Robert Gioia, president of the Oishei Foundation—a major backer of Buffalo ReUse—issued a statement suggesting that Oishei might yank its money if angry members sought to reverse Gainer’s firing; his statement intimated wrongdoing by Gainer so egregious that it could not be named publicly. It turned out that Gainer had kept bad books and taken private loans to make payroll when grant money was slow to arrive, without board approval. His relationship was the board was toxic: At one point, he mooned them. Nonetheless, by means of quiet, mediated negotiations between the members, the board, and Garrett, an agreement was hammered out: At the upcoming annual meeting, the number of board members will be increased from six to 10. All but one of the current board members will leave. Gainer will return to Buffalo ReUse as an employee. Garrett, most likely, will move on.
In other news, US Congressman Brian Higgins warmly endorsed Mayor Byron Brown’s run for a second term. The city’s Preservation Board gave landmark status to 771 Busti Avenue, the Colonel S. H. Wilkenson House, which is owned by the Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority. The PBA intends to demolish the structure.
Friday, September 4
Hope fades eternal: Buffalo Bills head coach Dick Jauron fires offensive coordinator Turk Schonert, after a preseason in which the first stringers failed to score a single touchdown and the no-huddle scheme looked hapless. Alex Van Pelt took the offensive reins 10 days before opening day.
Saturday, September 5
The calm before the storm.
Sunday, September 6
Bombshell: In a Buffalo News story, two anonymous police officers revealed that in summer of 2007, just around the time that Leonard Stokes was pursuing loans from BERC to start his restauarant, One Sunset, Stokes was arrested outside the Ellicott Square Building on suspicion of possessing a stolen handicapped parking pass. Stokes pleaded with the arresting officers to call Mayor Byron Brown’s office. Eventually the cops did, and they were instructed to deliver Stokes—who was handcuffed and in the back of a patrol car by then—to the mayor’s office. Some time after he was brought there, Stokes left City Hall free and unfettered. The mayor responded to the allegations that he’d interfered in the criminal justice process with the most awkward and unconvincing string of “no comments” ever recorded:
“I will say to you I have no comment on your story.”
Brown then insisted on meeting privately with three of his advisers: First Deputy Mayor Steven M. Casey, chief spokesman Peter K. Cutler and mayoral aide Peter J. Savage III. Cutler emerged from the meeting, reiterating that the mayor would have “no comment” until the administration could “look into the details” of the allegations. One day after The News confronted Brown with the claims, he called to add to his earlier statement Brown said the claims are “politically motivated.” Brown faces a challenge in the Sept. 15 Democratic primary from South Council Member Michael P. Kearns. Even after being asked several times, the mayor would not directly deny that he intervened on behalf of Stokes during the 2007 police investigation of the stolen handicapped parking permit. “I am fact-checking this,” Brown said.
Stokes would eventually receive $80,000 in loans and a $30,000 grant from BERC, which Brown chairs, to start One Sunset, which failed last December, leaving behind unpaid loans and unaccounted-for inventory and equipment.
Monday, September 7
Things get worse: Niagara District Councilmember David Rivera, a retired policeman, said that an attorney working on behalf Mayor Byron Brown, Joel Daniels, tried to contact the officers who arrested Stokes. Rivera called this a blatant attept to intimidate the officers and calls for the FBI to investigate. Daniels and mayoral spokesman Peter Cutler denied that Daniels had been formally retained, but would not comment on whether Daniels tried to contact the police officers.
Tuesday, September 8
Meltdown: At a press conference on Inner Harbor development, reporters hounded the mayor to deny or confirm having helped Stokes with the police—or at least to say whether he met with Stokes that day. The mayor, usually so even-keeled as to be sedative, flipped out, calling the whole affair “dirty politics” originating from the Kearns campaign, and saying repeatedly that he would not answer questions about it, that “nothing was done wrong by me or my office.” “I don’t have to tell you who I meet with,” he said.
That afternoon, Common Council President David Franczyk announced that he, too, was asking the FBI to investigate the matter. He was too late: Sources confirmed for Artvoice that the FBI is already on it. The two police officers who arrested Stokes that day had already been contacted by the feds, as had Leonard Sciolino, director of the Division of Parking, who was reportedly present at Stokes’ arrest as well.
Wednesday, September 10
State Senator Antoine Thompson, an ally of Mayor Byron Brown, presented a $400,000 check to the mayor and the City of Buffalo to help fund the mayor’s demolition program. The centerpiece of Brown’s housing plan is the demolition of 5,000 derelict structures in five years. The presentation of the check was announced to the media with one hour’s notice, the day after Brown’s meltdown. A little positive press, anyone?
THE WEEK'S WINNERS AND LOSERS
Mayor Brown went on the defensive, accusing his opponents of mudslinging after reports he used his influence to get Leonard Stokes off the hook for using an stolen handicapped parking pass. He refused to refute or comment on the story.
Third World Hunger
Dignity took a back seat at the Buffalo Wing Fest eating contest, where Sonia “Black Widow” Thomas smoked the competition by eating 169 wings. In unrelated news, the UN estimates 16,000 children die of starvation every day.
The NFL has tweaked last year’s league-wide code of conduct policy for fans to deny entry to fans who appear drunk. Season tickets may even be revoked for offenders. Be prepared for A LOT of blacked-out games this season.
Conservatives breathed a sigh of relief Tuesday as Buffalo Public School children missed President Obama’s big speech to promote his socialist-communist-fascist agenda. In reality, the speech focused on working hard and staying in school.
Alex Van Pelt
In other Bills news, the rapid career ascension of former third-stringer Alex Van Pelt continued as he replaced deposed Bills offensive coordinator Turk Schonert. Early season drama and still not a peep from “locker-room cancer” Terrell Owens.
With the egregious news that “visibly” drunk fans will no longer be admitted to Bills games per league-wide “Fan Code of Conduct” recommendations, Artvoice is reasonably concerned about the fan experience at the Ralph. Its only reasonable to assume we’re going to need a a little liquid courage to stomach our boys in blue based on their performance this preseason.
If you’re looking for a silver lining, there is one. The NFL had requested that teams limit binge drinking during tailgating by keeping the parking lots closed until three-and-a-half hours before game time, a recommendation the Bills promptly ignored. Luckily, parking lots will remain open a healthy five hours before gametime and thus provide ample time to gear up for the game you are likely to be denied admission to.
With this in mind, Artvoice presents its 2009 Tailgate Guide, with an emphasis on keeping your substance abuse problems close to the vest, or rather, (wink) strapped securely inside your coat pocket, until you get inside the game. (Note: Artvoice does not condone, nor encourage dangerous or illicit activity. Our lawyers made us say that.)
The Beer Belly This clandestine drinking apparatus allows for the stealthy consumption of up to 80 ounces of liquid refreshment outside the prying eye of Johnny Usher. Assuming your average lite beer at the grandstand costs $8, the Beer Belly, retailing for only $34.95, seems like a steal. The downside: built to accommodate users with up to 40-inch waists, this product is most likely unusable for most fans. Available at thebeerbelly.com.
The Wine Rack From the modern drunkards that brought you the Beer Belly, a product for the ladies. This clever device, which doubles as a sportsbra, allows for the transport of 25 ounces of a delicious beverage of your choice (might I suggest something of the EJ Gallo variety?) while increasing your bust size to staggeringly unrealistic proportions. Men, show her that you care for the low, low price of only $29.95.
Binocular Flask Trapped in the upper deck, watching the game on the 2007 state-of-the-art (and thus, already obsolete) JumboTron? Kiss that two-week chip goodbye with the latest in chameleon flasks (also available in cellphone, sandals, and Bible versions). The binoculars are the least likely to arouse suspicion at the gates and with two compartments. Its great for holding 16 ounces of cheap hooch and a nice mixer. Retails for $21.99.
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