7 Seven Days: the straight dope from the week that was
by Geoff Kelly
Thursday, September 17
Today, exactly one week after the New York State Senate failed to pass two much-needed ethics reform bills, a host of that chamber’s new hires underwent ethics training sessions in Albany. Among them was Buffalo’s own Steve Pigeon—former chairman of Erie County’s Democratic Party, current co-chair of Tom Golisano’s Responsible New York campaign committee, and now counsel to Senate President Pedro Espada. (Salary: $150,410.)
Hopefully Pigeon took notes, for himself and his new boss: Espada, of course, was one of the key figures—along with fellow Democrat Hiram Monserrate, currently on trial for slashing his girlfriend’s face with a broken bottle—in the leadership coup that paralyzed the State Senate in June. (Pigeon and Golisano helped to engineer that coup, in which Espada and Monserrate joined Senate Republicans to overthrow Majority Leader Malcolm Smith.) Espada has faced investigations into his alleged misuse of state grants and been fined for his failure to file financial disclosure statements. He has been accused of not living in his own district. Not long after he returned to the Democratic caucus, ending the stalemate, he tried to install his son in a job on the Senate staff worth $120,000 per year. The appointment provoked public outrage, and the son resigned after two days. Earlier this month, Assemblyman Mark Schroeder told the Daily News, “He’s a thug.”
Friday, September 18
The Federal Bureau of Investigation shot off a quick letter to Common Council President David Franczyk, in response to Franczyk’s request that the FBI investigate the relationship between Mayor Byron Brown and failed restaurant owner Leonard Stokes. The FBI informed Franczyk that his request had been forwarded to “the appropriate personnel who will review the information and take whatever action is deemed necessary.” The FBI is already looking into the $110,000 in loans and grants that the Buffalo Economic Renaissance Corporation, chaired by Brown, gave to Stokes’s restaurant, One Sunset, which closed last December. BERC staff and Brown’s deputy mayor, Donna Brown, also helped Stokes get a $50,000 from the Erie County Industrial Development Agency shortly before the restaurant went out of business. All those loans are in default, vendors have gone unpaid, and the restaurant’s inventory and equipment has apparently disappeared. Plus there’s that weird bounced rent check that Ellicott District Councilmember Brian Davis gave One Sunset’s landlord, Kevin Brinkworth, for rent…
The FBI has already interviewed police officers who were ordered by Deputy Commissioner Daniel Derenda to take Stokes to the mayor’s office after they’d picked him up for possession of a stolen handicapped parking tag.
What does Brown have to say to all this? “It’s nonsense. It’s behind me. We’re moving forward to build this city,” he told the Buffalo News. “People didn’t care about that. The voters have spoken. That was a non-issue, as I’ve said all along.”
Saturday, September 19
PUSH Buffalo held its Buffalo Takes Manhattan party on West 42nd Street tonight, to raise money for neighborhood revitalization efforts on the West Side.
Sunday, September 20
Jon Cooper, the Suffolk County legislator who is weighing a primary run against US Senator Kristen Gillibrand, passed through Rochester and Buffalo on a “listening tour” today. Cooper comes at Gillibrand from the left: He likes to point out that the National Rifle Association gave her a 100 percent rating for her opposition to gun control—a stance she has changed since being named by Governor David Paterson to replace Hillary Clinton. Cooper is openly gay, married to his partner, and father to five adopted children. Cooper returns to Buffalo next week, when the state’s Democratic Committee holds its fall business meeting at the Hyatt, September 29 and 30.
Meantime, President Barack Obama’s operatives leaked word that the president really hopes New York State Governor David Paterson—saddled with what would seem to be irretrievably poor approval ratings—won’t seek election next year. Obama, it turns out, is an Andrew Cuomo man.
Monday, September 21
Everyone says Obama gave Paterson the cold shoulder today as he arrived at the airport and worked a rope line in Albany, but I watched the video and I think that’s nonsense. Elsewhere, the Yes Men blanketed New York City with a million copies of a fake New York Post with a banner headline that reads “We’re Screwed,” forecasting global environmental catastrophe.
Tuesday, September 22
Here at home, the Erie County Fiscal Stability Authority pressed County Executive Chris Collins’s Six Sigma director P. William Carey to provide clear evidence of quantifiable savings that Six Sigma management techniques have saved the county money. The ECFSA has provided the Collins administration close to $1 million in efficiency grants to institute Six Sigma training and pay Carey to be the county’s full-time Six Sigma manager. (Salary: $115,862.) “We’ve been telling him that we need verifiable accounting savings,” said Ken Vetter, ECFSA’s executive director. What is it Collins likes to say? “In God we trust; all others, bring data.”
Wednesday, September 23
University at Buffalo President John Simpson delivered his annual state-of-the-university address at Babeville early this morning, borrowing themes from bluesman Robert Johnson, poet Robert Frost, and Rough Rider Teddy Roosevelt. Specifically, Simpson borrowed Roosevelt’s warning about skeptics: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again…his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” To which AV resident skeptic offered this reply, also quoting Teddy: “A man who has never gone to school may steal from a freight car; but if he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad.”
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