Seven Days: The Straight Dope From the Week That Was
by Geoff Kelly
Thursday, October 8
On Wednesday afternoon, at the public library downtown, Erie County Executive Chris Collins announced the formation of a Rare Books Commission to explore how best to showcase the collections of rare manuscripts and literary ephemera housed at various regional institutions. Given that the budget and four-year plan Collins unveiled a week earlier threatens to devastate the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library System, the commission might consider expanding the scope of its mission. Collins’ four-year plan holds county support for the regional library system steady at $22.2 million per year. But the libraries already have been dipping into reserve funds to stay afloat in recent years. At the current funding level, those reserves will be depleted by 2011, the year that the county runs out of Obama stimulus money, when the Collins budget suggests a possible 10 percent cut in county funding for libraries. Such a cut virtually ensures that the libraries will cut hours or close branches, reduce staff, and curtail acquisitions. As a result, books and access to books will indeed become more rare.
Since taking office, Collins has systematically been backing the county out of its traditional role as supporter for the region’s cultural assets. Another recent example is his decision to return responsibility for Buffalo’s Olmsted Parks system to city government, a move complicit with Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown’s wish to regain control of city parks ceded to the county in 2004, as a result the city’s fiscal meltdown. Brown, who has seemed scarce since thumping challenger Mickey Kearns in the Democratic primary last month, has been largely quiet about his plans for the parks and the Olmsted Conservancy, the not-for-profit to which the county has contracted maintenance for the parks since 2004.
Friday, October 9
Perhaps Brown’s absence from the public eye explains those two utility workers standing outside the South Elmwood entrance to Buffalo’s City Hall on Friday afternoon. Knees bent, hands on their thighs, standing on the lip of an open manhole, they stared into the deep, dank world underground. One of the men looked up and at a passerby and nodded toward the hole in the ground. “I think we’ve found the mayor’s office,” he said.
Today a spokesperson for Governor David Paterson confirmed that Paterson has asked his chief legal counsel to look into allegations that two Erie County District Attorneys chose not to prosecute political operative Steve Pigeon for election law violations because they were beholden to him politically. Prosecutor Mark Sacha accuses the DAs—first Frank Clark and now Frank A. Sedita III—of ignoring evidence he’d compiled that Pigeon illegally laundered campaign money for Paul Clark, the West Seneca supervisor who ran for county executive in 2007. Sedita fired Sacha last Monday, eight days after the Buffalo News broke the story. Sacha continues to argue that Sedita should recuse himself from the matter and appoint a special prosecutor to examine the evidence against Pigeon and his associate, Tim Clark. If Paterson’s counsel, Peter J. Kiernan, decides that Sacha is correct, he may suggest that the New York State Attorney General appoint a special prosecutor to pursue charges. (Here things may get sticky: Pigeon is supporting AG Andrew Cuomo’s presumptive candidacy for governor next year.) Kiernan also can recommend that the governor himself appoint a special prosecutor, although this is rare.
Saturday, October 10
Last night offered a little taste of summer, but in the worst possible way: Six people were shot and one stabbed in four incidents over the course of the evening, recalling a rash of violence that plagued the city in June, July, and August. David J. Hyshaw, 17, was shot in the head on Fillmore Avenue and declared dead on arrival at ECMC. He is the city’s 44th homicide victim this year. Half of those homicides occured between June and August.
Sunday, October 11
A half-ton, wooden carving of Thurman Thomas is stolen from the parking lot of Ralph Wilson Stadium and carried to Canada. Can the rest of the team be far behind?
Monday, October 12
The editorial board of the Buffalo News typed up a logic-bending editorial about the Common Council’s approval of the landmarking of 771 Busti Avenue, the S.H. Wilkeson House, which the Peace Bridge authority owns and would like to demolish to make way for the proposed bridge and plaza expansion. One of their arguments: The Council is contradicting prior agreements it ratified that allowed for the demolition of PBA-owned properties. The fault in that argument: The Common Council is fully empowered to change its mind on issues. Legislation is reversible. Another argument from the editorialists: This could cost the city money, and the Council’s action may compel the city to move the historic house in order to save it from the juggernaut of plaza expansion. The faults in that argument: Moving a landmarked structure would detract from its historicity; the PBA’s proposed expansion is not exactly a done deal; and the liability for preserving a historic structure accrues to its owner. But the editorial proceeds as if moving the house is the only means of preserving it. The PBA says it plans to demolish the structure regardless of whether the expansion happens—hardly an indicator of good will toward the surrounding community—but there is nothing legally binding in the memorandum of agreement that the PBA produces in justifying their ability to tear it down. The News is carrying the PBA’s water on this one.
Tuesday, October 13
Governor David Paterson signed the Green Jobs-Green New York Act today, creating a revolving loan fund that aims to help one million homeowners and small business people make their properties more energy efficient. The legislation also provides funding for green jobs training programs, a facet that is especially important to PUSH Buffalo’s Eric Walker, who, along with other PUSH members, worked hard to get the bill to the governor’s desk. “The need for the bill is obvious in a place like Buffalo,” Walker said. “Community groups are the heart of connecting people to retrofits and jobs laid out in the program. For us, going green is not just a lifestyle, it’s about survival.” Supporters of the legislation call it the most ambitious energy efficiency program in the country.
Wednesday, October 14
Also on the green jobs front: The office of New York Secretary of State Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez announced that Cortés-Vázquez would come to down on Thursday, October 15, to announce that Community Action Organization of Erie County would receive $3 million in federal stimulus money to create “a green workforce initiative and job development programs throughout Erie County.” CAO will spend $230,000 to build a Green Entrepreneurship Center at its long-time headquarters at 70 Harvard Place. To the victor go the spoils: CAO, which also runs nine Head Start programs and delivers numerous other social services via city, state, and federal contracts, is closely tied to Grassroots, the political organization co-founded by political consultant Mairice Garner, which produced Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown. The current president of CAO: Ellicott District Councilmember Brian C. Davis, whose involvement with the failed restaurant One Sunset continues to draw the attention of the FBI.blog comments powered by Disqus
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