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Seven Days: The Straight Dope From the Week That Was

Thursday, October 29

About 400 supporters of Assemblyman Sam Hoyt turned out Thursday night for a fundraiser ($150 per person/$250 per couple) at Ani DiFranco’s Asbury Hall. Hoyt’s folks called a “Legislative Victory Party,” marking the assemblyman’s successful sponsorship of the Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit, the Reproductive Health Protections Act, the Main Street Revitilization Program, and Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s Government Consolidation Bill. What the event really marked, of course, was the beginning of Hoyt’s re-election campaign. Last year political operative Steve Pigeon spent $500,000 of Tom Golisano’s money trying to unseat Hoyt, and rumor has it that Pigeon and Golisano will double down this year, with help from some other deep pockets. (North District Common Councilman Joe Golombek, who lost a primary challenge to Hoyt in 2006 by just 400 votes, remains the odds-on candidate for challenger. Folks are already figuring out who will fill his Council seat should he win.) The most surprising face in the crown Thursday night: developer Carl Paladino, lately no good friend to incumbents or Democrats of Hoyt’s liberal ilk. But Paladino and Hoyt were chummy. Maybe Carl figures anyone so hated by Buffalo Teachers Federation chief Phil Rumore has got to be worth supporting.

Friday, October 30

Does anybody still believe this is going to happen?

Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Martin Malave Dilan held a hearing at the Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society to hear ideas on how the state should spend $25.8 billion in capital project funds over the next five years. Joining Dilan were local senators Antoine Thompson, Bill Stachowski, Mike Ranzenhofer and George Maziarz, along with a well-heeled delegation from the state’s Department of Transportation and a host of varied interests: small railroad operators, developers, labor unions, and concrete barons—about 40 people in all when the proceedings kicked off at noon. Dave Pfaff, who runs the local office for Senator Pedro Espada, was there too.

The day’s headlines, forecasting a $10 billion deficit in the state budget over the next two years, were largely ignored until the last speaker, former State Senator and Buffalo Common Councilman Al Coppola, came to the mic. It was about 3:30pm, and there were perhaps 10 people in audience. Dilan was the only senator left to listen to Coppola, who had come to warn the committee against funding expansion of the Peace Bridge plaza. He and Dilan exchanged senatorial pleasantries (Dilan politely pretended to have heard of Coppola, whose stint in Albany was brief), and then Coppola held up a copy of the day’s paper, and mentioned the climbing deficit. “Kind of changes everything we’ve been talking about here today, doesn’t it?” he said.

Dilan shrugged and nodded. “It changes everything.”

Indeed, according to Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, only 35 percent, or $11.6 billion, of the money in the state’s Dedicated Highway and Bridge Trust Fund went to repair roads and bridges.The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle reports: “The majority of the money went to cover debt payments and expenses at the state Department of Motor Vehicles and the Department of Transportation…Using most of the $33 billion fund for other expenses has left the state unable to pay for a proposed $25.8 billion five-year capital plan for roads and bridges.”

Saturday, October 31

The stabbing death of 19-year-old Jacob Herbert outside a party on Lisbon Avenue was the city’s 50th homicide this year. Condolences.

Sunday, November 1

Moderate Republican Assemblywoman Diane Scozzafava, who resigned from the three-way race to fill the vacant 23rd District Congressional seat in the face of virulent, nationally sponsored attacks by Conservative demagogue Doug Hoffmann, endorses Democrat Bill Owens.

Monday, November 2

The New York State Senate is in the house again: This time it’s the Finance Committee holding a public hearing at the UAW office in Williamsville, on the subject of Governor David Paterson’s plan to close a projected $3 billion shortfall in the state’s current budget. (Paterson is asking for a 10 percent cut in expenditures across the board.) Numerous groups—culturals, social services, schools, healthcare organizations—that rely on state funding came to argue why their money should be untouchable. Local senators were joined by Finance Committee Chairman Carl Kruger—the guy who muscled Bill Stachowski out of the chairmanship, the promise of which Stachowski had made a central argument for his re-election last year. Presumably, the senators, having gathered testimony here and in other cities across the state, will return to Albany and vote precisely as their party leadership instructs them.

Tuesday, November 3

Election Day. Mayor Byron W. Brown, running unopposed, is re-elected with 15,932 votes—about five percent of the electorate and about 10,000 fewer votes than he got in September’s primary. (But still more than his challenger, South District Councilman Mickey Kearns, received in the primary.) The Republican strategy of keeping Buffalo Democrats at home by not challenging Brown didn’t hurt Erie County Comptroller Mark Poloncarz, who beat off East Aurora Republican Phil Kadet, whose candidacy was sponsored by Erie County Executive Chris Collins. The strategy did benefit Sheriff Tim Howard, however; challenger John Glascott might have come much closer if city voters had gone to the polls. Republicans also picked up three seats in the County Legislature. Canisius political science professor unseated incumbent Democrat Michele Iannello in the 10th District; her brother-in-law, Dan Ward lost his seat on the Amherst Town Board, too, which means the only Ward left in office is her husband, Erie County Board of Elections Commissioner Dennis Ward. Former TV news personality Lynne Dixon dismantled Robert Reynolds in the 12th District. And Dino Fudoli beat Democrat Diane Terranova in the race to fill the Fifth District seat vacated by Kathy Konst, who accepted a job in the Collins administration. Democrats won the right to substitute Terranova’s name for Konst’s on the Democratic line, but Republicans managed to keep Konst’s name on the ballot as the Independent candidate—and Konst, though not running, won 20 percent of the vote on that line, far more than Fudoli’s margin of victory over Terranova. Pretty slick.

Wednesday, November 4

Democrat Bill Owens prevailed in New York’s 23rd Congressional District over Doug Hoffmann, and so the GOP loses a seat that’s been Republican since Lincoln. What was supposed to be a conservative shot across the Obama administration’s bow becomes instead a victory for the sane and levelheaded. “Well, I didn’t lose the seat, the Republican Party lost the seat by picking and allowing and funding a candidate that wasn’t really even in any way, shape, or form respectful of Republican policies and principles,” state Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long told reporters.

-geoff kelly

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