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Seven Days: The Straight Dope From the Week That Was

Wheresoever Antoine Thompson runs, Rus Thompson isn't far behind.

Thursday, November 12

For once in your life you don’t control something, I do,” US District Judge Gary L. Sharpe snapped at former Senate Majority Joe Bruno, on trial in Albany for allegedly using his influence as one of the state’s three most powerful elected officials to drum up business for an investment firm that employed him as a consultant. Sharpe had overheard Bruno as he muttered something disparaging about the judge’s decision to allow a prosecutor to re-question a witness during the defense’s cross-examination. “You ever do what you just did in the presence of that jury again, which is question any of my rulings, I will take measures to make sure you don’t repeat that,” Sharpe said. “Do you understand me?’’

Coming up on the witness list in the Bruno trial: State Senator George Maziarz of Niagara County, who will certainly be asked how Laborers Local 91 came to invest $10 million in pension funds with Wright Investment Services, the firm for which Bruno consulted.

Friday, November 13

On Friday morning, Ellicott District Councilman Brian C. Davis inadvertently resigned office by pleading guilty to two misdemeanors in front of Buffalo City Court Judge Thomas P. Amodeo. (You may have read about it in the papers.) Davis, unaware that his plea had cost him his job, continued to pretend to be a councilman for nearly a week, while his allies and enemies in City Hall lined up possible replacements.

That evening, Davis’s fellow Grassroots member, State Senator Antoine Thompson, enjoyed a well-attended fundraiser held at Oliver’s Restaurant on Delaware Avenue. The price of admission was $200 for the working man, and between $1,000 (bronze sponsorship) and $5,000 (gold) for the swells. The party’s organizer was Donna J. Luh, who was named last year to a seat on the New York State Thruway Commission. Luh’s involvement in a political fundraiser stuck in the craw of Grand Island activist and tea-partier Rus Thompson, who led a group of demonstrators outside the restaurant on Friday evening. Thompson said he planned to file a complaint on Monday morning with the New York State Public Integrity Commission. “Donna Luh serves as a commissioner for the New York State Thruway Commission. She serves on the board. She is acting as an agent for Senator Thompson…which is a clear violation of New York State ethics,” Thompson said.

Saturday, November 14

Magilla Schaus was laid to rest today, taken at last by the cancer that one never imagined could beat him. Schaus was a surfer who celebrated the waves of the Great Lakes, and president of the Wyldewood Surf Club. He was a film producer and actor who delighted in B-grade schlock. He was a veteran of the US Navy and a Buffalo firefighter for 20 years. He was also a relentless, fearless, and thoughtful activist, advocating neighborhood and global causes with equal intelligence and integrity. On that account, Magilla was a frequent correspondent with this newspaper—sometimes a critic, sometimes a cheerleader, always chiding us to do more. Here’s a comment he left on a post at AV Daily, part of a rant against the Buffalo & Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority and its plan to expand the footprint of the Peace Bridge plaza on Buffalo’s West Side, where Magilla lived:

Freedom and rights does not come freely. To be a true American is to respect the rights and humanity of all people. We either stand for the best principles of liberty and justice or we stand for nothing. Our families and neighbors heath and rights are worth standing up for using every legal and non violent tactic guaranteed to us by the laws of our land.

The service was held at St. Louis Roman Catholic Church on Main Street, just down the street from Artvoice’s office. As I write this, the “No Parking” signs still hang on the parking meters up and down the block, reminding me of his passing. We’ll miss him.

Sunday, November 15

Quiet. Maybe too quiet.

Monday, November 16

Another dysfunctional day at the Capitol,” is how one Albany lobbyist described Monday. Governor David Paterson called legislators back into special session to address what his office estimates will be a $3.2 billion shortfall in this year’s state budget, but senators and Assembly members managed to do little more than collect a day’s pay and snipe at one another. Carl Kruger, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, accused Paterson of exaggerating the deficit crisis, then insisted that the governor begin collecting taxes on Indian cigarettes and gasoline sold to non-natives. By doing so, Kruger posited, the state could pull in an additional $1.6 billion annually. The New York Daily News quoted a budget official as responding, “If people smoked that much there would be a big black cloud over the state blocking out the sun.”

At press time on Wednesday, legislators still had not struck a deal on a deficit reduction package but promised to continue talking.

Tuesday, November 17

On Monday, Common Council president Dave Franczyk announced that Ellicott District Councilman Brian C. Davis had been stripped of his various committee posts, including his seat as chair of the Police Oversight Committee. On Tuesday, the defiant Davis—who insisted on Friday, after pleading guilty to diverting campaign funds for personal use and filing false campaign finance disclosure statements, that he would not resign—obliged his colleagues by failing to show up for work.

Meantime, Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson fired head coach Dick Jauron and in Hamburg, and voters fired two town councilmen, passing a referendum that reduces the size of the town board from five to three. The vote marks another victory for the campaign led by attorney Kevin Gaughan to reduce the number of elected officials in Erie County. He’s now 5-0 in municipalities where his downsizing initiative gets on the ballot.

Wednesday, November 18

A tantalizing new rumor circulates regarding a possible replacement for disgraced Ellicott District Councilman Brian C. Davis, whose resignation is redundant but welcomed even by his political allies on the Common Council: Will Mayor Byron Brown back the Reverend Darius Pridgen, pastor of True Bethel Baptist Church?

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