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Six Days: The Straight Dope From the (Abbreviated) Week That Was

Wednesday, November 18

A scant hour after Brian Davis had announced his resignation from the Ellicott District seat on Buffalo’s Common Council, the bargaining and maneuvering over his replacement was the principle subject of conversation at Gene McCarthy’s Irish Pub in the Old First Ward. Gathered for a Thanksgiving-themed fundraiser to benefit Council President Dave Franczyk, a host of politicians, their supporters and staff, community group directors, and innocent bystanders considered the list of purported candidates, particularly firefighter Bryon McIntyre, attorney Bill Trezevant, and True Bethel Baptist Pastor Darius Pridgen. They debated the implications of filling the vacancy on the Council presidency, which is a bargaining chip both the mayor and the Council majority have to offer; on deliberations over the mayor’s capital budget, which the majority can alter at will if they can place an ally in the Ellicott District seat to counter the mayor’s veto power; and on next November, when whoever is appointed to the seat will have to run in a special election.

All this conjecture came to a momentary halt when an unlikely visitor stepped into the tavern: Steve Pigeon—political advisor to Tom Golisano, counsel to State Senator Pedro Espada, former chairman of the Erie County Democrats, a man people love to hate—entered McCarthy’s, walked to the end of the bar, took a look around the room, smiled, straightened his jacket, turned around, and walked out.

“What was that about?” muttered someone at the bar.

“Who was he here to talk to?”

“Did we just see the majority coalition get split?” said another.

Probably not. Pigeon was apparently there to talk with Dave Pfaff, a Franczyk supporter, who, like Pigeon, landed a job with Espada after the lead coup-maker returned to the Democratic fold. But a week later, tongues are still wagging about Pigeon’s unexpected appearance.

Thursday, November 19

Rudy Giuliani decides he won’t run for governor of New York State next year…and a grateful public sighs with relief. “But wait!” says Hizzoner. “Maybe I’ll run for Senate against Kirsten Gillibrand!” And just like that, Rudywatch is back on. Groan.

So who will the Republicans field against the Andrew Cuomo juggernaut and the incumbent David Paterson? Rick Lazio? Lehman Brothers executive Emil Henry, Jr.? Erie County’s own Chris Collins?

Friday, November 20

Paterson warns state legislators that Moody’s Investor Services is poised to downgrade the state’s credit rating, thus increasing the cost of borrowing, if state government fails to act quickly on a deficit reduction package. Legislators left Albany the day before, having failed to reach any consensus on how to bridge a $3.2 billion deficit in the current budget and an estimated $10 billion deficit in the next two years. Legislators returned to Albany on Monday, and Paterson is threatening to keep them in session through Thanksgiving. However, one local legislator is optimistic there will be a breakthrough in the next week: State Senator Antoine Thompson of Buffalo has a fundraising party scheduled at the Saturn Club for Tuesday evening, December 1. So all the state’s problems will surely be settled by then.

Saturday, November 21

When Sarah Palin’s book tour swung through Rochester today, she was greeted by throngs that had started to gather the night before, parking themselves in tents and sleeping bags in front of the Borders on Hylan Drive. By the time Palin arrived at 6:15pm, her fans numbered well over a thousand, kept honest by a few dozen peaceful protesters carrying signs that said things like “Defend Abortion Rights” and “We love you, Tina Fey.” Protecting Palin from the LGBT Bolsheviks was Jonathan Wellington-Fidrych III, of the Buffalo chapter of Billionaires Against Healthcare Reform.

Sunday, November 22

Bruce Springsteen played what is purported to be his final show with his original E Street Band at HSBC Arena.

Adding injury to insult, Buffalo offensive lineman Eric Wood grotesquely broke his leg during the Bills’ 18-15 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Look it up on YouTube if you dare.

Monday, November 23

An exultation of public/private enterprisers alit at Pettitbone’s Grille in the baseball stadium downtown Monday night to indulge in the free bar and buffet that followed the unveiling of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership’s 2010 Regional Agenda. A wish list for state and federal law changes and funding for regional projects ($450,000,000 worth), the agenda was topped for the third year in a row by UB 2020, the ambitious expansion plan forwarded by University at Buffalo President John Simpson, who attended the event. Also on hand were Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, Erie County Executive Chris Collins, and Niagara County Legislature Chair Bill Ross, all of whom offered brief, anodyne remarks. (Well, Ross—not so brief, not so anodyne. More like a used car salesman.) Brown and Collins both emphasized the need for politicians and business leaders to speak “with one voice” to Albany and Washington. Andrew Rudnick, the Partnership’s president and executive director (at about $400,000 a year), warned the audience of 150 that “there are no silver bullets” in the 2010 Regional Agenda, a 10-page production, then acknowledged that even more important than UB 2020 is the need for state legislators to close looming budget deficits without hiking taxes or enacting “ham-handed funding cuts” of the sort proposed by Governor Paterson. (Check AV Daily at if you want to read the report.) The whole affair wrapped up in about a half hour, at which point the suits flocked to the bar and the carving station. Everyone, even (and perhaps especially) businessmen and politicians, loves to get something for free.

Tuesday, November 24

Today the jury that heard the corruption case against former State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno began its deliberations. The last witness took the stand on Friday, and lawyers for both sides presented closing arguments on Monday. (In short: The prosecution argues that Bruno used his influence to enrich himself through consulting contracts. The defense argues that his private activities were legal and disclosed to the degree that state law requires.) Senator George Maziarz of Niagara County was never called to the stand, though he was on the witness list for both the defense and the prosecution. Mark Congi, late of Laborers Local 91 and currently serving jail time, had described Maziarz and as a liaison between the Bruno and the union, which invested its $10 million pension fund with Wright Investment Services, for which Bruno was a paid consultant. Laborers Local 91 was one of 11 unions whose pension funds Bruno steered to Wright. On Friday, Maziarz denied that he had acted as a go-between for Bruno and Butch Quarcini, the union’s business manager, who died in 2003, before the feds could try him on corruption and racketeering charges.

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