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Seven Days: The Straight Dope From the Week That Was

Thursday, November 26

The day after CEPA director and multimedia artist Lawrence Brose was arrested for possession of child pornography, his lawyers hinted at his defense: The FBI had not accused the artist of disseminating or creating child pornography, only of downloading images to his laptop computer. His attorney, Paul Cambria, suggested that the images comprised research for Brose’s often provocative films. Supporters of Brose, who was aware of and cooperated with the FBI investigation, quickly drew comparisons to the long and ultimately unsuccessful federal prosecution of UB professor Steve Kurtz for possession of harmless bacteria used in his artwork.

Friday, November 27

Not a single reported Black Friday trampling this year.

Today was National Buy Nothing Day, the annual 24-hour moratorium on consumer spending promoted by the Adbusters Media Foundation. As it does every year, Buy Nothing Day failed to prevent the day after Thanksgiving—even in these troubled times—from becoming a manic, credit-card-driven melee. The good news however, unlike last year there were no reported tramplings at Wal-Mart over heavily discounted Xbox’s. That’s what it’s come to people.

Saturday, November 28

Nothing happened today, unless you follow Notre Dame football, in which case AV offers it condolences on that loss to Stanford.

Sunday, November 29

Canadian police agencies set up a drunk-driving checkpoint at the Peace Bridge this holiday weekend, holding up traffic on one of the crossing’s busiest days of the year. Between 3pm and 8:30pm, police stopped more than 5,300 vehicles. Among those inconvenienced: singer/songwriter Anais Mitchell, who had played a gig the night before at Babeville. Mitchell left Buffalo five hours before he next engagement, in Hamilton, Ontario, just 65 miles down the QEW. But she was delayed so long at the Peace Bridge that she missed the show; instead, she turned around and headed to the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, were she caught a flight to Alaska and her next performance.

All of which goes to show the problem with our famous border crossing: It’s not the bridge, and it’s not the plaza. It’s the damn cops.

Monday, November 30

The partnership trying to purchase the Statler Towers failed to produce the balance of the $1.3 million purchase price by today’s deadline, set by the bankruptcy court that wrested control of the historic building from developer Bashar Issa. The aspirant purchasers, called New Buffalo Statler Redevelopment, had already paid $500,000 toward the purchase. Monday afternoon, the purchasers were to send $563,000 more to Morris Horwitz, the property’s court-appointed trustee, and $277,000 to cover city and county taxes and fees that are in arrears. An attorney for the purchasers did not appear at the closing, and later told Buffalo News reporters that there had been “confusion” about the time and place of the closing. Now the purchasers say they need another two weeks to come up with the money to seal the deal. Horwitz says he is renewing his options, including putting the landmark hotel up for sale again.

Meantime, the Reverend Darius Pridgen, pastor to more than 4,000 congregants of True Bethel Baptist Church, submitted an application to Buffalo’s City Clerk, officially becoming a candidate for the vacant Ellicott District seat on the Common Council. In addition to his resume, the application included a brief video in which Pridgen described his reasons for pursuing the seat. He delivered copies of his application to the eight members of the Common Council, as well as to Democratic committee members in the district, who will recommend a candidate to the Council.

Tuesday, November 1

A tale of two cities on Tuesday night: Over at the Jesse Nash Health Center on William Street, Buffalo firefighter Bryon McIntyre—another candidate for the Ellicott District Council seat—took part in a rally protesting Erie County Executive Chris Collins’ proposed budget, which would have closed the Nash Center and the Dr. Matt Gajewski Human Services Center on Broadway. (Democrats in the Erie County Legislature restored $2.2 million for the two health center’s in the budget revisions they unveiled Tuesday, but Collins will remove that money from the final budget if he can.)

Meantime, on the other side of Main Street, the swells gathered at the Saturn Club to raise money for State Senator Antoine Thompson, who remarkably predicted a month in advance that Governor David Paterson would cut off negotiations on a deficit reduction package on Monday, November 30, freeing Thompson to scoot out of special legislative sessions in Albany and attend his own fundraiser. (Cost: $50 to get in the door, between $1,000 and $5,000 for the truly dedicated Thompson sponsor. About 200 people attended.) As was the case at a Thompson fundraiser two weeks ago, the contact person on invitations to the event was Donna Luh, who was named last year to a seat on the New York State Thruway Commission. Luh’s involvement in political fundraising raised the bristles on Grand Island activist and tea-partier Rus Thompson, who led a group of demonstrators outside the restaurant and subsequently filed a complaint with the New York State Public Integrity Commission. After the Oliver’s fundraiser, Luh told Bob McCarthy of the Buffalo News that she saw no conflicts of interest in a Thruway commissioner raising money for an elected official, but that she would refrain from participating in any future fundraisers. So much for that.

Wednesday, November 2

Thompson returned to Albany Tuesday night to join his fellow legislators, who reconvened on Wednesday morning to consider ways to plug the estimated $3.2 billion hole in the current state budget. The State Senate has proposed a deficit reduction package that cuts $2.8 billion, which Paterson called insufficient. “Because certain legislators are unwilling to stand up and control spending for fear of the political consequences, I will move forward and implement the tough choices they were unwilling to make,” Paterson said in a statement released Wednesday morning. “In the coming days, I will direct the Division of the Budget to reduce State aid payments administratively in order to balance the budget and prevent New York from running out of cash.”

Basically, that municipalities such as Buffalo that depend on state aid to keep the wheels of government turning—along with a host of state agencies and not-for-profits—will be hurting for cash in weeks to come, unless Paterson and state legislators reach an accord quickly.

But there’s good news on the revenue front for the City of Buffalo, too: Today Martin Kennedy, in charge of assessment and taxation for the city, confirmed that the Episcopal Church Home at Busti Avenue between Massachusetts and Rhode Island city will return to the tax rolls this year. The facility shut down in 2005, when administrators said declining Medicaid payments rendered its programs economically unsustainable. While operating, the Episcopal Church Home enjoyed a property tax exemption, but Kennedy explained that the exemption lapsed as soon as it stopped operating. It’s not absolutely clear why the city took so long to return the property to the tax rolls, but the Episcopal Diocese of Buffalo’s tax liability for the empty campus will be about $240,000 in the coming year.

geoff kelly

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