Seven Days: The Straight Dope From the Week That Was
by Buck Quigley & Geoff Kelly
As we go to press, sources closely following the final count of miscellaneous absentee and other ballots in last week’s Buffalo school board election say there will be no change in the initial election results. Last Wednesday, the Buffalo Niagara Partnership posted its commentary on the May 4 election, offering that some races—ones in which their candidates lost—were “too close to call.” Well, now they’ve been called, leaving Andrew Rudnick to walk around like a bum at a horse track, picking up discarded betting stubs in the hope of striking paydirt.
With all the focus on the tangled mess that was the Buffalo School Board elections last week, the district distinguished itself among others in New York by failing to schedule the correct test dates for the math exam given statewide to students in grades three through eight.
The massive gaffe, which appeared in both the printed and online versions of the school district calendar indicated that testing would take place on Monday, May 10 for third, fifth, and seventh graders; while fourth, sixth and eighth graders would take the test on Tuesday, May 11 and Wednesday, May 12.
New York State Department of Education officials claim that all school districts in the state were notified that the tests would be administered statewide May 5-7 at least as far back as January. Still, no changes were made in Buffalo until the evening of May 5, after the first round of tests were to have been given that day.
Parents received automated phone calls that Wednesday evening, informing them that Monday’s statewide math tests would instead be given tomorrow. “Make sure your children are well rested and eat a good breakfast. Thank you for your continued support,” the message advised.
It’s a little mistake that affected over 14,000 students. So, while kids in Ken-Ton, Cheektowaga, and all the rest of our local districts wrapped up testing last Friday, 14,000 Buffalo public school kids went in Monday and Tuesday to finish taking the same test.
Meantime, on Tuesday, May 11, the Common Council adopted a resolution sponsored by Joe Golombek and Mickey Kearns calling for school board elections to be moved to coincide with general elections held in November. The move would require a change in the New York State Education Law, which contains an archaic section that calls for unique rules that apply to Buffalo—hence, our odd first-Tuesday-in-May practice that routinely brings out less than five percent of city voters to decide the board that will help oversee the $1 billion+ BPS budget.
The current practice costs $150,000 simply to run the election. That translates to roughly $24 for each of the 6,295 votes cast on May 4.
Another argument for the move would be that it would make it enormously more expensive for out-of-town interests to dump big money into Buffalo to influence our local school board election, as Education Reform Now did over the past few weeks. That’s not to say such groups won’t still spend whatever it costs, especially when one considers that they are backed by large hedge fund groups.
However, it’s a suggestion that’s been made for the same reasons at both the local and state level, going back years, and somehow never seems to get done.
LoCurto vs. Thompson?
As if this election year weren’t interesting enough, what with contentious primaries forthcoming for incumbents Sam Hoyt and Bill Stachowski, as well as for the seat to be vacated by the retirement of Dale Volker—all in a year when control of the state legislature means control of redistricting in response to new Census numbers. Now it seems that some Democrats are urging Delaware District Councilman Mike LoCurto to take a run at State Senator Antoine Thompson.
Thompson has been a frequent target of Buffalo News reporters lately. Remember the trip Thompson and his chief of staff, Mark Boyd, took to Jamaica? To investigate trade opportunities? And did you catch this week’s report about legislation Thompson sponsored to expand the definition of “serious injury” in a personal injury suit—legislation he introduced shortly after he and his wife have filed a personal injury suit in regard to a car crash that occurred three years ago? A crash in which, Thompson told his staff at the time, no one was hurt? Thompson’s new press secretary, former TV news reporter Ken Houston, told the News that Thompson would drop his sponsorship of the legislation to remove the appearance of a conflict of interest. (No doubt the Thompson campaign team will also return more than $20,000 in campaign donations received from Lawyers Political Action Committee of New York over the past three and a half years.)
There is supposedly a poll out there showing Thompson’s previously high numbers tanking. Asked by an AV correspondent if he was running, LoCurto had no comment.
Burying the Kensington:
Masten District Councilman Demone Smith is pushing the New York State Department of Transportation to consider a third option in its $2 million study of ways to undo the mistake made in 1968, when Frederick Law Olmsted’s Humboldt Parkway was sacrificed in favor of a high-speed expressway that completed the schism between Buffalo’s East and West sides. (You may have read about this in an Artvoice cover story a few months ago, called “Bury This Big Mistake.”) So far NYSDOT has focused on two options that entail capping a portion of the Kensington Expressway and restoring a facsimile of Olmsted’s parkway on top of the cap. In these two options, the expressway would continue to carry high-speed traffic between the city and its northern suburbs underground.
Last August, Mayor Byron Brown encouraged NYSDOT to include in its study a third option, in which the Kensington would be buried between Oak and Delavan and replaced with a low-speed, at-grade boulevard, integrating traffic into the urban street grid and hopefully providing a boost to nearby commercial strips. This “boulevard option” has garnered the support of urban planners and “complete streets” advocates, who point to similar, successful conversion that Smith cites in a resolution that the Common Council passed this week: the Alaskan Viaduct in Seattle, Interstate 70 in St. Louis, the Gardner Expressway in Toronto, Octavia Boulevard in San Francisco, Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn.
In addition to returning car traffic to the city’s street grid, the boulevard option has the virtue of relative cheapness: While the capping options are estimated to cost $350-500 million, the burying option might come in at less than $100 million.
Clock Ticking for St. Mary's On The Hill:
Last Wednesday evening, the upper portion of the belltower on St. Mary’s on the Hill, the crumbling landmark at the corner of Niagara and Vermont, collapsed. The bell itself was salvaged and delivered into the custody of Tim Tielman of the Campaign for Greater Buffalo History, Architecture, and Culture for safekeeping. Jim Comerford of the city’s inspection department has been advocating demolition of the entire structure, while preservationists have seek a way to separate the property from its absentee owners and turn it over to a developer who will save the church and the attached guild hall. Housing Court Judge Hank Nowak has scheduled the next demolition hearing on the property for May 27.
April is the Cruelest Month:
Fifteen times in April, city residents contacted the Mayor’s Call and Resolution Center and asked for help removing dead animals from their properties.
—buck quigley & geoff kellyblog comments powered by Disqus
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