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Michael Kuzma: Lawyer, New York State Senate Candidate

Get to know a Buffalonian...

For years, Mike Kuzma has worked in, and sometimes rallied against, City Hall in Buffalo, NY. If you’re tired of politicians whose positions seem to change with the wind, you may find his views refreshing. He recently announced his candidacy for the District 58 State Senate seat currently held by Bill Stachowski, who has served in local and state politics since 1974.

Why do you think so many people get so mad at City Hall, year after year?

It takes so long to get anything done. Whether it’s getting a derelict property torn down, having a street repaved, or a sidewalk replaced—it seems to take forever. As a result, people get frustrated, give up and vote with their feet by moving out of the city. This is the primary reason why the population of Buffalo is now less than half of what it was in 1958.

Most people have no idea who Leonard Peltier is. Why don’t they and why should they?

Leonard Peltier is a Native American, who is currently incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania for the shooting of two FBI agents at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota on June 26, 1975. February 6, 2010 will mark his 34th year of imprisonment in spite of the fact that one of the prosecutors in his case has publicly stated that the government does not know who shot the two agents. Leonard was a member of the American Indian Movement (AIM). AIM was targeted by FBI under COINTELPRO, which was nothing more than a dirty tricks program directed against political activists on both the right and the left. Leonard is viewed by Amnesty International, South African Bishop Tutu, folk singer Pete Seeger, fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, and others as being a political prisoner. Since 2001, I’ve been fighting to pry loose documents from the government under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) relating to the case. When Leonard was tried in 1977 the prosecution merely turned over 3,500 pages of material pertaining to the case to Leonard’s attorneys. As a result of the many FOIA requests we’ve submitted, we now know there are 142,579 pages of FBI documents concerning the case. The government, to this very day, refuses to turn over these 30 plus year old documents on National Security and other grounds. How can anyone say Leonard received a fair trial in light of the fact that the prosecution has, and continues to withhold thousands and thousands of pages from defense attorneys?

What’s the best way to spend Dyngus Day?

I like to stand on Fillmore Avenue at Paderewski with friends and watch the Dyngus Day parade. Afterwards, stops at the Central Terminal, Three Deuces at 222 Gibson Street, and Mickiewicz Hall on Fillmore Avenue are mandatory.

Sean Penn is generally recognized as one of the greatest actors of his generation. You’ve met him. Why do you think he bothers to get mixed up in politics?

Two years ago some friends and I met Sean Penn, Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich and his wife, Elizabeth, at the House of Blues in downtown Cleveland. I believe Sean Penn is using his celebrity status to put the public spotlight on important issues such as ending the war in Iraq and the inhumane blockade against Cuba, and that’s a good thing.

What can we expect to change when you’re elected to the New York State Senate?

I will address issues head on. You will never have to wonder where I stand on the issues. Among other things, I guarantee that I will remain steadfast in my support for same sex marriage, medical marijuana, term limits, end of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the immediate return of New York National Guard from Afghanistan and Iraq, strengthening the Freedom of Information Law, honoring Indian Treaties, including, but not limited to, the Treaty of 1842 with the Seneca Nation of Indians.

To learn more about, and to support Kuzma and his bid to bring intelligence and change to Albany on behalf of western New York, visit People for Kuzma on facebook, and the soon to be launched Web site.

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