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I Was Right

They called me a conspiracy theorist, but everything I said about the Erie County Legislature came true last week

Last month, Artvoice printed my observations/predictions about the reorginization of the Erie County Legislature—who was pulling whose strings and who was aligning themselves with Steve Pigeon. Most of the anonymous online commentators at labeled my article as conspiratorial rantings. Others simply said I was whining. While both insults are true (and deeply hurtful), the fact is, one month later, virtually everything I wrote has come to pass. Not to blow my own horn but toot-freakin-toot—I called it to a tee. Not just the overarching theme of Steve Pigeon controlling multiple moving parts to increase his own power, but many of the subplots I highlighted appear to be spot on.

In exchange for new Legislator Christina Bove’s vote for Barbara Miller-Williams as chair of the legislature, Sandra Rosenswie got a job on the county legislature for $39,000. Rosenswie is the chairwoman of the Erie County Independence Party, once again proving that the Independence Party is neither independent nor a party. Another new face on staff is Sheila Meegan, daughter of Steve Pigeon’s mentor, Chris Walsh. Sheila Meegan’s campaign for town board member in West Seneca was marked by all of the same questionable fundraising activities that attach to all of Pigeon’s candidates.

Since my article appeared, Legislator Tim Kennedy has announced that he is running against State Senator Bill Stachowski. He has also been seen all over town with Steve Pigeon, from Sandra Rosenswie’s fundraiser for herself (next time you have a birthday party, just make it a fundraiser) to grabbing a slice of pizza in the Main Place Mall. Kennedy has said publicly that he would gladly accept Tom Golisano’s help.

In addition, Congressman Brian Higgins personally shopped the idea of dumping Legislator Maria Whyte as majority leader and giving the position to Tom Mazur in order to peel off Mazur’s vote for Miller-Williams and the coalition of six Republicans and three Democrats. Anyone who doubts that Higgins’ political machine and Steve Pigeon are joined at the hip is smoking very good dope.

Through all of these inter-Democratic Party machinations, the Republican legislators who actually made the deal happen look like a bunch of hapless suckers. Not only are they getting almost nothing for their six votes for an inner city legislator but they have been put in the awkward position of defending all of the moves. At the press conference held after the reorganization, the Republicans looked and sounded as skeptical as the media. The media has taken to calling this alliance a “reform coalition,” as billed by Miller-Williams. But when you hear Legislators Kevin Hardwick or John Mills or Lynne Dixon talk about it, they sound embarrassed. I guess they’re smart enough to know what’s what but not strong enough to say no. Ah well, at least three of them will be gone in two years.

So the landscape of Erie County politics is as it was when Steve Pigeon was chairman of the county Democrats. Party identification and ideology is cast aside for short-term political gain. Bizarre relationships develop between people who don’t like each other and totally incompetent hacks get jobs at taxpayer expense. We have fallen into a rabbit hole, and Steve Pigeon has invited us all for tea.

And here are some things to watch as we move forward into 2010: Will Governor David Paterson appoint a special prosecutor to investigate some or all of Pigeon’s activities? If he does, will he appoint Attorney General Andrew Cuomo as special prosecutor or someone else? Speaking of Cuomo, assuming he runs for governor, will he accept Pigeon’s support while Pigeon is also close to Chris Collins, the likely Republican gubernatorial candidate, or will Pigeon actually have to choose one side over the other? Who will be the next appointment to the Erie County Water Authority, now that Pigeon controls the legislature? Who will ultimately emerge as the Erie County Democratic Party Chairman Len Lenihan’s opponent, backed by Higgins, Brown, and Pigeon? When will North District Common Councilman Joe Golombek announce he is running against Assemblyman Sam Hoyt—and will he try to keep Pigeon’s money a secret like he did in 2004?

The great thing about having Pigeon in charge is that we all get to witness his madness. Sure, there is no positive policy development and the most corruptible are promoted, but boy—it’s a hoot. It wouldn’t even surprise me if I were bought off with a lucrative no-show job somewhere. I guess if you see an article by me praising the vision of Steve Pigeon, you’ll know he got me too.

Jeremy Toth is a local attorney and proud political hack.

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