Seven Days: The Straight Dope From the Week That Was
by Geoff Kelly
Coppola Runs Again
It was not exactly a standing-room-only crowd at the First Amendment Club on Monday afternoon, when Al Coppola announced he would challenge State Senator Antoine Thompson in this fall’s Democratic primary. But there were TV cameras from Channels 2 and 4, and Buffalo News political reporter Bob McCarthy made note of Coppola’s entry into the race the next day. McCarthy also noted the site of the announcement: Black Rock’s First Amendment Club, which McCarthy described as “an independent political group that [Coppola] said encouraged him to run,” plans to devote considerable energy to unseating Thompson this year.
Coppola held the 60th District seat Thompson currently occupies in 2000, after winning a special election to fill the vacancy left by Anthony Nanula when Nanula became Buffalo’s comptroller. Coppola subsequently lost the seat in the general election to Byron Brown, then tried twice more to win the job, in 2002 and 2004. He served for many years on Buffalo’s Common Council. Asked on what basis he’d challenge Thompson, Coppola criticized the incumbent’s support for a hike in electricity rates: “I’m going to ask him to explain why he supported an increase in electricity costs for our region,” Coppola said. “We’re the third-poorest city in the country, and yet he supported a two percent increase in our electricity rates. The food prices goes up, the water rates go up—everything is attached to that.”
Cuomo and Duffy
White smoke rose from the chimneys of Queens on Saturday, when Andrew Cuomo finally made it official: He’s running for governor. On Wednesday he filled out the presumptive Democratic for November with Mayor Robert Duffy of Rochester. The selection of Duffy brings a thin thread of Upstate color to the fabric of Cuomo’s candidacy. Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown had been considered a candidate for the lieutenant governor slot, too, but Duffy—who took office the same day as Brown—has built a strong case for himself: Rochester, for example, unlike Buffalo, is well regarded for its housing programs and its use of federal community development block grant funds.
A Siena Research Institute poll released this week shows that Andrew Cuomo maintains a huge lead—more than 40 points—over all three potential Republican challengers. Among the Republicans, Rick Lazio leads Carl Paladino by 13 points and Democrat-turned-Republican Steve Levy by 15. But Lazio’s numbers are low: Just 29 percent of Republicans think he should be the GOP candidate, while 41 percent remain undecided.
Last weekend, more than 80 Burmese democracy activists from around the country and abroad convened at the Buffalo State College’s Bulger Communications Center to discuss how to topple the military junta that rules their home country. (The conference was the subject of last week’s AV cover story.) The conference resulted in a new coalition, called the International Foundation for Burma National Congress, embracing various pro-democracy individuals and groups around the world. Among the goals of this coalition are the drafting of a new constitution for Burma and the creation of a parallel government inside Burma, to ensure an orderly transition to a democratic government should new popular uprisings similar to those in 2008 succeed in bringing down the military regime.
Don't Forget Bonnie
On Monday, Mayor Byron Brown and Interim Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda announced that the Buffalo Police Department would begin accepting tips from citizens via text messaging, including videos and still images. Left out of the press conference was University District Councilwoman Bonnie Russell, who has been plugging for a text-a-tip program for three years. In July 2007, the Common Council adopted a resolution sponsored by Russell that cited the great success of Boston’s text-a-tip program, and called for Buffalo’s police commissioner—H. McCarthy Gipson at the time—to study the feasability of duplicating the program here. Russell says she kept pushing the program, and included it in the Common Council’s 2009-2010 action plan, but was told that technical limitations prevented police from implementing the idea. On Tuesday, Russell applauded the mayor and the police department for tackling those obstacles.
Derenda a "Shoe-In"
That’s how a policeman friend of ours described Daniel Derenda’s prospects for being named Buffalo’s next police commissioner. Derenda has been interim commissioners since Mayor Byron Brown unceremoniously fired H. McCarthy Gipson at the end of last year. The mayor promised that there would be a national search for Gipson’s replacement, but lately some members of the Common Council have complained that there’s been no earnest effort to find any other candidate than Derenda.
You may recall reading something about the matter in this column in the first issue of 2010: “The number one candidate is Deputy Commissioner Dan Derenda, who reportedly has the support of Deputy Mayor Steve Casey,” we reported. We suggested then that the Brown administration worried that the Common Council majority might hesitate to confirm the selection. In addition to kneejerk reaction to Casey’s support, the Council might balk because Derenda’s primary residence is apparently in Clarence and he lacks. A delay in appointing him would give him time to sort that out.
Derenda has donated $2,200 to Brown’s campaign coffers since 2006, and his apparel company, First Impressions, donated $696 in goods to the mayor’s re-election campaign. First Impressions has provided campaign support to numerous candidates Brown has sponsored in recent years, including Barbra Kavanaugh, Antoine Thompson, Jessica Maglietto, and Craig Hannah.
Not Our Cup of Tea Party
If the Tea Party movement is wearing on you, then you might find comfort and company next Thursday (June 3) at a symposium called “Not Our Cup of Tea: A critique and an alternative to the Tea Party movement.” Sponsored by the Western New York Area Labor Federation and the Working Families Party, the events speakers include Alex Blair, a history professor and Buffalo State College; Richard Lipsitz Jr., of WNYALF’s political action committee; Donna Chapman on the Working Families Party, Frank Mesiah on the Buffalo NAACP; and Tom Michl, an economics professor from Colgate University. It takes place at the UAW Region 9 Hall at 35 George Karl Boulevard, Williamsville.
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