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Seven Days: The Straight Dope From the Week That Was

Your Money's No Good Here

Last week, we reported that Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, among many others, had been the beneficiary of a pretty substantial mailing campaign paid for by Education Reform Now, a group based in New York City that advocates for charter schools. The slick, glossy mailers thanked Hoyt—as well as Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, State Senator Antoine Thompson, and Assemblyman Robin Schimminger—for voting to lift the cap on charter schools in New York State.

Hoyt’s response: The day our report came out, he sent a letter to Education Reform Now asking the group to “cease and desist in any further activity on my behalf.” Hoyt explained that in 2008, his primary opponent had benefitted greatly from independent expenditures—that would be Barbra Kavanaugh, on whose cause Steve Pigeon spent about a half million of Tom Golisano’s dollars—and that, as a result, he was loath to accept the same sort of support, which under New York State election law is practically unregulated: There are no contribution limits for independent expenditures and reporting rules are lax.

Hoyt pointed out in his letter that he had recently voted for a bill that would require, in the case of any independent expenditure of $1,000 or more on behalf of a candidate or an issue, that the source of the expenditure be disclosed and that candidate-specific communications—such as the mailings from Education Reform Now—acknowledge that the candidate did not authorize the communication.

Since 2006, Hoyt has received at least $7,100 in contributions from Democrats for Education Reform, a political action committee associated with Education Reform Now. The next round of financial disclosure reports are due to be filed July 15.

As we noted last week, Hoyt’s primary opponent, North District Councilman Joe Golombek, is likely to benefit from some independent expenditures, possibly from the Pigeon-Golisano camp. He’ll have help from Mayor Byron Brown, too. “It’s either the smartest thing we’ve ever done or the stupidest,” said attorney Jeremy Toth, who is managing Hoyt’s campaign. “I haven’t decided which yet.”

Thein Sein, prime minister of Burma: This guy has got to go.

West Sider to head Burmese Opposition Party

Late last month, Myo Thant, a Burmese democracy activist who lives on Buffalo’s West Side, was elected chairman of the National League for Democracy, Burma’s leading opposition party. Myo Thant became active in Burma’s during the uprisings of 1988, when he dropped out of school and helped to form the NLD. In Burma’s 1990 elections, the NLD won an overwhelming majority in the country’s parliament, but the military regime refused to seat the new members of parliament and the NLD’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, was placed under house arrest, a condition under which she has lived pretty much ever since. Myo Thant lived at Aung San Suu Kyi’s compound for a year and a half before slipping out of Burma to Thailand to avoid imprisonment. He eventually settled in Buffalo, with the help of Journey’s End Refugee Services. Myo Thant was instrumental in organizing last month’s conference of Burmese democracy activists at Buffalo State College.

And a Happy Birthday

…to Aung Sa Suu Kyi, whose 65th birthday was marked with an evening of conversation, speeches, music, noodles, and fish soup at the West Side Value Laundromat on Massachusetts Avenue.

New Post for Granville

One of Buffalo City Hall’s consummate survivors, David Granville, has a new job description. Granville, who survived the purge of Masiello administration employees when Byron Brown took over the mayor’s office, was seconded to Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency by Brown, where he served as a deputy first to Rich Tobe and then to Brian Reilly.

Granville’s new job is employment and training coordinator for the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority.

The move opens up a slot at BURA, which offers a helpful opportunity to the Brown administration: For one thing, at some point some employees of the Buffalo Economic Renaissance Corporation, which the mayor intends to dissolve, will have to move to BURA. As we reported last week, BERC employees continue to maintain existing loans, which likely will be transferred to BURA along with BERC’s other assets. Last week the mayor’s finance director, Janet Penska, told members of the Common Council that she expected BERC would cease to exist by September.

Survey Says

There’s a new poll from Quinnipiac University that tells an old story: The voters of New York State think their government is completely dysfunctional. To be sure, the numbers are exacerbated by the state’s fiscal crisis and its extremely late budget.(On Tuesday Gov. David Paterson said he was optimistic that a budget would be adopted on Monday.) Eighty-three percent of voters now say Albany as a whole is useless. Seventy-six percent disapprove of the way the state legislature is doing its job.

And here’s the real evidence that this election year may be different than others: Fifty-one percent of voters say that the entire State Senate—including their own representative—should be sent home. Fifty percent believe in replacing the entire State Assembly, too. In previous years, even when budgets were late and lobbyists running amok, polls tended to show that voters distrusted state government but felt that voters in other districts needed to replace their incumbents.

Any interesting outrider question in the poll asked voters about redistricting, which is at the heart of this election cycle’s especially furious politicking: With the 2010 Census, all the district lines in the state will be redrawn, and whoever controls the state legislature next year will control redistricting. Fifty-nine percent of voters said they believe that all candidates for state offices should sign a pledge to support the creation of an independent body to redraw district lines.

Color Us Intrigued

…by a comment made by former Buffalo Police Detective Dennis Delano at a press conference on Monday, called by the family of Amanda Wienckowski, the young woman whose body was found in a trash can in January 2009, a month after she disappeared. (She was last seen being dropped off by an acquaintance named Adam Patterson at the house of a drug dealer named Antoine Garner.) The family argues that the police have been mishandling the investigation from the get-go, ignoring evidence that they say indicates she was murdered rather than the victim of an overdose. Delano, a former cold case investigator, is helping the family to piece together the story of the 20-year-old’s death, which he says has the hallmarks of a coverup.

The story has been well covered in the media but for one remark by Delano: “It’s my opinion that if you find out who Antoine Garner is related to, you’ll find the key to opening this whole thing.”

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