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Seven Days: The Straight Dope From the Week That Was

Daniel Derenda: East Side soldier. (photo by Rose Mattrey)

Derenda Delayed

On Tuesday, the Buffalo Common Council’s Legislation Committee voted, four to two, to table Mayor Byron Brown’s appointment of Deputy Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda as the new commissioner of police. Which means that Derenda, who insisted in his opening statement to legislators, “I am a city resident and have been lifelong,” likely will have to camp out at one of the two houses he owns on Dover Street, near the Central Terminal, until September. (City residency is required of the police commissioner, and of deputy commissioners, but rumor has it that Derenda lives in a suburb.) Next week’s meeting is the last before the Common Council recesses for August.

Derenda faced tough questioning from the South District’s Mickey Kearns, and fumbled a few responses: For example, when asked the department’s annual budget, he replied, “70 to 80 million. I don’t have that figure.” (That’s a big window: Mick Jagger famously dumped Bill Graham as the Rolling Stones’ manager because he said the band stood to make six or seven million dollars on their tour. “Which is it, Bill?” said Jagger. “Six? Or seven?”) Derenda also trapped himself when asked about the department’s ballooning overtime costs in recent years. He said that on January 1, when he took over as acting commissioner, 70 percent of the department’s overtime budget for the fiscal year had already been spent. He proudly added that he’d reined in overtime dramatically in his six months as acting commissioner, and had a plan to shift greater control of overtime expenditures to district chiefs. But he then admitted that, as deputy commissioner in charge of operations for the past four and a half years, he had been in charge of distributing overtime—which is to say, he was responsible for all that rampant overtime spending in the first place.

The four councilmembers who voted to table the appointment—David Rivera, Curtis Haynes, Dave Franczyk, and Mike LoCurto—objected less to Derenda himself than to the process by which he was selected. The Brown administration promised a national search for a candidate, and insists a national search was conducted, but that is clearly not true: Derenda, who is close to Deputy Mayor Steve Casey, was Brown’s man from the start, and no other candidates were solicited or seriously considered. Olivia Licata from the city’s human resources department was handed the unenviable task of facing questions about the selection process at Tuesday’s meeting by her boss, Karla “TMI” Thomas. Licata pled a combination of ignorance and confidentiality, which displeased even Derenda supporter Joe Golombek, who chaired the hearing. In contrast to the Brown administration’s insistence on secrecy, Albany’s city government underwent a very public search process for a new police commissioner this year, identifying all nine finalists to the public and the media.

Still, barring some damning revelation, Derenda will most likely be confirmed when his appointment exits the legislation committee and is taken up by the whole Council in the fall. Franczyk is likely to vote to confirm in the end, as will Golombek, Demone Smith, Bonnie Russell, and Rich Fontana.

Heaney's Blog on Ice

The editors of the Buffalo News have at least temporarily canceled the popular news blog written by investigative reporter Jim Heaney. Heaney was the only news reporter at the paper who blogged regularly and his blog was surely, along with the sports blogs, one of the online product’s prime draws. Some are saying that the reason for the popularity of “Outrages & Insights” is most likely the reason it was spiked, too: Heaney used the blog to deliver scathing opinion and analysis, often regarding the subjects of his objective reporting for the print product, and to lampoon bureaucrats and politicians. Margaret Sullivan, executive editor of the News, explains it differently: She says that the paper has recently lost a number of reporters to contract buyouts, and so she wants Heaney to focus on reporting instead of blogging in order to fill the gap left by their departure.

The New York State Publishers Association recently named “Outrages & Insights” the best blog at a large newspaper, and Heaney finished second in the same category in the New York Press Association awards. The blog lasted two years; the last real post was April 19—“The two faces of Carl Paladino”—after which Heaney took a leave of absence to deal with a family crisis. He has since returned to work, but “Outrages & Insights” has gone quiet.

Who's In, Who's Out

Attorney Sean Cooney dropped out of the Democratic primary race against State Senator Bill Stachowski last week, citing the campaign’s failure to raise enough money to mount a credible challenge to the 30-year incumbent. That leaves Stachowski, Erie County Legislator Tim Kennedy, and leftist attorney Mike Kuzma vying for the chance to take on the Republican candidate, Assemblyman Jack Quinn III, in November’s general election.

Tea party activist Rus Thompson has thrown his hat in the ring for state comptroller on the new “Taxpayers” line proposed by gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino. They’ll need to collect 15,000 signatures to create the line and receive 50,000 votes in November to keep the line on the ballot in the future.

Last month businessman Rory Allen—his company is, a document production service—announced that he would challenge State Senator Antoine Thompson in the Democratic primary this September. He joins former State Senator and Common Councilman Al Coppola and attorney Mark Grisanti in that race. Here’s a puzzle for you: Allen is supported by the Buffalo School Board’s Chris Jacobs, who ran for the same seat as a Republican in the 2006 special election won by Marc Coppola, who is Al Coppola’s cousin. Jacobs is now allied, more or less, with the Grassroots political organization, of which Antoine Thompson—who supported Jacobs in both his races for school board—is a prominent member.

The Days to Come

If the tangle of alliances above leaves you addled, prepare for some clarity: By the end of this week, the candidates for the fall elections will have filed their petitions and their campaign finance disclosure statements. These should shed some light on who’s supporting whom and who’s a serious candidate.

Meantime, on July 20, the Partnership for the Public Good, which has been lobbying for a community benefits agreement for the proposed Canal Side development, hosts a forum called “Subsidy Reform in New York State: No More Candy Store,” which will examine what New Yorkers get for the nearly $6 billion a year spent on business subsidies. For more information, visit

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