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Seven Days: The Straight Dope From the Week That Was

Politicos, beware, Carl's bringing his fight to Albany - by any means necessary.

Pridgen's pistol permit

On Tuesday, the Albany Times-Union issued a warning to Buffalo developer Carl Paladino’s opponents in the 2010 governor’s race: Carl is packing heat.

Paladino’s name is on a list of every New Yorker who has a permit to carry a concealed weapon. The list was published at last month, generating considerable consternation among lawmakers in Albany, especially Republicans, including Assemblyman Greg Ball, who immediately sought to have the website shut down. (“Only by shutting down the website permanently will the continued security and privacy of residents statewide be ensured,” Ball said.)

Paladino is not the only aspirant to public office who has a permit to carry a concealed handgun. The Reverend Darius G. Pridgen, who is running in this fall’s special election to fill the Ellicott District seat on Buffalo’s Common Council, also has a concealed carry permit.

That Paladino should be licensed to carry a handgun is hardly surprising, given his politics, and the remarks his campaign manager, Michael Caputo, gave to the Albany Times-Union indicate that the candidate is not shy about it: “Carl carries everywhere it is legal,” Caputo told the paper.

Pridgen, on the other hand, is a leading voice in the city’s campaigns to curtail gun violence. His church, True Bethel Baptist, has hosted the city’s gun buyback program. Last February, Pridgen expressed outrage at a T-shirt that depicted President Barack Obama carrying a microphone as if it were a handgun: “We deal so much with trying to take that image of the acceptance of handguns out of the minds of children,” Pridgen said, according to Channel 4 News. “To have them hanging in stores and people buying them and the image being of the first African-American president that many of these kids look up to, it’s unacceptable.”

The address on the permit is 496 Cambridge Avenue, a house Pridgen owned between 1991 and 2003, according to Erie County real estate records. State law requires that the holder of a concealed carry permit keep his or her address current.

At press time, Pridgen had not responded to a request for comment on the matter.

Kuzma on the ballot

Also on Tuesday, a judge dismissed an 11th-hour lawsuit intended to remove attorney Mike Kuzma from the ballot in September’s Democratic primary, where Kuzma will face incumbent State Senator Bill Stachowski and fellow challengers Tom Casey and Erie County Legislator Tim Kennedy.

The legitimacy of Kuzma’s nominating petitions was challenged on behalf of the Kennedy campaign by former Buffalo Common Council member and deputy county executive Jim Keane, the Democrat who was trounced by Chris Collins in the 2007 race for Erie County executive. The suit was filed on the last day challenges to petitions were permitted, and the plaintiffs were unable to locate Kuzma to serve him papers.

The attorneys for Jim Keane—former BMHA counsel and acting executive director Gillian Brown and Jim Keane’s nephew, Michael Keane—are from the firm of Colucci & Gallaher, which to date has donated $1,500 to Kennedy’s campaign. Anthony Collucci III has personally donated another $3,000 to Kennedy. The Keane clan are big supporters, too.

The plaintiffs had hoped to serve Kuzma at a candidates forum sponsored by the Coalition for Economic Justice, but Kuzma did not appear at the event. (Canvassing the district? Otherwise engaged? Tipped off?) Nor could the document servers find him at his law office on Clinton Street. Thus Judge Donna M. Siwek dismissed the case against Kuzma for “failure to properly effectuate service.” If the servers had fixed the documents to “the gate or the side door or mailbox bearing Mr. Kuzma’s name,” the challenge to Kuzma’s petitions might have proceeded.

(At the CEJ event, the plaintiffs did manage to serve Tom Casey, another Democrat running for Stachowski’s seat. His case was to be heard by Judge Frank A. Sedita Jr., but the plaintiff’s lawyers pulled the challenge on Wednesday morning.)

At any rate, the challenge to Kuzma’s petitions was unlikely to succeed: The Erie County Board of Elections ruled that 1,341 of the 1,409 signatures Kuzma submitted—more than 95 percent—were valid. He only needed 1,000 to qualify for the ballot. It was unlikely that Keane’s lawyers would have succeeded in proving 342 more signatures were flawed, unless they were able to demonstrate some sort of pervasive fraud.

So Kuzma and Casey on the ballot with Kennedy and Stachowski. Fine. But what is Jim Keane doing filing challenges to petitions? Doesn’t he live in Florida now?

Sewers and sewage in the Great Lakes

On Monday, Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper held a press conference alongside the Commercial Slip in Buffalo’s Inner Harbor to announce the release of a new report: “Turning the Tide: Investing in Wastewater Infrastructure to Create Jobs and Solve the Sewage Crisis in the Great Lakes,” produced by the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, describes the causes and effects of sewage discharges into the Great Lakes and examines the efforts five cities—Gary, Milwaukee, Detroit, Cleveland, and Buffalo—are making to curtail them.

The speakers at the press conference were Jeff Skelding, campaign director for Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition; Congressman Brian Higgins, who serves on the Congressional Great Lakes Task Force; Matthew Driscoll, president of the New York State facilities Corporation; and Julie O’Neill, executive director of Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper.

According to the report, those five cities discharged 41 billion gallons of untreated sewage and stormwater into the Great Lakes between January 2009 and January 2010. The principal culprit is combined sewers. During heavy rains, the storm sewers in older cities like Buffalo are often overwhelmed, and, because sewage and stormwater tunnels are connected, the combined stormwater and sewage threatens to flood homes, streets, and businesses. To prevent sewage backups, system operators open relief floodgates, discharging excess stormwater and untreated sewage directly into waterways.

Contributing to the onslaught of stormwater during heavy rains is an excess of pavement. When combined sewers were built a century ago, far less of our cityscape was paved, so rainwater was absorbed into the ground. Today the water runs off the omnipresent pavement and into the sewer system.

So the solution is twofold: The city’s wastewater infrastructure must be updated, and measures must be taken to reduce the amount of water that the sewers are forced to handle. The latter includes pervious paving materials that absorb water, parks and wetlands, green roofs, and the use of rain barrels and other reservoirs to divert roof water from the sewers.

Taken together, Great Lakes communities face an estimated $23.3 billion tab for wastewater infrastructure improvements; the five cities in the report are looking at $3.7 billion, and Buffalo alone my have to spend $500 million to eliminate all combined sewer overflows in the city. Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper has been working closely with the Brown administration to develop a strategy to deal with Buffalo’s sewer infrastructure problems, and that plan should be made public soon, according to one city official. The issue, of course, will be funding, which is sure to be a topic at the Great Lakes Restoration Conference, which will be held in Buffalo, September 22-24.

Sam Hoyt strikes first in his battle with Joe Golombek, calling his opponent a Palinite.

Hoyt Strikes First

On Wednesday morning, Democrats in the 144th Assembly District began to receive the first attack mailer in the too-close-to-call primary campaign between incumbent Assemblyman Sam Hoyt and his challenger, North District Councilman Joe Golombek. The flier’s front page depicts Golombek sitting in a steaming cup tea; the label on the teabag sports a dour photograph of former Alaska governor Sarah Palin. On the cup are the words “Democrats can’t trust politician Joe Golombek” and on the bottom of front page are the words “Joe Golombek wants to be the Tea Party candidate.”

On the back is the justification for the front: The mailer, whose return address is Hoyt’s campaign headquarters on Elmwood Avenue, says that Golombek was one of only two Democrats who attended a Tea New York candidates night in June to seek the movement’s endorsement. The mailer lists some of the national Tea Party movement’s precepts —“banning abortion, privatizing Social Security, and abolishing the Department of Education”—and ends with this admonition: “If Joe Golombek wants to be a Tea Party candidate, so badly, he’s not a Democrat we can trust.”

The Tea New York forum was hosted by Rus Thompson, an advisor to gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino. (Thompson is running for state comptroller on the Taxpayers Party line, for which Paladino secured a place on the ballot by filing 30,000 signatures this week.) The other Democrat to attend the event was Tom Casey, who is running against incumbent Bill Stachowski, along with fellow challengers Tim Kennedy and Mike Kuzma. The rest were Republicans of various stripes, according to an account by Alan Bedenko of Assemblyman Jack Quinn III, who is running against Stachowski; Jill Rowland, who’s running against Congresswoman Louise Slaughter; Jim Domagalski, the former Erie County Republican Party chairman, who’s running for the seat State Senator Dale Volker is vacating; and Pat Gallivan, the former Erie County sheriff who seems to be eating Domagalski’s lunch in that race.

Golombek certainly has sought to ride the anti-incumbent wave that the Tea Party movement embodies; his primary argument has been that Hoyt has achieved too little in his 18 years in Albany to deserve another term. And it’s certainly true that a candidate must accept the negative consequences of seeking approbation from controversial quarters. (See “Wright, Rev. Jeremiah.” See also “You lay down with dogs, etc.”) But Golombek is having none of it.

“Sam must be desperate to attack so early,” Golombek says. “He has also refused to put his campaign name on the attack ad literature…I attended a candidates forum but never did I ask for the Tea Party endorsement, nor would I. Sam is going to do all in his power to run from his record of failed leadership in Albany over the past 20 years. I look forward to an exchange of ideas rather than mud slinging and half-truths.”

It is surprising that Hoyt went negative first. Barbra Kavanaugh’s primary challenge to Hoyt in 2009, directed by political operative Steve Pigeon and funded by Sabres owner Tom Golisano, was an especially dirty campaign, dwelling on Hoyt’s marital infidelities rather than issues. The Hoyt campaign clearly expects more of the same from Golombek this year, as many of the same folks who lined up behind Kavanaugh two years ago are working for his opponent now. At his campaign announcement at the VFW Post on Amherst Street, Golombek told Artvoice he’d play clean—but then again, Kavanaugh never personally issued a single attack against Hoyt in 2008. Her supporters did

So far, apart from shackling Hoyt with blame for the late state budget—our state senators are responsible for that travesty, not our state assembly members—Golombek has played clean. We’ll see if his supporters do, too.

That's one tough bird

Speaking of Golombek supporters and Hoyt enemies, political operative Steve Pigeon is turning 50. His birthday party is tonight (Thursday, August 12) at the Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society. Stop in and see who his guests are!

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