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Seven Days: The Straight Dope From the Week That Was

This is what's happeneing thanks to a pissing match in the 144th district.

Golombek vs. Hoyt

Democrat Joe Golombek’s primary campaign for against incumbent Assemblyman Sam Hoyt finally responded to two slick mailers in which Hoyt’s campaign accused Golombek of courting the Tea Party vote. (“Democrats can’t trust Joe Golombek,” both mailers said, depicting Golombek sitting in a steaming cup of tea, with a picture of Sarah Palin on the teabag’s label.) Golombek answered this weekend with a slick mailer of his own, one side color and the other black-and-white. The black-and-white side sports a photo of Hoyt, smiling and squint-eyed, beneath a photo of the State Capitol. “Why is 18 year Albany Politician Sam Hoyt attacking Joe Golombek?” the text reads (sic and sic again). “Because Hoyt doesn’t want to talk about his own record of late budgets and overspending.”

The color side shows photos of Golombek talking to constituents and offers six planks in his platform: a 10 percent spending cut across the board; an end to pork barrel spending; docking legislators’ pay for every day the state budget is late; the right to recall elected officials; term limits; and an end to “stipends and hidden bonuses for legislators.” How the first two items are to be accomplished is not detailed in the mailer or on his campaign website, but all this in keeping with Golombek’s steady, anti-incumbent message.

The same day that Golombek’s piece hit the mailboxes of the 144th Assembly District, and new Hoyt mailer arrived, too.This one elaborated on the “Democrats can’t trust Joe Golombek” theme, this time steering away from the Tea Party allegation and instead accusing Golombek of failing to deliver for his constituents as North District councilman and delivering patronage jobs to a friend and political supporter. The mailer does not name the Golombek friend but clearly refers to Paul Wolf, who was the Common Council’s chief of until the new majority coalition formed after the 2007 elections and replaced him. Wolf landed at the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority as legal counsel, and word is that Wolf is one of several candidates who hope to represent the North District on the Common Council if Golombek manages to unseat Hoyt.

That’s Hoyt’s third mailer attacking Golombek, and Hoyt has sent out several mailers focused on his accomplishments, too. Golombek’s mailer was his first. The primary is just two and a half weeks away, and Golombek’s campaign has yet to show any sign of the deep-pocketed backers that most assumed would line up behind him. Allies of Mayor Byron Brown, who supports Golombek and despises Hoyt, have sent money to two new campaign funds that purport to be dedicated to running Democratic committee races but which might help out Golombek. There’s a rumor afoot the Tom Golisano, the billionaire who allowed political operative Steve Pigeon to spend close to half million dollars against Hoyt in 2008, will drop some cash on the race at the late last minute. Golombek may also get some support from unions, particularly teachers unions, who oppose Hoyt for his support for charter schools.

Off-duty cops at City Grill?

On Wednesday, the Buffalo News reported the allegation that there was an off-duty Buffalo Police officer present at the City Grill when the fighting erupted that led to a gunman killing four patrons and wounding four more. A source told Artvoice on Monday that there were in fact several off-duty cops present during the shooting, working as security. “The Department is aware of the allegations and looking into the allegations,” Buffalo Police spokesman Mike DeGeorge said in an email, when asked to confirm or deny the cops’ presence. “At this time because it’s a personnel matter, the Department can’t comment further.”

Geiger counters, HAZMAT suits, anti-cancer drugs: just another day in Black Rock.

Cleanup on Chandler Street

Last week, residents of Bridgeman Street in Black Rock were treated to a scene they hadn’t encountered since the old Buffalo Belting and Weaving plant was torched in April 2003: a team of EPA site investigators sealed up in protective suits and equipped with a Geiger counter and other contaminant-sniffing gear.

On Wednesday, August 18, an EPA team surveyed the former Universal Precision Machine at the corner of Bridgeman and Chandler Streets, directly across the street from the high grass and rubble that was once Buffalo Belting and Weaving, a former defense contractor. The cleanup there, subsequent to the arson that destroyed the abandoned buildings on site, cost the EPA more than $2.6 million. Now the EPA is preparing to remediate the abandoned and dilapidated Universal Precision, the roof of which is collapsed, according to neighbors.

According to an EPA official who took part in the survey, the Geiger counter was regular protocol: No radioactive material was detected on the site. The team found “paints and foundry materials,” the official said.

The Grant Amherst Business Association has asked EPA to hold a public meeting the brief neighbors on the planned remediation. In the meantime, a private security vehicle remains parked across the street from the building.

Tempest in the Tea Party

Earlier this week, Grand Island Political activist Rus Thompson issued an email accusing downstate Independence Party leaders of “political identity theft,” after Nassau County attorney and registered Independence Party member Steven Cohn filed petitions to run for governor on a “Tea Party” line. Cohn and his Independence Party friends, Thompson wrote, “are attempting to MISLEAD voters into believing that Cohn is some how associated with the TEA movement when in fact they are just a bunch of rogue political thugs trying to use the Tea Party name to get 50,000 votes so they can control a new party to benefit themselves.”

Indeed, if Cohn receives 50,000 votes, the “Tea Party” under whose name he is running will be recognized in New York State and earn a place on the ballot.

Thompson is an advisor to gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino and is running for state comptroller on Paladino’s Taxpayers Party line. Thompson is also a co-founder of TEA New York, which is primarily a Western New York organization, though it has endorsed a slate of “reform” candidates for elected offices across the state.

TEA New York is not to be confused with the Tea Party Coalition of Western New York, led primarily by libertarian attorney James Ostrowski and conservative activist Allen Coniglio, and comprising Wyoming County Tea Party Patriots, among others.

The two Tea Party factions agree on some matters: Both endorse Paladino for governor; both endorse former East Aurora mayor Dave DiPietro to succeed State Senator Dale Volker, who is retiring. However, while both factions have tied their political identities, philosophies, and ambitions to the Tea Party moniker, Thompson, Ostrowski, and Coniglio hardly present a unified front. In June, Ostrowski sent an email under the auspices of the Tea Party Coalition of Western New York suggesting that new Erie County GOP chairman Nick Langworthy might endorse Thompson, a registered Democrat, if he were to run against State Senator Antoine Thompson. (That race never materialized, and Mark Grisanti, also a long-time Democrat, plans to run against Antoine Thompson on the Republican line.) “There is NO TEA Party Coalition,” Thompson replied angrily, “all there is a trio of political wannebees attempting to be a political power house and becoming exactly what they say they dispise. Talk about 3 men in a room? This is much worse.”

(Sic, sic, sic.)

The local schism is a reflection of Tea Party factionalism at the national level, where at least three different organizations lay claim to the name, and of regional contention among Tea Partiers across the country. Libertarians, constructionists, the Christian right, conservative Republicans, conservative Democrats, birthers, gun rights advocates—all are laying claim to, or at least capitalizing on, the Tea Party movement. So who’s a Tea Partier and who’s not? Will the sentiment that drives all these factions toward one banner translate into votes? Come November, the ballots will tell.

Demonstration of the week

The military junta that controls Burma has finally set a date for the first elections the country has seen since 1991, but democracy activists, including imprisoned Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, deride the elections as a sham and are calling on Burmese to boycott the vote. One proof among many they offer that the November 7 vote will be rigged: This week the junta announced that, as of September, Burma will cease to issue visas to tourists upon their arrival in the country. The change in policy is intended to bar foreign journalists and democracy activists from entering the country in advance of the election to report on its legitimacy.

Local Burmese democracy activists will protest the change in policy Burma’s military regime every week beginning this Sunday, August 28, 4-5pm, on Bidwell Parkway at Elmwood Avenue. Stop to learn more, or at least give them a shout as you pass by.

Conflagration of the week

Dan the Wonder Dog

There are likely to protests the following evening, too, when the leaders of a statewide LGBT advocacy group host a meeting with local LGBT rights activists at the Olmsted Center on Main Street in Buffalo. A number of local activists are angry that Empire State Pride Agenda—which not long ago ceased to sponsor an annual fundraising brunch in Buffalo, because, its former director said, the money raised wasn’t worth his time and effort—recently endorsed Tim Kennedy in his race against incumbent State Senator Bill Stachowski, who has consistently voted gainst legalizing gay marriage in New York. Many in the local LGBT community, including the Stonewall Democrats of Western New York, favored attorney Sean Cooney in that race. When Cooney dropped out, many of his supporters turned to attorney Mike Kuzma instead. Kennedy, they said, only developed his pro-gay-marriage position when he became a candidate for state senate; he opposes abortion rights, which many regard as a sister cause to LGBT rights; he sought and received the endorsement of the Conservative Party, which has advocated against LGBT rights; he advertises on the website of Joe Illuzzi, who is fundamentally anti-gay.

Empire State Pride Agenda’s endorsement of Kennedy, these activists have argued in a flurry of emails this week, is evidence that the state organization remains out of touch with that local community. Expect these folks to give an earful to Ross Levi, ESPA’s new director, on Monday night. It’s at 7pm. Bring popcorn.

Godspeed Dan the wonder dog

Artvoice recently lost a faithful friend and ambassador. Dan, a dog who earned his name in the back of a garage on Gren-Way Alley, delivered more than four million copies of this newspaper in his 12-year career, covering more than 125,000 miles in the passenger seat. Two weeks ago, Dan’s best friend, Steve, laid him to rest under a tree beside a pond, next to an old friend. We all miss him.

-geoff kelly

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