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7 Days: The Straight Dope From The Week That Was

New Orleans: Another city can now look down on Buffalo with a smug sense of football satisfaction.

Thursday, February 4

Word came down from Albany today that there’d been something of a housecleaning of the New York State Senate’s central staff: Several staffers associated with Senate President Malcolm Smith, who lost much of his power as a result of the leadership coup in the Senate last summer, were canned. What this means in terms of the shifting power structure in Albany is anyone’s guess, but it was a tough week for Smith: The awarding of a contract to run a casino at the Aqueduct Raceway to a company called the Aqueduct Entertainment Group has attracted federal investigators, who are questioning ties between the company and Governor David Paterson and other politicians, including Smith. Among the principals in AEG is the Reverend Floyd Flake, a politically wired preacher from Queens who is close to Smith, and whose support Paterson is eager to obtain. On Tuesday, a reporter asked Smith if he would rule out taking a job with AEG in the future—you know, for the sake of brushing aside questions about conflicts of interest. “No one ever rules out anything,” Smith told reporters. “If someone were to say to me, ‘Will you rule out running for president, Malcolm,’ I wouldn’t rule that out. I have nothing to do with AEG.”

Meantime, Paterson is about to blow gasket over the bad press the AEG deal is generating, according to Fred Dicker of the New York Post. “He’s become paranoid. He sits gnashing his teeth, looking around for scapegoats among the people around him,” a source told Dicker. “He’s lecturing them, launching into tirades, and he’s demoralized the entire staff in the process.”

Friday, February 5

Today the Finance Committee of the Erie County Fiscal Stability Authority voted to recommend a return to “hard” status if County Executive Chris Collins could not find ways to close future budget gaps that loom in 2011 and beyond. The control board gave County Budget Director Greg Gach until Tuesday to provide a plan; Gach asked for more time.

Saturday, February 6

A rumor began to spread last week the Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, whose campaign account balance was in the red as of mid-January, would not run for re-election this fall. In response to the rumor, Hoyt said, “They said I wasn’t running six years ago, I wasn’t running four years ago, I wasn’t running two years ago. I’m running.”

North District Councilman Joe Golombek, who narrrowly last to Hoyt in a 2004 primary, is expected to announce another run at Hoyt soon. Golombek held a fundraiser at Ulrich’s Tavern on Wdnesday night.

Sunday, February 7

Wonder how much money was wagered, legally and illegally, on Sunday’s football game? An estimated $5 billion, according to some experts.

Monday, February 8

Another day, and the New York Times still hasn’t printed to alleged bombshell of a profile that bloggers and newspaper reporters around the state believe will derail David Paterson’s campaign, and possibly force him to resign. The paper’s editors told an aggravated Paterson that they can’t control what other media say about a story they haven’t even run yet.

Tuesday, February 9

Protest of the week, Vol. 1: Angry families marched on the steps of the Rath Building today to to protest County Executive Chris Collins’ dogged insistence on ending subsidies that help working families keep their children in daycare—thus nearly ensuring that many of those working families will have to give up working and go on welfare instead, because they can’t afford daycare without the county subsidies. Collins has been absolutely intractable on the issue, but funding for the program was reportedly at the center of some horsetrading between legislative sessions last Thursday, as Democrats discussed trading approval for a bond issue Collins wants passed for continuation of the daycare subsidy—at least until next year.

Wednesday, February 10

Protest of the week, Vol. 2: More folks marched on the Rath Building to protests Collins’ cutting daycare subsidies for working families. Collins refused to meet them, but four of the protesters were invited to speak with Collins spokesman Grant Loomis and chief of staff Chris Grant. Loomis and Grant told the four that the administration would only restore the daycare subsidies if it could find $10 million in cuts elsewhere—possibly, they suggested, in the budget for legislative staff? “Basically the message stayed the same,” said one protester afterward. “They’re holding the kids whose families need this subsidy to keep their jobs hostage.”

Meantime, at the Central Library downtown, the Buffalo Fiscal Stability Authority—the control board—voted unanumously to approve Mayor Byron Brown’s $27.6 million capital budget, which includes $2 million for the demolition of abandoned structures.

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