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7 Days: The Straight Dope From The Week That Was

Thursday, February 11

The most curious fallout from State Senator Antoine Thompson’s hilarious comments regarding his failure to find his seat in time to vote actively for or against the ouster of his colleague Hiram Monserrate, convicted of a misdemeanor for slashing his girlfriend’s face with a broken wine glass? His attempt the next day, Thursday, to change his vote from a “yes” to a “no” on stripping Monserrate of his seat. Thompson was counted as a “yes” during Wednesday’s vote because he was not in his seat when the vote was taken, in accordance with an absurd State Senate rule that makes it that much easier for legislators to do the bidding of their party leadership.

Afterward, Thompson told reporters he had not voted “yes,” though by his absence from his seat he had done exactly that. So the next day, Thompson instructed his staff to ask that his vote be changed to a “no.” He was told that was not possible.

Friday, February 12

So who was Thompson trying to please by defending Monserrate and trying to change his vote from “yes” to “no” on the ouster of the Queens Democrat? It’s not Senate Majority Conference Leader John L. Sampson of Brooklyn, who pushed for Monserrate to be removed. It doesn’t help Thompson with Senate President Malcolm Smith, whose power is in any case greatly diminished. (On top of being displaced by last summer’s leadership coup, federal prosecutors today subpoenaed senate records on $105,000 in grants to a Queens charity Smith founded called the New Direction Local Development Corporation. Also today: Governor David Paterson signed into law a new ethics law that prohibits officials from using state property and employees in furthering their private business, a la Joe Bruno. That’s right—before Friday, that was okay in Albany.) But it might ingratiate Thompson—or might have, but for the ineptitude that made him a laughingstock last week—with Majority Leader Pedro Espada, one of the so-called four amigos, a group of Democratic senators that included Monserrate.

Saturday, February 13

Daniel Nye, a 26-year-old Cheektowaga man, hung himself in the Erie County Holding Center, the ninth suicide there since 2003. Two years ago the National Commission on Correctional Health Care warned county officials that the holding center’s cells presented too many ways to hang themselves, and the federal government in a lawsuit filed against the county alleges, among other things, that suicide-prevention measures at the holding center are inadequate. The Collins administration has denied there are problems at the holding center, but will not permit federal officials to inspect the facility. The Giambra administration, by contrast, cooperated with the federal inquiry tino conditions at the jail. A group called the Erie County Prisoners’ Rights Coalition, which has been holding regular protests of the Collins administration’s stewardship of the holding center, planned to stage another demonstration Wednesday evening in front of the jail.

Sunday, February 14

Harold Ford, who had lunch with Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown at Chef’s on Thursday, today gave a bromidic speech at the the annual conference of the Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators in Albany. Afterward he shook hands with US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who he expects to challenge in the Democratic primary this fall.

Monday, February 15

Last week, North District Councilman Joe Golombek held a fundraiser at Ulrich’s Tavern that drew many diehard opponents of Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, including Deputy Mayor Steve Casey and Buffalo Teachers Federation President Phil Rumore. Erie County Legislator Tim Kennedy was there, too, politicking for his run at Bill Stachowski’s State Senate seat.

Golombek as not yet formally announced that he’ll challenge Hoyt again (he lost the 2004 primary to Hoyt by just 760 votes) but is expected to do so soon.

But today another potential challenger to Hoyt emerged: Aaron Siegel, president and CEO of Franklin Credit Solutions and son of attorney Herb Siegel, says he’s commissioning polls to determine if he has a shot at unseating Hoyt in September’s Democratic primary. He says he’s prepared to bankroll his campaign to the tune of $100,000. His rationale is familiar: The region has had enough career politicians who depend on their jobs for a paycheck. New York State government is a disaster. It’s time to send long-time inclumbents packing.

If Siegel goes forward with this candidacy, it will likely pose problems for both Hoyt and Golombek. Siegel’s support, if he attracts any, will likely come from Hoyt’s base in the Delaware District, not from Golombek’s base in Black Rock and Riverside. But Siegel might attract voters and contributors opposed to Hoyt (or merely anti-incumbent) who might otherwise gravitate to Golombek.

There is reportedly a fourth Democrat in the mix, too: West Side community activist Jim Gambino, we’re told, has been encouraged by Kennedy to enter the race for Hoyt’s seat. A crowded primary is generally considered to favor the incumbent.

Tuesday, February 16

Buffalo’s Common Council passed a resolution sponsored by Council President Dave Franczyk that seeks to prevent the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo from selling St. Gerard’s Catholic Church on East Delevan to a parish in Georgia, whose leaders say they want to move the entire structure block by block. (You can read more about this on page 8.) Franczyk called the idea “architectural plunder.” A diocesan spokesman said that any effort by the city to block the sale of the abandoned church will be met with a lawsuit.

Wednesday, February 17

Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio sung through town today. Nobody, but nobody, cared. There may be considerably more interest in this visit: Rumor has it Governor David Paterson will come to West Seneca on Sunday to announce that he’s running to keep his job.

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