Seven Days: The Straight Dope From the Week That Was
by Geoff Kelly
Thursday, February 25
You’ve already heard this by now, thanks to Jim Heaney at the Buffalo News: While his colleagues in the State Assembly were conducting budget hearings in Albany today, State Senator Antoine Thompson was in Jamaica, a trip he’d taken without bothering to tell the State Senate where he was going. The trip to Ocho Rios’ Sunset Jamaica Grande all-inclusive resort was organized by the Jamaican and American Association of Buffalo, and Thompson’s chief of staff, Mark Boyd, who joined Thompson in Jamaica, described the trip as a kind of trade mission, entailing long days meeting with officials. (Boyd did not say exactly what sort of trade Buffalo might establish with Jamaica.) The invitation to join the trip on the association’s Web site (www.jaab.org) doesn’t say anything about it being a working trip, however, and for several days Thompson’s staff wo uld not disclose his whereabouts. Boyd told the News that the trip would be paid for out of Thompson’s campaign funds.
Friday, February 26
Governor David Paterson—beset by accusations of using state police to silence a woman who accused the governor’s top aide of beating her, as well as complicity in the Acqueduct casiono scandal, as well as by poor poll numbers and anemic fundraising—decided today not to seek election this fall. No word whether he’ll resign, too, leaving fabulously wealthy developer Richard Ravitch interim governor, but odds are he’ll have to once Attorney General (and unannounced gubernatorial candidate) Andrew Cuomo finishes his probe into the allegations.
On to more important news: We here at AV are pleased to announce the winners of the Best Southern Comfort float contest in our Mardi Gras parade. After the parade, our readers voted online to decide who would win the top prize of a trip for two to New Orleans. Second and third place entries will be awarded assorted prize packs. The winners are: First place—Krazy Kajun Kellers (Don and Jennifer Keller) with their “SoCo Mojo” float. Second place: The Buffalo Ruse (Frank Brutus, Hardy Astrom, Larry Flesler, Ronn Chesmond, Jerry Mulligan, Murray Lite) with their “Headlines” float. Third place: Evangola State Park (Captain Gary “the Scary” Hubert, Christine, Rachael, Brad) with their “SoCo Pirates” float. We’d like to thank all of the parade participants who made the parade so much fun.
Saturday, February 27
Poor Rick Lazio.David Paterson’s departure from the race leaves a clear path to the Democratic nomination for Andrew Cuomo, who trounces Lazio in every poll. Still, Lazio gave a campaign speech in Niagara Falls on Saturday evening, gamely challenging Cuomo to engage him in a campign and attempting to score points with the Biagara Falls crowd by issuing the promise-that-will-never-be-kept: that energy and revenues generated by the Niagara Power Project ought to benefit local residents and industry.
Sunday, February 28
There was a hockey game that ended badly. But far worse for Buffalo, word came from the operators of the Lafayette Tap Room that, as of Sunday, the spectacular bar, restaurant, and blues venue would cease operations. That announcement turned out to be a harbinger for the news that the entire Lafayette Hotel will be mothballed for at least a month, at the request of its New York City owners, who say the building is losing money at an unsustainable rate. Meantime, Rocco Termini’s proposed purchase and renovation of the hotel is in danger, too: In the past, Termini has relied on historic preservation tax credits for his projects. Having secured the credits, he then sells them for cash upfront to pay contractors. A pending revision to state law will determine whether that practice can continue.
Monday, March 1
Bob McCarthy of the Buffalo News reports today that Assemblyman Jack Quinn III is being pressganged by Albany Republicans to run against State Senator Bill Stachowski this fall. That may be true, but we’re told that Quinn has already made a deal to stay out of that race: Democratic headquarters will join Republicans in endorsing Quinn for a State Supreme Court seat in exchange for letting Stachowski alone. Quinn told McCarthy that he would find a judgeship “intellectually stimulating”; one local attorney who is less than sanguine about Quinn ascending to the bench suggested that Quinn’s intellect could use some stimulation.
Tuesday, March 2
Congressman Brian Higgins assembled members of the press today at Front Park to announce that he’d brokered a deal that would allow the Olmsted Conservancy to support the Public Bridge Authority’s Peace Bridge plaza expansion plan. The PBA, Higgins said, had agreed to study the possibility of removing the ramp that connects the I-190 to the Peace Bridge—a ramp which also obscures the view from Front Park of the confluence of the Niagara River and Lake Erie, which was Frederick Law Olmsted’s rationale for locating the frontispiece of his park system there to begin with. The ramp would be replaced by a tunnel. The cut-and-cover excavation would be paid for out of $25 million in federal funds earmarked for improvements to the surrounding neighborhood. (Higgins, who appropriated those funds, argued that park restoration certainly counts as a neighborhood improvement.) Also spealing at the press event were Congressman Chris Lee, David Golligan and Thomas Herrara-Mischler of the Olmsted Conservacy, and Ken Schoetz, chairman of the PBA. The PBA’s general manager, Ron Reinas, was present, too, and after the talking was finished he acknowledged that the tunnel would be a heavy lift. The tunnel would have to climb the great height between plaza and I-190 in a short distance. There might be a major sewer line in the way. Underneath the I-190 are the original walls of the Erie Canal, probably intact—so sharpen your knives, historical preservationists. He wasn’t sure about the cost or the engineering. Still, he said, the PBA would look into a tunnel if that’s what it took to get the Olmsted Conservancy onboard.
Wednesday, March 3
Battle of the fundraisers: Tonight the GOP’s Erie County chairman, Jim Domagalski, hosts a fundraiser out at the Airport Holiday Inn. This fall Domagalski would like to take on State Senator Bill Stachowski, who holds a fundraiser Friday at the Ironworkers Hall in West Seneca.
Meantime, State Police Superintendent Harry Corbitt’s resignation takes effect today. Corbitt joins Deputy Secretary for Public Safety Denise O’Donnell as a casualty of the widening scandal surrounding Governor David Paterson and his top aide, David Johnson.
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