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Odds & Ends

Considered while hauling sandstone from the rubble of St. Mary's on the Hill

■ The local office for State Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith opened for business this past Monday. Retired heavyweight boxer and failed State Senate candidate Joe Mesi will serve as Smith’s public face in the region, but the office will be run by veteran political operative Dave Pfaff, a long-time associate of former Erie County Democratic Party chairman Steve Pigeon. (Correction: No, it won't, and I apologize to Pfaff. My source seemed good but was incorrect. Pfaff didn't get the job.) The cost of staffing and maintaining a Buffalo office for Smith has generated controversy, given the state’s budget crisis.

■ Speaking of Pigeon, the strategist-in-chief for Tom Golisano’s Responsible New York committee took a slew of locals up to Albany two weeks ago to hear the Dalai Lama speak, as guests of Clare and Sara Bronfman, heirs to the Seagrams liquor fortune. Among the guests were Niagara Falls developer Roger Trevino, Pigeon protege Gary Parenti, policial financier Hormoz Mansouri, Niagara Falls Reporter editor Mike Hudson, and online political gossip-monger Joe Illuzzi.

The Bronfmans sponsored the Dalai Lama’s appearance. The sisters are clients (if that’s the right word) of a group called NXIVM, founded by a truly strange agent named Keith Raniere, which ostensibly trades in personal fulfillment training but has all the hallmarks of a cult, according to reports in Forbes magazine, the Albany Times-Union, and Metroland, Albany’s alternative newsweekly. At one point the Dalai Lama canceled his appearance in Albany due to the bad publicity attached to NXIVM and its affiliates, only to reschedule after meeting with the Bronfmans in person.

Metroland published a series of articles about NXIVM’s cult-like practices, and NXIVM has threatened to sue the newspaper in retaliation. The lawyer who filed NXIVM’s notice of claim? High-powered Niagara Falls attorney and Pigeon ally John Bartolomei.

Pigeon himself has done “legal and political work” for to the Bronfmans, according to an April 2008 Buffalo News article about a Los Angeles housing development deal gone wrong that tied together Pigeon, the Bronfmans (or at least their money), the president of NXIVM, and local developer Frank Parlato.

So what’s the point of all this? Perhaps only that one need not worry about Pigeon some day losing the financial sponsorship of Golisano, who is fleeing New York State taxes for a full-time residence in Florida.

■ Next Thursday, May 28, Erie County Legislator Maria Whyte intends to call a vote in an effort to override Erie County Executive Chris Collins’ veto of the bill creating a countywide planning board. The bill passed 9-6—one vote shy of the 10 needed to override an executive veto. Whyte will try to win over one of three Democrats who voted against the bill—Daniel Kozub, Robert B. Reynolds, and Timothy Wroblewski—to succeed. Kozub’s district includes Lackawanna, whose city council unanimously passed a resolution in support of creating a planning board.

■ Speaking of county politics, Canisius College political science professor and WBEN radio host Kevin Hardwick has retured his radio show in order to run for Erie County Legislature. He’ll be challenging Democrat Michele Iannello, with the political and financial support of County Executive Chris Collins. Iannello is one of several Democrats Collins has said he’ll target this fall. Robert Reynolds is another, and on Wednesday Channel 2’s Lynne Dixon announced she was leaving the station to challenge Reynolds. She’ll be seeking help from Collins as well.

So who’s going to gun for Collins’s most despised foe, Erie County Comptroller Mark Poloncarz?

geoff kelly

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