Some facts and heard-on-the-streets

A collection of recent observations:

  • It is so rare these days, and yet so welcoming, to see some bi-partisan action on anything. In that spirit it is noted here that Democratic Assemblyman Robin Schimminger and Republican Assemblyman Ray Walter held a joint press conference last week to chastise the bankrupt Bon-Ton store chain for its plan to void gift cards for customers who held those pieces of plastic when the chain announced its decision to close. I can’t recall the last time I was in a Bon-Ton store, but on behalf of all those current holders of Bon-Ton gift cards, I say thank you.
  • It should be noted for the record that Schimminger and Walter have also often sung from the same hymnal about issues concerning Governor Cuomo’s economic development activities.
  • And in the spirit of unity Governor Andrew Cuomo announced this week that he supports Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul’s continued presence on this year’s Democratic ticket. What took so long?
  • Former Erie County Executive Joel Giambra is moving his way down on his quest for electoral re-incarnation – from being a candidate for the Republican gubernatorial nomination; to a candidate for the Reform Party designation for governor; to a candidate for the Republican nomination for state comptroller. Those checks he wrote to Hillary Clinton and other Democrats seem to bother people like Republican County Chairman Nick Langworthy and the state Conservative Party. That’s the problem with all that pesky information on the internet – it’s just hard these days to keep anything secret.
  • The editor of the Buffalo News reported recently about a shortage of newsprint, so maybe that’s been the problem, but the News hasn’t printed a word about Erie Community College’s proposed 2018-19 budget which the College’s Board of Trustees approved on April 26th and sent on to the County Executive. You would think that a budget that held the line on tuition and projected that enrollment is stabilizing would have at least deserved a paragraph or two on the news-in brief page. For that matter, why wasn’t the inauguration of the College’s new president reported?
  • Speaking of that ECC budget, inquiring minds might wonder how well the projection of constant enrollment and level tuition figures will hold up, as well as the projected benefit costs and some other expenses. And how much real revenue will ECC actually earn from having up to 65 of its students living in Canisius College dorms next academic year?
  • The News has reported on City Comptroller Mark Schroeder’s analysis of Mayor Brown’s proposed 2018-19 City budget. Schroeder’s report shows millions of dollars in likely overestimated revenues and millions more in underestimated expenses. The City’s once substantial fund balance is running low. The Mayor defends his budget and the Common Council still needs to weigh in on the Mayor’s plan, which also raises taxes and fees for the first time in many years. All this could well lead to the re-institution of the hard Control Board for the City.
  • State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli last week released an audit of the Erie County Water Authority, which you are reading about first here on the Politics and Other Stuff blog. The audit didn’t get into things like the redundant layers of senior management that the Authority operates with, focusing instead on the lesser topic of information technology management. The Comptroller’s office found that:

    • The Authority has 696 network user accounts that have not been used in the last six months, with 75 accounts last logon being over four years prior and 377 network user accounts that have never been used. [How could an organization with less than 250 employees have that many network user accounts?]
  • Five of 10 tested employees visited social media, shopping websites and personal email which could expose the network to virus attacks or compromise systems and data.
  • In addition, sensitive IT control weaknesses were communicated confidentially to Authority officials.



  • The Erie County Medical Center transmitted its 2017 annual report to state and county officials several weeks ago. Growth in business and activities has paid off handsomely for the corporation’s senior management. CEO Thomas Quatroche’s salary is listed at $847,596 (it was $762,085 in the previous year); part-time general counsel Anthony Colucci III’s salary was $565,590, compared with $527,825 in 2016; chief financial officer Stephen Gary was paid $499,039, compared with $449,039 in 2016; vice-president of communications & external affairs Peter Cutler earned $189,423 in 2017; and the chief operating officer Andrew Davis’s salary was $473,557.
  • Newly elected Assemblyman Erik Bohen is evidently in for another challenge from County Legislator Pat Burke in the September Democratic primary. Given the contested primaries for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general, look for turnout to be substantially higher than what occurred in the April 24th Special Election, which should work to Burke’s advantage (I know, I wrote the same thing about the party advantage in the Special Election.) Bohen’s real disadvantage will be that he can’t count on Republican and Conservative votes to pull him through a Democratic primary. Incumbency, often an advantage, will mean basically nothing to Bohen, who will have less than five months under his belt as the Assemblyman prior to the primary, and is shunned by both Assembly Democrats and Assembly Republicans.
  • The Democratic primary for attorney general should turn out to be really interesting, particularly if Preet Bharara enters the race. That would probably scare away most of the other contenders for the office. As for the interim appointment that the Legislature may (or may not) make for the AG position, selecting Solicitor General Barbara Underwood would certainly make sense for many reasons. So why do I think that that will not happen?
  • The decision of Buffalo News management to skinny down the daily edition, cut sections and cut staff undoubtedly makes sense economically for the paper. Nonetheless it is a sad development, and it might not be the last of the cuts we will see at One News Plaza. Those of us who have been around town for a while remember well (but not always fondly) the days when the Buffalo Evening News and the Buffalo Courier-Express battled things out pretty much every day. When the News first started publishing a Sunday edition they ran television ads using the old Spanky and Our Gang song, “Sundays will never be the same…” That turned out to be so true. But this week’s decision means that Mondays through Saturdays will never be the same either.