Some facts, observations and heard-on-the-streets

So Election Day, November 5th, is just thirty-five days away. Well, actually, Election Day is only twenty-five days away. Early voting is coming to a voting booth near you on Saturday, October 26th for a nine day run.

There will be 37 sites available in Erie County for early voting in 2019. Here is the Board of Elections’ explanation of the process.  The location of the 37 sites can be accessed at the end of the following BOE note.

Starting October 26, 2019 all active registered voters in Erie County will be eligible to cast an early voting ballot for the 2019 General Election.  Registered voters will be able to cast their ballot at any of the thirty-seven (37) designated early voting locations.  Erie County’s Election Inspectors will now use Electronic Poll Books and Ballot-on-Demand systems to facilitate early voting.  The traditional paper poll books will still be used for the General Election on November 5, 2019.  Any ballots cast on November 5, 2019 must be cast at the voter’s district polling location designated by the Erie County Board of Elections as noted by the voter registration card mailed to the voter or found here.

This should be an interesting experiment for New York State. Can a party take advantage of the extra voting days to boost turnout? Can a candidate who is well organized run up some good numbers?

We’ll see about all that. In the meantime, here are some facts, observations and heard-on-the-streets as the calendar flips to October:

  • We’re heading into a presidential impeachment inquiry involving a White House occupant who can’t distinguish patriotism from treason, truth from fiction, or right from wrong. Ironically, the most political of political events that can be conducted in the United States will probably not change the dynamics of the country. Most of us have chosen sides on the character and performance of Donald J. Trump a long time ago, and Trump isn’t the type of person who will solicit lots of sympathy from folks not already aligned with his way of operating, no matter how this process plays out.
  • This country went through the first 184 years of its existence with just one impeachment of a president, but the current happening is the third impeachment proceeding in the past forty-six years.
  • So we say goodbye to Congressman Chris Collins.  An incredible fall for Collins personally and for his family.
  • On to a special election.  It’s too late for this year, but the election machinery will next all be in place on April 28th, the date scheduled for New York’s 2020 presidential primary.
  • In the special election for the congressional seat there will be no primary.  Candidates will be selected by the party leadership.  Since a special election would only be for the remainder of the term Collins was elected to, however, there can also be a primary next June leading up to the November election.
  • Politico reported recently that the conservative Club for Growth is actively interviewing primary candidates for the [Chris] Collins” race.
  • Meanwhile, on the local front: at least measured by the television ads, the race for Erie County Executive has certainly heated up. One thing for sure, Lynne Dixon’s car is probably going to need a new set of shocks come November.
  • The ad volume would suggest that fundraising on both sides of the race has been going well. Unfortunately we don’t find out the facts for a few days. The next campaign financial reports are due at the State Board of Elections on October 4th, with September 30 the cut-off date for receipts and expenditures. Likely we will see most of the filings on Monday, October 7th.
  • Beyond the Executive race, the various campaigns for Supreme Court, County Legislature and various town offices are plugging away but it is nearly all out of public view. Earned (free) media for political campaigns seems to have nearly disappeared, even in the premier elections. The Buffalo News, weeklies, television and radio coverage of campaign issues is minimal.
  • For those too young to remember, back in the day when the Courier-Express was still in business an Executive campaign needed to crank out two press releases a day, seven days a week. And much of it got published.
  • Can anyone even identify the top three issues in the County Executive election?
  • To digress a bit, none of this is good for democracy, local style. People pay taxes and expect services from government. Sometimes the value or quality of what is being provided is not so good or could be improved, but if it isn’t reported on, who’s to know, who’s to care?
  • I was on the receiving end of an automated poll last week concerning the Executive race. There was a Trump question, but nearly all of the twenty-plus questions were about the county campaign and the candidates. Some push-poll type questions were included. The recorded voice on the call who was offering up the questions and possible replies raced through the whole thing like the person had to very quickly be someplace else.
  • The Fitch Rating agency has lowered its credit rating of the City of Buffalo because of questionable budget revenues and difficult to control expenses that the City budget includes. Ratings agencies are notoriously late in identifying such things. In Buffalo’s case, the story was out a year and a half ago.
  • Which explains why the City’s finances are such a hot issue in this year’s races for City Comptroller and City Council. Oopps, sorry. I forgot that the elections in the City of Buffalo have unofficially been cancelled in the City due to lack of interest. That means that nothing might happen until the City’s finances go down the dumper again.
  • Mayor Byron Brown has responded to the rating downgrading by essentially saying “pay no attention to the objective financial analysts behind the curtain.” Where is Toto when you need him?
  • This blog has published articles going back nearly a year and a half ago reporting on former Comptroller Mark Schroeder’s warnings about the coming financial storm. At least as Schroeder is busy getting our new license plates ready at the DMV he can take the satisfaction of knowing that he did what he needed to do in the Comptroller’s office.
  • Speaking about City finances and elections, Geoff Kelly in the Investigative Post has an excellent explanation of what really went on as the City got ready to release their new property assessment data. It seems that the work was actually completed about three years ago, but the Mayor didn’t want to have that information go out right before the 2017 election, or for that matter, before last June’s Democratic primary elections.
  • Why in the world is the Buffalo Control Board sitting on its collective hands while the City’s finances are going up in smoke? It’s seems like it’s time for State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli to raise some hell about it.
  • Andy SanFilippo, former Buffalo City Comptroller and recently retired First Deputy State Comptroller, knows the City’s finances inside and out. He probably concluded that he would not be able to contribute to the solution of the City’s current fiscal problems as Barbara Miller-Williams’ Deputy Comptroller. But how about Comptroller DiNapoli deputizing Andy to go in and lay out the problems and work on the solutions?
  • Someone has suggested to me that the license plates brouhaha was offered up by Governor Andrew Cuomo as a diversion for the much more politically incendiary issue concerning drivers’ licenses for undocumented aliens. If that was the case, the plan did not work too well.
  • The Public Campaign Financing Commission will be holding a hearing in Buffalo on October 29th. Based on what has happened at their other hearings, expect a large crowd and some fireworks.
  • The main subject of the Commission’s mission, public financing, almost seems like an afterthought, with much more attention directed at the possibility that the Commission might end fusion voting in the state.
  • A preliminary court case on the subject of fusion voting will be tried in Lockport this month and will likely go the way of the advocates for continuation of the minor party endorsement system. It seems a little early for legal action on something that hasn’t even happened yet. The Court of Appeals will probably need to weigh in at the end of the process.
  • The response to last week’s post about Erie Community College has been great, and a lot of that has to do with the strong statement that the Chairman of the Erie County Fiscal Stability Authority, James Sampson, issued to put the College’s Board and administration on notice that their financial problems are not going unnoticed. Attention, Buffalo Control Board!
  • Joel Giambra is right about raising the speed limit on the Scajaquada Expressway, aka Route 198. The safety precautions are in place.
  • So the bubble finally burst on the Buffalo Bills’ fast start out of the gate. That’s not too surprising. But the team does seem to have a lot of non-star talent and a whole lot of resilience. And wow, what a defense.  This season is going to be more interesting than most of us could have imagined during training camp.