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.

Special election wrap-up; ECC’s next budget; overdoing the Bills hype and underdoing Sabres failures

In case you didn’t notice, there was a special election for the State Assembly in the 142nd District yesterday. A total of 11,124 voters (out of 85,579 eligible) came out in West Seneca, Orchard Park, Lackawanna and parts of Buffalo to elect a new representative.

So thirteen percent of those eligible voted. The winning candidate, Erik Bohen, received about 5,831 votes. Less than seven percent of the eligible voters made him an Assemblyman. Continue reading

Two versions of taxes, budgets and fiscal responsibility; some facts and heard-on-the-streets; Grant tops Langworthy

The United States Senate this past Friday completed its version of their so-called tax reform legislation. The 500 page bill was prepared entirely by the Republican Majority in the Senate; no Democrats allowed. It was approved in the dead of night, with last minute amendments hand-written illegibly in some cases. Lobbyists had copies of the bill before senators did. The legislation will increase the national debt by one trillion dollars over the next ten years. Continue reading

What if they gave an election and nobody came?

Tuesday’s primary elections were some of the most anticlimactive political events that I have ever seen – a very boring day. It was like Erie County voters collectively sighed, “whatever!”

The race for Mayor of Buffalo in the Democratic primary seemed pre-ordained for a long time. Mark Schroeder and Betty Jean Grant gave spirited efforts. Schroeder’s TV ads were very well done and he put the best effort into telling voters what he would do in the next four years. For the most part Schroeder and Grant’s attacks on Mayor Brown’s record were professional and controlled. Continue reading

The Republican commitment to enacting Trumpcare comes to a fork in the road; In Memoriam, Father Vincent M. Cooke, S.J. and Bill Mariani

So this is what all the waiting was for? A warmed over hybrid of Obamacare and the House “repeal and replace” bill is all the United States Senate Republicans could come up with? They hid in a secluded room for weeks to produce this?

I’ll give them this: amending Obamacare is hard and complicated work. Who knew? Continue reading

Salaries and contracts — ECMC, ECWA and ECC

There was a time during the financial meltdown of Erie County government in 2005 when the Erie County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Erie County Fair tried to distance themselves a bit from the “Erie County” part of their names. It was understandable, since Erie County wasn’t a very positive brand name at the time.

We could be coming to a point where Erie County government might, by name association, become concerned about other entities that are affiliated in some fashion with the government, yet still remain essentially independent. I am referring to the Erie County Medical Center Corporation (ECMCC, or more commonly, ECMC), the Erie County Water Authority (ECWA), and Erie Community College (ECC). Continue reading