The FBI and state troopers show up at your door (Part II); some political this and that and other stuff

A lot of information is floating around, some facts and some heard-on-the-streets:

  • So the FBI and state troopers show up at Grassroots founder Maurice Garner’s door(s). There is all sorts of unsubstantiated speculation going on about the latest news in the local political scandal scene. Among the theories: Garner’s political alliance with Steve Pigeon in various political campaigns has dragged Garner into the picture; or, Pigeon dropped a dime on Garner’s politics to help his (Pigeon’s) own defense against charges and potential charges, both state and federal; or Garner’s connections with Mayor Byron Brown were highlighted by former Deputy Mayor Steve Casey to help his (Casey’s) own defense against possible charges. Other theories?
  • Grassroots, Inc. campaign filings have been noted in Buffalo News reports, but there is more to it than just Grassroots. State Board of Elections filings indicate that over the past four years Garner’s Urban Visions consulting operations show income of $22,825 from: Brown’s campaign ($14,150); County Court Judge James Bargnesi’s committee ($7,500); former interim DA Michael Flaherty’s committee ($1,000); and Legislator Barbara Miller-Williams’ campaign ($175).
  • The direct payments to Urban Visions don’t reflect all of Garner’s political income. Garner Associates was paid $10,200 by the campaign committee of Michele Brown, a candidate for Erie County Family Court in 2015.
  • Garner’s Urban Chamber of Commerce, whose office was one of the raid locations last week, has received a number of payments from several political candidates including: Senator Tim Kennedy ($3,500); Michael Flaherty ($2,500); City Comptroller Mark Schroeder ($1,865); Mayor Brown ($1,500); Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes ($795); Michele Brown for Family Court ($500); Buffalo Council President Darius Pridgen ($500); County Legislator Barbara Miller-Williams ($500); County Court Judge James Bargnesi ($500); and City Court Judge Craig Hannah ($325).
  • The Buffalo News reports that Garner’s Urban Visions also collected $120,000 in fees from Ciminelli Construction Cos. as part of the one billion dollar Buffalo school renovations project.
  • Just wondering – what happened to the June 15th hearing that was scheduled on the Pigeon federal complaint?
  • And will Pigeon’s September 5th state trial that relates to the bribery charges go on as scheduled?
  • Petitions for this year’s party nominations are on the streets. In the Legislature’s 2nd District, which Betty Jean Grant is leaving to run for mayor, April Baskin, Charley Fisher and Duncan Kirkwood are circulating for the Democratic nomination. At this point Clayton Hoyt’s candidacy is still listed as “potential.”
  • The campaign account of Conservative Party Chairman Ralph Lorigo’s son, Legislature Majority Leader Joe Lorigo, stands to gain financially from a birthday party fundraiser on July 10th celebrating Ralph’s 70th birthday. Joe Lorigo, as of January 15th, already had $106,494 in his campaign account.
  • Lorigo faces his first real challenge for the legislative seat from Michelle Schoeneman, who is the person behind the anti-Chris Collins billboards that went up earlier this year.
  • At this point in time there is no Republican candidate for County Court against the Democratic endorsed candidate Susan Eagan. Given that Republican chances in off-year elections are usually good compared with even-year elections, this is a mystery. Could it be that Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy supports Eagan but is resisting an endorsement? Could this be part of the keep-the-vote-down–in-Buffalo program? What happened to the potential candidacy of Kelly Vacco for the court seat?
  • If Assemblyman Mickey Kearns does, in fact, take a pass on the Democratic primary for County Clerk, is that to help keep down South Buffalo votes in the Buffalo mayoral primary, which might otherwise benefit Mark Schroeder. Or perhaps is Kearns concerned that he cannot win a Democratic primary? Kearns will still have the Republican and Conservative party lines in November.
  • There are two State Supreme Court seats on the ballot this year, one occupied by incumbent Appellate Division Justice Erin Peradotto and the other by retiring Justice Sharon Townsend. Reports are circulating that there will be cross endorsements, with the likely candidates Republican Erin Peradotto and Democrat Lynn Keane, who narrowly lost a Supreme Court race last year.
  • There doesn’t appear to be any serious movement on Donald Trump nominating candidates for the Western District of New York’s vacant federal judgeship or the vacant United States Attorney slot. Word on the street is that Chris Collins’ former County Attorney Jeremy Colby, who has been mentioned as a possibility for either position, has signaled that he is not interested. Trump has only made a handful of judicial and U.S. attorney nominations (including two who are former bloggers!), but mostly there is not a lot of action on the appointments. Probably something to do with the fact that the Justice Department is busy with other things at the moment.
  • Everyone is saddened by the gun attack that occurred last week that left House Majority Whip Steve Scalise seriously wounded and others also recovering from the attack. Here’s wishing for a quick and healthy recovery for all.
  • The attack brought both Democrats and Republicans together to say that they need to cool the over-heated rhetoric. Civility is always welcomed. Having members of Congress walking around with loaded handguns, however, is not a comforting thought.
  • And if we for the time being are having a kumbaya moment, then why did the Trump campaign organization, just a day after the shootings, send out this email:

Democrats have absolutely NOTHING to offer our country. After their BILLION-DOLLAR election loss, all Democrats have done is OBSTRUCT President Trump and maniacally scream the word “RUSSIA” until they’re blue in the face. They’ve sparked protests in the streets, refused to approve White House nominees, destroyed our health care system, and used the media to spew vicious rhetoric against the President.


Tell Democrats: It’s time to stop obstructing the AMERICAN PEOPLE’S MANDATE. 

  • And finally, now that Pegulaville has filled all their vacant general manager and coaching positions, we can go on with our lives until the fall.

The unchecked activities of the Erie County Water Authority

Here is a thumbnail history of the Erie County Water Authority (ECWA):  The organization was created by state legislation in the late 1940’s to provide water service to a growing suburban population in the county that was pushing out from the central city.  County government at that time was not much removed from horse-and-buggy days, so an authority was seen as the best vehicle for answering the needs of a sprawling community. 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

How Pigeongate may end

This blog, Alan Bedenko’s extensive work in The Public, and Buffalo News reporting have certainly detailed the rise and fall of Steve Pigeon over a very long period of time. Things are starting to move at a quicker pace now.

The infamous raids on the homes of Pigeon, Steve Casey and Chris Grant occurred nearly 23 months ago. Except for Pigeon’s situation, we don’t yet know what purposes those events served. Continue reading

Taxes need to be on the table as Erie County considers future budgets

There is an old saying that is very true: those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.

Erie County government in its present County Charter form is 57 years old. County executives, comptrollers and legislators have come and gone. Many years all has run smoothly. Some years, not so much.

There have been three significant financial meltdowns of county finances over the past forty years. Each one resulted in higher taxes and reduced services. For each one, working through the calamity took several years. Continue reading

Knowing when to leave, in politics and football; Caputo looking for partners

My daughter points out to me that I often quote a song lyric to make a point and that I do that more than most people. Guilty!

Recent headlines got me reviewing some lyrics in my head, from an old Burt Bacharach song. The lines that rang a bell: “go while the going is good; knowing when to leave may be the smartest thing anyone can learn. Go!”

I’ll avoid here referring to anyone located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

The Buffalo News a few days ago reported on the ongoing feud between two veterans of local politics, Amherst Town Supervisor Barry Weinstein and former Amherst Town Councilman Bill Kindel. Both of them have been around the block a few times.

20150526_Weinstein_GiambraWeinstein is finishing his second term as Amherst Supervisor. He previously served as a town council member and a member of the Williamsville School Board. He was also a member of the Erie County Legislature, serving as a supporter of the policies of Joel Giambra which led to the meltdown of county government in 2005.

Kindel, besides having served 20 years as a member of the Town Council, has for many years been the Chairman of the Amherst Conservative Party. He has also made some unsuccessful comeback attempts with the Town Board.

The current feud involves the upcoming race for a couple seats on the Amherst Town Board. Weinstein, who is term-limited as supervisor, wants to stay on the Board as a councilman. Kindel would like to return to the Board. The feud follows from Weinstein’s re-affiliation last year as a member of the Conservative Party, which would facilitate him running for the Conservative town board nomination in a primary as a member of the party. I guess he assumes that the Republicans will give him their endorsement.

While I have been a resident of Amherst for thirty years, I haven’t involved myself in town politics. I do think, though, some new blood would help a town government to spend less money and to cut down on the congestion that excessive development is creating. Transit Road, Sheridan Drive and Main Street, on any given day, are among the most traffic-jammed streets in Western New York. It’s time to call a time-out and re-evaluate where the town is going.

It’s also time to leave it to someone else, Barry and Bill. “Go while the going is good; knowing when to leave may be the smartest thing anyone can learn.”

There are new candidates on the horizon. Amherst Democratic Town Chairman Jerry Schad reports that at least three top-notch candidates are in the running for the two vacancies on the Board: Shawn A. Lavin, an accountant, Jacqualine G. Berger, an educator, and Matthew Clabeaux, an attorney.

Assemblyman Ray Walter’s Chief of Staff Erin Baker will seek one of the Republican nominations. I know Erin from the days when I was director of government relations at Canisius College and Erin worked in the Advancement Office as a student intern. She’ll make a fine candidate too.

It’s time for a change.

Football teams knowing when to leave

NFL teams are on the move. There’s never enough money where league owners are concerned. Cities keep throwing cash at them.

The Rams last season re-located to Los Angeles after a couple of decades in St. Louis; which was after several previous decades in Los Angeles; which was after a number of years in Cleveland, before the Browns joined the NFL for the first time. The Browns, of course, moved to Baltimore after the Baltimore Colts moved to Indianapolis. Then, several years later, Cleveland got a new version of the Browns.

The San Diego Chargers are no more, having moved to Los Angeles – which is where they were originally for a couple years, before going to San Diego.

The League this week also approved the move of the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas in two or three years. It should be a fun time in Raider Nation, Oakland location, until then. The Raiders, of course, had previously re-located to LA for a few years before going back to Oakland.

Okay, I know, enough.

The Buffalo News reported this week that the Pegulas are letting things settle in Orchard Park before starting a conversation about a new stadium for the Bills. Evidently pressure from NFL bigwigs Jerry Jones and Bob Kraft has let up a little. How nice of Jerry and Bob to not tell Erie County what to do at least for a while. At the moment there don’t seem to be any cities left that are looking for an NFL franchise, so there’s no talk about the Bills moving.

The team’s ownership seems to think that they should “have some success” before coming to the county for a new home. That should keep the taxpayers safe for at least a few years.

Caputo branching out

Michael Caputo, locally-based political operative with an international reputation, is looking to capitalize on his connections with Donald Trump. Politico reports:

Michael Caputo is the latest former Donald Trump campaign staffer looking to parlay his experience into consulting work in Washington. Caputo, the managing director of Zeppelin Communications, a public affairs firm with offices in East Aurora, N.Y., Miami and Moscow. He worked as a senior adviser on Trump’s campaign before resigning after sending a celebratory tweet when Trump fired his first campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski.

— Caputo sent a letter to a number of Washington public affairs shops and trade associations earlier this month looking to strike up a partnership with Zeppelin and emphasizing his experience on the campaign. “After working closely with Donald Trump in recent years, we’re taking the initiative to be more active in Washington,” Caputo wrote in the letter, which was obtained by POLITICO. “From advising the billionaire developer on his potential New York Gubernatorial race to assisting him as he sought to purchase the Buffalo Bills, I learned how he works. … Understanding how Donald Trump ascended to the White House – and how he will likely operate — will be unique and vital counsel for your clients in the years ahead.”

— In an interview, Caputo said Zeppelin is looking to partner with other firms to take on more Washington work. “We’re looking for partners to help us in a much heavier lift,” he said. He’s hoping to open a Washington office, too. “My arena will be mostly public engagement,” he said. “I don’t intend to lobby. I’m a public relations guy.” But after working in Washington in the 1990s for firms such as Widmeyer Communications, he’s not planning on moving back down himself.

 With an office in Moscow already, Caputo seems to be all set up and ready to go with his new Trump-centered venture. And knowing “how [Trump] works… and how he will likely operate” is certainly a plus. How many people can there be who know how Trump works and will likely operate?

Does this mean that Michael Caputo will be leaving his gigs with the Erie County Water Authority and WBEN?