- How about if you have no kids in the system, you pay $2,500/year.
- If you have one kid in the system, you pay $3,000/year.
- You pay an extra $200/year for every additional kid you have in the system.
What county officials tend not to emphasize is the major finding of our August report: that the Medicaid-related excess tax burden of $1 billion a year is dwarfed by the real Goliath in the Upstate tax burden, excess spending on local government payrolls. That factor accounts for about $4 billion in excess taxes paid by Upstaters. It sounds to us like Erie County residents have sniffed out the real story.Yes. Yes we have.
In an exclusive interview with The Post, the crusading attorney general — who has yet to campaign for the election that's nearly two years away — detailed his views on a variety of issues, revealing a mix of conservative and liberal thinking. A main concern, he said, is cleaning up a political system plagued by cronyism in which all the important decisions are made by just three men: the governor, the Assembly speaker and the Senate majority leader. "The assumption that Albany is broken is absolutely correct — and we need to fix that," said Spitzer, 45. "If we don't reform the trilateral arrangement, we will have failed New York state."Believe me, 2006 can't come soon enough. Towards that end, a Spitzer 2006 meetup is scheduled for Wednesday March 2nd at 8:00 p.m. at:
"Giambra held a news conference this morning. He told reporters that he accepts responsiblity for the County's budget crisis. Giambra says he is calling on elected County officials such as the Sheriff and District Attorney to put aside their lawsuits challenging the budget cuts and to work together to solve the problem."There's always a catch.
"'There's a lot of anger out there,' said Ried. 'This was one of the most emotional surveys we've done in recent years.' She said the heated emotion centered on taxes. 'It's a taxpayer revolt, no question about it,' said Ried. 'We had people saying over and over again, 'We're one of the highest taxed regions in the country. How can they think about raising taxes again?' People are just sick of it.' One county lawmaker who refused to vote for a sales tax increase, Elise M. Cusack of Amherst, said the poll data doesn't surprise her. It matches what she's been hearing from residents for months now, in the supermarket and over her office phone lines. 'People have had enough,' said Cusack, a Republican. 'The public has just been very engaged in this - more than anything I've ever seen. They really get it. 'The Legislature has finally heard the message,' she said. 'We're really on the cusp of making reform and change. This is where the rubber meets the road.' "Well, some get it, and some don't.
Legislature Chairman George A. Holt Jr., D-Buffalo, said that points to a problem with residents' thinking on the issue of taxes: They don't want a higher sales tax, but they also don't want more property taxes - and yet county services have to be funded somehow. "The perception of taxes in Western New York is a big no-no," said Holt, who supported a sales tax increase. "However, people must realize: If you want quality services from Erie County, you must pay taxes."Mr Chairman, your statement implies that we don't pay taxes. We do. The highest in the country. Make do with what you have, Mr. Chairman. You have plenty.
"This provides a huge opportunity for us to drive home the message of changing the way we do business in Erie County," Giambra said. "Once you've got the taxpayers' attention, you can sell them on the idea of regionalism and consolidation."Or, on the flip side, you can sell them on the idea of abolishing the County altogether.
A resolution signed by Tourism Minister Manuel Marrero ordered the 100,000 Cubans directly employed in tourism to"limit relations with foreigners to the strictly necessary."
It calls on tourism workers to "maintain a conduct faithful to the fatherland and respect for the constitution, the socialist laws and government policy."
For two years, President Fidel Castro's government has moved to restore central command over Cuba's economy and curb the "corrupting" influence and creeping inequalities brought by foreign business, tourism and access to hard currency.
The new rules took effect last week. They will undermine the quality of service by cutting incentives for Cuba's tourism workers, said shocked foreign hotel managers.
Cubans working in tourism earn average monthly salaries of $12-$15 paid to them in Cuban pesos, and rely heavily on tips to supplement their incomes. With tips, tourism work is one of the island's best-paying occupations.
If the Cuban emigres and US government were really serious about wanting to get rid of Castro and Cuban communism, they'd be encouraging, rather than discouraging, contact between Americans and Cubans; they'd call for a lifting of the embargo that punishes American businesses; and they'd call for a lifting of the ban on travel.
iPods and Levis would get rid of communism a lot faster than radio Marti.
At a function at the state Capitol in Albany Sunday night, Senate Minority Leader David Paterson made some predictions for Democrats. "We're going to send Gov. Pataki back to Peekskill ... [w]e're going to send (Senate Majority Leader Joseph)Bruno back to Troy. And we're going to send that Republican Party chairman back to therapy."
State Senators Dale Volker and William Stachowski says towns may now be able to deal directly with the state when it comes to snow plowing contracts which were once arranged through Erie County. Normally the contracts flow down from the state to the county and then to the towns. Senator Stachowksi, who is a Buffalo Democrat, claims this is a safety issue and says there would be no labor issues involved when the contracts for the 2005 - 2006 winter season come up for renewal. "We'd just be taking the county out of the process and contracting directly with the towns and the towns seem to feel...at least the ones we've spoken to so far...they can more than manage with it."I think I smell the end of Erie County as a separate taxing and governing entity.
....Try to imagine this scenario: John Kerry wins the presidency and appoints a press secretary who grants a White House press pass to a fake reporter with a fake name representing a fake news outlet. And what if this "Jeff Gannon," whose real name is James Guckert, gets called upon daily to lob softball questions at White House briefings? And what if it turns up that Gannon/Guckert has an eyebrow-raising connection to the investigation of the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame? And what if Gannon/Guckert was involved in setting up Web sites promoting homosexual prostitution? And what if racy nude photos of him start flooding the Internet? The only thing imaginary about this scenario was the part about Kerry being president. Had it been Kerry whose aide allowed Gannon/Guckert such access to the president, just think of the furor. Conservative Web jockeys, in tandem with talk-radio shouters, would have created a frenzy thrusting the sordid story onto front pages across the land. At the very least, President Kerry's press secretary would be out of a job. Bloggers on the left are no less bullies than those on the right. But it's possible that mainstream U.S. news organizations resent the liberal-bias tag so much that they're more susceptible to pressure from the right. Whatever the case, the "Jeff Gannon" story is legitimate: On Jan. 26, at a time of heightened national security, a phony reporter with a pseudonym and ties to the Republican Party got to sit just a few feet from the president at a nationally televised news conference and was called upon -- ahead of dozens of actual reporters -- to ask an inanely sympathetic question. How does something like this happen? Frustrated bloggers on the left would love to get the White House press corps -- leery, possibly lazy, but definitely not lefty -- to find out.I'm happy to see the conservatives welcoming gay prostitutes into their party. Now if only they'd be so welcoming to non-sex-worker homosexuals.
Ask Assembly Majority Leader Paul Tokasz (D-Cheektowaga) about Medicaid, and he'll tell you this: "It's a healthcare program. Healthcare has gone up in double digit increases. The State of New York can't solve healthcare." Solving is one thing. Fixing what's wrong is another. Thursday's USA Today headline said Healthcare Tab Ready to Explode. Soon to become 19% of the US economy. "How do you take healthcare away from someone who's blind and handicapped and disabled, and the senior citizens?" Tokasz asks Rich Kellman. Kellman: "But how do you fix it?" "Tokasz: "Rich, that's 70 percent of the cost of the Medicaid program. I don't know. Do we wheel these people out of a nursing home?"That's right, Assemblyman. There is nothing between paying everything for everybody and throwing the blind, handicapped and disabled (redundant?) out on the Street. What a load of scare-tactic garbage. What about the Republicans in the State Senate, you ask?
From the other chamber, the State Senate, Dale Volker (R-Depew): "This attempt to shift the blame to Albany is a little silly." Kellman: "Why do you say that, Senator. There are unfunded mandates, Medicaid." Volker: "Well, the Medicaid mandate is partially funded." Volker continues, "It's fine to blame other people, but this was created by a county that didn't plan."Yeah. We didn't plan on Albany's continuing, never-ending bleeding of its people. So disgusting.
Almost two months ago, WNYmedia.net brought you the Story of Amendment Package "E". Today, Nancy Naples challenged this part of the Budget process in court because she claims that it was done without putting it out for Bid. This afternoon, Chairman George Holt, Jr. and Legislator Chuck Swanick met behind closed doors to discuss something that they failed to share with the rest of the legislators. WB 49 caught the two red handed. However, they were off the mark as too why they were meeting. It was to discuss today's press conference in which chairman Holt is going to have to answer questions regarding this illegal budget amendment. "“It claims to save $16 million to the county which we already know is not true because that is the entire prison budget for the county." said Nancy Naples. "We feel it is an illegal approriation of taxpayer dollars, circumventing the competitive bidding process" said her attorney Dennis Vacco. During the December 8th midnight budget debacle, Legislator Swanick and chairman Holt held a brief meeting under their breath before more than 10 video cameras in the chambers. Since we were previously familiar with the situation, we went to the video tape. Video technology is a wonderful thing. Through adjusting a few audio levels, we have been able to transcribe most of what the two were talking about. You've got to see this!! It's hard to understand but the conversation went something like this: Swanick: "I dont have all of them with me" Holt: "o.k." Swanick: "I will amend the package with the one that you gave me, you said we missed" Holt: "That's the one...inaudible" Swanick " I'll make it right...inaudible" Holt: "alright, will you do that please" Click here for the video Less than 5 minutes after the meeting, chairman Swanick then proposed the "amended budget Package E", which was passed and added to the budget after the fact. The company Community Based Corrections, LLC is based out of New Orleans and we are looking into what connections they might have to Western New York and Chairman George Holt, Jr. "Chairman Holt was the one that approached me with this proposal" said Sheriff Patrick Gallivan. " I never got a chance to look at it".(I cleaned up the text a bit). Here's the information from the Louisiana Secretary of State on Community Based Corrections, LLC. The primary member of the LLC is Burnell Moliere. According to this story, Burnell Moliere has been accused of shady dealings (if not downright corruption) before. Moliere was on the board of a company called "National Contractor Services", which obtained a New Orleans city contract (totalling $500,000) to help "disadvantaged" companies obtain loans and bonds. What's interesting is that, of the $6.8 million in bonds and loans that National Contractor helped obtain for "disadvantaged" companies, 25% of that money went to companies owned by Moliere and two other members of the National Contractor Services board. Moliere helped his own AME, Inc. janitorial company get over $300,000 in bonds through his National Contractor operation. Here's a pdf file of another expose, which wonders why Moliere's company is considered "disadvantaged" when Moliere earns $500,000 per year, and is worth $3,600,000. Can I be "disadvantaged", too? Moliere was also among the investors in the Harrah's casino in New Orleans. This article explains that Moliere's AME, Inc. was not registered as a "disavantaged" business at the airport. AME was supposed to share work - 35% of it - with registered "disadvantaged" businesses, but didn't. AME was, however, registered as "disadvataged" by the city of New Orleans, despite the fact that its annual revenue topped $12 million in 2001.
AME President and Chief Executive Officer Burnell Moliere, whose company now is known as AME Services Inc., agreed to answer a handful of questions before terminating a brief telephone interview. Among the subjects he declined to address were the reasons AME failed to meet the airport's DBE participation goal from 1990 to 1998. "From our perspective, the disadvantaged program has worked for us," said Moliere, who personally earned more than $500,000 in 1998 and has a personal net worth of $3.6 million, records show. "It allowed us to get into the marketplace. It allowed us to gain valuable business experience. And now that we are no longer a disadvantaged business, we can compete nationally with anybody in our industry." The airport didn't complain about AME's failure to use DBE subcontractors until 1998, records show. The company then agreed to give 40 percent of the janitorial work to its spinoff firm, Exceptional Temporaries Inc., a former AME subsidiary.In New Orleans, Moliere is politically well-connected. He has close ties to New Orleans' DA Eddie Jordan, for whom Moliere was campaign finance chairman. It also appears that Moliere's customers aren't exactly...happy ones. Moliere donated $500 towards the campaign of New Orleans school board member Elliot Willard:
Willard also collected a combined total of $2,000 from School Board attorneys Clare Jupiter and Trevor Bryan; $500 from Burnell Moliere, owner of AME, the school system's janitorial services contractor, which (Schools Superintendent Tony) Amato is trying to terminate for poor service; and $500 from Jim Hutchinson, a system insurance broker and former son-in-law of Willard's.And this:
Janitorial company defends its work / Contract debated by School Board Brian Thevenot, Staff writer 12/01/2000, The Times-Picayune A.M.E. Services, the embattled janitorial and grass-cutting services contractor for New Orleans public schools, Thursday defended itself against district administrators who say the company is so incompetent that the School Board should strip the company of its $2.4 million-a-year contract. The company's statements came at a School Board committee meeting in which three members ultimately declined to take a position on the matter, instead forwarding it to the full board for debate. After a stinging presentation by Chief Administrative Officer Joe Bekeris, backed by 13 binders full of principals' complaints and other documentation, the company responded that it has performed quite well in all but a few cases, showing recent photographs of well- maintained grounds on several dozen campus. In an interview, A.M.E. president Burnell Moliere said the company has struggled to work with an administration that has, from the outset of the contract, sought to sabotage the company with trumped- up complaints so that it could take over operations itself. "This administration came into this contract with the full intent of not entering in the contract for any length of time," Moliere said. "To push that agenda, they had to make us look bad." Given the scope of the job, cleaning and landscaping nearly 130 campuses, even a large number of complaints is not out of the ordinary, Moliere said. Asked what might motivate such a campaign, Moliere replied, "Power."Oh. And by the way. AME stands for "A Minority Entity". Subtle like a baseball bat. What, exactly, is George Holt's and/or Chuck Swanick's connection with Moliere's corrections outfit?
"As you work to build a democratic and free Slovakia in the heart of Europe, America stands with you."Good stuff, that. Why am I sitting here praising Bush - a president whom I detest? Because he gave a good speech, and because this week he's doing what he ought to have done many moons ago, and ought to do with far more frequency: he is traveling to our allies to visit with them, to thank them for their support of the US, to criticize them when necessary (paging Mr. Putin), to engage in diplomacy and dialogue, and to show the world that the US isn't trying to isolate itself or become mired in petty disagreements any longer. Bush is making nice with Europe. And everyone will benefit from that.
"BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraqi state television broadcast a video Wednesday showing what the U.S.-funded channel said was the confession of a captured Syrian officer who said he had trained Iraqi insurgents to behead people and build car bombs to attack American and Iraqi troops. The video also showed an Iraqi who said the insurgents practiced beheading animals to train for decapitating hostages. Syrian officials could not immediately be reached for comment on the claims. The video comes at a time when the Bush administration has stepped up pressure on Syria to stop meddling in Iraqi affairs by allowing insurgents to cross into the country to fight coalition troops and by harboring former Iraqi regime members. Syria has denied the charges. President Bush also repeated Wednesday that Syria must remove its 15,000 troops from neighboring Lebanon but did not threaten any action against Damascus - for now. "Maybe when Bush said talk of invading Iran was "ridiculous" he would have given a different answer for Syria. Watch for Syria to become this decade's Libya. Syria is Baathist too, by the way. Baathist meaning an Arab nationalist totalitarian dictatorship with some socialist characteristics.
"I have just been advised that effective immediately the Deputy Commissioner of Buildings and Grounds William Thornton is being replaced by the Chief Custodian Joe Letteri aka Joel's brother in law. Joe was originally scheduled to be laid off in this round of cuts. A prime example of county politics at its best. I guess Joel did tell the truth when he said he would be conducting business from Florida!' I was just reading a memo from Letteri to Commissioner Lehman. I was wondering why he would send a list of his accomplishments to his boss. Now I know!"I'm sure the county workers getting laid off will be glad to see the extended Giambra clan is being protected.
Then there's the benignly-named United Seniors Association (USA), which serves as a soft-money slush fund for a single GOP-friendly industry: pharmaceuticals. USA claims a nationwide network of more than one million activists, but, just like Progress for America, listed zero income from membership dues in its most recent available tax return. USA does, however, have plenty of money on its hands. During the 2002 elections, with an "unrestricted educational grant" from the drug industry burning a hole in its pocket, the group spent roughly $14 million--the lion's share of its budget--on ads defending Republican members of Congress for their votes on a Medicare prescription-drug bill.United Seniors Association is now known as USANext. (Notice the link is to "About USA". But the link isn't on USANext's homepage. I don't know how Josh found it). Anyway, I don't really see how the pharma industry is looking out for seniors. One thing for sure: AARP is rather influential and doesn't back down from a fight. What AARP should do, courtesy of Steve Soto:
First, if he hasn’t done so already, AARP Chief Executive Officer Bill Novelli needs to call Karl Rove and demand that the White House condemn the ad and the tactics of the USAN. Of course Rove will not do this, and Novelli should tell Rove that failure to do this will be interpreted by the AARP as a sign that the White House supports and was a partner in this smear and in future smears. Second, the AARP should do a press conference after the call to Rove for two reasons: first, they should show the despicable ad to the media and point out to what lengths Bush’s supporters will go to smear the AARP; secondly Novelli should reveal at the press conference that he has demanded the White House repudiate the ad and the USAN smear campaign, and has received no such repudiation from the White House. As a result, Novelli should tell the media that the AARP will assume the White House supports this smear.That sounds about right.
Has government corruption played any role in Erie County's widespread financial problems? The Buffalo FBI office said Tuesday it has received "numerous" complaints from people who claim illegal actions by public officials helped to cause the financial crisis in county government. The complaints will be investigated, but only if people are willing to come forward with specific information, a spokesman for the agency said. "In the past few weeks, as the county budget crisis became more and more heated, we've received numerous calls and complaints," said Special Agent Paul M. Moskal. "But we need more specific information." Moskal declined to discuss any specifics about the allegations. "Obviously, a lot of people are frustrated over layoffs and many other issues surrounding the county's crisis," Moskal said. "If people have specific complaints or information, they can call our Public Corruption Task Force 24 hours a day, at 856-7800. If they want, their names can be kept confidential." No county government leader has been indicted on federal public corruption charges since County Executive Joel A. Giambra took office in 2000. An investigation by the county district attorney's office last year led to a plea deal taken by Douglas Naylon, a former highway department supervisor, for making unauthorized use of a county tractor-trailer for a job on his private property. Another former highway worker faces charges that he stole and resold expensive heavy equipment tires. After a Buffalo News investigation into county purchases of office furniture, State Attorney General Eliot L. Spitzer last May filed a civil lawsuit against Buffalo Office Interiors, a company owned by a close friend of Giambra's. No criminal charges were filed in the furniture case, and Giambra and the company's owner, James J. Spano, have repeatedly denied allegations that the county was overcharged for the furniture by $513,810. At this time, the FBI has not opened a formal investigation into allegations of wrongdoing in county government, Moskal said.Why didn't Giambra just hire James Spano as "furniture czar" or something?
One lawmaker is suggesting dismantling Erie County government. Amherst Town Councilmember Bill Kindel told News 4 Tuesday night that he believes the budget crisis can be solved by eliminating county government altogether. Amherst Councilmember Bill Kindel said, 'In stages, to have the first ring of towns and the State of New York to take over all, in time, of the services now being provided by the County of Erie. To eliminate the County of Erie, not overnight, but in stages and let those who are full capable of providing these services at a better cost, more efficiently, and I guess, more important than all of that, reliably.' Next week, Kindel will propose that Amherst take over the Grover Cleveland golf course from Erie County.You heard it here first.
For most county employees, Tuesday was a day of waiting and wondering. They were waiting to find out whether their job would be the one to go. And they were wondering whether there was something they could do to save it. "Definitely, I would,” said one worker. The worker was talking about something brought up Monday, when three county legislators suggested workers make concessions, allowing them to save jobs and services. The concessions would include asking workers to take off one day a month without pay, or turning some of their holidays into floating holidays. The savings, according to the legislators, would be in the millions. "They have to look into it and see what's appropriate,” said another worker. Any concessions must be negotiated between the unions and the county executive. So far, that hasn't even begun.With all fairness to the unions, it is hard to negotiate with a Regent who's sunning himself in Florida. Again: Kudos to WGRZ for really following up on this story.
"Common Council members are upset over the way Erie County is managing city parks, and some think Buffalo should withhold payments or even consider taking back the parks system. The complaints have been festering since shortly after the county takeover was approved last summer.Click the link to read the whole story. It's kind of sad, really. The hope that some had for a change in the way Erie County did its business have been so very sorely disappointed in the last 3-4 months. Instead of reform, Giambra inadvertently sparked a tax revolt. No one said revolution wasn't messy.
"The county made the payroll-and-perk cuts that come every day in corporate America. But there's more to this disease than pink-slipping Victor M. Getz can cure. The local price of Medicaid siphoned an extra $81 million from taxpayer pockets the past five years. It will suction another $40 million over the next two. Where is that money coming from? I'm ecstatic to see bloated political staffs jettisoned, keys to take-home cars turned in and 'free' cell phones turned off. We're upending a primitive political culture that sees government mainly as a jobs program.I love that last sentence. It's right on the money.
But don't kid yourself that it will get better, that the cuts we've made loosen the high-tax stranglehold. To twist a line from the Bill Clinton era: It's the Medicaid, stupid. And it's not going away. State lawmakers blasted County Executive Joel Giambra for his budget bungling. No argument. But Albany lawmakers put us against the financial wall by making Medicaid a collection bin for every health program and perk. From drug treatment to mental health care, what other states leave to managed care we dump into Medicaid. We looked our fat self in the mirror, now Albany has to do the same. It has to stand up to special-interest muscle: The hospitals, health care worker unions, drug companies and everybody else overfed by the Medicaid beast. If it doesn't happen, we will keep paying more taxes for less. With parks already gone, medical clinics shut and snowplows sidelined, I'd hate to see what less looks like. "Well, we don't really need County government to begin with. Let the state pay for its own bloated, diamond-encrusted Medicaid system. Swanick says:
"This (budget) discussion will continue," Swanick said. "But if the state doesn't do something about Medicaid, next year it will be about closing the doors."So stop your whinging and close them, already.
"No, the arrogance that will prove problematic, ultimately, was that directed at the libertarian-leaning conservatives by the social conservatives. The message in that regard was clear: We Christians can do this alone, y'all who ain't down with J.C. best be running along. That was the message when Tamar Jacoby of the Manhattan Institute, who was on a panel to defend President Bush's proposed immigration reforms (supported by no less a conservative institution than The Wall Street Journal), was loudly booed by the anti-immigrant crowd. That was the message when a representative of the Log Cabin Republicans was booed and then asked by a student, 'You people [homosexuals, that is] already have the right to live together, you got the sex, what else do you people want?' In fact, if there was anything particularly striking about this year's CPAC, it is to just what extent Republicans have given up being the party of small government and individual liberty. Make absolutely no mistake about it: This party, among its most hard-core supporters, is not about freedom anymore. It is about foisting its members' version of morality and economic intervention on the country. It is, in other words, the mirror image of its hated enemy. Consider these statements. On the immigration panel mentioned above, Phyllis Schlafly took the hard line against immigration. 'The idea of giving any job to any willing worker is absolutely unacceptable,' Schlafly said. American workers won't and shouldn't work for the wages Mexicans and other Latin American immigrants are willing to accept, she said, and companies should be forced to pay them more. All of this met with wild applause from the audience. And so there we have the most conservative of conservatives fully buying into economic protectionism -- not to mention the minimum wage, which a past generation rightly saw as a destructive and outrageous intrusion into the free labor market. Then there was the speech by Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, another CPAC rock star. Santorum made the revealing choice of referring to marriage as "the ultimate public good" -- i.e. a product or service that the government must provide because the free market won't. Santorum, of course, doesn't just support banning gay marriage (though that's where all the energy in the so-called "pro-marriage" movement is directed), he also supports various government programs to promote the institution of marriage. But as one Log Cabiner asked, just when did the Republican Party become the party of Washington, D.C.? Just where in the Constitution is the federal government given the power or responsibility to manage citizens' family lives? To be fair, libertarian -- or classical liberal -- principles were not without representation. The Libertarian Party (ugh…) had a booth. The ACLU had a booth. The wonderful folks over at Bureaucrash had a booth. But precious little libertarianism came from the stage, and what little did was seldom well received. Now, perhaps CPAC just isn't any place for libertarians. But that, in itself, is a problem. The conservative movement should be reaching out to people who, well, just aren't as bothered by "Will & Grace" as some other people are. Conservatism can't survive by religious extremism and tax cuts alone. There needs to be something more than Ann Coulter's substanceless ranting and faux-provocative calls for a "new McCarthyism." There needs to be something more than immigration opponents comparing Mexicans to burglars stealing American jobs. There needs to be something more than treating the Log Cabin Republicans like a punchline conservatives would rather forget. But that something wasn't present at CPAC.And I'd rather not be associated with these loons who would use the federal government to control your bedroom, and to force Jesus Christ down your throat. I can do without that, thanks. I'll take my government with a dash of good stewardship, a cup of fiscal responsibility, a pint of fiscal restraint, a quart of social liberalism and hold the religiosity.
"In 1999, Joel Giambra rode into office as a new kind of politician, one offering a vision of regionalism that would save not only Buffalo and Erie County, but eventually all of Western New York. Forget that Giambra never offered more than vague details about what 'regionalism' actually entailed, other than impaneling blue-ribbon commissions and scolding the City of Buffalo for being poor -- at least when compared to much of his suburban power base and the county rich with surpluses left by his predecessor. Details didn't matter to the honchos at the Buffalo Niagara Partnership who paid for the former Democratic city comptroller's bid to remake himself as a Republican county executive. Nor did they count in the offices of the Buffalo News, which bought into the warm, fuzzy concept of 'reform,' then helped sell it to voters. Well, maybe all those movers and shakers should have stood still for long enough to pay attention before jumping on the bandwagon. Giambra's blueprint for regionalism turned out to be little more than a few crude notes scrawled on a bar napkin, a document that vanished in the flames of taxpayer anger last week. When the Good Ship Erie County crashed on the rocks Tuesday afternoon, what little momentum he had built toward eliminating the multiple layers of government that weigh down the region's economy vanished as quickly as the tenuous support for Giambra's same-as-it-ever-was 'green budget' and its 12 percent sales-tax increase. 'If you have two dysfunctional governments and you consolidate them, the best you can hope for is one dysfunctional government,' said county Legislator Barry Weinstein (R-Amherst) when asked what the fiscal meltdown meant for the future of a merger plan Giambra had hoped to get on November's ballot. Friday, Giambra departed on what might stand as the most ill-timed vacation in local political annals. He did, however, leave a primer for his peers in Niagara County -- and the rest of the democratized world, for that matter -- on how to screw things up as badly, and as quickly, as possible.1. Abandon your Party. 2. Give everyone you know a job. 3. Act Invincible 4. Blame everybody else. 5. Try scaring taxpayers into paying more taxes 6. Go on vacation. That's our Joel!
Seriously, though: why is it that people who grow up on NYC-style pizza hate all other forms of pizza, but people who don't grow up on NYC-style pizza simply adopt NYC-style pizza into their overall view of All Things Pizza? This is something I've always noticed. I've never met anyone who didn't love NYC-style pizza, but those who ate it first, before any other styles of pizza, loathe everything else. It's weird. Anyway, I love Uno's Chicago-style product. I also love Just Pizza. And even though you'll probably hate them too, you should at least try Pizza Plant in Williamsville once.I went to Pizza Plant to try a pod a while back. It was ok, but not as good as a regular, ricotta-stuffed calzone. Pizza as we know it originated in Naples. There is actually an organization based out of Naples that will certify your pizza to be authentic Neapolitan. That's hardcore. It's the Verace Pizza Napolitana, which has a US office. The first pizzeria in the United States was opened in 1905 (! 100 years of pizza in America!) in New York City by a Neapolitan immigrant. That pizzeria is called Lombardi's. It uses a coal oven to make the best pizza I've ever had in my life. It's still open, and is located on Spring Street near Little Italy. Think about it - Lombardi's was the pioneer. From it sprung all pizza in the US. Its origins, and its location are arguments #1 and 2 as to why New York pizza is the best, and why New Yorkers are so rabid about their loyalty to thin-crust NY pizza. NY introduced pizza to the US. It is the original, and the best. To be authentic Neapolitan pizza;
The dough must be hand pressed with Italian flour and the precise amount of water. The tomatoes are always Italian, usually San Marzano style. And the mozzarella cheese (bufala Mozzarella) is that from water buffalo in the region between Napoli and Roma. These are the ingredients with practiced hands and the special high temperature wood burning oven that make vera pizza Napoletana.So you see, that's why to native New Yorkers (tri-staters) who grew up on NY-style pizza, the stuff at Bocce and Just Pizza (and countless others around here) are, at best, merely adequate. The thin-crust New York stuff is it. It's the original.
According to Zetti's owner, John Fusco, there is definitely room for one more. "We thought this area could use a better pizza product and pasta product overall to be honest," he said. "The pizza here is like white bread with ketchup and cheese on it. It's a whole different product than what we serve."OhmyGodOhmyGod. This is it!
"We get everyone. The menu has a wide array of dishes. We have veal dishes, chicken dishes, pasta dishes — so we have everyone from families coming in and sitting down to students," Fusco said. "Lots of students are from Long Island, and they come in because they recognize the product." But, the true test of any pizzeria is the quality of their cheese and pepperoni pizza, so I ordered a slice ($2.40). Growing up in this area, I have tried dozens of different pizzas over the years, but until trying Zetti's, I had no idea there was anything this much better to be had. Though the pepperoni could have been just a little better—I like mine to curl up a little more when it cooks—the crust more than made up for it. It was so crispy and light, even the burned stuff on the bottom tasted good.I'm so there. If not today, then tomorrow. As a side note, the only good pizza in WNY is: Romeo & Juliet's (Hertel Ave, Buffalo) La Hacienda (Niagara Falls ONLY)(31st & Pine) Trattoria Aroma (Main St. Williamsville) La Dolce Vita (Hertel Ave, Buffalo) I grew up on NYC-style thin-crust pizza; that's the only good pizza, IMHO. Uno's is an encrusted, pizza-like casserole. La Nova is serviceable in a pinch. Great Northern Pizza Kitchen is pretty good. Bocce and Just Pizza? They just suck.
The once-and-not-future King Joel has been reduced to a cardboard crown and a paper scepter. All who had faith in his false promise feel betrayed. The man elevated to higher office on the strength of ideas and - we mistakenly thought - ideals has fallen like Icarus, flapping the tattered wings of pride, pettiness and simple stupidity. Giambra preached reform but didn't practice it. The Highway Division mess, the office furniture scandal and a failure to see the coming financial storm preceded his red/green budget disaster. He sabotaged the December budget deal by slipping in pork and patronage... ...As the fall guy for last year's highway mess, Getz should've been gone long ago. Giambra defiantly kept him around, despite the political damage. It was typical of a "Screw me? No, screw you" attitude Giambra absorbed while growing up in the West Side projects and nurtured as he moved to better neighborhoods and bigger worlds. In the end, nobody - nobody - tells Giambra what to do. He is incapable of taking a hit, swallowing his pride and moving on. Even in his final stab last week at a sales tax deal, Giambra pulled back his offer to share with the city, burning one of the few olive branches he'd extended... ...He had no sway in the budget mess over five of seven Republican legislators. The Republican county comptroller, sheriff and Elections Board commissioner can't stand him. His bizarre sales tax alliance last week with the politically toxic Al DeBenedetti merged the two most unpopular kids in class. At least they had each other. Alienation can be the price of independence, but Giambra's lack of political allies is telling. When riding a wave of popularity, King Joel lorded over his subjects, his hardball style breeding enemies instead of winning friends. The old showbiz adage applies to politics - be nice to people on your way up, because you'll meet them on the way down. Few have fallen farther, faster and messier than Giambra. Either the taste of power overwhelmed his ideals, or they were a sham from the start. Either way, all he touches now turns to straw. The government merger he championed has been cheapened by his connection to it. At a recent news conference, with budget walls crumbling and massive cuts force-fed to every department head, Giambra was asked if he'd take a pay cut. No, he said, I don't see how it would do any good.Giambra is politically dead & buried. It's time for him to go.
“Liberals like to scream and howl about McCarthyism, I say let’s give them some. They’ve have intellectual terror on campus for years....it’s time for a new McCarthyism.” “Since they’re always acting like they’re oppressed…I say let’s do it, let’s oppress them.” -Talking about Liberals “In addition to racist and Nazi, how about adding traitor to the list of things that professors can’t be? And yes, I realize I just proposed firing the entire Harvard faculty.” “That’s your mission. These institutions can be shaken” -Talking about college campuses “They don’t have any ideas, we have all the ideas. We are sweeping the youth of America and they are going the way of the Whigs” -Talking about Conservative over Liberals.Ann Coulter: she is actually considered a legitimate author and pundit. The freeper types think she is a goddess - politically and *shudder* physically. She is, simply, a fascist. To her, any and all dissent = slander and/or treason. To her, McCarthy's witch hunts were good things. Hey, Republicans, guess what? She's your Ward Churchill. Too bad the media won't come out and say so.
“Victor Getz will no longer be an employee of Erie County. There is no parks department, so there is no need for a Deputy Commissioner of Parks and Recreation,” said Giambra.With all due respect to HRH Joel the Vindictive, there was no need for a Deputy Commissioner of Parks and Recreation when the parks were open. That perfectly illustrates the problem with our bloated county civil service.
The County Executive also said he plans on giving the Erie County Legislature the budget for 2006 earlier than the November deadline. And he’s not raising ruling out raising your property taxes next year. “Anybody who thinks we can balance next year’s budget without a new revenue source is not being genuine or real,” said Giambra.Yeah. God forbid the County work with what it has. And your highness, please stop using "new revenue source" as a euphemism for "we're gonna tax you to kingdom come because I'm a professional civil servant, and the taxpayers are my goddamn gravy train, and I'm gonna make you pay you sons of bitches."
Joel Giambra in a news conference again blamed the whole crisis on Albany. Please note Giambra said he will release his 2006 budget early. There will be significant property tax increases to cover the 2006 deficit. No news there ... But what you do not know is he is releasing the budget early because he hopes to gain political capital & go after his fellow Repubs in November for not supporting a tax increase. Oh & by the way the number for 2006 will be circa $100,000,000.00 ... This includes the $60 million in one time revenue shots in his 2005 budget. Out of the $10s of millions in cuts in the last 48 hours ... Giambra's budget was cut $39,000.00 ... There is still $809,950.00 dollars in the Executive's budget.So, while Giambra cuts a measly $39,000 from his own budget. (What a douche), the other departments must cut: Comptroller $700,000.00, Clerk $2,000,000.00, Cultural $1,000,000.00, DA $1,000,000.00, Sheriff $4,700,000.00, Social Services $4,700,000.00, Parks & Highways $5,000,000.00. The Department heads must come up with names & positions in 72 hours, Tuesday. And the county parks are closed for the rest of the year. What I think is really HRH King Joel's final nail in his political coffin is the fact that, rather than reap what he's sown, he is using the budget crisis as a political axe - he's going to go after the people of his own party who disagreed with him? That'll go over well. 75% of Erie County voters polled wanted no new tax increase. You think they'll change their minds because the county parks are closed? We can use town and state resources. What a good politician would be doing (well...we never would have been in this mess in the first place) is using the current situation as an impetus to work together with other politicians to fundamentally change county government and the way it does its business, so as to avoid future budget crises. Good politicians around here are few and far between.
Chairman Howard Dean "is the personification of today's national Democratic Party - elite, radical, out-of-control, and sadly out-of-touch with ordinary Americans." "The Democrats simply have refused to learn the lessons of the past two election cycles, and now they can be accurately called the party of Barbara Boxer, Lynne Stewart and Howard Dean," Minarik added.Did Minarik apologize for implying that Democrats are traitors? What do you think?
Minarik had issued a statement earlier Tuesday indicating he had no intention of backing away from what he had said the day before and calling Democratic complaints "just the latest `Dean scream."' "The Democrats would be wise to take action on members like Lynne Stewart, rather than attacking me," Minarik said in his statement Tuesday. "Maybe then, the Democratic Party can start to regain some credibility with the American people."Um...who ever said that Lynne Stewart was a democrat, or in any way led the party, or authored any party platforms? Minarik is an asshole and a bully. All Republicans with a conscience should condemn this guy. And most in New York, to their credit, have.
"Two weeks ago, we compared his staff to that of the county executive in Monroe County, which has about 80% of Erie County's population. She had a total of five, including herself, for an annual payroll of $375,000. Giambra, at the time, had 19 people accounting for $1.6 million. Now, with the first wave of cuts this week plus some cuts Giambra made on his own, his staff will shrink to about 13, including himself. But the Monroe county executive has also since trimmed. She's now down to four, nine less than Giambra's team. Let's also look at Nassau County, which is 45% larger in population than Erie County. Its county executive's office has just 11 people on the payroll, compared to giambra's 13. And what about our legislature? How does it stack up against other places? Let's look at Westchester County, which has nearly the same population as Erie County. Westchester County's legislature has a total of 40 people on the payroll, including the legislators. Now, after Erie County's first wave of cuts, our legislature should still have about 70.It's about time this sort of waste was exposed. Next, Onondaga County -- home of Syracuse -- about half the population of Erie County, its legislature has 27 positions, again, compared to our 70."
"I'm still mystified by this story. I was rejected for a White House press pass at the start of the Bush administration, but someone with an alias, a tax evasion problem and Internet pictures where he posed like the 'Barberini Faun' is credentialed to cover a White House that won a second term by mining homophobia and preaching family values? At first when I tried to complain about not getting my pass renewed, even though I'd been covering presidents and first ladies since 1986, no one called me back. Finally, when Mr. McClellan replaced Ari Fleischer, he said he'd renew the pass - after a new Secret Service background check that would last several months. In an era when security concerns are paramount, what kind of Secret Service background check did James Guckert get so he could saunter into the West Wing every day under an assumed name while he was doing full-frontal advertising for stud services for $1,200 a weekend? He used a driver's license that said James Guckert to get into the White House, then, once inside, switched to his alter ego, asking questions as Jeff Gannon. "Exactly. And here's the Barberini Faun.
Who cares if funding is pulled from a regional economic development fund that could rebuild the urban core? The suburbs will still have the businesses they've pirated from downtown.That's one of my biggest pet peeves about Buffalo: that people are eager and quick to pit the city against the suburbs. It's counterproductive and, frankly, ignorant. I'm sorry to see Watson do this. I'm sorry because he consistently advocates for the betterment of Buffalo's urban core; and I don't think he gets the fact that the city and suburbs will sink or swim together. Pitting one against the other does nothing but breed resentment. Watson misses the point completely. He advocates that poor people will be hard-hit by services and criticizes people in wealthier communities (who, by the way, are not necessarily wealthy themselves), for standing up to the confiscatory tax policies that have kept the region back for so long. And Watson further misses the point: the people who would be hardest hit by a regressive sales tax would be the very poor people for whom he’s supposedly advocating. Watson says that suburban taxpayers have a "we've got ours, and we're not paying for anybody else's" mentality. Well, if the local unions didn’t have a we’ve got ours, and nothing’s going to change it” mentality, maybe an accord could have been reached. Bogulski and his crew are as much to blame as Giambra. The people spoke, Rod. But I do agree with one thing he mentions in his column: The county legislature must go. As must all county government. Then Rod can have what is apparently his dream: that the City pay for its own programs. Then he can stuff his suburbophobia.