Tuesday, December 31, 2002

The slicing dicing casinomatic ...

I love infomercials.

Most people, I've convinced myself, actually love infomercials.

There's just something about the glitz, the glitter, the ability to remove tar, gum and grease from any surface without scrubbing.

"Have you ever tried to get spaghetti sauce off your car upholstery? IT'S SO HARD!!! Well now with saucomatic, you can remove any tomato-based product quick as a flash."

At some point while you're watching, you come to your senses and realize that either the product won't work at all or that it may not be quite as great as its marketing experts have claimed.

Most of us, at least, come to that realization.

Some of us take that step and dial the 800 number to "charge by phone" hoping to be one of the first 1,000 callers so that we might qualify for the extra jar for only a penny.

Sunday, I was one of the first 1,000 callers when I trekked my behind across

Niagara County to visit "beautiful" downtown Niagara Falls and her new casino.

The media check in for the casino's play night was scheduled to take place from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m. with the doors opening to the general public at 6. I got there at a couple minutes after 5 o'clock and was met with a couple hundred people waiting in the casino lobby to get in.

This was after the parking. Can I just say $8!?! Sorry, I'll move on.

So I move to the head of the line to ask someone from the casino where I should check in. I had to preregister and I knew I needed to pick up a special press pass.

The first three people I asked didn't know and I started to get worried.
"Do these people know what's going on," I thought to myself.

Then the fourth person told me where to go — politely, I might add — and the experience began.

I checked in and was told the rules. I could talk to members of the public and people from the marketing group, but I couldn't quote the marketing people and I could go anywhere except employee area and whah whah whah (think Peanuts).

Alright, I'm off. Gaming floor, here I come.

I didn't bring a note pad since I didn't plan to interview anyone.

No offense to our faithful readers, but I wasn't interested in your opinion on

Sunday. I wanted to know what I thought.

I bumped into some colleagues of mine.

Dennis Stierer (US&J photographer), Hi. How are ya?

Mark Scheer (Niagara Gazette reporter), nice to see you.

Tom Prohaska (he works for the enemy), fancy running into you here.

Tom actually said to me, "I thought they had security at this place. How'd you get in?"

He's a nice guy, let me tell you.

And mainly, I walked around.

Standard operating procedure is to circle the grounds twice to get a feel for things and then move in to take a closer inspection.

So I circled then moved in.

First game - Baccarat.

It goes something like this: Flip flip. Flip flip. "You lose."

Flip flip. Flip flip. "You win."

At the end of the baccarat session, I was ahead.

See, you start with $1,000 and have four hours to blow it.

After baccarat, I had about $1,200.

Next stop, craps.

I met a really nice couple from West Seneca who came to the falls just so they could see the casino.

I never caught their names, but the male of the pair gave me some good advice on playing craps and I ended up winning another couple hundred dollars.

Okay, I'd been there for about 90 minutes now and I was way ahead. I had only two and a half hours to lose $1,400.

Roulette, baby.

It took me a while to get in and when I did, I didn't like it — and I didn't lose my money quickly enough.

In the end, I literally handed my money back to the casino folks and left.

Next time I go, I'll donate $20, just like always.

And I hope I run into people like the folks from West Seneca and the guy who had lived in Syracuse before moving to Niagara Falls to work for the casino.

Just like the saucomatic, the casino will not be a cure all, but I'm guessing that it will reduce the blemishes of aging left behind by years of neglect.

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Merry Christmas, Lockport

My good friend Santa Claus visited the Leffler household Sunday night. It was a very nice thing to do.

He was just making sure my daughters got all their wishes in on time.

As we were saying goodbye and good luck for tonight's Christmas delivery, Santa pulled me aside and asked me for some last minute gift ideas for some friends of mine.

I told him I couldn't answer him at the moment, but that he could read it in today's paper.

Santa, I'm told, is a huge fan of the Union-Sun & Journal.


For Mayor Sullivan, I would like to suggest an executive gift set, including a digital voice recorder so he can recall who he endorsed and who he didn't, and a dictionary so he can correctly use words like "support" and "persist."

For Alderman Joe Kibler, some playground equipment, a sock, and a manual on how to properly use the sock. Manual should read as follows: If you are struck with a moment of genius, insert sock into mouth. Better the sock than the foot.

For Alderman (and sheriff's department investigator) Scott Elliott, a seat back on the city's police board, which he resigned from earlier this year.

For Alderwoman Phyllis Green, plane tickets to Florida or North Carolina, so long as she uses them quickly. Oh, and make them one-way.

Give some to county legislators, too, please Santa.

For Alderman Scott Cercone, a horticulture degree so he has the knowledge necessary for tree and monument placement in city parks.

For Council President Patrick Schrader, a Magic Eight-Ball so he can figure out whether his resolutions have the votes or not.

For Alderman David Blackley, a watch set 15 minutes fast so he can make his meetings on time.

For Senator George Maziarz, a clone. This will serve two purposes. He can attend more bar mitzvahs and he can no longer tell me, "Scott, I'm just one man."

For Police Chief Neil Merritt, a phone line that isn't recorded.

For Officer Brian LeBere, golf lessons and greens fees to a course that doesn't call the Union-Sun & Journal with scores. I'm sure he'll be bowled over by that.

For City Attorney John J. Ottaviano, a gift certificate for lunch at Tom's Diner for Dec. 28 at noon.

For Developer Elmer Granchelli, a gift certificate for lunch at Tom's Diner for Dec. 28 at noon.

For City Clerk Dick Mullaney, his own floor in City Hall so he has the room to perform the duties of clerk ... budget director ... Civil Service commissioner ... the mayor ... Common Council ... dog warden ... etc.

For Building Inspector James McCann, a certificate of occupancy for Washington Heights and the foresight to check things out before making statements about whether people live in vacant buildings.

For Community Development Director Bill Evert, a time machine so he can see something happen on the South Block and Richmond Avenue.

For Paul Oates, ... never mind Santa, I think Paul got his wish.

For Lenny Thomas, a home on Lincoln Avenue so he doesn't have to go so far when trouble breaks out at the high school. Also, a bullhorn so the Common Council will listen to him when he warns them about problems on the city's north end.

For John Lombardi, chairman of the city's Republican Committee, a grueling primary battle for the mayor's race, after which the loser runs on another party line and siphons votes from the "other" Republican, letting Tom Sullivan stay in office another four years.

And for all of my friends, a salt shaker so they can take a grain as needed — while reading this column, for example.

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

History in the moment ...

There are times in life when you take inventory of the people around you and realize that you're in the middle of something important.

If you're out and you see David Stockton and his camera, you might be in the midst of one of those moments.

I run into Dave now and then. He's one of the tree-huggers — and I say that with the utmost respect for tree-huggers — who refused to let certain elements turn one of the city's prized assets, Richmond Avenue, into a convenience store.

You see, Dave has respect for history.

So much so that as a photographer, he turns up at monumental moments to record them for future generations to see.

I first met him at the Corson's auction a couple of years ago. He was taking pictures for posterity's sake. He knew the meaning of the moment and didn't want it to pass by unnoticed.

I've run into him at a couple of other events or happenings since then.

And then Friday.

On Friday, Dave was taking pictures of J.R. Reid's final "Let's Talk" on WLVL.

J.R. has decided to move to the warmer climate of Cape Coral, Fla., where, he says, it has only snowed once in all of history.

I've found that most people know J.R. from some place or another, whether it be from that call-in show or from his time with the sheriff's department or as a city alderman.

So when I heard a few months ago that J.R. was leaving the area, I knew that I had to do a story on him.

This paper and WLVL — J.R.'s employer — haven't always had a good relationship.

In fact, about a year or so ago, certain employees from the radio station and the newspaper had a meeting to get things out in the open.

Boy, did they.

The relationship didn't really improve.

But now and then, I'd run into J.R. — who I had concluded was a class act — and we'd talk about a variety of issues, mainly local rumors (the kind of stuff we can never prove, and as such, can't print).

Anyway, I had also become a fan of J.R.'s show, "Let's Talk," which frequently included people airing those rumors that I can't print.

It was a good show, and would be a difficult act to follow.

But that's exactly what I must do.

I've inherited that hour and began my own show (which I've dubbed "Dialog") on Monday.

I've got big shoes to fill and I hope to live up to it.

My inaugural show included a surprise guest, Lockport Police Chief Neil Merritt, and it went OK.

I flubbed a button here or there, and I ended up bunching all my commercials in at the end, but overall, I was pleased.

Still, it didn't live up to the J.R. Reid level of quality — that which you must achieve to have David Stockton photograph your last day of work.

Maybe someday, I will.

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Yes, Emily, there is a Lockport Monster

A few nights ago, I took the family to Northampton Park in Monroe County. Every year, the county has a light show in the park that you drive through.

At $10 a car load, it was well worth it. I highly suggest making the trip.

Anyway, one of the displays was of the Loch Ness Monster.

My 5-year-old daughter Emily asked what it was and we told her.

"There's a Lockport Monster?" she asked.

At the time, I laughed and said, "No, Emily. Loch Ness Monster."

Then I thought about it some more.

What I should have said follows.

Yes, Emily. There is a Lockport Monster.

He doesn't hide in closets or under beds ... and he doesn't want to scare little girls.

But he does frighten the heck out of adults.

You see, Emily, the Lockport Monster is kind of like the Can't Man.

For some reason, honey, people in Lockport have convinced themselves that certain things just won't work.

"After all, this is Lockport, New York," they often say.

That's their way of saying things work different in Lockport - it's almost their way of saying things don't work as well.

Those people that say that, they've been scared by the Lockport Monster.

Unfortunately, honey, some things in Lockport haven't always gone perfectly. Some businesses have closed and some things that used to be pretty aren't as pretty as they were.

Because of that, people that live in Lockport have convinced themselves that nothing is going to go right ever again.

It's the Can't Man - the Lockport Monster - that convinces them that.

In a sense, though, sweetheart, these people in Lockport are trying to protect themselves. If they think it won't work and then it does, then they're happily surprised. But if they think it will work and then it doesn't, then they're sad.

Think of it this way: If I tell you that we're going to Chucky Cheese and then we don't, you're sad, right? But if I don't tell you that we're going to Chucky Cheese, then you're not sad when we don't, right?

That's the Lockport Monster. That thing that makes you - and everyone else - sad.

What we need is a superhero - or the Ghost Busters - to make it go away.

That way, people in Lockport can believe that things are going to work out right.

Because if they don't believe that things will work out, they won't try to make it work. And then it probably won't.

And we don't want that to happen.

After all, if there was a Northampton Park Monster, you wouldn't be seeing these pretty lights.

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

What's the value

I've been fortunate enough to meet some pretty nice people, some fairly influential people, and — to be honest — a fair share of absolute jerks.

Anyway, I'm getting off my topic.

Being in the news business, you get a skewed view of the world.

Whether I'm driving down Transit, taking my daughter to school, or watching television, my most frequent thought is, "How can I write a story about this?"

I'm on watch 24-7. If I don't know the answer to something, I want to. If I know the answer and I think someone else may not, I want to get it in the paper — share the wealth, so to speak.

Excellent qualities for a newsman, I must admit.

But it has definite drawbacks.

First of all, the line between work and home is hardly black and white.

For a lot of folks, there's the time card thing. Punch the card, you're working. Punch again, you're not.

For others, its a matter of entering and exiting a building. Work is a place rather than a concept.

For a reporter, though. Being a journalist is a lifestyle.

In a way, since I'm on watch 24-7, I'm working 24-7.

Now, I'm not just saying this so you'll feel bad for me or anything like that. I just think that far too many of our subscribers don't really understand what we do. They just know that we misspell words and pick on poor defenseless politicians.

Most of what we really do, though, is somewhat innocuous. We write about local businesses, local people, local landmarks, etc.

Like I was saying earlier, problems are inherent.

A reporter by nature becomes judgmental of everything.

"Does this have news value?" I ask myself.

News value, for those who don't speak Reportese, is the determination that a good portion of 15,000 strangers will be interested in the topic enough to not call and tell you what an idiot you are for writing about it.

The news value of this column, for example, is pretty darn low, but I'm hoping you'll cut me some slack.

Where the whole news value thing becomes a problem, however, is anywhere that I'm genuinely NOT working. Dinner at home, for example. Or outside the county.

When conversations with friends and loved ones begin to be judged by how interesting 15,000 complete strangers would find them, you know you've got a problem.

Or when you're talking with your five-year-old daughter and you have to stop her to jot yourself a note because she just said something that reminded you that you wanted to write a story about something, you know you've got a problem.

Apparently, I have a problem.

Fortunately, life goes on.

Okay, to switch gears entirely: This is column number 14 for me in my weekly series carried exclusively by Greater Niagara Newspapers. It's my first on page 3 (a new plan by US&J Managing Editor Denise Young to squeeze more into the paper). I'm hoping for syndication because that's where the real money is.

To further explain, this is a column. It's an opinionated-type piece, typically filled with personal notes and flavor and almost always accompanying a photo.

Anything that says "By Scott Leffler, Lockport Journal" is a story. It is fact based and should be void of this writer's opinion. That's rough to do sometimes, but I try as hard as possible.

Anything that is graphic in nature and was likely paid for is an ad (advertisement).

Lastly, the thing on page A8 that says "Editorially Speaking" is an editorial. It is the opinion of this newspaper, or at least the five people on our local editorial board (which you may note I'm on).

Now that we've got that straight, when you call to praise me (or even to complain) about something in the paper, please don't call a story an ad or vice-versa. It makes it much more difficult to figure out what you're talking about if I'm looking for a graphic and you're talking about a story.

So if you can do that for me, I'll try not to judge the news value of our conversation when I bump into you at WalMart or Tops.

Friday, November 29, 2002

Don't confuse kids on voting ...

Remember kindergarten?

No, this isn't going to be another column with my life story in it. You don't need to go through that again. And neither do I.

But, do you?

I remember crayons and tying my shoes and all sorts of fun stuff.

I don't remember voting. I'm fairly certain I didn't vote.

My 5-year old daughter Emily, however, voted for the first time two weeks ago. The same day you and I went to the polls, Emily cast a ballot voting in three races — the governor, comptroller and attorney general races — and on three propositions.

Let me begin by saying how ├╝ber-cool it is that Emily got to vote.

The group that created, passed out and tallied the ballots — Kids Voting Western New York — said it's looking to increase voter participation in adults by inspiring people to start young.

It's a great idea and I applaud the dozen or so groups that fund the organization.

However, (you thought that was a happy column?) if you're going to do something, do it right.

The proposals that I mentioned should not have been voted upon by 5-year-olds like my daughter. They were designed for her, though, according to the ballot.

After her six questions, in fact, it said, "Grades K-2 Stop Here."

The first proposal was innocuous enough in my opinion — although I have heard some people complain about it: "Should the words 'under God' be eliminated from the Pledge of Allegiance?"

I can understand how to some children this will have meaning and they will give a resounding "no." Now, Emily didn't have good reasoning for this, but she too voted no.

The second proposal asked, "Should the New York State Education Department revise its high school graduation criteria?"

I asked Emily if she understood the question. She said she did.

"It means, 'Do you think the high school graduated?' " she told me.

Fair enough. I'm not sure I know what the question really means either, and I've covered five different school boards over the past 2 1/2 years.

The final question was my favorite: "Does the current method of funding offer all students the opportunity to meet New York State standards?"

Emily said yes.

I asked why.

"'Cause the high school kids are big," she said.


I asked her if she knew what funding was. She said no.

I asked her what New York State standards were.

"They're things that stand up on an island in New York," she answered, matter-of-factly.

If only that were true, Emily.

These kids will learn politics' stupidities soon enough. Questions about state education funding need not be posed to kindergartners. Not to mention, doesn't simply asking the question — especially at such a young age — poison their minds? I don't send Emily to school to be propagandized into believing that state leaders don't give enough for her education.

Also, I understand that the voting process was rather chaotic — almost Florida-esque with long lines and what have you — potentially turning off potential life-long voters before their prime.

Maybe next year, kids should vote in their classes?

On a side note, I had heard ahead of time that she would be voting, but she and I really didn't talk about who she would vote for. I didn't want her to vote for someone just because daddy did.

As it turns out, though, Emily voted for the same three people that her father did — Golisano for governor, Havesi for comptroller and Spitzer for attorney general.

I asked her why.

She said because she had heard her mother and I talking about them.

That made me realize A) that I'm not as quiet as I think I am, B) maybe she listens to me better than I give her credit for and C) the propaganda method the educators use actually works.

Emily also told me that many parents of the kids in her class didn't let their children vote because they didn't have time or didn't want to wait in line.

That's a shame.

Finally, I was going to further show Emily the true importance of voting by asking her which member of the family should make all the decision for the next month or something.

But I scrapped that plan in fear that she'd pick the dog — or worse, her mother.

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

No room at the Inn

Last week I had the pleasure of running out to a County Legislature meeting.

The Union-Sun & Journal is (believe it or not) preparing for the 2003 political calendar and I had to bring some biographical questionnaires to three current members of the legislature — Erck, Cole and Meal — so I could get to know them a little better.

I thought the meeting started at 7 o'clock, so I headed over a few minutes before that to say 'Hi' and give them my questionnaires. Unfortunately it actually began a few minutes before I got there and there was a line to get into the legislature chambers.

When I say it was standing room only, I mean it in the most literal form of the word. There were about 20 people in the lobby looking in towards the meeting and about another dozen standing up inside the legislative chambers.

No one outside could really see what was happening inside, but thanks to the miracle of electronics, we could hear. No one inside could see how many people filled the lobby outside, but thanks to the miracle of politics, they wouldn't listen even if we spoke.

Fortunately, the county had provided a few seats for a handful of people to sit and listen to the meeting.

Now stay with me here:

There are six benches inside the legislature's room, each fitting about eight people — for a total of about 48 spectators. These people fit into about a 585 square foot area off the legislature floor.

Each person gets 12.2 square feet — or thereabouts.

And that doesn't include the people standing in the aisles.

Add them in and its less than 10 square feet per person — still leaving about 20 people outside in the lobby.

On the legislature floor, meanwhile, there sit 19 legislators at large desks. The area they occupy is about 1,638 feet. Accompanying them are a couple of lawyers, department heads and whathaveyou. Lets say there's 30 people in this space.

That means each person gets 54.6 square feet.

It seems pretty simple to me that maybe there should be a little more space for the constituency and less space for the legislature and their cronies.

They could add another row of booths and extend the gallery a little to make room for people.

The could put in some extra chairs on meeting nights to accompany the overflow.

Or they could just cut the legislature to 10 and give the people half of the legislature floor.

We are, after all, supposed to have all of it.

On the topic of the legislature, it seems to me that its time for the annual scare tactic. You know the one, tell people that unless every service ever invented gets cut to the bare bone, taxes are going to skyrocket by 20 percent.

Oh, it's only 16 percent this year? Thank God.

Here's my solution: You know that "doomsday scenario" they keep talking about? The one where every service ever invented gets cut to the bare bone? Do it.

Does that include cutting the number of legislators?

Please, can it?

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

I'm a jerk and you are, too

I am a selfish, uncaring ingrate.

I'm tactless, inconsiderate and generally unworthy of my daily oxygen intake.

By the way, you are too.

A little harsh, I know, but stick with me and you, too, will realize what a jerk you are. No offense.
The other day I read a story that reporter Joseph Kissel wrote about duck hunters in Wilson.

This gaggle of seven-or-so men sit out on the newly refurbished pier and pick off waterfowl as they try to fly by.

Many visitors to the pier say guns shouldn't occupy family settings.

But Jim Cyphert of Wilson said they're doing the community a favor, ensuring that it doesn't get overrun with ducks and geese. And they have every right in the world to be there.

Both sides say they just want what's "fair."

As a father, I feel compelled to cry foul (or fowl, rather).

If I were down at the pier with my family and guns started going off, I'd be peeved.

First, my little one would have a fit. She's only two years old — and a gun would scare the bejesus out of her. Second, I'd have to explain that they were shooting duckies. She loves duckies.

Not a situation I'd look forward to, I assure you that.

But, as I stated before, they're within their rights. The pier is federal property and federal laws permit duck hunting as long as shots are fired over 500 feet of open water.

Here's my dilemma and why I'm a cretin: I see both sides, and depending on which side I might be standing on, both sides could be right — or wrong.

I've never hunted. I don't have anything against it for those who do. More power to them, in fact. I just don't have the stomach for it.

But putting myself into a hunter's shoes, it comes down to a matter of rights. If I'm allowed by law to do something, then I should be free to do it without being hassled.

It isn't too far off from the problem I have with the city's political sign law. As an American citizen, I have first amendment rights which supersede the city's desire for tidiness.

But as our illustrious city treasurer pointed out, just cause I have the right doesn't mean that I have to clutter my front yard with political ramblings from candidates that are pretty much guaranteed to lose because I support them.

Anyway ... let's get back on topic here.

Rights and responsibilities should never be separated. Along with the right of free speech comes the responsibility to not be a jerk about it.

Just because this pack of seven-or-so hunters can legally hunt off the federally funded pier doesn't mean that they should.

The greater good is that of the higher number of people — the families that are visiting the area and the folks who live nearby who choose to not be waken up by gunshots.


Or do I only think that because that's the crowd I fit into?

As Americans we learn several things at a fairly young age: 1) America is good. 2) America is great. 3) As an American, your rights are more important than anyone else's rights.

Another illustration of this is the fact that I recently — about three months ago — quit smoking.

I was always the angry smoker because you non-smokers now had the whole restaurant and I had to go outside to satisfy my evil habit. You non-smokers didn't care much about my rights as a smoker.

But, whoa! What a different world it is now that I quit (after having smoked since before I was a teenager).

Smokers are smelly.

And rude.

I mean, why would they smoke right in front of me? Do I have a sign on that says, "I'd like to be subjected to stench and carcinogens?" I quit so I wouldn't have to be subjected to it.


Once again, whatever side of an issue that I stand upon is the correct side. The other side is dead wrong and basically evil for thinking otherwise.

Before you condemn me as being the tactless, inconsiderate schmuck that I said I was, look in a mirror.

Could you have written this column?

I'm guessing you could have. We all could have.

So the next time you rear end a stopped car on Transit Road, think about things from the perspective of the person whose car you just hit — instead of blaming him for stopping.

And don't forget to feel bad for the people who are now going to be late for work since you just gummed up traffic.

I might be in that line and you just ruined my day.


Tuesday, November 05, 2002

Just what do you mean, Mr. Mayor?

I was fortunate enough to have been able to take a much-needed vacation last week.

I preface this column with the vacation announcement to illustrate a point: While I normally am clued into all the inside information, I was just as out of the loop as our other 15,000-plus readers last week.

So I was utterly dismayed Wednesday when I read that Mayor Thomas Sullivan had endorsed incumbent Gov. George Pataki.

I mean, I had just illustrated last Tuesday the fact that Pataki needed a train and a campaign in order to find Lockport. I don't care how much of our money he "gave" us, he didn't deserve the mayor's endorsement.

And I stewed.

Just because Pataki was going to win, the mayor threw him the endorsement, I figured. "Staying in a good light with the governor makes good political sense, at least, but I can't believe that Sullivan would sell out his party like that," I thought to myself.

Don't confuse the issue, I'm not pro-McCall. Just anti-Pataki for reasons mentioned in previous columns.

Then I get my paper on Friday, in which I read a detailed story about how we thought that Sullivan had endorsed Pataki via the Associated Press via state Sen. George Maziarz via Tom Sullivan.

And in the end, the story explained, Sullivan hadn't endorsed Pataki at all.

"I was there to support the City of Lockport," Sullivan told our reporter David Winters on Thursday for the story that ran Friday. "I thanked him for all the support he's given Lockport."

I was very happy to hear that Sullivan had been misquoted, misunderstood, or whatever. I was upset, mind you, that we had given our readers incorrect information on Wednesday, but happy that Sullivan hadn't officially joined the dark side.

Now, support is an interesting word. Sullivan had told another Greater Niagara Newspapers reporter —Brian Bannister — last Tuesday that he was supporting, not endorsing, the governor.

A quick check of a couple dictionaries and a thesaurus or two will tell you that the two words are virtually interchangeable.

Sullivan, it appears, had decided to blame the US&J for the mistake and accuse us of shoddy reporting.

Winters tells me the mayor was downright steamed.

And after thinking about it for a while, I ended up downright steamed as well.

Sullivan and his "I didn't say that" administration have made a career out of denying things that they had said.

The problem seems rather clear to me, actually.

Clarity would come if Sullivan would pick a color.

Tom, it's either black or white.

I understand that as a politician you are trained to vary between grays. Dark gray. Light gray. Dover gray. Charcoal. Remember, this is the man who said that "persist" means "to start."

The predominant theory among many politicrats is that if you present the right shade of gray in the right angle to the right people, maybe some would see it as white and some would see it as black and everyone would be happy.

From an outside perspective, it looks like the mayor wanted the Democrats to believe that he didn't endorse Pataki, the Republicans to believe that he did and no one else would care.

To paraphrase, "You can't please all the people all the time."

But that's what the mayor wants to do. And when he doesn't, it's our fault.

Sorry Tom, it just doesn't work that way.

Say what you mean. Mean what you say. And stop trying to play our readers for idiots.

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Governor Pataki, may I buy you a map?

A lot has happened in the last eight years.

In 1994 I was a junior in college in Ohio. (I was one of those who fled but returned)

I was majoring in Political Science and spent my free time talking about politics with the seven other Democrats at my university.

I was gainfully employed as a dishwasher in a family restaurant.

I had just met my wife-to-be a year earlier.

I was an assistant residence director (a rule enforcer, believe it or not).

And Mario Cuomo was governor of New York.

Now, I was never a big Cuomo fan, mind you, although my dad liked him just fine.

In the eight years since, I got married, had two beautiful daughters and have had several jobs.

The restaurant that I worked at burned down and has since been converted into a fitness center.
I flipped burgers for three years (and ate far too many as my weight has gone from 180 to two hundred something).

Ran for office.


Got crushed.

Yup, both times.

Sold Kirbys (literally door to door).

Sold office products.

Worked as a stringer for a large daily.

Got a full-time gig at a very small paper.

Lost my dad and moved back to New York.

Got a job at the Union-Sun & Journal (in circulation).

A good job opened up in the newsroom circa July 2000. I (somewhat reluctantly) took it.

Quickly I was reminded why I went to college in Ohio.

Despite six years of new political leadership under Gov. George Pataki, New York was in worse shape than when I left.

The governor started making frequent trips to Niagara Falls, and talk of a casino as a real, genuine, we're-not-kidding-this-time thing started to emerge.

Well, that's great for Niagara Falls, but what about Lockport?

I was having discussions at the time with a gentleman who told me that the governor would be coming to Lockport to unveil the greatest Christmas present we've ever seen.

It was going to be like Frankenmuth, Mich., only bigger. And better.

But then the announcement was moved back.

And delayed.

And ...

Well, anyone who had heard about the Christmas wonderplan should know that it's just one of many dreams that will go unfulfilled.

Now, I don't know who killed Christmas. I'm sure it wasn't the governor, although it could have been.

All I know is that I'm still asking the question.

What about Lockport?

I understand that a certain state senator's office has compiled a list of presents that Gov. Pataki has doled out to the Lockports (city and town) and they exceed $40 million.

That's nothing to scoff at, that's for sure.

But forgive me for not being overcome with joy that the money we pay in taxes actually came back to us as services.

Maybe the governor could have taken $1.29 of that $40 million and bought a map that told him how to get to Lockport.

Because in all the time that Pataki has been in office, he has never before visited Lockport.

But he's here today.

At least, he's supposed to be.

All things in a governor's schedule are tentative.

But the schedule said something like this: "Lockport. Train stop. Remind voters that McCall and Golisano are both liars."

Well, thanks, George.

Glad to see you care.

Don't let the door hit you in the caboose on the way out.

And we'll see you again in eight years.

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

UNbothered by U.N.

Anyone who pays attention to story bylines will notice that I like anniversaries.

Just the other day — Saturday to be precise — I noted that it was the 80th anniversary of Lockport's first radio transmission.

Thursday will be the 57th anniversary of the official forming of the United Nations — or United Nations Day if you're a stickler for names.

Now, I've never been quite sure why, but the United Nations is one of those things that people just love to hate.

Exhibit A: A little over a month ago, this paper ran a letter to the editor written by a Town of Lockport man who said we could be paying taxes to the U.N.

According to the writer, a U.N. meeting took place in Monterrey, Mexico, where a plan was hatched to tax airfare, coal, guns, fishing, space exploration and the Internet.


Keen on the art of Internet-inspired hoaxes, I caught the error (after it ran of course) and called the gentleman, ever-so-rudely demanding to know what his source was for the information that I'm sure he will recall I called "implausible."

I also called two congressmen and the White House hoping to quickly disprove this heinous hoax and run a quick correction in your favorite daily. Contrary to what some believe, we actually make every possible effort to print the truth and want to see it fixed whenever we accidentally make a mistake, such as when we ran that letter about U.N. taxes.

I mean, really, who would believe that we're going to pay taxes to the United Nations. The U.N. can't levy taxes, it has no sovereign rights.

So I got ahold of this man, who kindly gave me his source: American Policy Center President Tom DeWeese.

Then I called DeWeese and told him the funny story about how the Town of Lockport man must have misunderstood the magazine or report that led him to believe that the U.N. was going to levy taxes.

"They did have this conference in Monterrey Mexico in the Spring and Kofi Annan did write this report called 'Innovative Source of Finance,' " he said. "They had hoped at that meeting to push (President George W.) Bush into accepting these ideas."

Yeah, that's what I thought. This guy must have misunder ... huh?

"One of the biggies they're looking at is a currency tax," DeWeese said. "There have been estimates that this would raise the U.N. anywhere from $150 billion to $1 trillion."

Oh. Um — my bad.

"The U.N. has gotten very arrogant," DeWeese said. DeWeese and the Warrenton, Va. based American Policy Institute are one of those United Nations haters.

"We work on issues of national sovereignty," as DeWeese explained.

I, for one, am not so worried about giving up our sovereignty to the United Nations.

Truth be told, the United Nations taking over doesn't look all that bad compared to what we've got now, which is a complete lack of representation.

Our congressman-to-be is from Erie County. Our state assemblyman-to-be is from Erie County. Our state senator is great for going to barmitzvahs and whathaveyou, but ask him to actually fix something and you get, "I'm just one man, Scott." At least, that's what he tells me. He might call you something different.

Our governor can't find Lockport and hasn't been here since he became governor, despite the occasional chide from this paper.

Our (s)elected president got less votes than the other guy.

The guy that's really running the country now has been hiding in a cave since September of last year. No, not bin Laden. Dick Cheney.

And yes, I'm serious as a heart attack.

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

Sign me up

It's been more than three months now since city officials admitted that a law on our books is unconstitutional.

A story on July 10 detailed a federal ruling that a political sign law in New Paltz was unconstitutional.

This reporter noted the New Paltz law's similarity to our own and made some phone calls, including one to the mayor.

"Everyone's quite aware that it's unconstitutional," Mayor Thomas C. Sullivan told me.

So why don't we fix it?

In the three-plus months since that story ran, nobody tried to fix it. It hasn't come up once in the hallowed halls of City Hall.

You need a written invitation?

Here it is.

Since no one has proposed to amend this unconstitutional law, I will propose it, and ask only that a city alderman sponsor my proposed resolution before the Common Council. I'll even write it in legalese.

Whereas, it has been determined that Chapter 153, Article I of the city code (Political Advertising) does not meet federal constitutional requirements relating to free speech, and

Whereas, the election season is in full swing, and

Whereas, city residents should be allowed and encouraged to express their opinions, now, therefore, be it

Resolved, that the wording of Chapter 153, Article I of the city code (Political Advertising) be stricken and replaced with the following:

Political banners, posters, placards and other political advertising of any type shall be allowed to be placed on personal and private property no sooner than 14 days prior to the primary, general or special election in which that candidate(s) or issue(s) are being voted upon and must be removed no later than 7 days following the primary, general or special election in which that candidate(s) or issue(s) are being voted upon. Political banners, posters, placards and other political advertising may not be placed in the city right of way or on any city or public property including but not limited to lampposts, hydrants, street signs, wires, cables, monuments, statues, bridges and railings of the City of Lockport, New York.

Further be it resolved, that the amendment take effect immediately upon its passage by a majority vote of the Common Council.

OK, so I've done (apparently) the hard part. Now if someone can take up my resolution, I'd appreciate it.

There is also a penalties portion of the sign law Chapter 153, Article II (Penalties for offense) of the law that offers a fine a $250 or imprisonment of 15 days for those who fail to comply. That I'm fine with.

You may ask why I care. There are a few reasons.

First and foremost, I can't stand the fact that it could be illegal to express your political opinion on your own private property because of a stupid illegal law (that sounds so funny).

Second, having a law on the books that city officials acknowledge is unconstitutional makes all other laws suspect, in my opinion. It's similar to guilt by association, I suppose.

Finally, it's fun to point out to follies of elected officials. It's even more fun when you can fix it.

By the way, if you agree with me, call your alder(wo)man. His (her) number is:

  • Mayor Thomas Sullivan: 433-6510
  • 1st Ward Alderman Scott Elliott: 433-0722
  • 2nd Ward Alderwoman Phyllis Green: 434-3406
  • 3rd Ward Alderman Scott Cercone: 439-4012
  • 4th Ward Alderman Patrick Schrader: 434-4957
  • 5th Ward Alderman David Blackley: 433-9573
  • Alderman-at-large Joe Kibler: 434-8673
  • Tuesday, October 08, 2002

    At the end of the day, it's Phyllis time

    Okay, I have to admit it — I've always liked Phyllis Green.

    Back when Phyllis was working so hard to fix up Altro Park, I thought she was a natural leader.

    Then when everything was done, Mayor Sullivan slighted her by not naming a room after her in the new youth department building.

    Phyllis donated hours of her time to move earth and rattle change from people's pockets.

    In the end, however, the city named the rooms after the pockets, not the workers.

    This city names everything. Just not after Phyllis.

    And it's a shame. A look at her history shows you her hard work and the dedication that this woman holds.

    She served 10 years on the Common Council, deciding to get out in 1997 to spend time with her family.

    But she quit retirement quickly. A few short weeks after announcing that wouldn't run for her long-held Council seat, Phyllis decided to run for county legislator — a seat she never obtained.

    Phyllis got herself a nice volunteer position on the city's Youth Board, all with the plan of refurbishing Altro Park, which as I've already mentioned, went astonishingly well.

    Then she decided there was going to be too much office in the aforementioned youth department building, so she quit the Youth Board.

    "The moment (Paul Foster) moves in, I'm resigning," she said back in October 2000.

    Give 'em hell, Phyllis.

    Then Phyllis got back on the Common Council in 2001, beating Democratic golden child Sean Smith and tossing city politics into a tizzy.

    And she promptly went on vacation, extending the 2nd Ward all the way down to Florida, where she spent nearly a month.

    Of course, she was supposed to be there for two, but she quit her vacation early.

    "I really honest and truly think that I can do more in 10 months than some people do in 12," Phyllis told me in January, adding that she wouldn't give up a dime of her $6,500 salary.

    So to sum up, she quit the Council, quit the youth board, and quit on her constituents to go to Florida.

    And in February, she told my editors that she'd never talk to me again, but she quit not talking to me, too.

    Now she wants you to quit your paper because — heaven forbid — we've been printing the news.

    "When we don't comment, they say we're not doing our job," she said last Wednesday in calling for a boycott of your local daily. "They're harming the city."

    We're harming the city, mind you, by printing the truth about what your city leaders say and do (think Kibler) and don't say or do (think Merritt).

    She had the audacity to say to me, "Sometimes I think the newspaper just wants to sell newspapers."

    Say it ain't so, Phyllis.

    Sure, this is a business. People have to buy the paper in order for me to get a paycheck at the end of the week. I can't go to Florida for a month and still get paid, but maybe I'm just envious — or dare I say green.

    Anyway, to get back to my original point, I want to name something after Phyllis.

    How about 5 o'clock? Also known as quitting time.

    Tuesday, October 01, 2002

    Notice: War in progress

    As a member of the media, I often find myself defending my trade and what it is that we do.

    I get sick of all the dittoheads in the world talking about the “liberal media” and our penchant for only printing things that we agree with or that will further our evil liberal causes.

    So I often tell people I run into that its our job to report the news no matter who it damns. Actually, I find that media types get a kick out of “outing” any activity by anyone, be it their favorite politician or least favorite business person.

    “We don’t hide anything,” I say.

    So why did I just find out last week that we’ve been in a war with Iraq pretty much since we ended our last war with Iraq?

    Here’s how it went down: Thursday morning I’m listening to WLVL (have to check out the competition) and Doug Limmerick (I’m glad my name’s not Doug Limmerick) breaks in as usual with the news, stating that Iraq is claiming that we bombed a civilian airport and our Department of Defense is acknowledging the attack.

    “Oh (we can’t print this word), we’re at war again,” I think to myself.

    So I turn on the TV to see what the deal is.

    CNN, MSNBC, Fox, you name it. No news about us bombing Iraq.

    Checking the WWW, I find the same thing.

    Finally, by mid-afternoon, MSNBC has a cryptic message on their crawl (the fly-by-news on the bottom of the screen).

    I figured I’d read it in Friday’s paper. Then Friday’s paper came out and it wasn’t in there.

    I asked Anne Calos — our city editor — what she knew about us bombing Iraq. Answer: nada.

    But, Doug Limmerick was again providing prose on the preposterous proceedings on WLVL. Still no TV or WWW news.

    A quick check of the AP wire and ... hmm, nothing on the wire.

    Finally, I used my favorite Internet tool — google — and searched “bomb Iraq airport,” coming up with a Web site in Colorado of all places that had the scoop.

    The site had a list of all the times we’ve bombed Iraq in the past two years. That’s right, I said ALL the times. I counted 92 total.

    Nancy Stohlman, of the Colorado Campaign for Middle East Peace told me Monday that she wasn’t surprised that I hadn’t heard of the previous 91 occasions where we dropped bombs.

    Stohlman said she was in the Middle East a short time ago, and found herself next to Western reporters who were desperately trying to relay stories back home about the ongoing atrocities in Israel.

    But somewhere between the reporters best interests and their bosses decisions, the stories were either watered down or lost, she said.

    After seeing the Colorado story, I called AP and asked that one be sent over.

    “The American media is the worst,” Stohlman said. “And the public still thinks that we’re waiting to drop the bombs. We’ve been bombing and attacking them physically all along.”

    According to the stories on the group’s Web site, dozens have been killed and hundreds injured in the bombings.

    In July, Russia condemned the U.S. for its actions, claiming it “complicated peace efforts.”

    The stories — which are all linked on or posted to the group’s Web site — aren’t written by some crackpots. They’re legitimate stories from the Associated Press or Reuters. Some are from foreign news agencies.

    So, I still ask, why aren’t we hearing this?

    “The American public doesn’t understand or want to believe that the media is still a corporation run by people with interests,” Stohlman said. “Right now those interests lie with Bush,” laments the self-proclaimed “lefty.”

    And Stohlman is right. Just look at who owns the major TV networks: NBC is owned by GE, while Disney owns ABC and Westinghouse controls CBS.

    Disney is the only “liberal” in the group — if you consider wholesome family movies a liberal slant. GE and Westinghouse, meanwhile are out building bombs — the same ones that our planes are dropping onto Iraq.

    So yeah, the media does slant and stifle news for the sake of its own interests. Primarily war mongering Republican ones.
    For more information on Stohlman’s group, check www.ccmep.org. Tell them I sent you.

    Tuesday, September 24, 2002

    Honest Abe? Or gay Abe?

    Everyone knows the story of Abe Lincoln, right?

    It's the mother of all "try, try again" mantras.

    Practically every political spot he ran for, he lost the first time, but he persevered, living in a log cabin that he built with his own two hands until four score and seven years later he won the Civil War, thereby freeing the slaves, after which he was shot by John Wilkes Booth in Ford's Theatre and died April 15, 1865 - the darkest day in American history to that point, and the reason we pay taxes on that day.

    But there's one point that many folks may not be familiar with.

    Now, I'm not quite sure how we got to talking about this, but it came up the other night in the newsroom right here at the Union-Sun & Journal.

    We were talking about log cabins. That lead to a comment about Log Cabin Republicans. I quipped that the Log Cabin Republicans were aptly named since the founder of the party was gay.

    "What are you talking about, Scott," one of my colleagues shot out, half sounding like they wanted an answer and half sounding like they just wanted me to shut up.

    "Abe Lincoln. He was gay," I said, calmly.

    "Says who?" asked my unnamed colleague, gruffly.

    "I don't know," I said. "I learned it in college. He had a gay lover when he was younger. The whole Mary Todd thing - a facade."

    Well, that was it. I might as well have told my co-worker that HE was gay, judging by his reaction.

    He wanted proof.

    Well, I must admit, I don't have diagrams or photos or eyewitness testimony. I do, however, have some second hand information and a man who says he has the diary of honest Abe's lover.

    Add that in with Abe's charm, social conscience, and fashion sense and it seems plain as day to me.

    The year was 1837. Lincoln, then 28, was admitted to the Illinois Bar on March 1, and he moved to Springfield on April 15 (there's that date again), becoming a law partner of John T. Stuart and living with Joshua Speed, with whom he shared a bed - literally.

    You see, when Lincoln arrived in town, he hadn't enough money to buy bedding at the general store, but Speed, the 23-year-old merchant behind the counter took pity on honest Abe and invited him into his own bed, free of charge, which happened to be just upstairs.

    For the next four years the two men shared that bed along with their most private fears and desires.

    The previous three paragraphs are fact. Indisputable. Any historical worth his or her salt will say, "Yup, that's the God's honest truth."

    One man, however, says that he has some documentation of what happened in that bed for those four years.

    Both men eventually married and had children; they remained close until they had a falling-out in 1855 over the issue of slavery.

    But that didn't change their feeling for each other, says Larry Kramer.

    "There's no question in my mind he was a gay man and a totally gay man," says Kramer, gay activist and founder of ACT-UP. "It wasn't just a period, but something that went on his whole life."

    Kramer claims to have the proof, a diary written by Joshua Speed, as well as a stash of letters in which Speed writes explicitly about his love affair with Lincoln. The secret pages, which were discovered hidden beneath the floorboards of the old store where the two men lived, now are said to reside in a private collection in Davenport, Iowa.

    Unfortunately for the world, Kramer won't let the world see them.

    Mark Mead, spokesman for the Log Cabin Republicans in Washington, says he is entirely familiar with Kramer's claims, but he dismisses them outright.

    "It's completely irrelevant to me and I would think that a lot of our membership don't care," Mead told me by phone Monday morning.

    Asked of the possibility, he said, "Since he's deceased, we'll never know."

    The group has been around in one form or another for about 25 years, but just became the "Log Cabin Republicans" about a decade ago.

    The "Log Cabin" notation is in reference to Lincoln, but officially, it's in reference to his ideals, not his sexuality, the group says.

    Here's what I don't get though: What's the big deal? I mean, when I brought this up Friday night at the US&J, it started a debate more intense than the "pop or soda" one that we're always having.

    I'm told that 10 percent of all people are gay - statistically speaking.

    That means that Lincoln was likely one of the four gay president's we've had so far.

    So what?

    He's been dead now for 137 years. Does his sexuality really make a difference in how we see the man? I just can't see how or why it would.

    I mean, he still won the war - still freed slaves - still persevered. Plain and simple, he's still Abe Lincoln.

    Lastly, I was surprised how few people that I've talked to between Friday night and now knew that Lincoln was gay.

    I thought we were more informed than this.

    You do all know that Jesus was black, right?

    Tuesday, September 17, 2002

    Luck smiles not on WNY

    Here we go again.

    For anyone not paying attention, last Friday the FBI arrested four men from Lackawanna on charges that they provided support to the al-Qaida terror network.

    For Western New York, the timing was perfect, as it was Friday the 13th and just another sign of the bad luck that this region has undergone in the past decade-plus.

    Saturday, the FBI arrested a fifth man, and Sunday it was learned that there had been a sixth man who was arrested in Bahrain earlier in the week.

    Prosecutors say the men were members of a terror cell trained by Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network and were under investigation even before the Sept. 11 attacks. They said the men had intensified their communications this month.

    An FBI agent said Saturday that the group amounted to an al-Qaida-trained cell, trained at the same Kandahar camp that John Walker Lindh attended.

    Watching the whole story unfold over the weekend just made me shrug my shoulders and shake my head.

    Of course, it's Western New York's fault. It seems to me that major news stories to come out of Western New York tend to be of the negative variety. We're notorious as a region for breeding bad news, whether its blizzards or bombers, missed field goals or "no goals."

    For the life of me, I can't think of another area of the country that has contributed to so many "bad news" stories.

    We were the home of Tim McVeigh, O.J., and John Wayne Bobbitt. A president was killed here 100 years ago (McKinley) and a doctor was killed here four years ago (Barnett Slepian).

    During any bad weather in any other part of the county, somebody says, "It could be worse. We could be in Buffalo."

    You know how some people are famous for being famous? We'll, we're famous for being notorious.

    First off, of course its a shame. We are also the home of some real great societal contributors, right?

    Jack Kemp lost a bid to become vice president six years ago.

    Rick James was jailed for dealing cocaine, assault and torture. The King of Funk confessed to Rolling Stone that at least by being in prison he "could not do drugs."

    John Rigas built a cable empire then bilked it for millions of dollars. We might lose our hockey team because of him.

    The Goo Goo Dolls continue to sing.

    And we wonder why we have such a bad rap.

    At least we have Buffalo wings. Too bad it took a movie starring Bill Murray to remind us that we should have a festival for them.

    When I was in college and people would ask me where I was from I frequently wanted to lie. Maybe I could say I was from Chicago ... or Indiana. No one from those communities was famous for having his wife give him a 10-second sex change. (Look up Bobbitt in a French dictionary, by the way).

    But in the end, I would always tell the truth.

    "I'm from Niagara Falls," I would say.

    To which they would say, "Oh, I didn't know you were Canadian."

    "Yup, sure am, eh," I'd retort. "There's a lot of things aboot me that you don't know."

    At least that way I wouldn't have to deal with any Buffalo jokes.

    Tuesday, September 10, 2002

    Happy Patriots Day?

    I'm not afraid of much.

    A couple weeks ago, we had a bat flying around in our house, but I caught it in a pot and took it outside while my wife hid under the covers in the bed.

    Fear factor? None.

    But some things concern me.

    Imagine if you will: It's Sept. 10, 2072 instead of 2002. America is gearing up for their Patriot Day picnics. For most, it means another day off work and a sale on all airbikes at the local Fujimaki dealership.

    Paintsoft (the paint division of Microsoft) is holding their annual "Let's Roll" paint event, a vague reference to what some patriot said back on Sept. 11, 2001 — when all this Patriot Day stuff started.

    The big three airline industries are selling all plane tickets to New York and Washington for only $911, in tribute to those who flew somewhere or did something back on that fateful day that patriotism began ... or something like that.

    No one's really sure what Patriot Day means, how it began, or why we have two days off in two weeks — but hey, any reason to barbecue is a good one. (Thermal grills are on sale, by the way at AOL-Time-WalMart.)

    One thing is certain. Someone named Al Kayda said "Stay inside and have a six pack" sparking the global recession that could only be ended with zero percent financing at your local Fujimaki dealer.

    Okay, now return to today and consider my assessment of the future.

    Now, before you say, "implausible, ridiculous, and asinine," think about this: define the difference between Veteran's Day and Memorial Day.

    For those who can answer my question, I say, congratulations. How many years did you serve in the military?

    For those who can't, welcome to the IAC — the Ignorant Americans Club.

    Ashamedly, I must admit that I am a member.

    Heck, I always forget whether I can't wear white before Memorial Day and after Labor Day or vice-versa.

    Throw in Arbor Day and I'm absolutely out of it.

    Maybe — just maybe — that's why 2/3 of the world hates us. We are so self absorbed (How much did your stock plummet because of Sept. 11?) that we have no global view.

    It's all about how whatever affects ME.

    When is the last time that you whined that a traffic accident made you late for a meeting, picnic or other "life altering" occasion. Did the people in the accident live? Did you even check the paper the next day to find out?

    Aug. 31, the Union-Sun & Journal ran a story about the terrorist attack at the 1972 Olympics and I had NO CLUE what it was about. Finally, my wife and I came to the conclusion that since they weren't Americans who were killed, we didn't learn it in school.

    We're such a young country that the History Channel is reportedly running reruns of Seinfeld.

    We have had a mere 43 presidents in our nation's lifetime, but the average adult cannot name all of them. There are 50 states, but again, naming them all is considered a talent.

    Dare to not know who botched the Red Sox chances at winning the World Series in 1986, though. What are you, a communist?

    Look folks, it's inevitable. Less than a generation from now, we'll be trying to decide between ham and cheese or baloney and cheese for the picnic, and whether to go camping or on a cruise for the "holiday."

    All I ask is that we all eat our baloney sandwiches respectfully and try to remember why it was on sale.

    By the way, Memorial Day (in May) was organized following the Civil War with the purpose of honoring deceased soldiers. Veterans' Day (in September) is a day to honor all veterans, originally a commemoration of the end of WWI. And Bill Buckner botched the World Series.

    Tuesday, September 03, 2002

    US&J scribe takes up juggling ...

    Forgive me if I seem confused or disoriented.

    You see, I'm in the middle of moving.

    Not in the literal sense. More figuratively.

    I'm switching jobs.

    I'll still be with the Union-Sun & Journal, but doing different things ... covering different things.

    Instead of City Hall and the Lockport School Board, it will be town and village halls and the Roy-Hart and Barker school boards.

    For two years, I covered the city and all it entails. What a rush it can be covering the politicrats in Lockport. Constant fodder, I assure you. I seldom
    - if ever - lacked for something to do.

    But, you see, it wears you down.

    So when the opportunity presented itself for me to split my time between being an editor for our fine publication and covering the easternmost part of Eastern Niagara County, I didn't take too much time to make up my mind.

    I can't imagine that I'm going to regret my decision, either.

    There are difficulties, mind you.

    You know how once you really know what you're doing, your job gets easier and easier? Second nature almost?

    Well, I had hit that plateau. I was in the zone. (My self-opinion may be somewhat overinflated, but someone's got to think highly of me.)

    Anyway, back to the moral.

    So, now that I'm in a different ZIP code, I'm not sure where the zone is any more.

    I have a huge learning curve to overcome, too.

    I have a lot of people to get to know.

    Their likes, dislikes, kids' names. You name it. (I've got to fill my Palm Pilot up with something.)

    But I'm in that odd sort of situation that we all put ourselves in occasionally
    - like when we go to our spouse's family reunion for the first time and don't know ANYONE.

    For them, it's easy. One new name to remember.

    "Scott Leffler. Lockport Journal. I'll be covering your town now."

    For me, though, I'm taking in way too much information to be good for me.

    I'm meeting supervisors, board members, clerks, attorneys, dog catchers.

    "So let me get this straight. Your name is Fluffy and you cast the tie-breaking vote on whether or not to call a snow day?"

    And that's per town.

    Now take into account the fact that my move has me covering ... (deep breath) ... Royalton, Hartland, Middleport, Somerset, the Village of Barker, the Barker School District and the Roy-Hart School District.

    That's a whole lot of dog catchers to learn. (Roy-Hart doesn't have a dog catcher. At least I don't think so.)

    Plus, I'm holding on to an old staple of mine, Delphi Harrison Thermal Systems.

    At least that's the same. Well, except that they have a new spokesperson - Barbara Barkley replaced Doug Hoy about two months ago
    - who for the life of me I can't seem to find time to sit down with for introductions.

    Splitting my time up eight different ways in only three days (I did mention that I'm also editing part-time, right?) makes the calendar function on my Palm Pilot incredibly useful. The calculator part, too.

    Some of the meeting people has been somewhat daunting, but I think I can handle it.

    I am, after all, good with people. (There goes the self-opinion meter again.)

    As long as I can stay organized, I'm sure I'll be fine.

    And if not, maybe I can convince Roy-Hart that they need a dog catcher.