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.

Twice.

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.

A-ha!

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.