Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Once again, state politicos will fail

State leaders have one week to make a miracle.

Don't count on it.

April 1 is the deadline for our illustrious elected officials to invent a state budget.

They haven't met the deadline in the previous 18 years, why would we think they would now?

Just in case you held out hope, allow me to dash it.

"We're not going to get it done by April 1," Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno said Monday. "That's apparent now, I'm sorry to say."

A quick check of our local senator, George Maziarz, provided further proof.

I called George about 5 p.m. Monday and asked him if we might possibly have a state budget by the first.

(Paure for dramatic effect.)

"Uh, no."

Now, I've said this before and I'll say it again. We send these men and women in our Senate and Assembly to Albany with two goals:

  • Pass a budget by the set date of April 1, as is required by law.
  • Try not to screw things up too bad.

    Since I've moved back to New York - and dare I assume much before that - our elected officials have failed both those goals.

    The state hasn't had an on-time budget since 1984, when former Gov. Mario Cuomo and the Legislature passed a spending plan March 31. In 1997 and 1999, the budget wasn't adopted until Aug. 4.

    I can only think of two laws the state has adopted since my return from the Buckeye State three years ago.

    First, they outlawed talking on cell phones while driving, theoretically to prevent distracted drivers from running over politicians who don't look both ways before crossing the street.

    Second, they outlawed carrying pointy sticks or anything that's not a knife but could be used as one.

    Both these laws can be described as "feel good legislation," designed primarily to make the politicians feel good and maybe some unsuspecting voters, too.

    Now, some people out there, including a colleague of mine, would say they gave us a casino.

    All right, maybe those people have a point.

    But they only did it to gloss over the fact that this will the the NINETEENTH year in a row without passing a budget on time.

    Think about it. If you missed 19 deadlines in a row, would you still be employed?

    But we keep employing these politicos year after year.

    We really should fire them.

    But that's another miracle that won't happen.

  • Tuesday, March 18, 2003

    The power of two

    One may be the loneliest number that you’ll ever know, but two has power that I can’t put into words.

    Allow me to introduce you to Zoe Martinez and Sarahe Gorashi, two juniors from Niagara Falls High School.

    The duo got together recently to plan a peace march in the Cataract City. The march, at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, got about two dozen people (starting from two) to protest the impending war against Iraq.

    While you may say, “Two dozen people, that’s laughable,” I say that’s 24 more than would have protested if it were not the gumption of these two girls.

    Many a great plan was hatched by two like people who suddenly realize they share an idea and then spreading their idea to the rest of the world.

    The brothers McDonald convinced one Ray Krok to turn their little hamburger shack into an international multi-billion dollar empire.

    Imagine what Martinez and Gorashi can accomplish given their goal.

    “Thank you for your help and support,” Gorashi said in an email. “May peace one day prevail.”

    Unfortunately, it doesn’t look as though peace will prevail.

    President Bush last night gave Saddam Hussein and his sons 48 hour to leave Iraq, saying if he didn’t, war would ensue.

    You and I both know that Saddam isn’t going to leave Iraq. We also know that Bush knows that.

    And if you’ve read or heard me lately, you know my position on the war, but let me clear something up.

    Neither I, nor the majority of my fellow peaceniks, have anything against our troops. We wish they weren’t about to go to war, but we certainly don’t wish them harm.

    News stories — even ones appearing in this paper — have painted a picture of two movements: pro-peace and pro-troops. Both these are a fallacy.

    I know that the “pro-peace” folks, for the most part, support our troops. Now, there may be a few wackos who will spit in troops’ faces, but they don’t represent the movement. So, really, pro-peace is pro-troops.

    And I’m sure that the “pro-troops” folks would prefer a peaceful resolution than to go to war. It’s not like I think that half the country is throwing caution to the wind and hoping for war. So, really, pro-troops is pro-peace.

    Really, the difference between the sides, is perception.

    It’s kind of like “pro-life” and “pro-choice.” Do you really believe that “pro-choice” means “anti-life?” or “pro-life” means “anti-choice?”

    Sometimes, the words we use can’t really convey the thoughts we’re thinking.

    I heard once that Eskimos have more than 20 words to convey “love.”

    We cram all those into just “love,” though.

    Is it any wonder we don’t understand one another? And the lack of understanding will always lead to conflict.

    But all it takes is two people to come together — and they can bring the world together. Just ask Zoe and Sarahe.

    Photos of the event

    Tuesday, March 11, 2003

    Is this the one?

    In between blowing my nose 12,000 times on Monday, I glanced repeatedly at the South Block poll on our web site - lockportjournal.com - to gauge what public perception is of the proposed mall plan.

    I attended the Nuvo group's announcement at City Hall on Friday and, quite frankly, I was impressed with the presentation, John Tuli's knowledge of the area, and his idealism to fixing up what has been broken for oh-so-many years.

    Although I'm no longer covering the City of Lockport anymore - a privilege I passed on to Jennifer Nowicki upon her arrival at the good-old US&J - I still live in the city and still want to stay up on things that happen within its boundaries.

    While I surely wasn't the only "mere taxpayer" at the meeting, I was surprised at the lack of John Q. Publics in the audience, given the importance of the announcement.

    After all, the $5 million complex would include at least 28 shops and several office spaces - a definite progressive step in our downtown, what with the demise of Lerch & Daly, is in need of progress.

    And, Tuli said his company is willing and "financially able" to begin development immediately - if it gets the green light from the city.

    Well, heck, that all sounds great, right? Quick, go vote on our poll.

    Or ... wait a minute.

    The problem I have is with an answer to a question that I asked Mr. Tuli.

    His company is currently based out of Niagara Falls.

    As you may have heard, that city has a new casino and lady luck is shining on it right now.

    Developers far and wide are trying to figure out how to make money there.

    But the Nuvo group - based in the Cataract City - is eyeing the Lock City.

    So why, John, is that?

    His company, he tells me, isn't in the business of prospecting. He builds what he knows a community needs and will support.

    That answer sounds completely plausible, even more so considering what Nuvo wants to put there: among other things, a grocer and a bank.

    Great! Every downtown needs those things, right?

    But didn't we just lose a downtown grocery store a couple years ago due to "lack of business" and a bank (right next to the South Block, I might add) for the same reason? Aren't the shells of those former businesses still available for someone to open a bank or a grocery store?

    Yes they are.

    Ask the mayor if people are clamoring to open banks and grocery stores downtown.

    No, they're not.

    Look, I want this to be the REAL DEAL just as much as the next guy - maybe more.

    But I have too many questions and too much doubt to do any real celebrating yet.

    In fact, the whole thing makes me ... ah-choo ... sick.

    But what do you think? Let us know on our poll.

    Stand up and be counted.

    Meanwhile, I'm going to go lay down. I'll see you later.

    Tuesday, March 04, 2003

    Voice of a million tongues ...

    For anyone who doesn’t already know, I’m against the war.

    Simply put, I just don’t think that a case has yet been made that we should send our loved ones thousands of miles away to kill and maim the loved ones of Iraqis.

    I don’t think the petty differences of our leaders and their leaders should result in the bloodshed of anyone I know or don’t know.

    I don’t think — no matter how hard the president has tried to “prove” it — that a relation has been established between Saddam Hussein and the al-Qaida attack on Sept. 11, 2001.

    I still think that Dubya is trying as hard as he can to have a reason to annihilate Saddam, because it would make his father happy.

    I think that right now Iraq is the government’s Lee Harvey Oswald.

    In any time of crisis, our government has found one person (or in this case entity) to blame all our problems on. It’s always been a lone gunman or someone acting alone in some capacity.

    So if we catch that lone gunman, the American people can go back to driving their gas-guzzling SUVs, going out on the town, and buying stock in Enron.

    In other words, we can trade in our duck tape (yes, there really is duck tape) and plastic sheeting (code lemony yellow) for scotch tape and wrapping paper (code evergreen).

    But I still maintain that we needn’t put all this on one man (the previously mentioned Saddam).

    And I don’t think that we need to kill innocent Iraqi women and children to do it.

    So who cares what I think, right?

    And who cares how loud I yell?

    Well what if six people get together and yell?

    What if 19 people get together and yell?

    What if those six and 19 people are Lockport’s Common Council and the Niagara County Legislature?

    Would that make a difference?

    While I wasn’t about to poll the 19 legislators, I’ve spoken to all six city aldermen and I’ve proposed a resolution to them: In essence, a statement that the Common Council opposes in principle, the war we’re about to go into.

    A couple people I talked to didn’t like my proposal. The other four were on the fence about it. So it stands a chance, albeit, a small one.

    Nonetheless, I’ve proposed it and now I leave it up to you to let your public officials know your stance.

    If any official wants to take up my resolution, it can be found on my Web site, conveniently located at scottleffler.com.

    For a list of the 124 other municipalities that have passed similar resolutions, check citiesforpeace.org.

    And to the Common Council: If you don’t like the anti-war declaration, you can still vote on my proposal to undo the city’s unconstitutional political sign law.