Mar 20


Monday Morning Read

Topics this week include The Buffalo News and Ukraine.

Editor’s note: This post is pulled from WeeklyPost, an email newsletter written by Jim Heaney and published Sunday mornings. It recaps our coverage of the previous week and highlights other local, state and national stories that Heaney finds of interest, along with a bit of commentary. If you don’t already subscribe — for free — you can do so at this link. Below is the portion of yesterday’s WeeklyPost entitled “What I’m Reading.”

Buffalo Business First had an interesting story last week on eight behind-the-scenes advisers the Buffalo Bills have recruited to help them in their push for a new stadium.  One name jumped out at me, Tom Wiley, publisher of The Buffalo News. His inclusion on Team Pegula is clearly a conflict of interest, one that is underscored by his newspaper’s coverage of stadium issues. Suffice to say, The News’ coverage has consistently echoed the Bills party line, save for Rod Watson’s columns. 

(The largess that Gov. Kathy Hochul and Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz are about to bestow on the Bills hasn’t been lost on elected officials around the state, who last week asked for a quarter-billion-dollars to help fix up their minor league baseball stadiums.)

Speaking of The News, I scratch my head of late every time I read about the change in leadership in the Buffalo police department. The latest example is an editorial last week in which The News not only praised the new commissioner, Joseph Gramaglia, but lauded his two predecessors, Byron Lockwood and Dan Derenda, who The News praised as “highly-regarded” for their work to “improve policing.”

Let’s unpack this.

Derenda, as I wrote at the time of his departure, left the department a mess. Officer training was poor. Misconduct was routinely overlooked by Internal Affairs. The department’s Strike Force unit was so thuggish that it was disbanded after Derenda left. Several civilians died in altercations with police. And police diver Craig Lehner drowned as the result of poor training practices.

Lockwood, Derenda’s successor, was in many ways a figurehead; Gramaglia essentially ran the department. Lockwood was so inarticulate that subordinates who accompanied him to Common Council meetings would sometimes visually cringe when the boss struggled to speak.

Opinions vary on Gramaglia. The police union, for what it’s worth, doesn’t like him, but that may be a good thing. Probably is.

Left unsaid in The News editorial is that he and his wife generously donated to Byron Brown’s mayoral campaign and hosted a party to raise money for his re-election effort. The editorial also failed to note that for years, including his tenure as deputy commissioner, Gramaglia moonlighted with the Blasdell police department, as if he didn’t have enough to do as Buffalo’s de facto commissioner.

The editorial did note he was chief of the department’s homicide squad from 2013 to 2018. Again, left unsaid is that Buffalo had one of the worst homicide clearance rates in the nation during his time as chief.

While I’m on the topic of police, the Common Council has decided to replace its Police Advisory Board with a new panel. It seems there’s some conflict within the present board. I can’t help but wonder if the real reason for disbanding the group is its continued advocacy for reforms that the mayor and Council have largely ignored. 

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Elsewhere, there’s a lot of interesting news regarding Ukraine. 

A lot of American companies have suspended operations in Russia. But a lot continue business as usual. This story and especially this report, names names, and I’m taking some of them down. For starters, I’m going to boycott Subway. 

There’s been several good stories on the ineptitude of the Russian army, including an in-depth piece from the Wall Street Journal and an eye-popping package from the Financial Times. Take a look.

Think sanctions work? Nyet, as reported by Bloomberg and Forbes.

Russian astronauts are wearing spacesuits bearing the colors of Ukraine. Hmmmm.

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