Feb 5


Monday Morning Read

The Buffalo News jumps the gun in praising the community benefits agreement on the new Bills stadium.

Each Sunday, Jim Heaney summarizes the reporting of Investigative Post from the previous week and recommends other stories to read – along with his commentary. The email newsletter is free. Subscribe here.

When officials announced a couple of weeks ago the framework of a community benefits agreement for the new Bills stadium, I asked Geoff Kelly to analyze the deal. He poked around, found nothing had been committed to a public document, and said it was premature to draw any conclusions.

That didn’t stop Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz from praising the CBA and for The Buffalo News editorial board from parroting his claim, declaring it’s “the strongest in NFL history.” The claim is apparently based on a cursory look at a CBA for a planned stadium in Nashville to house the Tennessee Titans.

There’s a much larger body of CBAs to consider, some 350 nationally, and Geoff Kelly last year assessed those involving not only NFL stadiums, but other major league venues.

Poloncarz  – and The News – are making a big deal out of a commitment from the Bills to spend $3 million a year for 30 years on programs to benefit the community. That’s nearly $100 million, not a bad number. 

But consider what that $3 million is going to buy, say 20 years from now, when inflation is taken into consideration. Assuming an inflation rate of 2.5 percent, the Bills would have to up their annual donation to about $5.4 million to keep pace with inflation. 

Put another way, the projected average annual salary of a Bills player next season is $4.7 million. Three million dollars is a lot less than that, it’s about what they’re scheduled to pay Isaiah McKenzie or Gabe Davis next season if they keep them around.

We’ll do a serious-minded analysis of the CBA once it’s committed to paper and we have an opportunity to interview more than just the county executive. It’s called reporting, not stenography.

India Walton is running for Common Council seat representing the Masten District. The seat is currently held by Ulysees Wingo, perhaps the mayor’s biggest flunky on the Council. Walton carried the district when she ran for mayor.

Kudos to Mark Sommer of The Buffalo News for his coverage of the shenanigans of Joseph P. Dispenza, president of Forest Lawn Cemetery, who resigned last week. Mark’s original reporting revealed the role Dispenza played in decertifying the union that represented groundskeepers and the hiring of a company owned by the relatives of another Forest Lawn honcho.

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An analysis from the Albany Times Union found wealthy donors are sinking more money into candidates for state office than smaller ones. In 2022, the 200 largest donors contributed nearly $16 million to candidates. Those giving $250 or less – and there were a lot of them, some 206,000 – donated a collective $13.5 million.

Jimmy Vielkind’s weekly newsletter is worth subscribing to if you’re interested in state government. This week, he sizes up the coming battle over the state budget.

Margaret Sullivan had another spot-on column in The Guardian last week, this one on media coverage of President Biden’s possession of classified documents after he left office as vice president.

Ralph Nader is starting a newspaper.

The Koch network has turned on Donald Trump.

Why are gas prices so high? Profiteering by big oil. Exxon posted record profits last year of $59 billion. Meanwhile, The Guardian reported that fossil fuel companies profited by doing business with the murderous dictators in Myanmar.

You think it was cold here the end of last week? How about a windchill of minus 108 degrees?