May 21


Monday Morning Read

Jim Heaney's recommended reading for the week is topped by a story lamenting the lack of progress addressing problems on Buffalo's East Side since the May 14 Massacre.

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The Trace, a nonprofit news organization that reports on gun violence, marked the one-year anniversary of the Tops Massacre with a story that notes the lack of progress addressing systemic problems on the city’s East Side. Local foundations have directed some money east of Main Street. The state, too.

City Hall? Not really. In fact, the response from Mayor Byron Brown and the Common Council has been tepid.

Geoff Kelly is looking over the mayor’s proposed budget for the coming fiscal year for a story we’ll publish in the coming week. On the expenditure side, Geoff hasn’t seen any big differences in this budget compared to previous years: lots of money for police and fire, precious little for improvements to park and community centers, recreational programs, or initiatives to improve housing and quality of life generally in the city’s most distressed neighborhoods. 

But hey, they’re celebrating over the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority, controlled by mayoral appointees. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development just issued a new report card on the authority and upgraded it from “troubled” to “substandard.” Seriously, Brown administration officials are cheering this.

Skittish about raising property taxes, city officials are considering charging event venues for the cost of providing police services for traffic control and some such things, WGRZ reports. What city officials are failing to recognize is that large events don’t cost the city money, as it gets a piece of the sales tax of tickets and concessions sold at games, concerts and the like.

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April Baskin, chair of the Erie County Legislature, lashed out at Republican lawmakers Thursday, a week after after they proposed a resolution calling for Michael Joseph’s suspension from the boards of the Roswell Park Cancer Institute and AKG Art Museum, formerly known as the Albright Knox Art Gallery. Joseph is CEO of Clover Group, accused by a former employee of “racist and illegal housing discrimination practices.” The Legislature’s four GOP members voted for the non-binding resolution; the seven Democrats voted against it.

Baskin tore into a Republican legislator after a committee hearing, yelling: “Ever since May 14, you ain’t said (expletive) about racism. Since May 14. You haven’t raised your hand to call out racism before. Ever.”

That followed a reporter’s question about the Joseph resolution.

Let me clarify: Baskin had harsher words for the Republicans calling out Joseph than she’s had for the Clover CEO. This from one of the city’s leading Black elected officials.

Did the Republicans have just a wee bit of politicking in mind in offering the resolution? Yeah. Ditto for Baskin in her response. See, Joseph bankrolls Democrats.

The vast majority of the $660,000 Joseph, his wife and company have donated to politicians over the past 20 years have gone to Democrats. That includes $34,000 to Poloncarz. Joseph also served as chairman of Poloncarz’s transition team when he was elected county executive in 2011.

Suffice to say, Poloncarz and Joseph are buds, which may also help to explain the Democratic opposition to the “suspend Joseph” resolution. Baskin and her fellow Democrats are usually in lockstep with Poloncarz. I mean, no one is going to accuse the Legislature’s Democratic majority of being independent of the county executive. They’re more or less a rubber stamp under Baskin’s leadership.

The Buffalo Bills are dumping Delaware North as the concessionaire at its new stadium in favor of Legends, a company owned in part by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. Hmmmm. On one hand, Jones is a vile character whose history includes being part of a mob that once tried to block Black students from integrating a Little Rock high school in the 1950s. On the other hand, Delaware North serves up crappy, overpriced food.

Another Buffalo Billion project flops. Suffice to say, Andrew Cuomo and Alain Kaloyeros did not have the Midas touch.

The Empire Center has issued a new report that documents how school spending in New York has grown while student achievement has worsened. School districts are spending an average of more than $26,000 per student, more than $10,000 greater than the national average. Here in Buffalo, the School Board just adopted a $1.1 billion budget. Spending is up, while enrollment is down, from 30,674 before the pandemic to 28,508 this school year.

Social service offices across the state are way too slow processing requests for food stamps. “The state’s 57 county social services offices outside New York City were illegally late in processing more than 11,000 food stamp claims — or one out of three open applications,” New York Focus reports.

Rudolph Guliani: A Bill Clinton wannabe? Ron DeSantis: Steering state funds to Wall Street donors. Politico sizes up the Florida governor’s prospects – not good – amid speculation that he’ll announce his campaign for president shortly.

It’s tough to get people to run for public office around these parts. Witness this year’s election for Common Council: only five of nine seats are being contested in the upcoming Democratic primary, which is tantamount to winning the general election, given the dearth of Republican voters in the city. Our neighbors up in Toronto have no such problem: More than 100 candidates, including a dog, are running for mayor. Hey, we’ve had our share of dogs running for mayor, too.

Here’s the best list I’ve come across of upcoming summer concerts.

Jim Brown: RIP. As one columnist put it: “Greatest Of All Time football player. He was faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.” And a man with a social conscience. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar explains.

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