Categories for Analysis

May 27

2021

Jemal: Big portfolio, unconventional methods

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People in the commercial real estate business look at all the properties Doug Jemal is buying around Buffalo and ask: How is he going to pay for all the work he’s taking on? Jemal isn’t saying. He wouldn’t talk to Investigative Post for this story. But in an interview with WGRZ, he gave what some might consider an unnerving answer to the question. “We’re all going to run out of money. I’m going to die broke. There’s nothing that I’m taking with me,” he said. “Look, needless to say, you know my M.O. I’m a riverboat gambler. I’m a shooter.[...]

Posted 1 year ago

May 20

2021

Buffalo’s abysmal school attendance

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Students missing two classes a month is a sign of trouble.  A lot of students in Buffalo schools are in a world of trouble. They’re simply not showing up for online classes. Only one-third of students had satisfactory attendance from the start of the school year until the first week of March, shortly after the district began phasing in classroom instruction.  Another third of students missed online classes often enough that their frequent absence put their academic achievement at risk — or worse. The last third were severely absent, meaning they typically missed school at least one day a week,[...]

Posted 1 year ago

Apr 6

2021

Exemptions boost Buffalo graduation rate

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Buffalo School Superintendent Kriner Cash was ecstatic. The city’s high school graduation rate last year jumped 11.6 percent – eight times greater than the increase statewide. Cash proclaimed he was “extraordinarily proud of the Class of 2020,” terming the increased graduation rate in the midst of the pandemic “a tremendous positive.” Left unsaid: 22 percent of the graduating class – 423 students – was exempted from passing mandated Regents exams, which had been cancelled because of the pandemic. Instead, students needed only to receive a passing grade in their individual classes, and the district adopted a generous grading policy to[...]

Posted 1 year ago

Feb 15

2021

Politicians pocketing their campaign cash

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Elected officials, aside from judges, are allowed to keep what’s left in their campaign treasuries when they retire. For some, it’s a lot of cash. For example, State Senator Michael Ranzenhofer left office in January with $824,083 in his campaign account. Assembly Member Robin Schimminger retired with $410,665. Our Money in Politics researched the campaign accounts of 10 retired politicians; details, and a podcast, can be found here. Geoff Kelly expanded on the research for WGRZ.

Posted 2 years ago

Feb 11

2021

Another Buffalo Billion boondoggle

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Economic development officials in Genesee County have spent more than $26 million on a massive industrial park in an “if you build it, they will come” gambit. So far, no one has come. The Genesee County Center for Economic Development not only doesn’t have any business deals to show for its decade of work, the industrial park consists of little more than empty fields.  There’s no infrastructure, aside from a six-tenths-of-a-mile road. No water service. No sewer lines. No electricity. No telecommunications. The agency has nevertheless managed to spend $26.8 million dollars, including some $13 million in Buffalo Billion funds.[...]

Posted 2 years ago

Feb 10

2021

Samsung to WNY? Unlikely.

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Samsung has economic development officials — and Sen. Chuck Schumer — dreaming big. The semiconductor giant has plans to build a $17 billion plant that would employ 1,800 and says it is considering five locations in the United States, including an undeveloped industrial park in Genesee County. Schumer has spoken directly with Samsung officials and offered federal assistance to entice Samsung to Western New York. Economic officials in Buffalo and Rochester stand ready to make their case, if they haven’t already. It seems unlikely that Samsung is coming, however.  In addition to Western New York, Samsung is weighing two sites[...]

Posted 2 years ago

Jan 27

2021

Progress, at last, addressing lead poisoning

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For years, City Hall dallied in the face of  a lead poisoning epidemic among children in Buffalo’s poorest neighborhoods. City officials have finally put in place a plan being praised as a “huge step forward.” Most importantly, ordinance updates approved by the Common Council in November give inspectors, for the first time, the right to test the interiors of apartments for lead paint. It also prohibits landlords from renting contaminated units. Another improvement: loan and grant programs are being established to help landlords pay for the cost of remediating contaminated units. Shortcomings remain in the city’s approach, however. Owner-occupied rental[...]

Posted 2 years ago

Dec 17

2020

Firms left behind in quest for pandemic aid

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Nearly 19,000 businesses in Western New York received a federal loan to help them through the pandemic. Laythanette Shine’s firm wasn’t one of them. Shine’s business, USA Occupational Services on Jefferson Avenue, provides drug and DNA testing services and background checks for employers. There’s a memorial in the front window to the man who helped her set up the office, one the earliest victims of COVID-19 in Buffalo.  Shine couldn’t access the Paycheck Protection Program because her business is a sole proprietorship with insufficient profitability. Those factors are common for new small businesses, but disqualified her from getting aid. She[...]

Posted 2 years ago