Articles for Mark Scheer

Sep 20

2022

Hochul has inflated number of stadium jobs

Gov. Kathy Hochul and Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz have repeatedly claimed that 10,000 jobs will be created during construction of the $1.4 billion stadium for the Buffalo Bills.  “I love the fact that this is the largest construction project in Western New York history with 10,000 union jobs,” Hochul said during a visit in April to Buffalo.   It appears, however, that the stadium project will create about 6,800 direct construction jobs statewide, not the 10,000 claimed by Hochul and Poloncarz. That lower estimate was included in an economic impact study commissioned by the Bills. Only by adding “indirect” and[...]

Posted 2 months ago

Sep 19

2022

No relief for local taxpayers on Bills stadium

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz likes to say the new stadium deal he and Gov. Kathy Hochul cut with the Buffalo Bills gets the county “out of the football business.” The deal, however, does not get the county out of the business of paying for a football stadium.  The county’s annual costs for the Bills current home, Highmark Stadium, have ranged from $10.7 million to $12.6 million in recent years.  Estimates provided to county lawmakers for paying off bonds to cover the county’s share of new stadium construction have come in lower, between $7.7 million and $9 million annually. The latest[...]

Posted 2 months ago

Jun 9

2022

OTB reform bills stall in state Legislature

After state auditors criticized the handling of public funds and resources at Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp., a pair of Democratic state lawmakers sponsored legislation in hopes of changing the way the public benefit corporation operates.  The reform measures — sponsored by state Assemblywoman Monica Wallace, D-Lancaster, and state Sen. Tim Kennedy, D-Buffalo — were not approved by the state Legislature before the end of this year’s session that concluded Saturday. Kennedy’s bills passed the Senate, but not the Assembly. Wallace’s bill never got out of committee in the Assembly. Wallace said she plans to submit a revised version of[...]

Posted 6 months ago

Jun 2

2022

OTB paying for an army of lawyers, lobbyists

Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. continues to spend big bucks – large amounts of public money, that is – on attorneys and lobbyists.  Documents obtained by Investigative Post through a Freedom of Information request show OTB paid $333,684 to four Buffalo-based law firms between May 18, 2021, and April 1 of this year.  The legal fees are in addition to the $16,500 per month OTB pays to Albany lobbyists currently under contract.  What the lobbyists are doing for the money can be gleaned from documents on file with a state regulatory commission. But the bills submitted by two of OTB’s[...]

Posted 6 months ago

May 24

2022

East Side residents “exhausted” by inequities

Boarded-up buildings. Vacant lots. Gun violence. Lack of economic investment and jobs. A single grocery store where residents can buy quality food at affordable prices.  These are issues East Side residents have dealt with for years.  In the wake of the mass shooting that claimed 10 lives at the community’s lone supermarket — the Tops store on Jefferson Avenue — residents who spoke with Investigative Post last week said they’re hopeful some good can come from the tragedy. Hopeful, but not optimistic. Several residents said they’ve heard the rhetoric about real change coming to the East Side before. They’re still[...]

Posted 6 months ago

May 16

2022

Attorney General’s inaction on OTB

Last fall, an attorney representing New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli asked Attorney General Letitia James to take yet another look at the gold-plated health insurance Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. is still providing to its part-time board directors.  The comptroller’s referral, made in September, called on the attorney general’s Taxpayer Protection Bureau to take “appropriate action,” noting that DiNapoli’s office deemed the practice “impermissible” in keeping with a prior attorney general’s opinion that “unambiguously” stated the same.  It’s now been nearly eight months since the referral was made.  What has the attorney general’s Taxpayers Protection Bureau done in that[...]

Posted 7 months ago

May 11

2022

Yet another failing Niagara Falls project

A lot of big ideas have been floated for revitalizing the City of Niagara Falls and most of them have ended the same way: in disappointment.  Residents are still waiting for Niagara Falls Redevelopment — a company owned by New York City real estate developer Howard Milstein — to do something with the 140 acres it acquired downtown as part of a 1997 Master Redevelopment Agreement with the city.  The most-recent effort to renovate and reopen the Hotel Niagara, an iconic 1920s-era building on Rainbow Boulevard that has been vacant for more than a decade, stalled last year amid financing[...]

Posted 7 months ago

May 11

2022

Maziarz sues OTB alleging “fraud”

Updated on Thursday, May 12, at 5:25 p.m. Former New York State Sen. George Maziarz wants a judge to order  officials from Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. to reimburse taxpayers for benefits he says they improperly obtained while using the public agency as a “slush fund, an ATM [and] a piggy bank.”  OTB leaders, meanwhile, want Maziarz to shut up. In a lawsuit filed Saturday in state Supreme Court in Erie County, Maziarz alleges that the misuse of public resources by OTB higher-ups has prevented the agency’s “massive revenues” from being “fairly distributed to the municipalities and taxpayers it serves.” [...]

Posted 7 months ago