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In addition to the BERC mortgage, four and a half million dollars was lent to Theater Place Associates through HUD community development block grant funds. Theater Place Associates is led by Buffalo power attorney Jim Rolls. And what would a Rolls be without a Royce, you ask? Of course, Buffalo Police Commissioner Rocco Diina, a Mayor Anthony Masiello crony, was a founding investor, along with his brother, Anthony.

Control board or not, the breakfast of champions in this town will most likely continue to be publicly funded urban renewal projects, at least as long as the spigot of federal money to "save" Buffalo continues to remain on.

In terms of public subsidy, the building has been a relative bargain for taxpayers, though, especially since the new owners agreed to pay back taxes on the property. It is a success story, kind of compared to the L.L. Berger's building. The city acquired the building for $1.7 million, and then it absorbed several hundred thousand dollars in repairs. Just a few years later, it was sold for a dollar.

The cycle of massive investment of public money in downtown projects, followed by a fire sale, seems to be broken only when new properties are targeted for “renaissance.“ No one seemed more surprised about the turn of events at Theater Place than Bobby Militello, who, as a relative of Masiello crony Jim Militello, had every right to expect that the new ownership would allow him to continue to run the club. Apparently, he got blindsided by an avalanche of ice nine. We can see then that “The Tralf,“ as it's known, is merely another exhibit on display, much like Kurt Vonnegut's character Billy Pilgrim in his sojourns on the planet Tralfamadore. Instead of staring up at a big board like Billy Pilrim, Buffalonians are now looking up at a control board. Most of us seem to understand that what will happen next will probably not be good, and it will all out be of our control. That’s hardly the attitude of a renaissance society, but it’s one that appears to have a firm grip on Buffalo. So it goes.

Operation Clean Sweep Challenges Civil Rights on the East Side

Last year marked the debut of a new federal program called "Operation Clean Sweep," which was described by its proponents as a "quality of life program."

Critics say that the program could be more accurately described as an attack on the fourth amendment of the Constitution of the United States, which protects American citizens from illegal search and seizure by government authorities.

The operation entails the formation of a posse including, but not limited to, federal marshals; the city corporation counsel; representatives of the U.S. Attorney's office; social services; all major utilities including Adelphia Cable; parole officers; and even the city dog catcher. Coordinated by Rocco Diina's Buffalo Police Special Services Unit, the group conducts surprise "sweeps" through poor, inner-city neighborhoods, going door to door and requesting entry into private residences, ostensibly to make sure that citizens are "safe."

The most successful clean sweep to date was the first, which targeted Hispanics on the city’s west side. Some residents with poor English skills and no knowledge of their rights as Americans allowed the "quality of life program" into their homes, whereupon the authorities quickly began to look for violations of the law and evidence of wrongdoing, all without search warrants.

On Sept. 24, Operation Clean Sweep swung into action, once again centering its "information campaign" in and around Goodyear Avenue on the city's east side.

One elderly resident, who requested anonymity, told Alt that she was deeply upset by the massive show of force on her doorstep. A frightened housemate had let the "quality of life" team into the home, which led to an interrogation revolving around licenses for the resident's dogs.

Who says that a United States marshal or the city's corporation counsel is not fit to be a dogcatcher? Obviously someone who does not understand compassionate conservatism or the war on terror.

The New York Civil Liberties Union Western Regional office, led by Jeanne-Noel Mahoney, told Alt that the program appears to be based on the false premise of providing citizens with information about home safety. "If the idea of this program is to help people," she said, "wouldn't it make sense to notify people ahead of time?"

Mahoney also pointed out that most of the cleaning activity that Operation Clean Sweep has conducted have been in vacant lots owned by one of the most notorious landlords of all, the City of Buffalo.

While Mahoney said that the NYCLU does not disapprove of some of the program's public information dimension, she questioned the use of a massive posse to provide it.

"There certainly are cheaper ways to let people know that smoke detectors can be installed free of charge in residents’ homes," she said.

In previous Clean Sweep efforts, the NYCLU, when it received notice of it, had shown up to inform citizens that they have the right to refuse the posse entry into their homes. The civil rights group was not informed of the location of the latest Clean Sweep, according to Mahoney.

Indeed, where there's smoke, there's fire. Unfortunately, what’s burning may turn out to be the Bill of Rights. By Jack Trudeau

Tralf: The Player and the Piano The recent squabble over control of the Tralfamadore Cafe, like the planet by the same name, has more to it than meets the eye. To fully understand it, a little time travel is required. Earlier this year, the Buffalo Economic Renaissance Corporation quietly sold the two million dollar mortgage on the Theater Place building to Acquest Development for a half million dollars. It was holding the paper for local investment group, Theater Place Associates.