Okay, who is really beleaguering the City of Buffalo? The Republican-dominated Control Board, the State GOP under George Pataki and Joe Bruno, the Republican Party under George Bush and of course the elitist Group of Eighteen hold all the cards. Is it the people who control all the money and power that are the problem here or is it the people with little of anything?
In quiet breakfast meetings and heartfelt downtown chats, Buffalo's business leaders are waging an intensive search for one of their own to become the city's next mayor.
Why are the breakfast meetings so quiet? Is it because no one wants to wake up Bob Wilmers? And how do these people have heartfelt chats about further cuts in fire, police, education, etc? This will hurt them more than it will hurt us. Yes, heartbreaking, isnt it? Pass the cream cheese. If these guys are really business leaders and not just the products of inherited wealth would it really be necessary to conduct an intensive search? And if it is one of their own that theyre really after, why is the task so arduous? After all, theres hardly any legitimate business left. I mean, leaders are supposed to stand out arent they? Maybe theyre looking for the new breed of business leader exemplified by our President, one who hides from the press and spends more time on vacation than Cal Coolidge.
It is time for someone outside the normal political establishment to step forward for the 2005 election, they say, pointing to massive population loss and a state financial control board as the products of politics as usual. Whoah! Hang on a sec! I thought they were conducting an intensive search for one of their own? They are the normal political establishment! Theyre the same people who managed to run Tony Masiello unopposed.
Population loss and the state control board arent the products of politics as usual, theyre the products of The Buffalo Clubs Group of Eighteen pure and simple. Our political system is driven by money. Political contributions have flowed into the coffers of politicians who helped their contributors exploit federal and state aid to the City.
Breaking the municipal unions has been part of the game plan for Bob Wilmers & Co. since the early nineties. At a time when other cities were enjoying a boom in investment and enhancing their natural attractions, Buffalos business elite focused instead on magic bullet mega projects that would present opportunities to loot government largess on a scale commensurate with the grandeur of the appointments at 388 Delaware Ave.
"Finding someone who will come at (the city's problems) from something other than a political process is something we need to explore seriously," said Andrew J. Rudnick, president of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, who is spearheading the search. "We need to try and find someone from outside that perspective."
The problem with politics is that its too political. The problem with education is that its too educational. The problem with automobiles is that theyre too automotive. This is the sort of brilliant logic that sends its rays of enlightenment across Americas political spectrum from left to right casting its dark shadows only on foreign shores. As a consequence we need to create a public relations barrage that will convince people that as we subvert the democratic institutions of a community it will be done so in a manner that is something other than a political process. Of course, Andrew J. Rudnick is spearheading the search for someone outside that perspective. Wow, the nineties must really be over. Otherwise, wed be looking outside the box for that special someone. Andy Rudnick with a spear? Thats sounds like a reality show that might actually be fun to watch.
The business group is conducting a citywide poll this week to test the idea and has contacted about half a dozen business types so far - some well-known and some obscure Wait. Theyre conducting a poll to test the idea? Which idea? The quiet breakfast meeting idea or the idea that theres some sort of superior politics beyond good and evil? If they poll me
Ill tell them that they should have their quiet breakfast meetings at Nietzsches at three in the morning and barley sandwiches should definitely be on the menu. That way those obscure business types could show up. Who knows? Maybe they could even attract Charlie Gargano or Butchie Quarcini, you know, guys who think outside the box.
While Rudnick says a career politician may very well emerge as its candidate, his group continues searching for a fresh face. Okay, so the idea of getting a non-political politician may be out the window after all! Or maybe theres a non-political politician thats completely obscure because hes had his fresh face jammed up some bigwigs ass for years. Now, I t hink were getting somewhere.
That face could be a college vice president or a downtown business owner recently profiled as a hip dresser. Of course! Colleges and universities in the United States are completely apolitical! Its what makes the endless war against terror doable, but does this additional emphasis on wide recognition of fashionable attire mean that gay candidates have an inside track? If so they might have to move the breakfast meetings to a gay bar.
It could be a member of the control board overseeing city finances, or a young Republican from Alden named Wiggle. If only the prerequisite called for a young Republican control board member from Alden named Wiggle who was also a born again Christian then they could definitely move the quiet breakfast meetings to a gay bar!
Though other names may enter the mix, the most serious prospects include John J. Hurley, 47, vice president for college relations and general counsel for Canisius College. Hurley, a Democrat, was a member of the Charter Revision Commission that redesigned city government several years ago, as well as a City Hall panel searching for a new planning chief last year. He said he is aware of the coordinated effort to find an "outsider" that most likely would reach beyond the current political aspirants.
Canisius College VP for college relations, huh? I had relations when I was in college but never college relations. Is that when the school screws you over on tuition and fees for things you never use? You cant get a higher outsider status than Canisius, with Carl Montante and Paul Koessler stoking the coffers. The great Charter Revision spooled out reams of top shelf toilet paper for control board members to wipe themselves with, so if Hurley was a part of that hes probably in tight with Jim Magavern, another outsider. And lest we forget Emperor Joel was also a Democrat once upon a time. We gotta keep our eye on this Hurley kid.
"Not a business'
"They don't see in the current lineup the kind of bold and decisive leadership needed to grapple with the problems before the city," Hurley said. "The fact is, government is not a business. But there is something to the argument that the training and experience of someone actually outside of government might be needed."
Oops! The kid mightve blown it. Apparently, he hasnt heard the mantra We have to run it like a business. The business we have to run it like is Adelphia or maybe Enron (nobody goes to jail with Frank Clark in charge). Youve got to like Hurleys virtuous, apolitical public servant rhetoric, though. Very Robert Moses of him. Too bad hes not Robert Moses.
Other names being mentioned include:
Steven A. Calvaneso, 44, owner of high-visibility businesses such as City Grill, Bacchus, YaYa Bayou Brewhouse and the Ultimate Men's Shop in Buffalo, as well as Calvaneso's Cosmopolitan Grille in Amherst. Image is everything! Foodies Unite! Dedicated followers of fashion to the ramparts! A flashy Masiello beneficiary! Now that is so far outside the box that I think everyone can get on the bandwagon.
He is registered with no party but is concentrating on the Republican nomination, which many observers think could play a key role in the 2005 election. Again hes clearly non-political and the unnamed observers so often appealed to in Buffalo News articles (Bacchus? Dionysius?) think that the Republicans will play a key role in 2005. After all, after George Bush wins a landslide victory in the City of Buffalo this fall it only stands to reason that the party will stay on a roll.
Richard M. Tobe, 55, vice president of the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo and a control board member. A Democrat, he held high-profile positions with former County Executive Dennis T. Gorski and the late Assemblyman William B. Hoyt. Though Tobe acknowledges discussing a possible run with business leaders, he says he does not expect to seek the post. Remember that ideal obscure candidate specializing in facial proctology we mentioned earlier? Please put the rock back in the position that you found it in, thank you.
Glenn C. Wiggle, 32, division manager with Next Financial Group in Williamsville and Las Vegas, and co-host of a paid programming radio show called the Financial Forum. At only 32, he has assembled a long resume chock-full of business accomplishments and investments.
Fanatastic choice! An insurance salesman/financial planner/stock picker with a branch office in Vegas and a home on WBENs right wing talk radio! Thats a public service record thats right up there with that of our great Congressman Tom Reynolds. Plus, hes based in Williamsville and belongs to the Saturn Club. Maybe he can help our geriatric suburbanites figure out which slot machine is right for them when the casino opens.
Hurley said he would compete only if Mayor Anthony M. Masiello decides not to run again, and over the last several weeks has actively explored the possibility. But he says his interest may be cooling in light of responsibilities at Canisius and a new realization of the extent of Buffalo's problems.
Were talking about Hurley again? Well its nice to know hes got a non-compete clause with Tony, but so does everyone else. This nonsense about responsibilities is annoying, too. Everyone knows the only responsibility he would have as Mayor is to the almighty dollar. As for his new realization of Buffalos problems, well, lets just say this kid has been paying very close attention, has he?
"Discussions are not at a complete halt," he said, "but I have been looking at what's being reported out of the control board and the magnitude of the task ahead." Whatever.
Others who have expressed interest in running for mayor include regionalism advocate Kevin P. Gaughan and Bruce L. Fisher, chief of staff to Erie County Executive Joel A. Giambra, but neither has been contacted by the Partnership. Gaughans parents hung out with the Kennedys. Shouldnt that entitle him to be Mayor of Something? And why is Bruce Fisher embarking on this fishing expedition? Is he afraid of the toxic Gumby disease spreading from the Imperial Suite in the Rath Building?
"The usual suspects'
Though its effort remains low-key, the Partnership approaches its objective emboldened by recent successes it considers departures from normal political patterns. They include citywide approval of Common Council downsizing, and last year's surprise election of Andrew A. SanFilippo as city comptroller in a campaign the Partnership helped fund.
Racism is hardly a departure from normal political patterns in Buffalos elite circles. Both the Council downsizing and the comptrollers race benefited from the ability of the Partnership (with some heavy lifting from The Buffalo News) to portray Jim Pitts as the big bad black who was responsible for all the Citys problems. Race was an issue in the referendum and it also helped SanFilippo to beat Pitts. These race-based victories enabled the introduction of the most anti-democratic control board ever. The control board is actually an authority and as weve seen time and again, theres no point to establishing an authority unless you plan on issuing bonds until the end of time.
"We're including all the usual suspects in this," Rudnick said of the overall effort, "but we are also serious about looking for a new type of city government leader." Lets see. Racist political campaigning, usual suspects, new type of city government leader, hmmm Got it! Dave Franczyk for Mayor. Now, if only we can gerrymander the City of Buffalo into the Tonawandas.
That is exactly the kind of thinking that guides Jordan Levy, managing general partner of Seed Capital Partners in Buffalo and a member of the 43x79 Group that is also part of the effort. He describes the political-action committee as a "group of guys who get together and put our money where our mouths are." Speaking of usual suspects, its good to see Jordan Levy is back with the 2X4 club. We wouldnt want the Group of Eighteen to suddenly expire from old age with no replacements now, would we?
"If the mayor chooses not to run, we feel strongly about finding someone who will effect the kind of changes we think are needed for this once great city to rebound," Levy said. "We don't have an agenda other than creating jobs and making this a better place." So the Mayor who oversaw the biggest decline in property values in the Citys history, aided and abetted by a bank president who now sits on the Control Board, is the kind of guy who will effect the kind of changes we think are needed for this once great city to rebound.? Only if Tony steps down will they bring in someone new to replace him as Poop Boy #1. Thats really encouraging.
When people from the elites at the Buffalo Club talk about creating jobs, they really mean that theyre interested in cashing government welfare checks from ESDC, EIDA, BERC, etc. The boom economy of call centers based in the U.S. is not long for this world, Jordan.
Attention focuses on candidates such as Calvaneso, who says his city investments are proof of his commitment and who expects to formally announce his candidacy early next year.
"Anything involved in making the city better piques my interest," said Calvaneso, the subject of a Buffalo News profile last November as a "metrosexual" who makes an effort to dress stylishly. Yes, but does he go for the full Brazilian bikini wax? If so, we might be back to Andy Rudnicks quiet breakfast plan.
Wiggle, a Republican, lives in Alden but says he would move into the city if he had an opportunity to lead it. If, and only if, he may ascend to the commanding heights by golden chariot will this bold new Promethean figure grace us with his presence.
"If you look at the city and its crisis, I just don't know if another politician is the answer for the City of Buffalo and the surrounding area," Wiggle said. "Business has been largely ignored by the politicians, and I think that's a critical mistake." Yep, business does it better. Everyone knows that the landed gentry here in WNY is NOT political. Once upon a time they just controlled the political process with money. Now they ARE the political process. They control the control board. No more Jim Pitts to point the finger at! As the old adage goes, be careful what you wish for!
Masiello, who has not yet decided whether he will seek a fourth term, said he is disappointed by the apparent desertion of a business community that has always supported him in the past but that rarely contacts him now.
Lonely? Looking for a date? Tony needs to pick up a copy of Artvoice.
"It's very clear they're looking for another candidate, but I can make a case with them and everybody else," Masiello said. Wow, does he sound like an over the hill porn star, or what?
Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, who has been informally campaigning for mayor for several years, said he will prove to the business community and other factions that he will be a "pro-growth, pro-business Democrat" even as a traditional politician.
"I won't be a yes man to anyone, including the unions or the Partnership," he said. "But if either organization is looking for a seat at the table, there will be two seats at the table." Sams his own man, and hes not black, either.
State Sen. Byron W. Brown, D-Buffalo, another potential candidate from traditional politics, also seeks a more "businesslike approach" to city governance. But he has not given up on the political system, saying that it is "time to stop pointing fingers and assigning blame." Uhh, Byron? They said it was time to stop pointing fingers when they were caving the Council and running Pitts out of town. By the year 2005, it might be time to find another black person to blame for everything.
"When we get to another mayoral election, I don't know that it will be the business community by itself that will decide it," he said. "The community at large will make the decision about the type of person they want to see as the next mayor of the City of Buffalo." The community at large is still largely influenced by the race-baiting editorials of The Buffalo News, though.
The proactive approach of the business community has worked in cities such as Cleveland, according to Rudnick, who calls it a worthwhile "test" that will determine who is interested. Rudnick said, "I think there are even folks in the more traditional political process who say that what we have now is broken down."
Of course its broken down, Andy! You, Wilmers, and Lipsey made sure of that! You wanted complete control. Now theres no one left to blame. You can continue to extract as many pounds of flesh from the fire, police, and teachers as you want to but the patient is beyond critical condition, at this point. The U.S. Cavalry is not about to come over the hill anytime soon. The Governors Casinos for Kids campaign may prove that even the science of public relations has a frontier. That leaves only yourselves to blame for blocking outside players like Golisano, while pumping a money well that is dessicated, to say the least. What did they do with whorehouses in the old days, when the company closed the mine?
If any of the prospective mayoral candidates mentioned in Mr. McCarthys article have the answer to that question wed have at least have a different kind of discussion about our community; one that is honest about what has brought us into this abyss and who is truly responsible for it.
Until then, well continue to have local political stories like this that provide no insight, but plenty of unintended comedy. Commentary by John McMahon Buffalo Alternative Press Reporter
A new popular program on VH-1 called The Fifty Most Awesomely Bad Songs featured a song entitled Rico Suave. One comedian suggested that the song is so awesomely bad that musical parodist Weird Al Yankovic had nothing left to make fun of because his work has been done for him by the song itself.
Ordinarily, Buffalo politics is a target rich environment for political satire. However, sometimes we come across a story that, like its musical counterpart, Rico Suave, is so awesomely, ridiculously absurd that it stands as a parody of itself. We dont wish to kill the messenger, here. Mr. McCarthy presents a typical, just the facts Maam spin, in the article entitled, A Different Kind of Mayor. But when you see a hanging curveball, sometimes you gotta take a swing. Mr. McCarthy's article is in bold text. Here, then is A Different Kind of Commentary on A Different Kind of Mayor.
Buffalo business leaders are looking beyond the normal political talent pool to find a candidate for the 2005 race who will bring a fresh approach to a beleaguered city