Friendly Astro-Turf: The Buffalo School Board election got off to a dubious start as the first open forum with candidates was held at a charter school on Easter Saturday morning. It reminds us of the "open meeting" that settled the fate of the Buffalo Joint School Construction Authority. That early morning meeting was held in East Aurora.

The charter school candidates' forum was also poorly publicized. It helped create the impression that whether candidates were in favor of charter schools or not, the charter school slate of candidates would carry the debate. It's the "done deal" debate all over again. Don't argue, the issue has already been decided. The debate that takes place is not democracy in action, but the kind of window dressing that helps us cling to our belief that as our soldiers fight and die in a foreign land, our own democracy here in WNY is still alive and well. It's not.

Jack Quinn Leaves GOP High and Dry - Republican Congressman Jack Quinn created a furor by announcing that he will not run for Congress this November. Conventional wisdom has it that Quinn was able to hold his seat in the largely Democratic district because he was seen as an advocate for organized labor and because he was Irish Catholic.

By removing himself from the race Quinn has left the Republicans in a lurch. Up until this point, the GOP was focused on protecting the seat left vacant by the retirement of Amo Houghton. Tom Delay crony Tom Reynolds was also facing surprisingly strong opposition in the person of the ex-Republican Akron millionaire, Jack Davis, who started his campaign with $500,000 of his own money. The Quinn news has made a dubious situation that much worse.

None of the candidates mentioned by GOP County Chairman Bob Davis are likely to please the party's extreme right wing currently holding power in Washington. The early frontrunner, Erie County Sheriff Patrick Gallivan will likely run not only on the strength of his celtic DNA, but also on the conviction of the Lackawana Six for which he was a cheerleader. Like we said, dubious.

Prior to Quinn's announcement the only Democrat willing to seriously challenge Jack Quinn was longtime Party stalwart Peter Crotty. Now that there's blood in the water, though, the field of Democrats running has grown exponentially.

Low Intensity Burn: As County Executive Joel Giambra continues to amaze us with his "serious" consideration of a run for Governor, leftover embers from his first term continue to smolder. First and foremost is the Grand Jury investigation into the Aurora garage scandal, which saw Giambra appointees scurrying for cover. Since Erie County District Attorney Frank Clark would like both major Party endorsements, betting money says the Aurora garage problem will disappear.

This leaves the sticky issue of Giambra's campaign manager James Spano allegedly overcharging the County for office furniture from his company, Buffalo Office Interiors. State Attorney General Elliot Spitzer's office has been mulling over that situation, but again the rule of thumb with any sort of political corruption is to study your opponent but avoid prosecution. You might pick up some valuable how-to's in case your party finds itself in the same office!

More Phantom Jobs: State Democrats led by the ambitious Westchester Assemblyman Richard Brodsky have again brought attention to the economic development philosophy of the Governor's Empire Development Zones. Government money for phantom jobs is nothing new but the Dems' estimate of $500,000 of government subsidy per actual job created in WNY is. That estimate actually seems kind of conservative to us. In a related note, Certainteed, a PVC manufacturer that might create twenty-five positions will receive 2.1 million dollars in Empire Development subsidies. As reported in our last issue, Certainteed's plan to relocate on Buffalo's waterfront, has angered environmentalists who have pointed to the company's dismal environmental record as evidence that 2.1 million dollars is a price that's too high to pay - even for a potential of twenty-five, part-time, low wage jobs.

Of course, Paul Ciminelli would probably not agree with that sentiment. You see, Mr. Ciminelli is the developer of the Union Ship Canal area that will become Certainteed's new home. Ciminelli received over four million dollars from New York State and three million from the U.S. Dept of Housing and Urban Development. He received this taxpayer largess for developing the site, which was designated as a brownfield. The beauty of this deal is that if Certainteed dumps more toxic chemicals Political Christmas in April

One doesn't normally associate early spring with a surge in political news and activity, but it appears that this year, the art of politics is imitating nature.

Back Room Deals: the late Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once said that Democracy dies behind closed doors. Either Buffalo is the exception to this rule, or our Democracy is on its deathbed and nobody seems to notice or care.

In any event, The Buffalo Fiscal Stability Authority, better known as the control board, has adopted the custom of meeting in secret to plot strategies that will help give the board the edge over their targets in organized labor. While board members argue that these committee meetings do not violate laws on open meetings, it is clear that their intent, thus far, has been to catch potential critics off guard and keep everyone guessing as to what is really taking place behind closed doors.

In their zeal to trim the unionized municipal work force of Buffalo the names of six fireman were considered for dismissal. The problem? The six are currently on active duty with the National Guard in Iraq. So our new, unelected civic leaders can't fire their assesÂ…yet. Welcome home, Johnny. Firemen like the police, are yesterday's heroes.