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January 28, 2009 - 4:43pm

Richard Dunlap, former treasurer for the Oakfield-Alabama Little League, was sentenced to five years in prison today, the Buffalo News reports. Dunlap was accused of stealing as much as $30,000 from the organization during his time as treasurer. He was then alleged to have used the money to purchase, among other things, child pornography.

From the Buffalo News:

A tearful Richard L. Dunlap, 40, of Batavia, apologized for his crimes but was immediately remanded to the custody of prison officials by the judge.

Federal agents said Dunlap stole thousands of dollars from the Oakfield-Alabama Little League Association and used the money to buy child porn, adult pornography, a family vacation to Florida and other items.

Dunlap, 40, of 9 Irving Parkway, Batavia, plead guilty last September to the possession of child pornography, according to a Daily News article from October. Dunlap had also been granted a plea bargain for the theft charges and was ordered to pay $5,559 in restitution, funds that Little League officials found arbitrary.

January 28, 2009 - 12:40pm

One of our readers recently pointed us to a study by the Tax Foundation that lists 1,817 counties across the U.S. according to the amount of property tax as a percentage of home value. Genesee County ranks 8th. In other words, 1,811 other counties in this nation pay less of a percentage of teir home value in property taxes.

Now, we've always known that we the people of western New York get shafted as far as taxes go. But it's another thing to see it quantified so starkly. Not only is Genesee County the eighth most taxed county in the country. Counties in New York make up 19 of the top 20 in the list!

Now, folks here may rank only 193rd on that list as far as amount of taxes paid (a median $2,565), but with a median home value of $95,500, that means the taxes paid total up about 2.7 percent of the home value. Wayne County is the same. Orleans County is first on the list with 3 percent. So on and so forth for our region. Just take a look.

We asked our state representatives, Assemblyman Steve Hawley, and newly-elected Senator Mike Ranzehofer, to weigh in on this. Hawley's office got back to us last week by issuing a press release on the topic. We'll include that release, entitled: "Hawley to Legislature: Stop Property Tax Rise Now," here in full.

First, however, let's here from Ranzenhofer, who spoke with us by phone today. Ranzenhofer agreed that the result of the study was not all that much of a surprise.

"Those of us who live here, work here, are well ware of the crushing taxes across the board," he said. "The only thing that's going to revitalize the area is not the suggestion of the governor to increase taxes on everything. We need to cut taxes and cut spending to encourage job growth."

We asked Ranzenhofer what he could do in the Senate to help relieve the tax burden here in Genesee County.

"One thing is my action on the state budget," he said. "It's a little disappointing that there hasn't been more done in Albany to deal with the budget and the budget deficit. We need to very strongly oppose increases in taxes, and even take it one step further and really need (to institute) across-the-board reduction in taxes. That doesn't mean shifting the burden to counties, families and business. It means streamlining every agency and department in state government."

Ranzenhofer spoke of instituting a tax cap and really following through on the threat of a hiring freeze at the state level. "We need to create a new tiered pension system," he added. "These are all things I've talked about. I hope to introduce legislation along those lines this year."

We'll keep an eye on you, Mike.

From the office of Steve Hawley:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R, I, C - Batavia) highlighted the recent Tax Foundation report, which announced that Orleans, Niagara, Monroe and Genesee counties all top the nation in highest property taxes as a percentage of median home value, when calling upon the State Legislature to immediately address property tax-saving measures.  The top measure hurting property taxpayers, according to Hawley, is the estimated $6 billion in unfunded mandates pushed onto local governments and, consequently, homeowners.

"Unfortunately, all we are seeing from our state's leaders right now is inaction when it comes to solving this crisis.  As always, Albany is continuing to shift the burden, and shift the blame, for property taxpayers' ever-rising tax burden.  In fact, this proposed state budget will shift nearly $4,000 per individual taxpayer.  For our state's economy to recover, Albany needs to begin taking responsibility for its spending.  We cannot afford this year's record-breaking budget proposal and we certainly cannot afford $4,000 in subsequent tax hikes," said Hawley.

According to the Assemblyman, the solution is multi-fold, which is why he has been a vocal advocate for increasing the economic viability of Western New York in order to help lower property tax costs.  The more businesses paying property taxes, the less these taxes will be burdening homeowners. However, Hawley states, "We must do more to attract business to coming to New York and we must strengthen our commitment to keeping businesses here. We cannot expect businesses to bear the brunt of the property tax burden and still offer quality jobs.  But it is vital to our long-term property tax-relieving solution that we address business growth."

Last year, as the nation was on the brink of an economic recession, Hawley was among tax reformers who asked, "Isn't it about time New York State make some tough budget choices as well?"  The federal government stepped in with their federal stimulus checks and buy-out capital for corporations, but it was still clear that states would need to rein in spending and consider stimulus plans of their own.  However, despite this, the New York State Legislature passed the most expensive budget in state history.

This year's Executive Budget proposal breaks the spending record again, paid for by 137 new and increased taxes.  His budget proposal also eliminates the property tax rebate check and decreases STAR exemptions across the board. At the same time, this budget does not address Medicaid fraud and, moreover, by cutting education aid, it will pass along an inevitable burden to local governments.  Not only will this plan cause local property taxes to rise, but it could also cost the state over half a million jobs.  According to former state chief economist Stephen Kagann, every $100 million in new taxes imposed during a recession leads to a loss of 11,400 private sector jobs. With these tax hikes totally $6 billion, this means the approximate loss of 600,000 jobs.

To balance the State Budget and reduce the state's debt, Hawley has long called for cost saving measures, such as agency and department consolidation, such as merging the Office of Real Property Services into the Department of Taxation and Finance, saving New York State taxpayers $18 million annually.  Another $37 million would be saved by merging the Office of Climate Change into the Office of Atmospheric Research at the State University of Albany.

Hawley also has been on the forefront of tackling government waste by calling for state operating cost cuts and continues to propose cost-saving measures such as limiting the amount of vehicles purchased on taxpayer dollars by 50 percent (not including public safety vehicles such as police, fire and emergency services vehicles) to save another estimated $4 million and $25 million, respectively.  Assemblyman Hawley stated, "The bulk of the cost savings would come from finally targeting Medicaid fraud, abuse and waste.  I have long supported a complete state take-over of Medicaid. Not only would this help ensure the program is run more efficiently, but it would eliminate a multi-billion unfunded mandate currently put on our local governments and taxpayers.  Perhaps, most importantly, by forcing the state to take responsibility for the Medicaid program, it will also help make Albany more accountable and cognizant for its spending overall."

The Tax Foundation used information compiled by the United States Census Bureau from 2005 to 2007 in their report which shows that out of all counties in the nation (with 20,000 or more residents) Orleans County residents pay the highest property taxes as a percentage of their home worth at 3.05 percent.  Niagara County came in second at 2.90 percent, followed by Monroe County ranking fifth and Genesee County ranking eighth at 2.84 and 2.69 percent, respectively.  Every county topping the nation's most highly taxed counties came from New York State (rankings 1-20), with the exception of Fort Bend County in Texas, ranking in eleventh place.  The majority of New York State counties on the list came from Western New York, strengthening Hawley's assertion that economic stimulus and a drastic reduction in spending are vital to lowering property taxes.

January 28, 2009 - 11:12am
posted by Philip Anselmo in snow, winter, storm.

Snowfall has gained some force over the past hour here in downtown Batavia. The flakes are bigger, there are more of them and they're falling faster.

A winter storm warning issued by the National Weather Service out of Buffalo will remain in effect until about 11 o'clock tonight, although this should be the worst of it.

Moderate to heavy snow will bring difficult travel to western New York through this evening. Steady snow will continue today into early this evening before tapering off later this evening.

Snowfall rates may reach around 1 inch per hour during bursts of heavier snowfall today. Storm total accumulations are expected to reach 8 to 10 inches by late this evening.

Here's a look at conditions on Main Street in Batavia, outside our office. This video was taken shortly before 11 o'clock this morning.

January 28, 2009 - 8:50am

Maybe this headline should read: How Batavia can save downtown by doing the opposite of what Rochester does... Allow me to explain. Most of us in the area remember the Fast Ferry flop. For Rochesterians, the very word ferry still stings like a jellyfish whip. In a poor attempt to promote cross-cultural relations between Rochester and Toronto, the city sunk millions into a ferry that would cart folks back and forth from the two cities. We all know where that went—nowhere.

Why? One reason that I'm guessing at, is that you're not going to boost your own city's cultural wealth by sending your residents elsewhere. Keep them here. One good way to do that is to offer low-rent studio space to artists in neighborhoods they can afford to live in. Rochester has done this on North Goodman Street, where the city's cultural center faces Village Gate, a quaint shopping center, and Anderson Alley, an old button factory turned into studio space. Ditto Artisan Works off of Winton Road.

Some of you may be wondering why we should give the artists a break. Look at New York City. Wherever artists flourish, along comes business: initially in the form of good eateries, but soon, small shops begin to pop up, followed by large banks. This, unfortunately, then leads to the phenomenon known as gentrification, when all the rich folks with a penchant for what the hipsters have built, simply move and take it over. Go to Brooklyn sometime if you don't believe me. Of course, artists alone do not create this environment. A lot of the appeal is based on a sort of myth of the authentic urban experience: a city block that looks, smells and feels like a city block should feel. It's got natives, it's eclectic, the people have roots there, and the place has a cultural vibe all its own. Again, this is the myth of the authentic urban experience. But as we know, myths are often rooted in actuality.

Rochester has much of this authenticity in many parts of the city. The idea being bandied about for Renaissance Square was designed—or so I believed—to provide a catalyst to further this sort of authentification downtown, which has unfortunately lost its flavor, its character, and, in many cases, its business. With that in mind, the city thought to build a big theater, a cultural mecca right downtown to draw folks in, rather than push them out. Flanking this theater would be a bus terminal, so people can get to and from the theater, and a satellite campus for Monroe Community College, so people can go there to learn, as well. That was the plan anyway.

From the Democrat & Chronicle:

A decision announced Monday to move ahead with the Renaissance Square project will allow federal funds to be spent on a bus station and a community college campus.

Funding for the third part of the project, a 2,800-seat theater, has not been secured and if the money isn't raised, the theater won't be built, Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks and Sen. Charles Schumer said during a joint appearance in Rochester.

"The likelihood of federal or state funds being raised for the theater is unlikely for the foreseeable future, certainly for the next few years," Schumer said. "Given the economic situation, it's difficult to raise private funds, so moving forward with the community college and the bus terminal is very important. We don't want to hold things up any longer."

Some of you may be saying: "Big deal. No theater. Who cares." Rochesterians should care. What sort of "Renaissance" with a capital 'R' does Rochester hope to effect with a bus station and a satellite campus? How will these two components bring people downtown? Going ahead without the theater would mean, in my honest opinion, not going ahead at all, but just standing still, which Rochester has proved itself quite capable of doing over the past few decades.

So Batavia, take a lesson. Do not do what Rochester does. This does not mean sink all the tax money into expensive cultural projects. What it means is play up your strengths and appeal to the culture of your population by creating an atmosphere that is hospitable to making and performing the arts. The rest will follow.

Batavia already has the authentic urban experience on the Jackson Street block downtown: good eats at locally-owned restaurants, established shops that appeal to people's curiosity and the mall. Uh, wait a second. Scrap that last one. Literally: scrap that last one. Large-scale programs such as Summer in the City do a great job of attracting people to this part of the city. But it's a one-time, thanks for your patronage kind of event. What about micro-celebrations. How difficult would it be to close up a lane of parking across from Margueritas and the Jackson Street Grill, set up some tents, tables and chairs, and serve a summer evening outside. Maybe book a juggler or something to keep folks entertained. I'm sure there are better ideas out there.

Although technically not downtown, the Harvester Center and the many buildings around it, offers a perfect place to start incubating: businesses, artists, offices and public spaces. Maybe above all else: public spaces. Small courtyards where people can gather, grab a drink, listen to some live music, whatever. Maybe a violinist in the local philharmonic can be persuaded, via a modest monetary encouragement, to practice a few nights out in the open, outside a coffee shop that fronts a courtyard in the now verdant square that once was an indsutrial wastescape.

Whatever you do, Batavia, just don't do what Rochester does. No matter how pretty you paint it, you can't call a bus terminal a renaissance.

January 28, 2009 - 7:17am
posted by Philip Anselmo in snow, winter, storm.

We're in the midst of it, now. It looks like we've so far collected maybe a couple inches of snow overnight, but this storms system has us blanketed like a croissant around a cocktail weiner.

Most meteorologists tell us that the worst is yet to come. Expect the snow to turn heavy later this morning, after 9 o'clock, and remain so right up through the afternoon. We do not yet have word of any school closures in the area.

Right now... it doesn't look too bad. It doesn't look fun, but not like anything we haven't tackled before. Here's how things stand on the Thruway at the Batavia exit. Please take it slow out there.

January 27, 2009 - 1:21pm
posted by Philip Anselmo in fire, emergency.

Several engines in Genesee County have already been dispatched to a house fire at 6714 Brownell Road, off Route 19, near Pavilion. The Batavian is heading out now to find out more. 

View Larger Map

(Updated at 2:15pm): No injuries have yet been reported at the scene of this house fire. Plenty of crews were on hand from areas in and around Genesee County. At least a dozen engines, trucks and emergency vehicles were lined up outside the residence. The fire seemed mainly confined to the back corner of the house, where flames chewed through the back wall.

We will update with more information as it becomes available. Also check back for more photos and a brief video clip of the scene.

(Updated at 3:30pm): It doesn't look like we'll be getting any specifics on this fire until morning, according to the Genesee County Office of Emergency Management. What we can say right now is what we can see.

Now, I'm not exactly sure where this home is located. Google shows this as Wyoming, but it's in the Pavilion fire district and just outside of Pavilion Center. Yet, on the scanner, I heard reports that this is actually the town of Covington.

At the scene earlier this afternoon, there were no reports of any injuries, and fire damage seemed to be confined to the back of the house. Crews from Pavilion, Wyoming, even as far off as York, lined the street out front of the home on Brownell Road and stretched in either direction on Wyoming Road, as well. We first heard reports of the fire shortly after one o'clock, and some crews on scene were already being dismissed by shortly after two o'clock. I would assume the large turnout helped keep everything under control and get the fire tackled as fast as it had been.

As soon as we have more details, we will be sure to pass them along.

January 27, 2009 - 1:11pm
posted by Philip Anselmo in weather, snow, winter, storm.

Most of the folks who have taken our poll so far today are in agreement that "maybe" we will get a couple inches of snow overnight tonight. In fact, it's an overwhelming 76 percent of poll-takers who feel that way right now. That "maybe" attitude may change a little bit, however. The National Weather Service has upgraded their winter storm watch to a warning, and it sounds like we could get "slammed" over the next 24 hours.

The warning goes into effect tonight at 11:00pm, through to 11:00pm Wednesday night, although it sounds like overnight and tomorrow morning will be the worst of it. So plan for a tricky commute. Here are the details:

Moderate to heavy snow will bring difficult travel to the western New York tonight through Wednesday evening. Snow is expected to overspread the region by around or shortly after midnight, with periods of snow continuing through Wednesday evening. The snow may be heavy at times, especially late tonight and Wednesday morning.

Storm total accumulations are expected to reach 8 to 10 inches by late Wednesday evening.

January 27, 2009 - 12:02pm
posted by Philip Anselmo in business, downtown, LeRoy.

Well, folks... we're stumped. You see, there's this old highway traffic sign posted up along Route 19 in the town of Le Roy, just outside the village. On it, a flashing message board communicates the message: Shop Main St Leroy in glowing orange letters.

We thought, that's kind of curious. How could an old traffic sign be appropriated to advertise downtown businesses? Seems like a clever idea, and we wanted to find out more about it. Unfortunately, no one seems to know anything about it. We started with a call to the Le Roy village clerk. Sharon Jeary didn't know anything about it. She told us to call Gene Sinclair, the code enforcement officer. Sinclair couldn't tell us anything, either. He knew of the sign, but he hadn't the foggiest where it came from and who put it there. So we called the Le Roy town clerk. Nothing there either. We were told to contact Sinclair again.


Anyhow, in addition to the message: Shop Main St Leroy, the sign also flashed the messages: Vintage and Vogue and Hobby Horse. Now, I don't know what "vintage and vogue" might mean, but I've been to the Hobby Horse, a neat little shop on Main Street in Le Roy that sells everything from alpaca wool socks to antique gewgaws. In fact, The Batavian interviewed the shop's owner, Anne Walters, last summer. You can watch the video of that interview and learn more about the Hobby Horse by checking out that post.

We'll see what we can find out in the meantime.

(Updated 1:00pm): It seems we've solved the mystery of the sign. Anne Walters, over at the Hobby Horse, told us that the sign is owned by a fellow in Le Roy whose sister-in-law is an antiques dealer who rents space at the Hobby Horse and... you guessed it, Vintage and Vogue, also a shop on Main Street in Le Roy. He likely bought the sign at a state auction and thought it might be a good way to advertise downtown business.

January 27, 2009 - 9:40am
posted by Philip Anselmo in weather, snow, winter, storm, polls.

Meteorologists are holding true to their winter storm watch, still expecting the massive system now sweeping up from Ohio to hit hard tonight—check out our post from this morning. Although, initial predictions of up to a foot of snow for the region have already been eased. We're know expecting between five and eight inches of snowfall. Still, looking at this thing, there seems a chance that it could just sail right by us, never lifting north enough to cause any damage.

Last year, if I remember correctly, there were about a half dozen "major" snow storms that were predicted that never came to pass. Are we looking at another flop, or should be all be picking up our shovels?

January 27, 2009 - 8:12am
posted by Philip Anselmo in crime, police, sheriff.

Jeffrey W. Scott, 25, of Le Roy, was charged with two felony counts of fifth-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance and two felony counts of fifth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance Monday, Genesee County sheriff's deputies said. Scott allegedly sold "quantities of pills" to an undercover agent of the county's local drug task force. He was sent to Genesee County Jail without bail pending a court appearance later today.

Kaitlyn M. Schicker, 20, of Hamlin, was charged with driving while intoxicated Monday, Genesee County sheriff's deputies said. Schicker allegedly crashed her car into a snow bank on Oak Orchard Road in the town of Elba. She was also ticketed with failure to keep right and operating the motor vehicle on a mobile phone.

Martin Pacer, 28, of 16 Jackson St., Apt: Upper, Batavia, was charged with second-degree criminal contempt and fifth-degree criminal possession of marijuana Monday, Genesee County sheriff's deputies said. Pacer is accused of violating a court order of protection by getting too near a family member.

January 27, 2009 - 7:33am
posted by Philip Anselmo in weather, snow, winter, storm.

A winter storm watch first issued yesterday evening is still in effect for tonight and tomorrow. Initial predictions were between 6 to 12 inches of snowfall.

From the National Weather Service out of Buffalo:

A storm system tracking northeast from the southern plains could bring a significant general snowfall to the area tonight and Wednesday. Some uncertainty still exists on the exact path the storm system will take, and therefore the amount of snowfall which may occur. Probabilities remain high enough that significant snowfall may occur to maintain the winter storm watch.

Again, here's a look at this storm right now. As you can easily see: it's enormous, stretching from Dallas to Philadelphia. It looks as if the real threat is the mass of snow currently creeping up through Ohio. Maybe we'll get lucky, and it will drift on by south of us.

January 26, 2009 - 10:10pm
posted by Philip Anselmo in batavia, city council.

Not much to report on this yet, but a half dozen people spoke at the City Council meeting tonight, asking the city to seek new management for the Falleti Ice Arena in Batavia. They spoke in pretty condemning terms, claiming that the arena is no longer "a family-based skating wrink." One speaker went as far as to say that under the new management: "We've had our right to skate taken away."

The central issue among all the complainants was the allegedly unceremonious banishing of skate instructor Joan Disbrow from the arena. According to the mother of one young skater, a member of the management crew, Firland Management, vociferously dismissed Disbrow from the premises while she was on the ice with one of her students.

Councilwoman Marianne Clattenburg spoke up after all of the comments had been made. She said she has heard from several families that have made similar claims. "I think we may have made the wrong mistake with Firland Management," she said.

Council members Kathy Briggs, Rose Mary Christian and Bill Cox all agreed.

"I'm concerned with the volume of complaints—all one-sided," said Cox. "We need to give citizens the right to have a good skate and enjoy their sport."

A representative of Firland Management, Jim Cain, was scheduled to speak at the meeting. He cancelled. City Manager Jason Molino said that Cain called earlier in the day to say that he was not feeling well and could not attend.

There was some mention, as well, about the unsatisfactory budget report provided by Firland for the city's consideration.

We will look into this story and see what more we can find out.

(UPDATED: Tuesday, 12:03pm): A Daily News article by Joanne Beck features some more details on this issue. Worth checking out.

January 26, 2009 - 9:52pm
posted by Philip Anselmo in batavia, city council, ambulance.

It's official. Batavia's out of the ambulance business. City Council voted unanimously tonight not to continue funding and operating the county-wide ambulance service. True to the word of Council President Charlie Mallow, there was no discussion to be had by the city leaders. Councilwoman Rose Mary Christian was the only member to speak.

"It's a shame that the county hasn't come to the aid here," she said. "They're always passing the buck."

Further, despite the packed house—at least a couple dozen residents filled the audience—only two citizens spoke.

January 26, 2009 - 7:20pm
posted by Brian Hillabush in batavia, sports, Notre Dame, prattsburgh.

Saturday was quite an experience for me.

I've taken a bus ride with the Batavia basketball team before, but this one with Notre Dame was completely different and was a ton of fun, even though the team lost to Prattsburgh 70-64.

I live less than 10 minutes walking from Notre Dame, so I decided to walk to the school. As soon as I got in the building, coach Mike Rapone was doing a walk-through with his squad.

Prattsburgh and Notre Dame make trips each year to play together and their home courts and it is always a great game, with the home team usually winning.

We then got on the bus and it took exactly two hours to get to Prattsburgh, which is a great town that is old time. The buildings on the main street are from the way-back and the people there are just good folks.

The ride there was a lot of fun.

The kids from Notre Dame know how to bust each other's chops. There was the ribbing of Tommy Rapone on his Pokeman fetish, the gum wrapper belt put on Rick Lair when he fell asleep and just a lot of goofing off.

But when the Fighting Irish arrived at Prattsburgh, it was all business. I had some business to attend to, visiting friends from Notre Dame and Section 5 Talksback that made the trip.

I watched the jayvee game with the varsity squad for the third quarter, then midway through the fourth I went down with coach Rapone to hear his pregame speech. 

Rapone is not a yeller and not a big ra-ra coach. He's one of those guys that has been around long enough to know everything the other team is going to do and he ran through it with his kids. He knew what players on the Vikings did and what to do if they pressed or went box-and-1 on Kevin Francis.

Notre Dame jumped out to a quick 15-6 lead  in the first quarter. But Francis picked up his second foul and had to sit down, and that's when the flow of the game changed. Prattsburgh took advantage of arguably the Genesee Region League's best player being on the bench and wound up leading 34-27 at the half.

There was nobody on ND that could rebound in the second half and Prattsburgh was dropping 3-pointers like crazy. Patrick Wightman scored 21 points and hit five 3-pointers and Ryan Caron scored a game-high 29 points.

The crowd was totally into the game, with fans from both sides cheering when big things happened.

When the game ended and Notre Dame took it on the chin, Rapone gave his post game speech and basically told his team what they did wrong and hopes that they learn from the mistakes made in this game and become a better team from the loss.

Then the two teams, coaching staffs and all of the media and some locals that were there got together to enjoy pizza, subs and cookies together. It is a tradition that when the two teams play that they get together afterwards and enjoy and meal.

This is not done with any other rivalries as far as I know. Very cool.

As we loaded the bus to go home, I was expecting a depressing ride and kids sleeping. Yes, some were depressed and yes some slept, but it wound up being as much fun as the two hour ride there.

It started with Greg Barr leading a chorus singing songs from cartoon movies of the past. I could not stop laughing. 

Then those that were not sleeping, gathered around my seat to talk and hang out. The conversation was good and everybody got a preview of the video, seeing the footage I took on the bus ride up.

There is a sad point that I must end on. The New York State Public High School Athletic Association is attempting to cut the amount of games that a team can play in a season.

That would mean Notre Dame would play it's regular season games and then have three open slots. They aren't going to back out of the Lions Club tournament, which only allows them to play one extra non-league game. This very well might be the end of a great rivalry and tradition that has lasted for many years. Rapone and Prattsburgh coach Jim Burke are both over 500 career wins and good friends.

The kids enjoy playing each other and making the long trips.

But it looks like a great tradition is over.

January 26, 2009 - 6:26pm
posted by Philip Anselmo in batavia, food, restaurant, Sallome's.

Sad news for local gastronomes: Sallome's Deli in Batavia is dark. The Oak Street eatery has been closed up since at least last week. A sign on the door simply reads: "Closed until further notice," and a number is given where customers are encouraged to leave a message. We called that number and left a message. Anyone with a gift certificate is encouraged to call the same number (201-7300) and leave an address where a refund can be mailed.

Sallome's opened up this past summer.

We will keep you informed of any updates.

January 26, 2009 - 5:38pm
posted by Philip Anselmo in weather, snow, winter, storm.

A storm system creeping over the midwest could hit our region Tuesday night and bring up to a foot of snow. The National Weather Service out of Buffalo has issued a winter storm watch, in effect beginning tomorrow night.

A storm system tracking northeast from from Texas has the potential of producing a widespread 6 to 12 inches of snow across the area Tuesday night and Wednesday. The heaviest amounts are likely to be across the Southern Tier counties. It is still too early to be certain of these amounts. Remember, this is just a watch at this time. Warnings or advisories will be issued when we are more certain.

A watch is essentially the first alarm in the storm prediction business, so don't go warming up the generator yet.

Here's what we may have to look forward to—now looming ominously in the form of a wintry mix over Oklahoma and into Missouri.

January 26, 2009 - 4:24pm
posted by Philip Anselmo in politics, Democrats, kirsten gillibrand, state senate.

From the Democratic committees in Genesee, Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming counties:

"We congratulate Senator Gillibrand on her appointment as our new Senator, and we commend Governor David Paterson on making sure that the unique interests of upstate New York are reflected at the highest levels of government.  The position of Senator is of special importance to residents of the GLOW region (Genesee, Livingston, Orleans, and Wyoming Counties).  Unfortunately, since almost all of our residents have no representation in the majority of the Assembly, State Senate, or House of Representatives, our federal Senators are our only majority representatives.  Therefore, we are especially pleased that Senator Gillibrand comes from an upstate, rural Congressional district that is similar to our own.  We are delighted to have a Senator so attuned to our issues.

"These are very difficult times for everyone, but the GLOW region faces particular challenges.  We are pleased that Senator Gillibrand has asked to serve on the Agriculture Committee (as she did in Congress) and mentioned 'the dairy farmers of western New York' as the first group she recognized in her remarks upon her appointment.  We invite her to visit us at her earliest possible convenience and are eager to introduce our region and to work with her on its issues.  Many of our leaders were privileged to meet and hear then-Congresswoman Gillibrand at last year's New York Democratic Rural Conference.  We know she will be a strong advocate for the GLOW counties.  Senator Gillibrand has also pledged to continue her policy of accessibility and transparency for which she has been renowned in Congress, so we are confident her "Congress on Our Corners" program will come to our communities soon.  We are pleased that Governor Paterson has appointed someone who will be an upstate leader for New York."

January 26, 2009 - 10:15am
posted by Philip Anselmo in batavia, city council, ambulance, polls.

Later tonight, Batavia's City Council will vote to cease its funding and operation of the county-wide ambulance service managed by the city fire department. Discussion among members of Council was had at a recent budget meeting, and Council President Charlie Mallow has assured us that they are essentially all in agreement and that tonight's vote is merely the formal act on what has already been decided.

Seventeen of the 18 other municipalities in the county that benefit from the ambulance service have expressed their desire to continue with the city-run service. So we may see a few speakers at tonight's meeting. The vote will follow the Council's conference meeting, which begins at 7:00pm at City Hall.

January 26, 2009 - 9:08am

The Buffalo News reports this morning that Gov. David Paterson will meet and negotiate with the leaders of the Seneca Nation before any shipments of cigarettes to Seneca retailers are halted. Aaron Besecker reports:

During a rally Sunday just south of the Route 438 Thruway overpass, [Seneca President Barry E. Snyder Sr.] read a letter from Gov. David A. Paterson in which the governor indicated his desire to begin talks with the Indian nation about the dispute over tax collection on cigarettes sold by Native American merchants to non-Indians.

It sounds as if the governor is considering backing off from enforcing the law that he himself signed in December that requires wholesalers to show to the state tax department that they are not selling tax-free cigarettes to retailers. If they fail to comply, they could be charged with perjury. In the meantime, a justice of the state Supreme Court "issued a temporary restraining order ... that blocks the state from enforcing its policy."

Paterson spokesman Morgan Hook said he would not comment on a private conversation between the governor and Snyder, but he did say a negotiated compromise on the cigarette tax issue “is an avenue [Paterson] would like to take.”

“The governor sees it as a window of opportunity,” Hook said.

What exactly would Gov. Paterson negotiate? This seems to be a pretty cut and dry issue. Either the state enforces the law or the law is repealed. Can you see any compromise on this?

January 26, 2009 - 8:16am
posted by Philip Anselmo in politics, Albany, Mike Ranzenhofer, state senate.

Our newest state Senator, Mike Ranzenhofer, has taken positions on several state committees, including agriculture and aging.

Ranzenhofer beat out Democratic challenger Joe Mesi to win the seat last Novemeber. When The Batavian spoke with Ranzenhofer prior to that election, he told us a little bit about his plan to seek an across-the-board 15 percent cut to help reign in the state budget. We hope to hear more about Ranzenhofer's efforts in Albany. We'll be sure to keep you filled in.

From the release statement:

State Senator Michael Ranzenhofer (R-Amherst) has become the Ranking Member of the State Senate Committee on Aging.  He will also serve on the Agriculture, Banks, Corporations, Judiciary and Tourism Committees.

Senator Ranzenhofer is excited to start work on behalf of his constituents.  "These committee assignments will allow me to be an effective voice on the issues that matter most to the residents of the 61st Senate District and to fight for the resources that are necessary for our industries to grow and our communities to prosper," said Senator Ranzenhofer.

He plans to be a strong voice on issues important to the farming community as a member of the Agriculture Committee.  "Agriculture represents a major economic engine in the 61st District, especially in Genesee County.  I am looking forward to protecting and promoting agribusiness and tourism in our communities," said Senator Ranzenhofer.

As the Ranking Member on the Aging Committee, Senator Ranzenhofer is particularly interested in working with his Senate colleagues on issues related to the elderly.  "During this legislative session, we are going to have to address budget cuts proposed by the Governor that would directly impact senior homeowners.  I strongly believe that we must do all that we can to keep the STAR property tax relief program.  This program allows seniors to stay in their homes.  We must protect seniors from budget cuts that threaten basic health services and should work to cut the Albany bureaucracy," said Senator Ranzenhofer.

Senate Republican Leader Dean G. Skelos said: "As the number of older Americans increases, so does the responsibility of government to ensure that their needs are met.  I appointed Senator Mike Ranzenhofer to a leadership role on the Senate Aging Committee because he understands the challenges seniors face, especially in Western New York.  I am confident he will do an outstanding job ensuring that state government provides the help senior citizens need for a strong quality of life."

Senator Ranzenhofer was elected to the New York State Senate in 2008.  The 61st District includes part of the city of Tonawanda, the Towns of Amherst, Clarence, Newstead and Tonawanda in Erie County and all of Genesee County.


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