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Conversation on the stimulus bill: Where does it go from here?

By Philip Anselmo
Jan 30, 2009, 8:35am

We were glad to see so many folks getting into the discussion yesterday about the national stimulus package that was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this week. That bill, already proving quite controversial, will go to the Senate next week for round two.

There were some clear divisions among opinion, yet both sides made strong cases. Some of you expressed a general yet cautious support for the stimulus bill on the grounds that it would "right the ship of state," as Russ Stresing put it so eloquently. Others among you decried the attempt to try to "buy our way out of debt," and called for a reining in of spending.

What is the next step in the conversation when both sides of the argument—because, for now at least, this argument is restricted to only two sides (the classic: for and against)—make valid claims? Neither is wrong. Surely, the nation will have to make "strategic investments" at some point to dress our wounds. It's not unlike a fellow who finds himself unemployed and unable to secure a new job. Perhaps an investment in a new suit, a new haircut or even a credited business course at a local community college could give him that edge. On the other hand, any such investments are based on hypothetical situations: 'If I make this happen, then this could happen...' And funds that could have went toward the perennial costs of food and shelter will have been wasted on a hoped for conclusion that may never come to pass.

Furthermore, accusations that this or that side is playing politics are also all true. One of our readers yesterday commented that the president sought the votes of the House Republicans on the stimulus bill so that said Republicans—none of whom voted in favor of the bill—could not use their unified dissent as a political weapon in the future. Well, doesn't that indict both sides? Democrats are threatening to push through the bill to flex their majority muscle. While Republicans are all too content in playing the foil.

President Barack Obama spoke a lot about "change" during the campaign, but if you ask me, this seems to be a whole lot of politics as usual. In the meantime, while we're trying to figure all that out, Howard passed along this article from a site called Good, that pieces together some of the arguments against a stimulus. Very informative. The author sums up his stance, in this way:

And there you have it. In my mind, economics seems to be a mostly made-up “science,” and I am pretty sure nothing the government does will have as much effect as other events (see: Great Depression and World War II, for instance). That said, doing nothing (or just lowering taxes) does not really seem like a viable move for a government, politically if not also economically. So, if we can get another round of the equivalent of WPA posters and CCC National Park trails out of this, maybe that’s all we need until whatever is really going to cure the recession comes along. But, in the meantime, it’s important to look at all sides.

On the Beat: Waitress accused of altering tips on credit card slips

By Philip Anselmo
Jan 30, 2009, 7:54am

NOTE: All charges against Kristen Kocent were dismissed.

A waitress from a local Batavia restaurant faces more than two dozen felony charges on accusations that she forged credit card receipts of customers to increase the amount of her tip, Genesee County sheriff's deputies said. Kristen Lynn Kocent, 20, of 26 Meadowcrest Dr., Batavia, was charged with 13 counts of second-degree forgery, 13 counts of first-degree falsifying business records and one count of first-degree scheme to defraud, all of which are felonies.

Kocent was arrested Thursday and released under the supervision of the court pending a future court appearance. She is accused of altering the tip amounts on the credit card receipts of 13 different customers at the "Batavia area restaurant" where she worked as a waitress. These charges stem from from allegations that span one month between July 16 and August 17, last year.

Macy Paradise, 24, of 5155 E. Main St., Batavia, was charged with unlawful possession of marijuana Wednesday, Genesee County sheriff's deputies said. An investigation into an unoccupied vehicle parked by the side of the road on Route 5 led to the charges.

Scott Snyder, 39, of Oakfield, was charged with a felony count of second-degree unauthorized use of a motor vehicle Thursday, Genesee County sheriff's deputies said. Snyder was also charged with four counts of petit larceny, four counts of fifth-degree criminal possession of stolen property, one count of fourth-degree criminal mischief and one count of third-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle. Snyder allegedly stole "numerous items" from four cars in the village of Oakfield last Friday, then stole another vehicle and drove to Rochester. He returned that vehicle to a driveway in the village later that night. There is no mention of incarceration. He will return to the Oakfield Town Court to answer his charges in February.

Elizabeth A. Chelus, 26, of Orchard Park, was charged with driving while intoxicated Thursday evening, Genesee County sheriff's deputies said. Chelus was stopped with a flat tire near the intersection of Route 5 and Loverslane Road in the town of Pembroke.

Charges are pending in an investigation of a car that drove off the road and onto a snow embankment Thursday afternoon, Genesee County sheriff's deputies said. Todd J. Quinlan, 55, of Rochester, was driving along Route 5 in LeRoy when he allegedly crossed to the other side of the road and off the shoulder. His car then climbed a five-foot-tall snow embankment and travelled another 30 feet on top of it. Quinlan complained of back pain and was taken to United Memorial Medical Center for treatment.

No reported injuries in an alleged chimney fire in Bethany overnight

By Philip Anselmo
Jan 30, 2009, 7:22am

The cause of a fire that damaged a home in the town of Bethany overnight is still under investigation, Genesee County sheriff's deputies said. Fire crews first got the call at 2:25 a.m., this morning, that a chimney fire had broken out at the home at 4588 Conway Road in Bethany. There was one occupant at home, and she was able to get out safely. 

Firefighters could see the flames from a distance as they arrived on scene. No injuries were reported. The Bethany Volunteer Fire Department is being aided by several surrounding departments, including Alexander, Batavia, Stafford, Pavilion, Wyoming, Warsaw, Attica, South Byron and LeRoy.

No reports yet of the extent of the damage. An article this morning in the Democrat & Chronicle reports that firefighters were still on scene at 6:30 a.m., and heavy fire damage is apparent.

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Batavia wrestler Ryan Darch still perfect, state title is his goal

By Brian Hillabush
Jan 29, 2009, 9:29pm


 Ryan Darch is perfect on the mat this season, and he hopes to keep it that way.

Darch has compiled a 30-0 record this season, including 10 pins and four technical fall victories, as he heads into Friday and Saturday's Monroe County League tournament.

He is the top ranked wrestler at 160 pounds in the small school division of Section 5 by

 Darch's love of wrestling started at a young age, thanks to his father Ken.

Ken had been a star wrestler in high school and college and started teaching Ryan and placing him in tournaments - at the age of five.

Ryan had continued to wrestle but finally started taking it serious after his freshman season when he lost early on in sectionals. Darch realized his season was over and hated it. So he dedicated himself to learning the sport and lifting weights.

He became a student of the game, as his father puts it.

Ryan's hard work paid off as he had a solid sophomore season, advancing all the way to the Section 5 SuperSectionals, where he lost to John-Martin Cannon of Brockport, getting pinned in 2:25.

That was the last match that Ryan - now a junior - lost.

Batavia (17-5) has the Monroe County League tournament this weekend, then a match at Greece Olympia and the Ken-Ton Invitational tournament left before sectionals.

Darch is a top seed as is Troy Ireland. Josh Mase and Nick Lazarony are second seeds while Anthony D'Aurizio is a fourth seed in a very tough 189 pound weight class.

The Blue Devils will be wrestling in Class BBBB on Feb. 13 and 14. After that is SuperSectionals and then the state tournament.

Check out this interview with Ryan and Ken Darch:


House parties hurt sports bars on Super Bowl Sunday

By Brian Hillabush
Jan 29, 2009, 2:20pm

Everybody has their own particular thing they like to do for the Super Bowl. Some have traditions and some do something different every year.

I have watched the game almost ever year with my best friend and his father. I always figured a lot of people watched the game at a sports bar, but that isn't the case.

"Actually, it isn't," said Rick Mancuso, owner of TF Brown's in Batavia. "It has turned into a day where people stay home and have house parties. They typically don't go out that day, so it isn't that big."

Mancuso says that TF Brown's was always slow on Super Bowl Sunday, until he started throwing a private party to get people in there. He invites about 175-200 people each year to fill up the restaurant/sports bar. The party starts at around 4 p.m. and most people leave right after the game.

"Couples and a lot of people from all over area come," Mancuso said. "They come for some great food and to watch the game."

Tully's is a chain restaurant/sports bar that has one located in Batavia. They offer all kinds of specials on Super Bowl Sunday and gets a very small crowd because of house parties.

We run specials and try to do what we can to bring people in, but we don't get a good return on everything," said manager Dennis Harper.

What are your plans for Superbowl Sunday?
( surveys)

Lee denounces "bloated" stimulus package; local Dems respond

By Philip Anselmo
Jan 29, 2009, 1:17pm

Congressman Chris Lee spoke yesterday against the $819 billion economic stimulus package that passed the House yesterday by a vote of 244-188—not a single Republican voted in favor of the measure, along with eleven Democrats who also disapproved. His office sent us this video of that speech.

From the press release issued by Lee's office:

Congressman Lee supports an economic stimulus plan that works swiftly and effectively while spending Western New Yorkers’ hard-earned tax dollars wisely. That’s why he voted this evening for an alternative measure that includes immediate tax relief for working families, help for America’s small businesses, assistance for the unemployed, stabilization of home values, and no tax increases to pay for spending. Congressman Lee helped craft this alternative measure as part of a working group of Republican lawmakers appointed by House leaders to present ideas to President Obama for inclusion in a bipartisan stimulus plan.

Since being sworn-in to office, Congressman Lee has been gathering information on the stimulus plan, evaluating dozens of proposals, and carefully considering the best ideas for creating jobs in Western New York. He has met with and solicited input from community leaders, economic experts, and constituents. He will discuss his views on the stimulus plan in a live telephone town hall meeting to be held this evening with residents in all seven counties of the 26th district.

Lee calls for more to be done to spur job growth and protect the unemployed. He calls for more tax cuts and less spending. And he claims that not enough is being done to provide tax relief for the middle class. These sound like great points: more jobs, better protection, more relief, fewer burdens—all good stuff.

Yet, confusingly, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi claims that the current bill does all of those things. Her Web site lists "tax cuts for American families" that would total $185 billion over the next 10 years. Such cuts would include immediate relief "to 95 percent of American workers through a refundable tax credit of up to $500 per worker ($1,000 per couple filing jointly).... These tax cuts would be distributed to millions of families by reducing tax withholding from workers’ paychecks."

Furthermore, she cites "business tax incentives to create jobs and spur investment" that would total $20 billion over the next ten years. "This would allow businesses to write off 90% of losses incurred in 2008 and 2009 against taxes assessed over the previous five years." What's more, "this would not be available to companies that have benefited under the TARP."

Of course, there is plenty else mentioned in Pelosi's breakdown that doesn't sound so rosy. If the situation is as dire as we're being told, should we be fronting a $6 billion broadband expansion? What about $650 million for television upgrades? Lee's office sent us this list of other "egregious spending" included in the bill:

• $1 billion for the follow-up to the 2010 Census.
• $600 million to buy new cars for government workers.
• $462 million for equipment, construction, and renovation of facilities at the Centers for Disease Control.
• $335 million for the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.
• $50 million in funding for the National Endowment of the Arts.
• $44 million for repairs to U.S. Department of Agriculture headquarters.

I don't know if all of these count as instances of egregious spending—$50 million for the NEA is nothing compared with $650 to keep people watching television. Furthermore, there's so much money, ludicrous amounts of money, that this bill seeks to release in the name of modernization. Sincerely, at one point, in Pelosi's breakdown, a use given for some of the funds is literally: to "create new modernization ... programs." What!?

For the scrappy among you, you can visit the topics page on the economic stimulus put together by the New York Times. On it, there is a link to the full text of the bill.

Of course, area Democrats were quick to respond to Lee's no vote. They issued the following statement yesterday evening:

Democrats in the GLOW Counties (Genesee, Livingston, Orlean, and Wyoming) reacted this evening to Congressman Chris Lee's (NY 26) vote against the stimulus package that was approved tonight by the House of Representatives.

Phil Jones, the Livingston County Democratic Chair, stated, "We are extremely disappointed that Chris Lee chose to put party discipline over the needs of the people of the 26th District and the entire nation tonight by voting against the recovery plan. We face new layoff announcements in the thousands every day in this economy, but following his party's marching orders seems more important to Mr. Lee than trying to implement constructive solutions." 

Genesee County Democratic Chair Lorie Longhany noted the fact that President Obama and Democrats in Congress had consistently worked to gain Republican support for the stimulus bill, adding additional tax cuts and getting rid of some specific spending to which Republicans objected. "But the Republicans, and regrettably Congressman Lee, decided they would rather oppose all efforts and simply obstruct all good faith attempts to work with them. Things are tough; we don't have time for these games." 

Harold Bush, the Democratic Chair of Wyoming County, pointed out, "President Obama even went to Capitol Hill itself in an attempt to get at least some of the Republicans to work together with him on economic recovery.  It's a shame Chris Lee didn't put the interests of our district ahead of those of his party leadership."

Jeanne Crane, who is Chair of the Orleans County Democratic Committee, agreed. "We have always had representatives in this district who were more concerned with serving their party than serving us. It's a shame that hasn't changed."

Reflection and Time

By Lori Ann Santini
Jan 29, 2009, 11:46am

     There has been alot of discussion this week over issues and incidents. Clearly, opinions have differed. Some in support and some against.  People in this country have the blessing of freedom of speech. Sometimes we take it for granted. When the storm of comments wained, one thing became clear. We need to focus on the important things. Our health, our loves and our life.

     I had time to take a breathe and plan my attack. Instead of wonder how much worse this could get, I changed direction. I went to the local stores and searched for plant seeds. Spring was about to come to my little house. The weather might have different plans but I didn't care. This is a way to focus and plan.  To plot where every plant would go and to wait for the results.

     My kids are an integral part of the planning. First, are there truly kid friendly plants out there? The answer of course is yes. Kid friendly isn't the issue actually. Peas, carrots, corn and the occassional fresh tomato meet with the occassional "Mom can I have another one?" I  have concerns about their welfare however as I imagine  my 17 month old re-inacting Godzilla scenes through the rows of plants.  Things are going to get crushed like the city blocks leveled in the movies.

     For the girls in my life, the pick was flowers. "Mom can we get this one?" or  "OHHHHHHH, thats soooooooo beautiful."  I prefer the sunny disposition of sunflowers myself.(I can't lie, I love johnny jumps ups and crocuses too.) They are rugged and friendly. These guys could survive my son and his antics. For my son, I picked peas and beans. I have never met a kid more crazy about his vegetables. This kid could eat a whole can of green beans at one sitting if given half a chance.

     Just imagine his delight when they are fresh from the garden. Picked as the dew drips from the leaves. Mmmmm. I can taste it now.  The peas will never make it to the kitchen.

     Seeds are a cheap fix to anyones woes. A couple dollars can buy you healthy snacks that will last all summer long. Especially if they happen to be in patio pots filled with Cherry Tomatoes. Yum.

     This year we are going for some larger and more exciting prospects. We have a huge lawn now. My plans for the garden will probably  start small but will end up  taking over an acre or so. Just kidding!! I want to try potatoes, bright lights swiss chard, corn and pumpkins. I have made attempts in the past to try some of these but I never had the right soil or location. This year it will be perfect.

    I can see that the hose will need to be ready and available at all times. Bath time for the babes. I'm not talking plants either. In the past my  daughters have been knee high in the soil and mud. Now I have three that I need to keep  out of trouble. Guess what, the hose will be alot easier.

     I look forward to the joy on their faces as the seedlings emerge from the ground. We will care for them, nurture them, and weed them. ( I have a feeling it will only be me weeding them though.) The kids will rig devices to protect the new plants from the rabbits and other critters. Then we will wait. Wait for the first of the crops. We will share them with friends and neighbors. Ahh. I feel better already.

P.S. Does anyone have a rotor tiller I can borrow? :) This is going to take some help.

Pavilion gets its Post Office back—sort of—February 2

By Philip Anselmo
Jan 29, 2009, 11:14am

Pavilion's "postal trailer" will open on February 2, according to a U.S. Postal Service release that went out this morning. Pavilion has been without a post office since the location on Lake Street was destroyed during an apartment fire in November.

This trailer (below) is located a stone's throw from the Town Hall on Woodrow Drive.

From the press release:

Effective February 2, 2009 retail and delivery services will be restored to the Pavilion community via a postal trailer located on the Town of Pavilion property at Woodrow Drive. Service hours are 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday; 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday.

Pavilion customers can purchase postage and other postal products, as well as pick up Post Office Box mail at the new location. The trailer will also accommodate the Pavilion rural carriers.

“The November fire at the Post Office caused great disruption to mail services in Pavilion,” stated Manager of Post Office Operations Ron Coon. “We are pleased to be able to restore convenient postal services to town residents and businesses.”

A final determination of the Lake Street Post Office site has not been made.

Schumer says passage of stimulus bill will bring $1.6 billion upstate

By Philip Anselmo
Jan 29, 2009, 8:49am

The big news this morning, for sure, is the passage of the $819 billion stimulus package by the U.S. House of Representatives. We have yet to see what the Senate will do, but this thing is sure to climb through the ranks and get the presidential signature soon enough.

Throughout the day today, we'll take a look at some of the details of the package, both at the federal, the state and the local level. We will here what our representative in Congress, Chris Lee, has to say about the bill. We will get a response to Lee's vote against the package from some local Democrats. We will also look to get your opinion on this topic, so please keep an eye out for today's poll, which I hope to get up later this morning.

Let's start out with a broad look at what the stimulus package means for the nation. This is from the New York Times:

At first, it will trickle into paychecks in small, barely perceptible amounts: perhaps $12 or $13 a week for many American workers, in the form of lower tax withholding.

For the growing ranks of the unemployed, it will be more noticeable: benefit checks due to stop will keep coming, along with an extra $25 a week.

At the grocery store, a family of four on food stamps could find up to $79 more a month on their government-issued debit card.

And far bigger sums will appear, courtesy of Washington, on budget ledgers in state capitals nationwide: billions of dollars for health care, schools and public works.

Speaking of billions in health care and school aid, Sen. Chuck Schumer put out a release yesterday detailing the chunk of change due to come to upstate New York—$1.6 billion over the next two years. (Don't know about anyone else, but these numbers are always so staggering. If anyone knows of a good source that looks into how the government can come up, hocus pocus, with nearly a trillion dollars every time things start to look grim, please let me know.)

From Sen. Schumer:

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, will send nearly $1.6 billion over two years to Upstate New York counties in direct budget and education funding. Right now, the stimulus is expected to include $737 million in federal Medicaid relief for Upstate New York counties to help ease pressure on the overall budget, as well as a minimum of $860 million in education aid.

Western New York is due to see $70.4 million in budget relief for Medicaid and $175 million in school aid, according to Schumer's office. At the end of the release, we're told that the Senate will likely vote on the package next week in the hopes of getting the final draft to the president by President's Day, February 16.

We will get up part two of our look at the stimulus package later this morning. Please be sure to check back. In the meantime, you may want to check out the New York Times Web site, where they have put together an informative graphic that includes some audio commentary from some economists on how the nation handled past recessions.

Drug busts in the city of Batavia lead to five arrests

By Philip Anselmo
Jan 29, 2009, 7:39am

A pair of Rochester residents were arrested in Batavia last Thursday following an investigation into the sale of crack cocaine, Genesee County sheriff's deputies said. Michael R. Ransear, 24, of Rochester, was charged with a felony count of third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance. Michael's aunt, April D. Ransear, 42, of Rochester, was charged with a felony count of third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and a felony count of tampering with physical evidence.

The two were located and arrested by the local drug task force in a parking lot near the intersection of Route 33 and Seven Springs Road in  the town of Batavia. The task force is comprised of sheriff's deputies, officers from the city of Batavia police department and the LeRoy police department. Genesee County's District Attorney office also asssisted in the investigation.

Both Michael and April Ransear were sent to Genesee County Jail; Micheal in lieu of $15,000 bail, April in lieu of $10,000 bail.

Also last Thursday, the local drug task force executed a search warrant at the lower apartment of 26 South Pearl Street n Oakfield, Genesee County sheriff's deputies said. As a result, William G. Mosholder, 47, of Oakfield, was charged with fourth-degree criminal possession of marijuana and endangering the welfare of a child. Mosholder's two step-children, both under the age of 17, were at the residence when deputies allegedly located marijuana. Mosholder will answer the charges in court in February.

Another search warrant was executed at a Batavia apartment last night, where members of the local drug task force allegedly discovered crack cocaine with a street value of $1,500 and $2,371 in cash, Genesee County sheriff's deputies said. Both of the apartments residents were arrested and charged. Terrence D. Butler, 26, of 120 Jackson St., Apt: 3, Batavia, was charged with a felony count of third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance. Anthony Sanders, 27, of the same address, was charged with a felony count of third-degree crimial possession of a controlled substance and a felony count of fourth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.

Both Butler and Sanders were sent to Genesee County Jail without bail.

This photo (below), sent to us by the city police department, depicts the officers of the emergency response team as they left the scene of the raid at 120 Jackson Street last night.

Rubbing Elbows At Giants Stadium

Jan 28, 2009, 5:46pm

NFL Films once produced a half hour segment featuring the Pittsburgh Steelers defense of 1976. After surrendering 110 points in their first five games that year, they gave up only 28 over the final nine games. At one point in the highlight reel, during a Steeler’s game at Giants Stadium, the camera panned the Pittsburgh sideline. Standing in the background was an individual wearing a blue windbreaker. He looked like most any of the Giant’s field personnel that day, except for one small difference: he had no Giants logo on his windbreaker. Instead, his jacket patch read, “The Fieldhouse, BataviaNew York.” Guess who! Before moving to New Jersey two months earlier, I played for the Fieldhouse softball team, sponsored by Jim “Biggie” Pastore.

 I began working at the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority on August 16th, 1976. From work I had a bird’s eye view of the New York City skyline. Not that I enjoyed it. I would have traded the skyscrapers in a heartbeat for a bird’s eye view of a corn field or a clump of cattails. I missed GeneseeCounty and, among other things, driving the back roads between the small towns back home.

Working at the Meadowlands, however, did have its perks, one of which included being standby personnel during the Giants home games.  

 Notable Giants on the ‘76 team were journeymen players Larry Csonka and Craig Morton. The Giants roster also included two promising rookies in middle linebacker Harry Carson and defensive lineman Troy Archer. Sadly, Archer’s career was cut short in an automobile accident in June of ‘79.  Defensive lineman John Mendenhall, from Grambling, was a real down to earth nice guy, always taking the time to say hello. George Martin, another d-end, and Harry Carson were the only members of that team to play in the Giants first Super Bowl ten years later.      

Due to stadium construction, the ’76 home opener at Giants Stadium was pushed back to Sunday, October 10th against the Dallas Cowboys. I was on the field several hours before kickoff, well before players came out for their warm up. The Hawthorne Caballero’s, the halftime band, were doing a final walk through. I was taking in the sights when Art McNally, the head of the NFL Officials, came up to me and made some small talk. It was a heady moment for a kid from Batavia.  

One of my assigned tasks that day was raising the net behind the west end zone goal posts during extra points. Though it was the opening day for Giants Stadium, there were several minor things that still needed tending to – one of them being the goal post nets. Less than an hour before kickoff the nets were not yet in place. So there I was, trying to toss a line connected to the net over a wire running from the goal post tops. I kept missing. You think the crowd is relentless when the players make a bad play? They don’t let up on maintenance personnel either. The fans seated around the tunnel entrance razzed me to no end. Thankfully, by the next game Pinkerton guards would handle the job of hauling up the nets.      


At the start of the game I took up a position against the wall below the first row of seats. But those being the years of Dallas’ Doomsday Defense – Harvey Martin, Too Tall Jones, Randy White and company - I sidled toward the bench every chance I got. Roger Staubach and Drew Pearson led the offense behind all-pro tackle Rayfield Wright. The only Cowboy I had a chance to actually talk with during the game was reserve tight end, Jay Saldi.

During the course of the game I followed the action up and down the field. I had no problem from field officials or the chain gang. It was easy to blend in among scores of sideline photographers. While the action on the field was violent and intense, and one could virtually feel the impact of sideline collisions, the officials did a nice job of controlling the game. The same couldn’t be said for the crowd as there were moments – several in fact – when the behavior appeared much rowdier in the stadium seats. I guess the home fans felt they were entitled to break in the place the way they saw fit. Anyway, the final score was 24 – 10, Cowboys.

 Two weeks later the Pittsburgh Steelers came to town. Once again I was behind the visitor’s bench, this time gawking at the Steel Curtain. Jack Lambert, Mean Joe Greene, L.C. Greenwood, Mel Blount and Jack Ham would all be named to the All NFL Defensive Team that year.  L.C. Greenwood was impressive, a towering human being amid the “Steel Curtain” defenders. I did find it odd that he wore high-top turf shoes the same shade as Guldens mustard.

The Steeler offense was equally star-studded with Terry Bradshaw, Lynn Swann, Franco Harris and a great offensive line.  And while he didn’t accumulate big numbers, I need to mention   reserve running back John “Frenchy” Fuqua. He was the guy with the flashy wardrobe who had live goldfish swimming around in the heels of his platform shoes. The Steelers shut out the Giants that day, 27 – 0.

During my ten years at the Meadowlands the Giants made some changes. The drafting of Phil Simms, Lawrence Taylor and the arrival of Western New Yorkers Phil McConkey and Jim Burt totally changed the team chemistry.

Phil Simms’ wife, Diana, was from Wyckoff, N.J. the town we resided in. Before long a toddling Chris Simms was one my wife’s daycare charges in our home. We followed Chris’ career from the University of Texas to Tampa Bay and now with  Tennessee where he is currently a backup on the Titans. As might be expected, we are Giant fans.  

Walking around the city during the storm

By Brian Hillabush
Jan 28, 2009, 5:19pm

After getting caught in the snow four times during our last blizzard, I figured driving was not an option. Who in their right mind is going to drive around in this?

Apparently a lot of people are doing just that as Main St. had its usual mid-day traffic and was cleaned up for the most part.

Well I decided to get all bundled up and go for a walk. Dumb idea.

I took a trip around my part of the city, walking around two different blocks, and it was brutal. The weather is 32-degrees right now, so it wasn't the cold that was the problem. It was the snow coming down in such a burdensome manner. 

I'm guessing that if you get outside of the city and are driving on Rt. 63 or 19, you are in for a lot of whiteout conditions as there is a slight wind in the city, which means when you get out you are in trouble.

This isn't that light snow that is nice to see once in a while. This is the big flake, heavy, pain in the butt type of snow.  I am so happy that my neighbor has a big snow plow and is a good guy or I would be in trouble today. I still can't lift heavy stuff after the carpal tunnel surgeries over the summer and I have a feeling that it would kill me to have to clear that stuff out on my own.

So I noticed a few things on my walk. First is that moving during the winter sucks. I found a guy moving in on Montclair Ave. and let's just say these aren't the ideal conditions. 

In fact, he tried to move the moving truck so that the plow could get down the street, and the battery had died. He found somebody and was getting a jump as I decided to head towards Main St.

I understand the sidewalks on the side streets being bad because people are at work. I just walked down the road. But I watched the mail carrier walking through big piles of snow and struggling just to get to people's mail boxes.

And then I got to Main St. and the sidewalks were just as bad.

I made a left and walked towards Burger King and Arby's - which were both pretty slow for a mid-afternoon on a work day - and the sidewalks were clear in some places and not even touched in others. I thought the city owned some big machine that is supposed to drive around and clear of sidewalks?

How about getting that thing out on Main St.

I could hear the speaker at Ken Barrett's  calling for service, but none of the cars were cleared off and nobody was shopping for a car. I get it. There is no way to get a feel for a vehicle when you can't drive faster than like 15 miles per hour.

I really was surprised at the amount of people out there driving because it is nasty out and probably will be for the rest of the afternoon. 

I saw a few people out shoveling and plowing driveways, but most of those that work during the day looked like they went in because driveways were packed all over the place.

As I was walking down Oak St., I saw a guy riding a bicycle down the road. He wasn't moving very fast and I can't imagine it was a pleasurable trip. I've never understood those that ride bikes when the weather is like this.

Finally I got home. What would usually be a 45 minute trip around a couple blocks took nearly and hour and half, but I did stop and talk to a few folks out there clearing their driveways and walking places.

The most common complaint I heard was the lack of cleared out sidewalks. If anybody knows about how the city handles sidewalks, I'd love to hear it.

I finally got home and was able to sit down at my computer, after a change of clothing because I looked like a snowman.

Former O-A Little League treasurer sentenced to five years in prison

By Philip Anselmo
Jan 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.

Genesee County ranks 8th highest in the nation in property tax study

By Philip Anselmo
Jan 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.

Winter storm warning remains in effect until 11 o'clock tonight

By Philip Anselmo
Jan 28, 2009, 11:12am

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.

Could Batavia learn about downtown development from Rochester?

By Philip Anselmo
Jan 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.

Snowfall should turn heavy later this morning, another six inches likely

By Philip Anselmo
Jan 28, 2009, 7:17am

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.

House fire near Pavilion: Updated

By Philip Anselmo
Jan 27, 2009, 1:21pm

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.

Storm watch upgraded to warning: Heavy snow overnight, into morning

By Philip Anselmo
Jan 27, 2009, 1:11pm

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.

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