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Police Beat: Alleged robbery at target, man threatens mother and reported forged checks

By Howard B. Owens

Marcos Juan Gomez, 31, of Rochester (pictured, right), is being charged with robbery in the 1st degree after allegedly being caught shoplifting at Target, and when security personnel there tried to stop him, he reportedly pulled a knife and fled. He was subsequently apprehended in the Home Depot parking lot. He is being held in Genesee County Jail in lieu of $20,000 bail.

Michael F. Geer, 18, of Batavia, is in jail on $5,000 bail and charged with harassment in the second degree and menacing in the second degree after allegedly wielding a knife and threatening to kill his mother. He is also charged with possession of a controlled substance He was taken into custody yesterday at around 5 p.m.

Benjamin Muntz, 20, of Oakfield (pictured, left), is accused of forgery after allegedly trying to pass forged checks at a local bank. He was arrested Thursday by a Sheriff's deputy while at Batavia City Court. He allegedly possessed two forged checks while at a Batavia bank in September. He is held in custody in lieu of $5,000 bail.

A 17-year-old girl from Stafford is in custody and held on $1,000 bail after allegedly entering a residence and taking $300 worth of property. She is charged with burglary in the second degree, a felony, and petty larceny. An order of protection was also issued.

Clint L. Stafford, 27, of Basom, was charged with DWI and felony unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle early Sunday morning. He was also ticked with an improper left turn and an open container.

A 17-year-old from Bergen is being charged with possession of a controlled substance in the 7th degree. A K-9 reportedly found hydrocodone in the teenagers possession in November and a subsequent lab test confirmed the substance was hydrocodone. The teenager was issued an appearance ticket.

A 17-year-old girl involved in a motor vehicle accident in Stafford last week was allegedly found with a switch blade knife and several marijuana pipes. She is being charged with criminal possession of a weapon in the 4th degree and unlawful possession of marijuana.

Out-of-season Winter Storm Watch in effect for today and tomorrow in WNY

By Howard B. Owens

We received this advisory this morning:

... WINTER STORM WATCH REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM THIS EVENING THROUGH TUESDAY AFTERNOON...

A WINTER STORM WATCH REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM THIS EVENING THROUGH TUESDAY AFTERNOON.

OCCASIONAL RAIN TODAY WILL GRADUALLY MIX WITH... AND CHANGE TO WET SNOW LATE THIS AFTERNOON AND EVENING. THE CHANGE TO WET SNOW WILL INITIALLY TAKE PLACE ACROSS THE HIGHER ELEVATIONS SOUTH OF BUFFALO LATE THIS AFTERNOON AND EVENING... THEN THE CHANGE OVER WILL BE EXPERIENCED ACROSS THE LOWER ELEVATIONS AND FOR SITES ACROSS THE GENESEE VALLEY AS THE EVENING PROGRESSES.

 

SNOWFALL AMOUNTS TONIGHT WILL RANGE FROM 1 TO 3 INCHES IN THE LOWER ELEVATIONS TO AS MUCH AS 6 INCHES ACROSS THE HILLTOPS SOUTH OF BUFFALO AND BATAVIA. ADDITIONAL ACCUMULATIONS WILL TAKE PLACE DURING THE DAY TUESDAY... ESPECIALLY OVER THE ELEVATED TERRAIN SOUTH OF BUFFALO WHERE LAKE EFFECT ENHANCEMENT IS EXPECTED.

THIS OUT OF SEASON SNOWFALL WILL LIKELY IMPACT TRAVEL ACROSS THE REGION TONIGHT AND TUESDAY... SO MUNICIPALITIES SHOULD BE PREPARED FOR LATE WINTER CONDITIONS.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

A WINTER STORM WATCH MEANS THAT HEAVY SNOW AND/OR ICE ACCUMULATIONS ARE POSSIBLE. IF YOU ARE WITHIN THE WATCH AREA... REMAIN ALERT TO RAPIDLY CHANGING WEATHER CONDITIONS.

 

More Information

... SIGNIFICANT OUT OF SEASON SNOWS EXPECTED TONIGHT INTO TUESDAY...

.DEEPENING LOW PRESSURE NEAR ERIE PENNSYLVANIA AT DAYBREAK WILL SLOWLY DRIFT ACROSS WESTERN NEW YORK TODAY... THEN WILL MAKE ITS WAY ACROSS THE ADIRONDACKS TO SOUTHERN QUEBEC TONIGHT. COLDER AIR WRAPPING IN BEHIND THE STRENGTHENING STORM SYSTEM WILL CHANGE OUR RAIN TO WET SNOW FROM WEST TO EAST DURING THE COURSE OF TONIGHT. THIS WILL RESULT IN WIDESPREAD SNOW ACCUMULATIONS ACROSS THE REGION WITH THE MOST SIGNIFICANT SNOW ACCUMULATIONS TONIGHT FORECAST TO BE OVER THE HIGHER TERRAIN SOUTH OF BUFFALO AND BATAVIA.

THE WET SNOW WILL CONTINUE ACROSS ALL OF WESTERN AND NORTH CENTRAL NEW YORK ON TUESDAY... ALTHOUGH SOME LIGHT RAIN MAY MIX BACK IN ACROSS THE LOWER ELEVATIONS. ADDITIONAL ACCUMULATIONS ARE EXPECTED FOR ALL AREAS AS A RESULT... WITH THE HIGHEST SNOWFALL AMOUNTS STILL BEING FOUND OVER THE HIGHER TERRAIN.

THE WIDESPREAD GENERAL SNOWFALL ACROSS WESTERN AND NORTH CENTRAL NEW YORK WILL TAPER OFF TUESDAY NIGHT... EXCEPT ACROSS THE WESTERN SOUTHERN TIER AND TUG HILL PLATEAU WHERE MORE FOCUSED AREAS OF LAKE EFFECT SNOW WILL LIKELY GENERATE EVEN MORE IMPRESSIVE SNOWFALL AMOUNTS.

THE UPCOMING HEAVY WET SNOW WILL LIKELY IMPACT TRAVEL ACROSS THE REGION MONDAY NIGHT AND TUESDAY... AND THERE COULD EVEN BE SOME SPOTTY POWER OUTAGES ACROSS THE HIGHER TERRAIN DUE TO THE HEAVY WET NATURE OF THE SNOW. UNLIKE THE OCTOBER 2006 EVENT WHERE FOLIATED TREES CONTRIBUTED TO THE HIGH IMPACT... THE REGION IS FORTUNATE THAT OUR GROWING SEASON HAS YET TO BEGIN.

Democrat's Genesee County chair offers take on state budget

By Howard B. Owens

We've had some discussion on The Batavian about "where are the local Democrats on the state budget." I've made at least one similar statement, and it's also come up in comments.

As part of an e-mail exchange today with Genesee County Democratic Chair Lorie Longhany, I asked Lorie for her statement on the budget.  Below is her statement, but she also said her teaching duties have been pretty full the past week or so.

Here's her statement:

While the budget has been controversial and has been the subject of much criticism, what needs to be considered is the unprecedented fiscal crisis that New York is facing. 

The budget closes the largest spending gap in state history -- 17.7 billion, 12 billion including the stimulus.  It includes 6.5 billion in spending cuts, nearly twice the amount of cuts as any governor from either party has ever proposed.

From the budget itself on the STAR rebate: The Enacted Budget eliminates the STAR rebate program as well as the corresponding enhanced NYC STAR tax credit, producing savings of $1.5 billion in 2009-10. Even after this action, the STAR exemption program and NYC STAR credit will continue to provide $3.3 billion in property tax relief.

Additionally, the Executive Budget proposal to decrease the “floor” reduction – the maximum reduction in STAR benefits that can occur as a result of changes in assessed value or market value –from 18 percent to 11 percent is not included in the Enacted Budget.

Cuts to health care waste and inefficiency, reforming the Rockefeller Drug Laws, the bottle bill and a temporary increase in personal income tax that progressively targets those making over $300,000 + help to reduce the gap.  The increase in spending is the result of stimulus money that will be redistributed throughout the state for infrastructure and job creation.

The budget is painful and not perfect, with some targeted cuts that I personally didn't agree with, but the situation that led us to this place culminated long before Governor Paterson and the newly elected Senate Democrats took over.  Tough times call for shared sacrifice and shared solutions. 

Now is the time for New Yorkers to come together and find viable solutions, not waste time with talk of division and secession.  Bringing high speed rail to fruition and creating a linkage between our upstate agri-businesses and downstate markets can bridge the divide and help both areas of the state to connect and flourish.

To see or not to see....

By Arlana Pathammavong

Another week or so has gone by and more movies have been watched.  This entry will include selections from the "Red Box" as suggested by Tasia in the last review.  Although the first review is a movie that can be found at either Blockbuster, or our own local and friendly Movies in Motion, located next to Wilson Farms on East Main Street.

Battle In Seattle - a movie that actually released in May of 2007.   Directed by Stuart Townsend, and rated R by the MPAA for language and some violence.  Starring Woody Harrelson, Charlize Theron, Michelle Rodriguez, Andre Benjamin, Ray Liotta and Channing Tatum.  I am sometimes hesitant to watch movies with such a stacked cast, as I've often been disappointed when the movie fails to pull through.  I suppose with a huge cast of superior actors, I tend to expect it should be a great movie!  But this cast of actors was an excellent choice and I was very pleased with the film.  

The film is set in November of 1999, based on true events as thousands of demonstrators take to the streets of Seattle in protest of the World Trade Organization (WTO).  It brings together the lives of six different people, who are all united in their common desire to want to make a difference in the world.  The movie goes on to potray the characters lives as their peaceful demonstration to stop the WTO quickly escalates into a violent and horrific riot.  Townsend did an excellent job or merging footage of the real events that took place in Seattle riots with his own story, which I found was one of the great aspects of the film.

I went into this movie not knowing much if anything at all about the WTO, but believe that this is a movie that was well put togeher, and highly recommended.  Its a heart-warming movie that portrays the power of the "human spirit to overcome, to work together and to forgive."

 

IMDB users rated this movie 7*'s out of 10. 

Now on to the "Red Box"... for those of you who find yourselves on the go!

Batavia has two Red Box locations you can find in either our local Tops, or Walmart. 

You can always go the "Academy nominations" route, and watch the films such as Milk starring Sean Penn.  Rated 8*'s of 10 by IMDB users.  The movie is based on Harvey Milk, and his struggles as an American gay activist who fought for gay rights and became California's first openly gay elected official.  MPAA rated this movie R for language, some sexual content and brief violence.  Or Australia starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman.  Rated 7*'s of 10 by IMBD users.  Australia takes place before World War II and has been describe as a film that "works on multiple levels; thrilling action adventure, detailed period piece, moving romance, stirring war movie, and it also continues the resurrection of the western." 
 

If are you an action/thriller person;  Transporter 3 starring Jason Statham.  Rated 5.9*'s out of 10 by IMDB users. Stathams character, Frank Martin is to deliver Valentina, played by Natalya Rudakova, the kidnapped daughter of a Ukranian government official.  Its the third in the series of the Transporter movies, and I'd have to say it wasn't as entertaining in my opinion as the first 2.  MPAA rated thie film PG-13 for sequences of intense action and violence, some sexual content and drug material.  Righteous Kill starring Robert De Niro and Al Pacino.  Rated 6.1*'s of 10 by IMDB users, I'd have to say I'd rate it 5/10.  It was not the best script for two truly great actors.  I found the film to be somewhat predictable, but all in all found it a mediocre movie.  MPAA rated Righteous Kill, R for violence, pervasive language, some sexuality and brief drug use.   Wanted starring Angelina Jolie, Morgan Freeman and James McAvoy.  IMDB users rated this movie 6.9*'s out of 10.  James McAvoy plays a character who discovers he is the son of a professional assassin and shares his fathers superhuman abilities.  I personally enjoyed this movie, and found it entertaining and creative.  I recommend it to those of you who are the "superhero movie" watchers.  MPAA rated the film R for strong bloody violence throughout, pervasive language and some sexuality.  

Also at some Red Box locations, for those who like to read, and enjoy the compare and contrast to a books debut film; I suggest Twilight and Marley and Me.  For families with children, you may find of interest, Madagascar 2: Escape to Africa, Bedtime Stories, or Beverly Hills Chihuahua (none of which I have seen, so I cannot give any personal reference to. 

Stay tuned for more reviews...

 

Survey puts Genesee County in reasonably happy category

By Howard B. Owens

The Gallup organization has produced a map indexing a sense of well-being all across the nation.

The map is a result of surveys asking people in all 435 congressional districts 40 questions "to determine people's physical and mental well-being."

In our slice of WNY, we fall right in the middle of the index.  Now that doesn't tell us if we're mostly happy or mostly unhappy, just that relative to the rest of the United States, we're right in the middle 20 percent of well-being and life satisfaction.

The site that contains detailed reports on each district has a very web-unfriendly Javascript in place preventing me from linking directly to the survey results for the 26th Congressional District.  You can search here.  Our index number is: 65.9  For the top-10 states, Arizona trails the list at 66.8. Overall, New York is 64.7.

It might be fair to say that the 26th District is a island of reasonable happiness surrounded by a sea of misery.

Winter storm watch: Heavy snow accumulation possible late Monday evening

By Howard B. Owens

You thought the last of Winter might be slipping away, well get ready for another big snow storm. We just received this advisory:

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN BUFFALO HAS ISSUED A WINTER STORM WATCH... WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM MONDAY EVENING THROUGH TUESDAY AFTERNOON.

RAIN ON MONDAY WILL GRADUALLY MIX WITH... THEN CHANGE TO WET SNOW MONDAY EVENING. ACCUMULATING WET SNOW IS THEN EXPECTED DURING THE COURSE OF MONDAY NIGHT AND TUESDAY WITH SIGNIFICANT ACCUMULATIONS POSSIBLE. THE HIGHEST ACCUMULATIONS WILL LIKELY BE FOUND OVER THE HIGHER TERRAIN SOUTH OF BUFFALO AND BATAVIA WHERE AMOUNTS IN EXCESS OF 6 INCHES WILL BE POSSIBLE.

THIS OUT OF SEASON SNOWFALL WILL LIKELY IMPACT TRAVEL ACROSS THE REGION MONDAY NIGHT AND TUESDAY... SO MUNICIPALITIES SHOULD BE PREPARED FOR LATE WINTER CONDITIONS..

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

A WINTER STORM WATCH MEANS THAT HEAVY SNOW AND/OR ICE ACCUMULATIONS ARE POSSIBLE. IF YOU ARE WITHIN THE WATCH AREA... REMAIN ALERT TO RAPIDLY CHANGING WEATHER CONDITIONS.

More Information

... SIGNIFICANT OUT OF SEASON SNOWS POSSIBLE MONDAY NIGHT AND TUESDAY...

..LOW PRESSURE THAT WILL LIFT OUT OF THE OHIO VALLEY TONIGHT WILL CROSS WESTERN NEW YORK DURING THE DAY MONDAY. COLDER AIR WRAPPING IN BEHIND THE DEEPENING STORM SYSTEM WILL THEN CHANGE THE RAIN TO WET SNOW FROM WEST TO EAST DURING THE COURSE OF MONDAY NIGHT. SIGNIFICANT SNOW ACCUMULATIONS WILL BE POSSIBLE OVER THE WESTERN COUNTIES MONDAY NIGHT AS A RESULT... ESPECIALLY OVER THE HIGHER TERRAIN SOUTH OF BUFFALO AND BATAVIA.

AS THE VERY DEEP STORM SYSTEM LIFTS FROM THE ADIRONDACKS TO SOUTHERN QUEBEC ON TUESDAY... UNSEASONABLY COLD AIR WILL KEEP THE PRECIPITATION MAINLY AS SNOW WITH ADDITIONAL ACCUMULATIONS EXPECTED.

THE WIDESPREAD GENERAL SNOWFALL ACROSS WESTERN NEW YORK WILL TAPER OFF TUESDAY NIGHT... EXCEPT ACROSS THE WESTERN SOUTHERN TIER WHERE MORE FOCUSED AREAS OF LAKE EFFECT SNOW WILL BE POSSIBLE INTO WEDNESDAY. SINCE LAKE ERIE IS NOW GENERALLY ICE FREE... THIS COULD LEAD TO MORE SIGNIFICANT ACCUMULATIONS WELL SOUTH OF BUFFALO.

THE UPCOMING HEAVY WET SNOW WILL LIKELY IMPACT TRAVEL ACROSS THE REGION LATE MONDAY NIGHT AND TUESDAY... AND THERE COULD EVEN BE SOME SPOTTY POWER OUTAGES ACROSS THE HIGHER TERRAIN. UNLIKE THE OCT 2006 EVENT WHERE FOLIATED TREES CONTRIBUTED TO THE HIGH IMPACT... THE REGION IS FORTUNATE THAT OUR GROWING SEASON HAS YET TO BEGIN..

The man who tore down half of Old Batavia

By Howard B. Owens

I wish I could find David J. Gordon, if he's still alive, and interview him. On video would be especially good. I wonder if he would squirm at all?

Gordon is the City of Batavia's former Director or Urban Renewal.  If there is one single person responsible for tearing down half of downtown Batavia and building that brutal mall, it is Gordon.

We could give Gordon his due and excuse his enthusiasm for destruction and reconstruction to youthful folly and the trends of the time. Or could we see him as a locus for change that not many Batavian's wanted (it's very hard to find any long-time residents who say they support (or should I say, "admit" that they supported) the city's decision at the time).

C.M. Barons, loyal reader and commentor on The Batavian, interviewed Gordon in 1973. He e-mailed me a copy of the article.

Reading the Q&A is nothing less than infuriating.

Gordon started his young adult life pursuing study in social sciences and then flirted with becoming a priest, but wound up in Washington, D.C. where he got involved in urban renewal, a particularly flatulent excess of federal largess aimed at destroying city blocks and replacing them with anything, anything at all.

Urban renewal was all the rage in the 1960s and 1970s.

Wikipedia:

Urban renewal is extremely controversial, and typically involves the destruction of businesses, the relocation of people, and the use of eminent domain as a legal instrument to reclaim private property for city-initiated development projects.

In the second half of the 20th century, renewal often resulted in the creation of urban sprawl and vast areas of cities being demolished ... 

Urban renewal's effect on actual revitalization is a subject of intense debate. It is seen by proponents as an economic engine, and by opponents as a regressive mechanism for enriching the wealthy at the expense of taxpayers and the poor. It carries a high cost to existing communities, and in many cases resulted in the destruction of vibrant—if run-down —neighborhoods.

If you're a fan of The Kinks, you might be familiar with the 1971 album Muswell Hillbillies, which was Ray Davies scathing and often witty polemic against urban renewal. Long before I came to Batavia, it was one of my favorite LPs. Now it often strikes me as especially poignant.

I got a letter this morning with serious news that's gone and ruined my day,
The borough surveyor's used compulsory purchase to acquire my domain,
They're gonna pull up the floors, they're gonna knock down the walls,
They're gonna dig up the drains.

Here come the people in grey they're gonna take me away to lord knows where,
But I'm so unprepared I got no time to pack and I got nothing to wear,
Here come the people in grey,
To take me away.

Gordon was very much one of those people in grey, judging from the picture with Barons' article and his attitude toward the city that was nothing more than another notch on his resume.

At the heart of the article is Gordon's complete lack of respect for the small business owner. Without that respect, it is easy to see why he had no qualms about dislocating businesses that had operated in the same locations for decades.

What I think personally and I was brought up in a small business man's type home -- I'm talking experience not theory, is that unfortunately business has become that which is owned by bigger and bigger conglomerates. The day of the small business, I'm sorry to say, has become more and more a less intricate part of the American scene. It's another one of the changing aspects, one of the reasons, and there are many, that in the old days when a man ran a business he whole family went in there and helped him. His wife went in there and more important -- his kid. But today his kid wants to go to college and rightly so. And he wants the 35 or 40 hour work week with fringe benefits and vacations; he doesn't want to work all hours of the day as he did before. The small business can't compete (for labor) with the fringe benefits offered by the larger companies.

As a Brit like Ray Davies might say, "What rubbish."

I, too, grew up in a "small business man's type home" and my decision not to become a baker had nothing to do with an unwillingness to work hard and put in long hours, or a desire to seek fringe benefits. I simply preferred to pursue a life involving words and thought (I set out to be a writer) rather than dough and icing.  It's impossible to pigeon hole the mass of humanity as nothing but 40-hour-week seekers. Some people have the entrepreneurial drive and some don't, and we need communities that meet the needs of both types of people.  Gordon's statement strikes me as rather myopic.

There are a number of family owned businesses in Genesee County, many of them in their second and third generations of ownership.  The family-owned business never went out of style.  There have always been people more interested in working for a family owned business rather than a conglomerate, fringe benefits or not.  There's more to a good work life than an extra week of vacation. Gordon's assertions were based neither on experience nor theory, but merely wishful thinking.

Prophetically, with a bit of wisdom Gordon may not have realized he possessed, he did note how important a strong downtown is to a vibrant community.

Remember this is a big tax producing basis for the city -- the business district. If the business district goes to hell, the economics of this town go to hell.

I shared Barons' article with Batavia loyalist Bill Kauffman, who's anti-urban renewal writing is known the nation over. Bill's response: "The arrogant bastards who knocked down Old Batavia ought to have been tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail back to whatever unplace they came from."

Fortunately, whatever damage the bastards who tore down Old Batavia did to the business community, it is receding ever more into history as the local business community recovers. It didn't really take another government program, either, to turn things around. It is a combination of community effort and free enterprise, good small-town American values. It is a credit to the local merchants (which includes businesses in the mall) and property owners who have stuck with downtown and formed the Business Improvement District.  The BID has made great strides in revitalizing downtown, and the work continues.  Downtown Batavia's success is important for the entire community (at least Gordon got that much right). It sets the tone and the pace for the rest of the county.  The folly of David J. Gordon aside, there is no reason Downtown can't thrive for decades to come.

Power outages this morning?

By Howard B. Owens

A few people have hit the site this morning searching for information on power outages.  I don't have any information on any outages at this time.  If you do, please leave a comment.

Any other storm damage?  If you have pictures, please share them.

Statement from Ranzenhofer on his attempt to reinstate STAR rebate checks

By Howard B. Owens

We just received this statement from Sen. Mike Ranzenhofer's office:

“I lead the fight for homeowners, seniors and middle-class families on the Senate floor today and proposed an amendment to the State budget that would have reinstated STAR rebate checks for each and every homeowner in Western New York. 

Unfortunately, Senate democrats rejected my proposal, refusing to provide tax relief for homeowners that already pay some of the highest property taxes in the nation.  As a result, families will lose an average of $369 in Erie County and $525 in Genesee County for 2009 in much needed property tax relief. 

The Albany politicians still do not understand that Western New Yorkers need property tax relief now.  In these tough economic times, Western New Yorkers, especially middle-class families and seniors, need the STAR rebate checks to pay sky-rocketing property taxes just to make ends meet. 

Just as I did today on the Senate floor and at news conference outside property taxpayers’ houses weeks ago in Tonawanda and LeRoy, I will continue to fight to preserve the STAR program and property tax relief for Western New York.”

Support the advertisers who support The Batavian

By Howard B. Owens

If you enjoy The Batavian, it's important that you support our advertisers. That's how we will be able to stay in business.

Current advertisers:

To promote your business on The Batavian, call Howard Owens at 585-260-6970, or write to me at howard (at) thebatavian dot com.

Today's Today's Poll: Should county legislators serve four-year terms and have election terms staggered?

By Howard B. Owens
Should County Legislators serve four-year terms and have election years staggered?

 

For Background on this poll, see yesterday's story by Paul Mrozek. A Darian Town Council member raised the issue at the Ways and Means Committee meeting on Monday.

"It's kind of ridiculous to have all nine legislators up for election at the same time," said Steve Ferry, a member of the Darien Town Board. He said four-year terms would provide more consistency for the Legislature and would also attract more candidates for the nine seats.

"When you tell people (potential candidates) it's a two-year term they kind of walk the other way," Ferry said.

UPDATE (2:55 p.m.): This notice was just sent to County Legislators.

Chair Hancock has requested your attendance at a Committee of the Whole Meeting Wednesday, April 8th at 6:30 PM for the purpose of discussing a request by Steve Ferry to bring to consideration the extension of Legislature Terms to four years and staggering those terms.  In addition, Mr. Ferry has requested a reconsideration of Legislature Rule 22 in regards to addressing the Legislature.

Group of Democrats vote against budget without affecting the outcome

By Howard B. Owens

The Buffalo News reports this morning that a group of Western New York State Assembly Democrats "rebelled" against party bosses by voting "no" on a slate of budget bills.

But how much of a rebellion is it when the outcome is predetermined?

And 23 Democrats — nearly a quarter of the party’s conference — voted no on a massive bill involving health care spending.

What’s going on? Why would so many Democrats buck their leadership on such a crucial matter?

One answer is because Democrats control the Assembly with a highly secure 109-41 margin, leaving plenty of wiggle room to let some members avoid making a politically uncomfortable vote without affecting the overall outcome of a bill the leadership wants passed.

So some Democrats who might face a backlash back home get to play it safe and "buck" party leadership. Does it really make a difference? We still get stuck with this loser of a budget.

Batavia native starring in tribute musical to John Denver

By Howard B. Owens

John Birchler left Batavia a long time ago, but he's making headlines in Schenectady where he's starring as John Denver in a off-Broadway tribute musical called "Almost Heaven."

Birchler left Batavia to attend college in Albany, and landed a teaching job near the state capitol after graduation. He is now retired.

“I don’t try to sound like him. It’s just a matter of representing his songs in that John Denver musical style. We want to perform the songs and be as faithful to him as we can.”

Birchler is the only identified character in the show, which includes 29 of Denver’s tunes, some of them accompanied by an audio-visual presentation.

“There are no real characters, but I do portray a John Denver-like figure,” said Birchler. “There’s a bit of a narrative thread throughout the show, and that’s me talking a little bit as Denver about different things that happened in his life. Beyond my little dialogue and the music, there’s an A-V component that includes almost 130 images projected onto a screen. In some way, they illustrate the songs and much of Denver’s life.”

Suspected drug dealer reportedly tried to flee from police on foot

By Howard B. Owens

BATAVIA , N.Y. -- Kirby S. Wall, 32, of Rochester, reportedly tried to run from Drug Enforcement Task Force investigators yesterday only to be found hiding along the east wall of 400 Towers. The foot chase started at a residence on Swan Street, where officers had gone in an attempt to arrest Wall for allegedly dealing in crack cocaine. Wall was allegedly found to be in possession of $1,000 worth of crack and a quantity of marijuana.

Previously, Wall reportedly made two sales of crack cocaine to undercover investigators.

Wall is charged with criminal sale of a controlled substance in the third degree and criminal possession of a controlled substance, both felonies. He is also charged with unlawful possession of marijuana and obstructing governmental administration in the second degree, a misdemeanor.

Assisting in the investigation were the Batavia Police Department, the Genesee County Sheriff's Office, Livingston County Sheriff's K-9 Unit, and the Genesee County District Attorney's Office.

Police Beat: The case of the missing tires

By Howard B. Owens

Gorgon L. Montgomery, 50, of Batavia, allegedly thought he could get something for nothing. He is accused of taking four tires that had been chained to a residential tree and marked "for sale." The tires disappeared the night of April 1 and were allegedly found in the back of Montgomery's pick up truck yesterday. He is charged with criminal possession of stolen property in the 5th degree. He was issued an appearance ticket on the charge.

Gerald P Perkins, 77, of LeRoy, was reportedly stopped for driving a vehicle without break lights. Upon further investigation, the arresting deputy reports, it was determined that Perkins was allegedly driving while impaired by alcohol. He was charged with DWI and released to a friend.

Michael C. Mirabal, 36, of Batavia, is accused of taking and using another person's car with out permission. He is charged with one count of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, a misdemeanor. He was issued an appearance ticket.

Accused cattle rustles couldn't evade long arm of the law after anonymous tip

By Howard B. Owens

Cattle rustlers like to go after calves, according to Sheriff's Department Investigator Timothy J. Weis.  Weis said the younger animals are easier to move -- they can fit in the back seat of a car -- and easier to sell because they don't often yet have any permanent identification.

"It's easy to cut a calve's identification from its ear," Weis said. "You can use scissors or metal snips. You then have a hole in the ear, but it's difficult to identify the cattle afterwards."

That ease of movement and lack of identification may have been what Charles M. Fuller, 20, of Gainsville, and William C. Raymond, 26, of Castile were counting on when they allegedly calf-napped three young Holsteins from Noblehurst Farms, York Road, Pavilion, on March 23.

What the alleged theives weren't counting on was an anonymous tip that led investigators to suspect Fuller and Raymond.

Without the tip, there may never have been an arrest in the case. Even though the Sheriff's Department notified the livestock auction houses in the region, the thieves were apparently able to successfully sell the calves at the Maplehurst Livestock Market in Hinsdale.

"They (Maplehurst) didn't catch it (that the calves were stolen) and they processed the sale as normal," Weis said.

Rather than try to recover the calves, which would involve tracking them through other possible sales channels and possibly as far as California, the owners of Noblehurst have elected to seek restitution from the defendants upon conviction, Weis said.

The owners are also concerned that "now that the calves have mixed with other cattle, they could bring back disease and infect their other cattle," Weis said.

Often times, Weis said, investigators need not rely on anonymous tips. Because auction houses are notified when calves are stolen, they might spot unusual activity and let law enforcement officials know.

"When they see some individual who doesn't seem to be a farmer (trying to sell cattle), that's a clue," Weis said.

Even so, Weis said that livestock auctions are hectic environments and not conducive to every seller getting close scrutiny.

"You would be surprised at how easy it is to go unnoticed," Weis said.

That's why the anonymous tip in this case may prove crucial in getting a conviction and lead to restitution for Noblehurst.

Mug shots above: Fuller upper left; Raymond, lower right.

No immediate plans in Batavia to take advantage of new red light camera rules

By Howard B. Owens

Several cities in New York have lobbied the Legislature to allow them to install traffic enforcement  cameras to help catch drivers who run red lights.

Red light cameras are controversial because many citizens view the devices as a get-quick-rich scheme for municipalities, while often times law enforcement officials defend the automated cops as a legitimate traffic control measure.

So the natural question is, if Batavia had the chance, would officials like to install such cameras at any intersections in the city?

City Council President Charlie Mallow said the subject has come up in informal discussions around City Hall, but there is no immediate plans to pursue the option.

"The city has a huge problem with out-of-town truck traffic and speeders bypassing the Thruway," Mallow said. "Traffic is the number one complaint I hear from residents."

Even so, Chief of Police Randy Baker said he hasn't looked into the issue at all. He's aware there is talk of installing the cameras in other cities, but no such proposal has been floated in Batavia as far as he knows.

"I'm not sure even what's involved," Baker said. "I'm not sure how expensive the cameras are or what kind of support is needed."

Council member Rosy Mary Christian said she hasn't given the issue any thought because none of her constituents have raised the issue.

But Mallow doesn't think the idea is off the boards.

"The city already has a plate reader on a (police) car that I’m told has been very effective," Mallow said.  "I guess I have yet to make up my mind about these cameras. If the police department believed it would be effective, I would be open to discussing it."

Both Buffalo and Rochester have long sought permission from the Legislature to install the cameras. The Buffalo City Council voted this week to ask Albany again if it could install 50 cameras. Rochester is expected to seek permission in a City Council vote today, according to an article in the Democrat and Chronicle.

 

Cities, including New York City, have been clamoring for years to install the cameras, but had been rebuffed by Assembly Transportation Committee Chairman David Gantt, D-Rochester.

However, Gantt said Wednesday he will no longer object to the measure and sponsored legislation this week to let Rochester have the cameras, which take snapshots of vehicles that run red lights.

Gantt said he still has reservations about whether the cameras invade privacy and increase safety. But he said legislative leaders and Gov. David Paterson have been pushing for the measure, so Rochester should be included.

Cities see the cameras as a way to cut down on drivers speeding through red lights and to generate new revenue; each offense would bring a $50 fine.

Citizen advocates, however, charge that municipal red light cameras are nothing more than a revenue grab. A site that tracks red light camera issues, TheNewspaper.com, claims Suffolk County transparently admits its desire for red light cameras is partly driven by a need to make-up revenue short falls.

In a four-hundred-page review of the county's financial situation released earlier this month, officials mentioned only one purpose for the automated traffic enforcement devices.

"At this point the County needs to make hard decisions," the 2009 county budget review states. "Do we raise property taxes? Do we seek state approval to raise the overall sales tax rate? ... Do we raise revenue from traffic tickets by instituting red light cameras? ... These are some of the choices, none of which are attractive. Nevertheless, we must face reality and begin serious discussions on what direction to take."

Suffolk County believes it could generate $3.5 million in new revenue from red light cameras.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety takes a different view of red light cameras, however, claiming that the cameras do help to reduce traffic accidents.

A nationwide study of fatal crashes at traffic signals in 1999 and 2000 estimated that 20 percent of the drivers involved failed to obey the signals. In 2007, almost 900 people were killed and an estimated 153,000 were injured in crashes that involved red light running. About half of the deaths in red light running crashes are pedestrians and occupants in other vehicles who are hit by the red light runners.

Motorists are more likely to be injured in urban crashes involving red light running than in other types of urban crashes. Institute researchers studied police reports of crashes on public roads in four urban areas during 1990-91. Occupant injuries occurred in 45 percent of red light running crashes, compared with 30 percent of other crash types.

...

A study conducted during several months at five busy intersections in Fairfax, Virginia, prior to the use of red light cameras found that, on average, a motorist ran a red light every 20 minutes at each intersection. During peak travel times, red light running was more frequent. Analysis of red light violation data from 19 intersections (without red light cameras) in four states found that 1,775 violations occurred over 554 hours, for a violation rate of 3.2 per hour per intersection

What these statistics do not reveal, however, is what these drivers were doing before running a red light. There is a huge difference between blatantly speeding through a red light and being caught by a short or unexpected red light and not having adequate time to safely stop. I've always wondered how many of the cited accidents, used to justify red light cameras, where caused by drivers who just happened to be the last car through the intersection with no real intention to run the red light?

Charlie Mallow said one reason he's ambivalent about the cameras is he's received a red light camera ticket before.

"I’ve also been on the short end of a traffic camera myself in California. So I understand the frustration of being caught by a big brother spy camera."

And I've gotten such a ticket. My ticket came while I tried to make a left turn at a Ventura, Calif. intersection. I was stopped at the red light and third car in line.  As I accelerated for my turn as the number two car, the light changed to yellow and just as I reached the limit line, it changed to red. Caught.  Three days later I received a letter from the city with three pictures of me in the intersection.  My frustration was that while I technically committed an infraction, there was no way I posed any threat to any other drivers.  With traffic stopped in all directions, there was no chance of anybody moving into the intersection at that point.

Running red lights is dangerous, but I don't believe red light cameras are really intended to stop the such reckless drivers. They are really designed to trap people like you and me so that the government can reach one more time into our wallets and extract a little cash.

At least there is this much though: If New York's fine is only $50, that's a hell of a lot better than the $260 of my California fine.

Back yard BBQ leads to fire truck sirens in the city

By Howard B. Owens

BATAVIA, N.Y. -- It's a great day to BBQ, but apparently some people haven't brushed off the cob webs of winter and reminded themselves cooking out doors.

About 1:35, a resident on Bank Street saw flames from an enclosed area in a neighbors back yard and called dispatchers with report of a fire at 117 Bank Street.

Batavia fire crews responded promptly and found nothing more than a beginning-of-spring bar-b-que in progress.

 


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