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New sound for Howard Jones, thanks to Covid-19

By Alan Sculley
Photo of Howard Jones by Simon Fowler

By Dave Gil de Rubio

If synthesizers are the engine for Howard Jones’ creative drive, then positivity is the fuel. It’s been that way since Jones broke onto the international music scene with his 1983 hit single “New Song” and has continued to be the case with the current four-album concept that started with 2015’s “Engage,” followed in 2019 by “Transform” and last year by “Dialogue.” The fourth album, “Global Citizen,” is set to wrap up this overarching concept album project, and could arrive as soon as this year.

The English musician described the story arc that has been his focus for the past seven years. “‘Engage’ was about not just being a bystander—be involved in what’s going on around you and don’t think that you don’t have any effect on the world and your environment because you do,” Jones explained in a recent phone interview. “‘Transform’” was about if we want to change the world and change things for the better, we have to start with ourselves. We have to work on ourselves and our behavior towards other people and ourselves as well. And ‘Dialogue’ is what I just described—the importance of communicating towards each other. The next ‘Global Citizen,’ and that’s putting all those three concepts into action and believing that you can have an effect on the world as a global citizen.”

Like the rest of the world, Jones found himself isolated by the pandemic lockdown as he embarked on recording “Dialogue.” The dark mood of uncertainty that came with this global situation meant lyrics came later, but in the end, Jones was able to surmount the challenges presented with being a one-man band, particularly after contracting a post-vaccination case of COVID-19.

“I couldn’t really work with other people on this, so it was me, my growing synthesizer collection, software and studio,” he recalled. “In a way that makes it quite focused, I think. I had plenty of time to experiment, try some new things and get some really great sounds together. I got to spend days on just one sound to make it really special. And having that amount of time was a blessing to really experiment. I suddenly remembered that I used to do a lot of harmony vocals—layered vocals and big multi-harmonized vocals and I got back into that idea. And I wanted my voice to sound different every time I used one of those harmonized vocals and I was experimenting. 

“There was one point that I got COVID-19—I was completely vaccinated and everything but when I got it, I sort of lost my full voice,” Jones said. “I thought I was going to have to try and do something different, so I sang in a different way more quietly. I got a really different sound and I was really quite excited about that. If you’re doing all your own backing vocals yourself, you need to make yourself sound different to differentiate between the lead and backing vocal. It worked for me.” 

And while Jones did all the creative-lifting, he got a compositional assist from BT (aka Brian Transeau), the American musician/DJ/electronic music pioneer who became a close friend of Jones after the latter came out to see him head up an ambitious orchestral project in Miami in 2015. It’s a connection Jones has come to treasure.

“On the new album, we did two or three tracks and BT was great,” Jones said. “For those two tracks—‘Celebrated Together’ and ‘Be the Hero’—he’d sent me some seed ideas for tracks quite a long time ago. I used a bit of that in the writing of them and I’m really hoping that we may get a remix from him based on one of those songs. I know he was particularly excited about ‘Be the Hero.’ We probably will continue to work together maybe throughout the rest of my career because we get on very well. For him, it’s about trying to find time because he’s the busiest man in the universe.”

While this string of albums is heavily electronically driven, Jones will mix things up during his live shows as he opens this summer for Culture Club. 

“It’s an electronic show and we’re going to be debuting a few tracks from the ‘Dialogue’ album along with a couple of tracks from ‘Transform’ and one from ‘Engage’ as well,” he said. “The fans really follow everything I do and I really must look after that as well as playing the hits.”

Looking ahead, Jones and his fan base have plenty of projects to anticipate between “Global Citizen” completing his four-album musical concept, a concert album (“Live at Union Chapel”) and a collection of non-synthesizer-based material Jones has been working on for a number of years (“Piano Composed”). And while he’s understandably excited about this burst of creativity that’s going to take him into the next year, Jones has always clung to the philosophy of gratitude driving him forward while refusing to get caught up in the highs and lows of the music industry and life in general.

“I think it’s very important to be happy with your work and one of the best ways to be happy is to really appreciate the situation you find yourself in, even if it’s difficult or you’re having problems or whether you’re soaring because it’s going well,” Jones said. “Just really appreciate things because if it’s not going well, then you can learn a ton of stuff from that to make it better. If things are going really well, don’t get carried away, because that may stop you from doing great work in the future.”

Howard Jones will be playing at Darien Lake Performing Arts Center on Saturday.

If you've got mad skills, it's time to pull up a mic at the GC Fair talent show

By Joanne Beck


Genesee County Fair 2021 talent show
Photo from the 2021 Genesee County Fair Talent Show.
Photo by Howard Owens.

Now in her third year as the lead of Genesee County’s talent show, Laura Kauppi remembers perhaps the epitome of a fair contestant a couple of years ago: a young boy wearing big farm boots and work clothes ran in to register moments before the contest.

“And he got up, and he played this beautiful piano piece that he had composed himself, I think on the spot, actually. And, you know, that was just a fantastic experience. And I think that’s kind of what it’s all about,” Kauppi said. “He was really proud of himself. He got his prize and went back to taking care of his animals.”

And so it goes with a real down-home, rural fair filled with plenty of 4-H activities, animals and kids. If you've got some talent to share, register by Saturday to receive a goodie bag, or at least by 1:30 p.m. July 29 to participate in this year's talent show in the entertainment tent at the fair on East Main Street, Batavia.

This year’s event already has an impressively varied list of entries, about a dozen so far, Kauppi said, with a handful of pianists from the piano teacher's own lessons’ groups, a violin duet, a family band, and Chinese folk dancers. 

She offered to organize the show three years ago to continue a tradition that Kauppi, of Corfu, enjoyed so much as a participant, she said. She broke up the categories so that ages 13 to 19 will be separated from the adults, and all ages will have the opportunity to perform and compete amongst their peers — under seven; seven to 12; 13 to 19; and ages 20 and older.

“There used to be a state level where people could compete at state, and that's just one of the things we lost due to COVID. Now that there's not a state level, I kind of added the tiny tots, I added the adult category, being different. It used to be age 13 and up as one category, so I added the adult category as being separate because I thought it was more fair to not have 13-year-olds competing against adults,” she said. “It’s a nice relaxed way to share your talent with the community.” 

Anyone who registers by July 22 is guaranteed a goodie bag, she said. If you're still debating a decision after Saturday, you may register up to 1:30 p.m. on the competition day of July 29.

Then it’s go-time, when one by one — solo or group performers will be center stage to sing or play or dance, or otherwise demonstrate their hard work of rehearsals in front of the crowd. But not to worry, it’s a nice crowd, she said.

“I really like that it’s very relaxed, and I really like that it’s very family-friendly,” Kauppi said. “I competed in it, and I want them to have the same positive experiences that I had. You get to have a goodie bag and a participant ribbon and pride in knowing you performed for your community and shared your talent with the people around you.”

There have been a couple of outdated links of the entry form published, Kauppi said, and she provided The Batavian with an updated version. Register by July 22 for a guaranteed goodie bag and by 1:30 p.m. July 29 to participate in the show. 

Genesee County Fair 2021 talent show
Photo from the 2021 Genesee County Fair Talent Show.
Photo by Howard Owens.

Tom Burns steps down as part-time judge, cites low City Court case volume, as City seeks new judge

By Howard B. Owens
Attorney Thomas A. Burns in December 2021, speaking at the retirement dinner of former District Attorney Lawrence Friedman.
Photo by Howard Owens.

There aren't enough cases flowing through City Court, especially now that the Centralized Arraignment Part Court is up and running, said Tom Burns, so he stepped down as of July 14 as the part-time City Court judge.

Ironically, perhaps, Burns was a leader in establishing the CAP court.

"I'm proud of the fact that I was involved in the development of the Centralized Arraignment Part Court," Burns told The Batavian. "That was a huge accomplishment.  It relieves the City Court judges of 24/7 arraignment responsibility."

But with the lower case volume in City Court, Burns is turning his attention back to his full-time job as a defense attorney.

"After CAP court was implemented, the low volume in City Court, from my perspective, does not justify my continued involvement there. I just don’t feel the need to continue in the position because the demand isn’t there for it."

Burns has been on the City Court bench for 2 1/2 years, and in 2022, the part-time position, which at times amounted to eight hours a week, paid $50,000.

The part-time City Court judge is paid by the state, though the position is appointed by City Council.

Durin Rogers is the current full-time City Court judge, also paid by the state and an elected position, and earned $192,920 in 2022.

"I loved my service to the community and the chance to serve the community," Burns said.

The City of Batavia also released the following press release seeking to fill the part-time City Court judge position:

The City Council is seeking to fill a part-time City Court Judge position.  This position is appointed by City Council to serve the remainder of a term ending 12/31/26.

Minimum qualifications require candidates to be an attorney admitted to practice law in the State of New York for at least five (5) years as of the date he or she commences the duties of the office and must be a resident of the City of Batavia. 

All interested candidates, please submit a letter of interest and resume to: 

City Court Judge
Attn: City Council President Eugene Jankowski, Jr.
One Batavia City Centre
Batavia, New York 14020

Resumes and letters of interest are due by 4:30 PM on Friday, Aug. 4. 2023.  Please provide hard copies of your materials directly to the City Manager’s office.

Batavia man given 20 years in prison for random knife attack of man walking on Jackson Street

By Howard B. Owens
tyshon taylor
Tyshon L. Taylor

Prior to attempting to kill a man on Jackson Street in Batavia on Oct. 18, Tyshon L. Taylor, 25, had been in and out of the state's mental health system -- encounters brought about by his expressed desire to kill someone or himself -- and depending on your point of view, either Taylor failed to take advantage of what the system offered or the system failed him.

An agitated and impassioned defense attorney, Frederick Rarick, argued the system had failed Taylor. He said healthcare practitioners who handled his cases knew about his threats of violence and that he was dangerous when he wasn't taking his medication but failed to hold him or make sure he got the help he needed.

"I don't mean to, well, actually, I do blame the mental health system," Rarick said.

District Attorney Kevin Finnell argued the fault for his crime lay squarely on Taylor's own decisions.

While acknowledging that Taylor has significant mental health issues, Finnell said Taylor had previously been to the comprehensive psychiatric emergency program at U of R on multiple occasions. Each time they medicated him, stabilized him, and got him back to "baseline." They then gave him referrals for follow-up care. While he came into the emergency program because of the violent thoughts running through his mind, by the time he was discharged, he was back in a calm state.

Taylor didn't take advantage of the follow-up care, Finnell said.

Prior to the attempted murder on Oct. 18, Taylor had been to the University of Rochester emergency program and left stable with enough medication to get him through the next week.

Four days later, Taylor decided, Finnell said, to walk through Batavia looking for a victim.

"There was a safety plan referral for what he could do if he was feeling violent," Finnell said. "He didn't take advantage of (the referral), and instead, on the night of the offense, he transversed the city, leaving the hotels on the north end until he got to the south side and found somebody walking back from the store minding his own business. And he just stabbed him for no other reason. The victim was unknown to him. He stabbed him. He stabbed him, intending to kill him."

Finnell said that the Batavia PD detectives who handled the case and Chief Shawn Heubusch said they considered Taylor a risk to the community and should be incarcerated. 

The victim in the case, Finnell said, has suffered substantially because of the attack.  He no longer walks to the store just a block from his residence, driving instead, and his physical injuries have prevented him from returning to work full time.

Taylor was in court on Tuesday to be sentenced on his conviction on a charge of attempted murder, a Class B violent felony. He entered a guilty plea on March 28. 

He is also a second-time violent felony offender.

Before he was sentenced, Taylor read from a statement in which he apologized for his actions, both to the victim and his family. He said he was feeling helpless and angry every day. 

"I have a lot of regrets," Taylor said. "I could have ruined my life. Well, I ruined my life, but I could have ruined it more, and I ruined somebody else's life. I want to take steps to be better."

Judge Melissa Lightcap Cianfrini said that perhaps Taylor's case could be a case study for the state's mental health system, but that didn't relieve Taylor of his responsibility for his actions. 

"Our mental health system may be imperfect. It needs to be improved," Cianfrini said. "But you didn't take advantage of the opportunities offered to you."

She sentenced him to 20 years maximum in state prison and 20 years on parole.

Photos: Mayhem at The McCarthy wrestling event draws many to Batavia

By Steve Ognibene
Empire State Wrestling event held at McCarthy Ice Arena, Photo by Steve Ognibene
Empire State Wrestling event held at The McCarthy on Sunday. 
Photo by Steve Ognibene

It was Wrestling Mayhem at the David M. McCarthy Memorial Ice Arena on Sunday, with 375 people attending. 

The event drew wrestling fans from as far away as Denver as well as Erie, PA.

Empire State Wrestling participants competed in single, tag-team and title belt matches.

Kati Murray, rink manager said it was well received by many in the community, with positive comments on social media, and the promoter said it was a great venue for the event.

To view or purchase photos, click here.

Photos by Steve Ognibene

Empire State Wrestling event held at McCarthy Ice Arena, Photo by Steve Ognibene
Empire State Wrestling event held at McCarthy Ice Arena, Photo by Steve Ognibene
Empire State Wrestling event held at McCarthy Ice Arena, Photo by Steve Ognibene
Empire State Wrestling event held at McCarthy Ice Arena, Photo by Steve Ognibene
Empire State Wrestling event held at McCarthy Ice Arena, Photo by Steve Ognibene
Empire State Wrestling event held at McCarthy Ice Arena, Photo by Steve Ognibene
Empire State Wrestling event held at McCarthy Ice Arena, Photo by Steve Ognibene
Empire State Wrestling event held at McCarthy Ice Arena, Photo by Steve Ognibene
Empire State Wrestling event held at McCarthy Ice Arena, Photo by Steve Ognibene
Empire State Wrestling event held at McCarthy Ice Arena, Photo by Steve Ognibene

Muckdogs face key series against Jamestown after rare back-to-back losses

By Howard B. Owens

For the first time in more than a month, the Batavia Muckdogs have lost two games in a row, falling to Niagara Power on Monday in Niagara, 6-3.

On Sunday, the Muckdogs lost at home to Newark 4-2.

Batavia, at 21-12, still leads the Western Division of the PGCBL, but the lead has narrowed to just a half-game over Emira (20-12) and 1.5 games over Jamestown (18-12).

Jamestown hosts Batavia tonight (Tuesday) for the first of two games between the teams. 

On Wednesday, the Tarp Skunks play the Muckdogs at Dwyer Stadium.  Game time is 6:35 p.m.

There are 10 regular season games left on Batavia's schedule.

The losing pitcher for Batavia on Monday was Rijnaldo Euson, who went four innings, giving up four runs, three earned, and six hits.  He had seven strikeouts and is now 2-1 with a 3.72 ERA.

Starter Ben Weber went four innings, giving up two runs on six hits.

The Muckdogs' offense collected seven hits.

Sponsored Post: The Genesee County Fair kicks off this weekend

By Lisa Ace
Genesee County Fair 23, header

Daily at the Fair:

  • Air Sculpture (Balloon Display Build All Day Every Day and Balloon Demonstrations 12pm & 4:45pm) (All Day Every Day)
  • Pig Racing – Show Schedule (SAT 4pm, 6pm & 8pm; SUN 4pm, 6pm & 8pm; MON 4pm, 6pm & 8pm; TUES 4pm, 6pm & 8pm; WED 2pm, 4pm, 6pm & 8pm; THURS 4pm, 6pm & 8pm; FRI 2pm, 4pm, 6pm & 8pm; SAT 2pm, 4pm, 6pm & 8pm)
  • Niagara Down Under (All Day Every Day)
  • Wings on Wheels (All Day Every Day)
  • Pony Rides (All Day Every Day)
  • Chain Saw Carver (All Day Every Day)
  • Fame Racing – Radio Controlled Car Racing (SAT 3pm, 5pm & 7pm; SUN 3pm, 5pm & 7pm; MON 3pm, 5pm & 7pm; TUES 3pm, 5pm & 7pm; WED 1pm, 3pm, 5pm & 7pm; THURS 3pm, 5pm & 7pm; FRI 1pm, 3pm, 5pm & 7pm; SAT 1pm, 3pm, 5pm & 7pm)
  • CLICK HERE FOR 4-H Daily Schedule  

Events & times on the schedule and this website are subject to change. Follow us on Facebook to keep up to date with changes.

Click here to see each day's schedule.

Birds and bees eat their way through Interpretive Center exterior, new one to cost $250K

By Joanne Beck
2020 interpretive center event
2020 file photo at the Interpretive Center at Genesee County Park & Forest in East Bethany.
Photo by Howard Owens.

While a gathering of bees and woodpeckers have been welcomed visitors by Mother Nature at the Interpretive Center at Genesee County Park & Forest in East Bethany, they weren't so appreciated by county highway staff once they saw the damage.

The woodland creatures ate their way through the Center’s natural siding, and the price for the replacement of that and a new roof left County Highway Superintendent Tim Hens with a bit of shopper’s discomfort.  

“I was a little shocked at the price of the project, to be honest with you, but the low bid we received was $248,350. I think with the original, volunteers did it, and the original siding was cedar lap siding … and the bees and the woodpeckers have just literally destroyed that. I mean, there’s physical holes in the roof. It needs to be done,” Hens said during the county’s Public Service Committee meeting Monday. “The problem from a municipal standpoint is it’s too small of a project for your general construction people to get involved because they have to suck everything out, and they don’t make any money on it. And it’s the subs that would do the work and don’t want to be the (general contractor) because they don’t want to have to take up the bonds, and the insurance is required to be the person in charge. So it’s kind of in this purgatory gray zone area between a big project and a small project.”

The cedar siding would be replaced with a fiber cement siding, which is appropriate for the building, he said. Vinyl could be used, but it wouldn’t really look appropriate on that building, and “you’d lose a lot of the character,” Hens said. Using vinyl would have saved about $10,000, and everyone involved is comfortable spending the extra money “to do it right,” he said.

“It will make it so that it’s maintenance-free for the next hopefully 30 or 40 years,” Hens said.

And the bees and birds should leave it alone since it’s almost like concrete, similar to what’s used at the airport terminal. 

“It’s not prone to bugs and insects and woodpeckers,” he said.  “It’ll be architectural shingles on the roof. They’re going to be rewrapping some of the soffits and aluminum, and then the main part of the building will be shake fiber cement siding, and then the higher part in the center will be a false stone application. It’d be really sharp when it’s done. It’s just the pricing sometimes, in a municipal sense, blows my mind. I saw $240,000. We had $205,000 originally for the budget. I thought we were gonna be great, but this is what it is.”

“We’ve used metal on some of the pavilions and whatnot, but we didn't consider it in this place, just again from the cost standpoint, it's a bigger building, bigger roof, and then Paul wants to keep it kind of a cabin in the woods type of a setting,” he said. “It was put together almost 100 percent by volunteers and by county staff, so it's 25 years old.”

He has recommended Kircher Construction Inc. of Mount Morris for the job and expects it to be completed by this fall. 

No second annual Italian Fest, as organizers 'focus on other events'

By Joanne Beck
2022 file photo of Batavia's Italian Festival. Photo by Howard Owens.
2022 file photo of Batavia's Italian Festival.
Photo by Howard Owens.

While trying to obtain a schedule of events for the second annual Italian Festival, scheduled for July 29 and promoted this year along with a classic car cruise, The Batavian has learned that the event has been canceled.

“The BID has decided not to move forward with Italian Fest this year,” the group’s executive director, Shannon Maute, said Monday. “Although we loved the event, we have decided to focus on our other events.”

During BID’s — which stands for Business Improvement District — annual awards get-together in April, Maute shared that upcoming events, including the Italian Fest, would be “bigger and better than ever.” It was quietly canceled, per the online note and line drawn through the event name on its own page. 

On Monday, Maute emphasized that BID is still forging ahead with its boxcar derby, set for 8:30 a.m. Aug. 26 just outside of downtown on Ellicott Avenue, and the annual Wine Walk has been penciled in already for 4 to 8 p.m. Oct. 7 in downtown Batavia, with this year’s theme being “Under the Big Top.”

Sponsored Post: The Batavian's Guitar-Giveaway Contest at the Genesee County Fair

By Staff Writer
the Batavian guitar contest

Contest Rules:

  • All eagles must be drawn at The Batavian’s booth during the fair.
  • All entry forms must be complete and signed by a parent/guardian if under 17.
  • Those entering for the guitar must be able to return for the prize during The Eaglez concert at 7 p.m. July 27 for a presentation/photo opportunity.
  • All prizes will be presented along with a photo for promotional purposes.
  • Winning entries will be randomly selected from among staff favorites, except for People’s Choice, will be selected by fair attendees from among the Top 20 staff favorites.
  • No purchase necessary to win.

The 17 and under winner of the guitar will be contacted via phone by noon on Thursday, July 27. The winner does not have to be present to win during the actual drawing but MUST be able to come back for The Eaglez concert that evening on Thursday, July 27 at 7 p.m. to accept the guitar prize. There will be a photo opportunity on stage with The Eaglez, and the winning recipient for promotional (marketing and media) purposes for The Batavian.  You will receive a complimentary entry to return to the fair for that day. 

All entries must be drawn at The Batavian’s booth. All entries will be reviewed by The Batavian staff, and the winning drawing will be randomly selected from among the top favorites.  Criteria include quality and creativity.

The winner of People’s Choice harmonica will be notified via phone and/or email on Friday, July 28. All entries must be drawn at The Batavian’s booth by the end of the day on Wednesday, July 26. Top 20 staff favorites will be on display Thursday and Friday. The winner will be chosen by voting of fair attendees and announced on Friday, July 28, with prize presentation and a photo taken on Saturday, July 29 at the fair. 

The winner of 18 and older Red Osier gift certificate will be notified via phone and/or email on Thursday, July, 27. Criteria and selection are the same as the 17 and under prize. The winner will receive the gift certificate and have a photo taken by Saturday, July 29. To win, you must agree to come back to the fair to receive the gift certificate and have your photo taken for publication in The Batavian.

No purchase necessary to win. This contest has been made possible with special thanks to The Batavian for sponsoring the guitar and harmonica prizes and to The Red Osier Landmark Restaurant for the gift certificate.

Pembroke 12U all stars bring home the champisonship win

By Press Release
Pembroke 12U All-Stars after championship win

Press Release:

Pembroke hosted the all-star championship versus TriTown Thursday and won soundly, 11-3. Their matchups are always a battle through and through, and this game was no exception. 

The ace, Mason Weatherbee took the win with 5 strikeouts and pitching 5 innings. Connor Caleb once again dominated behind the plate for the Dragons.

Gavin Liss, Michael Gorski and Harlan Campbell were solid defensively, along with Logan Anderson who snagged two outs in right field. Carter Thaine closed out the mound for Pembroke.

Carter Lang had a 3 RBI shot to center field, and Connor Lang hit a straight shot home run over center field. Hits by Luke Windnagle, Jackson Loggins, Joe Kohorst and Charles Stringham helped secure the win.

Submitted photos by Allison Lang


Pembroke service area reopens, features Burger King, Popeyes, and Dunkin'

By Press Release
Pembroke service area reopens on the thruway eastbound

Press Release:

The New York State Thruway Authority today announced the new Pembroke Service Area (I-90 eastbound mile marker 397) in Corfu is now open to the public.

The location is the tenth new service area to open to Thruway customers as part of the $450 million project to redevelop and modernize all 27 Thruway service areas. The New Baltimore, Clarence, Ardsley, Plattekill, Clifton Springs, Iroquois, Indian Castle, Chittenango and Junius Ponds Service Areas have reopened.

The Pembroke Service Area is located on I-90 eastbound between exit 48A and exit 48. The facility is more than 20,000 square feet making it one of the largest new buildings on the system.

Restaurant options include:

  • Burger King
  • Popeyes
  • Panera Bread (opening later this year)
  • Dunkin’ (drive-thru)
  • Applegreen C-Store
  • Taste NY Food and Drink Products

Other amenities include:

  • Playground area*
  • Outdoor seating
  • Dog walking area
  • Climate controlled pet enclosure*
  • Private nursing area
  • Digital tourism kiosk*
  • Six level 3 high-speed EV chargers*

 *Available Soon

The Pembroke Service Area is one of four locations on the Thruway that has expanded amenities for commercial vehicle drivers.

Commercial trucking amenities include:

  • Separate entrance
  • Lounge
  • Showers
  • Lockers
  • Restrooms
  • Washer and dryer

With the opening of the Pembroke Service Area, the Angola Service Area (I-90 eastbound and westbound, mile marker 447) and the Scottsville Service Area (I-90 eastbound, mile marker 366) are now closed for construction. Fuel services remain available at all service areas during construction.

All 27 service areas are being redeveloped in a $450 million project with Empire State Thruway Partners. The project is funded through a public-private partnership, and no toll or tax dollars are used for construction.

Customers can learn more about the project on the Thruway Authority’s website. Customers can view a project map, photo gallery, renderings, and more information about the planned amenities and services.

In 2022, motorists took more than 376 million trips and drove 7.7 billion miles on the Thruway. The Thruway Authority’s service areas are open 24 hours a day and offer motorists a variety of food and beverage options, restroom facilities, and fueling for passenger and commercial vehicles. Taste NY Farm Markets and Tourism Information Centers are also available at select locations.

Photo courtesy of NYS Thruway website

Tenney votes for the FY24 national defense authorization act

By Press Release

Press Release:

File photo of 
Claudia Tenney

Congresswoman Claudia Tenney voted in favor of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24), which passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 219-210. This legislation includes 20 of Congresswoman Tenney’s amendments aimed to strengthen U.S. national security and hold America’s adversaries accountable.

“The National Defense Authorization Act is a critical investment in our national security, our servicemembers, and their families,” said Congresswoman Tenney. “This year's NDAA takes significant strides in modernizing our armed forces, bolstering our military readiness, and enhancing our defense capabilities. Importantly, this bill reins in the Biden administration’s “woke” policies that are actively harming military readiness, such as Green New Deal mandates, unnecessary Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) officers, and wasting taxpayer dollars on sex reassignment surgeries and gender hormone treatments. This bill also bans funding for drag shows or Drag Queen Story Hour and implements important oversight measures over our aid to Ukraine.”

“Additionally, the FY24 NDAA includes the largest salary increase for our servicemen and servicewomen in the last 20 years at 5.2%. This reaffirms our commitment to our service members and their families and ensures they have the resources they need to carry out their missions effectively. I was disappointed to see my Democratic colleague’s decision to betray the longstanding tradition of strong bipartisan support for the NDAA and our military.”

“Despite the Democrats’ attempts to block this important legislation, House Republicans continue to deliver on our commitment to America. I will continue to advocate for all our servicemembers and their families, especially those stationed at Fort Drum, Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, and throughout New York’s 24th Congressional District. The passage of the FY24 NDAA through the House demonstrates House Republicans’ unwavering commitment to national security, our servicemembers, and the defense of our great nation. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to ensure its swift passage into law and give our Armed Forces the resources they need to continue to defend and protect our freedom!”

Key Provisions in the FY24 NDAA

  • Provides $886.3 billion for our national defense, complying with the caps set by the Fiscal Responsibility Act.
  • Authorizes a 5.2% pay increase for service members and bonuses for junior enlistees due to Bidenflation
  • Reaffirms the House’s support for Fort Drum soldiers receiving cold weather pay.
  • Bans Critical Race Theory and woke DEI policies in the military.
  • Eliminates Green New Deal climate change mandates and regulations.
  • Continues the prohibition against adverse actions due to refusal to take the COVID-19 vaccine and creates a process for service members’ reinstatement.
  • Prohibits funding for drag shows or Drag Queen Story Hour
  • Authorizes $113 million over the budget request for the construction of new childcare centers.
  • Implements important oversight measures over security aid to Ukraine and requires a strategic plan before any new aid is available.

As one of the most active and effective Members of Congress, Tenney had 20 amendments included in the FY24 NDAA, the second-most of any Member.

Background on Tenney’s Amendments Included in Bill:

Ending Taxpayer Funding for Gender Transition Surgeries: Prohibits TRICARE from covering and the Department of Defense from furnishing sex reassignment surgeries and gender hormone treatments for transgender individuals.

UAVs at Military Bases Requires a report on the threat of aerial drones and unmanned aircraft to United States national security and an assessment of the unmanned traffic management systems of every military base and installation (within and outside the United States) to determine whether the base or installation is adequately equipped to detect, disable, and disarm hostile or unidentified unmanned aerial systems.

CENTCOM Capability Gap Report: Requires a report on CENTCOM capabilities and any capability gaps in carrying out CENTCOM's responsibilities, as well as recommendations to address any capability gaps.

Report on Dissuading Allies from Purchasing Weapons from our Adversaries: Requires a report by the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Defense, on U.S. efforts to dissuade allies from purchasing Russian and Chinese weapons.

Prohibiting Iranian Funding: Prohibits any funds authorized by the NDAA from going to any entity owned or controlled by the Iranian government or on relevant blacklists.

Providing Precision Guided Missiles (PGMs) to Israel: Revised Requires a DOD assessment of the precision-guided munitions Israel needs in the event of a conflict with regional actors. Would extend existing authorities to provide Israel with such munitions in the event of an emergency.

Strategy on Counter-Fentanyl Operations: Requires the Secretary of Defense to develop a strategy to disrupt fentanyl trafficking, and report to Congress on efforts to enhance counter-fentanyl cooperation with Mexico.

Protecting Our Aerial Refueling Tankers: Prohibits the decommissioning of any KC-135 Stratotankers in Fiscal Year 2024.

Combatting Iranian Killer Drone: Requires the Secretary of Defense to report on the status of U.S.-Israel cooperation on efforts to counter threats by Iran in the form of unmanned aerial systems (UAS), including loitering munitions, otherwise known as "suicide" and "kamikaze" drones.

Prohibits COVID Vaccine Status Discrimination: Prohibits any adverse actions against cadets or midshipmen based on their COVID-19 vaccination status. Further, states that an individual may not be denied admission at a service academy based on their COVID-19 vaccination status.

Reporting on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Threat to Europe: Adds a description of the threat posed by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to Europe to the Annual Report on Military Power of Iran.

Protecting U.S. RDT&E Funding from China and Russia: Adds U.S. entities that partner with universities in China and Russia that maintain partnerships with their military or intelligence services to a DoD list of U.S. universities that are engaged in malign activities. Prohibits DoD RDT&E funding from going to any entity on that list.

Report on pro-BDS Goods Sold on Military Bases: Requires DOD to submit to Congress a report on whether any products sold at commissary or exchange stores in fiscal years 2022 or 2023 were produced by companies that have participated in a boycott action against the State of Israel.

Report on Growing Cooperation Between Iran and China: Requires the Secretary of Defense to include in their annual report on Military and Security Developments Involving the People's Republic of China information on the PRC's burgeoning relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Extends COVID Vaccine Protections to the Coast Guard: Amends service reinstatement and protection provisions in the FY2024 NDAA for service members who refused Covid vaccination to also include members of the Coast Guard.

Ending DOD’s Radical Abortion Policy: Prohibits the Secretary of Defense from paying for or reimbursing expenses relating to abortion services.

Prohibiting “Woke” Flags on Government Buildings: Codifies Trump admin guidance to prohibit the display of unapproved flags.

End Warrantless Surveillance of Americans: The amendment would prevent DOD from purchasing data that would otherwise require a warrant, court order, or subpoena. This applies to data inside the United States.

Prohibiting Contracting with Entities That Support BDS: Prohibits the Department of Defense from entering into contracts with entities that engaged in a boycott of the State of Israel.

Report on Chinese-Russian-Iranian Ties: Expands the annual China Military Power Report to include China's security cooperation with Iran and Russia.

Democratic Committee leaders to represent Erie County, Buffalo on WROTB board of directors

By Mike Pettinella

Two high-ranking officials of the Erie County Democratic Committee have been appointed to the Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. board of directors.

WROTB President/Chief Executive Officer Henry Wojtaszek informed The Batavian today that Jennifer Hibit and Crystal Rodriguez-Dabney, secretary and vice chair of the ECDC, respectively, will be joining the board and are expected to attend its next meeting on July 27 at Batavia Downs Gaming.

Hibit will represent Erie County, replacing Francis Warthling, while Rodriguez-Dabney will represent the City of Buffalo, replacing Michelle Parmer-Garner.

Wojtaszek also said that Terrance Baxter, a Republican and current Town of Moravia supervisor, will represent Cayuga County on the board. Baxter replaces Paul Lattimore.

The board was disbanded in May by New York State Assembly and Senate leaders and Gov. Kathy Hochul in response to a proposal by Democratic State Sen. Tim Kennedy of Buffalo to reconfigure the voting method from one municipality/one vote to a weighted system based on population.

As a result, the majority of the 100 votes are in the hands of directors from Erie and Monroe counties and Buffalo and Rochester.

Monroe and Schuyler counties have yet to announce their appointees to the 17-director board.

Hibit spent 11 years as the Chief of Staff for Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz before taking a position as the director of Human Resources last year with the Erie County Water Authority. During her time with Poloncarz’ staff, she served as the campaign manager for his election and re-election campaigns. 

Rodriguez-Dabney, an attorney, recently accepted the position of Senior Vice President & Chief Diversity Officer with Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. Before that, she served for 15 months as the First Deputy Mayor and Chief of Staff for the City of Buffalo.

Baxter is a Member at Large on the Cayuga County Soil and Water Conservation District board and is a former Cayuga County legislator.

As previously reported by The Batavian, the other board members are Charles Zambito of Elba (Genesee County), Edward Morgan (Orleans County), Susan May (Wyoming County), Mark Burr (Cattaraugus County), Vincent Horrigan (Chautauqua County), Thomas Wamp (Livingston County), Elliott Winter (Niagara County), Mark Bombardo (Oswego County), Dennis Bassett (Rochester), Richard Ricci (Seneca County), Michael Horton (Steuben County) and Kenneth Lauderdale (Wayne County).

The weighted voting system gives Erie County 24 votes, followed by Monroe County (20), Buffalo (10) and Rochester (eight). Niagara County also has eight votes, while Chautauqua has five; Oswego, four; Steuben, Wayne, Cattaraugus and Cayuga, three each; Livingston and Genesee, two each; Wyoming, Orleans, Seneca and Schuyler, one each. The directors will serve four-year terms.

Foreigner announces final tour, with a stop at Darien Lake

By Alan Sculley
Mick Jones (on guitar) and Kelly Hansen of Foreigner
Photo by Krishta Abruzzini

Foreigner has announced that the band is now embarking on its  final tour -- an outing that could extend well into 2024 when the buses and semi-trucks will get parked and the band members will move on to new chapters in their lives. 

This development doesn’t come as much of a surprise. It’s been widely reported that health issues have prevented guitarist and founding member Mick Jones from playing multiple shows and sometimes only performing a few songs with the rest of the band when he has been able to participate in recent tours.

But what also becomes clear in interviewing singer Kelly Hansen is that he had a good deal to do with deciding it is time for Foreigner to step away from being a touring band. The fact is, Hansen said in a recent phone interview, he recognizes that as a high tenor vocalist, the day is coming when he won’t be able to deliver Foreigner’s songs the way he wants. Certain songs have notes that already are difficult for him to hit and he wants the band to call it a day with touring while they can still play and perform at their current high level.

“It gets harder and harder every year to perform this catalog in the way that it deserves, not only for the songs, but for the fans,” Hansen said. “I want to have us go out strong and have the live presence be remembered as still super strong and energetic,” he added. “That’s how I want the legacy of this band to be remembered.” 

As for Jones, he’ll be along for the final tour as often as possible. “He wants to be out. He’s scheduled to be with us. It all depends on what is allowable for him health-wise,” Hansen said. “I think the show itself is better with him there, but I think the show is really, really good even when he’s not there because it’s really about the songs. It’s about this catalog. It’s about the legacy of what this band has put out over these past 45 years.”

That 45-year history has seen Foreigner become firmly established as one of rock’s most enduring and successful bands, overcoming ups and downs and a major departure along the way. Jones, who previously had been in the band Spooky Tooth, formed Foreigner in 1976. 

Over the course of six albums, from the 1977 self-titled album through 1987’s “Inside Information,” Foreigner notched 15 top 20 singles, the high point coming with the multi-chart-topping epic ballad, “I Want To Know What Love Is” in 1984. Earlier rocking hits like “Feels Like The First Time,” “Hot Blooded,” “Double Vision” and “Urgent” established Foreigner’s credentials as a band with talent for writing catchy mainstream rock.

But then Jones and singer Lou Gramm had a falling out and Gramm left the band in 1990. And while Gramm rejoined Foreigner for the 1994 album, “Mr. Moonlight,” any return to former glories was sidetracked when Gramm needed surgery to remove a brain tumor in 1997.

He was able to resume touring in 1998, but tensions gradually returned and the Jones/Gramm partnership ended in 2003. After a couple of years, Jones decided to bring back Foreigner. Hansen, who had fronted the band Hurricane from the mid-1980s into the early 1990s, got wind in 2004 that Jones might be forming a new edition of Foreigner and pursued the singer’s slot. He got an audition, which he obviously passed.

But Foreigner was not going to return at anywhere near the same level of popularity the band had achieved in the 1980s, and Hansen said the band had to get an entire organization, from management on down, in place, and more to the point, rebuild relationships, not only with fans, but with promoters, booking agents and other industry professionals.

“Of course, the band had the catalog and a great history, but there had been some damage done over the previous years,” Hansen said. “So it took time for us to develop trust with people. But as soon as we started doing shows, I think people recognized that this was something again formidable and were willing to take a chance on us again and do that and gave the band that new breath of life.”

As the years ensued, Foreigner played bigger and bigger venues while earning respect for the way the band delivered the song catalog. Another key step in solidifying the credibility of the “new” Foreigner, Hansen said, was making an album of new songs, “Can’t Slow Down,” which was released in 2009.

The lineup that made “Can’t Slow Down” is largely intact today, with guitarist Bruce Watson, drummer Chris Frazier (who joined in 2011 and 2012 respectively), and guitarist/bassist Luis Maldonado (a 2021 recruit), stepping in alongside Jones, Hansen, bassist/keyboardist Jeff Pilson and keyboardist Michael Bluestein. This stability has helped the band’s credibility as well, and Hansen is proud of what his edition of Foreigner has accomplished.

“I think over the course of these 20 years, what we’ve done, my goal has been to maintain the legacy of this band and the integrity of the catalog and give it the sincerity and the dignity that it deserves,” Hansen said. “I think that we have done that.”

Foreigner will be playing at Darien Lake Performing Arts Center on Friday

Getting 'drawn in' to kayaking, nature, recreation at DeWitt in Batavia

By Joanne Beck
Paddles up at DeWitt
A group of kayakers gives a "paddles up" before embarking on a two-hour tour of DeWitt Lake Saturday in Batavia. 
Photo by Joanne Beck.

There are times when a title won’t save you from your own worst fears.

And county Legislator John Deleo learned that when he climbed into a polyethylene kayak and slid out onto the water at DeWitt Lake.

“I’m terrified of the water,” he said on what was now his second or third time Saturday at the Cedar Street recreation site. “That's why I bought this special vest because I can be up on the water in case I fall in because I'm terrified of the water. I can't swim.”

Deleo and about six others, plus three county staff tour guides, gathered for the last guided experience of the season. Five people attended the morning session, Conservation Education Program Coordinator Shannon Lyaski said, as she and the others waited to see if anyone else of the 10 registrants would show before they shoved off for the two-hour excursion.

“Weather makes all the difference in the world,” she said as a few raindrops pelted the skin. “If it sprinkles, we’ll still go out. But if it thunders, we’ll get out of the water.”

Lyaski runs the guided tours a couple of times a year, and the first one was in May. For $25, participants get a life vest, kayak, general lesson on how to use it and two hours on the water learning about the lake and surrounding area and wildlife. 

Shannon Lyaski on left with kayakers
Tour leader Shannon Lyaski, left, smiles before taking her group around the lake Saturday at DeWitt Recreation Area on Cedar Street in Batavia. 
Photo by Joanne Beck.

“So this is a great place to try it for the first time because it's just a nice little small lake. You know, we had to be careful, we take every precaution that you need to, but generally, there's not a lot of surprises out there. We have these flat water kayaks, they're designed for casual use. And so we started out with the basics of sitting in the boat, getting in the boat, being comfortable in the boat, the basics of paddling, getting in and out of the boat and the basics of doing things,” she said. “It's not a race, we just take our time. We have two whole hours to explore the lake. We talk about the wildlife, we talk about the history of the site, we explore the little coves, and we look at different places where the water can go, like depending on how high and how low it can get. There's some neat stuff about the area and interesting things about the ecology of this park. So we go over that too.” 

Deleo said that he is gradually “getting drawn in” to kayaking moments before his craft glided out on the glassy water. Barb Matarazzo was in the same boat as Deleo, no pun intended, when she first began. She was afraid of the sport and the water, which quickly changed once she gave it a try.

Barb Matarazzo and John Deleo
Barb Matarazzo and John Deleo enjoy their time on the water in their kayaks despite having been "terrified" previously. 
Photo by Joanne Beck.

“Now I love it. I’m a pure participant and loving every minute of it, “ she said. “I don’t care how often you do this, you find something new every time.”

Although DeWitt Recreation Area is on the outskirts of Batavia, it isn’t forgotten, made evident by the group having a picnic at the pavilion, a person standing near the water casting a fishing line, some bicyclists, perhaps making a pit stop from the nearby Elliott Trail, and some kids dunking their feet into the water. 

A slab of cement near the boat launch is still waiting for a kayak rental kiosk, which was expected to be in place by June. That has been delayed, Lyaski said, and she wasn’t certain when it would be at the park. 

County Highway Superintendent Tim Hens had said the county is looking at the kayak rentals as “an opportunity to provide a recreational service to the community that also generates residual income and requires no county maintenance.”

The county Legislature approved an agreement for a period of five years, at a total cost of $16,000, for the installation and activation of smart lockers, fully equipped with kayaks/lifejackets and locker signage. Kayak users would then pay a rental fee through the use of the kiosk that would go back to the county. The concrete has been poured for the kiosk and is waiting for delivery.

In the meantime, if you’ve got your own kayak or plan to rent one, DeWitt Lake promises some “really cool features that have been added,” Lyaski said. 

“I like to point out all those big nice park benches at the end of the lake, where Ellicott Trail comes in off from Route 5,” she said. “That's not an accident. It's facing west, it's a beautiful view of the sunset on the lake.”

kayakers at DeWitt
Photo by Joanne Beck.

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