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October 20, 2008 - 12:59pm

Ranzenhofer goes on attack in debate — Mesi fires back... in debate, and after

posted by Philip Anselmo in politics, economy, Joe Mesi, Mike Ranzenhofer.

Republican Mike Ranzenhofer and Democrat Joe Mesi squared off on WBEN's Hardline with Hardwick Sunday in the only live debate between the two candidates who are vying to replace the retiring incumbent Mary Lou Rath in the 61st Senate District.

Unfortunately, that debate does not yet seem available online. Did anyone tune in? What was your impression?

The Buffalo News had this to say:

The real focus of the 90-minute debate was Buffalo Sabres owner B. Thomas Golisano, who Ranzenhofer accused of illegally campaigning for Mesi through the Responsible New York political committee and its administrator— G. Steven Pigeon.

Ranzenhofer, a veteran member of the County Legislature, said he saw Pigeon and Mesi “joined at the hip” at about 40 campaign events earlier this year before Pigeon, the former Erie County Democratic chairman, signed on as point man for Golisano’s $5 million fund — required by law to be independent of any campaign.

“Steve Pigeon is the single person in charge of the Golisano money. It’s clear that Pigeon is directing the money and the message of the Mesi campaign,” Ranzenhofer said. “As a candidate, you have to know the difference between right and wrong, stand up and say that this is wrong and not take the money.”

Mesi, however, denied that he is participating in anything illegal.

Mesi's campaign sent out a news release the very minute that the debate wrapped up proclaiming: "Mesi Wins Debate!" His camp had this to say:

Mesi outlined his credible plans to lower property taxes and cut down Albany’s bloated budget.  He also discussed how he plans to bring good-paying jobs back to Western New York to give our young people more opportunities here at home. ...

The proposals of Mike Ranzenhofer (Mesi’s Republican opponent) were exposed as shallow efforts that would hurt Western New York.  Estimates show that Ranzenhofer’s “sledgehammer” budget cuts would take $210 million out of Western New York economy, eliminate 1,607 local jobs and do irreparable damage to our community's strengths, especially our local colleges and research centers.

Had anyone heard Mesi's plans on how to bring jobs back? Nothing specific is mentioned in the news release. In the Buffalo News article, it's said that: "He said he would try to protect workers with necessary jobs and would reform programs like Empire Zones and industrial development agencies to save money instead."

I don't follow here. Not sure what "protect workers with necessary jobs" means. What is a necessary job? How do you protect it? What about people whose jobs are not necessary? Who decides that? Reform of the Empire Zone program and the industrial development agencies to save money sounds like a fine idea, but how? How is money saved? As far as I understand, IDAs are not publicly funded. What would such reform entail?

Ranzenhofer was scheduled to come by The Batavian office this morning for a video interview. Unfortunately, he cancelled. We're doing our best to reschedule. Mesi is due in on Wednesday. We will still take questions to consider asking the candidates, if you have them.

A brief aside: The "sledgehammer" budget cuts comment reminds me of the Saturday Night Live skit—I linked to it in a comment last Friday—that mocked the final presidential debate. In it, the mock Barak Obama says that he will make cuts "with a scalpel not a hatchet," while the mock John McCain vows to use a "scalpel, a hatchet and a magical plunger." Ha!

Daniel Jones
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Responsible New York has also endorsed Steve Hawley, is Steve indirectly engaging in illegal activity?
Russ Stresing
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Philip Anselmo
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Russ: You're the man. Thanks.
Russ Stresing
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Loathe as I am to offer my opinion: Howard, there's been a recent advance in technology. Its called by the interesting name "The Internets". If you go to a 'website' like http://www.votejoemesi.com/ (crazy Internets terminology), you can find Joe's stances on the issues without pleading for the contributors and readers of www.thebatavian.com(another Internets term) to do your research for you. Unless, of course, you're just trying to be provocative. Not that there's much evidence of that in most of your posts. As has been testified to previously, I remain humbly, The Man.
Howard B. Owens
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Russ, first I haven't been involved in this post at all. Second, we're not asking readers and contributors to do our research for us. Nor are we being provocative. Philip simply asked what people knew. It's a simple, innocent question. My concern is that you seem to approach this under the misunderstanding that it is somebody's "job" to do this or that, and that it is somehow inappropriate on our part to ask readers what they know, or ask readers to report news, report what they know, add more information. The newspaper model is "we do all the reporting and you take it or leave it." That's not our model. On this site, you're on the same level as a "reporter" as Philip or anybody else. Any information about Mesi you would like to provide, you're welcome to do so.
Russ Stresing
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Howard, Seriously, the recent tone of The Batavian, and your posts specifically, seem more designed to drive traffic than debate.
Howard B. Owens
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Interesting take, Russ. I don't think I'm personally writing any differently. I'll consider and examine that, because my goal for what I post is to post what I find interesting in a manner I find interesting, and hope others find it interesting, too, and I don't want to deviate from that ... but right now, as I think back on my most recent posts, they seem in keeping with what I've always done on The Batavian. That said, if you see it, I should think about it.
Howard B. Owens
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I will add, Russ, I do watch traffic number religiously. If we don't make our traffic goals, then we can't sell advertising, let alone at the volume needed to be profitable. We don't make profits, we don't stay in business. That's the American way, right? We have some high ideals about creating community conversation -- not debate so much as conversation -- and engagement. One way we measure whether we're achieving those goals is growing traffic. So it isn't all about the money. If I've had one unspoken prejudice it is toward finding interesting things -- and I assume what I find interesting, others will, too, though I'm not always right -- that people will want to talk about (case in point: I thought post earlier on the Hollywood producer from Batavia was very interesting, but apparently I'm alone in that opinion -- not a single comment so far). That said, the longer we do this the better we hone our sense of what The Batavian readers seem to like, the more that colors our choices, whether consciously or unconsciously.
Russ Stresing
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Howard, Top of the browser :"Online for Genesee County and Batavia, Daily News and Views". Not "Hey, if you got sumthin' to chip in, have at it". If your browser ID touts your site as a news site, then do news. If its a collaborative, contributor-driven blog site, then say "blog". If you would rather be known as a local blog site, then promote yourselves that way. Don't keep calling out political figures, legislative bodies, local campaigns as if they somehow owe you deference like you're a legitimate source for news. To this point, you're not. Any doofus with a keyboard and an Internet connection can incoherently afflict whomever submits a well-researched or well-founded submission as if their barely literate spew is just as considered as is the submission of someone who took time to think about what they submitted. Its not. Either admit that you accept any half-assed comment or post to be equal to any well developed argument or admit that you'll take whatever you can get. Pick a spot.
Russ Stresing
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http://compete.com/ I'm absolutely sure you follow your hits more closely than most of the rest of us can.
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Russ, I don't draw the distinction you do. We are a blog site and a legitimate news site. Nobody owes us deference and we have never said so, but my belief is that people in position of responsibility owe it the public to answer questions and provide information. We are a conduit for that communication, and there is no reason for any official not to answer questions or provide information, whether we ask, or you ask or Laz asks or some blogger not even affiliated with The Batavian asks. We've picked our spot quite well. Frankly, what you pose above is a false dichotomy. And I know compete.com quite well, but that isn't our main measure of metrics.
Howard B. Owens
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Also, Russ ... note it says "news and views" ... not just news. And the tag line on our masthead is "Online News. Community Views." I think we're pretty clear on what we're about.
Russ Stresing
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Howard, Just because you appoint yourself as a 'conduit of information' doesn't make it so. Just because you appoint yourself as a 'conduit of communication' doesn't legitimize your site. Just because you appoint yourself 'the public' doesn't make you so. Just because you bought bandwidth doesn't oblige people who actually campaigned or are campaigning for office beholden to you. Taking up space on the Internets doesn't imbue you with authenticity. The Batavian is too often an echo chamber. Howard, you can't possibly hold yourself and your site as representative of the Genesee or Batavia community if you don't live here. Brother, please. Review your own works. The bulk of your submissions are plainly designed to elicit comments. Be bold. Admit it.
Howard B. Owens
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Russ, I'm getting this sinking feeling that I'm being trolled. In the past, especially when it suited your support of Jon Powers, you were quite supportive of The Batavian. It was only weeks ago that you and I ran into each other at Dwyer Stadium and you were full of praise for the site. Now you're setting up these false dichotomies, creating straw men and racing right past what I'm actually saying. I've been quite transparent in our aims. We're here to help spread news and create conversation. We've never said anything different, tried to be anything different or pretended otherwise. That is our content model and that is our business model. I've been quite bold, quite honest about our agenda. What's yours?
Russ Stresing
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Howard, you're getting the sinking feeling of getting p'wnd. When we ran into each other at Dwyer Stadium, I explained to you why I had stopped contributing to the site. I didn't praise the site. I offered my criticism. Reach out to other contributors and ask them why my participation has been ...lacking. I've made it plain to them. I told you quite plainly that I was tired of having my researched and considered submissions being fodder for your attempts at driving traffic to your site. The Albany Project and Buffalo Pundit highlighted my submissions and hiked your hits. The whole Mullen debate helped your hits. Forget being 'supportive' of The Batavian when it suited my 'purposes'. You front-paged my posts. Didn't that 'support' the Batavian? When it served your purpose, you served mine.
Howard B. Owens
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Russ, you praised the site and you complained about a recent spate of too-frequent commenters. Since then, things have leveled out and things have been fine. And you've returned. So have many other people, and several new people. And yes, traffic is growing quite nicely, thank you. I get a heck of a lot of nice feedback when I'm out and about in the community. It was a nice little initial boost we got from the Powers people, but we've continued to grow quite well since then. Russ, you're a good guy, a community leader, but I don't get where you're coming from tonight and why suddenly our approach is a bad thing. If confused equals owned, then call me owned.
Russ Stresing
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Your site has grown because you chose to incorporate local sports. We'll see what happens after football season. It could be that you keep the people you've gained because of sports. It could also be otherwise. Howard, I'm by no stretch a community leader. I'm just as much a thorn in most sides as I apparently am in yours. I serve no more purpose in community development than does The Batavian. Your approach is neither a good thing nor a bad thing. Your approach is simply a business thing. My approach is just an amusement thing.
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We got a bounce when we hired Brian. We got a bounce when we added the social networking. We've made a few additions/upgrades that seem to have helped. And there is more marketing and promotion coming. Brian has some good plans for his coverage going forward. He's a hard worker and I'm confident he'll do a good job. Based on a long history of successfully growing web site traffic, I'm pretty confident about our growth path. I guess there's always room for a first time to be wrong about that. And to me, you're a community leader -- you're out there, you're trying to make a difference ... that's a leader, and admirable.
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definitions legitimacy authority news blog considerationthought half-assing growth government truth real I have 72-12,000 MySpace.com friends
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Russ, I assure you that the growth in the Batavian has some to do with me, but not totally. I wouldn't leave the paper if I didn't believe this was the future of journalism. The fact that anybody can post a story alone has me intrigued. The newspaper is great, but that is the past. People like yourself and others that want to tell folks like myself and Philip what is happening is the future. I love Genesee County and Batavia, and will always do what's best. I know your two daughters that have graduated since I've been in this business - and they are both great girls. I am also positive that those two college educated women will be checking this site more than they will buy the newspaper.
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Russ, you mention your site. What is it? I'd like to view it.

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