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Buffalo News

Some people have a longer fuse than others

By Billie Owens

Scanner communications a few minutes ago indicate that today a resident somewhere in the city has finally had enough.

The piles of shredded Buffalo News being dumped on his or her property on a regular basis has to stop.

The person called the cops -- after three years of this nonsense -- who are en route to handle the complaint.

There's only so much a person can take. Talk about old news late...

Updates on crash of Flight 3407 include names of some passengers

By Philip Anselmo

Buffalo News reporters have been updating the site all day with updates on the crash of Continental Flight 3407 that plummeted onto a home in Clarence. Names of passengers have been leaking out throughout the day, and reporters have got up a video of eyewitness accounts.

Names of the dead began trickling out at midday, giving a window onto the group of passengers aboard the flight from Newark to Buffalo that crashed at about 10:15 p.m.

The names of victims emerging from families and friends included Alison DeForges, a noted historian and human rights activist who documented the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

Also killed in the crash was Susan Wehle, cantor at Temple Beth Am in Amherst, and Zhaofang Guo, the husband of Dr. Ping Wang at Roswell Park Cancer Institute.

In addition, the black boxes from the flight have been recovered, and the investigation into the cause of the crash has begun in earnest.

Can we ever fix Albany?

By Philip Anselmo

Buffalo News columnist Rod Watson doesn't hold back in his indictment of our state legislature in today's edition of the paper. He goes for the jugular in this piece, comparing the cast of characters in Albany to the fabled mafia crew of television's Sopranos.

Consider what passes for governance here:

Legalized bribery and extortion, which is what the campaign system amounts to. Buying loyalty with high-priced, do-nothing committee assignments. Running a front-operation that meets in the legislative chamber while all of the decisions are made in the back room.


But even when the needed reforms — campaign finance limits, independent redistricting, etc. — are apparent, how do you change a system when the ones who write the laws are the ones who benefit most from it?

Of course, the answer, as always, is us. It's all about us paying attention and demanding change. Watson calls for a C-SPAN of the state legislature. If they're being watched all the time, maybe they will start to behave. Or that's the idea.

What do you think? Are we capable of paying attention en masse, because that's what it would take, it seems? A few gadflies here and there will only get swatted down. Or are we too complacent, too ready to buy into the aggressive campaigning of specialty groups who spur an uproar every time their funding is threatened? Or too complacent, too willing to chew on the fodder of smallish political victories passed off as significant achievements—think of Chris Lee recently championing how he saved local libraries from the big bad government? Or should we even be blaming ourselves?

While you brood over that, I would recommend checking out Watson's article.

Governor signs law to collect taxes on cigarettes sold at Indian reservations

By Philip Anselmo

Others have tried before and failed to collect taxes on cigarettes sold by Indian retailers. Nevertheless, faced with a $15 million budget shortfall, Gov. David Paterson could not keep from trying to tap into the estimated $400 million that is lost annually by the state through the sale of tax-free cigarettes.

From the Buffalo News:

Gov. David A. Paterson this morning signed into law a new effort to begin collecting taxes on cigarettes sold by Indian retailers to non-Indians, a move certain to spark controversy and push-back from the booming tobacco trade on Seneca Nation reservations.

That article takes quite a comprehensive look at some of the changes that will be proposed by the governor to help chip away at the budget deficit, including increased gambling hours at racetrack casinos and a revamping of the state's Empire Zone program.

What do you think of the governor's proposals? Should he try and get the tax money from cigarette sales? Will he succeed? What are some other ideas he might try to implement to bring more money into the state?

Electronic billboards: Coming soon to a highway near you...

By Philip Anselmo

Commuters heading west from Batavia may soon have to contend with yet another highway distraction. An article in the Buffalo News from last week informs us that electronic, television-style billboards will soon be gracing roadsides in Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Hamburg and Tonawanda. They will replace the antiquated poster-style billboards in those areas with electronic ones that "beam a new picture every eight seconds." But there's more to these flashy billboards than just invasive marketing opportunities.

The new technology has drawn concern in some communities, while winning applause in others for beaming emergency information to drivers.

Digital signs can quickly replace ads with messages about traffic problems ahead. They can also relay AMBER Alerts about missing children, (Lamar general manager Rich) Dvorak said.

In Minneapolis, a digital billboard alerted drivers about a bridge collapse in 2007 and helped reroute traffic.

“We can react within minutes to get that [emergency] message up,” Dvorak said.

But concerns about distracted driving and neighborhood livability have also surfaced as the electronic signs proliferate, with 1,100 now in use nationwide.

What do you think? Will electronic billboards be worth the distraction?

Genesee and Orleans counties rate worst in Western NY in late debt payments

By Philip Anselmo

Downstate may lead the pack in late payments on credit cards and mortgages, but Genesee and Orleans counties reign king this side of the Catskills, according to the Buffalo News. From that article:

According to data from TransUnion, compiled and released this month by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, 2.04 percent of credit card loans are at least 60 days late in payments in Orleans County. That’s the most in the eight-county region, and the seventh-highest late-payment rate in the state.

Niagara and Erie counties both come in second for the region, although Erie is below the average. Genesee County doesn't show up there, but in late payments on mortgages, we lead the pack.

For mortgage loans, Genesee County has the highest pace locally, at 1.84 percent of its loans that are at least 90 days late, followed by Allegany at 1.69 percent. Erie’s was much lower, at 1.41 percent.

Have you felt the credit crunch? All told, two percent doesn't seem too terrible.

Kathy Konst may drop out of the race for the 26th — or not

By Philip Anselmo

The Buffalo News reports that Erie County Legislator Kathy Konst is under pressure to drop out of the race for the 26th Congressional District — where she would face three other primary challengers for the Democratic nod — and run instead against Sen. Dale Volker in the 59th District of the State Senate.

Konst, a county legislator from Lancaster, said that she has not definitely made up her mind, and that she may have “misspoke” earlier Monday indicating that she had decided to switch gears and launch a campaign against Volker.

“My volunteers are behind me for Congress,” she said, adding that many people were trying to “push me into the Volker seat."

She said earlier in the day that she was approached recently by business leaders who are concerned about the power shift away from upstate. She said since they and she are convinced the Democrats will claim the Senate majority in November, she believes that the time is right to seek the Volker seat.

“I never before thought it appropriate to run against Volker, because in order to get anything for upstate, we had to have seniority,” she said earlier Monday. “But once [Senate Majority Leader Joseph L.] Bruno dropped out, it looks like the Republicans will lose the Senate and whatever influence Dale had will be gone.”

Robert Harding of The Albany Project blog isn't sure about her chances of unseating Volker, though he seems optimistic.

I have a mixed opinion of Konst. She is a moderate Democratic legislator representing the 5th legislative district on the Erie County Legislature.

That said, a moderate Democrat can win this district. Volatile Volker is facing a primary challenge so his job won't be easy to begin with. Now, the Democrats have someone to run against him in November.

Can she win? Time will tell. I will reach out to Konst for an interview. We should get to know more about her to decide whether or not this is a race we can win. Beating Volker would be huge. Konst just might be the person to do that.

Batavian Dan Jones is already cheering Konst's (still officially unannounced) relocation from the contest for the 26th Congressional District to the Senate's 59th.

I am happy to hear that Kathy Konst has decided to withdraw from the NY-26th district race, although I am totally loyal to Jon [Powers], I know that Kathy is a very well respected and accomplished individual and I wish her the best in her race to unseat Dale Volker in the 59th State Senate District.

Jones is the president of the Genesee County Young Democrats.

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