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December 16, 2008 - 4:38pm

Book two in the four volume series, Famous Genesee, is fresh off the press and available for purchase at everybody's favorite local bookseller, Present Tense, as well as at the Genesee County History Department. It costs $15, and that price includes tax.

Inside the book, you will find some of the suspected cast of characters, such as Barber Conable and Terry Anderson. Yet, you are also likely to find stories you have never heard before. For example, there's the tale of Richard Ross, a 13-year-old Boy Scout who was awarded "the nation's first meritorious action medal" for saving the life of another boy. That was in 1946.

Volume two is officially known as: Famous Genesee: Book II: The Historians Collection of Newspaper Articles Featuring Heroes, Politicians & Reformers. All of its articles were compiled by Sue Conklin, Genesee County's historian, along with research assistant Judy Stiles.

"Many of the reformers that came through here were not welcomed with open arms," said Conklin. A visit by Frederick Douglass—documented in this volume—was even protested by many in the county.

"People might be surprised how many presidents come here," said Conklin, who described the "incredible" story of Bobby Kennedy who was ravaged by the public as people in the crowd nearly ripped his clothes off as if he were a rock star. "It was like a sea of people" packed together in the streets and even on the buildings.

He wasn't the only one, either. Roosevelt, Taft, Lincoln, Truman—they all came by. You can even read in this book about Lincoln's visit, when his train stopped at the New York Central Railroad Depot in Batavia, where he spoke "48 words" from the rear platform of the stopped train.

Some of Conklin's personal favorites include Helen Keller's visit to the state School for the Blind and the story of John L. Childs, who grew up in Batavia, but moved out west later and life and nearly formed a new state by taking land from northern California and southern Oregon.

"Of course, this book is not intended to be encyclopedic," said Conklin.

It's more of an introduction or an overview with a few snippets here and there that folks may not have already known. Conklin stresses that not all the stories are circa Emory Upton and Dean Richmond. There's much to be read from our own times.

"We're hoping it will spark people's memories," said Conklin.

That's why some of the pages of the book—instead of being left blank between chapters, for example—are ruled for taking notes and come with suggestions to get you started. One page, following the section on politicians, asks you to list all the presidents that have held office since you were born.

I'll go: Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush. That's everyone since 1978, right?

Conklin hopes that they will make enough money with the sale of this book to finance the publication of the next volume in this series: Criminal Genesee. Also in the works: Brides of Genesee: For Better or Worse and Quirky Genesee: Gross and Disgusting Tales.

December 12, 2008 - 1:44pm

Here in Orleans County, we have quite a dilemma on our hands. Last year, the Orleans County Legislature notified the public that we needed a new jail. The jail we have now is crowded and needs to expand. But due to our jail being landlocked (right now, the jail sits in downtown Albion next our courthouse, meaning there is no room for expansion) and the jail having serious wear and tear, we are in the market for a new jail.

The county has formed a Jail Advisory Committee to address issues surrounding the construction of a new jail. However, the Orleans County Legislature decided a few months ago to pursue a study (which, according to news reports, the Genesee County Legislature agreed to) that would look into a regional jail shared between the two counties.

For some in Orleans County, this looks to be a great deal. The cost to build a jail in Orleans County has been projected to be between $20 million to $30 million, although the Legislature has not always been united on the cost. So sharing that burden with Genesee County might not be such a bad thing on the surface.

But I worry about this for a few reasons:

(1) Our jail was officially opened in the early 1970's. The Genesee County Jail, according to its website, was built in 1985. That tells me the two counties are at different points. Again, I'm not sure how necessary it is for Genesee County to build a new jail or join in with Orleans County on plans for a regional jail. That is why I'm writing this to get feedback from the citizens (and hopefully members of county government) in Genesee County.

(2) Would Genesee County be in the financial position to pick up its end of the deal? The reason I ask is because Orleans County would be in a tough bind with the jail project, whether it is a shared sacrifice or not. Such a project would raise taxes (without question) and it would prove to be a long-term burden to pay off. One can assume that if it would cost Orleans County to build a larger facility (projected at one time to be a 120-bed facility), then a regional jail will cost at least slightly more.

(3) Is it worth conducting this study to see if a regional jail would be viable? At last check, the study itself would cost $40,000. That's a big gamble to take if the study comes back and says that such a venture would not be viable.

As a resident of Orleans County, I feel its safe to say that myself and several other citizens are worried about the jail project. If this regional jail doesn't come to fruition, we will need to build a facility sooner rather than later. That burden will fall on us and it will be a tremendous burden to take on.

However, I'm turning to the people of Genesee County and I hope some of the leaders in Genesee County (I'm looking at you Jay Grasso) are reading this. Are you in the market for a new jail or a regional jail? Are you in the financial position to make such an investment? And is this something Genesee County would want?

December 11, 2008 - 1:52pm
posted by Philip Anselmo in batavia, genesee county, GCEDC, Alabama, poll.

There's no doubt that Genesee County can revitalize its workforce and reclaim its former reputation as a center of industry and innovation. There's also no doubt that it will take a willingness to change on the part of our communities. Alabama, in particular, could see drastic changes over the next couple decades...

Chad Zambito, vice president of marketing with the Genesee County Economic Development Center, brought us up to speed earlier today on a few of the more promising projects currently in the works for the county.

Most folks are probably familiar with the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park, which has received a lot of press coverage in the Daily News. A Canadian food processor is planning to break ground at that site in the spring. That could mean the creation of about 100 jobs. There are also hopes for the site to include a sort of agricultural showcase center similar to the New York Wine & Culinary Center recently launched in Canandaigua that would highlight the region's dairy production.

Another major project in the pipeline is the Upstate Med & Tech Park and Commercialization Center. Situated on 34 acres across the street from Genesee Community College, the park will host a Life Sciences Center that would allow college students to get on-hand training in those fields. About half of the land is already shovel ready, so expect to see some buildings going up there soon.

That brings us to the most ambitious project currently in the works at the GCEDC: Alabama's STAMP site. STAMP stands for Science, Technology, Advanced Manufacturing Park. It's situated on no less than 1,300 acres between Route 77 and the Tonawanda Indian Reservation. Zambito estimates up to 10,000 jobs could be created at the site at full build out. He cautiously follows that up with the note that it would likely take some 25 years to acheive that.

All the purple buildings in the center of this map would house the manufacturing centers. Zambito said the site would likely be used for the production of photovoltaic cells that would harvest electricty from sunlight. In fact, this project, situated in a region that is already coveted for its potential wind energy, could become the foundation of a green energy industrial complex. This project is still some years from any actual construction. The GCEDC is right now getting the designs finalized and hopes to start bringing potential investors and manufacturers out to the site for visits later next year.

Click here to download a copy of the STAMP project map.

December 11, 2008 - 1:07pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, genesee county, business, Western New York.

Buffalo Pundit links to a story about the economic hard times in Detroit and draws a comparison with Western New York.

From the Time.com story:

When a state lives with a story line of decline for so long, it doesn’t just affect the mood. It becomes part of the culture. Whereas America’s history has been one of expanding horizons, yours has become funnel-shaped. Much like the postbellum South, Rust Belt culture looks backward at an idealized past–a nostalgia not for plantations but for three-bedroom houses paid up on blue collar salaries. (See pictures of the remains of Detroit.)

“It used to be you could get a job at one of those factories, even without an education, and make a decent living to support your family,” says letter carrier Dina Schueller, 33, of Saranac. Now her husband has been laid off from his construction job, and her brother moved to Maryland for work. Like many left-behind Michiganders, she’ll be seeing fewer family members this season.

We've had discussions about the future of Western New York before, and I know some people are skeptical that the local economy can ever grow again, but when you look at efforts to bring new manufacturing businesses to Batavia and Alabama, for example, then it's hard not to be hopeful that renewed growth is a real possibility.

WNY has a lot going for it, such as natural resources, open spaces, an available work force, affordable housing.  There's no reason there can't be a renaissance of sorts.

Philip visited the Genesee County Economic Development Council today and is working on a post now about some of the things GCEDC is doing to help expand business opportunities in the county.

December 9, 2008 - 2:09pm
posted by Philip Anselmo in batavia, auto dealers, genesee county, credit crisis.

Over the next few days, we will take a closer look at the credit market here in Genesee County. Much has been made in the mainstream national media about the "credit freeze" now faced from businesses across the board. Banks aren't lending to other banks, which, in turn, aren't lending to the clients, be they consumers or producers. Everyone, we're told, is feeling the pinch, and lending is rare, if and when it's happening at all. We hope to find out how true that is here in our own region by chatting with those in the know, the sources and go-betweens of those supposedly hard-to-get loans: the auto dealers, the bankers, real estate agents and restaurateurs.

In today's contribution, we will hear from a pair of auto dealers on the availability—and unavailability—of loans in the county...

Harry Zigrossi owns the Zigrossi auto dealership on East Main Street in Batavia. We spoke with him by phone last week.

"It was a very weak November," he said. "There has been a dramatic slowdown in the percentage of approvals... Banks are very tight. Less people are seeking out vehicles."

Zigrossi attributes the slowdown to two factors: Doubt that a consumer would even be approved for a loan, and, if they are approved, worry that the interest rate will be high, if not excessive.

Yes, there are alternatives to financing through the dealership, Zigrossi admits. There are credit unions, local banks. "We have lending institutions," he said. "There are places to apply, but the likelihood of approvals at desirable rates has diminished."

As an example of the tightening credit lines, Zigrossi cites GMAC Financial Services, the financing arm of the GMC dealers. Zigrossi deals in Pontiac, Buick and GMC autos, and acquires much of the funding for his customers through GMAC.

"Their minimum score for approval is 700," he said. "That's pretty selective in my opinion. A couple months ago, approval was based on credit worthiness. There was no set number in the past. ... GMAC's position is: 'We lost several hundred million (dollars) last year. We have very limited funds.'"

You could call it the trickle down economics of the credit crisis. GMAC has a tough time getting its loans—"their ability to borrow is limited," as Zigrossi puts it—so anyone seeking loans from GMAC will have a tough time, as well. It's simple math: you've got so many people seeking loans via so many lines of credit. If the lines of credit are diminished, as Zigrossi indicates, but the same number of people are seeking loans... there's just not enough to go around.

Ken Barrett cites such logic as a reason why some folks may not even bother applying for a loan. Barrett owns Ken Barrett Chevrolet-Cadillac on West Main Street in Batavia.

"We haven't, at this point, had much difficulty, if any, arranging financing for our customers," said Barrett by phone last week. "What I can't really qualify is if there are a cadre of customers that are self-excluding themselves. In other words, based on what they hear in the news media, they're not even going through the process. But I don't have any empirical evidence to say if that's the case. It's more of a gut feel."

In a recent article that ran in the Daily News on the possibility of an auto industry bailout, Barrett was quoted: "I don't think business conditions in Genesee County reflect what we're hearing in the national media. Of all the business people I've talked to, not one has said their business is really bad."

Barrett said that the people of Western New York are the reason business is doing well, as he sees it. We've got smart, responsible consumers.

"In Genesee County, people pay their bills," he said. "Maybe because of the way we're brought up, we dont live excessively beyond our means as other parts of the country may be experiencing. As a community, we pay our bills."

But consumers are only one half of the equation in Barret's estimate. He's also quick to talk up his business practices as one good reason why his dealership is not "having much difficulty" in the midst of this recession.

"We've never aggresively targeted sub-prime activities," said Barrett. "Some dealers really developed that business. Now they're seeing a precipitous slide in their business."

However optimistic a note Barrett might ring for the local auto dealers, the situation doesn't look so rosy elsewhere in the country. From a New York Times article, by Clifford Krauss:

In October alone, 20,000 employees of auto dealerships lost their jobs nationwide, more than half of those who were newly unemployed in the retail trade, according to the Labor Department... And now the credit market—the lifeblood of any car dealership—is frozen.

More than merely a question of credit, however, Krauss hones in on the cultural value of the "small town" dealership, and the further consequences hinted at by the loss of jobs and the tightening of credit. Barrett is right to tout best business practices as a key to remaining financially solvent. But it's not all business...

The auto dealers are not just businesses, of course. Most of them are deeply rooted in their communities, and each is a slice of Americana—their big flags flying, their radio advertisements compelling attention and their Little League sponsorships and other charity helping to improve the lives of local people.

What about you? Have you tried to purchase a car recently and been declined? Approved? Has the ostensible credit freeze iced your chances at getting a loan? How would you feel about the loss of a longtime local dealership: Just another business that couldn't make it? Or much more than that?

After all, no one ever sings: "Drove a Hyundai to the levy..."

December 5, 2008 - 4:11pm
posted by Philip Anselmo in batavia, genesee county, history, Stafford, legend, lore, Devil's Rock.

As one legend has it, Satan, the Lord of Darkness, had somehow escaped from the underworld and was wreaking havoc upon the earth, surely committing dastardly acts of temptation and damnation and otherwise maligning the terrestrial souls of the time. Fortunately for us, "a patrol of angels nabbed him" and chained him to a massive rock a mile or two outside Batavia on what is now Route 5. Not to be done in, the Devil ran in circles around the rock, using the friction of the chain to break his bonds, which he did. For proof, one need only look at the rock which is worn down around its middle where the chain is supposed to have dug through the mineral. Once free of his bonds, the Devil escaped and, to our knowledge, has not been seen in these parts since.

Genesee County Historian Sue Conklin compiled information on this legend and others about the since-dubbed, Devil's Rock, from a pair of Daily News articles dating back to 1919 and 1950. This mysterious rock can still be seen, along with its mythic chain, about a hundred feet from the department of transportation site in Stafford. Both articles are in her book Supernatural Genesee, which can be purchased at the Holland Land Office Museum.

More scientific and less credulous minds explain the rock's shape as resulting from geological causes. A fascinating letter to the editor of the Daily News from 1919—included in Conklin's book—does just that. Its author, John Gillard, tells us that we need to "go back hundreds of thousands of years ago, to the Tertiary Era." Gillard then explains the rock as the result of glacial shifts at that time.

Yet another theory attributes the rock's origins to a fallen meteor.

What have you heard? Where do you think it came from?

December 3, 2008 - 2:07pm
posted by Philip Anselmo in politics, genesee county, legislature, Albany, steve hawley.

Our state representative, Assemblyman Steve Hawley, was one of several interviewed recently by Rochester's Democrat & Chronicle about the push for complete financial disclosure by state lawmakers. From the article:

State law requires lawmakers, who are part-time even though their government salaries are $79,500 a year (plus stipends for every senator and about two-thirds of Assembly members) to report any sources of outside income of more than $1,000 to the Legislative Ethics Commission, which is made up of a majority of lawmakers and has never publicly criticized a lawmaker.

They also report to the commission ranges of their income, in six categories ranging from less than $5,000 to more than $250,000.

The public can see the sources of the income, but not the categories of the amounts.

When asked if he would support more comprehensive measures of disclosure, Hawley responded: "That would serve no useful purpose now." However, despite his feeling that the law would be useless, Hawley nevertheless said he was for more disclosure.

Assemblyman Dan Burling out of Alexander had this to say: "I don't think changing a law will change a person's integrity. It comes down to a person being honest."

What? Then why do we have laws? Isn't our penal system based upon reform, which implies that integrity is not a fixed virtue? Doesn't the very notion of parole or institutions such as drug court imply that people can "be reformed" despite past incriminations?

Sen. Vincent Leibell, out of Putnam County, told the Democrat & Chronicle that he is against more discolsure. He claims that such reform would lead to an "erosion of privacy" and "discourage people" from serving on the legislature. Is there really a lack of people unwilling to take $80,000 for a part-time job?

Leibell's fellow Putnam County legislator, Assemblyman Greg Ball, sees things quite differently.

"While a lot of people focus on campaign-finance laws, as long as you allow outside business interests, there will be corruption," (he) said... Ball introduced a bill this year to prohibit lawmakers from earning money beyond their state salaries, but it went nowhere in the Assembly and was not introduced in the Senate.

Do constituents have the right to know if their representatives are making money on the side? Do they deserve to know from whom and how much and how often?

Keeping such information secret "confirms the worst suspicions of cynics who say that the elected representatives don't work for the people — they have outside interests that have primacy," said Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York. "Lawmakers have to understand how outrageous that is to the average citizen."

Lerner makes a fine point. But this whole debate brings up a much greater issue: How much transparency should be demanded by the people of their representatives? If the people of New York already feel that many, if not most, of their lawmakers are not getting the job done for them, doesn't it only make it worse to find out that the person you're paying $80,000 makes $150,000 from some other source? What if those two sources come into conflict? Lerner hints at this very situation, or at least the perception of such a situation. What do you think? What are the rules in other states?

Please be sure to check out the full article by Jay Gallagher and Heather Senison out of Gannett's Albany Bureau.

November 24, 2008 - 9:55am
posted by Philip Anselmo in batavia, genesee county, budget, Albany, state.

A proposal to cut community funding for towns and counties that host video-lottery-gaming facilities failed to pass the state Legislature earlier this year. But it is being brought up again by Gov. David Paterson and could take effect April 1, if it is passed. From the Democrat & Chronicle:

Towns and counties with video-lottery-gaming facilities would go bust under a plan by Gov. David Paterson to slash their aid by 50 percent as a way to trim the state's growing budget deficits.

If passed, the cuts could mean a drop from about $14 million to about $7 milion for counties across the state, including Genesee, Erie and Ontario.

Some local governments said they have prepared for a reduction in aid and didn't budget any of the money in the 2009 fiscal year, which for counties runs on calendar year. Aid to municipalities that have racetracks with the slot-machine-like devices started in 2006 under former Gov. George Pataki.

"We never programmed that money until it actually arrived," said Ontario County administrator Geoffrey Astles. Finger Lakes Gaming and Racing is located in Farmington, Ontario County.

The county would get its aid lowered from $844,533 to $422,267, while Farmington would see its aid sliced from $2.5 million to $1.3 million.

Genesee County Manager Jay Gsell told us this morning that the county has already planned for the cuts. In fact, he said, they do not perceive the drop in aid as a budget cut. "We look at it as there will be an inclusion of about $140,000," he said. That amount is compared with about $240,000 from the previous year.

The town of Hamburg stands to see a much more significant drop in their aid. From WNED:

The $1.2-million the town currently gets from Fairgrounds Gaming is supposed to cover the costs of having the gambling operation in Hamburg. Supervisor Steven Walters has asked town department heads to look at possible cuts in case the governor's proposal to cut the state share to $600,000 takes effect.

Check out the article from the Albany Times Union for more details on the proposed cuts.

November 21, 2008 - 2:26pm

For over a month now, The Batavian has been following along as the 4-H Student Legislators learn the ropes of local government. We first met up at a meeting of the Genesee County Legislature. Then, we followed along when the interns got together at the Genesee County Nursing Home, where a couple dozen county government staffers came together to talk about what they do and take questions from the interns. Everyone from the sheriff to the clerk of the legislature was present.

In our first video, we asked the students their first impressions. In the next, we talked a bit about what they had learned so far. When we met up with them again yesterday, most of them had finished drafting up a resolution that they plan to present to their fellow legislators when they convene in a mock session of the Legislature in the spring. So we asked about their resolutions.

Before we get to that video, however, we're going to test your knowledge of local government. Chip Malone, the mastermind behind the student government program, devised a test of about a dozen questions—though some have several parts to them—all about local government. I took the test. I scored a 39 out of 46, which is about 86 percent. Not too bad, but not as well as I would have liked to have done. Although, I'm sure that if I were to take it again, I would ace it.

Now, we can't reprint the entire test here, because that would give away all of the answers for the students who have yet to take the test. Nevertheless, Chip has been kind enough to allow us to reprint a few of the questions.

First, allow me to brag that I knew every one of our federal and state representatives, including the incoming and outgoing state senators and congressmen. But those questions should be easy for anyone who has any eye on politics in the region. So, instead, I'll share a couple of the questions I found most difficult, and a few others that were a breeze—try to figure out which. Questions are reproduced exactly as they appear on the test.

1. Describe the special provision (rule) which provides opportunity to bring business before the (county) legislature which is not previously written on the agenda.

2. By law, a town is viewed as a:

a. Independent municipal corporation.

b. Involuntary subdivisions of the state, established to make state government more effective.

c. Any group of more than 2000 citizens who choose to start a local government and enact law.

3. What is weighted voting?

4. What are county governments' three top sources of revenue?

5. List the three committees of the county legislature.

We will post the answers Monday.

November 20, 2008 - 2:11pm
posted by Philip Anselmo in Daily News, genesee county, budget, finance, Pavilion.

Pavilion residents do not yet have a replacement for their post office which was destroyed by fire several weeks ago, according to the Daily News. But those who used to pick up their mail from the post office at least have an alternative to driving to Le Roy to get it. Residents can now head to the Pavilion Fire Hall once a day in the middle of the day to pick up mail.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Postal Service told the Daily that there has not yet been a decision on whether to replace the post office in Pavilion. About 200 people pick up their mail direct from the post office.

In other news, Genesee County legislators continue to make the changes needed to the county budget to keep the tax rate from increasing. An original budget proposal called for a tax rate of $10.23 per $1,000 of assessed value. Legislators hope to reduce that to the current rate of $9.82 per $1,000.

We encourage you to pick up a copy of the Daily News at your local newsstand. Or, better yet, subscribe at BataviaNews.com.

November 18, 2008 - 3:52pm
posted by Philip Anselmo in batavia, genesee county, parks.

Genesee County's ACORNS held a volunteer day today, welcoming folks to come out and help the group with some of their outdoor activities. For those who don't yet know of the ACORNS (that is: the Association for the Conservation of Recreation and Natural Spaces), they describe themselves in this way:

"ACORNS is a volunteer group formed to support Genesee County Parks ... by assisting with environmental programs and park maintenance, offering recreational opportunities and promoting the parks. ACORNS' membership dollars support the parks' programs and help with improvements in the parks and at the Genesee County Park & Forest Interpretive Nature Center."

Today, some volunteers got together to help with a couple of the group's projects: GPS mapping of the county's parks and their "made-from-nature" display at the Holland Land Office Museum's Wonderland of Trees.

ACORNS member Judy Spring told us a little about the GPS mapping. Essentially, surveyors walk the park trails with a receiver stuck out of a backpack and send up signals to satellites at certain waypoints. Those positions are then synced up with a computer program that marks all of the points on a general map of the area.

The group has already helped get this done at the Genesee County Park and Forest. Now they're making the rounds of the rest of the recreational parks.

Once the data has been synced up with the satellites, the waypoints are marked on traditional maps that can be given out to tourists or any area parkgoers. This helps, because locations are exact, not merely estimated, so trail walkers can know exactly where they are at each waypoint.

Waypoints can also be transposed onto topographical maps and used by programs such as Google Earth.

After a chilly, snowy morning of walking the trails, the volunteers then met up at the Holland Land Office Museum, where they set up their display. This year's theme is Frosty's Holiday, so the group put together a big snowman, made of painted leaves, corncob, stones and tree bark. Their display is impressive: a community of critters made of pine cones, twigs, bark, nut shells... whatever you might find in nature.

Julia Garver, president of ACORNS, told us that the group used the book on the Brandywine Critters for some inspiration, although most of what they made was dreamt up from their own active imaginations—such as the pine cone jamboree and the tree bark top hat up above.

If you're looking to find out more about ACORNS, or if you're interested in joining the group, give them a call at (585) 344-1122.

November 12, 2008 - 1:02pm

Learn about "People of the Longhouse". Larry VerWeire of Ganondagan State Historic Site will speak about the people and the site. Ganondagan was the site of a 17th century Native American community that was a flourishing, vibrant center for the Seneca people. This program will take place at Genesee County Park & Forest Interpretive Nature Center, 11095 Bethany Center Rd., E. Bethany, NY 14054.


Saturday, December 13, 2008
$5/person ($10/family)
Pre-registration required by December 12, 2008.
Please call (585) 344-1122 to register.

November 6, 2008 - 1:50pm
posted by Philip Anselmo in politics, genesee county, election.

For those of you who want the numbers for all the races across the county, in all the municipalities, you can download the complete report here. For those of you looking for the specific breakdown in the vote for president in the city of Batavia, we've extracted those numbers for you. Adding up the totals for every municipality is much more of a tedious and consuming task than we had at first assumed, so we've scrapped the original plan of detailing all the race counts. Further, for the city, I've only tallied the counts for the Democrats and Republicans, since the others were negligible. Nader/Gonzalez drew the most of any of the other tickets, and they only pulled 16 at most per ward.

City of Batavia election results totals (by Ward):

Ward 1:

  • Obama/Biden = 535 votes
  • McCain/Palin = 704 votes

Ward 2:

  • Obama/Biden = 501 votes
  • McCain/Palin = 521 votes

Ward 3:

  • Obama/Biden = 431 votes
  • McCain/Palin = 421 votes

Ward 4:

  • Obama/Biden = 568 votes
  • McCain/Palin = 585 votes

Ward 5:

  • Obama/Biden = 384 votes
  • McCain/Palin = 345 votes

Ward 6:

  • Obama/Biden = 404 votes
  • McCain/Palin = 379 votes

In total, Obama/Biden pulled 2,823 votes in the city. McCain/Palin drew 2,955. (Please forgive me if I made any calculation errors, though I think everything should be correct.)

November 4, 2008 - 11:38pm
posted by Philip Anselmo in politics, genesee county, election.

Genesee County saw a couple of very tight races tonight.

Republican Michael Davis beat out Democrat Lawrence Stabell for the open seat on the Darien Town Board by a margin of 68 votes (677 to 609)—a third candidate, Conservative Richard Wurl, picked up 43 votes.

The race was even closer in Le Roy, but Democrat Thomas Stella held onto his seat on the Town Board. He beat out Republican Robert Taylor Jr. by a margin of 62 votes (1,468 to 1,406).

Republicans Donald Coleman and Robert Youngfleisch retained their positions as Genesee County coroners, beating out newcomer Nicole Brady, who ran on the Conservative line. Coleman and Youngfleisch pulled 11,016 and 12,014 votes, respectively. Brady received 4,389 votes.

November 4, 2008 - 7:58pm
posted by Philip Anselmo in batavia, politics, genesee county, video, election, Republican, Democrat.

Earlier today, we stopped by the Genesee County Democratic and Republican headquarters in Batavia to see how the campaigns were doing as we come down the stretch. It couldn't have worked out better, as we ran into everybody's favorite Democrat Dan Jones and everybody's favorite Republican Jay Grasso.

Here's what they had to say about how hard they're working and why their side will win tonight. Who sounds more convincing?

November 4, 2008 - 10:09am

If you had to pick a race statewide that could determine what party has the majority in the New York State Senate, look no further than the 61st Senate District. Democratic candidate Joe Mesi is taking on Republican Mike Ranzenhofer in a very close and hotly contested race.

Tonight, Mesi held a gathering in Batavia. At left it was I encountered when I pulled up to park for the event. What I didn't get on camera was the half-dozen Ranzenhofer supporters that decided they would stand in front of the event's venue - Main Street Cafe - holding Ranzenhofer signs. Apparently they decided that since the Democrats had been doing it for awhile in front of their headquarters, they would do it on the eve of the election.

But inside the event was a great atmosphere. At its peak, the event had 40-50 people. There were people of all ages in attendance for pizza, mingling with Mesi and a nice enjoyable evening before Election Day.

Mesi also addressed the crowd. You can hear the bulk of his remarks in this video:  

I remember first meeting Joe Mesi. That was nearly seven months ago. You could tell then that he was still learning. He was educating himself about the important issues and told the story that led to his candidacy. His brother lost his job at American Axle and that motivated Mesi to run for office.

Since my interview with Mesi, he has evolved into quite a candidate. His Plan for Change is pure genius. I say that because he put his platform into an easy-to-read booklet that was available at his campaign headquarters and handed out tonight at the gathering. Candidates usually use basic talking points on the stump or ramble on about what their policy positions are. Instead of doing that, Mesi decided to put his plans and his positions on paper for the world to see. That way, if there are any questions about where he stands, you can refer to the booklet.

So why should the people of the 61st Senate District elect Joe Mesi their state senator? Mesi is genuine. He truly cares about Western New York. This is where he built his life. This is where he became a heavyweight boxer. This is where he became a local star. And this is where he wants to stay, raise his own family and better the region that has given so much to him. He will be a great state senator for Erie and Genesee counties and he will represent them well.

November 3, 2008 - 4:17pm
posted by Philip Anselmo in genesee county, video, education, genesee county legislature.

Last month, the 4-H Student Legislator program got underway, and The Batavian was there when the local government interns sat with the Genesee County Legislature for the first time—check out our post to find out more about that. Last week, we followed along again. This time, the interns got together at the Genesee County Nursing Home, where a couple dozen county government staffers came together to talk about what they do and take questions from the interns. Everyone from the sheriff to the clerk of the legislature was present.

The first time we got together, I asked some of the interns what their first impressions were about the county, the government, the legislature, and most of them didn't yet know what to think. Well, they've seen quite a bit since then, including some tours around the county of sites such as the airport, the county highway department and the Holland Land Office Museum. So this time we connected, I asked them what they've been learning and what they hope to do with their new knowledge. 

November 3, 2008 - 8:44am
posted by Philip Anselmo in genesee county, Buffalo News, finance, Orleans County.

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.

October 24, 2008 - 10:57am
posted by Philip Anselmo in genesee county, video, Weights and Measures.

Maybe you've seen those yellow stickers stuck to the gas pump by the county's department of Weights and Measures, and maybe—like me—you've asked yourself: What does that mean? Who is this Donald D. Luxon fellow? What is he measuring? What is his sticker worth and why can't it be detached? Earlier this week, I set out to answer those question.

Let's start with the easy answer: Weights and Measures weighs and measures. Very funny, you say. But it's true. OK, so let's back up then...

Donald Luxon is the department's director. He's been with them for nine years or so now, ever since he left Eastman Kodak Co. He admits to me that he wishes he had always had this job though. He loves it. And why shouldn't he? He gets out and works with people all over the county all year long. He gets to play with cool equipment, like tolerance measures and apothecary weights. Plus, he's a one-man show.

On a given day, you may find him out at the gas pumps of any station in the county, measuring fuel. It works like this: He fills a five-gallon can with each grade of gas and measures what his can tells him against what the pump tells him was just dispensed. If they match up, great. If they don't, well... it depends. If the pumps are issuing too much gas—that is, if it's in the customer's favor, Luxon can't shut it down. But you can bet, he says, that the station will have that fixed pretty quickly. If the pump is issuing less fuel than it says, then the station owner is notified and the pump can be shut down if it isn't fixed. Luxon tells me that he has never had to fine anyone before, and folks always fix a problem once they're aware of it.

(In case you're wondering: the pumps are permitted a tolerance of plus or minus six cubic inches per five gallons, which is about 1,155 cubic inches total.)

Often, too, Luxon will take samples of the gas that he then sends to a lab in New Jersey to be tested for octane and to make sure there isn't too much of this or that in the gasoline. He says that there's never once been a failure in Genesee County since he took over the job nine years ago.

Such work also gives you a pretty good handle on how the pumps work. Luxon says he often hears folks say that the temperature outside ought to be a clue on when folks should fuel up because the gasoline will either expand or contract depending on how cold or warm it is. Sure, that's true to an extent, he says. But most of the gas is in big tanks underground where there are no significant shifts in temperature. Whether it's hot or cold outside will only really affect about the first half gallon of gas that's in the tube that runs from the handle back into the tank.

Another rumor that turns out has some merit to it is that folks shouldn't fuel up when they see a tanker filling up the underground tanks. It's believed that in filling up those enormous tanks, the gasoline gets all jostled about and some of the sediment and particulates at the bottom of the tank get stirred up and can end up in your tank. That's true, too, to an extent, says Luxon. It's a fine rule of thumb to keep away from the pumps when you see they're being refilled, but if you do fill up at that time, the chances that you'll get the crud in your tank are pretty slim.

Luxon's job isn't all about the gas pumps, though. He also checks other tanks: milk tanks. Just as often as he'll head out to a gas pump, he'll head to a dairy farm to make sure that a 10,000 gallon milk storage tank is really holding 10,000 gallons.

That's the measures side of the gig, but Luxon also does a lot with weights. In fact, he checks every single scale in every grocery store, quarry and pharmacy in the county: whether it's used to weigh a tomato, a trucker's haul, a slice of head cheese, a flank steak or a dose of valium.

October 21, 2008 - 12:40pm
posted by Philip Anselmo in Daily News, genesee county, genesee county legislature.

Genesee County's tentative budget doesn't have much to recommend itself to a public already strained by a distressed economy. A proposed spending increase of 5.2 percent and an increase in the tax rate of 4.2 percent (41 cents per $1,000 assessed valuation) won't please too many folks, including the legislators.

County Manager Jay Gsell filed the $141 million proposed budget—and let's stress that: this is a work in progress, and the work has just begun—yesterday afternoon, according to the Daily News. Reporter Paul Mrozek says that Gsell expects that "lawmakers will work to reduce those figures before voting on the fiscal plan."

Gsell said this morning he is "cautiously optimistic" he and the Legislature will be able to get the tax rate down to its '08 level.

No jobs are expected to be cut, but 21 vacant positions may remain that way. Also, "all outside agencies" that benefit from some county funding, such as the Cornell Cooperative Extension, will receive the same amount of funding as this past year—except for Genesee Community College, which was already approved for a $50,000 increase.

Mrozek does a great job with this article, extracting the budget essentials and not getting too technical on us. I only had one question that I couldn't find answered: if no jobs will be added to the rolls and no extra funding will be going to outside agencies—why the increase in spending? I put in a call to Gsell to see if we can get a quick answer to that. We should hear back from him by the end of the day.

(UPDATE 2:33pm): County Manager Jay Gsell phoned to explain why the proposed budget shows an increase of 5.2 percent in spending if there are no increases in funding for new staff or outside agencies. He said that it's true that the county will take on no new programs and no new services, but the increased cost of construction materials, fuel and the increase in the funding needed for county health care push up the total spending for the county.

In other news, snow tubing will not be offered at Letchworth State Park this winter. This is a very specific instance of how the state budget cuts will be affecting folks in the coming months. Reporter Matt Surtel writes:

The tubing cost the park about twice the amount of revenue that the activity generated (Park Manager Richard Parker said). He declined to give an exact figure, but said the economic realities kicked in, when the park looked at ways to cut expenses.

Some staffers may also feel the pinch as the park does not plan to take on as many folks as usual this winter.

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