The Senator and the $817,000

Have you ever read or heard someone say “Senator Ranzenhofer gave us that money for the library, …for the fire hall, …for the senior center, …for the pickle ball courts”, or whatever?

Senator Ranzenhofer has garnered funds for local projects. However, it was never HIS money. It was OUR tax dollars doled out to elected officials in the majority (in this case) of the NYS Senate for use as electioneering gimmicks.

Electeds who are members of the majority party in either house get more of OUR tax dollars to return to our communities for projects than do members in the minority. But, make no mistake, this is the return of tax dollars to the community via a political process rather than a competitive grant making process.

Senator Ranzenhofer is not seeking reelection this year in order to spend more time with his family. AND/OR because his party lost the majority in the last election and Senator Mike lost his office, his committee chair, his staff, his power and his lulu. He also lost his ability to bring our bacon home to us because he is now in the minority.

However, Senator Mike DOES have a substantial pot of money that IS his own. Money that he gets to keep in 2021 (with some strings) when he is out of office. The last time we checked, Senator Mike had $817,000 on hand in his campaign account. That’s a lot of money—mostly from NYC developers donating to a once powerful committee chair in the majority—but, this is still his money. His leftover campaign money.

We think Senator Mike’s benevolence should continue in his waning months in office and we would like to help him accomplish this. Coincidentally, the cost of bathrooms, picnic tables and re-mulching the golf cart trails at Westwood comes in at exactly $816,500. We think this would be a good use of his money and is synonymous to his allocation of OUR money for pickle ball courts. This donation would leave sufficient funds for the Senator to send out the occasional newsletter at his own expense. I’m sure the Town would be delighted to accept any money from Senator Mike, even his own.

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Golfers Gone Wild!

 

It was a raucous, riotous meeting in Town Hall Monday night—the likes of which hasn’t been seen in years. Audubon golfers furious about a cemetery encroaching on their links packed the parking lot and then the council chamber itself. And they were boiling mad.

To further add to the chaos, the 3 minute “Shut up and sit down” bell was apparently in the shop for repair because it was no where to be seen or heard. Just where is Marjory when you need her? After 4 elongated public hearings, golfers marched to the podium one by one and all seemed to have spent 15 minutes each of back and forth with the Supervisor.

Supervisor Kulpa only lost his cool once when the crowd catcalled a speaker from Forest Lawn Cemetery, in what mimicked a Trump rally. He was right to blow his top at the complete lack of decorum.

Town Board season ticket holders sat with mouths agape at what was playing out before their eyes.

And you can watch it all on video and its FREE. So make some popcorn and tune in.

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This is What Democracy Looks Like

Volunteers hit the streets starting today—the first day of nominating petition circulation in Amherst.

The signatures of registered voters are necessary in order for candidates to appear on the election ballot. Nominating petitions are circulated door-to-door to political party members and gather signatures in order for contenders to qualify. Everybody needs signatures, whether there is a primary or not. The number of signatures required is dependent on what office is being sought.

Starting today, if a volunteer petitioner rings your doorbell, answer it and consider signing your name on a nominating petition or two. You should sign in the same way in which you write your signature when you go to vote. These folks are your friends and neighbors. Signing a petition doesn’t mean you have to vote for them! It doesn’t mean that you are going to get called for jury duty! All candidates need signatures, whether they are an incumbent or a challenger.

So, if somebody comes to your door anytime in the next couple of weeks starting today, please answer the door and give them 5 minutes of your time. This is what democracy looks like.

Thank you.

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Not the Last Word on Dal Giuliani

The final post Jim Tricoli wrote was a public rebuke of Dal Giuliani, long time Amherst fixture, Republican party insider, Planning Board member, and now the Chair of the brand spanking new Design Advisory Board. Dal apparently has mysterious attributes not appreciated by any resident or neighborhood group ever to appear before the Planning Board. Neighborhood leaders remain puzzled by Dal’s tenure and survivability and continue to grumble that he maintains a power base in Town Hall.

In large measure, the electioneering undertaken at the grassroots level was done to elect town officials who would appoint members to key boards moderately receptive to neighborhood concerns. With the January 6, 2020, reappointment of Dal Guiliani to the Planning Board, voters got business as usual.

The Design Review Board, with Dal Giuliani as chair, has its first meeting this Thursday, February 27, 2020 @ 6:00pm.

Jim wouldn’t like it.

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One Million Trees or Tree Hypocrite?

Supervisor Kulpa’s Plant One Million Trees initiative is a laudable goal and has won accolades around town. However, this effort is poised to be undermined before tree one is planted by the Town Board appointees on the ZONING BOARD OF APPEALS at their meeting on Tuesday night.

Northtown Automotive continues to land grab any available space near its ever expanding Sheridan Drive sea of asphalt. Recently, Northtown paved over its newly acquired properties located at 3890-3930 Sheridan Drive & 621 Getzville Road from its frontage on Sheridan Drive all the way back to the 290. The completed project was required, under zoning code 7-2-4 (A) & 7-2 4(A)(2), to have installed landscaped screening on the parcels northern edges. In typical arrogant-developer manner, Northtown ignored the landscaping requirements and, when called on their non-compliance by the town landscape architect, they filed an after-the-fact variance request to retroactively approve their bad behavior ignoring the tree planting requirements.

It would clearly be the height of hypocrisy if the Kulpa appointed ZBA approves this outrageous request and lets Northtown skate on meeting basic landscaping requirement in place for all projects.

Hey, Northown, we are not only Not coming there first, we’re not coming there at all unless you start acting like a good neighbor. Plant the trees as required and rescind the variance request.

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Town Board Meeting MONDAY

Here’s a quick summary of Town Board agenda items for this coming Monday’s meeting that we find the most intriguing (in no particular order):

Boulevard Mall Rezone – At the Town Board’s 4:00pm work session, the Planning Department will present the revised zoning for this 64-acre site. The Boulevard Mall’s current owner is expected to pursue redevelopment of the site as a mixed-use town center to include retail, office space and housing. This is the residents’ first glimpse of the town’s major rework of commercial zoning code and sure to be a blockbuster—zoning code tailor-made to the developers’ wishes.

At the Town Board’s 7:00pm regular meeting, there is a Deed Restriction Removal Request on Park Club Lane (behind the Walker Center). The standard MO developers employ in Amherst when confronted with neighborhood opposition to their projects is to offer a deed restriction to appease residents in the short term to quell unrest. (A deed restriction is an additional layer of restrictions on land use beyond the zoning code.) Then, after the passage of time, the same developer and the town together, remove the deed restriction and move forward with what the developer initially wanted. This has happened repeatedly in the past. And, now, here we are again with one on Park Club Lane. Typically the deed restriction relates to height. That’s what happening here. The powers that be either make a deal with the neighbors or they don’t. This is another major renege.

NYSDOTthe last agenda item is a notice from DOT designating Main Street, from Bailey Avenue to the 290 as a restricted highway effective immediately. There are no details on this at all but the designation means that a major construction or reconstruction activity is set to begin shortly. This is a huge heads up to all of Eggertsville and Snyder.

The Amherst Town Board meets this Monday, February 24, 2020, at 4:00pm for their work session and again at 7:00pm for their regular meeting. Both the work session and regular meeting are open to the public.

Town Board meetings are held in the Amherst Municipal Building located at 5583 Main Street Williamsville, NY 14221.

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Town of Amherst to Create a NEW “Economic Development” Department

What is this NEW Department of “Economic Development” and why do WE need it? What ever it is or what ever it does, it will be located in Town Hall just across from the Supervisor’s office, and apparently will be reporting to him after a the new local law is added to create it. The first public hearing about this new department will be held at the next Town Board meeting on Monday, February 24.

Link to Town Board Agenda: http://amherstny.iqm2.com/Citizens/Detail_LegiFile.aspx?Frame=&MeetingID=3610&MediaPosition=&ID=21633&CssClass=

To understand what is happening here, it is useful to understand that Amherst town government has many different parts where the supervisor leads both the legislative branch as chairman of the Town Board, and the executive branch as chief executive officer of the town. With the exception of the Police Department, Highway Department, and Town Clerk, the supervisor directly manages the operation of rest of town government structured as a collection of different departments.

So adding a new department is a big deal since it increases the operational complexity of government, extends the supervisor’s executive management control, can be expected to increase the town payroll permanently, and hopefully will produce real and measurable benefits.

We have some questions for the supervisor. Why is this NEW department needed, what will it do, what will it cost, who will run it, how will it be structured, how many people will it employ, will it get bigger, how will it interact with other departments, will they be doing new things or restructuring existing things or both, and how can we measure it’s results in order to justify the reasons given for creating it?

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Letter to the Editor: NFTA Light Rail Project Benched For Now

Your Two CentsFebruary 18, 2020

Amherst Times
Letters to the Editor

Dear Letters Editor:

There is bad news from Washington concerning the federal support for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority’s proposed $1.4 billion Amherst Light Rail Extension project. According to the Federal Transit Administration New Starts Report for the upcoming Federal Fiscal Year 2021 (October 1, 2020 – September,30, 2021) released last week, the proposed NFTA $1.4 billion (or $1.2 billion if you believe their anticipated savings by reducing some tunneling work), the NFTA’s Amherst Light Rail project was not listed as a new project being admitted into the FTA New Starts Program under the first step known as “Project Development.

Not being admitted into the Federal Transit Administration New Starts Program is disappointing news for the NFTA. This represents a significant set back in their long range goal of obtaining federal funding. The NFTA has been in discussion with the FTA for several years in attempting to be admitted into the New Starts program.

This represents a potential delay of up to one more year for advancement of the project. As each year goes by, project costs tend to increase. Any excuse for justification of this delay is the equivalent of putting lipstick on a pig. You can’t win a federal grant from the FTA if you haven’t been admitted into the New Starts Program.

It is like a baseball player on the bench (NFTA) waiting for the coach (FTA) to put him in the line up (admitted to the New Starts Program), advancing to the on deck circle, waiting for his turn at bat (admitted to final design and engineering), stepping up to home plate hoping for a hit (negotiating a Full Funding Grant Agreement) and getting a hit (scoring a Full Funding Grant Agreement) and scoring a run (completing construction of the project and placing it in revenue service.) How do you get a hit and score a run if you aren’t even in the game?

The NFTA continues to offer overly optimistic hopes to project advocates, commuters,taxpayers and elected officials for promising to be successful in obtaining federal funding for this project.

The odds are growing slim for the NFTA to win any Full Funding Grant Agreement from FTA for this project on or before 2025 based upon what should be disappointing news for local supporters of this project.

Sincerely,

Larry Penner

(Larry Penner — transportation historian, advocate and writer who worked for the US Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration Region 2 NY Office for 31 years. This included review & approval of NFTA capital and operating assistance grants, followed by project oversight for FTA funded NFTA capital projects and programs from 1984 – 2014 to insure compliance with applicable federal rules and regulations, completion on time, within budget accompanied by a minimum number of contract change orders.)

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Pushing the Envelope

This year Amherst property owners received something a little different with their tax bill—return envelopes with a former Town Clerk’s name haphazardly blacked out. Both eco-friendly and cost saving, use of the old administration’s envelopes was the right thing to do.

However, it raises the question: Why are tax payers made to foot the bill for thousands of personalized envelopes for every newly elected Town Clerk? Our tax payments have safely arrived at the Clerk’s Office these past few weeks without a politician’s name on the top line to guide them—proof that the personalized, vanity envelopes we’ve all become accustomed to are in fact not critical to successfully fulfilling the tax collection duties of that office.

This act of publicly subsidized electioneering is completely unnecessary and should come to an end.


Update: This editorial also appears in the Amherst Bee February 25, 2020, Edition: Letters to the Editor as “Money could be saved on tax envelopes“.

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Legacy Candidate Déjà Vu

Ed Rath III, is the grandson Ed Rath, Erie County’s first County Executive, son of Ed Rath Jr, a State Supreme Court judge and Mary Lou Rath, former County Legislator and NYS Senator.

Ed Rath III currently occupies a seat on the County Legislature formerly occupied by his mother and has announced his candidacy to fill her former seat in the NYS 61st Senate District. Can you say legacy candidate?

Since it is appropriate to evaluate new candidates on their vision and existing elected officials on their record, the AmherstTimes Editorial Board has compiled Ed Rath III’s record of accomplishment for his twelve-year tenure on the County Legislature via the detailed graphic below for your edification.

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