Posts Tagged ‘Mickey Kearns’

Byron Brown and the Inevitable Thing

July 9, 2009
How'd that inevitable thing work out for you?

How'd that inevitable thing work out for you?

This blog is only about 10 weeks old, and in that short time we’ve seen a really impressive display of corruption by Byron Brown, his administration and political machine.  Take a look at the last two and a half months:

— Brown ally Brian Davis is exposed for lying about his educational background, in addition to writing bad checks in the stores he regulates as a councilman.

— the One Sunset scandal surfaces, wherein Brown’s economic development team ignores logic and rules to throw money at a connected businessman and help run his restaurant.  Davis covers the rent with a personal check.

— former Brown staffer and current supporter Steve Pigeon masterminds the coup in the NYS Senate.  Just what did Brown know about this, anyway?

— emails “suggesting” that city employees should work on the mayor’s reelection campaign surface, and Brown issues contradictory responses.

They do more corruption before 9AM than most people do all day!

Whether Mickey Kearns can capitalize on all this is yet to be seen.  But I think these developments suggest the weakness of the main argument that many have made for supporting or endorsing Brown — the idea that his victory is simply inevitable.  We only have to go back to the early days of the Democratic presidential primary to see how long inevitability holds up in the face of bad news.

The mayor is in worse shape now than he was two months ago.  Unfortunately, many people (and organizations) are already on board with his campaign after being caught up in his aura of inevitability.  Maybe next time they might wait a bit longer before committing, and recognize the difference that a few weeks can make.

Byron Brown’s Shifting Response to City Worker Scandal

July 8, 2009
Got any State Department workers I can borrow?

Got any State Department workers I can borrow?

There are several interesting points about Byron Brown’s reaction to the city worker campaign “volunteer” scandal.  First, let’s take a look at the initial reaction . . .

After a Buffalo News reporter read the June 2 e-mail to Cutler, the mayor’s spokesman said he didn’t see a problem because the e-mails were sent and received through private accounts.

“Is there a coercive nature to these? I would say no,” Cutler said. “There’s no threat; I didn’t hear ‘Be there or else’ or ‘Your job is dependent on it,’ ” he said.

. . . and then the reaction once it became clear that the story had legs:

“I did not know the e-mails went out when they did,” Brown said. “These employees should not have been instructed to do any campaign volunteering during work hours. That is not how we do business and I do not support that. Campaigning is not in their job description, it is strictly voluntary.”

The mayor can’t have it both ways, can he?  He can’t claim one day that the emails are not a problem, and then that he’s opposed to them the next.  So which is it?  Of course, it could be that Cutler spoke off the cuff in the first response, but that’s doubtful.  Spokespeople don’t just make things up — they speak from their employer’s perspective, or they don’t speak at all.

The wording of Brown’s response is also interesting.  For one, he claims not to have known that the emails “suggesting” that city workers volunteer for his campaign “went out when they did.”  He isn’t denying knowledge of the emails, only knowledge of their timing.

He also says that employees shouldn’t have been “instructed” to do volunteer work during work hours.   Two issues here.  First, the use of the word instructed seems like an admission that these emails were more than a way of letting folks know about a volunteer opportunity.  And second, his stated objection seems to be to these emails being sent during work time, not to their being sent at all.

Given the contradiction between the two responses and the non-denial denial language of the second, I think it’s safe to assume that Cutler’s original response is the one that best matches the Brown administration’s stance on coercing city workers into working on his campaign.  They don’t see a problem with it.

Answering the “Why?” in the One Sunset Scandal

June 24, 2009

Wny did this happen?

Why did this happen?

The News is reporting that 5 of the 9 members of the Common Council are calling for a “full and complete” audit of the Brown administration’s use of federal anti-poverty money.

Leading the charge is South District representative Michael P. Kearns, who is challenging Mayor Byron W. Brown in September’s Democratic primary.

Brown’s communications director insisted that today’s action is fueled by politics. Peter K. Cutler claimed city officials are already working closely with HUD representatives to address concern.

“This is yet another example of Council Member Kearns’ thinly veiled political agenda masquerading as good government,” said Peter K. Cutler. “With Mickey, it’s all politics, all the time.”

“This isn’t about politics … it’s about poverty,” Kearns said.

The Council’s call for an expanded federal review was made at a news conference outside a now-shuttered restaurant on Delaware Avenue near West Delavan Avenue.

HUD officials have raised concerns about the use of anti-poverty block grant funds for One Sunset. The restaurant received $160,000 in city and county loans and grants before it closed last December.

An investigation by The Buffalo News concluded that One Sunset was premised on a faulty business plan and that BERC employees circumvented the agency’s loan committee to snare money for the restaurant.

Well of course this is political.  It’s being spearheaded by Kearns and the anti-Brown faction on the Common Council, and it’s designed to make the mayor look bad.  But so what?  The mayor should be made to look bad because the situation is bad, and he shouldn’t get a free pass just because it happens to be election season.

For me, the real story is in how this is all being reported.  The News has done a great job of bringing the rotten One Sunset situation to light, and they should be commended for it.  But what’s been almost entirely missing from the discussion is one obvious question: why did the mayor, Michelle Barron, Brian Davis and others go so far out of their way to help Leonard Stokes?

I mean, sure, the city might regularly squander and misuse anti-poverty money, but that doesn’t explain what happened here.  The mayor, who has been nearly impossible to meet with for so many, has no problem having more than one meeting with an unqualified twenty-something businessman looking for a handout?  Barron gets money for Stokes by evading the internal BERC structures that were in place to avoid giving bad loans, and goes on to act as the de facto manager of the restaurant?  Davis covers the restaurant’s overdue rent with a personal check?  I don’t know the details of every business that the city grants aid, but I have to believe that this kind of hands-on help is unique.  So while the News has done a great job of answering the who/what/when/where questions, they’ve not yet answered the most important question: why?

I’ve suggested an answer to that question, namely that Stokes is related to one of the co-founders of the Grassroots political organization.  I’d love to see someone with a press credential start asking about those connections.  In fact, I’d love it if they had asked those questions right from the start.

Mickey Kearns for Mayor

May 8, 2009

John Slattery would play me in the movie!

John Slattery would play me in the movie!

Mickey Kearns finally made it official and announced that he’s running for mayor in the Democratic primary.  His slogan — “Gimme Mickey” — is unfortunate, though, and not just because of its rohypnol overtones . . .

The slogan also recalls the late and not lamented Jimmy Griffin and his “Gimme Jimmy” slogan.  As Pundit notes, it’s troubling that Mickey would take Griffin as his role model.  First, because the former mayor was a real bastard — an open racist and homophobe, a caricature of an ethnic machine politician from the 30s, basically the worst sort of mayor that Buffalo could have had at a time when we needed forward-looking leadership.  It’s also troubling because it seems pretty doubtful that the engine for Griffin’s success — the South Buffalo political machine — is going to line up behind Mickey in the same way.

Kearns also appears to be outgunned when it comes to money.  According to the News article, he’s at a 20-to-1 campaign chest disadvantage compared to the mayor.  And while he pledges to run a  “different kind of campaign” based on volunteers and grassroots support, the mayor is bound to have plenty of “volunteers” (and some of them won’t even be city workers) as well as Grassroots support.

I like Mickey, and if I was a Democrat I’d vote for him in the primary.  And I’ve disliked the mayor’s performance on poverty issues so much that I was willing to get arrested outside his office two years ago in an attempt to force his hand on enforcing living wage legislation.  I’m not feeling too confident at the moment, but I’m willing to be surprised.