Life on the “E” List: The Perils of the Ellicott Vacancy

Brian Davis resigned as Ellicott District Council-member and as a result quite a few people are vying for the appointment to the Ellicott district council vacancy  Mr. Davis resigned on Wednesday, November 18th and by Thursday, November 19th, The Buffalo News printed an article with a putative list of hopefuls. The vacancy posted on the City of Buffalo website on November 20th.  Speculations grew with such rapidity that news stories and blogposts about the list potential candidates evolved like a chain of events in an episode of “24.”

Once the dust quickly settled, I began to think about the role of accountability within the framework of the vacancy. Accountability and transparency have become commonplace buzzwords. In fact, the maxim “accountability” was part of Mr. Kearns campaign acronym, C.H.A.N.G.E. It could be considered one of the top political catchwords of a 21st century politician.

Several questions came to mind as I began to think about the Queen City’s latest political matter in question:

•    Now that the Ellicott seat is vacant, what is the process for appointment in the event of a vacancy?
•    What are the procedures that will provide accountability?
•    What are the job and education requirements for a Council-member?
•    Is a college degree required?
•    What is the time frame condition which satisfies the residency requirement?
•    Who validates the residency requirement of each applicant?
•    Once the applicants request letters, resumés and residencies are verified the list will be made public on the City of Buffalo website, right?

Surely such provisos were considered when the resolution was introduced and codified into law, right?

Uh, well…no.

The city charter Article 3-6, titled Vacancies in the Common Council addresses the conditions related to such an occurrence. In 2006 South District Council-member Michael Kearns introduced a resolution requiring future Council candidates to submit a resumé and a letter of request for the appointment in the event of a vacancy in the Common Council. This resolution was voted upon and the city charter was amended in December of 2006.

Two weeks have passed since the Ellicott district council vacancy was posted. Today, Friday December 4th is the final day letters of interest and corresponding resumés can be received by the City Clerk.

The detailed job requirements including the residency requirement were not included in the official letter posted by the City Clerk but Article 3 of the city charter is mentioned in the letter. You would need to look up what exactly Article 3 pertains to yourself.  If you want to know the names of the submissions you must call the city clerk’s office or Franczyk’s office.

What about life on the “E” list? Where did the list of names originate? Let’s explore. Who thought allowing a presumptive list of candidates to be released to the media BEFORE receipt of the letters, resumés and residency requirement were verified was an act of accountability? Perhaps this tidbit of info would have helped Choco-Logo owner Dan Johnson before he decided to throw his hat in the ring only to remove it because he was residentially ineligible.

However providing the media with a list of valid candidates or news sources verifying facts, probably wouldn’t have provided The Buffalo News and other online news outlets anything to report on and might have prevented the Council-majority from behaving like Common Council illuminati.

None of the answers to my questions were publicized. It troubles me to think of the possibility they were not examined by leaders on the council. That has to account for something, right? Well, there is always the next episode. Stay tuned.


Call Higgins Office For Health Care Reform Bill

URGENT!!! We need to flood Higgins office with calls ASAP. We need to show strength.

When you call say 2 things:

1) Thank you for supporting the Health Care Reform Bill

2) Mr. Higgins please vote NO on the Stupak anti-abortion amendment.

We need to fill his mailbox.

CALL NOW! Start with the local office. Give the DC office about an hour to clear their VM.

Higgins in Buffalo: 716-852-3501. In DC: 202-225-3306.

Iannello Needs A Teaching Moment

Listen. It’s quiet. It is too quiet.

Four days have passed since allegations of racism by District 10 Erie County Legislator Michele Iannello transpired.

Legislator Iannello maintains that her request to have two African-American volunteer canvassers reassigned from her campaign was not based on race but based on the canvassing tactics utilized by the two volunteers working on behalf of the Working Families Party which endorsed her.

According to Iannello, “It’s just a difference of opinion.”

The Buffalo Teachers Federation and The UAW have rescinded support for Legislator Iannello.

Still, it is just too damn quiet.

There are fourteen other Erie County Legislators; two of them are African-American women, Legislator Barbara Miller-Williams, District 3 and Legislator Betty Jean Grant, District 7.

I have been a campaign volunteer and a paid campaign staffer for African-American and White candidates. I have experienced racism and sexism while working for both. I have addressed the offenders when affronted. I am baffled by the silence from the two Black women legislators as well as their counterparts.

Not one Erie County Legislator has uttered a peep.


I think a play from President Obama’s playbook is needed and this is an opportunity for a teaching moment.

Perhaps Ms. Miller-Williams and Ms. Grant could organize a Girls Night Out. Get some chocolate, chicken wings and make a pitcher of Cosmopolitans. Invite Ms. Iannello for a hen party of goodies and a chick flick. Why not also invite Ms Whyte, Ms. Marinelli and Ms. Terranova?

May I suggest the Secret Life of Bees?


Obama: The Man and Obamu: The Verb

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!” Just do it!” “Play with heart.”

Quotes and tag lines that promote optimism have become part of political vernacular.

“Yes we can!”, the tag line for President Obama’s campaign was chanted by domestic and international supporters. Now the Japanese have translated “Obama” into a word that encompasses the audacity and spirit he exhibits.

obamu: (v.) To ignore inexpedient and inconvenient facts or realities, think “Yes we can, Yes we can,” and proceed with optimism using those facts as an inspiration (literally, as fuel). It is used to elicit success in a personal endeavor. One explanation holds that it is the opposite of kobamu. (拒む, which means to refuse, reject, or oppose).

Mark Poloncarz’s campaign supporters will obamu by casting a ballot for him on Election Day, Tuesday, November 3, 2009 and not be discouraged by the efforts of County Executive Chris Collins to discredit their candidate.

O-b-a-m-u. I wonder if it will make into Webster’s Dictionary?

Women of Color Speakout for Health Care Reform

On October 20th, The Women of Color United For Health Reform hosted a free conference call to address the issues and concerns facing WOC’s (Women Of Color) in debate about health care.

This was a unique opportunity to have a discussion with and ask questions of Senior White House officials about Health Care Reform.

Many women, men and children are casualties of the war fought between the insurance companies for their financial special interests and company profit margins versus the Congress men and women who are battling for affordable, accessible, and quality health care for the victims.

There is a great disparity of affordable and accessible health care insurance for women of color.

This is a personal interest for me. I am a victim in the sisterhood. I am a casualty of a domestic war that puts profit over people. I am a woman of color. I am uninsured.

On October 27, The Women of Color United For Health Reform is hosting a National Call-In Day. Join the battle and voice your support for health care reform.

Tell your mother, daughter, sister, aunt, cousin and friend.

Olmsted Issue Revisited: A Culture of Arrogance or Ignorance?

IMG_0649In recent weeks The Buffalo News has printed a series of articles, editorials and readers opinions regarding the future of The Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy’s role as manager of the city’s six Frederick Law Olmsted designed parks (Cazenovia, Delaware, Front, MLK, Riverside and South).

Public outcries, denouncements and protests have also emerged on local blogs, social networks such as Facebook, Twitter as well as among the chatter in urban coffee klatches. Most opinions express that a city management over Olmsted parks will render the parks as horticultural killing fields.

The Buffalo News Columnist Donn Esmonde wrote,

“Brown (Mayor) is clearly salivating over a potential motherlode of patronage jobs–particularly in post primary season, with his backers looking to be rewarded with places on the payroll.”

A Facebook post likened city management to a “return to Tammany Hall days.”

A Buffalo News reader opinion stated, “I read with horror a report that Mayor Brown wants to renegotiate (read terminate) the Olmsted’s Conservancy’s maintenance of city parks and parkways.”

A Kenmore reader wrote, “It is with much hope that Mayor Brown and other city officials drop the idea of taking over city parks in any capacity…the entire area has never looked as well in every aspect…I can only imagine the inefficiencies and cost issues associated with the City of Buffalo getting involved.”

Thomas Herrera-Mishler, CEO and President of The Conservancy has also engaged in the antipathetic fray by pioneering an online petition to garner public support titled Olmsted Parks Forever.

There are several important elements that seem to be purposely omitted from the public discussion regarding the Olmsted issue: 1) the culpability of Erie County in the triadic arrangement, 2) the issue of a residency requirement and 3) the establishment of a comprehensive diversity program within The Conservancy.

In 2004 Erie County entered into contractual union with The Conservancy permitting the organization the autonomy to manage the six Olmsted parks. The contract between Erie County and The Conservancy will expire at the end of the year as reported by Buffalo News staff reporter Tom Buckham.

What were the terms of the agreement? What were the costs associated with Olmsted parks maintenance? What prompted the split between Erie County and The Conservancy? Which group initiated the dissolution? Have the negotiations begun? Inquiring minds SHOULD want to know. The Buffalo News reporters ought to ask such questions, obtain more facts and curb the fragmental submissions by some of its principal writers.

On 10/1/2009 Buffalo News Staff Reporter Brian Meyer wrote Mayor Brown acknowledges the progress of the Olmsted parks under The Conservancy’s stewardship and would also like to reach an agreement with The Conservancy that would address the residency and diversity issues while allowing the group to continue managing the Olmsted parks.

Does the public’s indignation about the potentiality of city management stem from pre-election scandal and post reelection resentment?


However, what is the reason behind the disregard of columnists and readers opinions to discuss the issue of the residency requirement, living wage and the importance of a comprehensive diversity program? Is this due to arrogance or ignorance?

The beautification of the Olmsted parks is seemingly all that matters. Are negotiations about these issues between the city and The Conservancy irrelevant? Is pre-election scandal and post reelection resentment also the cause for the lack of reporting and discourse on the subject? Everyone is discharging about parks maintenance as if the other issues are unimportant.

If diversifying the workplace does not include diversifying outreach for membership drives, fundraising activities, organizational programs, volunteerism campaigns, management, administration and labor staff as matters of concern for The Conservancy, is there a problem within the culture of the organization and other not-for-profits?


Is post reelection resentment significant? Probably.

Is there a problem within the culture of our community?


2 On Your Side, Whose Side Are You On?

WGRZ announced that it was holding the first mayoral debate on Friday, September 11 at 9:30 am. Technically this is not true. Mayor Byron Brown and Council-member Michael Kearns disputed urban revitalization and the arts a few weeks ago at at 464 Gallery on Amherst Street.  This discourse was promoted as a “town hall”; it was a formal exchange of views on a particular subject matter in a public meeting. To me that is the definition of a debate. This was the first webcast debate between the two democratic candidates. Sorry WGRZ but you should really make a correction.

This debate was not widely advertised except on WGRZ that I can recall. The only open invitation to the public was on the WGRZ website, the internet accessible public. The only way to view the debate was via the WGRZwebsite. The only method to submit a question was via an email hyperlink on the WGRZ website. WGRZwebsite stated “If there is a question you would like to ask both candidates, you can do so by submitting here.” When you clicked on the hyperlink the user’s email program opened and the following email addresses were displayed:

Well, questions submitted via e-mail are just fine if you have a computer or mobile device with internet access but EVERYONE doesn’t have such digital accessibility. Many voters and supporters of both candidates were at work or at school at 9:30am this morning. I own a laptop so I was equipped to watch the debate online. WGRZ will keep the webcast of the debate posted on the site through Primary Day, Tuesday September 15th. Oh boy!

Many supporters of both candidates do not have computers and therefore no digital access. The digital divide in this city is as segregated as the city itself.

There is not only a racial disparity in the distribution of digital access in this city but also a generational and economic disparity as well. Many of the prime voters are Black, Hispanic and older adults. Did WGRZ expect people to huddle around terminals at the local library? How many voting senior citizens do you know that are internet savvy or have a computer room at the local senior center or home?

We are the third poorest city in the nation. The poor people in this city are not likely to have the digital means to watch a debate online. However both candidates need the votes of the poor people in this city, ALL the people in this city.

It is a shame that neither candidate spoke on the limited access of their debate and it’s a bigger shame that WGRZ, a television station is only offering a viewing of this debate online and not including it in their televised programming.

Brown and Kearns were talking to the people but unfortunately many of them couldn’t hear them this morning.