Wednesday, March 31, 2010


James Smith vindicated.

Politicized District Attorney's office humiliated.


Political Business on County's Time Clock

Yesterday we told you of the report by Channel 10's Ray Levato on his Twitter blog from the James Smith trial:

One person in the courtroom every day to observe works for Democratic minority in the county legislature.
That would be a county employee.

That County employee, who's been at the Smith trial during working hours every day of the trial has now been identified, by someone at the courthouse.   It's Joe Rittler, a member of the Democratic Minority Staff in the County Legislature.

Our friends at Monroe Rising have confirmed it also.

On County time!   On the taxpayer's dime!   Not at a strip club, but at a spectacle even more morally degenerate:   a political show trial.

From another source, we have confirmation that County employee Rittler also attended every court appearance of former GOP Executive Director Andrew Moore.   Again, during working hours, on the County's clock.

Prosecutor William Gargan and his boss, not-to-be-Federal-Judge Mike Green have shown us what to do in these cases:
Maggie Brooks:   Call the cops immediately.   If you wait until tomorrow, you could be indicted as a lawbreaker, for shielding a wrongdoer from justice.

Messrs. Gargan and Green:   Indict!   Here's another clear case of petit larceny.   Rittler's doing exactly what the Robutrad workers did, only at a courtroom instead of a strip club, and you indicted them.
When will the DA bring the indictment?   We'll be waiting.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

From Our Legal Correspondent

A rare e-mail from our consultant on legal matters, Algonquin deVere, Esq., of the venerable old Mustard Street law firm, Eaton, Beaton & Blone, LLP:

James Smith trial will result in a hung jury.   Prosecutor is sufficiently astute to assure the jury includes members predictable enough to vote guilty for the crime of being a Republican.   But he couldn't get 12 of them.   Jury will include at least a few honest and smart enough to stand by the central reality that Smith did nothing criminal.   Neither bloc will give in.   Result: hung jury.
For what it's worth.


Assemblyman Errigo Bows Out

Just in:   Assemblyman Joe Errigo about to announce he's not running for re-election.

Notifying GOP leaders in the 130th District yesterday and today.


As the Vultures Circle ...

The jury's deliberating now in the trial of James Smith.

According to the Twitter feed of WHEC-TV's Ray Levato,

One person in the courtroom every day to observe works for Democratic minority in the county legislature.
Well certainly.   This prosecution and the one against Andrew Moore were brought for the benefit of that Democratic minority.   It was supposed to be their ticket to the majority last November.

After this is over, the Republican majority of the County Legislature should start an investigation into how much taxpayer money the District Attorney squandered on these political persecutions.


Monday, March 29, 2010

The Prosecution Rests. In Deep Doo-Doo.

Amateur Hour at the DA's Office

Prosecutor William Gargan and his boss, District Attorney Michael Green, owe a big "thank you" to Judge Richard Keenan.   He's the judge who threw out the DA's case, such as it was, against former County GOP Executive Director Andrew Moore.   That spared Gargan and Green the humiliation of going through twice, instead of once, what they've gone through with their prosecution of James Smith:   arguing a trial in which they have no case and no evidence.

For a week the refrain from reporters covering the trial of Smith, the former Monroe County Deputy County Executive, has been:   Prosecutor Gargan's witnesses say lots of interesting stuff about what the Robutrad workers did.   But what's it have to do with the person on trial?   And that's when things were going well for Mr. Gargan.

Then there were the prosecution's bad moments.   Especially with the two witnesses Mr. Gargan saved toward the end, no doubt expecting to generate the most impact with the jury.

Robutrad ringleader Robert Morone said:   James Smith knew nothing about our illegal activities.

County Executive Maggie Brooks said:   James Smith never questioned my decision to call in law enforcement, and never tried to talk me out if it.

Then, of course, came the inconvenient fact that law enforcement actually was called in, immediately.   Which renders irrelevant to the legal issues any opinion voiced by Smith about how the media might try to use it against Republicans generally.   It just shows that Smith has clear foresight.

Not the testimony a prosecutor wants when he's accusing someone of shielding wrongdoers from law enforcement.   But that's what you get when you contrive a prosecution for political reasons.   You end up arguing a case with no evidence, and without either the facts on your side or the law.

As the trial's gone on, Prosecutor Gargan has become increasingly defensive and rambling in explaining himself to the press, not responding to questions about failing to connect any dots to the defendant, James Smith, but retreating to generalities about trials being like "putting together a puzzle" that only becomes clear at the end.

Maybe that's how he and Green rationalized initiating this farce in the first place.

But wouldn't they have expected what happened this morning?   The presiding judge, Frank Geraci, pointedly asked Prosecutor Gargan whether there was anything criminal involved in the actions of James Smith.

Which forced Gargan to admit publicly for the first time, that nothing in the law says Smith did anything illegal:

Assistant District Attorney William Gargan acknowledged today that there was no clear description in either law or the county charter about how Smith should have dealt with the allegations.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Political Show Trial of James Smith

Democratic Assistant DA William Gargan opened his argument in the trial of former Deputy County Executive James Smith with this breathtaking hypocrisy:   "When you choose to serve the public, you have to act in the best interest of the public, not the party."   Physician, heal thyself.

Gargan's claim to "try to keep politics out" of the trial is as unbelievable and flimsy as the evidence he proffered in his other "Robutrad" case, against Andrew Moore, which the judge dismissed in its entirety, citing a prosecutorial theory "bordering on the preposterous."

The trial of James Smith is nothing but a political show trial.   A pointless show trial, since Smith's indictment and the Moore indictment failed to produce their intended effect:   to influence last November's County elections so as to flip the County Legislature to the Democrats.

James Smith, as Deputy County Executive, learned about Robutrad workers visiting a strip joint during work hours.   According to testimony, Smith blew his top, confronting them immediately.   He threatened them with firing and immediately consulted with the County's head of personnel about the best way to lower the boom on misconduct by these workers.   By the next day County Executive Brooks was in the loop and decided the best way was to report the matter to law enforcement.

Smith's response was well within the range of managerial reasonableness, by any objective standard.   Yet the Democratic District Attorney indicted him for it.   In the world according to Bill Gargan and DA Mike Green, it's now a crime to make a management decision with which the District Attorney disagrees.

Federal authorities already had looked into the Robutrad matter.   They found nothing to indict in the conduct of either James Smith or Andrew Moore.   But Democratic DA Mike Green and Democratic Assistant DA Gargan each had a political agenda.   Green hoped for appointment to the open federal judgeship.   Gargan wants a judgeship in the City Court or County Court.

But the boys had to pay to play.   Pay, as in cranking up a malfeasance by some low-level County employees into a political "scandal," engineered to reach up into the Republican County Executive's office and into the County Republican organization.   Gargan and his boss, Green (nothing in the DA's office happens without el hefe's review and approval) contrived charges against Smith in the Execs office, and against Moore at Republican Headquarters.

Before he politicized his office, Green was well regarded in all corners of the political world.   But as the Moore and Smith farces have dragged out, Green's ambition and political motivations have become increasingly apparent.   His likeability, for being considered above politics, has diminished significantly.

As for Gargan, despite the odor of compromising his professional duty to help David Gantt beat the rap in 2008, and his careful political contributions to Gantt's sidekick, Lovely Warren and to the Monroe County Democratic Committee (both in positions to influence the Democratic nominee for a judgeship, or appointment by a Democratic Governor to an open seat), Gargan's blatantly political motives in the Moore and Smith cases have tripped him up.   He felt he had to withdraw from consideration for appointment to the recently vacant County Court seat, realizing it would be recognized, only too clearly, as a political payoff.

In an elegant piece of cosmic symmetry, Gargan had to grin and bear it Tuesday when news came that Kelly Wolford, Gargan's colleague in the DA's office, got the appointment as the new County Court judge.   The same day, testimony began in Gargan's political show trial of James Smith.   "As ye sow, so shall ye reap ..."

First the voters rendered their verdict on Green's and Gargan's misconduct, by re-electing Moore, after his indictment, to the Penfield Town Council.   Then even Green realized his office had gone too far, dropping the felony indictment against Moore, in an inexpressibly embarrassing professional rebuke to Gargan.

But Green set himself up for his own professional humiliation by not dropping the misdemeanor charges against Moore as well.   Three weeks ago, Judge Richard Keenan did the job for him, dismissing all remaining charges against Moore, citing flimsy prosecutorial theories and no evidence other than that which he called "bordering on the preposterous."

Word from inside the DA's office is that Green is furious with Gargan over the dismissal of the case against Moore.   Had Green done the right thing and withdrawn them himself, he'd have been spared this further public rebuke.

All that remains for Gargan is to grind through the motions of this week's political show trial, with his boss, Green, cringing in the background, licking his wounds and hoping to avoid, in the Smith trial, another self-inflicted professional embarrassment as great as the dismissal of the Moore charges.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Change We Can Believe In

WASHINGTON – A beaming President Barack Obama on Tuesday signed a historic $938 billion health care overhaul that guarantees coverage for 32 million uninsured Americans and will touch nearly every citizen's life, presiding over the biggest shift in U.S. domestic policy since the 1960s and capping a divisive, yearlong debate that could define the November elections. -- Associated Press
The part so cleverly written is "and will touch nearly every citizen's life."   To the middle class this means HOLD ON TO YOUR WALLETS, YOU'RE ABOUT TO BE TOUCHED!   Yes friends, that's change we can believe in.   As in, "I believe that I will be broke soon."   Jeez, Louise!


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Maggie Brooks To Testify in Smith Trial

Do not know what day.


The Political Maneuverings of Assistant DA Bill Gargan

Assistant District Attorney William Gargan has been quoted as saying, "The Judge's dismissal is an appropriate action."

No, he wasn't talking about Judge Richard Keenan's recent dismissal of all charges against former County Republican Executive Director Andrew Moore.

This happened two years ago, when Gargan, no doubt reluctantly, found himself required to prosecute Assemblyman David Gantt, after Gantt's arrest for disrupting a County Legislature meeting.  The charges against Moore were described by Judge Keenan as based on claims "bordering on the preposterous." (Judge's Opinion, page 8.)  In contrast, Gantt actually broke the law, and in front of the television cameras, for all to see.  After the dismissal of charges against Gantt, neither Gargan nor his boss, DA Mike Green, said anything about appealing, or bringing fresh charges, as they said after the Moore dismissal.  It wouldn't have served the ambitions or political agendas of either Gargan or Green.

Calling the dismissal of the Gantt charges "appropriate" was Gargan's way of currying favor with Gantt, whose influence Gargan needs to fulfill his ambition of obtaining a judgeship on the City Court or the County Court.   In 2007, Gargan had to sit by and watch, as he was passed over for the Democratic nomination for City Court, in favor of Chuck Crimi, Jr.   He didn't want to go through a similar experience again.

Meanwhile, Gargan's been papering his political credentials with cash contributions.

A contribution to his boss, DA Mike Green.   Natch.   He wants to keep his job as assistant DA.

Contributions to the Monroe County Democratic Committee –- more money for Boss Morelle -- and to Lovely Warren, a Gantt employee and City Councilwoman.  People guaranteed to be influential in determining a Democratic nomination, or influencing a Democratic Governor in the appointment to a vacancy on the County or City bench.

Which is why you give them money.   And why you call a dismissal of charges "appropriate" and punt on pursuing it, for someone like Gantt, whom you didn't want to prosecute in the first place, because you dare not offend him if you want to be a judge.   The precise opposite of what you do when you're trying to contrive a political "scandal" by indicting innocent officials in the other party, on flimsy charges and evidence a judge of your own party describes as "bordering on the preposterous."


Prosecute the Brickthrower

And if someone incited the incident, prosecute the inciter, too.

The report on 13 WHAM TV, that we learned of courtesy of Rottenchester, adds information that's alarming, if it's related to the brick incident.   Yesterday we described the brick throwing, by whomever did it, as base and uncivil.

We were in the company of none other than County Democratic Chairman Joe Morelle, in wondering whether the incident had to do with local unions' displeasure over the Mayor's proposal to take control of the City schools.

We do not believe the word of Louise Slaughter can be trusted, absent independent verification, but let the authorities pursue it and the brick-throwing, and bring the perpetrators to justice -- whoever they may be.

The only thing we can say with certainty:   you'll know if it was some misguided teapartier, because the story will be all over the media.

If it turns out to have been a unionist from the downtown protest of the Democratic Fundraiser on Saturday night who had too much to drink -- we don't expect much reporting about it.   It won't fit the desired theme.


Monday, March 22, 2010

Are the Media Having a "Burning of the Reichstag " Moment?

First there was no note attached to the brick tossed through a window of local Democratic Headquarters.   Now, conveniently, according to the Democrat and Chronicle, a note has miraculously turned up, bearing a quote from Barry Goldwater, no less!

Reminiscent of the Nazis using the burning of the Reichstag in 1933 to blame their political opponents, as a pretext to imposing martial law.   It's believed they torched it themselves, for that very purpose.

Our local media has been quick to try to connect the incident to a brick-tossing through Louise Slaughter's office window in Niagara Falls.   None except Channel 10 have made the connection with the picketing and protest just hours before, by a hostile union crowd at the annual County Democratic fundraiser downtown, over displeasure at the Democratic Mayor seeking control of the City schools, and the County Democratic Chairman supporting him.

The Channel 10 story actually quoted Democratic Chairman Joe Morelle saying he believed the act of vandalism "could be about mayoral control" of the City School District, "not health care."   But the rest of the media seems intent on using this incident to portray opponents of the health care disgrace as "extremists."   An act as base and uncivil as the brick-tossing itself.


Encore: America Rising - November 2, 2010


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Is This What Unions Do to Democrats Who Cross Picket Lines?

A brick was thrown through a glass door of the Monroe County Democratic Headquarters.   It is believed to have happened Saturday overnight...
Did somebody have too much to drink at the "Anti-Mayor's Ball" held by the picketers at the Radisson last night, after picketing the Mayor's Ball across the street?


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Mollie Clifford for Superintendent?

That's what one picketer's sign asks at the picketing going on at all entrances to the Convention Center right now. Teacher's Union members and supporters are out in force tonight, heckling drivers crossing the picket line to enter the South Avenue garage, the gateway to the convention center.

"With friends like Morelle, who needs enemies?" asks another picketer's sign.

We're down here checking things out, and it looks like plenty of Democrats are crossing those picket lines tonight.


Meanwhile, Back in the Twenty-EIGHTH Congressional District

Seen this morning in East Rochester.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Mayor's Ball is On. Will Unions Back Down?

As a Fundamental Doctrine of the Faith, honoring a union picket line, for the Democratic Party, is on a par with the Immaculate Conception in the Roman Catholic Church.

So it will be interesting to see what happens this Saturday at the Mayor's Ball, the Monroe County Democratic Party's principal annual fundraiser.   The Genesee Valley Labor Federation, on behalf of the teachers union and other unions, has said it will boycott and picket the event.   The unions are unhappy with Mayor Duffy's proposal to take control of the City schools, and of Democratic Chairman Joe Morelle's support of the Mayor's plan.

Last week we wondered whether the union picket would force cancellation of the Mayor's Ball.   Would our local politicos have two balls this year -- the Democratic Mayor's Ball and the Republican County Exec's Ball -- or just one?

The Mayor's Ball is a go.   Apparently they're laying on some security in case there's trouble.   We don't think there will be.   We think the unions will punt.

It's easy for the unions to punt and save face.   If they picket outside the main doors of the Convention Center on Main Street, nobody has to cross anything.   People going to these big events at the Convention Center don't enter through the street-level doors.   They enter from the parking garage next door.   It connects to the Convention Center by an enclosed pedestrian bridge across South Avenue.

So unless the unions are planning to picket the entrances to the South Avenue Garage, they'll be putting on a show by the front doors on Main Street that doesn't make anybody cross a picket line.

Which makes sense, because it's not in their interest to interfere with their own party's big fundraiser.


Steve Levy Has Such Good Ideas

... no wonder he has to leave the Democratic Party.

And he offers specifics, not generalities.   As in today's N.Y. Daily News.


NY - 29: Koon in Hornell; Frankel Out

Fairport Assemblyman David Koon appeared at Hornell's St. Patrick's Day Parade on Saturday.   A long drive if you're not running for something.   Democrats need somebody dimwitted enough to take on the race against Reed, so it fits.

Meanwhile, word is that up at the other end of the IQ scale, Brighton Supervisor Sandra Frankel won't be a candidate for the congressional seat.


Steve Levy Entering Governor's Race

Democratic Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy is about to switch parties, to enter the race for the Republican nomination for Governor.   Says he hopes to be Scott Brown II.

Good news for rank-and-file Republicans, who don't have much enthusiasm for Lazio and see his run against Cuomo as hopeless.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Washington Post Confirms Lonsberry on Massa

Monday's Washington Post confirms the information, first disclosed by Bob Lonsberry, about Eric Massa groping shipmates in the Navy.   Left-wing sources denounced Lonsberry's report at the time as "rumor and innuendo."

Not a whisper about the WaPo story, or what it discloses, in the Democrat and Chronicle, of course.   Just the opposite.   As recently as Saturday, the D&C was still covering up for Massa by repeating his now-discredited health excuse:

Massa, a freshman, said his decision was based on news that the cancer he battled a decade ago might have made a recurrence.

He was also dogged by reports that he allegedly sexually harassed members of his staff, a charge he denies.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Unshackling Nothing -- Part III

Unshackle Upstate, the effort run by the Rochester Business Alliance, ostensibly for the purpose of pursuing policy reforms to improve New York's toxic business climate, has proposed to step up its political activity.

Our analysis of the group's leadership, and of the group's proposal to rate state legislators, raises questions about Unshackle's purposes, and about the motives of its leaders, Executive Director Brian Sampson, and his boss, Rochester Business Alliance CEO Sandra Parker.

Is Unshackle serious about accomplishing real policy reform?   Or are its real purposes to deflect criticism from state legislators who maintain the status quo, and to channel the business community's interest in reform into a dead end?

Unshackle Upstate now proposes to make a limited number of endorsement in state legislative races this year.   This will be where the rubber meets the road.   The endorsements either will confirm, or diminish, concerns about Unshackle and the RBA.

If Unshackle is serious about bringing about policy changes necessary for job creation and a healthy business climate, here's what an appropriate endorsement questionnaire for candidates might look like:

1.   Will you vote to repeal the Wicks Law?

If no such legislation is offered, will you introduce the legislation to repeal it?

2.   Will you vote to repeal the Triborough Amendment to the Taylor Law?

If no such legislation is offered, will you introduce the legislation to repeal it?

3.   Will you vote to cap annual increases in property taxes for all taxpayers to no more than 4%?

If no such legislation is offered, will you introduce the legislation to impose such a cap?
These represent just three of the policy issues highlighted on the RBA's own website.   In the context of the Albany political culture, accomplishing any one of them would be a change of tectonic magnitude.   In the context of what's needed to fix New York, accomplishing all three would amount to a baby step in the right direction.

A legislator who can't answer "Yes" to at least one of those questions does not deserve the endorsement of any group that genuinely supports improving the business climate in New York.

Such baseline "go / no-go" questions are necessary if Unshackle hopes to accomplish anything meaningful for business -- and, therefore, for citizens who look to businesses for jobs.   We will learn much about Unshackle from its baseline questions, from whether it will have any at all, and from whether it will make them public, in addition to other criteria for endorsement.   We'll learn much, if other endorsement criteria open a loophole that a candidate beholden to the union agenda can sail through.   Similarly, we'll learn much, if Unshackle endorses candidates with a history of accepting substantial contributions from unions that oppose Unshackle's and the RBA's agenda.

The cozy political relationship between the RBA's CEO Parker and County Democratic Chairman and Assemblyman Joe Morelle is too well known for Unshackle, we think, to be as blatant as to endorse Morelle.   The group stated carefully that it would make a "limited" number of endorsements, so it can leave Morelle's race alone altogether.   Yet we'll learn much by how Unshackle rates Morelle on its "report card," and how it rates other lawmakers who, like him, are largely bankrolled by public employee unions and other unions adamant in opposition to each of Unshackle's and the RBA's proposed reforms.

In addition, the competitive comparabilty of candidates endorsed by Unshackle will be telling.   Will Unshackle endorse Democratic candidates supported by unions in competitive races, and seek to create an illusion of "balance" by endorsing Republicans who support Unshackle's agenda, but who are running for seats Democrats are guaranteed to win?   Like those City districts where the Democratic candidate could firebomb a day care center and still get elected for life?

If Unshackle Upstate is doing the job it wants upstate business to think it's doing, it shouldn't be looking for any partisan balance at all.

Instead, it should focus on:   Will the candidate pledge to take affirmative steps to introduce, and seek enactment of, the legislation that Unshackle's and RBA's reform proposals require, in order to become enacted?   Not legislation that uses the right sounding words but whose content won't go near the areas in need of reform.   If not, then Unshackle Upstate shouldn't be endorsing that candidate.   As to how that affects the distribution of Unshackle's endorsements -- that should be irrelevant.   Let the chips fall where they may.

That's how a group genuinely dedicated to actually accomplishing something would do it.

As the political season unfolds, we'll be watching to see whether Unshackle Upstate starts moving toward unshackling something.

 Unshackling Nothing - Part I

 Unshackling Nothing - Part II


Monday, March 15, 2010

Give GOP County Legislators Credit

Very rarely have I disagreed with the thoughts and opinions that Philbrick posts.   But I disagree with his recent criticism of Republican county legislators.   Philbrick has criticized them for being too passive in responding to the Democratic plan to reduce the size of the County Legislature, even suggesting they resign if they're not willing to be more assertive.   I respect Philbrick, but he has it wrong on this one.

I agree that the Democrats' proposal for a smaller Legislature is a fraud, because it's just their way of attempting to hijack the redistricting process in their favor, thus overriding the will of the voters of Monroe County. But is this the time to fight the point?

As the Majority, the Republicans have two jobs, to govern and to stay the Majority.   As the Minority, the Democrats have only one job, to become the Majority.

I assume the Democrats realize that Republicans won't trim the size of the Legislature to where it helps Democrats to take over the Majority.   Their intention must be to put on a show, to persuade the voting public that they care about the cost of government, which is why they are proposing this resizing.

But is the public listening?   And will anyone listen to counterpoints made by the GOP?

Currently my attention to news is drawn to the Massa scandal and the special election that will be coming, the Patterson scandal, the mess Democrats are making of Washington and New York State, and the saga of the Mayor vs. the Rochester city school district.   These are the timely and important issues.   Why make noise that will only distract the public from the real news, which is that the Democrat(Socialist) Party is imploding.

So, Philbrick, why the bashing of the GOP County Legislators?   And why the call to arms?   Why suggest that this group of elected officials should resign?   What is their crime?   Is it that they have put forth budgets that are balanced that call for a lower tax rate in 2010 than in 2004, or for that matter the early 90’s?   That they are responsive to their constituents and work for the betterment of the people of Monroe County?   Or is it that they pick and chose the fights that they engage in?   Or do you believe that all fights are worth fighting?

The best Generals chose the location, the direction and the time that lend to winning the war.

We're in the Ivory Tower.   They're the ones with the task of getting the job done.   At least in this case, let's give them the benefit of the doubt.


Friday, March 12, 2010

Quatro Comes Through

We spoke too soon about Republican county legislators not standing up to the Democrats' deceptive proposal to tamper with the number of county legislators.

Just listened to yesterday's Bob Smith show on WXXI (courtesy of AV Replay).

County Majority Leader Dan Quatro
came out with both barrels loaded in discussing the Democrats' latest cheap trick.  Mr. Quatro has done his homework, and was a forceful and persuasive advocate, exposing the proposal for what it is.   A genuine leader.

Thank you, Mr. Quatro.



Announced late this morning.

Full statement:

Over the last several days I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from everyday taxpayers across our community who encouraged me to run for Congress. While it would have been a distinct honor to represent the hardworking residents of New York’s 29th Congressional District, after thoughtful deliberation with my family, friends, and community leaders I have decided not to seek a seat in Congress at this time.

When I was first elected Monroe County Executive over six years ago, I pledged to always act in the best interests of local taxpayers. I’ve used that pledge as the basis for every decision made during my tenure, whether in governing or politics. We have accomplished much since 2004 – six straight years of balanced budgets and stable property taxes, helping local businesses create and retain thousands of jobs, ensuring our public safety services are among the best in the nation, and continued efforts to make government more efficient and accountable to taxpayers. However, in these challenging times, I feel more work remains to be done.

I am eternally proud to call Monroe County my home and am honored to have continually received the trust of our local taxpayers. Together, we are tackling the challenges faced by all levels of governments right here on a local level – and we are certainly succeeding. The time may come when we take our message of stable taxes, controlled spending, and job creation to the halls of Congress, but today I couldn’t be prouder to continue serving our community as County Executive.


Who Says Politicians Don't Have Balls?

Tomorrow night comes the County Executive's Ball for the Republicans.   The Mayor's Ball, for the Democrats, comes a week later, March 20.   Maybe.

Each is the principal annual fundraiser for the respective parties.   It's unclear at this point whether the threat by the teachers' union and other unions to boycott and picket the Democratic event, over displeasure with the Mayor's proposal for the City schools, will force cancellation of the event or impair the party's fundraising.

A clever lot, those politicians.   Call it a "fundraiser" and you get the person invited.   Call it a "ball" and you double the ticket sale, getting the invitee and the spouse or significant other.   (Just try telling your wife, "I'm going to a ball and you're not coming.")

So the only issue is:   how many balls do our politicians have?   Two, or just one?   This year, we mean.

Reminds us of the heartwarming old British soldiers' ditty of World War II, to the tune of "The Colonel Bogey March:"

Has only got one ball.
The other
Is in the Albert Hall.
Is very sim'lar.
And Joseph Goebbels
Has no balls
At all.


As Predicted Here

Yesterday our own Tony commented on the Democrat and Chronicle's editorial endorsement of a plan, floated by county legislature Democrats, to game the political system to increase their chance of winning the majority.   How?   By tampering with the number of legislators.

The editorial fulfilled our prediction:  "When the Democrat and Chronicle does its editorial in the next few days backing the Democrats' plan to reduce the county legislature, we're betting they won't be looking for similar savings in City Council."

The D&C also mimicked a central deception of the Democrats' argument:   that, to save expense, we should cut our number of legislators to 15 because Erie County has 15.   As we noted:  

What they carefully omit is that each of those 15 Erie County legislators is paid $42,588 per year (as of 2007; it may have increased since then.)   Monroe County legislators are paid $18,000 per year, an amount that hasn't risen since the early to mid-1990's.   It doesn't end there.  Erie County pays for a district office for each county legislator.   Monroe County legislators?   No district offices.
By refusing to increase legislators' fees over a period of more than a decade, Monroe County has exercised cost containment in legislature expenses constantly, over the years.   Therefore, unlike Erie, it doesn't have to make the massive adjustment, in fees or number of legislators, that Erie must consider now.

How bereft of intellectual and moral integrity must a person be, to qualify as editorialist for Gannett's sorry remnant in Rochester?


Thursday, March 11, 2010

D&C Editorial Board Supports County Democrat Initiative!

Continue Their Focus On Issues That Don't Matter

Interesting that with all of the important issues out there, the politically motivated prosecution of Andy Moore,the need for Governor Paterson to resign, former Congressman Eric Massa's "tickle fights" with his staff, the Democrat and Chronicle editorial board decided to tackled the critical issue of reducing the size of the Monroe County Legislature.

This ill advised plan would take power away from voters by replacing what is essentially a citizen legislature with one that would be more open to the influence of the special interests that support the Democratic Party.

Currently, it would take a minimum of around $20,000 to run a competitive race for the County Legislature -- you'd probably be outspent but you could be competitive.

This is quite a bit on money, but a sum which is attainable for many. If you double the size of the district, you double the amount of money needed to communicate with voters.

Bigger districts would make it more difficult for "average citizens" to run and make it easier for incumbents to get elected. It would also increase the influence of party bosses. I think this is the real goal of Democrats proposing this scam.

You would have more politically connected professional politicians like Carrie "stop looking down my blouse" Andrews, Harry Bronson, Vincent Esposito and fewer of the citizen legislators that dominate the Republican caucus.

Let's hope Republicans in the County Legislature follow the lead of everyone else in our community and ignore the D&C editorial board. This proposal shouldn't see the light of day!


Unshackling Nothing - Part II

Unshackle Upstate is proposing to step up its effort to win badly needed changes in dysfunctional New York State policies.   The policies that make New York one of the worst places in the country to do business.   Specifically, Unshackle plans to issue "report cards" to all members of the State Legislature, and to endorse a limited number of state legislative candidates in this year's election.

Will this give traction, for the first time, to Unshackle's agenda?   Or will it prove to be another fruitless exercise by the group?

The answer is:   it all depends on how Unshackle determines its report card ratings and its endorsements, and by whom it endorses.   That, in turn, will do a lot to answer the questions we raised about the quality of Unshackle's leadership and the motives of its Executive Director Brian Sampson, and the power behind him, Rochester Business Alliance CEO Sandra Parker.

1. Process

Unshackle says its scorecards on each legislator will be based on "floor votes and actions in committee, and positions on legislation Unshackle Upstate specifically favors or opposes."

However, the group also will consider "public advocacy by lawmakers" and "behind-the-scenes activity."   The problem with these criteria is that they open the door to Unshackle giving good ratings to anti-business legislators.

Even the most lockstep union apologist in the legislature knows there's no escaping acknowledgment of New York's toxic business climate.   They know that, at minimum, they must express sympathy for the state's beleaguered taxpayers.  So plenty of state legislators are likely to "engage in public advocacy" that makes many of the right noises, while being dead-set against any of the policy reforms necessary to fix the problems.

"Behind-the-scenes activity" similarly represents a wide-open door for Parker and Sampson to give a free pass to any legislator they may want to protect.   If something's "behind-the-scenes," it can't be verified by the public.

For reasons discussed in Part I of this inquiry, we entertain at least the possibility of an ulterior agenda on the part of Brian Sampson and Sandra Parker.   The stated criteria for the proposed "scorecards" adds to our concern that Unshackle Upstate seems to want to focus on anything but results, preferring the intangible to the tangible.

Here's a solid tangible.   Go to the State Board of Elections' campaign finance disclosures.   What legislators received significant contributions from the public employee unions or their affiliates, all implacably opposed to Unshackle's ostensible goals, such as a property tax cap?   How did those legislators vote in relation to the unions' positions?   Did any of those legislators take action (talk doesn't count) to move toward actual adoption of any of Unshackle Upstate's, or the RBA's, recommended policy changes -- as opposed to giving mere lip service to "job creation" or "improving the business environment," as conceptual abstractions?

2. Local Legislators

In particular, we'll be interested to see how Unshackle Upstate grades state legislators from the Rochester area.   Assemblyman and Monroe County Democratic Chairman Joe Morelle appears to have a cozy relationship with Unshackle and the RBA, especially with Sandra Parker.   Brian Sampson, just before his appointment as Executive Director of Unshackle, was about to become the Democratic nominee for Town Board in Irondequoit, where Morelle, more than anywhere else, holds sway.   We may safely presume a compatible political relationship between them.

Nearly all of Morelle's major donors, other than the insurance industry (Morelle Chairs the Assembly's Insurance Committee) are political action committees of unions -- the same unions implacably opposed to every reform proposed by Unshackle Upstate.

The Rochester business community should not let the RBA and Unshackle give a free pass to Morelle or his similarly situated colleagues.   (This applies to a lot of Republican State Senators, too).   In Morelle's case, the fig leaf of voting against last year's state budget, and this year's, neither expiates nor excuses an entire career as Assemblyman supporting the union agenda, the bloated state budgets, and the excessive spending and taxation that have brought the state to near-bankruptcy today.

If Unshackle Upstate has any credibility, Joe Morelle will get an F on his report card and Unshackle will not endorse him for re-election.

 Unshackling Nothing - Part I

COMING NEXT  --   Unshackling Nothing - Part III:   Unshackle's Agenda and Its Coming Endorsements -- Alignment or Disconnect?


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Messy Massa Contradictions

Enough, Already.

The story that Democratic Congressional leaders forced out Eric Massa by leaking the ethics charge against him is clearly false.   There are abundant reasons to recognize this, principal among them that Eric Massa said it happened that way.

We think The Fighting 29th summarized the matter best, and White House Press Secretary Gibbs the most succinctly:

"... let's go through what we've heard from Congressman Massa.   Last week, he, on Wednesday, was having a recurrence of cancer.   On Thursday, he was guilty of using salty language.   On Friday, we learned he's before the Ethics Committee to be investigated on charges of sexual harassment."
With that, there seems no further need to dwell on the spectacle of the past week involving Eric Massa.

Massa's TV appearances yesterday amount to striking the rock ledge during the plunge from the cliff.   He lands in that oblivion where any life in the public sphere is now confined to the likes of Howard Stern, or similar freak shows offering a venue to a 50-year old man for whom confessing to a "tickling contest" with staffers is preferable to acknowledging what really happened.   Massa's apotheosis is complete.   He's become the Joey Buttafuoco of resigned politicians.

About which we have nothing more to say.


Special Election Makes No Sense for Democrats

Governor Paterson says he'll call a special election for the 29th Congressional District "as soon as possible."   But why would the Governor, who has discretion in the matter, call a special election when there's nothing in it but trouble for his party?

Given that it's highly likely a Republican would win, that's one more vote against passing the Senate health care bill in the House.   The President and Pelosi want that?

And the likely Republican win would just underscore, once more and closer to November, public unhappiness with the President's party.

While a special election would force Republicans to pay for two campaigns in short order rather than one, any advantage brought by that surely would be more than offset by the disadvantages to Democrats we've described.   Among the disadvantages, in addition to those we've discussed, would be national media attention that inevitably would carry some echo of the squalid Massa farce.   Democrats don't need that.

Why is Governor Paterson doing this?   Why don't Democrats at the national level ask him to drop the idea?


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Robo-calls from Tom Reed

Looks like Corning Mayor and Congressional candidate Tom Reed is taking some pre-emptive action against a possible Maggie Brooks run for the 29th District nomination.   A reader, a registered Republican in Monroe County, alerts us that she received a robo-call today from Reed.   She recorded the message from her answering machine:

Hi.   This is Tom Reed, candidate for Congress.   Tonight I'm calling upstate New York voters to participate in a live, telephone town hall meeting, to discuss recent events, and answer some of your questions.   I'm sorry that I missed you, but we will be doing this again.   If you would like to contact me, please visit us, on the web, at   That's tomreed -- R-e-e-d --   Thank you very much, and have a good day.   Paid for by Tom Reed for Congress."



Judge Richard Keenan held that prosecutors presented insufficient evidence to the grand jury to support the criminal misdemeanor charges against Andrew Moore, former Executive Director of the Monroe County Republican Party.

This political prosecution was a farce from its inception, as Mustard Street has pointed out repeatedly.   A low-water mark for the office of District Attorney Mike Green; his Duke rape case.

This was the case about which a professor of criminal law said:

"... he was surprised to see a political endorsement letter at the center of a criminal charge of rewarding official misconduct.   The crime requires the accused to knowingly “confer” — or help others confer — a “public benefit” upon a public servant who violates his or her duty.
• • •

“It must have been a great letter.   It almost makes (this allegation) seem kind of funny, except for the fact that the person indicted has to go through this ordeal.”
So ends the most blatantly abusive prosecution we can ever remember seeing in Monroe County.

Evening Update

Judge Keenan's full opinion can be downloaded from WHEC Channel 10's website.   Link is in the fourth paragraph.


Now They're Calling it "Sexual Harassment"

What's changed?   Why, Eric Massa is now attacking the Democratic Party.   That's what's changed!

And suddenly, after days of not daring to speak the name of the ethics charge against Massa, now the mainstream newspapers are calling it what it is.

Mustard Street criticized stories in the Democrat and Chronicle here, here, and here for whitewashing the ethics complaint.

Sunday Massa attacks his own party.   This morning -- in the the lead editorial! -- the D&C calls it "sexual harassment," and refers to "charges involving a male staffer."

The New York Times
couldn't bring itself to mention "sexual harassment" in its first story, on March 4, or in its second story on March 6.   But now that Massa's attacked Democratic Party leaders?   And is going on Glenn Beck's show on Fox News to talk about it?   Today's story begins:

"Representative Eric J. Massa, a Democrat from upstate New York accused of sexually harassing a male aide ..."
As if it's part of his name.


Monday, March 8, 2010

Best Analysis of the Massa Soap Opera

By Rottenchester.   Who else?


Hell Hath No Fury

... as Eric Massa scorned.   Tomorrow, on Glenn Beck(!) and Larry King Live.


Even Macbeth Had the Porter Scene

Received at Mustard Street:  a communique from Randy Kuhl, of all people, regarding Eric Massa's resignation.   It concludes, "I will address any political decisions in the future ..."

Forget about it, Randy.   You brought on this mess by blowing it so royally.   Enjoy your retirement.


We Told You Massa Didn't Resign for Health Reasons

And now Eric Massa's saying the same thing.   As our own Lucy wondered in her posting this weekend, was the Congressman's resignation the result of a setup by the Democratic Party leadership in Washington?   Massa now says it is.

"Mine is now the deciding vote on the health care bill, and this administration and this House leadership have said, quote unquote, they will stop at nothing to pass this health care bill."

We all have to be careful here.   This sounds like it's part of Massa's effort to explain away the same-sex sexual harrassment allegations that the House Ethics Committee now can't investigate because Massa's resigning.

He's saying the allegation stems from a single incident, his behavior at a New Year's Eve party, which, in the Congressman's rendition doesn't sound any worse than what happens in an ordinary college fraternity house 10 times a day.

Funny thing though.   As explained by Massa, the New Year's Eve story contains none of the infamous "salty language" that would "make a Chief Petty Officer blush"  --  that Massa told us all on Friday was the reason for the ethics complaint against him.

And then there's this:
A Massa aide has told POLITICO that the New York Democrat has been engaged in inappropriate behavior “for eight months.”
Must have been one wild New Year's Eve party, if it lasted for eight months.   It's rapidly becoming more challenging, for the people trying so hard to ignore or explain away the ethics charges, to keep all of Massa's stories straight.

Drudge is all over this story today, and as always, Rottenchester at The Fighting 29th has the best coverage and analysis.


Sunday, March 7, 2010

No. MASSA is "the Latest Scandal"

"Paterson just the latest scandal" says the Democrat, and Chronicle of Lies in its local section headline this morning.   A story on the spate of politicians involved in scandal in New York.

Such short memories at the D&C!   The latest scandal, more recent than Paterson's Yankee tickets, occurred just last week:   Eric Massa resigning from Congress after being charged with sexual harassment by a male staffer.

No mention at all of Massa's name in the story, or in the accompanying sidebar listing New York pols in ethical trouble in recent years.


Saturday, March 6, 2010

Happy Birthday to Us

Mustard Street debuted three years ago this week.

Our purpose is to focus on political matters specific to Rochester, New York and the surrounding region, or affecting them.

To provide information the mainstream media suppresses.

To present original analysis of the matters we report, or about which we comment.

We strive for good writing.   We assume a literate readership.

Our interest is in ideas.   Our satisfaction is in expressing them lucidly.

Some criticize whatever is done or said by a Democrat.   Others criticize whatever is done or said by a Republican.   We criticize what is done or said by an idiot, or by a fraud.   We condemn political cowardice.

On behalf of my colleagues Lucy, Fat Tony, Steve Zodiac, Joshua, Mycroft and His Grace The Archbishop of Yentaberry, we thank you for visiting Mustard Street, to consider what we have to say.


Was Massa "Outed" By His Own Party?

... as a warning to other House Democrats?   Did the leadership leak the complaint revealing Massa's sexual tendencies to punish him, and show reluctant members what can happen when you vote against the health care bill?


Morelle Agonistes

1.   The Mayor's Ball

A few weeks ago, teachers' and other unions forced cancellation of a Democratic fundraiser, to protest the Mayor's school proposal and Democratic Chairman Joe Morelle's support of it.   The unions had threatened to picket the event, and politically active Democrats won't cross union picket lines.   We observed:

Now the biggest Democratic fundraiser of the year is coming up, the Mayor's Ball.   Can we really expect from the public employee unions any different performance?
It turns out that we can't.   Now the teachers' union, some affiliated unions and the Police union are organizing a boycott and picket of the Mayor's Ball on Saturday, March 20.   That's the principal annual fundraiser for the Monroe County Democratic Committee.

A tricky spot for Morelle.   He needs to stay on as Party Chairman to optimize his chance for nomination for County Executive next year, a race he's been planning since at least 2008.   But he can't be viewed as responsible for the failure of the Party's most important fundraiser.   He dare not even hint anything like, "They're upset at the Mayor, not me," because Morelle needs the Mayor more than the Mayor needs Morelle.

Our suggestion:   Democratic supporters should buy their Mayor's Ball tickets -- then give the tickets to their Republican friends, for whom a public employees' picket line is meaningless street theater.   You do have decent food and booze at those Demo events, right?

2.   Anti-Morelle Robo Calls

City News reports that an anti-Morelle robo call is making the rounds:
"Joe Morelle raised our taxes and increased our fees 37 times. That's over $11 billion out of taxpayers' pockets.   Now he wants us to believe he's fighting for lower taxes in Albany?  Give me a break.  Joe Morelle can't help solve the problem; he's part of the problem."
The City Council President blames unions opposed to the Mayor's school plan.   You can hear the phone message at the City News website.

Morelle has responded with delightfully unctuous dissimulation:

"The fact is I voted against last year's State budget specifically because it raised taxes and spent too much.   And again this year, I am in Albany fighting hard to ensure there are no tax increases in the budget ..."
Sure, Joe.   We know about the free pass Shelly gave you to vote against last year's budget, when your vote didn't matter anyway, to position yourself for the County Exec race.   And of course, the same thing will happen this year.   But what about the nineteen previous bloated-spending, high taxing budgets you voted for?

It's a bad time to be Joe Morelle.   He has to contrive for himself a face-saving about-face on the Mayor's school plan.


Friday, March 5, 2010

Massa "Appears to Contradict Facts"

Massa’s assertion that he did not learn that he was under investigation by the ethics committee until after making his retirement announcement appears to contradict the facts of the case.

Joe Racalto, Massa’s chief of staff, told a Rochester TV station on Thursday that he was interviewed by ethics committee investigators several weeks ago in regards to the sexual harassment allegations against Massa, well before the case became a public scandal or Massa announced his intentions to leave the House.



Says he'll resign on Monday, in statement thats a masterpiece of deception.

That "salty language" business again.   With a complaint not about naughty words, but sexual harassment of a male staffer, somebody with nothing to hide would WANT the ethics panel to proceed, so it could clear him.   As it would if it's just a case of really, really bad language upsetting some sensitive soul.

Again, talking about a CAT scan, but NO STATEMENT THAT HE'S ACTUALLY SICK.

The timing of his resignation for health reasons, that didn't seem necessary on Wednesday, is now just a COINCIDENCE.

A contemptible little man and a liar.   Massa, carry the shame with you forever.


Thursday, March 4, 2010

"Unwanted Advances Toward a Junior Male Staffer"

"But several House aides told POLITICO that the House ethics committee has been informed of allegations that the New York Democrat, who is married with two children, made unwanted advances toward a junior male staffer."
Meanwhile, the Democrat and Chronicle continues to cover up for Eric Massa.   No mention in today's D&C story that the "harassment" charges against Massa involve sexual harassment.   Front-and-center reference to Massa's lame explanation that he "uses salty language" in the office.   The D&C does it for the same reason Massa said it, to convince readers that the charges are about Massa being just a mean boss, not about making "unwanted advances toward a junior male staffer."
"I have a little problem with that one," said Jim Bowers, a political science professor at St. John Fisher College. "Salty language does not get a rumor or an allegation of sexual harassment."


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Suspension of Disbelief Not Possible

A Congressman who steps down because of his health, announces it:

  in his district;

  in a well-planned event;

  in front of the cameras, to record for posterity his bittersweet valedictory moment;

  surrounded by family and friends, whom he talks about fondly, and thanks; and

  answers questions from the press.
And we are likely to have heard of a possible health issue affecting re-election before he makes his announcement.

A Congressman who steps down one jump ahead of breaking news that a male staffer accuses him of sex harassment, announces it:
  suddenly, out of the blue;

  from wherever he happens to be when news of the allegation is about to break;

 takes no questions from the press; and

  does it by phone call, thereby leaving no record to live forever on YouTube, to show his demeanor as he speaks, or turning his back on reporters as they attempt questions.
Massa's statement reads like a hastily cobbled piece of dissembling.  Not, "I have [name of disease]", but "This last December I underwent my third major cancer recurrence scare."   The term "health scare" commonly is used to indicate "I thought I might have a bad disease and it turned out that I didn't."

Massa then jumped to, "I am a direct, salty guy who runs at 100 mph and my doctors have now clearly told me that I can no longer do that."   Wow.   First, the anticipatory excuse for the harassment charge (direct, salty guy) that's oddly out of context and that would never be part of an "I'm leaving because I'm sick" speech.   Second, the doctors' advice that you can't "run at 100 mph" -- the advice they'd give to any 50 year old, sick or not.

Both sentences put together, in that order, to create the impression in the listener's mind that "He found out he has cancer and doctors are telling him he shouldn't run for re-election."

No class.


Hoyer's Statement on Massa Allegations

From Politico.   Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) released the following statement tonight:

“The week of February 8th, a member of Rep. Massa’s staff brought to the attention of Mr. Hoyer’s staff allegations of misconduct that had been made against Mr. Massa.   Mr. Hoyer’s staff immediately informed him of what they had been told.  Mr. Hoyer instructed his staff that if Mr. Massa or his staff did not bring the matter to the attention of the bipartisan Ethics Committee within 48 hours, Mr. Hoyer would do so.  Within 48 hours, Mr. Hoyer received confirmation from both the Ethics Committee staff and Mr. Massa’s staff that the Ethics Committee had been contacted and would review the allegations.   Mr. Hoyer does not know whether the allegations are true or false, but wanted to ensure that the bipartisan committee charged with overseeing conduct of Members was immediately involved to determine the facts.”


"Massa Just Killed Us"

... a top Washington Democrat texted this afternoon, according to the Daily News.   "It's like what Foley did to [Republicans] in the last cycle."

The national press reports the allegations of sexual harassment associated with Massa's resignation.   Meanwhile, back in Rochester, Jill Terrieri, writer for the Democrat and Chronicle does a comical whitewash of the story.  Only a fleeting mention of "unsubstantiated reports" buried deep down, and no hint of the character of the allegatons.   Feel sorry for Terrieri, and her editors.   They can't help it.

Update - 7:51pm

. . . Ronald Hikel, Massa’s former deputy chief of staff and legislative director — took the complaints to the ethics committee and was interviewed about them twice.

Hikel declined to comment about the situation, but House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) confirmed that the Democratic leadership had been informed of the allegations before the news broke.



... amid allegations he sexually harassed a male staffer.

Won't run for re-election.   Conference call at 3:30 this afternoon.

Update - 4:10 pm
Massa gives health as the reason.   Politico reports "several House aides on both sides of the aisle" say the House Ethics Committee has been informed of the harassment allegations.

The Congressman read a prepared statement, but would not take questions from reporters.

Update - 4:25 pm
Massa has asked Hornel Mayor Shawn Hogan to run in his place as the Democratic candidate.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Headline: "Paterson Vows to Govern"

See?   Who says nothing can change in New York.


Ford to New York: "I'm Out!"

Harold Ford explains his decision in New York Times Op-Ed.

We think the real story is that he succumbed to pressure from the White House and State Democratic Party leaders, who want to avoid a primary.   We think Gillibrand will be easier to beat than Ford.   But not without a credible Republican candidate!


Monday, March 1, 2010

Unshackling Nothing -- Part I

The "Unshackle Upstate" effort has announced its intention to become involved in endorsing a handful of candidates for state legislature this year.

As tepid an effort as the plan seems, at least it's something.   Unshackle does a competent job identifying some of the core policy errors and bad laws that make New York State the most hostile in the country toward business investment and job creation.   It shows similar competence in its research, and position statements.

But when it comes to actually accomplishing anything ... let's just say every one of those shackles is as strong as ever, and not one has been broken yet.

We question the quality of leadership of Unshackle Upstate, and its local sponsor the Rochester Business Alliance, as well as its approach toward carrying out its stated mission.

Unshackle's Executive Director is Brian Sampson.   A Democrat, Sampson was close to nomination as Democratic candidate for Irondequoit Town Board when he became Executive Director of Unshackle, dropping his political plans for the time being.

Speaking to the Rochester Business Journal for a profile piece last July, Sampson referred to "the next part" of his career, some years down the road:   "You can talk and you can do, but at some point you want to affect the policy side from the inside," he says. "Running for public office is going to be, hopefully, as that voice of common sense that seems to just go away when you hit Albany."   So Mr. Sampson expects to run for something someday.

The combination of Sampson's political affiliation and political plans by themselves undermine our confidence in Unshackle Upstate, calling into question whether it acts in good faith.   Any one of the reform proposals officially supported by Unshackle -- reform of the Wicks law, of the Taylor Law, a property tax cap -- is utter anathema to the Democratic Party and its core of support in the state's powerful unions.   No advocate of any of these reforms could get the Democratic nomination for dogcatcher, except by winning a primary in which the full might of the party apparatus and the unions would be massed against him.   No Democrat holding office, and supporting Unshackle's proposals, could be renominated.

We think there are many people who call themselves Democrats who clearly understand the policy changes needed to create jobs and make the state competitive again, and who are willing to support those changes.

But no Democrat who's both politically savvy (as we hope the Executive Director of Unshackle Upstate would be) and who harbors ambitions for public office would permit himself to be in a position where he'd be seen as seriously fighting for these changes, much less pulling them off.   By "seriously" we mean doing what it takes to make the changes happen.

Maybe Mr. Sampson has abandoned ambitions for political office, at least as a Democrat.   Maybe he hasn't, and is just taking Unshackle through the motions, without serious intent actually to accomplish anything.   If so, that could be a useful, clever strategy for the unions and the Democrats, having an organization ostensibly dedicated to reform, thereby pre-empting genuine reform efforts from the business community or others, and assuring that none of the reforms happen.

The other principal player in leadership of Unshackle Upstate is Sandra Parker, CEO of the Rochester Business Alliance, Unshackle's local sponsor.

Like Sampson, whom she handpicked for the job of Unshackle's Executive Director, Parker is a registered Democrat.

In no way is that a disqualification from leading a business advocacy group.   Former Democratic Assembly Majority Leader Dan Walsh served for twenty years as a highly credible and effective leader of the Business Council of New York State.   In circumstances that often seemed hopeless, Walsh accomplished much.

Of Parker we can say that, among Republican political types, she is regarded as someone who pays lip service to certain principles that business supports -- lower taxes, less public spending, regulatory reform -- but hasn't succeeded in seeing them enacted, and who is no friend of local Republicans, or of the GOP-led County government.

In the 2009 elections for County Legislature, Democrats targeted three races as their best prospects for picking up the one seat they needed to take control of the legislature:   Districts 4 (Gates and Chili), 7 (Greece) and 13 (Henrietta).   These were the party's priority races.   For all three districts the Rochester Business Alliance endorsed the Democratic candidate.   Each of the three ran also as candidate of the union-front "Working Families" Party -- dedicated to the precise opposite of the RBA's and Unshackle's official positions on every key public policy issue.

We understand that RBA sponsors employee training sessions that are of use to many businesses.   But in terms of pursuing effectively its stated public policy objectives, it's been weak, to say the least.

Members of the business community who fund the RBA and Unshackle need to be asking:   What do they do for us?   Why does RBA endorse candidates opposed to our public policy goals?   Has Unshackle accomplished any of its goals, or is it all talk?

Unshackle Upstate says it recognizes nothing's changing, and that's why it's now getting into the business of endorsing candidates.   Yet its local sponsor's track record in endorsements is scarcely encouraging.   Whether Unshackle is really on the level about accomplishing what it claims to support will be seen in how it goes about endorsing candidates for state legislature.   We shall consider this in Part II.

COMING NEXT  --   Unshackling Nothing - Part II:   Unshackle's Plan to Rate State Legislators -- Helping the Cause or Hurting It?