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Board woos a team player

There's no shortage of potential candidates for the Amherst Town Board race.

In fact, among the names circulating in political circles is former Buffalo Bill Lou Piccone, who lives in the Village of Williamsville.

Piccone hasn't made any public announcements and couldn't be reached to comment.

But town politicos are so intrigued by the idea of a former Bill on the team, they can't help speculating.

Say, for instance, Rob Johnson finds himself out of a job soon, the Amherst Town Board could be the perfect place for him, some suggested.

"And it wouldn't bust our salary cap," quipped Amherst Councilman Bill Kindel.

His mere presence said a lot

Subtlety is a rare, rare trait in the in-your-face style of Albany politics.

Consider last week's meeting of the Assembly racing committee. On the debate list was a controversial bill to let Western Regional Off-Track Betting open Batavia Downs harness track, a facility the OTB bought a few years ago.

Though legislation to reopen the track has died in the past two years, this year it has new life, in large part because Assemblyman Paul Tokasz -- named majority leader last month -- has signed on as the bill's sponsor.

In the big scheme of Albany legislation, it's not a big deal. But the bill is being seen by some insiders as an early test of Tokasz's clout.

In an unusual move for a place where Democrats try not to cause trouble for each other in public, a Sullivan County Democrat, Jake Gunther, offered up a hostile amendment at the committee meeting that would, in essence, have killed the measure for good.

Within a minute, OTB's lobbyist, Patricia Lynch, who only six weeks ago was a top Assembly aide, picked up her cell phone and called Tokasz about the problem. Tokasz would later say his aides alerted him before Lynch.

Soon after, with Gunther still railing against the bill, Tokasz walked into the room, sat down at the table and, Yoda-like, sat quietly listening to the panel -- of which he is not a member -- do its work.

Within a few minutes, the committee approved Tokasz's bill, and with Gunther's backing to boot.

The majority leader said he wasn't trying to intimidate anyone but wanted to be present if questions arose.

"A bit heavy-handed," an industry lobbyist said.

Make a mistake, make it right


The headline says it all, and to be honest, this is one faux pas that was handled as well as possible.

The Buffalo Public Schools sent out their regular BPS Report newsletter this month and mistakenly referred to the big guy in Albany as "Gov. Patacki."

Keep in mind, it's the state that keeps Buffalo's schools afloat. So quicker than you can say "state aid cut," the district mailed out a correction to each family with an apology and three-paragraph explanation.

"First, let it be known to our governor, and to our readers, that no disrespect was intended by our blunder," the letter said. "And secondly, please be assured that our superintendent does know how to spell 'Pataki,' even if those who produce the newsletter do not."

The district, always eager to educate, went so far as to use the mistake as an example for its students.

"May our gaffe," it said, "serve as an example of why it is so important to double-check the spelling of people's names when writing compositions, term papers or articles."

By Phil Fairbanks, with a contribution from Tom Precious.

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