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Off Main Street / The offbeat side of the news

Model money

As plastic models of buildings go, it's a really nice one. There's no doubt about that.

Surrounded by velvet ropes, a model of the new federal courthouse project, now under construction, sits in the lobby of the current federal courthouse.

An irate reader who does business in the courthouse asked Off Main Street to check out a rumor that the model cost taxpayers $70,000.

Not true, according to an official with the federal General Services Administration, who asked not to be named. It cost $25,000.

"That's a reasonable cost," the official said, adding that models for larger projects in New York City can cost several hundred thousand dollars.

"If you look at it, it's a labor-intensive model. The materials are not so costly, it's the labor. It's very realistic."

The new federal courthouse -- including land acquisition expenses -- is supposed to cost $137 million.

Off Main will assume that is about the going rate for a federal courthouse.


Licencia, por favor

If Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer still hasn't learned his lesson regarding how people feel about driver's licenses for undocumented aliens, well, then maybe he should look south of the border.

Not one of Mexico's 31 states issues driver's licenses to illegal immigrants, USA Today found in a survey last week. Immigrants to Mexico need to show a valid visa in order to drive.

Alejandro Ruiz, director of education at the Mexican Automobile Association, summed it all up in that USA Today report.

"When it comes to foreigners, we're a little more strict here," he said.


The Spitzers rock

We're not necessarily talking about Eliot and his wife, Silda Wall Spitzer.

We're talking about the Eliot Spitzers, a band out of Austin, Texas.

Our governor apparently is the namesake inspiration for the band, whose online home can be found

There, listeners can hear some of the band's songs, which include "Rally Guts" and "Head of Hair," which was probably not inspired by the folliclely challenged governor.

The Eliot Spitzers describe their music as "tropical/psychedelic/rock."

Don't expect Bob Marley meets Moby Grape meets Bruce Springsteen. It may be more like Yoko Ono meets Brian Eno.

Given the governor's sinking popularity, they might consider a name change. Is the Barack Obamas taken?


Communion cruise

Leaving Mass early on Sunday? Big Brother may be watching you.

We're not talking about the Lord, we're talking about the Rev. Randy Gallant, pastor at St. Michael's Church in Fort Erie, Ont.

In a recent parish bulletin, Gallant took note of the post-Communion rush out the door.

"Last week, I came in 77th in the race for the door, and I was the odds-on favorite to win, place or show!" he wrote.

He ended the note with a mild admonishment: "Relax and remain!"


Aud-ly appealing

Mayor Byron W. Brown is passionate about fixing the problems that ail Buffalo.

We just never knew he was so personally engaged in the effort.

That's why this online news flash came as a surprise:

"BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Proactive mayor Byron Brown bought a used wrecking ball on eBay with petty cash and will be taking the city's situation into his own hands."

It turns out that the news item came from the Onion, the satirical news Web site.

The fake announcement was one of the Onion's recent National News Highlights.

That's too bad, because the mayor could have started by knocking down the old Aud.


Written by John F. Bonfatti with contributions from Stephen T. Watson, Jerry Zremski and Harry Rosettani.

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