Off Main Street / The offbeat side of the news - The Buffalo News

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Off Main Street / The offbeat side of the news

Jury hung up on analogy

There’s always a sense of anticipation, a sense of urgency, around the federal courthouse downtown when juries are deciding the fate of a defendant.

In the case of Jack Reid III, of Amherst, the men and women reviewing the government’s claims that he sold cocaine seemed particularly methodical in their deliberations, leaving many in the courthouse debating when they might come back with a verdict.

And then came a note that even U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara, a veteran of more than two decades on the bench, found interesting. It seems the jury wanted an explanation about the conspiracy aspect of the charges against Reid.

“Is ‘continued to act for the duration of the conspiracy’ like a relay race where the baton is always moving?” the note said. “Or is it like a rainy day where it rains for the day but there are periods of time in the day where it doesn’t rain?”

Arcara, obviously amused by the note, said he wanted to “sleep on this.”

“In my 26 years as a judge,” he said, “I don’t recall a note with an analogy of a baton and a rainy day.”

The jury, by the way, found Reid guilty.

It all adds up

The Erie County Comptroller’s Office this week released a review of the last five years of spending on the Legislature while the Democrats were still in control.

According to Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw, the body’s GOP-aligned majority initially sought to audit just a year’s worth of spending until a preliminary review by his staff convinced lawmakers there could be a veritable gold mine of apparent malfeasance to undercover with a five-year review.

“When we brought some legislators in, their eyes opened up very wide,” Mychajliw said, “and that’s when they asked for a five-year review to go back and see if there was a pattern.”

The report meticulously documented staff reimbursements of $1.83 for stamps; $34.18 for toilet paper and $116.41 in late fees to Time Warner for Internet access. It all adds up.

At the end of the day, however, it wound up accounting for around 0.45 percent of the roughly $15 million that was spent by the Legislature between Jan. 1, 2009, and Dec. 31, 2013. The new majority is vowing to improve upon that record by implementing a set of policies to better monitor spending.

And who could argue with that?

Another downsizing battle

There’s nothing like some good, old-fashioned grandstanding, eh?

Recently, during a heated exchange between Lancaster Village Trustee Russell Sugg and Mayor Paul M. Maute over whether the village ought to dissolve its court system to save money, the usually reserved mayor cracked at Sugg: “I’m proud of you. You’re showboating again.”

Sugg retorted: “I’m not showboating.”

That, um, snappy comeback, aside, Sugg may have more support for his downsizing idea across Broadway.

Town Supervisor Dino J. Fudoli seemed supportive of looking into a court merger. Fudoli told The News it just might make sense. “Lancaster right now is suffering from 16 years of one-party rule, and the friends-and-family plan run amok. In this day and age, government is so expensive to run, and towns and villages become their own little job agencies,” Fudoli said.

Winter’s long retreat

It looks like we’re finally there. After the seventh snowiest winter in the recorded history of Buffalo weather – and a time where the Great Lakes were more frozen then they have been since 1979 – it looks like skies are finally clearing. At least clearing of any remnants of precipitation in the form of snow.

Friday, Lake Erie crested above the freezing point for the first time since Jan. 3. The temperature struck 33 degrees. That ended a stretch of 119 consecutive days at 32 degrees.

So, for the winter weary, there’s nowhere to go but up, at least until September comes.

Off Main Street is written by Harold McNeil, with contributions by Phil Fairbanks, Karen Robinson and T.J. Pignataro.


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