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Off Main Street/ The offbeat side of the News

Gotta be the shoes

Napoleon “Polo” Kerber has a big meeting later this month – with LeBron James.

Kerber, co-owner of Fabes Sole High in Buffalo, will talk to the Cleveland Cavaliers superstar about creating a pair of custom basketball shoes, which is Fabes’ specialty.

The ideas are already flowing. People close to LeBron have mentioned possibly a design related to his daughter, Kerber said.

“Nike has done pairs for both of his sons, as well as his wife.”

King James is also an avid fan of the movie “Gladiator,” with Russell Crowe as the hero Maximus, so that’s another possibility.

“He’s definitely the biggest athlete that’s around, so we want to make sure that whatever we do for him stands out and shows our work off to the best of its ability,” Kerber said.

If at first you don’t succeed

Apparently, criminal breach of court conduct charges is not a blot on the record of anyone seeking to be a prosecutor in the City of Lackawanna.

Three years ago, Mayor Geoffrey Szymanski was foiled in his attempt to reappoint Louis Violanti to a six-year City Court judgeship after Violanti was forced to resign the post when he was criminally charged with official misconduct in a ticket-fixing scam.

Back in January 2013, Violanti had instructed a Lackawanna police officer to impersonate a friend who had been ticketed for a traffic violation and then ask the judge – Violanti – for a dismissal.

Undaunted by this legal and ethical breach, Szymanski turned around and tapped Violanti to serve as assistant city attorney. Violanti was forced to quit that post too when in 2014 he got suspended from practicing law for two years in ticket-fixing fiasco. Down, but not out, Violanti then scored a gig as clerk for the Lackawanna City School District.

Now with Violanti’s law license restored this year, Szymanski last month was free to reappoint Violanti to the assistant city attorney job he resigned two years ago. And this time, Violanti was able to bring his lawyer brother, Gary, along for the ride. The two will now be sharing the duties of the job, with each devoting part-time hours to the fulltime post and splitting the $40,800-a-year salary, while also tending to private legal practices in the Town of Hamburg.

Uber and Lyft for upstate

Talk of Uber may be everywhere in the Buffalo region, but the ride-sharing service is still nowhere to be found upstate of the Big Apple, including in New York’s second most populous metro area.

Empire State Development CEO Howard Zemsky drove home that point earlier this week at speaking engagement in the state capital, where he was almost late getting to from his Albany office.

“I took out my smartphone and I instinctively went to my Uber app,” Zemsky said, tongue in cheek. “The car arrived two hours and 45 minutes later because it came from New York City.”

Buffalo is the largest city in the nation – and the only city with both a National Football League and National Hockey League teams – without ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft.

Meanwhile, those ride-sharing services do operate in New York City and are a staple of everyday life in most other major U.S. markets.

Albany lawmakers have rejected legislation that would open the door for Uber and Lyft to operate in upstate New York for fear by upstate taxi companies that it would threaten their businesses and lead to the layoff of an estimated 11,500 non-driver positions.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who has previously offered only tepid support for expanding Uber and Lyft to upstate New York, last month said: “We need the people of upstate to tell their representatives: Don’t come home until you’ve passed ride sharing.”

Off Main Street is written by Harold McNeil, with contributions by Matt Glynn and David Robinson. email:

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