The post-Sept. 11 collegiality between Republicans and Democrats has been traded for daggers in the Town of Tonawanda races for Town Board seats.
A series of recent mailings by the town GOP targets 10-month incumbent Councilman Daniel Crangle, the lone Democrat on the Town Board and the first in two decades, with searing attacks on Crangle's work ethic as a town councilman.
The fliers are giving some the impression that Crangle could have done something about a near-30 percent increase in Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda school taxes but failed to act.
Other fliers suggest Crangle hasn't fulfilled his duties as a councilman and as chairman of the town's Libraries & Technology Committee.
Crangle denies the allegations and says the fliers are a "misleading" and desperate act by Republican political leaders apparently intimidated by having even a single Democrat on the traditionally all-Republican board.
But GOP Chairman Paul S. Pfeiffer stood behind the campaign literature, saying Crangle is "muddying the water."
"Mr. Crangle has not fulfilled his obligations as town councilman. All the mail did is highlight Mr. Crangle's public record. Mr. Crangle needs to defend his record," Pfeiffer said.
"Nowhere in this campaign have they talked about Mr. Crangle personally. It is not mudslinging to expose his record. His record is poor."
Most of the attention in the campaign is focusing on the GOP mailing that appears to tie Crangle to the school's district recent tax increase.
"Your tax assessment changed and your school taxes increased 30 percent," the flier says. "What did the councilman in charge of the (tax) assessor's committee do?! . . . Nothing."
Pfeiffer said the ad is a reference to Crangle's failure, as chairman of the town's Tax Assessor Committee, to call a committee meeting and inform other Town Board members of the school's plan.
But Crangle says -- and even some Republicans acknowledge -- that the ads appear to blame Crangle for the school tax increase.
The Town Board, Crangle said, has nothing to do with school taxes.
"That's something we have always tried to explain to the public," said Tax Assessor David Unmack. "We're a separate entity from the school board. To see that kind of misinformation out there upset me."
Supervisor Ronald H. Moline has repeatedly made that point during Town Board meetings this year.
And the supervisor, when asked about the anti-Crangle ad Tuesday, said: "The literature, when I looked at it, suggested the assessor's office and the Town Board could have done something (about the school tax increase). Clearly that is not the case. The literature distorts that reality."
Moline, when contacted by The Buffalo News in July, publicly urged the school district to phase in its planned elimination of a two-tier tax system, as the town is doing, rather than increasing residential taxes 28 percent in a single year.
The school district nonetheless opted to eliminate the two-tier system in a single step. It raised residential taxes by 28 percent and reduced business taxes by a similar amount.
The two-tier structure, which some feel hurt's Tonawanda's business climate, still exists in town taxes but is being phased out.
The campaign literature does not explain the two-tier program.
"The bottom line is a lot of their mailings are deceiving the public, and that's what stinks," Crangle said. "Public service is about public trust, and the people who know me know how hard I'm working for them."
Republican incumbents David H. Rider and Raymond Sinclair, who along with challenger Joseph Shiah are in the race with Crangle for three Town Board seats, said they were not behind the mailings sent out by their party leadership.