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As Niagara Falls / Tales of the strange but true

>Taking what's theirs

When the Niagara River Greenway Commission held a public hearing earlier this month in Niagara Falls, town and county officials gathered in the front row, ready to speak first to defend their demand that they be allowed to spend Greenway funds in any way they see fit, not just on projects along the river.

A reporter teased Niagara Supervisor Steven Richards on being in line to get his "pork."

Richards shot back, "We worked 14 years for this pork."

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>Tough crowd

How opposed are some Wheatfield residents to a new low-income housing development in their neighborhood?

A lot, considering what happened last Tuesday, less than a week before Christmas, at a public meeting.

Vic Baker, whose Church at Shawnee Landing is behind the housing initiative, thought he had brought some good material to hold his audience.

But when he tried to relay a written message from his pastor to a crowd of more than 300, Baker was jeered and heckled until he gave up. He never got to finish the message, which was based on the writings of the apostle Luke.

"We're not in church," several people yelled.

After the meeting, one town official noted, "They even booed Luke."

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>The short of it

County Legislator Danny W. Sklarski, D-Town of Niagara, had just positioned Niagara Town Highway Superintendent Mike Moyer, six heavy-equipment operators and the four Town Board members for a photo Tuesday when Supervisor Steven Richards asked for a shuffle.

Bob Evard, one of the highway employees being honored by the County Legislature for helping three Erie County communities dig out from the October snowstorm, was blocking Richards from view.

Evard, tall and built like a linebacker, quickly stepped to Sklarski's left as the shorter Richards joked, "Why not just park a semi in front of me?"

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>Too little information

W. Keith McNall was sworn in last week to fill a vacancy in the County Legislature and immediately became embroiled in the culture of partisanship.

On budget night, McNall, R-Lockport, announced his intention to abstain on all budget-related votes, because he hadn't been part of the deliberations and wasn't fully briefed.

Minority Leader Dennis F. Virtuoso, D-Niagara Falls, asserted that no one was allowed to abstain unless they had a conflict of interest or an ethical issue.

County Attorney Claude A. Joerg said the Legislature rules stipulate that anyone who abstains for any other reason will have his vote counted as "yes" on whatever question is on the floor at the time.

"Legislator McNall, you're getting your baptism early," said Chairman William L. Ross, C-Wheatfield.

McNall settled the issue by voting "no" on almost all the budget items.

"He voted against grants," an astonished department head commented.

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>Highly visible, audible

Virtuoso was lead sponsor of a Democratic package of 11 budget amendments, all of which were voted down.

He rose to speak on every one, and some protracted discussions followed.

Finally, Majority Leader Malcolm A. Needler, R-North Tonawanda, rose to say he hoped to hear some other Democrat speak.

Needler told Virtuoso, "I don't want to see you get tired and get your hair messed up."

"OK, now you got me rattled," said Virtuoso, stroking his ever-perfect coiffure.

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>Running on fumes

The City of Lockport has decided to sell a 1989 Ford Ranger pickup truck, which a recent Common Council resolution charitably described as "obsolete."

The truck is used on Saturday mornings for the Community Pride program of forced labor by minor offenders sentenced by the city judges.

Alderman Joseph C. Kibler hailed the disposal of the compact pickup, "which I'm glad to get rid of because we're getting asphyxiated."

With contributions from Thomas J. Prohaska and Laura E. Winchester of the News Niagara Bureau.

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