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OFF MAIN STREET / The offbeat side of the news

Even a loser in hard times

Times must be so bad even economists resort to humor.

At a recent conference, Jaison R. Abel of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York showed commercial realtors a graph of consumer confidence and its impact on economic activity.

The graph showed four lines, one each for the United States, New York State, upstate New York and the Buffalo area.

"In upstate New York, we tend to beat ourselves up a lot, so we're lower," he said, pointing to one line.

"In Buffalo, we've been subjected to a lot of bad sports teams and economic restructuring," he continued, pointing to the other line we know so well as Bills and Sabres fans.

But he also found a bright side.

"Right now, people outside upstate New York actually feel worse than we do," he said. "That's unprecedented."

And they don't even root for our teams.


Bailing out, so to speak

The timing could be right for Appellate Justice Samuel L. Green's retirement.

"I think it's about time I'm getting out," Green told judges, lawyers and court staffers at a retirement reception for him this week in old County Hall.

Aside from a vision problem, he's healthy enough to stay.

He doesn't feel too old for the job, although at 76, he's already served six years beyond the judiciary's mandatory retirement age, and cannot serve longer.

But for Green, a self-described "liberal Democrat," the prospect of being one unpopular ruling away from police custody makes staying on the bench a bit unnerving, given Newt Gingrich's recent remarks.

Gingrich, remember, has suggested judges be forced to testify before Congress to explain controversial rulings, with U.S. marshals sent out to arrest any resisting judges.

If he stayed on in that kind of political environment, Green said, "I would have to have a bail bondsman sitting with me."


Lighting up an application

We don't know which Buffalo delis are illegally selling loose cigarettes, but figuring out where to start looking might not be too hard.

City lawmakers say they regularly receive complaints about some delis in their districts.

Another tip-off could be the name of a business on the city's licence application.

One recent application deserves a serious review, said Majority Leader Richard A. Fontana.

The name of the business: Bluntvill Distribution Inc.

"This is like calling something in the Fillmore District "Boombox Central,' " Fontana said, a reference to loud car stereos that have long drawn the ire of Council President David A. Franczyk, who represents Fillmore.

The owner of the William Street business did not return a call.

Fontana's not just blowing smoke on this one.

"I would like to have a full airing of why they're called Bluntvill Distribution," Fontana said.


If the shoe fits ...

Niagara County Sheriff James R. Voutour showed up in new sneakers to help dig a grave for Rocky, a 2 1/2 -year-old German shepherd and member of the sheriff's office.

The canine hero was searching for copper thieves when he fell to his death earlier this month.

Sheriff's Deputy Craig Beiter, the K-9 officer, thanked the community for its support during an appearance at the County Legislature.

During his remarks, Beiter told the story on his boss.

"That night, in brand-new sneakers, he came to my house to help dig Rocky's grave," Beiter said. "My mom was upset that he had new shoes on and offered him a pair of my shoes."

But the idea was a nonstarter, Beiter explained.

"I have size 8 1/2 feet and he has size 14 1/2 feet."

Written by Patrick Lakamp with contributions from Jonathan Epstein, Aaron Besecker and Thomas J. Prohaska.


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