A rare dissent
It's been about 14 months now since I was assigned to my current stint as City Hall reporter. During that time, I'd say I've covered about 30 Common Council meetings and hundreds of votes. Yesterday - Tuesday - is the first time in these 14 months I can recall the Council taking a vote that wasn't a unanimous "yes." Lovejoy Councilman Rich Fontana was the lone dissenter on a sidewalk snow-clearing contract worth up to $100,000.
Fontana says (see story in today's paper) he's not against the concept but would prefer a per diem payment to the flat-fee contract that was voted on, at least for this year, since there's only two months left to winter. I mentioned to Fontana after the meeting that his no vote was the first I could recall hearing on the Council over these past 14 months. Fontana didn't have any on-the-record comment, but did seem to realize how unusual dissension is when it comes to Council votes.
Remember that 60th district Buffalo state Senate race from two years ago? The seat is up again in November, this time with Democrat Marc Panepinto as the incumbent rather than Republican Mark Grisanti. So when the most recent campaign finance reports came out over the past few days, the first ones I checked were about the 60th District Senate seat.
Panepinto has $140,922 in his political war chest. Kevin Stocker, the Republican who upset Grianti in that 2014 GOP primary - who is expected to challenge Panepinto this year - has $126,995 in his political fund. Grisanti got a judicial appointment after his 2014 loss, so he won't be on the ballot. Al Coppola, the Democrat who ran a 2014 primary against Democratic, didn't file a January finance report.
Magic Opportunity Bus
Mayor Brown's been using his office as a bully pulpit to push his Opportunity Pledge as a way to get the minority hiring issue out in front of those controlling jobs. Erie County Legislator Betty Jean Grant, meanwhile, has been helping to organize protests at construction sites where minority hiring numbers - particularly among African-Americans - are considered low. Now, Darius Pridgen, the Council President who is also bishop at True Bethel Baptist Church, is talking bringing job applications and job training right to the neighborhoods suffering from high unemployment. He's hoping his church can raise funds for an "Opportunity Bus" that would go into the neighborhoods with laptops residents can use to look for and apply for jobs. The bus can also offer job recruiters to talk directly to residents, and other job related and other services, including trainers to help residents prepare for job tests, or general job preparedness.
(Here's link to a story in today's paper on the minority employment picture in Erie County. The numbers aren't good.)
Today's events calendar
Zoning Board meets this afternoon.