Our favorite photo of Carl Paladino. By Brendan Bannon.
Our favorite photo of Carl Paladino. By Brendan Bannon.

The Public Record: Paladino and Other Diversions

by / Jul. 6, 2017 2pm EST

Paladino Finds Nirvana: When Carl Paladino finally had his day in court—or, rather, in a state education headquarters hearing roomin Albany—he carried it with unmistakable swagger. On the first day of hearings, he was snapping photos of a portrait of his former ally on the Board of Regents, Robert W. Bennett, from inside the hearing room. In the subsequent days, he was caught mugging for media with two thumbs up on either side of a calculated grin. Uncharacteristically, he bit his tongue around reporters and relied on his attorney, former New York Attorney General Dennis Vacco, to be the mouthpiece, not so much for his argument, but for his agenda.  

It’s clear that whatever happens with the case, in Paladino’s mind he has already won. In exchange for potentially violating the Board of Education’s Code of Conduct by disclosing details of executive session dealings around the negotiation of a new contract for the Buffalo Teacher’s Federation in a January article in Artvoice, he was given the green light to air his pet grievances with state education commissioner Mary Ellen Elia as judge and witness. Why this arrangement was arrived upon in the first place is the real question: skilled attorneys on both sides bringing in key witnesses to testify and opine with a lifelong educator serving the role of judge.

The real reason the board majority and its allies rallied against Paladino, of course, was his obscenely racist written comments directed at the Obamas in a December article in the now-defunct Buffalo alt-weekly. Of course it was retaliation and of course it’s warranted.

But if he’s to be removed from elected office, it seems sticky to do so for the comments alone; it would have to be the technical transgression. Why this matter deserved five days of hearings in Albany, we still can’t figure out. Either he violated the Code of Conduct or he didn’t, and State Ed has to determine their level of subsequent intervention. For Paladino’s side, he was gifted five days to make the Buffalo Public Schools look like a real shit-show to the entire state, which has been his underlying thesis for 10 years. Paladino has already won; he forced people to listen to his gripes, his venom. He forced the process to reward his racism.

When Paladino finally took the stand, he said he regretted making those comments to Artvoice. Bullshit. In the immediate aftermath, he refused to apologize, issuing a rambling statement about the “silent majority, rising up to destroy the Republican and Democrat establishment in America.” He ended that letter with a fuck you: “Merry Christmas and tough luck if you don’t like my answer.”

The Sleepy Race for Mayor: In 10 weeks, the three-way race for mayor which will be mostly decided in the September Democratic primary. Community activists and some elected officials of different stripes are claiming a crisis in lead poisoning, a crisis in the relationship between the city’s police and its citizens, the perennial crisis in the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority, and the mayor’s home turf political organization was raided by multiple law enforcement agencies for documents possibly related to a campaign finance investigation, and would anyone recognize Mark Schroeder’s or Betty Jean Grant’s voices if they called you on the phone? Fundraising is always an issue against an incumbent, but you don’t need money to call a press conference and challenge the mayor on any one of the many issues on which he has been weak or slow to move.

Checkpoints: The use of crime suppression police checkpoints in recent years has raised questions not only about the constitutionality of such practices but also about potential racial bias in how the checkpoints are administered. The BPD’s Strike Force Unit carries out a daily checkpoint, usually in the early evening. There’s a Facebook group dedicated to sharing the locations of these checkpoints.

A 2016 study of BPD checkpoints included a map of police checkpoint distribution in Buffalo: It showed 46 discrete checkpoint locations citywide, and 38 of those locations were on the East Side. No checkpoints were marked in downtown, Allentown, the Elmwood Village, or in the Hertel business district in North Buffalo.

Recently, Common Council President Darius Pridgen pledged to look into checkpoint data to see if they were being disproportionately deployed. We’ve since heard from a resident of North Buffalo who said she passed through a checkpoint on Tacoma Avenue near Crestwood on a recent early evening. She described seeing about a dozen police cars in the area with police in the street checking cars. She recognized an officer who she knew personally. That officer is a member of the BPD’s Strike Force unit, according to the city’s payroll data.

Mayoral candidates Taniqua Simmons, Betty Jean Grant, and Mark Schroeder have all made critical statements regarding the use of checkpoints.

Ride-sharing and the NFTA: For better or worse, the seemingly inevitable has occurred and ride-sharing technology has opened for business in Buffalo. Amidst daily reporting on Uber and Lyft, Buffalo News reporter Samantha Christman tweeted that she spent $13.65 traveling from HarborCenter to the Hyatt Regency. Never mind that the walking distance between points is less than a mile, and that there is free public transportation available on the above-ground stretch of the train.

The NFTA isn’t a perfect system, but it’s surprisingly efficient, far better than what many cities Buffalo’s size have in place with far less funding in place to support that mission. Ride-sharing arriving in Buffalo is a rare opportunity for the NFTA to promote and invest in their services to make them more accessible.

There are several phone-based apps that are useful for planning trips on public transportation, but still no way to pay your fare electronically with your mobile device. Buffalo just launched a mobile payment option for metered parking in the city—where’s the love for those who don’t have a car, or who don’t want to be bothered with parking it? The outdated payment machines on the buses don’t make change and many young people often don’t have cash on them. Make it easier to ride the bus.

What’s a Bus: Speaking of riding the bus, it was galling to read Amherst supervisor Barry Weinstein telling the Buffalo News that the controversial methadone clinic planned for Millersport Highway needn’t be on a bus line. “I’ve never seen anyone in Amherst take a bus,” he said. “People in Amherst, they take a car or they have a ride.”

We’re betting, if asked, Weinstein might also deny that people in Amherst take opioids. You can hear him say it: “I’ve never seen anyone in Amherst do heroin. People in Amherst, they drink and do weed.”