Governor Andrew Cuomo has skillfully played the local press regarding his Buffalo Billion program. (Present company excluded.) All that has changed since word leaked last month that US Attorney Preet Bharara is investigating the program, in particular the awarding of lucrative contracts to politically connected developers. Major news organizations from outside the region are now paying attention, and the tone is much different than what’s been coming from the hometown press.
Earlier this week the New York Times weighed in on the former Golden Child known as SolarCity, which Investigative Post dissected a year ago. The Times story noted SolarCity’s financial losses and sagging stock price. Of particular interest: Close to half of its stock is now held by short-sellers, who are betting that the value of the company’s stock will drop.
Bloomberg News, meanwhile, recently put nanotech guru Alain Kaloyeros, the Buffalo Billion’s quarterback, under the microscope. It wasn’t particularly pretty, although gentle compared to the coverage he’s received from several downstate news websites.
A profile by the Gothamist, for example, took him to task for, among other things, his Facebook postings, and concluded that Kaloyeros “is an immature, Ferrari-obsessed narcissist who has serious issues with women.” Kaloyeros stripped his Facebook page of most of its content after the story published.
Meanwhile, the federal probe continues, with Kaloyeros a “person of interest,” so to speak.
After Investigative Post reported that a goal for hiring minorities for construction work on SolarCity’s factory, two African-American leaders decided to take matters into their own hands.
Charley Fisher III, president of BUILD of Buffalo, and Erie County Legislator Betty Jean Grant have formed a new group they’re calling the Contract Compliance Review Committee, to monitor diversity on construction sites more closely.
Diversity goals on publicly funded construction projects—which can cover both the companies that get work and the makeup of the workforce itself—aim to ensure that minorities and women get a fair share of the work. This might seem straightforward, but the goals are governed by a hodgepodge of city, county, and state rules, each with their own nuances. There’s little consistency—even across various state agencies, for example—and even less transparency.
And New York State law offers little help when it comes to pushing for a more diverse workforce on construction sites. The state cannot enforce workforce goals: Contractors who fail, or even refuse, to meet the goals cannot be punished. The 2010 study that provides evidence for racial disparities in contracting—underpinning the state’s MWBE program—doesn’t cover workforce disparities. But an updated study, due to be published next year, will, which could pave the way for the state to give workforce goals some teeth.
—Investigative Post’s event season continues Wednesday, November 4, when Heaney interviews Buffalo Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash at a luncheon that starts at 12 noon at Osteria 166, 166 Franklin Street.
Tickets are $25 and include lunch. Tickets can be purchased online at InvestigativePost.org/events. The cost is $10 for those who have purchased a silver, gold or platinum membership package with Investigative Post.
Other upcoming events include:
• Trivia Night, featuring Maryalice Demler as quiz master, on Tuesday, November 10. Festivities begin at 7pm at Brawler’s Deli, in the basement of Pearl Street Grill, 76 Pearl Street.
• A happy hour panel discussion that seeks to answer the question: “Is Buffalo really getting its mojo back?” Allen Street Hardware, 245 Allen Street, will host the discussion on Tuesday, December 1 at 7pm. Admission includes a free drink.
Visit InvestigativePost.org/events for details and to purchase tickets.
The Public is the place to find print versions of muckraking reports produced by Investigative Post, the only news organization in Buffalo and Western New York dedicated exclusively to watchdog journalism. The collaboration between the two new organizations rounds out Investigative Post’s local press partnerships, which includes WGRZ TV 2 On Your Side; WBFO, 88.7 FM, Buffalo’s NPR news station; and Capitol Pressroom, an interview program carried on 20 public radio stations throughout upstate. All Investigative Post content is also published on InvestigativePost.org.
Jim Heaney, formerly an investigative reporter with the Buffalo News, founded Investigative Post in 2012 as a nonprofit news organization. Its board includes Tom Toles, the Pulitzer-Prize-winning editorial cartoonist.