Western New York

WNY Assemblyman’s Website Apparently Hijacked By Japanese Prostitution Service

It appears state Assemblyman David DiPietro’s campaign page was hijacked by a Japanese prostitution website.

Certainly, dipietroforassembly.com has no information about the East Aurora Republican’s bid for re-election. Rather it describes a service, that appears to be called Pink Companion.

A bit might be lost in the Google translation, but here’s a taste of the website:

“Can you get naked and you can kiss too? Is there such a service? Believe it or not, there is. It is also said to be a pink companion or super companion, but if you leave it to them It is possible to have that pink banquet that you’ve been longing for, and you were angry with it. How can you play with them? It seems awful, but you can get it taken off. It is also possible to be naked and to be pleased together,” it reads. “I can do a lady that I even saw in my dreams, and even if I wanted to do it, I’d be happy to have a baseball fist that was being laughed with eyes that seem to be strange. Is it balloon volleyball recommendation? A girl is a skirt ballet. It is a volley which makes balloons look like balls and only feet.”

Other parts of the site describe the “inn” where the transaction of services seem to take place, as well as “popular ways of playing” like cosplay.

Based on an internet archive search this appears to have happened sometime between May and September of last year. We’ve reached out to DiPietro for comment.

Opt-Out Movement Continues Today

From the Morning Memo:

It doesn’t have the exposure it did several years ago, but across New York advocates said the “opt-out” movement is alive and well. Schools are administering the English and Language Arts tests to students in grades 3-8 this morning.

Many parents are sending their children to school with notes that say they won’t be taking the standardized test. NYS Allies for Public Education said last year more than 225,000 students opted out, and they expect the trend to continue this year.

The group’s co-founder Chris Cerrone, also a parent and teacher, said this is not a numbers game, it’s more about sending a message to the state.

“For every kid that opts out, it’s making a statement that we don’t like the direction when everything becomes focused on a test or just the tested subjects as opposed to a well-rounded education,” he said.

The movement has lost a little steam, publicly at least, because the State Education Department has made changes to the tests, formerly known as Common Core. Besides a new name, NYSED has take other steps over the past few years including reducing the number of testing days and eliminating time limits.

“The changes are positive, but they’re only very small steps and they haven’t really answered the demands of what the opt-out parents across New York state are asking for,” Cerrone said.

He said the tests can have a place, but they should only be a diagnostic and until New York lowers the stakes, the movement will continue.

WNY Children’s Psych Center Will Stay In West Seneca

After a more than five-year battle, the Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center will stay where it is after all. The Office of Mental Health was in the process of moving the facility in West Seneca to the same site where the adult center is located in Buffalo.

Late Tuesday afternoon, a state source confirmed the administration planned to reverse course. This comes following years of protest.

“It’s clear the community believes it is best served keeping the current facility open,” the source said.

The administration will explore other uses for the city building where the state has invested more than $5 million and construction is already in progress. State Senator Pat Gallivan, R-Elma, who helped lead the resistance to the move, has suggested in the past it could be used for patients dealing with opioid addiction.

The state will maintain plans to enhance community-based services and serve more children but will do so from West Seneca. An official statement is expected in the near future.

The change of direction, first reported by the Buffalo News, comes suddenly for Governor Andrew Cuomo, who just last year vetoed legislation to halt the relocation. The administration has also continued to defend a lawsuit brought by a coalition of patients, family members and mental health advocates.

That same coalition, Save Our WNY CPC, held a press conference Tuesday, asking the State Comptroller’s Office to investigate the governor’s motives. Attorney Steven Cohen suggested Cuomo had his eye on the West Seneca property and even tried to connect the issue to the recent corruption trial of former aide Joe Percoco and Syracuse developer Steve Aiello.

“Upon the convictions of key members of the Cuomo administration, the Percoco conviction, the Aiello conviction, who is a contractor, the testimony of Todd Howe, we have for the first time what may be a motive,” Cohen said.

The governor has said in the past the current facility is in need of substantial repair. It’s unclear at this point how much money will be needed for updates.

The psych center serves 19 counties.

Giambra Report Outlines Impact Of Recreational Marijuana Plan

Gubernatorial candidate Joel Giambra released a report Wednesday outlining the potential economic impact of his proposal to legalize recreational marijuana in New York. The campaign said $500 million dollars per year in new revenue is a conservative estimate.

Under Giambra’s plan the state would institute a 13 percent excise tax, permits and licensing fees for the new industry and a 7 percent state and local sales tax. The chairman of the Le Moyne College economic department, Ted Shepard, who contributed to the research, noted Washington and Colorado bring in a combined $500 million annually and the two states together have less population than New York.

Shepard said the cannabis industry should create 5,000 initial jobs, 25,000 once it’s fully running, plus another 15,000 ancillary positions. Giambra said its time to take those jobs and revenue from the black market.

“How any elected official in New York state, the governor and others, could’ve allowed this to continue over the years, is criminal in and of itself,” he said.

The candidate said the state can leverage the new money into roughly $12 billion in bonding over a seven-year period for upstate infrastructure and New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority. According to the report, the plan could create 240,000 direct and indirect temporary construction jobs – 35,000 per year.

The governor, in his State of the State address this year, proposed a task force to study the legalization of marijuana. Giambra said that study should have been done a decade ago.

“We already have a group of experts here today and around the state and around the country, have already studied this,” he said.

Giambra said if elected, he would try to institute the plan as quickly as possible, but acknowledged he may need the legislature to act on a legalization bill. He said once marijuana is legal, he would also move to expunge criminal records and release prisoners incarcerated for related crimes.

WNY School Districts Plan For Walkouts

From the Morning Memo:

Across the country, students plan to participate in tomorrow’s national school walkout to call for additional gun control measures in the wake of the Parkland, FL shooting.

The planned 17-minute protest – one minute for each person who died in the massacre – at 10 a.m. has districts wrestling with how to avoid disruption while also supporting their students’ right to protest.

In Niagara Falls, officials are asking students to register if they intend to participate in the walkout. In return, they’ll receive two hearts. One is a pass to participate, the second a place for them on which to write how they plan to make the world a better place.

“I believe school is more than just sitting and learning and taking tests; it’s really about helping kids come together and helping kids deal with certain situations in their lives,” superintendent Mark Laurie said.

The Buffalo Public School District, meanwhile, said it is organizing alternative activities for its student body at 10 a.m. Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said it’s good that the administration is working with students to give them a voice.

“Young people have always been change agents in this country,” Brown said. “Young people have always been involved in movements to bring change to different issues that have been of concern to them.”

At Lancaster High School, the administration said it will not let students leave the campus, but they will be able to walk the halls for 17 minutes.

Reed Supports Steel and Aluminum Tariffs

From the Morning Memo:

The only thing that seems to be clear at this point is that the White House plans to moves forward with proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, despite considerable pushback from members of the president’s own party.

The details of that plan or exactly when it will go into effect remain largely a mystery.

NY-23 Republican Rep. Tom Reed understands the anxiety associated with the new trade policy and its potential impact on the American economy. He said he has heard plenty from the factories and businesses in his Southern Tier district.

“There obviously has been some concern expressed, and it’s consistent with that which has been widely reported across the country in regards to supply-chain disruption, retaliatory action by trading partners, the lack of ability to secure supply chains that allow them to operate,” he said.

While some Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, have broken from the administration on the plan, Reed made clear during a conference call yesterday that he generally supports it.

He believes it would be a major step toward resetting America’s positions on trade on the international stag, and also send a message to our trading partners the status quo no longer applies.

“This disruption comes with anxiety, comes with fear but at the end of the day, long-term, puts us in a much better situation to grow these manufacturers, to grow these operations and do what I think what we all want to do; that is bring those operations from overseas back to America’s soil,” the congressman said.

Reed said any country that threatens retaliation – as quite a few have – should be hesitant to actually do so if it means potentially losing access to the American marketplace, which might minimize backlash. He also believes taking this stance now could help the administration’s footing in renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico.

Maziarz To Plead Guilty To Reduced Charge

Fmr. state Senator and Niagara County Republican power broker George Maziarz will accept a plea deal Friday afternoon in Albany County Court. A source said Maziarz is expected to appear before Judge Peter Lynch and plead guilty to misdemeanor “filing a false instrument.” He will pay a $1,000 fine.

Maziarz was facing five felony charges with a trial scheduled to start next week. The Attorney General’s office has accused him of playing a role in a “multilayered pass through scheme” that had him using campaign funds and the Niagara County Republican Committee to funnel payments to a former Senate staffer who had been accused of sexual harassment.

As part of his deal, Maziarz is expected to make a statement of guilt, explicitly admitting to concealing payments to the staffer. He will not face any prison time.

In March 2017, both Maziarz and his successor in the state Senate, Rob Ortt, were indicted in the corruption case connected broadly to the Niagara County GOP. Prosecutors claimed Ortt’s wife was given a no-show job to make up for a reduction in pay he accepted to become the mayor of North Tonawanda.

Those charges were dismissed by Lynch in June.

Niagara Falls Feels Strain Of Dispute Between Senecas And State

From the Morning Memo:

In his annual State of the City address, Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster told citizens he was hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst, regarding the ongoing arbitration between the state and the Seneca Nation about whether the Nation should still be sharing a portion of its casino revenues.

He said he still expects the arbitration to favor the state in the end, but remains unsure if the city will get its share, around $20 million annually, during the 2019 fiscal year.

“Our hope and our expectation is that when the arbitration ends, the Senecas are going to have to pay,” Dyster said. “But even if that happens, we want to be sure that we end up with a relationship with the Senecas going forward that’s not based on animosity, but instead is based on cooperation.”

In the meantime, the worst-case scenario is pretty bad. The city is staring down a $12 million dollar deficit, which is making it extremely difficult to even maintain the current level of services, let alone try to expand them.

The mayor said the state has no legal obligation to provide the city with funding unless it is paid by the Senecas. Given that the arbitration is between the state and the Nation, not Niagara Falls, reporters pressed Dyster about whether New York has a moral obligation to help out the Cataract City in the interim.

“I want to make clear that we haven’t made any requests to the state for some sort of emergency bailout,” he responded. “We’re not at that point. We’re in an arbitration process that we expect to win, and we hope that the arbitration is going to be settled in a timely way.”

The Senecas have also said they’d be open to negotiating payments with the individual cities where their casinos are located. Niagara Falls City Councilman Bill Kennedy said this is an emergency, and Dyster should find away to deal with it as soon as possible.

“The mayor needs to step up and talk to the people, the powers that be, Kennedy said. “The Seneca leaders, Governor Cuomo, talk to them. We have to have the testicular fortitude to be able to, you know, hey this is happening. We shouldn’t be in a deficit. We really shouldn’t be but we are so help us.”

Dyster said he has tried to avoid doing anything that undermines that state’s position in arbitration by giving the appearance it is already pursuing a “Plan B.”

Sen. Kennedy: Restore Cultural Allocations In State Budget

From the Morning Memo:

State Sen. Tim Kennedy, a Buffalo Democrat, is calling on legislative leaders to restore $2.5 million from the governor’s proposed $300 million in funding for the state’s cultural institutions to the Zoo, Botanical Gardens and Aquariums (ZBGA) program.

“There’s actually not a funding cut to the overall funding, but it’s how that funding was spent,” he said.

Overall, the change in allocations represent a 17 percent cut from what the organizations in the program were expecting. Kennedy said the state is backtracking on its promised level of funding over a five-year period.

He also pointed out that many of the affected cultural institutions already have to scrap for a majority of their funding through donations and grants, so every dollar counts.

“To pull the rug out from underneath these organizations and take money away that has already been budgeted to them and has already been committed to them from New York State, it’s just wrong,” Kennedy said.

In Western New York, the Buffalo Zoo stands to lose roughly $60,000, the Museum of Science’s Tifft Nature Preserve would lose $37,000 and the Botanical Gardens, $14,000. Kennedy said the state should be funding the organizations, because the return on investment for the community is roughly 10-1.

“When you go to the theater, when you go to the zoo, when you go to the botanical gardens or the museum of science or any of the cultural institutions that we’re so proud of here in Western New York, you just don’t go there and go home,” Kennedy said. “You go out to a restaurant. You go to a bar. You do another activity with your family and you’re spending money and moving around the community and really it helps with the fabric of the community.”

NY-27: And Then There Were Two

Two of the original five Democratic candidates remain as potential challengers to Republican Chris Collins in New York’s 27th Congressional District. Former Erie County prosecutor and Army veteran Sean Bunny announced Wednesday he is ending his campaign.

Earlier this week, candidates Joan Seamans and Tom Casey also pulled out of the race. According to the Federal Elections Commission most recent filings, Bunny had raised nearly $115,000 and had more than $90,000 remaining in his coffers.

The exodus comes following last week’s endorsement of current Grand Island Town Supervisor Nate McMurray from the district’s eight Democratic county chairs.

“While I am proud of the campaign I ran, I did not become a candidate to hurt the Democratic party or hurt our chances in November. The most important objective is defeating Chris Collins and his anti-WNY agenda this fall. I hope whoever the eventual nominee is, he or she will show the same commitment to service and to WNY’s values that I have believed in since the day I raised my right hand and took my oath as an Army Second Lieutenant,” Bunny said.

McMurray and Monroe County businessman Nick Stankevich are the two active Democratic candidates remaining. Stankevich’s campaign, so far, has declined to comment on his intentions moving forward.

He currently has about $70,000 cash on hand. As recently as late-Wednesday morning the candidate was addressing campaign issues on his Facebook page and has an event planned on March 3rd.