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IOLA facelift

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Faced with a massive budget crunch in 2003, Monroe County got creative with its revenue streams. It started selling naming rights to parks and portions of its IOLA campus at East Henrietta and Westfall roads. And it was roundly criticized for giving up the store for what were considered one-shot revenue enhancements.

But it appears at least one of the sales could reap some long-term benefits. When local developer Anthony J. Costello bought 28 acres of the Iola campus for $2.2 million at an auction last December, his plans for the site were vague: medical office space on nine acres and businesses were being courted to locate on the remaining 19 acres. Now, "Coming Soon!" signs at the site promise the impending arrival of CityGate, "where you can live, work, and play."

About three weeks ago, Costello made a presentation to the city's Development Committee where he talked about a combination of retail, restaurants, living units, and office space for his IOLA property. Democratic County Legislator Mitch Rowe, who attended that meeting in his capacity as the city's deputy commissioner of parks, says another IOLA parcel, between the Erie Canal and Costello's property, is still in county ownership, but "could be used in a secondary phase to bring development to the canal."

"[Costello] has some great ideas, and he's very serious about this," Rowe says.

Costello has declined to comment on the development until it's further along. According to Rowe, Costello's development company is working with Brighton and the city to get zoning approvals for his plans, since portions of the site sit on either Brighton or city land.


Damage control

Samara Barend disciplined her campaign manager, but allowed him to remain on staff, after he lied about his role in leaking her opponent's divorce records to the press.

An investigation by Steuben County District Attorney John Tunney found that Jonah Siegellak obtained Randy Kuhl's records, apparently by accident, from a campaign volunteer seeking public records in the county clerk's office.

The documents, which included potentially damaging accusations, later turned up on the Internet, and then in the mainstream media. Siegellak initially denied any knowledge of the incident, before apologizing in a press conference after the investigation's results were made public. He is no longer allowed to speak to the press, Barend says. Barend and Kuhl are both vying to replace Amo Houghton to represent New York's 29th district in the US House of Representatives.

Tunney said that possessing or distributing such materials is not illegal in New York. "I'm not even certain if they knew that it shouldn't have been released," says Tunney. Legally, the only possible fault could lie with the clerk who released the sealed documents. But Tunney says his investigation found nothing to indicate criminal activity: "The overwhelming evidence suggests that it was inadvertent."

Barend, meanwhile, says it was the lack of honesty that cost Siegellak his position. "The major error in judgment was not being forthright from the beginning," she says. Barend says she gave Siegellak the option of leaving or owning up to what he'd done. "He's stepped up and taken responsibility for his action," she says.

Barend's press secretary Don Weigel echoed that, saying, "He realized his mistake and admitted it, which is rare in politics." Now that he's done so, Weigel suggests, it's time for Kuhl to address the allegations in the divorce documents.

Barend was less aggressive, saying simply that anyone serving in public office needs to conform to a higher standard of conduct in their private life as well as in public. "One is a reflection on the other," she says. "My opponent went and looked for documents on me," she notes, adding that Kuhl's campaign was unsuccessful finding anything damaging.

Both campaigns will now hold their breath to see which revelations --- those in the divorce documents, or those surrounding their release --- will be more damaging.


Crossing the line

If you're a Democrat or Independent in the 56th State Senate district, you might have received a odd bit of campaign mail recently.

The district --- which includes most of the city plus Greece, Parma, and Brighton --- has an almost prohibitively high ratio of Democrats to Republicans. Yet the seat has been represented in Albany by a Republican Senator, Joe Robach.

So residents could be forgiven their surprise when a flyer circulated to households written by a group calling themselves "Democrats for Joe Robach." "It is a rare individual that can bring us together to encourage Democrats to support someone on the other side of the political aisle," the letter begins. It includes a litany of supporters that reads like a Who's Who of Democratic Politics in Monroe County: City School Board President (and Former County Democratic Committee Chair) Rob Brown's name shows up. So do those of two other former committee chairs, half the city council (Brian Curran, Adam McFadden, Bill Pritchard, and Gladys Santiago), and two county legislators (Calvin Lee and Mitch Rowe).

Robach's opponent on the Democratic line is Bob Ertischek (a lawyer, not a minister as he was incorrectly identified in last week's edition of City Newspaper). Far from being concerned about how many within his party are endorsing his opponent, Ertischek embraces the news as a sign of the threat his anti-Albany campaign poses to Robach. "I take it as a compliment, frankly," he says. "Why does he need to do that if I'm an insignificant candidate?"

But Rochester Mayor Bill Johnson, who's also the group's co-chair, doesn't see it the same way. "It's not about his party," he says.

Robach, a Democrat when he was in the Assembly, switched parties to run for State Senate. And ironically, that's the reason why Democrats are supporting him: "The people with the most clout in New York State are the people in the majority" in their house, says Johnson. Democrats dominate the state Assembly, while Republicans are in control of the state Senate. "Why would I stop dealing with him just because he changed parties?"

Besides, says Johnson (and the flyer), Robach "makes sure Rochester is brought up" when the state makes important decisions on policy and funding.

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