These are busy times in Monroe County politics.
For starters, longtime GOP boss Steve Minarik has been named as a frontrunner to succeed the retiring New York State Republican Party chair Alexander "Sandy" Treadwell. The state's Republicans will meet in Albany next week to elect a new chairperson.
Minarik told City Newspaper he'd likely be interested in the position and is building support for such a bid from around the state.
"I think I'd be interested," he says. "I think we can bring some of the magic we have here in Monroe County to Albany."
Monroe County Legislature republican Majority Leader Bill Smith says he believes Minarik will get the job and praises the local leader's political skills.
"It is an excellent choice and it's good news for the statewide Republican Party," he says.
Smith's counterpart across the aisle also says she respects Minarik's political abilities, even while disagreeing with his views and tactics.
"He's been a very tough competitor at the local level and I imagine he will be equally tough at the state level if he goes," says Stephanie Aldersley. "I don't think his style of leadership would be tolerated in the Democratic Party, but it seems to work for him, so you know I wish him well."
Aldersley and her fellow Democrats, meanwhile, have their own reason to celebrate. Former Monroe County Democratic Party Chair Ted O'Brien was appointed by County Legislature President Wayne Zyra to fill the lej seat left vacant by Jay Ricci, who recently moved to Connecticut to take a job. O'Brien is a partner in the Rochester law firm Harris, Chesworth, and O'Brien.
"Ted is a dear friend and I couldn't be more delighted and more proud of the fact that he'll be joining us," says Aldersley. Appointments only last until the next general election, so O'Brien will have to run next year in his Irondequoit district to defend the seat, but Aldersley says she's confident of his abilities and his chances in 2005.
"I think he'll do very, very well," she says. "He's very energetic, he really cares deeply, and he's very well-known in Irondequoit, so I look forward to his service to the community for a long time to come."
Maybe Jesse Thompson was a dreamer.
"I think he was a dreamer," says Rochester City Councilman Adam McFadden. "But I think his goals were doable." McFadden and Thompson forged a quick friendship when McFadden formed a taskforce to address some of Thompson's business concerns.
"Jesse and I became so close that he would always refer to me as his little brother," he says. "He was a standup individual. He was a great friend."
Johnson was found dead in his club last Thursday, November 4, from apparent natural causes. He was 52.
Thompson opened Club Rain, 360 Monroe Avenue, in 2002 in an effort to bring an upscale nightclub to the city and revitalize nightlife in the Monroe Avenue area.
"He had a great vision for the city," says business partner and best friend Leslie Charles. "He cared deeply about its future. He wanted to see Monroe Avenue thrive."
Club Rain's financial woes threatened to overshadow Thompson's efforts, but he persevered optimistically with the help of friends like McFadden.
"We were putting together a package to help him out with the debt load he had over at the club," McFadden says. "And we were working on things around entertainment and the policing issues he was having. This guy was a fighter. He was not going to give up. He was as tough as they come. I hope people remember Jesse for all the great things he did as a business owner and a very loyal friend."
At press time, the future of Club Rain was uncertain.
On procedural grounds
For Maggie Brooks' first budget, it's almost the day of reckoning.
This week, county legislators will be working to put the finishing touches on a county budget for 2005. And while there's been mainly praise for the budget, much of the criticism has centered on a procurement policy. Slipped into the budget, it gave the county executive sweeping powers to bypass the standard bid procedure when entering into contracts.
Those powers will now be limited if an amendment proposed by Ways and Means Committee Chair Jack Driscoll is passed. The amendment adds a clause stating the power to waive competitive bids applies only in emergencies.
In a letter to Driscoll requesting the changes, County Purchasing Manager Kevin Finnerty implied that the original language was merely an oversight: "The intent of this proposed language was to allow this waiver only in emergency situations," he wrote. "Unfortunately, the clarifying language was not included in the policy."
But for the heads of both legislative caucuses, the balance of power within county government also plays a factor.
"I think probably the wiser old heads in the legislature prevailed," says Democratic Minority Leader Stephanie Aldersley. "Despite the fact that the administration and the legislature are of the same party, it's rare to see legislators want to give away legislative authority. So I think they were probably preserving the rights and responsibilities of the legislature, as they should do."
Bill Smith, Republican majority leader, says of the original procurement policy included in the proposed budget: "It was unclear in a way that caused concern to members of the legislature because it gave the county executive --- and remember when you're looking at these things, you're not looking at a particular individual county executive, you're looking at the office over time --- the ability to waive having to do a request for proposals. People were not comfortable with that and it was only the administration's intention that it be permitted in the event of a bona fide emergency."
After Driscoll introduced the amendment at last week's public hearing, Democratic Legislator Bill Benet suggested adding a provision that would require the county executive to notify the legislature if the emergency clause is used. Aldersely expects her caucus to propose that provision when the full legislature considers the budget for adoption Tuesday, November 16.
Is that likely to be passed? "You know, I haven't followed up on the progress of that so I don't want to speak out of turn," says Smith, "but it does not sound unreasonable to me."
In the article "A feeling of (fore)closure," (City Newspaper,November 3-9), we mistakenly reported that homeowners who owe back taxes and enroll in a payment program have 12 months to get caught up. In fact, the program allows for up to 18 months in which to pay back taxes.