Laquan McDonald

Article by Gary Kent

It isn’t often questioned that those with serious mental health histories should be kept from legally purchasing firearms. As I understand it, polls have indicated 75-85% of N.R.A. members accept background checks despite the argument that—as infringements—they appear to violate the second amendment.

Does it make sense for even a tiny percentage of police officers who may have issues such as paranoia, or bigoted attitudes toward classes of people, to be armed with, and authorized to use, deadly weapons? Is every person who goes into law enforcement necessarily emotionally and mentally “stable?”

The October, 2014, case in which Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke “allegedly” shot LaQuan McDonald 16 times is the latest in a string of incidents that certainly appear to discredit the 99.999% of law enforcement professionals who apparently do their jobs and avoid making such “mistakes.”

McDonald may have been on drugs and evidently used a knife to smash a police cruiser windshield and puncture one, or more, tires. He may have appeared to be disrespectful as well.

Police often deal with some extremely dangerous people, whom they do not know, under very difficult circumstances, very often fraught with grave uncertainty. Police have been shot during routine traffic stops. Their jobs are not easy, and the work is certainly not for everyone. The fact remains that what happened before Van Dyke’s outrageous action hardly excuses shooting someone to death.

For Van Dyke’s attorney to justify his actions by saying he “feared for his life” is suspect at best. His attorney has attempted to put an extremely damning video into “context” by describing what took place before the video recording. He added that video does not always show what actually occurred.

Just as in education and the priesthood, serious law enforcement professionals, interested in advancing and protecting their profession, should demand those whose actions discredit their profession be held accountable.

Van Dyke has done a disservice to the law enforcement community by making it just that much more difficult for the conscientious and overwhelming majority of them to do their jobs well and safely. His actions, and those of the people who attempted to cover them up, diminish the trust essential for law enforcement professionals to do dangerous jobs effectively and safely. Whether we like it, or not, the actions of a few can tarnish entire groups. For Van Dyke to avoid responsibility for LaQuan McDonald’s death, under the circumstances, would merely add to the sense of how hopeless the pursuit of justice in America often is.

Constitutional Sheriff

Article by Gary Kent

Having spoken at length with Judy Larkin, I know that she is sincere in her advocacy of the idea of a “Constitutional sheriff.”

In her recent letter, she begins one paragraph, “Any sheriff who swears to uphold the Constitution and then does not is a fraud.” (See that paragraph and the one beginning, “There are laws on the books like it (the S.A.F.E. Act), and the sheriff must examine these in the light of the Constitution.”)

The procedures we have for passing laws assumes lawmakers read what they vote to approve. I know personally that what should happen doesn’t always happen. The excuse that they didn’t have time to read it before voting is preposterous. Assuming conscientious lawmakers, such a scenario should produce additional “no” votes, rather than, as many suggest, result in passage of a measure that would not have become law otherwise!*

In a nation of laws, laws (that are) on the books remain laws until the courts determine otherwise. That is what the authors of the Constitution expected and provided.

The sheriff is part of the executive branch. As such, he carries out court orders as well as the wishes of those charged with making the laws—the elected representatives of the people.

Though the United States Constitution does not mention “sheriffs” that I am aware of, it does say that the chief executive (the President, Article II, Section 3), “shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” Mr. Organisciak’s answer to the first question asked at the S.C.O.P.E. forum was an answer consistent with our Constitutional system. Don Organisciak was the only candidate who answered the S.A.F.E. Act question forthrightly and in a manner consistent with the United States Constitution.

For that matter, the courts have begun looking at the law and have, so far, decided that it is, with few exceptions, Constitutional. I trust that the ruling will be appealed.

If our system allowed a sheriff to dismiss laws he/she found objectionable constitutionally, he/she, would be placing himself/herself above the law. In our Constitutional system, the role Ms Larkin asserts for the sheriff, in fact, belongs to the courts.

Though Don Organisciak has problems with the S.A.F.E. Act, he was not afraid to say that, as sheriff, in good conscience, he could not say that he wouldn’t enforce it without encouraging disrespect for the law.

Ms. Larkin is entitled to her opinion. I would urge your readers to reflect on where the effective disrespect for the law (and the Constitution) she advocates would lead.

Sincerely yours,
Gary Kent

*In fact, the Orleans County legislature did exactly the opposite in 2010 when they voted “yes” on a resolution disapproving of several State firearms related measures. Rather than read the entire packet of measures provided by S.C.O.P.E., they voted to disapprove a proposed State bill that would have increased penalties for those who injure law enforcement with a firearm in the commission of a crime! Four of your current legislators would not stand in solidarity with those who risk their lives daily for us.

Election Retrospective

Article by Gary Kent

Reflecting on the recent election is somewhat painful for us democrats. It may sting even more once the absentee ballots are counted. At this point, we know that two outstanding candidates, Don Organisciak and James White, were defeated even though great cases can be made for each of them. It was the first electoral experience in the brutal arena of Orleans County politics for each of them. Being a four time loser myself has gotten me used to it, but reality hit them like a train on night of November 3rd.

That said, the candidacy of Randy Bower was a breath of fresh air for Orleans County. The Republican Party has long needed a focus on people. Bower is clearly a ‘people person’ who appears to understand that those who hold office are there to serve all people. As far back as 2004, when the legislative chairperson told me the only thing the people in Orleans County care about is the tax rate, the Republican Party has focused on property taxpayers as if they were the only ones who pay taxes.

Bower’s republican roots and his primary victory made it possible for a message that democrats haven’t been able to sell to finally become viable.

While any republican primary winner is virtually guaranteed victory in Orleans County, the roads to, and from, the primary for Sheriff produced a massive republican voter turnout this year. When the Omniscient Oz decided to give the Sheriff’s crown to Tom Drennan back in May during the Oz caucus, it finally backfired, even though Drennan was in most respects a great candidate. Randy Bower’s people, said, in effect, “Not this time.” The republican wizard wasn’t going to be able to take his subjects for granted this time. Bower forced a primary and won the all-important republican line by 21 votes on September 13th. A little over 30% of eligible republicans voted in the primary.

Normally, a democrat, working with an enrollment base roughly half that of his/her republican opponent, stands little chance of defeating the Wizard’s choice. Not enough people vote for the best candidate. They dutifully vote row B, just as the Wizard has trained them to. Of course the Wizard tells them who (he thinks) is best every year. This year, his choice wasn’t on row B. Such confusion!

One down side to what just happened is that two sets of coattails may have doomed some really capable down ballot candidates. It is likely that close to 50% of republicans came out to vote due to interest in the Sheriff’s race. Many voted for Bower. Many left row B to vote for Tom Drennan. The problem for people like Darlene Benton and Bill Lattin is that, after voting for Tom, many republican voters returned home to row B. Darlene and Bill were on row A. (Though John Belson enjoys a broad base of support and should probably not be pigeon-holed as an insider under the thumb of Apex, I imagine interest in the Sheriff’s race boosted his vote total for the reason mentioned above.)

The Wizard should be careful what conclusions he reaches from the Yates results. Concluding that the town is divided roughly 50-50 on the wind turbine issue based on the results of this particular election could well be a mistake. One might even wonder how much closer the Johnson-Lauricella race would have been had the Omniscient Oz come out in favor of the proposed Apex project before the election.

Wouldn’t it be something if the Omniscient Oz eventually spun off into irrelevance as a consequence of casting his lot with something he vastly underestimates the significance of: industrial wind turbines. Of course, Oz may just be waiting for the right survey.

Sincerely yours,
Gary Kent

Life in the Land of Oz

Article by Gary Kent

Does the Great and Powerful Oz have a secret master plan for Orleans County? Why is he so unwilling to tell us what it is?

Under the Oz master plan, one asset after another is sold, folded into Genesee County, or allowed to founder, or wither. Among these are Medina Hospital, the former County Nursing Home, the Visiting Nurse Service certification, the Continuing Day Treatment Program, our historical institutions, and now, perhaps our environment itself.

The Great and Powerful Oz decided who our next Sheriff would be, by some accounts, 3, or 4, years ago. What would Oz do if he didn’t get his way and his choice came in second, or third? He really thinks he can get away with anything now that he emerged unscathed in 2013. Would The Omniscient Oz eliminate the Sheriff’s Department road patrol? It is one of our finer assets, and you may know how hard it is for the Omniscient Oz to recognize the things that really matter to his subjects.

The Wizard believes that we need to follow the lead of other counties, apparently because he believes Orleans County is no different than any other place. That may be one reason he decided to sell one of the finest long term care facilities in New York State. Though belated improvements have been made with walk in mental health services in the Land of Oz, he initially disregarded the advice of one in-house expert and decreased access to such services by shifting the Continuing Day Treatment Program to Genesee County. Fortunately, he was able to revisit that mistake. Occasionally that is possible.

Among the mistakes that cannot be undone is the loss of the County Nursing Home. Though Mr. Blajszczak, a Land of Oz court jester, thought of it as just an experiment, it is another asset that is gone forever. Of course, to P.B., it doesn’t matter. In fact the only thing that really matters in the Land of Oz are the whims of the Great and Powerful Oz. But, such losses show how pathetically out of touch he is with his subjects.

You see, when you are the Great and Powerful Oz, you do not need surveys. All you need to do is bemoan the lack of them when you need an excuse not to lead. Or perhaps you just need to delay until after an election. Or you may wish to avoid a decision that might reveal part of your master plan. Oz would have his loyal lemmings believe elections are equivalent to surveys. But personalities and the range of issues before voters make elections an unreliable barometer of what your subjects think.

A humble subject of the Great and Powerful Oz, and someone I consider a good friend, suggested something that never occurred to me. He said The Oz may have refused to take a position on wind turbines in northwestern Oz because he may have invited Apex into the Land of Oz in the first place. After all, lands beyond Oz had fallen for what was blowing in the wind. Perhaps I am still failing to comprehend how devious the Oz can be. Perhaps my friend hit on something.

One of Oz’s northwestern prefecture subjects, thinking globally, correctly noted we have only one planet. She failed to act in a locally appropriate way when she wrote that turbines only take up half an acre. Does the Great Oz even understand what a phenomenal asset the environment of his Land is? His subject might want to ‘research’ the wildlife habitat we have all around us in the Land of Oz and what an industrial wind farm would mean to it.

Wind turbines are seen as environment-friendly, and they are, in the right places. The Land of Oz isn’t one of those desolate places that are right for them. But others have made mistakes. Why can’t we? For The Great Oz, any howling from the turbines in Roscoe, Texas, or the barrens of North Dakota, may seem like beckoning from the Sirens of Greek mythology.

Last minute observations….

Article by Jeanne Crane

Once again the Republicans are jumping on the band wagon!!!! You know why??? It’s election time.
Gas prices…we’ve been complaining about that for over 4 years.
Wind turbines…SOS has been asking for the legislature to take a stand.
Welfare fraud…It’s been a problem for years.
Even the raid at the Murray Superette…15 ongoing months.
VOTERS BEWARE!!! These are last ditch efforts for their candidates. It happens during every election cycle in Orleans County.

James White

Article by Gary Kent

There are only two choices on the Legislature ballot this year. There could be seven, and there were five in 2013. Paul Lauricella is challenging Lynne Johnson for the District 2 seat. James White is challenging Donald Allport for the Legislator At-large central seat.

James is committed to good sense approaches such as a responsible phased elimination of the sales tax on home heating fuel. Properly funding Child Protective Services to protect our children is high on his agenda. He believes the Sheriff’s Department should be more involved in welfare fraud cases. Electing the Chief Administrative Officer is another of his initiatives. Right now, trying to determine who is responsible for things like selling the County Nursing Home is like the proverbial question, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” Additionally, the C.A.O., similarly to the District Attorney, should not become intimately involved in politics. Degrading the environment is not the way to bring economic progress to Orleans County, and James White is firmly opposed to industrial wind farms anywhere in Orleans County. He also backs Paul Lauricella for the District 2 position.

Allport has been coy about blaming the State for everything. His recent stance on Article X may sound as though he is with the anti-wind farm, pro-environment and pro-Orleans County crowd, but he avoids actually taking a position, just as the remainder of his cronies do. James White may be 21, but he has far more vision and maturity and does not hide his opposition to the Apex industrial wind farm project. One has to wonder what the County’s $60,000 a year lobbyist is saying to Albany officialdom.

Allport opposes re-opening the landfill in Albion. He has been active in S.P.O.C. Whether this is out of conviction or political expediency is anyone’s guess. Two years ago, he was present at a public hearing on the proposed stone quarry in Shelby. Was he there to check the political wind direction? He has said, privately, years ago, that he opposes industrial wind turbines. Since then he has heard Mr. Callard’s spiel and may have come under Mr.Callard’s spell. At this point there is no telling where he stands.

In 2010, Allport voted to give the District Attorney a $10,000 raise and a new title to justify it. Well into the following year, the Sheriff and Undersheriff did not even know the position (Public Safety Director) existed! That is the inconvenient truth.

Legislator Allport was one of Chairman Callard’s chief allies in the campaign to strip Orleans County of assets such as the County Nursing Home. It seems that, in his mind, there is precious little that should not be privatized.

For Allport, the S.A.F.E. Act was like a gift from the heavens. He may still be attempting to convince people that it is going to be repealed well into the Apocalypse. He will tell you it is un-Constitutional, but he cannot tell you exactly why, except that it violates the Second Amendment.

It would be interesting to know whether he supports Drennan or Bower for Sheriff.

If you want to see Orleans County respected around the State, James White would be an excellent choice. His election would demonstrate that we are tired of being “played.” The fact that he is 21 would, incidentally, bring positive publicity to Orleans County.

Orleans County Sheriff

Article by Gary Kent

The candidates are endorsed Republican and Conservative, Randy Bower, Independence and Reform candidate, Tom Drennan, and endorsed Democrat, Don Organisciak. The story goes that the Republican committee chose Drennan in July, after many of them received phone calls on behalf of Tom from the District Attorney, but Bower upset their “apple cart” and took the line by winning the Republican primary in September. Some wondered why the Republican County committee would even name a candidate before primary day. But many believe the Republicans have been “grooming” Drennan to succeed retiring Sheriff Scott Hess for several years. Normally, whoever the County Republican committee chooses becomes the office-holder after an election rubber stamps their choice.

Drennan touts 23 years of experience in the Orleans County Sheriff’s Department and is currently the Sheriff’s Chief Deputy. Bower has a longer tenure in the Sheriff’s Department. He has worked in the control room of the County jail, but most of his experience is as a dispatcher. Organisciak worked in the Medina Police Department for 30 years, thirteen as its first full time Investigator. He spent two years in Lyndonville as the school resource officer.

Undersheriff choices:
Tom Drennan has tapped Brett Sobieraski , should Drennan be the victor on November 3rd. Sobieraski has considerable experience, as does Bower’s choice, Sheriff’s Department Lieutenant Chris Bourke. Organisciak has asked another long-time law enforcement professional and former Holley Police Chief, Bill Murphy, to serve should Don be elected.

Positions, as indicated during the S.C.O.P.E. Candidate Forum in October:
On most issues there was little disagreement, though a wide variety of ideas were expressed.

Accreditation. Accreditation is favored by Drennan and Organisciak. Organisciak acted as though it was a no-brainer, saying it would lower insurance costs and improve access to grants. Drennan added that it would increase uniformity of service. Bower appeared to have little interest in accreditation.

Major Felony Crimes Task Force. Candidates Organisciak and Drennan favored allowing the District Attorney to continue to direct the “Drug Task Force,” as it is often called. Candidate Bower stated that this arm of law enforcement should be under the direction of the Sheriff.

S.A.F.E. Act. All suggested that no-one would have to be concerned about deputies coming to seize firearms without serious provocation, such as defiance of a court order. However, Randy Bower and Tom Drennan were in agreement that they would not enforce the S.A.F.E. Act. Organisciak stated clearly that it was the Sheriff’s job to uphold, teach respect for, and enforce laws regardless of one’s personal views. The S.A.F.E. Act authorizes court ordered mental health counseling in situations such as orders of protection cases. Organisciak would enforce such orders.