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Schimminger Holds Fate of Local Sex Offenders - and Children - in His Hands

By Craig Tretiak

Robin Schimminger

George Maziarz

Niagara County Legislator Paul B. Wojtaszek, Mayor Robert G. Ortt, and City Attorney Shawn P. Nickerson called on North Tonawanda Assemblyman Robin Schimminger to bring A.3419 to the floor for a vote, and pass the same, following the passage of its companion bill, S.5680, in the Senate Tuesday.

North Tonawanda Assemblyman Robin Schimminger is uniquely positioned to keep sex offenders away from places frequented by local children.  That’s because he proposed a law making it illegal for sex offenders to live within 1,350 feet of schools, playgrounds and other facilities utilized by children.

The bill, introduced in the Assembly back in January, is currently held in its Committee on Correction for review.

Currently, there is no law that prohibits registered sex offenders from living next door to a school or playground unless they are on parole or probation.

A registered sex offender on parole or probation, currently must live 1,000 feet or more from a school, daycare or playground. But once off of parole, or probation, despite being on the sex offender registry, they can live anywhere.

Schimminger's bill would change the whole dynamic of where sex offenders could live by adding 350 feet and by making the law apply not just to parolees and probationers but all convicted sex offenders.

A map provided to the Reporter by Acting Code Enforcement Officer and Democratic County Legislator Dennis Virtuoso shows that, if Schimminger's bill were to pass, almost every area in Niagara Falls would be illegal for registered sex offenders to live. That is because there are many schools, day cares and parks spread across almost every neighborhood.

A study made by the Reporter indicated that out of the 119 registered sex offenders living in the city today, 85 would have to relocate if the Schimminger bill becomes law.

Most of the sex offenders would have to move out to more rural and suburban towns where there is more distance between properties.

This is ironic since these areas are traditionally Republican areas.

Passage of the Schimminger bill would in effect begin the relocation of registered sex offenders from Democratic-laden cities to Republican towns and hamlets.

This would cleanse cities like Buffalo, Rochester, New York City and Niagara Falls of most of their sex offenders and see a flight of these to the suburbs and rural areas.

Youngstown, Wheatfield, Royalton, Lockport, Newfane and other places would have a majority of their towns legally available for sex offenders.

Less than five percent of Niagara Falls would qualify for sex offenders if Schimminger's bill were to pass.

Meantime, local Republican political leaders are pointing at the Assembly Democrat—who has held his seat in the Assembly for 36 years—and demanding to know why he has failed to pass the bill he authored despite being a senior member of his house of the State Legislature.

Adding fuel to their fire is the fact that Sen. George D. Maziarz, the Newfane Republican who grew up in Schimminger’s North Tonawanda Assembly district, managed to win overwhelming passage of Schimminger’s bill in the state Senate by a vote of 59-3.

Democratic county lawmakers urged Maziarz to support Schimminger's bill at a June 2 emergency meeting that sought Assembly sponsorship and passage of Maziarz’s bill.  Maziarz agreed, introducing a bill identical to Schimminger’s and it won passage within days.

After Maziarz got the Schimminger bill passed in the Senate, the Republican mayor of North Tonawanda, Robert G. Ortt, held a press conference last week to chide Schimminger into fast action.

In Niagara Falls there is one sex offender for every 431 residents, according to Census Bureau statistics.  In North Tonawanda, where Republican leaders have been vocal about keeping sex offenders away from children, the ratio is one sex offender for every 5,185 residents.  Children in the Falls are 13 times as likely to encounter sex offenders in their daily routine.

“Mayor [Paul A.] Dyster needs to reach out to his fellow Democrat, Robin Schimminger, and tell him how important it is to pass this bill,” Maziarz said.  “His city depends on it.  So does Councilwoman [Kristen] Grandinetti.  They need to call on Robin Schimminger to stand up to sex offenders and to the leadership of the Assembly.  They’ve got three days to do it."

Although it was a partisan comment, it is not without merit:  The Republican County legislator from North Tonawanda, Paul Wojtaszek said, “If Robin Schimminger cannot get his own bill passed, it shows me that his sponsorship of this legislation was nothing more than a hollow act designed to placate the public.”

Sex offender legislation of course is the easiest and safest legislation to sponsor for no one is against it.

One wonders why Schimminger would sponsor a bill like this and find that the Senate could pass his bill faster than he could.

Schimminger said in a written statement that the Republican attack was less about the bill and more about political maneuvering at a time he was not readily available to respond.

“It’s unfortunate that Legislator Wojtaszek and Mayor Ortt chose today, a day that they should know I am in Albany, to hold a press conference on this matter and with just a handful of days left in session,” he said. “I will however continue to work to get this legislation passed in the Assembly.”

It's actually a terrible argument. Sort of like saying I'm in Albany, where I should be passing this bill, and I'm mad you're calling me out for not passing it when I'm not there to defend myself, even though if I was there to defend myself I'd be doing even less to pass it.



Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

JUN 18, 2013