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GUEST VIEW By Jim Hufnagel

No doubt about it: It's a tough time to be a Democrat in Niagara County. On Election Day we suffered the demoralizing loss of both an Assembly and a state Senate seat. As of last week, the scorecard for Niagara County state legislators read: Republicans 6, Democrats 1 -- the sole Democrat being North Tonawanda Assemblyman Robin Schimminger, whose district thrusts up into Niagara County from Buffalo.

There's more bad news from Census 2010. The stream of economic refugees from New York state continues unabated, and any way you slice it, one of three Western New York congressional seats will soon be history. The local media has all but written off Rep. Slaughter's district. That roaring sound you hear isn't coming from the Niagara Falls, it's coming from the city of the same name, your congressional seat also getting sucked up by the voracious Maziarz political machine. Do not think for a moment that any of this has been lost on Albany.

I attended a Democratic Party rally at a local union hall in Niagara Falls prior to the November election to watch the gubernatorial debate between Paladino, Cuomo, Hawkins and assorted fringe candidates. It wasn't long before candidate Cuomo put his cards on the table: "We need to do a better job of transmission. We need to get the power from upstate New York, from Western New York, low-cost power ... to the metropolitan area of New York City."

The reaction in the room to Cuomo's statement was palpable. There was a collective gasp. Jaws hit the table. Chicken wings were suspended in mid-chew. For my part, I laughed out loud.

Around here, it's either laugh, or jump off the Rainbow Bridge.

By declaring that there is a necessity for NYPA to send even more Niagara Power Project electricity to New York City and downstate, candidate Andrew Cuomo was sending Niagara County and Western New York a message, and that message was, "If you think I won't marginalize and punish you for supporting that idiot running against me, you have another think coming."

As an informed reader of the Reporter with an attention span exceeding 24 hours, you will recall that Niagara County settled for between one-third and one-half of the relicensing compensation that outside consultants determined we were entitled to. You are aware that Congressman Higgins unilaterally obtained $2 million more a year for the Buffalo waterfront before the ink on the relicensing pact had even dried. You know that NYPA sends most of the electricity generated at Lewiston to New York City and eight other states, and that Albany magnanimously returns to us a pittance through something called Power for Jobs.

Hundreds of NYPA bureaucrats, headquartered downstate at White Plains (which Money magazine rated as "One of the Best Places to Live," as opposed to the city of Niagara Falls, which has one of the highest rates of poverty in the Northeast), make salaries in excess of $100,000 annually.

The parkway remains an open invitation to terrorist attack, even though it has been blocked by large DOT dumptrucks in the days since 9/11.

Over a year ago, December of 2009 to be exact, Richard M. Kessel, president and CEO of NYPA, pledged nearly $300 million in economic development aid for the waterfront of Buffalo. Over the course of 2010, NYPA speeded up relicensing payments, awarded an outright grant, and issued bonds to pay for infrastructure improvements to the Buffalo Harbor. The Buffalo Harbor is located 30 miles away from the Moses Power Project, the flagship power-generating facility that is located at Lewiston, Niagara County, and accounts for the major share of NYPA's revenue.

Eight long months later, on Aug. 10, 2010, Kessel said, "We want to do something similar here in Niagara County. ... I think it's long overdue. ... My goal is to have a proposal public by the end of the year."

Three months after that, on Nov. 10, 2010, Kessel continued, "We are not far away from working with these officials in doing a major new initiative in Niagara County. ... We do want to do some important things here in the County of Niagara," to a background sound of many feet tapping.

On Jan. 1 of the new year, Andrew Cuomo became governor. He entered office facing a $10 billion budget shortfall. Albany recently swept $500 million out of NYPA to cover the state budget deficit.

Some speculate that Kessel may not even be around much longer.

It's starting to look like the planets are aligning for Niagara County.

Unfortunately, these would be a black hole, a few rogue asteroids -- and the Death Star, for good measure.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com Jan. 11, 1011