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By James Hufnagel

Someone please tell Francine Del Monte that she no longer represents us in the New York State Assembly.

"Francine Del Monte -- 138th Assembly District" is the headline emblazoned across the top of her website, FrancineDelMonte.com. Framed by the American flag and the falls of Niagara, a beaming Francine stands jauntily in semi-profile, with head high and arms confidently folded.

"Francine Del Monte (D-Lewiston)" invites you to stop by her Pine Avenue office, where staff members Andrea Colao (Chief of Staff), Nicholas A. Melson (Legislative Director), A. J. Gelose (Legislative Aide and Scheduler) and Ida Massaro (Legislative Aide), strangely, appear to be still on the job.

At another location on the Internet, Francine's Facebook page lists her employer front and center: New York State Assembly.

Is this a sad case of denial, or indications that Del Monte, having purposely thrown the general election to the Republicans by splitting the Democratic Party vote, is planning a comeback?

Whether to exact revenge on the voters, or as a deliberate strategy to set up a Republican opponent for next year instead of John Accardo, who would have proven much tougher to run against, it's undeniable that Del Monte, in a naked act of self-interest, put us at a distinct disadvantage in the state Legislature.

Assembly Republicans find it impossible to introduce bills or even get them voted out of committee. Member items, which provide funding for important local needs, flow more freely and abundantly to majority members. Allowances for staff, constituent services and travel reimbursement for minority members are subject to majority approval, and they get far less.

Majority Democrats even reserve to themselves the right to review opposition newsletters and mailings as a requirement before allocating printing and postage costs.

It isn't all bad for the Assembly Republicans, however. Once in a while, if they behave themselves, Speaker Sheldon Silver lets them make popcorn and stay up late to watch TV.

Over the years, those who closely follow the issues gradually came to the conclusion that Del Monte was at best an ineffective representative, and at times an embarrassment.

At a major news conference in front of scores of dignitaries and business leaders, she introduced Gov. Pataki as Gov. Cuomo. The first time Eliot Spitzer visited Niagara Falls, at a similarly well-attended press conference on Main Street, Del Monte, who had by then moved to Lewiston, proclaimed in front of the new governor that "Retail is not coming back!"

Marking the construction of the new public safety building, the occasion symbolized to everyone else the resurgence of the Main Street corridor as a future thriving center of business and tourist activity, but apparently not to the Albany veteran of 30 years.

By the time Del Monte voted to sweep $550 million out of NYPA and roll out the red carpet for sex offenders, a critical mass of Democrats had finally coalesced, and the exceedingly rare spectacle of a formerly entrenched incumbent losing a seat in the New York State Legislature became a reality.

Less well known is the secret deal she struck with Spitzer to veto the CWM toxic waste dump closure bill, which assured the viability of the facility while elevating her to heroine status in the eyes of environmental dupes like ROLE and RRG of Lewiston.

A Sept. 9, 2010, press release stated: "Assemblywoman Francine Del Monte (D-Lewiston) is fighting back against allegations that she hasn't done enough to stop the expansion of hazardous waste facilities in Niagara County ... (she) passed legislation limiting the siting of hazardous waste facilities near the Great Lakes."

The bill that would have shuttered the massive toxic waste repository at Porter -- which detracts from the Niagara County agricultural and tourism industries, depresses property values and elevates the incidence of various cancers locally -- passed the Assembly overwhelmingly with 129 yea votes and only 12 nays, and had the bill been signed by fellow Democrat Spitzer, it would have sounded the death knell for CWM.

But it was all a preplanned charade. The stark fate of the legislation is detailed in the official proceedings of the Assembly:

A. 248 -- Prohibits the siting of a disposal facility identified in a new or pending application, in a location with potential to discharge into the Great Lakes system.

SPONSOR Del Monte COSPNSR Hoyt, Schroeder

06/04/2007 passed assembly

06/04/2007 delivered to senate

06/20/2007 passed senate

06/20/2007 returned to assembly

08/03/2007 delivered to governor

08/15/2007 vetoed

08/17/2007 tabled

Note the final entry "tabled," where "override" should appear if Del Monte and Silver had been determined to see it through to the end. Overriding Spitzer's veto should have been an easy task, given the bill's lopsided 129-12 passage. Instead, after a five-year battle to close CWM, Del Monte gained the adulation of the environmentalists, because she could blame the governor for the bill's failure, Albany still had Niagara County as its destination to truck the region's hazardous waste, campaign contributions from Waste Management kept rolling in, and everybody was happy.

Del Monte did not reintroduce the Great Lakes Protection bill during the 2008 Assembly session.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com June 14, 2011