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February 24, 2005 ...

Slominski laments failures of legislature and county executive

Saying she would "do better as a consultant," former Erie County Comptroller Alfreda Slominski announced Tuesday on WBEN-AM that she will not run for public office.
Slominski hadn't been following local politics, until she sat watching her television set last December and caught the spectacle of county legislators voting on a budget they hadn't even read or seen.
"I would never do anything like that, ever," she declared. "I always made a point of being prepared, of reading everything I could so that I knew exactly what I was voting on. I would never vote on anything I wasn't thoroughly familiar with. I would have been embarrassed to do anything like that."
While she has declared on local talk radio that there is much more to cut in the county budget, she said she did not have specific cuts in mind.
"I have been out of office for over 12 years. I can't talk about every single detail of the budget," she said. "I don't know exactly where the budget can be cut. How many people are there working for county government? That has to be looked into. I can't believe that there aren't cuts that can be made in personnel."
Still, Slominski kept returning to what she feels is the incompetence of the current legislature and county executive.
"How many of them really understand the budget," she asks. "How many of them did a thorough study of the 2005 budget last November when they had plenty of time? Very few if any, I'd say. Look at Mike Ranzenhofer, the minority leader of the legislature. I have hardly heard him say a word. That is very unfortunate. When there were 14 Democrats in the legislature and I was a minority of one, I always took a prominent role in debates and I was always very well informed about what was going on."
As for County Executive Joel Giambra, she is even less positive.
"I knew Joel back at City Hall and I wasn't very impressed," she said. "I thought he was arrogant and I still think he is arrogant. He only got rid of that driver of his recently even though he should know by now that the public is outraged by that whole thing.
"He spent all the reserves. He's spent the tobacco money. I understand that we have a Medicaid problem and I don't think that case has been made the way it should be made in Albany. But, that's something he knew about in advance. He should have been planning ahead to deal with it."
Slominski contends that Giambra doesn't hold a candle to his predecessor, former County Executive Dennis Gorski.
"I endorsed Dennis Gorski for reelection and I was proud to do so because he was a conservative fiscal manager," she recalls. "It was a pleasure to work with Dennis Gorski because he took responsibility for things and got things done. With Giambra, it's always the legislature's fault or the state's fault or the union's fault. Nothing is ever his fault."
As for the question of whether she would run for the legislature herself this year, the 76-year-old Slominski admits that she hadn't known whose county legislative district she lived in until recently.
Prior to Tuesday's announcement, she said "Frankly I was surprised that I now live in Ranzenhofer's district since I moved after my husband died. I live in Depew in Cheektowaga, which I thought was Dusza country. I won't run against Ranzenhofer. If I really wanted to run I would consider getting an apartment in the other district so I could run against Dusza but I really don't know if I'll do it."
by Glenn Gramigna

February 18, 2005 ...

Santorum re-introduces Polish visa waiver act

Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA), chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, recently announced the re-introduction of the Polish Visa Waiver Act in the 109th Congress.
The Polish Visa Waiver Act designates Poland as a program country under the visa waiver program established under Section 217 of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Senator Santorum introduced similar legislation during the 108th Congress.
"There are nearly nine million Americans of Polish ancestry currently living in the United States. If passed, this legislation will make it easier for friends and families of Polish Americans to travel to the United States, and I am hopeful that this time we can gain solid bi-partisan support in the Senate to strengthen ties with Poland as a staunch twenty-first century ally to the United States," said Senator Santorum. "I was disappointed that during the 108th Congress, despite overwhelming bipartisan support, we could not unanimously pass this legislation because of Democratic obstruction from within the Senate."
The Secretary of Homeland Security and the Secretary of State administer the visa waiver program, which allows citizens from 27 countries, including France and Germany, to visit the United States as tourists without visas. There are nearly 825,000 Americans of Polish ancestry currently living in Pennsylvania. This program would allow the families of Polish Americans to travel to the United States to attend weddings, funerals, and other special occasions without the delay of waiting for a visa.
Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) was an original co-sponsor of this legislation.

Bush, Kwasniewski discuss international policy at White House

Bilateral relations, Iraq, and Ukraine were among the topics discussed by President George W. Bush and Poland's President Aleksansder Kwasniewski during Kwasniewski's fourth visit to the White House on Feb. 9.
Kwasniewski said, "We talked about bilateral cooperation, and both President Bush and myself talked about the adoption of the road map that is going to solve the visa problem. And it implies concrete decisions that are going to be made in relation to the visa regime, doing away with some old information - old data, statistics concerning the immigration violation from before 1989, easing the procedures, review of different - that are connected to the visa system, and further cooperation with the Congress in order to facilitate the process as much as possible."
Bush said, "We'll spend time continuing to talk about the importance of our bilateral relationship, whether it be trade and commerce, or whether it be the ability of Polish folks to travel to the United States of America. The visa policy of the country has been under review for a while, and now we've got a way forward to make trips to America easier for Polish citizens."
Bush had much praise for Poland's president saying, "I'm impressed by the leadership of President Kwasniewski when it came to the Ukraine. He showed remarkable leadership. And the people of Ukraine are better for it, and the world appreciates that and I appreciate it."
Kwasniewski also commented on Poland's alliance with the U.S. in Iraq. He said, "We are full of optimism thinking about that country and about the successful completion of our mission."

Legislature moves past budget impasse

It came in stages, but it seems the Erie County budget saga has come to an end as tax cuts were implemented on Feb. 14 and a vote to increase taxes failed by a 6-9 vote on Feb. 15.
The morning of the second vote, former Erie County Comptroller Alfreda Slominski on WBEN Radio, said that during the months of budget deliberations talk show hosts had awakened "a sleeping giant - voters and taxpayers."
Legislator Chuck Swanick who reversed an earlier vote for a tax increase said, "The public has overwhelmingly stated more than once, they do not want a new revenue and that is significant. We are ultimately elected to do what they think is right. The cuts pain me... but I will not support the sales tax extension for any percent."
Legislator Albert DeBenedetti who had held the key vote several times during the process and had advocated cuts and a sales tax increase said Monday night, "I'm proud of the fact my obstinance led to a cut in spending in Erie County."
DeBenedetti added, "I'm not sure that we are solving this exactly the way I had anticipated."
Legislator Elise M. Cusack said after Monday's vote: "We implemented Phase 1 of our plan and eliminated $53 million from the county budget - $39 million in cuts and $14 million in fund transfers."
Legislator Edward J. Kuwik called the first vote a roadmap "putting cuts in county government that have been asked for by the general public."
Cusack noted, "As I have said all along, the legislature had an obligation to lead by example, and we did that by cutting the size of our own body by 25% and eliminating patronage in the legislature and the county executive's office. Equally important, I voted to eliminate all pork from this year's budget - a critical measure that I have advocated for during this entire process."
Prior to the final vote CSEA Local 815 Preisdent Mike Bogulski said taxpayers were "naive" wanting services but not wanting to pay for them through tax increases. When asked about making concessions, he said, "I'm saying we gave at the office already."
The county now has to cut another $55 million to balance its budget. Cusack said, "This next phase will be equally challenging."
Regarding cuts in patronage and pork Slominski told WBEN's Tom Bauerle "We haven't even scratched the surface."
Slominski said consideration should be given to reduce the size of the legislature. And she added, "I have the itch to get back into elected office - the legislature."
She said of the current lawmakers, "I think they all should be run out of town on a rail."

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