Outspoken developer Carl Paladino isn’t one to mince words.
And on Tuesday, during a public forum sponsored by a local group of concerned citizens, the owner of the former United Office Building in downtown Niagara Falls didn’t disappoint.
Speaking before a crowd of more than 100 people who attended a public forum sponsored by the Niagara County Patriots at Frontier Fire Hall in the Town of Wheatfield, Paladino said he didn’t believe Erie County Executive Chris Collins should have apologized for remarks he made about state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver that some construed as anti-semetic.
Paladino said he told an aid to Collins on Tuesday the county executive should instead keep up the pressure on Silver whom he characterized as “probably the most corrupt and incompetent human being to ever serve in state government in the state of New York.”
“If I could ever describe a person who would fit the bill of an Antichrist or a Hitler, this guy is it,” Paladino said. “I’m sure Chris had no — absolutely no — intention whatsoever of insulting the Jewish faith or the ethnic group or religion.”
Collins made waves during a political fundraiser on Saturday when he compared Silver — an Orthodox Jew who is widely considered one of the most powerful figures in state government — to Adolf Hitler and the Antichrist. Collins later apologized for what he called a “poor joke.”
Paladino’s remarks on the Collins’ situation came during his address on what he considers to be the very sorry state of local, state and federal government. He described Silver as the lone remaining member of New York’s famed “three-men-in-the-room” government and said his meddling in affairs in Albany has done a disservice to Western New York and the entire state for far too long. Paladino suggested that while comments like those made by Collins draw immense attention and media coverage, bigger issues of concern faced by everyday working people continue to fall by the wayside, including New York’s high taxes, lack of growth and other assorted problems.
Paladino suggested it was time for everyday citizens to start calling it like it is and calling out those who should be held responsible for the mess.
“We have to go after these people that want to make us feel like we did something wrong,” Paladino said. “Every day you get up and go to work. Everyday you tend to your chores and your responsibilities in life and raise your children. You go to church. You live by Christian values. You do the right thing. They made up a set of rules and you live by them. But you start to get that itch and you say to yourself, ‘I can’t take these rules anymore.’ ”
The Niagara County Patriots were formed earlier this year by a group of local residents and business owners who felt frustrated over the direction of their government. Louann Gosch, one of the founding members who owns an antique shop in Sanborn, said part of the inspiration came from Glenn Beck’s 912 Project, a Web-based campaign the conservative radio talk show host Beck describes as a place where like-minded Americans can find direction in taking back control of their country. Gosch said the Niagara County Patriots started with about eight core members and has so far held three public meetings, with attendance growing with each event.
“I’m afraid of what America is going to look like when my grandchild is a teenager or a young adult,” she said. “I’m afraid of the massive spending they are doing. Eventually something is going to happen. Just like at your own house, with credit card debt or mortgage debt, eventually it’s going to come and get you and so is this. I want to say to the politicians — stop, just stop.”
As one of the guest speakers at Tuesday’s forum, Paladino offered a sobering assessment of the current state of affairs in local politics and government, singling out representatives like Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins and state Assemblyman Bill Stachowski and state Sen. Antoine Thompson as prime offenders to the ideals of a government that is supposed to be of the people and for the people. He criticized local and state officials for failing to protect the people’s interest in the so-called sweep of more than $500 million of revenue from the New York Power Authority into the state’s coffers. He was especially critical of Stachowski and Thompson, a pair of Democrats whom he said could and should have done more to protect their constituents instead of bowing to the interests of their party bosses downstate.
“That, in my jargon, is money that should have been used on development in Western New York,” he said.
Paladino did not reserve his comments for Democrats alone, offering a healthy dose of criticism for former Gov. George Pataki and one of his chief aides in Niagara Falls, the former head of the state-run USA Niagara Development Corp. Michael Wilton whom he said nobody would hire to “work in a Delta Sonic car wash.”
Paladino said the casino agreement with the Seneca Nation of Indians, which was hailed by Pataki, Wilton and others in local and state government as a grand solution to the area’s problems at the time, turned out to be yet another losing proposition for average taxpayers in Western New York.
“They gave (the Senecas) a monopoly,” he said. “What kind of governance is that? And that was a Republican governor with a couple of incompetent advisors.”
“The cookies were in and all you little guys, all you guys here, all you people in this community, you got screwed,” he added.
The developer, who renovated the old United Office Building and renamed it the Giacomo boutique hotel, encouraged those in the audience to ignore Republican and Democratic labels come election time and focus on the individuals themselves. He argued that government is out of control at all levels and both sides deserve a share of the blame.
“I think it’s time for us to take our government back and that’s what I’m all about,” Paladino said. “I’m not a politician. I’m not running for any office. I seek no particular goal or power. I think of my role as the guy who can call out the bad guys because I can.”
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