Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter
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Monday, September 27, 2010

This account of Carl Paladino's life and career seems factually accurate, but I'm not sure it captures the nuance of life in Buffalo. It emphasizes his confrontations with African-American officials-- Byron Brown, the present mayor, Jim Pitts, the former City Council President, James Williams, the current Superintendent of Schools-- but I'm not so sure that the take-away from those feuds should be that the guy is a bigot. I don't know if he is or he isn't, but given the racial composition of the city it is not surprising that there would be a number of African-American politicians in office, and it is not surprising that a real estate developer would find himself in opposition to them from time to time. Did he get along better with Tony Masiello? I don't know. Probably not that much better. The Rite-Aid thing is how I first became aware of him-- he built a ton of them, and they are unpopular with some people because they are unattractive buildings surrounded by parking lots-- suburban style development, if you will, that makes neighborhoods less walkable. On the other hand, he builds them in all kinds of neighborhoods, and lots of times his stores are the only commercial development around. He's not doing it because he's a swell guy, but he isn't redlining either.

Scott Lemieux comments on the adultery thing, ("I Can’t Decide Whether This Is Wrong Until I Know His Party Affiliation"), and yeah-- not classy. On the other hand he's been up front with it, it was some years ago, and it is not as though he was using his family life to demonstrate his qualification for office, as was the case with John Edwards, for example.

The real Paladino problem is that it does not appear that he has anything more than anger to offer. The lawn signs ("I'm Mad Too, Carl") are clever, and they seem to be proliferating, but the actual proposals he seems to have in mind about fixing the system do not seem workable, and actually seem closer to H. L. Mencken's dictum: "[T]there is always a well-known solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong." The Buffalo News pointed out yesterday that his plan for Medicaid (cut it by 40%) is smoke and mirrors. There is no way that "waste, fraud and abuse" adds up to anything like that kind of proportion of Medicaid's budget-- in fact, people who practice in the area will tell you that Medicaid is relentless in tracking down every stray nickel. Trimming eligibility isn't going to get it done either, because it is outside of his power to do so, and because that would merely shove the problem somewhere else.

In a sense what we are dealing with here is a demonstration of how democracy fails. Some problems-- a lot of problems, I'd say-- are too complicated to be solved by popular vote. Getting the New York State government into a rational condition is a technical problem with far too many pieces to be amenable to simplistic slogan-based solutions. I'm not so sure that voters understand this, or even care. Mencken again: "Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard."

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