Lovejoy activist Rick "Baron" Gattone, age 46, says he is contemplating running as a Republican for Erie County 5th district legislator, a seat currently occupied by Democrat Gregory B. Olma. The 5th district includes parts of the Broadway-Fillmore, and Lovejoy areas in Buffalo, but is predominantly in Cheektowaga. Election is November, 2001.
Gattone's intentions deserve to be taken seriously, as he was in 1999, when he gave Rich Fontana a spirited run in a Democratic primary for the Lovejoy council seat, in a whirlwind, last minute, 53 day long campaign. After his primary loss, Gattone followed the lead of Joel Giambra, and switched from Democrat to Republican - in fact, on the very night of Giambra's election as County Executive.
Should Gattone run and win, he would not only be the first Republican to represent the heavily Democratic 5th district, but, as sources confirm, he might be the first of Spanish nobility in recent memory. Gattone says, with tongue quite possibly in cheek, that he inherits through his father, (the late "Baron" Jose Richardo Gattoni, formerly a professional wrestler, who, in 1959, was one half of the American Wrestling Association world tag team champions,) the Gattoni hereditary title of Baron. Young "Baron" Rick, a bachelor, is currently employed in the high tech industry for a major telecommunications company, and, like his father, also had a career in wrestling.
In 1999, Rick was inducted into the World's Professional Wrestling hall of fame for announcing and commentating. Asked how he expects to overcome the 3 to 1 party enrollment disadvantage in his district, "Baron" Gattone says, "Not unlike professional wrestling, in life, the vast majority overwhelmingly identify with the underdog."
Gattone, who still appears as a wrestling announcer for both live and televised events across America, and is scheduled for a tour in Asia in March, says he's much more interested in a "title match with Olma in Cheektowaga."
Sound and Fury
About two weeks ago, in no less a place than the Erie County District Attorney's office, a place where the demeanor of the sophisticates generally is patterned after District Attorney Frank Clark's genteel good manners, there broke out a fight - of the physical variety, by no less of combatants than an assistant DA and a Buffalo police officer. The details are sketchy. One of the combatants and the other's attorney both gave Beat a strictly "no comment," response. But there is little doubt that two grown men, both professionals who apparently did not know each other, and were brought together by a case they were working on, came to blows . While Clark wouldn't comment on the nature of the brouhaha - whether it was caused by a dispute over the particular case, or whether the two just didn't like each others' appearance - he admitted there was a schoolyard variety of "in your face" exhibited between the two men, and "a slight altercation," as Clark characterized it, "as will happen from time to time."
"It was mainly sound and fury, signifying nothing. It lasted 15 seconds," said Clark.
But there may be more to come, as both parties apparently are considering legal action. May we add a suggestion:
Upon invitation, The WNY Peace Center, (894-2013) offers a non violent conflict resolution program. Teresa Maciocha, a facilitator at the Center, told Beat that the program helps people in adversarial situations resolve their disputes in a non violent way. And Maciocha adds, a "very public law suit" is not one of them.
"Hey Boss, You're Paying Me Too Much"
After convening a grand jury, and hearing some 30 witnesses over two months, misdemeanor charges were filed against Niagara County Legislator James W. Ward (R) and Election Commissioner Judith M. Cirifalco (D) for "official misconduct," and, in the latter's case, "offering a false instrument for filing," both class A misdemeanors, and punishable by a maximum of one year in jail per count.
The facts, distilled, are these: The Niagara County Legislature voted to cut the 1999 pay of Cirifalco and Republican Commissioner Michael J. Norris by 10 percent, ($37,624 to $33,856) but the cut was never implemented.
Prosecutors say the two affected, Cirifalco and Norris, broke the law, essentially by not acting to ensure their own pay cut. And Ward, as liaison in the legislature, abetted them by not working harder to see that their pay cuts took effect. The case may ultimately hinge on whose duty it was to fill out the necessary paperwork to inform the payroll office - Ward or the commissioners. But, since no one did, Cirifalco and Norris continued to sign their Board of Elections payroll checks, every two weeks, at the higher rate, throughout 1999. Norris escapes
prosecution, however, because the district attorney's office granted him immunity in return for testifying against his alleged co-conspirators in non-action. Ironically, in a lawsuit brought by Cirifalco, former State Supreme Court Justice Jacqueline M. Koshian ruled in May that the pay cut is "null and void," anyway.
A Genius in Courage
There are, as it has been noted, geniuses in every field - in art, literature, music, mathematics. Every field boasts some, and Buffalo NY can boast its share in some of these categories. To which we would add one more: As some may know, the Polish Community Center at 1081 Broadway changed its name last month to honor Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Urban, and is now called The Urban Center. More than a few in the community objected. The Am Pol Eagle, the leading local Polish newspaper, and one of the most distinguished Polish journals in the country, decried the change. Others said changing it to the "Urban Center" merely disguises its proud Polish origins to appease people who might be put off by an ethnic name. Urban, however, is among the most decorated American combat soldiers in history. A WW 2 officer, a Polish American, (Urbanowicz) he lived once at 1153 Broadway, and graduated from PS #57. He was a man who repeatedly led his troops into victorious battle, and repeatedly refused evacuation after being seriously wounded. In Renouf, France, Urban once singlehandedly, armed with a bazooka, faced down and blew up two enemy tanks, thus leading his company to rout the enemy. During the Summer of 1944, Urban was alternately wounded in the leg, the chest, and critically in the neck, but each time refused evacuation. Suffering once from two wounds simultaneously, he was evacuated to England but, while recovering, he learned of his unit's losses in Normandy, left the hospital, hitch-hiked back to his unit in St Lo. France, and joined "Operation Cobra," already in progress. Limping from his wound, Urban made his way to the head of the stalled company, and, in the midst of heavy enemy attack, while bullets ricocheted off a lead tank where two machine gunners had just been killed, Urban hopped on, ordered the tank forward, and, while completely exposed, manned the machine gun. He fired repeatedly, inflicting heavy damage upon the enemy, galvanizing his troops to action, destroying the enemy position. All told Urban, who the Germans called "the Ghost," was decorated 28 times, including the Purple Heart with 6 clusters, and the Congressional Medal of Honor. He died in 1995. Urban was, in fact, a genius in courage.