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SEP 01 - SEP 08, 2015

In Wheatfield, BSing About Manure

By Deborah Eddel

SEP 01, 2015

Tom Stevenson is not selling residents any manure....


“Politicians are like diapers; they need to be changed often and for the same reason.”

That quote, from America’s most quotable writer and philosopher, Mark Twain, has always been a favorite of the staff at the Niagara Falls Reporter. It manages to, quite succinctly, sum up our experience with the local political class, all the way from the grand high muckety-mucks down to the lowliest dogcatchers.

Oh, to be sure, plenty of good folks enter politics and stay untainted, but for most, it becomes inevitable that they will soon become bloated and full of, well, of manure.

The late political columnist Lars-Erik Nelson was even blunter: “The enemy isn’t conservatism. The enemy isn’t liberalism. The enemy is bullshit.”

In Wheatfield, this was quite evident Monday, as a politician was forced to return a campaign contribution after being caught with his pants down.

Town Board candidate Tom Stevenson, a longtime supporter and political ally of former Supervisor Tim Demler—the Republican whose extramarital affair, and break with the Maziarz organization, brought about his rapid collapse—managed to draw the ire of town resident Laurie Galbo for apparently bullshitting about manure.

Stevenson is mounting a primary campaign against town board mainstays Larry Helwig and Gil Doucet. But he also was one of the creators of a “No Bio Sludge” Party line on the November ballot. Creating new parties to capitalize on short-term issues is old hat around these parts, but seasoned political operators say the tactic rarely yields enough votes to justify the trouble involved in creating the bogus parties.

The No Bio Sludge Party, of course, comes in response to a much-maligned plan by Ohio-based Quasar to bring production of bio-sludge to Wheatfield, Lewiston, Pendleton, Cambria, and elsewhere in Western New York. Hundreds of citizen activists have swarmed local town halls over the past year to oppose the practice, and Stevenson has vowed to link arms with them.

So committed is Stevenson, publicly, to the fight against “bio sludge”—the chosen name for, in essence, human excrement used to fertilize certain non-edible crops—that he even posted a lengthy rant about it on Facebook on June 26.

“The Town Board passed a resolution declaring that the construction of the Quasar plant would have no negative impact on the environment, and then made a 180-degree turn under pressure from residents who learned about equate after Quasar proposed to dig a 10 million-gallon lagoon to store it, a plan the company later dropped. … Why did they hide the true nature of the facility? Due to their either base incompetence or deliberate cover up we have to spend untold thousands of taxpayer's money to try to stop something that never should have occurred in the first place. Haven't we had enough?” Stevenson posted.

Indeed, his concerns about bio-solids and the tactics of Quasar are well-placed.

If only he was even remotely consistent.

As we mentioned, Galbo took to Facebook’s “Wheatfield, NY Community” group Monday to report some rather surprising findings about Stevenson, the standardbearer of the No Bio Sludge Party, and his commitment to the cause.

“It seems Tom Stevenson has accepted a campaign donation of $500.00 from a former resident that now lives in Alabama. This former resident also is Supervisor for AECOM. AECOM is in fact a company that is just like Quasar. It is a biosolids company. Was this ever noticed when the donation was received?” Galbo wrote.

She also posted several “supporting documents” that show Stevenson had, in fact, taken a $500 campaign contribution—his campaign’s largest single donation by far—from Robert Staniszewski of Pell City, Ala., in April.

According to Galbo, Staniszewski is a supervisory employee of AECOM—which operates a wastewater division that provides products extremely similar to Quasar’s.

“Why would someone fighting Quasar Energy accept a donation from an employee of a biosolids company like Quasar?” Galbo asked.

Galbo’s gotcha moment even left Stevenson ally Demler sputtering, writing, “That is surprising. Tom Stevenson better explain this. Now.”

Eventually, Stevenson offered this explanation and promise: “Honesty and transparency are very important to me, and people need to know where a candidate's funding comes from. That donation, and I am well aware of it, came from as you said, and old friend. We grew up together, and he did offer to help. My understanding on his company contacts and contracts, although limited, included cleaning and industrial restoration. I did not know that their many enterprises included processing of Bio-waste. If I had known, I would have not accepted the check. Now that I do know, I will return it. It is totally my fault for not knowing.”

Residents in Wheatfield left wondering about the honest intentions of the No Bio Sludge ticket, however, are unlikely to find any comfort in the words of the science fiction author William Gibson, who once proclaimed, “The deadliest bullshit is odorless and transparent.”






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