By DON GLYNN
Niagara Gazette — Former state Sen. Antoine Thompson's appointment to that key post in Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown's administration is a blatant example of political cronyism.
It proves if you cultivate enough contacts there's always a job around the corner, even feeding at the public trough. Brown has named Thompson, 42, as executive director of the Buffalo Employment and Training Center. In his new job, for which he has virtually no qualifications, he will receive a salary of $79, 757, close to a state legislator's annual pay.
It's important to note the agency that Thompson heads has the responsibility of working with job applicants to match them with potential employers. Such a role would obviously require someone with significant experience in human resources, hiring and recruiting. Thompson most recently has worked as a real estate agent when he wasn't scurrying around to fundraisers and political rallies.
In case you may have forgotten,Thompson at one time represented the state's 60th Senate district which then included the city of Niagara Falls and the town of Grand Island and parts of Buffalo and Tonawanda. After Brown, then a senator, left Albany to serve as the Buffalo mayor, Thompson was urged to pursue that Senate vacancy in the special election of Feb. 28, 2006. Both the Niagara County and Erie County Democratic committees refused to endorse him for the nomination. When that happened, the short-tempered Thompson threatened the party that he would challenge U.S. Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, a Democrat n the 28th District, which then included the Niagara area. Viewing Slaughter's would-be opponent as a lightweight, Erie County Democratic Committee Chairman Len Lenihan said Thompson needed to enroll in a Dale Carnegie course on how to win friends and influence people.
Subsequently, Thompson lost the special election for the Senate vacancy to Marc Coppola but won the Democratic primary and the general election in 2006 when Coppola ended up running as an Independent. Thompson served in the Senate from 2007 to 2011.
It would be a mind-bogging task to name one piece of legislation that Thompson successfully sponsored on Capitol Hill in Albany that proved helpful to his area constituents. Few local residents ever had the chance to talk with him because he spent most of his time politicking in the Queen City. I vividly recall one tourism industry breakfast forum in Niagara Falls where he showed up more than an hour late — without any real valid excuse —and added absolutely nothing to the panel discussion. Maybe he simply got lost trying to find the Conference Center Niagara Falls. (Protesting Mayor Brown's latest City Hall appointment, a writer on a blog Tuesday stated: "Thompson's not qualified to deliver a pizza. He'd have to ask for directions to his car."
By the way, this marks the second major appointment — both have sparked questions about credentials — by Brown in the past couple of weeks. In late November, the mayor named Ellen E. Grant, a former chief executive officer of Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, to be deputy mayor of Buffalo. She is expected to concentrate on health care and education issues. While she might be somewhat knowledgeable on educational issues, her brief tenure at the Niagara Falls hospital was less than impressive as evidenced by the decision to not renew her contract.
HELPING HANDS DEPARTMENT: Again this year the Auxiliary of the Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center has placed a lighted tree atop the pedestrian bridge linking the 10th Street parking ramp with the hospital. A lobby holiday tree also decorated with ornaments purchased ($5) in memory or honor of loved ones and friends.Contact reporter Don Glynn at 282-2311, ext. 2246.