By Bill Wolcott
Tom Christy doesn’t know the answers. That’s why the man with the wild hair asks the questions on his LCTV television shows.
Christy primarily hosts “Legislative Journal” on Thursday nights, but he pinch-hits as host of Western New York Tonight and boxing events. The 45-year-old Town of Tonawanda native is also the moderator of WLVL 1340 AM’s Scholastic Bowl which will broadcast its finals at 6 p.m. Wednesday between Starpoint and North Tonawanda.
People know that they’ve seen him before, but are not sure where. He’s happy that curious cable viewers are comfortable enough to approach him and ask.ng 5Achristy ...
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Christy came to cable by chance after spending 12 years as a government insider. He is a graduate of Cardinal O’Hara High School and Buffalo State (1982) with a degree in economics.
He lives with his wife Kathleen and his children Charlotte, 10, and Maggie, 5.
QUESTION: What’s with the hair?
ANSWER: I’ve never cared about my hair. Ever. I get up in the morning and run my hands through it. I could care so little about my hair. I find it fascinating that other people do. I will admit it looks horrible. But, in person it’s not as bad. Nobody notices it.
Q: How did you get into LCTV?
A: I was bringing someone else in as a guest eight years ago. The host of the show called in sick. I said, “I can do this.”
Q: What do you do for a living?
A: I own a company called Advanced Image Marketing, a communication company which writes newsletters, creates web sites, puts words in other people’s mouths. That’s 90 percent of it. The Oppenheim Zoo is one my clients. We’re trying to rebuild the zoo.
Q: Do you get paid by LCTV?
A: I’m 100 percent volunteer.
Q: How many shows do you have?
A: LCTV is a fantastic resource for the community. I’ll do as many shows as they want. I do Legislative Journal, Western New York Tonight, I’ve gone out and covered sporting events. Mostly it’s government stuff.
Q: How many hours do you do a week?
A: Three hours a week. Last week I volunteered three more hours.
Q: How often are the shows aired?
A: Public access has three channels, 24 hours a day. That’s 72 hours a day. The first priority is original contact programming, something done at the studio. If they don’t have that, they’ll plug into a national grid. If I do Legislative Journal on Thursday night, they’ll rerun those things.
Q. How do you stay up on topics?
A: It’s amazing that you think I do. This is a perception. I don’t think I know anything about all the topics. But, I did spend 12 years (from the age of 21 to 33) working for the state Legislature in Albany and I got to see a lot.
I went there not knowing how a bill become a law and I came away having written legislation signed by the governor. I learned about how the entire government works, from state to local.
Q: Who did you work for?
A: I went to work in 1981 for Stanley Fink, who was the Speaker of the Assembly. We used to write questions and answers for assembly members for four years in the communication department. I spent eight years with the farming and dairy industry in Albany.
Q: Does your family watch your show?
A: No, they really don’t. They never think you’re anything. They make fun of it if they ever do. It’s on the same time as cartoons. Watching it and having people say they saw you are two vastly different things.
Q. How do you prepare for shows?
A: The station will book the guest and I would never want to know before I got there. I get there five minutes before and say, “Senator Maziarz. Oh. County legislator somebody.” It’s just easy enough if you’re curious about stuff. I could talk to you for an hour, just because I’m curious. It’s not insincere or fake.
I do stress reading the newspaper every day. If you read the paper, you know what’s going on.
Q. Who’s your most frequent guest?
A: County legislators, Senator Maziarz a lot because he’s a big cheese around here.
Q: Who’s your favorite guest?
A: The person who answers the questions kind of lengthy and to the point. They don’t (talk around) you. When you ask a question and they don’t answer it, I hate that. Luckily, in 60 minutes, you can go back to it and say, I didn’t get an answer there.
I would say that Greg Lewis, the county manager, is unique in that he’ll answer anything you ask him. Maybe it’s because he’s an MBA and a lawyer and he’s worked in several different states. He’s comfortable with himself. He’ll tell you the answer of what a government professional would do. It doesn’t matter if it rankles any feathers and he’s not rude about it. He’s a professional person who has no agenda and that’s refreshing.
Q: Are you recognized on the street?
A: Quite a bit. It drives people nuts. A lot of people will come up and say, “Aren’t up that guy on TV,” which is very encouraging.
Q: How many callers do you get?
A: It depends on a lot of things. If it’s a beautiful spring day, the phone doesn’t ring. It doesn’t have anything to do with the guest.
Q: Do you get calls when the show is a rerun?
A: Our producer will get a calls at midnight. We get calls when the show isn’t on. It’s always a blast.
Q: What are your favorite topics?
A: Government. My mantra is that this is our area. We try to remain positive, but there is something wrong. Everybody feels it. Why aren’t we Las Vegas? Why aren’t we generating more job opportunities? Nobody can put their finger on it.
That’s my greatest topic, to talk to someone who has been in government for 20 years, and ask them. You have the tools. No one has expertise that you have. What can we do to solve it?
Take their 20 years of experience and egg them on to do something good. I don’t ask questions I know the answers to. That’s a law thing.
Q: What is wrong?
A: I don’t know. After eight years, all I can discern is people don’t trust each other and they don’t trust each other with very good reason. We’ve been burned so many times by government. People will announce a project that’s never been built. We pay for two Buffalo Bills’ stadiums, when we only needed one. It was because of a lawsuit. That happens so much that I think we’re unique compared to all other regions.
It’s professional government. People get on the payroll and 40 years later they resign. That’s 40 years of benefits and health care and everything else. Everybody else has to change jobs seven or eight times in their career.
Q: What are your other interests?
A: My kids. I structured my whole working life to be able to do that.
Q: What’s in your future?
A: I will be launching FAIR, Fiscal Accountability, Integrity and Responsible Government.
Humans made this problem. During 40 years of studying this, every decision that has befallen this community is a human decision, not an environmental or economic. It’s humans that are making the problems.
FAIR’s main mantra is education. People run for political office and they don’t know what to do when they get there. There’s nowhere to prep you about what local government is about. There’s nowhere which spells out where the money goes. There’s probably a local $4 billion fiscal turnover with every budget added together.
It’s a big mystery. If nobody knows where it goes, how many people can run for office and claim to fix wherever it goes. How can we figure out how to spend it or how to better allocate it?
Q: Will you run for public office?
A: I will never run for public office, mainly because I think I can change the world (from) the outside, not the inside. I will work the rest of my life trying to change this area. I’m going to stay here and die here.
I don’t want to be a Republican or a Democrat.
Contact Bill Wolcott at 439-9222, Ext. 6246.
By Bill Wolcott
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