Going from best to bust

Call it the Curse of the Buffalo News Leadership Survey.

John R. Koelmel, the chief executive officer of First Niagara Bank, was looking good last Sunday, ranked as the fifth-best local leader in a survey of top officials in the Buffalo Niagara region by The Buffalo News.

Two days later, Koelmel was unemployed, sacked by First Niagara’s board of directors, which was displeased by the bank’s growth spurt that had brought Koelmel so much prominence but had left shareholders with an investment that was losing value by the day.

It is all so eerily familiar. The last time The News did a survey to rank local leaders, the executive rated as the most powerful and effective business leader was none other than John J. Rigas, Adelphia Communications chairman and Buffalo Sabres owner, who earned praise for his plans to create jobs in a community starved for them.

A little more than a year later, Rigas was arrested – and eventually convicted and imprisoned – because his business empire was built on fraud. Fortunately, Koelmel’s fall was not nearly so steep.

Pussy willows on the move

Meanwhile, leadership numbers for “Airborne” Eddy Dobosiewicz are rising.

The Dyngus Day Buffalo co-founder was in Cleveland this week to promote the Polish-American bash in that city.

At a press event, Cleveland Councilman Joe Cimperman accepted a pussy willow bouquet from Dobosiewicz and then named our favorite funnyman Cleveland’s 20th City Council member.

“We have fantastic love of your city,” Cimperman said. “We feel we have so many similarities – not just our Eastern European culture, but the fact that neither one of our football teams can seem to really do it.”

Beyond the bond of bad football, both cities can celebrate Dyngus Day with feasts, parades, music and revelry, as well as the tradition of men and women using pussy willows to send romantic signals.

“We want to spread the spirit throughout the land, and it’s only fitting that we start from Buffalo all along the shores of Lake Erie to Cleveland as we continue our goal of pussy willow domination,” Dobosiewicz said.

And what of his newfound political prowess in Cleveland?

“Twentieth Council member? Wow! Everybody at City Hall gets a raise!” Dobosiewicz proclaimed.

Now he’s thinking of higher office in Buffalo. ”Maybe I should throw my hat into the mayoral ring,” Dobosiewicz joked.

You make me wanna ... hum?

Buried in pages and pages of lease documents for Ralph Wilson Stadium was a clause that might puzzle Bills fans.

The Bills, the lease says, will have “quiet enjoyment” of the stadium.

Quiet? Anyone who remembers the Bills’ glory days knows Buffalo football fandemonium can be heard miles away.

The legal term simply means the team will have unfettered access to the property. But we crave loud enjoyment.

“We’ve had too much quiet time out there over the last decade,” Legislator Thomas A. Loughran said.

Baltimore, home of the birds

With so many sports stadiums across the country named after banks, it is understandable that even a sports talk show host can have trouble remembering a certain stadium’s name.

That’s what happened this week, as WGR’s Howard Simon talked on air about a scheduling dispute between the Baltimore Orioles and Baltimore Ravens. The Orioles have scheduled a home baseball game the night of Sept. 5, while the Ravens want to play a home football game that night. Traffic and parking make it hard for games to be held at the same time at the neighboring venues.

Simon could not recall the name of Baltimore’s football stadium.

But it’s not an unfamiliar name around here. M&T Bank has a 15-year, $75 million deal for naming rights at Baltimore’s “M&T Bank Stadium,”

Maybe he recalled the name during a commercial break that followed. The first ad was for M&T Bank.

By Patrick Lakamp with contributions from David Robinson and Denise Jewell Gee.