The Sunday Subject – January 30, 2022

Last Sunday the Bills lost 42-36 to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC divisional playoff game.

In one of the most gripping games in Bills history, four lead changes occurred in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter. The Bills ultimately lost in overtime with just seconds remaining. At the end of the game, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes ran across the field to share a hug with Bills quarterback Josh Allen.

Justice Stephen Breyer has announced he will retire from the Supreme Court at the end of the current term.

Justice Breyer, the senior member of the court’s three-member liberal wing, will give President Biden the opportunity to fulfill his campaign promise of electing a black woman to the Supreme Court. Breyer believed that the Constitution should be viewed as “containing unwavering values that must be applied flexibly to ever-changing circumstances,” and that judges should also look beyond a law’s text and consider its “purposes” and “consequences.” Justice Breyer’s judicial philosophy and fundamental commitment to progress and fairness are encapsulated by his statements in 1994, made hours after President Bill Clinton nominated him to the Supreme Court: “The Constitution and the law must … work as a practical reality. And I will certainly try to make law work for people, because that is its defining purpose in a government of the people.” Democrats, who control the Senate by a perilously thin margin, will have to act quickly if they want to ensure a liberal confirmation. If they lose even a single seat in the midterm elections in November, the balance of power in the chamber would flip, making it all but impossible for Biden’s pick to win confirmation.

A State Supreme Court justice in Long Island struck down Governor Hochul’s state mask mandate on Monday; the ruling, however, does not apply to schools and Erie County residents.

Justice Thomas Rademacher ruled Monday that State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett’s mandate that masks be worn in public places violated the State Administrative Procedure Act passed by the state legislature last year. After the ruling, the State Education Department delivered a statewide message to school districts that they must continue to enforce mask-wearing. Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz also noted that the county’s local mask mandate was not changed by Monday’s court ruling because it “is based on different state laws.” 

Update: As of January 30, 2022, the mandate will remain in place. An appeals court judge has granted stay on the decision following an appeal filed by state Attorney General Letitia James on behalf of Hochul and the DOH.

Several members of the Buffalo Common Council, the city’s legislative branch, have raised concerns about the distribution of federal funds across the city.

An estimated $2 billion in federal funds awarded to Buffalo will be distributed throughout the city in the next few years, stemming largely from the American Rescue Plan and the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill authorized by Congress. Some Common Council members are warning that districts’ political support for the Mayor (or lack of) in the recent election is at risk of influencing the distribution of funds across city districts. Referring to potentially penalizing or rewarding districts based on how they voted, Filmore Council Member Mitchell P. Nowakowski stated, “Frankly, that mindset is destructive, morally wrong and embarrassing. A majority of Council members will be demanding parity among projects and progress right off the bat into the new year.” The Buffalo News has reported of increasing friction developing between the city’s legislative and executive branches since last year’s polarizing mayoral election. 

The military seized power in Burkina Faso on Monday night, suspending the Constitution and ousting the country’s democratically elected president.

Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, the ousted president, had been facing growing criticism from both civilians and the military over his government’s inability to stop the country’s Islamic militants, who have been causing widespread instability and terror since 2015 in the once peaceful country. The soldiers cited broad public discontent over the government’s failure to stop the violent campaigns as the reason for the takeover. The jihadist violence, part of a broader upheaval in the Sahel, has destabilized broad sections of Burkina Faso, displacing 1.4 million people and causing almost 7,000 deaths. With coups in Sudan, Chad, Mali and Guinea over the past year and a half, the takeover in Burkina Faso adds to the recent instability of the region.