Archive | February, 2007

Approve the Xpand Deal

28 Feb

Last week, it was reported that the county had worked out a much improved deal with the private company that handles its tax arrears and liens. It was so good, I called my post “Found Money”. Instead of $8 million, the new deal would raise up to $40 million, thus fiscally helping the county in myriad ways.

Some people are opposing this deal.

I received this email from PUSH Buffalo today:

Hello friends:

As many of you know, Joel Giambra and County Comptroller Mark Poloncarz want Erie County to sell its tax liens in bulk to a private company so they don’t have to collect the debt themselves and get a whole lot of cash up front to balance the budget. Sounds good, right? Well maybe not.

I urge you to contact your county legislator to make sure all of Erie County does not get on board a train wreck. When you call demand:

– That the County Legislature have the power to review, amend, and approve the contract
– That your legislator learn from years of bad policy and act as a voice of reason against shortsighted
– That county government open a public conversation about regional development

Three and a half years ago the City of Buffalo was in the same place. Selling 1,500 liens to a state agency with its financial back against the wall has proved to be a huge blunder and has hindered redevelopment in the city since. What’s been left in the wake of that deal is a spiral of abandonment and vacancy in some of the most distressed parts of the city and a hostage situation for the parcels that have significant development potential.

And while the County seems to be getting a better shake from the municipal debt collector Xpand, the volume of liens is staggering — 30,000 county wide. What’s worse, the deal on the table is simply a yes/no vote to give Giambra the ability to negotiate the contract without any process for amendment by your elected representative. With less than a third of those liens are in the city, this could spell a development nightmare for Erie County. Regional planning groups have concerns with the proposed deal and so should we.

What PUSH is doing (and Legislator Maria Whyte is lobbying along the same lines) is comparing apples with anvils.

They are trying to compare the county’s deal with a private entity – Xpand – with the city’s deal with MBBA, which you don’t have to go far to learn is a pretty lame deal, in retrospect. When the MBBA – a state agency – is stuck with a house that isn’t worth the amount of the lien, that agency has no resources to keep up the property or otherwise prevent the blight that has occurred.

By contrast, Xpand is a private company that isn’t generally in the business of giving money away. Xpand would buy the county’s tax liens for 105% of the amount, and keeps the interest and late fees. Because it’s a private entity, it has a huge incentive to actually pursue the money. MBBA has no such incentive; it exists tomorrow whether it collects a dime or not.

Furthermore, if the deal is blocked, as suggested by Whyte & PUSH, the county could very well end up in deficit at the end of the year. The legislators will have the unenviable job of deciding which pet projects, including neighborhood centers, clinics, and other services they’ll get to cut. On the other hand, if the deal goes through, it could provide the county with enough money to call off the hard control board.

When a town/village taxpayer doesn’t pay up, the vast majority of those property taxes go to schools and municipalities. The county is obligated to cover the unpaid amount to those local entities and go chase after the arrears.

Xpand is not MBBA, and this deal is in no way comparable to that one. I urge you to contact your legislator and ask him/her to approve this deal and take a solid step in the direction of fiscal solvency and surplus.


28 Feb

Welcome to Conditioning

28 Feb

Convergence Media Group, LLC is the parent company of what is now known as As alluded to here, we have big changes – good changes, positive changes – in store.

We’re working in conjunction with the geniuses at Schneider Digital to re-brand ourselves to better reflect what we’re going to be doing, and provide us – and you – with a better platform and improved, enhanced content.

And yeah, posting’s light because I’m busy.

Don’t Hate The Media, Become The Media

28 Feb

I know that we have been hinting about our plans for the future here at WNYM and we’ve been pretty sketchy on the details…let me give you a little taste of what’s in store.

Over the next three months, we plan some significant changes to the user experience on our family of sites. We intend to centralize your favorite blogs and introduce a user-friendly multimedia news, information, and entertainment portal. It will be a phased rollout of new features so as not to overwhelm our readers. In case you’re wondering, we won’t require you to register on the site to contribute to the conversation. Communities need to be open to everyone if they wish to grow. We have a community that is 30,000 strong, no need to mess with it.

We’re going to ask our readers and amateur pundits to arm themselves with keyboards, cameras and microphones to help us lead a community journalism revolution that will begin in Buffalo and spread to every corner of America.

So, yeah, we’ve been busy…

I’m pleased to introduce our new corporate logo as designed by the good people at Schneider Digital.


“Don’t Hate The Media, BecomeThe Media”

I’m A Believer

28 Feb

Mike Miller at Shades of Gray poses the following question:

The Buffalo blogosphere is one small, but significant, part of the overall movement that has been an influencing factor in some of the positive things that are now happening in the city.

Now, there are some real signs of progress and some tangible reasons to feel hope. They are being well documented in the blogosphere as they occur. Even our local news media is beginning to reflect a more positive outlook on our future. It is not that anyone believes that revitalization will happen overnight or by the completion of one development project, but we do believe that it is happening collectively and carefully.

So, my question to you is: do you believe that Buffalo will regain the prominence and prosperity it once enjoyed? If so, when? If not, why not?

In my opinion, the blogosphere has done more for the revitalization of Buffalo than any politician or policy. The spirit of optimism and progress that is documented our pages has infiltrated the mainstream media and it is now starting to work its way through the local hoi poloi (Bauerle & Beach listeners excepted). After all, reporters from all the major media outlets read our sites every day and we have even been known to knock back a few beers or play a few games of poker with them in our efforts to bring them over to “Our/New Buffalo”.

Progress is happening before our very eyes. It might seem glacial at times, but it did take nearly 50 years for us to reach the bottom. Our ascent will be slow, but we will reach the mountaintop.

So, are you a believer as well?

Coming Soon…

28 Feb

Click here for a preview. Also, BfloBlog will soon become’s official sports section. Big doings, folks.


27 Feb

New Spree? It’s out.

Kuni’s? Awesome.

Sales Tax Intercept & Medicaid

27 Feb

Legislator Cindy Locklear has an interesting post about a piece of legislative esoterica which may save Erie County money. She outlines the “Sales Tax Intercept” or “Reverse Revenue Sharing” option here:

Under this option, the state will keep a fixed portion (reported by senate majority leader Senator Bruno to be the county’s capped Medicaid amount for SFY 2006/2007) of all the county sales tax receipts and give the rest back to the county. “The county, in turn, will no longer make any Medicaid payments to the state” according to Tarron Bragdon, a researcher with the Empire Center for New York State Policy.

Analysts indicate that if a county’s sales tax rate of growth (exclusive of rate increases) is less than the annual Medicaid rate cap of 3%, this option may be cost effective and result in a lower local share for Medicaid costs. Bragdon states “In low sales tax growth counties, the future ‘cost’ to the county of the sales tax intercept is less than the future increase of capped Medicaid payments.”

However, this election, once made, cannot be rescinded. Further, the “window of opportunity” for evaluating this option and making the election is limited. Counties which determine to elect this option must do so by legislative adoption of a statutorily proscribed resolution which must be received by the NYS Department of Health no later than September 30, 2007. Once that date has expired, the option is no longer available.

It’s clear that we don’t have the complete picture to enable legislators properly to do a cost/benefit analysis of this idea, but it’s intriguing.

Worker’s Comp Reform

27 Feb

Buffaloi has the news on the historic workers’ compensation reform deal that was struck in Albany today.

I’m not talking about the substance of the deal itself, but of the meeting of the minds that brought it about:

It was big political win because the announcement was made by Spitzer surrounded by Joe Bruno and Shelly Silver, the legislative leaders who had drawn the Governor’s wrath over the appointment of a State Comptroller. The proposal has the backing of the AFL-CIO leadership in the state, and the NYS Business Council. That’s quite a feat.

Labor and Business? Spitzer and Silver/Bruno? “Quite a feat” is an understatement. It’s more like “the Earth flew off its axis and is hurtling towards the sun”.

New York’s super-expensive-yet-stingy workers’ comp system was listed among one of the major impediments to business growth upstate.

Nothing happens overnight. But maybe for the revival of upstate New York, it’s past dusk.

NHL Trade Deadline

27 Feb

Draws 476 comments at BfloBlog.