Archive | December, 2007

Random Musings For A New Year

31 Dec

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With the holiday season nearing it’s closure and a new year upon us, I thought it was time to cobble together a random musings post which details where my mind is at right now as both a blogger and Citizen of Buffalo. It’s one part recap of 2007 and one part resolutions for 2008…

  • I thought 2007 would be the year in which Buffalo made some tremendous strides both politically and economically. Unfortunately, it was a lot like 2006, 2005, and 2004; Iterative progress which doesn’t amount to much of a “revolution”. Positive developments can be found if you look hard enough. However, when I look back on 2007, I don’t see much progress made on addressing the massive problems of poverty, urban blight, racism, vacant properties, and failing public education system that engulf vast swaths of our urban environment. I also see little progress being made on the statewide level to address our overbearing business costs, over regulation, excessive personal tax rates, corruption, abuse of taxpayer monies, unaccountable authorities, and unresponsive elected officials. It doesn’t inspire much hope for 2008. Hey, way to kick things off with a tidal wave of optimism, eh?
  • I can’t decide which politician has been a bigger disappointment to the people of Buffalo, Byron Brown or Eliot Spitzer. Frankly, I voted for neither, so I can’t say I’m surprised they have been massive disappointments. It seems as if Mayor Brown is looking to create as little ruckus as possible while he waits for Rep. Louise Slaughter to retire. Congress is calling, don’t want to rock the boat too much and piss off any potential constituencies! Spitzer seems to lack the ability to lead or build consensus. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who was an observer of his behavior as Attorney General. State Senator Joe Bruno has effectively neutered Spitzer and without a massive Mea Culpa, I don’t see a way for Spitzer to rebuild political capital to fight back or accomplish any of his ambitious agenda.
  • The proxy war for the Democratic Party in the City of Buffalo continues unabated between Sam Hoyt and Byron Brown. Shifting allegiances in party politics, control of the Common Council, control of district committeemen, control of patronage power, control of party messaging and candidates…all of it up for grabs as Hoyt and the Party square off against Byron and Grassroots. What does any of this matter in the grand scheme of things? Absolutely nothing and is a total distraction from the business of the people. See my first point about why 2007 was like any other year…
  • Tell Bashar Issa to give me a call when he gets something significant done over at the Statler. Until then, I’d like it if he’d stop with the grand proclamations about his massive design plans to reinvigorate the entirety of Buffalo proper. He is a walking silver bullet plan to the denizens of “New Buffalo” and it is growing execeedingly tedious. To belabor his efforts and support him vociferously every time he farts in our general direction makes us look small and insignificant.
  • Piggybacking on that, I’d like to define the difference between “efforts” and “results” for people in this town as it seems as if we are so disconnected from someone actually getting something done that we often confuse the two…
    • Results – Something tangible that comes from the conscious application of effort. Something to be celebrated.
    • Efforts – The work done to achieve a particular end. Not worth celebrating.
  • The reason that Niagara Falls has failed to derive any tangible benefits from their Casino has little to do with the actual casino itself. It has everything to do with incompetent and corrupt elected leadership and a lack of planning to build anything around the casino. How is it Barry Snyder’s problem that NFR and Cordish have done absolutely nothing with the property they own? People might go outside the casino if there was a place for them to go or something for them to do! The casino has generated millions in tax revenue for the city and they have done nothing with it to build or promote spinoff businesses around it.
  • Buildings, museums, and a “sense of place” do not create economic development. Pro-business policies, lower tax rates, and increased density do create economic development. It is not a chicken v. egg argument…the artistic culture and beautiful buildings we celebrate here and declare as our meal ticket are a vestigial tail of our early economic boom times. When we again increase density by luring people into our region with the promise of decent schools, lower taxes, and jobs…I’ll give a shit about curb cuts, mixed use retail, faux two story buildings, and the constant cycle of business openings/closings on two streets in Buffalo.
  • My Buffalonian of The Year award goes to Michael Gainer of Buffalo ReUse, not sure if his inclusion in this list of rants is a good or bad thing for him. However, each time I get the opportunity to catch up with Michael, I am impressed by his enthusiasm, energy, leadership skills, and results driven organization. He leads a talented group of volunteers who are bound and determined to take the communal liability of vacant properties and turn them into a model for job training, community pride, leadership development, and sustainable reuse. He stays out of the politics and focuses on results. However you can, please support their mission with a tax deductible donation, purchase of building materials at their new showroom, or volunteering your time.
  • I am optimistic about Chris Collins. I will not be holding him to an arbitrarily high standard of “non-politician” nor will I be troubled if his first year in office is spent getting his feet wet and he makes a few missteps. I voted for him as I thought he would bring a “think different” approach to the office of Erie County Executive. If he is going to be successful, he’ll have to play the game of politics on some levels to accomplish anything. He is dealing with a partisan and entrenched legislature that the citizens resoundingly support (based on vote totals) and he is going to need to work with an overbearing and uncooperative Control Board to create some semblance of progress. It’s gonna be a tough year.
  • I’m going to spend more time in 2008 documenting progress in Buffalo’s suburbs and the region as a whole. I am exhausted by the endless discussions and debates with the “creative class” when it comes to issues of progress, preservation, and economic development in our urban core. However, if someone wants to talk about a regional master plan for the waterfront, economic development, consolidation of IDA’s, rapid transit, abolition of the BMHA, regional housing plans, regional governmental consolidation of services and operations, count me in.
  • I’m hoping 2008 is the year in which we all stop trying so hard to agree and we start demanding tangible results from our legislators, councilmen, elected and non-elected leaders, and community activists. Everyone should be open to criticism and we should all demand better.
  • I’m hoping more people call me an asshole. I’m already on several political and cultural blacklists in this town due to my opinions and actions…let’s close that loop and make me persona non grata anywhere stupid ideas are thrown about.
  • Finally, something I’ve been wanting to say to the citizens of Buffalo for a long, long time…inspired by the words of Tyler Durden.  Buffalo, you are not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You are the same decaying northeastern urban city as found elsewhere. We do not have the market cornered on beautiful architecture, sense of place, good food, or anything else. We all love the shared context of having grown up here and we are proud to call our city home. It may be news to you, but the people of Chicago, Austin, Portland, Memphis, Louisville, Indianapolis, Dallas, and hundreds of other cities feel the same as you do…except for the fact that they are building, growing, and economically relevant to contemporary America. Meanwhile, we spend our time here looking to copy how other cities do things (ignorant of our own political/economic realities) and/or looking backward to a time when things were “good”. We need to shed this feeling that we are facing some sort of special situation and focus on creating wealth and looking ahead instead of behind. That is what will create a “New Buffalo”.
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    Chris Collins on Union Negotiations

    31 Dec

    I know it seems like it’s all Chris Collins, all the time here at BuffaloGeek, but this is one of the final installments in our interview with the new Erie County Executive.  In this segment, Collins discusses his approach to negotiating with the public sector labor unions.   As we enter 2008, the contracts for the three major public sector unions at the county level have expired.  It’s time to renegotiate, well, in as much as the Taylor Law allows for renegotiation.

    Collins’ approach appears to be firm; without a renegotiation of all contract terms, there will be no pay raises for county employees and they are free to continue working under their current and expired deals.  While this seems like a hard line, it also seems exceptionally fair.  Collins has identified the only leverage point that he has (raises) and will use it to reduce overall contract costs.

    His administration will conduct a comparison of private sector benefit packages with public sector packages, define the delta between the two, and work towards compromise on give and take.  Any savings realized as a result of the new contracts will be split 50/50 between the public employees (in the form of pay raises) and the taxpayers.  Getting public sector contracts more inline with those normally found in the private sector is one of the primary reasons that Collins was elected, I don’t believe he will capitulate on this issue.

    The problem in past negotiations has been that the county approached the unions with a single cost saving in mind and primarily worked on one issue.  This is not the way to negotiate anything, especially a union contract protected by the Taylor Law.  If the new administration intends to negotiate in good faith and evaluate all aspects of the existing contracts, cost savings are in the offing.  Offering cash incentives to reduce certain expensive parts of the benefit package while offering other inducements like professional training, certification, will result in a favorable outcome.

    Will the unions play ball?

    Video of Chris Collins Inauguration

    31 Dec

    WNYM was on the scene to capture the full video of the inauguration of new Erie County Executive, Chris Collins on December 30th at the University at Buffalo’s Center For The Arts.

    Happy New Year

    29 Dec

    Elf’s Lament

    27 Dec

    Best Christmas song in the last 50 years?

    Chris Collins On Six Sigma and Take Home Cars

    27 Dec

    Pundit and I conducted a lengthy interview with Erie County Executive-Elect Chris Collins last week before the holiday break.  For ease of consumption, we broke the interview up into several small pieces.  This edition covers the issues of six sigma implementation and the use of take home cars and cell phones by county employees.

    Department of Six Sigma

    Perception of Abuse by County Employees In Regards To Cars and Phones

    2007: It was a Year

    27 Dec

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    What with this being the end of the year, and given that it’s going to be a pretty slow news cycle (i.e., your friendly neighborhood Buffalopundit is hard up for crap about which to write), let’s review what we talked about in 2007.

    Ah, remember Shorter Buzz? We all wish Mary well on her hiatus. I hope it’s packed with Catholicism, beer, Wagner / Bach, and all things German.

    Spitzer was on Day 4, and made a rousing speech calling for statewide unity, growth, and prosperity. We’re approaching day 365 and I don’t know that we’re any closer to that at all. The speech was light on “war with Bruno” and “licenses for illegals”.

    I posted very lightly about “Troopergate”, because I didn’t find it interesting. What I do, however, find interesting is that anybody working for the piece of crap that passes for New York State government has access to a helicopter or a private jet. All in all, I was unimpressed by Governor Spitzer’s first year.

    Hevesi and Holt found themselves in a world of trouble.

    In January, people were still talking about the WNYMedia.net bloggers being blacklisted from WBEN. Good times.

    Bass Pro. The story that keeps on giving – writing about a store that we’ve been chasing for half a decade or more. In 2007 we turned to Bass Pro on the Central Wharf. It was in January that we first heard rumblings of that aborted trial balloon. I still think it’s a perfect location, so there.

    Also, remember this rule for any discussion about Buffalo development or preservation: Must be done vs. would be nice.

    February was a bit slower, but we were embroiled in Albany politics 101, which dealt with the selection of Hevesi’s replacement. Same old, same old.

    Much as idiotic arguments over strips of grass in front of Greek Diners are same old, same old. Thank God all other problems are solved so that we can really focus our ire on Diners.

    I asked Buffalonians to take pictures of their winter beaters (which is a double entendre) and submit them to Flickr.

    Dale Volker, WNY’s best unintended comedian, got into it with Scott Brown. “So, a 34-year incumbent walks into a public hearing…” At least he didn’t call anyone a “Bohunk”. That day.

    By February, WNYMedia.net had its own space – a studio and everything. In other news, we still have it!

    In February, I called the XSPAND tax lien sale at 105% “found money”. It still has yet to be approved.

    Homeland Security needed some information on cross-border travel in WNY. Because, um, we live on the border.

    In March, Al Coppola got his payback a freshly-created city job not long after he tried to spoil the race for cousin Marc waged a valiant effort to return to the State Senate.

    There was some discussion on teh intertubes earlier this year about a flea market downtown. I can’t imagine it would be that difficult for someone to get a deal to use a downtown surface parking lot to set that up, but as it stands now nothing’s happened. It is Buffalo, after all, and if we can’t have precise perfection, we’ll settle for nothing less, dammit!

    Cigarette taxes = Genocide. Godwin laughs.

    By late March, we had promises of a signed Bass Pro deal. Yeah, right. But I liked it nonetheless. It was dead before it took its first breath, though. It’s interesting how much “debate” goes on in this town over what to do with the areas now overridden with weeds and asphalt. Some even started making comparisons to places that don’t compare.

    Ultimately, however, WNYMedia.net and the WNY Coalition for Progress co-hosted a well-attended and well-received panel discussion on the Canal Side project.

    Remember City Hall stonewalling on the story about Byron Brown’s kid taking the family car without permission? Sometimes it’s smart to just let the story go, and let it play out in 2 days rather than 2 weeks.

    As early as April, I predicted Collins’ victory. I thought it’d be a squeaker. I was wrong. As a side note, don’t talk about using an 89 cent pen to help run your town when that pen should only be costing you a dime.

    Whoever bought this ad in the Buffalo Challenger should be outed and subject to outrage and ridicule.

    Freshman State Assemblyman Mike Cole drank too much at an Albany bar whilst watching a Sabres game, and all he got was this lousy censure. Meanwhile, Freshman Senator Antoine Thompson took to the floor to argue against the passage of a bill that he himself co-sponsored.

    Remember June, when WNYMedia.net was down for, like, a week all so we could bring you a craptacular white-on-black template that pretty much everybody hated?

    Me, neither.

    At least the template-that-never-was was gone by December.

    2007 introduced us to Jon Powers. 2008 is your chance to vote for him.

    Hell, even I gave it a shot. And I won in Cheektowaga, even though I got creamed everywhere else. I posted some stories taking the county Control Board to task, but no one really seemed to care very much. Too bad. I’m going to keep writing them. I will also continue to mock Six Sigma. I don’t care how superbly awesome it might be. The whole terminology is begging to be mocked. Six Sigma black belt?

    For the record, here’s a short list of stuff I want to see built in Western New York. Can you Digg it?

    In September, this blog turned 4. Potty training has been slow, but it knows its A-B-Cs. We also saw the inaugural use of the Failboat, symbolizing the vanguard of political excellence in WNY and NYS.

    Speaking of which, who thought the County Clerk’s race would become more interesting than the race for County Executive? You’re playing kindergarten. He’s playing in the big leagues.

    I find that I hardly used the “Don’t Tase my ____, bro” often enough. But it was so apt for Vince Anello’s brother, Matteo.

    In the immortal words of Public Enemy, don’t believe the hype.

    The Bass Pro story may be more boring now, without Tim Tielman around to verbally assault it, but that’s why we have Route 5. Fatigue starts to set in, though, when we undergo yet another “dialogue” about “planning”, when neither word is quite right. With Route 5, we have the added attraction of Buffalo Rising acting as the unofficial spokessite for the Waterfront Coalition. The doctrine of laches came up as an overall response to that group, and WBFO appearances by Buffalo Rising writers and Common Councilman Mickey Kearns contained oh so much fresh meat for this blogger. As does just about any inane anti-suburb flame. The Waterfront Coalition paid for a billboard that has the distcintion of being both ironic and stupid. The Coalition of Enough, Already was only too happy to take the humorless Waterfront Coalition’s arguments a few steps further. And WNYMedia.net wants its outer harbor plan considered by the powers that be.

    But at least we got some of the best threads ever out of it.

    In his best of 2007 list, Buffalo News TV critic Alan Pergament gives an award to Alysha Palumbo:

    Best TV News Critic: Channel 4’s Alysha Palumbo defended herself against a blogger’s criticism by responding with something critical of her superiors’ news judgment.

    Here’s the thread where she and her red pantsuit took me to task.

    It’s pretty clear that Richard Florida is on to something when he talks of the Tor-Buff-Chester megaregion to which we may belong. There should be more discussion about this, but only if the federal government starts being smart, rather than scared, about cross-border traffic and commerce.

    As we close out 2007 and her fiscal year, we pause once again to thank Canadian shoppers, who helped bump Erie County into the black.

    Chris Collins

    26 Dec

    Last week, Geek and I had an opportunity to sit down with Erie County Executive-elect Chris Collins, with video provided courtesy of the lovely & talented Marc Odien. Here are some excerpts:

    Collins on the Waterfront:

    Collins on the hiring process:

    December 26th

    26 Dec

    The day after Christmas marks the start of what we affectionately know as winter-until-April. Or as the Canadians call it, “Boxing Day”. At least the lights will be up for a little while longer.

    Merry Christmas

    24 Dec

    Even bloggers need a day off…

    Today and tomorrow will be filled with Christmas tidings around Casa di Geek. Thus, I will most likely not be updating until Wednesday. In the meantime, enjoy some photos of Christmas cheer from our family to yours. Have a wonderful Christmas!

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