Archive | February, 2008

Juxtaposition

29 Feb

Read the story, then read the comments.

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Canal Side : A Cool Half-Billion

29 Feb

Sharon Linstedt has an update on the Canal Side project in today’s News. It isn’t pretty, and it pays to keep scrolling to this:

The public’s first opportunity to weigh in on Canal Side will come during the “scoping” phase of the environmental review, which will define the issues to be studied. There will also be a series of public presentations to detail what will be one of the city’s largest development efforts.

The entire public review process will take six to nine months and must be concluded before full-blown construction begins.

This, my friends, will be a clusterexpletive of titanic proportions. Every obstructionist with an ability to do a press release will be bemoaning the cost, the scope, the identity of the developer, whether things are built to the curb or not, parking, malls, retail, the suburbs, sunshine, wind, rain, and maybe even baby Jesus.

While the harbor agency, working in conjunction with Benderson Development Corp. and Bass Pro, is hitting the milestones of the predevelopment agreement which governs the project, they are also considering a few modifications. Among the changes are development of a museum that would not only house Great Lakes and Erie Canal exhibits, but would also give shelter to the currently homeless Niagara Aerospace Museum.

The agency also is in talks with the City of Buffalo regarding a lead role in construction of a long-planned, 850-vehicle parking ramp to be located in front of Marine Drive Apartments. The harbor development agency proposes to pay the city’s $3 million share of the $18 million project and provide parking to apartment residents, while expanding the number of spaces available to Canal Side visitors and downtown commuters.

Parking ramp? It’s sorely needed, because, well, people drive places. It would be a little nuts to build an outdoor shopping mall with cobble lanes and not factor in parking. But this is red meat fresh tofu to Buffalo’s loudest.

The planners have also raised the estimated price tag for all the development from an original $275 million to more than $500 million. Levy said the upward adjustment reflects refined abatement, demolition and construction costs, but will not boost Bass Pro’s $35 million incentive, or the $4 million Benderson will get to lure additional retail tenants.

Half a billion public dollars to build a new shopping district in downtown Buffalo. Under the Skyway. I still think it’s a good project, in spite of the silliness of the past, but that’s a lot of scratch for a shiny new toy.

UPDATE / EDIT: Commenter “Matt” offers:

The half a billion dollars is the overall cost of the development NOT the public money. If you read the entire paragraph it says “Levy said the upward adjustment reflects refined abatement, demolition and construction costs, but will not boost Bass Pro’s $35 million incentive, or the $4 million Benderson will get to lure additional retail tenants.”

Lets stick with the facts

Photo by MJ Worthington via FixBuffalo @ Flickr

Patriotism & Pins

28 Feb

Pre-9/11, not that many people wore American flag lapel pins. In fact, my most vivid memory of politicians wearing lapel pins looks like this:

Some are criticizing Obama’s refusal to wear such a lapel pin. While I like to think he’s avoiding pandering to people who like shiny, colorful objects, some are going so far as to question his patriotism.

These people are farking morons.

For instance,

And this:

If wearing a lapel pin is the ultimate test of one’s patriotism, then this country is way too far gone.

An Inflammatory Comparison; A Call for Action

28 Feb

Quick – name a place that’s endured 50 years of stagnation and decline; a place from which people flee on a daily basis; a place where the economy is in shambles, and people are ridiculously cynical.

If you guessed Cuba, you’d be right.

I am loath to compare Western New York to an overbaked Leninist-Stalinist basket case, but in many ways it’s apt. So you’ll forgive me this plunge into a sort of reductio ad Stalinum, but reading through this particular article about the younger generation’s frustration with the indignities of everyday Cuban life, I was struck by the many comparisons to WNY.

Now, of course, we don’t have a brutal self-important dictator, nor do we have a completely planned economy, and we do allow freedom of speech, assembly, religion, press, and other basic human rights that Stalinists loath. Naturally, the analogy is, therefore, fatally flawed.

But, consider this quote:

“Our defining characteristic is cynicism. But that’s a double-edged sword. It protects you from crushing disappointment, but it paralyzes you from doing anything.”

Cynicism is rampant throughout Western New York, and I readily admit that I have become one of the cynics. Frankly, people are too busy working to create the kind of mass movement needed to really change anything here in WNY or in Albany. In Cuba, they have time. They also have gulags.

While the children of Buffalo, Cheektowaga, and Wheatfield chase jobs and a better existence in places like Charlotte, Orlando, Phoenix, Boston, and New York, the children of Cuba flee, as well:

…millions of young Cubans want the regime to cut the rhetoric and make tangible improvements in their lives. Many have given up hope: from October 2005 through September 2007, an estimated 77,000 Cubans fled to the United States, the biggest exodus since the Mariel boatlift of 1980, when 125,000 Cubans escaped to Florida in six months. “Young people are very fed up with the situation,” says Julia Núñez Pacheco, the wife of jailed independent journalist Adolfo Fernández Sainz. “Many are escaping, either by hurling themselves into the sea on a raft or arranging a marriage of convenience with foreigners.”

(Lack of hope + lack of opportunity + opportunity elsewhere + frustration)(political stasis + baby steps + out of touch leaders and legislatures) = exodus.

Except in Buffalo, you need only fill up a U-Haul. In Cuba, you need to find a boat and leave secretly, risking your life.

Oh, we’ve tried to change. We’ve (perhaps misguidedly) supported politicians, with our fingers firmly crossed, who promised fundamental change which would help lift upstate and western New York out of a decades-long doldrums. But consider this quote:

Raúl Castro has only himself to blame for their undisguised impatience. Within weeks of stepping in for his bedridden older brother, he urged Cubans to blow the whistle on government corruption and to find new solutions for the country’s many problems. Cuba’s young could hardly have agreed more: sweeping changes were overdue. And what happened next? Nothing.

Sounds painfully familiar.

The answer? I don’t think it lies with more government “job creation” programs, nor does it lie with the opposite end of the spectrum, with some sort of unyielding extreme libertarian ideological theorizing. It lies with victories big and small. It starts with people impressing upon their political leaders that they expect and demand fundamental change. While I often mock the SimCity-style “planning” that many espouse when it comes to Buffalo’s physical development, SimCity frankly teaches one some very basic lessons. There is a threshold at which taxation and regulation create decline. When your light industrial zones start to crumble, and property values plummet in your dense residential districts, you have to take some drastic measures. Ultimately, your city grows when you find a decent mix of taxation and spending, neither of which can be too extreme.

Yet after half a century, we still haven’t learned the lessons that a silly computer game can teach.

This region stumbles along on handouts and hope, living like it’s still 1958. Efforts to reduce the size of government, or to create regional government run headlong into political fiefdoms, and other forms of turf-protection. Yes, we’re all for it in the abstract, so long as it doesn’t affect ______ in any meaningful way.

Perhaps it’s time to take a page from the Senecas’ playbook. We don’t have to block the Thruway and burn tires on it, but we upstate New York holdout taxpayers really ought to consider some sort of mass movement to wake up New York governments and entities that hold us back economically.

The Unshackle Upstate effort is all well and good, but it’s a top-down approach supported by business entities like the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, which is very good at lecturing people about good governance, while happily collecting IDA and Empire Zone welfare handouts.

In Cuba,

No one took to the streets last week to test the limits of the regime’s forbearance. “You’re starting to see more and more examples of dissidence, but they are still not very organized or united,” says prominent human-rights activist Laura Pollán, 60, whose husband has been jailed since 2003. Still, change is coming…

Is change coming? Is anyone hearing the vast, silent majority of upstate citizens who love their homes and their hometowns, but are frustrated with continuing, rapid decline of this post-industrial region?

I’ve toyed with the idea of a million-taxpayer march on Albany before, but I’ve been too preoccupied with life to do anything about it. Imagine thousands of people (maybe a million is over-reaching) traveling to Albany to demand that Albany enact a five or ten-point action plan to help guide upstate out of its economic doldrums and lay the foundation for growth.

What would you include on that list? Would you go?

Hillary Clinton & the Independence Party

28 Feb

During the debate the other night, when Russert was done hectoring Obama about what Farrakhan had said about him, Clinton got into a semantic war over “reject” versus “denounce”. She indicated that she had rejected the endorsement of New York’s parasitic Independence Party, implying that Obama’s mere denunciation of Farrakhan’s kind words was inadequate.

Max Tresmond misinterpreted that as applying to 2006, when Hillary was more than happy to appear on the IP line.

I knew the issue arose from 2000, not 2006, so I Googled it. I found this diarist at Daily Kos who found this passage from a 2000-era article:

Mayor and First Lady Reach Out, in Very Different Ways, to a Third Party

By ELISABETH BUMILLER
Published: April 30, 2000
The two candidates for United States Senate sought the endorsement of the fractious Independence Party here today, but Hillary Rodham Clinton used her speech to attack the group for what she said was the ”anti-Semitism, extremism, prejudice and intolerance of a few shrill voices on both the right and the left.”

Mrs. Clinton added that she welcomed the endorsement of the party, but said emphatically that she would not accept it if the party supported Patrick J. Buchanan for president. ”I cannot and will not as the price for any endorsement embrace or excuse those who use hateful rhetoric that separates and divides,” she said. ”So let me be just very clear: I will not run on a line with Pat Buchanan on the top of the ticket.”

And I found this:

Hillary declared that she would not accept their endorsement if it meant being on the same ticket with Buchanan. And why not? “If this party allows itself to become defined by the anti-Semitism, extremism, prejudice and intolerance of a few shrill voices of both the right and the left, you will be doing yourselves and our state a great disservice.”

But let’s be clear that Hillary Clinton appeared before the Independence Party to seek its little fusiony endorsement back in 2000. She told them that she would only accept it on condition that they didn’t also endorse Buchanan/Fulani.

That’s a whole lot different, and more susceptible to “rejection”, rather than “denouncement”, than an episode when a renowned anti-Semite spontaneously decides, without prompting or solicitation, to endorse you.

City to Sue to Fund Demolitions

28 Feb

David Torke over at Fix Buffalo has the scoop. Evidently, the City of Buffalo is suing 36 lenders for the cost of demolishing homes that never make it all the way through the foreclosure process and end up vacant and derelict.

A copy of the City’s pleadings is here. Over 3,000 foreclosures took place within city limits in the last two years, as alleged in the Complaint. There are 10,000 vacant homes that need to be demolished at a cost of between $16,000 and $40,000 each.

This particular lawsuit, however, deals with 57 specific properties which the city alleges are nuisances it is dutybound to abate, and the Complaint is 90-something pages long, so each affected property is tied to each defendant lender.

Good for the city for holding someone responsible for the cost of demolition. But the raw statistics are sobering and put the lie to any talk of a renaissance.

Buffalo isn’t coming back until all of Buffalo is coming back.

And absolutely nothing has happened in the last 4 years to help Buffalo stop the bleeding.

Sounds Almost Oxymoronic

28 Feb

Who knew “feisty” and “rant” could be used in the same sentence as “gardening”? Congratulations to the ranters for these kudos.

Channel 7 Labor Issues

27 Feb

Channel 7 union workers have been without a contract since January 31st, and instead of striking, they’re publicizing their grievances to the public. You can check out their website here, and you may have seen leaflets, bus ads, and lawn signs popping up throughout WNY recently.

It’s a far cry from these days, I suppose. I wasn’t around, but understand that Channel 7 was the news to watch.

Let’s all cringe a bit too (Steve Cichon has the full version of this here):

Shorter Jim Ostrowski

27 Feb

No one wants to play with me anymore. And I’m always right.

Buffalo Rejoice

27 Feb

That’s right, Buffalo. You want good news, do you?

Zubaz are back on sale at this website.

When mullets come back in style, I’m running for the hills.