Archive | May, 2008

Photoshop/Caption

28 May

Something funny onto this sign.

Small Mindedness in Small Doses can have Huge Consequences

28 May

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Via Bruce Andriatch’s column today, I find this recount of Kevin Gaughan’s “The Cost” tour’s stop in the Village of Blasdell:

we arrived in Blasdell last night with heads high and spirits even higher. As we entered village hall, though, Mayor Ernie Jewett summoned me to his office and changed everything. He said that I could not use the word “consolidation” or “dissolution” in my presentation. If I did, he would end the meeting and have me removed from the hall.

Two of my students from UB Law School, Lindsay Heckler and Dan Lesniewski, were along last night. Dan was outraged by Jewett’s stricture. Lindsay seemed almost saddened at the notion that anyone, let alone a public official, would attempt to curtail another’s right to free speech.

But to cast Mayor Jewett’s order in a constitutional context elevates his small gesture beyond its worth. Jewett acted out of fear. Fear of having residents learn that perhaps there’s a better way to govern than his; fear that citizens would connect the dots between too much government and too little growth; and fear that a system that’s served him better than it has served residents might be forced to change.

The once proud Village of Blasdell today bears more resemblance to an abandoned community. In the over 30 years since the steel industry that sustained it collapsed, no government and no politician has reversed its painful decline. If you are under 18 or over 65 and live in Blasdell, according to the most recent U.S. Census, you likely live near or under the poverty line. And no matter what your age, the value your home, the number of your neighbors, and the quality of your life have all declined.

Against that painful backdrop, last night Ernie Jewett refused to discuss the need for reform. As far more powerful politicians throughout history have learned, though, while he can ban the idea of change in his chambers, he cannot banish it from the minds of citizens.

Constitutional issues of prior restraint of political speech aside, the entire community should be outraged at this sheer, patent idiocy. Gaughan’s advocacy for downsizing and consolidation is dangerous to a certain class of people which thrives on waste, redundancy, and ignorance. What Mr. Jewett did by prohibiting Gaughan from bringing up consolidation is underscore its very need. We don’t need small-minded emperors running needless political entities which serve to spend taxpayer money in unsustainable ways. What harm is there if the villages of Hamburg and Blasdell are no more? I don’t really know. But I do know that there’s great harm in prohibiting the discussion of that topic.

Andriatch spoke with Mr. Jewett:

Asked about the matter the following day, Jewett offered this response: “Mr. Gaughan was invited to speak about his previous presentations to all the boards, village and town. And he was told that it was the unanimous decision of the [Blasdell] Board of Trustees that he was welcome to talk about downsizing, and he was told he was not allowed to talk about dissolving the village.”

Why is that?

“Why is that?” Jewett said, repeating the question as if shocked that it needed to be asked. “Because the village is willing to listen to any way that we can better serve our constituents, but that’s a decision that the board feels is up to the village residents and the board.”

The mayor noted that Blasdell already has taken steps to consolidate some services, including merging its building department with the Town of Hamburg’s. And he is open to other ways to save taxpayers money.

Asked if refusing to allow a speaker to use a word or espouse an idea might have been overkill, Jewett reiterated that Gaughan was invited to speak about downsizing.

Perhaps, Mr. Jewett, the best way for you to serve your constituents would be to make them constituents of a different political corporate entity. Sounds to me as if you inadvertently made that case for Mr. Gaughan.

Not Halftime Yet

28 May

The Erie Canal Harbor Terminal park is now open for sightseeing. The transformation from gravel parking lot and 70s era museum facility to historical recreation/interpretation of what was once there is truly phenomenal. Not just because it looks nice, but because it is a major downtown waterfront project that engendered controversy yet somehow managed to get done.

So far.

There’s a boardwalk, informational signs, a waterfall, a park, and the naval museum. There’s a hot dog stand, too. These are all positive steps towards an improved, attractive inner harbor. Now comes another hard part.

The historical aspect of this area gets people there, but now it’s important to keep people there and getting them to spend their money. In order to do that, we need buildings and shops and bars and restaurants. Bass Pro or no Bass Pro, it’s important that Benderson and the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation begin making palpable progress on the remainder of the Canal Side project. That means bringing the Aud down, bringing the Donovan down, and starting work on what will be on that block under the Skyway.

So, cheer this progress, and it is truly amazing that any of this got done at all in this town – a town that will take any mediocre non-event – like the removal of driftwood from an unswimmable beach, or the fact that the marina is open 12 months per year instead of 7, or where the mayor holds a press conference to announce pay & display parking meters. The inner harbor project is moving. There is something built there.

But realize that it’s only the 1st out of 4 quarters.

Jimmy Griffin, RIP

26 May

Since I arrived in Buffalo, Griffin had become something of a shadow of his former self – he served briefly on the common council, tried to recall Masiello, and ran for County Executive. He was certainly an icon and a legend.

Consider this an open thread for you to note one thing about him that you remember most.

Olbermann on the RFK Gaffe

24 May

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Say what you want about Olbermann, but he’s one of the very, very few cable commentators who doesn’t scream at you, doesn’t rely on flash and graphics, and otherwise isn’t a caricature of himself. Good for him for what he’s doing – being intelligent and speaking to you like a grownup. Regardless of whether you agree with him or not.

And the best part of this commentary comes at around the 8 minute mark, when he lists of the myriad things we have “forgiven” Clinton over the course of the primary, in spite of her easy morphs into victim mode.

Chapter 9

24 May

The City of Vallejo, California files for Chapter 9 Bankruptcy protection. The deets:

The Vallejo City Council unanimously agreed May 6 to begin bankruptcy filings after months of negotiations with city public employee union negotiators. Several meetings between city and union negotiators after the May 6 vote didn’t break the stalemate. City finance officials attribute Vallejo’s looming $16 million deficit for the coming year to a plummeting housing market and the cost of ballooning public safety employee contracts. Officials expect the city’s general fund to run out of money June 30 and hope Chapter 9 bankruptcy will protect the city from its creditors while it works out a long-term plan to pull out of debt and continue to pay its employees. City officials rejected a union proposal its representatives say offered a two-year plan to avoid bankruptcy and even build city reserves through assumed new revenue sources and union concessions.

Sometimes, it’s heartening just to get confirmation that we’re not the only place with problems.

Clinton's Going to Stay In the Race Because RFK Wasn't Assassinated Until June 1968

23 May

Like the NY Lottery – hey, you never know.

This has to be one of the dumbest things said on the campaign trail this year. The fact that it was said by the candidate who’s got the experience – the one who’s been fully vetted – the one who’s ready to lead on day one, makes it all the stupider.

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Her apology:

“I regret that if my referencing that moment of trauma for our entire nation and in particular the Kennedy family was in any way offensive. I certainly had no intention of that whatsoever,” the former first lady said.

“Sorry if it was offensive” does-not-equal “sorry I said something offensive”.

Of all the things in the whole world she could have brought up as an excuse for staying in a race she’s already lost, arguing that RFK wasn’t shot and killed until June is probably the last one on the list. It is offensive not only because dredging up RFK’s assassination is in poor taste this week, with news of Teddy Kennedy’s illness. It is offensive because bringing up the specter of assassination is beyond the pale – well beyond anything normal people would discuss as part of a primary campaign. It’s like taking being at a romantic dinner at Olivers, pulling your pants down, hopping up on the table, squatting, and taking a shit right there in the middle of the table.

Seriously, Mrs. Clinton, the race is over for you. Drop out now while you still have a political career.

UPDATE: Even the argument itself is fallacious, regardless of its offensiveness. In 1992, the New York Times noted that, by March 20th, Paul Tsongas was running out of money and pulled out of the race. He said,

the alternative was to play the role of spoiler.” ‘That Is Not Worthy’…”That is not what I’m about,” he continued. “That is not worthy. I did not survive my ordeals in order to be the agent of the re-election of George Bush.”

In the meantime, the (Bill) Clinton campaign argued that the mathematics made him the inevitable nominee:

Mr. Clinton is already close to the halfway mark in the number of delegates needed to win the nomination and has a 7-to-1 edge over Mr. Brown, who is running a maverick, anti-establishment campaign. Many Democrats said that barring an unexpected collapse by Mr. Clinton’s campaign, it is difficult to see how Mr. Brown can overtake the Governor.

“It certainly brings it much closer to a conclusion,” said Ronald H. Brown, the Democratic national chairman. “You could argue that it’s theoretically possible for Jerry Brown to mount a come-from-behind challenge, but the math and the reality of Bill Clinton’s momentum certainly work against him.”

And note that in 1992, the New Hampshire primary took place during the second half of February – not in January.

As Marc Ambinder argues,

For those who contend that Clinton was referring to competitive contests or example, why didn’t she bring up Ted Kennedy in 1980? Or Gary Hart in 1984? I think she was pointing to primary races where the eventual nominee was unknown at this point in the cycle…. But 1984 would apply more, her husband was the de-facto nominee at this point, and the compressed calender really renders such comparisons null and void.

Even if her point is legitimate, surely she is aware of the sensitivity of the subject.

Obama has done exactly the right thing over the last week or so – pretend Clinton doesn’t exist. Yes, his campaign issued a statement calling what Clinton said, “unfortunate” and said it “has no place in this campaign.” Other than that, Obama has been looking more presidential than either McCain or Clinton this past week, easily morphing from defense to offense whenever McCain attacks him, and by mounting a general election campaign.

Stuff To Read

23 May

My long weekend begins today, so posting will be appropriately light, although Mr. Buffalo Geek might hop on if he’s so inclined.

So, consider:

McKinley High School Principal Crystal Barton ought to start talking about what’s going on. Jayvonna Kincannon, on the other hand, is in desperate need of a time out.

County Executive Chris Collins says he’s not a political animal, but the evidence shows otherwise. Not that there’s anything wrong with a politician acting politically, but why keep up the charade?

I wonder why DA Candidate Ken Case is so untouchable, but the Erie County Democratic Committee unanimously endorsed Frank Sedita III – son of the Supreme Court Justice and grandson of the Mayor. There is no question whatsoever that Sedita is an outstanding prosecutor, and chances are that, as 1st Assistant, he has had much experience helping to run that office. I’m sure he’s a good pick, but would love to know why Case wasn’t.

I want to begin dispelling a myth – I think the conventional wisdom out there holds that the people at WNYMedia.net are snarky, sarcastic snipers and gripers, and don’t try to do helpful things. That could not be further from the truth, and I’ll put the civic activism of our members and writers up against anyone. Our people have been involved with Buffalo Homecoming, Broadway-Fillmore Alive, the Central Terminal, the WNY Coalition for Progress, anti-Flipping efforts on the East Side, Revitalize Buffalo, Santa’s Park, South Buffalo improvements, Buffalo ReUse, Buffalo’s dog park at LaSalle – just to name a few. Thesis: it’s perfectly ok to snarkily gripe when you’re out there trying to implement change. Frankly, it’s perfectly ok to snarkily gripe no matter what.

The American Axle strike is now over. The Tonawanda plant will close, but the Cheektowaga plant will stay open. For now. Probably not for very long.

The Erie Canal Harbor park officially opens today. You can go there and cross the truss bridge, look at the excavated canal terminus, read some historical facts about the canal, go to the park along the water, walk along the board walk, go to the naval museum, and see some ruins. It’s quite pretty and very well built. There are most certainly very pretty things to see – the problem is that there is nothing to do there. Construction on Canal Side’s retail, commercial, and residential phases can’t begin soon enough.

John McCain is a newbie when it comes to attracting the religious whacko vote, and has – in one week – had to repudiate Rev. John Hagee, who had some very strange things to say about Hitler, and now Rod Parsley, who has some very interesting things to say about America’s founding, is a raging homophobe, and can cure disease with his touch. Maybe the Reverend A-hole Parsley could be Surgeon General.

Finally, a LOLCat:

pet
more cat pictures

Want People to Ride Public Transit?

22 May

Gas prices could go up to $7.00 or $8.00 per gallon, and it won’t be enough to get people out of their cars. They might select different cars, but individual transportation will not die completely.

If you want people who are happy with their cars to consider using public transportation, it would be good to make that transportation clean, modern, efficient, and reliable. Big Billy Fuccillo buses need not apply.

So, consider this rubber-tired newfangled tram-bus, now rolling in France:

This is a bus-train, basically a train on rubber tires instead of rail tracks. The vehicle is designed to function exactly like an urban streetcar with a low floor that is level with boarding stations. The vehicle is guided by a centre track in the street and is meant for urban city streets, as shown above.

That’s all well and good for the city and throughout the suburbs. But what about speedier commuter rail? Quick trips between downtown and East Aurora, Hamburg, Orchard Park, Clarence, Lancaster, etc. Something like this would do just nicely:


Photo courtesy Kecko via Flickr.

Intercity and intracity rail expansion would be great for the Buffalo area. If only we had the money and political will to build it.

Bitterness

22 May

A new sports blog is up and running – the Dukes of Awesome – and I was alerted to it via a linkback. There, I found its 31 reasons to hate every NFL team that isn’t the Buffalo Bills. The post starts thusly:

In Buffalo we have a lot of things we’re good at: chicken wings, tailgates, shoveling, obesity, the National Lacrosse League, and not knocking down abandoned buildings. Oh, and bitterness. We are really good at bitterness.

Buffalonians thrive on bitterness. We’re bitter that all our jobs are moving out of town. We’re bitter that spring always starts late, but fall is seemingly always on time. We’re bitter that any public project we propose gets shot down by reasons with increased ludicrousness (yes, I’m talking about you Mr. Common Tern). Give us a topic, and I’m sure we’d have a reason to hate it. I’m not saying this is a bad thing – I love being bitter. To me, the only thing I enjoy more then being happy is being miserable.

With the season now a mere 110ish days away its time we all came together and celebrated our bitterness, our hatred, our unbridled passion of abhorrence. So, with this in mind I’ll present to you a reason to hate every other team in the league. 31 teams – 31 reasons to hate. Today we’ll tackle the AFC East and the AFC North.

Read the whole thing. They had me at “bitterness”.