Archive | June, 2008

More Disruptive than What Went on at McKinley High?

27 Jun

Try this on for size.

Some total dick who graduated from Saratoga Springs High School last year disrupted this year’s graduation dressed as a

To round out the costume, he sprayed silly string at the audience.

His motive? “He thought it would be funny,” Briscoe said.

Morett was ticketed for disorderly conduct, a violation, and will face the charges in City Court on Tuesday, Briscoe said.

Morett graduated from Saratoga Springs High School last year. He tried to streak away from law enforcement, but could not.

“Once I stopped laughing, he was pretty easy to catch because he was tripping on the lower portion of the costume,” said Briscoe, who made the arrest.

In other news, Jayvonna Kincannon graduated yesterday without incident, and the McKinley High alumni association gave her a leadership award.

Input

26 Jun

I’m thinking of switching the blog up a little. I’m thinking of a new template and of making it a quasi-group blog, permitting certain invited people to post on a periodic basis. Mostly people who like to blog but don’t have the time or desire to maintain a blog full-time anymore.

What, if any, requests do you have with respect to a new template? I don’t want to do anything too dramatic, but I’d like to switch up the design a bit, modernize it to incorporate some new functionality in WordPress 2.5.

One of the things we had on the old shit.0 white-on-black template was truncated posts that you had to click-through to read the rest of. I didn’t necessarily have a problem with click-through, per se – it was the overall lack of functionality I had with that template that frustrated me. And don’t worry – I won’t be reverting to that.

I write the blog for my own benefit, but am mindful of the fact that you read it and that you don’t want to wade through a bunch of crap. Thoughts you have go in comments and I thank you for them.

The Broadway Market

26 Jun

The Broadway Market is a city treasure, filled with history and loaded with potential. Unfortunately, it’s under-utilized, losing money, keeps bad hours, and is really, truly ugly.

We know it has potential because of the Eastertime rush. We know it has potential because of its history, and people’s nostalgia for it. That potential is tempered by the decline of its surroundings over the past decades.

If I had all the money in the world, I’d rip it down and build a brand-new structure as a destination for the area. After all, if Canal Side can all of a sudden draw people to a once-blighted and benighted parking lot under the Skyway, then a gleaming, modern Broadway Market could help draw people to Broadway-Fillmore.

Of course, I hardly have enough money to fill up a tank of gas now, and I doubt that there’s political will or financial sense to be made of constructing a gleaming, modern marketplace on that site.

I think what’s happening is that the market’s potential is being stunted by a whole host of issues. Let’s simplify.

What if we abandoned the building completely? What if, instead, we set up something like what’s shown below on the site of the former K-Mart across the street?

Make the cost of entry for vendors de minimis, and soon you’ll have a thriving, grassroots market. Tell farmers from other areas to market their wares there. Abolish restrictions on the use of the market.

If it can be proven that people will use the market outside of Eastertime, then a push can be made to build a new enclosed market across the street.

Just a thought, anyway. Being open on Sunday, when the refugees from the old neighborhood go to church, would help, too.

UPDATE: Check out the article in ArtVoice about the market, and these excerpts:

The problem, Byrd says, is lack of vision. He took a position on the board because he imagined that it could be a part of the larger effor to revitalize Buffalo’s old Polonia dsitrict, which revolves around fixtures like the Central Terminal, St. Stanislaus, Corpus Christi, and the Adam Mickiewicz Library. This year Byrd was voted in as president of the board by a bloc of similarly minded progressives, offering a glimmer of hope for those who hoped to change the way business is done at the market.

But the current board leadership managed to retain power by invalidating the vote that won Byrd the presidency, through a series of shenanigans that included ousting one board member on a technicality and fetching a compliant former board member from a nursing home to take his place, in order to make a quorum. In the aftermath, Byrd resigned; the old leadership returned and booted reform-minded board members Marty Biniasz and Father Anzelm Chalupka of Corpus Christi Church for missing too many meetings, which are held at 8:30 in the mornings on weekdays—tough to make for working professionals.

For all the complaints about lack of public money, the current management practically threw away $1.2 million from Congresswoman Louise Slaughter in 2006. Slaughter, who was instrumental in the successful rejuvenation of Rochester’s public marketplace, earmarked the money for a public kitchen and a variety of much-needed infrastructure improvements. But Fronczak and the board conspired to use $1 million of Slaughter’s earmark to lure in a new tenant who proposed to open a factory outlet selling discount clothing—not at all in line with Slaughter’s vision of the market as a hub for community development and a source of healthy food in a multicultural neighborhood. Slaughter took her money off the table and walked away, disgusted, vowing never to help the market while Fronczak was still there.

“They wanted to give this guy $1 million, Slaughter’s money, to open a factory outlet,” Franczyk says. “Is that right for the market? He subsequently went out of business. If you had given this guy $1 million, he probably would have skipped town.”

We all know that KeyBank left the market. What better way to attract people to a fading market in a fading neighborhood, then to add the lowest common lending denominator – the usurial check cashing place:

More recently, when the departure of KeyBank left the market with nagging vacancy and a loss of $6,000 per month in rent, Fronczak and the board courted a check-cashing operation based in New York City. Maybe check-cashing is a sevice the neighborhood needs, says Dobosiewicz, but it hardly burnishes the market’s already downtrodden image. “This is the plan there: Get whoever you can who will pay rent, don’t worry about who they are and how they fit in with the market,” he says.

Luckily, there are people with vision and energy who can hopefully jettison the mediocrity and stasis of the market’s current board:

The current board has been less than receptive to new marketing ideas; they only halfheartedly went along with a Christmas market event last year, for example, which turned out to be hugely successful. Tenants who suggested a Fourth of July promotion were told it was bad idea. Why? Because it had never been done before. And management seems unwilling to accept the conclusions of customer surveys that indicate the market would attract more business if it stayed open past five o.clock on weekdays and instituted Sunday hours.

Sandy Starks is a founding member of Western New York’s convivium of the Slow Food movement and a career professional in the food and wine industry. She was one of the organizers of the Christmas market, an effort in which she received so little cooperation from the market’s management that it wound up costing her money. She’s one of a number of Broadway Market enthusiasts who are waiting in the sidelines to contribute their ideas and expertise to the rebirth of the market. Starks imagines organic vegetable stands, high-quality coffee, good cheeses, and microbrews to draw in customer with expensive tatses; she imagines reaching out to potential new vendors in the Fillmore District’s burgeoning Vietnamese and Muslim communities, as well as a consistent effort to include the district’s majority African-American population in the market’s cultural history and governance, which have been an island of Eastern European whiteness in a neighborhood that is predominantly African American. Starks imagines events every weekend, promoted not only by individual participants but by the market’s management. Starks, Byrd, and Dobosiewicz point to the Clinton-Bailey market—in an equally distressed neighborhood, even further removed from downtown—as an indication of that the Broadway can succeed.

Exxon Jack Davis

26 Jun

Running against Jack Davis (D-In Name Only) is like running against Mr. Burns from the Simpsons; a curmudgeony, bitter, angry man who is supposedly spending $3 million of his own money to run for congress a third time, after losing twice already. Oh, and did you know Davis doesn’t like the Chinese or Mexicans? Yeah, it’s true. In fairness, Davis has better hair than C. Montgomery Burns.

One wonders why he’s bothering to run again, seeing as he expressed “relief” upon losing to Tom Reynolds in 2006.

But Davis’ resemblance to the fictional Mr. Burns isn’t just limited to temperament and wealth. You’ll recall that Mr. Burns own the Springfield nuclear power plant. Well, Mr. Davis owns $35 million in energy stocks.

From a Powers campaign press release today:

Jack Davis revealed in financial disclosure documents that he owns up to $35 million in Big Oil and energy stocks. A recent poll released by the Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg revealed that 76% of Americans blame Big Oil, George Bush, oil speculators, and OPEC for record high gas prices.

At a press conference held at a Mobil gas station in Amherst, NY, where the price for a gallon of gas was $4.19, Powers called for an end to corporate greed that is causing skyrocketing gas prices. The Powers plan for Securing Our Energy Independence calls for increased investment for renewable energy and curbing corporate greed by reigning in oil speculators.

“We now know Jack Davis has up to 35 million reasons to vote against lower gas prices. Exxon Jack is no different than George Bush and the politicians in Washington, DC who are already bought and paid for by the oil companies. Western New York needs a Congressman who will look out for their interests, not Exxon/Mobil’s bottom line” stated Powers Campaign Manager, John Gerken.

TOP 10 QUESTIONS JACK DAVIS MUST ANSWER ABOUT HIS OIL INVESTMENTS

· How can you say you are not beholden to special interests when you have up to $35 million dollars invested in Big Oil and energy while hardworking Americans struggle to fill their gas tanks?

· How can hard working Western New Yorkers trust you to lower gas prices when you profited by up to $280,000 off of Big Oil and energy last year?

· Why should Western New Yorkers believe that you will vote in our interests and not your own when it comes to Big Oil?

· Do you support drilling in ANWR?

· Would you vote against tax breaks for big oil?

· Is there really any difference between spending your own money that you received from Big Oil and taking special interest money?

· Isn’t it a little hypocritical that you made more than 5 times the median income of the district last year off of Big Oil and energy, but you say you understand the hard times Western New Yorkers are facing?

· What would you do in Congress to lower the price of gasoline and help the families in Western New York that you want to represent?

· Do you believe that renewable energy will help alleviate man-made global warming?

Davis won’t answer these questions because he never answers any questions. Not from voters, anyway. He doesn’t go out and meet them. He’ll show up and speak with reporters or party leaders and hurl invective at his opponents, but his stock answer to every problem, every issue is “foreigners”. Don’t believe me?

EDIT: VIDEO REMOVED FOR OBNOXIOUSNESS

That MacBook on Jack’s desk? Made in China. He also claims he won’t take special interest money.

His one big contributor is Jack Davis. He is his own special interest. It’s quite easy to make that pledge when you’re a millionaire.

On the other hand, Powers doesn’t make almost $300,000 per year off of energy stocks. His plan for energy:

An Energy Bill that Invests in Our Future – Provide tax credits to investors who empower scientists to develop renewable energy. Instead of giving away billions to Big Oil, we should provide funding to scientists and engineers to develop renewable energies. As of right now, Congress only provides an advancement of one year to investors who want to develop renewable energies while they provide billions to Big Oil. We need to extend these credits to 10 year allotments in order to provide scientists and engineers with the funds necessary to cure America’s oil addiction and make our Country safe.

A Menu of Options – There is no silver bullet solution to the energy crisis. The United States must not limit Americans to any one particular form of renewable energy, but provide several options in order to protect against future monopolies such as the one oil currently holds.

Apollo Sized Ambitions – When we come together as a nation, we can accomplish anything. The United States had a vision to get to the moon; we made the commitment and accomplished the task. If we are truly going to be energy independent, Congress must set firm goals of when America will be powered by renewable energy and then commit ourselves to making sure this happens.

A Government that Leads by Example – Jon Powers will support legislation that requires all newly purchased nonmilitary federal vehicles (including Postal vehicles) to be American made and use hybrid technology or E85 fuel within five years. We must also provide state and local governments incentives to move all non law enforcement vehicles to do the same.

Helping the Consumer Lead by Example – The federal government allows for a tax credit of up to $3,400 on hybrid vehicles. This incentive is only given to the first 60,000 models of each car sold. Jon Powers will work to make sure that all hybrid vehicles receive this tax credit until hybrids and other clean cars make up a majority of all vehicles sold. Jon Powers also supports housing tax credits for homeowners who invest in making their home more energy efficient.

Stopping Corporate Greed by closing the Enron Loop-Hole – Special Interest groups and Big Oil have created a loophole in the law that allows speculators to manipulate the price of oil and inflate it by $30-$50 per barrel. While Americans pay over four dollars per gallon of gasoline, Big Oil is making record profits. Jon Powers supports closing the loophole and forcing speculators to provide realistic estimates so our gasoline prices will go down.

An America that Leads by Example – Jon Powers will fight for legislation to require the use of safe, renewable energy sources like wind, solar, and hydropower to generate 25% of the nation’s electricity by 2025. America must also invest in technologies to improve ethanol and convert to cellulosic ethanol so that America can grow its own fuel and it will not affect the food supply.

Forcing Oil Companies to Lead by Example – Jon Powers supports legislation that will require oil companies to install bio-fuel pumps at 25% of their stations.

Reducing Carbon Emissions – Jon Powers will support legislation to cap emissions of greenhouse gases and reduce them by 20% by 2020.

All I know is, Exxon Jack’s tank of ideas and solutions is running on empty.

Past Buffalo

26 Jun

Although I’m loath to hold up and worship Buffalo’s “good old days”, I stumbled upon a fascinating and beautiful set of photographs on Flickr.

Evidently, Flickr user Vielles Annonces purchased a set of old Kodachrome slides from somewhere, depicting the travels of a Southern California family she doesn’t know. There is a small description of factoids that she was able to decipher through looking at the photos, but other than that, they’re just random color snaps from the 1950s and 60s.

Included in the set are several pictures of a snowy Buffalo in 1963.

Posing in Niagara Square:

In front of the Statler Hilton on a snowy 1963 day:

In front of the Statler Hilton on a sunny 1959 day:

At City Hall in 1959:

The Hotel Statler and Niagara Square from the site of the current execrable City Court building:

The Falls 1963:

Powers for Congress Picnic Tonight

25 Jun

Harris Hill Men’s Club invites the entire community to a picnic for Jon Powers.

When: Wednesday, June 25, 2008, 6:00 – 8:00 PM

Where: Clarence Town Park. Large Pavilion

You Are the Mayor / County Executive

25 Jun

You are the Mayor of Buffalo or the County Executive of Erie County.

Name 5 things that you would implement right now that would have a significant positive impact on the city or region.

(Photo credit: Eye8Pudding via Flickr)

Did you sign the petition yet?

24 Jun

What are you waiting for?

Rove on Obama

24 Jun

It’s fun to watch the right try to figure out how best to define and pigeonhole Obama. They were so amped for Clinton, that they’ve been caught unawares.

They can’t decide whether Obama is the foreign outsider who rejects American values, or whether he’s the too-cool elitist at the country club.

They can’t decide if he’s too inner-city activist or too Park Avenue radical chic.

Thankfully, Karl Rove weighs in:

Even if you never met him, you know this guy. He’s the guy at the country club with the beautiful date, holding a martini and a cigarette that stands against the wall and makes snide comments about everyone who passes by.

Note, of course, that with that very statement Rove outs himself as being that guy at the country club holding a martini and cigarette making snide comments. “Beautiful date” is unconfirmed.

Country club?

Butcher Mugabe

24 Jun

Although the opposition MDC candidate Morgan Tsvangirai won the first round of Presidential elections outright in late March, (and more likely than not with 50% plus one, which would have obviated the need for a run-off), that run-off is scheduled to be held on June 27th.

The entire thing appears to have been an opportunity for Mugabe’s ZANU-PF to basically kill or threaten to kill anyone associated with, or planning to vote for, the opposition.

Tsvangirai has dropped out of this complete sham of a race and sought sanctuary in the Dutch embassy. Sokwanele has been keeping track of anti-opposition government violence here. The brutality is medieval, and to make matters worse, Mugabe basically blames the opposition for it all.

Other sub-Saharan African leaders have become more vocal about Mugabe’s brutality, and even the UN Security Council got involved.

“The Security Council condemns the campaign of violence against the political opposition ahead of the second round of the Presidential elections scheduled for 27 June, which has resulted in the killing of scores of opposition activists and other Zimbabweans and the beating and displacement of thousands of people, including many women and children.

“The Security Council further condemns the actions of the Government of Zimbabwe that have denied its political opponents the right to campaign freely, and calls upon the Government of Zimbabwe to stop the violence, to cease political intimidation, to end the restrictions on the right of assembly and to release the political leaders who have been detained. The Council urges the international monitors and observers to remain in Zimbabwe while the crisis continues.

“The Security Council regrets that the campaign of violence and the restrictions on the political opposition have made it impossible for a free and fair election to take place on 27 June. The Council further considers that, to be legitimate, any government of Zimbabwe must take account of the interests of all its citizens. The Council notes that the results of the 29 March 2008 elections must be respected.

“The Security Council expresses its concern over the impact of the situation in Zimbabwe on the wider region. The Council welcomes the recent international efforts, including those of SADC leaders and particularly President Mbeki. The Security Council calls on the Zimbabwean authorities to cooperate fully with all efforts, including through the UN, aimed at finding a peaceful way forward, through dialogue between the parties, that allows a legitimate government to be formed that reflects the will of the Zimbabwean people.

“The Security Council further expresses its concern at the grave humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe and condemns the suspension by the Government of Zimbabwe of the operations of humanitarian organizations, which has directly affected one and a half million people, including half a million children. The Council calls on the Government of Zimbabwe to immediately allow humanitarian organizations to resume their services.

“The Security Council will continue to monitor closely the situation and requests the Secretary-General to report on ongoing regional and international efforts to resolve the crisis.”

Unfortunately, there is probably nothing the Security Council can or will do about this, because it is a wholly internal affair and does not threaten the security of the region or other nations, although an argument could be made that any dramatic increase in refugees from the violence might count.

Oh, and the image above is Mugabe’s his piss-poor full-page campaign ad, which blames the British, and promises Zimbabwe “it’s now time” to enjoy the “gains of independence”. Zimbabwe has been independent for 28 years. It was Africa’s breadbasket. It could be a relatively stable example of democracy like Botswana, but has instead become a mismanaged basket-case with a brutal totalitarian dictator and hyperinflation.

And I second what this HuffPo writer says. The crisis in Zimbabwe is artificial, reversible, and deserves far more attention than it’s currently getting:

What I am asking is whether Barack Obama will use his rapidly growing international credibility and speak out against the terrible cruelties perpetrated by Mugabe and his henchman. Will he put in a discrete call to Mugabe’s chief enabler, South African president Thabo Mbeki and demand that he stop supporting the thug over the border and instruct his U.N. ambassador to stop blocking the subject being brought before the Security Council. I know the candidate is busy but this is a crisis that just won’t wait.

In the interest of bipartisanship I ask the same question of John McCain.

Finally, in the interest of the New World Order, where politicians have less power than they like us to think, I ask Bill Clinton, Bill Gates and Bono if they would stop congratulating themselves for a few days and get on a plane to Harare — a city with all modern conveniences — and refuse to leave until a free and fair election can be contested.