Losing Hope

26 Aug

Mark from All Things Buffalo hangs up his blogging hat, and explains why. The kicker is:

And then Byron Brown wrote the most pathetic letter to Forbes magazine explaining why Buffalo isn’t dying.

I came back and after one day of being downtown I’m already done. Please don’t explain to me all the good things that are happening around here-I’m well aware of them. Its simply too little-and dare I say-too late.

Thank you to all the readers and commenters. I hope you enjoyed the material and even found it informative perhaps.

I never stopped caring. I just stopped hoping.

And Geek chimes in with this spot-on comment:

The difference between Cleveland and Pittsburgh and cities that are booming is the presence of a regional master plan and leaders in the government and business community who are united behind those goals. Here, we engage in bikeshedding. What’s bikeshedding you ask?

Futile investment of time and energy in marginal issues, often including annoying propaganda while more serious issues are being overlooked. The implied image is of people arguing over what color to paint the bicycle shed while the house is not finished.

If that doesn’t describe this town to a fucking “t”, I don’t know what does.

Here, we are run by people like Brown and Casey, who are busy trying to engineer a party-political coup (and failing), or by people like Chris Collins who sweats the small stuff just fine (GPS in cars, running government “like a business”), but doesn’t really have any sort of overall vision for what he wants WNY to become. Brown and Casey are hacky members of a cliquey politburo; Collins is bureaucrat-in-chief.

I still care and I hope, but at this point it would be great positive if we could, as Geek suggests, agree on what we want the region to look like in the future and then work towards that goal. Right now, we have micro-goals of returning 2-way traffic to a block’s worth of Main Street, or extending our one-line rail out a few more miles. Others wax poetic on whether there are quite enough boutiques within which to buy $200 fugly sneakers or $300 designer jeans, as if this were some 1979 remix. There’s no vision here.

17 Responses to “Losing Hope”

  1. Starbuck August 26, 2008 at 12:40 pm #

    Yeah, Collins just sweats small stuff like creating a lot of good paying private sector jobs around here:


    Leaders like that are really the big problem around here for sure. What we need are clever mission statements and telling us an “overall vision for what he wants WNY to become”, whatever that means. Like your man Spitzer did with NY State. Passion good.

    Collins has had eight months in office. That’s plenty of time to tell us what he wants us to become. He’s failed miserably and is clearly a huge part of the problem. Somebody start a recall drive.

  2. Chris Smith August 26, 2008 at 12:44 pm #

    Starbuck, when Alan spoke of “what he/we want WNY to become”, I think its summed up in the rest of my comment on the All Things Buffalo blog:

    This city and region will continue to struggle until we, as a region, can articulate a goal. What does success look like? How will we achieve it? How will we measure progress as we move towards that goal? Having a goal and strategy are critical to success in any endeavor and we are too focused on tactical elements and iterative progress.”

    Perhaps that is clearer.

  3. Buffalopundit August 26, 2008 at 12:57 pm #

    Starbuck – who was talking about Collins’ work in the private sector?

  4. Derek J. Punaro August 26, 2008 at 1:04 pm #

    I think having a vision is a good step in the process, but trying to enact that goal will quickly illustrate the larger issues – namely New York State is too costly. Moving towards any goals require capital, capital requires growth, growth requires a business friendly environment, which New York State is not. We can build [and argue over] all the plans we want, but until state government “gets it” and starts significantly cutting spending, services, authorities, sweetheart union contracts, and thus taxes, there is little hope for Buffalo. Right now all our big projects are the result of which higher government scraps get thrown our way – Federal courthouse, Federal transportation funds for the outer harbor, state funding to the NFTA to reopen Main Street, etc. You don’t grow by eating scraps.

  5. Chris Smith August 26, 2008 at 1:08 pm #

    Perhaps the grand plan needs to be lobbying for change as a united front from Upstate. Rochester, Buffalo, Syracuse and points in between are all suffering the same symptoms. Bringing all parties together and mapping out a strategy is where things begin. Hell, even hinting at holding a discussion amongst all parties would be progress at this point.

  6. Chris August 26, 2008 at 1:09 pm #

    Why wait for the government to create that vision? I think if a group of dedicated community members from local restoration boards, active blogs, and committed local companies came together, they would be far more effective at creating this regional vision. And the regional vision created by this group would be far more relevant too. Bring in some professors and grad students from UB’s urban planning school to help articulate the vision. Then use this group as a sort of lobby to get it done. I think that has a far better chance for getting things done. Since we can’t trust the government to make anything happen anymore, we, the private sector, should take back our region.

  7. lefty August 26, 2008 at 1:31 pm #

    I do not understand how “sweating the small stuff” is a bad thing. Both of you (Chris and Alan) are business owners and know the huge differences that tiny things in “company” culture can do.

    The savings in gas is gravy IMO. What things like the GPS system do is put a watchful eye on what has been traditionally unwatched employees. Go back 6 months or so ago when the two parks workers were enjoying some beers on the county dime. They and their union said there just stopped in. However, they were there long enough for someone to drop the dime AND for their boss to drive over to catch them. A GPS system would not only have made their case bogus but really would have prevented it from happening in the first place. Hate to think grown adults need supervision like that but any boss/business owner knows it to be true.

    A like the idea of having vision but in reality it means nothing to have a plan if you do not have the culture to follow through with said plan. The biggest thing WNY needs is to change its mindset.

    Change the mindset of desperation for some. Change the mindset that Buffalo has actually turned the corner for others. Change the mindset that nothing can be done but give up and leave for a lot. Change the mindset of entitlement. Change the mindset that doing things the old way is a good idea.

    I think anyone would agree that the little things actually do the most for the big picture.

  8. Starbuck August 26, 2008 at 2:16 pm #

    Pundit, my point about Collins is that if he were really a small picture bureaucrat as you say, then he would not have turned around those many failing companies and saved/created all those jobs in WNY – which isn’t an easy place to do that.

    It just wouldn’t have happened. His record proves he can focus on the small stuff and the big picture.

    That of course doesn’t guarantee he as County Exec will be able to make a big improvement in the economy here. For one thing, I doubt anyone as County Exec can do that. It’s not a very powerful position. Also, eight months is way too soon to know if his ideas will prove useful in the public sector. So far most of what he’s pushed for sounds good to me, although I disagree him on some things to such as his opposing the control board so much.

    But it’s crazy to twist a positive into a negative as you do and say just because he pushes for common sense changes (GPS, etc.) somehow that means he’s the wrong guy for the job. He also has talked a lot about big picture changes he wants to see, but realistically those are mostly out of the control of any County Exec.

  9. Buffalo Blood Donor August 26, 2008 at 2:49 pm #

    Can anyone point to a city that is growing up in a well-controlled, planned manner? Seems to me that virtually all urban growth has always been and is due to circumstances and (usually) a little bit of luck – and when the urban area has significant poverty, a lot of luck.

    I observe cities that experienced tremendous growth in the past 10 years or so: Phoenix, Las Vegas, Seattle, Atlanta, Boston, several others. The media portrays these cities as rapid-growth, dynamic, exciting, and so on. Having been to most of them I find that 1) Excepting Boston they are examples of urban sprawl (especially Phoenix) with limited and way-underplanned infrastructure; 2) It was the development of one or two business foci that helped them reach the critical mass needed to become an all-around business attractant.

    Seattle and Boston with their high-tech. Las Vegas with its entertainment focus. Phoenix with its…its I don’t know what.

    For the most part, government in these cities simply got out of the way and let the opportunities take care of themselves.

    I suspect that if some multi-billionaire came to Buffalo and said “I have $50 billion to spend on rebuilding the city’s interior, but I need 60 square blocks and for you to stay out of the way” he wouldn’t get either. That’s the problem.


  10. sally August 26, 2008 at 3:09 pm #

    Federal government report released today. Buffalo no longer second poorest city with over 250K population, booming Cleveland is.

  11. Good Grief August 26, 2008 at 3:23 pm #

    Lol, Sally. Gotta love Ms. National Statistics!

  12. hank August 26, 2008 at 4:31 pm #

    I was in Downtown Charlotte yesterday, a place I go to as little as possible. I live in the hills about 55 miles from the center of town.

    I drove along the southern part of the downtown loop slowly as I looked for the exit for the hospital I had to take my wife to for a test to be run, I asked her to count the number of construction cranes she could see. I was going about 55, and she counted EIGHT new buildings being built downtown currently.

    in 2001 when I was delivering construction equipment downtown (another reason I hate to drive in Charlotte), there were 20 projects underway, about half office buildings like Hearst Tower, the other half were condos and townhouse projects –Not 2 blocks from Trade and Tryon, considered the “Heart of Downtown Charlotte”.

    Those construction sites are now trendy places for downtown workers to live, the nightlife in Charlotte is there if you are into the bar/club scene, many new bistros and specialty shops have opened to service these people who moved downtown. Some are abandoning owning cars, with the light rail system just installed. They can get to the big malls in South Charlotte on the light rail, and they have groceries/pharmacies etc within walking distance.

    So why doesn’t this happen in Buffalo?

    Different Mindset, I believe.
    Charlotte Mindset–Move to Charlotte to work in private industry.

    Banking capital of the SE (and probably East of the MS river), construction booming, Companies relocating here by the dozen.

    Low corporate taxes, good schools, large pool of less expensive (But not really super-cheap) non-union labor.

    Buffalo Mindset–
    Union Job–preferably for the state, county or city, since the union jobs in private industry are gone–State became more and more unfriendly to private industry,Unions drove the price of labor so high (while rifling pockets of rank and file for dues) the private industry hauled ass.
    Work in city–live in 2nd or 3rd ring suburb.
    Give up car? Nope–2 cars minimum (one SUV), Harley Davidson, Boat, Cottage in the country to “get away”.

    Folks who live in Charlotte have “getaways” too–Myrtle Beach, Outer Banks or Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge–the “Myrtle Beach of the Smokies”. Most rent condos/beach houses or condos/cabins in the mountains. 5 hours to the beach, 3 to the mountains–too far to own in either place.
    Take a trip? Rent a car–you really don’t need one to live there anymore.

  13. mike August 26, 2008 at 6:01 pm #

    Hank, but its too bad you have to drink well water, shit in an outhouse and climb a telephone pole to make a phone call. Keep that moonshine flowing, it makes your wife look less fugly.

  14. Starbuck August 26, 2008 at 6:41 pm #

    Sally’s right, now we’re Number 3 in percent of poverty! And 7th lowest in income.


  15. Timothy Domst August 26, 2008 at 9:45 pm #

    Hank is right on, there are so many govt. union members in the area that they prevent someone who will cut their pay to suit their service from getting elected. Maybe people like Paterson are a ray of hope, Democrats who will stand up a little to unions.

  16. Dying in Buffalo August 27, 2008 at 6:37 pm #

    Grab a copy of Business First and look at the employment statistics for this area. Government is #1 by a large margin. Think of Buffalo as a meager retirement investment account. We have long ago outspent the earnings and have been consuming the capital for 50+ years. The big problem now is that the account is nearly exhausted, we just don’t have much capital left to spend and what’s left isn’t generating any more earnings. Are we waiting for some rich relative to die and leave an inheritance to replenish the account while we beg other relatives for scraps here and there to try to maintain our standard of living? It ain’t gonna happen. “Sweating the small stuff” doesn’t address the core of the problem: high taxes, lousy services, lousy jobs and corrupt and/or incompetent leadership who only seems to beg even bigger corrupt and/or incompetent leadership types for help. We need fundamental change in government from at least the state level all the way down to the lowliest of municipal decision makers and that ain’t gonna happen until all the sheeple who pay taxes stops paying them, which isn’t bloody likely. Most all those gasbag (in?)decision making posers either have a tremendous vested interest in maintaining the current system (status-quo) or are beholden to those who do. Volker and Hoyt are entrenched politicians and no matter how many itsy bitsy lovely things their supporters cite, I will continue to believe that they and their cronies are a big part of the problem and not at all a part of the solution. Until we the sheeple can topple the power mongers off of their pedestals, Buffalo will continue to die the death of a million cuts. (job, service, budget, etc.?)

  17. mgharvey August 28, 2008 at 5:44 am #

    If Pittsburg is growing and booming, why is it that there still losing population?

    Why is the current Mayor being blamed for the past administrations poor management. Bad planing, no federal money, coming into Buffalo, who just was not liked?

    Has it come to the attention to some that Charlotte is much warmer has longer summers close to the shore, cost of living is better, than the northern rust belt cities like Buffalo?

    Do you think the North Carolina is more foward thiking and better educated than rust belt states? In N.C. 78.1% of it’s residents are H.S. Graduates. 25% of it’s residents have Bachelor’s degrees!

    The research triangle has communities where like minded people like to live around people who are like themselves, where it’s more social economics than race?

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