The Fail List

30 Nov

I don’t want the Mayor and County Executive teaming up with the Buffalo Niagara Partnership to devise a wish list of remarkably expensive silver-bullet projects to help Buffalo remain essentially the same as it is now, only with shinier buildings. Frankly, I can’t think of three people I’d less like to have plotting the future of Buffalo and Erie County than the Collins-Brown-Rudnick troika.

Instead, what should really be on the wish list is for New York State to lower the barriers to doing business in this region. Whether we’re talking about regulatory reform, a reduction or simplification of the tax structure, or just giving WNY some autonomy to make the changes needed to enable us better to compete with other places. As we’ve been saying for a week or so now, there is a cognitive dissonance when you bitch and moan about big government spending in one breath, and then demand half a billion dollars’ worth of big government spending in the next.

I don’t trust Albany any more than I trust WNY’s disingenuous troika, but I do trust that easing the cost of doing business in this part of the state would help this part of the state.

I spent a great deal of time driving through rural central New York yesterday, passing through dilapidated-but-holding-on town after dilapidated-but-holding-on town. With rare exception (Ithaca), many of these places are all but dead. They, like the industries that brought them to life, are anachronisms. I don’t know, frankly, what hope there is for places like that. But there is hope for places like Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and the like. We just need government and big business to grow up and stop pretending like every silver bullet idea is just what Buffalo needs to turn the corner.

12 Responses to “The Fail List”

  1. Chris from OP November 30, 2009 at 10:28 am #

    I’m not sure when exactly it happened that NY politics became completely transactional, but it’s absurd that no one in New York government on either side of the aisle is fighting for real reform in the form of less regulation and lower taxes. 

    Pundit is right that “easing the cost of doing business” would do significantly more to help this region than 100 silver bullets.

    I just moved back to WNY after a sojourn in another state and cannot help but feel the smack of stupid abusive fees at the DMV and all other facets of daily life.  It’s insulting, really.  

    (Worst band name ever:  The Collins Rudnick Silver Bullet Troika Band featuring Byron Brown)

  2. Gabe November 30, 2009 at 1:01 pm #

    I’m going to step and and half-ass defend Rudnickism. It boils down to this: Local leaders have their hands tied regardless of their own merit, mediocrity or political capital. They’re basically stuck with two options:

    A. Propose shiny building/silver bullet bandaid fixes while the region continues to crumble due to external forces beyond their control.


    B. Do nothing while the region continues to crumble due to external forces beyond their control.

    Your little story about driving through CNY and seeing all the desolation helps illustrate our greater region’s helplessness. Sometime I think we can attempt all the conventional ways of making our area “business friendly” and things still won’t get much better. The greater question becomes “why would industry want to locate up here at all?”

    • Chris from OP November 30, 2009 at 1:20 pm #

      Why would business want to locate here at all?

      *Proximity to international border
      *(Theoretically) cheap and plentiful green power
      *Highly productive workforce
      *Major research university
      *cheap land
      *good infrastructure
      *myriad of oft-mentioned (and oft-belittled) quality of life goodies

      These reasons really point out what a crime it is that Upstate is stagnant because of Albany shackles and local institutionalized incompetence.

      You claim the building “silver bullets” is better than doing nothing, but I think it’s a false choice.  If Volker, Stachowski, Thompson, and Maziarz had the slightest inkling of sense in their brains or balls between their legs, WNY could effect serious change in Albany.  Instead, these bozos sit on the sideline while Espada and Monserrate trumpet the ultimate triumph of transactionalism.

      • Gabe November 30, 2009 at 11:22 pm #

        “You claim the building “silver bullets” is better than doing nothing, but I think it’s a false choice. ”

        I never claimed any such thing, nor offered my personal opinion on the matter. I’m merely attempting to explain the rationale behind politicians making such choices. Actually making the right changes to loosen Albany/NYC’s chokehold on upstate would require an elected official to do a lot of structural and technical shit the average voter has little understanding of. Grabbing headlines/soundbytes by cutting ribbons and standing in front of giant, glossy renderings is much more “photogenic” than the former. When the average voter ceases to be a total fucking idiot, get back to me….we might actually see some shit fixed the right way for once.

        “*Proximity to international border
        *(Theoretically) cheap and plentiful green power
        *Highly productive workforce
        *Major research university
        *cheap land
        *good infrastructure
        *myriad of oft-mentioned (and oft-belittled) quality of life goodies”

        All that still doesn’t mean jack shit if the company’s big cheese happens to be some pussy who can’t give up yearlong warm weather.

      • STEEL November 30, 2009 at 11:47 pm #

        Actually the cities with the most and biggest companies are all in cold climates. Weather has nothing to do with Buffalo’s bad economy

      • Gabe December 1, 2009 at 12:44 am #

        There’s tons of large companies HQed in California and various parts of the Sunbelt, especially in technology. The old cold cities have “old money” big business (banking, financial services, insurance, ect.) that has deep roots in their home cities.

        Buffalo has very few, if any, supergiant companies that extract massive amounts of wealth from everywhere else.

  3. lefty November 30, 2009 at 2:54 pm #

    @ Chris from OP
    I think the challenge with “upstate” is it does not realize it is an us v. them game. Take the Senate for example. Long Island or districts 1-9, pretty much sing the same song. NYC metro or districts 10-37, pretty much sing the same song as well. These two areas or districts 1-37, collectively make up “downstate” and have been shafting “upstate” for a very long time. The way I see it, regardless of what party holds the seat in these 37 districts, as long as they collectively treat upstate as their bitch…nothing is going to change.

    The solution is not getting Volker, Stachowski, Thompson, and Maziarz on the same page. The solution, in my opinion, is getting districts 38-62 on the same page. Somehow..someway…create an upstate voting block where the elected officials treat downstate as the enemy not the other party. The same can be said with the State Assembly.

    This is a classic divide and conquer. Have the inner city regions of upstate elect Democrats and have the rural regions of upstate elect Republicans…only splitting the power so the downstate pols, regardless of party, can split the spoils amongst themselves. A perfect example of this is what happened to Stachowski.

  4. Starbuck November 30, 2009 at 8:13 pm #

    they collectively treat upstate as their bitch

    @lefty, Is that implying upstate receives less state spending than the share of tax revenue it sends Albany vs. what downstate receives? I’ve seen some arguments refuting that. I don’t know what’s the truth, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s the other way around. Some huge portion of tax revenue comes from Manhattan.

    Or was the bitch comment referring to issues Pundit suggested are problems including the possibility taxes might be too high (“regulatory reform, a reduction or simplification of the tax structure”)?

    • lefty November 30, 2009 at 9:39 pm #

      Has little to do with the spending IMO.

      It has a lot to do with policy. For the most part, policy in NYS is done for the benefit of downstate.

      Upstate does not need more money from Albany. What upstate does need is policy that makes sense for upstate. When the rules are written by those who have no concern or understand for what “breaks” upstate, no amount of aid or silver bullet projects will help. It is the labor laws and unfunded mandates that tie the hands of progress for places like WNY.

      Until those are fixed, all you are doing is throwing money down the hole IMO.


  1. In da Buff (Buffalo, New York) » Blog Archive » Thanksgiving weekend leftovers - December 1, 2009

    […] One idea I liked that could help things is having all the upstate assembly type people and state sen… regardless of political affiliation to battle downstate stranglehold on state government.  The block wouldn’t have to vote together on every issue, but could come up with some core issues and an upstate agenda to help make the state work better for upstaters. […]

  2. Silver Bullets, Taxes, Stagnation, Oh My! | - December 2, 2009

    […] Alan calls in question the continuation of that age-old practice of politicians advocating high-profile, “silver bullet” urban development projects as the form of “progress” that will lead to the Buffalo region’s eventual arousal from its open-ended economic hibernation. Lately, this planning regime has embraced the New Urbanist/Smart Growth trend which focuses on beautifying a region’s old urban core, hoping that refurbishing gritty old districts into cool new digs with a great “sense of place” will attract hordes of horn-rimmed glasses wearing “creative class” hipsters to swarm into Buffalo’s urban core and inject a massive shot of chic adrenaline into the city’s heart. Never mind what the cool kids will actually be do for a living to afford their $2000/month lofts and $6 lattes. […]

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