Those Numbers are People

25 Mar

Here’s all I have to say about the census figures.

I am aware of two recent political races where a very young man made a run for a very big race.

They are smart guys who had good ideas, new ideas, bright ideas. Matt Bova, who just this week moved to California, ran in 2004 against George Maziarz for state senate, and ran to become the mayor of North Tonawanda when he was just 18 – a senior in high school.  He’s a hard worker and a bright mind. Regrettably, in 2006 he became embroiled in illegalities related to gathering petitions for Jack Davis’ “Save Jobs Party”, and left politics forever. But his departure is western New York’s loss. After all, he’s a bright young guy who lived in the city, paid taxes, and held a very good job indeed. He left earlier this week.

Max Tresmond ran against Jack Quinn III for state assembly in 2006 when he was just 18. Another bright kid, ran an almost impossible race as a Democrat in Hamburg against the son of a very popular former Congressman. He’s bright, ambitious, and brought new ideas and blood to local politics.  He recently moved away from the area, as well.

They both have very bright futures. Just not here in western New York.

Not everybody moves because of taxes.


25 Responses to “Those Numbers are People”

  1. Jesse March 25, 2011 at 8:25 am #

    So the point is that some people can’t get elected so they move too?

    • Alan Bedenko March 25, 2011 at 9:00 am #

      No, the point is that there are many reasons why people move away, and we focus on stupid ones.

      I highlighted these particular people because there’s no greater show of love and honor for one’s hometown than to run for office in the hopes of representing it. Especially for these two guys, because they’re particularly bright.

  2. Andrew Kulyk March 25, 2011 at 9:00 am #

    I know Matt and I’ve met Max… Both incredible people and great forces for WNY.

    Now I’ll add two more names, both well known to the WNYMedia family… Mark Byrnes, our Buffalo development writer, moved to DC last year after his job search in his chosen career came up empty here. Now that he has gone, he is involving himself in dynamic and soaring projects, and watches the Buffalo NIMBY and preservation fascists from afar with bemusement, saying how we can’t get out of our own way.

    Jon Splett, our baseball writer for two seasons, departed Buffalo to go to law school in Michigan. He will be an outstanding attorney someday, fighting for social justice and environmental initiatives which he is so passionate about. Regarding the debate on Buffalo’s Canalside, Jon recently remarked… He likened it to arguing about what color tie to pun on the corpse in the casket.

    Oh yeah…let me add a third name… Nathan Strang. Nate contributed selflessly to build the tech backbone of WNYMedia, and he was the guy who recruited USRT to come on board in 2007. Nate just moved to San Fran when his partner Jay Scott landed a good job in financial services, his chosen profession. Nate is already turning SF on it’s head, being the guy he is.

    Mark, Jon, and Nate… Three WNY exports who we raised, trained and schooled, and then shipped away to find greatness elsewhere. In two weeks I will experience the tearful goodbye with Matt Bova at his going away event.

    And I’ll just bet that our readers have other names of good young people to add to this list. It’s just heartbreaking when you think about it.

  3. Herb March 25, 2011 at 9:39 am #

    The “we’ll fix it with Austerity” and “let’s shove some more money to banksters and their fave projects like UB 2020” aspect of it also need consideration as to why there are so few jobs around here:

    So little money around here gets invested in real wealth producing investments. And as a result, we get poorer and poorer, collectively. And then, like an ambulance chaser on meth and roids who sees a golden opportunity, the powers that be around here basically arrange for most of the money to get siphoned directly off to the wealthy in the burbs. Thus, whatever crumbs of Federal and State money that fall into this region mostly bypass those who need it, and go directly to the top of the local income and wealth pyramid. It’s so cute… And so predictable. As is the resulting lack of jobs for those looking for employment.



  4. Mike In WNY March 25, 2011 at 10:34 am #

    What are the stupid reasons we focus on?

  5. Pjf-usrt March 25, 2011 at 10:55 am #

    Shorter 2010 Buffalo/WNY census figures: by the time Buffalo builds a new international bridge crossing and develops a waterfront worth spending more than two minutes at there won’t be anyone left to use them.

  6. kbecker March 25, 2011 at 12:01 pm #

    People move away because everyone in this town has the “if you’re still here, you must not be any good at what you do” mentality.  Up until recently, I got more press outside of Buffalo  than I ever did here, and I’ve established more things here than anywhere else..After decades of everyone else telling us (city as a whole) we are no good, we believe it ourselves.  The folks who have stayed are so desperate to hang on to THEIR crumbs, they have no interest in “paying it forward”  or passing on wisdom to the next generation…

    I fight the urge to leave constantly and have settled on just being a young snowbird and will be in NOLA by next Jan to ride out the winter. 

  7. STEEL March 25, 2011 at 12:54 pm #

    Your HTML is going wacky – All I see is gibberish

  8. Fat Tony March 25, 2011 at 3:11 pm #

    My take on census numbers: We as a region have been steadily losing clout in the halls of power and that has taken away our ability to determine the future we want. Environmental laws on things like brownfields, tax policy, social services, etc. etc. that work downstate are not right for us. But leaders refuse to recognize these differences and as our natural resources are sent to areas with the clout, we continue to wage nonsensical wars against ourselves over whether a fishing store is economic development. We miss the bigger picture.

    So, as jobs go bye bye because of bad public policy, mostly coming from Albany, our people leave. Our population shrinks and then the census comes along. Suddenly, every downstate politician and gullible upstate editorial board is clamoring for a fair redistricting plan for the state. When Ed Koch is behind something you know Upstate is about to get fucked.

    And indeed, they’ll take the last vestiges of power we could have and shift seats downstate through this fair plan and we’ll be a ward of the state forever….and continue arguing over the few crumbs.

  9. Jon Splett March 25, 2011 at 5:36 pm #

    @Andrew- Thanks for the kind words. I’m actually hoping to avoid ever having to be a lawyer though. The idea of wearing a suit every day makes me cringe. 

    As to why I left and why I won’t come back for anything short of a Bills front office job, it’s a dead city and there’s nothing that gives me even the smallest amount of hope that will ever change.

    When I was a kid, I grew up under the impression I lived in a major city. I knew it wasn’t NY, LA or Chicago, but we had the best team in the NFL, a brand new ballpark that was about to attract a Major League Baseball team and the greatest deep fried food in the world named after us because we invented it. It was probably heavily influenced by the Kelly era Bills, but I had a general impression that people were rightfully proud of the place and we lived in a world class city.

    As I got older, that perception changed. When an MLB team never moved into Pilot Field, I got my first hint that maybe we weren’t so relevant after all. High school rolled around and I found myself taking more and more road trips to other cities to go things like concerts that would never come through WNY. I got involved with the rave scene which lead me to spending my weekends in Toronto. That was the nail in Buffalo’s coffin for me.

     A two hour drive felt like it had taken me half way across the planet. Instead of the same 25 ravers seeing the same 3 DJs in a shitty dive bar, I got to party with thousands of people in three story clubs with international talent playing. Toronto’s music scene flourished while Buffalo struggled just to find venues that would let us play in them. 

    I tried to give Buffalo a chance over the next few years. For all it’s flaws as a city, all my friends still lived there and people still talked about the place like we had a shot at making a comeback. But the years went by, the city never changed. I never gave a shit about what the Peace Bridge looked like but when people fought about it until the bridge never got built, it became an example of why I needed to get out. I still don’t give a shit about what the hell they build on the waterfront, but 10 years of debate over vacant land helped convince me that change is never coming. I didn’t really

    Eventually, all the friends I grew up with moved away to better lives in better cities. Of my circle of close friends, exactly two still reside in the greater Buffalo area today. The others have moved on to places like Austin, San Diego, New York and Portland. They still find flaws with their new homes but no one ever seriously considers moving back.

     We’re all gone for good but for as little faith we have in Buffalo ever turning around, all of us still talk about it non-stop. My Twitter still lights up with celebration when the Bills score a touchdown even if none of the people posting are anywhere near the Ralph. Whenever someone attempts to serve chicken wings with ranch dressing somewhere else in the country, you can bet on a Facebook post demonizing the cook as a heretic. If I meet someone from the WNY area out here, we’ll both instantly start talking about the place. If someone opened a restaurant here with chicken finger subs, beef on weck and Genny Cream on tap, I’d eat there daily.

    Buffaloian is almost a nationality. I have no interest in returning to the homeland but it’s still always going to be a part of me. The culture is great and all but once you’ve been out in the world and seen how real cities function, it’s tough to want to commit to sleepy little town stuck in 1958. 

  10. Jon Splett March 25, 2011 at 6:18 pm #

    @Steel- I had the HTML issues until I upgraded to Firefox 4. Went away after that.

  11. Eisenbart March 25, 2011 at 7:33 pm #

    Where did you move to Jon?

  12. Jon Splett March 25, 2011 at 8:34 pm #

    Ann Arbor 

    Don’t know if I’ll stay here after law school yet but probably not. It’s a nice little midwestern liberal oasis but it’s painfully small. I’m only about 40 minutes from downtown Detroit so that makes up for it a bit I guess.

    San Diego, Pittsburgh and Toronto have all been discussed by my girlfriend and I but it’ll probably come down to what both our job situations look like. She’s actually offered to move back to Buffalo with me but she grew up in a small town in Michigan so to her, Buffalo is a major metro. Getting her addicted to Mighty Taco and Joe’s Deli probably shades her opinion a bit too. 

  13. mark March 25, 2011 at 11:36 pm #

    Although I will always care about Buffalo, each passing month I get a growing sense of relief for leaving. 

    Being so absorbed in urban development in Buffalo, I couldn’t stop thinking about what I could do to fix whatever I saw whether it was an abandoned house or a poorly kept restaurant or crappy bus shelter. It kind of built up too much on top of the overwhelming sense that it just wasn’t going to get better. After graduating I really felt the pressure to make sure I was laying out a solid foundation for wherever life was going to take me and the only future plans I made for myself involving Buffalo always felt like a plan of resignation or acceptance of mediocrity in myself.

    Maybe its just because I was so young when I left Buffalo for the first time in 1995 (I was 8) but Buffalo feels a lot smaller than it used to back then-not just in numbers, but in mentality-it really acts small. Every small victory (taco truck, a celebrity in-town) is celebrated to the point of ridiculousness but those same things don’t even get a buzz in the scarred, post-industrial, insecure city that I currently live in (Baltimore). It didn’t seem that way as a kid, and Jon points that out. I left just after the Super Bowl years and Pilot Field was still kind of a big deal too. I remember a lot of my city-based family really excited about where downtown was going.

    Since money doesn’t really matter when you’re in college I can be thankful that while I was in Buffalo I got to intern/work for for City Hall, the Buffalo Sabres, Buffalo Bills, LP Ciminelli the Martin House and WNYmedia-all of which gave me a solid set of skills and experiences to do something decent somewhere down the line somewhere else.

    I miss my friends and the beautiful, artery-clogging comfort food but I still watch every Bills and Sabres game and talk to a lot of my close friends still there so the urge to even visit is marginal. City living in Baltimore feels like Manhattan in comparison to what experienced up there, so I can’t wait to live in an even bigger, better place when I’m done with my masters.

    For me, Buffalo is a great place to be from. I’m glad I’m from there, but I’m just as glad I don’t live there. 

  14. mark March 25, 2011 at 11:37 pm #

    um..that sun with the sunglasses is supposed to say “eight years old”. 

  15. Eisenbart March 26, 2011 at 11:58 am #

    That is interesting Mark because I know 6 people from Long Island/NYC that live in Buffalo that feel the same way about their home towns.  Except its cost of living versus “feeling small.”  That goes with someone from Boston and LA.  

    Could it be a general trend when moving to a different area and experiencing a new environment? I have 1 friend in Baltimore and have been there several times, in fact I am going there again next weekend for his birthday, and to be honest I never found it any better or worse than Buffalo.  It feels bigger because it was built more densely and secondly because it is bigger. Its run down areas make Buffalos east side look decent.  Why is it you go nuts about Buffalos negative development but completely ignore Baltimores?

  16. JohnnyWalker March 26, 2011 at 2:31 pm #

    So Eisenbart, lets talk about the tens of thousands of Students who came to Buffalo over the last decade and couldn’t leave fast enough after graduation. After having read these well written and heartfelt posts you chime in with a comment not worthy of a nine year old. Thought I must say Your comment would fit in nicely over at Baloney Rising.

  17. Mark March 26, 2011 at 2:36 pm #

    A lot of it beyond sheer economic opportunity really just comes down to personal preference. If Buffalo had the economic opportunities that Baltimore had, I would not have left even though the lifestyle in Buffalo wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, it was truly “home” so I felt great loyalty towards it.

    I was in Baltimore for half a week in March last year and I got an interview for a firm that does design for three fortune 500 companies and two fortune 1000 and then with a grad school that had the perfect program for me. I didn’t get that job but the fact that I got that interview was something that just wasn’t going to happen nor did it happen in Buffalo with my lack of experience and corporate connections.

    That being said, the worst neighborhoods of Baltimore are far worse than the worst neighborhoods of Buffalo but for the most part the best neighborhoods of Baltimore are also much better than the best neighborhoods of Buffalo.

    I live in Mount Vernon which doesn’t really have a comparable district in Buffalo but it is the most personally fulfilling neighborhood I have ever lived in. Elmwood is better than Charles Village, Allentown is better than Station North but Buffalo’s only shot to get a Harbor East or Inner Harbor was Canal Side as envision by Quinn/Benderson/EK&K. 

    I prefer “feeling small” and to me, the doubling of my rent is worth the resources and experiences that I experience on a daily basis. Baltimore is indeed bigger, but it was in a worse spot that Buffalo in the 50’s and 60’s only to have thoroughly reinvigorated itself.

    I “go nuts” about Buffalo’s development because I have a deep personal relationship with the City, it represents me and so I want it to be decent. I have no personal attachment to Baltimore so as long as it feels vibrant and stimulating and provides the opportunities I need, I feel no need to “go nuts” about its faults in which I come in little contact with. At the same time, that apathy could just stem from spending the last five years caring about a place to the point of exhaustion and a bitter ending.

  18. Brian Castner March 26, 2011 at 3:22 pm #

    Mark – I experienced that sense of relief you describe from moving back to Buffalo. I described it to people like I felt a giant weight had been taken off my shoulders. Now I wonder if I would feel twice as good leaving myself again.

    The tremendous opportunity of Buffalo is that you KNOW you can make a difference. The town is small enough and desperate enough that you can literally buy your own 120 year old brick warehouse and turn it into whatever you want. There are few barriers to entry, unlike other larger cities. The price of a crumbling piece of history is cheap, and if you have a vision, you can be whomever you want in Buffalo. Developer. Entrepreneur. Real Estate Mogul. Arty Hipster. Gallery Owner. New Media Master. The list goes on. I didn’t realize this when I left in the mid-90’s – I just needed to go. Once I came back, after living in blissful ignorance in the West and South, the awareness of possibility was exhilerating.

    The problem for me, and the problem you describe, is that eventually that possibility feels like responsibility. Because you can, you must. You start volunteering at a bunch of the countless civic/urban/art/farming/clean-up/mentoring groups we have. You become overly emotionally invested in small developments or projects that you probably have no actual connection with. Before you know it, you feel the weight of “Saving Buffalo” on your shoulders. Some love it – read the many Buffalo boosting blogs and magazines and media in this town. Me, I’ve come to resent it. I recognize that the opportunity cost of so much Buffalo potential, of the ability to buy that warehouse and turn it into whatever I want, is ignorant uninvolved carefree happiness in another city where there is no such thing as Boulder Rising. I don’t really want to choose what restaurants I eat at or what stores I shop at by what produces the greatest benefit to Buffalo (greatest benefit meaning they stay in business). I lead an overly examined life as it is – I’d like to just enjoy the food again.

    So, what do you do? Move? Check out? Become cynical? I’ve done the third, for good or for bad.

  19. Eisenbart March 26, 2011 at 4:42 pm #

    JohnnyWalker: You ask why does thousands of student flee Buffalo every year?  Well couldn’t that be said of anyone who attends college in any city across the nation? I mean really… people follow the jobs. If you want to go on and dismiss me as a “Buffalo Rising person”, whatever the f that means, go for it. And thanks for contributing to the topic….

    Mark: Thank you for responding. I wasn’t attacking you, just generally curious because in my personal experience never felt Baltimore was as I said before better or worse.  I am happy you are happy. 🙂  

    Which leads me back to the topic of this post.  People do leave because of taxes and the bureaucratic bullshit you have to go through to get economic opportunity going.  In Buffalo you have to kiss some politicians ass to get an idea going. Or kiss a politicians ass to get your taxes lowered and then fight the press when that tax relief adds up to millions of dollars per job or some other such non sense.  It’s a fundamental problem.  

  20. JohnnyWalker March 27, 2011 at 11:54 am #

    Your welcome Eisenbart, So, you know six people, or is it seven. The six people I know went to universities in Boston, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Atlanta, New York, and even Rochester. There, they put down roots. Plus, I don’t buy into your hypotheses. Why does the Buffalo area have the most severe shortage of physicians in New York state, when it hosts one of NY’s largest Medical schools. The jobs are here, in WNY. Where are the doctors.? Why do so many flock downstate, where the cost of living is higher and taxes are the same, rather than stay in Buffalo?

  21. hank March 27, 2011 at 10:32 pm #

    Styx Just Froze Over. I agree on something with Splett. In his post #10 on this thread, several things.

    You’ll find a lot more people from Buffalo within 60 miles of Charlotte than you will in just about anywhere in Michigan, but one thing’s for sure. You can take someone out of Buffalo—hundreds of thousands have. But Buffalo never comes out of you. And no matter how totally fucked up things get up there—And you never fail to amaze, Nobody from WNY talks down their hometown or its sports teams when you’re talking to an NC “Native”.

    Brian makes good points. High taxes and political corruption stifling entrepreneurship certainly take their toll, but there are many other reasons why folks leave, and never come back to live once they do. I’m sorry to hear two more of the area’s brightest decided to hit the bricks.

    It must make those left feel frustrated.

    As much as I love to live in this quiet, rural setting, with temperate weather—-If the jobs were there, I’d like to think even at 54 I would take the chance.

  22. Jennifer March 28, 2011 at 1:35 pm #

    “But Buffalo never comes out of you. And no matter how totally fucked up things get up there.”

    Well put Hank.

  23. Ethan March 28, 2011 at 2:41 pm #

    Well, some people move back, too.  I bad-mouthed Buffalo for years after living in Boston, in Holland, in Ireland, in Tucson, even in Chicago… and loads of travel to elsewhere, too.  A lot of what I am hearing from y’all sounds awfully familiar…

    Then it came time to raise a family, and buy a house.  My 200k house, in any “reasonable city” would cost north of 750k; in some neighborhoods, over a million.  And my kid’s grandparents are here.  I want that continuity for them- I never had it.  My parents moved here from other places, I never knew my grandparents much; I want a different scene for my kids.  So back I–now we–came.

    Buffalo’s appeal to me isn’t defined by material things like Peace Bridges and Waterfront shopping districts; I don’t give a shit if those do or don’t get built- they are red herrings, to me.  I am a Buffalonian, and no matter how long I ever lived in any other place, I was never and would never be ‘from’ there.  Eventually, you want to be where you’re from.

    So, look, I don’t begrudge anyone for moving– it’s a big world, and frankly, there is a lot to see and do.  By all means, go off and enjoy it.  But if you keep on watching Sabres/Bills games wherever you go, and bitching about the Chx Wings, I got news for you: I bet you’ll be back.  Have a fun decade or two out there; seriously…  We’ll keep the lights on for you.

  24. Dave in DC April 1, 2011 at 5:46 pm #


    Wholeheartedly agree. After growing up in WNY and after having spent 10 years in Rochester, my wife and I just recently moved down to DC. Nice place, good jobs and all that, but we’re practically already counting down the days till we head back to WNY (and yes, Rochester is within “WNY” for us). Lucky for us, many in our families either never left, left but came back, or are like us, gone but planning on returning.

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