The Morning Grumpy – 4/11/12

11 Apr

All the news and views fit to consume during your morning grumpy.


1. Dave Steele , Chicagoan and noted busybody, frequently writes articles that illustrate how we should be doing things here in Buffalo. This modern day gastarbeiter (who sadly only sends advice back to his hometown) would like us to know that other cities re-purpose buildings like Trico rather than demolish them. We could do the same, ya know, if we just got our fucking priorities straight.

Last week, he described how a whole neighborhood of factories in Milwaukee – featuring buildings mildly similar to Trico – were rehabilitated and re-imagined as work/live loft spaces and cool urban destinations for the creative class.

This neighborhood is made up of a dense cluster of very old warehouse and factory buildings. Some people might label them “crappy old buildings”.  This collection of crappy old buildings was in a steep decline about two decades ago as industry left the city with many empty buildings remaining behind.

He doesn’t delve into the details of the preservation process, source of capital, availability of public incentives, any environmental remediation needed, nor how that remediation would have been underwritten. Instead, he focuses on the outcome of the preservation. 

Today the old 3rd ward is a vibrant popular neighborhood filled with highly paid professionals and many many successful businesses including about 100 stores and restaurants and hundreds more creative companies.

His tale of preservation reminds me of the “Underpants Gnomes” from South Park.

Replace "Collect Underpants" with "Preserve Things"

Then, Dave goes on to illustrate how we need to change our mindset if we’re to keep up with the Milwaukees of the world.

Buffalo has unfortunately removed all of its neighborhoods that resembled the Old Third Ward leaving only scattered remnants in favor of massive parking lots.  These remnants can still be powerful tools in attracting people to the city because of the unique and beautiful space that can be created within them. Parking and “temporary” shovel ready sites have little power in bringing people back into cities.  Successful cities across the country are recognizing the power of historic buildings and especially these big old industrial buildings.  Its not about saving everything.  It is about saving what is left.  Mid century urban renewal thinking has to be expunged from Buffalo if it its going to be competitive going forward.

Let me be clear, saving buildings would be nice. It really would be. I’d love to see a thriving Trico Building rehabbed and filled to the brim with hipsters wearing bulky glasses and ironic used clothing. Problem with that is, we lack capital. We lack businesses to fill these rehabilitated buildings. We lack people and entrepreneurs. Aside from Mayoral bestie, Rocco Termini, and his mastery of tax credit financing, that is.

At the beginning of his article, Dave glosses over the fact that Milwaukee’s economy features 14 companies found in the Fortune 1000. Milwaukee is also home to the corporate headquarters for such companies as Briggs & Stratton, Fiserv, Harley Davidson, S.C. Johnson, Rockwell Automation, Kohl’s, Jockey International, and G.E. Healthcare. In fact, the regional GDP of Milwaukee is over 50% higher than that of Buffalo, even though the cities are roughly the same population. Milwaukee also features  a cooperative regional economic development organization and the local chamber of commerce isn’t busy deriding the horrible local business climate whilst simultaneously asking businesses to relocate to the area. Milwaukee has also been the home to several forward thinking Mayors who set strategic goals, built regional partnerships and accomplished things.

Think any of those factors had anything to do with the preservation efforts in Milwaukee?

Meanwhile, Buffalo is currently working with an empty suit with a podium fetish after 30 years of meathead incompetence and cronyism in our Mayor’s office.

Let’s be clear about something, preservation without capital nor the people and businesses to fill the rehabilitated properties is museum building. Organic economic development and broad-based expansion of regional wealth precedes or at least happens simultaneously with large scale preservation and redevelopment.  That wealth creation then creates the demand for cool condos and brickwalled workplaces. Sure, a developer who utilizes massive public dollars and historic tax credits can save a building here and there and relocate local businesses into them, but it doesn’t scale to the kind of city-wide redevelopment experienced in Milwaukee. Here, we’re trying to build a place without the people and hoping they’ll come to fill the space, which might be described as putting the preserved antique cart before the horse.

Every problem in this town is political. We lack political strategic vision and we lack corporate wealth to underwrite community investment. That’s why we look to the university and its offshoot organizations as the primary drivers of development in this region. Until the political problems are solved, the only business booming in this town will be non-profits working to “save” Buffalo.

2. Speaking of concerned and ambiguously employed white people fighting things and saving things in Buffalo, it’s been a while since we’ve heard from the Concerned Citizens For A Greater Buffalo Against Poor People Making Bad Decisions And/Or Enjoying Themselves At Houses of Ill Repute.

Picture of Concerned White People Stolen From

Buffalo Rising conducted an email interview with casino opponent Diane Bennett and got an update on the multitude of anti-casino lawsuits. (And, yes, I know that Artvoice staff and writers have taken very clear positions in the past against casino gaming)

BR: Is CBB also concerned about the State’s recent efforts to legalize seven new casinos- perhaps even in Buffalo?  Will you fight any new casinos in Buffalo?

Bennett: CBB’s mission is to stop the operation of casino gambling in downtown Buffalo based on its illegality.  We have decided at this time not to extend our mission beyond that.

Kinda fucks up their whole “moral turpitude of gambling” argument, huh?

3. 26 major corporations paid no corporate income tax for the last four years

Citizens for Tax Justice found that 30 major corporations had made billions of dollars in profits while paying no federal income tax between 2008 and 2010. Today, CTJ updated that report to reflect the 2011 tax bill of those 30 companies, and 26 of them have still managed to pay absolutely nothingover that four year period:

26 of the 30 companies continued to enjoy negative federal income tax rates. That means they still made more money after tax than before tax over the four years!

Corporate taxes in the U.S., contrary to the constant protestations of conservatives, are at a 40 year low, with many of the most profitable companies paying nothing at all. CTJ noted that “had these 30 companies paid the full 35 percent corporate tax rate over the 2008-11 period, they would have paid $78.3 billion more in federal income taxes.”

Damn you, socialist Obama!

4. Yesterday, President Obama gave a speech about his proposed “Buffett rule”.

To underscore his contrast with the GOP on economic policies, Mr. Obama highlighted on Tuesday his so-called Buffett Rule, which would require Americans earning more than $1 million a year to pay a 30% overall federal tax rate. The move is named after billionaire investor Warren Buffett, who backs it and has said he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary.

Mr. Obama’s focus is intended to draw a contrast with Mr. Romney, who paid a roughly 14% tax rate in 2010, and Republican economic policies he has endorsed, such as the House GOP budget.

The Democrats are terrible at messaging. They should stop calling it the “Buffett Rule” and instead call it the “Reagan Rule” and run this speech in ads all summer long.

5. How Canada will get rid of the penny and why we should do the same.

Fact Of The Day: Most HR hacks look at your resume for 6 seconds.

Quote Of The Day: “Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen” – Albert Einstein

Video Of The Day: Caine’s Arcade – Incredibly awesome with a cash mob twist. This video will make your week.

Cartoon Of The Day: “Northwest Hounded Police” by Tex Avery, starring Droopy Dog

Song Of The Day: “Thunder Crack” – Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band (I pray to the flying spaghetti monster that he plays this in Buffalo on Friday)

Follow me on Twitter: @ChrisSmithAV

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18 Responses to “The Morning Grumpy – 4/11/12”

  1. Geoff Butler April 11, 2012 at 8:14 am #

    I’m usually a big fan of the Morning Grumpy but today’s item number 1 seems way off point. 

    The idea that Buffalo needs to equal Milwaukee’s population, number of fortune 1000 companies, and “forward thinking mayors” in order to make preservation something other than “museum building” is just wrong.  The alleged relative lack of capital, businesses, leadership and people in Buffalo certainly hasn’t stood in the way of the several other adaptive re-use success stories throughout the city.   I have a hard time seeing how a rehabbed Trico 1 would be any less successful than a Sidway, LcO, or the other two former Trico factories, which are all productive and filled with tenants. 

    • CCharvella April 11, 2012 at 9:40 am #

      You don’t see how population, available employment, municipal capital and proper leadership are important for development in a city?

      I’ll give you a hint. Have a look at the Underpants Gnomes pic. Remove the question mark in Step 2 and replace it with all of those things. Profit.

      • Geoff Butler April 11, 2012 at 8:37 pm #

        @ CC:  Neither your question nor the underpants gnomes have much to do with my earlier comment. 

        If you meant to back up the OP’s point that pursuing preservation projects is somehow putting the cart before the horse, I disagree.  There are several similar completed projects in Buffalo, and much smaller communities, that make that claim difficult to believe.   

        You don’t need to be a Milwaukee or larger community to have buildings like Trico 1 reused.  All you need are people living to live/work there and developers willing to redevelop them.  We have both of those in Buffalo. 

    • Alan Bedenko April 11, 2012 at 9:50 am #

      The whole thing is a BS argument. The prospective success (or lack thereof) of Trico 1 is beside the point. The reason Sidway and LcO were rehabbed is because that what their owners wanted to do with them. (Also, LcO rounds out its population by poaching a bank HQ from Lockport – quite the opposite of what we should be doing in WNY). 

      The fight over the Trico isn’t commanded by imperatives; it is not a “must save” anything. It is a “want to save”. Some want to, maybe others don’t. Either way, I think the prospective owner gets the first and most important say, and the burden of proof shifts to non-owners agitating for its preservation over the prospective owner’s objection. 

      We love to get bogged down in Buffalo over “would be nice” versus “must”. 

      Incidentally, can someone explain to me precisely one thing that the Citizens for a Better Buffalo have done as a group to make a Better Buffalo, or to make Buffalo better? 

      • Geoff Butler April 11, 2012 at 8:28 pm #

        @ Allen: The prospective success of Trico 1 isn’t beside the point.  It’s the main point of Chris’ claim of the supposed lack of capital and people in Buffalo to drive reuse projects.  

        The prospective owner certainly has a say in how this place gets used, but its National Register status ensures those who would like to see Trico saved also have input on the issue.   

      • Christopher Smith April 11, 2012 at 11:16 pm #

        No, you missed the main point.

        “Organic economic development and broad-based expansion of regional
        wealth precedes or at least happens simultaneously with _large scale_
        preservation and redevelopment.”


        “Sure, a developer who utilizes massive public dollars and historic tax
        credits can save a building here and there and relocate local businesses
        into them, but it doesn’t scale to the kind of _city-wide redevelopment_
        experienced in Milwaukee.”

      • Geoff Butler April 12, 2012 at 7:40 am #

        Chris,  I understand your point but I disagree.  The notion that regional population and economic decline need to be reversed to reuse buildings in a manner that Milwaukee has is just wrong.  That idea is contradicted by the multitude of similar reuse projects that have occurred in Buffalo and other smaller/poorer communities.

        I also disagree with the implication that subsidies and local business pirating are creating some kind of preservation illusion locally.  Historic tax credits are widely available throughout the country and are likely used for for eligible developments in Wisconsin.  Local businesses playing musical chairs is a part of life in all metropolitan regions, and are likely a factor in Milwaukee as well.   

  2. Alan Bedenko April 11, 2012 at 8:30 am #

    “Gastarbeiter” implies temporary residence & intent to return. Dave is a émigré.

  3. Jesse Smith April 11, 2012 at 12:19 pm #

    If Milwaukee doesn’t work for you, can I offer Syracuse’s Armory Square as an example in a city that is arguably more troubled than ours?

    • Jesse Smith April 11, 2012 at 12:25 pm #

      (For some reason I can’t edit my post to add this, so I have to add a reply.)

      There is very little Syracuse has that Buffalo doesn’t in terms of capital, people, and businesses, and yet they have managed to create a vibrant downtown neighborhood by preserving 19th century buildings (and adding some new, complementary ones) all the same. I think you are arguing from false premises here.

  4. 01202013 April 11, 2012 at 1:01 pm #

    Buzz Aldrin, who is  a good enough post about around here when he punches
    an idiot who also happens to be Christian (and somehow Chris Smith wants
    to give you the idea that was a typical Christian)  Now condemns NASA for being on the wrong side of Science on global warming. 

  5. 01202013 April 11, 2012 at 1:14 pm #

    Regan was about tax reform for everyone.    This is typical of the left for trying to compare Obama with Regan, cherry pick one speech or policy.  If Obama pushed for all or most of  the Regan Policies on taxes and economics, we would hear much different from you. 

    I agree, please run this video every time Obama invokes the Buffet Rule. (While Buffet’s team of lawyers is fighting the IRS tooth and nail to avoid paying taxes) and let’s compare Obama to Regan and quote Regan as much as possible.

    • Kelly Sedinger April 11, 2012 at 9:00 pm #

      When you go to church, do you worship Jeesus? Just wondering, given your inability to spell Reagan’s name correctly in multiple posts fawning over the guy.

  6. 01202013 April 11, 2012 at 1:18 pm #

    Here check this one out

  7. 01202013 April 11, 2012 at 1:20 pm #

    Here’s another good one

    • saltecks April 11, 2012 at 5:25 pm #

       ‘Reagan nearly tripled the federal budget deficit. During the Reagan years, the debt increased to nearly $3 trillion, “roughly three times
      as much as the first 80 years of the century had done altogether.”
      Reagan enacted a major tax cut his first year in office and government
      revenue dropped off precipitously. Despite the conservative myth that
      tax cuts somehow increase revenue, the government went deeper into debt
      and Reagan had to raise taxes just a year after he enacted his tax cut.
      Despite ten more tax hikes on everything from gasoline to corporate
      income, Reagan was never able to get the deficit under control.’

  8. 01202013 April 11, 2012 at 1:28 pm #

    Here’s some good economic data on Regan’s Recovery vs Obama’s at same point in their Presidency.

    Regan inherited a worse economy from Jimmy Carter than Barack Carter did from Bush. Carter gave us 11% unemployment, 18% inflation and we were in a deeper recession. By this point Regan had a 7.5% unemployment and a GDP of 7.5% as compared to the anemic 2.5% Obama gave us.

    Yes please keep playing Regan videos and trying  to distort his message,  it is so easy to show how Obama is no Regan.

    • Alan Bedenko April 11, 2012 at 3:21 pm #


      1. 1979 was an energy and monetary crisis – the cure for the monetary crisis was begun under Carter with Volcker at the Fed, and the energy crises of the 70s gave way to an oil glut in the 80s. 

      2. Reagan’s first tax cut in 1981 reduced the marginal rate for top earners from 70% to 50%. Taking it as gospel truth that Reagan is us and we are Reagan, if my Republican friends would like to recommend that top earners revert to their 50% rate enjoyed in 1981, I’m all for it.  

      3. Unemployment was 10.8% at its peak in December 1982 – almost 2 years into Reagan’s presidency. In fact, unemployment didn’t go over 10% at all under Carter – all of that was under Reagan, who saw a deepening recession from 1981 – 1983. 

      4. By election day, deficit spending and lower interest rates led to a recovery that saw unemployment back to 7.2% in November 1984. 

      5. By this point in 1984, unemployment was 7.7%. 

      6. GDP at its worst under George W. Bush (the 2008 recession) was -8.9%. Under Carter, it was -7.9%. Incidentally, the last quarter under Carter’s Presidency saw 7.9% growth in GDP, then dipped back to -6.4% in 1982 under Reagan. 

      7. You’re right – Obama is “no Reagan”. He’s more conservative. 

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