Archive | June, 2013

The Foundry’s Fundraising Campaign

28 Jun

To close out the week, I want to direct your attention to something fun, exciting, and important that’s happening on Buffalo’s east side. Located at 298 Northampton Street not far from Main Street, the Foundry could be described as a low-tech incubator, of sorts. It started out last spring to create something new out of other people’s trash – materials would be salvaged and picked to reduce waste and reuse things that still had useful life. 

The Foundry has an urgent need for contributions from the community to help it meet its immediate building improvement goals

Last May, a small group of folks moved into a recently vacated building on the East Side of Buffalo. We were passionate about using reclaimed and salvaged materials, found objects and trash-picked treasures to create new things, to create new opportunities for average people with a skill, some motivation, and a dream. 

The Foundry is whatever its members need it to be; a workshop, an office, a studio, a community space, and a place for imagination and creativity in a oft-forgotten neighborhood. Some of the entrepreneurs and artisans making up the Foundry include: 

But in order better to fulfill its mission, the Foundry need support – both personal and financial. If you don’t have money to donate, they can use your time and knowledge. It’s not just about empowering people to fulfill their dreams, but about creating a better economic future for a community. On the Second Saturday of every month, the Foundry opens itself up to the public, and you can watch participants do their work, buy their wares, explore and get involved. You can get everything from hand-made soaps to salvaged church pews. There’s coffee, beer, welders, weavers, and glass blowers. 


In its first year of existence, the Foundry has accomplished the following: 

  • Created ten studios equipped with the necessary specialized tools for each craft.
  • Completed a 3,000 square foot addition to expand the building’s footprint.
  • Outfitted a technology lab, a woodworking shop and a metalworking studio with necessary tools and equipment.
  • Reached agreement with the landlord to purchase The Foundry.

With Community Support, the Foundry:

  • Leveraged hundreds of hours of volunteer labor from residents and supporters to clean, organize, and create new spaces.
  • Future fiber arts studio has been outfitted by a generous donation by Daemen College.
  • With help from a National Grid grant,  the Foundry upgraded all the first floor lights to high efficiency lighting fixtures.
  • With commitment of in-kind support from the Sprinkler Fitters Union Local 669, the Foundry is upgrading its entire fire protection system.
  • Created a master build-out plan, pro-bono, with architect Anne Dafchik to accommodate more residents, a community venue and spaces for our kitchencafe and a future restaurant.

The Foundry contributed to the community around it by, 

  • Hosting Buffalo’s Torn Space Theatre’s production, “He Who Gets Slapped”.
  • Hosting Vermont’s world famous Bread and Puppet Theater, Adam Ende and Puerto Rico’s Puppeteers Poncili Company.
  • Serving as a location for local film production “Give and Take”.
  • Initiating the Second Saturday at The Foundry series, and hosting Second Saturdays every month since May 2012
  • Holding a series of free workshops, classes, and trainings for community members.
  • Providing meaningful, hands-on internships for City Honors and Nichols students.
  • Mobilizing 50 volunteers to plant 150 trees in the Masten Park Neighborhood.  

By working together and engaging in the community, the people behind the Foundry believe that they can have a bigger impact than by acting individually. 


The Foundry is looking to raise $30,000 to make some important changes and upgrades to its physical plant, including

  • The fire protection system: The Foundry’s effort received a huge boost with an in-kind donation from Davis Ulmer Sprinkler Company for a design of our new system. The Sprinkler Fitters union is helping by getting apprentices involved in completing most of the work. The Foundry still needs to float the materials, and it’s big. $15,000.
  • Steel Staircases, Fire Doors and Firewalls: To access the second floor and open up twelve additional studios for new residents. $13,200. 
  • Heating System: The Foundry has its sights set on a new energy-efficient furnace that will heat the facility with waste fuel. $12,500.
  • Windows and Doors: As Buffalo Lab works to implement the property’s keyless access system, they need to upgrade numerous doors in the building and open up windows that have long been blocked in. $1,750.
  • Electrical System Upgrades and Improvements: all the ground level lighting has been switched to high efficiency fixtures, but they need to complete the second level, and additional wiring improvements throughout the building. $3,500.
  • Safety, signage, security system: $ 1,200.
  • Plan review and permitting: $750.

The maintenance and development of the building will be largely supported through revenues generated by space rental to emerging entrepreneurs, artisans, and small business owners. The Foundry strives to strike a balance between offering affordable spaces for all its residents while also making sure the building can sustain itself well into the future.

Rent for participating entrepreneurs includes utilities, access to community workspaces (wood shop, glass shop, metal shop, office space), access to a growing inventory of reclaimed materials that can be utilized for projects, and first priority on professional and skill development classes.

The Foundry is running an Indiegogo fundraising effort right now to help it meet its immediate financial goals. You can check it out and contribute by clicking here. There’s 9 days left in its fundraising efforts, and it’s 1/3 of the way towards meeting its goal. 

The Foundry Website:

Net Positive, The Foundry’s sponsoring organization:

A Revolution, Televised

26 Jun

Yesterday, Texas’ state senate was poised to pass anti-abortion legislation so restrictive that it would leave the state with only five remaining clinics. It would have banned all abortions after 20 weeks of gestation, would have required that the procedures be done in surgical clinics, and the doctors performing the procedures would have to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles. It would have closed 37 of Texas’ 42 clinics

One Democratic female senator – Wendy Davis – stood on the floor of the Texas Senate for over 13 consecutive hours to filibuster this bill. The rules are more stringent than in the US Senate – she could not so much as lean on a desk, and the topic of her marathon talk had to be related to the bill at hand. 

Among the things she read from the podium were stories she solicited from Texas women, telling the story of their own abortions. The debate over this bill included one female sponsor of the filibustered anti-abortion legislation to declare that exemptions weren’t needed for victims of rape or incest because rape kits can prevent unwanted pregnancy. Republican state representative Jodie Laubenberg said that in “the emergency rooms they have what’s called rape kits, that the woman can get cleaned out, basically like a D and C” — dilation and curettage surgery, often performed after miscarriages. Ms. Laubenberg is wrong – rape kits do not ‘clean women out’

There was drama as midnight approached and the Lieutenant Governor tried to shut down the filibuster, but the Democrats began to filibuster that. In the end, the bill failed thanks in great part to the efforts of one brave woman

The abortion “debate” isn’t one anymore. Most Texans didn’t support the added restrictions on abortion that failed yesterday. A 75/25 majority of Americans agree that abortions should be legal in some circumstances. Nobody has to like abortion, but that doesn’t mean you get to restrict a woman’s right to choose whether to terminate a pregnancy in the 1st trimester. 

And here I thought Texas Republicans hated regulations on business. 

The war on women and reproductive rights is in full swing throughout the country – not just in the South. The American right wing works diligently to roll back liberties won over the last century – health care, equality, reproductive rights, civil rights, human rights – all of them are under siege in a country whose highest court declares that racism is over and a key portion of the Civil Rights Act is, therefore, applied unconstitutionally and invalid until Congress changes it. Next up, they’ll look to roll back Social Security. The America they envision is one that is of the rich elite, by the rich elite, and for the rich elite. An America that protects the Paris Hiltons and Kardashians of the world at your expense and the expense of your family from cradle to grave.

That revolution wasn’t televised. It just wasn’t the revolution Mr. Scott-Heron envisioned.  Now America needs to recapture what it’s lost. 


25 Jun

Many years ago, the thought was that people in government should seek to help the people. 

Somewhere along the line, that changed. Now, there’s a theory that one helps the people only indirectly, by first helping the rich and powerful. The middle class and the poor must wait for the handouts and subsidies to the very rich and to corporations to “trickle down” to them. 

It’s a long wait, indeed, because 30 years of adherence to that faith, the wealth hasn’t trickled down. It’s been concentrated in a small elite whose wealth keeps growing .

Representative Chris Collins is part of that 1%, and his staff have been very vocal on Twitter lately. Collins is evidently trying to carve out a niche whereby he is the Congressguy who most hates Obamacare. Here, he highlights a Chicago Tribune editorial that wrings its hands over the Affordable Care Act’s coming implementation.  He employs the hashtag “trainwreck” to describe the federal implementation of what had been the conservative solution to universal health insurance coverage – a mandate to purchase insurance through private companies or a government-run exchange. The coming “trainwreck” is merely a nationwide application of Massachusetts’ Romneycare. 

Here, Collins bemoans Washington “dysfunction” over defeat of a Farm Bill. The dysfunction came about because the Republicans demanded a reduction in food stamp spending because government is no longer about helping people down on their luck, but about helping to subsidize private farming. If you’re depending on some Democratic votes to pass the bill, Republicans should keep their members from deliberately provoking Democrats by adding unacceptable last-minute amendments to that bill. 

Here. Collins addresses the right-wing echo chamber. 

Check this survey out:

Did you see this? I looked and looked, but I didn’t see the survey that’s intended for average citizens who also happen to make up Collins’ constituency. After all, we vote for this guy, too. Why is he so concerned about the problems facing businesses? When he goes and talks to Greta Susteren about the poor, beleaguered businesses who are forced to cut people’s hours because of the coming Obamacare “trainwreck”. 

But the translation of that is: people are being deliberately denied health insurance coverage because neither the businesses nor their representative in Congress thinks it’s important. 

What’s Collins’ solution to the health insurance crisis? What is “CollinsCare”? He and his Twitter minions consistently avoid that question, falling back on the argument that NY-27 elected him and not Hochul, and therefore it is his job to demagogue Obamacare in order to ensure his re-election. But given his incessant agitation against the notion that average people should have health insurance coverage, we know what CollinsCare would look like. 

Under CollinsCare, medical bankruptcy is the way to reach universal coverage. 

Under CollinsCare, a vagina should continue to be a pre-existing condition. 

Under CollinsCare, your pre-existing medical conditions should continue to disqualify you from obtaining health insurance coverage. 

Under CollinsCare,  the ER is good enough for you, and preventive care is socialism. 

Under CollinsCare, treatment consists of “Maybe you Shouldn’t Have Gotten Sick”. 

Under CollinsCare, “middle class” is a synonym for “vassal”. 

Under CollinsCare, the best way to treat leukemia and other acute disease is to set up tip jars in convenience stores. 

Under CollinsCare, health insurance is a “trainwreck”, so it’s better to have medical debt you can’t pay. 

Under CollinsCare, a $1 million lifetime cap on insurance payouts is plenty. 

Under CollinsCare, having the 37th best health insurance system in the world is good enough. 

Under CollinsCare, being a citizen means not caring about your fellow citizens. 

Under CollinsCare, 50 million uninsured Americans is too few. 

Under CollinsCare, chemotherapy is for the privileged few. 

Under CollinsCare, your college grad loses coverage. 

Under CollinsCare, medical treatment is a privilege for the well-to-do. 

Under CollinsCare, the slogan is “Fuck People”. 

But in the video shown above, Collins tells Greta Van Susteren that the Affordable Care Act was passed “in the middle of the night” in a “hurry”. 

The Affordable Care Act was debated and negotiated between the Summer of 2009 and its signing in March 2010. It was reported out of committee in July 2009. The Senate vote took place at 7:05 pm on December 24, 2009. The final House vote took place months – on March 21, 2010 at 10:49 pm

No hurry. No “middle of the night”. If Collins would so brazenly lie about silly, easily rebuttable facts, it calls everything else he says or writes into question. 

What to Think About the IRS Non-Scandal

25 Jun

When a political action group applies for – and receives – non-profit status as a 501(c)(4) it is asking for a public subsidy. Because it doesn’t have to pay tax on its income, every such dollar it gets to keep is a handout from the American taxpayer to that particular group. 

We’re not supposed to hand out handouts and subsidies arbitrarily for purely political purposes. A 501(c)(4) group is supposed to be engaged in educational or social welfare programs. These types of organizations are permitted to advocate for or against legislation, and to engage in other political activity, but only as an ancillary purpose – not a primary one.

This is why the “scandal” that idiot Washington and the right-wing faux-outrage industry have concocted regarding the IRS “targeting” of tea party groups is so fundamentally stupid. 

It is not just within the IRS’s power, but its job to determine whether a group applying for a 501(c)(4) tax handout is engaged in social welfare activity, or whether its primary purpose is political activism. If a group contains “tea party” in its name, there’s a good chance its application for a taxpayer subsidy should be rejected, since it sure seems more geared towards political activity rather than any social welfare program. 

The IRS has reacted out of an abundance of caution and stopped this particular practice, and there is no evidence of intentional wrongdoing. But were just tea party groups targeted? Not according to a newly released memo

An internal IRS document obtained by The Associated Press said that besides “tea party,” lists used by screeners to pick groups for close examination also included the terms “Israel,” ”Progressive” and “Occupy.” The document said an investigation into why specific terms were included was still underway.

The reason why the 501(c)(4) construct has been so popular? The group has no duty to disclose its donors

Shorter Esmonde

23 Jun

Donn Esmonde hates casinos, <a href="; except when he doesn’t.

Shorter Esmonde

21 Jun

Now that my wife and I are nearing the end of our work-life, it’s high time those union thugs that guaranteed our own financial security, good wages, pensions, and benefits, get with the tea party program

Shorter shorter Esmonde:

I gots mine. 

Patriotism Run Amok

20 Jun

It’s not a good day for the self-described “patriot” movement. On the one hand, you have two bitter middle-aged men who decided to put their hatred to use, and decided to build a mobile death ray to kill Muslims and other undesireable ethnics in secret, while they slept.

The Tea Party is Totally Reasonable

Luckily, the synagogues that these two geniuses approached contacted the police, and the armchair terrorists were caught before they could do any harm. As an added bonus, one of them is a member of “Tea Party Patriots“, and named, pro-se, co-plaintiff on the lawsuit to repeal the NY SAFE Act – a lawsuit that is as clumsily written as you’d expect from a collection of pro-se litigants. Why would they think that Jewish congregations would be totally cool with committing mass murder and terrorism? 

On the other hand, a founder of the Arizona-based “Minuteman Militia”, which protects our country from an influx of dangerous brown people, stands accused of serial molestation of girls under the age of 10. 

Remember how the right wing had a conniption fit because the Obama White House dared to suggest that right-wing terrorism was a genuine threat to America?

Me, too.  

Erie Freight House: 8 Months Down

20 Jun

Remember the Erie Freight House? Let’s take a look at what’s been happening with this crumbling structure along Ohio Street. 

November 23, 2011: Erie Freight House Nominated for Landmark Status

“The Erie Freight House is an extremely significant building on the Buffalo River, a rare survivor of Buffalo’s early industrial heritage that is incredibly important to our city.”

March 20, 2012: Erie Freight House Purchased – Future Use Unknown

Last fall when word got out that demolition was being considered, an effort to landmark the building was launched, pushed by Breeser, Preservation Buffalo Niagara and others.  

The circa-1868 Erie Freight House is a two-story heavy timber frame structure of @ 110 feet wide and 550 feet long, sited on the edge of the Buffalo River. The exterior of the Erie Freight House is a rusted metal siding that likely covers the structure’s original clapboard.  A 20-foot wharf ran the length of the building along the Buffalo River but was removed in 1959.  

The new owners spoke out against the designation saying the landmark status would hinder reuse options for a property that is collapsing and is likely to require significant changes to change its use from industrial.  In January the Buffalo City Council approved the property as a local landmark.

Breeser and the development group discussed working together and had a handshake agreement that Breeser would purchase the LLC after the property was purchased.  As the scheduled closing date approached, Breeser backed off.  The development group decided to proceed with closing.

In coming weeks the new owners will clean-up the property, pick out the collapsed parts of the building, and shore up what’s left.  

“It’s a danger now, it’s falling in on itself,” says Sam Savarino, President and CEO of Savarino Companies.

October 3, 2012: Residential Project Proposed for Niagara River / Ohio Street


The historic Erie Freight House could be demolished and replaced with a residential development.  Property owner 441 Ohio Street LLC consisting of FFZ Holdings of Buffalo and Savarino Companies, have determined the condemned building cannot be feasibly restored and have reported this to the City of Buffalo.  In its place, the development team is proposing a four-story, 48 unit residential project with public access to the Buffalo River.

October 4, 2012: PBN Responds to Proposed Erie Freight House Demolition

The circa 1868 Erie Freight House located at 9 Ohio Street is considered to be the only extant freight warehouse building in the city associated with the Erie Canal and historic railway companies along the Buffalo River. Freight houses are a building type that once dominated the banks of the Buffalo River, and the Erie Freight House is the last surviving example.

October 16, 2012: Erie Freight House – An Alternative View

Think it can’t be done? Search Google images for “Renovated Freight Houses” and you’ll see “about 978,000” images of adaptive reuses of freight houses all around the country. It’s done all the time.

October 19, 2012: Freight House Owners to Apply for Demolition Permit

[Savarino] is also fully expecting to be sued which will delay any demolition for months despite, by virtue of the condemnation, the City has already determined that the building is a threat to life and safety. 

October 23, 2012: Seeking a Rational Discourse on the Erie Freight House

Preservationists don’t want to stop investment in South Buffalo, they just want investment that doesn’t sacrifice one of the last remaining parts of our history. The Freight House is the last of it’s kind. It’s true, “The Last of the Erie Canal Freight Houses,” isn’t the sexiest of titles, but this building represents a pivotal period in Buffalo’s history, and is embedded in one of the most important areas in the city. 

The preservation community would rather see this area go the way of Toronto’s Distillery District, where history and modernity go hand-in-hand. A new community growing within Buffalo’s oldest industrial area, highlighting our past in a way that promotes our future.

June 17, 2013: Plans Submitted for “Freight House Landing” Along Buffalo River

Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper (BNR) is part of the project team and their influence is evident. Green roof gardens and permeable asphalt pavement and walks effectively reduce the footprint of the building to collect and cleanse stormwater before it enters the river. There are also floating docks for tenants as well as a passive kayak/boat launch area and on site storage for small watercraft. Some of the existing piers from the former wharf will remain in place for the benefit of river fauna. The landscaping, which will be designed by BNR, will feature local indigenous species. Exterior building walls will be designed to allow for plant growth on them…

…Savarino’s Planning submission indicates that they have engaged preservation specialist Kerry Traynor of KTA Preservation Specialties and Preservation to catalog/photo archive the structure, conduct research and record the features and history of the property. Kerry Traynor authored the Landmark application for the property on behalf of Preservation Buffalo Niagara. KTA will oversee deconstruction of the building and the salvage of any usable remnants of the structure. KTA, along with Preservation Buffalo Niagara, will provide recommendations for reuse of the building’s elements that respect the property’s history and allow them to be suitably repurposed for a second life.

In just eight months, the Savarino project to build apartments on the grounds of the Erie Freight House has gone from Preservationist outrage to perfectly reasonable sign of progress. The difference? Putting the potential and real obstructionists on the project payroll. Traynor isn’t just a “preservation specialist” with a private company, she’s a professor at UB. To what degree does getting a project approved with preservationist imprimatur involve hiring the right people? If Savarino suddenly has a clear path to demolishing the Erie Freight House, where is the line separating preservationism and racketeering

Clarence Revote Budget : Tip of the Iceberg

19 Jun

tumblr_mdsy9hESN61qg4knbClarence overwhelmingly passed its revote budget last night. So did most other revote budget districts – Bemus Point passed its original, above-cap budget, but Wilson will be finding out about austerity next year. 

In Clarence, 5,358 voted – less than May 21st’s record, but about double what the town usually sees for school vote turnout. On May 21st, 8,232 people voted, and the results were No: 4,801 Yes: 3,431

Last night, we had 3,541 yes votes and 1,817 voted no. That means we gained about 100 yes votes, and the no votes stayed home in droves. To the extent that the formerly warring factions came together last week to urge, in unison, a “yes” vote on this revote budget, we didn’t get a lot more “yes”, but at least the “no” weren’t energized enough to make the trip anymore. 

A quality education is something to which every child is entitled (yes, entitled). There is a concerted effort underway in this country to dismantle the very things that helped lurch us from a frontier backwater into the superpower we are today. There is an organized and well-funded movement to fight a war on the middle class, protecting and comforting the very rich while punishing the poor and destroying the middle class that built this country.

On June 6th, serial entrepreneur Nick Hanauer testified before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs. (Website here) I think that what he said is a fundamental truth that helps inform why providing equal opportunity for America’s middle class families to thrive, excel, and do better each day as compared to the last. 

For 30 years, Americans on the right and left have accepted a particular explanation for the origins of Prosperity in capitalist economies. It is that rich business people like me are “Job Creators.” That if taxes go up on us or our companies, we will create fewer jobs. And that the lower our taxes are, the more jobs we will create and the more general prosperity we’ ll have. Continue reading

Numbers Don’t Lie. School Revotes Today

18 Jun

People simply love the new series “Donn Esmonde is an Ass”. And I love writing it – every Friday and Sunday are like little packages of prejudicial, simplistic dogshit. Gift-wrapped nicely in a bow of boomer “me generation” excrement and paper made from pure irony, I get to unwrap the reality for you twice a week until the News relents and sends him into proper retirement.

Forgive me as I pivot back a few weeks, because this is important to address. On May 24th, while the shock and pain of the defeat of the Clarence school budget was still raw, Donn Esmonde argued that Clarence was just “overstuffed with school tax excess” and that it was a good thing that the 9.8% crisis budget was defeated.

While entitled to his overly simplistic right-wing opinion, Donn Esmonde was – as usual – wrong. Here are the facts.

If you navigate your trusty browser to this link right here, you can look up the taxes paid on any Clarence property going back several years. If I take a look at my own home, I learn the following about my school taxes:

In 2006, I paid $4,345.00 in school taxes.

In 2007, I paid $4,347.00 in school taxes.

In 2012, however, I paid $4,205.00 in school taxes.

How about that? I was paying less – in actual dollars – in school taxes in 2012 than I had 5 or 6 years earlier. My property value assessment, by the way, has never gone down in any year since moving into my home in 2002.

Had the 9.8% budget passed, my school taxes were estimated to rise to about $4,600. By the same token, had the tax increases year after year increased by – let’s say 2% (well within the cap and about even with the average rate of inflation over the last 20 years), what I would have been paying in 2012? About $4,800.

(Assuming 4,347 in 2008, 2% increase to 4,433 in 2009; 2% increase to 4,521 in 2010, increase to 4,611 in 2011, 4,703 in 2012, and about $4,797 in 2013).

Overstuffed with school taxes? Lies.

Incidentally, if you live in Alden, Clarence, Lewiston-Porter, Niagara Wheatfield, Wilson, or Bemus Point, today is school revote day. Please go vote.