Archive | July, 2013

Travel Warnings, The Aud, and Obamacare

31 Jul

1. The US State Department gives free advice to travelers going abroad, advising people about problems, issues, customs, and other matters. The UK’s Foreign Office does the same for Britons, including this

2. A movie is being shot in Buffalo right now, starring Matthew Broderick. The crews were right outside my office on Monday, and there was a “NY *hearts* Film” placard on each vehicle’s dashboard. So, I went to that website, which the state has set up to help convince motion pictures to shoot in New York. If you go to the Western section, you find this interesting potential location – “vacant arena, Buffalo”. 

The Buffalo Memorial Auditorium was demolished in late 2008 / early 2009 – about 4 years ago. 

3. The Republicans have spent millions of dollars, hours of time, and almost 40 votes to try and repeal Obamacare. You see, logic dictates that Obamacare is going to be such a “trainwreck” that instead of letting the law go into effect and fail on its own, they will try their darndest to repeal it because they care – they care so much that 50 million people continue to be uninsured, that families’ health insurance be capped, that our idiotic status quo – so broken that they did absolutely nothing to make meaningful changes to it at any point in recent history, but have attempted incessantly to block every Democratic effort to bring about reform – be maintained, that they will go down fighting against a national implementation of Romneycare.

Guys, you’ve done such a good job lowering people’s expectations to nil. Your scare tactics and horror stories have been somewhat effective, yet you’ve failed and refused to offer any reasonable alternative whatsoever. You pledge to keep the parts you like in Obamacare, ignoring the economics that make Obamacare work – the insurance mandate is the quid pro quo of the lower rates. When Obamacare doesn’t fail and people find that they have access to reasonably priced health insurance, you’re going to look like idiots. You used the same scare tactics when we passed Medicare and Medicaid in the 60s. Now, Medicare is one of the most popular government programs in existence. 

But to top it all off, Republicans will refuse to help their constituents – residents and businesses – navigate the law. A more petulant and childish thing I have never seen. We are run by 5th graders with behavioral issues. 

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Elections, Tolbert and Brown, Vouchers, Pope Francis, and Stone/Spitzer

30 Jul

1949_poll_tax_receipt1. Who would have thought that striking down a key portion of the Voting Rights Act would result in certain conservative, mostly Southern, states moving immediately to placing restrictions on people’s right and ability to vote?

2. Has the Bernie Tolbert campaign explained why he’s running to anyone’s satisfaction? Compare Brown’s ad, which is positive and sets a tone and theme right away, to Tolbert’s. Brown’s ad has people setting forth a specific alleged Brown accomplishment. Tolbert’s just has random people saying that they “believe in Bernie”. Believe in what, precisely?

3. Republicans and the tea party don’t believe in public education – most of them just don’t have the balls to come right out and say it in so many words. They want to incrementally abolish what they will inevitably call socialized education, using Frank Luntz-style weasel words. You don’t say you want to abolish public education and throw every kid into a private or parochial setting; you don’t say you’re going to allow big business to set up mediocre for-profit schools that will accept whatever cheap, underfunded voucher program the conservative dystopia will offer to worker-drones with few rights or privileges of citizenship (remember – the system has made it costly and difficult for them to vote – see supra). But when they set up a system to judge the quality of these private education “choices”, the right people will be able to change their scores because they’re big political donors. This is the future that Americans for Progress and Donn Esmonde foresee for America, and it can best be described as a rapid descent into Central American plutocratic despotism. The third world is the conservative model.

4. It’s news that the leader of the largest Christian denomination in the world decided not to heap fire and brimstone hatred and eternal damnation on gay people. Well, gay priests, to be specific, but there’s hope that the new Pope may hold a more conciliatory view towards gay people in general. The last Pope thought that being gay was an inherent evil and a mental disorder. So, progress, I guess.

5. If you thought Anthony Weiner sending post-resignation dick pics wasn’t odd enough, Republican political dirty trickster Roger Stone Tweeted this yesterday:

Donn Esmonde Makes Kevin Gaughan, Poor People Unlikeable,

29 Jul

Friday

Because Donn Esmonde is such an ass, everything is somehow magically about him. Everything. Including the Erie County Democratic Committee’s decision to ask regionalism and downsizing advocate Kevin Gaughan to run on for County Comptroller on the Democratic line. The ECDC has finally come around to Donn’s way of thinking, so smell the told-ya-so snark waft through the air. Esmonde’s egotistical descent into self-parody is hilarious.

Me, me, me. Me. I did this. I am the seer – you are the unwashed mouth-breathers. That’s Esmonde’s political thought about Gaughan, in a nutshell.

Don’t hurt your back patting it so damned hard, Donn.

Pigs have sprouted wings, lost souls have donned parkas in Hades, and lambs have lain down with lions.

The day many thought would never happen has come: Kevin Gaughan – eternal maverick, inveterate outsider and longtime critic of the political establishment – was endorsed last week as a candidate for Erie County comptroller by the Democratic Party.

To steal a line from sportscaster Al Michaels: Do you believe in miracles?

I am not sure if local Democrats finally came to their senses or if Gaughan – whom I have known for a quarter-century – has lost his. I suspect it is the former.

The fact of the matter is that Gaughan hasn’t been taken seriously before because he hasn’t performed all that well in any campaign in which he’s been involved. Part of it has to do with the fact that he is professorial in his demeanor – something we just don’t get in politicians around here. Part of it has to do with the fact that the size and political activity of his base of support is small – he eschews the quid-pro-quo with political clubs, which, on the one hand, help with petitions, canvassing, and calls; and, on the other hand, provide a well of ready and willing patronage hires. That’s not a criticism of Gaughan, whom I respect, but a reality. He’s a thinker, a philosopher, a tinkerer, but he’s just not your typical politician. This is a blessing and a curse.

The tone of the article is so unbelievably condescending – as if all the rest of you backwards-ass cretins have finally seen the light that Esmonde has been shining for nigh these many years.

Granted, he replaces the party’s original choice, who withdrew for health reasons. Even so, I think this day has been too long in coming. Gaughan’s government-reform efforts in the last two decades even prompted futile endorsement offers from rival Republicans. Only now have fellow Democrats opened their arms.

Credit County Democratic Chairman Jeremy Zellner, who took over last year at age 34, for bringing Gaughan, 59, in from the cold to run against Republican incumbent Stefan Mychajliw.

“From Day One, I said I wanted to make the party more progressive,” Zellner told me. “Some, in years past, maybe would have shut Kevin out. I think this shows that the thinking of the party is changing.”

Given our grandstanding comptroller, who has absolutely zero financial background and has worn out his shoes running to the nearest microphone to declare today’s reasonable sounding of alarms, it is imperative that the Democrats put up a challenger who has some bona fide experience in trying to find ways to dramatically improve the efficiency of government in both macro (regionalism) and micro (board downsizing) ways. Frankly, putting up Mychajliw’s red coat against Gaughan’s decade and a half of efficiency activism is brilliant, and Gaughan has done all of that for very little reward. Also, Donn Esmonde had absolutely nothing to do with any of it.

The reed-thin, Harvard-educated attorney and civic activist has for years carried the smaller-government flag. He has done more, in my view, to help the community than most elected officials. Instead of seizing the voter appeal of a no-strings reformer, the party – under the likes of Len Lenihan and Steve Pigeon – for years slammed the door.

The rejection said more about the party’s march-in-place myopia than it did about Gaughan. Although, in fairness, he did little to endear himself – thrice taking on party favorites in primaries and generally avoiding party functions and parades he wasn’t leading. His style attracts some people, repels others. With a patrician air that seems at odds with a common-man philosophy, Gaughan often sounds like he is reading from a civics textbook.

Gaughan has rankled the unions, which make up much of the Democrats’ base. Gaughan has upset many protectors of the inefficient, wasteful status quo. He wants to kill the job in a place where job number one is to not kill the job. Esmonde’s condescending “f you” to past party bosses completely ignores the reasons why Gaughan has been a tough sell in Democratic circles. To ignore that is to ignore facts.

Like him or not, there is no arguing with success. His 1997 Chautauqua Regionalism Conference helped to turn “sprawl” and “consolidation” into household words. His subsequent public “Conversations” hammered politicians for a lack of post-Chautauqua reforms. His downsizing crusade led to the shrinking of seven town and village boards and the County Legislature – angering numerous politicians for threatening their power bases.

Eight downsized boards are palpable achievements. The introduction of two words into the WNY vernacular, and that’s over the course of 16 years. The only phrases missing from this Esmonde lesson are, “lighter, quicker, cheaper” and “placemaking”.

His stabs at elective office were a different story. Gaughan’s failed efforts underline how tough it is for an “outsider” of modest means – despite name recognition and a core following – to take on an endorsed candidate with a legion of party workers, money and institutional backing. He lost Democratic primaries for Congress, mayor and the Assembly.

Gaughan seemed resigned, after getting pounded in the Assembly race last year, to a future of practicing law and digging into academia. But a recent courtesy call to Zellner led, to his surprise, to an endorsement offer.

After decades of separation, the historically fractured Democratic Party has discovered its foremost progressive. Check the thermostat in Hades.

I’m not sure whether Gaughan is progressive or conservative. Isn’t “less government” typically seen as a conservative thing? Perhaps that explains why his is a hard sell in true-blue New York and union-friendly WNY. And what do Gaughan’s “modest means” have to do with anything? If anything, it points to a dramatic need for a fundraising blitz, and that’s something you recruit people to do – people who are good at it.

But Esmonde misses a key point that Gaughan will be asked about – one that has nothing to do with the fact that Gaughan was once sued for a debt owed to the Buffalo Hyatt – for someone who is so opposed to the political class, why is he so eager to join them? Congress, Mayor, State Senate, Erie County Clerk – Gaughan went for all of them in just the last 23 years. That drubbing he took when he primaried a perfectly reasonable progressive Democrat for the Assembly Sean Ryan? Ryan is also an attorney and has made his bones working his way up the party ranks, doing the grunt work and getting the eventual party nod. He is uniquely close to the unions in town and there’s simply no way you can, as a Democrat, outflank Ryan on either end of the political spectrum.

So this isn’t about people finally seeing the Esmonde light about Gaughan – this is about Gaughan finding a race where Democrats are left with no other choice.

Sunday

Also, there was a Sunday column where he was able to tsk-tsk the fact that the city of Buffalo has a lot of bad students populating its schools, and that a kid’s educational output is largely predetermined by his socioeconomic reality and the educational output of the parents. If a parent dropped out of school pregnant and with failing grades in 9th grade, chances are pretty good that the child’s experience will be similar. Rather than addressing the complete breakdown of society that accompanies that sort of spiraling descent into intergenerational poverty and despair,

Esmonde figures we should just bus inner city kids to the boondocks and vice-versa. Because nothing helps education more than an hour-and-a-half bus ride, twice a day, right? This “solution” also gets to avoid one of the most troubling components of this reality – that some people just place no value on education whatsoever. How do you convince someone with that mindset to change anything? Isn’t this the same Esmonde who blamed these negligent parents for chronic student absences? Does he think shipping such a student to Sardinia is going to magically reduce truancy?

Esmonde’s concern-trolling of the extremely complicated and difficult issue of school reform is counterproductive. His tired, prejudicial pablum (underscored by him quoting racist anonymous emails as indicators of widespread suburban opinion), is only made worse by his constant advocating for de-funding suburban schools, incessant charter-fellating, and hypocritical good-enough-for-me-but-not-for-thee union scapegoating. There are probably ways we can help break the pattern of poverty and devalued education in America’s inner cities, but Esmonde looks at putting band-aids on the symptoms, and completely ignores the underlying disease.

Maybe education is devalued because Buffalo was always a manufacturing town. Maybe the loss of manufacturing over the last 40 years has completely devastated families without the means to leave and go where the jobs are. Maybe decades’ worth of demolishing the very socioeconomic foundation of entire communities have led to despair and poverty and despair. Maybe these are the issues we should focus on if we want to lift people up and not lose yet another generation of people who really just need a job and some hope for social mobility.

Sheriff Tim Howard: From Law Enforcement to Law Selection

26 Jul

Howard and Arpaio – two of the worst Sheriffs in America

Has anyone else managed to wrap their head around the fact that Erie County Sheriff Tim Howard isn’t just opposed to the NY SAFE Act, but has pledged to not honor or enforce it in any way? The power of the sheriff is not law selection – to pick and choose which laws to enforce – it is, instead, law enforcement.

It’s altogether possible that Howard has some sort of problem with the way NY SAFE and many other laws are passed or written. If he doesn’t like it, he should run for – and win – a seat on the Assembly or in the Senate.

It’s also possible that Howard thinks that the NY SAFE Act is unconstitutional or that it was hastily passed. To that end, he should have attended law school and then run for – and won – a judicial seat. Be a named plaintiff in the suit to strike it down. Be lead counsel on the case.  But that’s not all – to have a real effect he should have so excelled as a jurist that the governor would appoint him to the Court of Appeals, where the penultimate say would be had on the constitutionality question. Better still, make your way right onto the United States Supreme Court, which has the power of judicial review and to declare what the law is. It is the courts that determine the constitutionality of statutes that legislatures pass – not county sheriffs.

Instead, we have a county sheriff who has donned the mantle of legislator, governor, and Supreme Court Justice. He has unilaterally and extralegally decided that he will not enforce a duly passed law with which he doesn’t agree. This is, frankly, astonishing.

The 40 year-long war on drugs hasn’t been successful, yet Howard continues to enforce our narcotics statutes. Why?

Here’s what Howard says about the state’s new, more restrictive law regarding assault weapons:

January 31, 2013 – Our state already had some of the toughest gun laws in the nation and with the stroke of a pen our State Legislature and Governor made them even more restrictive last month, all in the name of making us safer. I don’t believe for one minute that Governor Cuomo did this to protect us; rather he rammed this bill through for his own personal agenda, so he could be the first out of the gate to thump his chest and say how restrictive gun laws are in New York , thus beating President Obama to the punch.

It is no secret Andrew Cuomo wants to be a presidential candidate in 2016. He took a very emotional event in our nation (the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut) and the unrelated murders of two first responders in Webster, NY and wrapped his constricting gun legislation around them like a bow, hand delivering it to the NYS legislature in a sweeping package that, in my opinion, infringes on every American’s constitutional right to bear arms.

We as citizens never even had an opportunity to respond to the proposed bill with our input; even law enforcement wasn’t consulted on this. In my opinion, this new law is proof of what gun rights people have been saying all along – that registration is a precursor to confiscation. We have landed on a slippery slope allowing the government to start tinkering with our second amendment rights – what comes next?

Well, why bother enforcing even the prior, “toughest gun laws”? Can you believe a local sheriff impugns the motives of the governor and the entire legislature in passing a law in the wake of the tragic massacre of 20 1st graders? Can you believe the way that statement sounds identical to the morningtime rantings of some high school dropout, shut-in, underemployed radio talk-show caller? And what especial knowledge or right does Howard possess to determine that the SAFE Act is violative of the Constitution? That’s a job for the courts, not law enforcement. Instead, Howard has appropriated for himself the unheard-of power of law selection. That’s the only real assault on the Constitution in this case – Howard’s self-appointment to be a co-Governor and court.

“We as citizens” have an opportunity to respond to the proposed bill with this input: don’t vote to re-elect the people who passed it. That’s what you can do. You can protest, you can complain, you can write, you can petition, you can call your legislators, etc. What Howard has done here – making believe that “registration is a precursor to confiscation” – is beyond an outrage. It should be, frankly, grounds for removal. 

Gun registration is not a precursor to confiscation any more than car registration is a precursor to car confiscation.

And Howard’s position isn’t the analogue to some brave Nazi soldier refusing to obey an illegal order. (That analogy has actually been made). No one asked Howard to round up and commit mass-murder of Jews, gays, gypsies, or other groups of people, and making that comparison demeans and cheapens the memories of the millions of victims of the Nazi horror.

Although stylistically different, Howard’s refusal to enforce the laws of this state is no different from what Gilbert, Pennsylvania police chief Mark Kessler is busy doing on YouTube: calling out “libtards” and shooting automatic weapons into trees and mounds of dirt.

Sheriff Tim Howard, who is running for re-election this year, can talk about confiscatory slippery slopes all he wants, but make no mistake that this is precisely what’s going through his head. (Language NSFW)

Carlos Danger & IOKIYAR

24 Jul

Because everyone’s a puritan busybody, everyone will call on serial sexter Carlos Danger (aka Anthony Weiner) to pull out of the New York City mayoral race in the wake of new evidence of his horny behavior. Lost in this is that the only thing he’s known to have done is text dick pics to women who were willing participants in the sexting. I’m not condoning or condemning what he did any more than I condone or condemn whatever you want to do sexually. 

To the holy rollers who are all a-shocked and a-stunned, consider why Louisiana congressman David Vitter is still happily in congress and spouting off about “family values” despite being caught up in a prostitution scandal – involving actual sexual intercourse – and diapers. Why should that creep still be in office and Weiner be treated any differently? 

Yesterday, Howard Stern interviewed Alec Baldwin, and the two talked about Bloomberg, Weiner, and Spitzer. While Stern is a fan of Bloomberg’s, Baldwin is not, and expressed that he thinks the billionaire three-term mayor has made New York City a worse place to live for everyone except the ultra-rich. They then turned to Spitzer and Weiner, and rhetorically asked, “do you really think Spitzer wants to be New York City comptroller?” Baldwin suggested that they’re both so incredibly ego-driven that Weiner saw this race as his political comeback, and Spitzer – not to be outdone – thought, “why not me?” and entered his race at the 11th hour.  The argument was that both of them were in it for their own egos than for any desire to serve the public (and both Baldwin and Stern would be exquisitely in tune with that motivation). 

I’m not saying Spitzer and Danger should get a pass. On the contrary, I think their behavior calls their sincerity, maturity, and seriousness into question. But Weiner committed no crime, although Larry Craig may have. Spitzer did, but so did Vitter. Chris Lee’s shirtless Craigslist trolling was one notable exception of a Republican screwing up and getting the hell out of dodge, mostly because his white, elderly, conservative constituency would never go for that sort of thing. Why is there a double standard here whereby it’s ok if you’re a Republican

I don’t think that’s necessarily the way it works, and Lee proves it. What this does is harken back to the way in which the Supreme Court had treated broadcast indecency and obscenity cases – the law leaves it up to “community standards” to dictate what language is and isn’t acceptable. 

It therefore follows that community standards in New York City – a place where 8 million people are constantly in each other’s faces and privacy is at a premium – is going to have a different tolerance for nonsense than, say, East Amherst. Louisiana has a weird, permissive culture all its own – unique for the South – that Vitter can get away with diaper whoring. 

In the end, Weiner said there’d be more, and now there’s more. Don’t act so shocked. 

Radio in a Podcast World

24 Jul

Starting July 29th, right-wing radio in Buffalo will see a massive shift. Septuagenerian soprano “Sandy Beach” will be moving to the 9am – 12pm timeslot now occupied by a very strange person. That person, Tom Bauerle, will be moving to afternoon drive, and occupy an extra hour; 3pm – 7pm.

It makes perfect sense for WBEN to do this. The 9am shift begins just as most people are arriving at work, and in most cases that hinders employed people’s ability to listen to, or participate in, hate talk. Moving a moralizing elderly curmudgeon into a time slot where moralizing elderly curmudgeons and shut-ins can listen and share their boundless outrage makes sense. Likewise, it makes sense to put Bauerle in a timeslot where people who work for a living can actually listen to him in their cars, where most people listen to the radio.

This presents a conundrum – because Bauerle doesn’t so much run a talk show as much as he runs a low-rent Infowars clone where dissent is Teutonically strengstens verboten. How is he going to manage the fact that actual employed people are going to be able to listen to his schtick, and may call in to disagree with him? Just screen them out, or will he show people what hot shit he really is and try to defend his positions? Echo chambers are boring if you maintain an iota of critical thinking skills.

As always, I recommend that people with any such critical thinking skills listen to WBFO at 88.7FM, and that people who want to be entertained listen to Shredd & Ragan during morning drive, or spring for a SiriusXM subscription and choose from any one of a number of entertaining shows (I prefer Howard Stern). Barring that, there’s a wide variety of podcasts available, including everything Trending Buffalo is doing. Other than that, local radio is a swamp of mediocrity.

Spitzer’s Sorry, Silver’s Moving, Food Truck Drama

23 Jul

1. Disgraced former Governor of the State of New York, Eliot Spitzer, famously began running for New York City Comptroller just a few days before nominating petitions were due. As one might expect, Spitzer’s attempt at a comeback is made difficult by his hypocritical whoring. Here is his “apology” commercial, which I think is rather effective. 

2. Alien wizard Nate Silver took his work analyzing baseball statistics into the political arena with his blog Five Thirty Eight, and got picked up by the New York Times. That contract expired, and former Buffalo News editor Margaret Sullivan – now the Times’ Public Editor – explained that Silver simply didn’t “fit in” to the Times’ “culture”, and that some of the Times’ writers simply didn’t like him. Sullivan explained that Silver was “disruptive”; i.e., he disrupted the old model of covering politics. 

In Buffalo, we’re all-too familiar with the way politics have been covered for the past few decades, and its lazy, unsubstantive focus on fundraising and the never-ending horserace. Now, admittedly, Silver’s specialty was the horserace, but the way in which he analyzed and wrote about it was based on mathematical and scientific probability informed by trends, polling, and past performance. Silver had a knack for taking some extremely complicated and convoluted data and making it digestible for average readers, and his record is really quite striking. But in Buffalo, we have political columnists who simply dismiss and ignore candidates who do not fit the 40 year-old mold of a credible machine candidate. We’re all worse off for it. 

3. The City of Tonawanda is contemplating a food truck ordinance to regulate how these mobile entrepreneurs might be able to do business within the municipal boundaries. Unlike Buffalo and Amherst, the CoT is poised to introduce fantastically restrictive regulations – so ridiculous that they effectively amount to a ban on food trucks. $1,000 for an initial license and application, and trucks are forbidden from setting up within 1,000 feet of an open kitchen – farther than three football fields away. (The Buffalo and Amherst rules require operation at least 100′ from any open kitchen). The exercise underscores how stupid it is that all these ultimately pointless municipal entities can regulate business to this extent, and how much better it would be if the trucks could just pay a single regional fee and operate throughout the county under uniform rules. Hell, that’s how the US and EU work, but we can’t (genuinely cannot) do that within Erie County. 

Donn Esmonde Looks at things Backwards

21 Jul

Donn Esmonde is an Ass” is the name of the series, and he seldom, if ever disappoints. In Friday’s column, he devoted about 550 words to talking about how lame Byron Brown is and how Bernie Tolbert sure is swell for trying.

Bernie Tolbert doesn’t need or want my sympathy. But I can’t help feeling sorry for the guy. Taking on Byron Brown is like trying to grab a puff of smoke or lasso a shadow. Nothing sticks to the Teflon Mayor.

On Brown’s two-term watch, Buffalo lost another 20,000 people. Schools went deeper into the dumpster, while he watched the charter school revolution from the sidelines. His anti-poverty “plan” for America’s third-poorest city was a lame, idea-absent rehash. Buffalo is basically a ward of the state, which covers a third of its budget and the bulk of its school costs.

The “charter school revolution” is city people suburbanizing city schools. Pull kids and money out of the traditional public schools, so your kids can have a Williamsville experience without moving to Williamsville. Esmonde has an especial hard-on for suburban schools, and has spent three or four columns advocating for the decimation of what had until recently been one of the best districts in the region. Esmonde’s concern-trolling about schools is utter nonsense, given his complete transformation into a tea party Sith lord.

Brown backed a proposed Bass Pro store that would have smothered the downtown waterfront, and a Seneca casino that experts say does us more harm than good. But mostly, he is mum – even on obvious causes such as expanding ECC’s downtown campus. Nearly two-thirds of respondents rated him no better than average in a Buffalo News leadership survey. He is vision-lite, cliche-heavy and largely uninspiring.

You would think that the man would be fighting for his political life. Instead, the mayor is livin’ easy.

2/3 of respondents in a poll rated Brown as “average”. The Siena Poll that the Buffalo News and Channel 2 commissioned, the cross-tabs for which have never been released.

Polls show him far ahead of Tolbert, who is barely known and fights a 6-to-1 dollar disadvantage. The Democratic primary in September decides the race, as city Republicans are an endangered species. My wish to see a progressive, idea-driven mayor in this lifetime may never be granted (in lieu of that, I’d settle for a Super Bowl). Pollster Steven Greenberg can’t explain Brown’s cushy lead, given abysmal marks on schools and job creation.

Esmonde uses the word “progressive”. It is to laugh. But while city Republicans may be an “endangered species”, you’d think that the underdog candidate, Sergio Rodriguez, might merit a mention. I mean, the guy has ideas, he’s saying a lot of what Esmonde is saying in this piece, and he has a name!

Which brings us to Brown’s political genius – he has mastered the art of low expectations. By keeping his head in the foxhole, by not championing big ideas and sweeping reforms, he has conditioned people not to expect much. So he can take credit for anything good that happens – even when, like the waterfront or downtown revival, it doesn’t have much to do with him – while avoiding blame for problems. It helps that Brown was preceded by three-term Mayor Tony Masiello, who, if possible, set an even lower bar.

At least Jimmy Griffin had an executive temperament, along with a temper.

A bolder, tougher, more visionary mayor would lobby for a regional planning board, to slow sprawl and funnel new business into the city. He would protect one of the city’s few resources – its stock of great old buildings – by data-basing historic properties and hammering negligent owners. He would push for mixed-income housing in the suburbs, to lighten the city’s heavy poverty load. He would embrace the choice of charter schools, while demanding accountability from traditional ones. And on and on.

How exactly does the mayor of the City of Buffalo “push for mixed-income housing in the suburbs”? Does he ask nicely, or is there some interjurisdictional power he has that I’m not aware of?

But Esmonde is partially right – to have Byron Brown record ads touting Geico, which is hiring way the fuck up in North Amherst somewhere, is an obscenity of the highest order. The city of Buffalo is precisely the place that Geico should have located its sprawling call center, but instead it went to North Bumfuck because it got a swell deal from whatever IDAs had handouts at the ready. It is the people who live in the city of Buffalo who are in desperate need of $30,000 entry-level white-collar cubicle jobs like the ones at Geico, because the manufacturing jobs are gone and working at McDonalds frankly sucks.

Byron Brown and Warren Buffett and the Buffalo News all think locating Geico up near Quebec was a swell idea.

A decent wage, a decent job, and some semblance of an opportunity are the very foundation on which you build a better future for young, underserved and underprivileged city residents. Not your “stock of great old buildings”.

Esmonde and his preservation-first cohorts have it backwards. Fixing up great old buildings doesn’t turn around the local economy, but turning around the local economy will help spur more fixing up of great old buildings. The focus on Buffalo’s hardware is well-managed by exquisitely touchy people who think that attracting “cultural tourists” to see the Darwin Martin house and other buildings is the antidote to a half-century of decline. Our town is replete with ultra-wealthy foundations sporting the names of the founders of businesses that long ago abandoned Buffalo, all of which seem to think that their deep pockets provide an avenue for them to tell everyone how they’re doing it wrong. Meanwhile, the best thing anything with the name “Oshei” in it could do is open a Goddamn windshield wiper factory in Buffalo.

Regular people will rehab your pretty old buildings when it makes economic sense to do so. People will do it when you don’t have to retain a preservation activist to help navigate your way to tax credits, and around demonstrations and litigation. People will preserve our “great old buildings” when they have money to do it. And how do you create wealth in a shit economy? You make sure you have a decent educational system, and that there are available jobs to help lift a generation out of poverty and into the economic mainstream.

Instead, we applaud the fact that Geico brings thousands of jobs to the sticks – just a few bus transfers and a commute that would make Long Islanders cringe! It’s appalling. It’s sickening. It’s a disgrace.

His city is on life support, yet Brown shows little passion and champions few causes. What, me worry?

Granted, the mayor has strengths. He is likable, projects concern and looks good – all political pluses. The streets get plowed, and the garbage is picked up. And his timing is good. He is in office while the waterfront is shaping up and downtown is repopulating. Albany and Washington dollars, not city money, stoke the waterfront, and downtown revival is traceable mainly to market forces and momentum. Still, the rising tide lifts his boat. As numerous insiders have told me, Brown stays out of the way and shows up for the ribbon-cuttings.

Brown stays out of the way? The stories of institutional, tolerated bribery and corruption within City Hall are legion.

In Buffalo, the city of low expectations, it goes a long way. A lot further, I think, than it should.

An irony here is that Esmonde does so much to keep those expectations low and stupid.

It’s A Fine Line Between Provocation And Self-Defense

19 Jul

A Virginia man wearing a bizarre outfit approached a 12 year-old boy and his sibling, who were selling lemonade on a hot day, and threw a piss-filled balloon at them. He followed up by demanding that they go back to Africa, which sounds like a lot of the people in this Facebook comment thread

So, as far as I can understand, had the boy begun hitting his assailant – and then started to win the fight – piss-balloon man would have been justified under Florida law to “stand his ground” and shoot the boy dead.

Piss-balloon man would be the only one up on the stand, and he can just testify that he was all done with his assault and had retreated, so it was the boy’s own fault he got shot, and he never uttered a racial remark, and the kid may have had detention once and his sibling is fat and rolls his eyes on the stand. 

Let that sink in.

Rodriguez Reddit AMA, Tolbert Opens HQ

19 Jul
BUFFALO NY

By PJBLAKE via Flickr

Republican candidate for Mayor Sergio Rodriguez will be holding a Reddit AMA (“ask me anything”) at 5pm today on Reddit.com – more specifically, the /r/Buffalo subreddit

Democratic candidate for Mayor Bernie Tolbert will be holding a ribbon-cutting party for his campaign HQ at 1375 Main Street from 5:30 – 7:30 today (intersection with Utica St, near Utica Metro station). 

By the way, they held a summit on violence and homicide in the city the other night, and neither the sitting mayor nor the current Buffalo police commissioner bothered to show up. Think about that.