Never Read the Comments

4 Oct

Some of you don’t. It’s a thing now – to avoid reading the comments, for a variety of reasons. Instead, I’ll promote a few so that you will see them. I used to do this somewhat regularly, so there’s a precedent for it.  

1. On September 24th, I wrote a piece about the aftermath of this year’s primary races, entitled “A Confluence of Horrible Politics“. It was mostly in response to a recent interview that political bad actor Steve Pigeon had given the Buffalo News. I concluded with, 

The way in which New York conducts its elections is horrible, rife with opportunities for bad people to do questionable and corrupt things. PACs can spend unlimited money and its campaign advertising doesn’t need to disclose the source. Electoral fusion allows our system to be more about dealmaking with otherwise irrelevant minor “parties” and does nothing to enhance electoral democracy. Ballot access is unreasonably complicated and rife with traps for the unwary, and should be simplified. Money flowing to and from PACs – which are not even formally recognized under state law – should be accounted-for, disclosed, and limited to prevent monied interests from stealing elections. 

The problem now is whether money in politics will prevent the needed reforms from being openly discussed and implemented. 

Anyone who’s read me for any significant time knows that I’ve singled out electoral fusion as being the root of most of our procedural evils in New York. Sometime Artvoice contributor, attorney, and Pigeon associate Peter Reese took some time out from his busy schedule lauding the character of convicted extortionists to write this, (my responses in italics): 

Ignoring all of the ubiquitous Bedenko venom and invective, let’s cut to the conclusions:

– “The way in which New York conducts is elections is horrible, rife with opportunities for bad people to do questionable and corrupt things.” This has always been true of every election involving human beings. See Athens, Greece, 5th century BCE. What new laws will change human nature?

So, don’t do anything about it? Greek elections were run exactly like New York’s? What are you trying to say, except “do nothing, everything’s fine”?

– “PACs can spend unlimited money and its campaign advertising doesn’t need to disclose the source.” True. See Bukley v Valeo, the US Bill of Rights and NYS Election Law. Who’s for repealing the First Amendment?

If there’s a way to limit individual contributions to campaigns, I’m sure there’s a constitutional way to limit committee contributions to campaigns.

– “Electoral fusion allows our system to be more about dealmaking with otherwise irrelevant minor “parties” and does nothing to enhance electoral democracy.” Agreed. What’s your proposal? Politicians can run in all primaries (Cuomo proposal) or an Open Primary, single combined primary for all parties (California, Washington, Louisiana)? (That pesky old
Bill of Rights will make it difficult to outlaw minor political parties.)

Abolish electoral fusion and abolish Wilson-Pakula. If you want to run for office on a particular party line, you have to be a member of that party. No one’s ever suggested “outlaw[ing] minor parties.”

– “Ballot access is unreasonably complicated and rife with traps for the unwary, and should be simplified.” This has been true all your life, what are your proposals? BTW, this concept
extends to the entirety of the Election Law, which is a minefield of quirks and gotchas. 

You said in 1, supra, that the system is just fine, so it follows that you like the minefield, too. In my opinion, ballot access should be a payment of $1,000 for statewide office, $500 for a county / judicial office, and $200 for a local or municipal race.

– “Money flowing to and from PACs – which are not even formally recognized under state law – should be accounted-for, disclosed, and limited to prevent monied interests from stealing elections.” PACs are recognized. See generally Election Law, Article 14 and Regulations 6200.xx. 
See also 
“Election Law 14-100

The acronym “PAC” does not exist in the Election Law. They’re independent committees.

Once again that troublesome old First Amendment gets in the way of our attempts to limit core political free speech by those we don’t agree with. Mandatory accounting and disclosure are permitted, limits probably not 

About those disclosures…

So, got any real ideas, or just going to continue to rant and spew sour grapes? And, BTW, do any of your adoring anonymous followers actually exist or are they all your own multiple disguised identity?

1. There are your ideas. 
2. You have a login and you can search as easily as I and determine that I don’t use sock puppets on my own blog. If you’re computer-literate enough to attempt it, that is.

Apparently, the “computer literate” crack was spot on, because he replied thusly

Why can’t you answer my questions? Questions aren’t answers. Just keep on bitching and moaning.

If you see my response in the thread, you’ll see that it prompts the reader to click “see more” to see more. I asked Mr. Reese which questions he thought I hadn’t answered, yet this was met with silence. So, I asked him on his Facebook page. He was very responsive, bravely deleting my question: 

So, there you have it. When a commenter asks me questions, I will often answer them point-by-point, even when the commenter is personally rude to me. There are your answers, Pete. I know you were genuinely interested in my answers, and that deleting my question on Facebook must have just been an oversight. It wasn’t off-topic, because ultimately it all has to do with your pathological animus against Len Lenihan and Jeremy Zellner because arglebargle. 

2. Earlier this week, I had a few criticisms of a new Buffalove video about Buffalo as the “best designed city” because it has a street grid, Olmsted parks, and because all of its socioeconomic problems stem from the 198 and the Kensington and the Skyway and the 190, and if we just eliminate all those roads, Buffalo’s path to prosperity will be clear. Did you know it was put together as a promotion for a new urbanism symposium coming to Buffalo next June? Neither did I. It’s not mentioned anywhere in the video. 

On Twitter, Buffalo ex-pat and Associate Editor for Atlantic Cities Mark Byrnes noted that: 


Interesting, right? Buffalo Rising contributor Hey Ra Cha Cha wrote, 


Then, in comments, this:

I wonder if they consulted any real planners about the claim that Buffalo is “America’s best designed city”. There’s many aspects of Buffalo’s built environment that are considered the antithesis of both classical and contemporary best planning principles. Among them are:

* Extremely long blocks, up to a half mile in some cases. (660 feet is considered ideal.)

* Undergrounding most of the city’s streams and creeks.

* Railroads mincing the city’s street grid into much smaller and more separated parts than almost any other city in the country. The “Chinese Wall” effect from railroads criss-crossing and looping around the city far exceeds the damage caused by the Kensington Expressway.

* Thanks to the railroads and a lack of zoning before 1920, heavy industry became more widely distributed throughout Buffalo, compared to peer cities.

* Devoting almost all of the city’s waterfront — Lake Erie, the Niagara River, and most of the Buffalo River — to heavy industry.

* Despite the Olmsted system, Buffalo has far less land devoted to parks than peer cities. Distribution of non-Olmsted parks is erratic, and siting and design poor.

* A street grid that offered many radial and north-south connections, but relatively few unbroken east-west connections.

* Very few alleys, resulting in a streetscape that, even in residential areas, is interrupted by driveways every 30 to 40 feet. The lack of rear access to many lots also rendered much of the city’s housing functionally obsolete when cars became prevalent; there was no place to add off-street parking or a garage when houses are just five or 10 feet apart, like much of the East Side.

* The lack of a citywide masonry building code, resulting in a housing stock dominated by frame telescopers, semi-bungalows, and two-flats. Frame houses were more susceptible to fire (anyone remember Eyewitness News in the 1980s?) and insensitive alterations than those constructed of brick.

While you’re busy reading that, I’m poring over maps with my kids, trying to find the best street grid and radial system to visit on our next vacation. Because streets. 



8 Responses to “Never Read the Comments”

  1. Larry Burch October 4, 2013 at 8:06 am #

    I believe there are only 3 radial grid plans in the U.S.: Washington, DC; Buffalo and New Orleans. Paris and Brussels may be considered…but both are notoriously difficult to traverse.

    • jamesholstun October 4, 2013 at 11:06 am #

      Yes, whenever I’m sauntering through Brussels or that other cité des lumières–the one that isn’t Buffalo–with my pals Charles Baudelaire and C. Auguste Dupin, I am forever getting lost and seeking a strengthener in this or that strange bistro. Zut!

      As to the long attack on Pete Reese—huh, don’t get it, TLTR (I learned that from Alan, who is in touch with the young folks). But he’s a wastrel, a cad. and a bounder for sure. Hey, Pete, good to see you last night at the Ingraffea talk. Want to get a beer? The first’s on you, I think.

    • Dan_Blather October 4, 2013 at 12:33 pm #

      Detroit and Cleveland would like to have a word with you.

      Also, Buffalo doesn’t so much have a citywide grid as a mashup. Buffalo’s pattern of streets was shaped by, in rough chronological order:

      * Ancient Indian trails that crossed the region, the approximate paths of which later became plank roads and turnpikes.
      * Holland Land Company township line and range roads (e.g. Kenmore Avenue, Transit Road, etc).
      * Joseph Ellicott’s spoke-and-radial plan for the *Village* of New Amsterdam, which covered only a very small portion of what would become the City of Buffalo.
      * Village of Black Rock grid (much of Buffalo’s West Side, not the contemporary Black Rock/Riverside neighborhood), which covered a much larger area than the Ellicott plan.
      * Olmsted park and parkway system.
      * Individual land owners, who subdivided small farms for tract housing. Yes, there was mass-produced housing in the 1800s; subdivisions weren’t a post-WWII invention.
      * [Trigger warning: suburbs, sprawl, white people] Regional road plans from the 1920s that gave rise to Sheridan Drive, Millersport Highway, Southwestern Boulevard, Wehrle Drive, Brighton Road/Maple Road connection, etc.

      Unlike Manhattan, Chicago, Detroit, and the like, there was no master plan that applied to all of what become Buffalo.

  2. Know Saint October 4, 2013 at 9:18 am #

    I would like to see Peter Reese’s comments on his pal Blake Boyle’s trouncing in the City of Tonawanda Democratic Primary.

    Word on the street is that Reese and David Pfaff were the “masterminds” helping drive the Boyle campaign into the ground.


    Funny how the 12-year incumbent was tossed out of office, despite the political advise of Reese.

  3. David A. Steele October 4, 2013 at 9:26 am #

    What is your fixation with the fact that an advertisement didn’t tell you that it was an advertisement ” Please be aware you are about to see a short movie that is intended to convince you to buy facial cream”

    • Alan Bedenko October 4, 2013 at 9:29 am #

      Because it would have placed the outrageous “road placement was the proximate cause of 50 years’ worth of economic depression” statements into context, and better explained why a promotional video sponsored in part by the convention & visitors’ bureau was highlighting negative aspects of Buffalo’s built environment.

      To use your facial cream analogy, it would be as if the resulting movie (because advertisements are always 12+ mins long) (ok, infomercial) spent 10 minutes touting the benefits of using facial cream, and 2 minutes explaining how this particular facial cream also caused 2nd degree burns.

      • David A. Steele October 4, 2013 at 11:52 am #

        Well if it caused facial burns I would want to know about it and would be happy if it was mentioned in the ad.

  4. UncleBluck October 4, 2013 at 9:46 am #

    No offense to you Alan but I think maybe attorneys should be barred from all political/elective office. After all they are the main contributors to our nations woes whether we talk about the national, state, or the local level. One only needs to look at our congress which is made up primarily of lawyers……

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