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The Morning Grumpy 1/19/2012

19 Jan

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

We party hard at Artvoice.

1. The Atlantic magazine asks, “Why does Buffalo pay for its teachers to have plastic surgery?

In Buffalo, New York, the heart of the American rust-belt, the public school system pays for its teachers to get plastic surgery. Hair removal. Miscrodermabrasian. Liposuction. If you can name the procedure, it’s probably covered.

There’s no co-pay, so the school district ends up footing the entire bill. It estimates the current annual cost at $5.2 million, down from $9 million in 2009.

This in a city where the average teacher makes roughly $52,000 a year. The plastic surgery tab would pay salaries for 100 extra educators.

For all the protesting liberals do about right wing union busting Governors like Scott Walker, Rick Snyder, Rick Scott, and Andrew Cuomo, sometimes we need to recognize our own political weaknesses. Contract provisions like this one make it too easy for anti-union forces to paint public servants as the budget bogeyman and overreach for extensive givebacks in labor negotiations.

The collective bargaining system in New York State does not provide any incentive for honest give and take in public union contracts, so we continue to maintain the status quo.  A solid start in a negotiation with the BTF would include the removal of this rider in a new ten year contract ( savings of $52-60MM) in exchange for hiring new teachers and salary increases for those already on staff amounting to 50-60% of the savings. Offer, counteroffer. Give and take. Ensure union workers receive the pay and benefits they deserve while making sensible reforms to public outlays.

Instead, we get legislatively mandated bluster and stasis rather than progress.

2. The triggers of economic inequality and the results of policy changes. Click the link to play with the interactive infographic, the following is just a screenshot.

In recent years, the rich have seen their wealth grow dramatically while the poor and middle class have basically flatlined. It’s no accident, argue Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson in their book Winner-Take-All Politics. The infographic, which draws from Hacker and Pierson’s book, explains how our politicians — on both sides of the isle — fell under the spell of corporate dollars and re-engineered our economic system to favor the wealthy.

I’m halfway through this book and it is fascinating. I highly recommend it.

3. Aaron Bartley of PUSH Buffalo wrote a sage and enlightened article for The Huffington Post titled “The Recovery Runs Through The City“.

In the absence of national direction, leaders at the neighborhood, regional and state levels have put forward innovative and scalable development initiatives with triple-bottom-line impacts, meaning that they benefit people and the planet and generate sustainable economic growth.

The imaginative solutions to systemic ills bubbling up at the regional, municipal and community-levels could jumpstart a national movement to build a new economy, one in which capital formation and developmental control are rooted in communities over the long term.

After reading that article, try and tell me there is a better candidate for Mayor of Buffalo anywhere in this city. While he has never publicly voiced a desire to run for elected office, Mr. Bartley possesses the right package of education, experience, vision and strategic thinking necessary to do big things. At the very least, I’d love to see many of these activist groups collectively assert their political power  in a more organized fashion and speak with one voice. A real “Grassroots” political club, if you will, with the power to change elections and the fortunes of a great city.

4. Imagine Buffalo’s outer harbor lined with these. They’re called windstalks and they deliver wind power without the turbines. Hey, if Mark Goldman can simply wish that a solar powered carousel be installed on the inner harbor and have it happen, I can wish for something that’s actually cool, right?

Noise from wind turbine blades, inadvertent bat and bird kills and even the way wind turbines look have made installing them anything but a breeze. New York design firm Atelier DNA has an alternative concept that ditches blades in favor of stalks. Resembling thin cattails, the Windstalks generate electricity when the wind sets them waving.

A remarkable and beautiful design.

Fact Of The Day: The taste and smell of your Tropicana or Minute Maid Orange Juice? Yeah, that’s not from oranges, it’s from chemically derived “flavor packs”. Everything sucks.

Quote Of The Day: “Here is the crisis of the times as I see it: We talk about problems, issues, policies, but we don’t talk about what democracy means — what it bestows on us — the revolutionary idea that it isn’t just about the means of governance but the means of dignifying people so they become fully free to claim their moral and political agency. ” – Bill Moyers

Song Of The Day: Redux from yesterday, because it’s awesome. “Tell Me A Tale” – Michael Kiwanuka

Follow me on Twitter: @ChrisSmithAV

Email me links, tips, story ideas: chrissmithbuffalo[@]