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The Morning Grumpy – 1/27/2012

27 Jan

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

The Cure

1. Yesterday, Buffalo First! organized a rally to support the idea that money spent on businesses at Canalside should be locally focused. After Mark Goldman’s ambiguously employed brigade of concerned and/or bearded men descended on the closed-loop waterfront planning process and turned it into a crowdsourcing project, all bets are off at Canalside. Now, Buffalo First! and 500 local businesses and supporters want to make sure the crowdsourcing doesn’t stop with solar powered carousels and puppet shows but also focuses on a matter of real import, local and sustainable economic development.

The rally will end a petition drive asking the ECHDC to make local businesses the anchor tenant at Canalside, says Sarah Bishop, executive director of Buffalo First.

“We know it’ll be mixed use … but we want 50 percent, at least, reserved for our local business owners,” Bishop says. 

“Our business owners want that opportunity as anchor tenants at Canalside and to put our community’s economic future first,” Bishop says, noting that she knows that Bass Pro Shops was the first choice for that location. 

Buffalo First says it is a nonprofit organization comprised of independent “Main Street” businesses, organizations, and concerned citizens. The group says its mission is to build a local, green, and fair economy in the Buffalo-Niagara region.

The Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation issued a press release touting all of their local business relationships, but did not directly respond to the Buffalo First petition and rally. From Assistant Director of Communications at the ECHDC, Erich Weyant:

Supporting local businesses and creating local jobs has long been one of the guiding principles of the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation (ECHDC).  We are proud to note the local companies, organizations and individuals that have been retained as part of our mission to revitalize Western New York’s waterfront and restore economic growth to Buffalo based on the region’s legacy of pride, urban significance and natural beauty. In addition, we continue to work with 90 local community members on groups tasked with activating the Inner Harbor, Outer Harbor and Buffalo River.

ECHDC has done a significant amount of business with local partners and they have been responsive to community input. Buffalo First is pushing to ensure that ECHDC continues to incorporate the voice of the community in planning decisions.

Former NY State Assemblyman and current Senior Vice President for Regional Economic Development at the Empire State Development Corporation, Sam Hoyt, responded to the petition, rally, and the clamoring for local businesses at Canalside in a WKBW report.

“We’re seeing lots of interest from major developers, and not just local (yokels), we’ve got folks who are feeling the buzz that’ s been created,” Member of the Empire State Development Corporation Sam Hoyt said.

While WKBW edited out the “yokels” portion of Hoyt’s statement in the web transcript, that’s what he said, smirkingly.

Yokel is defined as “unsophisticated country people“. That’s great. The people who make up Buffalo First and the Canalside Alliance were Sam’s base when he was in office. Now? Yokels. It’s a good thing that the only people watching Channel 7 news are the elderly, infirmed, and the huddled masses found in Sloan or this might become a problem for him.

Two years ago, I was opposed to the crowdsourcing of a cultural and architectural plan for Canalside, but I was in favor of a Community Benefits Agreement for any business receiving public monies for the project. Now, I still find the bikeshedding about the depth of the canals and the color of the bricks to be tiresome, but the economic development issue is very important. If a retailer or vendor is going to receive tax dollars as an incentive to conduct business on the waterfront, I want to know they are committed to staying in the region, will pay a fair wage, and support the community when they are successful. I don’t think it’s too much to ask.

Support local business at Canalside.

2. The idea of cash mobs, started right here in Buffalo, continues to spread across the country. This story details one small town’s version of a cash mob.

It was just a way to thank Chagrin Hardware’s owners for a beloved shop that has been a fixture in the village since 1857.

“These are good people who needed our support,” Black said. “It’s just that simple.”

Well said. Invest in businesses that invest in our community. The contest to determine where the next Buffalo Cash Mob will be held begins February 1st.

3. A fascinating series of papers by fellows at The Brookings Institution about the mismatch between the skills the American workforce has and the skills it needs to remain innovative and relevant.

MIT economist David Autor has traced what he terms the “polarization” of the U.S. employment market. Principally in response to the rapid development of low-cost information technology, both ends of the employment spectrum—high-skill, well-compensated managerial, professional, and technical occupations and low-skill service occupations—have expanded, while medium-skill jobs have declined as a share of the total.

An oft-discussed issue amongst policy wonks and economists is the impact that automation and IT efficiencies have had on the labor market. This is rarely discussed amongst politicians, but it needs to be central to our discussion about re-training the American worker and how we educate and train the next generation.

There are many metropolitan areas which struggle with a mismatch between the education and skills level of the workforce and demand for those skills. Buffalo is not one of them, surprisingly.

The sheer magnitude of the Great Recession affected the ability of Americans across the country to find and keep jobs; however, unemployment has been much worse in some metropolitan areas than others, and recovery likewise has been location-dependent. Three key labor market issues facing metropolitan economies help to explain these varying patterns in the employment crisis: industry structure, the housing market, and workforce skills.

What each of these articles demonstrates is that Buffalo is in a unique position to capitalize on several favorable long term trends. Our stable and affordable housing stock, quality infrastructure, educated professional workforce, and our skilled labor pool position us to be a leader in the next wave of national economic growth. However, as Bruce Fisher pointed out in this week’s edition of Artvoice, we’re stuck in a localized bubble of stagnation based on our bizarre desire to maintain municipal independence while duplicating services. We’re also cursed with a do-nothing Mayor in a time that calls for a visionary leader with the capability to set regional goals in cooperation with other community and governmental leaders.

When and how do we shake off our regional morass and move forward with purpose?

4. A few notes about Mitt Romney and his performance at last night’s Republican debate.

Mitt claims his investments in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were in a blind trust and he had no knowledge as to where his money was invested. That turns out to be patently false.

On his financial disclosure statement filed last month, Romney reported owning between $250,001 and $500,000 in a mutual fund that invests in debt notes of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, among other government entities. Over the previous year, he had reported earning between $15,001 and $50,000 in interest from those investments.

And unlike most of Romney’s financial holdings, which are held in a blind trust that is overseen by a trustee and not known to Romney, this particular investment was among those that would have been known to Romney.

Wow, Republicans just hate journalists, don’t they? What with their trusty Internet connections and ability to research things. DAMN THOSE LIBERAL PINKOS!@#!

Also, Romney closed his Swiss bank account around the same time the USDOJ forced the United Bank of Switzerland to reveal tax cheats. Coincidence?

Through a tax treaty between Bern and Washington that forms the legal basis for requiring UBS to identify clients with undisclosed private banking accounts, the American authorities plan “to make treaty requests of other banks operating in Switzerland for these types of accounts,” said this person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the plan. “UBS was not the only bank.”

The criteria that prosecutors will use in pursuing tax cheats through other banks mirrors the UBS criteria. UBS will generally disclose American clients who had unreported accounts of at least a million Swiss francs, or about $988,000.

Interesting.

5. Where did all the workers go? A fascinating story and graphic.

The spectacular graphic compares employment by sector in 1947 and 2007 and its most important lesson is a whopper. Manufacturing and agriculture employed one in three workers just after World War II. Today, those sectors employ only one in eight.

Where did all the making-stuff and growing-stuff jobs go? They went into services.

The champion in the last six decades was finance, insurance and real estate, which doubled its share of employment from 10.5% to 21.4%. But the broader service industry — including professional and business services (a broad catch-all with marketing, managing, consulting, computer services) and health and education services — also grew from about 13% to about 30%. Everything else has stayed pretty much the same. Government, wholesale/retail, information, and construction account for a little more than a third of the economy today, and they accounted for a little more than a third of the economy 60 years ago.

I’d encourage you to also read the full article in The National Journal from which this graphic was sourced.

6. Republicans like to use “Saul Alinsky tactics” as shorthand for radical socialist/communist/black politics, organizing and thinking. You can barely go five minutes on Fox without someone mentioning it, especially Newt Gingrich who has used it so often to describe Obama that he now uses it without context on the stump and in debates. Warning, IRONY ALERT!

“The job of the organizer is to maneuver and bait the establishment so that it will publicly attack him as a ‘dangerous enemy,'” Alinsky wrote in “Rules for Radicals.” He went on to reveal that, “Today, my notoriety and the hysterical instant reaction of the establishment not only validate my credentials of competency but also ensure automatic popular invitation.”

Though Gingrich has spent several decades profiting from being part of the Washington establishment, the fact that he’s been attacked by so-called “elites” has become self-validating.

And the way he scolded CNN moderator John King in last Thursday’s South Carolina debate followed Alinsky’s 13th tactical rule, which states: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.”

I’ve read “Rules For Radicals” (and you should as well) and I’ve always been amazed that the right wing – which fully employs Alinsky tactics, constantly accuses the left of doing it. Absolutely bizarre. Newt’s entire political strategy is built around Alinsky’s principles.

The classic example of this: Gingrich’s 1995 musings, on Meet the Press, that some children should be put in orphanages. It was covered at the time as a horrible gaffe. Gingrich took the flack, but he was convinced that a discussion of one extreme solution to poverty made his preferred solutions seem more tenable — he shifted the Overton Window, using the media’s outrage machine.

Fact Of The Day: The creator of Spongebob Squarepants is a marine biologist.

Quote Of The Day: “What the American people want is very simple – they want an America as as its promise.” – Barbara C. Jordan

Song Of The Day: “Rattlesnakes” – Lloyd Cole and The Commotions

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