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The Morning Grumpy – 4/11/12

11 Apr

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


1. Dave Steele , Chicagoan and noted busybody, frequently writes articles that illustrate how we should be doing things here in Buffalo. This modern day gastarbeiter (who sadly only sends advice back to his hometown) would like us to know that other cities re-purpose buildings like Trico rather than demolish them. We could do the same, ya know, if we just got our fucking priorities straight.

Last week, he described how a whole neighborhood of factories in Milwaukee – featuring buildings mildly similar to Trico – were rehabilitated and re-imagined as work/live loft spaces and cool urban destinations for the creative class.

This neighborhood is made up of a dense cluster of very old warehouse and factory buildings. Some people might label them “crappy old buildings”.  This collection of crappy old buildings was in a steep decline about two decades ago as industry left the city with many empty buildings remaining behind.

He doesn’t delve into the details of the preservation process, source of capital, availability of public incentives, any environmental remediation needed, nor how that remediation would have been underwritten. Instead, he focuses on the outcome of the preservation. 

Today the old 3rd ward is a vibrant popular neighborhood filled with highly paid professionals and many many successful businesses including about 100 stores and restaurants and hundreds more creative companies.

His tale of preservation reminds me of the “Underpants Gnomes” from South Park.

Replace "Collect Underpants" with "Preserve Things"

Then, Dave goes on to illustrate how we need to change our mindset if we’re to keep up with the Milwaukees of the world.

Buffalo has unfortunately removed all of its neighborhoods that resembled the Old Third Ward leaving only scattered remnants in favor of massive parking lots.  These remnants can still be powerful tools in attracting people to the city because of the unique and beautiful space that can be created within them. Parking and “temporary” shovel ready sites have little power in bringing people back into cities.  Successful cities across the country are recognizing the power of historic buildings and especially these big old industrial buildings.  Its not about saving everything.  It is about saving what is left.  Mid century urban renewal thinking has to be expunged from Buffalo if it its going to be competitive going forward.

Let me be clear, saving buildings would be nice. It really would be. I’d love to see a thriving Trico Building rehabbed and filled to the brim with hipsters wearing bulky glasses and ironic used clothing. Problem with that is, we lack capital. We lack businesses to fill these rehabilitated buildings. We lack people and entrepreneurs. Aside from Mayoral bestie, Rocco Termini, and his mastery of tax credit financing, that is.

At the beginning of his article, Dave glosses over the fact that Milwaukee’s economy features 14 companies found in the Fortune 1000. Milwaukee is also home to the corporate headquarters for such companies as Briggs & Stratton, Fiserv, Harley Davidson, S.C. Johnson, Rockwell Automation, Kohl’s, Jockey International, and G.E. Healthcare. In fact, the regional GDP of Milwaukee is over 50% higher than that of Buffalo, even though the cities are roughly the same population. Milwaukee also features  a cooperative regional economic development organization and the local chamber of commerce isn’t busy deriding the horrible local business climate whilst simultaneously asking businesses to relocate to the area. Milwaukee has also been the home to several forward thinking Mayors who set strategic goals, built regional partnerships and accomplished things.

Think any of those factors had anything to do with the preservation efforts in Milwaukee?

Meanwhile, Buffalo is currently working with an empty suit with a podium fetish after 30 years of meathead incompetence and cronyism in our Mayor’s office.

Let’s be clear about something, preservation without capital nor the people and businesses to fill the rehabilitated properties is museum building. Organic economic development and broad-based expansion of regional wealth precedes or at least happens simultaneously with large scale preservation and redevelopment.  That wealth creation then creates the demand for cool condos and brickwalled workplaces. Sure, a developer who utilizes massive public dollars and historic tax credits can save a building here and there and relocate local businesses into them, but it doesn’t scale to the kind of city-wide redevelopment experienced in Milwaukee. Here, we’re trying to build a place without the people and hoping they’ll come to fill the space, which might be described as putting the preserved antique cart before the horse.

Every problem in this town is political. We lack political strategic vision and we lack corporate wealth to underwrite community investment. That’s why we look to the university and its offshoot organizations as the primary drivers of development in this region. Until the political problems are solved, the only business booming in this town will be non-profits working to “save” Buffalo.

2. Speaking of concerned and ambiguously employed white people fighting things and saving things in Buffalo, it’s been a while since we’ve heard from the Concerned Citizens For A Greater Buffalo Against Poor People Making Bad Decisions And/Or Enjoying Themselves At Houses of Ill Repute.

Picture of Concerned White People Stolen From

Buffalo Rising conducted an email interview with casino opponent Diane Bennett and got an update on the multitude of anti-casino lawsuits. (And, yes, I know that Artvoice staff and writers have taken very clear positions in the past against casino gaming)

BR: Is CBB also concerned about the State’s recent efforts to legalize seven new casinos- perhaps even in Buffalo?  Will you fight any new casinos in Buffalo?

Bennett: CBB’s mission is to stop the operation of casino gambling in downtown Buffalo based on its illegality.  We have decided at this time not to extend our mission beyond that.

Kinda fucks up their whole “moral turpitude of gambling” argument, huh?

3. 26 major corporations paid no corporate income tax for the last four years

Citizens for Tax Justice found that 30 major corporations had made billions of dollars in profits while paying no federal income tax between 2008 and 2010. Today, CTJ updated that report to reflect the 2011 tax bill of those 30 companies, and 26 of them have still managed to pay absolutely nothingover that four year period:

26 of the 30 companies continued to enjoy negative federal income tax rates. That means they still made more money after tax than before tax over the four years!

Corporate taxes in the U.S., contrary to the constant protestations of conservatives, are at a 40 year low, with many of the most profitable companies paying nothing at all. CTJ noted that “had these 30 companies paid the full 35 percent corporate tax rate over the 2008-11 period, they would have paid $78.3 billion more in federal income taxes.”

Damn you, socialist Obama!

4. Yesterday, President Obama gave a speech about his proposed “Buffett rule”.

To underscore his contrast with the GOP on economic policies, Mr. Obama highlighted on Tuesday his so-called Buffett Rule, which would require Americans earning more than $1 million a year to pay a 30% overall federal tax rate. The move is named after billionaire investor Warren Buffett, who backs it and has said he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary.

Mr. Obama’s focus is intended to draw a contrast with Mr. Romney, who paid a roughly 14% tax rate in 2010, and Republican economic policies he has endorsed, such as the House GOP budget.

The Democrats are terrible at messaging. They should stop calling it the “Buffett Rule” and instead call it the “Reagan Rule” and run this speech in ads all summer long.

5. How Canada will get rid of the penny and why we should do the same.

Fact Of The Day: Most HR hacks look at your resume for 6 seconds.

Quote Of The Day: “Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen” – Albert Einstein

Video Of The Day: Caine’s Arcade – Incredibly awesome with a cash mob twist. This video will make your week.

Cartoon Of The Day: “Northwest Hounded Police” by Tex Avery, starring Droopy Dog

Song Of The Day: “Thunder Crack” – Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band (I pray to the flying spaghetti monster that he plays this in Buffalo on Friday)

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