Tag Archives: budgets

Good Riddance, Fred Phelps

21 Mar

A busy week with late nights, so posting has been regrettably light. So, with the weekend approaching, I leave you with these thoughts: 

1. While Mark Croce may have a right to charge up to $75 for a day’s worth of parking at the corner of Blight and Squalor, Buffalo is not a $75-per-day parking city. We don’t have a parking shortage, nor do we have any particular need to restrict access to our downtown, so something like Uber’s “surge pricing” – something else we don’t have in Buffalo –  is a ridiculous notion.

The barrage of counterarguments from people upholding the right to cheat tourists was astonishing.  Airline fares! Hotel rates! Well, sure. But Croce’s lot was charging 1500% more than a regular Thursday, and double to triple its usual “event” rate. “They could just drive around” is the method suggested for tourists unfamiliar with downtown Buffalo to find something else. True, I guess – that’s should maybe be our local tourism slogan to replace “For Real” or “Sense of Place”.  “Just Drive Around a Bit” that doesn’t make an outrageous markup any less so. Most of the lots – including the FN Center’s own directly across the street from the arena – were $20 for the day. If you were willing to walk a bit, they were less. But part of that “choice” is predicated on you being somewhat familiar with where you are and how to get around. I can’t imagine why anyone would pay $60 to park outside in the Buffalo snow, and the law might not consider it to be gouging under the law, but I think it’s someone taking unfair advantage of visitors who simply don’t know that $60 is an outrage to park around here. Or that we have plenty of other choices. Or that we have a Metro Rail. I argued about this with people on Twitter, and was truly surprised by the number of people defending Croce’s right to charge whatever he wants. Well, sure, I guess. But does that make it right? Or does your humanity, good neighborliness, and sense of fairness demand that visitors not be gouged by a greedy millionaire? Welcome to Buffalo! If the government doesn’t rob you, our business oligarchs will. 

But seriously, if it costs less to eat the ticket you get from parking in a “No Parking” zone than in one of Croce’s lots, the rules of “basic economics” are out the damn window. 

2. Last night the Blue Bash to celebrate the 2014 Undy 5000 and the Colon Cancer Alliance was held at Artisan Kitchen & Baths. While colon cancer is the 2nd deadliest cancer in America, affecting thousands of people every year, there’s such a phobia and stigma attached to it that people are dying needlessly. Early detection is the difference between life and death; survivor and victim. My wife is a cancer survivor and we are raising money for the CCA to help its mission, part of which is to provide free colonoscopies to people who cannot otherwise afford them. Please consider donating anything you can at this link. 

3. Looks like a lot of local school districts – Orchard Park, Ken-Ton, Depew, Cheektowaga, Sweet Home, and Buffalo, to name a few – are undergoing the same gut-wrenching budget crisis this year that Clarence underwent last year, and there’s more on the horizon.  When Clarence’s budget was in trouble last year, the board tried to pass a 9% increase to maintain the status quo. The vote failed, and the curriculum was gutted and electives were eliminated. Some in WNY pointed and laughed. Sprawly, tax-averse Clarence kids got what they deserved, some argued. Well, the hurt is getting spread around while Clarence’s crisis appears to be over. If we can’t adequately fund our schools and instead prioritize things like handouts to businesses and pothole repairs, then our priorities are beyond screwed up.

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School Budget & Board Elections: Vote Today

21 May

Today, communities across New York State will be holding their school tax budget referenda and, in some cases, school board elections. Turnout for these votes is always quite low, yet it’s one of the very few times you have direct control over the taxes you pay – in this case, school taxes assessed against the value of your home.

I live in Clarence, where there’s a battle over a proposed 9.8% rise in school taxes. The proposal rolls right past Cuomo’s property tax cap and needs a 60% supermajority to succeed. 

When we moved to western New York in 2001, we chose to live in Clarence for one sole reason – the excellence of its schools. We have grown to love the town and our neighbors, many of whom also made the move to Clarence because of the school system. It is not hyperbole to suggest that the schools are the town’s very foundation, and if you do harm to them, you harm the entire community. 

Over the past 10 years, the school tax rate has decreased while personnel and non-mandated programs have been cut. Because past budgets were only balanced thanks to use of now-depleted savings, a one-time budget in excess of the cap is necessary to maintain the school curriculum. 

The forces opposed to the school budget are vocal and well-funded. One effort in particular that anyone with a Clarence mailbox knows about has been carefully created and funded from outside the area. Koch Industries’ anti-tax fake grassroots conservative activist group “Americans for Progress” has developed the mail pieces and websites urging a “no” vote and manipulating the data to mislead residents about what’s going on. I, for one, don’t take election of advice from people who proudly, and without irony, place massive election signs on derelict eyesore properties in the town

You can read about the AFP mailers here and here. You can read the reasons to vote YES on the Clarence budget here

#TCDOT 2

4 Apr

While the #TCDOT right is busy screaming about spending, consider that Bush Administration budgets omitted figures for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq completely. The Obama budget for FY 2010 is $3.5 trillion, including funding for the aforementioned wars. The last Bush budget for FY 2009 was $3.1 trillion, and did not include the cost of the wars.

Traditionally all 2009 spending would be included in the budget President Bush drafted in February 2008, but Bush chose to fund the war through emergency supplemental appropriations instead. He did not ask Congress for a 2009 supplemental appropriation before he left office, choosing instead to leave that to the next president. (President Obama asked for another $76 billion for the wars for fiscal 2009.)

And $326 billion of the stimulus package’s $787 billion was for tax cuts. Suck it, #TCDOTs.