Tag Archives: buffalo niagara partnership

The Morning Grumpy – November 29th

29 Nov

I have a voracious appetite for internet memes, video, podcasts, news, and analysis. Each morning I’ll share several links that you can consume during your “morning grumpy”.

1. Andrew “$400K per year” Rudnick and his 1% accomplices at the Buffalo Niagara Partnership have released their 2012 Regional Agenda. As in previous years, the agenda sets the standard for cognitive dissonance in public policy.  While simultaneously clamoring for the gutting of public spending and reductions in pesky regulations and taxes, the agenda demands massive public outlays for projects benefiting our region. In short, “We’re opposed to taxes, fees and obscene spending. Well, except for the spending that directly benefits us, we’re good with that.”

Some highlights from the agenda which proposes nearly a quarter billion dollars of new spending:

  • Funding for expansion of the Peace Bridge and Port of Buffalo facilities
  • Increased funding for Roswell Park
  • Increased funding and expedited disbursement of said monies for UB 2020
  • $2MM for an agribusiness park
  • $25MM for various life sciences projects along with tax breaks and increased grant funding for research
  • $10MM for renovations at the former Bethlehem Steel site
  • $31MM in federal and state funding for tourism projects
  • $28MM for a small business center at Buffalo State College

And the list goes on…I won’t even delve into the policy and regulatory demands being made. Oi.

Most of these projects would be positive for the region. However, doesn’t it seem slightly bizarre that these are the same people who constantly demand the public sector get out of the way of the private sector? Who demand cuts in taxes, that worker rights be trampled and regulations repealed?  I guess it’s not as strange as the BNP bemoaning how awful it is to do business in New York State while their compatriots across the hall at the Buffalo Niagara Enterprise try to sell businesses on what a great place this is to live, work and do business. Odd group of people over there at 665 Main Street…Unshackle Upstate! But spend a huge amount of money here before you do!

2. Tim Tebow is a source of constant argument amongst sports fans. His personal devotion to God, his seeming lack of QB talent, and his ability to pull wins from the jaws of defeat like a magician pulling rabbits from a hat make him a very polarizing figure. As a devout godless pinko, I find Tebow’s public displays of faith to be a bit over the top. However, there is something I like about him and I’ve never been able to put my finger on it. Yesterday, a writer at The Atlantic summed up why I have a soft spot for a person I normally would loathe. He’s earnest.

We live in world saturated with irony and post-irony, and this affects how we consume mass culture—including sports. Athletes today are not judged solely on their on-field abilities but by how willing they are to show the culture at large that they get it, that they have their own brand of ironic humor.

It’s refreshing, then, when someone serious comes along and refuses to partake in the ritual. This is one reason Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow is fascinating to die-hard football fans and casual viewers alike, despite his questionable skills as a professional quarterback.

This is what makes Tebow so appealing. He’s unafraid to be vulnerable and serious in a world so full of jokes that it’s often hard to discern the punch line from the set-up. And his serious approach to football makes it easier for fans to listen when he talks about the other things he cares about, such as being a good role model or building hospitals in the Philippines.

Tebow is refreshing and I hope his stay on the national stage continues, maybe it will help us all become a bit more serious.

3. So, breaking my hope to be more serious with my very next bullet point….Yesterday, former GOP Presidential Flavor of the Week, Herman Cain, told CNN that a woman named Ginger C. White would reveal that she had a thirteen year long affair with Cain. Of course, he denied the allegation. The most interesting part of the story?

Ginger C. White is an anagram for NEWT GINGRICH! What this means, I have no idea, but I feel like I just pulled the ghost mask off Old Man Huggins at the end of a Scooby Doo episode.

Fact Of The Day: On November 29th in 2001, the soul of the Beatles, George Harrison died of cancer.

Song Of The Day: “Here Comes The Sun” by George Harrison

Quote Of The Day: “If there is anything the nonconformist hates worse than a conformist, it’s another nonconformist who doesn’t conform to the prevailing standard of nonconformity.” – Bill Vaughan

WNY Economic Development, Obstacles and Opportunities

24 Jan

Recently, I sat down with James Allen, Executive Director of the Amherst Industrial Development Agency (AIDA) to discuss economic development strategies in Western New York.  Mr. Allen is an advocate for strategic, regionalized, economic development strategies as well as increased outreach to Canadian economic development professionals.  Mr Allen believes that economic development in the new economy is a community-wide effort focused on people, knowledge, networks, and linking community assets.

Allen holds a Masters Degree in Urban Planning from the University at Buffalo (UB) and serves as an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the UB School of Architecture and Planning focusing on regional economic development planning and industrial development. He is also a Senior Fellow at the UB Regional Institute.

The Amherst IDA is one of six Industrial Development Agencies in Erie County, along with the Erie County IDA and four more in the suburban towns of Lancaster, Hamburg, Concord, Clarence.  There are also three IDAs in Niagara County, including the Niagara County IDA and two more in the towns of Lockport and Niagara.  IDAs are primarily chartered to provide state and local tax exemptions to businesses in order to attract or retain business in local communities and/or provide low cost loans to businesses.

There are also other organizations working towards economic development in WNY, including the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, Buffalo Niagara Enterprise, and the vestigial tails of the former Buffalo Economic Renaissance Corporation; the Buffalo Urban Development Corporation and the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency.

With a robust number of agencies, one would think that business in Western New York would be booming.  However, the region continues to struggle with development and businesses continue to move out of New York State.  It’s possible that the number of agencies chartered with economic development in the region is actually causing confusion and adding unnecessary red tape to projects.  The Partnership for the Public Good has done a load of research on the pros and cons of IDA consolidation and I encourage you to read it. While consolidation offers many benefits, IDAs in Erie County already have shared policy goals and incentives and work together using the Framework for Regional Growth.

Mr. Allen feels that significant tax and regulatory obstacles exist which prohibit growth in the region.  He points out a few specific regulations and some case studies which illustrate his point.

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The regulatory and tax environment that Allen describes is a disincentive to larger companies looking to relocate to WNY and forces the IDAs to make large scale tax concessions in order to bring jobs to the region.  With those obstacles in place, a more focused approach on developing local companies and start-ups should be the primary objective.

The lower start-up costs associated with business overhead and access to a talented, but lower cost labor pool certainly give WNY an advantage over many other regions.  However, this approach is constrained by a general lack of local capital.  Allen points out that the lack of a pipeline of ideas and projects is a limiting factor in bringing external angel and venture capital to the region.

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Finally, an under-explored opportunity is economic development outreach to Canadian companies.  Efforts by the Buffalo Niagara Enterprise have resulted in several companies doing just that, but the efforts should be municipally sponsored and much more robust.  Allen feels that we have a good start and we need to develop a regional framework for for cooperative economic development planning between governments.

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“We need to determine what kind of future we want to create.” says Allen.  An encouraging development in this direction is Governor Cuomo’s announcement of ten regional economic councils in New York. The goal is to consolidate and transform the state’s fragmented economic development programs into a coordinated effort to grow regional industries, or “clusters.” This would allow for bottom-up planning rather than top down decision making from the Empire State Development Corporation.

Rudnick vs. The WNY Voter, PolitiFAIL 2010, Elite Eight

30 Mar

In the final matchup in the “Other” bracket of the PolitiFAIL tournament, it’s come down the nominal leader of the business community, Andrew Rudnick versus The Voters of Western New York.

This is an interesting matchup as a sizable portion of the voting community has swallowed Rudnick’s message…hook, line and sinker.  His regular pleadings for corporate welfare, reduction in public spending (aside from projects he and the BNP favor) and tax cuts for the wealthy have endeared him to a chattering class of right wing blue collar voters.

On the other hand, we have a group of people who fail to show up en masse to the voting booth to effect the change they so desperately demand on talk radio, blogs, call in shows and on bar stools throughout the county.  Their failure to act in a reasonable way has empowered a state of dysfunction and graft so complete and so widespread that even the people of California think our state government is a mess.

Let’s break it down.

Andrew Rudnick


Andrew Rudnick is the Smithers to Robert Wilmers’ Mr. Burns.  A feckless bow-tied sycophant who collects failure the way Smithers collects Malibu Stacy dolls.

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Rudnick is the carnival barker in charge of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership.  He routinely claims that his organization is fighting for lower spending in New York, lower taxes for businesses, but he then endorses status quo politicians and advocates for billions in local spending.  Remember last year when Rudnick and the BNP took out a full page advertisement in The Buffalo News crowing about their pile of invisible success?  Yeah, that was awesome.

Rudnick heads a half-assed, unaccountable chamber of commerce that bleats endlessly about excessive taxes and government spending on the one hand, but demands $500 million in government handouts for its members’ pet projects on the other hand.  I’d like to sum up the message of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership as follows:

“Stop taxing us to death, you’re making it hard to do business in this state with all of your spending that does not directly benefit us and what we deem to to be the priorities.  Also, please make the money appear from thin air because as mentioned above, we hate taxes and government dependence and whatnot!”

His two-fisted ham sandwich of uncoordinated messaging earns him roughly $300,000 per year in salary and the right to stick his nose in just about every planning or governmental decision in the region.

The WNY Voter

Since 1950, the WNY region has seen its population decline by half, industries shuttered, and an exportation of our younger generations to other areas of the country.  Certainly, there are macroeconomic reasons for this continual decline, but we all bear some ownership for the problem.  To blame others or to simply shrug things off as a change in the national priorities is short sighted.

We lack visionary leaders and at critical times in our past, we have elected leaders who work for short-term, transactional accomplishments rather than those who set aspirational goals and rally the community to achieve them.  While we spend a lot of time griping, we do very little acting to effect the change we want.  It’s much easier to place an angry call to the daily conservative circle jerk on WBEN than to canvass and volunteer for candidates who might implement the changes you seek.

We’re so busy paying attention to the little bullshit battles the politicians construct for us, the picayune legislative battles, the abuse of the franking privilege, the utter contempt for reason or reality in our politics, and the shiny baubles of doomed-to-fail silver bullet projects, that they hope we just won’t see the FAIL and graft.  Results from 50 years of elections demonstrate that they have us figured out.  That we are either so beaten down, dismayed, discontent, ambivalent or fed up that we just don’t want to see the sum total of failure which comes from our failure to hold anyone accountable . We do still have a choice in our politics, we need to start exercising it.

As FDR once said, “Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country.”

We’d be wise to remember that.

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Is That Rain on My Leg?

9 Mar
New York State Capitol viewed from the south, ...
Image via Wikipedia

Here’s what Andrew Rudnick, head of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, has to say about a new PAC he’s helping to set up:

It’s not really a Democrat or Republican thing; it’s an upstate-downstate thing

That must be why this PAC is dedicated only to electing Republicans to the state Senate and little else. It also must be why the PAC has teamed up with similar chambers of commerce from such upstate locales as Long Island, Westchester County, and the mid-Hudson Valley.

Rudnick said the realities of one-party rule in Albany force the Partnership and other groups across upstate and the metropolitan suburbs to consider Republican candidates.

“The object is to turn enough of those contested races back to Republicans,” he said. “That’s because of where the majority party is at this moment and what they’ve done.”

He pointed to the last state budget and projections of continuing deficits as evidence that the Legislature — under complete Democratic rule for the first time since the 1930s — is ignoring upstate’s economic plight.

“If everyone is Democrat and downstate, we’re now screwed more than we have been,” he said. “We’re all about trying to change that.”

I know that everyone pines for the days of a Republican senate majority, when taxes were low, businesses unencumbered, population and economic growth were the rule, when Bruno was one of the three in a room, and great names like “Volker” had an infinitesimally larger volume of clout than they do now.

And that’s the point – that it doesn’t matter what party an Albany politician belongs to. It doesn’t matter which party controls the Governor’s Mansion or a particular legislative chamber. No matter what happens, money trumps all, and the vast majority of the population gets screwed. For an Andrew Rudnick to suggest that flipping the Senate so that Skelos is in the room with the next embattled ethical mess of a governor will make a stitch of difference is epically ridiculous.

After all, these are the people who gave us the facile and self-contradicting Unshackle Upstate.

At least we can laugh at it all. There’s a wonderful and hilarious postscript to this story.

State Sen. Antoine M. Thompson, D-Buffalo, who coordinates the campaign efforts of Western New York Senate Democrats, did not return a call seeking comment.

Chipping Away at the WNY Status Quo

12 Feb

It has much more impact when a Larry Quinn says it, and what he says is beyond perfect.

Jim Heaney explains the background of this letter:

As I report in today’s paper, a committee of mostly former City Hall insiders has been meeting since last fall to consider ways to fix City Hall’s cluster-you-know-what management of its economic development and block grant programs.

As I reported in October, the group is populated with a lot of the same folks who had a hand in creating the problems they are now being asked to fix.

The results are predicable — hire better people, get the bureaucracy working better and address the obvious problems.

In other words, blah, blah, blah.

Here is Larry Quinn’s letter in response:

City administration after city administration has failed.  State government has failed.  County government has failed.  They have failed to address the root problems in favor of doling out patronage and – well, favors.  They choose to argue over insignificant crumbs rather than band together to make actual progress or address genuine problems.  Doing so would buck the status quo, and we can’t have that.  To be conscientious and competent in government here in WNY is rare, and oftentimes punished.

But the same can be said of what passes for a fractured and broken “business community” here, where the predominant chamber of commerce can’t get out of its own way, and makes decisions that largely help entrenched power players.  Our local chamber of commerce is so tone-deaf that it makes, arbitrary suggestions with no foundation behind them regarding reduction of the state budget, but in the next breath fights vehemently for billions in state funding for pet programs.  The business leadership in this community is as insular, as parochial, as racked with self-indulgent failure as are our governments.

Of course, the two are so inextricably linked, and so driven to preserving everything just the way it is, playing a game of “it’s 1955” make-believe, that only microsurgery could separate them.

Larry Quinn’s letter is focused on one specific issue – the management of block  grant programs and economic development entities in the city of Buffalo.  But its message extends to the management of any and all programs funded by outside money, and to all economic development entities in Erie County.  Hell, you can throw in the local old money and their foundations to that frothy cauldron of failure that regular people are saddled with here, locally.

A revolution is definitely in order around here.  Not some half-assed ideological tea party revolution, because these problems far transcend party politics.  A revolution where entrepreneurship is encouraged, mentored, and assisted.  A revolution where entrenched interests and old money no longer control pursestrings or narratives.  A revolution where government is a meritocracy rather than a deadly sludge of patronage and payback.  A revolution where favoritism is no longer tolerated, and where decisions are not made based on who knows whom.

Then again, the overwhelming majority of people in this area either don’t care, or else derive a direct or indirect benefit from the current system – from the status quo.  So, don’t hold your breath.

HT Jim Heaney at the Buffalo News, and @braybc on Twitter.

The Feckless Foundation Strikes

2 Feb

On Tuesday, the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, henceforth referred to as the Feckless Foundation, proposed a whopping $12 billion worth of suggested changes to the state budget so as to reduce the state’s budget deficit.

The proposals are random and strange enough that they appear to be literally picked out of thin air with an arbitrary number attached to them. Also, poorly worded or proofread. Consider,

So, Chris and I took to the Twitters to propose other #bnpbudgetcuts. Enjoy.

The Fail List

30 Nov

I don’t want the Mayor and County Executive teaming up with the Buffalo Niagara Partnership to devise a wish list of remarkably expensive silver-bullet projects to help Buffalo remain essentially the same as it is now, only with shinier buildings. Frankly, I can’t think of three people I’d less like to have plotting the future of Buffalo and Erie County than the Collins-Brown-Rudnick troika.

Instead, what should really be on the wish list is for New York State to lower the barriers to doing business in this region. Whether we’re talking about regulatory reform, a reduction or simplification of the tax structure, or just giving WNY some autonomy to make the changes needed to enable us better to compete with other places. As we’ve been saying for a week or so now, there is a cognitive dissonance when you bitch and moan about big government spending in one breath, and then demand half a billion dollars’ worth of big government spending in the next.

I don’t trust Albany any more than I trust WNY’s disingenuous troika, but I do trust that easing the cost of doing business in this part of the state would help this part of the state.

I spent a great deal of time driving through rural central New York yesterday, passing through dilapidated-but-holding-on town after dilapidated-but-holding-on town. With rare exception (Ithaca), many of these places are all but dead. They, like the industries that brought them to life, are anachronisms. I don’t know, frankly, what hope there is for places like that. But there is hope for places like Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and the like. We just need government and big business to grow up and stop pretending like every silver bullet idea is just what Buffalo needs to turn the corner.

Fail In a Nutshell

24 Nov

If you haven’t already seen Chris’ post about the Buffalo Niagara Partnership from earlier today, please do.

What do you do with a half-assed, unaccountable chamber of commerce that bleats endlessly about excessive taxes and government spending on the one hand, but demands $500 million in government handouts for its members’ pet projects?

The Partnership is as stupid as it is feckless.

BNP Messaging FAIL

24 Nov

BNP_Fail_HQ

On one hand, we have the Buffalo Niagara Partnership telling Albany to “Unshackle Upstate” from the chains of big government, big spending, high taxes and incompetent government.  That if left to our own devices up here in Buffaloland, we’d fix our own problems, thank you very much!  So, Albany, keep your hands out of our god damned pockets and leave us free marketeers to ourselves!

Please ignore the cognitive dissonance behind the curtain!

Please ignore the cognitive dissonance behind the curtain!

And then, we have the Buffalo Niagara Partnership begging our state delegation to please, please, please fund the UB 2020 plan, the Niagara Falls Airport Expansion, and their other regional priorities with $450,000,000 in public funds.

In essence, the position of the BNP can be summed up as:

“Stop taxing us to death, you’re making it hard to do business in this state with all of your spending that does not directly benefit us and what we deem to to be the priorities.  Also, please make the money appear from thin air because as mentioned above, we hate taxes and government dependence and whatnot!”

Fucking hell, no wonder we can’t get shit done around here.  Our “private sector” leadership is just as rife with stupidity and graft as our public sector.

Less taxes, more public money for us please

Less taxes, more public money for us please

Also, I know there is nuance to the issue.  Also, I don’t care.

Unshackle Upstate Fail

2 Oct

Unshackle Upstate held a town hall meeting yesterday, where businesspeople from WNY could talk directly to such luminaries as Senator George Maziarz and Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak.

The town hall was held between the hours of 3 – 5pm. When most people are at work.

Even what passes for a chamber of commerce can’t schedule something so regular working people can attend.