Tag Archives: Buffalo

The Western New York Tea Party: Rebuked

5 Nov

Western New York’s Tea Party is as horrible electorally as it is with respect to policy. They lost yesterday, and they lost big. 

Carl and the Conservative Fusion Party

This tea party crowd, which accuses everyone who doesn’t think like they of being “sheeple”, circulated a list of Conservative Fusion Party candidates for whom to vote, without explanation or argument. Just a straight “C” ticket. There is no thought there, just blind following and demands of ideological purity. Politics is, at its heart, a game of compromise. When you foreclose that possibility, you’re bad for America, and you’re going to lose, sooner or later.

Astorino’s WBEN-Mentum 

Local delusional hate radio, which was so deep in the tank for Astorino that it became self-parody, spent all afternoon yesterday using callers to its own radio shows as a representative sample of the electorate. It claimed that Cuomo suffered from an enthusiasm gap, and predicted a wild and unexpected win for its chosen candidate. Last week, during what’s supposed to be the straight morning news program, Astorino’s daily schedule was a news item. Cuomo’s schedule was not given equal time.

WBEN is not “NewsTalk” or “News Radio” or, God help us, the “Voice of Buffalo”. It is a right-wing talk radio station; Limbaugh & his clones, all day. It’s not even the official organ – the Komsomolskaya Pravda – of the Republican Party anymore, having firmly aligned itself with Lorigo’s Conservative Fusion Party and the tea party. Everything that this crew falsely accuses the Buffalo News of being, it is

Not only did Cuomo win with ease, Erie County went for Andrew Cuomo for the first time. It was never even close, and people should think about where they get their information. 

Str8t Talk About Weppner

For a year that brought about a nationwide Republican wave, Brian Higgins did quite well, thankyouverymuch. Higgins will return to Congress with yet another mandate – 69% versus 31% for the tea party.

In a what, now?

Kathy Weppner lost, and so far none of her (or her shills’) social media accounts contain anything except venom, vitriol, and victimhood. Don’t be surprised – this is a woman so self-absorbed and obsessed with portraying herself as a victim, she couldn’t even muster a “thank you”, instead denigrating and insulting the students who asked her relevant questions at the St. Joe’s debate.  

The loss left her somewhat speechless, 

Some tea partiers thought that hers was a “brilliant” campaign. I guess, insofar as it was the most popular WNY comedy act in recent memory. But she only just outperformed the last two tea party activists who ran against Higgins, and she ran a campaign based on resentments and urban legends. 

Weppner is the very embodiment of the low-information talk-radio caller / Buffalo News commenter who regurgitates Twitchy and Fox News talking points. Her wealth and shamelessness enabled her to mount what was, in the end, a nasty and whiny vanity campaign. Maybe at least she can now return all of her radio and blog archives back online for everyone to read. 

Panepinto & The Law of Unintended Consequences

Did you need more evidence of how – despite their deep gun fetish – the tea party can’t shoot straight?

It rejected Republican Mark Grisanti and instead backed Kevin Stocker. Stocker rejected the tea party – its titular head Rus Thompson especially. So, the tea party’s own candidate rejected them, they had burned all their bridges with the establishment’s Grisanti, and all of this led to a Panepinto win and a Democratic pickup in the state Senate

Great job, guys!  Congratulations, Marc Panepinto!

Republican Pickup in Cheektowaga

Hah

Paladinocrats Lose

You don’t go from being a Paladino stooge one day to being a Democrat the next. Johnny Destino was a homophobic Paladino stooge a couple of years ago, and ran this year as an endorsed Democrat. The voters rejected him.

In NY-27, Jim O’Donnell was MIA. He complained that he couldn’t raise money, but that didn’t stop others from doing it for him, but he refused. What really irked me was that he was rude or dismissive to people who offered to help him out. He was prone to outbursts of anger, and simply didn’t bother to do even the free, little things that could have earned him some free media – or at least a Facebook share. 

We also learned on Sunday that O’Donnell was an aide for the 2010 Paladino campaign. If you’re going to strike out in politics, and you scan all the races available to help out, and you land on the homophobic promoter of racism and pornography, don’t come asking Democrats for support without disclosure and vocal rejection. I wrote my own name in for NY-27, but perhaps for the first – likely last –  time, I wished Team Collins good luck. At least Collins is honest and consistent about where his loyalties lie. 

Anyhow, thanks for reading. 

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Kathy Weppner: Victim

28 Oct

Kathy Weppner, for whom you should totally never vote, scored a few points on Monday.  

Not against her opponent, but against the Buffalo News. She even recorded a radio ad blasting the News, because she is accusing its Washington correspondent, Jerry Zremski, of misogyny and sexism. For instance,

Here’s something I’ve not said before – Weppner has a point. When I read that passage, I thought that Zremski’s description of Weppner’s manicure was out of line; it’s simply not a way you write about a female candidate for office. But look at the passage within its context

Looking out over Canalside from the plaza outside downtown Buffalo’s new Courtyard by Marriott on Friday, with the new HarborCenter rising to his left and his brownish hair flying every which way in the breeze, Rep. Brian Higgins talked a bit like a proud father.

“It’s campaign season, so I’ll say it: We had something to do with this,” said Higgins, a Buffalo Democrat whose strong-arming of the New York Power Authority provided the funds to begin the city’s waterfront boom.

But a day earlier at the Lake Effect Diner in University Heights, Higgins’ opponent laid two immaculately manicured hands, with 10 long hot-pink fingernails, out across a pile of paper that foretold doom of one kind or another, and spoke like a very worried mother.

The emphases are mine. Zremski described something about Higgins’ appearance, and described him as a “proud father”, and then described something about Weppner’s appearance, and described her as a “worried mother”. He was more descriptive about Weppner’s nails, admittedly. 

He wasn’t blindly mocking Weppner’s fingernails – he was trying to illustrate for readers something about each candidate’s demeanor and appearance. You’ll note that no one quotes the Higgins passage, and plenty of people locally poke fun of Higgins’ sense of style. 

Interestingly, the people screaming loudest about this insult are the people who scream loudest against things they call “political correctness” and the “war on women”. People like this guy: 

I mean, if you’re going to be a hypocrite, I guess it’s best to do so within the same thread. But you can’t with a straight face complain about PC and then accuse someone of being a celibate or gay or whatever Bauerle’s trying to do here. Bauerle and his buds make all kinds of cracks about Higgins all the time. Their buddy Carl goes so far as to reportedly call Higgins a “cocksucker” in private, and he means it literally. That’s OK, I guess. 

But does Weppner not want people to notice her nails? I mean, they neither qualify or disqualify her for office, but they’re quite palpably there

This is a candidate who refers to women as, “girls” in a video mocking the very notion that there exists a “war on women”.  Now she’s a victim of it? 

She complains that she never had a professional manicure, but Zremski never said she did – he simply said they were manicured – he didn’t say who did it. 

Here’s what I wrote in May about Weppner’s dismissal of the “war on women”: 

The “war on women” has been coined as shorthand for policies and proposals that specifically target issues relating solely to females.  These can include restrictions on reproductive rights and choices, lax enforcement of workplace anti-discrimination regulations and statutes, outrageous slut shaming of feminists who advocate for women’s rights, and still-prevalent positions held mostly be men that, for instance, women who are beaten or raped must have contributed to their own victimhood; that they brought it on themselves or “deserved” it.

It’s perfectly reasonable for people to argue about how to deal with these sorts of things from different political and moral perspectives, but it’s not reasonable to simply deny that the problems themselves exist. It’s not reasonable to suggest that it’s ok that women are treated like inferiors in the labor market, for instance.

But instead of praising the women who have worked tirelessly for decades to improve the lot of all, Weppner denigrates their fight for equality as the real “victimhood”. Was Susan B. Anthony displaying weakness when she demanded equal rights and suffrage? Were the suffragettes just playing as weakling whiners when they demanded the vote? How about the women who, in the mid-19th century, gained the right to be treated as more than mere chattel under the law?

I do like that this lecture is being delivered from an all-American kitchen with a dollar-store flag in the background. Because patriot.

Kathy Weppner, an allegedly serious person supposedly running for federal elected office, can get on the YouTubes and allege that, when women fight for equality and liberty, they’re really waging war on men.  But I’ve got a transvaginal ultrasound right here that says Weppner’s wrong .

Weppner: she rejected the “war on women” before she decided it was politically expedient to become its victim. 

I don’t know if I agree with the “war on women” rhetoric, but I do believe that women should be treated as equals with men. I also think that the media need to be mindful of the ways in which they describe female candidates, and Zremski’s attempt to contrast Weppner’s and Higgins’ appearance was clumsy, at best. But there’s nothing here to indicate that he was displaying any animus, or that it was in any way an attempt to de-humanize Weppner because she’s a woman. He should have simply added something more about Higgins’ appearance. 

You can’t spend all your time complaining about political correctness, and then try to be politically correct. It’s either a valid concern, or it’s not.

In the end, none of this renders Weppner any more or less electable than she was on Sunday morning – i.e., not remotely

UPDATE: Here is one of the few remaining clips of Weppner’s WBEN show that exist on the internet, courtesy of WNYMedia.net. In it, she denigrates activist Sandra Fluke for her sex toy agenda or something; “contragestives are being snuck in under the name ‘Ella'”. Sandra Fluke was famously insulted as a “slut” by Viagra huckster Rush Limbaugh for daring to suggest that contraceptives be included in health insurance policy. 

When Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a “slut”, Kathy Weppner piled on. She is a hypocrite of the highest order. 

Also, a commenter on Twitter suggests that it wasn’t the crack about the fingernails that was insulting, but that the juxtaposition of “proud father/worried mother” is just as troubling. I think it’s an interesting point, although I think that the whole passage was more about color commentary than about substance. 

Kathy Weppner on ISIS and Ebola

23 Oct

The silly radio lady – our own politically backward version of Mariann from Brooklyn, Kathy “Infected Poors” Weppner – is following up her big May hit, “Stop Common Core in NY” with this doozy that links together Islam, ISIS, and Ebola.

Remember – this is a serious candidate for Congress. Not a joke. Not at all. Now, on with the countdown. 

Kathy Weppner on ISIS and Ebola and Islam

https://www.scribd.com/embeds/243984430/content?start_page=1&view_mode=scroll&show_recommendations=true

Paladino’s Financial Stake in Charters

22 Oct

I’m skeptical of charter schools because I believe that they’re being used as an effort to abolish public education in the United States. The only exception is that instance where they’re used in a limited way to save kids from failing public schools.  Since Buffalo has its share of failing schools, I’m not going to begrudge parents finding a way to get their kids a decent education by any means necessary. You only get one chance, after all. 

The Buffalo News details the ways in which Buffalo School Board member Carl Paladino has profited from the establishment of charters in Buffaloin fact, he’s the sole investor in some of them. It would be easy (and tempting) to dismiss all of this as Paladino personally profiting (which he does) off of charter schools, and demanding his resignation or recusal from anything having to do with charter schools in the Buffalo system. 

But the real issue isn’t whether Paladino is profiting off of charter schools – past, present, and future – the issue is that this situation is novel enough that the school board needs to clarify its conflict of interest rules. It’s not enough to just let Paladino subjectively pick and choose when there is or isn’t a conflict of interest, there need to be objective and uniformly applicable rules, and clearly defined instructions. It should not be left up to Paladino – a thuggish character who yells obscenities at strangers on the street, like a vagrant

“…I’m totally insane.” – Carl Paladino

As toxic, hateful, and repulsive as I find Paladino as a person and a political entity, I am conflicted about what he’s doing on the school board. I agree with his conclusion about its dysfunction and desperate need for improvement and accountability, and I think some of what he’s done has been positive, bold, and overdue. But the school board needs to be the one forcing Paladino to recuse himself – not only from any vote involving any of the charters in which he currently has a financial stake, but also those in which he has a potential financial stake. He needs to avoid not just actual impropriety, but the appearance of impropriety. 

That means that, while Ellicott Development may be a closely-held private company that isn’t mandated to release financial information, it should live up to Paladino’s political demands that others be transparent and make available all personal and corporate financial information as it relates to public charter schools. Paladino would demand no less of anyone else, if the shoe was on the other foot. Showing this information to a few reporters from the Buffalo News is not transparency – that’s Paladino taking advantage of the public trust. 

In the meantime, he’s controlling a majority on that board, and he’s effectively dictating the school board’s agenda and actions. He’s got his wish with respect to the removal of Pamela Brown. So, he’s all out of excuses, and it would be idiotic to hope he fails. I hope he succeeds and that the Buffalo school system becomes a nationwide model for turning around a troubled urban district. Transparency, ethics, and accountability: shouldn’t Paladino be held to the standards he selectively demands of others? 

I guess we’ll see how that hopey – changey thing works out for everyone. 

#Obamacough?

13 Oct

(Starting around 0.38s)

“If you’re loving your Obamacough…if you’re loving that respiratory infection, it’s not a mystery – it comes from Obama’s children. If you’re enjoying that, why don’t you call Brian Higgins’ office and thank him for it, and ask if he’ll help pay your medical bills for whatever your doctor may have given you to counteract said cough.”

What is he talking about? What does this mean? What “Obamacough” did “Obama’s children” cause people in WNY to contract? Why should Brian Higgins pay for anyone’s medical bills, given that everyone in New York is mandated to have health insurance coverage nowadays either through their employer, through the exchange, or through Medicaid? 

In what way is this responsible? What sort of radio station is this, exactly, this WBEN? I mean, I get Bauerle saying any old oddity – that’s his job – but when it crosses the line from commentary into crackpot tin-foil hattery, doesn’t someone step in and do something about it?  

I mean, I know Obama is a public figure, and so are his kids, to a degree – I don’t put it past any right winger to leave Obama’s kids alone – but what evidence is there to back this up?  Isn’t this sort of the very definition of “actual malice” set forth in Sullivan v. New York Times

 

Broadway-Fillmore Alive Needs You

13 Oct

HELP

Buffalo-Fillmore Alive needs your help! The group is dedicated to the renaissance of the Broadway-Fillmore area on Buffalo’s East Side, and was started in 2005 by Chris Byrd, the late, great Mike Miller, and Michele Johnson

The stated goal was to “open a window to the neighborhood…and start promoting it as a whole”, and to basically help people realize that there’s a whole world there, largely denigrated or forgotten but just as alive and vibrant as any other Buffalo neighborhood. 

“Our mission is to work together with community groups, businesses, residents, churches and other organizations to help promote, preserve and revitalize the Broadway-Fillmore area.”

Miller’s untimely death conspired with family and work constraints that made it harder for the group to accomplish its lofty mission, but Byrd writes that BFA is starting a concept called “Team Alive”.  From Byrd’s blog post: 

The idea is to put together a broader BFA volunteer group of people interested in working on some neighborhood projects in B-F, write for BFA, take photos and more. At the core of the concept is what we started to do when we came up with Broadway Fillmore Alive.

Through the work here and with the various organizations BFA is affiliated with, our idea has always been to have people look at the neighborhood as a sum of all its parts. I am very proud of this little window we give the world of B-F.

But…

There is more work to be done…there is a lot of the neighborhood that doesn’t get the attention or focus it needs.

If you are interested in finding out more and getting involved, you can fill out the Team Alive form by clicking here or call 716.218.0BFA.

Picking One’s Battles: Part 2 – the Jacobs Plan

7 Oct

The following is a guest post from Stephanie Perry, a fellow BU alumna, a former writer for the Daily Free Press, seen on Twitter at @stephperry. Last week, She began Tweeting about this topic and I asked if she would write something up for Artvoice. 

Stormy over Buffalo Central Terminal

Stormy over Buffalo Central Terminal by Daniel Novak at Flickr

Six months ago, a curious manifesto appeared on Buffalo Rising. This “concept proposal” was sweeping and ambitious, but hardly in the right ways. The writer proposed the mass relocation of Buffalo’s police and fire departments’ headquarters and of the region’s blue chip nonprofit service organizations to the worn but charming public market in the East Side’s  Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood. Into the desirable mansions and buildings vacated by these public and charitable entities would go loft apartments and boutique hotels. Rich people would live in these nice properties while organizations that help disadvantaged people, many of whom are minorities, such as the International Institute, Child and Family Services and the United Way, would be sequestered in a distressed and racially segregated neighborhood that’s not easily accessible to the citywide population.

Private developers would make a killing on these new apartments and condos and return a bit under $800,000 annually to the city and county tax bases so that the city and county might provide services to the public, such as centrally located and publicly accessible police and fire departments, except not that anymore. Never mind that the city budget alone totals $1.4 billion. This is a plan to help the community help rich people help the community.

It would be nearly impossible to propose a more transparently self-serving plan to redistribute real property wealth to developers while simultaneously displacing organizations that have tirelessly served the community and maintained the architectural heritage of the Delaware District for decades. Plus, the short-sighted proposal is stock full of faulty assumptions about urban planning, crime and private property rights. Furthermore, the author’s inappropriate use of first-person perspective, sentence fragments and the conspicuous absence of facts together evoked the tone of a hastily composed high school civics project. I wondered who produced such an implausible, socially irresponsible and poorly written report. Was this the homework of some Rich Kid of Instagram?

The article’s byline was simply “Chris Jacobs,” the author bio at the bottom of the webpage blank. Chris Jacobs the county clerk? Chris Jacobs, whose erratic political resume suggests his most cherished platform is Keeping Chris Jacobs In Office? Chris Jacobs, nephew of the 185th richest person in America?  The odd placement of this brazen but amateur civic proposal on a website mostly dedicated to critiquing storefront aesthetics and hip restaurants suddenly made sense. A very wealthy man of great self-appointed importance had an idea, and this narrative was almost inevitable. It is an election year for the county clerk. The idea was out there and it was only a matter of time before everyone was forced to respond to it. I set a Google news alert for key terms from the proposal and went about my life for half a year.

Finally, last Friday, it happened. Chris Jacobs’s poorly considered vanity proposal complete with professionally commissioned architectural renderings, landed on Page One of The Buffalo News.  The only appropriate answer to the plan that imperils the stability of Delaware Avenue and downtown while disrespecting the work and property rights of nonprofit service organizations is “Thanks but no thanks,” and I find myself empathically supportive of the city’s reaction, as reported by the News, that “at this time the city has no plans” to act.

The article hints at the implausibility of the proposal —

Convince the city to move Police Headquarters to the East Side. Then do the same with the Fire Department.

Next, persuade the many nonprofits that occupy Buffalo’s grandest mansions along Delaware Avenue to pick up and move east, too.

Then sell the old headquarters and the mansions.

— but ultimately validates it more than any amount of billionaire blustering could. The article is predicated on the notion that the Jacobs proposal is worthy of consideration, which it is not, and that City Hall has an obligation to respond to and engage with him on the matter, which it also does not. As originally posted, the article lacked a link to the sloppy proposal Jacobs has been promoting and provided no assessment of its production quality. The News failed to ask Jacobs why he omitted from his list of nonprofit buildings best converted to private residences the UB Foundation-owned mansion that bears his family’s name.

The result is that Jacobs, who is peddling a steaming pile of bullshit, positions himself as a bipartisan populist concerned about the economic recovery of the East Side, while the mayor is an obstructionist, do-nothing fool. Few better narratives exist for campaign literature. (Imagine the flyer reading “Jacobs: Bold plan to boost East Side; City: ‘No plans to do that.’”) The Democratic challenger for county clerk has made an appropriate statement categorically rejecting Jacobs’s proposal. That anyone even needs to engage with this proposal is a travesty. 

What makes it difficult to refuse to engage with Jacobs’s plan is that it presents explicit goals that are worthwhile to pursue: Yes, revitalizing distressed neighborhoods should be a civic goal. Yes, the East Side’s many neighborhoods deserve more attention from the county and city. Yes, grappling with the fact that an enormous portion of the property in Buffalo — particularly hospitals, churches, colleges, museums, schools, nonprofit foundations, even Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency-owned First Niagara Arena — is not taxable is a worthwhile endeavor. However, Jacobs’s plan is a poor one to achieve these worthy goals.

First, Jacobs claims that the strength of the downtown, Elmwood Village and Medical Campus Corridor real estate markets requires mansions and prime-location properties to be put “back in private hands and back on the tax rolls.” Aside from the fact that the claim that valuable real estate must belong to private investors is patently false, (how would any public agency exist in Manhattan were this the case?) the stability of downtown is hardly a foregone conclusion. One Seneca Tower competes with ubiquitous downtown parking lots for the title of most conspicuous under-utilized space in Buffalo. As many people have pointed out, nothing currently prevents private developers from making offers to nonprofits owning buildings they desire. For the right price, a move might be negotiated.

Jacobs’s list of nonprofits ripe for relocation is glaringly classist in its aims. The Red Cross, United Way, International Institute, Child and Family Services, Salvation Army, EPIC and the Catholic Center have strong commitments to aiding poor people. The real estate assets of at least some of these groups bolster their outreach and fundraising capabilities. The strongest example of this may the Buffalo branch of the American Red Cross, an organization that received its mansion at Delaware Avenue and Summer Street specifically as a philanthropic bequest from Carolyn Tripp Clement. Tours of the home not only raise money for the Red Cross but also make the beautiful structure publicly accessible. The Red Cross’s most significant fundraiser, the Mash Bash, takes place on the grounds of the mansion, without which the Red Cross would be unable to raise more than $352,000 in a single night

The implicit goal of Jacobs’s proposal becomes clear when one considers what non-taxed entities with very fine real estate are omitted from his plan: Nardin Academy, Canisius High School, the Ronald McDonald House, the Jacobs Executive Development Center, Gilda’s Club, the County Clerk’s Office itself. Downtown, Elmwood and the Medical Corridor are too nice for poor people, according to Jacobs’s vision. Jacobs euphemistically says relocating service organizations to the Broadway Market would put those groups helping poor people “in closer proximity to those they serve.” In reality, the Broadway Market is less accessible than Delaware Avenue via public transportation for all but those in its immediate neighborhood.

Jacobs’s understanding of crime is fundamentally flawed but central to his proposal. While more densely populated urban neighborhoods generally are safer than those blighted with vacant properties and fewer residents, that busy areas guarantee public safety is oversimplified and confuses cause and effect. “More activity, more people, and more police would make this area begin to feel and to become safer. If people feel safe, many great things begin to happen, such as more people wanting to live in that community,” he claims. Public safety is a necessary condition for growth but no promise of it. And increased public safety itself is by no means a guaranteed outcome of having a police administration building in a neighborhood. Surveillance and safety are hardly synonymous despite the faulty claim that “not just the perception of more eyes on the neighborhood but the reality of more eyes on the neighborhood” will lead to increased safety. The origins of concentrated violence and crime in poor urban neighborhoods are far too complex to be solved by an eight-page development proposal.

The problems of Buffalo’s neighborhoods east of Main Street likewise are too complicated to be summed up by a poorly deployed Yogi Berra quote: “No one goes their anymore. It’s too crowded.” [There/their usage error from original document.] Jacobs refers to the East Side again and again as a monolith even though his proposal affects only one neighborhood, Broadway-Fillmore. His rhetorical questions, “How can we jump start a significant amount of activity? How can we infuse hundreds of people into the East Side in short order?” arrogantly imply hundreds of people do not already live on the East Side. In fact, tens of thousands do. 

Jacobs wraps up his barely coherent proposal by admitting that maybe it’s not very good and, well, do you have a better one, Mr. Mayor? 

After a more detailed analysis, some of these suggested moves may not be feasible, but then many other non-profit/governmental entities exist that were not mentioned here that likely could move. Additionally, locations other than the Broadway Market may be suggested and they absolutely should be considered. The public and non-profit sector should convene to discuss this proposal, perhaps convened by the Mayor of Buffalo.

If it seems like Jacobs does not care to express a coherent plan aware of the city’s long history of poverty and segregation and sensitive to the needs of organizations that benefit the community while simultaneously benefiting private investors, it’s because he really does not care. If Jacobs’s never-going-to-happen proposal has the effect of making Buffalo developers a little wealthier, that would be incidental to what may be the true aim of his plan. The plan’s main purpose is to give Chris Jacobs a talking point and to put the city, the county and his political opponents in the difficult position of saying they reject his plan that has such apparently worthy goals.

It is certainly newsworthy that the holder of a countywide elected office is talking up a ridiculous, low-quality, ill-considered plan to anyone who will listen. The newsworthiness is not in the ideas of the plan itself, burnished by the competent writing skills of a professional reporter. What should be news is the amateurism of plan, which is readily pointed out by the UB School of Architecture and Planning dean interviewed by the News. Unfortunately, too much of the News article is dedicated to drumming up support, creating an impression of false balance, where in fact there is a rather clear judgment to be made on the quality and thoughtfulness of the proposal.

We can and should stop the spread of Chris Jacobs’s terrible proposal for upending public and charitable organizations in the service of making developers wealthier right now. The plan is not worthy of critical analysis, serious consideration or any more printer’s ink. To not offer an immediate counterproposal with fancy renderings does not invalidate the rejection of the plan. I don’t want anymore Google news alerts about “Chris+Jacobs Broadway+Market,” and the people and organizations affected by that monstrosity of a plan deserve more than to be afterthoughts in a mad grab for land and political power by a very wealthy white man.

Picking One’s Battles: Part 1

7 Oct

Forget for a moment about the things that the media are telling you to be absolutely terrified about – ebola, ISIS, drought, global warming/climate change, Russia, Ukraine, flights from West Africa, genocide, etc. After all, while all of this stuff is going on, most Americans either think it’s an Obama-led plot, or are more concerned with who did what on Dancing With the “Stars”. 

Locally, our outrages are much more pedestrian in nature. 

We don’t get incensed, and we don’t do jack squat in response to a devastating report about poverty in Buffalo. Well, we do tend to moralize and lecture the victims of poverty, while others identify at least one of the root causes

But I can tell you two recent points of civic outrage that are not at all important, in the wider scheme of things. One is the Labatt ad affixed to a dilapidated grain elevator, replacing what appears to be peeling and chipping lead paint.  The other is the notion that anything that might be labeled “the indoors” be built anywhere on the Outer Harbor. 

A scan of preservationist message boards reveals that some people are simply outraged by the idea that a locally-headquartered national beer importer would so crassly deface our lovely blight. (Query: if it was PBR cans, would that be ok?) A Change.org petition has 132 signatures, is being promoted by a guy from Dutchess County, and calls this location “downtown”. The petition alleges that the Labatt cans violate up to three codes or regulations. 

The petitioners claim that Alcoholic Beverage Control Law 83.2 prohibits this display. Untrue. Any reasonable reading of that language reveals the prohibition to signs posted by a retailer on “retail licensed premises”. This location is not a retail licensed premises for on-site alcohol consumption.  A claimed second code violation alleges that the Labatt ad is illegal because it can be seen from a park with a playground in it.

The city code cited, 452-4, prohibits any alcohol advertising, “in any publicly visible location on or within 1,000 feet of the perimeter of any school premises, playground or playground area in a public park.” The 333 Ganson location is just about 1,000 feet from the boundary of Conway Park itself, which contains a playground. It is almost 1,500 feet from the “playground” or the “playground area in a public park”. 

Finally, the petitioner cites a city code having to do with “accessory signs”.  It doesn’t appear to me that the cited sign ordinance applies to a sign that is a part of the building itself, but instead deals with billboards and other types of signs that are separate and distinct from the adjoining structure.

But all of this boils down to personal taste – trying to shoehorn dubious statutory violations into the argument is a weak substitute for just saying you don’t like it; that we can do better. One person wrote that if we let this Labatt ad stay on the grain elevator, “we’re getting the city we deserve”. I honestly can’t fathom how putting a dilapidated commercial structure to commercial use poses an existential threat to Buffalo. 

You don’t have to like the ad, but unless you own the building, who cares what you or I like? 

Our second moral outrage has to do with the Outer Harbor. Every single plan for the Outer Harbor incorporates bucketloads of parkland. The problem is that in Buffalo, at that location, parkland is basically unusable much of the year, unless maybe you go fishing through holes in the ice or enjoy cross-country skiing with acute wind chills. The notion that there be something indoors on the Outer Harbor is, apparently, haram. 

The rhetoric against the ECHDC-promoted plan has been as bombastic as you’d expect it to be. The process was flawed!  Sure, there were three public hearings/meetings, and they were conducted like all of these types of meetings are – Green Code, Placemaking, One Region Forward – but this one was flawed! ECHDC’s plan will harm the ecosystem! The effort wouldn’t, of course, be complete without noted civic horror Donn Esmonde weighing in, complete with allusion to “lighter, faster, cheaper” from the Placemaking rip-off

So, what could they possibly be planning? Singapore-on-the-Lake? An endless sea of Waterfront Villages? A suburban office park surrounded by parking, like Larkinville? 

Nope, this. This is what they’re planning.  

I don’t know about you, but there’s a lot of green on that rendering. Looks like Times Beach’s ecosystem is preserved. Most of the construction would be in small clusters, away from the shore.  

There are plenty of things to be outraged about in Buffalo. These two don’t seem to be among them. 

SolarCity and its Impact

3 Oct

A lot has been written in the past week or so about the SolarCity project in South Buffalo. A lot of it has to do with OMG THAT’S LIKE $300k PER JOB. It’s being sold as an excessive investment for dubious return.

Here’s something to consider: the state of New York is not paying a subsidy to SolarCity. Under its contract, SolarCity will create approximately 3,600 brand-new high-paying jobs in Buffalo alone.  In order to do that, the state is buying the equipment that SolarCity will use to manufacture its products, and building the factory facility. The state will own it all.

While it’s well within the populist fashion of the times to decry public-private partnerships such as these – especially given examples where the private beneficiaries fail to uphold their end of the job-creation bargain with impunity – the simple fact is that municipalities compete with each other for this type of project, and Buffalo needs to be able to compete. 

It’s not just about 3,600 jobs. It’s about the economic activity that each one of those well-paying jobs generates

Let’s backtrack for a second and talk about supply-side/trickle-down theory versus demand-side/trickle-up; I believe in the latter and not the former. 30+ years ago the country started a grand experiment, simply put that lowering the tax burden on the very wealthy would result in them amassing more wealth, and that this would “trickle down” to the economy-at-large and create great wealth for everyone. It was what George H.W. Bush in 1980 called “Voodoo Economics”. Yet the country has stuck with this notion that easing the tax and regulatory burden on the rich would bring about great things for the middle and working classes. It simply didn’t happen. In fact, the working poor stayed that way, and the middle classes have borne the brunt of this experiment in terms of less pay for more work. 

Think of it this way – we heard a great deal in the last few Presidential elections about the vaunted “job creators” – these magical John Galts who have amassed great success and wealth and who demand less regulation and more tax relief (and none of this “Obamacare” nonsense) in order to … well, it gets a bit fuzzy at this point. 

It gets fuzzy because lax regulations have simply led to poor oversight and environmental catastrophes like the chemical spill in West Virginia last year. Arguably, the public cost in money and suffering that resulted from that disaster far exceeded the cost properly to inspect and enforce health and safety regulations in the first place. 

But with respect to the ultra-wealthy “job creators” in this country – let’s say I have a fortune of $150 million. With that sort of money, my opportunity to participate in the economy is limitless. Many of the people with this sort of money pay a fraction of a percent of their income to the authorities as compared to the nut you and I pay, because the tax code is designed by these people to help these people. Let’s say, instead, that I actually earn a paycheck rather than amass a fortune through inheritance or investment, and that I make $4 million per year. Technically, I’m supposed to pay 35% or so of that money to the IRS, but through creative accounting and other loopholes, we can whittle that down substantially. But even if, hypothetically, I paid the full 35% nut to the feds, I’m still bringing home $2.6 million. What does that mean, in terms of the trickle-down theory? That I won’t get a Maybach and instead opt for an S600? That I’ll have to cut back on my NetJets account? Seriously, what is it about $2.6 million versus, say $3.4 million that will adversely affect my ability to spend? Whether you earn $2.6 or $3.4 million, you’re making all the money in the world and you can buy anything you need, and everything you want. 

By contrast, if you put an extra few thousand dollars in the pocket of someone who’s working class or middle class, you just added a new appliance, or a better car, or a nicer vacation. By giving tax relief to the middle class, you can suddenly give average people more freedom to participate in the economy, and they’ll spend it – everyone benefits.  We could simplify the tax code tomorrow and the economy would skyrocket. OK, everyone earning over $500,000 pays 35% straight up, regardless of income source – paycheck or capital gains. Anyone making $200 – 500k pays 25% straight-up. Anyone making $100k – 200k pays 17%. 50k – 100k, you pay 10%, and if you earn less than 50k you pay zero.  Add a VAT and you’ve just funded universal health care. 

But I digress. 

The state’s investment of $350 million from the Buffalo Billion and $400 million in conditional loans (payable if SolarCity does not meet milestones and goals as set forth in the agreement), will result in a massive trickle-up boost to the local economy.  You will have 3,600 households suddenly better able to afford to participate in the local economy, buying goods and services throughout the region. And let’s not forget that SolarCity has contracted to invest $5 billion in this project over the first 10 years, we’re not looking at some sort of idiotic handout. 

Although 3,600 jobs will be here in WNY, there will be 5,000 SolarCity jobs created throughout upstate New York.

Now, witness what some are now trying to peddle. Namely, local embarrassment Carl Paladino. Here’s an excerpt from an anti-Cuomo, pro-Astorino email he sent Thursday: 

Aside from the misspellings and factual inaccuracies (read: lies), Paladino claims that Texas doesn’t subsidize or incentivize businesses moving to Texas. Well, not every business wants to locate in an overheated place that doesn’t spend money on infrastructure or education.  But the idea that Texas doesn’t do economic incentives is simply a lie.  It takes a few simple clicks of the Google machine to find the Texas website where its incentives and subsidies are set forth. Now, Paladino would have you think that Musk went to Texas simply because it’s an overheated, be-rednecked Galt’s Gulch, right? Wrong

In Texas, Musk said the outpouring of support from local residents and government officials — who are supporting the project with at least $15.3 million in state funding — was significant: “We want to be in a place where we’re truly wanted,” he said.

By the way, Elon Musk – the guy in charge of SolarCity – recently located his SpacePort in Texas, but located his Tesla battery plant in Nevada. Part of the reason? Nevada’s business climate is more liberal than Texas‘. Also, Nevada and Texas competed against each other to land the Gigafactory, and Nevada’s package of $1.25 billion in tax breaks and incentives beat whatever Texas’ proposal was

The deal with SolarCity is different. The state (via SUNY) will own the factory and equipment, and SolarCity will be allowed to use it – for free – for 10 years. This will create 3,500 local high-tech jobs; 21st century jobs. Again – SolarCity will be investing $5 billion of its own money. If they don’t live up to their promises, SolarCity will be up to $412 million in debt to the state.  SolarCity maintains a big chunk of the risk, and isn’t getting a direct cash subsidy. 

Over 3,500 new, high-paying local jobs and all the economic activity that each one of those jobs generates is huge for this region. This is a big risk and a big expense, but you don’t undo 50 years of decline through recklessness or fear. 

Carl Being Carl

24 Sep

Courtesy Marquil at EmpireWire.com

It was a cool evening; cool in the sense of temperature as much as atmosphere. The sun had just set and the cloudless sky was turning a lovely shade of dark blue, with a disappearing tinge of orange on the horizon. 

I pulled my car into a spot about a block down from the Dinosaur BBQ on Franklin Street to attend the City & State “welcome to Buffalo” party. The New York-based paper had just hired a Buffalo reporter, and it was hosting a celebration. 

As I walked up Franklin, I ran into County Executive Mark Poloncarz, who was rushing to get to a dinner at Bacchus with bigwigs from a local utility company. I saw Buffalo Rising’s Newell Nussbaumer and said hello. As I approached the Dinosaur, I saw Mike Desmond from WBFO speaking with City & State Editor-in-Chief Morgan Pehme and Chris Thompson – Pehme’s new Buffalo hire. 

After a while, a very slim, dapper gentleman from the statewide office of AARP came by to chat with Pehme and Desmond. He mentioned that Erie County had the 9th oldest population in the country. 

Right around that time, I caught a glimpse of a black BMW X5 across Franklin. It stopped to let out City & State President & CEO Tom Allon and G. Stephen Pigeon. Allon is a tall, bespectacled man who looks like he stepped right out of a Brooks Brothers catalogue. I introduced myself to both men. Pigeon shook my hand. Understandably, he wasn’t especially warm and friendly to me, but behaved like a gracious adult. They went inside. 

At this moment, the BMW had made a u-turn and parked, halfway in a spot, in front of the Dinosaur BBQ. Out comes Carl Paladino, and he is smiling and gesturing at me as if I was someone he was happy to see. He came around the car and was being gregarious and friendly with everyone. As we both extended hands to shake in greeting, I hesitated and said, “you don’t like me. I’m Alan Bedenko”.

At this he recoiled and inquired whether I was fucking serious. When I answered in the affirmative, he took a step or two back to tell me that I’m “a real fucking asshole, you know that?”  I replied that yes, indeed, I am, as I grinned from ear to ear.  He went on to berate me as a “disgrace” and a “fucking coward”.  I continued smiling as this old man angrily spat expletives at me on a sidewalk, in front of people, on a cool Buffalo night. He then went inside in disgust, informing the people with whom I was chatting that he would not speak to them while they were talking to an asshole like me. It was surreal. 

I continued speaking with Mr. AARP guy, Pehme and Desmond before going inside to check the event out.  I met Erie County Legislator Joe Lorigo, who is a nice fellow even if his politics are all wrong. I like that he recognizes that the legislature is – and should be – a deliberative legislative body, and the role he plays in it.  I saw his dad, too, but we didn’t get a chance to speak. I spoke with lobbyist Jack O’Donnell and met his lovely wife, Marina. It was O’Donnell’s birthday, evidently, and Pehme led the gathering in a round of “Happy Birthday”.  There was even cake. 

I spoke at some length with Camille Brandon, fresh off a primary loss in her Assembly race. While we were chatting, Paladino passed behind me and said hello to her, but indicated that he would speak to her later when “that asshole” was gone.  She later found me and said Carl had asked her why she was speaking to that “asshole”. He was entering Mean Girls territory. 

I saw Jim Heaney and Dan Telvock of Investigative Post, and Justin Sondel from the Niagara Gazette.  I spoke briefly with @HeyRaChaCha from Twitter, and we talked about all the fascinating people who were there. 

As I spoke with Sondel and Mark Cornell from Poloncarz’s office about hydrofracking and Niagara County journalism, Pehme and Allon took to the stage to thank everyone for coming to the event.  Evidently, Paladino was a sponsor of the event because he, too, took the mic.  He welcomed City & State to Buffalo, adding that it was about time Buffalo got some real journalism up in here. He added that Buffalo media had too many “worms like Alan Bedenko”, expressing surprise and dismay as to how I even got into this event, to which I had been invited. 

Of all the elected officials, journalists, and dignitaries who filled that room, only one name was mentioned – mine, spat out by Buffalo’s favorite son – a walking, talking insult billboardatorium

Oh, how delightful this all was. I don’t think you’ve really arrived in Buffalo until you’ve been viciously cursed out by Carl Paladino.

What have I done to this man, except tell the truth about him? His sordid racist emails? His failed candidacy? The horrible things that come from his mouth? This guy is the personification of dishing it out but not being able to take it. (Mr. Tea Party is hanging out with Steve Pigeon, now?) What have I done, except be one of the few not in thrall of his money or perceived power? He hides behind his money, hurling misogyny, homophobia, and invective from emails and billboards, but I’m the coward?  I mean, I never circulated anal horse pornography, but that’s just not my thing. 

What’s with the hate and anger? Here he is, a millionaire in his $70,000 truck, being feted and paid attention to by all sorts of VIPs from not just the region, but throughout the state, but he’s got to take especial time to attempt – and fail – to insult me from the stage at the Dinosaur BBQ at someone else’s event. How great is that

Almost everyone said it was “just Carl being Carl”. It was, indeed.  That is, of course, the problem, but he’s attained folk hero status and can get away with just about anything, and the list of “cowards” who are willing to call him on it is regrettably short these days. There’s a fine line between being a straight talker and the state of being “Carl”. 

As for me, it was one of the proudest nights of my life; a story to remember. I make it a point to never knowingly do business with Carl Paladino, and I didn’t touch a drop of liquid or morsel of food that he underwrote at the event. 

Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which spitefully use you, and persecute you. – Matthew 5:44.