Tag Archives: ECC North

ECC Follow-up

11 Feb

A coda of sorts to the ECC piece I did yesterday

  • – Transportation and alleged “remoteness” are the chief complaints that the anti-STEM-in-Williamsville people provide to prove their point. It, therefore, follows that improved transportation is the cheapest and most effective solution. 
  • – The opposition to expanding North Campus and including STEM is being led by a coalition of political and activist forces – not by ECC students themselves. Although ECC North is the oldest and main campus in the entire system, and although it accommodates the most students – the majority of whom are suburbanites – (correction: about 400 more students at North are from Buffalo than from the suburbs. However, a heat map shown on page 41 of the report designating North as the best location for the STEM building shows that most of these Buffalo kids live near the border with Amherst and Cheektowaga – around Cayuga and Wehrle and remarkably close to the North Campus. Thank you to David Steele from Buffalo Rising for pointing this out) the people bankrolling this have an ulterior motive. It’s unclear what that is, but it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine developers salivating over a large tract of available land between Main, Youngs, and Wehrle in “remote” Williamsville, by the airport and I-90. 
  • – Erie County loses $5.3 million every year in chargebacks to neighboring counties. That’s for Erie County kids who, for some reason, choose to attend community college in Niagara, Genesee, or elsewhere. 
  • – Community Colleges uniformly serve commuters. They are generally located as conveniently as possible to serve all commuters, not just some. For instance, Westchester’s is in Valhalla. Genesee’s is on the outskirts of the town of Batavia. Monroe County’s is outside the I-390 loop, between Brighton and Henrietta. Albany County doesn’t have one
  • – I was wrong yesterday – NFTA doesn’t run the shuttle bus. The people who attend ECC pay a transportation fee covering parking and an NFTA pass. So, we don’t have to improve a shuttle bus, but implement one that’s dedicated for these students, much like UB operates between its South and North campuses. 

ECC: Reduce and Solve the Obvious Problem

10 Feb

I’m a big believer that problems and issues should, whenever possible, be boiled down and distilled to their simplest and most concentrated form. 

So, when we’re talking about the multimillion-dollar investment in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) program at Erie Community College’s North Campus (in Williamsville, at Main and Youngs), I have a threshold question about the seriousness and sincerity of the people agitating to halt it, and move the whole lot downtown.  

So, distillation time. 

1. It’s not an argument about the quality of education.  Not one person is saying that building STEM in Williamsville, or expanding the North Campus is going to have a harmful effect on education at any of the three ECC campuses. 

2. It’s not an argument about whether we need STEM or not.  Everyone agrees that it’s a swell idea. 

3. It’s not an argument about the North Campus being somehow inadequate to handle the program. 

4. It’s not an argument about the North Campus not needing improvements.

Every single argument has to do with location, location, location.  They want the entire campus to be in downtown Buffalo.  

The statistics, taking the opponents’ word for it, show that about 47% of ECC students live in the City of Buffalo, and that only about 25% of ECC enrollees attend classes downtown.  The “move it downtown” people argue that it is much more convenient for city kids to attend STEM-hosted programs at a downtown location, because of the better public transportation connections. 

Over My Dead Body” is a wildly disproportionate reaction to an ECC plan to expand its northern campus to accommodate a multimillion dollar health and medical training center. A group of people with dubious connections to ECC itself, called “Young Citizens for ECC”, was created specifically to oppose any expansion in the ECC suburban campuses, and to concentrate all spending and programs in a consolidated downtown campus. 

There are some good points to be discussed regarding bringing health training downtown, near the medical campus. Well, sort of near the medical campus – more specifically, across downtown from the medical campus. But one of the things I always like to address is hyperbole and needless falsehoods in advocacy

Young Citizens for ECC wants to same thing Erie Community College does. We want to link our region’s young people with emerging fields in the health sciences and prepare Buffalo for a 21st-century economy. We can’t do that by making educational opportunities inaccessible, especially to people who depend on public transit. ECC needs to focus on creating stronger linkages to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, which we believe will help re-brand the college, attract top talent, and prepare our region for the jobs of tomorrow.

Inaccessible. 

Not satisfied with that ridiculous charge, at least one opponent of an expansion of the North Campus refers to it as “remote”. Located between Main and Wehrle, near Youngs in Williamsville; close to the extremely busy Main & Transit corridor, it might be many things, but “remote” is not one of them. ECC North is about 13 miles from downtown Buffalo; take Metro Rail out to UB South, and then the 48 Bus directly to ECC North. It takes about an hour to commute there from downtown via public transportation, but it’s completely within reason. Of course, ECC doesn’t just accommodate students from Buffalo’s neighborhoods, but also students from throughout western New York, including neighboring counties. 

Note that Niagara County Community College isn’t in Lockport, North Tonawanda, or Niagara Falls, but sort of in the middle of nowhere.  And it draws in kids from Erie County’s northtowns – for every Erie County kid who attends NCCC, Erie County has to pay Niagara County, and vice-versa. 

The ECC Board of Trustees has pointed out that the ECC City campus is the most costly and least efficient to operate. This should be taken into account, considering the public nature of the college. 

The college didn’t pick Williamsville for its expansion to stick it to the city. According to Business First, the choice was made after an extensive (and expensive) review undertaken by a consultant retained by ECC for this project. (Here is the study itself)

Deputy County Executive Richard Tobe said other efforts endorsed by County Executive Mark Poloncarz, including the manufacturing institute championed by the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council, are based in Buffalo.

“A lot is going on in the City of Buffalo, including a lot of money that the county spent on ECC in recent years,” Tobe said. “We intend to continue to upgrade the city campus along with improvements to the other two campuses.”

He said the county received a letter from critics of the Amherst campus plan and is responding to it.

ECC President Jack Quinn said the college will take part in the debate going forward but won’t be swayed from the current focus.

“We’re very comfortable with the JMZ study,” he said. “It was deliberate, objective and expensive. As far as reconsidering any major themes? Probably not.”

And wouldn’t part of the equation include: where are ECC’s students enrolled? 

The consultant, JMZ Architects and Planners, has come back with a recommendation to build on the North Campus, based on several factors, including the availability of land and parking; the need to improve the condition of the aging campus; and the fact that North has the highest enrollment of the three ECC campuses.

“This should put to bed the question, ‘Where’s the best location,’ ” Poloncarz said Tuesday.

So, at this point you’re yelling at me – so what? Just because they’re enrolled at North doesn’t mean they want to be there! Plus, 47% of enrollees live in the city! Well, the problem is that ECC North is plagued with a dreary campus, made up of a cluster of buildings reminiscent of 70s-era DMVs. Kids haven’t been flocking to ECC’s gorgeous adaptive reuse of an old downtown post office, but instead they’ve gone to Niagara County

The college first raised the issue of a new building around 2010 and set its sights on the North Campus at Main Street and Youngs Road, which consists of eight buildings constructed in phases between 1953 and the late 1960s.

The college hoped updating the unattractive North Campus would help stem the number of Erie County residents going across the border to attend school at Niagara County Community College.

When that happens, public and private money gets spent in rural Sanborn, to Erie County’s detriment. 

Part of the problem is that this is an ideological battle, rather than a practical one. When the Common Council debated the matter, ECC and the County Executive were not invited to speak on the issue. Living within a bubble of confirmation bias doesn’t always lead to good results. If a discussion is to be had, inflammatory rhetoric and exclusion aren’t the way to go. This past week, rookie county legislator Pat Burke, who represents Cheektowaga and South Buffalo, tried to put the brakes on the STEM expansion in Williamsville.  He was unsuccessful, as the GOP majority, led by Amherst legislator Tom Loughran, blocked debate on the question. 

When in doubt, accuse ECC and the county of racism, but you’re frankly not going to win an argument by calling your opponents names or by shutting them out.  

So, when we finally distill the issue down to its essence, the issue is location and transportation.  Kids in Buffalo – not just ones downtown, but on the east side, west side, North Buffalo – need better access to the various ECC campuses. Kids in the suburbs do, too. So, what is the easiest, least costly, quickest fix to all of this? 

Better dedicated shuttle buses. 

The shuttle buses that the NFTA runs between campuses are unreliable. They don’t run at convenient times. They’re infrequent. They don’t run late enough. 

So, get the NFTA out of the equation and either run or outsource a better system. Get a fleet out on the road to serve all three campuses plus the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. Have some buses stop in the Buffalo neighborhoods that need them most. Run them all the time, and run them late. Give kids a mobile application to use to track the bus locations and times. Run one line between the STEM building and the medical campus on a continuous loop. 

These aren’t expensive or Earth-shattering fixes for a pretty minor problem.  This isn’t a group of kids coming in from outside WNY to live in dorms and hang out in coffee bars; they’re commuters.  They likely have jobs and families here.  Recognizing that not all of these students have cars or gas money, give them a better transportation network, and everybody wins. 

#Sloppery

6 Feb

1. The problems with the Sochi Olympics are myriad and sundry, but most of the mockery has been centered on the general shoddiness and unpreparedness of it all. Not to mention safety concerns. What people don’t get is that Russia is not a functioning nation-state, and doesn’t have anything in its long history that comes within miles of the “customer service” concept. Indeed, Russia’s only functioning economic sectors are “corruption” and “graft”, with “gangsterism” close behind. Putin’s portrait on the front desk of one of the unready local hotels speaks volumes. 

It has forever been a feudal kingdom run first by imperial gentry, then by communist nomenklatura, and now by a hybrid kleptocracy/autocracy with a fierce nationalist streak that is joined at the hip with its secret police service. The notion that this Russia could get it together to throw together an Olympic games in its current political and economic climate was always absurd. Perhaps a future Russia will do better. 

2. A United Nations human rights panel sharply criticized the Vatican for: 

…systematically adopting policies that permitted priests to sexually abuse tens of thousands of children globally over the last several decades.

The United Nations committee faulted the church for failing to take effective measures to reveal the breadth of clergy sexual abuse in the past, and for not adopting measures to sufficiently protect Catholic children in the future.

“The committee is gravely concerned that the Holy See has not acknowledged the extent of the crimes committed, has not taken the necessary measures to address cases of child sexual abuse and to protect children, and has adopted policies and practices which have led to the continuation of the abuse,” the report said.

The report also criticized the church’s culture of secrecy and longstanding practice of silencing abuse victims in order to protect the reputation of priests and the church’s moral authority worldwide, asserting that the church had systematically placed preservation of the reputation of the church and the alleged offender over the protection of child victims.

This is quite possibly the sharpest and strongest criticism yet of what really amounts to a worldwide criminal conspiracy to protect and cover-up sexual assault perpetrated against children by people in a position of trust and authority who donned a mantle of sanctity and holiness. It is nothing short of sickening. 

3. Much of the criticism of the ECC North STEM expansion is emotional rather than factual. The downtown campus isn’t so much a campus as it is a building, and my curiosity is piqued by the interesting group of people who are most vocal about it, and I’d love to know more about who’s funding these efforts. The fact of the matter is that the health-related expansion is taking place at North campus to (a) effectively compete with NCCC and ensure that students and their money don’t end up in another county; and (b) North has the capacity to most inexpensively support the building. It would seem to me that complaints about the commute to Main & Youngs could be alleviated by an improved, more frequent shuttle bus service between downtown, the medical campus, and ECC North, with longer hours and an app to track bus location, departure, and arrival times. If, as the expansion opponents argue, the real issue is student convenience it would seem as if cheaper, more immediate solutions are at hand. A lawsuit to block the ECC North expansion is great for lawyers, bad for students. 

4. Yesterday, bigshots were in town to announce the creation of 43North, a huge business plan competition that will award $5 million in prizes to the best business plans, with the top idea getting $1 million to get started. The competition is open to anyone in the world over the age of 18.  Winning companies will be required to locate in Buffalo for one year, and will receive not only the cash prizes, but free space. Got an idea? Apply here.  

5. You know how people like Chris Collins are salivating over a CBO report that supposedly concluded that Obamacare will cost 2 million jobs? Chris Collins is one of those plutocrats who think that America only exists to comfort the comfortable and further afflict the afflicted. When Paul Ryan is busy fact-checking your clumsy ass, you’ve really gone down a weird rabbit hole. Next time you see Chris Collins in person (that’s a laugh), ask him why he doesn’t think you and your family deserve health insurance. The CBO didn’t say it would cost 2 million jobs – it said that Americans with newly acquired health insurance coverage would be more free

Obamacare would lead to a decrease in the number of hours worked by up to 2 percent in 2024. Most of that drop, the CBO said, would be the result of Americans choosing not to work, for various reasons, but not because employers would want to hire fewer workers on account of the law. Translate those lost hours into full-time employment and it equals up to 2.5 million jobs by 2024. But that’s not the same as jobs being cut.

6. Speaking of our plutocracy, if you want to see the Koch Brothers’ sausage-making recipe, you’re going to want to click here. What people like the Kochs and other billionaires are plotting is to effectively turn the United States into two distinct countries, divided by class.  Succinctly put, they want to effectively end America as we know it and replace our bourgeois revolution of the late 18th century – a product of the Enlightenment – with some restoration of feudalism. The people on the list that Mother Jones obtained would be the lords and you and I would be, at best, mere vassals. The problem is that they’ve got a compliant media, a wholly owned political party, and a poorly informed tea party army to help move the fight along. 

You know, when the rich unionize to halt taxation and further concentrate their wealth and power, doesn’t that prove the fallacy of supply-side, trickle-down economics which has enthralled and destroyed the country since the early 1980s?