Tag Archives: fail

Maelstrom: Mallia Out

1 Jun

The phenomenal anti-Collins Republican Maelstrom blog is reporting that Michael L. Mallia, the Republican Fonzie / Jane Corwin Assembly Chief of Staff is resigning his post.

Corwin will wear her weak defense of Mallia for many months and will endure the whispers of other Assemblymen and women behind her back. They all know that a Chief of Staff of a sitting Assemblywomen does not quit at 5 o’clock as Corwin claimed. A Chief of Staff must be available at all hours, as the Assemblywoman and other elected state officials are. Not to mention the fact Mallia was obviously working for Corwin and her campaign when the video was recorded otherwise Langworthy would not have immediately posted it on the official Republican Party YouTube website.

Had this happened on or about May 12th, after Mallia’s video ricocheted back into her campaign’s face, Corwin may have had a better shot in the special election.

Now? the video has been removed from the ECGOP YouTube stream. Only people who have the code can view it. What was once a source of excitement and pride is now a symbol of utter failure.

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The Embodiment of Buffalo

27 Apr

Cities have and need symbols. Chicago has the Sears tower; San Francisco twisting streets and trolley cars. New York City was shaken by the 9/11 attacks not simply because thousands died, but because a main symbol of the city fell. Our recently vanquished hockey opponents (I’m still in denial, and like this version better) have a bell for their past, and the Rocky theme, complete with jogging montage up the famous steps, for their present.

What is Buffalo’s symbol? That is an honest question I’d like to hear your answer to. A simple, superficial answer might be a main building, as I chose for Chicago or New York. But we know this city far more intimately, so I think we can do better (and I am sure the residents of Chicago or New York would pick differently themselves). So answer a slightly different, deeper question: what embodies Buffalo 2011?

Let me suggest a few of the potentially more popular answers. Is it an architectural masterpiece, like the Darwin Martin House, showing how we celebrate the future by restoring the past? Is it the Broadway Market, emblematic of our cultural, ethnic, and religious roots? Is it the chicken wing? Niagara Falls? An art festival or Taste of Buffalo? Or perhaps this picture:

I verge towards the cynical when addressing “Progress” in Buffalo, and I have a few more sarcastic and conceptual options. Is it our massive phallus shaped City Hall, ironically over-big for a shrinking population, both in terms of its own sheer physical infrastructure requiring maintenance and also symbolic of our ineffective, over-sized layers of government (regionally). Is it the Wide Right kick or Hull’s No Goal – we get close, but never quite succeed? Is it BERC, adrift since the small time corruption scandal involving the One Sunset restaurant? Is it the American side of Niagara Falls, a comparative wasteland in the shadow of the mighty Canadian tourism machine? For many at this site, the obvious answer is the Canalside failure – we can’t get out of our own way to just build something nice people would want to visit, with hundreds of millions of dollars in hand.

Passing on all those answers, I think I have the perfect choice (other than the Butter Lamb Sabres logo), embodying all of Buffalo as it stands today: the ruin of the Fairmont Creamery.

No single structure in Buffalo combines as many hopes and failures, or as much political pettiness and small time crumb-scraping, as that poor abandoned building, passed daily by tens of thousands on a main highway artery. A gutted, century-old eight-story brick warehouse, it would be at home nearly anywhere within the city, discarded like much of our industry and left to rot. It is bounded on four sides by an over-large highway, the newish Elk Lofts, rotting steel of a potential casino, and parking lots, each of which individually could have been chosen as a potential symbol of Buffalo themselves. The former Creamery also lies proximate to HSBC Arena, the stagnant Canalside, and the Cobblestone “District” (two streets and three bars does not make a destination), all in their time touted as indicative of Buffalo’s bright future. Sandwiched as it is between the symbol of Buffalo’s population growth and renewal strategy  (loft living), our infrastructure built for a city of twice the size (highway), and the epitome of the power of the lawsuit by the few to stop the development for the many (casino), it could not lie in a better geographic location for selection in the poll, or for actual redevelopment itself. And yet it waits, like all of Buffalo, for market conditions to be right for investment. Will it be lofts itself? A hotel? Retail and offices? All of the above? We wait to find out, as we could ask the same question for much of shovel-ready and investment-ready Buffalo.

Even more than the physical characteristics, the political and philosophical conceits surrounding this building make the case for Buffalo 2011 embodiment. Owned by the largest real estate developer in Buffalo (and former embarrassment of a gubernatorial candidate), it’s current chief use is as holder of a billboard advertising an Inside Baseball political dispute with the publisher of the city’s dying newspaper, a rivalry the average citizen could care less about, and yet forced to endure as is occasionally spread across the front page by muck-raker style. Meanwhile, the property itself is the subject of legal action and incurs uncollectable fines for unenforced building code violations that the owner has the clout or simple will to ignore.

When the Fairmont Creamery is finally redeveloped, and cannibalizes tenants from other housing, retail or commercial real estate to fill, it will do so using a variety of tax incentives and grants to make the project economically viable. Then the care-taker mayor will hold a news conference, claim credit or victory, and hail the investment as yet another sign on the city’s rebirth. And we will all praise the news, without the perspective that many other cities have a Fairmont Creamery of their own, have already redeveloped it, and our having finally done so ourselves only brings us closer to average.

Mayor Brown, No Orange For You

18 Apr

As the Sabres-Flyers NHL Playoff series shifts to Buffalo for games three and four, today Mayor Byron Brown declared the lobby of City Hall a “No Orange (Flyers) Zone”. To emphasize the point, the Mayor has hung a banner with those words in the lobby of City Hall.

 

Before the series began, Mayor Brown said he was not going to wear or eat anything orange during the series. Evidently, this doesn’t include neckties.  The Mayor picked the Sabres to win the series in six games.

Tea Party Taxes and Ersatz Paywalls

11 Apr

Dear Tea Party “Leaders”:

It’s sort of silly to complain about your taxes (especially your federal taxes) if you don’t bother to pay them. Also, relying on the expert legal advice of “crazy guy with website” is likely going to get you in trouble.

Love, BP

Dear Buffalo News:

When the Tweet linking to the story linked-to above was first sent, the entire article was present on the website. I read it. Now, it’s only an excerpt, and urges me to buy the paper. Well, the paper is off newsstands now, but the article remains excerpted. Your attempt to get me to buy the paper by withholding certain articles from the website is dumb. It’s 2011, and while the New York Times is getting pilloried for its sieve-like paywall, your clumsy ersatz paywall is stupid and serves not to make me want to rush out and buy the paper, but instead makes me either angry (idiots won’t let me read it!) or ambivalent (must not have been that important).

Love, BP

Six Sigma = Efficient!

22 Mar

Yesterday,

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but the press release couldn’t be posted to the county’s website.  Why?

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Verizon Withdraws Plans For Niagara County Datacenter

17 Mar

Click to embiggen

Plans for a $4,500,000,000 Verizon data center in Somerset, NY were withdrawn today and the project canceled.  Verizon notified Niagara County Industrial Development Agency officials that the company intended to build the data center in another state.

The company planned to spend $500MM to build 900,000 square feet of data center space on land currently owned by AES Power.   The data centers would have been filled with up to $3.4 billion worth of equipment over the 20-year life of the facility. Combined with land, utilities and other costs, the project represented a total investment of about $4.5 billion.  The project, originally proposed to begin in November of 2010, but held up in legal proceedings, was to be rolled out in phases.

  • Phase 1 equipment, 2011-13, $640 million.
  • Phase 2 equipment, 2014-15, $800 million.
  • Phase 3 equipment, 2016-21, $2 billion.
  • Equipment maintenance and miscellaneous, $500 million.

Verizon planned to build three two-story data centers on the 17-acre property, each with about 300,000 square feet of space. The company also planned a 20,000-square-foot administration building, two substations for backup power and a glass-walled pavilion which would have been used as a conference center.  In exchange for absorbing the land acquisition and construction costs, Verizon was seeking tax incentives in the form of a 20-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) arrangement, estimated at $330 million over the life of the agreement. Verizon was also seeking grants from the Empire State Development Corporation and the New York Power Authority. Verizon claimed a minimum of 200 people would have been employed at the site with an average annual salary of $80,000.  Construction of the site would have also brought several hundred construction jobs during the various phases of the project buildout.

Verizon was attracted to the region based on several advantages for data center operations, including the ability to use fresh-air cooling (major cost savings) virtually year round and green, renewable power available from the Niagara Power Project.  The Verzion data center would have had a similar footprint and design to the Yahoo! data center in nearby Lockport, NY.

A company wanted to invest $4.5 Billion into our local economy and suddenly changed their mind.  So, you might be asking yourself at this point, WHA HAPPEN?!?! Why did Verizon cancel this project?  Was it the unfriendly business climate fostered by New York State that caused the change of heart?  No, it was one lady and her lawyer.

Mary Ann Rizzo, an elderly woman who resides in Amherst, but owns property across from the proposed data center, retained professional legal obstructionist attorney Arthur Giacalone to stop the project.  She was not demanding changes to the project, she did not want issues remediated, she intended to stop the project and force it to relocate to another area of Niagara County.  She was seeking to preserve the “rustic charm” of this strip of state road bordered by a coal fired power plant and a food processing facility.

See, data centers aren’t objectively bad, just data centers across from her property.

Her initial legal claim was dismissed by Acting State Supreme Court Justice Matthew Murphy back in January, but Rizzo and her attorney appealed that decision.  Giacalone used a common tactic in proceedings like this called “perfecting the appeal“, utilizing the maximum time to file appeals and paperwork to delay the hearings.  The hope is that the delay would force the defendant to simply drop the project in question.  Verizon filed to expedite the appeal process, a judge declined to expedite and five days later, Verizon decided to cancel the project and presumably move it to their second choice location, Laramie, WY.  Giacalone’s plan worked.

State Senator George Maziarz appeared with Brad Riter on WECK1230 AM today to give the eulogy for what would have been an awesome project for WNY.

Since Rizzo doesn’t currently live on the property, what is found at the location?  Well, Judge Murphy noted in his review of her claim that the structures on her property are a dilapidated shack and a garage-type structure and that there is no certificate of occupancy for either structure.

So, welcome to Western New York where the eccentric, selfish dickhead infection has reached epic fucking proportions.  Seriously, one person, who doesn’t even live near the site in question can stop a $4.5 BILLION development?  What in the holy rolling fuck is wrong with the people in this god damned region?  200 permanent jobs, 500-600 construction jobs and hundreds of potential jobs from supporting vendors were killed because of the whims of one person?

Verizon laying fiber optic lines, dragging power out to the lake, and making a 20 year commitment to the region has so many ancillary benefits, it’s almost immeasurable.  Verizon and Yahoo! building massive data centers in WNY, which utilize our hydropower and favorable climate conditions would have been an anchor for future job growth and corporate investment.  But hey, who cares about that when we’re preserving rustic charm, right?

I guess we’ll keep leaning on the marketing power generated by our short commutes and plethora of locally owned urban tsotchke shops to return Buffalo and WNY to national economic relevance.

Fuck.

Quick Thoughts

16 Mar

Do Not Be Alarmed - this most likely isn't going to happen (http://www.snopes.com/photos/technology/fallout.asp)

It’s time for another article of thoughts that haven’t yet seen enough yeast to grow into their own columns. The unifying thread? SuperFAIL:

1) President Obama has some unfortunate energy policy timing, advocating increased off-shore drilling prior to the massive Gulf oil spill, and nuclear energy before the continuing disaster in Japan. Not that he is to blame – we are short on energy solutions that are not destructive at normal levels, and catastrophic on the extremes. Irresponsible natural gas exploration is contaminating Pennsylvania, the Canadians are destroying Alberta to free oil from tar sands, and there is nothing practical available to replace them. Hard to move to renewables like wind when our local turbines sit idle far more than they spin. Investment is the only pragmatic strategy if we want an environmentally sustainable energy policy: lots of money to regulate current energy industries to follow existing environmental laws, scraping and reworking from scratch our subsidy system to stop picking winner and losers and instead peg commodities to their true total cost, and basic science investment in research and future technologies. Don’t expect to hear any of that in the near future.

2) The census is complete, so it’s redistricting time, in Erie County and at the state level. In Erie County, the commission to redraw legislative districts, consolidating from 15 to 11, met for the first time. As Artvoice reports, the main topic of conversation was how much to do before data on population counts are actually available. In Buffalo’s petty rice bowl politics, the underlying question is who wins and who loses. Geoff Kelly believes no one wins except Ray Walter. Which is another way of saying, we’re all winning.

On the New York State front, the debate in the GOP controlled Senate is whether to change the constitution to mandate impartial redistricting (a plan with an 11 year delay), do a legislative patch now, or both. So far, only the Republicans and Citizens Union, an independent reform lobby, have weighed in. The Democratic controlled Assembly still has a chance to weigh in with traditional partisan redistricting, and screw up this Good Government push. But if these are the only options presented, we’re winning here too. (And this is the only non-FAIL you will see in this column.) 

3) It’s about to be construction season, and WNYMedia’s own intrepid Andrew Kulyk is filling in well on development watch for Mark Brynes, on prolonged sabbatical. What to watch for in 2011?!?! Not much an Canalside, unless you count a little more decking and bike racks as construction. Work on anything requiring an excavator will wait til the Fall. Also watch for an again delayed Federal Courthouse, that not only bears no resemblance to its graphic sales pitch, but is now rotting from the inside. Speaking of rotting, the steel beams of the Casino are rusting away, and may need to come down, even if a permanent complex is eventually built. Finally, if you are looking for hope, don’t look at the Statler – based upon past divisions between Croce and the Mayor, expect summer fights over the $5 million promised to help rehab the lower levels in time for the Convention That Will Save Buffalo.

Jack, We Don’t Like You

11 Mar

Monroe Rising: Complete Lee Silence #NY26

25 Feb

Epic Fail.

It’s now been several weeks since Congressman Chris Lee embarrassed himself and resigned, all in one day.

You may be familiar with Monroe Rising, which is the (one of? who knows) wingnut blog that covers the Rochester area.  For years, they’ve been dutiful regurgitators of Lee press releases and reliable supporters of the well-coiffed, yet sartorially challenged former Congressman.

I am a registered user at Monroe Rising, and have now submitted two benign comments to this article inquiring why they completely ignored the Lee scandal, never mentioned the Lee resignation, never wrote a solitary word about the fact that a portion of Monroe County finds itself unrepresented in Congress due to a sex scandal. That linked-to article is their first mention of NY-26 since Lee’s departure.

The image above shows you what I see when I go to their site; if you aren’t logged in, there are no comments. Note the “No User Responded” heading.

Now, I’m no one to slam someone for being a partisan blogger, but when a huge scandal breaks in quite literally your own congressional backyard, I think you lose a massive amount of credibility by completely ignoring it, as if it never happened.  They were perfectly pleased as punch to report on former Congressman Eric Massa’s own sexual ethical issues, so why does Chris Lee get a complete pass?  Hell, even the local Buffalo Republican bloggers wrote something about it.

Two separate requests for comment sent to the owner of the site have gone unanswered.  I guess Chris Lee only exists when he’s not scandal-ridden.

Fail.

Only Accidental Success

26 Jan

Will you join me in a little mental exercise? Try to think of a successful major development, in the City of Buffalo in the last five years, that was the Mayor’s idea. Do you have any yet? Any grand scheme Mayor Brown proposed, and didn’t just take credit for at the ribbon-cutting? Any plans conceived of, or implemented by, his office? How about the Common Council? Any new ideas from there? Yeah, I can’t think of any either.

Okay, let’s try this instead. I’ll name (arguably) the biggest four positive recent develops in Buffalo, and tell me if the Mayor had anything to do with them: M&T’s and First Niagara’s rise to make Buffalo a national banking power, the redevelopment of the Larkin District, establishment of Buffalo as a top sports hosting city (NCAA Basketball Tourney, Empire State Games and the World Juniors in one year ain’t bad), and the creation of the surging Medical Campus. Was the Mayor involved at all? Not that any of us can tell.

In fact, it is only when one considers the two biggest development FAIL stories of the last year, the inability to create momentum at Canalside and the Statler fiasco, that you find the Mayor’s and Common Council’s fingerprints.

I don’t think its too much to ask for the Mayor of a city the size of Buffalo to have some vision for the future, some direction he (or she) wants to lead us to, some policy that will meet some desired end state. Buffalo is not exactly rudderless. There are people here who have plans. They just aren’t elected politicians.

Bob Wilmers and John Koelmel have a plan, and were recently validated by industry experts that Buffalo is the new Charlotte (ironic, since Charlotte is full of the old-Buffalo). Doug Swift and Howard Zemsky have a plan at the Larkin District, and after single handedly reviving a couple square blocks, additional private capital is flooding in. The Convention and Visitor’s Bureau may be underfunded, but they made attracting sports (and the tourists who travel to attend them) a goal, and have several years worth of success to point to. James Kaskie at Kaleida and John Simpson at UB have a plan, and there is $500M in new construction and 30 bio-tech companies in the Medical Corridor. Jim Allen, President of the Amherst IDA, who Chris Smith recently interviewed, has a plan. Hell, even PUSH, MAP and Urban Roots have plans, and localized impacts. The Mayor has no plan, and no vision.

Let me provide one small example, one tiny crumb where he could show leadership. The battle over Erie County arts and cultural funding is completely out of proportion with the size of the budget line – $4 or $5 Million, depending on which side you are on. Ironically, nearly every cultural cut out of county funding is in the City of Buffalo. Meanwhile, the disgraced Buffalo Economic Renaissance Corp is sitting in limbo, not handing out grants for nearly a year, while its staff still collects a paycheck and twiddles its thumbs. It takes about twelve seconds of thought and half an ounce of leadership to convert the BERC into a new Buffalo Arts Fund. BERC has $40M in assets and could hand out $5M a year. That would double local governmental arts funding, and if the arts are such a development driver (as its supporters purport), then plenty of economic renaissance should be happening too. Don’t worry, there are plenty of other ways for companies to get government hand outs, and all BERC used to fund were restaurants and barber shops anyway.

Will the Mayor propose this? No. Will the Mayor reform BERC into a true economic development tool? I doubt it. Will the Mayor craft, announce, promote and drive a vision of Buffalo’s future? Will the Mayor lead? Don’t hold your breath.

Author’s Note: As astute and regular readers have already noticed, starting today I will be writing two columns weekly, instead of my normal three. My new schedule is a political or development column on Wednesday, and an ETU outdoors column on Sunday. Never fear, this is only temporary! I am in the throes of finishing my first book and need a little extra time and mental energy as I come down to the sticking point. If all goes according to plan, the book will be finished this summer, and my normal three-a-week schedule will resume then.