Tag Archives: ideas

TEDx Buffalo 2012

10 Oct

Yesterday, the second annual TEDx Buffalo was held at the Montante Center at Canisius College. It was a day filled with good ideas and inspirational people. The theme of this year’s event was “The World in Our Backyard” – it started literally with amateur astronomer Alan Friedman’s incredible images of our solar system, taken from telescopes and cameras set up in his backyard. Kevin Gardner, the founder of Five Points Bakery, argued that change in the world starts by looking at yourself and making positive changes in your own life. 

Dr. Jonathan Lawrence of Canisius College showed that Buffalo’s population is becoming more diverse, and that we have people and faiths from around the world right here, and he sends his students out to learn about and document others’ traditions. Tom McManus from Kegworks explained how Buffalo is uniquely positioned to be a leader in e-commerce – once set up to do that, a business is literally a global one. Fully 45% of the US population lives within the 2-day package shipment radius of Buffalo, and our proximity to Canada makes importation speedier than reliance on the larger domestic ports. 

Matthew Walter from Oogie Games explained how a dramatic car crash caused him to utter a phrase – “where am I” – that everyone should ask themselves with respect to what they’re doing with their lives – if you don’t like the answer, take needed risks and change something.  Executive Chef James Roberts extolled the virtues of mentorship and how it helps you to improve yourself, to help others, and to organically grow the best staff you could ask for. Our own Chris Smith talked about the July 2011 genesis of his Cash Mobs idea, which is a reverse Groupon that has spread literally throughout the world; a grassroots movement to help local businesses in a tough economy. Joy Kuebler talked about a “pop-up” playground that she helped organize on Buffalo’s East Side. Giving kids tools and materials and asking them to use their imagination to build something to play on, it was incredible to see the results. 

Geoff “DeafGeoff” Herbert, a hearing-impaired DJ, explained how it’s more important to listen than to hear.  Adrienne Bermingham explained how anyone – even the very young can help improve the environment around them through community mapping. Kate Holzemer mesmerized the audience with beautiful, haunting solo renditions of Bach pieces on the viola. 

Interspersed with a selection of videos from the global TED conference and some local iterations, our local speakers were all though-provoking and inspirational in their own ways. They all helped cement the idea that Buffalo and WNY doesn’t exist in some vacuum, insulated from the rest of the world. Instead, even the smallest change, the simplest idea, can have a global and positive impact. 

 

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The Report from TEDx Buffalo

12 Oct

At first blush, one might find it incongruous to hear a series of modern secular lectures under the ever watchful stained glass gaze of the Virgin Mary and an assembled heavenly host. The Montante Center at Canisius College began life as Saint Vincent de Paul Church, a squat romanesque dome filled with decorative tile and narrow purpled windows. Fortunately, after closing both the college and Montante family saw potential its its wide gallery and vaulted space, and now faintly eastern orthodox scroll work shares at the stage with modern acoustic baffles and suspended sound equipment. The old is new, the worthy refreshed, and a local seat of learning has a remarkable space to continue its centuries old Jesuit tradition of inquiry and thought.

What better place for a TED conference?

Buffalo’s first independently organized TED event met yesterday in grand fashion, despite delays and hiccups, some public and some only known to the dedicated volunteers who put on the show. The TED mothership is careful to curate all three groups that come together at any conference: organizers, speakers and attendees. A Who’s Who of the local technology, design and entrepreneur scene spent seventeen months crafting a day of lectures and ideas. The speakers were local and national change agents. The in-house attendees were selected for their ability to effectively broadcast the conference message, or (even better) to put directly into practice the ideas presented in their own industry leading positions. I snuck in the back door.

For a play by play of each speaker or topic, read Frank Gullo’s convenient summaries and link warehouse, or head to Twitter, the official record of the 21st Century. You can read my past feed, or follow the #tedxbuffalo hashtag to catch up. The video was live-streamed by WNYMedia yesterday as well, and the TEDx Buffalo website should have that edited video of each speaker up soon.

So instead of recreating the event, speech by speech, let me try to draw together some themes that emerged. As the organizers picked presenters for their expertise and ideas, and not for each specific topic, much of what was discussed was not deliberately pre-planned. Rather, any trend in the chaos reflects an evolving shared subconscious mindset, a cultural evolution, a collective perspective on the priority of our world’s problems.

The Return of the Small and Local

It is inevitable in our technologically shrunken world that humans would retreat to a cozy focus on the close and small, our brainstem programmed Dunbar Number, in the face of a vast, flattened, and inter-related global economy. That living close and small also has needed environmental and local economic benefits is either a happy coincidence or contributing cause of this phenomenon, though that is a TED talk for another day.

The majority of speakers addressed how to make change at a micro-level, not country by country or even city by city, but block by block and house by house. Chuck Banas of Buffalo Green Code discussed building neighborhoods and streetscapes through zoning, the legal method by which plans become reality. Eric Walker of PUSH Buffalo took it a step deeper, and using his analogy of the city as a sick patient, advocated working house by house and family by family to build consensus and grassroot buy-in for solutions. Patrick Finan, guru of the BlockClub mini-empire of print magazines, design and marketing, entreated everyone to build as small of a house as possible and put nice things in it. The advice was not entirely metaphorical – he has kept his companies deliberately small to keep quality up, ambitious in performance not size, with no desire to be as American-ly large as possible.

Perhaps not surprisingly in our ever-expanding Food Network culture, the focus on local also naturally turned to what we eat. Patrick Lango of White Cow Dairy sells out of each batch of yogurt and milk-drinks before he even processes them. The draw? Local cows, local grass, lots of sunshine and undiluted milk from a farm in East Otto. To paraphrase Mr. Lango: “People get so excited by our food. And I say, “Relax! It’s just food.” Your body likes it because you got used to eating things that aren’t food. But chill out – all our food used to be like this. And it can be again.”

Ethan Cox of Community Beer Works wants to create a relaxing neighborhood-based biergarten culture in the Third Room, lubricated by fresh, locally brewed beer (preferably his once the brewery opens soon). The higher purpose is to mix cultures and classes, but the local beer is the key facilitator. Even Stacey Watson of Drop-In Nation (more on her in a moment), presenting her ideas of how to best assist high school drop outs, noted that she builds community child by child, usually by eating together. 

The Power of Individual Storytelling

The ultimate distillation of local focus is to place priority on the individual, and several presenters compressed sweeping events into the personal. The Uncrowned Community Builders institute, an outgrowth of the Uncrowned Queens initiative by Dr. Barabara Seals-Nevergold and Dr. Peggy Brooks-Bertram, is compiling the biographies of pioneers and groundbreakers in minority communities, from Buffalo African-Americans to Alaskan Inuit. Drop-In Nation begins by meeting each child where they are, learning their story, helping them teach their story to themselves, and only then use a circular story-telling culture to help them focus on their own success. The Anne Frank Project at Buffalo State College, led by the dynamic Drew Kahn, is finding the individual in genocide, finding the Anne Frank in Rwanda and Cambodia, to humanize and  illuminate the incomprehensible. 

Key to the success of each venture is the recognition of storytelling at its heart. As a guy who seeks to make his living telling stories, this is a subject near and dear, and where I found the most meaning from a day full of ideas. When Drew Kahn asked Rwandan women how they tell the story of the genocide, they didn’t understand the question. How could they not breathe? How could they not eat? Then he saw for himself, through stomps and claps and songs and hymns to the lost, that theater, that stories, teach all, geometry to the horrors of children being hacked with machetes. 

Note that every theme so far – biergarten culture, a greencode return to walkable streets, old dairy and farming techniques, storytelling as meaning – is a refreshment of the past. An identification of what was inadvisably discarded in the name of progress for incorporation in a desired future. This dichotomy of historic truths versus TED’s oft focus on technology leads us to…   

The Evolution of Education

While few speakers wished to declare our education system broken, it was obvious there are many holes to be filled. We watched a video of a March 2011 TED lecture by Salman Khan, describing his efforts to use video and online software to turn education on its head, so children view lectures at home to free up time to do group “homework” at school. Drop In Nation is addressing the shortfall of assistance to high school drop outs, half the teenage population in Buffalo. No wishy washy Love-All-The-Little-Children venture, Stacey Watson is using the latest research on how the brain learns to pick up the kids whose minds work circularly, not linearly. Karen Armstrong at the Future City Competition is filling a gap in math and science education by getting middle-schoolers to imagine and build urban areas of the 22nd Century.

It struck me that even ideas that focused on the internet and technology were at their heart education based. Remy DeCausemaker’s Open Code and Open Data initiative wants to make the government more transparent, but ultimately as a way to better inform the public, not as an ideal end until itself. And Brandon Kessler, who runs the ChallengePost.com method to solve big problems, is focusing much of that energy on education and children, using apps to get kids to eat better and revolutionizing the classroom.

Our Next Billionaire

I seek to take nothing away from the other speakers, but let me note that only one of them is likely a future billionaire. That distinction belongs to the yet unmentioned John Bordynuik, CEO of JBI Inc in Niagara Falls, who heads up the most important initiative you’ve never heard of.

Mr. Bordynuik, formerly affiliated with the Ontario Legislature and chemical dreamer, has discovered a way to covert average plastic waste into fuel. Currently 7% of our global plastic waste stream is recycled. The leaves 93%, or 29 millions tons, ready to be turned into a potential 7 billion gallons of low-sulfur fuel that can run engines and factory processes of all varieties. Sound too good to be true? Bordynuik himself listed “Disbelief” as his first stumbling block to success. Currently, the JBI factory in the Falls siphons up the majority of the waste plastic stream of Western New York. I would bet it’s a matter of time before we’re mining our landfills for more.

It would be fitting of such a revolutionary TED lecture that it would incorporate the themes of the other speakers as well. The Plastic2Oil process started as a story, a dream of cleaning up plastic strewn beaches and toxic air across the world. The process is scalable and local – not ever bit of plastic need be driven to the JBI plant. Smaller versions can be installed at each local plastic producing factory, converting the waste stream on site to fuel usable on site. And none of this process would be possible except through a hard science education – chemistry and math and engineering – that is becoming increasingly rare.

Diverse Coalitions

16 Aug

The continued general debate over the Islamic Community Center in Manhattan is a fascinating insight into the state of America’s capacity for respectful and meaningful public discourse. It is an intersection of civil rights and civility, and challenges your definitions of tolerance and acceptance. Who’s views and feelings should we be more tolerant of: the continued pain of some families of victims of the 9/11 attack, or the Muslim families who wish a place to worship near their homes in southern Manhattan? We don’t always rise to the challenge.

The predictable arguments on each side reveal deep seated preconceptions. From the Right, anyone for the mosque is inherently naive to the threat of Islamic and Islamist influence and terrorist activity. Oh, and you are un-American. My favorite charges are from Liberals, however, where Racist has been revealed as the reflexive Go To “-ism” epithet of the Left. I’ve never been called a racist so many times in so short a timeframe. That’s as moranic as the healthcare screamers who told the government to stay away from their Medicare. Repeat after me: I’m a racist if I oppose the mosque because it’ll be full of Arabs, not Muslims. If its about Muslims, its religious discrimination, not racial. I mean, goddamn, you’d think latte-sipping lefty intellectuals could get their slurs straight.

Lost in all this is the views of the Muslims in southern Manhattan, or the 9/11 victim’s families. How do they feel? Split, and uncertain, on both counts. This is America.

The frames have been roughly been set: your use of the term “Ground Zero Mosque,” “Park51”, or “Cordoba House” now puts you generally in the same camps as if you use the term “illegal immigrant”, “undocumented worker,” or “alien;” i.e. Conservative, Liberal and Behind The Times. But unlike the abortion and immigration debates, this discussion is relatively new, so the potential still exists for strange bedfellows as the ideologues sort themselves out.

Which is how I, the ADL, Charles Krauthammer and President Obama ended up on the same side.

To state again for the record, I believe there is every legal right for Imam Rauf to build a mosque/cultural center at 51 Park Place, but simply because you have the right to do something, doesn’t mean you should.

The ADL likewise does not dispute the legality, but believes that graveyards are not appropriate places for outreach and understanding, using the now oft-cited case of the Carmelite Nuns at Auschwitz as an example.

Charles Krauthammer, regular right-wing bogey-man of the Left, was perhaps a predictable opponent. But his argument bears some further examination and fleshing out. He correctly notes that most of the supporters of the mosque, speaking out of both sides of their mouth, say that First Amendment rights shown rule here, and freedom of religion should be preserved. . . but, in any case, don’t worry because these are good moderate Muslims who aren’t the bad guys anyway. Which begs the question:

If the proposed mosque were controlled by “insensitive” Islamist radicals either excusing or celebrating 9/11, he [Mayor Bloomberg] would not support its construction. But then, why not? By the mayor’s own expansive view of religious freedom, by what right do we dictate the message of any mosque?

One doesn’t have to buy into a conspiracy theory to ask what this Muslim group being moderate has to do with the mosque being constructed or not. Under the First Amendment defense, should not more radical Islamic views be protected as well? I don’t even mean Al Qaeda, or a front for Hamas providing materiel support (both illegal). I just mean the occasional fiery speech supporting strict Sharia law. Where is the line? If less than moderate Muslims preaching at this site gives you pause, then we are not so far apart.

Krauthammer’s second argument is less persuasive, in my opinion, but amusing because of the current Canalside debates in Buffalo:

America is a free country where you can build whatever you want — but not anywhere. That’s why we have zoning laws. No liquor store near a school, no strip malls where they offend local sensibilities, and, if your house doesn’t meet community architectural codes, you cannot build at all. These restrictions are for reasons of aesthetics. Others are for more profound reasons of common decency and respect for the sacred. No commercial tower over Gettysburg, no convent at Auschwitz — and no mosque at Ground Zero.

Anyone else find it ironic that we debate the historic character of a concrete hole on the waterfront, and want to ensure any construction there follows strict Green and stylistic standards, but its a free for all at the site of the biggest mass murder in our nation’s history?

Krauthammer emphasizes the sacred argument, as does Hugh Hewitt in the Washington Examiner. Both reference a failed American History-themed Disney park outside of Civil War battlefields as an example of trampling on the sacred. An underlying argument made by Park51 supporters is that this site is not really sacred, two blocks from Ground Zero, out of line of sight of the former towers, and not particularly special. On the other hand, the building that sits at the site now, and would be torn down for the mosque, was hit by the fuselage of one of the hijacked planes, and may contain human remains. Note that large amounts of human remains continue to be found all over southern Manhattan.

This definition of the sacred is important. Is there hallowed ground at Ground Zero? If so, how big is its footprint? The site of the old WTC only? Where human remains were found? If the building was hit by a piece of a plane, should it be included? Once that footprint is established, what should be allowed inside of it? I have been trying to research the history of how the “historic district” of the 9/11 site was chosen. The controversy, from 2002 on, seems to have focused on what should be built on the WTC site (Freedom Tower, Memorial, etc), and how slow construction has been, not what the outline of the district is. If that was assumed, it is obvious New Yorkers have very different ideas of how much of the site is sacred. It is, and was, a flourishing business district. Business should certainly happen there. But it seems to me that we are only now, 9 years later, talking about what is sacred and what isn’t, and it was the mosque that finally brokered the conversation, though it is not the end of it.

Which leaves us with the last unlikely member of the coalition, President Obama. “But,” you say, “he supported the mosque!” Well, yes and no. His position, as outlined in speeches Friday and Saturday night, quite clearly states that he supports their fundamental right to build the mosque in that location, but he offers no opinion on the wisdom of doing so. Which is as close as a sitting President can get to saying “Yeah, that’s a bad idea.” Or at least, “Please don’t make me say that’s a bad idea on an election year.” The President understands the difference between Can and Should.

Uncomfortable Successes

11 Aug

As America is increasingly brought low on the world stage, with endless insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a continually sputtering economy, it is worthwhile to observe two recent successes by other countries. The means required to provide such success should give us pause, as we reconsider our own country’s proper role and goals, and honestly assess our capabilities.

The first success is the new Sri Lankan Model for quelling an insurgency. The Sri Lankans have been fighting the Tamil Tigers, a terrorist organization fighting in defense of the ethnically separate Tamil group also inhabiting the island of Sri Lanka. This war had lasted for over 30 years, but recently Sri Lanka prevailed in their conflict. The Tigers were a substantial foe, with several successful assassinations of high ranking officials (Sri Lankan President in 1993 and the Indian Prime Minister in 1991), and despite their entirely secular nature, made extensive use of suicide bombers.

The struggle in Sri Lanka looked endless. So how did the Sri Lankan government win? An entirely military solution. The Economist relates the Model:

Louise Arbour, head of the International Crisis Group (ICG), says the Sri Lanka model consists of three parts: what she dubs “scorched-earth tactics” (full operational freedom for the army, no negotiations with terrorists, no ceasefires to let them regroup); next, ignoring differences between combatants and non-combatants (the new ICG report documents many such examples); lastly, the dismissal of international and media concerns.

Shut out the media, round up everyone, and kill them. The discomfort with the tactics is matched only by the disgust that it worked, and ended 33 years of war. The Economist continues:

A senior official in President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s office, quoted anonymously in a journal, Indian Defence Review, says “we had to ensure that we regulated the media. We didn’t want the international community to force peace negotiations on us.” The author of that article, V.K. Shashikumar, concludes that “in the final analysis the Rajapaksa model is based on a military precept…Terrorism has to be wiped out militarily and cannot be tackled politically.” This is the opposite of the strategy America is pursuing in Afghanistan. It is winning a widespread hearing.

The widespread hearing in this case consists of other countries with internal insurgencies and fewer qualms than Americans: Pakistan, Myanmar, Indonesia, etc. Is this what it takes to actually “win” an insurgency? Are we willing to take the same actions? And if not, what does that say about our fundamental long term goals (in Afghanistan, particularly)?

A second uncomfortable model comes from China. The Economist (yes, I enjoy the global outside perspective) relates another story from a financial crisis seminar held last year. A young Chinese businessman, in nearly flawless English, opened the seminar with this question:

“Now that the free market has failed, what do you think is the proper role for the state in the economy?”

The dramatic early 1990’s success of capitalism over communism is growing smaller in the rear view mirror. Since then, Russia’s flirtation with capitalism has yielded a few gas giant oligarchs, but mixed results in the general economy. Eastern Europe is struggling to integrate with its western EU neighbors, and the current financial crisis has hit North America worst of all, forcing the US government to invest directly in industry (GM, et al).

Contrast that with the booming developing world, which has used a different model. “State Capitalism” takes the best (read: most controlling) aspects of government and business and combines them in a centrally planned economy. Not to be confused with Communism, State Capitalism focuses the effort of the state to succeed in, and take advantage of, the rules of the international capitalist world by having the state act as the player directly.

Some examples: the massive hedge funds owned by Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, and other Gulf states have skewed international finance and investing. When we buy foreign oil, we are not so much sending our dollars to the Middle East as loaning the money back to ourselves, with the profits on the loans and investments kept in Kuwait City. To put it another way, they win twice: once when the state sells us the oil, and again when they loan the profits back to American corporations. It could be worse – those states could loan the money to faster growing economies, like Brazil and China, instead. China’s foreign reserves now top $2.3 trillion, and its sovereign wealth fund includes in its portfolio the world’s largest bank and largest mobile phone operator. In fact, three quarters of all oil reserves, and three of the four largest banks in the world, are state controlled.

Will this trend last? That depends on whether ingenuity, creativity and innovation – the hallmarks of small private companies, not large state bureaucracies – are truly what will drive the 21st Century (as preached by America’s Silicon Valley), as opposed to old fashioned money and power.

The Arena of Risk and Responsibility

2 Aug

I vowed that my last column would be just that on the subject of Bass Pro. And so it will be. This column is not about Bass Pro. It’s about the generalized misunderstanding of the difference between Doing and Talking.

WNYMedia has been flush with Bass Pro coverage, because it’s the biggest story in Buffalo, we write about development and FAIL, and it is an interesting intersection of politics, public money, infighting, activists, and taking off the nose to spite the face.

Alan expressed relief and looked forward to the opening of Super Vidlers, Chris cynically looked in his crystal ball, Mark discussed what the next step was, and Colin asked what the fuss was all about, wondering if we lost our minds since we weren’t celebrating.

I had the audacity to sympathize with the Writer and not the Critic.

The image of Levy and Quinn as brave fighters for the public good besieged by cowardly sniping is just too much.  These guys aren’t the modern day Spartacus — they had all the advantages in the world, while their critics were the real underdogs.  I also don’t understand how Levy and Quinn were “in the arena” but their opponents weren’t.  Both sides were fighting in the same arena — that of public opinion — and this time David defeated Goliath.

What does it say of our local Buffalo attitudes, that Colin fairly represents here, that he assumes I was speaking of the Arena of Public Opinion? Nothing could be more wrong. I was speaking of the Arena of Actions and Deeds, of building buildings, fighting wars, making peace, and starting businesses. The Arena of risks and responsibilities, of creation and establishment. The Arena of Public Opinion can kill such projects, can bring the battler low, but it creates nothing tangible itself. It is the sideshow, a killer, not the creator.

Jordan Levy and Larry Quinn, among others, have the responsibility to create Canalside. They write the script, draw the drawings, recruit the businesses, hire the contractors, and build the buildings. They are not self appointed; they are part of a public benefit corporation, created by law, and appointed by politicians duly elected by the citizens of this state and city. They are accountable to those politicians, and to the citizens, to create Canalside. It is ultimately their responsibility to battle in the arena to build something, or fail in the attempt. If they fail, they are fired by the politicians, or the citizens elect new political representatives who will replace them. Canalside is their responsibility, and they are ultimately accountable.

Contrast this with the critics, snipers, professional obstructionists, lawsuit artists, lobbyists and naysayers. Construction of Canalside is not their responsibility. Their opposition to Canalside is a choice, a fight of convenience – when the focus shifts to the Jersey Stables, or the Seneca Casino in Buffalo, or the Peace Bridge, they will move on also. They bear no responsibility to propose themselves, only to critique what the Writer has written. If Canalside succeeds or fails, they are fundamentally unaffected. They are self-appointed by their internal constituencies and funders, and unaccountable to the greater public.

There are exceptions that prove this rule of course. Every fair housing group that does not just lobby and cajole but buys homes themselves, fixes them, and sells them (PUSH being the best example, although there are others) battles in the Arena of Risk and Responsibility. Mark Goldman, party to the lawsuit that helped sink Bass Pro, was a pioneer on Chippewa in the Calumet Arts Cafe and bore the weight of the risk and responsibility. His opposition makes him hypocritical, cold-hearted, and hard-eyed, but I still respect his battle (and look forward to his new project in Black Rock). But groups such as this are the minority, and overwhelmed by their counterparts.

Let’s return to Colin:

I do know quite a bit about the folks behind the push for a CBA.  The Canal Side Alliance — the temporary coalition formed to work on the issue — comprised several dozen organizations.  The lead negotiators on the CBA would have been the Urban League, PUSH — maybe you’ve heard of them?  the best thing to happen to Buffalo in the last decade? — and the Coalition for Economic Justice.  CEJ was the group most responsible for the CBA fight, and their dues-paying membership includes dozens of churches and religious bodies, dozens of unions, dozens of community groups, and hundreds of unaffiliated individuals.

In short, the folks who opposed the giveaways to Bass Pro aren’t “self-appointed” busybodies.  They represent real constituencies — the church around the corner, the autoworker next door, the block club a few streets over.  Who the fuck are Jordan Levy and Larry Quinn?  What constituency do they serve?

I think I already answered the last question – every member of the voting public. The star-crossing of Buffalo, that we can’t get out of own way, is rooted in this fundamental dismissal of the Doer, and celebration of the Critic. The Blue Collar Culture of this town has many tremendous benefits (the general friendliness and helpfulness of the average citizen face-to-face being the best), but this critical attitude is some of the worst. Bass Pro and the ECHDC vs. CEJ became framed as a fight of Management versus Labor, the Rich versus the Poor, Goliath versus David. The unions have shown in the last 30 years around the country that they feel no responsibility for the strength of the company (or worse, the State) they work for, just the strength of the union they are members of. With no accountability to the ultimate completion (much less success) of a project, rejection is mistaken for comaraderie and defense of the collective. In this case, a concrete pit of FAIL is better than a store they would not shop at that would receive too much public money and pay minimum wage to its workers.

It harkens to the old conundrum: when 1000 Oracle workers are laid off in Silicon Valley, they start 1000 new software companies. When 1000 auto workers are laid off in Buffalo, they collect unemployment, complain about the old company, and wait for a new one to come in and hire them. The same city that derides Silver Bullet solutions, and loves to knock them down, also consistently seeks them. We do not live in a city of Doers and Builders. The union does not build a factory and produce cars on its own. The Goliath we fight is the source of, and solution to, all our problems.

Which leads to the last point, and last irony: the fallacy of the entire David versus Goliath frame. The admirable urge to organize, and exert the power of the collective, does not create the David. It creates the Goliath.

The David versus Goliath frame depends on the “small people” being powerless, but organizing to defeat the powerful rich white men. But I would define power by success, and who is more successful in these contests? Current Buffalo history shows that the filer of the lawsuit is the Goliath, and the Doer and Builder is the David. The Peace Bridge is unbuilt, the Buffalo Seneca Casinos sits rusting, and Canalside is back to the drawing board. It seems David’s rock is remarkably accurate. In fact, in the recent history of BuffaloFAIL, I can think of only one instance where it was not a lawsuit that doomed the project: Bashar Issa’s Statler dream. Similarly, many unsued projects in Buffalo have succeeded. In the Buffalo ProjectFAIL sportsbook, safe money goes with the filer of the lawsuit, and the underdog is definitely the Doer.

Your Ideas: 5

24 Jun

I would love to see retail downtown. A Jos. Banks or something like that—mid-priced, where you could get a tie or a shirt. High end—a Hugo Boss or the like—probably wouldn’t work, but would be a dream come true.

William C. Altreuter
Altreuter Berlin

Your Ideas: 4

23 Jun

Over the past forty years with the rise of the lowly chicken wing, Buffalo has contributed more than any other region to the growth of industrial poultry farming. This international agricultural behemoth wrings its profits out of unimaginable animal cruelty. Its byproducts are intense environmental pollution and increased antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. (Let’s not even get into the health impacts of America’s addiction to deep fried bar food.)

Having lent its name too this degrading trend, the City of Buffalo needs to reset the Karmic balance. The City should take the lead in encouraging small-scale urban agriculture, specifically, the more humane practice of small-flock backyard chicken raising. What to do with all the consequent chicken poop? It makes an excellent fertilizer for the carrot and celery crop grown by future inner-city vacant-lot gardeners. Make Buffalo a free-range chicken sanctuary.

MARQUIL
Saranac Lake &
Kenmore, NY

Your Ideas: 3

22 Jun

How about directing Mayor Brown and the Buffalo Common Council to keep community centers open until midnight on weekend nights. It probably will not stop young men who are intent on wreaking havoc but it would provide those young men who want a place to hang out in a social venue, that opportunity. Drive by most city run community centers. They are usually closed @ 8 p.m. on weeknights and are seldom open late on Saturday nights and are closed completely on Sundays. Let’s do all that we can to stop the violence and (in the words of Chris Delprince: “Increase the Peace!”

Erie County Legislator Betty Jean Grant

Your Ideas

18 Jun

We need to initiate an INCLUSIVE strategic planning process to develop a vision statement regarding the type of future we want to see for ourselves. Buffalo has tremendous potential as a great place to live, work, and play but we must seize the moment to CREATE the future we want. Waiting for it to happen is suicidal.

– Jim Allen, Amherst IDA

Your Blog Post. Your Ideas.

17 Jun

Over the last several weeks, I’ve had more than my share of run-ins with elements and agents of terrific negativity and ignorance.

I want to move my mind and this blog away from repetitive, consequential negativity and general pissed-offedness. You see, in the last month or so, I’ve been happier than I’ve been in years. That hasn’t been reflected here.

So, for the foreseeable future, I want to do one blog post per day (maybe I’ll skip some here and there, but you get the gist) where I post your ideas. Your ideas for how WNY, Buffalo, New York State can improve and make our lives better. I don’t want to get into national issues, because that’s only occasionally my focus. This is about Albany dysfunction, Buffalo dysfunction, Rath Building / County Hall dysfunction.

Can you provide me with a paragraph or two that represents one salient, positive change you’d like to see happen? Anything at all. I will reprint your idea without editorial commentary or snark, and let people comment on it. I’d like to give you credit and a link back to whatever you’d like, but if you’d prefer to remain anonymous, that’s fine too. If you’re running for office, I’ll link to your campaign site.

Shoot your ideas to my Buffalopundit Facebook page, or email it to the address that pops up when you click here.