Tag Archives: Larry Quinn

Communication Breakdown

2 May

On April 28th, the Buffalo News’ editorial page offered up its recommendations in the upcoming school board races. One of the most intensely watched races is that of developer and tea party gadfly Carl Paladino. While the News expressed support for Paladino’s proposals for fixing the school board – many of which are totally reasonable – it would not endorse him. 

But we won’t endorse Paladino, either. He insists that he is not racist, but he shows no comprehension that the emails he forwarded not only suggest that – and powerfully – but that they would be painful and insulting to thousands of minority families and students in the district he wishes to serve.

While he is, in some ways, the candidate this district has needed, we cannot lend the weight of this page to a candidate who still insists those vile emails were funny. No one is perfect and it is always necessary to allow people their failings, but in life, there are some bright lines. Paladino crossed this one.

Nevertheless, it seems all but certain that Paladino will win this race; the South Buffalo neighborhood supported him overwhelmingly in his 2010 campaign for governor. If he does win, it will be his chance to prove that he is not racist.

He could go a long way toward showing that by acknowledging the despicable nature of those emails.

These emails (NSFW)

To be clear, I read that editorial very carefully – it’s not condemning Paladino for sending the emails, but instead for not acknowledging that they were disgusting, misogynist, and racist. There’s no question he sent them around, but he can’t just say, it was stupid, it was wrong, I’m deeply embarrassed and sorry. He’s like Otto from A Fish Called Wanda

So, what does Paladino do? He blasts some more emails out calling the News and its editorial page writer Dawn Bracely names. 

That’s not enough, though.  Paladino pal Larry Quinn had to chime in, too. 

Both of these guys need to take some remedial reading comprehension classes. Perhaps a lesson in humility wouldn’t hurt, either. It must be nice to be so righteously indignant over a perceived slight. It’s also easy to see all the answers for Buffalo’s failing schools from atop a mountain of white privilege. 

Autocracy and Speaking for the People

14 Feb

When Larry Quinn announced that he was leaving the board of the Erie County Harbor Development Corporation. he said:

I’m going to finish up here, and I’m going to kind of cut off my involvements with other things in Buffalo for now … I have an old expression, that you can nail wings on a pig but you can’t make it fly, and I’m tired of trying to make a pig fly. This political community here is so screwed up that I’m tired of it. It’s just a joke.

Truer words have never been said. The political atmosphere in Buffalo is downright toxic. It is, generally, ideas’ kryptonite.

As we all know, Tim Tielman – the Sarah Palin of Buffalo development – weighed in, likening Quinn to, of all people, Hosni Mubarak. That was followed up yesterday by a wishy-washy Donn Esmonde (one minute he lurves guys like Quinn and Higgins, the next minute he tsk-tsks them).

Through all of it, I think Quinn represented the worst of a top-down, magic-bullet mindset that too often afflicts this community’s decision-making. The Bass Pro fiasco, backed by virtually every power broker and politician, cost the community years of time, money and needless conflict. Think about that, the next time somebody says preservationists are the “obstructionists.”

What Quinn was doing was trying to ensure that a development with a large shopping component have a large shopping draw. Whether you were for or against Bass Pro, the logic of its inclusion was without question. We don’t crowdsource what shopping options go to Elmwood Avenue or the Walden Galleria, so to have a parade of developmental Sarah Palins call Bass Pro everything but Hitler was as unproductive (if not more so) than the attempts to lure the store.

When the Tielmanites talked of the aborted siting of the Bass Pro on the Central Wharf, you’d have thought they were talking of a Shoah.

But when did they hold the referendum? When did the people truly decide?

Because when the Tielmanite Palinists declare development projects to be horrifically wrong, they’re merely substituting their own opinions to someone else’s; we have the preservationist elite (usually in alliance with the foundation elite and activist elite) doing battle with the politically-connected & developer/new money elites. (The Buffalo elites are explained in this post.)

Regular people, though – the people who slot into none of the elites – never got a chance to weigh in on any of the plans until today. For every criticism that Donn Esmonde hucks at Larry Quinn for his supposed autocratic “discount[ing] public process” and “blast[ing] of project skeptics” who had blasted him, the same goes for Tim Tielman and his ilk.

Because Tim Tielman and the anti-development types in Buffalo held exactly zero public hearings or listening tours or referenda or other opportunities to listen to the public. Not that they’re legally obligated to, but when they purport to speak for the entire community, and when Donn Esmonde implies that they speak for everyone, they should be reminded that the regular people – the ones who don’t slot into any of Buffalo elites – no one ever asked them.

Palin on Mubarak

8 Feb

I caught the following quote in this article about Larry Quinn quitting the Sabres, ECHDC, and Buffalo in general:

Larry Quinn is the Hosni Mubarak of planning in Buffalo, going back to his early days in the Griffin administration and extending through the Bass Pro fiasco that set back waterfront development by at least six years,” said preservationist Tim Tielman, executive director of Campaign for Greater Buffalo. “Through it all, he has demonstrated an autocratic attitude that repeatedly went against the desires of the public and sound public policy.”

Mubarak? Who the hell does Tim Tielman think he is?  Does he think that he doesn’t demonstrate an autocratic attitude, or that he always works in concert with the public’s desires or sound public policy?  Who died and made him king of Buffalo development?  It’s the most self-important, arrogant, and – with the Mubarak reference – childishly offensive piece of mouth-shit I’ve yet seen come from the Sarah Palin of Buffalo development.  Shame on him.

Bass Pro Just Isn’t That Into Us

13 Sep

Buffalo Business First reports that over 800 people submitted over 1,700 ideas for what should be done with Canal Side.

I half suspect that if you were to omit all proposals involving the terms, “IKEA”, “Wegmans” and “museum”, we’d have literally tens of ideas submitted.

But ECHDC, which oversees the development of Buffalo’s inner harbor, has Larry Quinn as vice-chairman.  And vice-chairman Quinn has an absolutely phenomenal idea that no one else could have possibly considered.  It is a masterful stroke of genius that combines bad ideas and humor in a way almost unprecedented in WNY, ever.

Larry Quinn’s big idea for a post-Bass Pro Canal Side is…

…let’s try to lure Bass Pro again.

No, really.  I’m serious.

The common and popular themes prompted one ECDHC board member — Vice Chairman Larry Quinn — to suggest maybe the agency should reach out one last time to Bass Pro Stores to see if they would re-consider their plans to develop 130,000-square-foot store that would help anchor Canal Side.

“Lots of deals in the world go south, then get revived when people have a chance to take a deep breath and figure out what they’ve lost,” Quinn said.

Bass Pro, on July 30, ended a nine-year courtship with Buffalo, in large part to a strong anti-attitude the project had taken, especially in the last few months. Lawsuits were filed against the ECHDC concerning the Bass Pro store, public opinion polls were heavily against the store. In early August, Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, demanded Bass Pro either sign a lease or walk away from the project. Bass Pro shocked many by walking away from Canal Side after years of discussions.

“Maybe we go to Bass Pro and say ‘Hey, look, what you experienced was a unique political fire storm’ and wasn’t reflective of what people want,” Quinn said.

Brown said he would be open to re-approaching Bass Pro, but he wanted one condition — a more immediate decision.

Guys, Bass Pro had about 10 solid years to make a commitment to Buffalo and WNY.  Seriously, any time they complained about something we made it go away.  We threw money at them hand over fist.  We got the professional obstructionist plaintiffs to more or less STFU about it.

The hard fact is – Bass Pro just isn’t that into us.  Let’s let it go.  Any more discussion about it – even mentioning that name again – reeks of such hardcore, inexplicable desperation that counseling may be in order.

(As a side note, those of you on the Twitters may want to follow “Quinn Must Resign“)

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Canalside 2, Electric Boogaloo

4 Aug

In about an hour, the Buffalo Common Council will be meeting to discuss the latest Canalside emergency.  Evidently, the council needs to transfer city owned portions of the proposed Canalside district to the ECHDC immediately or HSBC Bank will consider a relocation outside of Buffalo.  WNYMedia will be covering the meeting live on Twitter with the #buffcouncil.  I’ll post a full summary of the meeting later and there will be coverage  tonight from our TV partner YNN and I’ll be live with Brad Riter on our radio partner WECK1230 after the Yankees game (5PM).

I’ll reserve comment on how ECHDC is now acting as if they were chartered like the ECIDA and instead focus on the possible outcomes.

1.)  Council agrees to the Mayor’s proposed Community Development Agreement (a “compromise” proposal as opposed to the Common Council proposed Community Benefits Agreement) and the land is transferred to ECHDC.  HSBC is then offered property (with incentives) to relocate 300 yards down the street to Canalside from One HSBC Center and Phillips Lytle will be given the Donovan Building.  This leaves the tallest building in Buffalo empty, perhaps forever.  After all, the building needs capital intensive updating and renovation, which will be hard to complete without tenants.  Also, how many companies in Buffalo can fill even half of the 38 floors and sprawling side buildings?  Ummm, HSBC, that’s about it.

2.)  HSBC is offered the Canalside property but they choose stay at One HSBC Center.  The ECHDC takes the land they want in order to recruit a new anchor tenant for Canalside without providing the Common Council the input they desire into the selection and planning process.

3.)  HSBC is offered the Canalside property yet chooses to vacate the Tower and build a new complex in Amherst (rumored to be Cross Pointe Business Park off the 990).  One HSBC Center goes dark, they choose not to stay in the city and several thousand jobs leave our urban core…making investment from a new Canalside anchor tenant less likely.

None of these options are “double plus good” and each result leaves more questions behind than answers.

This action by the ECHDC could be the “Red/Green Budget: Development Edition”, an epic miscalculation which can change the face of a region irrevocably.

So, let’s see how this strong arm tactic works out, if nothing else, it’ll be fun to watch the FAIL circus set up today at the Common Council.

Bass Pro, Connecting The Dots

30 Jul

Updating a post from last week…

A fog of failure has been created around Bass Pro and Canalside. No one is to blame, because everyone is to blame.

Higgins is to blame for sending his 14 day ultimatum to Bass Pro, the Common Council is to blame for foisting the Community Benefits Agreement into the process at the last minute, the Mayor is to blame for not sending his compromise Community Development Agreement to the Common Council in time for them to legitimately debate it, Scott Fisher and Mark Goldman are to blame for their frivolous lawsuit, and Buffalo (writ large) is responsible…at least that’s how Jordan Levy tells the tale. He and ECHDC and Benderson are just faithful stewards of the process…I think you can hear my eyes rolling.

Over the last three days, a few stories have come out that seem to be disconnected, but really aren’t once you connect the dots.

Three times during the Buffalo/ECHDC CDA announcement, Larry Quinn made a point to mention that the community needs to stop focusing on Bass Pro and start calling the development “Canalside”.  Quinn said, “With or without Bass Pro, this is going to be a huge development”.  During that same press conference, Mayor Brown, Rep. Higgins and ECHDC Chairman Jordan Levy echoed the same sentiment.

Bass Pro has had the official lease agreement with ECHDC in their hands for several weeks and has yet to act.  While all the funding is in place and the environmental reviews are completed, there is still a nagging issue around the proposed Community Benefits Agreement (with a living wage provision) being debated in the Common Council.  That nagging issue has had a deleterious effect on negotiations, according to Jordan Levy,

“We’re negotiating with Bass Pro. They have a lease (proposal).  We’re optimistic. We’re moving forward with that.. Bass Pro is clearly sincere, but candidly the activity that is taking place in this community is in fact having a negative effect on those negotiations.”

The Mayor offered a compromise with his proposed Community Development Agreement between ECHDC and the City of Buffalo.  Essentially lifting many of the  provisions of the proposed CBA (minus the living wage provision) and transferring $10MM of ECHDC funds to council districts throughout the city.  Or as Councilman Mike LoCurto calls it, “A Council Bribery Agreement”.  The council tabled discussion of the Mayor’s CDA, perhaps until the end of their seven-week recess.  As of right now, neither agreement (CBA/CDA) has the votes to pass.

Second story of note was the coordinated leak to numerous outlets that HSBC Bank is looking to relocate from 1 HSBC Center to a location either on the Webster Block in the ECHDC area or a campus like building in the Cobblestone district.

Third story of note is Rep. Brian Higgins’ letter to Bass Pro CEO Johnny Morris.  In the letter, Higgins gave Bass Pro two weeks to make a final decision on the lease agreement with ECHDC.

There are a couple of possibilities why Higgins chose to release that letter.

1.)  Bass Pro has already told ECHDC that they are out and everyone is rushing to save face.  If Bass Pro is out, Higgins can claim he set a deadline and Bass Pro walked, making it look like he was tough and won a victory for the community.

2.) Bass Pro is in and Higgins can claim his no-nonsense deadline setting was the impetus for the final decision.  See how there is no downside for the letter?  Higgins is a pretty smart politician, ya know.  Cynical, but smart.

3.) Bass Pro is waiting for the city to make a decision on the living wage provision and will not sign a lease until it’s been defeated.  Higgins then forces the hand of the Common Council to make a decision on the CDA in a special session within the next two weeks.  All signs point to the Bass Pro CDA not having the votes necessary unless Kearns or Franczyk can be swayed to yes votes with additional lulus for their districts.

Most likely, Bass Pro will not be the anchor in Canalside, which is why there is suddenly talk about moving HSBC 300 yards down the street to serve as a development anchor.

I suspect that unless this living wage provision is scrapped within 14 days, we’re going to stream another press conference at which Larry Quinn and Jordan Levy will pretend that Bass Pro was never crucial to the development.

Oh, how we’ll laaaaaaugh!

Chipping Away at the WNY Status Quo

12 Feb

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

Jim Heaney explains the background of this letter:

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

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

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

In other words, blah, blah, blah.

Here is Larry Quinn’s letter in response:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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