Tag Archives: Pittsburgh

A Matter of Proportion

26 Aug

Let me start by saying that I am the fussiest composter I know. Recycling too. I’m the guy who puts every little scrap of paper in the recycling bin. I mean every scrap. When I go through the mail, I shred the credit cards applications that can get you trouble (to put in the compost later), and recycle the rest. Every card board box, backing, and packaging insert. Every scrap of compostable food, off my kid’s dinner plates, and into the bin. I have even been known the fetch an errant banana peel, tomato top, or peach pit from the garbage, such is the devotion.

But I know, in the long run, it doesn’t make a damn bit of difference.

That whole “Think Global, Act Local” shtick is a crock of shit. I will not save the planet one banana peel, one compact fluorescent light bulb, or even one high performance insulated window at a time. Major alteration and restoration of our environment will require major structural changes all across the globe. Ignoring the CO2, for a moment (which is a convenient rallying cry but not even the worst of our problems), world economies, industries, and living habits need to change if we are going to stop driving species to extinction, destroying habitat, undermining natural processes, pushing mountains into drinking water streams and pouring oil into our oceans.

Big change requires big change. Duh.

Which is why this is really a column in defense of Silver Bullets in Buffalo.

“Silver Bullet” solutions, that fix all your problems in one go, are the bane of every busy body in Buffalo. Any development project must avoid the label, or else be doomed to failure. I never hear a politician, builder, or official declare any project a Silver Bullet. In fact, I hear every official go out of their way to say a project is NOT a Silver Bullet. Because once it is (Canalside, UB 2020, Seneca Casinos, etc), it is instantly doomed to failure. Silver Bullet projects in Buffalo are the ones that either don’t get done (Amusement Park on the Waterfront), or, once completed, make everything worse (Mainplace Mall). Watch for it. God forbid Rocco Termini’s project to convert the old AM&A’s store into a hotel/apartments/offices/foodcourt/mosque/retail ever gets the Silver Bullet for Main Street label, it’ll never get done.

I, for one, however, am willing to stand against that tide. Fifty years of population declines, a dearth of inbound young people, tribalism run rampant, major industry moves, a Great Recession, and the complete inability to complete any project over $300 million in less than 10 years (Canalside, Peace Bridge, Seneca Casino, etc) tells me we need a Silver Bullet.

Big change requires big change. Or at least a symbol of Big Change, which will suffice for now. Want an example? In Pittsburgh, they replaced US Steel with UPMC, sign and tenant both. Was there a better symbol that Pittsburgh was moving on from its manufacturing past and was leading the Eds and Meds charge into the future? I don’t need Buffalo to be San Francisco or Boston; Pittsburgh would be fine. The First Niagara sign on the Larkin Building is real nice, but not quite the same.

So I love taco trucks, carriage rides, urban farms, trees planted in parks, new signage at historic sites, mansion tours, new store front art galleries, extra farmers markets and cobbly streets with ghost historic buildings. I just don’t confuse them with game changing progress. I don’t confuse them with Big Change. I think we need Big Change, and we feel further than ever from it.

BTW, since you asked, which Silver Bullet would I request first? Easy. A Buffalo Bills Superbowl win. A regional attitude change to confidence, combined with the national news and reputation change (New Orleans looked a whole lot more rebuilt magically after last February), would do wonders.


11 Aug

Chris Smith and I will be trekking to Pittsburgh later this week to attend Netroots Nation, which is sort of a center-left blogger convention that used to be called “YearlyKos” after the Daily Kos.  So during the latter half of the week, you’ll be treated to lots of posts and pictures dealing with Democratic political inside baseball.  Enjoy.

But in one of the emails I received from the organizers, I learned that they’ve undertaken efforts to keep the event environmentally green, and it got me thinking:

Pittsburgh’s convention center is LEED-certified.

Buffalo’s convention center is LEAD-certified.

Seriously, though, our convention center is fugly and nasty.