Tag Archives: priorities

Good Riddance, Fred Phelps

21 Mar

A busy week with late nights, so posting has been regrettably light. So, with the weekend approaching, I leave you with these thoughts: 

1. While Mark Croce may have a right to charge up to $75 for a day’s worth of parking at the corner of Blight and Squalor, Buffalo is not a $75-per-day parking city. We don’t have a parking shortage, nor do we have any particular need to restrict access to our downtown, so something like Uber’s “surge pricing” – something else we don’t have in Buffalo –  is a ridiculous notion.

The barrage of counterarguments from people upholding the right to cheat tourists was astonishing.  Airline fares! Hotel rates! Well, sure. But Croce’s lot was charging 1500% more than a regular Thursday, and double to triple its usual “event” rate. “They could just drive around” is the method suggested for tourists unfamiliar with downtown Buffalo to find something else. True, I guess – that’s should maybe be our local tourism slogan to replace “For Real” or “Sense of Place”.  “Just Drive Around a Bit” that doesn’t make an outrageous markup any less so. Most of the lots – including the FN Center’s own directly across the street from the arena – were $20 for the day. If you were willing to walk a bit, they were less. But part of that “choice” is predicated on you being somewhat familiar with where you are and how to get around. I can’t imagine why anyone would pay $60 to park outside in the Buffalo snow, and the law might not consider it to be gouging under the law, but I think it’s someone taking unfair advantage of visitors who simply don’t know that $60 is an outrage to park around here. Or that we have plenty of other choices. Or that we have a Metro Rail. I argued about this with people on Twitter, and was truly surprised by the number of people defending Croce’s right to charge whatever he wants. Well, sure, I guess. But does that make it right? Or does your humanity, good neighborliness, and sense of fairness demand that visitors not be gouged by a greedy millionaire? Welcome to Buffalo! If the government doesn’t rob you, our business oligarchs will. 

But seriously, if it costs less to eat the ticket you get from parking in a “No Parking” zone than in one of Croce’s lots, the rules of “basic economics” are out the damn window. 

2. Last night the Blue Bash to celebrate the 2014 Undy 5000 and the Colon Cancer Alliance was held at Artisan Kitchen & Baths. While colon cancer is the 2nd deadliest cancer in America, affecting thousands of people every year, there’s such a phobia and stigma attached to it that people are dying needlessly. Early detection is the difference between life and death; survivor and victim. My wife is a cancer survivor and we are raising money for the CCA to help its mission, part of which is to provide free colonoscopies to people who cannot otherwise afford them. Please consider donating anything you can at this link. 

3. Looks like a lot of local school districts – Orchard Park, Ken-Ton, Depew, Cheektowaga, Sweet Home, and Buffalo, to name a few – are undergoing the same gut-wrenching budget crisis this year that Clarence underwent last year, and there’s more on the horizon.  When Clarence’s budget was in trouble last year, the board tried to pass a 9% increase to maintain the status quo. The vote failed, and the curriculum was gutted and electives were eliminated. Some in WNY pointed and laughed. Sprawly, tax-averse Clarence kids got what they deserved, some argued. Well, the hurt is getting spread around while Clarence’s crisis appears to be over. If we can’t adequately fund our schools and instead prioritize things like handouts to businesses and pothole repairs, then our priorities are beyond screwed up.

Realism vs. Negativity vs. Humor

19 Jan

During communism, the people would get through their drab, toilet-paperless days by cracking jokes about their predicament.

Q: It is constantly being said that the communism is on the horizon. What is this communism?
A: Communism is a society free from exploitation, our happy future where nobody lives in want.
Q: But what is a horizon?
A: A horizon is an imaginary line that keeps moving further away as we get closer. (1979)

“The phone is ringing in the Kremlin. It’s a long distance call and someone wants to talk to Leonid Ilyich. The person is being told that unfortunately Brezhnev is dead. Soon the phone rings again and somebody wants to talk to Brezhnev once more. “Look here! Didn’t you understand or hear – he’s dead”. “I did understand, but it’s so good to hear it”. (1982)

“Stalin visited a prison once. The prisoners are line up and Stalin greets:
“Greetings, comrades criminal offenders!”
Prisoners reply: “Greetings our great leader and teacher”. (1981)

“Lenin died and went to heaven. St Peter lets him in and grants him 2 wishes. Lenin says he would like all people on earth to be wise, honest and communists. Peter objects “i can only grant you 2 wishes”. Lenin starts thinking:
-When a man is honest and a communist, he isnt wise
– When a man is wise and a communist, he isnt honest
– But if a man is honest and wise, he isn’t a communist”. (1981)

Sometimes, laughter is the best medicine when one is confronted with a grave illness.  When the illness is caused by ineptitude and self-serving politics, it hardly makes sense to screech like a Jonas-obsessed schoolkid whenever Buffalo gets a bit of positive attention in national press or to blame problems on make-believe causes like the weather, or on currently irreversible past mistakes, like the Skyway.

This region is as balkanized and parochial as Boston was in the 1970s, and just as full of economic stagnation and fail.  Yet Newbury Street and Quincy Market are now landmarks, and streets that were then slums now feature unaffordable homes.

Literally every excuse you can hurl at Buffalo was operative for Boston – silly politics, patronage, unions, weather, urban renewal, bad planning decisions, bad highway and land-use decisions.  Yet for a variety of reasons we’ll look into soon, Boston is now a world-class city with a perpetual inferiority complex viz. New York.

Buffalo, on the other hand, is a faded industrial area that is treading water economically and trying to find its way in a new economy.  The political and social status quo needs to be dragged out of the 50s mindset and start emulating what other places have done to move forward.

Let’s be blunt – the development of, and investment in the medical corridor is worth a thousand Darwin Martin houses as far as our future is concerned.

But if you can’t laugh at our predicament, and you can’t mock some of the stupidity, then the area has become downright uninhabitable.

Dying Cities and Tacos

14 Aug

There are a lot of blog posts and happytweets about a Buffalo-born chef saying he really likes Ted’s and Might Taco in a national magazine. Renaissance!

A few months ago, Forbes Magazine added Buffalo to a list of the 10 Fastest-Dying American Cities.

Lost amidst the back-patting about our local hot doggeries and taquerias, is the news of a summit held in Dayton, OH yesterday where representatives from the governments of 9 out of 10 of those dying cities attended to discuss strategies to make them less dying-ish.

Take a wild guess which city’s government sent no one from a governmental position.

Buffalo sent non-profit wunderkind from Buffalo ReUse, Michael Gainer.  No one from city government or county government appeared.  Kudos to Michael, but Buffalo’s roster should have been longer.

I don’t care that it’s an election year, that is utterly and fundamentally disgraceful.

After hearing him speak about the Pittsburgh area’s recent successes, I think it would be far more valuable to invite this gentleman to come and speak to business and political leaders in Erie County than, for instance, former mayors who come to advocate for the removal of highways and whatnot.  Pittsburgh will be hosting the G-20.  Buffalo touts tacos and events featuring deep-fried items.

pro·ac·tive (adj.)

2 Jul

Some have misinterpreted my closing comments in this post:

One hopes that the preservation community (and community-at-large) might prioritize buildings that may not be designated landmarks, are endangered and need saving. Perhaps they could take lessons learned from the Livery fiasco and be more pro-active rather than re-active when it comes to saving buildings deemed important. These things shouldn’t have to happen at the point when emergency injunctive relief is required to prevent demolition. A plan. Priorities. It would do a lot to not only save buildings, but dramatically improve the reputation of the preservationist community. By being pro-active rather than re-active, they lose the “obstructionist” epithet altogether. Just a thought.

Some assail my comment because, they claim, preservationists are being “proactive”. I disagree. Calling the tip line isn’t enough. Calling your councilman isn’t enough. That may arguably be literally proactive, but it’s passive. I’ll let Prodigal Son explain:

The definition of pro-active is “getting involved before the building is crumbling.” I’m sure some well meaning people called the city tip line to complain about the Livery for years. But obviously, no support was galvanized until crisis mode hit. If anyone in the preservation community (whomever that is) could get everyone organized before it got to this point, that would be progress. Lets have a vigil, signatures, BRO articles and media frenzy about the AM&A’s building (to pick a random one). Doesn’t happen. Tim Tielman tried to get people organized for his “Save Our Churches” campaign, and that never got farther than one meeting.

Buffalo – a shrinking city of 280k-ish people – has at least two grassroots preservation activist organizations. Cynthia Van Ness’ Preservation Coalition and Tim Tielman’s Campaign for Buffalo History, Architecture and Culture. The missions are similar enough that these groups could be joined. If governments can be expected to downsize in response to a shrinking population, so can nonprofit activist groups.

If they joined forces, then it would be fantastic if they selected, on an annual basis, five buildings that they want to save each year. They could hold fundraisers, teach-ins, solicit investment, file legal action, etc. Whatever it took to focus on private and public properties that are at imminent risk of destruction but are in some way worth preserving. They could set the agenda with respect to preservation issues and shed that public perception that they have of being reactionary obstructionists, and instead re-cast themselves as the proactive protectors of Buffalo’s heritage before the building starts crashing in around them or some owner decides he wants to raze it to add more surface parking.

Because in my mind, the heroes of the preservation community right now are named “Savarino” and “Termini” and “ESD”. Applying the law of Larry the Cable Guy – they get it done.

If the building is privately owned, such as Freudenheim’s Livery, the group could file for injunctive relief – the building is an imminent harm to its surroundings and is a public or private nuisance. If the building is privately owned, perhaps they could get the city to take the property by eminent domain for the greater public good. If the building is publicly owned, then they could partner with friendly engineering and architectural firms to draw up plans and raise funds to actually get the buildings structurally sound and rebuilt. It would be like Buffalo ReUse writ large – instead of saving fixtures from homes for resale, you save the building itself.

So, what would be the five most endangered buildings in 2008? Proactively prioritize, proselytize, and repair.