Tag Archives: Upstate

Upstate as the World's Back Office

8 Jan

I recall that as George W. Bush advocated for the passage of “No Child Left Behind”, he used a term that I thought was quite clever : the “soft bigotry of low expectations.”

After decades of Governors and other political leaders and candidates extolling the virtues of upstate New York, and promising money, positions, tax breaks, and incentives to enable upstate to become an economic powerhouse in one 21st century technology or another, we have Governor Paterson jettisoning all of that.

During his state of the state address, Paterson said:

Also, we want to make Upstate the back office for corporate America – particularly the franchises that are located downstate.

This region is clearly one that has demonstrated that they have what the rest of the country doesn’t have, which is available housing stock, with close-by schools, natural beauty, and the untouched small towns that families would cherish. We have to go back to promoting it that way.

Also, the effort we are making for sustainable communities, with thousands of housing stock laying dormant in cities like Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse. We will develop that housing stock into affordable housing – starting with Buffalo, which right now has 23,000 vacant units.

Note how the passage begins with “also” – like, “oh, yeah – I should mention that part of the state north of Albany and west of the Hudson.” It’s an afterthought. And there was no flowery talk about the quality of our labor force, the beauty of our landscape, the gritty determination of our citizenry.

Paterson didn’t talk about the medical corridor or nanotechnology. He didn’t talk about UB 2020 or entrepreneurship. He didn’t talk about venture capital or business incubators.

He basically acknowledged a hard truth about most of upstate: you have no hustle. You will never have any hustle. And what of that? You might as well do what you’re good at, and do some menial service jobs; you can be America’s Bangalore. You can be America’s phone-answerers.

Relegated to economic serfdom and mediocrity.

That’s what we’ve become, after all. With the demise of manufacturing we’ve lost hundreds of thousands of jobs, of people. We make all kinds of excuses about it all, but fundamentally the world changed, and we didn’t change with it. Not half as fast as we should have, and our attitude sucks.

And yes, there is potential to do great things here. Government and a complete vacuum of leadership at all levels of government (a vacuum that only gets worse) keep us cranky, but lazily satisfied.

The people with hustle mostly leave.

So, I’m insulted by Paterson’s suggestion that phone banking and customer service is all we’re cut out for. You never tell your kids to settle for the bare minimum, do you? So why does Paterson advocate the bare minimum for us Orcs living in the hinterlands of New York’s Appalachia?

I want political leaders to call for entrepreneurship and excellence. I want the state, county, and municipalities to examine the way they do business – the way they tax and regulate – and help spur, enable, and incentivize investment and innovation.

I don’t want another Albany or downstate hack telling us that we’re lame and weak, or that we suck. Any local political “leaders” want to call out the governor for his offensive remarks?

After all, it’s an election year. We should all put our big boy pants on, and demand better from everyone.

Shorter New York Times on NY Secession

2 May

Those people upstate are just a bunch of ungrateful fucking whiners.

Upstate? Not Quite

6 Feb

Stateless in Upstate NY is a new WNYMedia.net blog written by the commenter known here as “Denizen”. He suggests that upstate shouldn’t just secede from New York State, he suggests a three-way partition:

He also has a list of the top thirteen reasons why this should happen:

13. Driving from Buffalo to Albany might as well be a trip to Massachusetts.
12. Rawchester vs. Ratchester
11. Queens has more people than the entire Buffalo and Rochester metro areas combined.
10. Spiky hair on guys is still considered stylish in Long Island.
9. When Syracuse area residents hear the phrase “Subway Series,” the first thing they’ll probably think of is “five dollar foot long.”
8. To Downstaters “Bridge and Tunnel” refers to lame suburbanites who pretend they’re seasoned city dwellers on the weekend; to Upstaters it refers to things that will never get built.
7. Many New York City dwellers consider Dutchess County to be way the hell Upstate.
6. There hasn’t been a NYS Governor from Upstate since the automobile was invented.
5. Saying “Pop” instead of “Soda” in the Bronx is likely as dangerous as wearing a Red Sox cap there.
4. Texans think Buffalo is just a really snowy suburb of New York City
3. Your average Brooklynite has no fucking clue what Beef on Weck is.
2. Ask a resident of the Upper West Side of Manhattan where Utica is located and they’ll probably refer to some exotic ruins in North Africa.
1. $300,000 buys you a spacious, brand new McMansion in most areas Upstate; the same amount will get you a cozy parking space in Lower Manhattan.

Lastly, he suggests proportional representation and runoff voting in an effort to break the stranglehold of the two existing political parties.

I’m not sold yet on the notion that the benefits of secession outweight the costs, but it’s clearly an avenue more people are willing to consider lately.

Senator Gillibrand

26 Jan

There has been a tantrum of anger from many downstate editorial boards and pundits (New York Times), (Daily News), (Village Voice columnist), (Joe Conason in Salon), (Newsday), and politicians (most notably Carolyn McCarthy NY-4) at this selection, and the rest of the state doesn’t know what, frankly, to make of the pick. Gillibrand is from the Hudson Valley, and her congressional district stretches from Lake Placid to the outskirts of Poughkeepsie – they don’t gerrymander ’em like they gerrymander ’em here. That’s a rural upstate district, so it makes sense that, like Brian Higgins, Gillibrand doesn’t adhere to some sort of random or brainless liberal template. She has to work the center because rural voters are different from New York City activists.

There’s an irony in complaints emanating from Long Island and the 5 boroughs about Gillibrand’s selection that is equal parts laughable and poignant. Those areas are awash in Albany and Washington clout. Upstate? Not so much.

Apart from the upstate/downstate and rural/urban divide that has come to the fore since Gillibrand’s selection, I think people were also quite put off by Paterson’s process. The endless speculation and leaking regarding Caroline, then no Caroline, then Caroline again, then Cuomo, was just ridiculous.

Gillibrand was not my first selection. It would have been interesting to hear the cries of outrage had Brian Higgins been selected, since his district actually does cover urban areas, as well as rural ones. He was geographically perfect, but apparently was the wrong gender.

Hopefully, Gillibrand will take a page from Schumer’s book and make sure to visit every county in the state at least once per year. One also hopes that Gillibrand will be a tireless advocate not just for her former congressional district, but for all of New York State. Her roots upstate mean that her concentration on the problems that affect everyone north of Dutchess and west of Orange counties will hopefully be keen and effective.

As an aside, check out this column by the Daily News’ Elizabeth Benjamin. It’s almost too much to bear just how awful our state government is, and how evidently proud of that they are.

State of Upstate

8 Jan

Last year, when Spitzer gave a separate “state of upstate” address, it was watched by residents statewide. This year, there will be no such address. Instead, Paterson will crisscross upstate cities holding town hall meetings. The Buffalo one is supposed to happen on February 18th.

That’s all swell.

But the Buffalo News makes the point that this piecemeal approach might not be as effective:

Spitzer’s speech was an event, heard by upstaters and downstaters alike. He invited New Yorkers to judge his progress from year to year.

It will be harder to hold Paterson accountable for specific progress, but he could also come away from these town hall meetings with a fuller understanding of upstate’s problems, and perhaps with the seeds of new ideas for addressing them. In the end, upstaters have to trust that Paterson is interested in their issues. That he is going to hold these meetings suggests that trust would not be misplaced. It will pay to watch.

It’s also fair to note that this is a radically different time in New York from a year ago, when Spitzer unveiled a $1 billion upstate revitalization program. The bottom has come out of the state’s bucket since then, as problems with the national economy hit New York especially hard. Big-ticket projects are harder to pursue when even routine obligations become challenges. What is more, to a greater extent than last year, upstate and downstate share similar problems.

The thing about it is that the problems that upstate cities face all stem from the same root; only the names have changed. Just about all of these cities grew thanks to manufacturing, some of them thanks to the Erie Canal.

The thing about all of this talk of deep recessions or depressions is that upstate New York has been in one for years, now. The decline has been steady and constant, and no part of upstate has been immune. If the axiom “what goes up must come down” holds any water, then places like Buffalo may be better positioned to ride all of this out than others.

I plan to attend Paterson’s town hall when he comes around. I want to hear that Albany gets it, and that it will address the root issues that help keep us down, and help keep us uncompetitive. I would like for it to be that, when the nationwide economic rebound occurs, Buffalo and other parts of upstate New York are better positioned to enjoy the good times, including economic growth, reduction of spending and taxation, making our regulatory schemes more competitive with those of neighboring and similarly situated states, and populations stabilization. I think that’s how we’ll ultimately measure Paterson’s success or failure.

State of the Failboat

7 Jan

Today, Governor David Paterson is set to deliver his state of the State address. I have obtained an exclusive advance copy of the speech, which will be quite brief:


Remember how last year, Governor Spitzer took time from banging New Jersey hookers to give a “state of upstate” address? There will be no such address this year, as Governor Paterson likes to promote the notion that it’s one state, not two. Given the epic downturn in the financial markets and ancillary, allied fields, downstate is probably indeed getting a taste of how badly it sucks economically along the I-90 corridor.

Instead, Paterson will commence what is being billed as an upstate listening tour by way of several town halls. It is unknown where in WNY Paterson will appear, but the Rochester D&C hopes it will be more than just sound & fury, signifying nothing.

Meanwhile, although the Buffalo News’ top editorial does highlight the Brennan Center’s report redux from earlier this week, its marquee columnist puts up yet another whining-cum-back-slapping article about how he single-handedly saved, and will continue to save, the Erie Canal Terminus. Here’s what another columnist is writing about today; Michael Goodwin in the Daily News:

“Ladies and gentleman, it is my duty today to tell you the truth. The truth is that the state of our state is not so good. In fact, it’s downright lousy. It’s a mess and it’s getting worse.”

If Gov. Paterson really wants to shake the rafters in Albany, he should use those words to open his State of the State address. As we say in newsrooms, it would be a good story and have the added advantage of being true.

New York is a mess, certified and otherwise. Not only is it going broke financially, it’s morally bankrupt as well. Government of the people has become government of the few.

Corruption is so routine it is hardly noticed. A roll call in the Legislature could be a lineup from the local precinct. And Albany shrugs.

Too many insiders increasingly feel no obligation to the greater good. Government has become a pot of gold for special interests, with meager leftovers parsed out to those without connections. Formerly the Empire State, it is now derided as the Vampire State.

The numbers suggest the dimensions of the theft. Even as spending and borrowing rise, so does the deficit. How is it possible the state could have a deficit of $15 billion? Where does the money go?

Headlines from recent days provide infuriating examples. A bipartisan roster of political fixers got whopping payouts for guiding investment firms to their buddies who run the state’s pension funds. The firms got cash to invest and flipped a cut to the fixers. Taxpayers got screwed.

Funny Pics / What Im talking about

The Erie Canal is swell and all, but historically appropriate signage really isn’t the tippy-top problem on people’s minds right now. No point worrying about what’s at the pretty canal when you have no job and you’re eating squirrel.

One thing is for sure, Albany ignored numerous chances and opportunities to get its collective act together, and now we all have to suffer the consequences for their greedy, power-hungry, selfish, short-sightedness.

(BP’s note – everyone who thinks that the use of the term “fail” is overdone or out of vogue is missing the point; the very beauty and essence of one word, a sentence all its own, that so perfectly describes New York State and WNY. You miss the easy, apt metaphor of the listing ship teetering between hope and despair. All hail the first use of the Failboat for 2009.)

Dear New York State Senate:

10 Dec

You are a worthless anachronism.

You, as a legislative body in New York, no longer need to exist, and a constitutional convention should be convened as soon as legally possible to, among other things, put you out of business completely.

My God, what do you say to a body of 60 so-called legislators when almost all of the power is concentrated in enough people you can count on one hand? What do you say to a body of perpetually re-elected seat-warmers, given that rookie Senator Mike Ranzenhofer – who has been in county government for twenty years – will be a young whippersnapper, by comparison?

What do you say?

What do you say in a state that is not just getting flushed down the toilet, but the handle has been pulled, and the water is swirling? What do you say in a state, vast swaths of which have been dunked in that toilet for 20+ years now, never to get fished out?

Isn’t it high time we got fished out?

Isn’t it time that upstate New York could have just a modicum of autonomy to play by rules that jibe with its economic reality, rather than the realities seen on Long Island or in Manhattan? Couldn’t we, say, require a year’s worth of residency before someone can receive welfare benefits?

Couldn’t we abolish county government and require the state to pay for its own mandates? Couldn’t we have a unicameral legislature that works on a budget and on issues that reflect the mantra of “public service” rather than “pork, patronage and the mutual fellating of lobbyists”? Couldn’t we take some lessons from what other states – more successful states – do?

Couldn’t upstate New York be made to be more economically competitive with its neighbors using simple, across-the-board measures that don’t involve IDAs, Empire Zones, and other utter failures of back-slapping, insider-friendly, alleged economic stimuli?

What do you say when Democrats finally take over the legislative body in question, only to have three selfish, power-hungry, obnoxious, haughty morons hijack the whole thing from the other 29? What do you say when the leader is to be a Senator from New York City, and he rewards the three New York City splitter rats with jobs that were supposed to go, by all rights, to others? What do you say when Bill Stachowski has to question why his committee chairmanship was taken away from him by a selfish rat from Brooklyn who hijacked the whole process?

Let the gang of three go. Let them vote with the Republicans. Let them join that party – that caucus. Let them vote for Skelos for leader. F*ck them. The next step should be one of two things – (1) the party ought to recruit and help fund strong Democratic candidates to run against these rats next time around; or (2) the whole operation should be shut down, like ArcelorMittal in Lackawanna. Preferably both.

This isn’t about upstate/downstate. It’s much more specific than that. It’s 29 vs. 3.

Let. the. 3. go. to. hell.

But we don’t need a Senate in New York. We don’t need a legislature that costs taxpayers tens of millions of dollars per year for absolutely nothing. What, precisely, is the value added by having a Senate? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. But the cost to you, me, and all of us, is enormous.

Recall, if you will, that Dale Volker and his staff alone cost the taxpayers about $1 million per year. Is Dale Volker worth $1 million in taxpayer dollars? In the middle of a recession? And for what, so he can get tough on crime some more? Give me a fricking break. It should not, and doesn’t have to, cost tens of millions of needlessly wasted dollars to have some self-important seatcovers amend the Goddamned Penal Code over and over again.

Malcolm Smith is a disgrace, Stachowski and other upstate Senators should grow a pair, and the 29 Democratic Senators who are letting Smith and the gang of three petit putschists steal away Western New York seniority in a key committeeship, should be disgraced right out of Albany, and all 57 of the rest of them can go home and do something productive, too.



Stachowski – Asking the Tough Questions

10 Dec


I get the impression that Stack is getting more attention in 2008 than he’s ever received in all his decades in elected office.

The SS Upstate

10 Dec

Courtesy Marquil at EmpireWire.com

15 Miles on the Erie Canal

6 Nov

Via NYCO, this New York Times article indicates that the Erie Canal – that meandering waterway we all sort of think of as a quaint anachronism – has seen commercial shipping traffic increase by 280% over the past year – from 15 in 2007 to 42 (so far) in 2008.

The reason?

The canal still remains the most fuel-efficient way to ship goods between the East Coast and the upper Midwest. One gallon of diesel pulls one ton of cargo 59 miles by truck, 202 miles by train and 514 miles by canal barge, Ms. Mantello said. A single barge can carry 3,000 tons, enough to replace 100 trucks.