Cuomo: Epic Trolling of Paladino

On Tuesday, Governor Cuomo’s official Facebook page displayed this message:

Governor Andrew Cuomo - Google Chrome 2014-11-26 11.36.45

 

An observant local Twitter user identifies the house on the left as that belonging to Carl Paladino.

Indeed, a check of relevant records, and of Google Maps reveals that the house on the left in this image is the one belonging to Paladino – you can tell by the flags and political signs.

An epic troll by Governor Cuomo of his 2010 rival and consistent critic – using Paladino’s house to raise money for the Food Bank and Meals on Wheels.

slow-clap

 

Slow clap.

Paladino and the School Privateers

Carl Paladino makes a living, in large part, as a hypocrite.

Forget how he makes noise about family values while himself being a babydaddy. Forget how his company makes a great deal of money being the state’s landlord here in Buffalo. Forget how he and his cronies lie, or how Paladino comports himself on the streets of Buffalo like a vagrant escaped from the asylum, only with a Bimmer.

Carl Paladino is one of those ultra-conservative right-wing nutjob birther freaks who wants to completely dismantle public education in America. He doesn’t think teachers should make much more than minimum wage, he doesn’t think teaching is a profession that needs licensure or regulation, he rejects the Common Core and its 21st century curriculum, and he famously proposed during his disastrous gubernatorial run that inner-city kids should be sent off to state-run re-education camps.

Carl Paladino doesn’t hide his goal.

The solution is going to lie in the disassembly of the Buffalo Public School System. And we’re going to continue to do that until people smarten up. We’re going to open charter schools, we’re going to hopefully help the privates and the Catholics to become better and be able to take more kids. We’re supporting the closing of a number of Buffalo Public Schools and turning them into charters. That’s the game that we’re playing.

(Part of the Paladino playbook is to denigrate his opponents as stupid and corrupt; hence “smarten up”).

The Alliance for Quality Education promoted that quote, as well as a story about the money Paladino and his companies make as landlords for charter schools in Buffalo. In response, Paladino met with Buffalo News reporters and revealed to them details (but not to you – “transparency” is not in the Paladino playbook) about his charter school involvement, adding that his profits max out at 10% on his charter holdings, because “non-profit” is not in the Paladino playbook, even when children’s educations are at stake.

What’s fascinating to watch is this degenerate’s reaction when the lights are shone on him, and the public demands some minimal transparency. He lashes out viciously.

Elitists, led by self-promoting opportunists, in concert with Buffalo Teachers Federation President Phil Rumore, ultra-liberal blowhard political whiners Marc Panepinto, Sean Ryan and Michael LoCurto, minority School Board members and their community leadership and other hypocrites, parasites and phonies, support the multigenerational tragedy of subjecting more than 30,000 children to the dysfunctional Buffalo Public Schools.

Setting aside for a moment that, when it comes to “blowhard political whiners”, there is ostensibly no better judge of that than Carl Paladino, who are these “elitists” at whom Paladino spits? Who are the elites who demand that kids be sent to dysfunctional schools, and cui bono, anyway?

For decades, we have spent billions fighting the cycle of dreadful poverty in our urban centers, yet it continues. With 46 out of 57 Buffalo Public Schools failing, the proficiency on state math and English standardized tests at 9 percent and 11 percent respectively, a graduation rate of 46 percent, (for black males, less than 15 percent) and terrible attendance and violence, the elitists want to preserve the status quo and deprive another generation of an opportunity for an education in an alternative to traditional public education. For them, the kids are not as important as black leadership empowerment. They thrive on keeping city kids hungry and uneducated, captives in urban centers, so they can be manipulated to vote for elitist causes.

Ah, the penny’s dropped. This “elite” of whom Paladino speaks is the group he more often refers to as the “sisterhood” – the group of predominately African-American females who lead the minority, anti-Paladino bloc on the Buffalo school board.

Blatant, bare racism is a well-established component of the Paladino playbook. Mansplaining / whitesplaining at the “sisterhood” is also something Paladino’s good at.

Let’s read on and see what Paladino’s argument is.

Charter schools are not perfect but they enjoy a much greater success rate than traditional schools. They are free from the constraints of union contracts.

There are much better and lower-risk development opportunities than charter schools with five-year licenses. When banks and other developers would not take the risk and the marginal return on capital, we decided it was more important to give thousands of kids an alternative opportunity to leave the cycle of poverty.

It’s time to say goodbye to these elitists and their cycle of poverty.

No, charter schools are not perfect. Neither are parochial, private, or public schools. Astonishingly enough, nothing is perfect. What’s interesting here isn’t the standard pro-charter pablum that Paladino parrots, but what’s missing. There’s nothing here about reducing class sizes, or increasing funding for community or social services. There’s nothing here about recruiting excellent teachers – on the contrary, being anti-teacher is well within the Paladino playbook. There’s nothing there about how Paladino’s charters – half of the Health Sciences Charter School, half of the Charter School for Applied Technologies, half of the Aloma D. Johnson Charter School, all of Tapestry Charter School, all of the West Buffalo Charter School, and all of the not-yet-opened Charter School for Inquiry – are performing compared to, e.g., traditional Buffalo public schools, private / parochial schools, and suburban public schools.

The notion that Carl Paladino is anywhere within view of “educating children” is, itself, laughably profane.

Paladino’s supposed interest in education is secondary to his hatred of unions. One of the principal reasons why charters do well has to do with parental involvement – you have to apply and put effort into getting a kid into a charter.  Furthermore, charters are no constrained by rules imposed on traditional public schools whereby the latter is required to take all comers, while the charter has much more freedom to pick and choose its student population. Instead of having a conversation about making all schools high-performing magnets for kids, we’re crafting a new style of segregation, not based on class or race, but based on luck. Luck of getting into a charter via lottery, luck of being born to a family that values education and is engaged in the process.

Instead of a system that lifts up all kids, Carl just wants to lift up the ones lucky enough to have parents who care. How tragic.

But make no mistake – Carl Paladino is on the board of a school district his kids didn’t attend, he is part of a majority bloc, he detests the teachers and their union, and he wants the kids to go to charter schools, on some of which he earns a profit.

Oh, and he thinks African-American females are the “elite”, but white Christian males like he are the downtrodden, all of a sudden.

Michael Brown Didn’t Deserve to Be Shot 6 Times

The grand jury in Ferguson did not indict Darren Wilson for any crime in connection with the homicide of Michael Brown.

Darren Wilson wasn’t on trial; the grand jury was not charged to find him guilty or not guilty.

Their only authority was to determine whether probable cause exists to hold him over for trial on any of a number of crimes. For the life of me I can’t fathom why the altercation with Michael Brown – as described – necessitated emptying a clip into him, and asking a law enforcement officer to answer for that to a jury seems to me to be a reasonable thing.

A kid who stole some cigars doesn’t deserve to die like a dog in the street. A kid who was rude to a cop, or walking in the middle of the street doesn’t deserve to be shot to death. The list of non-lethal ways to deal with any of those situations boggles the mind. Perhaps Officer Wilson could have just waited for backup before confronting two suspects by himself. If we take Wilson’s account at face value – right down to the description of Michael Brown’s face as “demonic” – Brown deserved to be arrested and prosecuted; not shot and killed.  Unfortunately, Brown’s side of the story will never be told. From the New York Times,

Some witnesses said Mr. Brown never moved toward Officer Wilson when he was shot and killed. Most of the witnesses said the shots were fired as he moved toward Officer Wilson. The St. Louis County prosecutor said the most credible witnesses reported that Mr. Brown charged toward the officer.

Some witnesses said that Mr. Brown had his hands in the air. Several others said that he did not raise his hands at all or that he raised them briefly, then dropped them and turned toward the officer. Others described the position of his arms as out to the side, in front of him, by his shoulders or in a running position.

Those differences in witness testimony is why you have a trial. Jaywalking and petty larceny don’t justify 12 – TWELVE – bullets being fired at an unarmed man. Read this summary of the account of Dorian Johnson, who was walking with Brown at the time.

The prosecutors control the grand jury process and the old adage that a prosecutor could get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich is not unearned. Indeed, it is exceedingly rare for a grand jury to not indict someone. Although this grand jury had more leeway to conduct its own investigation, because it’s a law enforcement production, there will forever be a taint on a process where all of a sudden a cop is not indicted for what many perceive to have been an unreasonably excessive use of force under the circumstances.

It would have been nice for the family and the community for that question to be tried to a jury, rather than aborted at the indictment stage.

Finally, although I don’t see any reason to believe that Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown because he was black, I see a lot of palpable racism being directed at Brown and his family online. Any way you slice this, the homicide of Michael Brown was an unnecessary tragedy.

The Ferguson police department and the actions of Officer Wilson are under federal investigation, and Brown’s family will have recourse through the civil legal process.

Buffalo Knows Snow

Buffalo’s making world news for something other than its architecture, its culture, its startup entrepreneurs, and its Shark Girl.

This time, it’s the snow.

If you think about it, this is the first major, news-making snowfall to happen in Buffalo since things like Facebook and Twitter became ubiquitous. The October storm was in 2006, and the last time communities around here saw 6 feet or more of snow in just a day from a freak Lake Effect situation was back in December 2001. (There was a similar storm in November 2000 that messed with afternoon rush hour and left thousands stranded in short order).

I live in the Northtowns, and we got nothing – just a dusting of wet, sticky snow on Monday night. All of Tuesday was sunny, but we could see the looming band of lake effect cutting the sky to the south and west. Schools were closed because teachers couldn’t get in, and there weren’t enough subs to go around.

While Clarence saw a mere dusting, the adjoining town just south of us – Lancaster – is one of the hardest-hit communities, seeing over 5 feet of snow.

But what’s different this time as compared to past massive snowstorms is the use of social media. No longer solely reliant on radio or TV updates, people are communicating via Twitter and Facebook. Snow-free Northtown people are in awe of the walls of snow their friends in the eastern suburbs and Southtowns have – these types of pictures even made it to the front page of Reddit. Amazing photographs of the edge of the snow event, taken from the air, have gone viral.

They canceled school again Wednesday and I wanted to go into downtown to grab some work to do from home. I knew the 190 was closed from the 290 to the 90, so as I exited the 990, I opted to take the 290 towards the 33.  I forgot, however, that the Thruway is closed from Rochester to the Pennsylvania line. So, all traffic was forced to exit the 290 at Harlem Road / Sheridan Drive.

I took Harlem south to meet up with the 33. There was no snow at all until I crossed Main Street.  Then, there was a dusting.  The snow progressively intensified as I traveled further south, through the double roundabouts at Kensington, and again at the next light.  By the time I got to the T-Shirt man, it was a whiteout, and I already knew the lake effect band had hit downtown.  I thought I could do a quick grab & dash at the office, but I turned around on Harlem Road, not wanting to end up going 10 miles per hour with my hazards on in a blinding whiteout on the 33.

If you track back to the middle of the last decade, when the effort to change Buffalo’s image from a snowbound post-industrial wasteland picked up steam thanks to blogs and social media, the freak October storm of 2006 is the only thing that made any sort of news. But that storm now pales in comparison to storm events that have crippled many parts of the Northeast in the past few years, so it’s not something that outsiders link with Buffalo’s overall reputation.

We’re hyper-aware of every time Buffalo makes national news, because we’re defensive about how we’re perceived as a gray, cold, failure. No listicles this time, no Forbes survey has us peeved – now we’re in the midst of a proper snowpocalypse just 2 weeks into November, and our lake effect is all over social media and regular news.

It’ll be 60 degrees on Monday, by the way. We were wearing shorts last Tuesday in 70 degree weather.

What, if anything, will be the effect on Buffalo’s reputation? We’re seeing news all over about good samaritans with snowmobiles and snowblowers, further cementing our reputation as the city of “Good Neighbors”. The brunt of the storm hit the affected areas somewhat late in the day Monday, so traffic was not at its peak – we don’t have the mass strandings that we’ve come to expect. So, we get a few snow days, people post incredible – and often humorous – pictures of walls of snow and massive drifts, and we take it all in stride.

In all, epic snowfall like this and the way in which people are finding the light, empathy, and humor in a tough situation should serve to burnish Buffalo’s reputation as a fundamentally livable place, in spite of the snow. After all, the snow might keep you stuck where you are for a time, but it’s generally not, e.g.,  washing or blowing your house away. No epic drought, no fires, no landslides. We’re just, for the most part, sitting tight.

So, sit tight, Buffalo. Don’t go out unless you absolutely have to. Keep warm, help each other out, and marvel at what’s going on.

Clarence: There’s an Election [UPDATED]

***NOTE: CLARENCE SCHOOLS ARE CLOSED TUESDAY NOVEMBER 18TH.  THE VOTE WILL TAKE PLACE ON THE NEXT OPEN SCHOOL DAY. ***

If you live in Clarence, Tuesday is election day. I’m willing to bet a lot of people aren’t aware of that fact. If you’re involved in any sort of sports league or club, you probably know. If you pay attention to the goings-on at the board of education you know. If you’re on any of the several mailing lists that local school support groups or PTOs cultivate, you probably know.

From 7am – 9pm on Tuesday November 18th, Clarence taxpayers have a unique opportunity to have the whole state pick up 70% of the bill for making necessary improvements, repairs, and upgrades to the school districts’ buildings and grounds. The vote takes place where school budget votes always do – in the High School Gymnasium, in the back of the building off Gunnville Road. Students will be asked to park in a neighboring lot to accommodate local voters.

There are two propositions on the ballot. Here’s an ad that Fix Clarence Schools (with whom I was involved) published in last week’s Clarence Bee:

FCS

 

Almost all of the cost goes to make repairs and upgrades to the school buildings, many of which have not had significant capital improvements or repairs in four decades. The general maintenance bond will finance things like new roofs, asbestos abatement, improved security systems, updated alarm systems, technology upgrades, and updates to old, inefficient, and potentially hazardous electrical and HVAC systems. Interest rates remain at historic lows, the district’s most recent Moody’s rating is Aa2 (prime), and local taxpayers will only shoulder 30% of the direct cost – the remaining 70% will come from a state allocation.

Some people balk at the 30/70 split, because the 70% still comes from taxpayers via Albany. but that 70% from Albany is already budgeted-for and allocated: either we get it, or someone else will. It’s made up of tax revenue from individuals and businesses from throughout the state – from Scarsdale to Plattsburgh and everywhere in-between. Plus, the money is getting spent one way or another, and given the acute need for Clarence’s physical plant, it would downright negligent to not apply for this funding.

The second bond proposal is much smaller, and its passage is contingent on passage of the general repair bond. Here, Clarence taxpayers are asked to finance 30% of the cost of three separate artificial turf fields at the High School. The reason why this is necessary was perfectly illustrated during the 2013 – 2014 school year, during which 140+ games had to be rescheduled due to unplayable fields. To make matters worse for taxpayers, these fields were unplayable despite the cost associated with maintaining them.

With the introduction of modern artificial turf, the district will have three fields that will be playable in any conditions, so long as there’s no lightning. With the installation of the turf come improvements to the fields’ drainage systems, and once installed, the cost to replace the actual playing field is a fraction of what the initial placement costs.

The three fields will be the football stadium (whose treacherous bleachers, dilapidated press box, and antiquated scoreboard will be replaced under the general repair bond), a multi-use field, and the varsity baseball diamond.

Proposed football stadium turf

Multi-use field and varsity baseball diamond

Here is what the fields looked like in Spring 2014:

People in the community have raised valid concerns about this. The first has to do with the turf infill – an NBC report that came out a few weeks ago broadcast allegations that the use of crumb rubber infill (which keeps the artificial grass blades upright and cushions the playing field) may have contributed to cancer in some players in the Pacific Northwest. Every study that has been done on crumb rubber, which is made from recycled tires, has shown this infill to be perfectly safe, and no study exists to establish a causal link between crumb rubber infill and cancer. Nevertheless, the district takes this very seriously and has many available, within-budget alternatives to crumb rubber that it will consider before construction begins. These include sand, virgin rubber, “Envirofill“, and cork.

The second concern that some have raised has to do with the district’s recent history of budget problems and what many believe to be a catastrophic loss of teachers, courses, and social workers. Why aren’t we issuing bonds to help pay to restore these people and programs? Unfortunately, we can’t. Firstly, the 70/30% financing ratio is only valid for capital building and repair projects such as the ones contemplated here. The district cannot issue a bond – much less one for which the state will cover the majority – to restore items to its operating budget. We don’t just need these teachers and programs for one year, but every year.

Think of it this way: we can issue a bond to buy the Keurig machine; we can’t use it to buy coffee capsules. But if we bond to make these repairs at 30% of the cost, that may likely free up future yearly operating budgets whereby money that would have been allocated to make piecemeal repairs to problem areas can now be reserved for teaching and counseling.

Every way you look at this, it’s win:win for taxpayers and the district.

The cost of both bond proposals for a typical $200,000 home in Clarence will be $46 per year; about $3.83 per month.  Remember – your STAR exemption, which is enhanced for seniors, reduces your taxable assessed value.

Here are two videos Fix Clarence Schools produced, featuring recent Clarence alumnus and Cincinnati Reds right-hand pitching prospect Mark Armstrong:


If you’re a Clarence taxpayer, resident, homeowner, parent, alumni, and current student of voting age, I hope you’ll make the trek out in what promises to be some inclement weather, and vote YES on Tuesday, November 18th to Fix Clarence Schools.

Thank you.

The Obola Outbreak

In the last two weeks – coinciding with the results of the recent midterm elections – Republicans throughout the United States have been succumbing to an apparently communicable disease for which no cure or vaccine exist. It has reached epidemic proportions.

The virus, known formally as “Obama Derangement Syndrome”, or “Obola” started out with small outbreaks in the darkest corners of the right wing online and radio media. The incubation period seems to have been equal in time to the duration within which the Republicans did not hold majorities in both houses of Congress – now that they’ve taken a simple Senate majority, Obola has spread like wildfire.

No quarantine or travel ban is possible to halt the spread of this outbreak.

One of the symptoms of Obola is “impeachment”. Sufferers lurch uncontrollably from microphone to microphone, threatening the President with impeachment.  Impeachment was once an exceedingly rare phenomenon, but has now become a political tactic for out-of-power Republicans to criminalize the Democratic Party. Justification for impeachment used to be, “high crimes and misdemeanors”, as the Constitution requires. Obola sufferers, like the victims of Clintonitis before them, re-interpret impeachment to put the President on trial for, “things I don’t like”.

How do you know if you suffer from Obola?

1. You think the attack on Benghazi was caused by, or failed to be prevented by, President Obama.

The attack on the Benghazi consular compound by terrorists was a tragedy that killed 4 Americans, but President Obama didn’t cause it, and neither did clumsy explanations on Sunday shows. Answers given on “Meet the Press” are not under oath, are not testimony, and are not undertaken in a courtroom setting. No high crime nor misdemeanor occurred.

2. You’re a Birther. 

If you think that Obama has a Social Security number issued in Connecticut in the 1940s; if you think that Obama became an Indonesian citizen; if you think that Obama was born in Kenya; if you think that Obama is, for any reason, not a “natural born citizen” as defined by contemporary law; if you think that the Birtherist movement was somehow an important civic conversation, then you suffer from this disease and should see your doctor immediately.

3. You Oppose Net Neutrality

In just the last two weeks, this:

and this:

Both of these characters are well-known Obola victims, but these idiotic and ignorant statements reveal an acute worsening of the disease. “Net Neutrality” is simply a policy whereby internet service providers will be prohibited from favoring some internet traffic over others. For instance, with net neutrality, it would be illegal for Time Warner Cable to favor streaming video from Hulu over Netflix. It is not “Obamacare for the Internet” or “for the wealthy and powerful”.  It’s simply a consumer protection initiative to make sure that you get to use the internet for which you pay for whatever purpose you want, without interference from your ISP. But because President Obama has come out strongly in favor of net neutrality, Obola sufferers are reacting quite predictably and typically – if Obama is for it, they must be against it.

4. Immigration Hysterics

President Obama is poised to sign an executive order effectively legalizing the residency and work status of millions of undocumented immigrants.  This is always controversial, but in this particular instance, (from the New York Times):

Asserting his authority as president to enforce the nation’s laws with discretion, Mr. Obama intends to order changes that will significantly refocus the activities of the government’s 12,000 immigration agents. One key piece of the order, officials said, will allow many parents of children who are American citizens or legal residents to obtain legal work documents and no longer worry about being discovered, separated from their families and sent away.

If you talk the “family values” talk, you should walk the “family values” walk. If you are in favor of deporting the immediate family of natural born and legal American citizens and residents, then you’re not for “family values”. If you’re upset that people arrived here improperly, there are certainly penalties less punitive than deportation.

That part of Mr. Obama’s plan alone could affect as many as 3.3 million people who have been living in the United States illegally for at least five years, according to an analysis by the Migration Policy Institute, an immigration research organization in Washington. But the White House is also considering a stricter policy that would limit the benefits to people who have lived in the country for at least 10 years, or about 2.5 million people.

Extending protections to more undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children, and to their parents, could affect an additional one million or more if they are included in the final plan that the president announces.

Mr. Obama’s actions will also expand opportunities for immigrants who have high-tech skills, shift extra security resources to the nation’s southern border, revamp a controversial immigration enforcement program called Secure Communities, and provide clearer guidance to the agencies that enforce immigration laws about who should be a low priority for deportation, especially those with strong family ties and no serious criminal history.

Leave the low-risk people who have skills and aren’t criminals alone, and re-focus limited federal resources on preventing more undocumented immigrants from illegally crossing the border.

A new enforcement memorandum, which will direct the actions of Border Patrol agents and judges at the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department and other federal law enforcement and judicial agencies, will make clear that deportations should still proceed for convicted criminals, foreigners who pose national security risks and recent border crossers, officials said.

The affected beneficiaries will have had to establish that they are longstanding, law-abiding members of their communities.

Officials said one of the primary considerations for the president has been to take actions that can withstand the legal challenges that they expect will come quickly from Republicans. A senior administration official said lawyers had been working for months to make sure the president’s proposal would be “legally unassailable” when he presented it.

Most of the major elements of the president’s plan are based on longstanding legal precedents that give the executive branch the right to exercise “prosecutorial discretion” in how it enforces the laws. That was the basis of a 2012 decision to protect from deportation the so-called Dreamers, who came to the United States as young children. The new announcement will be based on a similar legal theory, officials said.

The reaction from Obola victims has been swift and predictable: IMPEACH! (Ross Douthat in the NY Times, Mark Levin, Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh, and others. But this sort of prosecutorial discretion is well within the powers of the Presidency, as set forth in this letter, and given the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which effectively allows the executive to prioritize who gets deported and who doesn’t. DACA came out in 2012, and no legal challenge has been successful. The Administration’s executive actions on immigration, in part a response to Congressional inaction, appears to be perfectly within Presidential authority.

Way back in 1986, Republicans and President Ronald Reagan introduced and signed, respectively, a law that granted amnesty to millions of undocumented immigrants who met certain requirements. More than anything else, requiring our immigration law enforcement agencies to hunt down and deport law-abiding, long-term undocumented immigrants is a waste of resources.

Now, Republicans can’t get out of their own way as they pander to, or are driven by, the extreme right wing of their party, so immigration reform has not taken place. Part of this is due to an acute symptom of Obola – making sure Obama cannot succeed, country be damned.

Make no mistake: impeachment is not a winning strategy, and is not an expression of strength.

5. “Obama is a Dictator”; “Rules By Fiat”

If you utter or believe either of the above, then you’re in the deepest throes of Obola and you should seek immediate treatment. President Obama’s use of Executive Orders has been one of the most modest in recent history.

By any metric, President Obama’s use of Executive Orders has been less than that of his recent predecessors.

If you or someone you love is suffering from acute Obola, please seek professional help immediately.

Happy Friday!

A few fun things for Friday:

1. Republican Beltway noisemaker George Will tells the truth, at long last:

The last 11 years have been filled with hard learning. The 2003 invasion of Iraq, the worst foreign policy decision in U.S. history, coincided with mission creep (“nation building”) in Afghanistan. Both strengthened what can be called the Republicans’ John Quincy Adams faction: America “goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.”

When anyone to the left of George W. Bush tried to make the same argument a decade ago, they were derided as traitors – or worse – by the bloodthirsty, expansionist, and wrong neoconservative set.

2. In 2008, the world was plunged into a global financial death-spiral. Different countries responded differently. Notably, in February 2009, President Barack Obama introduced, and Congress passed an economic stimulus package. On the other hand, in 2010 the UK’s Conservative – Liberal Democratic Parliament passed stinging austerity measures, inflicting pain – higher taxes, fewer services – on average Britons.

Here’s how the UK did in GDP growth from 2008 – 2014:

Here’s how the US did in GDP growth from 2008 – 2014:

3. Via CityLab, photographer Ignacio Evangelista photographed some of Europe’s abandoned border crossings. Thanks to the Schengen treaty, many internal EU borders are unmanned, unprotected, and abandoned. The EU features the free movement of labor and goods throughout its borders. Meanwhile, here in the US, the President is poised to halt all deportation of law-abiding people who have lived, worked, and paid taxes in the US for many years, and whose family members are already citizens, and this causes people to absolutely lose it. The European experiment is not perfect, but it’s fascinating to consider and analyze.  If, like me, you geek out over this stuff, check out the Internal Schengen Borders Flickr Group, and the External Schengen Borders Flickr Group.

4. Finally, here’s a bird – a Budgie, specifically – that sounds familiar.

Buffalo’s Outer Harbor: From Brownfield to Question Mark

Most everyone agrees that the Outer Harbor should primarily be set aside for parks and recreation. This includes the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation, as well as local preservationist, environmentalist, and planning activists. But as with any proposal that has even minimal complexity, there is a Buffalonian blood feud brewing when it comes to the issue of development.

For over half a century, the people who run the airport, buses, and trolley also owned the land on the Outer Harbor. It fell into decay, disrepair, and parts of it were an environmental catastrophe. Anyone who cared agreed that the land was being poorly managed, and that it was a squandered opportunity.  In just the last few years, all that has changed, but it hasn’t been easy.

For instance, when improvements were made to access the Outer Harbor in recent years, the same people now fighting the idea of construction on the outer harbor were railing against enhancements to access it, claiming silly things, e.g., a bermed Route 5 off the Skyway represented a “wall” between Buffalo’s downtown and her waterfront – never mind the river and the grain elevators.

The Outer Harbor has now become an attractive, if unfinished, parkland enjoyed by thousands of people every year. The fought-over improvements to access Fuhrmann Boulevard, the attractive streetscape, and the new bike paths, beaches, and parks are the reason why. What was once a barren, poorly accessible wasteland is now an improved, accessible parkland.

Today, we’re debating whether people might someday live there, and whether there might be things to do there besides recreate. I’ve long advocated for careful development on the Outer Harbor to give people an opportunity to live, work, and play along one of the most attractive spits of waterfront land in America.

In the inaugural issue of the Public, Bruce Fisher makes the argument against development on the Outer Harbor, citing everything from the weather and wind to tax policy and housing values.  It was the weather that led a Giambra administration to recommend the construction of a domed amusement park just a decade ago.

About the weather and wind – Buffalo and her waterfront are not the most inhospitable places in the world. People live and buildings are constructed in the wind and cold throughout the world. If you take Fisher’s argument about how inclement the winter weather gets out there, then one would have to question the sanity of anyone living in places like Moscow, Helsinki, Stockholm, Reykjavik, Oslo, or other locations with climates as harsh – or worse – than our waterfront’s. After all, we’re talking about building attractive shelter, not a beachfront resort.

Fisher’s argument is more persuasive on the tax policy and housing demand front. He chips away at the notion that residents on the waterfront will contribute to the tax base, pointing out how guys like Paladino build new developments with massive tax breaks. However, an influx of residents to Buffalo’s waterfront contributes to local economic activity in other ways. Sales taxes and other fees for goods and services will find their way to Buffalo rather than wherever these hardy, weather-immune pioneers came from.

Fisher’s strongest point touches on the crisis of property abandonment throughout Buffalo. There are thousands of units of vacant, absent, or dilapidated housing throughout Buffalo’s neighborhoods, and prioritizing high-end luxury buildings on the waterfront when we have this other problem is, at best, unseemly. But the property we’re talking about on the waterfront is different from an east side bungalow in a few salient ways, not the least of which is the real estate mantra: location, location, location.

What of that location? Listening to opponents of development on the Outer Harbor, you’d think that ECHDC was planning to mow down all the wetlands and parks and put up a sea of parking lots and concrete bunkers. But look at the renderings – there’s nothing but parkland all over the place, even in the ECHDC plan. The most contentious proposal involves construction along the Buffalo River, opposite Canalside.  What’s there now, you ask? A parking lot for people’s drydocked boats and their cars; an eyesore.

Here’s a presentation showing the three alternatives that the ECHDC proposed. Almost all of the building they’ve been talking about is on parcels that are now either parking lots, drydocks, or dilapidated concrete parks. The impact to greenspace is de minimis.

Here is one of the ECHDC proposals. The development is limited to those areas that are already concrete lots, and it creates a huge swath of new publicly accessible parkland.

Here’s another view of what the ECHDC is proposing. This seems to track “Alternative B”.

For the areas they’re talking about developing, they’re already marred by crap. ECHDC seems to be saying, let’s replace the crap with something attractive and usable.

I think Fisher’s piece contributes positively to a debate that we should be having about reuse of the Outer Harbor, and the abandonment point is an interesting one. But right now the choices being pushed to the public are to either build nothing at all, or accusing ECHDC of wanting to build a sea of Waterfront Villages out there to encroach on Times Beach Preserve. However, that’s not what’s happening.

But why would we prohibit any development on these dilapidated, eyesore parcels in perpetuity based on current real estate and economic conditions? Cities all over the world have re-shaped their waterfronts in part due to the introduction of things to do and places to go. If the conditions are inhospitable in the winter, some shelter makes sense. Expanding Metro Rail down to the Outer Harbor makes sense. Even if ECHDC was to simply plan and zone the buildable parcels, get utilities down there, and then let private developers have at it through a transparent public auction, would that be a net negative for Buffalo?

Maybe now isn’t the best time to build out there, but someday it might be. We should be careful about planning how it happens, but it should be allowed to happen.

1 2 3 95