Tucker Curtin versus the Food Trucks

You’d think that a restaurateur would welcome some competition. You’d think that a diner, when confronted with a popular hamburger food truck, would make a better hamburger to compete. Or tout the fact that it serves booze. You’d think that a person with a monopoly on food on Buffalo’s Outer Harbor would have some self-awareness about it. 

According to Jill Terreri in the Buffalo News, Buffalo restaurateur Tucker Curtin wants Buffalo’s food trucks to operate under much more stringent regulations than any other food business in town, than they operate under currently, and than most trucks in most cities operate. Tucker Curtin owns the Steer, Lake Effect Diner, and Dug’s Dive – all three reasonably forgettable purveyors of mediocre crap, sometimes done up in a trendy way. 

Curtin, whose restaurants I will never again patronize, retained counsel to agitate for rules that include:

– no food truck may operate within 100 feet of any private property of any sort without express permission of the owner or tenants;

– no food truck may park within 25 feet of a hydrant, intersection, or driveway to a lot with more than 10 spots;

– all food trucks must have a restaurant license.

– all food truck workers must have a peddler’s license. Everyone from the kid who heats up your tortilla to the person who writes the ticket;

– that trucks operate under special restrictions on Elmwood and Hertel, not just Buffalo Place;

The trucks in Buffalo pay a $1,000 fee for an annual permit for the privilege of serving food from a mobile unit that has none of the advantages of brick and mortar restaurants. This is about three times what trucks pay in most other cities, and the restrictions effectively forbid them from operating where the people are. Buffalo Place and downtown Buffalo is effectively cut off to them unless they pay another thousand-plus-dollar permit fee –  for the privilege of an inconvenient spot far from where people are.  On Elmwood and Hertel, it’s not easy finding a legal spot when people are out and about.

Curtin’s motives are unknown, but what he is attempting to accomplish amounts to nothing more than protectionism and anticompetitive behavior in a town not noted for its business friendliness or open-mindedness. The fact that the current ordinance was passed was amazing. The fact that it’s too restrictive and too expensive is something that needs to be remedied – not worsened. Tucker Curtin’s restaurants aren’t able to compete effectively with sliders from the Knight Slider truck, so he is going to war. 

I don’t quite want to hear about how Curtin has the right to say or lobby for what he wants. I don’t quite want to hear that he may have a point. He does have the right to agitate for what he wants, and I have a right to despise what he wants and to criticize it. Likewise, I don’t think he has a point at all. If your restaurant serves food that is so forgettably mediocre that a slider truck cleans your clock, maybe you should step up your game instead of lobbying your pals on the Common Council to punish your competition. It is, quite frankly, a prime example of what’s wrong with Buffalo. 

Tonight: Colon Cancer Alliance Blue Bash

Tonight from 6 – 8:30pm, please join the Colon Cancer Alliance at to kick off the 2nd Annual Buffalo Undy 5,000 at Artisan Kitchen & Baths at 200 Amherst Street.

Attendees can sign up for the race, set to take place in Delaware Park on April 27th, learn more about the Colon Cancer Alliance’s efforts to increase awareness of this disease, win prizes, and check out the Boxer Beauty Contest. 

As many of you know from this post last week, my wife is a colon cancer survivor, and we are so grateful for all your support in helping to combat this deadly but preventable disease. 

 

Bhopal on the Niagara

I could spend hours trying to decide which third world country or Banana republic Erie County and Buffalo most resemble. We are clearly not of the first world here, and it has mostly to do with visionless excuses for leadership with which we have been saddled over the past post-industrial decades. We even market ourselves as a domestic Bangalore (see Geico, e.g.). 

But up in Niagara Falls, they have a special way of appearing small-minded, petty, outrageous, and stupid. That is, of course, when they’re not engaging in outright illegality and graft.  Niagara Falls is unique in western New York – if not America – in that it is essentially a toxic waste dump with streets and buildings – all cruelly punctuated by a natural world wonder. Bhopal on the Escarpment. It has seen its main industry – the manufacture of toxins – dwindle over the past several decades. It has lost population to the point where it is on the verge of losing its eligibility for federal assistance. It is, for the most part, an empty shell of its former glory, made up of poverty and broken dreams. It is as if every decision the city has ever made has exploded, creating a daily irreparable calamity. 

Immigrants used to say the streets in America are figuratively paved with gold. 

The streets of Niagara Falls, USA are literally paved with slag; depleted uranium. 

Its current mayor, Paul Dyster, is unique in that he is the first mayor in a generation to have won re-election. A technocrat by nature, he is desperately trying to wrap a tourniquet around the city’s bleed. No one’s perfect, but Dyster is also unique because he’s honest and forthright. 

The city of Niagara Falls has reached out to various charitable foundations, some of them based in Buffalo, in an effort to help fund initiatives that may help attract attention, if not money and business, to the Falls. I’m not always a big fan of Buffalo’s big-money foundations because of their cozy elitism. But Niagara Falls needs all the help it can get.  Literally. 

Mayor Dyster applied to the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo and the Oshei Foundation for a paltry $4,000 in order to become a member of a “Great Lakes and St Lawrence Cities Initiative,” which Mayor Tom Barrett of Milwaukee, WI describes as, 

Mayors of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative are a prominent voice in efforts to protect and restore the vitality of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River and improve the quality of life for the residents of the region. Through an integrated approach to environmental, social and economic agendas within their communities, U.S. and Canadian mayors of the Cities Initiative are leading a movement that will sustain our freshwater resources long into the future.

Astonishingly, three city council members in Niagara Falls opposed this $4,000 grant to enable Dyster to join a group of Great Lakes mayors to help forge alliances for the region’s future growth. They rejected it. 

“I’m very uncomfortable with this,” Choolokian said. “Is it time to get the FBI in city hall? I don’t understand this.”

Choolokian said he was alarmed with the amount of involvement that Buffalo philanthropic groups have shown in Niagara Falls during Dyster’s administration.

“I’ve been in the system for 27 years and I never seen Buffalo get involved in Niagara Falls like it has since you became mayor,” Choolokian said.

Fruscione said that he did not understand how being part of the a group that is dedicated to saving the Great Lakes would benefit the residents of Niagara Falls.

“They’re picking up $4,000 so you can join a club,” Fruscione said. “What about the taxpayers and residents? It’s not benefitting them at all. First of all we’re on a river, we’re not on the Great Lakes. We’re not a St. Lawrence city”

Choolokian, Fruscione and Councilman Robert Anderson Jr. voted against the resolution, turning away the awarded grant money.

Councilman Charles Walker and Councilwoman Kristen Grandinetti supported the measure.

Walker said he does not understand how the other council members can justify turning down a grant when the city is in a tough financial situation with the delay in casino funds.

“It’s not wise to turn away funds when you are in a good financial situation,” he said.

Walker said he views the foundation’s interest in helping the city as a sign that Niagara Falls is worthy of an investment.

“I think we should look at that as more of a compliment, that our input is important to this process,” he said.

Dyster sought the grant after funding for the membership dues was cut from his proposed budget during the amendment process.

“I knew that there was a chance that the Community Foundation would pay my dues,” Dyster said.

Dyster said the reason the city seeks the help of Buffalo philanthropic groups is because most of the groups in Western New York are located in Buffalo.

“I think when times are tough we should be seeking help where we can get it,” the mayor said.

Dyster said that he is not sure where the allegations that these groups are trying to buy influence with grants are coming from, but said that there is no truth to the assertions.

“There are no strings attached to the grant other than we were asked to do some reporting, to file a report,” he said.

The only things missing were allegations that this was a plot involving the Bilderbergs, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the New World Order. 

$4,000 doesn’t buy a lot of influence, but it does buy Dyster a membership in a regional club. While Councilman Fruscione is correct that Niagara Falls isn’t “on a lake” but on a “river”, he is forgetting that the river connects two Great Lakes. To ignore or reject that the fate of the lakes’ environment affects the Falls is laughably ignorant. 

Niagara Falls has its hand out for everything and anything – including planting pretty flowers. It is the state’s basket case. But $4k from the evil Buffalo philanthropic institutions?! Perish the thought. 

#Winning

In today’s Artvoice, Geoff Kelly takes up issues he has with the Buffalo News’ recent rankings of influence. You can read the whole thing here.

Artvoice sent out a similar questionnaire about influence this week. One thing that I will forever carry as a point of pride is Carl Paladino’s response as follows: 

2. What people/ideas/circumstances do you consider negative influences in this region?

The Lipsey boys. The Buffalo Board of Ed, complacency, acceptance of failure and mediocrity, Geoff Kelley, Fisher, Bedenko and the rest of the Artvoice barnyard of assholes.

Thank you, Mr. Paladino. The feeling re: regional negative influences is mutual.

One thing’s for sure – this came from an expert. I feel like this is a knighthood or an OBE – something you proudly put on your resume or LinkedIn profile. Carl Paladino knows a lot about assholes. And barnyards.

Bee Stings

In the Buffalo News’ Tuesday article regarding Mark Poloncarz’s hard work and competence, it was revealed that Conservative County Legislator Joe Lorigo didn’t like a letter that Poloncarz sent to him in response to an op/ed piece Lorigo had published in the Bee.

“Some people don’t like it that I’m willing to stand up for what I believe and sit there and say, ‘I think you’re wrong and here’s why,’ ” Poloncarz said. “They’re used to the back-slapper elected official who will say anything to anyone to get a vote and keep them happy.”

He knows that can rub people the wrong way, but he sees it as standing up for what he sees as right. He’ll put it in writing, too.

Last April, after Legislator Joseph C. Lorigo, a West Seneca Conservative, criticized Poloncarz’s four-year plan in a column that appeared in the West Seneca Bee, Poloncarz sent out a four-page letter picking apart the piece and accusing Lorigo of leveling “factually inaccurate partisan attacks towards my administration in a cheap attempt to score political points.”

The letter was copied to the entire County Legislature, the county control board and the county comptroller.

“It was completely over the top,” said Lorigo, a frequent critic of the Poloncarz administration. “He doesn’t know how to respond rationally. I think the best leaders, whether it be county executive, mayor or president, are people that can effectively communicate their point of view without being so partisan.”

Note that Poloncarz didn’t publish his rebuttal in the Bee, or in any other paper – he just sent Lorigo a letter explaining to him – in detail – how he was wrong. Telling someone who is wrong that they are wrong is neither irrational nor partisan

Joseph Lorigo’s 4/19/12 West Seneca Bee column by Alan Bedenko

Mark Poloncarz’s Letter to Legislator Joe Lorigo

 

More like this, please. 

Obama, Satan, and Spelling

Ha ha! A tee vee show about a 2,000 year-old work of fiction hired a Moroccan actor to play a fictional bad guy, and he looks sort of like President Obama! Let’s talk about this! This is important business! Can you imagine? The devil looks like Obama! Well, more accurately – the guy the producers hired to play the “devil” resembles President Obama.

This must be important because even WBEN is talking about it! And the comments from people who are apparently not at all embarrassed to use their own names are predictably ignorant and hateful. Also, spelling. 

 

Get me out of here. 

Smart, but Fee-Fees

Shorter Buffalo News “influential people” profile of County Executive Mark Poloncarz: he’s excellent at his job and a hard worker, but some anonyms and tea party legislators don’t find him to be warm and fuzzy enough for their own needs. 

I mean, seriously. If Joe Lorigo writes some pablum for the Bee, good on Mark for fisking it. 

The 2013 Undy 5000

I seldom write about my personal life, and when I do I keep it as vague and general as possible. You’ll forgive me for making an exception today, but it has to do not with me, but with all of you. 

Back in October, my wife’s gynecologist Dr. Judith Ortman-Nabi advised her to undergo a colonoscopy due to a significant family history of colon cancer. Usually, people aren’t prescribed colonoscopies until the age of 50, which we haven’t yet reached. She went to the endoscopy center on Maple near Millersport. It wasn’t an uncomfortable procedure, but the sedation knocks you out for a day. Bad news – they found a polyp; devastating news – it was cancerous.

That commenced a particularly scary and difficult time. We had to find an oncologist. We had to find a surgeon. My wife returned to the endoscopy clinic, where they tattooed the area so a future surgeon would know from where the polyp had been removed. The area “looked clean” but we didn’t want to take the chance that it hadn’t all been caught. We were exceedingly lucky to discover Dr. Timothy Adams, a talented, young, and friendly surgeon who performs laparoscopically-assisted colon resection surgeries. 

In mid-November, my wife underwent a successful resection surgery and we were overjoyed to find out that the section removed contained no cancer, and the bundle of lymph nodes that were removed along with it showed that the cancer had not spread. We had found it early – had we waited another year or until we were 50, the result would have been tragically different. Just this week, her oncologist, Dr. Frederick Hong, confirmed that all her bloodwork was normal. 

Catching this early was the difference between a full and curative recovery, and something far worse. Just this week, Simpson’s co-creator Sam Simon revealed that he was diagnosed with colon cancer, but he hadn’t caught it in time.  It had metastasized throughout his body, and he is told that he has months to live

I am writing this because my wife is now committed to helping raise money for the Colon Cancer Alliance.  On April 27th the 2013 Buffalo “Undy 5000” will be run in Delaware Park, and she and my older daughter will take part. She is raising money for colon cancer research via this page, and if I’ve ever made you think, laugh, or angry via this blog, I humbly ask you to donate whatever you can – however small. Your donation is 100% tax deductible. If you don’t or can’t, I understand, but I urge you to take colon cancer seriously. If caught early through a colonoscopy, it could be the difference between life and death. Here’s where the money that’s raised will go – to advocate, to promote and to expand access to screening, to educate, and for cancer research. 

Every day is a gift. Thanks for reading and for considering this. 

Bashar al-Issa Convicted of Tax Fraud in the UK

From the Glasgow Daily Record, we learn that,

LOOSE Women star Andrea McLean was offered a big movie break – and became an unwitting pawn in a multi-million tax scam.

The Scots former weathergirl was cast as a bisexual therapist in gritty gangster film A Landscape of Lies.

But she was unaware the production – which also featured equally unsuspecting former EastEnder Marc Bannerman – was being hastily shot to get the taxman off the conmen producers’ trail.

The fraudsters, fronted by redheaded actress Aiofe Madden, 31, had told the tax authorities her company, Evolved Pictures, were making a £20million film.

They hoped to claim £2.8million in tax credits and VAT repayments and had raked in £1million in tax credits before HMRC swooped and arrested them.

Then, in a farcical attempt to cover their tracks, they hastily recruited an unsuspecting crew and cast and shot their film in four months.

But the shoestring effort they produced for just £100,000 bore no relation to the ambitious plans they had submitted – and the taxmen saw through the ruse.

Yesterday, at Southwark Crown Court in London, bankrupt Iraqi building company boss Bashar Al-Issa, 33, was found guilty of two counts of conspiracy to cheat the public revenue.

His accomplices Tariq Hassan, 51, Osama Al-Baghdady, 50, and Ian Sherwood, 53, were each found guilty of a single count of conspiracy to cheat the public revenue.

Mr. Issa came to Buffalo in a flourish several years ago, buying the Statler Towers and pledging to restore them to their former grandeur. He sought no public money and was greeted as a hero. He pledged that he would build the tallest skyscraper in Buffalo just off Niagara Square, and proposed an underground parking garage under the square to accommodate visitors’ parking needs. He even promised that a speedboat he bought would be available for the use of Statler guests and residents. 

Having renovated an elevator or two, he left town, selling the property at a loss in a flurry of litigation and bankruptcy filings, and his entire phony empire crumbled quickly around him

Ruse de Guerre

Mike Blake alleges in his blog that a source has revealed to him that the threatening texts he received didn’t come from “friends” of WBEN’s deranged, conspiratorial zookeeper. They came from the zookeeper himself. It’d be funny if it wasn’t downright pathetic. Also, this:

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