Food Truck Rodeo: Wednesday at the Historical Society.

This Wednesday August 21, the Buffalo Historical Society will be the site of a Food Truck Rodeo, featuring two new Buffalo trucks and three from Rochester.  In all, fifteen trucks will be serving the hungry masses at the corner of Elmwood and Nottingham from 5pm – 9pm to benefit the Historical Society. Music will be provided by DJ Cutler.

What makes this truck rodeo a bit different is the addition of a beer permit, courtesy of Fat Bob’s Smokehouse. Beers will include offerings from Community Beer Works, Flying Bison and McKenzie’s Cider.

“The event has been really successful because of community support—the community enjoys a chance to visit a variety of trucks in a single place,” said Pete Cimino, co-owner of Lloyd Taco Trucks. “We’re especially excited to welcome two new trucks in our area, as well as three popular trucks from Rochester this week.”

J & L Boulevard BBQ (www.buffalosbestbbq.com) and Greek on the Street (twitter.com/greekonstreet) are the latest to join the Buffalo food truck scene, with J & L boasting food “cooked low and slow, served fast and friendly” and Greek on the Street being the area’s first Greek food truck.

From Rochester, Le Petit Poutine (twitter.com/lepetitpoutine) is known for its “handcut French fries and squeakin’ fresh cheese curds smothered in fresh gravy.” Brick N Motor (www.bricknmotortruck.com) touts an ever-changing menu designed to complement the season and please a variety of tastes. Marty’s Meats (www.martysmeats.com) calls itself a “protein-centric, gourmet food truck.”

Organized by Cimino, the event is the first of its kind in Buffalo. In addition to Lloyd Taco Trucks, the event will include Knight Slider, Black Market Food Truck, Frank’s Gourmet Hot Dogs, Thai Me Up, Hot Off the Press, House of Munch, R&R BBQ, The Sweet Hearth and Roaming Buffalo.

Cimino says The Buffalo Historical Society was selected as a venue because of its mission and ease of access. With ample parking and being centrally located in the city, it became a natural partner.

Shorter Esmonde

Part of the running “Donn Esmonde is an Ass” series, “shorter” takes a typical 500-word Esmonde column and reduces it to a couple of sentences. I try to preserve the general tone and theme of the original column while boiling it down to its essential point. Think of it as a public service: I read it so you don’t have to. 

Friday

Regarding the awful, horrible, soul-sucking pits of racism we call “suburbs”, at least one has thankfully come around to my way of thinking and decided to make their streets less treacherous. 

Sunday

If I were Bernie Tolbert’s campaign manager, he’d be losing in a different way. His refusal to read my mind and follow my phantom campaign strategy means he is “woefully unprepared” – not to be mayor, but to run for mayor.1

1As an aside, I will note that I receive all of Tolbert’s campaign releases and his problem isn’t not issuing press releases or holding news conferences quickly enough after news comes out – his problem is the town’s reductive media either ignoring him completely or preempting the mayoral race for Extra and Jeopardy. If Esmonde thinks that something’s wrong with the mayoral race, a lot of the blame sits firmly with the way it’s being covered. 

Meanwhile, Tolbert is the first mayoral candidate to secure statements – on tape – from two police officers (who are anonymized to prevent retaliation) who explain how the Brown Administration plays games with crime statistics in Buffalo. It’s shocking. 

Siena Polls Buffalo, Looking Good for Brown

The Buffalo News and Channel 2 commissioned a Siena poll of 966 Buffalo registered voters, and 620 likely (D) voters. 51% think New York State is on the right track, and 56% of respondents think Buffalo is going in the right direction. 

The one thing that was interesting about the mayoral race was how differently younger respondents felt about people and issues than older voters. The candidates for mayor have a built-in disadvantage, given the way that City Hall’s patronage system has turned it into a piggy bank and volunteer database for mayoral re-election campaigns. But Democratic challenger Bernie Tolbert and Republican nominee Sergio Rodriguez really need to get their messages out more effectively, but it’s very difficult when you’re a marginally funded or unfunded challenger to an incumbent with a million bucks in the bank. It’s especially difficult when the local media abrogate their civic duty and choose Jeopardy and Entertainment Tonight over a lengthy, substantive mayoral debate. Reddit AMAs and YouTube-only videos are no substitute for direct mail and TV advertising, and given the results of the News’ poll, it’s tough to see how Rodriguez especially is going to be able to overcome his financial disadvantage and defeat Brown. 

At least we have the crosstabs to look at. 

If Donn Esmonde wants to throw challengers to Byron Brown under the bus, he’s ignoring the fact that Tolbert’s numbers are similar to the “wrong track” figure. That makes any challenge against a sitting, well-funded incumbent who has an entire corrupt political machine at his disposal an extraordinarily difficult prospect. Add to that the fact that 58% of respondents have a positive view of Byron Brown. – especially people over the age of 35. Younger voters support Brown by a minimal margin of 49 – 43, with 9% not being sure. 

When asked about Tolbert, the winner is “not sure”, with 44%. 39% of people have a positive view of him, and he is unpopular with younger voters, 23% of whom like him, 29% of whom don’t, and fully half of whom have no idea who he is. 

The poll tells us that County Executive Poloncarz has a 60% favorability rating, and Brian Higgins’ is 77%. But with Poloncarz, too, voters under the age of 35 have no clue whether they like him or not. 

Alas, it’s uglier for Sergio Rodriguez – fully 55% of respondents have no idea who he is. Of the people who do, 22% like him and 24% don’t.  That’s pretty devastating. Older voters are more ignorant of Rodriguez than younger voters – 56% of voters over 55 don’t know who he is, while 47% of voters under 35% are clueless. 

Carl Paladino has done a good job polarizing the populace, and making himself unlikeable. 91% of people are aware of him, and 47% don’t like him; 44% do. His popularity is stronger with Republicans, as you might expect (68%), and independents/other (55%). His support is evenly split among older people who know him, but younger people disapprove of him 49 – 34. White respondents are far more supportive of Paladino than African-Americans, only 24% of whom like him versus 63% of whom who don’t. Most respondents think that Paladino has only been “somewhat effective” on the school board, and generally oppose a state takeover of city schools.

Most respondents think that Byron Brown is doing a “good” or “fair” job as mayor. Only 28% of likely Brown voters think he’s doing an “excellent” job – is that grounds for a third term? 49% say yes, while 43% would prefer someone else.

Of likely voters, just a bit over half have made up their mind. 48% are open to alternatives. More voters think that Byron Brown would be better than Tolbert on the issues of crime, education, neighborhood issues, economic development, jobs, and taxes. 

Friday Videos

It’s Friday. Have a good one. 

Here is how you race a car: 

Here’s what Canalside looks like: 

Here’s what it looks like to land a huge aircraft in heavy crosswinds: 

Here’s what it would look like if you rode a solid rocket booster with the Space Shuttle: 

Here’s police response times in Detroit: 

Here’s Lou Reed with Gorillaz: 

Here is Warsaw commemorating the 1944 Warsaw Uprising

Here’s a pilot’s eye view: 

 

Did You See the Mayoral Debate & Other Things (UPDATED)

1. Federal prosecutors may soon ask  to exhume a dead convicted drug dealer who died while awaiting sentencing. Well, there’s a death certificate, but the government has reason to believe the guy’s not dead. An ingenious getaway attempt, if true, to escape on paper. This would make a great script. 

2. I watched the last half of last night’s mayoral debate. Unfortunately, not one channel saw fit to broadcast it live on TV. I had to find a stream online (and thanks to the magic of Apple TV, we were able to Airplay it to the TV after all). The local media – Channels 2, 3, 4, and 7 and YNN all abrogated their responsibility as FCC licensees to inform and educate the population. It is unconscionable that Channel 4, who had one reporter acting as moderator and another on the panel, couldn’t see fit to preempt a couple of Merv Griffin game shows to get this debate to as wide an audience as possible. Absolutely disgusting. 

You can watch it here at WIVB.com. Mayor Brown seemed petty and defensive – his closing argument implored voters to pick him over a bunch of “novices”. Burn.

But when the sitting Mayor can’t accomplish simple, promised reforms in his seven years in office, why not consider the novices? I also think Tolbert’s work history is far more extensive and accomplished than Brown’s, and Rodriguez was a Marine. Denigrating their backgrounds and experience is hardly a winning strategy for someone who went from being a legislative staffer to the Common Council to the State Senate, and never stood out for bold initiatives or ideas, but relied instead on the power of the political machine. 

For their parts, Bernie Tolbert acquitted himself well, but Sergio Rodriguez was a standout. He was conversational – he didn’t sound like he was reading off a script or memorized group of talking points. He was answering questions in a way that really connected with an audience that was audibly hostile to the sitting Mayor. Tolbert’s substance was very similar to Rodriguez’s, and they pressed the Mayor relentlessly on crime, jobs, and education. 

The only advantages I think Brown has now is his massive, loyal-by-necessity machine, and his huge pile of cash. Well, they’re actually pretty huge advantages when you put it that way. But in terms of connecting with voters and really questioning the engagement and competency of a Brown Administration which is taking undue credit for progress with which it had nothing to do, Tolbert and Rodriguez have a real shot if they can get their messages out. You could hear, if not feel, the frustration and dissatisfaction rolling through the assembled crowd. 

When Rodriguez and Tolbert said they wanted to make the city more business-friendly by streamlining permitting, lowering fees, increasing predictability and uniformity, and setting up a “one-stop shop”, Brown said the city was working on it. 

Working on it?! You’ve BEEN THE MAYOR FOR SEVEN YEARS. YOU CONTROL – WITH ORWELLIAN EFFICIENCY – EVERY EXECUTIVE FUNCTION IN CITY HALL. SEVEN YEARS AND YOU’RE STILL “WORKING ON IT?” City Hall is – and has been – a fetid swamp of bureaucratic sloth and mendacity.

When describing Yugoslav communist self-preservation, corruption, and stasis, Milovan Djilas wrote that a “New Class” had been created, comprised of dictatorial bureaucrats. In Buffalo, we have the same phenomenon – marginally educated people hired and retained not for their merit, but for their politico-financial loyalty to the bureaucrat-di-tutti-bureaucrats, Byron Brown. Forget the “political class” of WNY – our larger problem is this new patronage class. They are neither working class nor transitioning into middle / upper middle class; they have instead carved out their own patronage class whereby your social mobility is founded on the political ties – and donations – you make, rather than your labor, smarts, or merit. It takes seven years to do simple things because the patronage class is united in its opposition to any reformation of the bureaucracy that guarantees it its oft-redundant jobs. 

Byron Brown cannot take on the patronage class because his entire political career is founded on their interdependency. 

The candidates can talk about downtown domed football stadiums until the cows come home, but there is a huge question mark hanging over the city of Buffalo that Mayor Brown hasn’t even seen – much less answered – in the 7 (SEVEN!1) years he’s been occupying the 2nd floor of City Hall. 

3. The Congressional Republicans’ descent into nihilistic brinksmanship continues apace. When your only philosophy and platform is to hate Obama and deny millions of people access to affordable health insurance, I guess that’s what you’re left with. 

Welcome the Eager Student

Suburban school districts should welcome students from failing Buffalo schools whose families care enough about education to do something about it, so long as Buffalo (or some other source ) covers each district’s cost to educate each student.

It could be the first step towards convincing people that some sort of regionwide district alliance – if not a unified school district – is one of the solutions to be considered to the rising costs of education and reducing administrative and fiscal redundancy.

Every kid deserves an excellent education, and we can’t ask families to wait around for substandard schools to get better. Districts should welcome motivated and eager students from failing city schools. It’s really as simple as that. The great societal challenge is to get the people who don’t care, to care. Good luck with that.

Backyard Pizza in the Buffalo News

I’ve been sort of obsessed with pizza for many years, and Neapolitan is my thing. I love it, I seek it out, and I’ve finally gotten around to try and do my best impression of it in my backyard. It’s not quite there yet, because the dough and the fire always tend to vary in consistency and quality. But part of the fun is trying stuff out and seeing what works and what doesn’t.

Andrew Galarneau, food editor for the Buffalo News, and photographer Bob Kirkham came over to try some of my pies and he did a great piece on my efforts to make great pizza in my backyard. You can check it out here.

I use a 22.5″ Weber kettle grill, with the KettlePizza attachment (with the optional tombstone pizza stone), and the Kenji Alt-Lopez Baking Steel hack, found here. One chimney of charcoal and a quarter of a log to get the fire nice and hot, and you’ll be ready to bake in about an hour.

Here are some of my winners:

 

Welcome the Eager Student

Suburban school districts should welcome students from failing Buffalo schools whose families care enough about education to do something about it, so long as Buffalo (or some other source ) covers each district’s cost to educate each student. 

It could be the first step towards convincing people that some sort of regionwide district alliance – if not a unified school district – is one of the solutions to be considered to the rising costs of education and reducing administrative and fiscal redundancy. 

Every kid deserves an excellent education, and we can’t ask families to wait around for substandard schools to get better. Districts should welcome motivated and eager students from failing city schools. It’s really as simple as that. The great societal challenge is to get the people who don’t care, to care. Good luck with that. 

#ItsTime vs. #BelieveinBernie vs. #Progress

He may be underfunded, and he may have a dramatic party enrollment disadvantage, but Republican mayoral candidate Sergio Rodriguez has staked out a unique position here. While Mayor Brown touts “progress” which he hasn’t had a lot to do with, and while Bernie Tolbert shows random people who “believe” in him for unexplained reasons, Sergio shows a set of fundamental problems – crime, unemployment, lack of opportunity, and despair – and declares that it’s time for a change.

For a young Marine who is getting jerked around left and right by every Republican political machine with which he comes into contact, he’s showing people that he won’t give up, won’t back down, and can’t be bought. That is refreshing all by itself.

Admittedly, he doesn’t go into details of what that change would look like, and the candidate himself only makes a cameo appearance at the end, but I think it’s easily the best ad from any Buffalo mayoral campaign in perhaps ever. Kudos to Sergio and his team, and I’m looking forward to the hashtag mayoral race.

 

Clarence School Enrichment Fund : Fixing What We Broke

presentationGifft11Last week, the Clarence School Enrichment Fund presented a check for almost $40,000 to restore certain clubs and sports that had been cut in the wake of the Spring’s budget fiasco. That sum was paid to the Board of Education in order to enable those Fall semester activities to be able to prepare for a school year that begins in just a few weeks. The check was presented to the board by the CSEF board and by two little girls who raised money for CSEF with a lemonade stand. 

Unfortunately, an article in the Buffalo News that appeared the next day caused the CSEF some problems

More than 100 donors pieced together nearly $40,000 to give to the School Board on Wednesday night – enough to restore modified and freshman sports for the fall season.

At the time the check was presented, the CSEF had actually raised over $70,000. Only a part of that was paid to the district to ensure that certain sports and clubs would be restored. In fact, four clubs – science, foreign language, Latin, and technology – were funded with that money. All the Fall sports that had been cut were restored.  At last check, 250 families had joined the “1000 families challenge” where folks were asked to donate the difference between their actual tax bill, and what their school tax bill would have been had the 9% budget increase been passed in May. 

But [the CSEF cautions] that they won’t be around every year to close the gap between the programs that students want and funds the school is able to provide. “This is a one-year deal,” Cerza warned. “We’re going to have to find a way to get these things back into the budget.”

After this year, the organization will likely exist as a booster club to buy minor items like soccer balls and uniforms, but as for the teams themselves, “it’s going to be up to the school to reinstate them in the future,” he said.

Everything I’ve heard about the CSEF is that it was originally constituted not to fund picayune things like balls and uniforms, but big-ticket capital projects that the district can’t – or won’t – fund. The Foundation accelerated its fundraising efforts to expedite private funding – for only one year – of programs cut from the budget. It has consistently stated that it expects the district to restore these sports, clubs, teams, courses, and activities on its own next year. 

As of today, the CSEF has raised over $76,000 in just about 6 weeks, and people can now help just by dining at Brennan’s any Monday night – the restaurant will be donating 10% of the take every week to the CSEF

That will be the big danger – that the tea party forces that manufactured last Spring’s crisis will use the CSEF to argue that the district needs to divest itself of even more people and programs because the private sector can do it on its own. This is a battle for which the school supporters will be prepared. Business as usual isn’t. 

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