#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. 

Donn Esmonde Is An Ass: Culverts and Charters

Another week, another opportunity for the Buffalo News’ most retired columnist to bring up regionalism and hatred of suburbs. 

Friday

HAHAHAHAHA Donn Esmonde is a card. He wants you to think he’s got a sense of humor via Friday’s column about a bridge in Lancaster that needs fixing, yet no one wants to fix. 

Love me, it cries. Do not forsake me. Do not leave me to fend for myself against rain, sleet, snow and ice.

Help me to help myself. Patch my wounds. Fill my holes.

If concrete and asphalt could talk, these are the pleas this crossing would utter.

It is the cry of an orphan. It needs care, commitment, concern. Yet no one will claim it.

Why, it’s downright Shakespearean, isn’t it? To top it off, he morphs an intergovernmental dispute about whether it’s a bridge or a culvert into a tome on regionalism and abolishing village government. Great. Issue nostalgia

Many of the suburban villages we have – e.g., Williamsville, East Aurora, pay a surtax for the privilege. Recent efforts to abolish the villages and wrap them into the adjacent towns failed; people voted to maintain what they like and know, and to pay more tax. I don’t care – good for them. 

If there was no village government in Lancaster, the town would simply take care of the Erie Street span. One less orphan, one less absurdity.

Point : repetitive argument : restated point. The bridge or culvert or whatever the hell it is will eventually be fixed. Also, if you have two putative parents fighting over whose responsibility the bridge is, it’s not an orphan. So, dumb metaphor, too.  

Sunday

Oh, God, not the schools again. Esmonde returns to whitesplain to everyone why the schools in Buffalo are failing. As best I can manage, here are the points he makes: 

1. State Education Commissioner John King was speaking directly to Donn Esmonde when he “lashed out” last week in a “conference call with the Buffalo News editorial board” when someone (Donn) pointed to socioeconomic factors to “excuse” Buffalo’s failing schools. (Let’s remind ourselves for a moment that the very best high school in the entire region – public or private – is a Buffalo public school). 

2. Esmonde spends a paragraph fending off strawmen, insisting that Buffalo teachers are good – just as good as those in the suburbs! 

3. Donn then attacks state testing, which is “one size fits all” and unfairly judges inner-city districts. We also spend a little time hearing about how bad the teachers’ union (of which Esmonde’s wife is a member & he fails – again – to disclose, although he does bother to mention that she is a “nonclassroom” Buffalo teacher) is, and how it’s perfectly reasonable to require professional teachers with masters degrees to also play janitor and clean up after their kids have breakfast in the classroom, rather than a cafeteria. Maybe if his wife was in a classroom and being asked to clean up breakfast, he’d have a different opinion of the policy. 

4. Charter schools are great, because they enable kids without special needs who come from parents who care to escape the kids from homes where parents don’t care, and to get a better education – i.e., Donn thinks charter schools are great because they help to provide certain kids a suburban school experience in a non-suburban environment. As much as Donn hates the suburbs, it’s clear that he loves everything about them, except location.  

5. Some parents just don’t care. 

I have heard countless stories – and seen a few myself – of houses where kids are barely spoken to, much less read to. Where there is not a book to be seen, including a coloring book. Where a blaring TV doubles as a baby sitter. Where kids grow up without leaving the neighborhood, much less going on a vacation. What ought to be seen as a national crisis is instead shrugged off as a fact of life.

But ignoring reality does not make it go away.

“Failing” urban schools, to my mind, are largely a symptom of a society that essentially warehouses its poor and broken families in inner cities. The concentration of poverty and problems only intensifies the dysfunction.

Here’s the thing about the “warehousing” argument. Our society doesn’t warehouse anyone anywhere. What our society does is provide some people with a choice, and others with none. To use the term “warehousing” is, first and foremost, offensive beyond measure – people warehouse goods, and to say society “warehouses” people is to reduce those people to little more than chattel.

I don’t think that’s a reasonable or fair thing to do – to literally dehumanize an entire population to assuage one’s conscience. It’s completely backwards. Someone genuinely concerned about the socioeconomic plight of people in the inner city would likely choose a different terminology to describe the fact that most of our poorest and least privileged fellow citizens are caught in a spiral of poverty, family crisis, crime, and economic despair. They’re not chattel – they’re people in desperate need of help. Calling them things isn’t helping them. 

And who better knows the plight of the inner city than a white baby boomer surrounded by people just like him. As much resentment as Esmonde has for suburbanites, he is guilty of everything he hates about them – choosing to live in and around people with a similar way of life. 

“Warehousing” implies that someone has made a conscious decision or grand plan to place people in the inner city. It’s not that – it’s that other people exercised a choice to leave that location. The great challenge is to help lift up the people left behind, not to reduce them to things. 

6. Here’s more misguided suburbophobia: 

The roadblocks of home and car ownership, along with high rents and little lower-income housing, have for decades barred poor people – many of them minorities – from upscale suburbs and their schools, which predictably are not on any “failing” list. It is not mainly a matter of “better” superintendents, principals and teachers. It is because those schools are filled with the offspring of higher-income, college-educated parents. It’s a built-for-test-success clientele. If you are blind to that reality, whether your name is John King or John Doe, I think you are missing the larger picture.

Reformers from regionalism guru David Rusk to economic-integration advocate Richard Kahlenberg say the only way the school dynamic changes is by lightening urban America’s load of poor people. That happens either by busing kids to economically balanced schools, or by building more mixed-income housing in the ’burbs. I don’t see either happening here anytime soon. The walls already are up, and they’re high.

Just because the barriers are invisible does not mean they do not exist. Those “walls” explain a lot, for those who can get their minds off of test scores.

Right. This is why Esmonde went out of his way to advocate for disinvestment in Clarence schools. So deep and burning is his hatred and resentment, he wants to systematically make the suburbs less desirable by doing harm to the people who live there.  And their kids. But the people “warehoused” in the inner city – he cares about them, despite the fact that the per-pupil rate of spending in those poorer districts is almost double that of Clarence. 

Successful people with good educations place a high value on education and work hard to make sure their kids get a good one, too. Let’s assume (a complete fallacy, but whatever) that every family in WNY started out in Buffalo. Some choose to keep their kids in the regular public schools. Some want their kids to go to a charter, or maybe a parochial or private school. Some decide to move to a particular neighborhood to get a shot at a particular school. How the hell is that different from moving to Amherst?

And Esmonde capitulates on the never-uttered notion that many inner-city poor people want their kids to do better and have things that they themselves could never have. He rejects by omission any notion of social mobility – the American dream itself. You want to talk about prejudice and racism, which is the oft-silent undercurrent of Esmonde’s suburbophobia? How about the fact that you “warehouse” yourself with other white professionals in a particular part of the city, and reject even the notion that your poorer counterparts could want better? Notice he’s talking about the test scores Albany wants, and throws up his hands and complains about the poor that we “warehouse”. He never suggests that any affected families want better, or are doing what they can with nothing. And what of the teachers? Seems as if Esmonde takes a very complicated equation, dumbs it down, and denigrates teachers and poor families as hopelessly stuck. 

His answer is to invoke David Rusk (again) and that the government impose a Stalinist master plan with quotas and governmental orders as to who can live where. Bus inner-city kids to the suburbs, because every kid will excel with a 2 hour daily commute, right? And force those mean suburbanites to relocate to the inner city (of course, white people who “warehouse” themselves within walking distance of the Bidwell Farmer’s Market or Spot Coffee would be exempt). 

Donn Esmonde is such a disingenuous, hypocritical Ass.™ 

Captain Collins

Is the Collins Congressional office apparatus set up like the USS Enterprise? Maybe more like the Sea Org? Either way, Collins has a penchant for golf shirts – he famously sold them to county workers when he was County Executive, and encouraged teambuilding and other managementspeak by emblazoning them with the county seal and a Six Sigma logo.

America doesn’t do peerages, so Collins bought himself the next best thing – a Congressional seat, and dammit he’s the captain of that ship. He’s got the stripes to prove it.

Is it just an Adidas ad, or does it designate rank?

I can only assume that Grant and Loomis have similar white and red golf shirts with two stripes. Interns and lower-level staffers get one. It’s good to know your place.

HT DWICollins and Tom Dolina for the “FailBoat” image.

Nation Is In Decline Because of Morons

20130808-063627.jpg

The Buffalo News gets letters. Every single sentence of this letter, written by a James Costa of Elma, Erie County, New York, USA, is a symphony of stupidity.

Mr. Costa is a retired teacher living in Elma, who once enjoyed hitchhiking, accepting handouts from hardworking Americans while he and his friend hoboed it across the country. He also used to troll the Topix Forum using colorful pen names such as “MILFMan”, and “Brillo Pad Headwhere he enjoyed tearing into librulz. (His posts are deleted, but you can see many of them in others’ blockquotes.) But the person who posted as “Brillo Pad Head” also has fond memories of teaching – in the public school system – and the joy he got from that calling. Weird dichotomy.

Here is the letter from this leech retired hypocrite public pension-receiving teacher:

To fulfill its promise of social and economic justice, liberalism must transfer power from the people to government.

What is the government? What is the government but us – people? We live in a representative democracy, where we are given the franchise to elect people to do what they believe to be in our best interests. If the people do not think the politician is doing this, they are free to elect someone else. The power is the people’s. Always. We just don’t wield it as often as we might.

By selling the concept of redistribution of wealth as “fairness,” social programs are created and expanded to capture new classes of dependents.

Well, any system that taxes people to pay for public things is redistributing wealth. Which is to say, every functioning state taxes people to pay for public things. Social programs? Assuming the retiree here is a Medicare and Social Security recipient, he is directly benefitting from our social safety net. Not only that, but as a retiree from the public school system in New York, he receives a public pension that is completely free from state income taxation. You can’t sit there on top of a pile of public cash and whine about redistributive policies.

Under the pretext of ensuring “clean” air and water, government further enhances its power by destroying industries through crushing environmental regulations, thus swelling unemployment and welfare rolls.

Got that? Potable water and breathable air are no longer goals for which we should aim. It is not the right of the individual to breathe clean air or drink clean water that is paramount – it is the right of “industries” to ruin the air and poison the water that is of primary importance in this person’s addled mind.

Its “man-made” global warming claim is a ploy to boost taxes on all energy.

I think that’s a swipe at “cap and trade” – a conservative-invented, market-based system of reducing emissions and pollution which the conservatives abandoned when Obama decided he thought it was a good idea, too.

When Obamacare is fully implemented, costs will skyrocket, services will be rationed, quality care will nosedive and meddling bureaucrats will gain unprecedented control of our lives.

Says the guy receiving free or massively discounted, taxpayer-provided single-payer public socialized medicine.

Recently the formerly great city of Detroit has declared bankruptcy. This tragedy is a microcosm of a national trend.

Hm. Not really.

Having intentionally created these proliferating economic time bombs, heroic liberalism will magically appear deus ex machina to save the country with loads of fiat money and new regulations.

Someone intentionally created a 60 year decline in the city of Detroit, whereby its population plummeted, abandoning it to move to the suburbs? Also, Mr. Costa seems to be a fan of the gold standard, which we abandoned two generations ago.

For decades liberals have been laying the foundation for a socialist America: They’ve demonized religion, polluted the airwaves, corrupted childhood innocence, sabotaged education and aborted millions of babies.

Polluting the airwaves is bad, but polluting the air is good. I don’t know how liberals have “demonized religion” or “corrupted childhood innocence” or “sabotaged education”, and I’m pretty sure people of all political persuasions have aborted all those babies. I’m guessing this guy has a problem with Hollywood, and maybe some other things perhaps reflected by his “Brillo Pad Head” pseudonym used in other fora.

They’ve weakened and demoralized the military with mixed genders.

Where is the evidence of that? What does he mean “mixed genders”? Women in the military? Gays in the military?

They (with complicit Republicans) have opened our borders to illegal aliens, further burdening our economy.

Immigrants – documented and undocumented – are not as massive a drain on the economy as people suspect.

They’ve promoted class envy and fomented racial hatred.

Says “Brillo Pad Head”.

They’ve smothered free speech with PC, and targeted the Second Amendment.

PC is political correctness – the notion that, e.g., if you say or write something that’s racist, you should be humiliated and criticized for it. PC is the notion that you should be accountable and responsible for what you write – for instance, Mr. Costa enjoyed referring to autistic kids as “retards” in the Topix exchange linked-to, above.

Welcome to the Utopia of “fundamental change.”

James Costa

Elma

You should immediately return your next Social Security check to the government, reject your next pension payment, pay the state taxes on what you’ve already received (that tax benefit is a direct subsidy from the taxpayers of New York), and forevermore pay every medical bill in cash and never submit to Medicare again.

Is the Town of Greece a Christian One?

Here’s a press release that Congressman Chris Collins issued:

Congressman Collins and 84 members of the House of Representatives file an Amicus Curiae brief to support religious freedom

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) showed his support for the town of Greece, NY in the upcoming Supreme Court case, Greece v. Galloway today by signing an Amicus Curiae brief in support of Greece.

Greece v. Galloway, which concerns the religious establishment clause in the Constitution, will be argued this fall.

“It is clear that the Town of Greece has not violated the United States Constitution,” said Congressman Collins. “People from all over the world come to this country to escape religious persecution and are entitled to pray together with their communities as they please.”

Starting in 1999, the Greece Town Board began its public meetings with a prayer from a “chaplain of the month.” Town officials invited member of all faiths, and atheists, and welcomed anyone who volunteered to give the opening prayer. Two town residents sued, stating the primarily Christian prayers violated the Establishment Clause of the Constitution.

The federal appeals court in New York agreed, because it found that almost all of the chaplains who offered to pray were Christian. Even though people of all faiths were welcome to offer their own prayers, the court found the prayer unconstitutional and the town of Greece was forced to stop.

Today, 85 Members of Congress filed an Amicus Curiae brief stating the history of religious freedom and the importance of legislative prayer as observed daily on a national level.

“Each legislative day, the Senate and House of Representatives open with a prayer from ministers of all faiths, from all over the country,” continued Congressman Collins. “As our federal legislative bodies welcome all, so did the Town of Greece. We must remain a nation that does not force a religion on any person, but is accepting of those who wish to publicly profess their faith and ask for guidance.”

Town of Greece v. Galloway is scheduled for oral arguments in the Supreme Court toward the end of this year.

On cross-motions for summary judgment, a District Court Judge ruled in favor of the town, dismissing the Complaint. The plaintiffs appealed, and the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, holding that,

…the town’s prayer practice must be viewed as an endorsement of a particular religious viewpoint. This conclusion is supported by several considerations, including the prayer-giver selection process, the content of the prayers, and the contextual actions (and inactions) of prayer-givers and town officials. We emphasize that, in reaching this conclusion, we do not rely on any single aspect of the town’s prayer practice, but rather on the totality of the circumstances present in this case.

The town’s process for selecting prayer-givers virtually ensured a Christian viewpoint.

adding,

We do not hold that the town may not open its public meetings with a prayer or invocation. Such legislative prayers, as Marsh holds and as we have repeatedly noted, do not violate the Establishment Clause. Nor do we hold that any prayers offered in this context must be blandly “nonsectarian.” A requirement that town 34*34 officials censor the invocations offered— beyond the limited requirement, recognized in Marsh, that prayer-givers be advised that they may not proselytize for, or disparage, particular religions—is not only not required by the Constitution, but risks establishing a “civic religion” of its own. Occasional prayers recognizing the divinities or beliefs of a particular creed, in a context that makes clear that the town is not endorsing or affiliating itself with that creed or, more broadly, with religion or non-religion, are not offensive to the Constitution. Nor are we adopting a test that permits prayers in theory but makes it impossible for a town in practice to avoid Establishment Clause problems. To the contrary, it seems to us that a practice such as the one to which the town here apparently aspired—one that is inclusive of multiple beliefs and makes clear, in public word and gesture, that the prayers offered are presented by a randomly chosen group of volunteers, who do not express an official town religion, and do not purport to speak on behalf of all the town’s residents or to compel their assent to a particular belief—is fully compatible with the First Amendment.

What we do hold is that a legislative prayer practice that, however well-intentioned, conveys to a reasonable objective observer under the totality of the circumstances an official affiliation with a particular religion violates the clear command of the Establishment Clause. Where the overwhelming predominance of prayers offered are associated, often in an explicitly sectarian way, with a particular creed, and where the town takes no steps to avoid the identification, but rather conveys the impression that town officials themselves identify with the sectarian prayers and that residents in attendance are expected to participate in them, a reasonable objective observer would perceive such an affiliation.

So – the Court didn’t say Greece couldn’t start its town board meetings with an invocation or prayer – it’s just that town hall can’t turn itself into a particular church for that period of time. They must be random, they must be voluntary, and they must be inclusive enough so as to not convey the idea that the town considers itself to be a Christian town.

Collins’ release is dated August 2nd, and the SCOTUSBlog doesn’t have the specific brief online. I look forward to reading Mr. Collins’ thoughts on what the 2nd Circuit decided.

Gun Hugging Drama Queens

Via WBEN

Tuesday afternoon, Buffalo’s gun-hugging right wing lost. its. shit. You know what this means – angry, tweenish drama queendom and a segment on knee-jerk freak-out radio. 

Evidently, all the immigrants had been demonized, all the poors had been denigrated, all the liberals had been insulted, the notion of people having health care had been called a socialist trainwreck, all the health care bills had been repealed, Cuomo had been called a monster dictator, and climate change had been sufficiently denied, and science rejected for the day. 

And so, it inevitably turned to guns. It was alleged that the Erie County Fair was hateful of the 1st and 2nd Amendments, refusing to let a local he-man gun-hugging club to distribute free bumper stickers; that lie got halfway around the world before the truth had a chance to get its pants on. 

The “Second Amendment ain’t about Duck Hunting”, no. It also “ain’t about overthrowin’ the gubmint, neither”. Also, “SCOPE”: 

And some people need to be part of the equation. 

Of course, this became a BREAKING NEWS ZOMG topic on right wing drama queen radio station WBEN during its new afternoon drive show. As it turns out, there was no controversy.

Instead, the Erie County Fair has a standing policy against allowing any exhibitors from handing out free stickers, because kids take them and stick them every which place, and the Fair has to clean them up. Furthermore, if SCOPE and the gun-huggers had simply called the Fair’s administration, they’d have discovered that their signs weren’t being excluded. 

According to WBEN

The Shooters Committee on Political Education (SCOPE) is claiming that they are being shut out of the fair because of a political bias against their pro-gun stance.

Fair Spokeswoman Lou Ann Delaney says that’s not the reason they’re being shut out.

“The first time that I was aware of them contacting the Fair was this morning, to hand out stickers” Delaney said. “We don’t allow any stickers to be given out by any organization because kids put them where they shouldn’t put them.”

Delaney also says that the process for allowing vendors at the Fair starts in January, and SCOPE was very late in attempting to be included.

SCOPE president Stephen Aldstadt doesn’t see that to be the case.

“It seems more like they have taken a particular political position on that particular issue and they are not welcome of dissenting views” Aldstadt said.

Delaney once again disagrees with Scope, saying that the Fair is not at all taking one side of a political issue. “The Erie County Sheriff’s Department is doing several times throughout the fair Gun Safety on different stages. We just have to have certain policies in place, and that’s for our guest’s benefit.”

The Erie County Fair is neither run nor funded by any governmental entity. 

Erie County Agricultural Society is a private not-for-profit membership corporation, which annually produces the Erie County Fair.  The Society is the oldest civic organization in western New York, established in 1819.  The Society does not receive funding from New York State or from the County of Erie. 

As a private entity and private event, the fair’s organizers could, if they wanted to, reject and exclude any group, message, sign, or sticker they feel like for any reason whatsoever. It also means there’s no 2nd Amendment issue, nor any 1st Amendment free speech issue, either. Imagine these constitutional scholars attempting to infringe the fair’s right to allow whatever things or people it wants at its event. It would seem as if what they perceive to be their rights trump everyone else’s actual rights. 

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear stickers shall not be infringed.

Is the Town of Greece a Christian One?

Here’s a press release that Congressman Chris Collins issued

Congressman Collins and 84 members of the House of Representatives file an Amicus Curiae brief to support religious freedom

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) showed his support for the town of Greece, NY in the upcoming Supreme Court case, Greece v. Galloway today by signing an Amicus Curiae brief in support of Greece.

Greece v. Galloway, which concerns the religious establishment clause in the Constitution, will be argued this fall.

“It is clear that the Town of Greece has not violated the United States Constitution,” said Congressman Collins. “People from all over the world come to this country to escape religious persecution and are entitled to pray together with their communities as they please.”

Starting in 1999, the Greece Town Board began its public meetings with a prayer from a “chaplain of the month.” Town officials invited member of all faiths, and atheists, and welcomed anyone who volunteered to give the opening prayer. Two town residents sued, stating the primarily Christian prayers violated the Establishment Clause of the Constitution.  

The federal appeals court in New York agreed, because it found that almost all of the chaplains who offered to pray were Christian. Even though people of all faiths were welcome to offer their own prayers, the court found the prayer unconstitutional and the town of Greece was forced to stop.

Today, 85 Members of Congress filed an Amicus Curiae brief stating the history of religious freedom and the importance of legislative prayer as observed daily on a national level.

“Each legislative day, the Senate and House of Representatives open with a prayer from ministers of all faiths, from all over the country,” continued Congressman Collins. “As our federal legislative bodies welcome all, so did the Town of Greece. We must remain a nation that does not force a religion on any person, but is accepting of those who wish to publicly profess their faith and ask for guidance.”

Town of Greece v. Galloway is scheduled for oral arguments in the Supreme Court toward the end of this year.

On cross-motions for summary judgment, a District Court Judge ruled in favor of the town, dismissing the Complaint. The plaintiffs appealed, and the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, holding that,  

…the town’s prayer practice must be viewed as an endorsement of a particular religious viewpoint. This conclusion is supported by several considerations, including the prayer-giver selection process, the content of the prayers, and the contextual actions (and inactions) of prayer-givers and town officials. We emphasize that, in reaching this conclusion, we do not rely on any single aspect of the town’s prayer practice, but rather on the totality of the circumstances present in this case.

The town’s process for selecting prayer-givers virtually ensured a Christian viewpoint.

adding, 

We do not hold that the town may not open its public meetings with a prayer or invocation. Such legislative prayers, as Marsh holds and as we have repeatedly noted, do not violate the Establishment Clause. Nor do we hold that any prayers offered in this context must be blandly “nonsectarian.” A requirement that town 34*34 officials censor the invocations offered— beyond the limited requirement, recognized in Marsh, that prayer-givers be advised that they may not proselytize for, or disparage, particular religions—is not only not required by the Constitution, but risks establishing a “civic religion” of its own. Occasional prayers recognizing the divinities or beliefs of a particular creed, in a context that makes clear that the town is not endorsing or affiliating itself with that creed or, more broadly, with religion or non-religion, are not offensive to the Constitution. Nor are we adopting a test that permits prayers in theory but makes it impossible for a town in practice to avoid Establishment Clause problems. To the contrary, it seems to us that a practice such as the one to which the town here apparently aspired—one that is inclusive of multiple beliefs and makes clear, in public word and gesture, that the prayers offered are presented by a randomly chosen group of volunteers, who do not express an official town religion, and do not purport to speak on behalf of all the town’s residents or to compel their assent to a particular belief—is fully compatible with the First Amendment.

What we do hold is that a legislative prayer practice that, however well-intentioned, conveys to a reasonable objective observer under the totality of the circumstances an official affiliation with a particular religion violates the clear command of the Establishment Clause. Where the overwhelming predominance of prayers offered are associated, often in an explicitly sectarian way, with a particular creed, and where the town takes no steps to avoid the identification, but rather conveys the impression that town officials themselves identify with the sectarian prayers and that residents in attendance are expected to participate in them, a reasonable objective observer would perceive such an affiliation.

So – the Court didn’t say Greece couldn’t start its town board meetings with an invocation or prayer – it’s just that town hall can’t turn itself into a particular church for that period of time. They must be random, they must be voluntary, and they must be inclusive enough so as to not convey the idea that the town considers itself to be a Christian town. 

Collins’ release is dated August 2nd, and the SCOTUSBlog doesn’t have the specific brief online. I look forward to reading Mr. Collins’ thoughts on what the 2nd Circuit decided. 

 

The Williamsville Tolls Are Nobody’s Golden Goose

They’ve been talking about and doing the inevitable, repetitive “studies” to determine how, when, and where they might move the Williamsville toll plaza a bit further East and possibly upgrade the facility to work better. We are still using 1920s technology in 2013 – we actually hire human beings to take toll tickets from a dispenser and hand them  to non-transponder motorists. Is there some compelling reason why we need to pay someone 50 large to act as a middleman between the ticket dispenser and you? Except for job #1 being “don’t kill the job”, no.

Frankly, the upgrades the Thruway Authority is planning, suck. “Could possibly include 35-mph E-ZPass toll lanes to to cut down on traffic jams” is the Thruway Authority taking a pointed stick and jamming it in your eye. 35 MPH?

There are massive flaws with the existing Williamsville tolls. Firstly, for some reason upstate toll plazas do not adhere to the downstate toll plaza rule that commercial trucks stay to the right and leave the E-ZPass lanes towards the left for car traffic. Secondly, we have absolutely zero number of high-speed E-ZPass plazas here, and it doesn’t sound like we’re going to get any.  35 MPH is not high-speed; it is well below regular highway speeds.  Your E-ZPass and license plate are perfectly capable of being read at regular highway speeds. In Florida, they make non-transponder traffic pull to a plaza on the side of the road while transponder traffic just keeps moving at 65 MPH. The 407 in Toronto has no toll plazas at all – it takes a picture of your plate and sends you a bill.

Florida

 

Toronto’s 407 uses the Ferrovial “Free Flow” toll collection system

Thirdly, if the plaza was re-made to accommodate high-speed transponder traffic, you eliminate a lot of noise and pollution from idling vehicles, and you can move the plaza further east to not only enlarge the toll-free commuter area for Buffalo, but also to alleviate Main Street traffic and put the plaza somewhere in the middle of nowhere farmland to minimize NIMBYism.

The Clarence town board debated the issue this week, and Supervisor David Hartzell voted against a resolution in favor of moving the plaza East. He explained that the toll plaza is,

the town’s “golden goose,” because of the traffic it drives there. Take away the barrier, he said, and “Transit Road would just dry up.”

That’s nonsense. Pembroke is within the toll area, and Route 77 isn’t some five-lane juggernaut of strip plazas and Wal*Marts. Transit Road isn’t what it is today because of the location of a toll barrier in Williamsville. On the contrary, Main Street in Williamsville is the mess it is today because of the toll barrier – people use Main Street to avoid the barrier, which backs up much more often and worse than exit 49 at Transit. Bernie Kolber has it right, but only partly.

The present location of the Williamsville toll barrier hinders economic activity, wastes travelers’ time, wastes fuel, adds to traffic congestion on adjacent roads, decreases efficiency of travel, contributes to air pollution and in general detracts from the quality of life of suburban residents,” he said, arguing that improving the current barrier won’t solve those problems.

You need to do both. If the Thruway insists on maintaining tolls on a road that was supposed to be toll-free when it was paid off in 1997, then it needs to do so in a way that is most beneficial to motorists. Furthermore, it should move the toll barrier back from Williamsville to somewhere between exits 48A and 49. There is plenty of emptiness in that stretch to minimize difficulty for nearby residents. Hell, you could put it near the quarry between Gunnville and Harris Hill Roads – if Buffalo Crushed Stone doesn’t bother you, neither will a state-of-the-art high-speed (not 35 MPH, but 65 MPH) toll plaza.

Then trucks and other traffic coming from points east will more readily use the Thruway to access the 290 and 33, and alleviate the through traffic now congesting Main Street in Williamsville, which is planning traffic calming and other measures to render that ugly five-lane mess something more pedestrian-friendly.

Or maybe we can just pretend it’s still 1965, and hire state workers to make us stop so they can hold our E-ZPasses up to the windshield for us before we pass through.

Chris Collins Plays Dress-Up & Other Things

Welcome to Buffalo: Read it in the style of Droopy Dog

1. I visited the Depew Amshack for the first time yesterday, and was struck by how utilitarian and pedestrian it all seems. Taking Amtrak from Buffalo to New York is time-consuming, given that freight takes precedence over passenger service, but there are definite advantages to taking the train. If we are someday lucky enough to join the 21st century and introduce high-speed rail service, it could feasibly take 2 – 4 hours to get from here to Manhattan at speeds of 150 – 200 MPH, instead of 8 – 9. It’s a crime that the gorgeous Central Terminal hasn’t seen a rail passenger since 1979, and instead we have a dumpy shack unceremoniously plopped off Dick Rd between Broadway and Walden.

Correction: I wrote it was utilitarian. But it’s not.

Well, it is insofar as there exists a platform from which you can access the train, and a person who will sell you a ticket, and even a restroom. But there’s not even so much as a newspaper box at the station to pick up the Buffalo News or USA Today. Older passengers have a tough time climbing up into the train – the platform isn’t at door-level.

You know, Rail travel doesn’t have to suck any more than going through toll booths has to suck

2. Apparently, when it comes to this year’s election for Mayor of Buffalo, people are less concerned with the color of the candidates’ skin, and more interested in what they want to do as candidates. The Buffalo News is ON IT. 

3. While not gleefully voting to withhold health insurance from millions of Americans, millionaire Chris Collins played dress-up on Monday, donning the brown uniform of a UPS deliveryperson, and pretended to be a common working man. No word on whether he added a “Six Sigma” logo to the uniform, as he did when he sold county merch for employees to wear. The picture shown below might even be considered offensive, given the fact that Collins is a consistent defender of the millionaire class, and acting against the interests of anyone who has to wear a nametag to work.  

So, Who’s Texting BuzzFeed’s Rosie Gray?

Which Buffalo BuzzFeed fan was texting Rosie Gray out of the clear blue sky last night, telling her how beautiful she looked on the teevee? 

So, who locally has a Verizon cellphone with 716-713-6xxx, and how soon before we make Forbes’ “top 10 cities with creepy Luddite would-be sexters”? 

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