School Board Votes 6-2 to Seek Paladino’s Ouster


The Buffalo Board of Education held a special meeting Thursday afternoon to take up a resolution seeking Carl Paladino’s resignation from the board, and his removal by the state Education Department should he refuse. The resolution, which was introduced by its author, new board member Hope Jay, passed 6 – 2; Paladino was not present. 

The meeting was held in a packed Common Council chamber, and got raucous at times. Both Paladino allies remaining on the board – Patti Pierce and Larry Quinn – condemned Paladino’s statements, but preferred instead to offer him an opportunity to apologize to the board, to students, and to the city. On its face, this would not seem unreasonable. 

Board President Barbara Seals Nevergold kept the meeting orderly, asking spectators to not heckle Pierce or Quinn. Anti-Paladino board members, especially the African-American females who have borne the brunt of Paladino’s arrogant belligerence on the board, spoke passionately about how Paladino’s hatred reflects poorly on the schools, the city, and students; a student who used words such as Carl’s would be disciplined for violating the various anti-bullying rules and codes of conduct. 

Pierce’s presentation was reasonable, but went went far off the rails when she called on Buffalo to show the same sort of compassion and forgiveness as Charleston, SC in the wake of the church massacre by a white supremacist in June 2015. While Pierce likely didn’t mean to compare Carl Paladino to mass murdering neo-nazi Dylann Roof, many in the crowd howled with derision at what they termed Pierce’s use of this tragedy to protect her “racist friend.” 

Quinn told a heartwarming story about his childhood African-American nanny crying at night wishing she could be white. The crowd laughed, and Quinn didn’t know what was so funny, oblivious to the fact that it’s not common for families to retain the services of strangers to raise their kids. It nicely punctuated the sense of privilege emanating from Carl’s weak support during a debate over racism. 

I could have done without Theresa Harris-Tigg referring to Paladino as “orange Cheeto” in an obvious dig at the President-Elect. She prefaced that with a statement about how Paladino “craves infamy,” and she will “not say his name again” or “continue to empower him”. It seems disingenuous to me, however, for someone to complain about dehumanizing language by using dehumanizing and insulting language. I have no doubt, however, that Harris-Tigg especially has been in Paladino’s relentlessly bullying crosshairs for months, and this was her chance to give him a taste of his own medicine. Either way, it was unnecessary; when they go low, we go high. 

Every other board member also spoke convincingly about Paladino’s pattern of hostile and disruptive behavior. It was clear that this was more a victim impact statement than a board debate. 

There was no show of support for Carl Paladino at the meeting. At the chilly rally earlier in the day, about three showed up. One lady had a bizarre sign with fetuses on it and kept yelling about abortion. Two older men showed up, and one had a sign in support of Carl that he tried to display directly under the podium. There was about a minute where protesters and Carl’s lonely supporter danced around each other, avoiding contact, to cover up the pro-Carl sign. 

But there were 2 – 300 people, some who brought their children during this vacation week, who expressed their outrage at this man who governs their school district and thinks that Michelle Obama is a male gorilla. 

Significantly, the story about Paladino’s comments has now gone international and every non-Buffalo media outlet refers to Carl as a Trump surrogate or state co-chair. While Trump will probably continue to take Carl’s calls, chances are that people like Jared Kushner, Steve Bannon, and Reince Priebus have no use for Paladino or his list of prospective White House hires. This “joke” of his has blown up in Paladino’s face in a way he likely never could have foreseen. 

As for Paladino, Jim Heaney at the IP notes that Paladino’s speech is protected by the 1st Amendment and demanding that the state remove him from the board sets a dangerous precedent.  It’s a valid point, and one that I’ve thought about, as well. If the state sanctions Paladino for his racist words, the 1st Amendment is definitely triggered. Carl Paladino absolutely has a 1st Amendment right to call Michelle Obama a male Zimbabwean gorilla; however, Paladino doesn’t have a concomitant Constitutional right to be on the school board. If he violates the rules of conduct as they relate to the board, he can be removed. 

The state can remove a board member if his conduct hinders the board’s ability to function, and the Buffalo school board is making that very allegation. Paladino’s relentless, oft-racial bullying does not advance the board’s work in any way. Indeed, expressing death wishes or threats against the President, which Paladino did in his “wish list”, is also not necessarily protected speech and could very well invite a Secret Service investigation. Either way, if the state chooses to remove Paladino, he has already indicated a willingness to fight that in court – Carl Paladino has cost the board thousands in legal fees already, what’s a few more?

What Paladino wrote in Artvoice is not dissimilar from the words that saw a West Virginia mayor resign and an IDA member removed. Is Buffalo at least as responsible as Clay County, West Virginia? 

Carl Paladino: Symbol of Buffalo Defiantly Fauxpologizes


In an annual Artvoice survey, local developer and bestiality fan Carl Paladino was asked what he wished for 2017. He replied that he wanted to see President Obama killed, Presidential advisor Valerie Jarrett beheaded by a “jihady”, and that First Lady Michelle Obama undergo a sex change operation to – somehow – revert to being a man, and go back to Africa to live in a cave with “Maxie the gorilla”. 

Paladino’s anti-Obama animus wasn’t new. Neither was the overt, blatant race hate. What was new here was how brazenly he expressed it. After all, he had said awful things about racial, ethnic, and religious minorities in the past without consequence. For at least six years, I have railed against Carl Paladino every time he said something racist. To his shame, it’s a long list of posts. To his shame, he could have done positive things for Buffalo were it not for his vicious hatred. That, to me, is the tragedy of this failed creature. 

March 2010: Paladino’s racist and pornographic emails
October 2012: Paladino denies he’s a birther, but is birther. 
August 2014: Paladino’s homophobic reaction to a 419 scam letter
February 2015: Paladino rejects civil rights assessment of Buffalo schools. 
March 2015: Paladino threatens school board “sisterhood” with libel suit (which never came)
July 2015: Paladino demeans “damn Asians” at UB. 
July 2015: Paladino offers fake apology to “damn Asians”
July 2015: Paladino’s supporters: hey, he could have said, “damn Ukrainians”. 
July 2015: Paladino defends Joe Mascia’s n-word outburst
July 2015: Sandy Beach calls Paladino out on Joe Mascia
August 2015: Paladino digs a deeper hole on Shredd & Ragan. 
August 2016: Paladino claims Obama is Muslim. 

Kudos to the politicians who came out publicly to reject and denounce Paladino – Governor Cuomo, Mark Poloncarz, Darius Pridgen, and Pat Burke come to mind. Brian Higgins said of Paladino in 2013 that he is, “the worst kind of coward this community will ever know,” adding, “he hides behind his dirty money and sits in his Ellicott Square cave spewing his venom and hateful emails every day. He’s pathetic, disgraceful and a broken man…Carl has all the moral arrogance without the moral integrity, It’s very, very sad what’s become of him.”

Thanks also to the activists and organizations who have called for Paladino to face some fallout for his racism. We should be grateful for School Board President Barbara Seals-Nevergold for speaking out, and for Jamie Moses and Artvoice for publishing Paladino’s 2017 wish list. While Artvoice has come under attack for this, that is misplaced. Were it not for this listicle, Paladino’s racial animus would not be a topic of conversation. It’s not that Paladino likes the sound of his verbal turds hitting the punchbowl – he is the turd, and we are the punchbowl. How many more of these stories will it take before Buffalo rejects this guy? What does he need to say that he hasn’t already said to deserve to be evicted from polite society, or what passes for it in Buffalo? 

You may have seen my Christmas poem analysis of this, but let’s examine the Artvoice “2017 wish list”: 

Obama catches mad cow disease after being caught having relations with a Herford. 

“Herford” is spelled wrong. It alludes to bestiality, which you would think Carl “horse porn” Paladino might eschew. I think he’s also calling Michelle Obama a cow here, but it’s not clear. 

He dies before his trial and is buried in a cow pasture

You know, people just shouldn’t wish other people dead. This is especially true in cases where it might provoke a Secret Service investigation. 

next to Valerie Jarret, who died weeks prior, after being convicted of sedition and treason, when a Jihady cell mate mistook her for being a nice person and decapitated her.

Apart from the fact that Valerie Jarrett – a Presidential advisor – is an African-American female, I have no clue what would prompt Paladino to accuse her of “sedition and treason,” or to wish a “Jihady” – also spelled wrong – to decapitate her. This is beyond disgusting, at least until we get to the question of whom Paladino would most like to be rid of in 2017. 

Michelle Obama.  I’d like her to return to being a male

Is this him repeating conspiracy theories, or a commentary on Mrs. Obama’s looks? Too much Alex Jones, or just Carl being an insufferable, misogynistic asshole? Either way, (a) Paladino is one to talk about looks; and (b) it reveals just how sick and depraved he is. 

and let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe

“Let loose” – like a caged animal. “Zimbabwe” – go back to Africa, rephrased to be more specific. 

where she lives comfortably in a cave with Maxie, the gorilla.

Gorillas don’t live in caves. He’s simultaneously calling Mrs. Obama uncivilized and a male gorilla. He can’t just express how and why he dislikes her, or disagrees with her – he has to take away her femininity. He has to strip her of her dignity, and her humanity. She is not a person whom he doesn’t like – he argues here that she isn’t a person at all

I don’t think Paladino knew – or cared – how racist his wish list was, and was taken aback by how forcefully the shit hit the fan this time. When your own son has to react to boycott threats to disavow you, you’ve got an issue you need to address. Good, I suppose, for William Paladino for rejecting his father’s words, but the storyline that Carl has had little day-to-day influence over Ellicott Development business “for many years” rings hollow

It was Carl Paladino who complained to the media about the possibility that the Department of Social Services might move out of an Ellicott Development building. In September, Carl Paladino confirmed to Channel 4 that Ellicott Development was interested in buying Mickey Rat’s. Carl Paladino represented Ellicott Development in connection with a Bills season ticket giveaway. In July, when Paladino’s Twitter account called on Attorney General Loretta Lynch to be lynched, Paladino blamed an “error” on his employee, Jackie O’Bannon, who works for Ellicott Development. Carl Paladino was involved with Ellicott’s purchase of a Ganson Street property. The many massive “Trump/Pence” signs found outside local Ellicott Development-owned properties throughout the region were no accident. 

“Tough Luck”: Paladino Doubles Down

So, Paladino has now issued two follow-up press releases regarding his 2017 wish list, and spoke to a couple of pretty pliant reporters from Channel 7 on camera. Let’s fisk them. Here’s the first: 

It has nothing to do with race.  That’s the typical stance of the press when they can’t otherwise defend the acts of the person being attacked.

You called the First Lady a gorilla who should go back to Africa, right after you called her a “Herford” [sic]. It has everything to do with race. 

It’s about two progressive elitist ingrates who have hated their country so badly and destroyed its fabric in so many respects in 8 years.

Here comes a listicle of fake news, resentments, and thinly veiled race-hate. 

It’s about them diminishing the respect for their country on the world scene, surrendering its status as the protector of human rights, disgracing the memory of its veterans who gave so much.

Europe & Asia agree: they have more respect for the US under Obama than his predecessor. Obama’s current favorable/unfavorable is 55/40

It’s about demeaning and weakening what was the most powerful military in the world, firing hundreds of good soldier Generals and Admirals who refused Barack’s illegal and irresponsible dictates.

I think he means “diktats”, but this is just online conspiracy theories with no basis in reality. Imagine an email from your racist uncle, replete with WND links, and you’ll be on the right track. 

Michelle hated America before her husband won.  She then enjoyed all the attention, the multi -million dollar vacations, the huge staff and other benefits.  Then when Hillary lost, she and Barack realized that without Hillary, there was no one to protect the little, if any, legacy he had.  That’s when Michelle came out and said there is no hope for America.  Good, let her leave and go someplace she will be happy.

Michelle Obama’s point – a few times poorly worded – had to do with how proud she was that so many people were hopeful and participating in political life. Surely someone like Carl Paladino, who seemingly has to explain away his own intemperate statements every few months, can sympathize. As for the “no hope” quip she told Oprah, who cares? How does that affect Carl Paladino to the point where he gets to call her a gorilla

As for Barack, he’s a yellow-bellied coward who left thousands to die in Syria and especially Aleppo and he gets on TV and says he feels bad he couldn’t do anything about it.

“Yellow-bellied coward” who didn’t want to risk starting World War 3 over the overthrow of a Russian client state, and is now providing arms and personnel to the fight against ISIS. 

He supported the mass migration without vetting of people from Muslim countries and the open borders, not for the people, but to expand the democratic base to a permanent majority.

This is a lie. No one gets a visa to come here – refugee or otherwise – without undergoing vetting through the State Department. You can’t wash ashore here from Turkey like you can in Greece. The suggestion that the US takes in refugees for political purposes is just another lie. 

He couldn’t care less about the people.  He just commuted the sentences of another 650 drug pushers responsible for selling poison to our kids.

Many of these commutations were life sentences for marijuana offenses. Paladino’s anti-drug feelings are informed by the same events that inform his support for moving closing time to 2:00 AM in Erie County. 

It’s about the middle class, silent majority, rising up to destroy the Republican and Democrat establishment in America.

What’s that got to do with calling Michelle Obama a gorilla, or wishing the President dead, or wishing Valerie Jarrett beheaded? 

It’s about the end of an era when the people took all their information from the main street media, letting them tell us what the issues are and how to resolve those issues. People no longer trust the press.

Except when they need to press release the latest Ellicott Development project. 

It’s about that fraudulent, shadow government with a lazy ass president who allowed non-Americans like Valerie Jarret to run the government on a day to day basis and order the Stand down in Benghazi and the later cover-up that does matter.

Lies. There was no “stand-down” in Benghazi. Valerie Jarret [sic] is “non-American”? She was born in Iran in 1956 to American parents; her father was a prominent physician, and her mother was an expert in early childhood education. Jarrett is not Iranian, but African-American. Jarrett lived in Iran for the first five years of her life, before settling in Chicago. Valerie Jarrett is as American as Carl Paladino – perhaps more so, because her parents were natural-born Americans. Can Carl Paladino write a truthful sentence? 

It’s about Lois Lerner and the head of the IRS and the other criminal officials who haven’t been prosecuted or even investigated because the leaders of the progressive movement are above the law.

The IRS investigated whether certain political groups were justified in claiming non-profit status. There was no crime here. 

It’s about the end of the progressive movement and reset of the direction of America for the next 30 years.

That’s code for, we won and now I can be as racist as I want, f__k you. 

It’s about a president who interfered in a presidential election for his successor so flagrantly that he called Trump unfit for office.

So? Lots of people feel that way. Lots of people think Paladino is unfit for office, too. 

It’s about a president who for eight years did absolutely nothing for black children in our urban centers held prisoner by the cycle of poverty and illegitimate black leadership more interested in power and preserving their voting base by keeping them hungry and uneducated in the inner cities.

Did nothing? What has Paladino done, except demean anyone who disagrees with him – using racist or otherwise offensive rhetoric when the opponent happens to be something other than a white male? 

And yes, it’s about a little deprecating humor which America lost for a long time.  Merry Christmas and  tough luck if you don’t like my answer.

Haha he showed us! It was all a joke. 

The Fauxpology Sequel

Then on Christmas Day, Paladino’s own kid rejected his Artvoice verbiage. So, a new set of word-vomit was needed on Tuesday. The latest one – billed as an “apology” – is worth a look. 

I never intended to hurt the minority community who I spent years trying to help out of the cycle of poverty in our inner cities. To them I apologize.

He apologizes, I assume, to Black people here and whines about how he has spent “years” trying to “help” them. That would, under normal circumstances, be enough – to apologize and stop. But no. 

I thought about them every day as I fought against unqualified and incompetent superintendents, administrators, teachers and School Board members, unfair union contracts, broken homes and children who can’t get the education they need to break that cycle of poverty because our school system is a failure, for reasons that needn’t be. I have shown those who chose not to watch but to enter the arena how to fight the demons. Nevertheless, I won’t be judged by those timid souls who sit uninvolved in the gallery always prepared to criticize.  Nor do I have any respect or regrets for the insane education activists who hover over and defend the dysfunction of the BPS.

Here, he justifies what he’s done on the school board, which is fine. But his actions on the school board aren’t the issue – it’s the whole wishing Obama dead and Michelle is a gorilla thing that’s on the table. He doesn’t bring that up. 

I received Jamie Moses’ emailed survey at an emotional moment after I had just listened to Obama’s statement that he regretted the slaughter in Aleppo that, in fact, resulted from his failed and cowardly foreign policy. His policy is to look the other way while innocent people were murdered and starved.  I view Barack Obama as a traitor to American values. We don’t stand down and leave soldiers to die on a battlefield when we can send help. We don’t lie to the American people and the parents of our fallen to get re-elected.  Obama has not led America to a better place by disregarding the rule of law and standing with his elitist brethren as above the law; nor has his wife Michele Obama who told our children and the world after the election that now there is no hope for America.

Interesting pivot here from Aleppo to Benghazi to Obama is a traitor and Michelle said a thing to Oprah he didn’t like. No matter what you might think about the Syrian civil war, the alternative Paladino suggests here would have cost the country trillions of dollars and thousands of American lives, and there isn’t a politician alive who had the stomach to do that again after the Iraq quagmire. Paladino’s fever dreams about Benghazi as some sort of cosmic Obama-led stab in the back is false, and repeatedly proven to be so. The rest of it is an old man worrying about what’s on the TV equivalent of the cover of Us Magazine. 

Even if you take that at face value – that he’s upset about Aleppo, Benghazi, and an Oprah interview, he could have just expressed that anger in an appropriate way. That he instead wished the President dead and called the First Lady a male gorilla doesn’t advance any reasonable argument, and is simply racist. 

Those survey questions provided me with the spark to vent and write deprecating humor about a bad President for whom the main stream media continues to seek an undeserved legacy. I wanted to say something as sarcastic and hurtful as possible about the people who are totally responsible for the hurt and suffering of so many others. I was wired up, primed to be human and I made a mistake. I could not have made a worse choice in the words I used to express my feelings.

You know, “wired up, primed to be human” doesn’t mean anything. What Paladino is saying here is that he regrets having publicly written those words – not the sentiment behind them. That makes this no apology at all; sorry I got caught saying another racist thing, in essence. Here comes the weakest dog-ate-my-homework excuse a grown man ever wrote:

It’s all too easy to make mistakes when you’re emotional about the rigged teachers’ contract by an incompetent Board of Education majority who sold out the school district as payback to teacher’s union leader Phil Rumore for his election support. They couldn’t care less about the children of Buffalo. I’m bewildered about the Supreme Court Judge who tried to dismiss a lawsuit to recover $450 million fleeced from the children of Buffalo by LP Ciminelli during the $1.4 billion schools building project.

No, “rigged” teachers’ contracts and losses in motion practice don’t make someone say racist things. Being racist makes someone say racist things, and Paladino rejects that he’s a racist, so he has to cast blame elsewhere – literally just throwing things out there to see what might stick. 

I publicly took responsibility for what I said and confirmed those were my answers, but believe it or not, I did not mean to send those answers to Artvoice.  Not that it makes any difference because what I wrote was inappropriate under any circumstance.  I filled out the survey to send to a couple friends and forwarded it to them not realizing that I didn’t hit “forward” I hit “reply.” All men make mistakes. 

So, Paladino claims he leaked his own email. He says he didn’t mean to send to Artvoice a wish list expressing his belief that Michelle Obama is a male gorilla. If what he wrote was “inappropriate under any circumstance”, why bring up this pathetic excuse? Frankly, I don’t think it’s real. I’ll bet Jamie Moses contacted Carl before he published his responses to make sure he really meant for that to be in the paper. Anything less would be dramatically irresponsible. 

What is horrible is explaining to my 17 year old daughter how her hero could be so stupid. 

What is horrible is watching my family and friends react to the rabid hordes of attacking parasites we now call activist progressives. 

See? It’s not Carl’s racism that’s the problem; it’s that “attacking parasites” have things to say about his racism. 

It’s been a sick, combative year for America. We changed the direction of our country and beat back the demons for a few decades. I am proud to have been a part of the making of history.

As for the vanquished progressive haters out there spewing their venom at anything that is a reminder of their humiliating defeat, irrelevance is tough to chew on. 

It was a “sick, combative” year mainly because of the irresponsible rhetoric of Paladino’s chosen candidate. Paladino can crow all he wants here, but there’s real projection in that passage: the irrelevance that is truly “tough to chew on” is the voters’ rejection of Paladino’s school board majority, now defeated into feckless minority loudmouth status. 

For the mean-spirited, disoriented press trying to find grounding and recover legitimacy on my back, pray that you still have a job next year because you have lost all credibility with the people.

Let’s see: he’s blamed Aleppo, Benghazi, Oprah, the Buffalo Teachers’ Federation, Phil Rumore, Ciminelli, “progressive haters”, “activist progressives”, and now the “press”. His only failing? Having (allegedly) inadvertently hit “respond” instead of “forward”.

No, I’m not leaving the school board, not when it’s time to help implement the real choice elements of Trump’s plan for education reform.  I’ve spent years dedicated to the mission to defeat the thought that the liberal progressive elitist establishment can continue to hold our minority children captive in the cycle of poverty simply to provide their voting base. I don’t intend to yield to the fanatics among my adversaries.  I certainly am not a racist.

Saying it doesn’t make it so. We can see what you are thanks to the things you say and write when you think no one’s looking. When you call a black woman a gorilla, you’re racist – full stop. Literally no other examples – and there are many – are needed. 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

It will be, once our civic discourse is rid of you. 

Carl Paladino is a racist person. Don’t let anyone tell you he’s not. Don’t let anyone tell you that Paladino’s age or generational status is an excuse for racism – they’re not. I know lots of baby boomers who don’t think Black women are gorillas, and I know plenty of 70 year-olds who don’t email around racist things to their friends. Just because Paladino may be too much of a coward to tell a Black person what he thinks of him to his face doesn’t mean he “doesn’t have a racist bone in his body”. The things he writes and says when he thinks no one is paying attention reveal his true heart. To him, anyone not like him is someone to demean for that very fact. To him, disagreement – even hatred – isn’t just about political ideology or policy, but you have to “deprecate” the person’s race, to boot. 

We’ve heard it all before – all the faux “apologies” when he went after Asian students at UB, or when he calls Obama a Muslim, or says Obama wasn’t born here or isn’t sufficiently, “American”.  He claimed he wasn’t racist when he sent around emails depicting the President and First Lady as a pimp and whore in Blaxploitation garb. He claimed he wasn’t racist when he sent around Chimpanzees dancing as part of the “Obama Inauguration”. Piss on our collective civic legs and tell us it’s raining again, Carl.

He makes excuses for his race-hate by suggesting that it’s the only way he can get the media – whom he denigrates anyway – to pay attention to him. Yeah, but if you say, “I am Carl Paladino, a Trump surrogate and I don’t like Obama policy X” it makes you sound less like a racist asshat than, saying, ‘Obama is a Kenyan murderer who did these things that this right-wing website I read says he did, and I’d like him dead’. 

Carl Paladino is a racist no matter what he and his apologists say. He doesn’t belong in elected office of any sort, but especially not as a steward of children’s educations. Buffalo must – once and for all – reject him and his hatred, and show the world that he doesn’t speak for us. He and his ilk must be marginalized into irrelevance. 

Merry Carlmas


‘Twas two days before Christmas, when all over Twitter, 
Carl’s awful “wish list” left people embittered.  
He ignored all the stockings and chimneys and such, 
instead listed things that he hated, so much. 

He brought up Obama, and wished he was dead, 
then considered Michelle, and here’s what he said:
return to being a male,” then this kicker – 
she should go back to live with Zimbabwe’s gorillas. 

“Holy shit”, we all thought, “what the fuck” we all texted, 
as if Carl’s overt racism wasn’t expected. 
Remember the emails?  The n-word and porn
We’ve known for a while and were long ago warned. 

White supremacist hatred? That’s not a surprise.
He said horrible things about Asians, you guys.
And black people know that Carl isn’t their friend.
On this point, in fact, we can’t even pretend. 

Jim Pitts, when he served on elected committees, 
said Carl Paladino sits “on top of the city…,  
like a vulture on dry bones” and he wasn’t wrong. 
It’s amazing we’ve put up with this for so long

This creature who wishes the President dead, 
and Valerie Jarrett, he’d have ISIS behead, 
reveals that his character is simply depraved,
when he tells the First Lady to live in a cave.

He went to the radio and then on TV
to confirm his sick wishes – a racist set free. 
He didn’t say sorry, or temper his hate,
instead “retarded liberals” made him irate. 

His eyes – how they darted! His visage, askew!
His cheeks like a corpse’s, his nose, how like Gru!
With his sick little mouth, he was evil and sinister,
absent of joy, with no makeup administered.
No hint of a smile, and no glimpse of his teeth,
is there any humanity there, underneath?
With a few ugly paragraphs, a racist outburst, 
we saw years’ worth of civic promotion reversed. 

We demand his removal from Buffalo schools,
and aver that he’s broken their series of rules,
and now, see him suffer this massive indignity, 
of all people: Trump denounced his malignity

It’s Christmas, and we should be filled with good cheer, 
and hope for a far less eventful new year. 
This angry old racist does not speak for us.  
The only thing that we should feel is disgust. 

I heard what he said last night on channel 7, 
that ramping his rhetoric up to eleven 
drives media interest right up through the roof,
as if all of this nonsense was some kind of a goof. 

Carl could have just slammed all the Washington policies,
and avoided gorillas without qualm or apology. 
He’s out of his mind, and he has no contrition,
So, everyone: please share and sign this petition

It has nothing to do with PC run amok; 
it’s obvious Carl is a racist old schmuck.
Buffalo students don’t need the alt-right. 
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

The Buffalo Schools’ Patriotic Committee


Buffalo School Board member noticed pictures of President Obama during visits to public schools. These pictures were placed independently by teachers and principals for educational purposes. Paladino, however, decided he would introduce a resolution which, if passed, would amount to the school board mandating the placement of portraits of Great Leader Trump in every school.

Paladino initially made the request during the portion of the meeting when board members give committee reports, saying he represented the “patriotism committee,” which is not actually a board committee. He later presented it as a formal resolution, which ultimately failed to gain enough support from his fellow board members.

The board balked, 

“I think this is problematic,” said board member Theresa Harris-Tigg. “Now we are going to mandate, and force something, when it has been their prerogative.”

“Why do we care?” Paladino responded. “Why do we care what their prerogative is?”

Good attitude to have! Who cares what the individual teachers and principals want? The tl;dr for all of this is this: 


The Sound of Music Redux


Franklin Graham – Billy’s son – is a big Donald Trump supporter. This week, he posted this: 

My favorite part of the Sound of Music is how the male protagonist is vocally opposed to the incoming Nazi regime and coming Anschluss, and in the end devises a complicated plot to escape Nazi oppression by going into exile in Switzerland. 

But even more striking is this, from the New York Times, where it’s revealed that Trump’s nominee as National Security Advisor, Retired Gen. Michael Flynn, met recently at Trump Tower with contemporary Austrian Nazi Heinz-Christian Strache, who just overtly cut a deal with Vladimir Putin’s Unity Russia Party

The Sound of Music isn’t just about singing and wholesomeness, and the international faux-populist neo-fascist assault on western liberty is coming. It’s closer than you realize. Why is Trump’s National Security Advisor nominee meeting with Austrian Nazis? The one clear thing that Strache has in common with Trump is they would both agree to end Western sanctions imposed against Putin and his oligarchs in response for the war in Ukraine and the anschluss of Crimea. 

The irony is everywhere.  My only question is which one is Liesl and which one is Rolf? 

Rus Thompson: Malicious or Stupid?


Back in May, Acting Erie County District Attorney Michael Flaherty accused local anti-toll gadfly and Paladino sycophant John (a/k/a “Rus”) Thompson of felony voter fraud. He was offered a plea deal to one felony count of false registration, which Thompson rejected. A grand jury then indicted Thompson in June on five felony counts.  Some outlets are now reporting that the Acting D.A. may simply dismiss the cases against Thompson, “in the interest of justice” [sic]. Thompson is scheduled to go to trial in January. 

This might, indeed, happen. It depends on whether you think Thompson knowingly and intentionally committed voter fraud, or whether you think he’s too stupid to know that he’s supposed to vote where he lives, as opposed to wherever he feels like. Take your pick – those are the only two choices. 

Let’s recap the salient facts:

1. In early October 2014, Rus’ wife, Julianne M. Thompson transmitted a note to the Erie County Board of Elections, stating, “[p]lease remove us from the Erie County voter roles [sic] & from the EC BoE mailings. We are moving out of Erie County.” 

2. Although Rus and Julianne Thompson moved to Niagara County in October 2014, Rus never registered to vote at his new address, and still appeared on the voter rolls on Grand Island. 

3. Among the requirements to register to vote in New York, one has to have resided at his current address for the immediate preceding 30 days, and “not claim the right to vote elsewhere”. 

4. The law is clear; you don’t get to vote where you work, or where you feel like, or where your “heart is”; you vote where you liveIf you change your address, and plan on voting at your new domicile, you should notify the Board of Elections as soon as possible, but at least about 20 days before an election.  If you want to keep voting in the town from which you’ve moved, that might be possible, but it’s illegal. It’s voter fraud. After all, you don’t live there anymore, and you are no longer a constituent of many of the people for whom you’d be voting. After October 2014, Rus Thompson was legally ineligible to vote on Grand Island or in Erie County. 

5. Despite his ineligibility, Thompson voted in at least two elections on Grand Island in 2015. Specifically, on September 10, 2015, Thompson found himself absent from the voter rolls, and used an affidavit ballot, swearing that he currently resided at his former address on Grand Island. This was a lie, and he swore that everything on the “affidavit oath” was true under pains and penalties of perjury


After Thompson rejected the offered plea, his lawyer complained that the law was seldom enforced, and that at one time Susan B. Anthony had been prosecuted under that very statute.

Sidebar: she wasn’t. Thompson is being prosecuted in state court of alleged state crimes. Anthony was “prosecuted in federal court under federal law for violating” a New York state law prohibiting women from voting. Anthony voted in a district where she had no right to do so, because females couldn’t vote. Whereas Anthony committed a crime as a form of activism to highlight that women did not have equal rights, Thompson voted where he had no right to because he’s a bigshot on Grand Island and nowhere else. It is downright comedic to compare a disenfranchised female in the 19th century attempting to exercise her rights as a citizen, to a politically connected guy who inadvertently disenfranchised himself due to ignorance, arrogance, or laziness. 

Thompson’s apologists now cry “injustice” at the fact that law enforcement dares prosecute this flagrant violation of law. 

How many millions of Americans vote every year in places they do not literally sleep but where they have a business or a strong personal attachment? Consider all the students who are on campus who vote at their parents’ address. Or people with two residences. Or hundreds of thousands of others who moved but did not change their registration and voted.

Students at college don’t generally consider themselves to be residents, and vote absentee back at their permanent address. Rus Thompson had been evicted from Grand Island in October 2014, and tried to vote their in September 2015 despite the fact that he was then domiciled in Niagara Falls. People with two residences have to declare one as their primary domicile for tax and voting purposes, and they can’t just arbitrarily switch between the two at a moment’s notice. Anyone who votes where they work, as opposed to where they live, is breaking the law. You register to vote where you are domiciled, not anywhere else. It’s not prosecuted that frequently because it’s black-letter law. The requirement that you vote where you are domiciled is not arbitrary, capricious, or any big surprise to anyone with the capability of reading the words on a voter registration form. 

Thompson says lawyers researching the case have not been able to find another fraud case of voting where you did not sleep that the Erie County District Attorney’s Office prosecuted. The only cases in New York State appear to be two cases where actual candidates (not merely voters) voted in places they did not live.  These were prosecuted with no one doing any jail time. Those cases were seen as politically motivated.

It’s been long established in common law that as long as a voter does not vote twice, “home is where the heart is” and a voter does not have to sleep every night in a locale to vote there. Thompson was registered to vote in Grand Island.

This is a novel legal concept: “home is where the heart is”. No, a voter doesn’t need to “sleep every night in a locale to vote there”, but where they vote is supposed to be their primary place of residence; their domicile. In September 2015, Rus Thompson received his mail at his home in Niagara Falls. By law, when he moved away from Grand Island he was supposed to do things like notify his insurers, notify the DMV to change his registration, change his voter registration, etc. Failure to do these things might result in, e.g., voiding your insurance policies. 

Typically, Thompson blames everyone but himself for his criminal behavior. It was former Grand Island supervisor Mary Cooke’s fault, he claims, due to some small-town vendetta the two have against each other. He blames the election inspectors who, in September 2015, recognized Thompson and suggested he vote via affidavit ballot, likely ignorant of the fact that Thompson’s name wasn’t on the rolls because; (a) he no longer lived on the Island; and (b) his wife wrote to the Board of Elections informing them of the family’s move out of the county. 

Honestly, I don’t really care what happens to Rus Thompson in this case.If he’s convicted, the facts and law justify that result. If the charges are dropped, or he is acquitted, it has no effect except to suggest that the domiciliary restrictions on voting are amorphous or non-existent. 

Ultimately, if the jury, judge, or prosecutors believe that Rus Thompson knowingly and intentionally voted in an improper venue, lying under oath that he lived in a place where he didn’t, he should be convicted of a crime – maybe a felony, if appropriate, but maybe some misdemeanor or lesser offense. If they think instead that Rus Thompson was too stupid or ignorant of the rules, and did this all by accident, then he might be acquitted due to the lack of requisite intent.

To prosecute a crime, the state must prove that the person committed the illegal act, and that he did so with the requisite mental intent. For instance, intentional homicide is called murder; accidental homicide is called manslaughter, and the two are punished differently because of the person’s mental state. Rus Thompson tries to blame some political enemy – whether Mary Cooke or Michael Flaherty – or some unsuspecting, well-meaning election inspector for his own bad acts. Rus Thompson committed the unlawful act: he lied under oath in order improperly and illegally to vote in a town where he didn’t live. The only question has to do with his state of mind at the time: was it intentional or ignorant? Malicious or stupid? 

How embarrassing. 

Moscow Chris Collins’ Loyalties


Trump Oligarch / Congressman Chris Collins believes that party political ends justify illegal, hostile means.

Collins told the Buffalo News’ Jerry Zremsky and CNN’s Alysin Camerota that the “truth came out” as a result of apparent Russian hacking of private emails, so it doesn’t really matter. You don’t have to read between the lines to get that he feels this way because his side gained political advantage therefrom. “We can’t change it”, so why bother investigating it, he argues. Sort of like how you can’t “change” what happened in Benghazi. Sort of how you can’t “change” Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server in her home. Sort of how you can’t “change” Obamacare, knowing that President Obama would veto any such effort, yet Collins’ congressional colleagues held a vote to abolish it on no fewer than 62 times. I guess you only need to “move on” and “accept” the results of something when you’re a Republican and the topic is the cult of personality you just elected President.

Hey, if it’s time to “move on” and “accept” the results, maybe Trump doesn’t need to go on a victory tour. 

Chris Collins doesn’t have a deep or complicated set of beliefs. Basically, he is against anything that President Obama or any Democrat is for. He exists to comfort the comfortable and aggravate the less fortunate, and he knows just what to say and do to cruise to easy re-election in the most conservative Congressional district in New York State. What I didn’t take him for was a … 

Well, you tell me

Reports indicate that Russian intelligence services hacked these email accounts and possibly others. The emails were then provided to DC Leaks and Wikileaks, which in turn published them. The Russians’ motives aren’t definitively known, but it doesn’t take much to conclude that the aim was to weaken Clinton and/or bolster Trump. It is telling that Donald Trump has consistently refused even gently to criticize Russian neo-fascist dictator Vladimir Putin, and Trump’s Secretary of State nominee, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, is very close to Putin

It seems almost as if Putin is the last and only prominent person Trump refuses somehow to demean. 

So Moscow Chris Collins, whited sepulchre that he is, struts upon a national stage and says that (a) he doesn’t agree with any investigation into alleged Russian hacking of private emails of the Democratic National Committee or Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta; and – more chillingly – (b) believes that the unredacted, unedited publication of private email correspondence is something about which he is “glad”. 

I’m saying thank heavens the revelations came out. The truth came out. You have to say: can you imagine an election won because of lies, deceit and underhanded despicable actions?

The palpable irony was evidently lost on the first congressman to support the candidacy of unrepentant liar and Twitter power-user Donald Trump. The entire Trump campaign was a Jenga set of lies upon deceits that Clinton couldn’t topple because of an email server

Moscow Chris told the Buffalo News’ Jerry Zremsky, “[t]he election is over and Trump has won, and I think it’s time to unite the country and to say that Donald Trump is our president … The sooner we can move the entire country into recognizing the results of the election, the better.” That’s nice, dear. No serious person thinks the results of the election aren’t being recognized, and everyone acknowledges that Donald Trump is the President-Elect. Nevertheless, that doesn’t somehow obviate the need to ensure that every valid vote was counted, or to investigate the theft of private correspondence perpetrated by a hostile intelligence service masquerading as a country in order to influence our electoral process.

Our intelligence services accuse Russia of hacking into and stealing the private correspondence of private American citizens and organizations. Websites run by organizations with overtly friendly ties to regimes hostile to the United States then publised those private emails in their entirety, timing the releases to occur daily in the weeks leading up to election day. At best, it was all a contemptible violation of the privacy of people, many of whom have no political power whatsoever. Even if you believe in “transparency” – whatever that means – you can see how irresponsible and inappropriate this all is. 

The Russians’ exact motives are still a mystery and up for speculation, but if you believe in things like foreign governments not interfering in our electoral process and online privacy issues, then this should be of paramount concern to you, regardless of party. When it’s your email or text message that Wikileaks releases, and/or when it negatively affects your preferred politician or political party, you’ll regret your nonchalance if you have a conscience and sense of decency.

Remember when Wikileaks released information about powerful governments that had been leaked to it by whistleblowers? The Podesta and DNC emails weren’t “leaked” – they were stolen. 

If you take Moscow Chris’ word for it, if his staffers’ Gmail and Yahoo accounts are stolen and published, he won’t demand any investigation and simply “accept” that the “truth came out”. Indeed, I call upon him and his staff immediately to provide constituents with the passwords to their email accounts; after all, transparency and “truth” coming out are more important than any right to privacy. Doing anything less would be against Collins’ own words

When Moscow Chris says, “thank heavens”, he’s expressing his schadenfreude – that prominent Democrats’ emails had been hacked and published, and this had adverse political affects. What if it had happened to the RNC or Steve Bannon? How would Collins react in that instance? 

Collins said the actions detailed in those emails – which show DNC officials favoring Clinton over her primary opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, but that never directly implicate Clinton – “make Dick Nixon look like an altar boy.”

Interesting, because Nixon’s resignation was prompted by his covering up of a break-in to steal information from DNC HQ. This is only the second time in 50 years that the Republicans benefited at the ballot box thanks to the theft of information from Democrats, and Moscow Chris Collins not only endorses this, but ignores that it was a foreign attack. Until 2016, it was a given that Watergate and its subsequent cover-up were crimes. Now, Moscow Chris wholeheartedly endorses foreign cyberburglary in order to help Republican electoral chances. G. Gordon Liddy’s biggest mistake, it appears, would be his failure simply to retain the services of Soviet intelligence to execute his expletive deleted illegal wiretaps and break-in. 

Asked if he thought the DNC’s actions were more important than a foreign power’s possible meddling in a U.S. election, Collins noted that hacking is a common occurrence.

“It’s not for sure that Russia did this hacking,” said Collins. “The CIA seems to think so, the FBI not so much. But in the end the truth came out: the cesspool of Democrat committee actions.”

So, the political ends justify the illegal means. Moscow Chris quite brazenly puts partisan politics over country, here. Not just that – but he overtly applauds a foreign power’s theft and publication of innocent Americans’ private communications. Whatever the Russians’ motives, their actions brought about the result they sought, and we now have a pro-Russian oligarchy being organized to perhaps give Russia’s own anti-democratic, neo-fascist kleptocracy a run for its money. By simply ignoring how damaging this theft and publication was to the idea of online privacy and the integrity of our electoral process and institutions, Moscow Chris adheres to – and gives aid and comfort to – our enemies. Putting party over country, Chris Collins is, at best, only a nominal patriot. 

Convince me that it’s somehow too strong to call that treason. 

Funding Uber’s Lyft


Uber and Lyft are app-based taxi alternatives that have become popular throughout the world due to their alleged convenience and lower cost. Uber and Lyft drivers are independent contractors, part of what’s called the “gig” economy of ad hoc work. These ridesharing services are illegal in New York State outside of the five boroughs of New York City, and legislation has been slow to progress in Albany. On Tuesday, the Erie County Legislature’s Republican majority caucus offered a budget amendment that would direct $100,000 to Visit Buffalo Niagara in order to fund some sort of undefined lobbying effort to legalize ridesharing in western New York. I’m all for Uber and Lyft, but using $100,000 in public money to assist two private companies with their marketing and expansion efforts is outrageous, and an insult to Erie County taxpayers. 

Uber and Lyft have already spent millions on lobbying efforts in Albany – what will Erie County’s $100,000 buy that Uber’s and Lyft’s money couldn’t? Who are the individual lobbying and PR firms that will be receiving this money and what are their relationships with county lawmakers? 

Assembly Democrats have blocked various bills for the stated reasons: insurance, consumer protection, fair competition; and for the unstated reasons: the influence of the taxi lobby and the plaintiffs’ bar. In a nutshell, the taxi operators don’t want competition because, upstate, they are generally horrible and need their exclusivity to survive, and the plaintiffs’ bar needs to be sure that (a) there is clarity on whom they can sue when there is an accident with injuries; and (b) that there is adequate insurance available in each such incident to make it all worth their while. 

I have tried to use Uber on two occasions: once in New York when I couldn’t find a cab, but it was a busy Friday night and a ride from 32nd and 5th to 23rd and 10th was subject to Uber “surge” pricing, reflecting increased demand. The ride would have cost me about $100. I walked. I considered it again in Las Vegas, but ordinary cabs were so ubiquitous that I just grabbed one of them without any issue – I even used my phone to pay the fare. Uber and Lyft are, to me, nice things to have; they are, however, by no means the legislative compulsion priority that local Republican politicians in particular believe them to be. If this was such a manifest necessity, you’d have thought that someone would have cracked down on our crap taxi industry and instituted some better consumer protections. If ridesharing was such a profound need, you’d expect perhaps our public transportation network to be improved in both quality and reliability. 

But the world is changing, and people demand the right to be driven around by a stranger in a para-taxi. It seems to me that Uber and Lyft are a great idea for Buffalo in particular and upstate generally. They’ll let motorists earn a few extra dollars, they’ll enable people to fill in gaps in our taxi and public transportation systems, they’ll improve mobility for anyone with a smartphone, data plan, and credit card, and they’ll maybe encourage people to not drive after they’ve had too much to drink. To repeat: I am in favor of Lyft and Uber operating outside of New York City, but everyone needs to be protected – especially the consumer and the driver. 

If you examine this objectively, politicians ought to get this legislation right. After all, if you’re going to legalize a form of paid cyberhitchhiking, you need to solidify where liability rests, how much insurance there will be, and other issues affecting the rights of consumers and drivers alike. If you have a car and decide – today – to take fare-paying passengers around, your insurance wouldn’t cover you. You have violated the terms of your policy and increased the risk without your insurer’s consent. Things like this are important and need to be legislated and regulated. If you’re a driver, it’s important so that when you cause an accident and someone sues, you don’t lose everything you own. 

Uber and Lyft have spent over $2 million lobbying Albany to expand into upstate New York, and they’ve spent even more marketing. If you have Uber on your phone, when you fire it up in Buffalo it invites you to sign an online petition. Earlier this year, Uber marketed itself by delivering free ice cream throughout Buffalo, and every news outlet reported on it. That’s all well and good: again, I am in favor of Lyft and Uber having the right to operate upstate. 

But it is unconscionable for the legislature to throw $100,000 of our money at VBN in order to pay some as-yet-unnamed lobbyist or PR outlet in order to duplicate Uber’s and Lyft’s own efforts. This involves Albany, so one has to assume that it’s corrupt at its core. So, who’s making out here from this manufactured pseudo-crisis? Lobbyists who wine and dine Albany electeds. This is designed so that, when Lyft and Uber are inevitably approved for upstate service, they can claim an unearned victory. A friend wrote on Facebook, 

Here’s an alternative: how about spending $100,000 lobbying for comprehensive ethics reform so that special interests and money don’t dictate what goes on in Albany? Break the cycle. Stop buying into this nonsense.


Step 1: manufacture problem. 
Step 2: Solve problem. 
Step 3: Take credit for solving problem.

This is someone lining someone’s pockets with public money to grandstand on the pretext of helping a private company with its marketing budget. I can’t think of a bigger waste of money. We have so many problems and social needs in this community that could benefit from a sudden influx of $100,000, and a private ride sharing app isn’t one of them. If this is so important, Legislators or VBN could have set up a GoFundMe and solicited donations from individuals to fund some sort of pro-ridesharing lobbying/marketing push. 

Here’s a better idea: call every Democrat in the Assembly, tell them you live in Buffalo and you really need Lyft/Uber here, and that if they don’t legalize them, you’ll fundraise for whomever primaries or runs against them next time around. 

Canalside 2016: Visualizing Lawns and Toilets


Canalside is unfinished. Like Benjamin West’s portrait of the American delegation to the 1783 Peace of Paris, the parts that are done are great, but it remains in a sort of perpetual limbo. A recent Buffalo News article underscores how the current “lighter, quicker, cheaper” fetish has left us with a Canalside that fails to live up to its potential as a year-round attraction. The blame for that runs wide and deep, and the project is held back to this day because of it. 

To examine Canalside today, we ought to do so within its recent historical context, and the insufferably political one-step-forward, two-steps-back progress on the Inner Harbor. This brings us, inevitably, to Bass Pro. 

Like so many things we Buffalonians pay attention to, the Bass Pro story enjoyed quite the arc from hope to joke. When Buffalo Mayor Anthony Masiello and Governor George Pataki ironically donned camouflage and pre-Trump red caps to make the big announce in 2004, fully 12 years ago, Canalside didn’t exist and the whole area was asphalt and weeds. 

New Buffalo

In July, Buffalo News columnist and public school opponent Donn Esmonde opined that the “demise of Bass Pro was [the] turning point for New Buffalo“. This is oversimplistic propaganda. Coming from Esmonde in particular, it’s patent narcissism.

First off, there is no consensus on even whether a “new Buffalo” exists, much less when and how it came about; to conclude that it had to do with Bass Pro is absurd. Let’s start with basics: the city of Buffalo’s population continues to shrink. An estimate from May 2015 shows a slowing of the loss of city residents, but a loss nonetheless. Since the 2010 Census, the population has shrunk about 1% per year. By contrast, Erie County’s population grew by a fraction of one percent. The city’s population peaked in 1950 and has been in decline ever since – most dramatically in the 1970s. A lot of that has to do with improved mobility, automation, a shift from regional to global economies and free trade, de-industrialization, and the completion of the St. Lawrence Seaway. “Old” Buffalo of rust, decline, shame, and the butt of jokes has been palpably transformed into something that at least feels better, even if the data don’t all agree on objective economic or social improvement.

Unemployment is down, population loss seems to have stabilized, and people feel better about the region than in previous decades. Those of us in the area who have some amount of disposable income exalt in the new restaurants, shops, and startups in town. The #Buffalove is palpable as we witness art installations near the grain elevators, the rejuvenation of our waterfront, Hertel, Grant, and Elmwood are always changing and improving the quality of life for our cognoscenti. But you’re not generally going to have a rennaissance while shrinking. Bass Pro was not the cause of Buffalo’s decline, or its years-long civic and economic depression. It was, at best, a symptom of its time. 

When Bass Pro was announced in 2004, there weren’t a lot of blogs. There was no Twitter, no Facebook. There was no real social media to speak of. Only kids used MySpace. That year Buffalo Rising began publishing online and a periodical, devoted to promoting good news about the City of Buffalo. Making Buffalo feel good about itself was a difficult task, but Buffalo Rising was at its forefront, never straying from its narrowly defined mission. Indeed, “New Buffalo” was a term that Buffalo Rising’s Newell Nussbaumer and George Johnson popularized, making it the centerpiece of their effort. As Buffalo Rising focused on economic good news, and its array of writers and podcasters focused on a broader range of subjects touching on Buffalo’s suburbs, its neglected and struggling outer neighborhoods, and its diseased political culture. 

The turning point for New Buffalo was the adoption of online communication and debate, which later blended into social media. Credit is also due to Old Home Week, Jay Rey’s and Charity Vogel’s “Revitalize Buffalo” series that the Buffalo News published in 2004, and the grassroots offshoot organization that activist Amy Maxwell spearheaded. Not, as Esmonde claims,the rejection of an anchor tenant for Canalside. Esmonde writes,

Any road-to-revival capsulation that credits CEO-laden state agency boards, elected officials (with rare exception), or corporate power-brokers confuses cause with result.

Esmonde then goes on to quote and offer plaudits to Howard Zemsky, a CEO and corporate power-broker who sits on state agency boards. There is very little sunlight, the grand scheme of things, between Zemsky and former state agency/Canalside CEO powerbrokers Larry Quinn or Jordan Levy. They’re all well-off, well-connected political and business bigshots. Zemsky gets the high fives from Esmonde despite the fact that Larkinville is a suburban office park surrounded by a sea of surface parking. Quinn now fecklessly moistens a Paladino-aligned seat on the school board, and Levy has gone on to help kickstart the successful incubation and promotion of entrepreneurs and startups through 42 North. In Esmonde’s world, Levy’s philanthropy and activism merit no mention despite the fact that they strike at the heart of Buffalo’s long dilemma: industry and manufacturing are largely gone, so now what? 

Bass Pro: Plans A-C

At first, Bass Pro was going to be the anchor of an Inner Harbor entertainment district, and the plan was for it to be sited in a renovated Memorial Auditorium. Over the course of years, we lived through a meaningless memorandum of understanding (MOU), debates about the use of public subsidies, then-County Executive Joel Giambra refusal to sign the MOU, then changing his mind, then whether we should use one-shot tobacco money, and whether sales tax rates should be hiked. We made it through Governor Pataki’s creation of the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation at Brian Higgins’s urging, the naming of Canalside and the first 30-day deadline for Bass Pro to commit, which turned into a 60-day deadline, which turned into no deadline. For a period of time measured in years, the Bass Pro / Canalside project remained “imminent“. As the NYPA reauthorization moved forward, we reassured that Bass Pro’s secretive executive clique was uniformly and constantly in a state of perpetual excitement of the deal being done.

January 17, 2007 was supposed to be the final day for Bass Pro to commit to the Aud, but it never happened. The whole fiasco became emblematic of Buffalo’s pathetic pursuit of silver-bullets to rejuvenate itself. As the Aud project fizzled, the city decided instead to rip down the unused and largely unusable Aud. Bass Pro and the ECHDC then turned their attention in early 2007 to the Central Wharf, right down to the imminent- signed – deal and flyover animation.

At the top of list is the historic Central Wharf, across Scott Street from the Aud, directly on the Buffalo River. The approximately 1.5-acre site, adjacent to the recently rewatered Commercial Slip, is being eyed for a store that would resemble an original, early 1800s commercial structure.

Suddenly the local preservationist cliques went to war, threatening lawsuits even before any plan had been finalized or formalized. ECHDC then-Vice Chairman Larry Quinn led the pro-Bass fight as opponents of the nascent plan polluted the process with catchy, knowing buzzwords and false accusations of taxpayer giveaways, suburbanization, all summed up best by the word, “big box“. Quinn took the opposition on. Never mind that the structures that once sat on the Central Wharf were, in fact, big boxes. 

Reasonable and unreasonable discussions galore were had about this downtown shopping mall. In any event, the Bass Pro on the Central Wharf idea was dead before it was ever born, a victim of propaganda and demagoguery as “chain stores” replaced “big box” as our civic bête noire. It also died thanks to the hubris and arrogance of the people entrusted with power, money, and leadership. Quinn had set forth the central wharf plan as a fait accompli, and set about doing what he does best – proving himself to be the smartest guy in the room, even when he isn’t. 

Throughout the process, people wondered why ECHDC wouldn’t simply put in utilities, cobble the streets, and auction off parcels with very stringent use and design guidelines. Why isn’t that being done now? Could it be because people want to put their fingers on the scales when it comes to who gets the development deals? Maybe they can hire Alain Kaloyeros to handle the RFPs. 

But Bass Pro was the project that wouldn’t die. When Quinn’s big box on the wharf failed, ECHDC pivoted in October 2007 to a plan C – a new-build on the site of the demolished Aud. Discussion ensued, and by 2008, Bass Pro was pleading with Buffalo to hurry things up, already. The project was up for public comment and was going to cost $500 million. Suddenly we had a “pre-development agreement”, which roughly translates as “nothing”, then more nothing, and more nothing, and angry nothing, all going through three governors in six years, generating little more than news reports, renderings, and animations.

By 2010, Bass Pro was a hilarious afterthought about which no one cared anymore. While Buffalo was awash in “fish or cut bait” jokes, people were still debating what to do down there. On July 21, 2010, Brian Higgins imposed a 14-day ultimatum for a final agreement with Bass Pro. Next came a lawsuit, before Bass Pro finally put everyone out of their misery and announced it was never coming to Buffalo, ever.

In the interim, Bass Pro’s main competitor, Cabela’s, opened a store on Walden Avenue in Cheektowaga. Just this year, Bass Pro acquired Cabela’s, meaning western New York will have its Bass Pro after all. The whole protracted drama was bookended by Masiello and Pataki donning flannel on the one hand, and Carl Paladino invoking Marx and ACORN on the other, and a lot of typical failure in between. Reading through my commentary from 10 years ago, we were reasonable when necessary, snarky when not. We were hopeful, skeptical, informed, cynical, interested, and offered the community a forum to debate the whole thing. The conclusion? When it comes to discussion of development in Buffalo, don’t bet against the cynics.

Canalside After Bass Pro

Since that time, ECHDC pivoted to the “lighter, quicker, cheaper” “placemaking” alternative to development. In 2011, this led to the historic opening of “Clinton’s Dish”

Erie County Snack Shack
picture shack pictures

It’s all very nice, but ultimately placemaking is a scam. The group of people who demanded the Canalside “pause” also persuaded ECHDC to retain the services of Fred Kent from the Project for Public Spaces (at public expense), in order to explain how benches and triangulation would solve all the problems. As a result of this extended delay, we have literally seen the Webster Block go from asphalt eyesore to HarborCenter. Meanwhile, Canalside has the nice replica canals used for summertime and wintertime recreation, some temporary structures, and grass. We have the ice bikes, we have the truss bridges, we have Shark Girl, and we have the boardwalk. 

But this is all a betrayal of the original promise of Canalside. Indeed, the very people who vehemently opposed the Bass Pro “big box” on the Central Wharf in 2008 demanded that ECHDC instead follow the 2004 Master Plan. OK, fine – they won and Bass Pro went away. So, when do we get this? 

More to the point, when the Buffalo News reports on the new toilets and lawns, why aren’t the 2004 Master Plan proponents opposing that as strongly as they did the Bass Pro Central Wharf idea? Far be it from me to suggest that we should court some new big box or chain store. But when we take visitors down to Canalside, everyone agrees that it’s just great; everyone loves to take a selfie with Shark Girl, and do the handful of other things available. People enjoy that its “flexible lawns” can be used as a concert venue. But it wasn’t supposed to be just that. It was supposed to be more – something not too dissimilar from, say, Boston’s Faneuil Hall Marketplace area. Placemaking enthusiast Mark Goldman had this to say to Donn Esmonde in 2011

“It is not just people having picnics, it is good economic-development strategy,” Goldman added. “You start small, and it snowballs. By next summer, you’ll see private businesses lining up to come down—instead of asking for big, fat subsidies.”

Lighter, quicker, cheaper. Already, it’s working

It’s 2016. Five years later, there are no “private businesses” lined up “to come down”. It is, alas, “just people having picnics”. So what are we discussing now? Toilets.  

In March, the “Buffalo Waterfront Heritage Coalition” had a great idea, but we never heard more about it.

This works! It’s waterfront-y and heritage-y! This truly reflects what the Central Wharf looked like during its industrial heyday. So, where is it? When will ECHDC let this thing just happen? 

Not anytime soon, it appears. 

But we don’t have Bass Pro, we don’t have Explore ‘n More, and we don’t have any major construction at Canalside; we instead have a major announcement of permanent bathrooms that will, presumably, be unlocked and available for use at all hours. We will get the solar powered carousel championed by former Erie County Legislator Joan Bozer. Also, 

… the summer concerts [will be] relocated to a permanent performance stage on the Central Wharf.

On the backdrop of the stage will be a facade depicting the 19th century Union Steamboat Company. And facing it will be a pavilion that’s a ghosted structure meant to recall another 1850s-era canal district building. The building will serve as a shelter for shade, activities and entertainment.

Permanent stage? Ghosted replica facade? When did the 2004 Master Plan turn into this

Who loves the ill-conceived jumble of disused lawns and a “permanent stage” with a ghosted faux-cade? Mark Goldman, the guy who strong-armed the ECHDC to hire Fred Kent and gave us “placemaking” in the first place. 

Who doesn’t love seeing a “heritage-based” stage show on a windy 10 degree F day in February? What happened to this? 

Artist Rendering of Aud Block in Summer with Public Canals Artist Rendering of Aud Block in Winter with Public Canals

Transforming the Central Wharf at Canalside into some sort of permanent concert venue is a devastating mistake. If anything, it cements as permanent and perpetual a “flexible lawn” with Adirondack chairs, which was supposed to be a “placemaking” stopgap. When you look at the renderings from the 2004 there is a noticable absence of green space. Because it’s a city and this is its downtown. If you look at the renderings from the Waterfront Heritage Coalition, there are no big empty lawns. Instead of Buffalo’s Faneuil Hall, we’re planning a summertime concert venue/lawn-cum-frozen wasteland exposed to lake winds. We already have a summertime waterfront concert venue – disused though it may be – at LaSalle Park. 

Buffalo is now in its second decade waiting for something more permanent to be done around Canalside. Look at the 2012 renderings from Brian Higgins’ Flickr account shown above – see the people? They’re there because there are things to do. Not just selfies and skating, but food, drinks, shopping, art, and crafts. Maybe offices, apartments, and hotels. The possibilities are exciting, but not as long as we’re stuck with ghosted facade stages that placate the naysayers. There are no implements being used right now to construct anything seen in the renderings shown above. Canalside’s promise remains years away. 

If ECHDC is satisfied with satisfying Mark Goldman, that’s not good enough. It has the power, money, influence, and ability to do something with these parcels right now. Subdivide them and make them ready for development. Sell them. Enough with the “designated developer” nonsense to reward campaign donors. It can grow organically – it doesn’t need to be a Benderson project or a Ciminelli project or an Ellicott project. It can be all or none of those. 

Let’s aim higher than toilets, lawns, police substations, and bullshit phony stages. We can do better than this, and it doesn’t even take much imagination to do it. Canalside is better than just a venue for the Buffalo News to take 200 pictures for a “Smiles at” clickbait featurette. We’ve been patient. Give us what we’re waiting for.