Is This An Odd or an End?

1. The Mayor held a campaign rally gave his “State of the City” address yesterday, and the two big takeaways from it are: 

a. The city will challenge local businesses to hire at least one city resident. 22,000 new jobs. 

b. The city will put out an RFP for development of the Webster Block – a blighted surface parking lot in front of the First Niagara Center and HSBC Atrium. That’s one ugly lot down, hundreds to go. This is an epic middle finger to ECHDC, which had included the Webster Block in its comprehensive plan for Canalside for several years. As usual, there was little communication between the city and ECHDC, and its chairman, Jordan Levy, learned about the Mayor’s decision from the press. 

c. The city will set up a $15 million “quality of life” fund. The natural question is, why did it take the Mayor seven years to come up with this? 

If those are the biggest, most visionary ideas that Byron Brown can conjure, then he really has established why we need someone new, with vision – with a plan – to be mayor of a shrinking city with myriad unaddressed issues. 

2. Carl Paladino submitted plans to turn the crumbling, oversized planter known as the Greystone Building into luxury apartments. This is clearly a positive move, and one that took far too long to come about. 

3. At some point, certain entitled loudmouths will quiet down and let the owner of Acropolis complete the expansion of his business and let him play music within its walls. People who want peace and quiet move to the suburbs. People who want a lively, vibrant community that is tolerant of busy businesses and sometimes conflicting lifestyles live in cities. Ironically, the people complaining hardest about noise and congestion – things that are indicative of a vibrant and successful city environment – purport to be city boosters. (Also, what constitutes a “neighbor” doesn’t include “people who live many blocks away”).  Also, did Janice Okun write this comment at the Buffalo News story linked-to above? 

4. In case you missed it, the identity of the Republican front-runner has changed yet again. While unemployed millionaire Mitt Romney has been the presumptive nominee for months, Republicans haven’t been thrilled with that prospect, and have at various times flirted Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and now – Rick Santorum.

http://polltracker.talkingpointsmemo.com/chart/us-pres-12-2?f=%7B%22t%22%3A%7B%22Internet%22%3A1%7D%2C%22p%22%3A%7B%7D%2C%22c%22%3A%7B%7D%2C%22w%22%3A%7B%7D%2C%22m%22%3Anull%7D&left=0&right=99999999999

The former Pennsylvania Senator is one of the most reactionary and medieval culture warriors out there – his views would enable him to run for Pope. He wants to ensure that Americans all adhere to the same Catholic ethos that he follows, and essentially criminalize anything else. He’s exactly what the bizarre tea party ordered, and here’s his newest ad:  

 5. A guy is going to get to risk his life, another Konst is running for office, and maybe it’s time the Grisantis got a reality show. 

6. Posting will be very light over the next week. Have a great winter break. 

Casual Anti-Semitism

Someone alerted me to this Twitter status, posted by someone with whom I had argued several months ago. I looked to see if anyone following him had anything to say about it, and no one did – neither positive nor negative.

On what planet is this sort of thing acceptable? Why do people just let this go?

 

Typical.

It’s typically Buffalo that we can’t just have one #Occupy group in town, but we have Occupy Buffalo in Niagara Square, and Occupy WNY in Lafayette Square.

We love to needlessly duplicate efforts in almost all things.

A Century of Bad Planning Illustrated

Mark Byrnes, a former contributor to WNYMedia.net and current fellow at the Atlantic Cities and graduate student in publications design at the University of Baltimore posts this depressingly eye-opening article comparing the Buffalo of 1902 to the Buffalo of 2011.

It’s a stark depiction of failure and loss; failure to plan, failure to adapt, failure to lead, and loss of population, industry, and wealth.

The Buffalo conundrum illustrated – downtown is unattractive because of all the people and businesses that have left; but people and businesses don’t come downtown because of how unattractive it is.

The problem is how downtown development has taken the path of least resistance when it comes to parking. Businesses have demanded one spot for each commuter, and instead of expanding and modernizing its bank of public parking structures in a planned, targeted, and aesthetically pleasing way, the city has permitted developers to just throw up a surface lot willy-nilly. Surface parking lots are the bane of downtown’s existence and should be disincentivized through a land value tax.


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The Participation Trophy

The Buffalo News’ Colin Dabkowski weighs in on the ongoing debate over whether we should criticize good people’s good efforts when they fail to live up to expectations.

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/colindabkowski/status/141639995155955712″]

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/colindabkowski/status/141643531306545152″]

No Justice for Jamey

Yesterday, Amherst Police held a brief press conference to inform the public that no charges would be brought against any of Jamey Rodemeyer’s tormentors. Jamey, you’ll remember, was the 14 year-old Williamsville North student who took his own life after having been bullied relentlessly for being a little bit different. I wrote about Jamey’s suicide here, and published the stories from some of his former classmates in this post, along with a brief analysis of some of his Tumblr posts, which showed that – beyond bullying at school – this was a deeply troubled young man who wrote about cutting himself, and about horrible things he said his parents had told him.

Amherst police found that bullying that leads to suicide is difficult to prosecute – the principal witness is dead, and you can’t base a criminal case on hearsay. Many of the alleged bullying incidents were never contemporaneously reported to school authorities, and the time had passed to prosecute anything that happened during middle school.

It would appear that legislation is needed if bullying-rising-to-the-level-of-harassment is adequately to be prosecuted. There are measures pending to strengthen cyberbullying laws (something the police said wasn’t happening to Jamey on any sort of a regular basis), but the more important avenue is prevention.

While cyberbullying is the focus because it’s something relatively new, the real goal ought to be to provide kids with a safe, comfortable place to learn. The Rodemeyer case took school districts and parents by surprise, and to my knowledge only the Orchard Park system has a comprehensive, ongoing anti-bullying system in place, which demands 100% participation and buy-in by students, faculty, parents, and administrators alike.

While I think that school harassment should be prosecuted, and that the laws should be amended so that a victim’s death doesn’t halt any such action, school districts across the state should adopt and implement the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program.

Developed by Clemson University and the Hazelton Foundation, this program doesn’t just rely on placards and occasional “No H8” assemblies.  Instead, it includes a weekly curriculum with restorative justice elements and frequent class meetings. Every adult in the school is trained in the program, and it has a proven track record of reducing the frequency and severity of bullying events.

The Jamey Rodemeyer tragedy has many in the community demanding justice for anyone who may have contributed to his feelings of despair, self-hatred, and hopelessness. I wish that these kids could be made to understand what their words have done. It doesn’t look like it’s going to happen, and civil litigation would be likewise difficult to pursue. The whole case has an aura of unfinished business about it, and society should demand better.

Moving

If everything goes as planned, this will be my first post as an online writer for Artvoice. Thankfully, it’s somewhat of a slow week, what with Thanksgiving and all.  Many thanks to Geoff Kelly and Jamie Moses for this unique and special opportunity.

To those of you who may be unfamiliar with my work with WNYMedia.net, I mostly write about local and regional political matters under the pen name “Buffalopundit”. You can follow me on Twitter and become a fan on the bookface. You can email tips, etc. here.

By way of background, I’m an immigrant to Buffalo – I’m not a native, and I’m not repatriated. I’m also not a sports fan, so I have little use for Buffalo’s most popular pastimes – sports and nostalgia.

By way of introduction, here’s a post I wrote in 2005 explaining why someone would pick up and move from Boston to Buffalo out of, essentially, the clear blue sky. A few things are different; the 5 year-old is now 11 and has a 5 year-old little sister. I work at a new place, but the sentiments remain the same: Read more

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