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The Morning Grumpy – 12/12/12

Filed under: Morning Grumpy

All the news, views, and filtered excellence fit to consume during your morning grumpy.

1. Dr. James Powell, Executive Director of the National Physical Science Consortium, and former appointee to the National Science Board by President Reagan and President George H.W. Bush created the graphic above as a means to prove how and why climate change deniers have no credibility.

Polls show that many members of the public believe that scientists substantially disagree about human-caused global warming. The gold standard of science is the peer-reviewed literature. If there is disagreement among scientists, based not on opinion but on hard evidence, it will be found in the peer-reviewed literature.

24 of the 13,950 articles, 0.17% or 1 in 581, clearly reject global warming or endorse a cause other than CO2 emissions for observed warming. The list of articles that reject global warming is here.

Are we almost done with denying this is a problem? Can the Republicans join us at the big boy table to discuss our response to this overwhelming scientific evidence?

2. Dave Steele, Chicagoan and noted BuffaloRising.com busybody, frequently writes articles that illustrate how we should be doing things here in Buffalo. This modern day gastarbeiter (who sadly only sends advice back to his hometown) would like us to know (yet again) that we’re just doing it wrong.

As nice and great and misunderstood as Cleveland (Buffalo) is, it is not as good as it should be and is often not as good as the places that people are fleeing too.  There I said it.  Buffalo is not that great.  That is not to say it isn’t a great place to be.  But, to keep youthful talent Buffalo and its leadership need to know what kind of city younger generations want and then give it to them.  Saying Buffalo is a great under rated place is not enough. Here is a hint.  More parking lots and demolition of unique places is not going to do it.  Current demographics are showing that younger generations are not looking for mom and dad’s car oriented lifestyle. Sure, jobs are important but guess what? Jobs go where people want to be.

Actually, jobs don’t go where people want to be. It’s just not so. You don’t attract jobs by having a beautiful built environment and thousands of unemployed people just waiting for companies to show up, hire them, and fill our magically rehabilitated buildings.

Entrepreneurship is a culture of innovation. Smart people go where other smart people are so they can do smart things together. We don’t need any more brand marketers, graphic designers, underemployed amateur preservationists, or freelancers with no visible means of financial support in this town. Those are the people who constantly prattle on about saving buildings with other people’s invisible money. We’re silly with ’em.

We need relentless capitalists who want to build big ideas into huge profit churning machines. Those people? I know hundreds of them in cities all across America and they couldn’t give a flying fuck about preservation. They want to go where it’s cheap, where there’s lots of fresh and hungry talent, and where a culture of hustle exists. We don’t need to survey young people about what they want, we simply need to focus on creating a culture of hustle and entrepreneurship.

Let’s be clear about something, historic rehabilitation without capital nor the people and businesses to fill the rehabilitated properties is museum building. Organic economic development and broad-based expansion of regional wealth precedes or at least happens simultaneously with large scale preservation and redevelopment.  That wealth creation then creates the demand for cool condos and brickwalled workplaces. Sure, a developer who utilizes massive public dollars and historic tax credits can save a building here and there and relocate local businesses into them, but it doesn’t scale to the kind of city-wide redevelopment experienced in many other cities. Here, we’re trying to build a place without the people and hoping they’ll come to fill the space, which might be described as putting the preserved antique cart before the horse.

Every problem in this town is political. We lack political strategic vision and we lack corporate wealth to underwrite community investment. That’s why we look to the university and its offshoot organizations as the primary drivers of development in this region. Until the political problems are solved, the only business booming in this town will be non-profits working to “save” Buffalo.

Let’s have a talk, just you and me. Sure, it’s a bit of a tangent and I’ve said much of this before, but it’s time to say it all again. You just don’t listen.

The bigger picture is that Buffalo and WNY are the way they are because you don’t really want it to be any different. And lacking any massive influx of new people with fresh perspectives, it’s going to stay the same.

If you really wanted to create change, you would. However, you’re comfortable in your middling job with your below-national-market salary. You leave your desk at 4:59PM every day to race home through minimal traffic and get back to your life at your affordable house that barely appreciates in value. You complain about the “outrageous” taxes, but you vote for a higher school budget every year and you protest like a 60′s hippie whenever a government official tries to cut spending or reduce/regionalize your public services.

Many of you hate when they tear down old buildings, but also hate the way the new ones look. Oh, and you demand that your input be incorporated into the plans. Many of you wish businesses would invest in their facilities, but threaten to sue if you don’t personally approve of said improvements. The rest of you complain about these types of planning busybodies, but you couldn’t be bothered to get off your ass to stop them. You’re “busy”.

You loathe the local political class, but you rarely vote.  And if you do go out to vote? It’s to vote the same bums back into office or promote them to a higher one. You don’t get involved in your town or city political committee. You don’t donate to unproven candidates and you sure as shit don’t go out to petition or canvass for an underdog candidate. You want to magically will them into office with your supportive Facebook posts.

There are dozens of other reasons that inform why the status quo is what it is, but why beat a dead horse? You are the status quo.

Buffalo is the way it is because this is the way you want it. It’s your fault. Until you own that, nothing much is going to change.

If none of the above describe your attitude, you’re probably reading this from outside WNY or planning to leave as soon as possible.

For the small percentage of people who don’t fit into the above, haven’t moved and aren’t currently planning an escape? You’re a special and unique little snowflake in this town. Try to remain sane as you swim upstream against the ferocious power of the status quo. But here’s a bit of unsolicited advice, stop trying to “save” Buffalo. It doesn’t want to be saved. This city is like an alcoholic, abusive boyfriend. The more you try to save him, the more he drags you down with him. I know, we don’t know how sweet he can be when you’re alone together, right? If you just try hard enough, he’ll change. Sure.

As in real life, you can’t save someone or something that doesn’t want to be saved. Make yourself a personal and professional success…and maybe Buffalo will follow your lead.

3. I’m calling it a day.

Fact Of The Day: “Blazing Saddles” was the first film from a major studio to have a fart joke.

Quote Of The Day: “The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day.” -David Foster Wallace

Christmas Song Of The Day: “Christmas In Jail” – The Bobs

Song Of The Day: “Uptight” – Stevie Wonder

Follow me on Twitter for the “incremental grumpy” @ChrisSmithAV

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Email me links, tips, story ideas: chris@artvoice.com


  • MaxPlanck

    Chris, Buffalo should be thanking you profusely for the “tough love” but it’s otherwise preoccupied with scheming what comeback boondoggle Cuomo’s $1B will bring forth so I’ll extend thanks on its behalf.

  • I agree with much of your take on the problems of WNY.  What I don’t get is how invented arguments against preservation help solve any of them.  The ‘cool condos and brick walled workplaces’ that have been cropping up wouldn’t exist without capital and numerous customers electing to live and work in these places.  Not citywide redevelopment but certainly not museum building. 

    It is really tough for me to see productive adaptive reuse of old buildings as a bad thing.  It may not solve all of the ills of the region, but if anybody is seriously expecting that, perhaps expectations of preservation are too high.   

    •  “What I don’t get is how invented arguments against preservation help solve any of them.”

      They aren’t invented arguments, I’m responding to the argument that preservation and rehabilitation is the primary means of economic development. That argument is consistently made by Mr. Steele and he couldn’t be more incorrect. Yes, you’ll have some rehabilitation successes with historic tax credits, but not the kind of organic, broad-based change we so desperately need.

  • Really enjoyed paragraph #2.  Great analysis. 

  • Jesse Smith

    Wow, I read this entire article thinking it was written by Alan Bedenko. You guys seem to simultaneously condemn the lazy “old guard” that is comfortable enough with the status quo and also the earnest young and/or bearded people “with no visible means of financial support” who are actually busting their humps trying to improve this place. And here you construct a straw man that someone manages to combine both contradictory stereotypes.

    Regarding the great hope of tech entrepreneurship… Buffalo just had a “Startup Weekend” that was supposed to be a real big deal. What came out of that? The top-place prize went to a charades cell phone app. Yeah, that’s really going to jump start Buffalo’s economy.

    • Jesse,

      Startup Weekend was a great success with 150 people and 16 teams working to build a new company. Great successes don’t just happen overnight (or within a month), but the real key is to start planting the seeds and help show people that it is possible to start companies and make great progress over a dedicated weekend. There were enough startups (around 8) interested in continuing on, that we started a program called 7 Week Startup (7weekstartup.com) that will be a program to get these companies (and aspiring entrepreneurs) to launch and to the next level. We’ve also had these companies meetup on Saturday’s on Z80 Labs to continue their work. If we get one company to come out of this and create some jobs and a profitable company, then it will be a success.

      With regards to your comment of “…a charades cell phone app. Yeah, that’s really going to jump start Buffalo’s economy”, I’m assuming you would have said something very similar to Twitter (yeah, who wants to share a 140 character messages) or Facebook (Why would anyone want to share messages and photos with friends online and waste time). Draw Something, which is Pictionary for “cell phones” sold to Zynga for $200mm. While success is never guaranteed, I think most people would consider a fraction of that a success.

      If you don’t think technology and entrepreneurship are the key to fixing Buffalo’s economy, then you have some reading to do.

    • I do condemn the protectionist old guard, they’ve been responsible for 60 years of decline due to their provincial crumb-hoarding. The new preservationist class which operates without capital, is fighting the battle based on terms set by the old guard. We need visionaries who couldn’t care less about old battles or buildings, but instead want to rebuild the economy and bring back Buffalo’s incredible history of innovative capitalism.

    • Eric Montz

      Jesse:

      The tech entrepreneurs of Buffalo are working together in ways you can’t imagine, and will prove in time to be part of the future of WNY. The Startup Weekend event wasn’t just about prizes, it was about connecting smart people, shaking things up, learning how to fail and get back up.  Many other projects and teams have formed after that weekend, that didn’t make the article you read.

      One of the differences between the protectionist old guard and the newer generation, is access capital.  What a lot of people tend to not realize however, is that for some/most of these tech startups, there isn’t much capital required to get off the ground, as compared to building a factory, or hiring 1,000 people to create widgets on an assemply line.  A lot of us don’t need the old money, or even office space to design these businesses purely in digital space.

  • Derek Punaro

    Preservation without people and businesses to fill the space is exactly that – preservation.  Rehabilitation and adaptive reuse can come later as demand dictates.  The central question to the argument of preservation is whether or not you consider the city’s historical elements to be an asset.  Assuming you can fix the political issues enough to put Buffalo on a relatively level playing field with other cities, you now need to distinguish what makes Buffalo different/better.  History/architecture can be one of those distinguishing elements.  If you preserve what you have, you can rehabilitate in the future when you have the need so that you’re not just building museums.  If you don’t preserve your assets for future use, then you’re erasing one more line from your “+” column.

    • I think I may have muddied my point by conflating preservation with rehabilitation. Preserving buildings by properly securing them and holding owners accountable for their condition is a good thing and not an expensive endeavor. It’s actually something we should do more often.

      Clamoring for rehabilitation without a demonstrated market is the issue.

    • Preservationists should be clamoring for property owners to maintain properties they already have, not showing up after a property sells and start demanding things. 

      Holding on to old, dilapidated structures of questionable ‘historic’ designation in the hopes that someone might want them 20 years from now is folly. 

      • Derek Punaro

        Housing court should be forcing property owners to maintain their properties, not preservationists.  The role of preservationists is to help determine the value of particular properties and what is and is not worth saving – essentially removing the “questionable” component of your second statement.  Determining the “preservation value” is the aspect which government typically does not have resources to do, and the general public doesn’t have the knowledge and expertise.

  • Jesse Griffis

    On #1, what’s the favorite proposal these days?

  • “Gastarbeiter” implies an intent to return.