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The Morning Grumpy – 1/15/13

Filed under: Morning Grumpy

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

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1. Last week, a government committee released a draft of a federal climate assessment report. It was one of those Friday afternoon news dumps that are summarily ignored by the media and the American public. However, the report is quite alarming and needs to move to the front of the national policy discussion.

The 60-member panel approved and released a draft report today that says many coastal areas face “potentially irreversible impacts” as warmer temperatures lead to flooding, storm surges and water shortages.

“The chances of record-breaking, high-temperature extremes will continue to increase as the climate continues to change,” the panel said in its report. Temperatures are predicted to increase, on average, by 2 degrees to 4 degrees in the next few decades, according to the report.

The panel of scientists from academia, industry, environmental groups and the government prepared the report, and its findings are the closest to a consensus about global warming in the U.S. Reports in 2000 and 2009 by the U.S. Global Change Research Program concluded carbon-dioxide emissions since the Industrial Revolution have led to a warming of the Earth’s temperature, which threatens to cause extreme weather, drought and floods.

Nature magazine reports:

“Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present,” leaders of the National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee said in a letter accompanying the document. Environmentalists immediately said the report underscores the need for action, but it will also attract scrutiny from sceptics in the days ahead.

Demand change.

2. A heartbreaking series of photos by Chris Byrd from the local blog, Broadway Fillmore Alive.

A few months back, I wrote about the former Chopin Singing Society building on Kosciuszko Street.  At that time, the building looked in sorry shape.  While cruising around the neighborhood yesterday, I decided to stop at the building again.  The front door was wide open and I ventured inside.

chopin

The building was in a lot worse shape on the inside than the outside…water damage everywhere, fallen ceilings, buckled beams, trash, a foot or more water in the basement and the sad background sound of water dripping.

The experience and seeing what I was seeing literally made my stomach flip over.  Why?  Because I know this building doesn’t stand a chance now.  It will soon be added to the long list of Polish heritage sites in East Buffalo’s Historic Polonia that have disappeared forever.

chopin2

Why do we allow these things to happen? These places are part of our regional heritage and they deserve to be preserved. However, we live in a city that absolutely refuses to properly mothball abandoned buildings or hold property owners accountable for neglecting their properties. This building no longer stands a chance at rehabilitation, but it never should have been allowed to fall into such a state of disrepair. The core of our problem is that the City of Buffalo takes little proactive action to preserve our built environment, which results in the entirely reactive tactic of citizens frantically filing last minute lawsuits to prevent demolitions of buildings that are beyond repair.

We need a comprehensive plan for the abandoned and neglected properties in the City of Buffalo and we need it now. We need to demand it, because it’s our responsibility to make it happen.

3. Steve Poland, a leader in Buffalo’s burgeoning tech sector would like you to join him in building a bigger and better entrepreneurial community.

I want to see startups in Buffalo. And I have rededicated myself to getting more events to happen in Buffalo that focus on the cool stuff being built and hacked on. This is when I picked up “Startup Communities” by Brad Feld, in which he lays out the path that Boulder has taken over the years to become an amazing startup/tech community. If you have an interest in being apart of changing our fine city of Buffalo into a state of startup/tech awesomeness, I highly recommend reading this book. It’s a rolling 20-year outlook. It’s a “give before you get” outlook of helping others.

Because of the smaller size of Buffalo, you can do something and have an impact. The time is NOW with all the success that is going on in Buffalo — Synacor’s IPO over the summer, CampusLabs acquired, the creation of Z80 Labs w/$5.3mm fund for investing in tech startups, the success of TEDxBuffalo, the success of Startup Weekend, the launch/success of CoWorkBuffalo, Buffalo Billion, and much much more!

Things are happening and there are a litany of ways to get involved and make a difference. Check out the opportunities and start attending some events.

4. Interesting work by Richard Florida about where human capital tends to cluster. What is human capital?

It’s now conventional wisdom that human capital (what economists call educated people) is a key factor in the growth of cities and metro regions. Cities are engines of economic development, and the skilled people are the high-powered fuel that drives them.

It’s long been considered conventional wisdom that for a city or region to grow, human capital should be centered in the city center. But that might be changing.

Human Capital in Cities and Suburbs” [PDF] a study I co-authored with my Martin Prosperity Institute colleagues Charlotta Mellander and Kevin Stolarick, looks at the distribution of human capital between the center cities and suburbs of United States metros and the effects this has on their economic performance.

The main thrust of our study was to develop statistical models of the distribution of highly skilled people between suburbs and city centers so we could see how each affected economic performance. Basically, we found that human capital in suburbs and cities play different but important roles.

First, we found that suburban human capital is important to metros of all sizes, with the percentage of college grads in the suburbs having a positive effect on their income levels and housing values across the board. Suburban human capital is especially important in in smaller and medium-sized metros, those with fewer than one million people, according to our analysis.

Essentially, if you live in a sprawl region (like Buffalo) with low commute times and lower population density, human capital clusters in the suburbs. However, as population density increases, more people move in to the city to avoid the hassles of suburban living and long commutes. Not rocket science, but useful data for regional planners. I’d share this information with our regional planners, but we don’t have any. The point of posting this? It’s just a reminder that if you want people to live in the city, you need to focus all efforts on job growth and other attractors of human capital. The era of planning to build an urban creative class is fading, while the need to build high-tech job sectors with a robust depth of employment opportunities moves to to the forefront. At least, that’s my take on the data.

5. I realize the irony of posting this in my daily “listicle” column, but this article by Will Leitch at Deadspin has had me thinking for weeks.

I bring all this up because I think we’re starting to care more about popularity and financial success than legitimate quality. All right, so that’s hardly news; that’s always been the case, as a general rule, for most of humanity’s reign. But now the smart people are doing it: People who should know better. I’m talking about you, dear reader: You, me, all of us.

You see this everywhere, from box office results to online pageviews to Nielsen ratings to freaking Twitter followers. More people watch the NFL on television than any sport so therefore IT IS THE BEST SPORT. You have fewer Twitter followers than the person you’re criticizing? YOU’RE A HATER. You don’t like that album that went platinum? YOU JUST JEALOUS. BuzzFeed has put a bunch of pictures of kittens together in a way that is easily passed around by idiots? THEY HAVE FIGURED OUT THE INTERNET THEY ARE SUCH BRILLIANT PACKAGERS OF CONTENT THE FUTURE OF MEDIA. We have become a culture that, because we can quantify things in a way we’ve never been able to before, are acting as if those numbers are all that matter.

Our culture is in trouble and I keep thinking that we’re only momentarily trapped in a cul de sac of nonsense, but I’m starting to think it’s a permanent condition. We need to be better at everything.

Fact Of The Day: Roughly 2 out of every 3 people alive today have not yet been on the internet.

Quote Of The Day: “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” – Stephen King

Video Of The Day: Pretty much the worst thing that has ever happened, the Microsoft and Qualcomm presentation at CES2013. I’m ashamed of everyone who was involved. Even Desmond Tutu.

Song Of The Day: “Waterfall” – The Stone Roses

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

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


  • DeuceDeadly

    This city has a long history of scaring off business people that might take a chance on buildings that have an important history. Back room deals and currupt leaders have left the city in shambles. Private groups that buck the system are the only chance we have. From the Central Terminal to The Science Museum should be a thriving economic engine with grand icons of the rich history Buffalo holds.  Instead the Broadway market struggles 11 months the year while iconic city mainstays, like Charlie the Butcher and Russ’s Bakery, shuffle off to Amherst, Clarence or some chain saturated area. It really is sad that we allow this to continue.