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The Morning Grumpy – 4/25/13

Filed under: Morning Grumpy

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

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1. Yesterday in The Buffalo News, Jane Kwiatkowski offered some guidance on how to “handle” panhandlers as you go about your business in downtown Buffalo.

All it takes is one bad panhandler to ruin your day.

Maybe he got too close when he asked for your spare change, or pestered you after you said no.

On any given day downtown, panhandlers walk the Theater District, Elmwood Avenue, West Chippewa Street or Main Street.

Getting a handle on panhandling is a rite of spring for city merchants, visitors and police, who view it as a quality-of-life issue. Many municipalities including Buffalo have enacted ordinances that prohibit aggressive panhandling, although enforcing the law is discretionary, police said.

The article makes a lot of assumptions and paints with a pretty broad brush in the most generic way possible. In fact, I found it to be pretty offensive. These types of articles paint a picture of urban life in the city that appeals to the sheltered, fearful, and prejudiced.

“There are some gentlemen who are very respectful and honest with you, and yeah I’ll throw them some change in my pocket.

“But most of them I don’t, because I know they’re going right to the store to buy beer. Sometimes I’ll actually take the guy to the store and buy him something to eat instead of giving him money, but some guys just walk up to you and they’re rude, saying they need a beer. I’m recovering myself, I’m not going to feed anybody else’s habit.”

I’m not so naive to think that there aren’t a few people walking the street who are trying to “get one over on me” for the benefit of the few cents I might be able to spare. I also have empathy and think this isn’t a problem to be “handled” as if it were some personal inconvenience to me. Give the person a dollar if you are so inclined or perhaps give a little thought to why people find themselves on the street in the first place. Perhaps contemplate how your consumption patterns, life choices, voting choices, and overall attitude fits into the puzzle of broad-based poverty and homelessness. Most of all, remember that people on the streets are, first and foremost, human beings and deserve to be treated as such. They aren’t “problems” to be “handled”. Here’s an interview with a homeless man in Chicago, whose story is familiar to anyone with any sense of empathy.

2. Here’s an awesome Q&A with Buffalo-area graphic designer Julian Montague that was recently featured on Dwell.com. The best part? The lack of incredulity by the author about why Julian chooses ot live in Buffalo, which is standard fare in stories like this one. “You’re talented and live in Buffalo?! My heavens, Why?!” Probably because it was written by a person with Buffalo roots, but refreshing nonetheless.

3. Remember Jimmy “The Rent Is Too Damn High” McMillan? You know, the be-gloved karate expert who ran for Governor and seemed like a serious candidate when put on the stage next to horse porn enthusiast Carl Paladino? 

Carl+Paladino+Jimmy+McMillan

Well, he’s back and running for Mayor of New York City. And, yes. The rent is evidently still too damn high.

4. Dottie Gallagher-Cohen was hired to replace Andrew Rudnick as the head of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership. I was going to write some thoughtful analysis of the hire, but I decided to leave that low-hanging fruit for Geoff Kelly to cover in the print edition. Instead, I photoshopped Dottie’s head on to Andrew’s bow-tied torso.

dottie

Because that’s what I do.

5. Today, in America, nearly 500,000 children as young as six years old harvest 25 percent of our crops.

Child migrant labor has been documented in the 48 contiguous states. Seasonal work originates in the southernmost states in late winter where it is warm and migrates north as the weather changes. Every few weeks as families move, children leave school and friends behind. If you’ve had onions (Texas), cucumbers (Ohio or Michigan), peppers (Tennessee), grapes (California), mushrooms (Pennsylvania), beets (Minnesota), or cherries (Washington), you’ve probably eaten food harvested by children.

This isn’t a slavery issue, or an immigration issue per se. What’s remarkable is that most of the migrant child farmworkers are American citizens trying to help their families. This is a poverty issue and it gets to the heart of what we, as consumers, see as the “right price” to pay for food.

No minimum wage, long hours, and brutal working conditions. But, hey, we need cheap cucumbers, right?

6. Chart of the day which might cause you to think about the money we spend on the “war on drugs“. Perhaps the real enemy in the war isn’t the illegal drugs.

drug_overdose

We’ll see if the substantial shift in national drug policy just announced by the Obama Administration will mean a real change.

“Drug policy should be rooted in neuroscience, not political science,” said Gil Kerikowske, director of the White House Office on National Drug Control Policy.

“Too many people are cycling through the (criminal justice) system,” Kerikowske said. “We cannot arrest our way out of the drug problem.”

Treating our national drug problem as a public health crisis that can be solved with prevention, treatment, and science? It’s about time.

Fact Of The Day: Scientists have created a computer program that can detect good “that’s what she said” sentences.

Quote Of The Day: “The meek shall inherit the Earth, but not its mineral rights.” – J. Paul Getty

Video Of The Day: Charlie Brooker, the best critic of American media. Bar none. He also turns his critical eye toward social media dummies.

Song Of The Day: “19-2000 (Soulchild Remix)” – Gorillaz

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

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


  • Dale Zuchlewski

    Your comments on panhandling are on the mark. As the Executive Director of the Homeless Alliance I participated in the article to try to inform people that most panhandlers are not homeless. Outreach workers regularly identify the homeless and work with them. While most panhandlers are not homeless, I would say they are all living in poverty and are simply supplementing a meager income. People don’t like seeing panhandlers but this is what poverty looks like in human terms. These points of view didn’t make it into the article.

  • 1. It is virtually impossible to spend any time walking in many areas of the city without being accosted by panhandlers. That isn’t enough to stop me from going places in Buffalo, but I find it very discomforting.

    6. Thanks to the War on Drugs, we have the highest prison population in the world. The “war” perpetuates the tremendous profits to be made and will never end. There is a huge savings to be made by legalizing all drugs and slashing the cost of policing, courts and incarceration. Once the profit motive is eliminated, it will be much easier to deal with drug use as a health problem. Many addicts are savvy enough to know how to procure illegal drugs in order to make enough money to sustain their own habit. All of this feeds into a viscous circle that keeps growing larger. The government’s current Suboxone program to get people off of opiates is a joke. The number of doctors who are “allowed” to prescribe doesn’t meet the need for treatment. It is not uncommon for addicts who do get into a program to abuse it by gaming the system, through false testing methods, and then sell the Suboxone to raise cash for more opiates.

    • Panhandlers are exercising their first amendment rights.

      • Yes it is, and drafting a content neutral law against panhandling would also ban many other things. However, aggressive panhandlers can be dealt with legally, provided the victim is willing to make a formal complaint with the police.

      • Tony Maggiotto Jr

        I think this entire discussion is discounting heavily the reactions WOMEN have towards this unwanted solicitation.

        It is not hard for grown man to tell a begging-grown man to buzz off.

  • Tony Maggiotto Jr

    I want to start a Panhandlers Shuttle Service ….. each day, interested individuals will be driven to Main Street in Williamsville, Transit in Clarence, and in the parking lot of the new Orchard Fresh in O.P. Logically, those communities have greater disposable income.

    My expectation is their ongoing presence would not be tolerated the way it is on Elmwood Avenue. If food trucks are removed within hours, imagine how quickly these law-abiding citizens would be scurried back to the city.

    You can be kind, but firm with panhandlers. They deserve some empathy, I get it …… but you cannot legitimately suggest that it does not hurt the perception of shopping, specifically in Elmwood Village. I want to hear comments from women, admitting that they stay away more often than the shop owners want them to.

    (My other pet peeve … Parking Enforcement ends at 5pm …. but you will see people ‘hurrying’ back to their car – to leave Elmwood – for fear of a parking ticket that has ZERO chance of being written. That one is due to misleading information and signage.)