The last time I criticized Andrew Rudnick and the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, a couple of folks writing from the Partnership’s offices spent much of the afternoon giving me guff about it.
I guess we’ll see if they’re paying attention today.
On Tuesday evening, Rudnick dispatched a note to his organization’s membership titled “It’s a Wonderful Life,” positing the horror that would have gripped Western New York in 2010 if, George Bailey style, the Partnership had never been born. It’s a lengthy fantasy, but endeavor to persevere:
You know how the story goes.guardian angel Clarence Odbody shows businessman George Bailey what life in his community would be like without him: not so wonderful.
What if Buffalo Niagara didn’t have businesspeople supporting each other and the region through their commitment to the Partnership’s mission? In 2010 alone, things might have been quite different..
Without the Partnership’s navigation through a tricky process, dozens of local businesspeople might still be stuck, unable to find their way through the alphabet soup of economic development agencies, grant programs, loan options and workforce training applications — instead of buying new equipment, hiring additional people, and landing new contracts.
You might still be reading front page news articles about the mess in the City of Buffalo’s economic development agency “BERC,” or instead of seeing pictures of the light display in Delaware Park, you might still be reading about the city and county’s dispute over how the Olmstead Parks will be maintained.
The 4,200+ people who exchanged business cards at Partnership functions this year might never have connected — consider the business lost, the partnerships not formed, the information not gleaned, the relationships not developed.
More than a thousand young professionals – who are committed to working and living in Buffalo Niagara – would still have social outlets and a lot of volunteer opportunities, but who would be looking out for their professional development? Who would be guiding their path toward becoming the region’s next private sector power brokers?
Would anyone have pushed for the local IDAs to include “buying local” as criteria for projects to receive a grant incentive? Without a Regional Agenda, would local municipalities be competing with each other for scarce federal and state attention and support? With all that noise, would any one of them be heard? Would proceeds from the sale of local hydropower stay in this region for economic development, or get swept into NYPA’s coffers? Would the rail station in Niagara Falls or the federal courthouse in downtown Buffalo have local construction workers reaping paychecks?
A development-friendly Buffalo Common Council majority may not have been elected in November.which would mean more obstructionist votes on critical projects. And there’d be no Unshackle Upstate, and as a result, no broader political coalition that, with the direct financial help of Partnership members, helped changed the state senate majority from NYC-centric Democrat to upstate friendly Republican.
Who’d play defense against SO many government proposals that would kill jobs and hurt your business? Would a half-dozen proposals that would have made it easier for unions to organize at all types of companies and farms, and others that would open the door for frivolous lawsuits by disgruntled employees have sailed through the legislature? Would the government set wage rates (beyond the minimum) for all types of jobs at your company, and negate every dollar of economic development grants received by a business by increasing the rates it must pay vendors? Would utility rates be going up because of more government-imposed mandates?
Thank goodness reality is much different – and that you’re a Partnership member who enables us to carry out critical work like what’s mentioned above..and so much more.
Thank you for all you made possible through your investment with us.
Happy holidays and my very best for a healthy and prosperous 2011,
Andrew J. Rudnick
p.s. Despite the fact that it’s almost the holidays and the state legislature has gone home, there’s one more bill that needs your attention ASAP – please click here to join the fight against another downstate-driven piece of legislation that will raise energy costs for everyone living and doing business in Upstate New York.
Andrew J. Rudnick
President & CEO
P: (716) 852-7100
F: (716) 852-1756
Jody Vohwinkel, Executive Assistant to the President & CEO
The Partnership extends its thanks to the member businesses in its Leadership Circle.
These companies represent the Partnership’s most significant financial supporters.
Let’s take this one paragraph at a time. First, credit where it is due: I don’t doubt that the Partnership helps local business owners find their way to whatever public money is available to help them. I do wonder why the organization and Rudnick consistently stake out such stridently anti-government positions at the same time that they are leading their membership to publicly funded tax break, grants, and job training programs.
Next paragraph. Unless Rudnick personally lobbied for approval of the loans to One Sunset, there is no world, not in this or in some alternate universe, in which Rudnick and the Partnership can claim credit for the implosion and subsequent, slow-going dissolution of BERC. BERC has long been an organization through which the Partnership exercised influence in city government. BERC’s heads have generally been Partnership-approved. So, if the Partnership wants to take credit for BERC’s demise, then it must also take credit for the policies and practices that led it there.
Consulting on how best to dissolve BERC and transfer its functions elsewhere is not the same as precipitating its dissolution. And if the Partnership’s advice on dissolution had been truly helpful, I imagine the city would not be paying at least two private consultants to work it out.
On the other hand, former Olmsted Conservancy board chair David Colligan affirms that Rudnick deserves full credit for helping to broker an agreement between the city and the Olmsted Conservancy. When the mayor’s office was no longer speaking to the Conservancy and Colligan, Rudnick acted as an intermediary and eventually brought all parties to the table.
On to the next two paragraphs. I imagine that the card-sharing and elbow-rubbing to which he refers is good for local business people. I’m not convinced that it wouldn’t happen without the Partnership. Some folks have told me approving things about the Partnership as a resource for professional development, some have rolled their eyes.
In the next paragraph, the answers are as follows: Yes, Buffalo First would have pushed and continues to push a “buy local” agenda to business owners and development agencies. Yes, local IDAs do compete with one another for scarce public funds, despite the Partnership’s annual Regional Agenda. Yes, NYPA money would have stayed in this region for economic development. The Partnership may have approved of and even advocated for the agreements that protected the settlement money from being swept, but I don’t think it can take credit for those agreements. And I believe that the new railroad station in Niagara Falls and the new courthouse would be under construction even in a world in which neither Rudnick nor the Partnership had ever been born: Listing projects on the annual Regional Agenda does not entitle Rudnick to credit for their realization. Five years ago, Rudnick argued against investments in the Niagara Falls International Airport. In a blog post three and a half months ago, the Partnership claimed credit for improvements at the NFIA because it had eventually made it on its annual wish list.
The first claim in the next paragraph is predicated on the belief that the current Common Council majority is unfriendly to development, which is absurd. Everyone in city government, regardless of political affiliation, is in favor of economic development. And ice cream. And fireworks on the Fourth of July. (As a rule, those who label their political opponents as “anti-development” and “obstructionist” are liars, nine times out of 10: They’re trying to win an argument rather than use the argument to get to the truth or the best course of action.) In any case, the only change in the Council this year is the replacement of a professional economist, Dr. Curtis Haynes, with an entrepreneurial pastor, Rev. Darius Pridgen. True, the Partnership endorsed Pridgen and gave his campaign $1,000, but Pridgen did not need the endorsement or the money to win that seat. In a mayor’s or a county executive’s race, the Partnership can be influential. But it can play little useful role in the election of the Ellicott District councilman. That seat is won with votes, not money and endorsements, and few, if any, of the Partnership’s members vote in the district.
As for the State Senate, I suppose Rudnick is talking about the Grisanti campaign. Like most everyone else, the Partnership jumped on Grisanti’s bandwagon at the late last minute, donating $3,500 one week before election day. I know Grisanti and those running his campaign welcomed the cash, but the groundwork had already been done. And in the final push, the money and volunteers from the trade unions—Rudnick’s bugbears—were much more valuable to Grisanti than the Partnership’s support.
Also, UPAC, Unshackle Upstate’s political action committee, gave $9,500 to the campaign of Tim Kennedy, a Democrat (and gave that money two weeks before the Partnership’s PAC, Committee for Economic Growth, lined up with the Republican Grisanti). I think it’s fine that Unshackle Upstate supported Kennedy instead of his Republican opponent, Jack Quinn III. But let’s not undercut one viable Republican candidate, Quinn, come late to the successful longshot’s party, and then claim credit for helping Republicans take control of the State Senate.
(I was wrong about that. See comments below.)
I’ll give Rudnick the benefit of the doubt on the rest of his claims, though it sounds to me like a combination of self-inflation and fear-mongering on the part of the overpaid chief of an organization that is losing members: Pay your dues, or the government’s going to come and steal your money! Pay your dues, we’re your last best hope!
Don’t listen to that goddamned Carl Paladino: Pay your dues!