Artvoice: Buffalo's #1 Newsweekly
Home Blogs Web Features Calendar Listings Artvoice TV Real Estate Classifieds Contact

The Morning Grumpy 1/19/2012

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

We party hard at Artvoice.

1. The Atlantic magazine asks, “Why does Buffalo pay for its teachers to have plastic surgery?

In Buffalo, New York, the heart of the American rust-belt, the public school system pays for its teachers to get plastic surgery. Hair removal. Miscrodermabrasian. Liposuction. If you can name the procedure, it’s probably covered.

There’s no co-pay, so the school district ends up footing the entire bill. It estimates the current annual cost at $5.2 million, down from $9 million in 2009.

This in a city where the average teacher makes roughly $52,000 a year. The plastic surgery tab would pay salaries for 100 extra educators.

For all the protesting liberals do about right wing union busting Governors like Scott Walker, Rick Snyder, Rick Scott, and Andrew Cuomo, sometimes we need to recognize our own political weaknesses. Contract provisions like this one make it too easy for anti-union forces to paint public servants as the budget bogeyman and overreach for extensive givebacks in labor negotiations.

The collective bargaining system in New York State does not provide any incentive for honest give and take in public union contracts, so we continue to maintain the status quo.  A solid start in a negotiation with the BTF would include the removal of this rider in a new ten year contract ( savings of $52-60MM) in exchange for hiring new teachers and salary increases for those already on staff amounting to 50-60% of the savings. Offer, counteroffer. Give and take. Ensure union workers receive the pay and benefits they deserve while making sensible reforms to public outlays.

Instead, we get legislatively mandated bluster and stasis rather than progress.

2. The triggers of economic inequality and the results of policy changes. Click the link to play with the interactive infographic, the following is just a screenshot.

In recent years, the rich have seen their wealth grow dramatically while the poor and middle class have basically flatlined. It’s no accident, argue Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson in their book Winner-Take-All Politics. The infographic, which draws from Hacker and Pierson’s book, explains how our politicians — on both sides of the isle — fell under the spell of corporate dollars and re-engineered our economic system to favor the wealthy.

I’m halfway through this book and it is fascinating. I highly recommend it.

3. Aaron Bartley of PUSH Buffalo wrote a sage and enlightened article for The Huffington Post titled “The Recovery Runs Through The City“.

In the absence of national direction, leaders at the neighborhood, regional and state levels have put forward innovative and scalable development initiatives with triple-bottom-line impacts, meaning that they benefit people and the planet and generate sustainable economic growth.

The imaginative solutions to systemic ills bubbling up at the regional, municipal and community-levels could jumpstart a national movement to build a new economy, one in which capital formation and developmental control are rooted in communities over the long term.

After reading that article, try and tell me there is a better candidate for Mayor of Buffalo anywhere in this city. While he has never publicly voiced a desire to run for elected office, Mr. Bartley possesses the right package of education, experience, vision and strategic thinking necessary to do big things. At the very least, I’d love to see many of these activist groups collectively assert their political power  in a more organized fashion and speak with one voice. A real “Grassroots” political club, if you will, with the power to change elections and the fortunes of a great city.

4. Imagine Buffalo’s outer harbor lined with these. They’re called windstalks and they deliver wind power without the turbines. Hey, if Mark Goldman can simply wish that a solar powered carousel be installed on the inner harbor and have it happen, I can wish for something that’s actually cool, right?

Noise from wind turbine blades, inadvertent bat and bird kills and even the way wind turbines look have made installing them anything but a breeze. New York design firm Atelier DNA has an alternative concept that ditches blades in favor of stalks. Resembling thin cattails, the Windstalks generate electricity when the wind sets them waving.

A remarkable and beautiful design.

Fact Of The Day: The taste and smell of your Tropicana or Minute Maid Orange Juice? Yeah, that’s not from oranges, it’s from chemically derived “flavor packs”. Everything sucks.

Quote Of The Day: “Here is the crisis of the times as I see it: We talk about problems, issues, policies, but we don’t talk about what democracy means — what it bestows on us — the revolutionary idea that it isn’t just about the means of governance but the means of dignifying people so they become fully free to claim their moral and political agency. ” – Bill Moyers

Song Of The Day: Redux from yesterday, because it’s awesome. “Tell Me A Tale” – Michael Kiwanuka

Follow me on Twitter: @ChrisSmithAV

Email me links, tips, story ideas: chrissmithbuffalo[@]

PUSH Buffalo Issues Challenge to National Fuel CEO David Smith

This video and press release just came in from PUSH Buffalo:



Community Challenge to National Fuel CEO David Smith

We’ll be at the Public Hearing, will you?

Next Wednesday, July 6th, hundreds of community residents, organizations and elected officials will participate in a Public Hearing convened and facilitated by the Public Service Commission to evaluate National Fuel’s Conservation Incentive Program (CIP). The goal is to hear recommendations for improving CIP. The National Fuel Accountability Coalition (NFAC) issued a challenge today in a video to National Fuel CEO David Smith: Will you be there too?

The Public Hearing is a result of a year of pressure from the NFAC on National Fuel’s misuse of CIP fund. NFAC has been particularly critical of millions in CIP money that’s been spent on National Fuel advertising campaign and an inadequate focus on best practices in energy efficiency. In the past year, National Fuel ran 2,053 commercials with CIP funds.

While Western New Yorkers are making tough choices to keep their gas on, National Fuel executives are the highest paid in the region. CEO David Smith made $7.1million last year.  That’s $3,500 an hour, enough to weatherize a typical house in our community.

“In a community where heating costs are among the highest in the nation it’s outrageous for National Fuel’s four top executives to have made over 15 million last year. Furthermore, National Fuel spending millions of our public conservation money on commercials, while thousands of people are making tough choices to stay warm in the winter unacceptable.” said Pastor M Bruce McKay of VOICE–Buffalo, a founding organization in the National Fuel Accountability Coalition. “Many people from my congregation will be at the Public Hearing next week proposing bold solutions to this crisis. As the leader of Western New York’s most powerful corporate citizens, I hope David Smith will be there too.”

The National Fuel Accountability Coalition is comprised of fifteen organizations from across National Fuel’s service territory who want to see National Fuel invest in real conservation that would save energy, reduce gas bills and create green jobs.

VOTE for PUSH’s Green Development Zone!

Photo by Todd Salansky

Yesterday Buffalo’s Green Development Zone—developed by PUSH Buffalo in cooperation with Massacchusetts Avenue Project, Outsource Center, Homefront, and Habitat for Humanity—was declared a finalist today in the international Sustainable Urban Housing Competition, sponsored by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, the US Department of State, and the American Planning Association.

Now PUSH needs your vote to win the contest and $10,000 to help the project along. Go to this page and vote for Buffalo Green Development Zone before April 6.

The Green Development Zone aims to concentrate investments in green affordable housing, geothermal and solar energy, green jobs training, and urban agriculture in one West Side neighborhood.

The competition is being launched in anticipation of the 2012 Summit of the Americas, and in support of President Barack Obama’s Energy and Climate Partnership for the Americas. The most competitive entrants will be showcased and reviewed at an event that closes the competition in June 2011 at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC. where they will be viewed by public and private partners, including prospective funders.

PUSH Buffalo’s National Fuel Campaign Continues

Tonight at 6pm, PUSH Buffalo is staging a march from the corner of Porter and Niagara streets to Holy Cross Church on the corner of Niagara and Maryland streets. The purpose of the march is to call attention to PUSH’s efforts to engage National Fuel in a discussion about the company’s conservation incentive program.

National Fuel responded to PUSH’s campaign by asking a judge to issue restraining orders that would prohibit PUSH members from demonstrating on company property. (You can read a little bit about that here.)

The march ends at Holy Cross Curch, which will host the annual meetings of PUSH, NOAH, and VOICE Buffalo. Among the subjects of discussion will be an upcoming series of community meetings regarding development of Buffalo’s Inner Harbor.

Mass. Ave Park Cleanup Sunday

PUSH Buffalo, Daemen College, and the Butler-Mitchell Boys & Girls Club are announcing a call for volunteers to a spring cleaning party at Massachusetts Avenue Park this Sunday at 10am. Click here for details.

Dispatch: Restore NY Grant

AV’s City Hall correspondent Ellen Przepasniak sends this report on yesterday’s Common Council meeting:

Lawmakers are taking another step to revitalize Buffalo’s economy this week as the Office of Strategic Planning organizes a grant application through Restore NY, a state program that provides money for revitalization of commercial and residential properties. This grant money is one more part of a decades-long housing revitalization effort. Brian Reilly, commissioner for the Department of Economic Development, Permit and Inspection Services, admits this money isn’t enough to fix the city’s housing problems, but it’ll make a dent.

A discussion was held at Tuesday’s Common Council meeting as part of a public forum time required by the grant application, prompted by a resolution from Niagara Councilmember David Rivera. The city will be requesting $20 million, split evenly for commercial and residential development, and Reilly anticipates receiving at least $1 million. “No project is getting everything they’re asking for,” Reilly says.

The grant cannot be used toward any new construction, just for demolition and rehabilitation. However, many city residents are concerned that it focuses too much on the former instead of the latter.

Terrence Robinson, a resident of East Buffalo is anxious about the demolition of historic homes. He saw Monday’s Dyngus Day celebration in the Broadway-Fillmore district as “an infusion of life into that community” that was a positive step toward attracting residents into the neighborhood. “I’m concerned about the historical, cultural, and social fabric,” he says. “Once it’s demolished, there is no chance to recall it.”

Aaron Bartley, executive director of PUSH Buffalo, a West Side housing development organization, encourages other community development organizations and neighborhood leaders to get behind the proposal. Bartley has seen real changes in his community because of past years’ Restore NY grant money and he believes this funding is a chance to tackle “a monumental problem that few cities have faced.”

The key to receiving more money from the state is all in the marketing, according to Reilly. He says the city hasn’t obtained a bigger slice of the pie in past years because the grant application has been unfocused. Buffalo is competing with the rest of the state for funding and needs to fight for its allotment. The state is looking for feasibility and readiness—essentially projects that are packaged and ready to go.

Sam Magavern, a University at Buffalo law professor and co-director of the Partnership for Public Good (PPG), is concerned the city isn’t including enough in its grant application. He is pushing for lawmakers to consider adding block-by-block and green initiatives. The city does not currently have green criteria for demolition or rehabilitation, but Magavern says it should push for salvaging or recycling materials. Chicago requires 50 percent of all construction and demolition debris to be recycled. As a trial, Magavern suggests lawmakers could write recycling materials into the contract for 50 houses they demolish.

He also believes that including block-by-block planning—like how PUSH focuses on a five-block radius—would make the application stronger. Planners must step back and look at the whole process from demolition to the green space that will be left afterward. “Each block is so different, that’s why you need it,” says Magavern. “You can’t just look at the structure, you have to look at the spaces too.”

The old Kentucky Fried Chicken at 448 Elmwood Avenue is among those commercial properties on the grant list. The money would be used to aid in the demolition of the building after which construction for the planned multi-use building can begin. Abandoned libraries like Fairfield and North Park have also made the list and qualify under the grant because the buildings  are currently vacant.

Reilly reminds residents that demolition plans for any building is not absolute; if someone wants to purchase and rehabilitate property, they’re always open to compromise. For this grant, the Office of Strategic Planning is working under the umbrella of the Queen City Hub comprehensive plan, which was adopted in 2004 and lays out a sustainable development strategy for the city. “We want to learn from our experience of failure in Buffalo,” he says.

My 3 Minutes: Eric Walker on the Financial Crisis

PUSH Buffalo’s Eric Walker talked to AV last week about the economic crisis:

Get the Flash Player to see this content.

Check out more video at AVTV.

PUSH Buffalo in Lafayette Square

Filed under: News
Tags: ,

In spite of yesterday’s late afternoon rain, PUSH Buffalo supporters rallied for jobs, for community-based solutions to the city’s housing problems, and for a constructive anti-poverty platform:

Get the Flash Player to see this content.