Archive for March, 2009

Suburban Blight

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

Alternet, from what I can tell, is an Internet-based news site about fifteen steps to the left of Eugene Debs. Most of the articles read like they were written by a privileged white kid who just went to college, grew dreadlocks for the first time, and discovered that poor people exist. Serious glassy-eyed liberalism, even by my standards.

Nonetheless, there’s an interesting article on there that I stumbled across yesterday. The basic premise is simple — as urban living in denser, walkable communities becomes more popular among empty-nesters and young professionals, the urban poor that have been living in these neighborhoods are being forced out by gentrification. As a result, inner-ring suburbs are starting to become the next generation of slums.

I can’t argue with the premise; it makes sense. While Buffalo is still a poor city, downtown in particular is experiencing a serious housing construction boom. Luxury apartments are going up in waterfront neighborhoods that used to be nothing but housing project towers and grain elevators. As people with money move in, the bodegas and wig shops are moving out and gourmet grocers and upscale flower shops are moving in. It’s a complete turnover in the character of the neighborhood, and it stands to reason that the people who can’t afford to live there any more have to go somewhere.

I can’t argue with the conclusion, either. The inner-ring suburbs of Buffalo — Cheektowaga, Amherst, and Tonawanda — are starting to have “city-like” problems. Dropout rates are climbing, as is crime, and abandoned houses are becoming more and more of a problem. Unfortunately, most of the programs designed to help lower-income families are city-based, and the suburbs are pretty unfriendly to public transport.

It will be interesting to see where this leads in the next twenty years or so. I wouldn’t be surprised to see most cities develop a “poverty belt” in their oldest suburbs surrounding the city, as some people move back to the urban core and others are carried to the exurbs by white flight.

Help Wanted

Monday, March 30th, 2009

As the unemployment rate here in Erie County creeps up toward ten percent, the Buffalo News is doing their best to keep people from panicking. An article in the Sunday edition pointed out that there are indeed jobs available for people with the proper qualifications. Check out this table, which accompanied the article:

So, three different kinds of teachers and police officers are all listed as desirable, available occupations. That’s great. But considering those are all state jobs, don’t you think it would be helpful if there were people paying into the tax rolls as well?

No wonder the economy in this state is such a wreck. The only jobs available are being paid for by a state government in a 17 billion dollar hole.

Springtime

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

Ah, the first nice weekend day of spring. It’s like a city-wide holiday. The line outside of the zoo was fantastically long.

Since the mercury managed to climb into the fifties today, I put off some work I have to do around the house and went for a bike ride instead. Nothing terribly strenuous — I took the Delaware Park trail over to the Riverwalk, the Riverwalk to Broderick Park at Ferry St., and then down Niagara Street to LaSalle Park and into downtown. Nice day for a ride, though there weren’t a lot of other people out.

I’ll have to ride that route with my camera next time, though. The demolition of the Aud is something to see. About a quarter of the building is down, now, and you can look inside and see the old rafters and seating and everything. It looks like someone cracked the building open like an egg. It’s pretty cool.

I hope it doesn’t take me too long to get back into shape. I didn’t ride that far, about fifteen or sixteen miles, but I was pretty winded when I got back to the house. Time to start training for Roswell again. What route are we doing, anyway?

No More Model Ts

Friday, March 27th, 2009

Apparently, the People’s Republic of California has decided to interfere just a bit more in the lives of its citizens, in hopes of earning the love of the prophet Al Gore. The state is considering banning dark paint colors on automobiles, the rationale being that the climate control system in a dark-colored car has to work harder and so the carbon output of the vehicle will be higher.

I wonder if they’ve decided to excoriate themselves at all for designing an entire state full of cities that require a car. Probably not.

The Phantom

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

For several years now, police agencies in central Europe have been chasing a mystery woman. Her DNA appears in a wide variety of crime scenes, from amateur break-ins to police murders. She’s all over the map, geographically, committing crimes in a host of provinces and countries. And she can’t be found.

Until now.

Apparently, the problem is that “the phantom’s” DNA is spread over a number of cotton swabs being used for forensic evidence collection. No wonder it turns up in every lab sample.

More bike goodness

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

Just a little something to go along with Matt’s bike related story, Pitts talk about safety and my general jones to get out and ride. This will kill about 40 seconds of your day. Plus I wanted to play with the add video thingy.

The last 15 seconds is the money shot, I think I need to practice more…

BPS and Bicycles

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

Apparently, a bicycle was stolen recently from the grounds of Hutch Tech, a high school here in Buffalo. The Buffalo Public Schools, with their usual wisdom, decided that the best way to keep this from happening was to ban students from bringing their bikes to school. There are no bike racks, and anything locked to a gate or a flagpole or another piece of school property will be cut free and shipped downtown — presumably to end up in the sad little bike auction that Kevin and I went to last year.

Well, that’s certainly not a completely insane overreaction. You’re telling me that a district that spends $24k per year per student can’t swing a couple hundred bucks for a bike rack?

Oh, and the outlawing of bikes ought to do wonders for that whole child obesity thing we’ve got going on around here. Grape soda, pork rinds, and an hour on a bus; now that’s Heart Smart(tm)!

ISS

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

The next module affixed to the International Space Station will be named “Colbert”, in honor of the host of The Colbert Report.

Who was the dumb bastard at NASA that said to allow write-ins?

Newspapers

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

When you think about it, the concept of a newspaper is so unwieldy as to be ridiculous. The best way to disseminate news and community information, in an age of radio, television, and the Internet, probably isn’t to print it on huge sheets of paper, fold them carefully, and drive around dropping them on people’s porches.

Unfortunately, the business model that newspapers have used for years is based around that old school, paper ideal. It’s what the advertisers expect, and when circulation is down, advertisers are unhappy. The Seattle P-I, an old and well-respected paper, printed its last issue last week. It’s going web-only. Many other major papers are looking at doing the same thing, or perhaps printing a physical paper once a week and going online the rest of the time.

The Buffalo News is in pretty good shape. This is a very loyal market for newspaper readership, they’re the only game in town, and they’re not part of some debt-laden conglomerate. So they’re profitable, for now.

I worry about where this is going in ten years, though. Despite all of the sage head nodding about how the newspaper is obsolete from the academics, how crap like Twitter and Youtube is “reshaping” news, the fact is that there is a serious need for real journalists in this world. Idiots like me yammering on their blogs, most of which end up linking the the real newspapers anyway, are no replacement.

Incumbents Ahoy!

Friday, March 20th, 2009

In the grand tradition of school boards and other unaccountable entities, several villages here in Erie County chose to have their elections this week. Why March? Because that depresses voter turnout, which is a huge aid to the incumbent candidate.

Results are here.

This prompts two questions from me. One, why are villages like Sloan and Depew (population ~3,500 and ~15,000, respectively) supporting their own governments? There’s really not enough people to merit it, especially since both of these villages are contained in the town of Cheektowaga. It’s just another layer of taxes and administration for no benefit. Two, why is it that everyone complains about the government in their town and then goes out and reelects the incumbents? What does that accomplish?

I’m really starting to think that we deserve the miserably dysfunctional government we’ve got. If we didn’t, we’d stop pulling the lever for the bastards.