Great news for those who worry about the size of their derriere.
You can literally laugh your ass off! So says Mona who until
recently lived in Buffalo, New York. Mona claims her backside
crashed to the floor after she read a quote by New York State
Comptroller Alan Hevisi in the May 29th New York Times. Hevesi,
when discussing the state's imminent financial takeover of
Buffalo, said "The point is not to blame anyone". To which
Mona says "If the buck stops nowhere, what's the point
Buffalo's population of 300,000 is less than half of what
it was in 1950 and continues to decline. Its poverty rates are
among the highest in the nation. Buffalo, along with the New York
capital city of Albany (where population also dwindles) are the
top two cities in the state for crime. Four day school weeks for
Buffalo's schools have been considered. With an annual budget
of $925 million dollars, the city is debt ridden, repeatedly
borrowing and relying on state bailouts. New York State aid
to Buffalo stands at $103 million, more than twice what it
was a decade ago. By 2006/07 Buffalo's deficits could reach
roughly $127 million.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, in the
current fiscal year, budgets almost $30 million dollars for
Buffalo community planning and development. $19 million of that
goes to the Community Development Block Grant (CDGB). Some say
not all of it trickles down. From the April 8th, 2003 "Buffalo
Report": "A huge portion.. disappears into local administration--
about $6 million this year. And another $7 million will go to pay
off bad debts..developers just walked away and stuck the city
with the debt." In February, 2001 Dr. Henry Louis Taylor, Jr.
at the Center for Urban Studies at SUNY Buffalo, wrote: "..since
1974, Buffalo, New York has received about 23 million yearly,
or about 598 million over 26 years from the HUD Community
Development Block Grant. We believe that less than 20% of these
funds have been spent on inner city development projects. In
other words, city leaders have turned the Robin Hood thesis
upside down. They rob from the poor to give to the rich".
Mayor Anthony Masiello of Buffalo is now in his third 4 year
term. In 2001 "Governing Magazine" in conjunction with the
Maxwell School at Syracuse University, rated Buffalo's management
practices 34th in a study of 35 cities. But according to Mayor
Masiello's "Progress Report" website: "..what the study analysts
acknowledged and what has since transpired, is that Buffalo
demonstrated significant signs of positive change for the
future." If you find this confusingly worded, never fear. Mayor
Masiello lays out the signs of change. Including a new city
charter, a community relations commission to oversee the police
and a raft of economic development initiatives. Such as the Erie
Canal linked Inner harbor redevelopment and the Buffalo Byte
Belt. Then there's that deal with Adelphia Communications...
As to the health of Buffalo's neighborhoods: they "are looking
much better" thanks to "planting trees" and "replacing curbs,
sidewalks and street lights". No mention of crime.
Certainly Buffalo suffers from problems outside its immediate
municipal government. According to Governing Magazine, political
and business leadership in the area has tended to come from the
same families for decades, with little impetus to change. Erie
County has multi layers of governments which produce tangles of
bureaucracy. Economic development agencies abound and frequently
compete. Every citizen in Erie County lives within at least six
governmental districts. Because of this, property taxes per
square foot in Buffalo are among the highest in the nation. And
never underestimate the problems typical to rust belt cities.
When Bethlehem Steel left Buffalo in 1982, 25,000 jobs went with
it. So the buck should at least pause before those in wider
political circles who decided that blue collar jobs were oh so
yesterday. Not worth protecting. The new economy would float
America's rust belt boat.
In many cities the swell never came. At least not consistently.
What did come were federal and state tax dollars, garnered from
those who hit the new economy jackpot. The money was spent on
public projects: government funded fixes stood in for solid,
diversified sources of employment. And the fix economy sped the
plow of public corruption. Providing day to day services became
almost unimportant. The trick to political power was in
controlling the flow of public money. Getting it, dispensing it
and getting it kicked back. Oversight by the federal and state
agencies from whence it flowed was way out of town. "Economic
development" frequently meant "pay for play" and organized crime
cut itself a generous slice of revitalization pie. When a boom
boomed, it largely did so in contained and connected downtown
office and bar districts. Neighborhoods deteriorated and drug
trade flourished. An underclass awash in bad habits was cemented
in place but overall populations declined. Buildings went
abandoned despite endless federally funded or supported programs
to carrot and stick people into urban home ownership. The funding
and support fertilized a growth of mortgage and housing fraud
which produced more abandoned buildings. The painted ponies
went up and down.
The decline of second tier cities is tragic. It's a problem
that's too big and too meaningful to be ignored. But it can't
be fixed with more same old same old-- or a no fault cob job
approach. The buck has to finally stop.
In the meantime, Mona is glad Comptroller Alan Hevesi saved her
the ones she was planning to spend on a Butt-Master.
Speaking of rear ends on a roll, several prominent pols in
northeast New Jersey have recently dropped trou. On May 31st
Republican James Treffinger, ex Essex County executive, fessed
up in a plea bargain to some of the federal charges he's been
denying for years. Back when the news broke that public contract
deals in urban Essex were being examined by the feds, Treff
claimed he welcomed the investigation. As if he knew history
would absolve him. But what if he was really welcoming a chance
to confess? Did he hear the tell tale graft rustling beneath his
psychic floorboards? Alas, no such redemptive luck. For well
over a year, Treff has been maneuvering a plea deal. Hoping for
a guarantee of no jail. But a few pre trial decisions went
against him and some political aides he'd tutored in the art of
destroying evidence, were crawling out of his woodwork. It was
time to toss in the dirty towel and risk a short trip to the
pokey. Treffinger always plays angles. In 2000 he applied
to become United States Attorney to New Jersey and was caught on
tape saying that if he got the job "this whole thing goes away".
Now he hopes testimonials from buddies lauding his virtue will
persuade the judge to let him just wear a bracelet.
In nearby Hudson County, Democrat Robert Janiszewski, ex county
executive turned federal songbird, has been appearing before
a packed house testifying in the trial of freeholder Nidia
Davila-Colon. Nidia is charged with acting as bag babe twixt
Janiszewski (aka Bobby J.) and Dr. Oscar Sandoval. Psychiatrist
Sandoval was trading bribes for contracts, in order to provide
the county's prison inmates and low income elderly with his
professional services. Sandoval, a married man, allegedly played
fast and loose with Nidia's heart-- while addling her brain with
Xanex. Tis a pulp tale of lovers on the grift. But the star of
the show is Janiszewski. Nidia's defense attorney, in an attempt
to make his client seem the least tarnished angel, has been
painting Janiszewski as monarch of a corrupt kingdom. A role
Bobby J. has embraced. Testifying he sometimes got so many bribes
he worried his suit showed the outlines of bulging bundles of
cash. A veritable boner of greed! Also saying he took bribes
immediately upon assuming office in 1988 and providing a list
of those who coughed up. Included are a number of county
contractors, plus prominent Gold Coast developer Joe "HUD Buck"
Barry and Bobby's life long friend, political operative Paul
Byrne. Who now calls Janiszewski "Judas". When Bobby J. pled
guilty to extortion some months ago, he claimed he only took
bribes in the last few years, when his integrity faltered. Seems
his integrity was as imaginary as the welcome mat Treffinger
rolled out for the feds. Lies trip lightly on the tongues of
these professional liars. Both of whom originally won office as
reformers. Both also were considered credible candidates for
larger public office and were national players in their parties.
Still, Bobby J. gives good show. A few taxpayer dollars might be
recouped by taking it on the road. Bobby Jay, the Singing Jersey
Judas. He'd kill em at the Jersey shore. Then on to upstate New
York to do the remains of the Catskill circuit. He has a pseudo
Swiss chalet in the area, so he'd pull in the local big wigs.
Next, a final boffo gig at some prestigious state theater in the
Capital Region, before an audience of forgiving fellow pols and
a friendly press. Doing a smooth soft shoe, twirling a silver
headed cane and crooning "Shuffle Off to Buffalo". The only
problem would be keeping him out of the box office receipts.
Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff
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