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losing weight up state/dropping trou down
 
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 of government?'

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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Copyright (c) 2003 by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff. This material may be freely distributed subject to the terms and conditions set forth in the Open Publication License. This license relieves the author of any liability or implication of warranty, grants others permission to use the Content in whole or in part, and insures that the original author will be properly credited when Content is used. It also grants others permission to modify and redistribute the Content if they clearly mark what changes have been made, when they were made, and who made them. Finally, the license insures that if someone else bases a work on this Content, that the resultant work will be made available under the Open Publication License as well.


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