Monthly Archives: January 2010

Why Michael Nozzolio’s Upstate manifesto is a failure

If State Senator Michael Nozzolio’s manifesto about Upstate becoming “the 51st state” was anything more than bottom-feeder political posturing, it would be something more than a simple repetition of the canard that New York City sucks Upstate dry and gives nothing back. It would honestly lay out the nuances of the real situation — not denying that Upstate is reliant on New York City for subsidies of various kinds, but rather being bold enough to list those subsidies (and the equivalent of subsidies, such as prison jobs).

It would be brutally honest about the weaknesses of New York City’s Wall Street-driven economy and cautionary about how long that particular economic engine can continue to support an entire state.

And then it would speak equally honestly about how this numb overreliance on New York City has damaged the bedrock of our economy, stunted its growth and sense of purpose as a (however loose) community, and ultimately has contributed to the diaspora of our well-educated young people, many of whom would really rather remain here near their families and friends than in the sticky, ant-infested South.

It would ask, “Do Upstate people really want to continue existing like this under this system? Can we do better with a different system?” And then it might suggest some achievable near-term goals for more Upstate autonomy within the current political system we have in Albany.

Don’t look to Michael Nozzolio for a real manifesto on Upstate independence, as he’s clearly not politically capable of it. (Never send a boy to do a man’s job.) Look for new candidates who are politically capable of saying these things.

S.O.S.

Governor Paterson’s annual S.O.S. (State of the State) was given yesterday. You can read the address here; and more about the plan. A lot of attention has been given to the reform angle of his speech, but I’m feeling very out of touch with reform sport these days (it’s kind of like “dance sport” – but even though it’s not allowed in the Olympics there’s still always gold involved). The big story, for this blogger, is how Paterson seem to abandon all rosy rhetoric about reviving Upstate economically as a green-tech or higher-educational-research hub. Very little new said about that. No, those halcyon days are past:

New York State is home to an estimated 60,000 back office jobs. The Paterson Administration will focus on expanding the State’s back office opportunities by making Upstate New York the preferred back office for corporate America. There is no denying that we have the workforce, space and livable communities to support these office operations throughout Upstate New York.

For those of us with unglamorous back office careers in Upstate New York — getting up dutifully, eating our thin morning gruel, slogging through the snow each dawn to serve our daily 9 to 5 sentences — it’s comforting to know that soon we’ll be joined by thousands of economic refugees eager to compete with us for our Bartleby the Scrivener jobs. Because you know, in all seriousness, the Creative Class b.s. was getting hard to stomach (even the Creative Class itself can no longer stand it). Nice to see that our governor isn’t into selling snake oil either.

However, if this is what the governor means by “back office operations,” I really must protest:

When Tobias “Bags of Money” Boyland went looking for a new career after serving 13 years in prison for armed robbery and drug dealing, he quickly found something that suited his sensibilities: He opened a collection agency.

It was, in some ways, a natural move for a young man in Buffalo. Desperate for jobs, this chronically depressed Rust Belt city has become home to one of the biggest concentrations of debt collection businesses in the U.S. “Collections is the Bethlehem Steel of Buffalo,” said Boyland, 44, recalling the industrial giant that once employed 20,000 people in the region. “You can make a decent living in a town where there isn’t a lot of opportunity.”

Yet, law enforcement and consumer groups point to a dark side: Buffalo, they say, has also become a center for some of the worst elements in the business. Debt collectors, some of them convicted felons, have illegally posed as lawyers or unlawfully browbeat people — threatening to have them arrested or stripped of custody of their children — to scare them into making payments.

“Get some clean clothes because you’re not coming home any time soon,” one debtor was told.

Such a deal! Wall Street gets to remain the head of the business operation, while way way on the opposite end of the state, Buffalo gets to be its asshole. (As for the new revival of “Upstate’s traditional manufacturing industries,” as Paterson mentioned in his plan, there certainly will be an increased need for brass knuckles and tire irons.)

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, it actually does. Wow. Why are we staying with this guy? Maybe the plan is not so bad. Is it?

The only other thing Paterson had to say about Upstate was highlighting Buffalo as the starting point for a Sustainable Neighborhoods Project:

“There is no other region of the country with the affordable housing stock, the close-by schools, the natural beauty and the untouched small towns that families would cherish.”

Yes, after a long hard day on the phone chain-smoking and threatening to take people’s kids away, you too can go home to your picket fence.

Oh, and he also mentioned the Erie Canal. Gotta do that, or else it doesn’t count as a State of the State.

Help.

Catching up with Syracuse

A rather good guest editorial from a Syracuse expat in Sunday’s Post-Standard hints that people are starting to come around to my way of thinking on Richard Florida. I’m quite sure it’s not because anyone has read my stuff, but possibly because a prolonged economic slump for everyone tends to relieve one’s thirst for snake oil. The rest of the country is finally catching up economically with Syracuse. The author mentions that many young people are returning home, although if they are, I wonder how many are really in a condition to roll up their sleeves.

It seems to me that many children are unable to leave due to the economy, but I’m not sure how many are returning. Maybe young Mr. Caliva’s message will be best received by people like young Mr. Tryt.