My dad posted a link to an al-Jazeera story on, of all places, Buffalo.
I tend to agree with him that it is interesting. Not so much for what is shown, but for the journalist's a prioris.
I was particularly curious about a few items that they'd trotted out:
First - they fail to mention that Buffalo has been a major call center for collections for a good 10 years. It didn't just spring up out of nowhere over the last six months in response to the subprime crisis.
Second - I was a little confused about the funding for demolition vs development. Where is the problem here? What is this tension the journalist is trying to set up? Unfortunately, there *are* areas in Buffalo with blocks of boarded up houses. It's depressing; I don't like going to the Science Museum anymore because of what a wasteland the Humboldt Park neighborhood is. That area needs some serious help. However, in its present state, who is going to invest in it? Who in their right mind would want to set up shop in an area as it currently is (gang problems, arsons and all)? Demolition is just the first step. Building comes next - and one needs private investment for that, not government handouts for useless buildings that will only be abandoned, graffiti-ed, etc in the end (have seen this happen both in Boston and Paris.)
Third - I'm sorry, but I really can't muster up much sympathy for the lady who lost her house due to the increase in her mortgage payment. Who in Buffalo has a monthly payment of $900 outside of the area around Delaware Park? Outside of those areas, property values just don't merit that sort of payment unless one has a five year mortgage or someone didn't make a down payment.
Won't even go into the 'community activism' thing, nor do I much feel like talking about 'living wages.' There's a lot that needs to be fleshed out regarding those two points. Am wondering if the trash workers there are unionized like they are here, and if so, if the whole 'seasonal' thing was more manipulation on their part than the city's. Am wondering, as well, where Girlfriend's organization gets its money.
Also - where did that moniker "second poorest city in America" come from? Would love a citation for that, as I've never heard it before. It IS the second largest city in New York, which is the source of a lot of problems, economic, legislative and otherwise.
Anyway, Buffalo's got a lot of problems, to be sure. However, there are many very strong points that were overlooked in this story: University presence (not just UB and Buffalo State, either. Granted, it's not Boston, but it's no slouch, either.), Culture (Shakespeare in Delaware Park. Albright-Knox. The BPO.). Then there're the people: a combination of grit, intelligence and just all around sunniness that is quite apparent when one visits after a spell in a major East Coast city.
Gosh darnit, thinking about all the good just made me a bit homesick.