How Would You Accelerate Upstate?

By Tom Murdock:
 
Buffalo can be a funny town.
 
How many other places can you think of where locals get together and talk about what’s wrong?  Family picnics, business meetings, and social outings always seem to include some mention of the Peace Bridge, Main Street downtown, and our region’s limited influence given the huge population in New York City.
 
A summit is being put together to focus on solutions rather than the same old problems.  The Buffalo Niagara Partnership and BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York are teaming up to produce Accelerate Upstate, a two day conference for 300 business, political, labor, and community leaders from around New York State to develop ideas for our future.  At the end of the summit, an Accelerate Upstate action agenda will be delivered to elected officials in Albany and Washington.
 
Accelerate Upstate is designed to be inclusive, constructive, and productive.  Sessions will be held in downtown locations including the Convention Center, Main Library, HSBC Center, Marina, and Theatre District, so participants will see the best of what downtown Buffalo has to offer but also see the challenges of surface parking lots, abandoned buildings, and empty storefronts.  In addition to the working sessions, a Niagara Falls excursion, social hour, and architecture tour are planned.  Accelerate Upstate will wrap up just as the Buffalo Brewfest is beginning in the HSBC Arena.
 
Knowing that Upstate’s population and political influence will likely remain smaller than New York City’s, Accelerate Upstate sessions include:

·         What Motivates Us – The unique conditions in NYC and Upstate
·         Big City: Bigger State – Best practices from other states facing an 800-pound gorilla
·         Our Connection with Canada
·         Higher Ed as an Economic Driver
·         Where’s Our Future Workforce? Who’s Going to be Running New York in 2020?
·         Jobs and Investment – What is the right recipe for New York’s economic growth

Some of the speakers attending include Kathy Wylde, President of the Partnership for NYC; SUNY chancellor Nancy Zimpher; former NBC News anchor (and Levin Institute head) Garrick Utley, and former Assembly minority leader & Buffalo control board member, John Faso.
 
You can register to participate in Accelerate Upstate by clicking here.

Accellerate-Upstate-Buffalo.jpg

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42 comments
Rand503
Rand503

My best friend, who is also from Buffalo, worked in the Tax and Revenue Department of the City of New York. If you want to complain that he doesn't know the value of Manhattan real estate, by all means, show us your proof. But the fact that is that the entire budget for the city of New York in FY 2011 is $66 billion. For Buffalo it is $460 million.

The total taxes collected from Buffalo wouldn't even fund one-third of the school district in New York. So, yeah, anyone who thinks that their taxes in Buffalo make even the slightest dent in New York's budget is pretty much a dumbass.

whatever
whatever

John, I'll answer your questions with questions -

Why in his term so far is Gov Cuomo trying to sound fiscally more like what's been happening in those states you criticize than - say - what the Working Families Party and SEIU would want him to sound like?

Property tax cap, no raised high income tax, no new corporate taxes, reductions in employee contracts, ....

Cuomo's a smart guy, right? And he's watched NYS very closely pretty much his whole adult life. If that direction was proven so disastrous as you say, then why would Cuomo even want to sound like that?

DeanerPPX
DeanerPPX

"A single block of mid-town Manhattan is worth than more then the entire city of Buffalo"

Don't get out of the house much, do you? Dumbass.

Rand503
Rand503

Good points. Not as easy as you make it sound, but still, we should try for it.

Rand503
Rand503

A single block of mid-town Manhattan is worth than more then the entire city of Buffalo. Anyone who thinks that their taxes go to support anything downstate is seriously delusional.

Buffalo All Star
Buffalo All Star

Focus on vibrancy..people, business, the young, the new, the outgoing want to be where its at. Buffalo is probably 15% there.

You can't just call it quits at Elmwood and Hertel. Clean the place up, focus on saftey, take these homes and make them "livable" and turn them over to the twentysomethings. I can think of at least a dozen close friends who would sign up tmorrow. Can anyone tell me why Grant, Bailey, Forest, and BlackRock Amherst St are still in the condition they're in? Get creative!

Make it vibrant.

No body wants to be around homeless, garbage, and projects...a large part of the city is just that...an abyss of destitution..hopelessness...wasteland. This is what the outside world thinks of us..they see this first and the rest 2nd. (A lot of locals too)

Focus on what our strengths are and capitalize on them. Business incubation anyone? I can think of few places where people are as loyal as we are. Give them a reason to come back..with their business. (Lower business costs in a high tax climate is not that out of the norm)

For god sakes..why doesn't Buffalo, Binghamton, Rochester, Syracuse etc. have their own voting block in Albany?? I'd imagine a vast majority of the political/structural issues are the SAME. Who has got to make the call?

JohnMarko
JohnMarko

Make NYS like Wisconsin, Ohio or Florida?

You forgot the "sarcasm" smiley, right?

You want fascists like Walker and Scott? Seriously?

The people who cry "we're poor" and immediately TAKE from the middle class and working poor, teachers, firemen, police to the tune of $100 million, then immediately GIVE AWAY that money to the VERY RICH in the form of TAX CUTS that ONLY GO TO THE VERY RICH!

Yeah - that's the ticket - NOT!!!

NYS and Buffalo doesn't need any more of the PROVEN FAILED "trickle down" (or more accurately "piss on you") fiscle policies of the republicans. We've tried that for over 30 years - and it's been proven a FAILURE by all means of measurement.

Mr. Underhill
Mr. Underhill

@Davvid: So you are saying that welfare queens are a myth? Is there really no abuse of the system by the poor?

SecedefromNYS
SecedefromNYS

How do you accelerate Upstate??? Secede from downstate

WNY = 51st state

davvid
davvid

I can't be sure. It goes to a lot of places and it comes from a lot of places. Where it goes exactly is usually imagined by the tax payer. I'm not saying that the current system works well for everyone. Its just that the exaggerations and crazy anti-poor rhetoric make the WNY tax grievance seem unreasonable. Its the welfare queen mythology all over again.

Mr. Underhill
Mr. Underhill

@Davvid: Do you believe the money from your paycheck is going directly to CEOs of banks?

davvid
davvid

Oh brother. Do you really believe that the taxes taken from your check are going to Charles Rangel? And that the congressman from Harlem is a typical Democrat? Get a grip.

It should be said that NYC residents pay an additional city tax on personal income between 2.9 and 3.9% and the tax is collected by the State.

whatever
whatever

Opps, my typo toward end was meant to say "even as I disagree with both.)"

whatever
whatever

NYC "metro govt" is 4 very urban adjacent boroughs (S.I. doesn't matter) and does *not* include more spread out burbs like their versions of Amherst/Clarence (towns in Westchester) and Hamburg/OrchardPark (towns in Nassau).

So even the premise of this sounds very questionable in comparison to Upstate because NYC inner ring burbs have town govts separate from unified urban NYC - just like here in that way:

Paul> "NYC is the only city in New York State with a metropolitan form of government yet cities across upstate New York still treat the idea of metropolitan government as taboo."

Also, the cost savings of metro govt across Upstate would be nice but a drop in the bucket compared to state+local spending for per-employee costs and per-capita entitlement spending. There'd be a small % fewer administrative employees which would be good, but not a huge difference maker in total budgets.

All that said... I'd favor a change to metro govt here. But most voters in Buffalo aren't like me and they'd never want to give up their city-based elected govt and a city-based police dept in favor of countywide versions controlled by usually-R politicians like Chris Collins and Sheriff Howard.

(Here's where BRLifer sometimes reminds me that most suburbanites here won't want metro govt either. Okay, so it's something most in city and most in burbs can agree about, even as I with both.)

It just won't happen, good idea or not. It's almost as unrealistic as the idea to split the state in two.

Greg
Greg

IMO, this event is more about invigorating the public get involved. A bike lane won't be placed on a road unless you're kicking the door down in the planner's office and who ever else's to get the job done. An ECC building won't be built Downtown sometimes unless you fight for it every day. The idea is to get the public's gears turning, so that we can make an upstate we care about. Being armchair politicians/engineers/architects/businessmen won't get us anywhere. You have to physically make a difference.

Also, I think the costs of electricity are outrageous for a region originally made the idea of cheap electricity possible 100 years ago. If we aren't the electric city in an age of scarcity for electric power, we've failed. It's sitting at our doorstep in different forms, and we ignore it. We need to control our own power whether it be Upstate, WNY, or the Buffalo Niagara Region.

Cheap electricity brings industry, jobs, innovation, and more.

Mr. Underhill
Mr. Underhill

How much should we pay them to sweep the floors and salt the fries? Maybe $40,000+ per year like someone mentioned in a previous note about living wages. How much should someone get paid for mopping the floors, and who is going to pay them? Small business owners may not be able to afford to double the salary for the cleaning crews and fry cooks. Will the state pay for the extra salary or will it come directly from rich people's taxes. I know I can barely afford to pay more taxes to NY. If they go up again I might just have to get up out of here. That guy whose mopping floors hasn't paid a dime towards my college loans or my mortgage but I am expected to pay for his rent or even worse pay more of my salary so he takes home the same amount that I do each week. I guess that is fair if we lived in a communist country but last time I checked we were still practiced capitolism and democracy for everyone.

I work hard and studied hard and I am sick of paying a good portion of my paycheck to the State to pay for poor folks and politicians.

bobbycat
bobbycat

Just wait until they start hydrofracking in the New York City watershed. That will be a sad day for all New Yorkers.

bobbycat
bobbycat

According to a recent New York Times article, about 60% of New Yorkers who receive social services have jobs (between the ages of 18 - 62). The other 40% are either disabled, unable, or unwilling to work. My previous comment focuses on that 40%, and in reality, probably the bottom 10% that we generally see.

There is a huge issue in New York when a grown person has to scoop fries or mop floors for a living. If that is the best they can do, then they either took a wrong turn in life, or there just aren't enough decent jobs in New York. I think it is a combination of the two. There are more opportunities for higher wages, and career and salary advancement in states that are growing. Unfortunately, New York is a long way away from being a state that is growing, especially Upstate New York.

bobbycat
bobbycat

What is wrong with New York is people like you who leave then want to dictate what we do from far away. Move back to Buffalo and then you can weigh in on what form of government we have. In the meantime, enjoy the high taxes and traffic in Los Angeles. Maybe someday you'll realize that we need more professionals to pay taxes to the government in NY, not in California. If you want to do something for the poor in NY, then sponsor a family to move to LA and live with you. I'd even chip in for the bus ticket as long as they don't come back.

JSmith
JSmith

OK, fine, let's send all of the poor to the "showers", or maybe a rocket to the heart of the sun. Problem solved.

Now who's going to scoop your fries, mop your floors, or harvest your crops?

Since these jobs all have to exist, perhaps they should pay high enough so that those workers can support themselves without government assistance and don't have to be a drain on society and the object of your scorn.

Mr. Underhill
Mr. Underhill

The poor aren't exactly a good thing for NY State, or anywhere for that matter. They are a continual drain on society and cost the average tax payer hundreds to thousands of dollars each year in additional taxes and payroll deductions. How long can the middle class continue to pay more to support the deadbeats, drug addicts, and drop outs who contribute nothing to society.

BTW, NYC isn't exactly inexpensive either there champ! Why the hell should my taxes go to support rent control for people like Charlie Rangel who don't even pay the taxes that they owe. Mr. Rangel is the typical democrat looking to take all he can from the system but wanting someone else to foot the bill. He makes us all look bad.

THE POOR ARE WAGING A WAR ON THE MIDDLE CLASS! Wake up my brothers and open your eyes to where your money is going every week.

reflip
reflip

"I can move to another state and pay almost half the taxes, and receive almost twice the services."

What "services" would you get in a different state that you don't get here?

PaulBuffalo
PaulBuffalo

NYC is the only city in New York State with a metropolitan form of government yet cities across upstate New York still treat the idea of metropolitan government as taboo. When will upstate face the concept of consolidation?

(Sorry for interrupting the 1980s Reaganesque conversation here of how the poor are ruining New York State.)

PaulBuffalo
PaulBuffalo

'NYC is undoubtedly a huge strain to take care of since it rests on a marsh, thus why its infrastructure is currently crumbling.'

NYC is not built on a marsh. Foundations for skyscrapers, miles of subway tunnels, and gold vaults for the Federal Reserve are built into the bedrock.

'...or how most of NYC's water comes from upstate lakes....'

New York City's water comes from the upstate watershed and NYC pays localities for it all.

Mike Duff
Mike Duff

It is a problem when you look at return on investment for taxes invested in the state. I can move to another state and pay almost half the taxes, and receive almost twice the services. NY doesn't offer much in the way of services to the middle and upper middle classes, but we pay a whole lot for everyone else to live well.

Maybe the future of Upstate NY is to house the welfare recipients for the nation. This would be the common suburbs dumping the poor on the city debate taken to a whole new level. Imagine the benefit NY would provide to other states if we gave them our successful citizens and took their less successful citizens from them. We are already doing this by default, let's make it a policy and see if we can get some cash from the states that send their poor here and take our businesses away.

Mike Duff
Mike Duff

WNY graduates a lot of really talented individuals who have very successful careers in all walks of life. Unfortunately for WNY our brightest and most talented will leave right after High School for colleges that outperform our state run institutions and our private colleges. Those who stay for five more years will generally leave when they graduate to attend a more prestigious graduate school or to find work in their chosen field. What Buffalo is left with is the middle performers and lower performers. Thank god for those who return after a couple years or a decade away, without them we would be left with a higher concentration of high school drop-outs and military returnees.

RobH
RobH

Oh yeah. And I would downsize the board of the BNP. 73 members? Are you people serious?

RobH
RobH

1) Elect the County Legislature and Common Council on an at-large basis.

2) Eliminate the Water Authority and NFTA by making them into departments of county government.

3) Go to a City Manager form of government in Buffalo.

buffloonitick
buffloonitick

How Would You Accelerate Upstate?

Make it part of Canada?

davvid
davvid

More rigorous education standards and life-long learning should be the top priorities. We need to do whatever it takes to eliminate the unequal tiered school system we have now. We'll need to attract bright and creative people from around the world while at the same time building a system and a culture here that produces more intelligent and disciplined WNYers.

whatever
whatever

Points from flyguy and MikeDuff sound similar to positive reforms going on in some other northern states such as Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, etc.

However, that kind of direction change won't happen here because compared to so many other states, our majority of residents is deeper blue, wider left - whichever description one prefers. (Is 'progressiver' an adjective?)

The Cuomo-Skelos-Silver combination is as pro-reform as we're going to get any time soon - and yet as we're seeing, the fiscal policy reforms from them are very weak even if slight improvements over the previous few years. It also won't be surprising to see even these weak reforms slowly/quietly undone in the next few budgets.

Meeting participant John Faso could've been our Scott Walker, MItch Daniels, or Chris Christie - but of course he lost by about the same margin as the much worse candidate Carl Paladino did 4 years later. No sense complaining about it. It is what it is.

No matter its merits, P2's suggestion for splitting the state is totally unrealistic. (It won't happen either in CA or AZ).

On a less negative note, I don't see any reason to think Upstate or WNY will get much worse economically - they'll just carry on as usual and trail long term job growth of a lot of other U.S. places. Not the end of the world at all.

P2bbuffalonian
P2bbuffalonian

Accelerate upstate? We can start with cutting off the 9 million living in NYC who think of upstate as their own personal backyard (refer to the nuclear waste dump placed in cattaraugus county by Cuomo Sr., the fact that 85% of inmates in upstate prisons come from downstate, or how most of NYC's water comes from upstate lakes).While downstate does give upstate 1.15 for every dollar put in during good fiscal quarters, that amount is reversed when NYS sees economic turmoil. NYC is undoubtedly a huge strain to take care of since it rests on a marsh, thus why its infrastructure is currently crumbling. When this fact inevitably does catch up with the city and hit it hard, upstate will be made to pay. Not to mention why someone in the upper east side should be telling someone in Angola how to live, and vice-versa is beyond me. Just think that the last time a governor was elected from upstate was in 1921.

I understand this article does not call for a response like this but having read very recent articles about California and Arizona looking to split, I don't see why it shouldnt be off the table if we're looking for upstate to actually have some authority over itself. State secession is not un-patriotic, in fact it's arguably more democratic, and it's a shame that the last time it happened was 1863 and since then has been called ridiculous. I'm obviously not the first one to speak up about this since NYC officials think the same but in their own interest as well.

Rant done.

bobbycat
bobbycat

NY has a major spending problem, not a revenue problem. We have the second highest tax burden in the US and we are quickly pushing to be number 1.

Rand503
Rand503

I'm really skeptical. First, my personal experience (and I won't go into details, and I and my colleagues have had several) with the Partnership is that they either want total control over your idea or they will do what they can to co opt it and kill it. I highly doubt you are looking for new ideas to jumpstart the economy.

What this likely is is a group bitch fest and the ideas that will come out of it will be: lower taxes, reduce regulation, and get a handle on Medicaid payments. Additionally, there will be a few feel good initiatives, such as "Persuade your Children to Return to Buffalo!"

In other words, all the same "solutions" that everyone has bitched about for years, ones that in general everyone can agree upon, and involve leaving the details to someone else. Then when nothing happens, everyone can complain about the do nothing politicians.

Second, we will get the usual pipedream ideas which involve spending vast amounts of public money in the hopes of attracting people to Buffalo, a la Bass Pro, metro trolleys, new stadiums, and so on.

Third, we'll get the copycats. These are the people that look at successful cities and believe if we just copy the form of those cities, we will have a successful city too. So, if Stockholm has streets closed to cars, the we should do that in Buffalo. If New York has Fifth Avenue shopping, so should Buffalo. If San Fransisco has a Chinatown, so should Buffalo. If Silicon Valley has shiny new office buildings, so should Buffalo. Just copy what every everyone else is doing and success is sure to follow.

We had these fruitless discussions for decades now. Meanwhile, we still lose population, tax base and opportunities.

You don't need a a seminar to understand that Buffalo can better take advantage of its position with Canada, or that higher ed is critical to attracting talented people and spinning off new companies. Duh!

If you want to improve the business climate, there are many simple things that can be done that don't involve much money. Promote cultural tourism -- people will come to see the theater, art, architecture, history and parks of Buffalo. We have the bicennential of the War of 1812 coming up, and I'll bet you there are no plans to market Buffalo as a major war site worth visiting.

Buffalo needs stronger private equity investment for its emerging tech companies. There are plenty of ways that can be done, but you can't bootstrap yourself up. You need to connect to the global investment community, and Buffalo simply isn't doing that. But you need people who know how equity investments work and how you can use it to attract companies from outside of Buffalo to the region. It can be done,and it does't cost much.

Reducing the number of elected officials is also important, and look at the push back on such a no brainer as that.

Mike Duff
Mike Duff

So many of the issues with Upstate NY are caused by policies created in Albany. I didn't see many NY politicians on the agenda for this event, so I wonder how much will really be accomplished in the very near term. Our state politicians are incredibly out of touch with their constituents and the real condition of New York.

I agree with all of Flyguy's comments, the state needs an overhaul. For instance, did you know that the elderly (over 68) account for 7.5% of all medicaid recipients in NY, but they receive 25% of the medicaid budget. The elderly receive an average of 27,000 per year in medicaid benefits, this is 142% greater than the next state on the list ($11,300). If we were to adopt the national average for medicaid spending for our elderly in NY, we would save over $4.2 BILLION per year, just for providing the same level of service that the rest of the states provide to their residents.

There is also the issue of freedom in NY. A recent study completed by a University of Buffalo professor, Jason Sorens, shows that NY is dead last when it comes to personal and economic freedom. (http://www.statepolicyindex.com/the-research/) - (a potential article for BRO maybe)?

It is no secret that NY is not especially friendly to taxpayers or businesses. At some point we have to realize that our out of balance policies and lack of attention to upstate is ultimately hurting the state as a whole.

Hopefully someone in Albany will listen when this conference is done.

flyguy
flyguy

(4) Invest heavily in infrastructure (many roads and bridges are in terrible condition) and force people and commerce to travel into and out of WNY via carefully planned high speed rail and supporting expanded and enhanced Route 219. With what money? Well some of the savings from scaling back the welfare system to middle of the pack is a good start.

derby98
derby98

Yes, yes and yes.

Taxes are what is holding Western New York back. Look at housing, the prices are a national deal but not many will take advantage of the low prices because there are no jobs here. If a majority of our college grads stayed here, this city would be bursting at the seams. Companies will never relocate here because of tax and utility costs. If anything western New York should be wall to wall call centers, our payrolls in private sector are near bottom.

Electric rates should be the lowest in the nation - it's FREE, aside from equipment and building maintenance and the operational personnel costs, last I checked Lake Erie water is free. The Robert Moses plant produces 2.5 GW of juice while The Huntley coal plant produces 750 MW, but NYS needs it's cash cows so this is only a pipe dream. If all of the power from Moses plant stayed here, we could probable level the polluting Huntley plant and still have the cheapest rates in the country.I know dream on.

BNPartnership
BNPartnership

Mike, we'd love to have you. As you can imagine, a lot of planning goes into these events and the schedule for Accelerate Upstate is already set. We can look into cheaper alternatives in the future but think that on the whole, this will be a very positive conference for our city.

geomike
geomike

So, I'm confused ( I don't want to be a whiner here but I'm going to be)- the idea is to be more inclusive and generate new ideas? But there's a $125 charge for non-members to register for the BNP event ($75 for members). Seems to me you'll have more of the same "select" subset of the community attend than you might the people who are really in the community, and are already typically left out of these brainstorming type discussions. I'm not cheap, but I'm not paying a business orginzation to come to an event to share MY ideas to help a struggling region. How about the event trims the happy hours, catered free meals and encourage attendees to patronize the nearby businesses, and make the event free or lower cost? I love the idea of the 2 day event, but if we're going to see new and creative ideas in these forums, we have to break out of the notion that your ideas are only relevant if you're willing to pay to share them, because most of the time businesses PAY OTHER PEOPLE for creative ideas (they're called consusltants). The benefit of having more of the community involved here (aside from being engaged in the discussion) is that community residents have a stake in the outcome - unlike consultants.

flyguy
flyguy

dang it! "competitive". should have edited myself.

flyguy
flyguy

(1)Instead of just capping taxes, reduce them to compatitive levels. I'm no anti tax radical but NYS is obviously way too expensive.

(2) Hire the best and the brightest even if they come from out of state and might actually bring an outsiders perspective in. What a concept! NYS and localities tends to have a residency requirement prior to application. Thats absurd. If you want a residency requirement then require persons to live in state or locality after they are hired, not prior to.

(3) Reduce the welfare benefits in NYS to run middle of the pack nationally. NYS should not be pround of being the land of the best taxpayer supported welfare benefits. Yes, people have hardships and things happen in life and some people need the help at times but lets not maintain a system where geenrations rely on and take advantage of such benefits for decades and generations (unless there is a true medical need) at others expense. If folks can get by with less in all 49 other states then why are the citizens paying as much as they are in NYS?

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