By Ben Collins:
If you live in Buffalo you might hear the following phrases: “Everything around here moves slowly or doesn’t move at all,”… “It is our inability to put good politicians in office that hinders Buffalo from moving forward,” or my favorite, “The brain drain leaves us with what we have.”
Let’s be honest, talking over city, county, and state politics with friends and family is frustrating. We live in what The Economist deemed in 2009 as “the most corrupt state in America” and unless a constitutional convention is convened, down-state splits from upstate, or Albany melts due to global warming, we must work with what we have.
However, why do we accept this situation of hopeless? Is it because we are so accustomed to hearing about “brain drain” and “corruption” left and right? In 2005, Business First published an article which summarized the results of a nation-wide study determining the “Brainiest Cities in America.” The study rated the brainpower in 171 areas by analyzing the peak educational attainment of all working-age adults (25 to 64 years old). Results were converted to a five-point scale. Buffalo was 51st out of the 171 with a 2.35, beating big cities such as Portland, OR, Columbus, New York City, Philadelphia, Miami, and Los Angeles. Not to mention we trail in mere single digits behind college towns like Ann Arbor, Michigan and Madison, Wisconsin. To summarize, Buffalonians fall within the top third of the country’s brainiest cities.
The question is, “What is our excuse when we say how dissatisfied we are with our city and county politics?” If it’s not the process of voting that hinders us from choosing our “Captain America” to be our new Mayor, County Executive, or Councilperson, perhaps it’s the fact that we’re just too busy and can’t be bothered to read up on the several people running for public office. Who are we voting for? Why are they running?
When it comes down to ‘brass tax’, how in depth could you go about city/county politics? Are you able to constructively criticize a Councilperson in depth with supporting examples and statistics? Or do you whip out a cliché zinger that you heard from your co-worker, peer, or mother? My ultimate concern is that we as Buffalonians, New Yorkers, and Americans need to start understanding that just because our favorite President or Senator was chosen to lead does not foreshadow that everything at home will adhere to their specific policies. We must take great care to show future generations that leadership, no matter the size of the constituency, is something not to be ignored, taken for granted, or accepted as it stands.
Over the next few months, I would like to conduct a series of interviews with our local Buffalo politicians, community leaders, and pubic figures. It will give BRO readers the ability to observe and critique what we should expect out of those who manage the different aspects of our city. What are the questions that we have NOT been asking?
It’s pretty simple, I’ll do the work and you come up with the questions (now or after future interviews). Who would you like to hear from, and what would you like to ask them? Stay tuned for some interviews with the most unlikely of interviewees!