the Buffalo News, local television stations and Buffalo School
Superintendent James Williams have been working overtime creating
hysteria about the trouble that bad kids are causing in Buffalo
schools. When such hysteria reigns, we get suspicious.
the media coverage has the same tone: There's an urgent, breathless
concern for the children, teachers and parents, a sense of losing
control, that something needs to be done before it's too late. Often
lurking behind these sky-is-falling scenarios are preplanned remedies
waiting to be sold to gullible taxpayers. Is that what's going on
here? We're not sure.
media coverage lacked context. How does the perceived problem in
Buffalo compare to the rest of the country, or for that matter to
prior years in Buffalo? What have other cities done when faced with
similar circumstances? What has worked and what hasn't? For once
can we assess a problem, analyze various strategies and chart a
reasonable course of action? Of course not.
predictably political overreaction, Assemblyman Sam Hoyt has called
for metal detectors to be installed at school entrances and uniformed
Buffalo Police to patrol the school hallways. This, thankfully,
is not the tack being immediately taken. Superintendent Williams
has something else up his sleeve. His ready plan is to turn School
171 on East Delavan into an “alternative school” and fill it with
the district’s 500 (527 have already been identified) most unruly
this on the surface seems like it could be a practical solution,
we smell a rat. One fact that has not been mentioned is that Williams
did some work for a Tennessee company called Community Education
Partners (CEP) before he came to Buffalo. CEP is a private company
that runs alternative schools. The company has been criticized for
doing little more than warehousing problem kids and eventually driving
them out of the system.
claims the alternative school will not be a eliminating problem
students from the school system, but rather bringing them back into
the fold by offering them a full range of activities, everything
from performing arts and fine arts to sports and computer stuff.
The CEP website also boasts that they offer troubled kids a full
range of services.
alternative school is going to have 500 students. CEP’s basic contract
for a school system says that it will run an alternative school
for 500 guaranteed students. Williams estimates that the alternative
school he wants will cost $5 million. CEP says that it will charge
about $10,000 per student. Guess what? $10,000 per student times
500 students is $5 million. Coincidence? Maybe. Nobody involved
with Buffalo schools that we talked to had heard of CEP. Williams’
office didn't return our call.
don't know what the alternative school destined to occupy School
171 is going to turn out to be. If, however, Williams attempts
to bring in a company like Community Education Partners, there needs
to be a whole lot of scrutiny going on. So keep your eyes and ears
open and for now let's just call this story a little bit of preventative
cancels mid-season replacement show
forced to write about real musicians
a move that shocked Rochesterians numbering in the double digits,
CBS television cancelled their mid-season replacement romantic drama
“Love Monkey,” featuring comedic actors Tom Cavanagh (“Ed”), Jason
Priestley (“Beverly Hills, 90210”) and a local precocious teenager
who tried out for a role in VH-1’s “In Search Of The Partridge Family,”
of press time, CBS has not made any announcements regarding a rumored
spin-off series about an aging music critic madly obsessed with
a teenage musician.
family and Rochester Democrat and Chronicle music reviewer
Jeff Spevak are among the only people in Rochester concerned by
this turn of events. Some have even speculated that without locally
manufactured corporate talent to write about, Spevak may have to
turn his focus to area musicians who actually work day jobs and
don’t have wealthy Pittsford homeowners for parents.
to retain his hipster cred, Spevak has frequently positively name-checked
such critically “safe” acts as Wilco, Brian Wilson and various shitty
alt.country acts, while drubbing the music your parents like. Readers
had been worried recently, when so much of Spevak’s focus was on
the teen idol, but not worried enough to contact local authorities.
local musicians have been completely apathetic about Spevak’s return
to writing about music that might matter. As J. Foster of Rochester
band XLTieRack says, “I’m a local musician and I don’t know Jeff
Spevak… If he’s supposed to be covering local music, that should
just about say it all.” In Spevak’s defense, he does dedicate about
6 paragraphs a week to local music, in the rarely read Weekend section
of the Democrat and Chronicle.
has not officially announced his plans to deal with life after “Love
Monkey,” but we assume he’ll be writing Teddy Geiger’s bio at imdb.com
Geiger, meanwhile has announced that he has passed five Regents
exams and may have to get a GED, to which Foster responds, “passing
five State Regents exams is like saying that he was able to successfully
negotiate the use of the toilet on five separate occasions.” We
wish Geiger luck on that, and have a perfectly good suggestion for
what he can use the Weekend section for.
Beast has a blog, buffalobeast.blogspot.com, and we post a few things
on it now and then. A few of us have also been checking out other
local blogs and posting a few comments here and there. Once in a
while we have to bitch slap a sucker or two.
interesting about local blogs, however, is often not what any particular
blogger posts but rather what posts receive any attention by engendering
a significant number of comments in response. This really doesn't
happen very often with local blogs. Most posts get only a couple
of comments or none at all. It’s rare when you see a local post
get up to twenty of so. So you can imagine what a surprise it is
when a post gets over a hundred comments.
happened recently when local housing advocate Harvey Garret (remember
him, he was the guy that the Buffalo Housing Inspection Dept. picked
on) had a long post on buffalorising.com basically condemning graffiti
and those that perpetrate it. At last count his post received 114
comments. The post wasn’t all that special. It was a frustrated,
schoolmarmish attack on those committing the crime. So what is it
about graffiti that drew so many comments?
Rising is a site that gets a decent amount of local traffic. It's
best described as a sort of junior chamber of commerce—but they
support businesses of all sizes. A lot of posts implicitly demand
allegiance to their perspective of unabashed, almost insanely optimistic
one hand, Graffiti is an important topic to many in the revitalization
camp who see themselves as crusaders for their good and just cause.
They love to play the junior Gestapo when it comes to their property.
Justin Azzarella, Executive Director of Forever Elmwood, not long
ago announced a $1,000 reward for the heads of graffiti perpetrators.
So Garrett was kind of preaching to the converted. Garrett's contempt
for graffiti artists is pretty well summed up in his words:
happy to see Atak, Merk, Lyons, and Meth behind bars and being
prosecuted to the extent of the law. But once you get to know
the younger kids, you'd rather not see them arrested and spending
time in jail along with some really bad characters. If that's
what it takes to stop them from destroying our neighborhoods and
terrorizing our elderly, then I'm ready to do whatever it takes.
taking down a few youngsters is what it takes to contain this scourge
then that is what has to be done. Unsurprisingly, the comments in
support of Garrett's bold anti-graffiti stance, by our unscientific
review, appeared to greatly outweigh those disagreeing with him.
There were occasional attempts to appease the other side, but for
the most part these were of the patronizing “when I was young and
stupid” variety. Some quotes from the pro-Garrett comments follow:
is sickening that we have to look at the mess that results from
their 'game' and residents feel terrorized.
the owner of a building press charges for trespassing? Obviously
the punk was on the roof to tag this building. Hit them with
as many hammers as you can!
community award should be presented to the officers who captured
these half wits.
damage has become excesive, abnormal and pathological in it's
destruction of others property in Buffalo.
were a fair number of comments posted that were pro-graffiti/anti-garrett
or at least attempted to understand it:
me some crazed urban pervert. But I like the graffiti. I especially
like the huge ATAK tag on that building just north of the 198,
right after the 190/198 connection near Tonawanda Street.
is exemplary of the pro-graffiti comments—they like it or accept
it but the reason is not very clear.
were also a couple posts from people claiming to be graffiti artists.
Probably the most interesting was the comment from somebody claiming
to be the graffiti artist known as ATAK. It was mentioned above
and you've probably seen his name in huge letters on a building
somewhere in the city. A couple quotes from his long comment are
I do not see graffiti as a game at all. To me, it is more like
a second 9-5...but with better benefits.
I hate the cliché response "maybe we should spray-paint their
property and see how they like it". Very witty, but very...stupid.
I'm not vandalizing your cars, or your houses...unless perhaps
you own one of the many dilapidated buildings that I have painted
on, in which case I owe you a personal apology. I would understand
most of your hostility if I was painting your personal homes or
your places of worship or something like that, but this is not
the case. A majority of the work I do is on buildings that are
either owned by the city, a business, or completely uninhabited.
Nothing that I do is causing irreparable damage to the surface
itself. These articles honestly are comparing paint to something
like a grenade, making it seem like what I am doing is crippling
the structure and wounding the onlookers. Complete fiction. Paint
can be painted over.
this begs the question: are you going to pay for the paint, punk?
But ATAK has a point: Derelict buildings cause graffiti, not the
other way around. ATAK’s post was responded to by Garrett and there
are another 23 comments attached to that. Garrett’s response was
basically, “I respect your passion but you’re wrong.” Then on another
blog, BuffaloPundit posted his response to ATAK, wherein he went
all Eric Cartman on him:
like the opportunity to go to Atak’s house and shit all over it.
I’d like the chance to shit on his rug, in his kitchen sink, I’d
like to let one loose on his floor, on his dishes, and smear a
good one on the windows and the tiles in the bathroom. Because
that’s art to me. I think about the placement of the shit and
the way in which the browner shit mixes with the greener shit.
I’m really well-versed in the legalities of shit-placement and
the fine history of, say, the German scheisse artists of the 30s.
All of which means one thing. Atak isn’t an artist. He’s a self-important,
bloviating jackass with a Sharpie.
that’s eloquent. Pretty brutal, but who are we to discourage that?
what is it about this post about graffiti that caused so much mostly
venomous commenting? It took on a character of us versus them, good
versus evil that so many despise when seen coming from George Bush
and his criminal syndicate. We have become a society of such very
“pious” people that a petty crime against property that doesn't
injure anyone physically moves people to frothing-at-the-mouth hatred.
This is not healthy. Many of us have to relearn what it is to understand
that we don't know everything and freedom is about real things like
war, peace, health, welfare, and happiness and not some paint on
the side of a building.
thriving cities have graffiti, too. We have to admit, it’s not as
cool these days as the ornate, layered work of the ‘70s. Now it’s
usually just a fucked up autograph. But crusades against graffiti
aren’t about morals; they’re about financial self-interest. If you
don’t want some kid bringing down your property values, that’s understandable.
But don’t pretend you’re overthrowing apartheid, and don’t exaggerate
Bart Simpson into Jeffrey Dahmer.