nothing new about the government taking your money and funneling
it into the laps of wealthy contractors. In the midst of these trying economic
times, however, the wanton extravagance our rulers demonstrate when spending
taxpayer money is disgusting. They seem completely oblivious to the economic
principle of scarcity: the truism that when you have limited resources, you
must allocate them efficiently. That demands doing the most with what we have.
You would hope
Buffalo officials might heed this lesson as they earmark our precious tax
dollars, but you’d be disappointed. The latest outrage involves the federal
government's plans to spend over $100 million dollars on the city. So how
have they decided that this money will be most efficiently be spent? If you
guessed by erecting a superfluous eyesore of a courthouse, you're quite possibly
a moron; but you'd also be right.
officials have greedily swallowed this $100 million-plus appropriation from
the feds, courtesy of taxpayers, and taken a huge stinking dump—a grotesque,
steel-and-glass excretion—right in Niagara Square. The notoriously stenographic
local news media have resorted to typical, sycophantic cheering for the judges,
politicians and business schmucks who lobbied for this laxative boon. But
just in case people get the right idea, the public has also predictably been
shut out of the decision making process. We’re like a captive studio audience,
meant to trust fully and reflexively in our overlords’ performance, and expected
simply to acquiesce or enthusiastically applaud at appointed times.
The lone public
hearing about the proposed courthouse project was held in November 2003. It
wasn't publicized and few noticed. The BEAST ran a rambling, profane tirade
by Publisher Paul Fallon opposing the project in the December 5, 2003 issue,
titled “Let Them Eat Pork: A New Courthouse for a Decaying City.” But The
Buffalo News, the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, and every other prominent
news source in the city have been dutifully praising the project from its
inception. A 30,000-copy biweekly—even an exceptional one—is simply no match
for a media juggernaut that includes a huge daily paper, three local television
news channels and several radio stations. The odds are heavily in favor of
prefabricated versions of the facts—and against a concerned public.
The project has
been grinding slowly forward since 2003, but it recently gained new life when
it was announced the long-awaited funding would be included in the 2007 federal
budget. A March 25 News editorial gushed: “Buffalo's proposed new courthouse
is not a feel-good project. It's the top national priority for the federal
judicial conference, a needed upgrade in function and security.” Is it really
necessary to upgrade the function and security of the present courthouse?
It's admittedly difficult to say—because there isn't usually anything going
on over there. Would it kill the news to ask a few questions?
continued its praise saying “the government commissioned a stunning building
that won national design awards. It can be not just a good courthouse, but
a symbol of rebirth in a city with a rich architectural heritage. And it will
be a needed federal reinvestment in downtown, following the closing and sale
of the Federal Reserve Bank, the abandonment and proposed sale of the Dulski
Federal Office Building…and the loss or scattering of federal jobs in the
downtown area. Keeping federal jobs here also must be a federal priority.”
This is self-serving
bullshit—but utterly in keeping with the story’s feculent implications. The
building has no architectural connection to downtown and the piece doesn't
even bother to identify the loons who gave this “stunning” monolith awards.
Moreover, it just doesn’t make sense to label as progress moving federal court
jobs from one side of Niagara Square to the other. Not to mention that a new
building was already constructed to replace the Dulski building and New Era
Cap is taking over the Federal Reserve Building.
have criticized the project; you likely just haven’t heard it. It’s been pointed
out, for instance: four occupied buildings will be razed to make way for the
courthouse, displacing approximately 300 people who were already working and
spending money in the heart of downtown. An especially galling irony in light
of the Buffalo News' downtown repopulation canard. It’s also worth
noting the fanatical focus on “security” has yielded a design that would blend
easily only in Robocop’s Detroit.
new federal courthouse building is a grossly misguided boondoggle—even by
boondoggle standards—as well as a gratuitously crass stain on our downtown
urban landscape. Nevertheless, people like Senator Charles Schumer, our pathetic
excuse for a Congressman Brian Higgins and the pompous judges who think themselves
entitled this garish palace will say that our opposition is born of naivety.
They'll say we don't understand how the system works—that this is how the
government has chosen to spend our money. That we should not laugh when Senator
Schumer says we are “on the forefront in keeping our nation secure in the
war on terror.” That we should be thankful for this federal largess, no matter
how absurdly it’s being squandered. That it is our money is beside the point.
This is how the system works.
The problem is
that we understand exactly how it works. Glaring stupidity, selfishness and
greed are not so easily concealed, no matter how pretty the wrapping. This
is “the system”: Pandering politicians and lifetime-appointment judicial cretins
colluding arrogantly to misappropriate taxpayers' wealth for their own self-aggrandizement.
The rest of us are just incidental—a collateral nuisance to be ignored or
kept in the dark while the grand plan goes up around us. The chasm between
what Buffalo’s privileged want and what its population actually needs grows
unabated. How could this money be better spent? In infinite ways, but don’t
take our word for it. Ask yourself that question. I bet the folks running
The Buffalo News, who annually siphon $30 million in profits out of
this region would tell us, if only they could muster the integrity. They won’t,
obviously. But maybe we can still find a fearless attorney willing to go to
the old courthouse with a gigantic legal scooper and make this odious new