Buffalonians are a hearty bunch. Kind of like New Yorkers, with an amped up edge and minus the cultured sophistication. Nonetheless, Buffalonians are honest, hardworking folk, and though their city is not quite a shining city on the hill (or the lake for that matter), it’s not a half bad place to be. The endlessly upbeat and energetic <i>Buffalo Rising</i> chronicles the new mood of a younger, hipper Buffalo, that is more concerned with moving forward than trying to recapture its days as an industrial hub.
Ed Glaeser‘s recent commentary in <i>City Journal</i> about Buffalo is out of line and academically timid. While some of his observations may be accurate, his comments are most certainly mean-spirited and read more as an indictment than as a productive proposal for future betterment of the Queen City. I wonder when Prof. Glaeser last visited Buffalo? Its also evident that he has never scanned a copy of my book, <i>Buffalo is a Cool Place to Live</i>, otherwise, I am quite certain that his perspective may have been at least a bit less brusque.
Much hub-a-baloo was made in the Buffalo press about Prof. Glaeser’s recent article. That hubbub more than likely because he’s Harvard professor than because his comments article brought to light neither any truly new information nor fresh perspective. Prof. Glaeser predicates his argument on “bigger is better” (or at least, “bigger is more desirable”) which is hardly the case in present-day Buffalo. Buffalo, in my lifetime, has always been a city that is losing population, it is a city with an image problem. However, Buffalo also provides a high standard of living for its residents, more affordably than most cities of its size, and isn’t quite, as Prof. Glaeser asserts, a hopeless case.
Prof. Glaeser’s insinuation that Buffalo is a city living on the federal dole is inaccurate, and incorrect, and context through which he frames his argument is a bit unfair. The federal allocations and appropriations that have been made to Buffalo are not out of line with those made to other cities of similar size in the Great Lakes region. Prof. Glaeser makes it seem as if Buffalo has received an inordinate amount of federal funding, and moreover, makes it seem as if Buffalo has repeatedly squandered these funds. His consistently negative spin (and jibes at Senators Hilary and Schumer) reveal more of his political posturing than his academic insight.
Arguably Buffalo for some time had a bit of a collective obsession with recapturing its glory days as an industrial city. Those days, however are long gone, and Buffalo as a city has moved forward. Prof. Glaeser’s commentary neglects this fact, and his argument comes up woefully short in this regard. His narrow perspective is limited to colloquial accounts and murky data, that even fellow economists would likely question. His comments, in this regards, pack little punch, and pay no mind to the qualitative aspects of the City.
While Buffalo as a municipality and a regional entity has a long way to go before it’s a vibrant thriving city, I truly believe that Buffalo is at a crossroads, ardently striving toward a more manageable, dynamic, and well, different, path. It’s unfortunate that Prof. Glaeser felt it necessary to use Buffalo as his soap box to draw attention to his pro-industry and anti-democrat attacks against Senators Schumer and Clinton. While I don’t fundamentally dispute Glaeser’s position per se, I do question both his tone and motive.
In the most recent edition of Artvoice, deputy county executive Bruce Fisher reacts to the Glaeser piece, and lays out a thoughtful, productive, objective, and realistic proposal that could potentially move Buffalo past its current civic myopia, and toward a healthy, and sustainable city. Fisher’s piece is proof that Buffalo has struggled, but with visionary leadership can and will revitalize the city, notwithstanding the passive (and careless) judgements of a politically-motivated Harvard professor who has clearly only observed Buffalo from a distant and jaded ivory tower.