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Locked in Place

Buffalo 66 jail

New York might not offer much in areas like jobs or hope. But you’re in luck if you seek to reenact scenes from The Walking Dead or wish for a fenced-in place to escape and play foosball in peace. In that case, the state has what you want, although they’ll stop pretending to care about you when it’s property tax time.

Our government is auctioning correctional facilities at below-market price in a new contender for the most New York thing ever. More noteworthy is that they think there’s a market at all. Selling some of its useful assets is shortsighted, but at least it won’t help much in the present:

In May, New York state will try — for the second time — to sell 31 acres with 38 buildings including a gymnasium and a chapel, as well as on-site water and sewage-treatment systems.

Starting bid: $90,000, a relative steal compared to the previous price of $390,000.

The facilities sound like a camp’s, and you could institute a no-wedgie rule if you want. You could own a place that’s by definition remote for a bargain price. I just wonder if there’s a catch:

The catch: It’s a former prison, surrounded by rural land.

At 11 locations across the state, New York is trying to sell vacant prisons and juvenile-justice facilities that have closed over the past two years as part of budget cutbacks and consolidations.

The empty properties contain hundreds of vacant structures built upon thousands of vacant acres of land with sought-after amenities like central water and sewer systems and natural gas lines. But they also carry something of a stigma because of their former use.

Selling the compounds set aside for our wayward neighbors may be as myopic as trading insulin for candy money. Still, the fire jail sale is a way to get funds for the state, as they just don’t get enough in massive taxes and petty fees:

Is anyone in the market for an old prison? The state is trying, but so far, there aren’t many takers.

“(Empire State Development) is working with a number of other state agencies to find ways to save taxpayers money and transform costly, underutilized facilities into opportunities that will create jobs or better serve the community,” said Cassie Harvey, a spokeswoman for Empire State Development, the state’s economic-development arm. “Our efforts to redevelop these facilities are moving forward positively, with many in the process of sale or transfer.”

The state finally cares about efficiency when it comes to having as few people pay for their crimes as possible. The real cost of shuttering what have become otherwise useless facilities comes in the unwillingness to hold people accountable for their transgressions:

At the same time, the prison population has declined precipitously over the past decade as the state has clawed back its tough drug laws and emphasized programs that transition low-risk prisoners to the streets sooner. Since 1999, the state’s prison population has dropped from 71,600 to its current level of about 55,000 inmates.

Fewer people incarcerated is great unless it means more naughty people are on the street. New York’s leaders know how to fight crime as well as they know how to get the economy humming. Their success at selling prisons gives them a chance to flaunt both skills. Albany could at least begin selling things it shouldn’t own.

Letting resources go unused may make us broke, but nonchalance about criminals will cause greater damage than mere poverty. One of the state’s legitimate roles is keeping those who have been convicted of being bad behind a vast fence. The desperation to sell pens is a sign that the state’s leaders remain soft on crime. Meanwhile, they strive to punish people who have committed no other violation than owning a 10-round magazine just in case you thought they might know who the real villains are.

The best way to reduce the need for incarceration is to create a better economic situation where the effort involved in stealing isn’t worth it. For now, the rest of the state feels like the inside of a prison. As they wonder why there’s little demand for fortified enclosures, New York again shows that it doesn’t behave well enough to deserve parole.

State of the Unfree

Cuomo and Bloomberg

New York is in first place for protecting its citizens from the burdens of making too much money or having too many decisions to make. Having to think about ways to get ahead is the sad fate of those poor souls who face the horror of excessive freedom. It’s a relief to sit home waiting for a pittance instead of going out into that spooky world seeking the vagaries connected to opportunity.

The country is using New York’s restrictions on life itself as an example. Sadly, the erstwhile Empire State’s ample restrictions may represent the nation’s bleak future. The feds are working hard to keep pace with battling crazy notions about people keeping the money they earn and doing what they want with it. A new study shows why federalism only works when governments follow good examples (h/t Jon Gabriel):

And the lowest branch on the liberty tree?

“New York is by far the least free state in the Union. It is therefore no surprise that New York residents have been heading for the exits: 9.0 percent of the state’s 2000 population, on net, left the state for another state between 2000 and 2011, the highest such figure in the nation. New York has, by a wide margin, the highest taxes in the country…[and] is also the most indebted state.”

But even the home of Cuomo and Bloomberg can unchain their citizens by reducing spending, paying down debt, abolishing rent control, and… well the list is too long to reprint here.

The depressing stagnation is the price of living in a most miserable utopia, which sort of defeats the point. But we’re trying to invent a workers’ paradise here, so taxpayers are just going to have to suck it up and start covering the costs. Hopefully, they won’t realize that they can stop trying or just move:

New York’s legislature approved a budget that hikes the state’s minimum wage to $9 per hour. But taxpayers, not businesses, could actually be the responsible party for paying those extra wage costs, if a closed-door tax credit agreement among politicos made the final budget cut.

At least there’s a reminder of which side hurts the poor no matter the swell intentions. Blame not maliciousness but rather tremendous delusion: minimum wage hikes designed to give instant raises actually price out entry-level workers, which is the inadvertently meanest thing a government can do to the poor.

But don’t worry if you think employers will be unable to afford workers making more than the value they generate, as everyone else will be paying the salaries. Addition by subtraction doesn’t always work:

Once the minimum wage rises by $1.75- to its full $9-per-hour mandate, employers will only be paying 40 cents of that difference, AP reports. The remaining $1.35 will be paid by taxpayers, in the form of a reimbursement credit that goes back to employers.

Money belongs to the state, anyway, so just consider this a more equitable way of sharing communal property. Your bourgeoisie notions about keeping what’s earned hold us back! Still, there are lingering notions that the only thing worse than trying to confiscate more from earners is failing to recognize that such mandatory sharing won’t work. It’s too bad we can’t monetize killing motivation.

If you think New York will find financial redemption through yet another welfare payment, then the Democrats would like to thank you ahead of time for your vote. The alternative, which would involve letting people earn, might teach the public to learn to rely on themselves and not Albany. There’s nothing your rulers fear more.

Or maybe the restrictions and taxes will pay off, provided you have evidence that Andrew Cuomo is smarter than you. Bearing in mind the endless hassles and levies as a reward for being a New Yorker, it’s almost as if there’s a reason the state’s economy has indefinitely sucked.

But we must preserve what we have. The way to get more people from leaving is to make the minimum wage 50 dollars per hour, as it will finally make everyone rich. New York’s politicians just need to keep up the restrictions.

Mayoral Candidate(s)

Sergio Rodriguez

Buffalo could get something different in the upcoming mayoral election, namely a choice. It’s sort of supposed to be universal that there’s no reason for a vote if there’s just the one option. The city has gotten the results one would expect from a race with no silver medalist. Holding a slacker accountable is far easier when he’s not guaranteed to pass his job review.

It’s unfortunate that a second contestant is a novel occurrence. But nobody needs competition like the Queen City. A real opportunity to pick may lead to Buffalo having more retail battles, too, if only someone more friendly to business gets City Hall’s classiest office. A compelling personal story never hurts: an immigrant Marine with a master’s degree who has worked on behalf of veterans represents the sort of ideal opposition to dull power you wish you could choose from a catalog:

Buffalo hasn’t had a Republican mayor in more than four decades. But that won’t deter Sergio Rodriguez.

The Republican running for mayor in the city knows he has an uphill battle, but Rodriguez says he isn’t going anywhere, despite some in his own party hinting that he should throw in the towel.

“There’s no one that could talk me out of it,” Rodriguez said.

Who would want to deliver such a talk? Sadly, the culprits are scoundrels who should presumably be his allies. Republicans should be a bit less eager to surrender. But some have made the ridiculous calculation that it’s better for other aspirants to let the uncoordinated Byron Brown shadowbox:

Rodriguez says some in the GOP have come to him and said he should not be running. However, he would not say who, other than to acknowledge that these Republicans are elected officials who are currently holding office.

So why does Rodriguez think some are worried about him running in the city? There’s some thought that a Republican running for Buffalo mayor could energize the Democratic base, and possibly cause problems for countywide Republicans like the sheriff and comptroller.

It’s hard to believe that a party whose officials display such a calculatingly craven approach has been out of power for so long. While pointing out that your side actually has to run a hopeful if there’s any hope of changing things should be redundant, the dysfunctional opposition apparently needs a reminder.

Besides, nervous Republican hopefuls should embrace the chance to run alongside an eager 32-year-old with dreams of municipal amelioration like Rodriguez. Uniting with someone of a similar philosophy to run as a package beats timidly hoping to sneak into office; the latter strategy does not bode well for one’s capacity for leadership.

And every Republican should presumably think that a mayor from the same party would improve the city. Rodriguez has already completed Step One, namely recognizing that things could be far better:

Rodriguez says he’s focused on city issues like the graduation rate and crime and says he’s running whether he gets GOP support in the city or not.

“Although, as faithful and loyal I’ve been to the party, I think these issues basically are more important than that of the long-term party objectives,” Rodriguez said. “We can’t afford to ignore an entire city population that’s facing these issues. So instead of protecting seats, we need to worry about what we can do to better our city.”

The first Republican possibility in awhile could change the scope not just by merely running but also with a compelling alternative vision for Buffalo’s future. At worst, it nice to have an alternative. Even if your peculiar taste causes you to prefer Dunkin’ Donuts, you should welcome a Tim Hortons in your neighborhood.

And maybe voters would at least be interested in hearing why they should take their ballot business elsewhere. Those whose selections have been taken for granted may be willing to try a mayor who didn’t let Occupy scum live in Niagara Square indefinitely while letting the rest of downtown remain far too barren. Those who foolishly trust the government to spur economic development don’t believe in its essential function of maintaining order.

It would be great to hear more policy specifics from Rodriguez as November nears. For now, just the prospect of an actual selection is always welcome, especially when the dubious incumbent shouldn’t even be allowed to walk unopposed.

More Legal, Less Moral

Andrew Cuomo

A shift from pragmatic moderate realist to chillingly inhuman extremist is an interesting political calculation. But New York is an interesting place, in a frustratingly malicious sort of way. After all, about 47 states would be embarrassed by Andrew Cuomo’s determination to see early-term abortion on demand as nothing more than the first step.

A science fiction horror story where seemingly benevolent rulers claim freedom in childlessness is being written in Albany. The ending can’t be a horrifying twist, can it? It’s simply too tricky to end a pregnancy in the Empire State: we’re just not nonchalant enough about unwanted consequences of behavior. Said consequences can’t be killed fast enough. Mr. Sandra Lee thinks being progressive means marching forward to the Dark Ages:

Governor Andrew Cuomo is working on a bill to strengthen abortion rights laws in New York. Critics said new numbers released about the number of abortions performed in New York state show about half of teen pregnancies end in abortion. They say the bill would just increase that number.

These numbers are coming from Guttmacher Institute, which actually works to promote Planned Parenthood and reproductive rights. It tracked abortions for several years and shows in New York. Fifty-nine percent of all teen pregnancies here in the state were terminated from a total of 25,000 pregnancies.

They check the horrid numbers and remain in favor of lax abortion laws? Normal people are cringing in horror while “pro-choice” advocates disregard the ghastly nature of this particular choosing. The governor is insulated from petty concerns like morality:

Governor Cuomo has not commented specifically on this report but did speak earlier this month about his proposal to strengthen New York’s abortion law.

“Strengthening” the law is bad news for the weakest among us. You can’t hold a mixed-martial arts fight here, but you can count on it being that much easier to extract a lifestyle-crimping child:

Critics of that proposal believe this is an attempt to open the door for more abortions in a state that already has extremely high rates.

While the numbers may seem high, the report did show that teen pregnancy itself has slightly decreased in the past two decades.

Well, then all these terminations have really paid off! Don’t forget to invoke rape or the health of the mother, as if the controversy’s nature wasn’t over its use as birth control for inconvenient babies.

Many pro-lifers are comfortable with exceptions for rape, incest, and health concerns, concessions which leave us with murdering a fetus out of convenience. Any other concessions lead to treachery. Ronald Reagan became ardently pro-life in part because a bill he signed as California governor that would purportedly allow abortions for only medical reasons resulted in a huge spike in the procedure thanks to wayward doctors authorizing them on shady grounds. Conversely, Cuomo knows what would happen next and sickly can’t wait.

It’s bad enough that Cuomo sees removing abortion restrictions as a goal. But whining about dissent makes it even worse. The state’s alleged top adult is a hypersensitive baby who can’t conceive of dissent. There’s apparently no opposition to left-wing doctrine, which is why it’s fine for them to rush through legislation.

The radical level of bloodshed he endorses would only be more appalling when weighed against his previous self-righteousness. Mario’s brat dared to campaign for gun control on the corpses of Newtown victims all so he could criminalize eight-round magazines. Meanwhile, far worse violence is already self-perpetrated against children every single day in New York’s abortion mills. For the governor, a culture that’s tolerant of pregnancy termination is a good start.

We can’t be that surprised that Kid Cuomo is a soulless ghoul. But he foolishly doesn’t realize that lurching leftward will fail to help his electoral prospects past the Hudson. Cuomo’s extremism thankfully limits the damage he can cause. Naturally, he only helps the nation inadvertently, as he’s most appalling when he’s flaunting his true nature.

UnSAFE at Any Speed

Safe Act

The best reason to be suspicious of legislation is a goofy acronym. Lawmakers strive to assure you that rights-gobbling laws will have the opposite effect by using a contrived title. For example, neither secure ammunition nor firearms enforcement will result from the SAFE Act, as restricting those who will obey the law somehow might not affect criminals.

Yet the onerous gun restriction was not named ironically. Count humorlessness as another one of Andrew Cuomo’s lovely virtues. Thankfully, resistance has formed to irksome oppression thanks to people who realize the manipulative name is only the trouble’s start:

Another county is taking a stand against New York’s new gun law — now the toughest in the nation.

The Erie County Legislature voted on two resolutions on Thursday afternoon, including one opposing the New York SAFE Act.

Two democrats, Terrence McCracken and Thomas Loughran, voted with Republicans — giving a 7-4 vote in favor of a resolution urging state lawmakers to repeal the SAFE Act, hold discussions and come up with a new bill.

Maybe Albany could take a do-over and target genuine evildoers instead of turning innocent people into fake criminals. Or maybe it’s just that we gun-toting bloodthirsty obstructionists don’t accept that some laws are so super that they need to be thrust into being without exposure to daylight in more than once sense:

Republicans and legislators in the Minority Caucus say the way the SAFE Act was passed — in the middle of the night with no discussion — goes against our democratic process.

Legislator Kevin Hardwick (R) said “the problems that resulted in that tragedy in Connecticut deserved more than a days debate.”

Did you want to avoid blaming the wrong thing while overreacting to atrocity? Well, that’s why you’re not in office. More and more people are fed up with being treated like the enemy for the crimes of others:

Stephen Aldstadt, with the Shooters Committee on Political Education, says the group has seen a surge in membership since the law passed.

“People who don’t even own a gun understand that this isn’t about guns,” Aldstadt says. “This is about rights.”

It is indeed about rights, which is why the governor is on the other side:

While in Buffalo earlier in the day, Governor Andrew Cuomo defended the NY SAFE Act too.

When asked about the counties asking for the SAFE Act to be repealed or changed, Cuomo said, “When you talk about a political opposition, it’s a fear of what the law could lead to, and that fear is totally unfounded, because the law doesn’t do what people are afraid of.”

Silly gun owners are only concerned about trivialities about what the law says and does. With minor concerns like rights in mind, they are mounting challenges both legislative and judicial:

It was standing room only Thursday night as angry gun rights advocates received an update on a class action lawsuit being filed against the state of New York’s new gun legislation.

Local Attorney, Jim Tresmond, spoke to a SCOPE gathering about the lawsuit he filed and will take to State Court.

Gun owners aren’t the sort who take rights-trampling lightly:

Although, Tresmond vowed he wouldn’t stop there.

“If the state of New York comes to its senses it will be decided quickly,” Tresmond said. “If it chooses to fight, it will go all the way to the Supreme Court and won’t get there for up to a year.”

Hopefully, the right to own a magazine that won’t ever harm anyone will be preserved by this time in 2014. If not, the foolhardy measure’s misguided backers will have extra time to invent an answer as to how this knee-jerkiest of laws would make us safer.

As always, New York has it wrong: politicians fruitlessly attempt to limit slaughter by constraining things like ammunition sales instead of letting innocent people arm themselves. Thinking that we’ll be safer by attempting to force mass killers to reload is as misguided as assuming they’ll be constrained by permit recertification. The people who actually obey rules do what they can to resist being scapegoated by politicians who know nothing more about human nature than how to exploit it.

Squirreled Away

squirrel slam

Oh, no: I missed the Squirrel Slam. I felt better when I discovered there was no actual slamming but worse when I learned contestants got to shoot the little furry monsters. I’m left just giving the semi-classy weasels dirty looks in the park.

Eh, let the kids have their fun. Young armed citizens get to shoot even filthier beasts, a contest which gives self-important adults a childish attitude. Protein-deprived outrage specialists will even defend park rodents against the species they won’t admit is at the food chain’s pinnacle:

A controversial squirrel hunting fundraiser is being conducted today in the Orleans County Village of Holley.

The “7th Annual Hazzard County Squirrel Slam” has been targeted by activists in recent weeks that have flooded local leaders with e-mails, phone calls, and letters.

None of those things will rid us of the furry rascals. Try guns instead. Wait: they want to protect the little disease-ridden bastards, and not the human ones, either? The excessive equality brigade could at least aim higher and protect bigger nuisances like deer. For now, they’ll take aim at lucky kids who are learning the valuable service of varmint termination:

“People were just outraged and in disbelief that a fire department could have such a disgusting scheme as a fundraiser that draws in children and rewards them for killing,” Edita Birnkrant the New York Director of Friends of Animals said.

OMG, children are killing (wild animal pests)! It’s best to take parenting advice from a group with a site which features both adorable squirrel pictures and vegan-themed t-shirts. As for our present barbaric times, we’re teaching kids to play by the rules while they send irritating little furry twerps to Squirrel Hell:

The event abides by all New York State hunting rules and regulations; that includes children as young as 12 with a valid junior hunting license. Participants enter up to five squirrels for weighing at the end of the day on Saturday and prizes are given out based on that weight. Prizes include some guns, which is another source of controversy for some.

Weighing dead squirrels is either the worst or most awesome task ever. And gun prizes, woo! The Fun Police naturally recoils:

“There’s no place in a civilized society anymore to have these kinds of contests anymore and it makes it especially disgusting that they’re drawing children in,” Birnkrant said.

Whippersnappers are learning to exercise their rights, and we end up with fewer rats in trees. As expected, the same curious subjects find such awesomeness disgusting. I’d wager the squirrel guardians are the sort of tolerant parents who let their children push shopping carts in supermarkets into patrons who shouldn’t expect apologies. It’s time to pass a law against an acceptable activity that teaches unacceptable lessons like discipline and about which species is in charge:

In fact, Friends for Animals is among those groups now lobbying some New York State lawmakers to pass a ban on all competitive hunting events.

The two favorite things for creature-hugging concern fascists to hate are guns and hunting, so they may as well attempt to use politicians to take away the right to both. Competition is also icky, what with all the ruthlessness and adrenaline, and this event is even worse than that football with its unethical pigskin.

We should cheer on brats who rid the world of bushy-tailed rats. If you see a kid with a necklace that uses said tails as charms, ask the guardian if you may reward the little marksman with an ice cream cone.

Getting rid of nature’s twitchiest freaks is the sort of contest we need. Kids learn a skill that allows them to acquire the most important ingredient for Brunswick stew, not to mention that they discover early in life how to irritate the right people. “Squirrel!” has long been established as the standard coded exclamation for a distraction, and here’s hoping that in this case it just helped shooters find new prey.

Food Truckin’ Off to Buffalo

Lloyd Taco Truck

Enjoy your artisan locally-sourced heirloom fusion Asian ginger soy taco served from a truck, you utterly pretentious hipster. I’ll eat next to you. Any van with a fryer pulled up to a nearby curb is a surprising delight that offers a chance to feel urbane while sauce drips from your wrists to elbows.

But politicians can make anything unappetizing. Governments always feel they deserve a cut for existing where a company plies its trade, so food trucks better get used to paying for the privilege of having their tires touch the ground. Otherwise, they’ll be asked to shift from park to drive, or at least neutral if on top of a hill. Amherst chased away a burgeoning tortilla concern, and the people-feeder won’t just move to an area more welcoming to traveling deliciousness while restricted by nothing other than the speed limit:

The popular Lloyd Taco Truck was asked to leave a commerce park in Amherst on Monday.

The town’s building inspector, Thomas Ketchum, said Lloyd did not have the proper permit to serve food on Ridge Lea Road.

A building inspector is checking a truck for what is undoubtedly a super good reason. The rulers must get a free side order out of this. Put it on the tab of people with food who feed people with money. A slip of paper from the jurisdiction makes everything official.

There’s no reason to trust your own experiences and reviews from previous customers when you can get a false sense of security from bureaucrats who are guaranteeing your safety and not just raising revenue by taking it from commerce:

The town’s transient business 90 day permit costs $100 and covers a single location in the town.

Bureaucrats calculate how much they can squeeze out of a businessman who actually earned his cash. Recognizing that food trucks are an innovative industry that shouldn’t be punished for offering unique advantages to customers just isn’t profitable enough for governments. And heaven forbid your elected officials make things fair by lowering rates for everyone:

Ketchum said Monday night, “We’re looking at it in terms of how they’re competing with fixed business on real property. So a $100 fee as opposed to a business at a fixed location that’s paying real estate taxes and other taxes, we feel that a $100 fee for a food vendor is not very onerous.”

Earlier this month, the town board approved a resolution that would allow lawmakers to start discussion on permit legislation specific to food trucks. However, board members haven’t passed that specific legislation.

Cimino and his attorney say they are continuing to talk with the town in hopes of resolving this issue.

What a great way to have to spend profits from taco-peddling. Other municipalities haven’t been keeping up:

You’ll remember many food trucks in Buffalo recently had issues about where they could or couldn’t go, and that was eventually resolved after the common council passed permit legislation.

It’s unfortunate that local leaders can’t keep up even with lumbering trucks, although the essentially stalled pace is wholly unsurprising. They stand in pitiful contrast to peripatetic restaurateurs who make a mundane transaction feel exciting, as a new cuisine parked on the curb makes life seem both scrumptiously offbeat and hectically manageable. There’s no stronger sign of entrepreneurial spirit than someone willing to bring a kitchen to you.

The squirmy nature that makes them inherently resistant to regulation is precisely why the government doesn’t like food trucks. They find it difficult control a mutual exchange between hungry people and those who drive about looking to satiate that most standard recurring human need.

The ability to literally move to where stomachs growl is a great way to get people a meal with low overhead. But grabby officials pair with grumbling proprietors of relatively unwieldy eateries to take money for the former in the name of the latter. Consider property taxes the price for offering the advantage of seating.

Some towns feel entitled to a piece of the action while running interference for sit-down places who moan that it’s unfair how a competitor has a cheaper service model. But it’s easy to find someplace more hospitable to the street food component of Portlandia-style living. Like so many other businesses, food trucks will just move elsewhere, even if it’s easier for those whose restaurants have engines.


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