Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Dateline Buffalo
Just got in from seeing the Psychedelic Furs play at the Continental Club on Franklin near Chippewa in downtown Buffalo, NY.  The highlight of the opening act was a band called Kristofferson Airplane playing a cover of "Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch Cherry Bomb" a tiny hit from the early 80's, which gives you an idea of what caliber acts typically play the Continental.

The mix was bad and the acoustics terrible, but the Furs show was great--high energy, lots of fun.  Chippewa street was hopping on a warm Wednesday night in Buffalo.  Some 20 years ago when I lived in Buffalo, Chippewa never hopped.   Chippewa might have sold you drugs at 4am when the bars closed.  It might have put its highheeled foot on your car and straightened its fishnets.  But it never hopped.

Buffalo is kind of dichotomous these days.  On the one hand certain strips in the urban core are alive with independent restaurants, bookstores, coffee shops and throngs of customers.  Property values have risen steeply in the gorgeous huge old homes on quiet tree-shaded residential streets spoking out from these hubs.  Yet the City of Buffalo is financially unviable.  Soon voters will consider a referendum, supported by the mayor and the county executive, to merge the city into the county government, because the city can't run itself on its tax base anymore.

Despite repeatedly grilling my father-in-law, probably the foremost expert in the region on state and local government and fiscal issues, I still don't fully understand how both these things are true at the same time.

But I take it as instructive for Sacramento now that we're fighting a big push for a taxpayer-funded sports arena in the city.   Even the most exciting, thriving retail environment can't take the place of real jobs, it just gives the rich people somewhere to spend their money while the city dies.

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