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June 21, 2022 - 12:59pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Opinion.


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March 15, 2023 - 4:14pm
posted by Session Placeholder in Opinion.

Submitted by Fred Gundell

I have lived in Batavia for basically a short time. Only nine years. But I do know enough to see this is a poorer community with an aging population. Some empty businesses. A small but efficient police department and other public services. I heard yesterday that 35% or higher of our population is considered elderly. We appear to have an overabundance of low-income housing and very little or no middle-income housing. This does not attract younger people or add to the tax base. But not the purpose of this letter.

This city has only a very few sidewalk plows for our extended winter months. Seems like Downtown and Schools are the only requirement. If you live on East Main Street or Ellicott Street (and other places) and are elderly or, for that matter, any age and need to get up the sidewalk, it is impossible. Local homeowners (and local businesses)seem to shovel their personal walks to their porches but leave the public walk untouched. (Not all, but many) This forces elderly and handicapped folks to walk on the roads to get to the store or church or the doctor, or where ever they have to go. This is not acceptable. I was raised in Rochester. Much bigger than Batavia, and our sidewalks were always plowed by the city. If this city can not hold homeowners and businesses to shovel their walks, they should provide plowed and passable sidewalks.

The financial costs for more plows and folks to run them are, of course, the continual claim by the City Manager, City Council and DPW. But I did not see any of this fiscal restraint recently when City Council voted for many pay raises for city officials that were well beyond the 2-3 percent that most of us get. They also went beyond the State's two percent tax cap, which we will pay for. I urge residents to let their council members know of their distaste for this waste of public money. And urge them to purchase whatever plows we need for our sidewalks, so anyone in a wheelchair can get to their doctor's office. I submit for the amount of taxpayer money that just went to pay increases, we could have purchased five more plows and people to run them. Which, to me, is far more important to our community and the well-being of our citizens. 

March 14, 2023 - 7:51pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Opinion.

Journalists work hard, report important stories and hope they're making a difference. 

Often we feel that we do make a difference, but we don't often see the tangible results.

Our news editor, Joanne Beck, broke the story about Ellicott Station unexpectedly becoming a low-income housing project when the community was promised something far different.  She stayed on top of the story, providing follow-ups and more details.

As a result, the community and Batavia City Council took notice.

As The Batavian reported first, last night City Council approved a letter to Homes and Community Renewal asking that rather than relegate the property to low-income housing, the income standards be raised to better fit the original intention of the complex. That intention was to serve the needs of people making workforce wages, which HUD defines as 80 to 120 percent of an area's median income.

The current 50 to 60 percent AMI for the project is what HUD defines as "very low income."  

“This is a fundamental change from the goals for the Ellicott Station project and does not match the BOA or DRI strategies for development of our downtown,” the letter states.

Kudos to the City Council for taking action, even if the letter might fall on deaf ears. It's unlikely the city has any power other than write a letter in an attempt to change the rental requirements for the project, but documenting the community's concerns and the history of the project is an important step if there is any chance to effect a change.

So, we're glad to see some action taken following our exclusive coverage of the issue.


February 18, 2023 - 5:37pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Opinion.

Ellicott Station was sold to Batavia as part of our community's "Pathway to Prosperity." 

It was going to bring more people Downtown to help bolster business, fill vacant storefronts, and put more feet on the street.

At the groundbreaking for the project, developer Sam Savarino, along with state, city and GCEDC officials, talked about "workforce housing." These would be apartments for people with jobs, earning $18 to $20 an hour.  They would be college students just starting their careers.  They would be part of the workforce at STAMP.  There was no mention of people relying on government assistance to make rent, buy food, or get medical care.

Don't get me wrong, like the economic philosophers who helped define what a free-market economy is, such as Adam Smith and Friedrich Hayek, I believe some level of social welfare is necessary to help level the disruptions wrought by markets.  It's good for society to ensure that nobody is left unsupported in dire poverty.  So the complaint here isn't about Section 8, SNAP, or Medicaid.  All of those programs have their appropriate place in our society and in our community.

But Sam Savarino is receiving millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded grants and tax incentives on the promise that his project would set us on a "Pathway to Prosperity."

Now that apartment applications are available for Ellicott Station and we can read what the rental criteria is, we predict that this project is unlikely to help the local economy and may even hurt it.

Only "very low-income" people can apply.  If you're making $18 an hour, you're earning too much, unless you have dependents. 

Prior to Friday, The Batavian made attempts to find out what the criteria would be to qualify tenants for Ellicott Station.  The project manager for Savarino wouldn't return our calls or answer our emails. Local officials were loathed to reveal the primary criteria was "low income."  

The state's Housing and Community Renewal site tells us that Ellicott Station is reserved exclusively for "low-income" tenants. That in itself may be misleading.

The federal government, Housing and Urban Department (HUD), defines low income as 80 percent of an area's median income.  Ellicott Station is reserved for people making 50 to 60 percent of an area's median income.  According to HUD, that is "very low income."  

This isn't workforce housing, as we were promised.  HUD defines workforce housing as units intended for people making 80 to 120 percent of an area's median income.

We didn't know until yesterday that this is housing intended primarily for people who qualify for Section 8 housing vouchers.  Yes, since our story was published this morning, we've heard that all landlords must accept Section 8.  But here's the thing: if you're renting a unit for $900 or $1,200, or more, your likely tenants earn too much money to qualify for Section 8. When your top-end rent is $740 for a family of four, as it is for Ellicott Station, there is a likelihood the applicant qualifies for Section 8.

That just doesn't fit into anybody's definition of "workforce housing."

And people who qualify for Section 8 often also qualify for SNAP and Medicaid.

Here's where that's a problem:  There's no guarantee that Ellicott Station will be filled by residents of Genesee County.  In fact, it seems likely that many of the new tenants will move to Batavia from outside Genesee County. Savarino can't discriminate against applicants, from what we've been told, based on current residence.  The company can't exclude residents from outside the county.  Since tenants will be selected by lottery, it seems likely, some percentage of residents will both be drawing on social services and from outside that county.  That is going to drive up the costs of Medicaid -- already a big tax burden -- for county taxpayers.

I don't want any tenants of Ellicott Station to ever read this and think I'm against them. That isn't the point.  This is a program opening up for a bunch of low-income people to have a better life. For them, that's great. They will get subsidized rent on units that include washers and dryers, refrigerators, dishwashers, microwaves, water, electricity, and air conditioning with access to broadband. Some will even get covered parking.  Good for them.  I remember what it was like to not have much, barely able to make rent, and constantly low on fuel for my car, so I'll cheer for the individuals who have a chance now to live a more comfortable life. I hope they make the most of it and are able to move up in the world.

That's not the point.

The point is, we were promised a "pathway to prosperity." 

When I was working for low-level wages, I wasn't able to go out to nice restaurants regularly. I couldn't shop at stores like Valle Jewelers or Charles Men's Shop.  I had to watch every penny. Ellicott Station isn't likely to produce a lot of foot traffic for Batavia's upper-end restaurants nor help attract new retail to Downtown and help fill some of our storefront vacancies. 

And this comes at a time after we've all seen our assessments go up significantly, which is a defacto tax increase that is leading the City Council toward a vote to override the property tax cap, along with a proposal to raise water rates.

It is positive that the eye sore that was the Della Penna building and Santy Tires is gone, and we can hope good businesses move into the commercial space being built, though time will tell what businesses want to be part of the same complex that includes "very-low-income" apartments.

I've been a cheerleader for Ellicott Station because I believed even "workforce housing" would lead to more customers for Downtown businesses.  I thought it could be transformative for a Downtown bespotted decades ago by Urban Renewal.  A chance at a new life.  I feel misled. There was a time some years ago when Savarino and city officials promised "market-rate housing" for Ellicott Station. I understand that financing big projects can be a challenge.  Savarino's inability to raise the financing necessary for "market rate" is understandable. But when HRC got involved, it should have been made clear by all involved that these apartments would be for "very low-income" individuals and families and tenants would be eligible for vouchers. The lack of transparency on this point is disappointing.  If we had known years ago, or at the groundbreaking, what this complex was really about, it might have seemed less than ideal, but at least, we could shrug and be thankful we're getting rid of an eyesore and getting a vacant property back on the tax roll.

It now seems clear that Savarino, GCEDC. the City of Batavia, the BDC, and HRC has misled us all over the past few years about the kind of housing going into Ellicott Station. This isn't looking like a "pathway to prosperity." Instead, it's looking like a new burden on taxpayers.

I'll be happy if I'm proven wrong.

February 8, 2023 - 9:10pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Opinion.

Born in New Orleans in 1901, Louis Armstrong grew up poor. He earned money to buy his first cornet at age 7. He was raised in an orphanage, getting his first formal music lessons there, until 18 and then started his way in the world as a musician.

He is one of the most influential musicians in history -- helping to develop and popularize jazz and laying the foundation for the Swing Era.

After World War II, he was an ambassador the world over for American culture.

February 6, 2023 - 9:58pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Opinion.

One evening in the 1940s, a teenage Wes Montgomery went to a dance with his wife and heard a record by Charlie Christian for the first time. The next day he went out and bought his first six-string guitar.  He tried to teach himself to play guitar by listening to Christian.  By the time he was 20, he was performing in clubs in Indianapolis.  Touring through Indy, Lionel Hampton heard Montgomery and hired him to play in his band. That started his career.

Montgomery was known for playing with his thumb, helping to give him a distinctive sound, along with his use of octaves and chordal melodies.

He’s widely regarded as the greatest jazz guitarist in history, hugely influential … and he’s a joy to listen to.

February 4, 2023 - 7:55pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Opinion.

Charlie Christian is generally regarded as the first electric guitarist in a band.

John Hammond discovered Christian and brought him to Benny Goodman.

Goodman wasn't sold on an electric guitar as a lead instrument in a band, and Christian came to his audition dressed flashy.

The band jammed on a few songs and Goodman still wasn't impressed. He called out Rose Room, figuring the song would leave Christian in the dust. But Christian knew the song well and launched into an hour-long jam.

Goodman signed him.

Goodman was a leader in the Jim Crow era in racial integration. Among his band members, besides Christian, were vibraphonist Lionel Hampton, and pianist Teddy Wilson.

In Harlem, Christian joined in with the likes of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillispie and helped invent a new style of jazz, Be Bop.

He was only 25 when he died of tuberculosis in 1942. He is among the most influential guitarists in history.

February 3, 2023 - 1:08pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Opinion.

As a young man growing up in Mississippi, Muddy Waters fell under the delta blues, acoustic blues influence of Robert Johnson and Son House. When he moved to Chicago, he found what worked in small juke joints back home couldn't be heard in the Windy City's crowded bars, so he started playing electric guitar.

And Chicago Blues was born.

He's one of the most influential artists of the 20th Century.

February 2, 2023 - 12:12pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Opinion.

Robert Johnson was barely known in his lifetime. He was 27 when he died, leaving behind only 59 recordings of 29 songs.

He remained largely unknown until 1961 when Columbia Records released King of the Delta Blues Singers.

Young kids like Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, and many other early rock and roll guitarists heard the album and were transfixed.

Johnson became one of the most influential guitar players in history though he died in obscurity.

That obscurity helped foment many legends, some that started in his lifetime, such as meeting the devil at the crossroads and trading his sole for talent.

The roots of that legend is that Johnson used to show up at juke joints and could barely play. Then he went away for six months and came back as a transformed musician.

That's likely due to taking lessons from another accomplished player, but he was so much better, other musicians couldn't believe how good he became.

February 1, 2023 - 1:31pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Opinion.

George Harrison once observed,

"If there was no Lead Belly, there would have been no Lonnie Donegan; no Lonnie Donegan, no Beatles. Therefore no Lead Belly, no Beatles.”

For those who don't know Lonnie Donegan -- he was a British musician who, as a side project, started performing American folk music, which started the Skiffle movement. He was hugely successful for a time and influenced a host of young teenagers in England to put together bands. Often they were poor and played homemade instruments. This is how the Quarrymen got started, with John Lennon at the helm, and the Quarrymen evolved into The Beatles.

Lead Belly also influenced Bob Dylan.

January 27, 2023 - 6:02pm
posted by Session Placeholder in Opinion.

By Deacon Steve Schumer

Over the past several months, the Western New York community has been reeling with losses and tragedies, each one reminding us how fragile life is. But in spite of, or because of, these adversities, signs of hope, strength and unity have continued to emerge rather quickly.

Consider the recent blizzard where we saw countless acts of selflessness and heroism by first responders, volunteers and just everyday folks who stepped up and helped – and even saved – their neighbors.

At Catholic Charities, we thrive on the hope we see every day. In a mother who escaped a violent situation for her and her children. In a young man who started a new life in America after fleeing Afghanistan. We see hope in people of all ages and of all faiths – from the support our foster grandparents give, to teens spreading awareness about the importance of good mental health. Hope is everywhere. It is at the root of what we do.

During and after these overwhelming events that have shaken our community, Catholic Charities has been here as a beacon of hope. Our counseling services, food pantries, and basic needs and housing assistance offer crucial support. We are here for the most vulnerable among us and for anyone in need. We are here for the community. We are here for you.

In fact, Catholic Charities has been a beacon of HOPE here for 100 years. In October 1923, Catholic Charities was born out of the Diocese of Buffalo from a collection of institutions serving the very young to the elderly. During its first year, Catholic Charities served about 12,500 people. Last year, Catholic Charities’ programs and services supported more than 134,000 individuals, families, and children.

We are inspired by our centennial year, and recently launched this year’s annual Appeal, with a goal of $9.5 million. Support of the Appeal will help ensure critical programs and services administered by Catholic Charities and many diocesan ministries through the Fund for the Faith, so needed in our community, will continue to be available. The Appeal is always needed. Some years, like this one, it is particularly meaningful.

The annual Appeal has been an integral part of Catholic Charities’ century-long history. In the 98 years of the Appeal, close to half a billion dollars has been raised. That figure alone illustrates how vital the annual Appeal is.

When you donate, you play an essential role not only in the growth and success of Catholic Charities, but in the Western New York community at large. Your gift provides more than just a meal for a family, or the stability of a home for someone in need. It provides hope.

Donations to Appeal 2023 can be made at ccwny.org/donate through June 30. Thank you for your continued support.

Deacon Steve Schumer is president and CEO of Catholic Charities of Buffalo.

January 10, 2023 - 10:51pm
posted by Session Placeholder in Opinion.

Letter to the Editor:

New Year, New You

New Year’s Day symbolizes fresh starts and new beginnings. People use January as a benchmark to reprioritize their lives. Wellness is often at the top of people’s priority lists with things like making time for self-care, ending harmful habits, or wasting less and saving money.

With the introduction of Mobile Sports Betting last year, the Western Problem Gambling Resource Center (PGRC) has seen a dramatic impact on people’s lives in a variety of ways linked to emotions, behaviors, and finances. Young people ages 18-24 and their families are being most affected, many of whom have had little experience dealing with other addictions or mental health issues.

Like other types of gambling, Mobile Sports Betting includes negative effects like sleep issues, strain on relationships with loved ones, financial problems and increased alcohol or drug use. People who struggle with gambling are also at a higher risk for other mental health problems. The ease of access and lack of awareness about risks of MSB are fostering the development of problems quickly at a point in time when many of these young adults are learning to navigate life on their own.

The problems associated with gambling are not reserved only for the person engaging in the activity. Other loved ones, particularly parents in this case, are finding themselves worried about their loved ones, trying to help financially, and wondering how to best handle the situation. 

The most important message for the beginning of this new year is that help is available if you or someone you love has been exhibiting warning signs of a gambling problem, such as unusual financial problems; feeling stressed or anxious over sporting events or other gambling activities; low school performance due to absence or preoccupation with gambling; or lying to family and friends about how much money and time is spent on gambling. January is a great time to reach out to the Western PGRC.

The Western PGRC is here to help anyone who is looking to reprioritize their lives and overcome the problems that gambling has caused. Private-practice counselors, behavioral health and treatment facilities, recovery groups and other community services throughout Central New York make up a vast referral network. When people call (716) 833-4274 or email [email protected], they confidentially connect with a knowledgeable PGRC staff person who will listen to and connect them with the resources that best meet their needs. Whether you are ready to get help, or you are just curious about your options, call us today. We’re here to help.

Jeffrey Wierzbicki
Western & Finger Lakes Team Leader
Western & Finger Lakes Problem Gambling Resource Center's
NY Council on Problem Gambling

January 3, 2023 - 4:40pm
posted by Session Placeholder in Opinion.

Op-Ed submitted by Paul Wolf

In January, many will start the New Year with goals to exercise more, eat better, lose weight etc. January will also be when newly elected public servants or incumbents starting another term take office across New York State.   

Old habits are hard to change in people and especially hard to change in government. The biggest issue in government today is the lack of trust the public has in their elected leaders. The best way to build trust as an elected official is through transparency. Elected officials should begin 2023 by conducting the public’s business in an open and transparent way. To show their commitment to open government, elected officials serving on a village board, town board, city council or a county legislature should introduce and pass a New Year resolution stating they will:

1)    Post timely notice of all meetings at least one week prior to all meetings.

2)    Meeting agendas and all meeting documents will be posted online, at least 24 hours before a meeting occurs.

3)    Post draft meeting minutes online, no more than two weeks after a meeting occurs.

4)    Allow members of the public to speak at the beginning of a meeting regarding agenda items and non-agenda items, whether attending in person or remotely.

5)    Live stream their meetings by video and post the video recording online afterward.

6)    Only conduct private executive sessions on rare occasions in accordance with the New York State Open Meetings Law. Just because you can hold executive sessions does not mean that you have to. A motion to hold an executive session to discuss “litigation,” “personnel,” or “collective bargaining” is not sufficient, as the Open Meetings Law requires motions to state more information when holding an executive session.

7)    Agree not to hold private political party caucus meetings. There is no reason at the local level to hold private political party caucus meetings to discuss political business or public business. Secret meetings build a lack of trust among the public.

8)    Have information regarding the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL), posted in a visible place on your website. Proactively post documents online as much as possible so that the public can access information without having to file a FOIL request. Post an easy fill-in-the-blank form that assists the public in filing a FOIL request by email on your website.

9)    Commit to ensuring that all FOIL requests are acknowledged within five days as required by law and that information is provided to the public promptly.

Paul Wolf, Esq., President, New York Coalition For Open Government

December 12, 2022 - 10:04pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Opinion.
November 24, 2022 - 5:31pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Opinion.

Sen. Patrick M. Gallivan apparently is eager to help increase profits for oil companies and chain gas stations.

He proposed legislation to cap taxes on gas.

This is economic nonsense. It's also a form of socialism, and like all socialist measures, it is doomed to fail.

In Genesee County, we have a front-row seat to how ineffective government efforts are to reign in gas prices.  While neighboring counties enacted gas tax holidays, the Genesee County Legislature, on the recommendation of County Manager Matt Landers, kept its local gas tax in place.  The result is that gas prices locally have risen and fallen right in line with the counties that cut gas taxes.  There is no evidence that consumers in neighboring counties have saved even a single penny on a gallon of gas.

If folks in Erie County aren't seeing a break in gas prices, who do you think is benefitting?  It's not the consumers. It's the oil companies and gas stations, in the form of higher profits. 

While local variables can cause differences in prices from region to region and even county to county when it comes to gas prices, fuel oil is a global market.  The price structure is set at a global scale and filters down to consumers from that basis.  There is nothing a local politician can do to change that, not if you believe in free markets, and despite regulations, cartels, and subsidies, at a global scale, oil and gas sales remain a competitive business. There are still numerous competing interests, each struggling to gain the upper hand, which leads to fluctuations in oil prices.

One tenet of socialism is central government control of prices. When that happens, it creates artificial winners and losers. That is what Gallivan is attempting to do with this legislation.  It's sad to watch the Republican Party drift further and further from conservative principles and embrace the tactics of progressives to try and control every aspect of our lives.  Gallivan has apparently joined the ranks of Progressive Republicans.  Hopefully, our local representatives, Steve Hawley and Ed Rath, won't follow suit and will oppose this brand of socialism.  

October 19, 2022 - 11:56pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Opinion.

The social media debate on our story about Sweet Betty's closing has been, um, interesting.

Opinions have been wide-ranging, from "people don't want to work" to "restaurant owners don't pay enough."  

A sampling and my thoughts:

"Yet you have the government saying that unemployment is at all-time low but retail or restaurant has lack of employees."

Well, if unemployment is low, that means there are fewer people looking for work.  That means it is harder for existing businesses to fill open positions.  More people working leads to a "lack of employees" looking for work. 

That was a small business they should have been able to run themselves, with little help. I know, because I did the same exact thing. They either weren't willing to do what it takes to be successful or they weren't willing to pay someone what they were worth. Simple as that.

Clearly, a comment by somebody who has never owned a food service business.  Running such a business means multiple jobs overlap -- taking orders, cooking food, washing dishes, cashing out customers, and then somebody has got to keep the books.  It's not a one- or two-person business.

They are getting money to stay home and not work!!! Stop the free hand outs... And watch how many people look for work...

Extended unemployment benefits ended a long, long time ago and the economic evidence is the payments had little impact, when still active, on people's willingness to work.  There are currently 900 people drawing unemployment in Genesee County, according to the most recent Labor Department data.  That is not a number that screams "People are mooching off unemployment insurance payments."  

3% unemployment rate yet why are there almost a million on welfare! Time for workfare for the lazy!

Actually, in the U.S. there are nearly 60 million people drawing some sort of assistance, and nearly all of them who are of working age and not on full disability have jobs.

Then there are the people who blamed the owners:

Love how they say it's the workers why not blame the owners for not paying more for the work or putting on the work outfit and working themselves. Simple supply = demand and people have a life simple you wanna pay minimum wage you get minimum result

crazy how they’re closing and many other family-owned restaurants aren’t…time to stop blaming staff and look to themselves as to where the problem lie, whether it be their management or their product.

And some readers did jump to their defense, such as Susan Macomber:

The owners,family and friends worked there 99% of the time...They were very hard working and very friendly, and the food was delicious...The owners also closed for holidays and closed at times to give their workers some time off because they couldn’t get enough help. And they paid their workers well.

More blaming the owners from somebody who almost certainly never owned a business:

Unemployment is lowest it's been in 40 years... only the failed businesses are having trouble finding employees. The strong survive my friends, it's survival of the fittest, and you ain't fit.

Look around you, there are help-wanted signs everywhere.  There was a time, more than a decade ago, when economists considered an unemployment rate of five percent to be "full employment."  The idea is that at five percent, being unemployed was transitory.  People moved quickly from one job to the next.  It was temporary and the normal economic shuffling of the deck as businesses changed strategy, closed for various reasons, or people quit jobs just to have the time to find a better job. 

Also, COVID itself has taken a lot of people out of the workforce.  More than one million people in the U.S. have died, and nearly half of them had not yet reached full retirement age, and presumably, a lot of them were or could be in the workforce.

This is a very, very tight job market, probably the tightest any of us have seen in our lifetimes.

So let's talk about the free market:

This makes me so sad. I love Sweet Betty’s!!! But I get it. No one wants to work anymore, or if they do, it’s completely on their terms and hours. Businesses everywhere are impacted by this.

Here's the thing  -- in a free market, people can choose where they want to work.  They want to work on their terms.  I want to work on my terms.  You want to work on your terms.  We all want that opportunity.  I own my own business so I can work on my own terms.  When I worked for other people, I worked hard and improved my skills and knowledge so I could advance and make more money.  That's working on my own terms.  When there isn't a tight labor market, employers have the leverage to say, "work on my terms or leave" (perhaps with more nuance than that).  In a tight labor market, the power imbalance shifts to the workers.  But that's how free markets work, should work, and we want them to work if we want a thriving economy and an improving standard of living for everybody.

One reader asks legitimate questions:

How much were you paying? How many hours did you guarantee? Was it a regular schedule, or did it vary from one week to the next? Were your cooks treated with respect ot treated like they were disposable? People work when they feel like they are valued. If that's not the case, they go elsewhere. There are LOTS of jobs out there. Make yours the one everyone brags about.

Those are all things that will impact the ability of a business to hire good and qualified people.  However, there is only so far a business can stretch on pay and hours and benefits.  Running a business is not as easy as this reader makes it sound,  as I'll address later.

Another take on the "people don't want to work" theme:

To all who wonder why they can’t get help….. PEOPLE DONT WANT TO WORK TODAY! THEY WANT TOP PAY FOR DOINB LITTLE! There are plenty of jobs all over…. It seems to me that if you REALLY want a job or NEED a job…. Then take one of the jobs!!! Money is money!

Let's just say there are in fact people who don't want to work.  There are undoubtedly some people who don't want to work. Period.  There is no wage that will entice them to leave their bedroom.  But this poster seems to assume that just because there are jobs, there are jobs that the people without jobs want to take those jobs.

There are a number of reasons that people not working won't take a job you think they should take: They're not qualified. It doesn't fit their career path.  The hours won't let them take care of their children or go to school.  The job won't help them advance their career and could even derail it.  Or maybe the job you think they should take isn't just offering enough of an incentive to give up fishing to go to work.  Money is, as the poster says, is money.  And yes, sometimes it takes more money to entice a person to take a job.  

In order for a worker and an employer to find each other, the worker needs to be qualified to work the job that's open.  Even if a worker who has spent the past few years pushing a broom is willing to take a job as a line cook, that doesn't mean he's qualified to be a line cook.  Employers don't like to hire unqualified people because they don't have the track record to ensure they can do the job or will stick with it.  Unqualified workers cost money and can be a disaster.

A more nuanced take that deserves a response:

Restaurants took the worse beating when that Covid crap shut N.Y. down. The ridiculous cost of living made it so minimum wage skyrocketed. Instead of putting caps on rent increases and utilities the more pay made prices go up MORE. Small business owners suffer because with their overhead and insurance payments they cannot afford to hire as much workers. Everyone suffers. And people complain about higher costs in restaurants. They HAVE to raise prices just to make ends meet.

Restaurants got a lot of financial help during and because of the pandemic restrictions.  All of that money being pumped into the economy is part of the cause of current inflationary pressures (it's basic economics: increase the money supply and prices generally go up).

Restaurants by and large stayed alive with delivery and curbside pickup while maintaining lower overhead with the dining rooms closed. When the economy kick-started again, companies were scrambling to fill open positions.  A lot of former workers found new jobs, retired, started their own businesses, went back to school, decided to become stay-at-home spouses, picked up a job with Uber, Door Dash, or Instacart, or otherwise left the workforce (and not just because they became lazy, but in the human condition, there is always some of that, too).  With a shortage of workers, restaurants and other businesses were forced to raise wages. That started before the current inflation cycle and is one of the multiple causes of today's inflation.  The sad thing is, the wage gains workers first realized after the end of the pandemic have been wiped out by inflation. 

Adrian Fitzgerald Harris has an informed view:

Low Birth rates, massive boomer retirements and no one solving the immigration problem have caused some of this.

The decline in the stock market might coax some people out of their early retirement. The low birth rate isn't going to change so long as we remain a first-world economy. So that leaves immigration.  Want more workers?  Let more workers into the country.  We need about one million working immigrants flowing into this country ASAP.  That would spur the kind of economic growth we need to stave off a recession and stem inflation.  The economy would boom.

Terry Paine left an intelligent comment:

You can tell the people that have never had a business with employees before. Maybe these business geniuses could offer some advice on what an employee's pay should look like since we know $14 to $17 is not enough. Then the employer can make a decision whether they can themselves take that big of pay cut or if raising the cost to the customer will reduce sales enough that the business has to close anyway. Tough balance.

I can say that their standards for hiring wait staff is pretty high since I have enjoyed every one I've ever had wait on me. That standard might be just as important of more important than the food.

So to sum up.  There are two main camps here: blame the employers and blame the employees.

How about if we not blame either?

Running a small business is hard, especially a food services business.  You have government regulations to worry about, employees stealing (a big problem in a mostly cash business), taxes, insurance, lots of overhead, employees who have their own lives and own issues that you need to balance, supply issues, competition to worry about, customers who complain, and so on.  You pretty much have to be insane to run your own business.  It's a hard life.  Thank God there are people who do it though, because small business owners are the true backbone of America and our communities.  They offer more charitable support to their communities, give communities a sense of cohesion and pride, and the owners are often more involved and more often make fine mentors for the young people they meet.  

And employees have their own wishes and desires. They have aspirations, dreams, ambitions.  They might have families to care for or passions they wish to pursue away from work.  They are often not business owners themselves because of these other constraints or priorities.  But humans evolved to acquire resources to make their lives more stable and better.  For the vast majority of us, we want more money and better things, so naturally, we want better pay.  And if we can't get better pay, then we look for other tradeoffs, such as more time to go fishing or play in a rock and roll band.  

In our rush to make everything political these days, we miss how complex our economy really is and how something as seemingly straightforward as a restaurant closing is really about a world of competing economic forces. Sweet Betty's closing is sad. It shouldn't be fodder for scoring political points.

October 14, 2022 - 11:06pm
posted by C. M. Barons in Opinion.

Today, ballot access in New York State is more restrictive for independent parties than it is in Putin’s Russia. In a cynical attack on third-party ballot access, then-governor, Andrew Cuomo, attached a (rouge-painted pig) campaign finance reform package to his “must pass” 2020 budget. It was his coup de grace, having been shut down by the courts after his hand-picked commission contrived a similar move to banish third parties from the ballot in 2019. That maneuver was struck down when a Working Families Party court challenges prevailed. So far, Cuomo’s 2020 election sabotage has held up in the courts.

The draconian provision that has stripped the upcoming state election slate of all but Democratic and Republican candidates (WFP-endorsed Democratic Party candidates) was an increase in the number of votes required to retain a ballot line. The requirement is based upon statewide election totals for governor or U. S. president. The prior requirement of 50,000 votes was jacked up to 130,000, nearly triple the former standard.

The Conservative, Libertarian and Green parties all failed to retain their place on the ballot. The Libertarians and Greens also failed to place candidates via petitioning, having been successfully challenged by the major parties. Zeldin petitioned for the Conservative line, but he was disqualified due to his campaign submitting 13,000 fraudulent signatures.

It may seem practical to boot parties that cannot muster more than a 10% share of a presidential or gubernatorial contest, but that ignores local races where third-party candidates have won contests. That argument also ignores the role of minor parties in the grand scheme of political discourse. In the current political spar between the major parties, a sampling of campaign ads shows that the two major parties are focused on a handful of polarizing issues, most of which do not poll as major voter concerns. Win or lose, third-party candidates bring salient debate to the table and, without question, overcome the inertia of two major parties content with the security of the status quo.

Moreover, legislating ballot access with unreasonable quotas is not “regulation,” it’s suppression. After years of arguing with pollsters who wanted to put me in the “undecided” camp (I’m a Green), I received a letter this spring from the Board of Elections notifying me that I am no longer a Green; I’m an “other.” I chose to be a Green before a Green Party even existed in the U. S. After reading about the rise of Greens in Europe, I waited a decade and a half to register as a member of the U. S. Green Party. In one fell swoop, Andrew Cuomo, chagrined, having been called out by Howie Hawkins in a gubernatorial debate, spitefully voided tens of thousands of New Yorkers’ chosen party affiliation.

Despite not being on the ballot, Howie Hawkins is running a write-in campaign for Governor along with Gloria Mattera, Lt. Governor. I encourage readers to give them consideration, if not for their credentials, for their challenge to the arrogance that deprived independent parties of a spot on the ballot.

C. M. Barons
Bergen, NY
Member of the Green Party


September 21, 2022 - 3:01pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Opinion.

I swear some of you folks out there think we live in a socialist community -- a community controlled by central planners who decide what business goes where.

And you pretty much think those central planners are pretty stupid.

Everytime news gets out of a new retail development, social media explodes with comments about what "they" should put there -- A Wegman's, an Olive Garden, a Sonic, a Mighty Taco, or whatever chain some commenter thinks is his or her favorite.  Always a chain, by the way, not "I hope some ambitious local person opens a locally owned business there so the community realizes a greater economic benefit."  

I often want to ask, sometimes do ask, "who is 'they'?"  I really want to know who these people think the "they" is who decides what businesses get to open where.  I think I've gotten an answer once.  He said "the bureaucrats." And when I explained it didn't work that way, his rejoinder was, "It was just a figure of speech."

I think it's important that people understand there are no central planners in our economy.  It's important that people understand how free markets work.  If people don't understand, we are in greater danger of the socialists taking over.

But after more than a decade of dealing with people on social media and the "they" comments, it's clear it's a losing battle. They just won't learn or listen.

When a business is announced for a location, the "they" comments persist.  "Why are they putting that in there?  The last thing we need is another of that type of business."  For example.

Often, that's followed by a prediction of failure for the new business location.

One thing to say about chains, they didn't become big chain operations without knowing what they are doing.  Before they even scout a specific location, enter into negotiations for a lease, or start drawing up plans, they've done market studies.  They know the population, the demographics, the wages earned, how much of the market there is to capture with what they have to offer and how they plan to offer it.  The executives are not just rolling the dice and hoping for the best.  They don't operate under the delusion of "if we build it they will come." They have pretty good data that predicts a high likelihood of success.

All the data in the world, of course, doesn't guarantee success but the probability of success is high when the data suggests there is an opening in the market.  You may think they are wrong but be humble: you don't have the data they do. You're just guessing and chances are, you're guessing wrong.

And here's the thing -- this isn't a socialist economy.  Private property owners and private business owners can spend their own money however they wish, and take whatever chance suits their fancy.

In fact, if a proposed business location meets all the zoning requirements, it follows all of the applicable laws, government officials can't deny private business owners the right to risk their own money as they choose.  They cannot deny a business the opportunity to open just because they might personally think that particular business is a bad idea.  That is how government agencies get sued.

If a proposed business objectively meets the standards laid out in the zoning code and all other applicable laws, municipal planners have no choice but to approve any application that is before them.  And those applications are narrow in scope to ensure the only criteria being considered are issues of zoning -- the number of parking spaces, setbacks, environmental impact, signage, size, and so on.  There is no law that limits the number of pizza joints, donut shops, or coffee houses that can locate in a community.  

You can't put a concrete factory in a residential neighborhood and many jurisdictions limit strip joints to specific sections in town (municipal officials cannot, on Constitutional grounds, totally bar adult entertainment establishments) but other than those broad definitions, there is no legal way for local officials to block a business based on the type of business it is or its perceived chances of success.

In a free market, we wouldn't want government officials to have that kind of power.  Economies thrive because people come up with new ideas and risk their own money trying to push those ideas forward.  When you put artificial barriers up to entrepreneurship, whether it's for the chain owner or the local owner, you are beating a path toward poverty.

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