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Seven Days: The Straight Dope From The Week That Was

How about this, is this subversive enough for you? (Department of Defense photo)

Military Tears Down Anti-War Posters

Last Wednesday (September 22), several business owners along Allen Street watched as a number of men—maybe four, they weren’t precisely sure of the count—in camouflage military fatigues exited a van with government license plates and fanned out across the street, pulling down posters from lampposts and telephone poles. A patron at the Old Pink came outside to ask what they were doing. They responded that they were removing “slanderous material.” They left the myriad band posters and advertisements poetry readings, plays, and yoga classes alone.

The “slanderous material” consisted of posters advertising a peace march this Friday (October 1) beginning at 3pm in downtown Buffalo. The poster for “Operation Smash Imperialism” argues that the war on terrorism has killed more than 4,000 American soldiers and cost more than $1 trillion and counting. (Visit, if you’re in the mood to be made frantic and depressed.) “There is no difference,” the poster says, between Columbus slaughtering the Arawaks for progress and the US slaughtering in Iraq and Afghanistan for profit. No one deserves to die to make the rich richer. Capitalism = Empire = Poverty & War.”

A revolutionary sentiment, to be sure, though hardly groundbreaking and certainly not slanderous. Calls to the local National Guard outposts went unreturned. Peter Spadora, a spokesman for the US Army located in Syracuse, said on Tuesday that he’d been “given the impression” by the local brass that US Army personnel were not responsible for tearing down the posters. On Wednesday he said that the US Army was continuing to look into the matter.

One of the organizers of “Operation Smash Imperialism” is Nate Buckley, who joined about 30 other activists in front of FBI headquarters on Monday afternoon to protest FBI raids on the houses of progressive activists in Minneapolis and Chicago last week.

Of the Allen Street raid on the posters by military personnel, Buckley said, “It’s another sign that we are scarily approaching living in a fascist state…[they] came in full uniform and ripped down only the posters for our anti-imperialism rally. If that’s not fascism, I don’t know what is.”

The marchers at Friday’s rally will meet at 3pm in Johnson Park and march to Lafayette Square.

“We want to invigorate the anti-war movement,” Buckley said. “We want to end all wars of aggression by the US.”

Milk Not Jail Activists Arrested

Last week was a tough one for street activists. On Saturday, an outfit called Milk Not Jails took to Allen Street, serving up ice cream and advocacy for criminal justice and agricultural policy reform in New York State. For a brief on the organization’s platform, visit Basically they despair that New York’s dairy farmers are gradually being squeezed out of business, while rural towns fight to keep open the state prisons that are their major employers in the midst of the state budget crisis. The group’s motto: “If rural New York’s economy depends on my habits, I’d rather drink their milk than go to their prison.

That evening, according to Milk Not Jails, “a police officer approached the group with marijuana in his hand, looked at the one African-American in the group, Tychist Baker, and said, ‘You dropped something.’”

The policeman demanded identification from everyone in the group, called for backup, and frisked Baker. Baker was clean, but the officer arrested him for unlawful possession of marijuana anyway. Another organizer, Lauren M., was arrested for obstruction after trying to intervene.

“Neither standing on the sidewalk nor asserting your rights is illegal,” said Lauren M.. The two activists were taken to the Erie County Holding Center and released Sunday morning. They’ll appear in Erie County Court on Monday, October 4.

The Urban Fabric

Ellicott Development, the company controlled by Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino, submitted and then withdrew an application for approval to demolish the former Our Lady of Lourdes convent at 1091 Main Street.

On Primary Day (September 14), the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus won the quiet approval of the city’s planning board for a $30 million, eight-story, 1,800-space parking ramp at the corner of Michigan Avenue and High Street. From Virginia Street all the way to Goodrich Street, the ramp will present pedestrians and other passersby with nearly 1,700 linear feet of blank walls, punctuated by crossings at Carlton and High and by a single metal service entry door. (The barren backside of the Convention Center on Pearl Street, by comparison, is about 450 linear feet.) The ramp is dubbed “multi-modal” in apparent reference to some bike racks and bus stop benches. Despite some talk of High Street becoming a commercial strip as the BNMC expands and the Fruit Belt is revitalized, there are no plans for first-floor retail, restaurant, or office space in the ramp structure.

The only apparent changes requested by the planning board were taller trees and some variegation of the facade to make the imposing wall more visually interesting.

Because of its proposed height—82 feet in a zone where 66 feet is the maximum—the structure requires a zoning variance. The city’s zoning board heard the BNMC’s case on Wedneday afternoon, as well as some criticism. The zoning board votes in secret, but its decision should be made public soon.

Protecting Our Parks

Thomas Smith has been with Byron Brown since Brown’s tenure in Albany as a state senator. When Brown became mayor, Smith followed. Until recently his title was “Quality of Life Program Manager,” and his $54,000 salary was paid by the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency. Now he’s been made director of parks and recreation within the city’s resurrected parks department. His appointment to that $66,092/year position was approved by the Common Council on Tuesday, September 21.

Pity Smith couldn’t be there. He spent most of Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday at the Erie County Board of Elections, working with the mayor’s team to review the results of last week’s primary races.

We sent a couple emails to Smith’s new boss, Deputy Commissioner of Parks and Recreation Andrew Rabb, to ascertain whether Smith had taken time off from his new job to do this political work. Rabb did not reply. That’s not a surprise: Rabb is new to his position, too, and I’m sure it’s been impressed on him that he’s not to speak to the press without permission from the mayor’s office.

However, I’m told that at some point on Thursday, Smith arrived at the BOE to join the crew of folks from the Democratic Party’s various divisions who are monitoring the recounts and scouring the results for omens. (And yes, of course, most of those folks have public and private sector jobs, too.) Smith saw a handful of operatives for the mayor’s opposition and said words to the effect of, “Just so you know, I’m off the clock.”

He wanted them all to know that, he said, because Artvoice had been emailing his boss with questions. And indeed, on Friday afternoon, Peter Cutler, the mayor’s communications director, emailed us to say, “Mr. Smith requested personal time off from his supervisor and was granted that request, including the days you identified in your email.”

Cutler also noted that, although Smith’s appointment was only approved last Tuesday, he had in fact been functioning as director of parks and recreation since July 26.

While We're Nitpicking

While combing through the latest campaign finance disclosure filings, we noted that Mayor Byron Brown’s political committee, Brown for Buffalo, seems to have failed to file any reports since July, despite having contributed $3,800 to Joe Golombek, $5,000 to Committee for Change, and $5,900 to Democratic Action. Sloppy.

Farewell, sweet prince

Simpson's Farewell Tour Continues

Wherein we learn that the UB Foundation is a community group. John Barclay Simpson, the State University of New York at Buffalo’s outgoing president, continued his long goodbye with another annual community address at Babeville Wednesday morning. After audience members filed in from the parking lot at the Buffalo Club across the street, they sat down to hear him thank UB Council head Jeremy Jacobs for everything before continuing to push the stalled UB2020 plan to a smattering of applause.

“UB2020 remains our chief priority, and our aspiration for the future. Indeed, our commitment to achieving the goals of UB2020 remains as strong as ever,” he said. “In my final months at UB I will continue to focus my energy on this most important priority…UB 2020 is both our present and our future…UB2020 is not my plan, and it does not have an expiration date.”

This from the guy who said that they’d have to change the name to UB2030 after the plan died on the Assembly floor in August.

Meanwhile, the process of naming the “stellar search committee” assigned to assist Jacobs in finding Simpson’s replacement remains flawed—as it has from the moment he announced his retirement on August 30, when it was simultaneously announced that Scott Nostaja had been named interim president. It was an embarrassing snafu that culminated in Nostaja pulling his name from consideration, at least for the time being.

According to SUNY guidelines for conducting a presidential search, they still haven’t gotten it right. Consider item #4 in the preliminary search process:

4. Taking care to assure that faculty representation on the search committee speaks for a broad spectrum of faculty opinion, the faculty shall elect its representatives to the search committee by secret ballot at an open session of the faculty governance group, at which a quorum of the teaching faculty are present. The council chair shall invite the appropriate campus and community groups to submit recommendations for all other positions on the search committee, and shall make the appointments to the remaining positions on the search committee from the recommendations submitted.

Various sources said that the “secret ballot at an open session” business did not take place. When asked about it, UB spokesperson John DellaContrada referred the question to Faculty Senate Chair Robert Hoeing. Several messages left with Hoeing have gone unreturned. At press time, DellaContrada confirmed via email that Hoeing doesn’t want to comment.

As for the council chair inviting “the appropriate campus and community groups to submit recommendations for all other positions on the search committee,” DellaContrada replied that Jacobs sought recommendations from the Faculty Senate, the Professional Staff Senate, the Provost, and UB vice presidents.

Which community groups were asked?

“The VPs asked for recommendations from alumni…the alumni groups…so I guess you could say that the alumni group is a community group…and then also when you consider the UB Foundation is made up of community members…and the UB Council,” he offered.

“Wait, you’re counting the UB Foundation as a community group?”

Well, there’s community members on the group,” he clarified.

geoff kelly & buck quigley

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