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We Have Seen the Future...

The great part about making predictions, I was reminded recently, is that in a year’s time no one will remember what you forecast.

Who has ever called out 103.3 The Edge’s Tom Ragan for predicting “a real guns-on-the-streets civil war breaking out in Western New York in 2012,” sparked by conflict between the City of Buffalo and the NFTA? Who holds it against former Erie County Legislator Greg Olma that he predicted last year that Andrew Rudnick would not—as promised, and has in fact transpired—ride off quietly into the sunset? Or that librarian and author Cynthia Van Ness predicted in 2010 that City Hall would “get slapped with a restraining order for its stalkerish, nine-year obsession with the obviously disinterested Bass Pro”?

No one, that’s who. Which is no doubt why we can always find friends and contributors willing to stick their necks out and prophesy the region’s future.

To the predictions below, I’ll add a few:

• Local activists who either cut their teeth on or were influenced by their involvement with the Occupy Buffalo movement will begin to change the complexion of the institutions they now work through to achieve their ends—and, in cases where those institutions resist that change, they will create new organizations to supplant them.

• By the end of the year, there will be an exciting new proposal to redevelop the former DL&W terminal on the Buffalo River downtown. And the proposal will actually go somewhere.

• The election of Darius Pridgen to president of Buffalo’s Common Council will prove to have been accomplished entirely independently, without the blessing or cooperation of Mayor Byron Brown and his political consigliere, Steve Casey. The hard feelings thus created will boil over and reveal themselves from time to time throughout the year—and create the possibility of a more independent Common Council than the one we saw in 2013.

- Geoff Kelly

Mayor Darius Pridgen?

• Byron Brown gets tapped to run for lieutenant governor, to be replaced by Darius Pridgen as mayor.

• Hipsterism will take on a new mutation—white liberal paternalistic elitism—as hipsters aspire to electoral politics in grand delusions of Sally Strutheritis!

- Eric Walker, community activist

Subsidies, Faux History, and Pictures of Unicorns

• The Mayor’s Office applies to the ECIDA for support to move all offices and departments from City Hall to leased space in Carl Paladino’s proposed new office building on Court Street. If support is not forthcoming, the mayor hints that Amherst, Clarence, and Tonawanda have expressed interest in acquiring the city’s public works department, street sanitation, planning department, and CitiStat.

• In a move bound to please convention and travel promoters, neighborhood leaders, and bloggers,, the official New York State tourism site, has declared 100 percent of surviving pre-Civil War buildings in New York State to be Underground Railroad sites.

“We can’t keep up with the demand any other way,” said agency commissioner Heather Bruschetta-Winkler. “Nineteenth-century century New Yorkers didn’t think ahead to the future tourism losses caused by abolishing slavery in 1827 and creating such a safe environment where concealment was unnecessary. For us, it just made good business sense to designate every pre-1860 barn, basement, windowless room, and closet to correct this oversight.”

Tourism experts expect the storytelling, walking tour, and ghost-hunting industries to benefit most from the move.

• Carl Paladino is found to have a stash of kitten, puppy, unicorn, and rainbow pictures that he circulates by email to a large and shocked distribution list.

- Cynthia Van Ness, librarian and author

Revelations and Activism

In sports…

• The Buffalo Bisons, AAA affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays, will make a dramatic championship run this year.

• The Buffalo Sabres will not.

• Most Western New Yorkers will spend Sundays in the autumn enjoying the great outdoors, or ironing socks, instead of paying attention to the Buffalo Bills.

• Toronto’s Mayor Rob Ford will try to come to Buffalo for a Bisons game, but he will not be able to cross the border.

In politics…

• Early in the Year, New York will have a new lieutenant governor, and he will come from Upstate.

• Early in the New Year, Buffalo will have a new mayor.

• Steve Pigeon will continue to try to cozy up to Governor Cuomo with tantalizing offers of money—but at some point it will be revealed that his relationship to Cuomo has been strategized and managed by the Clintons, and Steve will end up as the New York State campaign manager for “Hillary for President.”

• It will be revealed later in the summer that Steve Pigeon has been organizing major contributions to Unshackle Upstate.

In development…

• Governor Cuomo’s Western New York investment strategies will come under increasing fire as businesses affiliated with strategic planning initiatives will demand more and more state and local subsidies, or they will move to the new “China City of America” planned for the Catskills.

• Various “natural gas” concerns—including Marcellus shale fracking, publicly financed LNG infrastructure policies and investments, and the spreading of fracking waste brine on Western New York roads—will continue to energize citizen activists. A direct relationship between the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and local lobbyists will be revealed, and this will cost Cuomo any chance of running for president.

• Controversial decisions and strategies by state and local governments will be revealed regarding the development of Buffalo’s Outer Harbor as advocates for public access, open space, and ecological restoration battle privatization and mixed-use and industrial development strategies. Revelations will include the daylighting of extraordinary physical and political infrastructure development for private interests, paid for by taxpayers.

- Jay Burney, Founder, Learning Sustainability Campaign and GreenWatch

Surrender to the Tapeworm…

In 2014, a scheduled release of electronic tapeworms (emitted from Apple products) will infest our human veins, allowing our bodies to harness larger accumulations of electricity. Humans will be forced into submission and play host to a takeover that turns us into to cosmic dust…

(Note: Squeaky Wheel & Buffalo Lab will host info sessions on how to hack these electronic tapeworms and avoid the technology apocalypse.)

- Jax Deluca, Executive director, Squeaky Wheel

Meet the New Year, Same as the Old Year…

Nothing of significance will change. Typical Western New York voters will continue to adhere to their usual, bizarre mix of fiscal carelessness and social conservatism. We will re-elect most of our incumbents, and make loud noises about the nickels and dimes lining the outskirts of real political and economic relevance—things like patronage, and tens of thousands here and there to fund cultural programs and aid to the poor. Meanwhile, the big money will continue to be collected and spent without question, and people will complain about the Sabres/Bills/weather.

Local politicians will, in 2013, continue to operate as if no other governments exist anywhere else in the world, and thus refuse to learn any lessons—good or bad—from any of them. We will largely ignore this, because most people simply don’t care enough about politics to even bother to vote.

Downtown Buffalo will continue to make incrementally positive changes—especially in and around the medical campus—and there will be predictable battles over preservation and parking. Meanwhile, real changes to improve and modernize Buffalo’s parking systems, procedures, and infrastructure will not happen at all. (See “refuse to learn any lessons,” supra.)

Donn Esmonde will inexplicably continue to write insufferable, repetitive lectures-from-a-headmaster, while the city’s only daily refuses to give someone younger a shot.

Nothing will happen at the Peace Bridge—indeed, environmental and neighborhood activists will unwittingly continue to agitate for its complete removal.

Canalside will likely not be ready for skating or shopping. Because it’s Buffalo.

Nothing will change. Everyone will continue to be horrible. All of your dreams will be delayed, if not crushed. Your kids will clamor to leave here. Earnest videos showing off the same 10 things will be re-edited at least four times and shown off as if they were the best thing, ever.

There will be loud noises shouted about the Common Core and hydrofracking. The loudest among them will also be either the most ignorant or the biggest shills.

Tensions will mount between the Palinists and the corporatists in the Republican Party. Either way, they’re going to be very well-funded with almost no effort.

Democrats will continue to fight amongst themselves; an effort will be made to placate the governor and all the warring factions, but it will fail because of the parties’ distrust of each other, and because they will resent outside meddling. (See “refuse to learn any lessons,” supra.)

In January 2015, we’ll look back on the year and shrug, as we observe yet another year of taking two steps forward, and one step back.

Happy New Year!

- Alan Bedenko, Artvoice columnist

It'll Be All About the Hair in 2015…

• Democratic Party unity will finally come to pass. There have been generations of local voters that have come of age since the local party was unified. That, and the weak slate pushed by the party, should leave no wonder why the year 2013 was arguably the worst election cycle for the local Democrats in memory. Yet there was little talk of this debacle amongst the few who constitute party’s leadership. The executive committee and other insiders hardly discuss anything other than who would be the next chairman. So it would seem unlikely that any solution to the party’s woes could be had.

Yet, in 2014, for some unfathomable reason, all factions will cease fire and come to a consensus on the Big Issues.

All eyes will then turn to Albany.

• Hair is the new “taxes.” It will be the issue in 2015’s Erie County Executive race. Even though the race is over a year away, the topic of hair will dominate the the preliminary maneuvering by Republicans salivating for a shot at Mark Poloncarz. The incumbent Democrat is often viewed as weak—even amongst Democrats. Surely, the gaggle of possible GOP opponents sport neat coiffures. Take the graying locks State Senator Pat Gallivan; there’s nary a hair out of place. And who would dispute that the efficient mane of Erie County Clerk Chris Jacobs bolsters his chances? Least of all would be those who downplay the Teutonic manliness of Erie County Legislator Rath’s ’do. But who else in the field has a grandfather whose name graces new County Hall?

However, hair like Mark Poloncarz’s only comes around once in a generation, and this will be the deciding factor.

• Ryan Fitzpatrick will join a long list of Bills also-rans who revive their careers, while the Bills flounder. Daryle Lamonica. Ron McDole, London Fletcher, Jason Peters, and Marshawn Lynch are some that come to mind.

• The Buffalo News will acquired by the the Onion. Most readers will notice little change.

- Greg Olma, Democratic Party svengali

Multiculturalism Becomes Fashionable

All Buffalonians learn how to say hello in Burmese, Arabic and Nepali—and they do it! Everyone in Buffalo tries a new food this year.

- Eva Hassett, Executive director, International Institute of Buffalo

A Greener and More United City

• Buffalo’s recycling rate will continue to rise as residents, businesses, and big institutions (like the Buffalo Public Schools) gain awareness that recycling is legally required, great for the environment, and saves the taxpayers money.

• The Niagara River Greenway will take two big steps toward fulfilling its orginal vision as a linked system of parks, trails, and conservation areas linking Lake Erie to Lake Ontario. The Greenway Commission will lead efforts to fill in gaps and connect up trails, and the state will pass legislation limiting the use of Greenway funds to Greenway projects (not high school athletic fields, theater marquee restorations, etc).

• On May 17, 2014, 7,000 people—all talking proud—will link hands across the length of Ferry Street, from Bailey Avenue to the Niagara River, to celebrate diversity, unity, and civic pride, in a historic Hands Across Buffalo event.

- Sam Magavern, Co-director, Partnership for the Public Good

The Benzene Elections of 2014

• The Governor’s Senate Race: A miniscule number of Wall Street Republicans will attempt to use their influence in the New York State governor’s race to propagandize a myth that Main Street Republicans will join them in promoting hydrofracking, ignoring common knowledge that Main Street Republicans have consistently voted against an industry that causes taxes and cancer rates to sky-rocket. The governor’s race will be a direct cause of the State Senate becoming overwhelmingly Democratic, reducing the four men in a room (Andrew Cuomo, Sheldon Silver, Jeff Klein, and Dean Skelos) to two (Silver and Mike Gianaris, state senator from Queens).

• Grand Island’s Revolt: Families on Grand Island will become outraged when they learn of the plan to dump the cancer-causing waste products from hydrofracking into the Niagara River and Great Lakes! While the State Senate has passed laws to protect New York City and Syracuse from fracking waste, none have been passed to protect Western New York, and that wasn’t done by accident.

• Last year Betty Jean Grant’s anti-fracking proposal passed the Erie County Legislature, nine-to-two, with help from local Republicans. The new anti-fracking law joined Buffalo Councilman Joe Golombek’s resolution against fracking, which passed unanimously, and a moratorium placed on fracking by the New York State Assembly. The Assembly, however, is still waiting for the State Senate to join them. The Senate, for it’s part, is still trying to figure out if lacing water with benzene and other cancer-causing agents and then pouring it into the Niagara River and Great Lakes is a good idea (or not)…

• 65 Niagara Square, Official Annex of the True Bethel Baptist Church: After Congressman Brian Higgins becomes Buffalo State College president, Mayor Byron Brown will be appointed to the vacated congressional seat and Common Council President Darius Pridgen will be appointed mayor, immediately causing political adventurism throughout South Buffalo, followed by the city in general. Assemblyman Mickey Kearns will be encouraged to challenge his former mayoral opponent for Congress, knowing he could re-ignite his loyalists and capture all of Higgins’s votes, just as he did in his contested races for Common Council and Assembly. Kearns could also run again for mayor, knowing he has a much stronger hand to play in these new rounds, as will Comptroller Mark Schroeder. Pridgen will stand no chance of being elected to the post. Pridgen is competent and could possibly get great things accomplished, but the voters will never put up with that.

• The Return of Antoine Thompson: Destiny will position Thompson in 2014 for a mayoral run in 2017, where he was always meant to be. It will be caused by the defeat of the Pridgen by Schroeder in 2015. Thompson lost an election in 2010 through no fault of his own, but because his chief of staff was paid a salary greater than that of a state senator and was away from the office for a week while the Senate was in session. Neither event being a mortal sin but the local media would not let go of it and his opponent used it against him on several occasions. Voters want the return of Thompson and will remember that he was an early author of antifracking laws. Voters will remember his attempts to protect Western New York from being a dumping ground for pollutants.

• The Repeal of the UnSAFE Law: The law banning gun magazines from carrying more than seven rounds that was passed in the middle of the night without due process will be ruled unconstitutional by judges who understand the Constitution of the United States. No longer will smart aleck politicians be able to say, “It shouldn’t take seven rounds to kill a deer.” Any lawyer worth his salt knows that deer weren’t written about in the Constitution, and that deer guns only carry five rounds. Lowering anything from five down to seven can’t be done in the physical dimensions now known to man. Law enforcement officials will be proven correct; they take an oath to the Constitution of the United States, they do not take an oath to Andrew Cuomo or the New York State Senate. In reality there is a difference between Russia and New York State: Russia is no longer ruled by Communists.”

- John Duke, The First Amendment Club

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