10/30/2009

Main St Halloween Displays

Posted by MJ






For those who have yet to check out the DT merchant Halloween displays here is Caruso's at 3 Charles St. Check them out before they're gone! Anyone head to the Main St Merchant Trick-or-treating last night?

Weather is looking like is will clean up for the kids tomorrow evening. Some interesting information(?): Actual random Halloween poisonings are nill but unfortunately objects do occur (though rare). Hope everyone has a safe and fun night.

10/29/2009

DT Halloween Party Tonight

Posted by MJ

The DT Halloween event is tonight (LUSJ) (Buffalo News). Weather is looking better as the day progresses 56° and partly cloudy for later tonight (WIVB)

From Lockport Main St Inc:

Halloween Party & Trick-or Treat Downtown
- Join us for the annual Halloween Party on Thursday, -October 29th from 5:00 pm to 8:30 pm in the City all parking lot - One Locks Plaza in Lockport (sponsored by the City of Lockport Youth and Recreation Department).
-Begin at City Hall for pizza, games, and trick-or-treat bags!Then make your way Downtown for “Trick-or-Treating” from 5:00 -7:00 pm.
-Return to City Hall and check out the FAMOUS Kiss Concert! (from Livingston Place).

Pumpkin Decorating Contest
-3rd grade students from Lockport City School District and Market Street Art Center will be decorating about 400 pumpkins this Halloween.
- The decorated pumpkins will be on display at participating downtown businesses from October 26th – October 31st. Community members are invited to visit downtown businesses and vote on their favorite pumpkins!
 from The Buffalo News:
Also from 5 to 8 tonight and Friday, the YMCA, 19 East Ave., will host Happy House for children ages 6 months to 6 years. Described as an alternative to scary Halloween activities, it offers a life-size Candy Land game and happy stories. Admission is $1.

Official City (and town) of Lockport trick-or-treat hours are this Saturday 4pm-7pm.

10/26/2009

Windmills in lake Ontario?

Posted by MJ





Image - Lackawanna Windmill with Buffalo in the Background

 Buffalo news reporting that Niagara County is still in the running for the NYPA wind power project.


Next month, the authority will seek proposals from companies interested in building the wind power project, which is to be located somewhere offshore in Lake Erie or Lake Ontario.
Kessel said any suitable location from Ripley to the Thousand Islands could be considered.

I find them rather attractive in small quantities and I find they add to the scenery over at the Lackawanna/Buffalo border and to the south in the hills. As it is now there is not much to see except the horizon on the other side of the lake (except for the Toronto skyline sightings to the NE). I'd travel up to the lake from time to time to sit back, chill and watch them spin out in the water. A small village like Olcott Beach could pry cash in some with them located near by: another sight to see.

Although a fledgling technology I find the experimentation worthwhile in the long term quest to diversify our power sources and pushing ahead renewable technologies. Maybe it's as evil as Walmart. Time will tell ;)

10/23/2009

Revaluation Creeping Up

Posted by MJ



Image - F&M Building Reflected in Bewley Building


LUSJ reporting on the revaluation progress.

A city committee interviewed representatives of four private firms interested in taking on citywide property revaluation Thursday.

The committee, comprised of officials including Mayor Michael Tucker, Acting Assessor Joe Macaluso and Real Property Appraiser Lena Villella, is supposed to recommend one of the firms to the Common Council for hire next month.

If a firm is hired, it’ll be the kick-off of a revaluation project that’s expected to cost city taxpayers about $200,000 by 2011.
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When that happens, property owners are said to pay less — or more — than their “fair share” of property tax.

Revaluation is about “getting it so it’s fair for everyone. Right now it’s not,” Pat Schrader, 4th Ward alderman, said this week.
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“I think there are an awful lot of remodeled houses that are worth more than they were eight years ago. They’re not paying their fair share, and we need to catch up with ’em,” he said.
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Third Ward Alderman Flora McKenzie believes the point of revaluation really is to make taxation fairer, but unlike those who see a scheme to raise everybody’s assessment, she fears the opposite will happen.

“There are some houses in really sad shape that shouldn’t be assessed as high as they are. There are houses in my ward that I wouldn’t pay $1 for,” she said. “The way I look at it, we’re going to lose, not gain (value)
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"Fair". Is it fair to watch the F&M building deteriorate in a long term race to lessen its tax burden to the owner? Is it fair to watch your neighbor's tax rate go down because they do not invest in their property (and thus the neighborhood hurting sale prices) and watch yours go up because you took the risk to invest in the city? I have the same outlook as McKenzie as it is a predictable path of the process in older areas.

I think most people will agree that those who can pay more should shoulder some more of the tax burden. In a "growth" area, pure assessment will work as people have a much lower risk in getting a return on their continual investment. They will take a tax hit knowing that they will recoup investment upon sale with rising house prices. But in a low demand area investing is risky enough with near static (or dropping) home prices due to surrounding disinvestment and an increased tax hit is just another blow. The inertia of it all is very difficult to turn around.

Old, low demand areas must be creative in their taxation so that they promote investment instead of a long slide of disinvestment. Residents should be rewarded for taking a chance of bringing reinvestment to an area. The long term growth will far out weigh the "fairness" trip to decay. Reward people "draws" such as nice houses and buildings: not low tax empty buildings, empty lots and parking. A mix of land based and value based taxation along with other tax incentives for hard hit areas will help turn things around. Or how about freezing the tax-rate at the purchase price until it is sold again? It rewards people for sticking around and investing and it bases it off of a true market rate price. You'll make up the taxes upon the next sale (or sales as others have the incentive to invest also). There are probably many more ideas out there but straight assessments are pry the least conducive to spurring investment in the city.

10/20/2009

Discovery Center Art Donation

Posted by MJ



From the Buffalo News: Penney will give art to canal center.

 Art collector Charles Rand Penney said Monday he intends to donate his entire collection of Niagara County-themed art and artifacts, nearly 5,000 items, to the Erie Canal Discovery Center.
Melissa Dunlap, executive director of the History Center of Niagara, which operates the Discovery Center, said a $225,000 plan is in the works to remodel the building at Church and Ontario streets to include a second- floor gallery for Penney’s collection....

UPDATE 10/23/09 Buffalo News Editorial 

UPDATE 10/27/09 LUSJ reporting items are now in possession of the museum.

10/16/2009

Halloween in Lockport

Posted by MJ

From Lockport Main St Inc. a listing of the events for the upcoming Halloween season:

Halloween Party & Trick-or Treat Downtown

- Join us for the annual Halloween Party on Thursday, -October 29th from 5:00 pm to 8:30 pm in the City all parking lot - One Locks Plaza in Lockport (sponsored by the City of Lockport Youth and Recreation Department).
-Begin at City Hall for pizza, games, and trick-or-treat bags!Then make your way Downtown for “Trick-or-Treating” from 5:00 -7:00 pm.
-Return to City Hall and check out the FAMOUS Kiss Concert! (from Livingston Place).

Pumpkin Decorating Contest
-3rd grade students from Lockport City School District and Market Street Art Center will be decorating about 400 pumpkins this Halloween.
- The decorated pumpkins will be on display at participating downtown businesses from October 26th – October 31st. Community members are invited to visit downtown businesses and vote on their favorite pumpkins!

The Haunted Palace
-October 27, 28, 29 from 6-10 pm and October 30 from 6-9 pm the Historic Palace Theatre—2 East Avenue in Lockport.
- Call 716-438-1130 or visit LockportPalaceTheatre.com for more information.

Lockport Haunted Caves
-October 14-30. Weeknights 6:30-9:30 pm. Friday & Saturday 6:30-10:30 pm.
- 2 Pine Street in Lockport.
-Call 716-434-CAVE or visit LockportHauntedCave.com for more information.

Happy House at the YMCA
-Happy House is an alternative to scary Halloween for children ages 6 months to 6 years sponsored by the Barge Canal Optimist Club and held at the Lockport Family YMCA—19 East Avenue.
-For a $1 donation, children play life size Candy Land, visit Pooh’s friends and share a friendly story.
-Times are Wednesday, Oct 28 from 6-8 PM, Thursday, Oct 29 & Friday, Oct 30 from 5-8 PM and on Sat from 9 AM to Noon, during the YMCA Fall Open House.

Main Street Masquerade
-Join us for “Main Street Masquerade” on Friday, October 30th from 9:00 pm to 1:00 am at the Historic Palace Theatre—2 East Avenue in Lockport.
-Tickets are just $10. With your ticket purchase, receive $1.00 off admission to both the Haunted Palace and the Lockport Haunted Cave Tours.
-Music and Dancing, Costume Contests, Prizes, Basket Raffle, Appetizers, Cash bar— beer and wine.
-18 and older. Costumes encouraged.

10/16/2009

As the Staffing Burns...

Posted by MJ


Drift Wood Fire Next To Low Water Bridge. Oldtown WVa.

LUSJ has an update on the recent arbitration ruling on the fire dept. minimum staffing requirement.

To have guaranteed minimum staffing of 10 firefighters per shift, as the arbitrator ordered, would require the city to hire nine more firefighters, Chief Thomas Passuite said. Barring that, it would have to more than double its annual overtime allowance for the fire department.
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Property owners won’t foot the bill, Mayor Michael Tucker vowed. The city will petition state Supreme Court for review of the arbitrator’s decision, and if the decision is upheld, the cost will be covered by fire service and/or staff cuts, he said.

“I hear through the grapevine some of (the union officers) are bragging, ‘We beat the city’ in arbitration. They’d better hope they lose in court, because if they don’t, the (stuff) is gonna hit the fan. Enough is enough,” Tucker said.
 -------
The 50-man fire department is organized into four platoons that take turns manning 10- or 14-hour shifts. Given time-off privileges granted the men in the LPFFA contract, even the nine-man shift minimum isn’t being met without calling firefighters in on overtime.

Here’s why: The LPFFA contract allows for up to four firefighters per platoon to be off duty at any time. Three platoons have 12 firefighters while another has 11. Subtract up to 4 from either number; also subtract the number of “unscheduled” absences on a shift, due to sick call-in, injury or military duty; then figure out how many men have to be called in from other platoons, at 1.5 times their hourly pay rate, to meet the minimum manning number.
--------

The big issue seems to be the number allowed off a shift at any time (according to article that number does not include "unscheduled" time off: sick, injury, etc).  A third of the scheduled work force? It seems excessive. Freeze the minimum number at 9 (no injuries or potential threats due to reduced manning in the last 3 years per article). Trade the minimum off to 2 (would allow for 1 unscheduled absence per shift without invoking overtime) for the hiring of an additional firefighter to round out the last platoon to 12 like the others.

I also offered this up in a comment to a post last week:
Perhaps instead of full over time you have "on-call" situations. Pay someone a small rate to be on call on a one or two person short shift night (a bit like a volunteer). If a fire event happens where they need to respond to a scene and are called they can receive the overtime pay for that shift. The city of Lockport is small. They can arrive close to the responding vehicle.

Like most of the corporate world does, why not benchmark other similar sized NE cities that have the same good safety record yet do it with less money and/or overtime? No need to reinvent the wheel on our own.

Any other ideas? How about public referendums on budgets on public employee contracts? Or even a public comment period on them (is there one already?) It's always surprising to find out whats in some of them.

10/13/2009

Why to Love (and Hate) Walmart

Posted by MJ

For those interested in Walmart, some recent articles on MSN:

Why you should hate Walmart
Why you should love Walmart

In praise of Walmart - another pro, but some interesting facts pertaining to the economy. And...

Finally, those who fault large discounters for the decline of individual shopkeepers are ignoring trends that have been around for more than a half-century. Similar accusations were made after World War II, when the growth of supermarkets such as A&P contributed to the demise of locally owned butcher shops, vegetable stands and dry-goods stores. Yet today, the supermarket is a symbol of the American way of life, and specialty stores that cater to particular tastes, such as ethnic and gourmet foods, are still thriving.


Let me say that my family and I have not stepped into a Wal-Mart store for years. When one opened in Philadelphia a decade ago, we found the checkout lines far too long and personal service lacking. We prefer to shop at more "upscale" discount stores, such as Target.
But I vividly remember the people who shopped at Wal-Mart. Many were from Philadelphia's poorer neighborhoods, and they shopped as if every penny counted. When I see groups such as Acorn, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, lead the battle against Wal-Mart by claiming to fight for "the disadvantaged classes," a thought comes to mind: Have any of their members ever spoken to any of the millions of Wal-Mart shoppers for whom the chain's "everyday low prices" are critical for making ends meet?

As an older rust belt city, Lockport has a big lower income demographic. Why should they have to pay $2 more a roll for paper towels down the road? I know the main issue is that the proposed Walmart is "too big for the site" but this is more for those that throw in other issues, even though they pertain to almost any big-box store. I understand Walmart is the biggest so it is the best target to attack but failing to note that it also applies to the rest is a bit disingenuous.

Walmart is so well run even making it better than our own federal government at providing disaster relief: Walmart at Forefront of Hurricane Relief. Though that may not be saying much? ;) When criticizing something (or anyone) it helps to also note what they do well. Nothing is purely "evil" and noting that helps give credence to your negative points.

Can Walmart to better? Yes. Though they consistently have done better than their competition, nothing is wrong with raising the bar. None of it though should preclude a new super-center here.

10/12/2009

October Storm - 3 Years Ago

Posted by MJ

The Buffalo News is reporting on the lag of replacing trees damaged in the surprise large snow storm of three years ago.

I remember waking up for work and turning on the news to hear the concern over all of the breaking trees in Buffalo. After  the storm redirected up here to Lockport I became even more concerned. I ended up taping a a few flag poles together and knocking the snow out of my trees as high as I could reach and others along the street. Pry not the wisest move but one of the reasons I live in an older area is all of the old mature trees and the feeling of "life" they give.

Tree replacement is usually one of the first things cut in a budget (because "we already have a lot") but when it takes 20 years to grow another one the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. To me, nothing reflects a neglected street or area like a city choosing not to replace the trees. It has a large subconscious effect.

10/09/2009

Sign Law Revision Proposed

Posted by MJ

LUSJ reporting that a new proposed sign law is ready for legislative review. The public hearing will be Oct 21st.

From the article:

Gone is an element of the 2008 law that triggered much resentment: imposition of a “preferred” colors palette for signs in the central business district.

The proposed revised ordinance would regulate only the type, size and placement of business and other signs — and authorize the building inspection department to issue sign permits instantly when the specifications are met.

The planning board would be asked to approve proposed signs only when they don’t conform with type, size or placement rules.
 It's logical to get rid of the need for the planning board to be involved and the resulting $100 fee. I look forward to reading the document.
Using quantifiable, physical attributes of signs, the proposed law still manages to ban or constrain certain types that might be regarded as “loud” or “tacky” by some. Banners, posters, pennants and other moving, fluttering, rotating, revolving and/or flashing devices — including animated/ video signs — are prohibited outright. Electronic message-board signs must hold a static message for at least 20 seconds before they change.
I'm curious how the new Aaron's  at Walnut and Transit got their signage through the old statue.



I find the huge back lit Aaron's sign very unnecessary coupled with the  pole sign on a street with a 30 mph speed limit and maybe a 2 block line of sight. Is this not "loud" and "tacky" to some (like me)? ;) There's no use (besides visual blight) for pole signs designed for 45-55mph arterials with pushed back plazas in an urban area. Not much luck melding the fakey drivit upper facade with the low slung modern design of the existing building but it did allow them to cram in a large sign. I'm curious to read the sign limitations etc in the new ordinance. Great touch on the full windows along Walnut though! If only the front looked half as good. People will say "well its their corporate look". The problem is their corporate look is the cheapest loudest design. For any chain retailer there are examples of instances where they design better stores where local ordinances require it.


10/08/2009

Budget 2010 Finalized...

Posted by MJ

...with a 1.7% increase in the tax rate. Stories here: LUSJ / Buffalo News. Cut were some empty positions, recycling program initiation and other line items. The city is using a third of its surplus  ($1.1) million to offset the increase in employee pay rates and pensions. This $1.1 million will need to be made up in next year's budget (2011).


LUSJ notes that Mr Chapman and Mr Smith, running for ward seats, were pretty vocal about it not being enough.


The budgets drew criticism from a couple of opposition candidates for Council. Jack Smith, candidate for 2d Ward alderman, and Andrew Chapman, candidate for 4th Ward alderman, both said the Council “failed” residents by approving spending plans containing any tax increase at all.

Ahead of the vote, Smith told the aldermen he hoped they would “think first about whether you’ve given your all to getting it down to zero. ... If you vote for an increase, I really think you haven’t done your job.”

After the vote, Chapman said, “I own a business and I’ve had to lay off a whole bunch of people ... . Sometimes we have to make difficult decisions in a difficult time. You failed the people.”

10/04/2009

Walmart Inching Closer

Posted by MJ

 LUSJ reporting that the latest Citizens for "Smart Growth" request was shot down. One more to go?

Walmart facilities have come a long way in the last 4 years. These delays will at least ensure we have a much better facility than we would have if it was built when originally announced.

10/01/2009

Budget Meeting Overview

Posted by MJ

LUSJ reporting today on the continuing 2010 city budget planning and then the budget meeting last night and the focus on recycling. The Buffalo News is also reporting.

It appears there was a change in the recycling plan that was discussed as Modern Disposal changed their bid (making it more expensive) and a city employee based service (picking up and delivering it to Allied in Kenmore) was submitted in its place. To get this city based option going it would have cost $102,000 or $0.16 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. The initial damage for recycling? $10.40 a year for a $65,000 house. That's a value meal at Subway. But public reaction at the meeting was still on the negative side. I'd only be hesitant on any long term costs of adding city employees.

Tucker was quoted as saying their is still hope.

Others argued it’s shameful that Lockport is one of the only municipalities in the region that still doesn’t offer a curbside recycling program. Instituting one now is about playing catch-up environmentally and morally, they said. ...... 
 The Council will hold a roll call vote on the final version of the 2010 budget next Wednesday. In the interim, Tucker predicted, “there’ll be a lot of debate about recycling. I think this Council pretty well understands, if there is a tax increase it can’t be any more than 3 percent. ... Can we have that and recycling? We’ll see.”
 If you are for it, be sure to let your council member know. The decision for this year will be coming next Wednesday.

Over all the budget is being whittled down with help from tapping reserve funds ($1.1 million).

During an afternoon work session, the Council approved some moves suggested by Mayor Michael W. Tucker and City Clerk and Budget Director Richard P. Mullaney that chopped the prospective tax increase from 12 percent to 3.86 percent