8/31/2010

Garbage to be Negotiated

Posted by MJ

The Buffalo News reported:

In seeking bids for privatized garbage collection, the city will allow negotiations with bidders after seeing their numbers but before a contract is put up for a vote.
Dawn M. Timm, Niagara County solid waste coordinator and a member of the city’s garbage committee, said last week the unusual process will be used to try to hold costs down for the proposed new garbage carts or totes the city intends to issue to each household.
“It’s the same route the City of Buffalo went,” Timm said. “We’re looking for the best way to finance the carts.”
Mayor Michael W. Tucker said the cost of a new garbage system is one of the questions that must be answered before the Common Council can vote on a 2011 city budget...
The last conversation on the topic was here.

8/31/2010

Early Retirement Approved

Posted by MJ

The Buffalo News reported:

The Common Council on Monday voted unanimously to offer an early retirement incentive to veteran employees. City Clerk and Budget Director Richard P. Mullaney said 19 employees were targeted for departure, most of whom will not be replaced. The cost of the incentive won’t be known until the city knows which of the eligible workers will leave. Each employee carries a different price tag, depending on years of service and the tier of the state retirement system that is involved. However, Mayor Michael W. Tucker is hoping that by 2012, the city will realize savings of $600,000 a year....
The cost difference may be a wash over the next couple years but will then reap the cost saving benefits if no one else is hired.

8/24/2010

Poll: 2010 Canal Concert Series

Posted by MJ


The end is here for the 2010 concert series. Still lingering around here hoping for more? Take some time and answer a couple poll questions:

The Best Molson Canal Concert of 2010?
Rusted Root
Our Lady Peace
Gretchen Wilson
Three Dog Night
Blues Traveler
Rik Emmett
Kansas
Tears for Fears
Big Sugar








  
pollcode.com free polls

How Many Shows Did you Attend?
1-2
3-4
5-6
7-9







  
pollcode.com free polls
Update 08-31-10 - results so far:


 
Fisrt time I tried this free poll service. Let me know of any problems in the comments section. The buttons should read "Vote" and "View" As of right now select the first one and it takes you to their site to vote. I'll work on something better for furture posts.

8/20/2010

LCC - Canal St - Gooding St area

Posted by MJ


Ulrich Canal St NCCC Plan Orig
My "Markup" of the area


To start off, the drawing submitted by Ulrich is way off scale (as it notes). The gazebo area is shown to be a nice cozy area instead of the large streetscape divider that it is. There are also several buildings missing (Zimmie's Scrito's) and I'm pretty sure north is pointing the wrong way but I will still use it as a reference start point.

1) Infill around the buildings to create as complete of a streetscape as possible. Density is our friend in trying to create an area that tourists, and residents will find interesting and want to walk along (and support)

2) Abandon Gooding St from Caledonia St to Ontario St. Create a new city block that could provide more amenities to those visiting the area. Right now the intersection is a large mess of asphalt that supports reckless driving and makes the area overall unfriendly and unsightly. Any new buildings here could house Lockport Cave Tours and give them direct access to the stairway and parking in the next bullet. It could also provide a landscaped walk over to the stairs right from Canal St.

3) Create a new municipal lot in the former ceramics plaza at the end of Caledonia St. This parking would be for Lockport Cave Tours and any other uses in the future buildings. If a structure similar to Ulrich City Center was built it would provide an interesting place for visitors to walk past over to Canal St and conversely provide those businesses prospective customers walking by. The Gooding viaduct and the residential past it make this a good start/stop point for placement of large scale parking.

4) With a new smaller 4 street intersection instead of 5 it would be an easier place for people to navigate. Continue the Main St crosswalk/streetscape design to tie the areas together. Make Canal St a one way over to City Hall to provide some vitality along the street.

5) With "people" being key (nothing draws a crowd like a crowd) lets get some residential components worked in. Mixed use tax breaks are available. Maybe the college could even build some units. One floor on Canal must be an apartment due to past funding sources. Buffalo had found success and N. Tonawanda is moving on a loft conversion. If we don't want a parking lot ghost town most of the day, we need the after 5 component of residents.

Lots of public money has, is and will be going into this area. A master vision is a must for it to reach its potential. It would also help sell each portion of it to individual stakeholders (and those to be). What are your thoughts on the area?

Interactive Google Map. - Join the Fun:


View LCC - Canal St - Gooding St area in a larger map

UPDATE: Intersection over 100 years ago: (Thanks Jeff)
What once existed in places never ceases to amaze me.

8/20/2010

Lockport Civic Crowdsourcing

Posted by MJ

I suppose most people have heard about crowdsourcing in one form or another.

...Crowdsourcing is the act of outsourcing tasks, traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, to a large group of people or community (a crowd), through an open call...
To me the key word there is community. People can debate the pros and cons of crowdsourcing but it would seem to have a perfect fit for a community to participate and give input to its government. What do you want your city to look like? How would you like it to function? Have better ideas?

I am proposing Lockport Civic Crowdsourcing. I'll tag relevant posts as such and we can can see where it goes. I'll create a list of topics here and link to them as they are posted on. Feel free to offer any suggestions in the comments below. It can be site plans, design guidelines, marketing, branding, ordinances, etc. You can be good at sketching, photoshop, writing, etc.

Since it is in the news, I'll tackle a piece of Ulrich's Canal St plan as it, and the Gooding-Pine St intersection have been on my mind for a while.

Covered Topics:
Canal - Gooding St Area

Possible Topics:
Chestnut St (Ice Rink - YMCA)
Altro (Willow) Park
State St
F&M - WNYCA block
Making Lockport = Niagara Wine Trail
Lockport Dog Park

8/19/2010

Ulrich's Canal St Plans

Posted by MJ




The Buffalo News reported that NCCC has revealed that Ulrich has contacted them over using the Canal St block for the culinary institute that has been slow moving at securing the old Rainbow Mall site in the Falls.
A Lockport developer wants Niagara County Community College to place its planned culinary arts institute on Lockport’s Canal Street block.
David L. Ulrich has sent a letter to college President James P. Klyczek offering to develop the land for the proposed $13.2 million hospitality and tourism school.
The Canal Street site, which overlooks Lockport’s Erie Canal locks, could save the college millions of dollars, Ulrich claims in the letter.
“While your current project seems to be in constant negotiation and renegotiation,” Ulrich wrote in a letter dated July 23, “we have a site that fulfills all your requirements and will be ready for occupancy within one year....”
Up until now the plans have been held secret under a confidentiality agreement. Now that we know what the plan is, it is easier to see why he may have wanted to keep it quiet. I could imagine a lot of misinformation and possibly being shut out of the process if it was revealed between the time he passed it by the city to when he sent out the letter. I'm very curious to see the site plan.

I can see this project working in the Falls or here in Lockport. A satellite specialty campus in either city could be a nice draw for NCCC students, residents and visitors. While not a campus in the heart of Boston, it would lend a good amount more ammenitites then the current commuter campus in the middle of nowhere. I'd be happy to see it take off in either city. Niagara Falls, N. Tonawanda and Lockport (the 3 Niagara County cities) should be seeing this type of investment to add new pieces to their future. I do feel that putting it in the bunker that is the old Rainbow Mall would be a mistake on Niagara Falls' end.
The college’s proposal for the institute, previous versions of which have included classroom space, a restaurant and retail space, has been floated for years as a place to house the school’s hospitality, tourism and culinary arts programs.
As for Lockport, tie this in with the original Jack Martin Niagara Wine Trail Emporium, and another store or two and it could be a big winner. Widen the vision and add some residential for students or others to kick it up another knotch. We would end up with a lively block to welcome visitors and residents alike.
The college’s trustees want to build the culinary institute, President Bonnie R. Gifford said, and have an obligation “to explore every opportunity that’s out there.”
“I do like some of the sites in Niagara Falls,” Gifford said, “but I will tell you that the Ulrich proposal was very impressive.”
Sounds like there may be some life to the idea but it is most likely still a long shot with most of the inertia behind the Cordish managed Rainbow Mall site. Hopefully a great plan, some enthusiam and a will to get things done can make something happen here.

UPDATE: 08-20-10
The Buffalo News has the site plans posted. I've included them at the start of this post. They also posted the actual letter to NCCC from Ulrich along with some audio interviews.

From the drawings it appears that the parking ramp would be at the site of the current city ramp (kill two birds with one stone?) and additional required floor space would be from extending the old Harrison building toward the back. I'll dissect it later.

8/19/2010

Unhappy Santa

Posted by MJ

The Buffalo News and LUSJ reported that Parada is pitching the Santa House to the Town of Lockport after feeling negative vibes in the city. The Buffalo News goes into more detail.

Santa Claus may move from the city to the Town of Lockport after deciding city officials were naughty and the town was nice.
The planned Santa Claus House, which was unanimously approved by the city’s Common Council two weeks ago, may be relocated to Day Road Park in the town.
Christopher Parada, executive director of the Historic Palace Theatre and a professional Santa, made the request at Wednesday’s Town Board work session.
He said the city had turned down his building permit, a statement that was categorically denied by Mayor Michael W. Tucker and Chief Building Inspector Jason Dool....
Some people are thin skinned. A discussion about ideas is just that. People need to undestand that vetting an idea does not mean someone is against it. We need to get past our initial human reaction to become defensive, pick up our ball and go home.
It also probably helps if you get the proper permits before starting your work:
...Dool said he sent Parada an e-mail last Thursday telling him he could have a building permit. “The only problem I had was handicapped access, but we could have worked that out,” Dool said.

“He seemed unsure,” Parada said. “It just has a negative feeling in the city. I don’t know why.”

“No negative vibes from me. I thought it was a really cool thing,” Tucker said.

But Chapman said he heard Tucker wanted Parada to move.

“He poured the pad on a Saturday without a permit,” Chapman said.... ”
The Santa House near the ice skating pad would a pretty sight in the winter. I feel it is a unique project that would add to the park although for only a small portion of the year.

8/18/2010

Tax Auction Results

Posted by MJ

The LUSJ reported that the city received low bids throughout the 2010 Tax Foreclosure Auction:

The gross on the city’s 2010 tax-foreclosed property auction, $217,000, is a sign of the lingering recession, according to auctioneer Russ Scherrer.



“The crowd was conservative tonight. You can see the sign of the times: Money is tight. Some good bargains were had tonight,” he said....

My theory is that I rather see that $217,000 reinvested into the structures instead of going to the city. Transfer the titles to vetted purchasers for say $500 with the guarantee of a certain level of monetary investment (auction based on the amount of investment?). Property values as a whole would rise (or decline slower?) resulting in longer term financial gains for the city.

...Mandeep Singh, who owns several small businesses in Lockport including Indian Grill restaurant at City Centre, bought three houses with his brother. The Singhs plan on fixing up 143 S. Transit and 15 Vine St., a single-family home, for siblings who’ll relocate to Lockport from Williamsville and Amherst....

It is nice to see a recent transplant continue to invest in the city. The property a couple doors down from 143 S. Transit was redone on the outside a couple years ago and if this one is done well they will make a nice small diversion from the Rite Aid bunker next door. If nothing else, hopefully we can see the grass finally cut....

8/18/2010

Drug Bust

Posted by MJ

The Buffalo News (article 2)and the LUSJ have both reported on a large scale drug bust in the city:

Local law enforcement arrested 18 people on federal drug charges in Lockport, Gasport and North Tonawanda on Tuesday morning, including alleged ring leaders, Eric Williams and Damien Ard, both of Lockport.



Lockport Police Chief Larry Eggert said Williams, 31, 118 Chestnut St., was their main target after a year-long investigation led to Williams, who Eggert said ran a drug organization of people around the county. Cocaine that Williams was selling was reportedly being trafficked into the Buffalo-Niagara Falls area from Texas.


“He ran a ring of people — all but one of whom we were able to detain,” Eggert said.


Eggert said his department, in addition to other agencies, executed 19 federal arrest warrants and 10 federal search warrants in Lockport, Gasport and North Tonawanda...
The list of names is a little light on actual addresses. Is it a "federal" thing to withhold that information?

Most of us probably see some type of activity on a routine basis. I've considered a blog post for "pictures of people and their cars who park in front of my house then walk around the corner for less than 5 mins". Usually following one around the corner or hawk-eyeing their plate keeps them moving or pretending to go elsewhere.

Anyone have any success reporting things to the LPD? They could most likely build a real nice database.

8/17/2010

How Facts Backfire

Posted by MJ

Interesting read in the Boston Globe about how once people's minds are made up, almost nothing, even the facts, can change their minds.

It’s one of the great assumptions underlying modern democracy that an informed citizenry is preferable to an uninformed one. “Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government,” Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1789. This notion, carried down through the years, underlies everything from humble political pamphlets to presidential debates to the very notion of a free press. Mankind may be crooked timber, as Kant put it, uniquely susceptible to ignorance and misinformation, but it’s an article of faith that knowledge is the best remedy. If people are furnished with the facts, they will be clearer thinkers and better citizens. If they are ignorant, facts will enlighten them. If they are mistaken, facts will set them straight.
Maybe not.
Recently, a few political scientists have begun to discover a human tendency deeply discouraging to anyone with faith in the power of information. It’s this: Facts don’t necessarily have the power to change our minds. In fact, quite the opposite. In a series of studies in 2005 and 2006, researchers at the University of Michigan found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs. Facts, they found, were not curing misinformation. Like an underpowered antibiotic, facts could actually make misinformation even stronger....
Most of us have seen this in action around us and if we are truthful: even within ourselves at least some of the time.

In a recent comment I mentioned that in the engineering field one needs to have thick skin to deal with the critical thinking others will apply to our ideas. If minds are truely open and not self serving (protecting) some wonderful results can be obtained. One must not look at the process as being right or wrong but they should see it as adding to the process of creating the best end result as a team.

A favorite song quote of mine is "...even the blind change their views..." As we discuss and impliment the pieces of our common future we must try our best to include other ideas, to vet them and to participate in making them even better.

One last thought:
...But researchers are working on it. One avenue may involve self-esteem. Nyhan worked on one study in which he showed that people who were given a self-affirmation exercise were more likely to consider new information than people who had not. In other words, if you feel good about yourself, you’ll listen — and if you feel insecure or threatened, you won’t. This would also explain why demagogues benefit from keeping people agitated. The more threatened people feel, the less likely they are to listen to dissenting opinions, and the more easily controlled they are...

This is similar to the CAGE education model taught to snowboard instructors:
Compliment-Analyze-Goal Set-Execute. It's amazing how well that first step works in all aspects of life.

8/17/2010

Council Agenda 8-18-10

Posted by MJ


The Council Agenda is posted for this week's meeting.

LUSJ reported on the public comment session for the early retirement plan and the bed tax.

8/16/2010

City Agendas

Posted by MJ

I noticed recently that the city has gotten up to speed on regularly posting common council minutes and agendas at the city website. I haven't checked in at least over a year at which time only the minutes were posted and usually not until months after the meetings.

Agendas are posted the Monday before the meeting (1st and 3rd Wednesdays of the month). The one for this week's meeting is not there as of this posting (Monday the 16th at noon).

I've also inquired to see if the agendas the Planning Board and Zoning Appeals Board can also be posted in a similar matter to give residents a chance to chime in on projects happening in/shaping our city.

8/16/2010

Lockport Santa House

Posted by MJ

The Buffalo News and the LUSJ reported on the Santa Claus House going up in Altro (Willow) park near the  canon at the corner of Willow and Cottage.

Chris Parada, executive director of the Historic Palace Theatre and a veteran Santa player, is having the house built and decorated using donations and money from his own pocket.



He envisions the house being open for children’s visits with Santa Claus at least three days or nights a week during December, as well as being a place where children can send their letters to Santa — and, with help from adult volunteers, get replies.


The house, a 16-by-16-foot structure resembling an old schoolhouse, is being constructed by Orleans-Niagara BOCES trade students now and should be delivered to Altro Park soon, Parada told members of the Common Council on Wednesday. Lighting will be strung on the outside and path to the house; and the inside will contain a full-size sleigh for children to sit on while they’re meeting with Santa...
The story is a little more interesting when you visit the "official" website: Lockport Santa. The history page reveals another unique piece of WNY history.

I noticed that the foundation was started when we drove by on Sat. I'm curious to see the final result. The planning board approved it last week.

8/12/2010

FTC to Tops: That's not a smart way to grow.

Posted by Black Phillip

This almost slipped under my radar...

LOCKPORT — Tops Markets will have to sell seven former Penn Traffic stores, including the Quality Markets on Rochester Road, the Federal Trade Commission announced Wednesday.

Besides Lockport, the Williamsville-based grocery store chain will have to sell stores in Bath, Cortland and two stores in Ithaca, and a pair of stores in Sayre, Penn. The FTC’s concern is that those areas wouldn’t have any competition if Tops kept the Penn Traffic stores. That would lead to higher prices for consumers, the FTC said.
Sooo..... Tops Markets was forced to sell some of the old Quality Markets locations (including the Lockport location) because of the lack of competition in the market.

Gee, I'm sure glad the "Smart Growth" people are fighting to keep the federally recognized Tops monopoly going.

-Erik

8/11/2010

Taste of Lockport

Posted by MJ

The 10th annuall Taste of Lockport is coming this Sunday, August 15th to Ida Fritz Park. The Buffalo News and the LUSJ reported:

"...About 30 restaurants, wineries and organizations will take part from noon to 6 p.m. The Teasers will perform from noon to 3 p.m. and 90 West Country plays from 3 to 6 p.m..."

I enjoy the Taste of Buffalo for its size and the ablity to seek out new place or two to try out.  I enjoy the taste of Lockport just as much to see if anywhere local is offering anything new and because it is a quick walk from home with managable crowds.

"...Chapman said the stuffed peppers will not be on fire, but on the mild side. Customers can also try specialty chicken fingers, that’s a breaded chicken breast meat. “We have the largest chicken fingers in the industry, almost one-quarter of a pound. “We use the biggest and best when it comes to chicken fingers....”

I love Papa Leo's chicken fingers. They are the type I rememeber eating as kid from the pizza joints on the East Side of Buffalo. Once the bar has been set on fingers of this size, any others are just a let down ;)

The secret judges are a nice idea that should ensure the main public has the best chance at receiving a good sample.

"Although the public gets to vote for that award, other awards, such as best wine, best entree and best dessert, will be decided this year by about 10 undercover judges.
They will simply get in line and buy food, so no one will know who the decision-makers are.
“I put one person in charge of it. She’s sworn to secrecy,” Chapman said. “Last year, the vendors brought their entries over to the judges. Who’s to say they didn’t make the portions a little bigger, or put some extra whipped cream on them? This year, we’re going to catch them in the act.”



LUSJ Article on Papa Leo's
LUSJ Article on Indian Grill
LUSJ Article on the Basket Factory

Official Taste of Lockport Website

UPDATED 08/12/10

8/09/2010

Building Code Enforcement

Posted by MJ

The Buffalo News reported on an uptick in the number of code violations being ticketed by the inspections department.

Since the city expanded the size of its building inspection department at the start of 2008, the inspectors have zeroed in on streets in the older parts of the city with a concentration of multiple dwellings.


Jason Dool, whose appointment as chief building inspector became permanent July 26, said that as many as 325 properties have been inspected on 17 streets where the enforcement blitz has been centered.


From January 2008 through June of this year, the department filed 3,820 violations of building and fire codes.


“That number is probably 400 to 600 higher because of multiple violations in multiple dwellings,” Dool said.


The department was intended to have four inspectors under the expansion plan passed by the Common Council in 2007. However, one inspector left and his provisional replacement failed a civil service examination and hasn’t been replaced for budgetary reasons.

This type of enforcement has been long called for and it is nice to see the push. Hopefully the housing court can keep up.

8/09/2010

Foreclosure Auction

Posted by MJ

It's that time of the year again. The yellow and black signs are appearing on properties around the city signaling the pending arrival of the annual foreclosure auction.

The Buffalo News reported.

LOCKPORT — A list of properties heavy on small homes in the older parts of the city will be auctioned off at the city’s annual tax foreclosure sale, City Treasurer Michael E. White said Friday.
The auction catalog includes 27 properties, 23 of which are houses. “It should make it interesting,” White said.
The sale is set for 6:30 p. m. Aug. 17 in City Hall. Bidders may show up to register starting at 5 p. m.
In a new procedure this year, White said prospective bidders may go inside properties on Aug. 16 or 17, but only by making an appointment in advance with the Building Inspection Department at 439-6754....
The properties can be viewed at http://www.auctionsinternational.com/ .

This is a rather simple run of the mill process. As I have said in the past, it would be nice to see it taken to another level with neighborhood plans and incentives.

UPDATE 08-13-10
LUSJ reported.

8/04/2010

City Early Retirement

Posted by MJ

The LUSJ reported that Mayor Tucker is looking into the long term benefits of buying into the state's early retirement program for municipal employees:

The Tucker administration is giving serious consideration to the state’s offer of early retirement incentives that could see up to 17 veteran employees leave the Lockport city payroll.


The incentives, if they’re affordable, could help the city “save money in the long run,” Mayor Michael Tucker said Tuesday....
...The pension fund would charge the city 68 percent of a Tier 1 employee’s salary, and 48 percent of a Tier 2 employee’s salary, to finance their early retirements, Mullaney said. As these longest-serving employees often also are among the city’s highest paid, this is what drives its early retirement tab...

...“A lot of municipalities are opting out because of the upfront cost, I guess, but I’m looking at it as a long-term opportunity to save, downsize, do things differently,” he said. “I’m not saying we will do it, but we are definitely looking hard at it.”
It could be a huge long term benefit to get these salaries off of the books, especially if job descriptions can be changed to reduce the number of city employees. It's worth looking into.

8/03/2010

More "Reduce My Assessment"

Posted by MJ

The Buffalo News has reported that Ulrich has filed a suit to reduce the assessment on the Ulrich City Center:

Real estate developer David L. Ulrich has sued the city to try to have the property assessments lowered on Ulrich City Centre and several other properties he owns.

Ulrich’s suit was filed just before the close of business Friday, beating a legal deadline for tax lawsuits.
The suit, filed by attorney P. Andrew Vona, asserts that Ulrich’s properties are assessed at a rate per square foot that is far higher than other downtown buildings.
Assessor Joseph Macaluso said that’s absolutely true, and there’s a good reason for it.
“The buildings are different,” he said. “[Ulrich City Centre] is a lot better. You’re comparing a good quality, 2006 brick building to some buildings built in the 1920s, of low quality.” ...
We've set up a race to the bottom. Hopefully he won't ask for the $50k assessment that Granchelli Development got rewarded with for sitting on the F&M building forever. Creating some type of hybrid tax structure with possibly a Land Value Tax feature would be worthwhile for all of the city.

We need to reward investment, not punish it.  Create a system that frees up money for those who would like to invest it. The investment would make the city more desireable as a whole. At the same time get those sitting on propertites to make them worthwhile or otherwise to move on and get them into the hands of someone that will.

There has to be a better system out there somewhere.....