Friday, February 22, 2019

Economic development or economic cannibalism?

It’s not often that you’ll find me celebrating the loss of an economic development project that would have created 200 jobs in Western New York. But, I did just that a few years back when a deal to bring a Canadian plastics manufacturer to the Buffalo waterfront fell through at the eleventh hour.

That company would have been in direct competition with mine. Even though news reports and press releases identified them as a “furniture manufacturer” – which they are – they also produce products that we do, like kayaks and spa cabinets.

As a free market capitalist I typically welcome competition. But I don’t when competitors, especially those new to a region we’ve called home for 45-plus years, are given special privilege by my government. To bait the Canadians, the Cuomo Administration and the NFTA would have given them, among other incentives, $2 million in Excelsior tax credits, a super-sweet deal on publically-owned real estate, and 3.7 megawatts of cheap electricity produced by the New York Power Authority.

Had the Canadians pulled the trigger on the offer, the State would have enabled our competitor to produce the same products we do with considerably lower cost factors than us, all while operating in what’s basically our backyard. It would have been disastrous to the 230 families that I work with as we could have lost clients to the local and cheaper alternative. While the region might have gained 200 jobs from the new company, it could have lost a bunch due to disadvantageous competitive factors that were of the government’s doing.

This sort of economic cannibalism, in which economic developers sacrifice their own to bring in the next big deal, is not unique to Confer Plastics -- it negatively impacts every business, every home across the state. In order to prop up newfound businesses, they are allowed – and encouraged – to feast on the fruits of labor of existing ones.

Consider everything state officials did to bring silicone chip manufacturer GlobalFoundries to the town of Malta. In 2008-2009, at the height of the Great Recession and while the state was facing a $15 billion budget gap and small businesses were struggling to stay afloat, New York officials brokered a $1.3 billion incentive package of which $650 million was cold hard cash.

Then, the state gave multibillionaire and so-called entrepreneur Elon Musk a sweet deal to open up a factory for SolarCity (also known as Tesla and Panasonic at various times) in Buffalo. The Cuomo Administration spent $750 million of taxpayer funds to build and equip the plant.

And then we have the recently-deceased Amazon deal. Had the internet retail giant stayed with their plan to open a headquarters in New York City the state would have kicked in $500 million in cash incentives.

That’s just 3 projects totaling nearly $2 billion in state funds – my money, your money. There are countless more projects undertaken every year, much smaller in size, through which start-ups are given tens of thousands and sometimes hundreds of thousands in grants.     

Getting their mitts on free money gives them special privilege over all existing New York-based businesses still dealing with, unabated, what makes it difficult to do business in the Empire State and it puts the burden of funding those deals on taxpayers and businesses attempting to survive what has become decades of socioeconomic malaise in New York which, not coincidentally, was caused by the same state government brokering these deals.

While the GlobalFoundries and SolarCities of the world break ground and grow, they do it using the money made on the backs and risks-undertaken of others. This brand of economic development ends up cannibalizing jobs in one place to make jobs in another. In that case, economic value isn’t created, it’s only shifted, from your business or your household to another economic enterprise -- at the whim of government.

It’s not fair. It’s not just.

It is dangerous. It is time for a change.  

While you can certainly appreciate the efforts and intent of some economic development officials who want to fairly make the economy in their community, region or state better, too many of their peers are overzealous and reckless. To make economic development work properly they need to drop the blinders and abandon their love affair with corporate welfare and approach things with a collective, regional and truly entrepreneurial view and ask some critical questions: Who wins and who loses? Why are the winners winning; are they doing so on their own merit?

They’d be surprised by the answers. 

From the 25 February 2019 Greater Niagara Newspapers and Batavia Daily News

Friday, February 8, 2019

Offering alternatives to abortion

It’s been a tough year for the pro-life movement and we’re only 7 weeks into 2019.

First, New York passed legislation codifying abortion rights on the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, permitting abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy given certain circumstances related to health of the baby or the mother. The law also allows physician assistants to perform some abortions and moves the subject of abortion from the penal code to health statutes.

Then, in Virginia, delegate Kathy Tran introduced a bill with the backing of her Democratic peers that would loosen restrictions on abortion in the final trimester. Late-term abortions would be allowed under nebulous language that says the birth could “impair the mental or physical health of the woman”.

This, of course, has angered pro-lifers and even a good many pro-choicers who view this as going too far.

This has led to the usual debate – or more accurately lack of debate -- about all things abortion: It’s bad (which I believe it is) and we shouldn’t be giving federal funds to Planned Parenthood (which I believe we shouldn’t).

Neither of those arguments have won a fight and -- looking at the make-up of New York’s newfangled legislature as well as a President who’s happy enough to only issue a limit on abortions after 20 weeks – they won’t.  

So, I’m here to offer some advice to my fellow pro-lifers: Until the worldviews of the elected change, which isn’t anytime soon, change your tactics and go into action. If you truly value life and want to see it flourish, screaming at the sky won’t work. Step up your game and offer alternatives to death. Focus on saving the lives that could be impacted by abortion.

To do that you must offer, empower, and promote alternatives to abortion because the issues that lead to abortions are real.

It’s silly to think that those getting abortions are repeat customers, loose women (and the callous men who impregnate them) or gals who are inherently evil and enjoy smiting life. Most of the time, the person seeking an abortion is a woman who is absolutely scared to death after having made a mistake in judgement. It could be a high schooler, a young lady in college, a thirty-something professional…someone who, from maybe one moment of indiscretion or a missed pill, has had something happen to her that shakes up her world. Ask anyone who’s a parent…child-rearing changes your life, dramatically, and in a hurry. Not everyone is prepared for that. It can be pretty darn overwhelming.

We have to help these women be prepared for that experience and alleviate their fears – whether their fears are based on the physical, mental, emotional, or financial. They need guidance on protecting that life within them, keeping their life and mind intact, and becoming a parent or finding a home for their baby. They need people who care enough to lead them away from the path to abortion and give them the tools and resources to succeed (or least try hard at succeeding).

Such organizations are out there ready, willing, and able to serve our neighborhoods and help these young ladies in trying times, all while ensuring our world is blessed with the birth of a child. My column serves the urban centers of Lockport, Niagara Falls, and Batavia; let’s take a look at the pro-life pregnancy centers within those places.

Lockport is home to Lockport CareNet at 229 East Ave. ( The volunteer-driven non-profit has been in operation since 1985. They provide free ultrasounds, give parenting workshops to moms and dads alike, donate material aid like baby supplies, initiate community referrals for financial and medical aid, conduct adoption referrals, and provide loving support. I so value what they do for my community that they are on my year-end giving list every year.

Niagara Falls has the pro-life Summit Life Outreach Center at 1622 Pine Ave. ( They do the same things as Lockport CareNet but they also highlight their abortion recovery services. While they don’t do or refer abortions, they know that some women not originally under their care do have them and suffer stress, guilt, and emotional pain afterwards. They give those women the support, love, and help they need in those dark days.

Batavia has All Babies Cherished at 445 Ellicott St. ( Their services include education, support, and advocacy during pregnancy, but they also tout their support of young families right through the third year of life. That’s pretty special – they know that parenting and life are long-term commitments and support should linger until the moms and dads are truly comfortable on their own. 

I encourage all pro-lifers to support these organizations or similar ones within their communities. Give them your money and time. Donate baby supplies to them. Refer women in need to them. By getting involved, then and only then can we end abortion, one victory at a time…baby steps.   

From the 11 February 2019 Greater Niagara Newspapers and Batavia Daily News

Saturday, February 2, 2019

New York’s red flag bill raises red flags

Last week, the New York Senate and Assembly passed four bills focused on gun control that Governor Cuomo is expected to sign into law, maybe as soon as this week.

Among them was the so-called red flag bill which, per the Senate’s synopsis, “establishes extreme risk protection orders as a court-issued order of protection prohibiting a person from purchasing, possessing or attempting to purchase or possess a firearm, rifle or shotgun.”

The bill allows family members, school administrators and their designees (teachers, counselors, nurses) to petition a court and then prove that the allegedly-dangerous party is likely to engage in conduct that would result in serious harm to self or others. Police officers were included in the list of petitioners, but they’ve always possessed the ability to petition the court given they dotted the “i”s and crossed the “t”s…which they, and any of the other parties, would not have to do under this bill.

For anyone who values personal liberty, due process, and the importance of just law enforcement, this should raise some serious red flags.

Despite what the lawmakers might want you to believe, families and school officials, just like every citizen, have always had the ability to address threats. It’s simple: see something, say something, call the cops. Our Sheriffs, their deputies, and their investigators are empowered to investigate, identify, and mitigate threats. It’s their job, their calling. They’ve been trained in these matters and they have the resources and wherewithal to follow through on them and assume the risk that comes from it while making sure it’s done in a manner that protects the rights and safety of all parties involved as well as those of the greater community.

Despite that, under the red flag bill regular citizens can and are encouraged to circumvent the local police and directly engage the courts. The state is enabling those who know nothing of proper policing of public safety to propose to the court that someone is a danger. The individuals making these accusations need only to provide the court a compelling reason that probable cause exists -- without the actual hard evidence that would have been collected by police.

This opens the door to so many misinterpretations -- if not purposeful abuses -- of fact. Teachers aren’t criminal investigators; now we want them to add that skill set, with a lack of appropriate training, to their large list of responsibilities? Some folks are inherently fearful of gun ownership; so who’s to say that the very presence of safely-held and safely-used guns in a household isn’t perceived as a threat to them? Many people hold vendettas; what’s preventing an angry ex-wife or a combative school board member from petitioning the courts to remove guns from one’s home?

If any of those individuals do follow through with a petition the respondent is not granted due process – not an investigation and not even a proper and full defense because it’s a hearing-based system. He can’t even have his accuser investigated for potential fabrication. All initial power is granted to the petitioner. The respondent -- now guilty before proven innocent -- can pursue an appeal, but as anyone familiar with the judicial systems knows that’s a time-consuming process that can take months, even years.

Additionally, the respondent is entitled to submit one request – just one -- at any time during the effective period of an extreme risk protection order, for a hearing at which said respondent bears the burden to prove, by clear and convincing evidence, any change of circumstances that may justify a change to the order. How can the respondent disprove accusations that never had a legitimate investigation in the first place and could have been founded upon lies?

In either case, the guns have already been removed from that person’s possession without due process -- guns that are a constitutionally-recognized right, firearms that may have been necessary for personal protection and/or putting meat on the table.

The red flag bill, despite its alleged purpose, is also disingenuous in its urgency. The whole process for the petitioner and court is allowed a 3 to 6 day window in which to take place. If the alleged gun nut was such a danger to society, then why not address the threat that very day? A lot can happen over a few days if someone is actually unhinged.

This takes us back to square one. If an individual is a genuine threat, if red flags are going up, get the police involved. They can address the potential threat immediately and properly. And, by doing so, they can initiate a more appropriate investigation and the accompanying legal review, trials, and due process.

We already have the legal framework in place to address red flags. Let’s use that before the jumping headfirst into the Legislature’s bill. Public safety and personal liberty will be better served.

From the 04 February 2019 Greater Niagara Newspapers and Batavia Daily News