On Friday, April 18th, noted Harvard Economics Professor Edward Glaeser will be in Buffalo as part of a panel to discuss his take on Buffalo and what can/should be done with our city (Resurrecting Buffalo). If you haven’t heard about Glaeser before, well then he probably hasn’t written a controversial article about the fate of your hometown.
Published in the New York Sun and in City Journal , the article — “Can Buffalo Ever Come Back?” — came out in Autumn 2007. Ok, fairly objective and intriguing so far, but then the City Journal version tacked on the subtitle: “Probably not — and government should stop bribing people to stay there.”
Though he was invited here by the University at Buffalo Regional Institute, the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, and the Buffalo Branch of the Federal Reserve, it may seem to some like Glaeser is attempting the journalistic equivalent of insulting your mother and then coming over to have dinner with you and all of your siblings at your parents’ house (FYI, Prof. Glaeser: I have four brothers).
As to the content of the article itself, though, aside from some broad assumptions about human wants, a somewhat ham-handed approach to local history, and the obligatory misinformed Buffalo-weather insults, there are some kernels of insight embedded that would serve to spark productive discussions on the plight of our city.
This wasn’t the first time I’ve ever thought we would be better off if the oft mis-appropriated quip “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers” was applied instead to headline writers. But when the opener is so far over the top that finding the article’s merits is more difficult for most Buffalonians than finding an Ottawa Senators fan at the Anchor Bar (FYI: if you do find one, it’s probably one of my brothers, so be nice), you have a problem.
Nevertheless, I encourage you to read this article. Why? Members of the GLUE network will see pretty clearly that Buffalo herein serves merely as a trope for any Great Lakes (f/k/a Rust Belt) city. So how would you respond (in a productive way) if this article had been about your city instead, and if you had been asked to represent the ‘younger leader’ contingent here in a public forum? I have. Please post your thoughts here or get in contact with me to discuss.
I certainly have my own take on the situation here in Buffalo, but would like as much as possible to inject the perspectives of all of you out there who are not only trying to make it in the Great Lakes cities, but trying to make the Great Lakes cities better in the process.