Long Story Short: The vote, the knee, the checkpoint—and Marshall

10/2/17



illustration by JP Thimot

 

The cost of winning

What’s the going per-voter rate for luring citizens to the voting booth on Democratic primary day, when the winner of the primary race will undoubtedly become mayor? Well, the overall cost goes down when you buy in volume.

 

The details:

Mayor Byron Brown spent just over a million dollars in the primary, and, for that, he got exactly 13,346 votes. That may not seem like many, but it’s fifty-two percent of the 26,116 people that cast a ballot. Breaking it down, it cost Brown about $75 dollars for every vote he got.

 

Mark Schroeder spent about $47 dollars per person for his 9,461 votes. And Betty Jean Grant’s 3,264 votes were a steal at just seven bucks per. Ironically, according to the Buffalo News, overall spending per voter was actually down this year. You get more bang for the buck when more people vote.

 

Think about this: eight years ago, Mickey Kearns lost the Democratic primary to Brown while getting 14,866 votes. That means that more people voted for the losing candidate eight years ago than voted for the winning candidate in either of the two mayoral elections since.

 

Back when Jimmy Griffin was winning his four mayoral terms, an average 72,500 registered Democrats voted in the primaries. The pool of voters has shrunk since then, but not by that much. Voter apathy is the fashion in Buffalo, and it’s not just anemic mayoral races; Common Council, school board, and other elections are won by tiny margins in lackluster turnouts. Civic engagement seems to have gone the way of landlines and bookstores.

 

The takeaway:

What Buffalo needs is a good $1.98 mayor. Someone who spends under $100,000 dollars, but has the charisma and vision to garner 50,000 votes. Someone genuine, please: no fear mongering populist tricksters. Anyone? Anyone?

 

 

What’s up?

Old Glory of course, the Red, White, and Blue, that grand old flag.

 

Yesterday, six Buffalo Bills again joined other National Football League players in “taking a knee,” rather than standing for the National Anthem at the start of their winning game. Others in the NFL locked arms. Three Sundays ago, only a few NFL players were taking a knee. But that number exploded after our Divider and Chief referred to any player who protests in this manner, as a “son of a bitch,” adding that such a player should be fired. Trump then called for a boycott of the NFL.

 

A quarterback sneak and counter-protests

Former Bills Quarterback Jim Kelly also expressed dismay at the knee-bending protestors, suggesting instead that they stand and lock arms (a traditional defiant anti-war stance), because—you know—that’s somehow more respectful. Thank you, Kelly, for calling the perfect play. Pretty sure that was a no-huddle remark.

 

As reported in the Buffalo News, three flag-carrying Army veterans marched on Abbott Road outside New Era Field Friday, in a plea for unity and respect for veterans. They also do not approve of the knee-bending NFL player protests. One flag-waving veteran had this to say about black protestors: “We get their issues and all three of us would go down to wherever they want to (in order) to fight the injustices of the people…” And another said, “If they want to stand and do the right thing with the flag, I’ll stand with them in any kind of demonstration they want to make to prove their point...”

 

Watching the recent Ken Burns and Lynn Novick PBS documentary, The Vietnam War, I was struck by one statistic: fifty-six percent of Americans did not approve of the war protestors at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. That happens to be the exact same percentage of Americans in 2017 who do not support the take-a-knee players protesting police treatment of people of color in America.  It turns out, though, that America’s awareness and discontent with Vietnam increased in the wake of Chicago and similar protests, greatly hastening the end of our involvement in what is now widely considered an unjust war.

 

The takeaway:

There have already been several demonstrations against police violence toward people of color here in Buffalo. The three vets now expressing their support for the cause were apparently not at any of them. Just as Vietnam protestors drew attention to the war, the kneeling football players may finally be getting the attention of white America. And that’s the point. Now do we have to mention the civil rights protestors of the fifties and sixties who took seats on buses and at lunch counters? They met with disapproval too.  

 

 

Checkpoint check

The Buffalo Police Department (BPD) has been criticized for targeting poor neighborhoods, and people of color with traffic checkpoints. This week the BPD released statistics for all 121 checkpoints carried out from August 4 to September 20.

 

The details:

Common Council president Darius Pridgen requested the data. The report lists the number of checkpoints by council district, along with the total subsequent traffic tickets and arrests. The data further breaks down tickets into several categories. Of course, there’s no telling what the checkpoint breakdown was before August 4, the date of the request.

 

There was indeed inequity between districts, due to many factors, say the police, including the number of complaints in a district. And the inequity is not what you might expect. (Note: Long Story Short relied on conflicting media reports of the data, because the actual police report was not available on short notice.)

 

Here’s the checkpoint breakdown according to the Saturday Buffalo News (with a couple caveats):

North – 24
Delaware – 5 (or 9, depending on which Buffalo News article you read, 10 if you believe WKBW news)
Niagara – 21
Ellicott – 4
University – 6 (or 5, depending on which Buffalo News article you read; 5 if you believe WKBW)
Masten – 7
Fillmore – 11
Lovejoy – 27
South – 12

 

While it’s true that the wealthier Delaware district had somewhat fewer checkpoints (no matter which media report you read), so did the East Side Masten and Ellicott districts. Niagara got hit hard, but Lovejoy and North did too.

 

The devil, as they say, is in the details. So Long Story Short pulled out our trusty calculator and did some math to determine which districts yielded the most tickets on average per individual checkpoint. That honor goes to Masten with twenty-two. Delaware is hard to calculate because the media doesn’t seem to print the same numbers for that district twice. Most likely, it’s somewhere around eleven, same as University. North, Fillmore, and South all with around twelve. Niagara and Lovejoy are fairly high with seventeen and nineteen respectively.

 

The takeaway:

For this seven-week period, the police spread the checkpoints around, with less in University, Masten, Ellicott, and Delaware. Some districts produced higher ticketing numbers on average than others. However, Long Story Short believes the data demonstrates that these checkpoints do not “have a specific purpose outside the normal purpose of preventing crimes generally,” as required by the Supreme Court to be considered legal. A recent Black Lives Matter lawsuit against the BPD will hopefully address this question.

 

 

Marshall to premiere in Buffalo

It took what seemed like forever. The movie Marshall will premiere in Buffalo on October 7 at the North Park Theater. It opens nationally on October 13.

 

Why is that special?

The biopic about young defense lawyer Thurgood Marshall—the man who would later become the first black Supreme Court justice—was filmed in and around Buffalo. Locations include homes on Middlesex Road, the Genesee County and Dillon courthouses, City Hall, the Niagara Falls Library, and many more. Through the miracle of movie magic, they even bring the Central Terminal back to its glory days.

 

Chadwick Boseman plays the title role. Yes fanboys, that is none other than Marvel’s Black Panther, and (for baseball fans), he was also Jackie Robinson in 42. Another superhero role: James Brown in Get on Up. Fingers crossed that the movie does well with critics and moviegoers alike, but what we really care about is seeing Buffalo on the silver screen.

 

Stay for the credits to read the names of local artists David Butler and (fingers crossed again) Mathew Myers. Both were profiled in earlier Buffalo Spree articles.  Butler was the movie’s on-set dresser, which entailed, among other things, finding many of the props that appear in the film. Myers plays the courtroom artist, utilizing his highly developed drawing chops. We’ll have to wait and see if his scenes make the final cut. There will be many other local names throughout the credits.

 

The takeaway:

The premiere is presented by WNED TV, as part of the Buffalo International Film Festival. Parts of the movie were filmed in the WNED studios. Tickets are $15 dollars and benefit WNED and WBFO. They can be purchased at wned.org.

 

 

Artist and educator Bruce Adams is a regular contributor to Spree.

 

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