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Long Story Short: Some spring forward; others, not so much


Photo by Tiffany Rohrback (entrance to 1111 Tonawanda, Queen City Fine Arts)


Having political cake and eating it too

You say you’re a Republican congressman who’s wary of rebuking President Trump on his Trumped-up national emergency declaration, but you know that allowing him to get away with it sets a nasty precedence for Executive overreach?


Tom Reed has found a solution.


The solution

Congressman Reed voted against the Democratic House bill to reject the emergency declaration to build a Mexican border wall, but, the next day, he introduced a bill that says in essence, “Okay, but this is the last time.” Reed’s bill would amend the National Emergencies Act so that Congress must approve future presidential emergency declarations within sixty days, or they become null and void.


Reed says he believes there really is an emergency at the southern border, even though most experts, and the President’s own words, contradict that claim. And he says he is confident that the President has the authority to declare a national emergency, even though many authorities believe this particular one will not hold up in court. But what Reed doesn’t like is the authority of Congress being usurped.


A conundrum

Reed’s Southern Tier district is largely conservative, and many of his constituents buy into Trump’s border emergency. Reed doesn’t want to poke that hornet’s nest. But many Republicans are uncomfortable with Trump’s build-the-wall power play, because, if it stands, future Democratic presidents could declare emergencies regarding issues such as gun control or climate change. Reed’s support of the current emergency declaration, coupled with his proposal to make sure Congress has equal authority over such spending, is a pretty shrewd compromise.


Collins chimes in

Congressmen Chris Collins doesn’t see the need for the bill because, he says, Congress already has the right to revoke this authority. But there’s two problems with this. The first is, they may have the right, but they don’t exercise it. By not doing anything, Congress takes no responsibility and is off the hook for any repercussions. There are dozens of past emergency declarations still in effect, because Congress doesn’t act. The second problem is that you need a two-thirds vote in both houses to overturn a Presidential veto. That just doesn’t happen.


The takeaway:

What isn’t clear about Reed’s proposal is whether killing an emergency declaration would require a simple majority of Congress or a two-thirds vote. If it’s the latter, we’ll be back here again—many times. Calls to his Corning office for clarification, were not returned.



True crime stories



Have you ever seen someone driving erratically and wished you could do something about it?


Read on:
A forty-six-year-old Williamsville woman was driving erratically recently down Niagara Street in Tonawanda. She wasn’t just weaving or speeding; she was passing cars on the shoulder of the road and across double yellow lines, nearly colliding head-on with other cars. And, yeah, she was also weaving and speeding. Police got numerous calls from those who witnessed her creative traffic maneuvers.


Her antics did not go unnoticed. When the woman pulled into Tops Market to get gas, several drivers surrounded her car at the pump, boxing her in, and refusing to let her leave.


Let’s hear it for vigilante motorists
Police arrived and found Alprazolam pills and suboxone strips; anti-anxiety and opioid maintenance therapy drugs. They took the woman to Erie County Medical Center for a blood test. Charges were filed, and the woman was held on $750 bail.


Dumbest armed robber

February 28, a twenty-six-year-old man walked into a Bank of America branch at East Delavan and Bailey Avenues at about 1 p.m. He passed a note to the teller informing her that this was a hold-up.


The note demanded $60.


I don’t know about you, but if I’m going to rob a bank, I’m going to ask for more than the cost of a slow cooker. Also, the would-be bank robber’s weapon of choice was a steak knife. As armaments go, dinner cutlery leaves something to be desired, but tellers are trained not to resist. Turns out, resistance was not necessary.


Patience is a virtue
The man sat down in the waiting area of the bank, and, well, waited. His capture and arrest were everything you would expect of a discount bank heist. Police arrived, and the teller pointed the aspiring thief out; he was arrested without incident. A Buffalo Police Facebook post says he demanded “a large amount of money.” It may just be embarrassing to announce that you prevented a sixty-dollar bank robbery. The steak knife was recovered. No word on whether it was serrated.



More press for Caputo

On Monday, House Democrats requested that East Aurora political operative and Trump campaign advisor Michael Caputo hand over documents related to their investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign. His lawyer, Dennis Vacco, says Caputo won’t cooperate. Why? Because he is “not in possession of any documentation responsive to your request,” says Vacco in a letter to the House Judiciary Committee.


If true, isn’t that cooperating?

No. Caputo is also resisting a potential request to testify before House Judiciary Committee. Why? Because he already testified before the House Intelligence Committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee, and special counsel Robert Mueller. The guy is just tired of testifying.


No collusion (yawn)
Caputo insists there was no collusion between Trump and Russian interests, which is interesting on two levels. If, as he claims, Caputo had absolutely nothing to do with the infamous June 9, 2016, Trump Tower meeting, how could he know there was no collusion? (Answer: he can’t.) Second, the committee isn’t specifically looking into collusion; they’re focusing on obstruction of justice, public corruption, and abuses of power.


Caputo also says he has no documents on contacts involving Russia and the Trump campaign, including with Trump himself, or former campaign manager Paul Manafort. He has no documents involving contacts between Manafort, his longtime aide Rick Gates, or three foreign figures central to Mueller’s probe. He’s got nothing. Nada, zilch, zip.


It’s not the cost

"I am reticent to stand alone in defiance of the Judiciary Committee and rack up far more legal bills," Caputo said in a statement to The Hill, "but I might, if others among the 81 Trump Targets join me." What? Caputo complained previously about the financial hardship testifying caused him. Lawyering up and traveling first class add up. A year ago, he claimed that estimated legal expenses of $125,000 were causing him financial ruin (which in itself, strains credulity). But then his GoFundMe legal fund brought in $358,475, so he’s, you know, okay.


The takeaway:

You might feel bad for Caputo’s being dragged into these multiple investigations. After all, he’s a marginal player of little importance in the Trump campaign (though don’t tell him that). But when he refers to the Mueller investigation as a revenge strategy developed by “Hillary Clinton and her cronies,” and claims to have inside info on what’s Mueller is doing, you know this guy is a graduate of Conspiracy U.



The art of urban development

Buffalo used to be the Rodney Dangerfield of cities; we got no respect. All throughout the difficult decades, the arts persistently chugged along, keeping the cultural fire burning. As the city steadily gentrifies, the arts are surviving, even flourishing. This cuts across all the arts, but two new visual art initiatives exemplify the trend.


Queen City Fine Arts

In 2017, when Justin Dahl bought a building at 1111 Tonawanda Street in Riverside, it was in serious disrepair. Only part of it was being used, the basement contained a foot of water, and the rest had deteriorated nearly to the point of no return. Dahl spent the ensuing years restoring it at a cost nearly double what he paid for the 4,000-square-foot, 1920 commercial structure. Those costs are mostly building materials, because Dahl—who comes to this project with construction experience—did most of the work himself. His goal is to turn it into a place to live and run a contemporary art school.


When completed, the school will include a small gallery and offer lessons for adults and children in traditional drawing, painting (in various media), printmaking, ceramics, sculpture, jewelry, and later, darkroom photography. Dahl has years of experience teaching art in Charlotte, North Carolina; Chicago, Illinois; and, here, at Buffalo State College, Hyatt's art supply store, and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. He also ran Jubilee Gallery in New York City for a time. He’s now in the process of hiring additional qualified teachers for his new school.


State of the art

Dahl’s studio will be fully equipped with everything necessary, including multimedia. “I’m set up to show movies and have guest artists,” says Dahl. “I really want to be involved with other galleries and host artist nights.” Dahl compares his business model to a yoga studio, where blocks of classes can be purchased and taken anytime, without committing to a series of weekly lessons.


These will not be do-as-I-do “paint and sip” lessons. “I have a lot of followers among the public, with my teaching, because I show them simple things like how to measure [to judge proportions],” Dahl explains. He says students often tell him they were never taught these sorts of skills. “We’re not trying to make pretty pictures,” he says. “We’re trying to make better artists.” Dahl plans to combine comprehensive studio art instruction, interaction with professional working artists, gallery exhibitions, and lectures. He also wants to involve the community and promote the Riverside area, which he believes is on the upswing. 


The takeaway:
An art school will be an asset to this often-overlooked part of the city. The business is situated across from the charming Riverside Park, not far from the Niagara River. Watch for Queen City Fine Arts to open in the coming months, and look for more Riverside redevelopment to follow.


The Buffalo Institute for Contemporary Art (BICA)

With a name like that, you might envision something more expansive than a 1,000-square-foot former automotive garage at 324 Elmwood Avenue. BICAs physical site may be modest, but its mission is vast. Founders Nando Alvarez-Perez and Emily Ebba Reynolds are “experimenting with methods of becoming, breaking, and remaking an institute.” They also hint at a participatory art that will “break down barriers between the art world and the rest of the world in order to make lives better through practical engagements with contemporary art.”


Ambitious name; lofty goals.


What does BICA do?

The nonprofit institution presents work by nationally and internationally renowned artists, initially drawing from the founders’ considerable contacts. It also plans to facilitate skill-sharing interactions between artists, and to compile resources for local artists who want to grow their careers. BICA intends to radically reconsider how audiences can become actors instead of spectators.


Case in point: the inaugural exhibition by a San Francisco collaborative trio known as Bonanza includes a fashion runway show in the garage/gallery, inviting local LGBTQ activists, allies, and youth, to participate in a “celebration of ecstatic resistance and acceptance.” The show is set for May 18, 8 p.m., 324 Elmwood Avenue.


Why Buffalo?

“Nando and I met in grad school at the San Francisco Art Institute, and spent six years together in the Bay area living and working in the arts,” says Reynolds. Though they enjoyed the art scene there, they sought to open their own space, where they could make an impact.


They were inspired by a class with Cuban artist Tania Bruguera, who advocates a theory of “arte util,” which roughly translates to “useful art,” or the concept that art can help people. Reynolds and Alvarez-Perez considered moving to Los Angeles but, in order to start a space that was “authentic and served people,” they needed a place where they had roots and a stake in the future.


That narrowed it down to Reynolds’ home state of Colorado or Nando's home, Buffalo. “I can go on and on with love for Colorado,” says Reynolds, “but I never felt like our presence there would be particularly additive. Conversely, in Buffalo, there is a flourishing community of artists and art workers, a legacy of artist-run spaces, but also it feels like there’s room for new ideas and voices to flourish.” The proximity to other art markets in New York City, Toronto, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland also made Buffalo ideal.


The takeaway:

BICA reminds me of a once-scrappy little gallery started by two artists on the walls between their studios at the Ashford Hollow foundation. It was a very different time in a very different cultural climate, but you might have heard of it. The artists named their little space Hallwalls.


Long Story Short is an opinion column by artist and educator Bruce Adams, a longtime contributor to Buffalo Spree.


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