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Long Story Short: Accepting disappointment, making progress, and celebrating

1/6/20



Photo by Stephen Gabris

 

Buffalo fans come through

As everyone knows by now, the Bills lost their first playoff game to the Texans in a heartbreaker, and their winning season has come to an end. “Maybe next year,” is what we’ve been saying since 1995, when the Bills last won a post season game.

 

But let’s end the season on a positive note, one that illustrates how classy Buffalo fans can be. Prior to the game, Baltimore radio host Jerry Coleman referred to the Bills Mafia as “stupid” and “losers.” For those unaware, the Bills Mafia is a group of super fans who demonstrate their devotion by drinking excessive quantities of beer and smashing through folding tables, so you might think Coleman had a point. But read on.

 

Del Reid, co-founder of  Buffalo FAMbase, and founder of the charitable organization, 26 Shirts, was also verbally attacked by Coleman, in a fit of what might be described as testosterone-fueled talk radio aggression. Reid‘s sin was questioning a list of potential candidates for coach of the year, comprised by an ESPN announcer.

 

It all took place via Twitter and on Colman’s radio show. He also called Buffalo a “city of losers.”

 

A class act

Reid chose not to be insulted, which more people ought to do, if you ask me. Instead, at the suggestion of his friend and fellow Bills fan, Stephen Brown, he asked his Twitter followers to donate to the Alzheimer’s Association in honor of Coleman, whose mother suffers from the disease. Within hours, hundreds of dollars had been donated.

 

Go Buffalo.

 

 

Balancing the scales of justice

Hundreds of Western New York inmates set free in advance of criminal justice reforms,” trumpets the headlines at Channel 2 news. “At the murder suspect's indictment hearing, Assistant District Attorney Stephen C. Earnhart read for the judge a long list of evidence he was turning over to defense attorneys,” writes the Buffalo News, in an article that goes on to detail how criminals might have it easier under new criminal justice reforms that went into effect on January 1. “Law enforcement calls for delay in bail reform, other criminal justice laws,” is the headline of an earlier article in the Buffalo News. “New York criminal justice reforms for 2020 draw mixed reactions,” announces WGRZ. Law enforcement and some politicians have been fearmongering for months, and, amid the headlines, not to mention overheated social media, the public must dig deep to learn the reasons behind the reforms. Sadly, too many depend on memes and news banners to form opinions.

 

The details:

In any news source—much less one titled Long Story Short—It’s difficult to encapsulate the complexities behind such reforms. The elimination of cash bail for many crimes is one of the new law’s most contentious aspects, but the old bail rules amounted to a form of systemic discrimination against the poor, who are often people of color. Bail was never intended as a punishment for being arrested. It was supposed to ensure that defendants appear in court for their trials. A major complaint against eliminating cash bail for people charged with serious crimes is that they will be free on their own recognizance. The economically privileged already enjoyed this benefit, while the poor remained in jail, separated from family, access to health care and education, and employment.

 

It’s about fairness

In a Facebook post, State Organizing and Trainor Director of Citizen Action of New York, Jamaica Miles, offers an impassioned explanation for the long-overdue reforms. “I’m looking through the lens that no one should be punished until proven to be guilty,” she says. The intent of the reforms is to cut down on the number of people—those too poor to afford bail—who sit in jail while awaiting trial at enormous cost to taxpayers. This frees innocent people prior to their court date, and it does so regardless of economic status. The old system rewarded those able to post bail and punished the poor.

 

Studies suggest that around 10,000 people are wrongly convicted every year. Imagine how many more are wrongly accused! Is it justice that the poor sit in jail for months or years before they even have an opportunity to defend themselves in court? Delayed trials often extended the length of incarceration.

 

The New York reforms

The reforms that have been put into place in New York, have already been used effectively, and with positive results, in other states. For instance, when Illinois enacted similar reforms, violent crime fell by eight percent in Chicago, while the number of those appearing for their court date remained unchanged. New Jersey enacted reforms like those now in effect in New York two years earlier. Outside groups evaluated the outcomes, and you can read what they discovered here. Same for Alaska.

 

New York reforms include a requirement that the prosecution and defense share all information in their possession well in advance of trial, enabling defendants to review evidence the prosecution possesses prior to pleading guilty to crimes (TV crime show viewers probably thought that was already true). The reforms also reduce unnecessary delays in trials; a speedy trial is guaranteed by the US Constitution.

 

Another advantage to all this is that trust in the legal system—often perceived as stacked against the poor and minorities—may improve.

 

 

School zone speeders beware

For years, I took Millersport Road to my place of work, and when I got to the school zone near West Hertel Academy, I would slow down to the posted school zone speed limit, which frankly felt incredibly slow. Inevitably, other cars would ride my bumper and honk, and often speed up and drive around me. What I—and most people—didn’t know then, was that in the City of Buffalo, those speed limits were not enforceable; they were advisory only, so you could legally ignore them. Not true in the suburbs, where you might get a hefty ticket for exceeding a school zone speed limit.

 

A new day

That’s all changed. Some months ago, the Common Council unanimously passed a new law to make school zone speed limits mandatory, and the mayor signed it. The city is taking the law seriously. Starting today, a new camera system has been installed in select school zones to catch and ticket speeders, and West Hertel Academy is one school they’ve chosen.

 

If the camera sees your car going too fast, you’ll get a $50 ticket by mail, regardless of who was driving. And police can still give tickets the old-fashioned way in zones without cameras. Schools were selected for cameras based on the number of accidents, and parent complaints (the squeaky wheel approach).

 

Leave it to Buffalo to adopt a system after others have already tried and abandoned it. Nationally, some communities, including Rochester, have removed similar cameras over concerns that they are not effective.

 

The takeaway:

LSS is waiting for additional information on this topic. Hopefully we’ll have that by next week. In the meantime, go slow.

 

 

First peek

There’s a whole culture surrounding movie trailers. Fans eagerly look forward to these initial glimpses of films they’re anxiously awaiting. Trailers or “teasers” are picked apart for plot clues, actor roles, and the movie’s stylistic look. LSS isn’t generally that fanatical about movie trailers, but we have to admit, we took a close look at the one that came out last week for A Quiet Place Part II, which was filmed last summer in Western New York.

 

The background:

The 2018 smash hit horror thriller A Quiet Place was masterfully directed by John Krasinski, and starred his real life wife, Emily Blunt, and himself. At $17 million, it was ridiculously cheap for a sci-fi monster movie, but it grossed almost $341 million, making a sequel almost a sure thing. The characters that survived the first film, plus a few more, return for the new movie.

 

Western New York as the setting

Akron, North Tonawanda, Olcott, Dunkirk, and Barcelona Harbor in the town of Westfield were all used in filming the movie, plus a secret sound stage in Buffalo, and of course, the Grand Island Bridge, which was shut down for thirteen hours last summer.

 

In the trailer, Blunt is seen tooling down Main Street in Akron, trying to avoid monsters and a whole lot of reckless drivers. Later, there’s an abandoned industrial site that could be one of many in the region. The Grand Island Bridge makes an appearance, and it looks like Olcott at the end of the trailer.

 

The moviemakers pumped $10 million into the region’s economy. It’s very possible this will become the biggest movie ever filmed in the region, surpassing The Natural.

 

 

The Burchfield-Penney Art Center is happening!

LSS often reports on favorable Buffalo press from around the world, but it’s getting hard to keep up. For instance, a recent article by Red Tricycle—an organization that encourages families to have fun together—is titled Underrated (& Affordable) Cities Families Should Visit in 2020. They cite Buffalo for being exceptionally family-friendly. Of course, in the same week, Business Insider rated Buffalo as the seventh rudest city in the country! This was based on a reader survey, so it’s only a reflection of the nation’s perception of our city, which is concerning enough.

 

A fond remembrance

In a recent Washington Post article, former upstate New Yorker, Philip Kennicott, speaks wistfully about the paintings of Charles Burchfield, and the Burchfield-Penney Art Center (BPAC). The article, with the unwieldy title of, I grew up in Upstate New York. It took the art of Charles Burchfield to help me rediscover the beauty of its winters, relates a recent visit by the art critic to the museum, where he viewed the exhibition Charles E. Burchfield, A Magical Rebirth, 1943-1967. “The show surveys the last decades of the artist’s career,” writes  Kennicott, “when he threw off any trace of obligation or restraint, and painted with a freedom and emotional intensity rarely matched by other artists of his generation.”

 

As a Washington Post critic, Kennicott is accustomed to reviewing the largest and most prestigious museums in the world, and he ebulliently extols the virtues of Burchfield, and by extension the BPAC.

 

Party at the BPAC this Friday!

You can see this exhibition, and a whole lot more, this Friday at Stay Gold: The Burchfield Penney Anniversary Celebration. The museum holds this “cultural happening,” celebrating the Western New York arts scene, once a year, and it’s one of the best free events in the city. There will be site-specific exhibitions, musical performances, and all sorts of surprises. Open 10 a.m.–10 p.m., it’s free all day. Special programs start at 4 p.m., with a special dance party starting at 9:30 p.m. Check the link above to see the full lineup and times.

 

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

 

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