Long Story Short: Making the news for better or worse
Good cop wronged
Imagine if, when former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, another officer had intervened to force him off. Knowing what we know now, that officer would be a hero, instead of being charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder. But what if this heroic officer had physically prevented Chauvin from killing Floyd, and then Chauvin complained that this put him at risk? What if that heroic officer who stepped in and did the right thing was fired for preventing a white cop from killing another unarmed black man, and then was sued on top of that by the white cop for defamation? Gross injustice, right?
It happened here
That’s exactly what transpired with Buffalo police officer Cariol Horne back in 2008. It’s what happens in Buffalo when a black female officer tries to prevent a white male officer from potentially killing a black man during a police encounter. For her act of heroism, the Buffalo Police Department brought disciplinary charges against Horne and fired her less than a year away from earning her pension. A judge in the case did not accept Horne’s claim that she "saved the life of a suspect who was already in handcuffs and was being choked out by officer Greg Kwiatkowski."
In 2018, Kwiatkowski was convicted of using "unlawful and unreasonable force" against four black teenagers and sentenced to four months in federal prison. For that to happen anywhere in this country before recent events, Kwiatkowski’s actions had to have been blatant.
In the wake of Floyd’s death—which occurred when none of the other officers there intervened—we are in the middle of a public uprising against police misconduct. Recently, the Buffalo Common Council approved three resolutions opposing police brutality. One enforces the city’s “duty to intervene” policy, dubbed “Cariole’s Law,” which requires officers to intercede if they see another officer using excessive force. The council is also creating a task force to review police policies. The third resolution asks the state attorney general to investigate Horne’s firing, and determine how many days she would need to work to regain her pension.
The national spotlight
Because of this new interest in Horne’s case, last week, Buffalo made national news again, when the fired officer’s story was picked up by CBS This Morning news. This follows the viral video of Buffalo police pushing seventy-five-year-old protestor Martin Gugino to the ground, fracturing his skull. Buffalo is getting quite a national reputation for police misconduct.
An online petition in support of Horne to receive her pension is closing in on 200,000 names.
The politics of working
What happens when a company lays off trained workers during a pandemic, and then wants them to come back to work? Well, theoretically, they go back. But the Buffalo Niagara Manufacturing Alliance says a number of area employees are refusing to return to work because they’re making more on unemployment. The $600 weekly federal unemployment payment that workers get on top of state unemployment was meant to help people, while pumping money into the economy. It’s also making working less profitable than staying home where it’s safe.
Who can afford to work?
This is impacting restaurants and breweries in particular. Restaurant employees often make so little that even with their tips added in, they can’t beat the added $600. Some workers may also be staying away because they have a vulnerability to COVID-19, such as a compromised immune system. Or they may have children at home. The state brewer’s association says it’s reluctant to report people who refuse to return to work. They would rather not force employees to come into an environment where they do not feel safe. The $600 federal payments end in late July.
Et tu, Brutalism
Buffalo’s architecture is rapidly undergoing changes. One only need look at the precipitous transformation of the Elmwood Village to see the effects of recent accelerated development.
Buffalo’s tallest downtown building has been undergoing an extreme makeover for quite some time, and not all of it is being embraced by urbanists and city planners. And now it’s getting a dye job too. More accurately, Seneca One Tower is being painted, changing its color from industrial gray to something between terra cotta and maroon.
Washington DC-based developer Douglas Jemal purchased the vacant building in 2016, and then—surprisingly—added more structures around it. He’s even adding retail—which has struggled for decades downtown—to the mixed-use development. When M&T Bank announced that it would establish a technology center there, bringing 1,500 new jobs to the city center, it spurred interest from other industries. All this is good for Buffalo.
A concrete concept
Here’s the thing though: the architectural style of the building is called Brutalism, which comes from the French béton brut, literally “raw concrete.” It’s not supposed to be painted. The style was popular in the 1950s through the 1970s, but, even at the time, it had many critics. Some call it modernism’s last gasp.
In recent years, the style has been acquiring new fans. But oddly enough, its appeal is somewhat weather dependent. In sunny desert climates, some examples of the style are seen as great art. But in places where the greyness of winter plays a significant role in the public’s psyche, Brutalist buildings are often described as cold, dark, and uninviting.
So, what does all this mean? The new reddish color certainly warms up the building. Public response so far is mixed, with no extraordinary vehemence either way. One thing though: unless the paint is sandblasted off sometime in the future, Jemal has created an ongoing maintenance responsibility for the rest of the building’s life. Few skyscrapers are ever painted for that very reason.
Smells like teen spirit
Nineteen-year-old Scott Wilson has announced his intent run for Buffalo Mayor against Byron Brown in the Democratic Primary. The teenage candidate has worked for several state campaigns and attempted to run for Buffalo City Comptroller last year, but didn’t get enough signatures.
Wilson says he has a plan, and he’s going door to door with a list of names of people who he says will help him put his plan into action on day one. “I'm here to hire people for not who they know, but what they know,” he said at a recent press conference, “so we can move this city into the future.” Whoa, there’s a concept that hasn’t been tried for quite some time in Buffalo.
Them’s fightin’ words
“Mayor Brown’s faulty leadership has tarnished the name of the City of Good Neighbors for far too long,” continues Wilson. “In the past few weeks, I honestly believe the mayor has demonstrated his complete lack of leadership capabilities and lack of enthusiasm to deliver real change for the residents of Buffalo.”
When asked for a comment, Mayor Brown says he is too busy “working day and night for racial equity, the end to police brutality, and restoring calm to the City of Buffalo” to talk about politics.
The Incredible Ruffalo
“It’s [Buffalo] one of the most exciting cities in the United States right now for their resilience, and it’s [PUSH Buffalo] led by this beautiful, powerful, African American immigrant woman, Rahwa Ghirmatzion.” That was Incredible Hulk actor Mark Ruffalo speaking on the Jimmy Kimmel Show about our very own city, as he requested that the talk show host donate money to PUSH Buffalo. It’s a regular feature of Kimmel’s show, where he donates to some charity on behalf of his guests. But what made Ruffalo pick Buffalo? (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)
PUSH Buffalo says their mission is to “mobilize residents to create strong neighborhoods with quality, affordable housing; to expand local hiring opportunities; and to advance economic and environmental justice in Buffalo.” Ghirmatzion has met Ruffalo and has kind words for him also. “He’s a very gracious, really caring human being, who really is incredibly passionate about what’s happening with climate, but he’s also very passionate about what’s happening to people of color and inequity in general,” Ghirmatzion says. So that explains Ruffalo’s request, which put Buffalo in the national spotlight last week for something other than police brutality.
And then this happened
Ironically, shortly after Ruffalo’s visit to his show, Kimmel announced he will be taking the summer off to be with his family. This happened just after the late-night star was engulfed in controversy over a reoccurring blackface skit he performed years ago while working on "The Man Show" on Comedy Central. And here ABC just announced that Kimmel will be hosting the Emmys telecast on September 20. Neither Kimmel nor the network have addressed the blackface issue. Perhaps Kimmel feels a couple months off is what is needed to let the storm pass. Luckily for Buffalo, Ruffalo got in under the wire.
The end of an era
Last week, Cellino and Barnes made it final. “Today Ross and Steve have agreed to part ways, and form two separate firms – Cellino Law and The Barnes Firm,” said a statement from the company.
No more incessant TV commercials with the legal eagle duo locked in frozen smiles. No more billboards with grinning bookended heads. No more radio ads or earworm jingles with “eight, eight, eight, eight, eight, eight, eight” lyrics. For nearly thirty years, they’ve been a part of our lives—sixty years if you accept the spin on their website, which, oddly, is still up.
After years of cold war, then an actual protracted courtroom war, Cellino and Barnes finally pushed the nuclear button and blew their firm up. In this period of uncertainty, the one constant in our lives, was “Don’t wait! Call 8!” Now that’s gone. Civilization as we knew it will never be the same.
Long Story Short is an opinion column by artist and educator Bruce Adams, a longtime contributor to Buffalo Spree.
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