Back to the croaking

You’ll forgive me if I start this post with a quotation. Pulled from a recent book by a local writer, it describes his experience in setting up a new business, and I can’t help but find it very telling.

“There are croakers in every country, always boding its ruin. Such a one… said he was sorry for me… for [this] was a sinking place, the people already half-bankrupts, or near being so; all appearances to the contrary, such as new buildings and the rise of rents, being to his certain knowledge fallacious; for they were, in fact, among the things that would soon ruin us…. This man continued to live in this decaying place… refusing for many years to buy a house there, because all was going to destruction; and at last I had the pleasure of seeing him give five times as much for one as he might have bought it for when he first began his croaking.”

Now, allow me to clarify. The source of this abridged passage is founding father Benjamin Franklin’s widely-read autobiography. So when I say “a recent book by a local writer”, I mean “recent” compared to the sack of Troy and “local” compared to Addis Ababa. The city he describes is Philadelphia and the topic is the establishment of his legendary printing house.

All Buffalonians know their share of croakers, and even indulge in the occasional croak themselves. It’s difficult to resist. But the two examples Franklin gives of “appearances to the contrary” – new buildings and higher rents – can undoubtedly be seen here.

Five minutes clicking through will bring up quite a few updates on new builds or conversions. The Federal Courthouse, an old Expo hotel, Rock Harbor, the new Burchfield Penney – feel free to append as many et ceteras as you like. Take a drive down-town and witness cranes actually putting buildings up. Not exactly the image of decay you hear from the croakers.

As for rent increase, I can only offer anecdotal evidence, as I’m sure you can yourself. But consider the following, which I gleaned from an email debate between a croaker and someone with a more realistic perspective:

  • In May, CNN Money listed Buffalo as the country’s fifth fastest-growing real estate market.
  • Forbes put us within the top 100 cities in which to get a job in 2008.
  • Newsweek lists City Honors as the #11 public school in the nation.

Spend an idle hour at and find plenty of similar statistics, all of which certainly seem to be from unbiased third-parties.

Franklin gives plenty of advice in his autobiography, including that when positing an argument one should try to avoid definitive statements, that one should pad one’s statements with tempering “I believes” or “so I understands”. In this case, I will ignore this well-intended advice and state quite definitively that we should put a quick end to all of our self-defeating nonsense lest we end up like the man in Franklin’s parable. It’s not the snow that keeps people away from our fair city, it’s the croakers.

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