Oct 15


Monday Morning Read

Jim Heaney's recommended reading this week has a little bit of everything: stellar journalism, wasteful tax breaks and exorbitant beer prices.

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Let’s start with the menu at concession stands at Sabres games, which kicked off Thursday with a dreadful home loss to the New York Rangers. (They lost again last night.) Beer is up to $17 a can – $17.50 if you want craft. Pizza is $9.25 a slice. I could go on, but you get the picture. Season ticket holders get a discount, but still. Delaware North, which recently lost the concession contract for Bills games once the team moves into its new stadium, has promised to play nice at the downtown hockey arena. Hey, Jeremy Jacobs, $17 a beer ain’t nice. 

Concessionaires don’t have to abuse fans to make money. The Atlanta Falcons are doing just fine charging $5 for a beer and $2 for a hotdog. Check out the photo in this story showing what $20 can buy you at a game. For that amount of money, you’ll get a slice of pizza and a pop at the Sabres game.

Speaking of the downtown hockey arena, the Toronto Maple Leafs are dropping $350 million to update their rink. The improvements range “from new or upgraded premium areas to revamped, enlarged concourses that use cutting-edge technology to accelerate food and drink purchases or just add to the decor. Not to mention, a unique art collection,” reports The Toronto Star. Meanwhile, Terry Pegula had the floors washed during the off season at KeyBank Center. The only noticeable upgrades were to concession stands and you know that’s all about squeezing fans for more money. The team has promised a new scoreboard, but hey, how about at least a fresh coat of paint and a few new pictures on the wall in the meantime?

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I just finished my latest book by arguably the best newspaper editor of his generation. Martin Baron led the Miami Herald, then Boston Globe (think Spotlight Team) and finally The Washington Post. My three takeaways from his Collision of Power: Trump, Bezos, and The Washington Post, were vivid reminders of how awful Donald Trump was and is, that Jeff Bezos was and is a good newspaper owner, and that Baron retired  in part because he was fed up with the BS that can come with running a large newsroom, or, I suppose, any large organization. In his closing chapter, Baron makes a convincing case for journalists to stick with traditional news values, starting with a commitment to objectivity. Highly recommended reading, but don’t just take my word for it: here are reviews by PoliticoThe New York Times and an interview he recently gave CNN.

The Post, in the wake of Baron’s departure, is back to losing money and cutting staff, although it’s the economics of the newspaper business, not the actions of his successor, that’s driving the retrenchment.

Baron, in his book, cites the growing importance of nonprofit investigative reporting centers and last week the Nieman Journalism Lab published the results of a study that found “prosecutions for public corruption are more likely in U.S. communities served by a nonprofit news outlet, a relatively new business model that often aims to fill the void left by shuttered traditional local newspapers.” That was certainly the case here in Buffalo when we exposed bid-rigging in the Buffalo Billion program.

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Tax breaks offered by industrial development agencies can be bad for local tax bases, depriving cities, towns and school districts of revenue and shifting the tax burden to existing taxpayers. Our J. Dale Shoemaker has done lots of reporting on the subject. Last week, other news outlets did likewise.

New York Focus reported on the crippling impact of tax breaks on one Long Island school district. Some folks in Riverhead are calling for dissolution of the local IDA that’s been doling them out.

Jonathan Epstein of The Buffalo News reported that the Lockport IDA approved tax breaks for a plastics manufacturer, even though the company had lied to the agency in the course of pursuing abatements.

Meanwhile, housing developers are seeking tax breaks to mostly build upscale apartments – here and here – even though the projects will produce few jobs, which is supported to be the mission of IDAs.

The News’ editorial board called out the IDA in Genesee County for its handling of a project to build a sewage transmission pipeline to serve its STAMP industrial park.

Elsewhere on the economic development front, 43North, in the business of promoting start-up companies in Western New York, awarded $1 million each to five out-of-town firms. They have to relocate to WNY, but only for a year, and as I reported in a recent WeeklyPost, only about half of the 60 companies that have received money over the program’s eight years remain headquartered here. (Cue up Steve Miller’s Take the Money and Run.)

Investigative Post

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