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Thread: Why does Buffalo get such a bad rap?

  1. #1

    Why does Buffalo get such a bad rap?

    Buffalo NY is great for prospective planning students. SUNY Buffalo has great undergrad and graduate programs for urban planning. The city is your classroom and the region is your oyster...if that makes sense.

    I would say for prospective planning students from New York, SUNY Buffalo is a good move and you will fall in love with it here.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Buffalo gets a bad rap for a number of reasons ...
    • It's a quintessential Rust Belt city that has all the Rust Belt city stereotypes, and some uniquely its own. Buffalo wasn't just a heavy manufacturing center, but also a major grain milling/transshipment center until the opening of the St Lawrence Seaway killed that industry.
    • The area, mostly south of the city proper, gets a lot of snow because of prevailing winds off Lake Erie. Its biggest weather event was the infamous Blizzard of 77 (sort of the Katrina of its type and day).
    • Buffalo was never a big corporate center town, and the few Fortune 500 companies that were headquartered here were bought up by bigger companies or moved their HQ. Consequently, there are't a lot of big, glitzy office towers downtown.
    • The Buffalo major league sports teams have been notable for their inability to win championships -- and in most years, even have winning seasons! It just re-enforces the "loser" image.
    • Buffalo and WNY is a very conservative area, especially in terms of its business climate. WNYers are slow to change their ways, adopt new technology, etc. It puts a drag on the economy because too many people with new ideas get sick of being hamstrung by "old guard" types (in politics and in business) and leave for greener pastures. (There are some signs that this might be changing, but don't hold your breath on this.)
    • Buffalo has many assets that the locals simply dismiss because they too often buy into Buffalo's "bad rap" themselves.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Don't feel bad, at least you're not Detroit. We're like Buffalo without lake effect.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Mud Princess's avatar
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    There you go, a new tag line: "Buffalo: At least we're not Detroit."

    Think this promotion'll work?


  5. #5
    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    ...because the Sabres play there?
    You get all squeezed up inside/Like the days were carved in stone/You get all wired up inside/And it's bad to be alone

    You can go out, you can take a ride/And when you get out on your own/You get all smoothed out inside/And it's good to be alone
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  6. #6
    Cyburbian ofos's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Mud Princess View post
    There you go, a new tag line: "Buffalo: At least we're not Detroit."

    Think this promotion'll work?

    Sounds promising. They can use it for their Bisontennial celebration in 2032.
    “Death comes when memories of the past exceed the vision for the future.”

  7. #7
    Cyburbia Administrator
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    Quote Originally posted by Linda_D View post
    Buffalo gets a bad rap for a number of reasons ...
    • It's a quintessential Rust Belt city that has all the Rust Belt city stereotypes, and some uniquely its own. Buffalo wasn't just a heavy manufacturing center, but also a major grain milling/transshipment center until the opening of the St Lawrence Seaway killed that industry.
    • The area, mostly south of the city proper, gets a lot of snow because of prevailing winds off Lake Erie. Its biggest weather event was the infamous Blizzard of 77 (sort of the Katrina of its type and day).
    • Buffalo was never a big corporate center town, and the few Fortune 500 companies that were headquartered here were bought up by bigger companies or moved their HQ. Consequently, there are't a lot of big, glitzy office towers downtown.
    • The Buffalo major league sports teams have been notable for their inability to win championships -- and in most years, even have winning seasons! It just re-enforces the "loser" image.
    • Buffalo and WNY is a very conservative area, especially in terms of its business climate. WNYers are slow to change their ways, adopt new technology, etc. It puts a drag on the economy because too many people with new ideas get sick of being hamstrung by "old guard" types (in politics and in business) and leave for greener pastures. (There are some signs that this might be changing, but don't hold your breath on this.)
    • Buffalo has many assets that the locals simply dismiss because they too often buy into Buffalo's "bad rap" themselves.
    As a Buffalo expat, born and raised in the city limits, who attended Catholic and BPS schools, Buff State for my BS and UB for my MUP, all I can say is ...

    This. What Linda_D said.

    Despite a more diverse economy in recent years, and its rowing reputation as an arts and educational center (Buffalo has an incredible amount of cultural facilities and institutes of higher learning for a city of its size and stature), Buffalo is still an old-school blue-collar city at its core. Buffalo projects the image that it's trapped in the 1970s, and not in an ironic, hipster kind of way, either. Buffalo doesn't have the amenities and "vibe" that Generation Xers, Yers and Millenials now seek. Sure, there's Elmwood Village, but it's really like an island in a sea of blue-collar culture, while other cities might feel like the opposite is the case. In Buffalo, an educated professional might feel out of place, as if they really don't belong there.

    One example: dog parks. They've been a standard amenity for cities Buffalo's size for more than a decade. Buffalo just got its dog park a little over a year ago; a weed-filled, overgrown area inside an old baseball diamond. Other cities spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on well-designed doggie playgrounds, while in Buffalo, it's leftover space nobody else wants. It sends a very strong message to young, educated adults; what matters to you doesn't matter to the community at large. There's no public skate parks in the region, either. There's a large senior center in every neighborhood, though.

    Buffalo also isn't an attractive city. Sure, it has a rich architectural legacy, but outside of those landmarks, and affluent central city neighborhoods, Buffalo's vernacular commercial and residential architecture is less than appealing. Because Buffalo is a "frame city" and not a "brick city", everyday architecture hasn't aged well, and the majority of older buildings have been "improved" beyond reasonable repair. The landscape is flat; no mountains, hills, or even much in the way of rolling topography until one gets about 20 miles south of the city. Buffalo never recovered from Dutch Elm disease, and October Surprise dealt what little there was of an urban forest another hard blow. The Niagara River is blocked off from the rest of the city by an expressway, and Lake Erie is to the southwest, far removed from the bulk of the area's population. Lake Erie also has very little public access.

    A phenomenon I call "Buffalo exceptionalism" can make it difficult to improve the city's situation. Boosterism is rampant, and it's an enabler of continuing mediocrity. Buffalo has the best food, best architecture, friendliest people, best weather, best sports teams, 20 minute commutes, and so on, and to think otherwise only makes you a traitor of sorts. The blue-collar culture and physical landscape is "authentic", "genuine", "real", "honest", and so on, while everyplace else is "fake", "plastic", and "corporate". The worst diner in the city is better than than the most upscale of any of those "everywhere but Buffalo" restaurant chains. Buffalo's great as it is, so why fix it?
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  8. #8
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    Some months ago I posted an inquiry on behalf of some friends considering taking a job in Buffalo. They had lived in Fort Worth and surrounds their entire life and so were nervous about the move. You all gave great feedback about pros and cons of living there which they very much appreciated.

    Well, they took the job and have weathered one winter and are now waking up to a wet and verdant spring. The verdict?...they love it. They are in the arts and culture field and I'm sure that helps turn them in circles of progressives and interesting folks doing interesting work (something they desired but felt fairly isolated from in Fort Worth), many of whom may also have come from elsewhere (not the local industrial, working class grind, in other words). So, for them, the experience has been pretty exciting. Discovering a place like Buffalo with such an interesting history, remarkable architecture and a noble industrial history for the first time, and as an adult, can be pretty exciting.

    So, I think there is some potential for cities like Buffalo and Pittsburgh that are able to attract newcomers (which they desperately need to do to stem a shrinking population) who see the place in a new way to help shift their sense of place away from a history of dirty, failing industry. I know Pittsburgh has been pretty successful in this regard, even though they still continue to lose population (though it has slowed considerably).

    So, as I read Dan's post and thought about my own homeland of Philadelphia and surrounding towns, I wondered to what degree our past experiences color our perceptions of places like this and if it is possible for it to be undone (for those of us who grew up in difficult times in these places). Can I ever see Philly with fresh eyes again? I'm not so sure.

    Personally, I have a great appreciation for Philly, for the history, the diversity of cultures, its role as an immigrant corridor, the mix of foods and neighborhoods. But I don't want to go back as my experience is laden with not-so-fond memories of racial tensions, a very high homeless rate, police brutality and corrupt government (thank you, Frank Rizzo). But if I had never been there and visited today, I might have a very different attitude about it all. That stuff is hard to shake.

    When I visited Pittsburgh a few years ago, I fell in love with the place and would still consider a move there if the opportunity presented itself. Had I grown up there, I'm not sure I would feel that way.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  9. #9
    Poor Buffalo. I think for some, this argument goes beyond the mere pragmatic. Somewhere along the line it becomes cool to make fun of things like the ubiquitos strip malls, suburbia, the highways of the 1950's. A kin to this ragtag of themes, it becomes satirically satisfying to relish in Buffalo's failure because it is easier to do then what it takes to make something like a dying rust belt city into a growing historically rich one.

    I read another post that I unfortunately agree with and basically what the post explained was that many architecture and planning students who go to UB get this 'sentimental geography' syndrome and Buffalo somehow has such a charm that it enraptures these people (including myself for a brief time) and makes them want to stay and "fix" Buffalo because of its potential....ahh blast that potential!

    This idea of working on Buffalo may seem fatalistic to some and many other MUP students I know have also bugun to abandon this region after years of faith because they don't see Buffalo getting anywhere.

    So let me play devils advocate here and say that the first thing any planning school will tell you is that planning is not an instant thing; it takes years and many times decades to re-invent a place. Buffalo has made strides in the last decade in revitalizing Main Street, restoring its theatre district and incorporating 'some' more dog parks...among many other incremental steps.

    One point that no one can deny and few are wise enough to anticipate is the growing role that Toronto and Canada in general plays in the success of Buffalo.

    The Golden Horseshoe is developing and the urban growth of the Toronto region is spreading along the Lake Ontario coast, which will soon meet to Buffalo New York. The Niagara region (Canada) has made great strides in controlling growth and using strategic planning to develop the southern Ontario in the most intelligent way possible. This area which is largely un-developed now can be seen across the Niagara River from Buffalo. The ironic thing about the southern Ontario area is that, for Canadians, this is the florida od canada. It is essentially the sunbelt on Canada! So this is where people are going at least in that country...go figure.

    Why does this matter? Because things are changing and even though they are far in the future and perhaps shamefully due to a more prosperous region, Buffalo will be affected and most likely in a lively way by its relationshio to Canada.

    Another point to make is that this entire great lakes and northeast region is prime with water and other natural resources along with the infrastructure to accomodate a huge influx of new population. The worlds population is said to increase by 2 billion or something like that within the next 45 years, and in the United States, our lovely sunbelt can't sustain the population growth thats anticipated. Buffalo might start to look pretty nice by then...

  10. #10
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    I think the whole deal with Buffalo and neighboring places like Rochester get a bad rap because of the weather. It's definitely not the best, and its only been sunny there once when I've been there (which was about 4 times).

  11. #11
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by BruceTh68 View post
    I think the whole deal with Buffalo and neighboring places like Rochester get a bad rap because of the weather. It's definitely not the best, and its only been sunny there once when I've been there (which was about 4 times).
    True, the weather is extreme and harsh in these places. But, I have noticed that some places that have developed as "hip" are located in places with not the best weather/climate either and I have wondered why that is. Seattle, Portland, Austin, for example. I have lived in or spent good amounts of time in all of these places and each one of them is weather challenged - rain, clouds, short summer and long winters or EXTREME heat (with humidity). And yet, they have emerged as successful cities. True, none of them have the snow and bitter cold that Buffalo has, and maybe that is the nail in the coffin, but it makes me wonder. What about Toronto, for example?

    What does a city need to do to create some element of cache that can attract new people, industry, and reinvigorate the economy in spite of unpleasant climates?

    Personally, I think the economic failings of the end of heavy industry are what continue to rock places like Buffalo as they try to transition to a new economy. Its why people have left and continue to leave and its why those who remain have so much stuff to deal with (like unoccupied housing - I read that the city of Buffalo raises 2000 homes a year - and environmental cleanup). In the day, it was quite the hopping town, though, as evidenced by the architecture - you don't get such fine examples by being a mediocre town with limited revenue.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  12. #12
    Cyburbia Administrator
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    Quote Originally posted by wahday View post
    True, the weather is extreme and harsh in these places. But, I have noticed that some places that have developed as "hip" are located in places with not the best weather/climate either and I have wondered why that is. Seattle, Portland, Austin, for example.
    I tell people "It's not just the weather. It's a convergence of fail."
    • Buffalo has among the highest personal and property taxes in the country. So do some successful regions.
    • Buffalo has brutal winter weather and overcast skies through much of the year. So do some successful regions.
    • Buffalo has boring topography and a generally unappealing built environment. So do some successful regions.
    • Buffalo has losing sports teams. So do some successful regions.
    • Buffalo is saddled with toll roads So are some successful regions.
    • Buffalo has expensive utility costs. So do some some successful regions.
    • Buffalo has a dysfunctional local government. So do some successful regions.
    • Buffalo has issues with ethnic and racial insularity and equity. So do some successful regions.
    • Buffalo's public and private labor force is heavily unionized, with many of those unions being corrupt and ineffective. Same thing with some successful regions.
    • And so on ....

    Thing is, while other regions may have only a few issues that would be in their minuses column, Buffalo has ALL of them. Buffalo needs more to go on than art, (a samplng of) great architecture, chicken wings, and "authenticity". It's got to somehow keep its young, educated population from leaving the area; those who are most likely to want to live in an urban setting, and contribute to its vibrancy.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  13. #13
    why is it that people who were born in and gew up in Buffalo end up hating it?

    Doesn't it seem like everyone hates/is bored of/ wants to get away from where they grew up?

  14. #14
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by plan-it-teer View post
    Doesn't it seem like everyone hates/is bored of/ wants to get away from where they grew up?

    I live in the same zip code in which I was raised! Most people have a less favorable opinion of metro Detroit than they do of Buffalo. But I have little reason to leave here. It has a lot of negatives too, but the only thing I wish it had more of were cops and retail.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  15. #15
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Ha!

    Two Words:

    Gary Indiana

    Buffalo can't be that bad
    "The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."
    John Kenneth Galbraith

  16. #16
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Mud Princess View post
    There you go, a new tag line: "Buffalo: At least we're not Detroit."

    Think this promotion'll work?

    I just spit out my afternoon tea...

    why does Barfalo get a bad rap? because it's awful!

    I grew up in Syracuse so Syracuse $ucks too

    what's tragic about this is Buffalo has some great examples of some great architecture but it doesn't add up to anything - it's a great place to go to school because you learn how so wrong it can go and study why it happened (plus the bars don't close until 4 AM - which is also a reason why you may burn out and leave, just to get some sleep)

    some of the best food comes form Buffalo - the ethnicity is fantastic and it shows in the food so there, I said something nice...

  17. #17
    Cyburbian dvdneal's avatar
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    As someone on the outside I would say:
    It's too damn cold
    It doesn't sound like an exciting town
    It's named after a fat smelly animal
    If I'm going to travel all the way to New York, I'm going to the city.
    I don't need to see upstate New York, plenty of other states have the same or better atmosphere
    If I really wanted to be cold and miserable, I'd move to Maine.
    Finally, the only good thing I can say that came out of the city are wings, and I can get that anywhere.

  18. #18
    Quote Originally posted by The One View post
    Two Words:

    Gary Indiana

    Buffalo can't be that bad
    There are 3rd and 4th world countries that are not as bad as Gary. You know your pretty bad of when Life After People uses you as a real world example.
    When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?

  19. #19
    Cyburbia Administrator
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    Quote Originally posted by plan-it-teer View post
    why is it that people who were born in and gew up in Buffalo end up hating it?
    My honest guess? It starts with school field trips to Canada.

    Really. Compare the US side of the Falls with the Canadian side, and it's rather dramatic. Add to that field trips to the Ontario Science Center, Royal Ontario Museum, Casa Loma and other attractions in Toronto, and it's a downer when the school bus heads back across the Peace Bridge.

    It's not like Canadian cities as a whole are that much better than those on the US side, but when there's a world-class city and world-class tourist area just minutes away, it drives home the point that where you live isn't so great.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  20. #20
    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    I've never really been under the impression that Buffalo gets a bad rap.......especially when compared to Detroit, The Mistake on the Lake, Gary, etc., etc.

    Every large city is different. Certain cities are going to be more cosmopolitan; others more blue-collar oriented.

    After not having lived there for 10 years, I both love and hate my hometown. I'm a firm believer that no city is perfect and that it is human nature to think that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.
    "I'm very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany"

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally posted by btrage View post
    I've never really been under the impression that Buffalo gets a bad rap.......especially when compared to Detroit, The Mistake on the Lake, Gary, etc., etc.
    Sometimes people who have never been to Buffalo will compare it to Detroit, East St. Louis. Camden, or Gary. Really, it's not that bad. It's really not as bad as Cleveland, either -- inside the city limits, at least, and excluding downtown. I tell people that when it comes to urban grit, demographics, neighborhoods, and the like, Pittsburgh is probably a closer match, although unlike Buffalo, Pittsburgh has a more lively downtown with a strong retail base. Like Pittsburgh, there's a very large working-class population, still a lot of old money in the city, an odd eyacksint that is tough to shake off (ground zero for the Northern Cities Vowel Shift), and a feeling that it's still rough around the edges. Also like Pittsburgh, there's a lot of areas where conditions can vary greatly from block to block, and crossing the wrong street can take one from a very safe, wealthy neighborhood to a poor, dangerous urban prairie.

    Unlike Cleveland and Detroit, Buffalo's suburbs really aren't all that sylvan and upscale. Aside from those areas that developed before WWII, and the many traditional villages that dot the landscape, suburban Buffalo is fairly nondescript. No architectural regulations, so-so sign regs, no access management, the vast majority of development from the 1950s and 1960s when urban design in the 'burbs was at its worst ... suburban Buffalo is really just "meh".

    Like btrage, I have a love-hate relationship with my hometown.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  22. #22
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner View post
    Don't feel bad, at least you're not Detroit. We're like Buffalo without lake effect.
    Yeah, but at least your hockey team is good.

  23. #23
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by plan-it-teer View post
    why is it that people who were born in and gew up in Buffalo end up hating it?

    Doesn't it seem like everyone hates/is bored of/ wants to get away from where they grew up?
    This seems to be a common thread. When I was eighteen, I couldn't wait to escape my home town of Gowanda, NY. Buffalo was my mecca then because "anywhere was better than here'. When I lived in Albany, I knew many people who had "escaped" NYC and its environs to come to the Albany area -- and would never go back. This isn't just something that happens to old, Rust Belt cities.

    The funny thing is that many Buffalo expats would like nothing better to be able to return. Then again, many Gowanda expats would like to come home, too, myself included. Only six and half years left for me!

  24. #24
    Cyburbia Administrator
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    Quote Originally posted by plan-it-teer View post
    Another point to make is that this entire great lakes and northeast region is prime with water and other natural resources along with the infrastructure to accomodate a huge influx of new population. The worlds population is said to increase by 2 billion or something like that within the next 45 years, and in the United States, our lovely sunbelt can't sustain the population growth thats anticipated. Buffalo might start to look pretty nice by then...
    I just reread this post, and had to comment on this point.

    In terms of old-school geography, Buffalo was ideally situated as a center for heavy industry; next to a major water body, between an area of rich natural resources (agricultural land of the Midwest, ore deposits of Michigan's Upper Peninsula) and major markets (Northeast Corridor).

    Today, that's all irrelevant. Thanks to low energy costs and containerization, transportation costs have plummeted. In today's economy, for transportation Buffalo's location is disadvantageous; out of the way, and inaccessible by limited access highways unless one pays a toll. (Tulsa and NYC are the only other US cities that are impossible to reach on limited access highways without paying a toll.)

    Since I was a child, Buffalo boosters always said "in ten years, when the rest of the country dries up, people will be flocking to Buffalo because of its water." It's not going to happen. There are other Great Lakes cities with a larger critical mass of talent, business and industry; why go to Buffalo for the water when one can go to Milwaukee, Chicago or Cleveland? If water is such a huge asset, why aren't Erie or Ashtabula booming? Also, Buffalo turned its back to the Niagara River and Lake Erie; the waterfront was for factories and backyards, not for parkland and recreation. Most of the area's growth is towards the northeast, away from Lake Erie. If arid regions get desperate enough, they could eventually have the clout and money to pipe in water from wetter regions, overturning the Great Lakes Compact.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  25. #25
    Quote Originally posted by Linda_D View post
    Buffalo gets a bad rap for a number of reasons ...
    • It's a quintessential Rust Belt city that has all the Rust Belt city stereotypes, and some uniquely its own. Buffalo wasn't just a heavy manufacturing center, but also a major grain milling/transshipment center until the opening of the St Lawrence Seaway killed that industry.
    • The area, mostly south of the city proper, gets a lot of snow because of prevailing winds off Lake Erie. Its biggest weather event was the infamous Blizzard of 77 (sort of the Katrina of its type and day).
    • Buffalo was never a big corporate center town, and the few Fortune 500 companies that were headquartered here were bought up by bigger companies or moved their HQ. Consequently, there are't a lot of big, glitzy office towers downtown.
    • The Buffalo major league sports teams have been notable for their inability to win championships -- and in most years, even have winning seasons! It just re-enforces the "loser" image.
    • Buffalo and WNY is a very conservative area, especially in terms of its business climate. WNYers are slow to change their ways, adopt new technology, etc. It puts a drag on the economy because too many people with new ideas get sick of being hamstrung by "old guard" types (in politics and in business) and leave for greener pastures. (There are some signs that this might be changing, but don't hold your breath on this.)
    • Buffalo has many assets that the locals simply dismiss because they too often buy into Buffalo's "bad rap" themselves.

    BINGO! ! ! !

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