Under The Radar - Solar City No Goals


By Francis White 

Everybody was spreading the #buffalove when Solar City was announced. I remember that there were photo ops, selfies, high fives, and Kool-Aid smiles. I even think I saw an old lady bust out and start pop locking and break dancing. The city seemed like it was the four years the Bills went to the Super Bowl, everybody seemed so happy and nostalgic. But, in Buffalo just as a dark cloud comes into a sunny scene in a scary movie when something evil is about to happen, what was to follow was as predictable as Hollywood cinematography.

Buffalo like many modern, north eastern and mid-western American cities has for many decades been on economic life support. The days when gigantic steel plants like Bethlehem Steel, who at one point in time employed something like 20,000 people in western New York, seem like something out of a history book. This city’s manufacturing and mill/plant economy with the $20 something an hour jobs that came with it, has long been a thing of the past. There is new money coming into the area, and the Buffalo area is starting to see some type of redevelopment, but the common man on the street hasn’t really been a part of that upturn. There are a few people who have been able to kind of “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” from some of these new opportunities, but for the most part the people who are most connected already have been the ones primarily eating off of “the new Buffalo”. Many of you already know about the poverty statistics of Buffalo and cities like it, and if you don’t know you can Google it. Some might argue that the underground drug economy is really what feeds most folks here these days, but that is another story.

Buffalo Politicians (the Poverty Pimps and other huckstas) in an effort to win favor from the public when election time comes, or who have something financially to gain from a particular deal will often jump on any opportunity where there is a promise of jobs being created. Another thing to note is that when a developer presents a sizable commercial development to an area/municipality/local government, they are often doing so with the intent to get some financial alleviation from that particular local government to get the project started. For example, a hotel developer wants to develop a new 600 bedroom hotel in downtown Buffalo. They might tell you (the city government) that “if you give us $x amount of dollars in tax breaks to build this hotel and a cash grant (gift) for $x amount of dollars for initiating this project, we’ll create 500 jobs”. Who in Buffalo doesn’t want to see jobs created? And, of course, the devil is usually in the details. The Solar City project and announcement was no different.

The reoccurring theme in Buffalo and in many other cities is that of Trickle Down Economics. That means the people who are already balling can ball harder, and the people at the top who are ready eating can eat more. If an old, used up ball flies over the fence, the people over there with nothing to play with can play with it. If some crumbs fall of the dinner table, the people who aren’t at the table can have that for food. In Buffalo and most cities in America, we already know who the people not at the dinner table are, people and communities of color.

Solar City is a solar panel manufacturing plant on the water that was touted to be a job creating project. Just the construction of the plant alone would create many good paying construction jobs that could help people struggling to find work in a struggling region. People could step up from below poverty and help be bread winners in their homes. People who wanted to, could step up or avoid the drug underworld and the prison industrial complex to gainful employment for their families. I don’t know what happened, but something did happen.

The construction of the plant is now underway, but there is public knowledge now that the people running the show want to cut the minority hiring goals by a sizable amount. That ain’t right! My prediction is that there will be a blame game between the state of New York and the developer of the project as to what is exactly going on, but that’s not the issue. Community is about civic engagement. If you refuse to at least get up to the table and start asking questions, you can’t fault anyone else if your community isn’t eating properly. The community has taken notice and has prepared a response of action. This Friday October 9th, a rally and press conference is being organized at the site located at 1341 So. Park Avenue, Buffalo NY. It starts at 10:30am