You may have missed it, but Monday was Groundhog Day.
Not The Ground Hog Day, Punxsutawney Phil and all that.
More like the Bill Murray film in which the poor guy wakes up every day only to do the same thing over and over and over again.
Our version of Groundhog Day is directed by Andrew Rudnick of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership and this year co-stars Mayor Byron Brown and Erie County Executive Chris Collins.
Every year, the region's business and political e-lite gather for the unveiling of the ... drum roll please ... REGIONAL AGENDA!
It's our "ask" to the powers that be in Albany and Washington.
It seems like the REGIONAL AGENDA! doesn't change much from year to year. That's because so little on the list gets accomplished.
Not even Dubya (remember him?) would dare declare MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!
Maybe it's because the REGIONAL AGENDA! is longer than a 6-year-old's wish list to Santa and that so little of it is prioritized, aside from the UB 2020 plan which, if you don't know, is the latest Silver Bullet That Is Going To Save Us All.
I counted 'em up and there are no fewer than 57 requests listed.
Now, the release of the REGIONAL AGENDA! has never gotten under my skin before, but maybe I just wasn't paying attention. For whatever reason, I'm unsure whether to laugh or cry after reading the other day about the latest roll out, for a couple of reasons.
First off, the regional economy is that much deeper in the hole. State employment figures show we've lost 17,000 jobs from this time a year ago. That's the steepest drop in at least the past 20 years, probably much longer.
Now, more than ever, we need a solid plan. And the REGIONAL AGENDA! ain't it.
But, truth be told, that's not the biggest reason why I'm cheesed. No, that can be found on Page 3 of the REGIONAL AGENDA!
Among our asks is $40 million to build a new stadium at Buffalo State College. We're told it also will serve city schools.
Gee, didn't we just build a new stadium at the University at Buffalo? And hasn't the school district recently refurbished All High Stadium And isn't the city redoing the athletic complex at the old War Memorial Stadium site for the second time?
In other words, I think we're OK on the stadium front. Yeah, yeah, I know, in this town, you can never have enough cold beer or stadium parking lots to drink it in. But really, I think we're good.
But wait, there's more on Page 3 -- a request for $5 million to build a parking ramp at Buff State.
Another blankety-blank parking ramp?!
Let me get this straight. We're losing jobs almost as fast as we're losing young people, the smart economic thinkers say we need to be thinking technology and green, Buffalo has sunk to being the third-poorest city in the nation and we're asking the state for $45 million to build a sports stadium and parking ramp?
But wait, there's still more.
The REGIONAL AGENDA! talks out of both sides of its mouth on the issue of reforming the state's low-cost hydropower program that is vital to WNY, but makes it very clear that the companies currently enjoying Empire Zone benefits should be held harmless when the successor program is put in place.
Another recommendation calls for Albany to sink another $10 million into the bottomless money pit known as the Darwin Martin House. How many years is it going to take to recoup the public investment on that project? Can't we just send in the "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" crew to wrap things up?
Our e-lites even feel the need to weigh in on health care reform. No employer mandates, no public option. Right out of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce play book.
To this, the Democratic mayors of Buffalo and Niagara Falls signed on.
Said Brown: "I think the positive thing is that the community is speaking with one voice, that we are unified in presenting this agenda, and I think that gives us a better opportunity of achieving success."
Said Collins: "For too long, we spoke with multiple voices, and in doing so, Albany and Washington were able to ignore us."
Well, actually, there are other voices out there, ones worth listening to.
For starters, while it's not the be-all, there's the priority list developed by the Partnership for the Public Good. Includes stuff like green jobs, neighborhood revitalization, more effective economic development programs, investments in public transit and reforms to help the poor get a better education and hopefully a job, or a better one.
It would be easy to laugh off the Groundhog Day exercise, but folks, this community needs a blueprint for digging out from under, and the REGIONAL AGENDA! is what passes for it. And what we've got to work from is a lot of blah-blah-blah.
More than anything, it underscores the state of what passes for leadership in this community.
Next year, we might as well have Gabby Johnson outline the REGIONAL AGENDA! for us. It might make more sense.
Now that you're done with this post, check out what the Buffalo Geek has to say on the subject. And for quick hits, also read the Answer Lady and Buffalo Pundit. We're all pretty much on the same page, although I almost sound like a nice guy by comparison.