Back Again, Back Again*
Sun-burnt, bug-bit, and aching, I coasted into Albany, NY with 500 or so others bicyclists who rode the 400 miles from Buffalo along the Erie Canal. It was a physical challenge, a wonderful chance to meet a huge range of riders and to see parts of Western New York up close and personal. (Do you wonder why even older, less fit riders did better than I did? Click here for Gina Kolata's explanation)
While I read no newspapers and looked only once at a computer, I did speak to many upstaters. The first thing I learned is that there is no such place as upstate.
We read and write about "upstate Republicans" or the need "upstate" for economic development. "Upstate" is too broad a brush for the varied communities to our North and West.
Even rust belt cities like Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Schenectady defy generalization. Some have gentrifying waterfronts, others seem utterly in ruins. When the plants closed, the bars, beauty salons, car dealers and supermarkets closed too, so many communities feel ghostly with empty store after empty house.
Many Republicans "upstate" are eager for change. The GOP Supervisor of one, fading former dairy town told me that twelve years of Pataki misleadership had brought his community nothing at all. When I asked him (and the Mayor of a larger City nearby) about Industrial Development Agency reform they agreed with DMI Blogger Adrienne Shropshire's analysis right down the line See the NY Jobs With Justice development position for more info on IDA reform. Yet their GOP state senators didn't insist that Majority Leader Joseph Bruno deliver. Also read Steve Perez's report on the sad fate of IDA reform at the hands of the State Senate -- click here for the WFP version. (Perez who wrote for the Working Families Party blog and on housing issues, writes that he'll be doing Web Outreach at the UFT).
Many previously dispirited progressives are eager to elect more progressive Democrats to office. In Canandaigua, for example, control of City government shifted to Democrats in '06. Now people I talked to are fired up to retire Randy Kuhl and replace him with Eric Massa.
One of the better surprises was to hear a wonderful 3-women fokish singing group Red Molly -- about which I will write tomorrow -- but pencil in August 1, 2007, at 12:30 for their free NYC appearance in lower Manhattan--24 State St. (1 Battery Park Plaza) between Pearl St. and Bridge St. New York, NY
*For the words and music to this 1936 song which celebrates the re-election of FDR and the end of Prohibition click here. It was recorded then by Bill Cox, but I first heard it from the New Lost City Ramblers.