Harvard University economist Edward Glaeser has a new piece in the City Journal on Buffalo's prospects (h/t: Alison Kemper). His answer: "Probably not—and government should stop bribing people to stay there." Whoa - talk about tough love. He continues:
The truth is, the federal government has already spent vast sums of taxpayer money over the past half-century to revitalize Buffalo, only to watch the city continue to decay. Future federal spending that tries to revive the city will likely prove equally futile. The federal government should instead pursue policies that help Buffalo’s citizens, not the city as a geographical place. State and local policymakers could take steps that might—might—help Buffalo stave off its demise, if they avoid the errors of the past. ...
As for state and local politicians, reducing New York’s unnecessary taxes and regulation would be a good idea, since if Buffalo is ever to rebound, even somewhat, private innovators, not government projects, will be the primary reason. Better schools and safe streets would also be key to improving Buffalo’s chances of survival. Yet though such policies would improve things, they would not restore the boomtown of the early twentieth century; the economic trends working against such a prospect are simply too great. The best scenario would be for Buffalo to become a much smaller but more vibrant community—shrinking to greatness, in effect. Far better that outcome than wasting yet more effort and resources on the foolish project of restoring the City of Light’s past glory.
I'm realistically optimistic. The key to Buffalo's future lies less in U.S. policy and more on the dynamic economy here on the Canadian side of the border. The Tor-Buff-Chester mega-region is Buffalo's greatest hope. It's in the interest of Buffalo and New York policy-makers - including the current front-runners in both parties - to make sure that border works effectively. Another key is establishing better transit links to Toronto. Another thing that Buffalo and Rochester have to offer is world-class health-care, that could potentially serve the mega-region. The key is to think and plan across borders - in terms of the mega. Our mega is a growth magnet and that growth can spill-across to Buffalo and upstate New York. It doesn't necessarily have to, but with the proper framework and actions, it could.