Mark Goldman: The Obstructionist Manifesto

As one of the “few obstructionists” Mayor Byron Brown referred to as responsible for the decision by Bass Pro not to come to Buffalo, I would like to proudly proclaim “The Obstructionist Manifesto.”

I believe that the Hippocratic Oath, “First do no harm,” while it applies to medicine, also applies to city planning, particularly when those plans impact our waterfront. As an obstructionist, I believe that all plans that cause harm must be stopped.

As an obstructionist, I believe that when a small group of tightly connected political insiders hijacks the city planning process, it must be stopped.

As an obstructionist, I believe that when these same insiders, for reasons unknown to most of us, are given tens of millions of dollars of the public’s money to spend without the public’s consent, they, too, must be stopped.

As an obstructionist, I believe that when that same group makes plans to turn our city’s splendid waterfront into a big-box retail mall surrounded by surface parking lots, it should be stopped.

As an obstructionist, I believe when the entrepreneurial instincts and desires of our people are stifled and undermined by the lavishing of tens of millions of public dollars on failing retail chains, that must be stopped. As an obstructionist, I believe that all these old and failed ways of planning for our waterfront must be swept aside.

As an obstructionist, I believe that unless and until city planning reflects the values, ideals and aspirations of the people who live and work here, it cannot work and therefore must be stopped. Only when public projects have the credibility of being created by the people directly involved in their use can they succeed.

With that in mind, I believe that these old failed ways should be replaced by a structured and disciplined process whereby the whole community is encouraged to offer ideas on how to best develop our waterfront.

In the 10 neighborhood districts identified by the mayor, I believe we should create a series of design workshops in which the best and the brightest — men, women and children — in each neighborhood will have the opportunity to offer their vision.

As an obstructionist, I believe in a truly democratic and public planning process that is embraced by our whole community. Therefore, there will be a Web site fully accessible to everybody on which all of us who live here and in other places, too, can post all of our ideas for our waterfront.

As an obstructionist, this is the kind of open, dynamic, creative and truly democratic planning process that I envision. Only this kind of process can produce a plan that is real, authentic and sustainable. Once these plans and ideas have been clearly articulated and carefully studied, we should, following a real competition, turn them over to the best design professionals who would help us realize our waterfront vision.

This is my Obstructionist Manifesto.

First published August 4 2010 in The Buffalo News

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