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New Government Structure

By Gary S. Howell
Mar 20, 2005, 19:30
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The following is a transcription of Free Buffalo founder Jim Ostrowski’s speech, read at the second meeting of Free Buffalo.


This is one of the biggest political turnouts in the history of Western New York in the last fifty years.


Without a microphone, I’m going to have to prove what people have been saying about me for years – that I have a really big mouth.

The other day, somebody accused us of being a bunch of rich guys from Amherst.

Not only have the political class ruined our town, but they flunked geography as well. I believe this is Blasdell and I’m from Buffalo, South Buffalo and now North Buffalo. And I’m not rich.

We’re not a bunch of rich guys from Amherst.

There was an idea today, in the paper, “Bruno proposes high-speed rail.”


I’m normally not the type to support expensive pork barrel projects, but this one has some merit. Any way we can get these politicians out of Western New York faster.

(Laughter and Applause)

Welcome to the second shot heard around the world.

You said you wanted a revolution, and we have it!

A peaceful, positive, populist revolution to save Buffalo, Erie County, and Western New York from economic and cultural oblivion.

A revolution to take power back from the politicians and the special interests who seized it from us for their own selfish purposes. These people have all of our beloved hometowns on the verge of collapse.

We have four hundred people here today - four hundred minutemen and women on a cold Buffalo morning to continue this revolution. None of you are here to seek a patronage job. None of you are here to seek a government subsidy or a special tax break not shared by all of your fellow taxpayers.

There’s never been a movement like this in Western New York. This meeting violates all the rules of political logic. But we’re going to violate a lot of precedence this year, in conjunction with Primary Challenge.


It’s going to be a peaceful, positive revolution because those who fired that first shot at Lexington, the first shot heard around the world, insured that in the future, the people could take the power back by free speech, meeting freely, and petitioning the government for a redress of grievances, without retaliation!

So stop the hate mail and the threats. It’s not going to stop me and it’s not going to stop anybody in this room.


This is the real listening tour and the politicians are listening and they’re scared to death because they’ve never seen an uprising like this.

But Lennon and McCartney rightly warned against getting involved with “people with minds that hate.”

We’re not here because we hate anybody. We’re here because we love Buffalo. We’re not just going to sit back and criticize and attack, we’re going to present a better alternative.

We’re even going to convince the people who are against us now, that our way is better for them and their own families.

After all, what good is a high paying government job if all the taxpayers have left?

Let me introduce some of the many heroes of this revolution. Leonard Roberto is here, he’s going to speak later. Tony Fracasso from Speakupwny is here. Russ Thompson of Primary Challenge is here.

I want to dedicate this meeting to Rick Naylon, the former owner of Jimmy Mack’s. I know he’s here.

The powers that be thought they could take this guy (Rick Naylon) out, destroy his life’s work, and get away with it.

Well, the idea for this organization came while I was have lunch with Rick Naylon. We were discussing what the state and the county did to him.

So, no political class, you didn’t get away with it. Instead, you got a new organization that’s going to do it’s best go get you away from us.


I want to thank Tom Bauerle for his invaluable support in launching this organization. He’s a very talented guy. He could work anywhere and make more money, but he loves Buffalo. He’s a historian of our area. He knows the greatness that we’ve lost in these last forty-five years. In my view, he’s the Paul Revere of the populist revolt.

We’re here today to free Buffalo from big government, political machines, and special interests, because forty-five years of economic and cultural decline are enough!


We’re here because the politicians had a party these last forty-five years at our expense.

But the party’s over!


We’re here because we’re mad as hell and we CAN’T take it anymore!

(Shouts of approval and Applause)

We’re here because, as Buffalo’s greatest statesman, Grover Cleveland, once said, “It is a good thing for the people, now and then, to rise up and let the officeholders know they are responsible to the masses.”


We’re here because, if we don’t change things around here, our way of life will simply die out!

It’s already happening.

When I walk through my North Buffalo neighborhood, not Amherst – North Buffalo, I wonder, “Where’s all the kids?”

“Where’s the future?”

We’re here because these limousine liberals and Rockefeller Republican politicians have sat there too long for any good they have done.

We’re here because this corrupt political machine, with it’s spider web of secretive and greedy special interests have ruled this area almost as long as the Bolsheviks ruled the Soviet Union.

Some parts of this area look like the Soviet Union.

HUD, for example, apparently hired some of Stalin’s architects when they built those ghastly public housing projects in the city.


We’re here because the political machine has destroyed Buffalo with the efficiency of a modern air force. The machine’s policies and programs have left the inner-city and industrial areas looking like a war zone, with abandoned and decaying houses and factories.

At night, some of these neighborhoods become war zones, thanks to young men who, in earlier years, would have found a job in a factory. They are plying different trades now.

We’re here to clean the corrupt house of big government and make that house a lot smaller.


We’re going to shrink that mansion of big government and turn it into a tiny little cape style cottage, like the one I live in for example – rich guy from Amherst.


We’re here because America’s greatest statesman (Thomas Jefferson) once said that, “a little revolution now and then is a good thing.”

We’re here because that same statesman once wrote these words that explain everything I’ve ever done in politics, including forming Free Buffalo. If any of these words sound familiar to you, feel free to chime in.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it.."

(Loud Applause)

What do we believe in this room?

Very simple.

Government is way to big. It’s too far away – in Albany and Washington. And every public policy has to be evaluated based on whether it’s good for the average, politically unconnected person of modest means, not special interest groups, not government employees, and not politically connected, wealthy businesses.

We may disagree on other issues, but if we can all agree on these three points, we can work together.

Further, if we can bring political power closer to the people – in their own communities and neighborhoods – this decentralization of power - which was, after all, the original idea of America - can smooth out these differences.

People will be able to shape their own communities and their own neighborhoods without having to force their way of life on every other neighborhood and community.

Let me talk about the Free Buffalo concept.

We’ve got to use this sudden surge in energy to start a people’s think tank that can keep watch on the politicians, full-time, so we don’t have to go to county legislative meetings for the rest of our lives.

The people we are up against, they have their own think tanks, they have their own colleges, they’ve got their universities, their P. R. firms, their big corporate law firms, they’ve got the editors, intellectuals, columnists, producing a steady stream of pro-big government propaganda. They’ve got tens of thousands of people with billions of dollars.

Right now we have none of those assets.

We need at the very least a small, lean, professionally staffed group to issue policy proposals based on what is good for everyone in the community – not just the special interest groups.

We need to keep track of government machinations and report those shenanigans to thousands of our members in real-time.

We need to inform our people when and where the relevant meetings will be held, provide them with the email and phone of the relevant decision makers so people who can’t spend three hours at a meeting can at least contact their representatives in five minutes and let their views be known.

We’ve had many taxpayers groups in the past. I know there are people in this room who’ve been active in them.

No offence, but many of these groups have fizzled out. Perhaps they still exist, but they’re not a major player in today’s politics.

Why did they fizzle out?

First, they lacked a core philosophy.

Second, they were volunteers fighting professionals.

And three, they lacked solid and well-argued proposals for real change.

There’s no point in setting up another taxpayer group if those specific problems are not solved.

Free Buffalo solves those problems.

We have a core philosophy that can be applied to issues that arise without having to re-invent the wheel. It’s a quintessentially American philosophy, based on Thomas Jefferson’s words and deeds.

First, individual freedom.

Second, where government is needed, make it local, wherever possible, so the people can reach out and grab it by the scruff of the neck when it abuses its powers.

Third, equal protection of the laws. No laws that favor some at the direct expense of others.

Government is a machine that grows unless a stronger force stops it.

That’s what government does, it grows. Unless there’s an ironclad understanding as to the proper purpose of government, government will grow until it swallows everything up.

I submit these past taxpayers groups were simply swallowed up because they lacked a philosophical core that was stronger than the force of government growth.

Next, they were volunteers. Volunteers, in the long run, cannot beat paid, full-time professionals. I submit as exhibit “A”, the last forty-five years in Greater Buffalo. You need at least a few full-time staffers to guard the guardians.

“Who will guard the guardians,” a Roman statesman asked? You and Free Buffalo, and Primary Challenge will.

Finally, candidates and activists need information, they need analysis, and they need facts. I spent twenty-five years doing this kind of work, at great cost to the day-job – rich guy from Amherst.

To expect citizens to do that kind of work on a sustained basis is to expect a miracle.

Free Buffalo will do that work for you. You’ll have the final product, the footnotes, and the sources. You can exercise your own judgment and hold our feet to the fire as well. But you’ll have a huge head start on any issue without public policy reports in your hand.

One of the reasons I started this organization is: I sat down to write a monograph on Medicaid. After writing seventeen hundred words I said, “I can’t do this on a shoestring, it’s too complicated. This is a major research project that’s going to take a month or two.”

Free Buffalo can support and facilitate that type of important research.

Nobody else is doing it.

I want to go out and find the nation’s leading expert in local government, how to make it smaller, and bring that person to Buffalo for a year to study our situation and issue plans. You can’t do that on a shoestring.

Free Buffalo is a bold vision for fundamental change, not just mere reform. You need a strong, clear, positive vision to beat the political machine and the career politicians who are masters at manipulating us with their propaganda.

Positive beats negative.

You can’t win just by taking potshots at the enemy.

You have to offer the public a better way of doing things.

Free Buffalo has that bold, positive vision and framework for the future.

I think that’s why we have four hundred people here today.

But we also have to be ready to act now. Without waiting for everyone to agree on our entire agenda, we can push commonsense, tax cutting plans that are politically doable right now.

Here’s the proposed first year program that we developed in December.

First, repeal the one percent sales tax. Well that’s already been done at a hundred million dollars in savings.


Second, stop Bass Pro. I know some of you disagree with me and we’re voting on that today in the questionnaire. We’ll do what you want. It’s your organization. But that would save us seventy-five million dollars.

Third, across the board, ten percent, public sector salary cuts. That would save at least two hundred million dollars.


Fourth, abolish the Economic Development IDA bureaucracies -

(Loud Applause)

- Fifteen million dollars a year.

And I think we need to deregulate vehicular transit. Hasn’t the NFTA had a monopoly on transportation long enough?


The populist coalition has already defeated the tax increase. That same coalition, led by Primary Challenge and Free Buffalo can accomplish even bigger and better things. We need to, because all we’ve done is stop a tax increase. We haven’t cut taxes! Our work is just beginning.

So we need to work out the basic concepts, but we need to have a professionally staffed think tank, a research organization, that provides support for taxpayer’s organizations, to facilitate them in monitoring and lobbying local governments to cut taxes, reduce waste, patronage and pork.

Free Buffalo is going to pursue a bold Jeffersonian agenda to supplement the candidates and activists who need somebody out there to turn the opportunism that happens in politics.

We’re going to be bold, and hard-core. We’re going to stick to the agenda that we laid out and we’re not going to change it.

It’s important to have that organization out there, in addition to the candidates and activists running.

That’s the basic concept of Free Buffalo.


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