It’s Time For Greater Western New York To Declare Our Own Independence!

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One of the perks of serving as a national reporter includes access to a coast-to-coast network of sources. I usually stick to my standard beat (finance and retirement) when sourcing questions. Every once in a while, however, I stray from that path and have a little fun.

As a life-long booster of the Greater Western New York region, I’m always searching for ways, no matter how small, to help promote the region.

Now, combine these two facts together and you can understand how I discovered this interesting tidbit: There are many more people who are former citizens from Greater Western New York than currently live here. Wow.

No doubt you can see where I’m going. Despite writing for a national audience, once these readers discover I’m from Western New York, well, that’s all they want to talk about. It seems, in their minds at least (and probably ours, too), the Greater Western New York region evokes images of sunshine and happiness. It’s a never ending series of hot summer days eating ice cream and splashing in water; coupled with the cozy comfort of peeking outside the frosty window into the winter wonderland beyond, knowing all is well with your family close by. Ex-pats really miss these feelings.

It only makes sense that, in the course of a conversation with a fellow from California whose parents packed up and moved to California when the Queen City still produced steel, the subject came up. (OK, truth be told, I asked first.) Mark Aselstine, founder of Uncorked Ventures in the San Francisco Bay area, was born in Buffalo. He remembers how he was “raised on stories about how New York City took most of the tax money from Western New York.”*

Does “taxation without representation” ring a bell with you? If so, then you’re beginning to understand what all the growing hubbub about the movement to make Greater Western New York region its own state – independent of Albany and wholly separate from its New York City-centric policies. Aselstine says if his parents were responding to this “they’d say it’s a no brainer. In all seriousness, having spent time in both New York City as well as Western New York, it isn’t a crazy idea because the regions really are so culturally different.”

Many years ago, a friend of mine who used to work on the staff of a Democrat Assemblyman in Buffalo told me when the Greater Western New York region lost its representation. Sometime in the early 1970s, as the migration to the west coast intensified (perhaps including Aselstine’s family), the balance of power in the Empire State shifted.

In fact, it lost its balance. Given the voting rules that govern our state government, for the last two generations, whatever anything south and east of Westchester County wanted, anything south and east of Westchester County got.  They controlled Albany and Albany controlled the State.

Sure, we citizens of the Greater Western New York region got to “vote” for our representatives, but that vote had about as much meaning as any “vote” in the old Soviet Union. It hasn’t been that the New York City-Albany Politburo only recently has been enacting legislation and policies inconsistent with the mores of most of the citizens of the Greater Western New York region. This erosion began decades ago. It’s just that Albany has become more emboldened in the last few years.

Is it any surprise, then, when traveling through the heartland of “America’s First Frontier” (which is what Greater Western New York represents), one sees a plethora of Gadsden flags as well as a smattering of the Stars and Bars flying defiantly. Both symbols represent a desire for freedom and independence on the part of those displaying them.

Two hundred and forty five years ago, several dozen leading citizens risked life and limb and declared:

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another… That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness… But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security…”

It’s not too far to take this document (as so many other freedom loving people have, including Susan B. Anthony and the Suffragettes at the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention) and edit its conclusion as follows:

“We, therefore,… by Authority of the good People of these Colonies Greater Western New York, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are Greater Western New York, and of Right ought to be a Free and Independent States.”

It used to be regular folk thought it crazy to speak of secession from Albany and New York City by the Greater Western New York region. But in light of a spate of controversial decisions coming from Albany, this idea has gone mainstream, with many, many more people talking about it. More so, the popularity of anti-establishment candidates like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders in the region suggests outside-the-box thinking like Greater Western New York becoming an independent state is now the norm, not the outlier. Aselstine says, “I have heard about this at home. Compared to all the ‘Texit’ stories that came out after Brexit, I thought this was an interesting concept. Plus, we have that same conversation about California splitting in two quite often.”

“That being said, where’s the line?” says Aselstine.

Are you interested in discovering what an “independent” Greater Western New York Region might look like? Join us for a free event on Thursday evening, July 15th at 7:30pm for a Midsummer Night’s (Virtual) Town Hall Meeting. You’ll listen, you’ll ask, and then you’ll decide. All in one fast-paced event that won’t last longer than 90 minutes. (Who knew you can solve all our problems in so short a time!)

You’ll have the opportunity to listen as three distinguished guests will each pitch their own independence solution. Assemblyman Stephen Hawley of Batavia, who sponsored a bill to split the state, will promote the idea of Greater Western New York becoming an independent state. Senator George Borrello of Jamestown, who co-sponsored the New York State Senate version of the Assembly bill offered by Assemblyman David DiPietro, will explain how regional autonomy works. Finally, James Ostrowski, a Buffalo attorney whose case is being considered by the U.S. Supreme Court, will explain how individual counties can simply reject unacceptable laws, similar to what several Greater Western New York Counties did regarding the SAFE Act.

After their brief statements, you’ll get a chance to dive deeper into their ideas by asking them questions through the panel moderator. Once we’ve exhausted our questions (or reached our 30-minute time limit), you’ll break out into rooms based on your county for further discussion. Then – and this is the most exciting part – you’ll return to the main room and we’ll have a vote to see which solution you most prefer.

Are you ready to listen, ask, and decide? Click GreaterWesternNewYork.org to start the free registration process.

* Yes, I’m aware of the current financial analyses that show New York City is funding Western New York. However, this was not the case in the 1970s when there were far fewer mandates and the political power in the State was balanced. I’ve talked to any number of elected officials in the Greater Western New York region and they nearly all agree – whether Democrat or Republican – that if unfunded mandates were eliminated, the budgetary imbalance would also be eliminated. The problem is especially acute in rural school districts without a large enough economic base to sustain unfunded mandates. But I’ll leave it to these elected officials to take the appropriate stand.

Comments

  1. Mark Kluge says

    You are spot-on Chris! Great article, rich with historical context leading up to the present.

  2. This is a great article with many great ideas, however I understand we need Congress to approve – and they won’t- at least right now. Autonomous is more actionable right now. So is the Constitutional counties idea! There is a tour stop coming to Buffalo on July 24th explaining this – search Bigbatusa.

  3. Chris Carosa says

    Thanks, Mark!

  4. Chris Carosa says

    Thanks, Susan! There are actually several ways the Greater Western New York region can gain independence, including Autonomy. In fact, at our July 15th virtual town hall meeting (go to https://GreaterWesternNewYork.org to sign-up for a free invitation), we’ll be discussing three of them – separate state, autonomous zone, and nullification (the first two being explained by Assemblyman Stephen Hawley, and NYS Senator George Borrello who have sponsored bills to that effect – split the state and autonomous zones – in their respective chamber; while the third idea, similar to what occurred in several counties following the passage of the SAFE Act, will be explained by an attorney whose gun control case against New York State is being considered by the US Supreme Court).

    Incidentally, becoming a separate state is actually very possible if the Democrats want to play hardball in trying to lock in a majority in the U.S. Senate. See this article here: https://chriscarosa.com/2021/04/its-easier-for-greater-western-new-york-to-become-its-own-state-than-for-washington-dc-to-achieve-statehood/

  5. Mark Kluge says

    Thanks Susan. Just checked out BigBatUSA and am listening to Chief Phillip Whiteman in Lame Deer, MT at the ARISE USA Event.

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