Who led the Buffalo area when it was at its greatest? Mayors like Charles Bishop, Edgar Jewett and Conrad Diehl, that’s who. I never heard of them, but they were the mayors at the turn of the 19th century when Buffalo was home to the largest number of millionaires per capita, so they must have been doing something right. Call this the age of the politicians.
Then came the immigrants, steel manufacturing and lifelong jobs. The early 1900s was also known for the rise of the great churches, strong ethnic neighborhoods, and community strength. Call this the age of the diocese.
The political leadership that followed the wane of the Catholic Church’s influence in the 1950s did not provide the moral and ethical strength that the Church could, and ever since we have been living through a period of weak and ineffective leaders. They’ve given us a legacy of patronage jobs and little else.
So who will come and save us? Where can we find great leadership today? Whom can we trust? Maybe the University at Buffalo?
The UB 2020 plan calls for 10,000 more students, hundreds more faculty and a cool $80 million additional community revenue from just the students alone. UB also plans to get a much bigger share of federal and state research dollars to pump up what they call a knowledge-based economy. But that’s not why we’ll rely on them for community leadership.
We’ll rely on them because they’ll be the big gorilla. I look forward to the day when the University has so much clout that politicians, business leaders and the community at large will get behind it out of the fear of being left behind.
We have been a rather timid collective society led, poorly at times, for 8 generations. We will welcome our new overlord with open arms. And I think the University will succeed in taking us a heckuva lot further than any of our elected officials have taken us in God knows how many years.