Then Gov. David Paterson came along with
his proposed budget for next year. In between reviving his taxes on Dr
Pepper and Marlboros, he tossed in a new revenue source for the Empire
State: ultimate fighting.
Ultimate fighting combines martial arts
with kickboxing, wrestling and all forms of brutish showmanship in a
spectacle that would warm the heart of Michael Vick. Former Gov. George
Pataki banned it 13 years ago, on the grounds that anyone who would
practice it is despicable, and anyone who would profit from it doubly
so. Anything that involves putting human beings in a cage and letting
them tear each other apart is beneath us, right?
Except now we need the money.
Ain’t democracy wonderful? Not only is
the governor going to cut aid to our schools and hospitals, he’s
planning to make organized savagery a line item in the budget. That’s
right: We run into a little bit of a budget deficit and all bets are
off. A little strapped for cash, and we’re on the slippery slope to
Port Au Prince.
Let’s say next year the city of Syracuse
is in a super-tight budget squeeze and the Congel mirage on the shore
of Onondaga Lake still isn’t cranking out the sales tax numbers we
expected. Following Paterson’s example, we might try to close the
budget gap with a little free-for-all. Say, Bob the Builder vs.
Stephanie the Mayor for 10 rounds, winner take all. We could even hold
the event in the hollowed-out addition to Carousel Center: Folks who
have never been to a boxing match would pay just to have a peek behind
the wall. It could be a classic match-up.
Then there’s the problem with a local
chain of food stores that can’t seem to pay its bills. P&C has
entrusted its future to a judge in a bankruptcy court, and it will be
months, perhaps years, until folks in some of our neighborhoods know
who is going to be selling them groceries. Once again the governor
shines a light on how to cut through a tough problem with tough
measures: Food fight!
Get the Penn Traffic management and
their creditors over to the produce section and have at it. In this
corner, wearing gray suits and ties… In this corner, wearing
blood-stained butcher’s aprons… Then let the wild rumpus begin.
If only the governor had shared this
insight with us earlier. Last year, when Excellus Blue Cross/Blue
Shield threatened to pull out of downtown and move to DeWitt,
then-Mayor Matt Driscoll could have sidestepped the messy business of
trying to arrange tax concessions and parking spots for the company and
simply challenged Excellus management to a duel. Salina Street at high
noon—that would really bring people downtown.
The United Auto Workers might find a way
to cash in on this new wave of fighting for funds, and save their
members’ jobs. How about a demolition derby in the nearly empty Magna
parking lot: Magna management in their BMWs, Local 624 guys in their
reasonably reliable Dodge Rams? Last one standing gets to set the terms
for the buyout.
Speaking of declining revenue streams,
maybe the newspaper industry itself should start getting down and
dirty. The gray lady on Clinton Square has tried downsizing, cost
shifting, price increases, online videos, blogging, magazines and
advertisements disguised as news, all in the effort to keep the ship
afloat. But they haven’t confronted their nemeses head on. The print
world has its own little seismic issue to deal with: an entire
generation that thinks a newspaper is something their grandparents read
in the corner while they surf the Web on their phones.
It’s a big risk, but if they want to
capture that new market, it’s going to have to be on their own terms.
Hart Seely, Bud Poliquin and Bob Niedt, grab your controllers. Set up a
Jumbotron in Clinton Square. Assemble an army of teenagers in the
dried-up fountain area. It’s a Halo 3 duel to the death. If the kids
lose, they promise to subscribe to the paper.
Hold on! Have you seen those kids play? Better scratch that last idea.
Ed Griffin-Nolan’s award winning commentary appears weekly in the Syracuse New Times.