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Quick fixes can give city a needed lift

These days, it's easy to feel blue.

The officials who are supposed to represent us are talking about raising our taxes, cutting our services even more and dreaming up more fees. Population is dwindling; casinos are multiplying. Erie County is like a dying star that, right before the end, burns more garishly and crazily than ever.

But are things hopeless? No.

In the cool, pink-and-purple world of women's magazines, nothing is ever hopeless. Every month, Glamour and Self assume you're just like Buffalo -- out of shape, deep in debt, dragged down by bad relationships and in desperate need of a wardrobe update.

The magazines then offer quick fixes, things that can raise your spirits without taking much time or money. "From Flab to Fab in 4 Weeks," Self promised this month. Redbook blares: "How to Break His 7 Most Annoying Habits Now."

Sure, the stories can be silly. But I like their philosophy, which is that you can do something, even if it's just kicking that nail-biting habit. (Depressed over the the closing of my library, I took that step last week.)

What if we applied this idea to Western New York? Here are a few quick fixes that might make us feel better:

* Charlotte, N.C., has added a wine bar to its airport that features wines produced by the state's wine country. We have a wine country. We can do that.

* Let's play up our waterfront. Ventura, Calif., capitalizes on its waterfront by landscaping some bike paths and sidewalks with mini-canals filled with gently flowing water. If that idea is too expensive to copy, we could simply paint arrows on downtown sidewalks that point toward the water.

* Clean up the restrooms in Martin Luther King Park. At a recent jazz festival, the perpetually hopeless ladies' room was simply closed, marked "Out of Order." The men had chivalrously offered the use of their restroom and stood guard outside to protect us. It was nice of them, but what a wreck the place was. Plywood covered half the urinals; one guy said it had been there for three years. This charming, antique little building deserves better. So do our residents.

* Our farmers' markets are a step in the right direction, but we could do more. Markets in other cities have vendors selling roasted chili peppers (Santa Fe, N.M.), wild mushrooms (Cleveland) and roasted chestnuts (Sacramento, Calif.).

* Clear out that brush along the Scajaquada bike path so kids will stop setting fires there.

* Our steel plants are long gone. Let's stop saying, "Buffalo is a blue-collar town" and using that as an excuse not to reinvent ourselves.

* Let's start enforcing our quality-of-life laws. Take the noise laws, which are supposed to protect us from booming car stereos. Police say they're tough to enforce. I can help. All day, every five minutes, a whole fresh crop of cars lines up at the stoplight in front of my house, basses thumping. I will disclose my location to the cops. They can lie in wait in my driveway, nail these slugs and then charge them heavy fines. Do that instead of closing my library.

* Speaking of libraries, extend the hours of the downtown hub library to 10 p.m. It would help draw people downtown in the evening.

* Speaking of drawing people downtown, why not extend Thursdays at the Square to the end of September? Our Septembers are beautiful, like San Diego's. Let's keep that summer spirit going.

* To follow up on Redbook's advice "How to Break His 7 Most Annoying Habits Now": Don't vote for the person with the annoying habits. This November, take a long, critical look at your candidates. Cross party lines, if necessary. Little things count. Individual votes count, too.


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