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Paradise lost? Regained? It's a conundrum

If we ever have any hope of reversing the downward population trend that was reaffirmed yet again in the census, there are three things we have to do:

Become more prosperous so that more jobs are available.

Lower taxes.

Change our climate.

That was the result of perhaps the most unscientific poll in the history of unscientific polls, prompted by the number of people I communicate with on Facebook who moved from Buffalo but stay attuned to what's going on here.

Many of them share a fondness for home. There is often a wistful quality to their posts, a longing to be reacquainted with their friends, as opposed to "friending" their long-ago acquaintances.

It made me wonder how many of them would rather be home. So I asked them: If the circumstances were right, would you move back?

Some of them said what your loved ones probably would say if you asked them the same question. If there were a decent job for them in Buffalo, they would be stepping off a plane in Cheektowaga and putting a down payment on a house as soon as they could.

Others said that a good job would be a good start but that they would also need a reduction in the taxes we encounter every day.

But for others, even if someone could develop a magic potion to make their birthplace an economic boomtown and less reliant on taxes, it still wouldn't be enough. For those who now see the sun every day as opposed to every week or so, our weather is the deal-breaker. It seems the longer you're away from winters that last from November through April -- or perhaps May this year -- the less likely you are to want to return.

"The cold is simply too cold for me," said a cousin in Georgia.

"If jobs were abundant and paid well, taxes were lower, and my blood had not thinned out, yes," said a high school and college classmate in Florida. "In short, I miss friends and family but do not miss the cold."

"The weather is far too nice in St. Pete," said a former student.

"Being able to see sunshine every day of the year has spoiled me," said an uncle in Florida.

"I've thought about moving back," said a cousin in Florida. "But then I drove by the beach, or over one of the many scenic bridges over the Intracoastal [Waterway] and thought, 'Why would I want to leave paradise?' "

All this weather talk prompted a friend in Austin, Texas, to jokingly comment: "I laugh about the weather as an excuse. Did everyone turn soft after leaving Buffalo?"

But for anyone who hopes that we can one day start to grow again, it's an eye-opening message. It has taken nearly a financial Armageddon to finally start to see some spending control from our state leaders, but making our taxes slightly less awful is not going to lead expats back home. The one change that a lot of former residents say they want is out of our hands.

We have done about everything a community can do to offset our wintry image. We trumpet our ski slopes and skating rinks and toboggan hills, rave about the joy of seeing the seasons change, and publicize our spectacular summers that are rarely touched by the devastation that is commonplace in other states.

But for people who have settled in the tropics, it seems that almost nothing would get them to trade in their sunscreen for a snow shovel. It's discouraging but understandable.

I wonder: Maybe we can't change our weather, but a good job and a chance at a prosperous future might make the cold, gray months at home seem like paradise.


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