Over the past several months, the residents and taxpayers in Buffalo’s eastside neighborhoods and business commercial strips have been busy meeting with community leaders and block club activists to develop a plan that will address many of the most pressing economic needs that are devastating our neighborhoods and communities. The first meeting was held on Wednesday, March 4th followed by April 4th and April 15th meetings @ the Frank E. Merriweather Library. In these three meetings, more than 200 regular citizens (not rich millionaires or self serving elected officials) sat down and wrote out their top ten initiatives that they wanted the Billion Dollars for Buffalo to help fund. These three meetings were also reinforced by input from 20 members of the Delavan Grider Senior Citizen program as well as numerous participants from Masten District Councilmember Demone Smith’s monthly breakfast.
Since up to the aforementioned meetings, initiated and organized by this writer and the Warriors group, there has been little or no opportunity for citizens’ input into the state’s designations for the money and; since most of the specific designations have come from politicians and other government officials, it is quite obvious that in this round of billion dollars designated and allocated, the public, the taxpayers and the poverty status of a community that spearheaded the governor’s generosity, have been ignored at worst and taken for granted at best. The top priority that has generated the most response is economic development in neighborhoods and on eastside commercials strips and jobs for the underemployed and unskilled young, Black men who do not have the money or transportation to get to those suburban training programs once or if the union would allow them to join or sign up. The Billion for Buffalo’s agenda has been widely touted and distributed in all neighborhoods in the city. It does not take misinformation or rhetoric for a significant number of inner city residents to see that they have been clearly left out. Why should they be proud that monies, that was known to be designated to the city months ago, arrived and we had not advocated for or implemented training programs or union-backed apprenticeship programs so that we could stop watching people coming, working and then leaving our community, to go home? What good are ‘Cranes in the air’ when the guys who drive those cranes wash off the dirt and mud in bathtubs in Orchard Park, Cheektowaga and all points outside of Buffalo; especially the eastside of Buffalo? The Outsource Resource Center, on Fillmore Ave., has been asking for government help every since they opened almost ten years ago. A compassionate and fair-minded administration on every level of government would have come to their and the community’s aid long before they almost wore themselves to death by begging and pleading.
We Are Women Warriors and my legislative district office are in the process of recording and documenting the response of the taxpayers and voters who attended the meetings. Once they have been prioritized and categorized, they will be presented to the elected officials on all levels that represent Buffalo, the media; block club and community leaders and finally, the general public. This initiative should be completed around the middle of May. With the work that we have compiled, with 100% input and participation from the public, one cannot say that the much touted, citizen participatory budget process is not working. Finally, I want to thank the members of We Are Women Warriors and other groups who gave so much of their valuable time to contribute to this historic and yet, new level of citizen participation