It Ain’t Over Until It’s Over!

Dear Editor:

Next week Tuesday November 7, 2017 is Election Day We have a few major issues facing our community, the office of Mayor, and Erie County Sheriff, and three major propositions that will be on the back of each ballot that are very important to our everyday life. Your vote is very important this year. We The People have the power to make a positive change. We must be selective in how we come out and cast our VOTES.

I encourage residents to become smart voters. Don’t vote for anyone that you don’t know, and do not vote for anyone just because they are Democrat or Republican or any other political affiliation. If you do not know them and are not familiar with their platform do not vote. As this election year relates to the mayoral race, please join me in casting your vote for the office of Mayor. If you are tired of Mayor Brown, and you believe in term limits for all elected offices, I urge democrats to cross party lines and vote for Mark J. F. Schroeder on the REFORM Line 11-H for Mayor.

Mayor Brown won the September Democratic Primary. Betty Jean Grant, and Mark J. F. Schroeder’s combined votes cast totaled 53%! Let’s make a real change for ALL of Buffalo. Look for the Reform party line on the left side of your ballot, count down to line 8, and then look across to the last column for Mayor.

The second choice I’m asking the community to give their vote to is Bernie Tolbert for Erie County SHERIFF. We have to remove Howard. We cannot have any White supremacy sympathizer such as Sheriff Howard in office. He must be removed. Please come out and vote for Bernie Tolbert as Sheriff, his name will appear on the Democratic line.

Next and very important are the three proposition which will appear on the back of your ballot.

Proposal One – Constitutional Convention. The question is, should there be a convention to revise the Constitutional and amend the same? Vote YES.

Proposal Two - Forfeiture of an elected official’s PENSION if convicted of a certain Type of Felony while in office. I’m Voting YES, and you should too!

These two propositions are the most important so please Vote. And please do not vote for anyone that you do not KNOW. That is the most dangerous Vote that Black people here in Buffalo can cast!

Make sure you get out to vote on Tuesday, November 7and exercise your right to be a selective Voter!

- Samuel A. Herbert of Buffalo Fillmore District.

Why We Should Vote "No" on the Constitutional Convention...

Dear Editor:

New Yorkers make progress. It’s what we do. It’s not always easy—in fact, it seldom is. Every progressive victory in New York history has been hard-won, and, in November, New Yorkers must once again choose progress. Every 20 years, New York voters decide via referendum whether we want to rewrite our Constitution with a constitutional convention. Proponents argue that a convention is the only way to reform Albany. That just isn’t true.

The Constitution has already been amended more than 200 times since 1894, with another two amendments proposed for this coming November alone. A constitutional convention would threaten every progressive reform ever adopted by the state of New York. The new Constitution would be written by 204 delegates, and those delegates would be chosen by political machines with the money and influence to get their people elected. During the last convention, less than 10 percent of the delegates were African-American or Latino. It was dominated by judges, legislators and other political insiders. Average people can’t compete. That convention targeted every public resource and freedom in New York, and there’s no reason to think this convention would be any different.

Through unrelenting effort, New Yorkers have been able to create a Constitution that protects our rights and prioritizes our needs. For instance, the New York State Constitution has some of the most powerful voting rights protections in the country. Voter ID laws disproportionately target people of color and low-income men and women, preventing them from voting if they do not have an ID. The New York Constitution guarantees that the only identification you need to vote is your signature. The Constitution also includes provisions for spending public money to assure that low-income New Yorkers have affordable housing. This type of spending is one of the most powerful tools we have in the ongoing battle to make New York affordable for people other than the ultra-wealthy, and there are plenty of private interests that want to destroy them. In New York we’ve raised the age of criminal responsibility, reduced stop-and-frisk and required videotaped police interrogation for serious offenses.

A constitutional convention could wipe away these reforms and all other reforms in a single year. And, as we all know, immigrant communities across the country are currently under attack by the federal government. New York City and New York State are both self-described sanctuaries, but a convention would open our laws to influence from hateful groups funding an anti-immigrant agenda. I fight every day to help our communities achieve financial stability, good jobs, affordable housing and justice on all fronts. We cannot afford for all of our rights and protections to be up in the air and vulnerable during a convention we have no say in.

On top of everything else, the estimated cost of a convention is upward of $300 million—money we could spend helping the 88,000 homeless people in New York. Don’t let political insiders waste our money. Vote no to protect every progressive reform in New York history.

Afua Atta-Mensah, Esq. Afua Atta-Mensah, Esq. is executive director of Community Voices Heard and Community Voices Heard Power in NYC.

Will We Ever See Truth and Justice On the Question of the Deaths of

India Cummings and Richard Metcalf?

Dear Editor,

Months ago, I thought that Erie County DA John Flynn should never have given the Richard Metcalf case to a rural DA; in particular to no one in Cattaraugus, Allegeny, or Wyoming Counties. Sentiment against the SAFE Act, which Sheriff Howard refuses to enforce, runs very high in those counties. Far better to have given the case to a county with a strong urban core, much like Erie County, in which Mr. Metcalf died. Rochester’s Monroe County and Syracuse’s Onondaga County come to mind. Or perhaps a special prosecutor should have been empaneled by Albany to handle the case. Now, Cattaraugus County DA Lori Rieman has refused to even call Dr. Baden, the state review board recommended and nationally renowned forensic pathologist, because she "lacks confidence" in him (whatever that means).

The Buffalo News tells us today that now, the Cattaraugus County DA may be less likely to lodge charges against any of Sheriff Howard's deputies involved in the Metcalf case, contrary to the State Commission of Corrections recommendations for a criminal prosecution. As of November 29, the statute of limitations expires on two of the charges; manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide. Personally, I think that the more important date is Election Day, November 7. And in this regard, Cattaraugus County DA Rieman may be giving Sheriff Howard cover so that the Metcalf case doesn't blow up in his face before Election Day. Erie County DA Flynn passed the Metcalf case on to DA Rieman because two of his assistant DA's had relationships with corrections officers involved in the case. But Flynn's office has other assistant DA's who could have taken the case. So it looks to me as if Flynn wiggled out of having to prosecute anyone in the Sheriff's department for Richard Metcalf jr’s death. In so doing, it may be said that he maintained that ‘special relationship’ so historically notorious among DA's and law enforcement.

And, by DA Flynn's giving the case to DA Rieman, it looks like Sheriff Howard and those Erie County corrections officers involved in the Richard Metcalf case will all be in the clear... at least until November 8. Given the foregoing, I wonder if we will ever see truth and justice on the question of India Cumming's death in the Erie County Holding Center two years ago.

Sincerely,

Gene Grabiner

The Race forMayor: Will the Real “Spoiler” Please Stand Up?

Dear Editor:

It is finally time to set the record straight for all of those who call themselves a supporter of Byron Brown, and wrongly claim that Legislator Betty Jean Grant is a “spoiler” inthe race for mayor. It is clear that these individuals are either living in a fantasy world, or they have no real concept as to what the mayor of “an entire city” is supposed to do as they govern, or worse (for those who are Black) they have never experienced how Black mayors govern. Unlike mayors in other cities (take Rochester for example) Mr. Brown has never truly been a mayor who believed he was “to lift as he climbed.”

   

  Let us look at history over the past 12 years. 

    When we had an African American who ran, and should have been elected New York State Senator to represent our community, who did Mayor Brown support? NOT the Black, better qualified candidate. 

     When, on three separate occasions we had exceptionally qualified African Americans running for Supreme and County Court Judge seats, who did Brown support? NOT the Black candidate! 

When we had an African American running for the office of Buffalo City Court Judge, who did Byron Brown support? NOT the Black candidate.

WhenByron Brownhad the opportunity TWICE in the last five years to appoint an African Americanto the City Court Bench, who did he appoint? Two White females whose friends and family had more sway then the entire Black community!

As local, state and federal leaders condemned Carl Paladino for his insults to our first African American President and his wife, Byron Brown was and continues to be noticeably silent and absent.

As North Buffalo, South Buffalo, West Buffalo and “Canal Side” have thrived and the EastSide of the city continues to spiral downward, our “Black” Mayor has done nothing but claim that which has/is being done by Kaleida Health and U/B Medical School   as far as our East side development. Only 12 years into his governance and coincidently as he runs for re-election, he NOW pretends to have a plan to address East Side problems.

During 12 years of construction projects that have included a billion dollars on school construction, Solar City construction, construction along Canal Side, Delaware Avenue, Main Street, and the list goes on – this mayor has been SILENT as Black and Brown residents have been denied a fair share of the job opportunities

As streets around the city have been paved and new sidewalks and curbs have been put in we havebeen left out. 

As efforts have been made to push us out of the Fruit Belt and the Masten District, so that others can move in, not a word from this mayor.  As the County Executive hascondemned the creation of new apartments in the Ellicott District that poor or lower income families can’t afford, Brown has been quoted as saying he sees no problem with this.

No, good people of the City of Buffalo, Betty Jean Grant is NOT A SPOILER! Byron Brown has demonstrated he is not worthy of our continued support, and the sooner the people open their eyes and accept reality, the better off we will be.

I suggest that it is Brown who is the spoiler. And HE should be the one to get out of the race!

-Derrick Davi

Vaccines, Autism and The Black Community: We Need to Talk…

Dear Editor:

I have just finished watching Vaxxed The Movie online and it is the most frightening documentary, non-fiction, or fiction film I have seen in 50 years. It is about Autism. We have to show this movie for a discussion in our community. There is a monster hiding in America and it is not under our beds or in our dreams and the Centers For Disease Control and all the pharmaceuticals know it. This issue has been a back burner in our minds for a very long time.

In the last four years that I have been working in the public school system of Buffalo I have been questioning the hard evidence and asking myself why are we suddenly having an upsurge of Autism in the African American community and why does it seem to be impacting so many of our children that are male? This movie is hard evidence that we have been deceived by the CDC. I watched the congressional hearings that sought to resolve this issue of, "Do vaccines cause Autism and is the MMR one of the primaries in causing that illness?"

After the hearings, like so many other issues, nothing else has happened. This film made me remember that President Obama sanctioned the fact that there was link between Autism and vaccinations in a public video announcement during his presidential term. I remembered feeling outraged about how nonchalantly he spoke. Yet I failed to follow through on what I thought and because I said nothing and did nothing, even within my own family, I may have an autistic grandson.

This movie gives an answer to Autism based on scientific documentation done by the CDC that was not allowed to be part of public discourse. It showcases parents who have known that they were being lied to, because prior to their young child having this vaccine they were normal children who never returned to normalcy after that vaccine. In fact, the CDC has known for a long time that the age the vaccine is given is wrong, because a child under three years old body is not able to handle the dosage of a three in one vaccine.  Remember our children use to get these shots at different times. There was no research into what the outcomes of combing these shots would be other than the fact that the pharmaceuticals would profit greatly. There is linked evidence that giving these shots to children at 3 years old would be better.

Since the combined shot has been given world wide there has been an international explosion in Autism. The number here in America is staggering. In the congressional hearings a congressman remarked that Autism is not like some childhood illness that a child dies from in 20 or 30 years. Autistic children live well into old age, so we will be responsible for their care a long time. 

I work with Autistic teens at City Honors that are blessed to be high performers, but for the majority that is not the case. Some of these cases I got to see up close this summer and in schools that I worked in before City Honors. We need to show this film and have a panel discussion following that showing that includes parents and experts.

I hope you all will agree. We serve on powerful ministries within our churches and our communities. We owe this film and its discussion to our children and families in Buffalo. We have many young women who have infants in our church and are of age for having children in the future. We must be at the front of providing life quality information to our people.

Peace, Love, and Blessings,

Akua

“Low Income Families Are Targeted

In Erie County Holding Center Monopoly”

Dear Editor:

The Erie County Holding Center and local food supplier are targeting low income poverty stricken families in a Food Price Monopoly. 97% of all inmates are below income Poverty lines; yet these inmates are Paying for Commissary items that are Astronomically inflated. 

Inmates are served 3 small meals per day between the hours of 5am Breakfast and 5pm Dinner. That’s right after 5pm no food is given for 12 hours unless you purchase items from the commissary. What is the inmate commissary? Inmate commissary is an out-side vendor where an inmate can order food if he or she has available funds in their account to supplement the 12hours of not receiving any food from the Erie County Holding Center.

Food on commissary is considered a privilege yet I cannot think of one human who goes without food for 12hours unless by choice or force without being hungry. 

The Erie County Holding Center bids out contracts on everything yet this inmate commissary has been controlled by one vendor for years monopolizing prices on items frequently sold. For instance, a ramen noodle soup in stores is .11cents per pack, the Holding Center vendor charges .75cents per pack. .25cent chips cost $1.00, one bar of zest soap costs $2.00 Prices are raised with no warning, food is down-sized yet prices stay the same. 

If inmates complain deputies say it’s a privilege to receive so its not grieveable. Inmates are allowed to spend $140 a week on commissary times 500 inmate’s times 52 weeks. Please tell me who’s privilege is it our or theirs.  Who’s getting the kick back from the company not our family not us. The deputies have a new weight room a 60inch T.V. and each have an Ipad to just punch a clock. We inmates have a T.V. that doesn’t work most of the time. Like New Jack City this is Bigger than Nino Brown. 

All inmates are dependent on family for support and most families are below poverty lines. To directly target a certain group of people and monopolize their eating and spending is a form of slavery. To say to them if you complain we will stop it and you’ll be hungry for 12 hours a day is a form of slavery. 

Companies like Bell were broke-up because of monopolies why is it ok for the Holding Center.

Elected officials, Ms. Peoples, Ms. Grant,Mr Pridgen, Mr. Wyatt, MayorBrown PLEASE HELP. Whatis going on is not legal and only affects just-us (justice)!

-A Concerned and 

Conscientioius Inmat

Dear Editor:

No Need To Tear Down McCarley Gardens!

I am the great-niece of Reverend Burnie C. McCarley, founder and namesake of the McCarley Gardens housing development that has received so much attention.  Most recently there has been a call to tear down the development.  As someone intimately familiar with the housing development, its building history, purpose, and mission, I can tell you that McCarley Gardens was built to last and that it is not falling apart.  Architect Wallace V. Moll (1920-2012) designed and built St. John Baptist Church and the Burnie C. McCarley housing development. He was selected because his faith and professionalism fit with the mission of St. John Baptist Church to build high quality housing for God’s children.  As Mr. Moll’s obituary states “His joy was the designing of Christian churches to the glory of God” and shoddy work was not part of his plan.  This does not deny the need for maintenance and sensible rehabilitation.  But demolition? Such a proposal disgraces the good work and vision of Reverend McCarley, architect Moll, and the early members of the church who carried out my great-uncle’s vision.  

McCarley Gardens is listed in the M.I.T. Press handbook, Buffalo Architecture: A Guide and destroying McCarley Gardens would only add to Buffalo’s list of notable architecture needlessly destroyed.  Environmentally and economically, careful rehabilitation has far greater benefits than demolishing and rebuilding. Rehabilitation is greener, cost effective, and provides for workforce development in historic preservation, construction, and design.  Local labor can be trained and hired to do this work and at the fraction of the cost of new building.  Planning for the McCarley Gardens development took place during the 1970s with the construction occurring 1979-1980. In a city where most of the housing stock predates 1939, it is almost laughable to consider this not quite 40 year old structure so antiquated it needs demolition and rebuilding at the cost of $35 million.

There is no need for you to tear down McCarley Gardens in order to reimagine what is paradise already for those who live there and to those who admire the housing complex from afar.  McCarley Gardens is a successful, beloved housing development.  We ask you in your quest to tear down a stable structure, where is the humanity in the act of destroying McCarley Gardens? Where is the Christianity?     

The need for adequate housing at affordable costs is critical today.  Removing and rebuilding McCarley Gardens exacerbates the problem of inadequate affordable, high quality housing in Buffalo.  Your plan will disrupt families and disturb the peace and security that the good people in McCarley Gardens experience as balm in a harsh world.  Preservation, maintenance, and loving repair will respect the spirit of how and why McCarley Gardens was built:   My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places. Isaiah 32:18.  If McCarley Gardens is in need of repair, then repair the structures, but do not tear it down to rebuild anew.

Linda R. Parker

Dear Editor

 I wanted to alert you that a correction is needed for Legislator Betty Jean Grant’s The (Buffalo) Billion Dollar Question… from the January 25th edition.

In her fourth paragraph, she mentions “ funding a study (mind you, a study) to see where to put a new train station in Buffalo ($25 million)…”  Reading this insinuates that the study is going to cost $25 million – this is inaccurate. Governor Cuomo challenged Mayor Brown to conduct a study within a 6mo time period. If successful, the Governor would pay the $1 million cost for the study, if unsuccessful then the Mayor’s on the hook for the $1 million. The $25 million is earmarked as 2018 state DOT funds for construction of the new Amtrak station, where ever it is selected to be located. These funds will most likely also be used to leverage federal funds to complete the project.

It should be mentioned that the Assemblywoman is a member of the formed Amtrak Station Relocation Committee, and that the majority of the proposed locations are on Buffalo’s East Side (east of Main St.), located within the 141st Assembly District. While most elected officials have their personal preferences on where the station should be located, we have been tasked by the Mayor and Dean Robert Shibley with keeping an open mind to all of the information and testimony being submitted, and that is what we will continue to do for the duration.

 

Humanity, Which Way, Buffalo?  Michael Hill

During the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, a cultural war emerged with the battle line drawn by white supremacist organizations, led by Donald Trump. The Alt Right “movement” of supremacists and Trump supporters line up on the side of identity politics. While People of Color, Muslims, Mexicans, and LGBT and anyone organizing, advocating or fighting for freedom, truth and justice are the enemies of supremacists. 
The cultural conflict, a war of a psychological nature, echoes from European colonization, enslavement of Africans, genocide against Native people and southern white supremacy violence of the post-reconstruction era.
Education is the battle field in the cultural war occurring in Buffalo N.Y. The battle engages the Buffalo Public Schools, New York State Education Department, City Hall and the hearts and minds of adults and children. The request by the Buffalo Board of Education, to the State Education Commissioner, for the removal of Carl Paladino from the Board is a response to the offensive and harmful aggression of the white male supremacy mentality. 

Mr. Paladino’s harmful and abusive statements, were reported nationally and internationally. A Trump advisor and New York State Republican Party leader, Paladino has a history of bullying and intimidating behavior.  His 2017 New Year Wishes, published in a local weekly were, death by mad cow disease for President Obama; and a degrading, dehumanizing characterization of Michelle Obama going back to live with gorillas. Beyond perpetuating a lie of the First Lady being a transgender man, he projects the slavery justifying sub-human African monkey stereotype found in racist, KKK and American Nazi publications. 
His statement negates his role as a public official, and education leader. It brings into explosive view a conflict in human values within Mr. Paladino and within the Buffalo community. The published statement put the citizens of Buffalo, the city government, Board of Education, State Education Department, and the Mayor front and center to demonstrate leadership and the true character of our humanity. 
As a public official, representing citizens in one of nine districts of the Buffalo Public Schools; Mr. Paladino has demonstrated a moral, educational and professional incompetence. By his conduct, Paladino demonstrated a purposeful intent to make public display of depraved ideas that would warrant a teacher’s removal from the classroom or principal from management of a school. 
The recent City Hall demonstration, a mobilization of women for the protection of our children and the well being of the community is the frontline of organizing people of good conscious to confront and remove a white supremacist bully from the Buffalo Board of Education. The question remains, will the school yard bully be held accountable for his actions? 
The Mayor calling the demonstration “a side show”, reminds me of a lesson from the School of Common Sense, that Brother Simba (MHRIP) often spoke – “our greatest affliction is our contradiction”. In that regard, the Mayor is a “no show on leadership”. His statement that Paladino should resign offers nothing since Paladino has chosen not to.
There’s no free lunch and there’s no free speech. Everyone is accountable for the effect of their behavior. Speech is behavior. Mr. Paladino has spoken freely. He has taken responsibility, but refuses to be accountable for the harm he has done. One cannot yell fire in a dark theater full of patrons, or verbally incite violence against others, or slander people with impunity. 

First Amendment protection, does not permit harm, intent to cause harm, nor supersede professional standards, ethics, policies and regulations intended to protect children and the public interest. The idea that Paladino’s statements are free speech, and his removal from the Board would be an unconstitutional infringement of his rights, is a superficial interpretation of the 1st Amendment. Determining Paladino’s failure to meet professional, moral and ethical responsibility and standards is the basis for removal. 

A teacher is not expected to stand by while one student verbally attacks another. They are expected to recognize and immediately handle the harm being done and nip in the bud the potential for greater bullying, greater harm. It is a professional standard of performance, a moral and ethical obligation. If a teacher, had made the same statement as Paladino, most parents I know would immediately demand the removal of the teacher. Many would immediately remove.
The demand for Paladino’s removal is a demand for justice based on his intentional and purposeful statements which he knew were disrespectful, hurtful, and would offend African Americans specifically, provoke hostility, inflame emotions, and racial discord. He has engaged in a pattern of bullying and intimidation of Board Members, Interim Superintendent, Board Staff and others. 

Mr. Paladino knew that his racist “Wish List” would have the effect of destabilizing and undermining the capacity of the Board to effectively operate. As a public servant he has failed to meet the professional standards and fulfill the duty of an education leader. I’m sure after his removal, Paladino will continue to speak freely. 

Pardoning Political Prisoners In The United States 

Dear Editor:

During his presidency Barack Obama has pardon some of the following; Wall Street bankers and Drug dealers. During this same period, he has yet to pardon any of the large number of political prisoners, Black, White or Native American in Federal prisons all over this country. 

This is the same president who received the Nobel Peace prize after coming into office. During his period in office he has continued the wars started by the Bushes before him. He has enlarged the global scope of Drones and their use all over the world. He has deported more people than any other president before him. He has allowed, whistle blowers, like Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange and most famously Edward Snowden, to be imprisoned or exiled to silence them. He has covertly allowed more spying on not only US citizen but so-called Allies as well. Other than Obama care, for too many people of color, things have not vastly improved. 

During both of his administrations, he’s had to fight an openly racist Senate and Congress tooth and nail to even get a few positive things accomplished. Now in the last months of his term he has a chance to make a lasting long term effect, in regards to the freeing of some of the world’s longest held political prisoners in this country.  

The question is why hasn’t he even remotely addressed this long standing issue? While he has spoken about human rights all over the world, it appears he’s gone deaf, dumb and blind to our political prisoners; examples, Leonard Peltier, Mumia Abu Jamal, Assata, Shakur, David Gilbert, Mutulu Shakur, Russell Maroon Shoats, Jalil Muntaqim, Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin[Formally known as H. Rap Brown], Sundiata Acoli, Veronza Bowers, Oscar Lopez Rivera, Avelino Gonzalez Claudio, Atty Lynne Stewart, The MOVE 8, Sekou Odinga, to name a few. At this late hour with the stroke of a pen, he could make history by as Spike Lee eloquently put it,”DO THE RIGHT THING”.

For too long Obama has been a cautious figure, who appears to be trying to walk a tightrope between the two parties. Well its check out time and he can do what we know he should have done a long time ago, address this issue NOW. If he needs examples, Bill Clinton pardoned some Puerto Rican political prisoners, who were from NY, so his wife Hillary could win the election there. Even John Hinckley,  the clown who almost killed, President Reagan has been released from the mental hospital St. Elizabeth’s in D.C. Under the Bush administration’s, criminals Like Oliver North, who was responsible for trafficking and bring large shipments of Cocaine into the country for the Iran Contra wars, was pardoned without even going to prison.

To those who say, so how can we get him to even consider the idea, I say just like the stupid ICE BUCKET challenges that went viral, we must do the same. Also make sure that everyone we know posts this letter or better still write your own and post it. Make short videos and post them challenging, Obama to ...FREE’M ALL! Of course I expect to see a lot of naysayers, who will find any excuse to do nothing while claiming to support our FREEDOM FIGHTERS. As my mother use to say, “either get busy or get gone.”

I’m especially aiming this message at the younger generation of activists, BLACK LIVES MATTER and others who are now continuing the struggle, which the political prisoners started. For too long only a very small group of Black folks and our White, Asian allies have been carrying the burden for these changes. Sadly, too many Black folks my age, either never cared or only pay lip service to the idea of freeing political prisoners. If there ever was a good time for this to happen it is now. Enough talk about racial harmony, its SHOW AND TELL time.

As someone who spent time in Federal prisons all across this country for, what now would now be called terroristactivities; theft of military weapons and attempting to burn down the Walter Reed arsenal in Washington D.C. , I know close up and personal what life for those who dare fight against this facist nation means.

Fulani L. Carter

Contact:blackwatts@outlook.com Twitter @darkonya

The Land Bank Issue:  

“Show Us The Money! We Will Not Be Denied A Seat At This Table”

Dear Editor,

On Friday, October 14, 2016, I attended an emergency community meeting at C.R.U.C.I.A.L., located at 230 Moselle St.. The meeting was organized by Taniqua Simmons, a well-known local community activist that I have a lot of respect for.

Over 100concerned city residents attended this meeting to address the issue that our community was being sold from under us through a city land bank that had been approved by the NYS Assembly and signed into law by the Governor. Several elected officials were present: District Councilman Wingo, Erie County Legislator Betty Jean Grant and Council Member Barbara Miller Williams. Most importantly Mayor Brown attended with his employee Keith Lucas, Director of Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency since 2011. Also present was John Washington, community organizer for PUSH and Indian Walton representing the Fruit Belt community which is organizing its own land bank with the help of John Washington. I reference all these individuals because they are all key players and stakeholders in the future of the inner city communities of Buffalo, but what I have to say regarding this meeting is addressed to my beloved community residents. 

I am the elected committee-person for Masten 36. In this position which I do not take lightly, I am required to provide the residents with the information and tools when possible that will allow them be productive participants in their community. So, I have researched the land bank issue and I want to share that information, because once again we are late at the table. Not because we don’t care, but because those we elect to office never clearly and completely explain issues and circumstances that may have a seriousimpacton our lives. I want to explain how we gotto a place where an information session became a beat down, disorderly, and a shameful display for residents and those elected to serve us.

WHAT IS A LAND BANK? Land Banks are not financial institutions. They are public or community owned entities created for a single purpose: to acquire, manage, maintain, and repurpose vacant, abandoned, and foreclosed properties. They deal with the worst abandoned houses, forgotten buildings, and empty lots.

How Did We Get to This Point? On July 9, 2011 Governor Cuomo signed Land Bank legislation. Why? So that municipalities could create Land Banks to convert vacant properties into uses that support community revitalization. Eight counties formed land banks. Our bank is called Buffalo Erie Niagara Land Improvement Corporation. The NY Land Bank Act defines how the Land Bank should operate:

1.Obtain property at low or no cost through tax foreclosure.

2.The right of first refusal to purchase properties being sold after tax foreclosure.

3.Hold land tax free

4.Clear title and/or forgive back taxes

5.Lease properties for temporary use

6.Negotiate sales based not only on the highest bidder but on the outcome that most closely aligns with community needs. 

Note: Based on how they should operate we don’t have to push or yell we have a legal right to form a Community Advisory Council and be at the table.

What Happened in 2013? In the summer of 2013 NYS Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s Land Bank Community Revitalization Initiative competitively made available to Land Banks 33 million dollars over two rounds. The funds were part of the first National Mortgage Settlement awarded to NYS.

In September 2013 the eight NYS Land Banks split 13 million dollars and Buffalo was one of the eight that received 1.625 million dollars. In the second round 20 million dollars was split by the original 8 and a newly formed Albany county Land Bank corporation. They each received 2.222 million Dollars. So we need to ask where is that 2.847 million dollars.

Let’s Look at Some More Recent Activity:  There was a grand announcement June 23, 2016.  in Albany, NY. The Headlines read, Governor Cuomo Signs Sweeping Legislation to Combat the Blight of Vacant Abandoned Properties. It is to your benefit to read Bill #36 dated 06/13/16 sign by the Senate and the Assembly, because the was to take effect immediately. In brief page 2 lines 3-4…there is a need to establish a program to assist homeowners…line 9-11…who may lose their homes through foreclosure, or abandoned their homes due to economic hardship and may benefit from assistance.

So now you know my beloved community and people that municipalities can create Land Banks and so can we, to convert vacant properties into uses that support community revitalization and Land Banks to identify and purchase properties from federal distressed pools. Mayor Brown spoke the truth, now we must make sure the city walks the walk. It our turn now! 

-Akua Kamau

Buffalo Police Get Failing Grade for Actions to Address Gun Violence

By Kat Massey 

It’s undeniable that doing the same thing the same way -- while expecting different results -- is an insensible prescription for failure. Now, to the point. The actions of the Buffalo Police Department (BPD) -- to address the gun violence - have been with longevity -- ineffective, essentially inappropriate and disappointing (to be polite).

Sadly, according to news media reports, 37 people were shot in July. At year-to-date (August 23), there have been 29 homicides and26 of them occurred from guns. There were 5 killings by mid-August, alone.

The bullets have not discriminated. Men and women have lost their lives. Two young boys remain hospitalized (August 29) with life-threatening bodily damage. (One of them was shot in the head while just sitting in a car. The other child has some paralysis and major speech problems.)

The gun attacks are rapidly increasing. Figuratively, guns seem to be almost vending machine accessible. It obvious the BPD needs immediate assistance from outside the department.

There must be relevant, expanded initiatives far beyond the bogus guns buy-back and periodic raids when there is a brief shower of grant money. Main source gun dealers seem untargeted. If so, the results have not been reported on the 11 o’clock news.

Territorial issues must not prevent the BPD from seeking HELP from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). Years ago during a television news interview, an ATF agent stated the bureau must be invited by local law enforcement. That invitation from the BPD is overdue and definitely justified. (Also, the FBI should be included.)

Increasingly, it seems there’s an unrealistic expectation that citizens need to be crime stoppers/solvers. That’s the realm of those officers depended upon “to protect and serve” (even though the mission statement has been downgraded to “improve the quality of life in the City of Buffalo.”) Of course there is an understandable reluctance for witnesses to come forward. (In one instance a female witness left town but she was assassinated.)

Enough said.

Thank You, Challenger Community News

 Dear Editor:

On behalf of the Buff City Hoops Basketball Tournament committee, I would like to thank editor and publisher, Alnisa Banks and the Challenger Community News for the outstanding support ad that ran in your last edition. We know that your newspaper is struggling as are so many businesses on the eastside and yet you promoted our Thursday evening fundraiser atthe Varsity Theater on July 28th.

The proceeds from the fundraiser will be used to pay for the basketball jerseys, sports equipment, referees and food and beverage all day for over 300 teenage boys and girls. Buff City Hoops does not charge the family for their child's participation as we know the hard economic condition many families on the eastside, are experiencing. On this day, they can attend the tournament and have a great family day with their neighbors and friends.

The community can help support this event by donating on our Face Book's GoFundMe page, Buff City Hoops.com website or by sending a check or money order to: Buff City Hoops, P.O. Box 1614, Buffalo, NY 14215. Or, you may call Betty Jean (716) 602-5877 or Esther (716) 697-6034.

Betty Jean Grant, Founder

Buff City Hoops

Buff City Hoops Sports Foundation

High-Powered Rifles and Weak Elected Officials:

Can we Receive a Little REAL Leadership for Once?

Dear Editor:

My God! Will they ever get it right? Will they ever get it together? Will this mayor, this administration, these professed elected official ever get their act together? Will they EVER do what’s right for the citizens, the youth of this city? The July 19t edition of the Buffalo News reports “High -powered rifles proposed for city police.” 

NOT investment in programs that will keep our young people in school.

NOT a program that works with businesses and contractors that would employ our youth and young adults. 

NOT the investment in recreational programs in all parts of the city tokeep young people safe and off the streets during the summer.  

NOT programs to de-escalate tension between youth in this city. 

NOTprograms to reduce teen pregnancy. 

Instead -  high powered rifles intended to use on we all know who!!!! It appears that nothing is disgraceful to our city leadership, or they simply continue to disgrace us with their total lack of interest in solving the real problems that plague too many of us. We’ve had enough lip service. For God’s sake, can we receive a little real leadership for once? 

-Sally James

Top Attorneys…

Dear Editor:

I was deeply disappointed when I saw the Buffalo News July 5th edition that featured who they felt were the “top attorneys” and “honorable mention” in Buffalo. Disappointed because once again, the powers that be found no person of color good enough to be placed on this list. Most disappointing and disturbing however, is that it seems the minority attorneys of Buffalo find no fault with their omission.

In these times where we daily hear the chant that “Black Lives matter,” theyseem to matter everywhere other thanin the “third poorest and most segregated city n the nation.’

-David Bailey

Thank You Amon Rashidi and the Griot Nation

Dear Editor: 

I would like to thank Amon Rashidi and the Griot Nation for coming to Buffalo and breathing life into the conscious movement here and inviting Buffalo’s amazing talent to help spread the conscious movement worldwide. Their commitment to our struggle is unwavering and the opportunities made available to our youth for a positive outlet is welcome as there are very few other positive outlets available.

The Griot Nation platform is one that will help not just our children but our elders too as we continue our Sankofa. And as we continue our Sankofa, (going back to fetch what was stolen from us during slavery), the culture we reclaim must be balanced by throwing off the culture enforced on and foreign to us. We have to understand that the information available to us now as reevaluated by Black scholars sheds a great deal of new light on our struggle and redefines what our objectives should be. 

On stage Sunday June 18th at the 41st consecutive Juneteenth Festival of Buffalo, Amon Rashidi briefly talked about the attack we are still under.  With the decoding of the human genome, vaccines, chem trails, lead water, genetically modified food and manmade dis-ease, we are in more danger that ever. Not just Black people but all people. As Amon says on his highly successful radio show every Sunday night on WBLK, we must “reclaim the village.” That most importantly includes reclaiming the spirituality of our village as taught by OUR ancestors. Brother Rashidi and his crew of UNCN, Pearly Gates, local team member Khalil Mohammed and Buffalo Griot Poet Society Director Ms. GOODNE$$, held several forums and coffee shop poetry sessions the seven days they blessed Buffalo with their presence,  that infused local artists with hope and opportunity to fully and freely express their positive contributions to OUR community’s improvement.

Humanity is suffering because its parents, Black people, are suffering. Even simply implying the “Gods of Egypt” were White is an outright attack on melanated/Black people. Ever since Europe raped Kemet/Egypt, the enemy has understood the subtle electricity that connects Black people is like a wireless network and could be used against us. That’s why we recently saw yet again the trailer for a new “Tarzan” movie a few years after another “Planet of the Apes.” The attack is more psychological (like the Willie Lynch syndrome) and therefore more damaging. 

The Griot Nation platform is like a force field against such attacks. We must support everything they are working on because in doing so we support ourselves, our children and our future. Lastly, I’d like to thank all the great conscious talent that came out to perform and support the Arts and Culture stage at Juneteenth this year, the Juneteenth Board, and our special guests Amon Rashidi, UNCN and Pearly Gates for helping us reclaim our village. The talent that was on display now has the Griot Nation here to support their dreams, aspirations and conscious evolution. They will be regular visitors to Buffalo as we continue our pursuit of our God given right to Life, Love and Liberation. Hotep/Peace

Ron Draffin

Juneteenth Arts and Culture Stage Chairperson

Agreement on Parking Plan in the Fruit Belt “Disturbing”

(Back In may a tentative deal was reached on the Fruit Belt resident parking issue. It was reported that the proposal came out of talks involving Fruit Belt residents and unionized workers at the Medical Campus. The agreement, which must still be approved by the state Legislature, calls for keeping half the streets open to for general a public parking and the other half for workers at the nearby Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. The program – which will be a two year pilot -  was praised during a press conference held at the Moot Center, located in the Fruit Belt. Politicians, thanked residents and union representatives as well as each other for the work everyone has done to get the agreement. )

Dear Editor:

What I find most disturbing about the recent News article “Tentative Deal Reached on Frit Belt Resident Parking,” is there has never been an agreement between residents and the unions.  On the contrary, there’s been strife and threats on the part of the unions, with CSEA threatening to block the bill again if the residents do not support their fight for affordable parking. The power elites lied to us and the media.  We are painfully aware that unions are not our friends nor do they care about the impact they have on a predominantly Black neighborhood.  These are suburbanites who view us as insignificant.  They have the power and money to move our elected officials in any direction they want.  All we have is a desire to live comfortably in our neighborhood. 

What sense does it make to have 500 parking permits, 250 for residents and 250 for employees? Most of the residents and their visitors, not to mention church members, and store patrons, will be left out of the equation.  I must hand it to Buffalo, we really know how to “not know what we are doing!”

As for Benjamin Cashaw, he … does not represent us. He represents the power elites. Who made him spokesperson for us?!  The power elites of course! 

People! The decision is just around the corner. Make your voices heard and tell our officials, “this is unacceptable!!!  We should not be at the mercy of a political “power ball!”

Please spread the word! wide social media for those of you who can!!! 

Veronica Hemphill-Nichols

Coordinator/Trainer

Restorative Justice

Restorative_justice@yahoo.com

Fruit Belt/McCarley Gardens Housing Task Force

www.fruitbeltmccarleygardensspeakout.webs.com

 

Who is Bernie Sanders?

Dear Editor:

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont is running for president of the United States on the Democratic Party line. 

Bernie Sanders fought for civil rights in the 1960s, getting arrested while doing so.  He worked to desegregate housing at the University of Chicago and took part in the March on Washington in 1963. Senator Sanders has spent his career in public office fighting for working people regardless of the political climate.  He led the opposition to the Iraq War in 2002 and spoke out against the destructive elements of the 1994 Crime Bill.  Bernie Sanders is on the right side of the issues, even when its not popular to do so.   

Bernie Sanders is fighting for campaign finance reform and an and to corporate welfare. Sanders is pushing to raise the minimum wage to $15.00 an hour for all workers.  He supports a Medicare-for-all, single-payer healthcare system. Sanders has introduced legislation to ban private prisons and he is fighting for criminal justice reform. Bernie Sanders is fighting for tuition-free public colleges for all Americans. 

Senator Bernie Sanders has been endorsed by Michelle Alexander, Harry Belafonte, Danny Glover, Spike Lee, Dr. Cornel West, Former NAACP President, Shaun King, and many others. He has the support of local activists in Buffalo including Katrinna Martin-Bordeaux and Jim Anderson.  Sanders has also been endorsed by Erie County Legislator Betty Jean Grant.

Go to Berniesanders.com to learn more about the program Senator Sanders is proposing for our country.  If you would like to get involved with the local campaign, you can stop in at the Bernie Sanders Buffalo field office at 404 Amherst Street, Buffalo, 14207.  You can reach us by phone at 716-221-4276 and by email at Buffaloforbernie@gmail.com

Vote Bernie Sanders for Democratic Presidential nominee on April 19th!

-Buffalo For Bernie Sanders Campaign

“Pastor Pridgen Brings Power To The People!”

Dear Editor:

Bishop Darius G. Pridgen made a way.  He opened up the doors of True Bethel Baptist Church and over one million bottles of water were delivered by the people.  Then Robert (Bob) Rich III, President of ROAR Logistics, Inc. took care of the logistics and delivered the water to Flint.  On the east side, we may not have much but we have each other, as the saying goes.  The east side came together and made a difference.  We helped the residents of Flint, Michigan.  We got a chance to see the power of the Black dollar and the power that is right in our own backyard.  The residents of Buffalo and powerful businessmen like Bob Rich III, came to help us when they heard about Operation H20 because we were doing something positive that they wanted to become a part of. 

Thank you Bishop Pridgen, who led us to the water and gave “power to the people.”   There’s a lesson to be learned in all of this from Bishop Pridgen and Bob Rich, III.  Don’t wait for a phone call.  Help others when you see someone in need and don’t hesitate to ask others to help you help someone else if you can’t do it alone.  And like Big Momma taught us: “Don’t you forget about them folks who helped you along the way when you needed help ‘cause you just might need to call on them same folks again one day.”  

-LAVINIA G. HAIRSTON

 

#deareditor

Open Letter to The Community

Thank You For Standing With The Buffalo Urban League!

I am writing to thank the community for coming together in support of the Buffalo Urban League.  Your prayers, assistance and showing up in unprecedented numbers at the Erie County Finance and Management hearing on the Erie County Comptroller’s Report shows our strengthen.  It speaks volumes for the impact the League has in taking risk to provide help and hope to the most vulnerable.

The League’s unwavering commitment and excellent service to this community has never been in question.  Not even in the Comptroller’s Report or the Legislature’s hearing was this disputed. Yet, Comptroller Mychajliw and Committee Chair Lorigo, in their media comments and public behaviors, showed a total disrespect and disregard not only for the Urban League but every resident they are elected to serve. Both have directly attempted to hurt and harm through their mean spirited, malicious unsubstantiated statements about the League and its leader. A basic civic lesson teaches all citizens deserve transparency, honesty and fairness from their elected officials.   The League and its leader, have earned the respect and reputation for addressing the inequalities that have prevented opportunities for all people, especially African Americans, other minorities and underserved individuals. The League’s advocacy and programs for responding to this community’s most pressing challenges is constantly demonstrated and sought after throughout the county and the nation. This leads to the following questions:

•Why did the Comptroller’s Report differ significantly from the inflammatory media statements of fraud, systematic mismanagement, and dysfunction when these words do not appear anywhere in his Report?

•Why did the Comptroller say he followed Generally Acceptable Government Auditing Standards for his review of the League when the League clearly documented that he did not?

•What was the cost to the Erie County taxpayers’ for the Comptroller to conduct an investigation lasting over a year based on a letter from whistleblowers who failed to make their complaints to   my wife or use the League’s internal whistleblower policy?  And why did the Comptroller fail to mention in his Report the whistleblowers complaints were investigated by State and Federal agencies and were found to be untrue?

•More importantly, what did the Comptroller Review cost the League in the repetitional damages, staff and expert time to provide documentation in response to the Comptroller’s   extensive requests over the past year?

With all the attention to the economic comeback and opportunities in the community, this has only shown and reinforced that now more than ever, we must have astrong Buffalo Urban League.   We must have the Leagues voice at the table. Thank you for standing with the Buffalo Urban League.                      

Standing Strong and Still Here,

Gerald McDuffie