Duncan Kirkwood

Declares His Candidacy in Race for Erie County Legislator

Says focus will be on building bridges and bringing together diverse coalitions of supporters

                          Duncan Kirkwood 

                          Duncan Kirkwood 

I, Duncan Kirkwood, am running for Erie County Legislator in District 2 in the 2017 Election. As we enter the 2017 campaign, the focus will be on building bridges and bringing together diverse coalitions of supporters. 

I was born to Iris and Marvell Kirkwood, the last of three children. We were raised in Central Park on the Eastside of Buffalo, a place where crime and violence was the norm. My parents were determined to make sure that I lived to the age of 18 and had a chance at life. They exposed me to creative writing classes, a traveling chess team with St. John Baptist Church, an African Rites of Passage program with Jack and Jill Inc. and other diverse opportunities. 

After graduating fromhigh school, I accepted and committed to the Historically Black College, Alabama State University in Montgomery, Alabama. There, I learned Black consciousness and the importance of fighting together to win in a system that is oppressive. While there, I sued the city of Montgomery to protect student voting rights. I used my ability to write and pass three State Laws while starting a statewide movement demanding excellence in education for all children. In broadening my global consciousness, I also led a Christian trip to Jerusalem. This led me to enlist in the Army National Guard so that I could serve my community. 

In 2015, my wife Carolyn and I decided that we would start our life here in Buffalo. I decided I would use the skills and knowledge acquired to make Buffalo better. I was heartbroken to find when I returned, in the midst of a sea of prosperity, the neighborhood I grew up in was still filled with blight and hopelessness. As I became involved with a variety of organizations fighting for justice and equality, it was clear Erie County could do more for its citizens.

 If elected,

   1. I will push to allocate an additional $4 million to expand wrap around services in our public schools. I will render support to the Buffalo Public School’s mission and vision under the leadership of Superintendent Dr. Cash and the New Education Bargain.

   2. I will assure the Erie County Legislative staff will be diverse and representative of the face of the people. 

   3. Due to the high percentage of children of color removed by Child Protective Services, I will call for a detailed analysis of data and demographics and what agencies financially benefit from it. 

   4. Erie County provides funding to over 60 non-profit organizations, with a handful being minority led. If elected, I will work to make sure the County allocates funds for more non-profits that represent the diversity of the county.

   5. One of the least funded departments in the Erie County budget is Veterans Affairs. As someone who has served in the military, I will work to expand current and future transformations to support our Veterans across Western NY.

   6 .I want to create a payment plan protocol for paying warrants and fines so the County does not harshly harm those in poverty who can't afford to pay. 

   7. I will work to transform the Erie County Holding Center to a place where citizens are treated with respect, and where they receive the physical and mental health care services they need. 

 Our elders have done incredible work in the community and we can never thank them enough. My generation can honor them by stepping up to carry the legacy forward. Research and policy change are necessary and I carry those strengths, and I believe I can affect great change. Lawmakers should write laws that significantly impact the community. If elected, I intend to do just that.

I have been a Democrat my entire life and believe in the principles of our party now more than ever. As an adult, I learned the “D” by someone’s name is important. What is more important, is a legislator’s ability to deliver lasting change for the community through legislation. “LET’S REACH FORWARD AND PUT PEOPLE OVER POLITICS!” Please visit my website: 

www.DuncanKirkwood.com  

Jeff Sessions is rolling back basic rights

by Jesse Jackson 

As Donald Trump nears the end of his first 100 days, media commentary focuses primarily on how little he has achieved in comparison to other presidents. It’s a mistake, however, to discount the threat that the Trump administration poses to our fundamental rights. His attorney general, former Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, is a case in point.

Sessions has set out with a vengeance to transform the Department of Justice into a Department of Injustice. He’s been hindered by the incompetence that characterizes this administration. He’s home alone in his department, with no nominations offered for the heads of top DOJ units — the civil rights, criminal or national security divisions. His deputies — Nos. 2 and 3 in the DOJ — have been nominated but not confirmed.

That has slowed but not stopped Sessions’ efforts to rollback basic rights. He’s reversed the Justice Department’s position of challenging voter identification laws; he deems the Voting Rights Act too “intrusive.” Now the DOJ will intervene in favor of states that pass discriminatory measures to restrict access to the ballot. The right to vote — the fundamental right of a democracy — will now depend on the willingness of judges to stand up for the truth, as U.S. District Court Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos did in ignoring the DOJ intervention and ruling that the Texas ID law was “passed, at least in part, with a discriminatory purpose.”

Sessions has issued orders to revive the old, failed war on drugs. The promising bipartisan efforts to reform sentencing provisions to end the mass incarceration of nonviolent drug offenders are to be abandoned. Sessions wants to revive private prisons and insure them a steady stream of prisoners. People of color, particularly young African-American men, will be the greatest victims of this injustice.

Sessions has called for a “review” of all the reform agreements that Obama’s Civil Rights Division has reached with police forces. His DOJ sought to delay implementation of a consent decree reached in Baltimore in the wake of the Freddy Gray killing. Sessions scorns these agreements as “political expediency” that will “handcuff the police.” In Baltimore, the judge ignored the DOJ’s efforts to impede reform. But despite the outcry at the killings of young black men and women, Sessions is clearly telling police they can act with impunity once more.

And Sessions has been point on the administration’s efforts to ramp up deportation, terrorize immigrants and defend the president’s unconstitutional Muslim ban. He expressed amazement that a “judge sitting on an island in the Pacific” could overturn the president’s order. That judge was a federal district court justice in the state of Hawaii, part of the union for 58 years.

Sessions has issued letters to nine sanctuary cities, counties and states, including the state of California, New York City, Chicago and Cook County, threatening to deny federal grant funds — largely funds for local law enforcement — unless they commit to cooperating with the administration’s sweeping assaults on immigrants. This arbitrary assertion of federal power is particularly remarkable from Sessions, who as a senator declaimed endlessly about the glories of states’ rights. Luckily, Sessions wasn’t at Herod’s side when Mary and Joseph sought sanctuary in Egypt with the baby Jesus.

The sanctuary jurisdictions have vowed to resist Sessions edicts. Speaking for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, spokesman Matt McGrath noted: “The administration’s plan to deny federal funds to cities that are standing up for their values is unconstitutional, and Chicago is proud to stand with 34 cities and counties across the country in asking a federal court to prevent the federal government from illegally withholding federal funds.”

New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio declared that New York City will “remain a city welcoming of immigrants who have helped make our city the safest big city in the nation. Any attempt to cut NYPD funding for the nation’s top terror target will be aggressively fought in court. We won’t back down from protecting New Yorkers from terror — or from an overzealous administration fixated on xenophobia and needless division.”

The assault on rights — for the LGBT community, for people of color, for women, for immigrants — is clear. Efforts to rollback voting rights, civil rights, police reform and sentencing reform have already begun. The resistance — from courts, from decent public officials, from activists and citizens of conscience — has been and will be fierce. Sessions’ Department of Injustice is measure of the damage that Trump can do. Instead of making America a more perfect union, Americans will have to mobilize to defend their rights from the very department that is tasked with protecting them.

The sanctuary jurisdictions have vowed to resist Sessions edicts. Speaking for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, spokesman Matt McGrath noted: “The administration’s plan to deny federal funds to cities that are standing up for their values is unconstitutional, and Chicago is proud to stand with 34 cities and counties across the country in asking a federal court to prevent the federal government from illegally withholding federal funds.”

New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio declared that New York City will “remain a city welcoming of immigrants who have helped make our city the safest big city in the nation. Any attempt to cut NYPD funding for the nation’s top terror target will be aggressively fought in court. We won’t back down from protecting New Yorkers from terror — or from an overzealous administration fixated on xenophobia and needless division.”

The assault on rights — for the LGBT community, for people of color, for women, for immigrants — is clear. Efforts to rollback voting rights, civil rights, police reform and sentencing reform have already begun. The resistance — from courts, from decent public officials, from activists and citizens of conscience — has been and will be fierce. Sessions’ Department of Injustice is measure of the damage that Trump can do. Instead of making America a more perfect union, Americans will have to mobilize to defend their rights from the very department that is tasked with protecting them.

To See Or Not To See… Awareness Offers The Greater Good

(Ed Note: At press time we learned that thesearchfor 37-year-old Steve Stephens ended when he reportedly shot himself to death in Erie, PA. Stephenswasthesuspect whorandomly shot and killed 74-year-oldRobert Godwin Sr. who was walking along a Cleveland-area sidewalk on Sunday ,before posting a video of the fatal shooting on Facebook. At one point the hunt for the killer broadened nationwide anda $50,000 reward for information leading to his arrest was announced.)

On Sunday, April 16th, the modern-day village square (social media) was teeming with the shock, and rage and pain in Black America over the killing of our elder, Robert Godwin in Cleveland, Ohio by the now infamous Steve Stevens, who taped the deed live. 

Reactions to the posting of that video were visceral, with many asking the social media family not to post it, or to take it down. Some watched it and offered their reactions, which produced lively and emotional debates all through the night. Some admitted to scrolling right past it. 

It takes courage to endure the full-frontal view of the perils of Black life in a world that despises it. Sometimes, we struggle to find a reason to. Ultimately, many of us simply decide - not to. We will not see. We will not endure yet another demonstration of utter contempt for and destruction of our lives, especially when opting out is as simple as a glide across a mouse pad. For those of us who dare to look into the abyss, normal human reactions to trauma that were scabbed over by habituation...by the seemingly mundane continuance of our perpetual slaughter... can be re-stimulated. This killing was one such event. 

There’s something about the savaging of the vulnerable among us that strikes a deeper cord; and rightfully so. Even our scriptures make special mention of the care that should be given to the orphan and the way farer, the young, the old, the infirm and the female, and sets a standard for noble behavior based on our treatment of these. As much as Black folk have lost of ourselves in the ongoing Maafa, our genetic memory retains the knowing that our elders are to be honored, revered, sought out for counsel, counted among the community’s treasures, and should never, ever fear harm from the hands of our own children. Something in our souls needed no words to describe the desecration of a principle imprinted in our DNA, and repeated to us often by our Great Grandmothers: Chile, don’t never forget the bridge... that carried you over safe. Who among us didn’t see our own Grandfather in the face of Robert Godwin? Who among us didn’t wonder what he must have survived in America for 74 years bearing the burden of our yesterdays, and think he deserved better? 

So, here we are. We’re in our corners. The only thing we all seem to agree on is that if Stephens had been wearing Tom Brady’s jersey in an underground cave in Mexico, he would have been found within hours. After that, it’s treacherous out here. Some of us are grieving over the explicit cries for help that Steve Stephens sent out, and insist that we remember his pain. Most of us retort that his pain doesn’t matter, because he took something sacred that he didn’t give, and can never return. Some feel that viewing the video is disrespectful to the victim and the family, and some believe it’s our absolute duty to watch it, and make our world better because of it. Some have lashed out at Stephens’ mother and former girlfriend for not calling him as he asked, and some take umbrage at the mere suggestion that they should be blamed for his actions. Some press the issue of our responsibility as a community to respond judiciously to those of us in crisis, and others maintain that we all deal with crisis... handle your business without killing somebody. Who’s right?

We all are. There are men in our besieged family who have been shot themselves, who don’t want to re-visit that experience. Leave them be. There are legions of abused women in our family who also wouldn’t have called Stephens. Don’t put them on the visitor’s list if he makes it to a jail cell. If you can stand to take the video into your experience and let it fuel your efforts at solutions, have at it. If you’re able to see the fear and desperation behind the mask of violence and embrace the offender, God bless you. 

Our task now is two-fold. Be aware of the natural response of turning on each other in the powerless condition we’re in. Don’t do that. 

Next, find a way to take back our power. Somewhere in that same DNA that compels us (in our right minds) to respect our elders, is the blueprint for an independent, self-sufficient community within borders that we create and secure for ourselves. We don’t have jobless folk in that community! Our unemployed children have grown Hip Hop into a yearly ten billion dollar business. There’s a Black man charging fees to stand in line for people who want the latest iphone, and is earning enough to hire a team to stand as well. Black folk don’t just do more with less. We do more with nothing. A sound economic base can provide us the luxury of tending to our mental health...can save our mental health. The elimination of basic need will stop fratricide, domestic violence, drug abuse, killer stress, and every malady being inflicted on us by the one who throws the rock... and hides the hand. Kwame Toure would say “Organize, organize, organize.” Get still an ask yourself what you should be doing in this hour. Grab hold of whatever portion of this mess is yours, and let’s make it into a miracle. 

We won’t get out of this predicament by burying our heads in the sand. But we don’t need to condemn anybody who’s had their fill of the carnage. Be easy with one another. There are those among us with the strength to be totally present, surrounding the now with the power of their consciousness while moving us toward the next. You’re up. 

Just Say No To Automobile Tracking Devices!

I take pride in continuing to be a watchdog and advocate for the public and consumers – especially the ‘little guy’ – and am alarmed about the installation of car tracking devices by automobile dealers and lenders. 

I felt a great sense of duty to act on the people’s behalf about this matter, and have advanced a resolution to initiate a committee meeting with County Attorney Michael Siragusa to draft a local law to prevent the installation of what are known as “starter interrupt” devices on automobiles and penalize institutions who attempt to do so.

I take this matter seriously because reforming the automobile lending industry can be one major step in implementing further consumer protections and safeguarding citizen privacy. 

My particular cause for concern voiced in the resolution stems from the ability of “starter interrupt” devices to render vehicles inoperable remotely and track down vehicles for repossession.  Essentially, the devices are proliferated by their manufacturers and being used to extend loans to Americans with poor credit.  By doing so, automobile dealers have the upper hand in the exchange, potentially raising interest rates on high-risk borrowers and being able to user fear to collect payment.

The devices also store sensitive location data and are installed with or without the buyer’s consent upon purchase.  Many times it is disclosed that a tracking device is being installed in exchange for the loan to be approved, but often times it is hidden in fine print or not truly disclosed.  Furthermore, while lenders are supposed to act responsibly and wait until the borrower defaults on payment to disable the vehicle, they are at their discretion and whim as to how and when they want to repossess a vehicle, and have constant access to and knowledge of the vehicle’s location.This is a serious danger to our community’s most vulnerable buyers and borrowers, and no one should feel preyed upon or in fear once entering into an agreement to purchase an automobile.  

Many families in Erie County depend on their vehicle daily to drive their kids to and from school, and the danger of their car potentially being shut off during an emergency is a concern I hope everyone shares.  In fact, I see this resolution as having great pertinence to the general public, and this country has seen the effects of bad lending practices first hand during the housing crisis in 2008. 

 I’m a strong believer in fair and honest business conduct, and curtailing this practice in particular will transcend on to additional business practices and lending.  If a local law were to be passed, it would be a cornerstone achievement in enforcing current consumer protections while upholding the dignity and privacy of all Americans. 

Other legislative bodies are beginning to take notice of this issue as well, with New Jersey recently passing legislation requiring that dealerships give vehicle owners advance disclosure as to when the device will be activated.  The New Jersey State Legislature voted to outlaw the devices altogether, yet, Governor Chris Christie vetoed the measure but did support the provision mandating full disclosure.

I hope to garner the support of my colleagues in the Erie County Legislature on this matter to put the people first ahead of politics, and show how local government can be a stalwart advocate and initiator