Walton, Brown tout plans for East Buffalo
Endorsed Democratic candidate India Walton and her incumbent challenger Byron Brown and have decidedly different views on what’s best for Buffalo’s East Side over the next four years.
As Election Day nears, the two candidates are painting a clearer picture about the possibilities for the largely African American part of the city which has seen reinvestment at a snail’s pace compared to other parts of the city.
Brown said reinvestment starts with supporting the growth of minority-owned businesses.
“That's critically important that people from the community are able to build in their community and have businesses in the community where they live providing services in the community,” he said.
This also means developing and fostering partnerships between white business owners and developers who understand the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion with minority-owned businesses.
“We're continuing to facilitate the growth of black businesses,” he said. “Businesses of color on the east side through the Beverly Gray Business Exchange Center.”
The Exchange at Beverly Gray, is named after the former Common Council member and provides supportive resources for minority-owned businesses to grow.
Brown’s theme of business development also includes a workforce for advanced manufacturing jobs.
“Programs that will provide training to people that will take six months a year two years that will prepare them for jobs that are coming online in this community where they will get paid family sustaining wages, living wages,” he said.
Brown’s plan is for money from the American Rescue Plan Act be used to invest in training programs to quickly upskill individuals.
For Walton, the former Executive Director of the Fruit Belt Community Land Trust, creating equity through increased homeownership is near the top of her agenda.
“In a way that we're providing opportunity for homeownership because I believe that homeownership is going to help stabilize neighborhoods. We also have a huge problem with racial wealth inequality and homeownership is going to help address that,” she said.
Providing a pathway for homeownership will lead to improved public safety—a priority Walton has harped on well before considering a run for Mayor. Despite accusations of wanting to defund the police, Walton has different ideas about how law enforcement should serve the community.
“Not only from the standpoint of making sure that officers are outside of their vehicles, interacting with the community and building relationships,” she said. “But also, you know, thinking about trauma informed care and violence prevention from a holistic perspective where we're teaching a peaceful lifestyle and not just responding to crime after it happens.”
One issue Walton and Brown agree on is the need to improve the infrastructure in neighborhoods throughout East Buffalo.
“Sidewalks, streets curbs parks making sure that the built-in environment is as attractive and beautiful in East buffalo as it is anywhere else in the city. Giving folks a sense of pride and where they live and a sense of hope for the future,” Walton said.
“Road repair, sidewalks curbs, broadband access making sure that there is Internet access not only on the east side of buffalo but for people throughout the city,” Brown said.
The neighborhoods of East Buffalo take on a sharper focus this election after a recent study by University at Buffalo Urban Studies Director Dr. Henry Louis Taylor, Jr found little improvement in socioeconomic indicators for Buffalo’s Black community—and even a decline in some of them—over the last 30 years.