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When a mass shooting becomes an economic development issue

Investigators work the scene of a shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y. on Monday.
Matt Rourke
Investigators work the scene of a shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y. on Monday.

For Mark Blue, the Tops supermarket on Jefferson Avenue is both what's right and what's wrong about Buffalo's East Side.

For decades, activists like the president of the local chapter of the NAACP pushed for a supermarket in the community. Blue said what was built was important, but too small and not followed by other supermarkets and other stores in the community. He compared it to the stores lining Walden Avenue east from Harlem Road, not far away.

The Lackawanna Second Baptist Church pastor said the massacre at the market on Saturday should be followed by government dollars to help improve the neighborhood and make the need for more stores obvious. Blue said the need is there.

"We are going to make it through this and we're going to come out better," he said. "One of the things that can happen is more economic development in this community. One of the things that can happen is job creation in this community. So when people say, 'Well, this is what happened,' they may not remember that happened, they may not remember the incident, but they're going to remember the aftermath of this economic development that has been given to this community and that these people, our community, will be better."

Blue said the area around the market at Jefferson and Riley has long been neglected and that has to stop, if for no other reason than the increasing number of residents who vote and can decide who gets into public office.

"And those who are opposing us — as far as the rights that we require, that we need, that's at their disposal — they need to get out of office," he said. "And the only way that can happen is by getting out the vote. We need to rally our people to get them to vote, vote because their lives depend on it. The NAACP, we have a t-shirt: 'Vote like your life depends on it' and guess what? It does."

Blue pointed to weakening of the Voting Rights Act and long delays before the recent signing into law of anti-lynching legislation as a reason for electing public officials who want change and improvement.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.