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Small crowd turns out for town meeting on Trump budget cuts

WBFO's Mike Desmond

The Trump Administration's budget proposal is a threat to many programs important to Erie County's residents. What's in and what's out of the budget was the theme for a meeting Tuesday night in Hamburg High School.

A fairly small crowd showed up to hear what the budget would do to programs like cleaning up the Great Lakes and bus service in rural areas to help county residents move around. The meeting was sponsored by Southtowns Concerned Citizens and co-sponsored by an array of labor and political groups.

There were some Trump supporters in the audience. Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz was not one of them.

Poloncarz said the budget blueprint could cost Erie County millions of dollars. He is trying to persuade members of Congress to stop the budget plan before it really starts, with messages from local residents.

"It's very important that the public understands the impact of the proposed budget," Poloncarz said. "When the budget's passed, it's too late. You've got to do it before the budget is passed. You've got to let the public know the impact that this has, whether it's a program in the City of Buffalo or here in the Town of Hamburg, and there would be Town of Hamburg programs that would be negatively impacted because if you wait for the budget to be passed, it's too late."

Bob Ciesielski, Chair of the Energy Committee of the State Sierra Club, said the most visible cuts would be in programs to clean up the Great Lakes.

"Trying to restore the habitat here, remove toxics from the waterways, help with invasive species," Ciesielski said. "Then there's also the issue, obviously, there's cuts to the EPA, which are also big, not quite so local but they are doing away with the complete program to measure, to correctly measure climate change."

Several of the groups said the cuts can have more than one impact. Communications Workers of America Area Director Debora Hayes, who represents 10,000 health care union workers, said ending Obamacare would cut off healthcare for many people and end the jobs of the workers who take care of those patients.

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.