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A 'State of Our City' for the people, by the people

Not everyone thinks Buffalo is great and getting better. That was apparent at the Central Library Thursday night for the first "State of Our City" meeting.

"Who's street? Our street."

"What do we want? Justice."

"If we don't get it? Shut it down."

"If we don't get it? Shut it down."

The packed house backed the positions of the coalition of community groups that sponsored the event, the Our City Coalition. The group wants accessible and safe transit, improved public education, safety for vulnerable populations, affordable housing and community control of land and people-centered economic development.

"(stomp) Went down to the rich man's house and took back what he stole from me...," sang the Women's Resistance Revival Chorus, preaching to the converted.

Even Jillian Hanesworth's poetry had a political bent.

"Who thought of  creating a place where the poor are too poor to be poor?" Hanesworth read. "To have us both bid up the door of the helplessness of the poor."

Credit Mike Desmond
Mike Desmond

Christine Slocum from the Homeless Alliance said too many people can't pay their rent.

"In our city, housing ought to be affordable. In our city, homelessness ought not to exist," Slocum said. "Every day, I answer calls from people in our community, who don't know what to do. They're trying to pay their rent or they have actually lost their housing. The American Community Survey says more than half of us renters, 54.8 percent if you are into the specific numbers, are paying more of their income than is considered affordable."

Holly Nowak was there from the Coalition for Economic Justice.

"Public transportation means access, means opportunity - or it should - but for many in the Buffalo area, their opportunities are limited by a system that does not serve their needs," Nowak said. "We know that one-third, one out of every three homes, don't have access to a vehicle. We also have almost 60 percent of job opportunities are not accessible by public transportation."

Public transportation was seen as a central thread to resolving many other, like access to housing or making education more accessible by running around the clock in all neighborhoods.

Credit Mike Desmond
Mike Desmond

Arnester Vanoy was there to seek justice for her murdered transgender child, Tonya "Kita" Harvey, found shot dead on Shepard Street February 6. Vanoy said she knows little about what happened to her daughter.

"I'm very hurt about the justice in the city," Vanoy said. "I haven't talked to the police. They haven't contacted me with any results. I'm devastated and I don't know how I can continue to go on."

Crime was a major focus for the event, with many speakers saying there is too much hatred by the police and that much more needs to be done to create a police department that works with the public rather than serving as an occupying force.

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