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Activists continue to push against Buffalo Common Council's redistricting plans

Members of Our City Action Buffalo rally outside of City Hall Tuesday to address the Common Council's redistricting plans.
Thomas O'Neil-White
Members of Our City Action Buffalo rally outside of City Hall Tuesday to address the Common Council's redistricting plans.

Fresh calls about transparency and community involvement are being made by city residents and community activists toward the Buffalo Common Council as it figures out a new district map.

Standing on the steps of City Hall for the second time in as many weeks, Interim Our City Action Buffalo Director Harper Bishop said Tuesday that the Council’s redistricting plan and subsequent public comment process is both “un-Buffalonian” and undemocratic.

“The Community spoke, they spoke eloquently last Tuesday and they spoke powerfully about some of the things that they wanted to see adjusted and changed,” he said. “We don't believe that we have the ultimate truth. But we believe together collectively, we all can make a better Buffalo, a better plan, and that's why we're releasing a plan that then took into account council members input and community members.”

Our City Action Buffalo
Activist and East Side resident Dennice Barr speaks outside City Hall July 5, 2022.

Bishop said the Common Council tried to push through a vote Friday morning on the mapping but decided to postpone it. This latest display of a lack of transparency is incensing to activist and East Side resident Dennice Barr.

“I spent hours sitting there watching them go back and forth on all kinds of things and being disappointed so many times walking out of this building, more than I even care to say I don't get paid to do any of that but I do it because that's what I'm supposed to do for my city,” she said.

The council’s plan is also facing charges of racism as explained by Western New York Peace Center Board Chair Victoria Ross.

“What about the fact that this reapportionment plan gives a white majority for more than a majority of districts when we don't have a majority of white people living in the city of Buffalo is a racist plan,” she said.

The Council’s plan has faced criticism from residents, activists and even The Buffalo News Editorial Board, who endorsed Our City Action’s alternative plan.

“I want to say I've been an organizer for almost 15 years in this community, and I have never once received an endorsement,” Bishop said. “Try as I may have The Buffalo News editorial board, and it was unequivocal it was not 50% that there needs to be open transparent process. It was we endorse Our City Action Buffalo and the community's plan.”

Harper Bishop addresses redistricting concerns outside of City Hall
Thomas O'Neil-White
Harper Bishop addresses redistricting concerns outside of City Hall July 5, 2022.

The plan involves reunifying West Side neighborhoods to solidify the power of the city’s growing Latinx community, split the Fillmore district into two smaller districts and create a district along the Elmwood Avenue corridor.

Despite his frustrations Bishop said this is not an adversarial relationship between Our City and the Common Council—that all they are asking is for further opportunity to sit down and hammer out a map that works in the interests of the council and its constituents.

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Thomas moved to Western New York at the age of 14. A graduate of Buffalo State College, he majored in Communications Studies and was part of the sports staff for WBNY. When not following his beloved University of Kentucky Wildcats and Boston Red Sox, Thomas enjoys coaching youth basketball, reading Tolkien novels and seeing live music.
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