The way to revitalize greater Buffalo is to cultivate our existing assets while addressing our most serious problems at their roots.
- A diverse community
- Historic architecture, urban fabric, and the Olmsted Park system
- A wide-ranging, vibrant cultural scene
- Lake Erie, Niagara Falls, and miles of waterfront
- Many colleges and universities
- Proximity to Canada and in particular, Toronto
- Beautiful and diverse natural areas
- Excellent farm land for fruits, vegetables, and dairy
- A strong cadre of local, independent businesses
- A well-educated, skilled work force
- A surplus of high-quality, affordable housing
Paths to Revitalization
- Poverty. Poverty is the worst problem afflicting Buffalo. The city, with a poverty rate of 30%, is the second poorest major city in the nation. Any conversation about revitalization must begin with poverty, and, in particular, with concentrated, racialized poverty. Effective poverty-fighting tools include tax relief for people with low incomes, living wage policies, and protection from predatory lending and other exploitative practices.
- Inequality. Buffalo is the eighth most segregated major city in the nation, and minority communities suffer from astounding rates of poverty. Illegal discrimination based on race, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, national origin, and other classifications remains rampant in crucial areas such as housing and employment. Our region cannot thrive without aggressive efforts to root out discrimination and advance equality.
- Education. The most severe problems that appear in our public schools are not really “education” problems so much as symptoms of the extreme, concentrated poverty described above. That being said, major improvements in public education are possible, starting with universal, quality pre-kindergarten, enhanced after-school programs, more equitable financing for high-needs schools, expanded literacy programs, improved workforce training, and more affordable higher education opportunities.
- Environment. The Buffalo region has major environmental problems with sprawl, air pollution, poor water quality, and numerous brownfields. But with its abundant water, wind, and solar resources, Buffalo also has the potential to be a major hub for clean, green energy. By protecting and restoring our waterways, we can take advantage of our location on the Great Lakes and the Niagara River. Local and state governments need to understand that the most competitive cities of the future will be the greenest: cities that promote mass transit, green buildings, and the conservation of energy, water, and habitats.
- Health Care. Buffalo suffers from serious health problems closely linked to its poverty and environmental problems and its inequality. Examples include lead poisoning and asthma, which disproportionately affect people of color and people with low incomes. Like other regions, Buffalo also suffers from our broken health insurance system, which excludes many working people from coverage and imposes unnecessary costs on employers.
- Crime. Most of the serious crime in the region is committed by and against people living in concentrated poverty. The most effective crime prevention strategy is an anti-poverty strategy. We also need a major new emphasis on rehabilitation, reentry, restorative justice, and juvenile diversion programs to reduce the rate of recidivism and offer pathways of hope.
- Housing. Paradoxically, Buffalo has both a crisis of abandoned housing and a severe homelessness problem. Top housing priorities should be preventing abandonment, preserving and rehabilitating existing units, and weatherizing housing to reduce energy costs and pollution simultaneously. Any new housing should be sustainable: strategically located to strengthen existing communities and ecologically friendly to reduce energy costs and pollution.
- Development. Buffalo’s future lies not in “silver-bullet” development schemes but in sustainable, community-based development that supports local, independent businesses, living wage jobs, and environmental responsibility. Development resources should be concentrated in high-need areas where they will have the greatest impact, not squandered on greenfield sites in areas experiencing development pressure.
- Cultural Vitality. Buffalo has a rich culture and history. Preserving, deepening, and broadening that tradition is essential to revitalizing the region. This means providing dedicated governmental funding for cultural groups, making culture a part of economic development, and moving quickly to preserve important historical sites and architecture. It means valuing Native American history and culture and supporting Buffalo’s rich history as a city of immigrants, an industrial innovator, and a gateway to and from Canada.
- Taxes and Government Revenues. Major reform is required to (i) reduce the tax burden on people with low incomes; (ii) increase taxes on products and activities that cause pollution in order to reflect their true social and governmental costs; (iii) reduce wasteful corporate tax subsidies; and (iv) provide greater, more equitable, and more predicable support to high-poverty cities and counties.
- Good Government. Making state and local government more democratic, efficient, and accountable will require campaign finance reform, the curtailing of independent authorities, and increased regional cooperation, along with close attention to issues of patronage, contracting procedures, ethics, public input, transparency, and the enforcement of existing laws and regulations.