Is This the End of the Line for Grassroots?
by Chris Stevenson
Ellicott Councilman Brian Davis’ current troubles seem to be a continuation of events that spell the steady decline of Buffalo’s once-most powerful political group Grassroot’s Inc.(GR) The first visible hints was the 9/08 Committeemen Primary where Ellis Woods, Ty Eubanks, Eddie Stocks, Charles Redden and Mildred Bishop all lost their seats. What we seem to be witnessing is a re-emergence of an old GR nemesis; the UNITY group now headed by Arthur “Champ” Eve. With Champ’s recent appointment as Deputy Director of the local Board of Elections (replacing the ousted Al Thompson) it seems to both confirm an evident setback of GR as well as Champ’s close political alliance with local democratic part chair Len Lenihan; the same guy who signed off on poll changes in this community just before the Primary 2 years ago.
Thompson’s decline is seen publicly as the result of some kind of fued between him and others, it’s really protocol; if your opponent wins 5 of the 10 or so black zones in the 141st Assembly District and all you got is 2 (even less than ESPN which has 3), there’s gonna be changes. Not to say that he had job security, reportedly GR membership has been falling off, meeting attendance has been dropping. What I’ve noticed is a lot of the grassroots activities, park clean-ups etc., fell off once they started becoming proficient at grooming and placing elected officials.
They were almost a political Motown. On one hand that turned some people off, on the other GR began boasting no one was putting blacks to work except them. In time they became like the Temptations; more ex-Grassroot’s than Grassroots: “That eroded their base, in essence it eroded their membership because everybody doesn’t get involved because of politics. Some people came because they were doing the park clean-ups and stayed involved, the super sale brings business people in, so depending on your area of interest, that was the carrot to get you in, then ideally the politics will keep you involved,” disclosed one former member.
Word has it Thompson may be kicked upstairs from President to Chairman, with Masten Council Demone Smith replacing him. Reportedly Champ’s first day at the BOE was just this past Schoolboard Election Day (5/6). Note to Champ: When you lie down with dogs, don’t be surprised when you get flees. With democrats like Lenihan and Council President Dave Franczyk around, we don’t need republicans.
In an unrelated note, after 8 years in the wilderness our country has entered a new era, Americans have endured years of “shoot first and ask questions later,” racial profiling and “guilty until proven innocent” mindsets. Now it’s up to President Obama to make sure these policies stop, just as he did when he initiated and pushed the anti-racial profiling bill in IL. Patterson told me last year he wasn’t in position to push “Marvin’s Law” (currently in the hands of Senator Antoine Thompson) but here he is gleefully signing the same-sex marriage law for NY. Hmmm.
It is with great concern that this paper has received reports Senator Charles Shummer intends to recommend Bill Hochul to be United States Attorney. Hochul has been a key cog in the Bush/Gonzales US Attorney’s office. Hochul appeared in a report about the politicization of the Justice Dept., when he was denied a promotion. This is ironic considering Hochul’s record as a loyal and zealous foot soldier on behalf of Bush and the republicans take-no-prisoners approach to the War on Terror. Hochul’s prosecution (persecution?) of Professor Steve Kurtz was dismissed as without merit by Judge Arcara while his steamrolling of the Lackawanna Six showed exactly how little Hochul and Bush care about civil rights and personal civil liberties. Shummer told the Buffalo News that he would not recommend an extremist as US Attorney. To any member of a minority group including those of us who value civil liberties, Bill Hochul is an extremist and the worst kind; a Bush extremist.
One of the reasons magazines like the latest “Forbes” consider Buffalo a tough area to get a break is that Buffalo leaders sign off on and approve and/or cover up detrimental measures. We know about the local fuel station price gouging. How about water-gouging? The more you hike utilities, the more your town becomes like the Middle-East. Brian Meyers 4/16 Buffalo News article claims Buffalo’s water rates will remain unchanged and he quotes water board officials assuring a hike in price can be avoided. Mayor Brown was said to be pleased to hear this, he appoints the board members (currently Chairman Oluwole McFoy, Vice-Chair Donna Estrich, Gerald Kelly, and William Sunderlin). According to Meyers the average metered resident pays $300 a year for water. One homeowner says if you don’t use any water you will still be charged $372 per year (they charge a minimal fee of $93 per quarter and then they start charging residents for water and sewer) and that American Water Systems (since ’97) has been getting away with this for a long time and under the approval of city government.
Who knows, it may be the water that’s to blame for people acting so strange in this city. Evidently Buffalo’s ranking in Forbes (5th on a list of 50 “US Cities Where it’s Hardest to Get By,”) is a direct result of the chickens coming home to roost i.e. bad decision making made manifest and at the center of this is many of our black elected officials enabling things to get so out of control.
Stevenson is syndicated and writes for the Buffalo Challenger. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org