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Pridgen's forum embraces diversity

More than 100 Ellicott District residents filled the basement of Friendship Baptist Church on Monday to discuss topics concerning the city's most demographically diverse district.

Issues ranging from the maintenance of Towne Gardens, a private housing development off Clinton Street on the East Side, to assisting Niagara Street business owners on the city's West Side were raised during the 90-minute meeting.

The Rev. Darius G. Pridgen, the new Ellicott member of the Common Council, announced what could be described as a cooperative approach to tackling those and other issues. To that end, he asked residents to sign up to be members of various teams that would address a different issue in the district under the umbrella of legal matters, business, crime, education, employment and quality of life.

"For too long, we have worked in our own separate silos," Pridgen said.

The lawmaker also shared several ideas that he said are in the works to improve interaction between City Hall and residents, including making it easier for citizens to pay their taxes, fees and fines online.

"Folks, I don't know about you, but right now I pay everything online, everything except City Hall bills," Pridgen said. "You can pay them online, but you can't set them up so they're automatically taken out."

Pridgen said that he was assured the technology is available to do it and that during today's Council meeting, he will introduce legislation to that effect.

James C. Bragg, vice president of the Kleinhans Community Association, noted that by default, his group "represents the largest concentration of gay, lesbian and transgender residents, not just in the city, but in upstate New York."

"We're wondering," he said, "what is going to be done to make sure that we create a more tolerant society in the City of Buffalo."

Pridgen assured him that treating all people fairly is essential.

"I think that Buffalo has been so segregated on every line and that different people don't talk to different people, different people don't live next to different people. It's one of the things that holds us back the most," Pridgen said.

He also announced that organizations in his district can apply for micro grants that he will personally fund through his city paycheck.

The Council member said that similar stakeholder forums will be a monthly feature during his Council tenure and that they will be held at various venues in the district from Jefferson Avenue to Niagara Street. February's meeting is scheduled for Greater Refuge Temple, 943 Jefferson Ave.

e-mail: hmcneil@buffnews.com

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