Creating a community vision is the answer to building a new City of Niagara Falls where jobs are plentiful, residents of color are treated with dignity by law enforcement and every child receives a quality education.
That was a key message Saturday at Niagara Organizing Alliance for Hope’s community meeting where more than 60 residents, clergy and community group representatives started the process for determining what would make a better city and how to accomplish it.
“We can talk about everything that is wrong … but we have to have a vision and until we have a vision, nothing happens,” said Bishop Dwayne Royster, a Philadelphia radio news show host and national political director of Faith in Action, a community organizing network.
There was plenty of enthusiasm and aspirations at the meeting.
Zeddy Sealey, a parolee released last year from prison after serving 24 years, said he wants a chance to enter the Niagara Falls workforce.
“I get to an interview and they see I have no work history,” Sealey said. “I want to see if they can implement a job program for those who have been incarcerated.”
Yvonne Taylor said she wants blighted and vacant land replaced by homes and businesses, which existed when she was a child growing up on 12th Street. A couple of good places to start, she said, would be on a stretch of vacant land near Falls Street and on the city's North End.
“The North End’s Main Street used to have businesses. Now it’s all gone,” Taylor said. “It’s just empty buildings.”
Other needs identified include more day care for single working mothers and a better education system. Minorities would benefit from that by being better equipped to compete on Civil Service exams and qualify for government jobs.
“My goal is to work with pastors to provide training so people can pass Civil Service tests and get good paying jobs with pensions,” said Niagara County District Attorney Caroline A. Wojtaszek, adding that she intends to make her own office staff more diverse.
The Alliance for Hope’s next step is for citizens to hold “house meetings,” compile lists of what’s needed to build a new Niagara before a Feb. 8 meeting planned to finalize the agenda for change and map out a campaign to accomplish that with city leaders.
“This is how it begins,” said Niagara Falls Council Member Ezra Scott, who attended the meeting with his 2-year-old daughter, Khari, intent on making a better future for her.
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