Thursday, April 30, 2009

Buffalo's mayor launches poverty reduction plan

The third poorest city in the nation is beginning a poverty reduction plan. Buffalo's Mayor Byron W. Brown unveiled a document that will guide the cities attempt to reduce poverty.

The report calls on four new task forces and expanding already existing services. But the guidelines are already receiving criticism for having no new strategies.

From the Buffalo News, reporters Brian Meyer and Mark Sommer tell us about what the plan contains and some of the reaction.

The centerpiece of the “Buffalo Poverty Reduction Blueprint” unveiled Wednesday in City Hall by Brown and Deputy Mayor Donna M. Brown is the establishment of a task force with four work groups, each charged with developing a five-year strategy for reducing poverty in the areas of jobs, education, neighborhoods and social environment.

Rather than laying out a policy agenda, the 77-page plan largely focuses on expanding or improving many of the 129 programs the city runs to help low-income residents, with “collaboration” and “partnerships” the buzzwords to improve coordination between groups.

The mayor has drawn heat for not having a poverty plan more than three years into his administration, 1z years since the city was named by the Census Bureau the second poorest (it’s now No. 3) and 15 months since Donna Brown was appointed deputy mayor and charged with making an antipoverty plan a top priority.

But on Tuesday, Mayor Brown stressed poverty has been a sustained problem in the city before he was mayor, and that neither of his two predecessors, Anthony Masiello or Jimmy Griffin, had put into action a plan to combat poverty as he was now doing.

Brown also stressed that poverty is a countywide problem, pointing out Erie County’s poverty rate –not including city residents — has also been on the rise. He said there are currently more than 123,800 Erie County residents living outside Buffalo below the poverty limit.

Two of the four task force recommendations call for county participation, but notably no county government representatives participated in the plan’s unveiling.

L. Nathan Hare, executive director of the Community Action Organization of Erie County, said any anti-poverty plan hatched by the city must take into consideration the broader challenges facing the region. Hare is co-chairman of the new task force with Sister Denise A. Roche, president of D’Youville College.

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