Put People First by PUSH Buffalo
"My desires are like seeds left in the ground. They wait for the right season and then spontaneously manifest into beautiful flowers and mighty trees, into enchanted gardens and magic forests"
~ The Hindu Vedas ~
According to QuickWiki, Buffalo, NY originated around 1789 as a small trading community near Buffalo Creek. Buffalo expanded after the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825, with the city as its western terminus. By 1900, Buffalo was the 8th largest city in the United States, and went on to become a major railroad hub, and the largest grain-milling center in the country.
The city's good fortunes didn't last: Great Lakes shipping was rerouted by the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway, and steel mills and other heavy industry relocated to places such as China. With the start of Amtrak in the 1970s, Buffalo Central Terminal was also abandoned, and trains were rerouted. By 1990 the city had fallen back below its 1900 population levels.
Today, the region's largest economic sectors are financial services, technology, health care and education. These continue to grow despite the lagging national and worldwide economies. This growth has been maintained, in part, by major expansions of the Buffalo Niagra Medical Campus and the University at Buffalo and State University of New York (SUNY). A recent study found Buffalo's August 2011 unemployment rate to be 7.3%.
Buffalo by Buffalo City
Buffalo has a horrid reputation regarding weather. Situated on the shores of Lake Erie, it is in a perfect position to be dumped upon, as this author's wife (a past resident of the town) can attest to. Weather wise, Buffalo is not for the faint of heart. It is for those WITH heart.
Indeed, Buffalo is a town of resilience and a town that should be labeled as one with a BIG HEART. One reflection of that heart is the organization called People United for Sustainable Housing or "PUSH Buffalo." According to their website, PUSH Buffalo "is a local membership-based community organization fighting to make affordable housing a reality on Buffalo's West Side."
PUSH Buffalo was established to:
- Create strong neighborhoods with quality affordable housing;
- Decrease the rate of housing abandonment by reclaiming empty houses from neglectful public and private owners and redeveloping them for occupancy by low-income residents; and
- Develop neighborhood leaders capable of gaining community control over the development process and planning for the future of the neighborhood.
PUSH Buffalo's objective is to empower people within the community to become proactive in getting their needs met. Is this the true look of democracy? Or does our democracy only count corporations as people while neglecting blood and guts laborers, be they in the workplace, the home or in labor? Do the unemployed have a voice? Is it any wonder women traditionally were placed on their back when giving birth which is most disempowering? Is it any wonder that the labor classes are on their backs in relationship to the corporations?
Corporations are people? What of those of us composed of blood and flesh and not a legal doctrine? Are we less than people since it appears corporations have the right to destroy our planet and our lives? PUSH Buffalo puts the interests and needs of living, breathing people and a healthy environment ahead of those of corporations, governments, banks, and bigwigs.
PUSH values are:
- Member Involvement -- They base decisions on member participation and consideration of alternatives
- Inclusiveness -- They encourage a diversity of opinions
- Ownership -- They take advantage of opportunities to create and control community resources
- Results Oriented -- Their plan is an accomplishment -- They have outlined a series of measurable goals and outcomes that will ultimately lead to results
- Relevant -- They respond to changing political and social climates by evaluating trends that are prevalent to the goals and objectives of our organization
- Justice - They are committed to promoting social justice that gives real power to real people
The strategies they use to meet these objectives are:
- Build a more democratic, action-orientated organization that addresses poor housing conditions and the lack of living wage jobs in our neighborhoods
- Decrease the rate of housing abandonment by reclaiming properties from neglectful public and private owners and redeveloping them for occupancy
- Lead direct action campaigns against corporations and government agencies whose practices contribute to the high poverty rate in our community
- Create a replicable model of grassroots neighborhood organizing and redevelopment that can be deployed in other low-income communities throughout the Rust Belt
A true democracy is inherent in people actually taking charge in the management and care for the environment, jobs, education and other important tasks ordinarily surrendered to corporate owned governments. PUSH Buffalo fulfills this definition better than the corporocracy we have come to accept as American democracy. Is PUSH a ripple that can become a wave in our culture? Can "we the people" place power and authority back into the hands of living, breathing, sexual beings instead of the Frankenstein monster of corporations whose personhood is declared via abstract legal documents?
Who truly decides if the Frankenstein monster lives or dies? The Courts who are often bought and sold by Dr. Frankenstein? Do we leave the management of this monster in the hands of his maker".the stockholders, corporate owners and corporate boards? Or do we put the power in the hands of those that Frankenstein terrorizes?
PUSH Buffalo is living proof of the viability of the latter option. As such, it fulfills its mission to "Create a replicable model of grassroots neighborhood organizing and redevelopment that can be deployed in other low-income communities." Are the rest of up to the task of creating a renaissance of true democracy?