Erie County Legislature District 2 candidate interview
The primary election for Erie County Legislator in District 2 is this coming September. The September election is expected to decide who will replace Legislator Betty Jean Grant, who has served in the legislature since 2007. The Collective News contacted four of the declared candidates. We have published the responses received by the time of this publication.
1) Why are you running for County Legislator?
April Baskin: I am running for County Legislator because I want to help build bridges and unite the district on both sides of Main Street. With a long track record of public service as an AmeriCorps Volunteer and the Executive Director of a non-profit organization called the College Simulation Experience, which is dedicated to ensuring our youth are successful in college, I also believe I have the right combination of passion and skills to effectively advocate for the residents in the district.
Duncan Kirkwood: I am running for Erie County Legislator because our community needs people to step up to fight for us. Our community needs a legislator to understands how to write laws and research policy. Our community needs someone who has actually been standing for justice and equality, even when it isn’t popular. I believe that through the experiences I’ve had, and the knowledge I have gained, I can be that leader.
2) What are the three things you hope to accomplish/make progress on while on the job?
April Baskin: I want to establish a District Collective to build bridges across Main Street. The Collective will provide support to block clubs and will provide a forum for them to work together.
I also want to make a BOLD promise for our youth. They must have the support they need to be successful. County government touches youth in many ways and I want to ensure the most effective programs are adequately funded. This includes county support for Say Yes to Education, summer youth programming, child protective services, foster care and adoption services, and more.
In addition, I want to ensure fairness in economic development. Buffalo’s resurgence is exciting but not enough people are benefiting. As a County Legislator I will help ensure that there are shared opportunities for ALL our residents through effective workforce development and inclusive hiring practices.
Finally, I want to ensure support and funding for the arts. Our many cultural organizations not only make our community rich and creative, but also create jobs in the tourism sector. They are worthy of county funding.
Duncan Kirkwood: If I am fortunate enough to get elected, I hope we can
1: Make Erie County more diverse in every way. The businesses the County contracts with, the County’s full time staff, and the non profit organizations that the County provides support for all need to increase minority participation. For example, the Erie County department of purchasing spent about $30 million last year, but only 2.7% of it went to minority owned businesses. I want to see the county be more inclusive and be reflective of the communities it serves.
2: Make drastic changes to the Erie County Holding Center. We should not expect the holding center to be homey, but we should expect it to be humane where people are treated with decency and respect. There was a report that our holding center’s suicide rate is 5 times the national average. We have much work to do.
3: Increase the County’s investment in Buffalo Public Schools. The county already provides direct and indirect support to various school systems, but I believe we can do more to support our youth. Our children need a host of services far beyond reading, writing, and arithmetic.
3) What you view as the number one biggest issue that needs to be addressed?
April Baskin: The number one issue in the district is poverty. Of the nine distinct zip codes in the district, six are among NY State’s top 100 poorest zip codes, some with poverty rates over 30%. Addressing poverty is no small task but can be alleviated with many of the ways I intend to focus my attention–support for our youth, inclusive hiring practices, adequate workforce development, and job growth through tourism and the arts. Working to unite the district and build bridges across Main Street will also help to address poverty by ensuring block clubs and neighborhood associations are working together, sharing best practices, and finding common ground on which to advocate for themselves.
Duncan Kirkwood: Without a doubt, the top two issues in Erie County that need to be addressed are the amount of lead in our drinking water, and the lack of minority participation in leadership roles and contracts with the County. The zip codes 14201, 14207, 14208, 14209, 14210, 14211, 14212, 14213, and 14215 have been designated by the Department of Health as “Communities of Concern” for lead poisoning. We need to address this with urgency. The county is supposed to help people, it is supposed to make people’s lives better, make us safer, support our seniors and veterans, fight poverty and for too many people the county does the opposite. I think we can do better.
Charley Fisher and Murray Holman are also declared candidates for this position.