Title Image, Nate Peracciny

Article and images submitted to Rise by Aaron Lowinger

Maybe it’s the pandemic, but it’s been a while years since I heard anyone use the phrase “New Buffalo” to describe the rediscovery of our civic infrastructure and Buffalo’s economic potential to shake its Rust Belt ghosts. Other names for the same thing—renaissance, resurgence, rebirth—also deliver the same empty mouthfeel. And that’s because the power structure that profited off of Buffalo’s demise had found a way to profit from new investment while so many parts of the city to the northwest, the south, the west, and of course east lack safe sidewalks, curbs, and roads, let alone safe housing, safety from over-policing, and equitable access to education.

If you’re looking for a change, a real change in how this city is run and who this city prioritizes, the greatest opportunity for a new Buffalo in a generation is presenting itself on June 22 in the form of India Walton.

If you’ve been admiring politicians and leaders like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Pramila Jayapal, and Bernie Sanders, and the way they front the concerns of ordinary, working people and shun the monied machine of mainstream politics, you have such a candidate to support right here for mayor.

And here’s the thing about India that’s hard to overstate: she’s a real, everyday person. She hasn’t been spending years grooming the system for approval and endorsement, she’s been spending years doing the work and leading her community. It is very hard to elect candidates with a profile such as India’s, and that’s exactly why politics is so ugly and why candidates like India, Bernie, and AOC are so refreshing.

Photo by Carmen Paul

India has already been a single mom, a teen mom, a working parent, a registered nurse, a community organizer, and a one-woman bulwark against gentrification in the Fruit Belt. We don’t need a progressive leader in our community, we have one already. We need a progressive mayor, one who can empower so many other voices and to put people and their concerns at the center of City Hall, not an inner circle of power brokers and campaign donors.

We can’t call this a “New Buffalo” because we’ve erected parking ramps where historical buildings and vacant lots used to be and filled in marginal neighborhoods with breweries. We can’t call this a “New Buffalo” when we gift $1 billion to the richest man in the world to set up a factory with racist and discriminatory labor practices while we have higher lead contamination rates than Flint, Michigan. We can’t call this a “New Buffalo” when five people since 2017 have lost their lives at the hands of police violence and negligence and have faced zero accountability. We can call this a new Buffalo only when we flip the paradigm that has been sucking Buffalo dry of its resources and impoverishing and poisoning working class neighborhoods all over this city.

I’ll tell you as a volunteer for the Walton campaign, India’s volunteers are numerous and very energized. We are up against an established incumbent with a war chest of donations from companies that do business with the city, real estate developers, and City Hall staffers while the the average donation to the Walton campaign is around $35. This is very much an uphill battle, but one that is worth fighting for.

Why? Because progressive policies are necessary to uplift and heal our city and community. India has been both an outspoken and behind-the-scenes advocate for years for cannabis reform and ending solitary confinement in prison. Both measures were recently adopted by New York State government. India Walton’s policy platform (https://indiawalton.com/issues/) is bold and absolutely crucial to our future, and if we fight hard enough for this future, we can get it.

With the promise of a once-in-a-generation investment in Buffalo infrastructure, we have the opportunity to elect a once-in-a-generation candidate like India Walton for mayor.

Please join us. Donate. Volunteer. Show up on Primary Day on June 22. But beyond that, serve your community with pride and dedication. Hold your elected and party leaders accountable. The only way to get the new Buffalo we need is by demanding it.

Rise interviewed Walton in December 2020 as part of the very first Rise Report episode released in January 2021.

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