They are part of an after-school mentoring program that met at the pavilion, which also is home to track meets, baseball and football leagues, a chess club, the Soap Box Derby and Boy Scouts programs that enroll more than 3,000 youth. It hosts Gospel Fest and other concerts that attract another 10,000. In other words, it hosts the very activities that engage kids and keep them out of the DA's files and the sheriff's jail - activities suburban kids take for granted because their parents realize how important they are.That's right. According to Rod Watson, African-American inner city youths will revert to criminal activity without that sports center. That's bigoted. In the next breath, Watson displays his anti-white bigotry:
But all of that ends for the Wiley kids because suburban county legislators refused to go along with the sales tax hike needed to supply $100,000 to keep the facility open. Meanwhile, there's no such crisis at the Amherst Pepsi Center, where kids do hockey drills or practice double axels. Backed by a wealthy population and a healthy tax base, the four-rink arena doesn't need county money.Rod Watson believes that African-American inner city youths' natural prediliction is to crime, and it's the fault of selfish white folks in Amherst. Notice something about the Pepsi Center? Its name. Read on. Instead of proposing solutions, Watson's pointing fingers.
The reality is that median household income in Buffalo is $24,536, according to the 2000 Census. That's less than half the $55,427 in Amherst, the $59,762 in Orchard Park or the $68,003 in Clarence.And you think the folks making $24,536 wanted to pay an extra sales tax on everything they buy? Sales taxes are regressive ones; they harm poor people more than they harm the rich. The poor are in a worse situation, because they probably have a harder time going to the res, or to other counties, or to Pennsylvania to stock up on stuff at no or lower sales taxes.
Looked at from another perspective, the poverty rate in Buffalo is 26.6 percent. It's 6.4 percent in Amherst, 3.2 percent in Orchard Park and 1.9 percent in Clarence. So, amid all of the "regionalism" rhetoric, whose kids do you think will suffer most when the county pulls the budget rug from under localities?Rod Watson's solution to Buffalo's poverty, therefore, is to throw services at the poor people. What if taxes were lower, government was more streamlined, and more businesses and people decided to move to New York? What if those businesses employed the very poor people who, according to Watson, are just prone to commit crimes? What if those people, who now have jobs again, were no longer poverty-stricken, and the tax base in Buffalo began to grow again? But that sort of talk is anathema to Rod Watson. He just wants to throw sports centers to placate the kids, so they won't rob him, jack him, or burgle him. (His insinuation; not mine).
But the $100,000 for the facility? You can't cover that with a bake sale. The suburban response so far? Let them eat cake. In fact, I started to talk to these teens about regionalism. But no definition of the word I could think of would explain what's about to happen to them.Maybe not a bake sale, but some letters to federal representatives might help. Or perhaps lobbying local businesses to underwrite the cost of the center, in exchange for naming rights. There are lots of solutions to problems like these. Unfortunately, all we have is dinosaurs and bigots like Rod Watson to tell us what's what.