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ABOUT OUR CITY ACTION BUFFALO

MISSION & HISTORY.

Buffalo, New York was once a booming industrial city fueled by cheap power from Niagara Falls. The city was a center of commerce and trade, and in 1881, the first city in the United States to have electric light, hence, our nickname "City of Light." But throughout the next century, Buffalo's wealth concentrated at the top and mostly moved out, leaving a largely de-industrialized city in economic decline.      

 

In 2017, local organizers decided to found Our City Buffalo as a response to the influx of public dollars into the city from former Governor Andrew Cuomo's Buffalo Billions economic development program. In our analysis, it threatened to gentrify and displace communities of color, poor and working-class people. It was also a way to create a holistic, intersectional movement to address the city's most pressing issues: housing, policing, education, transportation, frontline arts, immigration, community economic development, and food sovereignty. 

Movement Generation's Just Transition framework informed a lot of our thinking, particularly around the idea of governance.

"If you're not prepared to govern, you're not prepared to win."

That sentiment could be as true for the Fruit Belt Community Land Trust as it is for running a movement candidate for elected office. The rise of Donald Trump to the presidency and the rise of authoritarianism created a moment for us to think critically about how it is that we wanted local elected leaders to take action to protect the rights of the most marginalized. Throughout Trump's presidency, it didn't feel like our elected leaders went far enough to respond to national conditions or local conditions. People became increasingly dissatisfied with the response to various issues: The murder of George Floyd and other Black and Brown men in Buffalo, the affordable housing crisis and the real estate developers having outsized power in the city, Brown not committing to make Buffalo a Sanctuary City or to put it in writing that the BPD wouldn't coordinate with ICE, disinvestment in community centers, potholes the size of craters in the streets in the summer and plows leaving residents stranded in the winter, privatization of schools, further cuts in transportation, the list is long. 

People decided that it was time to prepare to govern. That's when Our City Action Buffalo was founded. 

We run issue-based campaigns and endorse local candidates who share our values and vision for the future of Buffalo. We recently endorsed Jennifer Mecozzi for the West District Board of Education seat. We have also endorsed India Walton and Kathryn Franco for local seats in the past. We also informally consulted with the Cynthia Nixon gubernatorial campaign in 2019 as a response to former Governor Andrew Cuomo's commitment to neoliberal, trickle-down economic development programs. 

In coalition with many others, OCAB has built the infrastructure to be able to endorse and run School Board members,  Common Council candidates, and support a movement of progressive, forward-thinking candidates who will work with and for the people of Buffalo and represent their interests. 

How it started

OCAB grew out of anti-gentrification organizing work. Learn more about the early days (and see many of our beloved members!)  in this Laura Flanders special.