West Seneca tax in­crease stirs ran­cor

Out­bursts, in­sults mark ‘scary’ mood at meet­ing

The Buffalo News - - CITY&REGION - By Bar­bara O’Brien

A hos­tile crowd didn’t give an inch to West Seneca Su­per­vi­sor Sheila M. Mee­gan and town coun­cil­men dur­ing a meet­ing Mon­day night when the board ap­proved an 8.6 per­cent prop­erty tax in­crease for 2018.

It didn’t mat­ter that the tax in­crease was less than the pro­posed 12 per­cent and that the tax bill on the av­er­age mar­ket value house of $150,000 would go up by less than $100 next year.

Res­i­dents shouted af­ter the vote and dis­rupted the meet­ing for sev­eral mo­ments by yelling com­ments and then chant­ing, “We’re the town! We’re the town!” And then it got worse. “Re­sign now, Sheila” and “I hate you, Sheila,” some peo­ple yelled from the

and how his ar­rests forced him to give up his pub­lic hous­ing apart­ment and live apart from his five chil­dren.

The new study on mar­i­juana ar­rests in­di­cates Buf­falo is sim­i­lar to other medium-sized ur­ban com­mu­ni­ties and con­firms that the dis­par­ity in ar­rests, a long-stand­ing is­sue for lo­cal law en­force­ment, con­tin­ues today.

Au­thored by the Part­ner­ship for the Pub­lic Good, a lo­cal think tank, the study is in­tended to boost ef­forts at re­form­ing New York’s mar­i­juana laws. Re­form ad­vo­cates say the costs of mar­i­juana pro­hi­bi­tion far out­weigh the ben­e­fits, es­pe­cially given the na­tional move­ment to­ward le­gal­iza­tion.

“It’s shock­ing how many we ar­rest,” said Sam Ma­gav­ern, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the part­ner­ship. “Mostly we’re talk­ing about young peo­ple who have the most to lose.”

Re­becca Town, a lawyer for the Le­gal Aid Bureau of Buf­falo, said Pen­nick is typ­i­cal of the young black men who find them­selves pulled over by po­lice, of­ten more than once, or even twice.

She still sees ev­i­dence of “stop and frisk” ar­rests in pub­lic hous­ing de­vel­op­ments and in­di­cated lo­cal po­lice of­ten use mar­i­juana as an ex­cuse to make a traf­fic or pedes­trian stop.

“It’s of­ten the sus­pi­cion of mar­i­juana pos­ses­sion that gets the ball rolling,” she said.

In Buf­falo, ac­cord­ing to the study, more than 2,000 peo­ple were ar­rested in con­nec­tion with low-level mar­i­juana crimes over the past five years but the num­bers are drop­ping.

Last year, 231 peo­ple were ar­rested for mar­i­juana pos­ses­sion in Buf­falo, down from 555 three years ear­lier.

Ma­gav­ern said the study shows that, de­spite the de­cline in ar­rests, the harm caused by them – young men los­ing job of­fers and teens miss­ing out on ed­u­ca­tion op­por­tu­ni­ties – falls more heav­ily on blacks and His­pan­ics.

The study also sug­gests that en­hanced po­lice en­force­ment in a com­mu­nity can lead to dis­trust and, ul­ti­mately, poorer re­la­tions be­tween res­i­dents and po­lice.

“You erode the re­la­tion­ship be­tween law en­force­ment and the com­mu­nity, es­pe­cially those with peo­ple of color,” said Kas­san­dra Fred­erique, state di­rec­tor for the Drug Pol­icy Al­liance.

The re­port also notes that stud­ies on mar­i­juana use show young white peo­ple, com­pared with young blacks and His­pan­ics, are more likely to use mar­i­juana. And yet, the study found them at sig­nif­i­cantly less risk of pros­e­cu­tion.

“Every­one knows, if you’re a young per­son in Clarence and you’re smok­ing pot, you’re not go­ing to get ar­rested,” Ma­gav­ern told re­porters. The vast ma­jor­ity of Clarence’s res­i­dents are white.

As­sem­bly­woman Crys­tal Peo­plesS­tokes, a Buf­falo Demo­crat, is spon­sor­ing a bill to le­gal­ize mar­i­juana use among adults in New York State, and noted that sev­eral states, in­clud­ing nearby Mas­sachusetts, have al­ready done so.

“The war on drugs is lost,” Peo­plesS­tokes said Tues­day.

The dis­par­ity in lo­cal mar­i­juana ar­rests is not un­usual, es­pe­cially in medium to large-sized ci­ties, and stud­ies of other com­mu­ni­ties have found sim­i­lar dis­par­i­ties. In New York City, lowlevel mar­i­juana pos­ses­sion ar­rests in­creased 10 per­cent last year, ac­cord­ing to a study by Politico.

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