Councilman David Rivera has “betrayed” the Latino community, say longtime West Side activists. They are still upset over a 2011 redistricting of the Common Council that ensured that the Latino community would not be able to cultivate political influence in Western New York for another decade.
Rivera sat idly by while then Council President David Franzcyk (D-Fillmore) and Councilman Darius Pridgen (D-Ellicott) conspired to draw themselves egregiously construed districts. In an apparent and self dealing move, they deeply harmed the Latino community by dividing its core neighborhood into three separate Council districts, and thereby muting any influence that it hoped to cultivate.
In the same year, the West Side’s Latino community was divided among two separate County Legislative districts.
Franzcyk was first elected in 1986. Haplessly, he watched his Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood decay into ruins of its former self. In an egregious attempt to redraw white voters into the district, he needed to splice through the Latino community to get to Allentown, where Franzcyk sees his political future.
So he found a natural ally in Pridgen, whose waterfront townhouse is located, seemingly, worlds away from the East Side neighborhoods that he represents and pastors. He needed to maintain a black constituency but didn’t want to give up his waterfront views.
The Latino community got shafted in a deal that stole a black Council district from the east side so that an entrenched old machine style politician could play the type of divisive racial politics that this city has long needed to shed.
All the while, Rivera didn’t stand up or even slow down the process. He compliantly sat back and watched his colleagues dice up his community’s ability to cultivate real political influence for another decade.
At the time, advocates had been promoting a “West District” that would have encompassed the entirety of the West Side, from Forest to South Elmwood. That would have allowed the Latino community to develop a base of sustained political influence. It would have had real influence in terms of representation and facilitating the economic integration of the community.
The Latino community has become increasingly disenchanted with the Councilman.
Rivera has refused to articulate the public health concerns of the largely Latino neighborhood located downwind of the Peace Bridge’s customs plaza.
Residents have long complained of a childhood asthma epidemic, and alarmingly elevated rates of cancer, respiratory illness, stroke, and neurological disorders — which have been linked to diesel carcinogens that emirate from the customs plaza.
They say Rivera acted “like a puppet” and treated residents very disrespectfully, as he was largely dismissive of and condescending towards their concerns.
“How can we support a Councilman who sands against his own constituents?” asks one critic. “His willingness to sell out his community at every turn is pause for us all.”
Bernice Radle, the high profile preservationist, and Ralph Hernandez, the former school board president, are rumored to be considering a primary race for the Niagara district Council seat.
Rivera is expected to seek reelection, but has not yet announced his intentions publicly.