Form Over Function and Another Misdeed of Legislator Owen Steed

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By: Ken Hamilton

The representatives from the Renae Kimble “minority-majority” district are seemingly incapable of selecting good leadership, and will likely continue being the poorest, least educated district in the city.  That’s not to say that the other districts understand government, especially county government, much better. 

But how could it improve when the district was surgically cut out of the heart of the inner-city in a way that would hobble together not only the poorest of African-Americans, but of whites also.  

Ultimately, the district has never been more than marginally blacker than it is white, and that is only because many bi-racial members consider themselves black.  

Sadly, because American voters tend to vote for the persons either most like themselves or most like they project themselves to be, the 4th District leaves the electorate the option of electing to public office the poorest, least educated members among them to serve – and I say “serve” in the loosest of terms. 

And in Legislator Owen Steed, we do, indeed, have representation that is far worse than even his predecessor, whom incidentally was highly-schooled.

From what I understand, Steed was the one that had the street-facing perimeter landscape boulders removed that were placed to protect the children that played at the renovated playground at the intersection of Centre Avenue and Aaron Griffin Way.  He replaced them with a 4-foot chain link fence, paid for by the county. That intersection is one that is by the abandoned community center at that corner — an intersection that is highly subjected to drivers ignoring the stop signs and speeding through it.

Ironically, not much more than a week after Steed’s chain link fence was placed, Steed’s folly was demonstrated when a woman sped a very modest automobile drove through an 8-foot fence that surrounds the parkland area of Tulip Co., also known as the old Prestolite Company on Beech and Highland avenues.  

She somehow crossed the snowmelt softened soil of the park, dipped down into a drainage ditch some 60-feet away and back up out of it, then continuing more than another 60-feet to apparently slam into the back of a parked pickup truck, pushing it out of the way and on into the side of 2nd parked car, hitting it hard enough to not only drive it into a 3rd car next to it.  

She lodged her small automobile into the 2nd car so hard that a tow truck had to jerk it off to extricate it.  Witnesses said that the woman exited the car unaided prior the fire department’s arrival.  The event apparently happened just minutes before some of the employees’ business at the plant had been completed.  

A couple of them expressed relief that had they arrived at the lot just 5-minutes before, they would have likely been seriously injured, or worse.

Despite the drainage gully being there, had either the park or Tulip’s visitors lot were lined with the landscape boulders that Steed had removed from the Kiddy Park but a few blocks away, regardless of when the employees or visitors had been in the parking lot they would have been relatively safe – but what of the children playing in the Kiddy Park if or, more likely, when something similar happens there?  

It’s not being fatalist in so saying.  It was just a couple of years ago that the 8-foot fence surrounding the nearby swimming pool was damaged when a car apparently speeding down Garden Avenue jumped a curb, knocked over a decorative steel trash can and stopped just feet before making one of the biggest splashes of that hit-and-run driver’s life.

Is the safety of the children important or not?

Steed is not only on the board of the Niagara Falls Housing Authority, but at the time that he was the Center Court resident representative, a resident who lives a few apartments away from the one in which Steed lives in the public housing project asked Steed to try to get stop signs placed at the intersection of Beech Ave and 17th Street so that the children could safely cross from the project to the Kalfas Magnet School.  

After months of waiting for Steed to do so, she gave up and asked a common citizen that she know to help her get the signs. He got the signs placed less than 2-weeks after her asking.  But in the citizen’s discussion with the Traffic Committee on why no stop signs had previously been placed, he was told that his was the 1st request that they had heard.

But poor, seemingly witless Steed cannot take all of the blame for his apparent ineptitude. What steed sees is what Steed does; and what he sees in a city where “form often takes precedence over function” is that former NFHA Executive Director Stephanie Cowart initiated tearing down perfectly serviceable and functional ‘brick and mortar’ public housing – whose quality is still demonstrated at the sister project of Packard Court – and building what some consider to be nicely-formed single generation “wood and vinyl” housing, not only in its place, but also planted the project atop the old city dump.

So then, logically, why not take away the safety and permanence of stone boulders for our children and replace it with a flimsy and relatively high-maintenance, but so-called good-looking fencing that perfectly complements the project itself – the safety of the children be dammed!

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