Mark Schroeder, candidate for mayor of Buffalo, has pledged to address the lead crisis facing the city by implementing a coordinated, streamlined approach that will guide all departments and entities under his authority.
“The dangers of lead will never get addressed in Buffalo until we have a mayor who has the will to fix it,” said Schroeder, pointing to a recent Reuters report classified Buffalo as a “Hotbed for Lead,” due to high lead levels for children in the city.
“Not only do I have the will, but I also have a plan to make it happen.”
Schroeder said that with lead hazards coming from everything from paint chips to drinking water, it is crucial that a plan to address lead poisoning comes from the top.
“Whether it is the Buffalo Water Authority testing our water, the Department of Permits and Inspection checking houses for lead paint, or the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority identifying lead hazards in its facilities, when I’m mayor, all city entities will be executing my plan, and they will answer to me,” said Schroeder. “And I will answer to the people of Buffalo.”
Schroeder also committed to using all of his influence as mayor to educate citizens on the dangers of lead poisoning, how to test for lead hazards, and how to eliminate those hazards from the home.
“I will use everything at my disposal – television, the city website, social media, community meetings – to educate people on the debilitating effects of lead poisoning and to urge people to get their water and their paint tested,” said Schroeder. “You can’t just put a flyer in a water bill and call it a day.”
The type of public relations effort has been missing, said one Buffalo resident who knows the effects of lead first-hand.
“I didn’t know the dangers of lead poisoning until it was too late,” said Sherry Slaper, a Kaisertown resident whose eight year-old daughter has suffered from lead poisoning since age one.
Slaper said that the lead levels in her daughter’s blood were so high that she was nearly hospitalized. She said lead exposure has caused her daughter to suffer from various symptoms including migraines, nosebleeds, sensory processing disorder, and pica – a disorder characterized by an appetite for inedible substances, such as dirt.
Slaper said she tried for years to get her daughter’s lead level down, but was unsuccessful until she put a water filter on her faucet. Unfortunately, she knows that the damage done by lead poisoning is largely permanent, and she fears future symptoms, such as infertility. She said the city is not doing enough to help people mitigate the risk from lead exposure.
“I have lived in my home nine years, and I never knew I could get my home tested for lead,” Slaper said. “Even after my daughter tested high for lead, no one told me.”
Slaper’s neighbor on Barnard Street, Carolette Meadows, said her daughter also tested high for lead. Meadows said the city has failed to get in front of its lead problem.
“Everything is reactive, nothing is proactive,” said Meadows.
Schroeder said he will drastically increase water testing and home inspections for lead paint, especially in areas of the city that have seen spikes in lead exposure.
“Not only will I focus testing on the areas that need it the most, but I will fix the problems that are causing this crisis,” said Schroeder. “That includes major infrastructure upgrades if necessary. Everything is on the table.”
Schroeder said that he will work with Erie County and municipalities such as Rochester, which has had success in fighting lead poisoning.
“Rochester inspects every one-family and two-family house for lead on a regular cycle, and it has led to an 85 percent reduction countywide in children testing positive for lead over the past decade,” said Schroeder. “Instead of learning from our neighbors, City Hall buries its head in the sand and denies there is a problem.”
Schroeder wants every rental unit tested for lead paint – inside and out – and will work on legislation to enable such inspections. In addition to urging residents to get their paint and water tested, Schroeder said he will implement programs to help people eliminate the lead hazards from their homes, including free water filters and lead abatement programs for lead paint.
“I will also work with the school district to eradicate any risk of lead from our schools. We need to protect our children from every source of lead, both inside and outside the home,” he said.
Schroeder said that major issues like lead exposure have been ignored for far too long.
“As mayor, I will tackle the tough challenges, including lead poisoning,” said Schroeder. “It is time we had a leader that wants to fix Buffalo’s lead problem, instead of sweeping it under the rug.”
Schroeder said his strategy for lead is part of his four-point Compass Plan for Buffalo, particularly the “Work Plan” point, which focuses on long-term planning and a streamlined approach to managing the city’s many departments and agencies.
“The four-point Compass Plan will bring my new vision for Buffalo to every part of the city – North, South, East, and West,” said Schroeder. “Under my plan, no neighborhood gets left behind.”