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Higgins Out of Step with Obama

Commentary by Kathleen Mecca

Funding a massive truck plaza on Buffalo’s West Side will increase health risks.

 

President
Obama spoke before Congress to articulate his health care initiatives.  In a firm, clear voice he stated he’s
not the first president to raise the issue of health care reform, but he will
be the last.  President Obama’s determination
presents a formidable challenge to democratic lawmakers: they are going to have
to choose sides–either they stand with the people or stand with the
corporations.

 

So how
would the President view a looming health care crisis right in our own back
yard, namely the proposed Peace Bridge expansion project? Two years ago, The Public
Bridge Authority announced plans to build a massive truck plaza inside one of
the poorest and most racially diverse districts in Buffalo–the city’s west
side, home to the youngest population in Buffalo.


YouTube video: What Does Environmental Racism Smell Like? 

 

Almost half of all area residents
(approximately 22,000) are diagnosed with respiratory illness. Epidemiologist
Jameson S. Lweguga-Mukasa MD, PHD, studied asthma incidence among Buffalo
children and found the prevalence of asthma along the current Peace Bridge
traffic corridor to be three times the national average. Asthma is one of many
diseases directly linked to diesel emission exposure

 

Last
week, a neighborhood pharmacy received 170 Ventolin inhalers, a
prescription medication used for treating asthma. The delivery represented
a one-week supply,
which surprised the pharmacist receiving the shipment. “So
what do you think of that?” he asked.

 

Personally,
I think it’s frightening! At a retail cost of $42.00 per inhaler, that’s over
$7,000 per week and more than $370,000 annually for just one asthma medication at one west
side pharmacy. Many asthma sufferers use multiple inhalers along with other
medication.

 

The
public health cost to this region for treating the asthma epidemic on the West Side is estimated at $70M a year – a figure that does not include the cost of
myriad other drugs, doctor visits, lost time from school or lost wages from
work.  A majority of health care
costs in a poor community like the West Side are billed to Medicaid or other
government-sponsored programs. Factoring in the cost of other diseases directly
linked to diesel emission, such as cancer, cardio-vascular disease and Type II
Diabetes, pushes the regional price tag to several hundred million dollars a
year.

 

Several
states across the nation recognize the hidden costs of urban-centered
transportation projects. Many cities are partnering with the EPA to mitigate
the air quality hazard caused by these projects, a level of which exists in
Buffalo right now.  Government
agencies are acutely aware that the location of these diesel-fueled operations
can be detrimental to the present health and future welfare of community
residents.

YouTube video: EPA and American Lung Association


In
Buffalo, we still have politicians turning a blind eye to the health risks
associated with building a bigger truck plaza. The proposed Peace Bridge
expansion plan is in the middle of Congressman Brian Higgins congressional
district, yet he ignores the catastrophic environmental and health impact
threatening Buffalo’s West Side. 
In fact, Congressman Higgins has expended an enormous amount of
political energy toward fast-tracking the first phase of plaza construction.

 

Mr.
Higgins, Democrat, has the support of Buffalo’s Mayor Byron Brown, Democrat, to
move the trucking expansion project forward. Now another wrench has been thrown
into this heated political debate: a Democratic president who supports health
care reform with a public option plan for those who cannot afford private
coverage. So I ask Congressman Higgins and Mayor Brown, which side of the
health care reform aisle are you on? Will you stand with the people or with the
corporations?

 

 

Written by Buffalo Rising

Buffalo Rising

Sometimes the authors at Buffalo Rising work on collaborative efforts in order to cover various events and stories. These posts can not be attributed to one single author, as it is a combined effort. Often times a formation of a post gets started by one writer and passed along to one or more writers before completion. At times there are author attributions at the end of one of these posts. Other times, “Buffalo Rising” is simply offered up as the creator of the article. In either case, the writing is original to Buffalo Rising.

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