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Moore credits law enforcement, Jankowski impressed by protesters' 'genuine love of community'

By Mike Pettinella

While Batavia City Manager Martin Moore focused on the professionalism of local law enforcement during the “March for Justice” outside of the City Centre on Sunday, City Council President Eugene Jankowski zeroed in on the protesters’ “genuine love of the community.”

Speaking at tonight’s City Council Business Meeting at City Centre Council chambers, Jankowski said he was impressed by the passion and positive attitudes that were exhibited during an event marked by chants and signs calling for racial equality.

“One of the things that I really took home from that event yesterday is that everybody there was in a good positive mood … and there’s really a genuine love of the community there,” Jankowski said in a brief report to his colleagues. “They were shocked, at least that’s what they told me, … that people thought they might hurt the community because they love it.”

Prefacing his remarks by noting that he was invited by organizers to attend, Jankowski said people of color are looking for more community involvement by the police department, more police accountability to a higher authority (New York State) and fair treatment in the community.

“They feel uncomfortable in businesses, and I’m not sure how we can address that, but some of the members of the march feel like they are looked at differently when they go into a business,” he said. “They (say they) are treated like a drug dealer or a criminal because maybe someone of color at one point was a drug dealer or a criminal. And they feel like they get followed around, and that makes them uncomfortable.”

Jankowski said some other comments included the desire to see more minorities in local jobs, such as in the police and fire departments and school system, which may include civil service exams.

“We can get that information out and encourage people to participate,” he advised.

He encouraged citizens to contact City Council with concerns but did note that the City’s email server has been out of operation for a few days and should be fixed by the end of the week.

Moore, on the other hand, commended fire, police and public works personnel for coming together “seamlessly when it came to actually implement this plan.”

“It was clear, it was well thought out, it was well designed," he said. "Our thanks go out to our state and federal partners, and our county partners. They did a lot of work; a lot of hard work. There were a number of moving parts going on throughout the City during this event and every one of them came off, as far as we can tell, pretty seamlessly.”

The manager went on to say that City police and others from several communities and state and federal agencies “conducted themselves extremely well.”

“It was good to see us not have to bring some of the resources in that were ready to come in if they needed to. That was a relief, and it was also a relief to know that they were there,” he said.

Moore thanked everyone who participated and those who “were there to protect and serve.”

“I got to watch it from many different angles and it was very refreshing to see,” he said. “It was good to see the aftermath, which might have been a concern but, again, our law enforcement was well prepared and ready for it. Things that could have been challenging or serious weren’t.”

On another front, Moore said he spoke with a representative of the Federal Emergency Management Administration this morning and is setting up a meeting to go over COVID-19-related expenses incurred by the City as it seeks reimbursement.

He said department heads have been documenting expenses they believe will qualify to be reimbursed.

In another development, Council voted in favor of a resolution to increase the level of the City’s unassigned fund balance from 10 percent to a range of 15 to 25 percent of the general fund’s operating expenditures.

Moore pushed for the fund policy change in light of the coronavirus and its impact upon municipal governments.

“An event like COVID-19 that hammered the economy the way it did is not sufficient,” he said. “Fifteen to 25 (percent) does two things. We wanted to set ourselves a higher floor and we also want to set a ceiling to shoot for.”

He said the increase “sends a signal” to the state Comptroller’s Office, residents and auditors that the City is prepared for a worst-case scenario on the revenue side.

Council members discussed this resolution at length at its Conference Meeting last month, but for only a few minutes this time before approving it.

In other action, Council:

-- Approved an appropriation of a $554,112 grant from the state Department of Health to replace up to 75 lead service lines on Swan, Hutchins and Otis streets;

-- Approved an $18,750 contract with LaBella Associates PC of Rochester to provide administration/engineering services for a $750,000 Downtown Revitalization Initiative project to improve Jackson Square.

Council’s first face-to-face (or more appropriately, space-to-space) meeting since early March was beset by audio problems, especially on Zoom and also on Facebook Live. It did get easier to hear on Facebook Live as the meeting progressed, however.

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