2014 began with a presage: Barely five days into the year, a man was shot in the chest at a private party at the East Erie Turners building. His name was Rashid Anderson, and his death marked the first homicide in Erie last year.
As we enter 2015 and look back over the past year, we find double-digit deaths by shootings and more than four-hundred reported shots fired. And as we finish crossing the threshold from 2014 to 2015, finalizing our year-end lists, concluding our reflections, and turning our sights finally to the future, we find Erie at a critical time in its history, where now more than ever, we need bold leadership willing to take action to move us forward.
Which sounds like old-hat at this point if you turn to our pages often for news and opinion. Yet potentially dynamic times lie immediately ahead — if we press, challenge, and demand greatness from those around us, particularly our elected officials.
In response to last year’s first homicide, Mayor Joe Sinnott told Erie Times-News’ Kevin Flowers that “anti-violence initiatives have worked to curb this stuff, but it continues. We have to have community involvement.” Community involvement is vital, and it works because it creates awareness. Sonya Arrington, who founded the Mothers Against Teen Violence initiative, is proof. After losing her son five years ago to violent crime, Arrington is unwavering in her campaign to combat these issues through her message of nonviolence.
But if 2014 taught us anything, it’s that we shouldn’t be willing to rely solely on the Arringtons of the world. We need our city leaders to be not just in front of the cameras and tape recorders; we need them to be on the front lines, meeting with the community they represent, addressing all of “this stuff” on the streets.
In short, we need more action, period. Otherwise, like 2014, 2015 will be The Year Of The Gun all over again and calling for bold leadership won’t be old hat, it’ll be no hat because we’ve worn thin the brim that’s pulled down to shade the eyes of those throughout the city willing to settle for complacency.
The fact that media have already begun turning attention to upcoming local elections bodes well, because it affirms that people within our community seek to be agents of change and emissaries of progress, and it reaffirms that people want to talk about it. What would augur even better for our community is to witness those seeking leadership in the future acting now, signaling that they’re genuinely interested in the betterment of Erie, not just being in front of the lights and cameras that come with mounting a campaign.
Key things are in place this year, notably the conclusion of Destination Erie, which should help answer many questions, like: Where do we go from here, and who should take the reins? Additionally, PennDOT has launched a study of our Bayfront Parkway, which should call us all to rethink and evaluate how we see the stretch of road looping our bayfront and how we utilize it.
And then there’s the bayfront. Three developers — the Erie County Convention Center Authority, Scott Enterprises, and Tom Kennedy — are beginning to plot the future of our region’s most valuable asset. With this issue, we’ve decided to begin 2015 with a comprehensive feature by Jim Wertz to look at where the bayfront development stands as we close the door to 2014 and explore what lies ahead in the coming months.
Each developer is at different stages, but each has a vision and is taking action. What is key to achieving the best possible outcome as we build upon this most precise parcel of land will be collaboration winning not just the day but the year over competition.
This message wouldn’t be lost on those looking to make 2015 The Year Of Progress rather than the Year Of The Gun or another Year Of Complacency.