Syracuse residents heard three proposals Tuesday night to spend $150,000 to increase testing of children for lead poisoning.
The proposals are part of a “participatory budgeting” program run by the Central New York Community Foundation. Through the program, residents were invited to come up with a solution that the foundation will then fund with $150,000.
Syracuse has one of the worst lead crises in the nation.
Qiana Williams, a program officer at the Community Foundation, hosted six meetings across the city beginning in September. During those meetings, residents outlined perceived barriers to lead testing in the city.
Peace, Inc., the Syracuse Peacemaking Project and the United Way of Central New York unveiled at the North Side Learning Center preliminary proposals to increase testing.
The groups will be given time to hone their proposals based on feedback from about 30 residents who came to hear from the three groups.
Residents who have attended participatory budgeting sessions can vote on the proposals beginning April 18. The general public can vote on the proposals beginning at 9 a.m. on May 2. All voting closes at 9 p.m. that day.
“It’s a relief to know that we have some type of vision in place that the residents decided they wanted to see happen,” Williams said. “It’s finally time where their voices are being amplified in the process.”
Check out the preliminary proposals below.
Syracuse Peacemaking Project
Syracuse Peacemaking Project, part of the Center for Justice Innovation, proposed using the money to help continue the work of two lead health ambassadors the group has already hired.
Leah Russell, presenting on behalf of the Project, said the group already holds yearly events where they can reach kids to increase lead screening. The Syracuse Peacemaking Project would create a virtual screening process, do door-to-door outreach, and hold at least four lead awareness events and four kitchen table talks.
The $150,000 would at least in part help incentivize outreach. Syracuse Peacemaking Project would use the money to buy gift cards and other benefits and then hand them out for each new level of participation for community members
A resident would get one incentive for having their own child tested, another for bringing a friend to get their kids tested and then another for joining the group’s outreach team.
The Syracuse Peacemaking Project is headquartered in the West Side but would target four zip codes: 13204 (West Side), 13205 (South Side), 13208 (North Side) and 13203 (North Side).
At the end of Tuesday’s meeting, residents voted on the projects they liked best. The Peacemaking Project’s proposal received 39 votes, the most among the three.
United Way of Central New York
The United Way proposed addressing transportation barriers that prevent kids from being tested for lead.
Sadequa Fore, who presented for United Way, said the group wanted to use $25,000 to provide free Lyft trips to residents who want to get their children tested for lead. The Lyft trips would allow residents to go to a primary care physician and a lab, Fore said.
The $25,000 would cover 734 trips to and from a doctor, Fore estimated.
Another $5,000 would go toward kits United Way would make available to families. The kits would include education about lead poisoning. Each kit would be delivered by a DoorDash driver to a home.
The group asked for just $30,000 of the $150,000 on the table. Williams said the group could use the remaining money for outreach.
United Way did not estimate the cost of the kits and said they would work with community groups to determine what would go in each kit.
The United Way’s proposal finished second on Tuesday night with 22 votes.
Peace, Inc. presented its proposal in coordination with Oceanna Fair and Families for Lead Freedom Now.
Fair has long advocated for increased attention to Syracuse’s lead crisis.
Peace, Inc. planned to train 20 ambassadors about barriers to lead testing. Those ambassadors would then help Peace, Inc. with an advocacy campaign. Fair said the group would work with Syracuse University professors to create a “Train the Trainer” program.
Lucy Totino, grants coordinator for Peace, Inc., said the group would then hold six events, including at least one at each Head Start location. The Onondaga County Health Department would send its mobile testing van to the events to have children tested, Fair said.
Peace Inc.’s proposal earned 17 votes.
Read more about Syracuse’s lead crisis
Residents will get to vote on how to spend $150,000 to increase testing for lead poisoning after 10 meetings this fall and next spring.
The Community Foundation gave residents the power to spend $150,000 on Syracuse’s lead crisis.
Residents worry that the viaduct’s demolition could spread lead dust into the South Side and land on workers who bring the dust home.
The city of Syracuse began enforcing its new lead abatement ordinance Monday, two years after it was approved.