Batavia community safety is goal of local leaders after Parkland

Group organizing for dialogue and action

The inspiration for Empower Batavia sprang, in part, from a walkout by students at Batavia High School on Feb. 21, which marked the one-week anniversary of the school shooting in Florida on Valentine's Day.[]

BATAVIA – Community leaders in Batavia initially considered holding a town hall meeting in the wake of the school shooting in Florida, but have decided instead to create an organization focused on enhancing safety.

In the aftermath of the Parkland tragedy, Batavia School Board member Chris Lowe called for a community discussion, and other civic leaders rallied around him.

A meeting of 16 elected officials, public servants, business leaders and community activists was held Feb. 28.

The initial idea was to organize a town hall-style meeting to let residents hear what local government already is doing to keep the community safe and to get feedback from citizens.

“We had a long and thoughtful conversation,” Lowe said. “In the end, we decided we needed a longer-term solution that could lead to meaningful change.”

The result was a decision to create an organization to engage the community and make Batavia a safer place, Lowe said.

With the tentative, working name of Empower Batavia, the organization has two preliminary goals, Lowe said.

The first will be to reach out to the community and provide information on resources that are already available.

The second will be to engage Batavians in an ongoing and meaningful dialogue that leads to concrete action, Lowe said.

“We all are concerned about recent events and we are not sitting idly by, waiting for tragedy to strike our community,” Lowe said. “We are being proactive and want to work with the entire community to make Batavia the safest community possible.”

Other elected officials participating were 2nd Ward Alderman Marty Callahan, 3rd Ward Alderman Elliot Meitzler and Batavia School Board member Bob Baty-Barr.

“There were a lot of constructive ideas,” said Batavia City Administrator Laura Newman, who was present at the meeting.

“It was about education and engagement and turning great ideas into action,” Newman said.

Other participants were Batavia police Chief Dan Eul and Batavia School District 101 Chief Financial Officer Tony Inglese, who heads up a safety committee.

Also included were Batavia Park District Executive Director Allison Niemela, Batavia Public Library Director George Scheetz, Batavia MainStreet Executive Director Jamie Saam, community activist Roger Breisch and several others.

Both Lowe and Newman said that the organization’s first job will be to establish a charter.

“I don’t want to raise expectations without having a defined purpose and goal,” Lowe said. “While concerns may be high, this is a long-term problem we’re facing, and we want a long-term solution,” he said.