Back on June 22, The Buffalo News delved into FBI crime statistics and translated them into a story topped by a startling headline: “Buffalo has 11th highest violent crime rate.”
In raw numbers, Buffalo reported 3,380 violent crimes: 48 murders, 138 forcible rapes, 1,388 robberies and 1,806 aggravated assaults. The city also logged 13,454 property crimes: 3,976 burglaries, 8,371 larcenies and thefts, and 1,107 motor vehicle thefts.
The same stats rebound this Sunday morning because as we near July in a mayoral election year, they would normally spur the campaign of any mayoral challenger to work overtime cranking out a stream of press releases that attack the situation.
Seasoned campaigners trot out to a street corner marked by violent crime and summon reporters to say how they would do better. Or maybe they set up their lectern at Police Headquarters to promise new leadership. Some might even camp out on the steps of City Hall and claim the buck lies on the desk of incumbent Mayor Byron Brown.
But the campaign of Democratic primary challenger Bernie Tolbert laid low while the effects of the story and headline faded. In fact, as a story in The News pointed out last Sunday, Tolbert has proven decidedly low key in the early stages of his effort to unseat Brown. In the last week, nothing changed.
Indeed, sources close to Tolbert, as well as political observers around Buffalo, wonder when the challenger will start acting like a challenger. The story on violent crime, they muse, seemed personally crafted for a former special agent-in-charge of the Buffalo FBI. It’s almost as if Tolbert had rubbed the magic lamp and wished for his own campaign issue.
But nothing emanated from Tolbert’s new headquarters on Hertel Avenue.
Republican Sergio Rodriguez, on the other hand, is campaigning like he really wants the job – despite the formidable obstacle of a 7-to-1 Democratic registration edge in Buffalo. His press secretary, Bob Lingle, jumped on the crime stats almost as the morning paper hit the streets.
“The mayor and his appointed police commissioner are out of touch with the current reality facing the residents of Buffalo,” Rodriguez said. “Anyone who says Buffalo streets are safer has not spent enough time on Buffalo streets. I am prepared to take ownership over the issue of crime. Someone has to.”
Give Tolbert credit. He appears at almost every community function and works the crowd. But even he acknowledged to The News a few days ago that more needs to be done, and says it will.
Brown forces, meanwhile, stand ready to respond to crime issues, pointing to its own favorable statistics. That’s exactly the kind of discussion that marks a mayoral campaign in a politically oriented city like Buffalo.
Tolbert might like another crack at that magic lamp. But Monday marks July 1 – only 71 days before the primary. The one wish a genie can’t grant is more days on the calendar.
• Observation of the Week stems from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Monday appearance at SUNY Buffalo State to discuss his administration’s economic development plans. Those area legislators who voted for the recent bill aiming to dissolve the Peace Bridge Authority were present; those who voted against were not.
• Quote of the Week I comes from Sen. Mark Grisanti, the Buffalo Republican and Cuomo ally who introduced the governor at the Buffalo State event: “Gov. Cuomo has done more for upstate New York than any other governor in modern history.”
• Quote of the Week II comes from the governor himself, when asked whether he could be criticized for Peace Bridge stagnation after his representative sat on the authority for the four years he served as attorney general. He said neither he nor successor Eric Schneiderman should perform a function beyond their role:
“As attorney general it wasn’t my role,” Cuomo said. “I’m not saying Schneiderman should have been doing this.”