Despite attempts by Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority officials to remove him from the ballot, longtime tenant commissioner Joseph A. Mascia has prevailed in his quest to serve a fifth two-term on the BMHA board.
In fact, Mascia, a resident of the Marine Drive Apartments, was the top vote-getter in the seven-person race for two open seats in Tuesday’s resident commissioner race, receiving 441 votes. Yvonne Martinez, president of the resident council at Lakeview Homes, won the other seat with 344 votes, according to a certified tally of the results by the League of Women Voters.
“I’m humbled by the support from the residents, because when things like this happen, there’s a lot of confusion involved,” Mascia said Wednesday.
Mascia was referring to the apparent confusion among BMHA tenants about when the election would be held and whether Mascia’s name would appear on the ballot.
The election originally had been scheduled for June 10, without Mascia as a candidate. Mascia was informed in a May 23 letter from the League of Women Voters of Buffalo Niagara, which was contracted by the BMHA to conduct the resident commissioner election, that his name was taken off the ballot because he had claimed in an April 11 candidate’s interview with the league that he was a BMHA tenant commissioner when he was not.
The letter said Mascia’s position on the BMHA board automatically became vacant earlier that day after he pleaded guilty to an election law misdemeanor for failing to file campaign financial-disclosure statements in his 2012 unsuccessful run for the Assembly.
The authority’s general counsel, David Rodriguez, said that the election law misdemeanor was a violation of Mascia’s oath of office under the state Public Officers Law, automatically vacating his tenant commissioner position. Despite that, Mascia said he was not barred from serving on the board at its last two meetings in May and June.
Still, he took legal action against both the BMHA and the League of Women Voters and, through his attorney Joseph G. Makowski, obtained a temporary restraining order preventing the league from holding the election without his name on the ballot. On June 16, State Supreme Court Justice Shirley Troutman ruled that his guilty plea did not automatically bar Mascia from seeking re-election.
Wednesday, Mascia said confusion surrounding when the election would be held and the introduction of voting machines to process may have depressed turnout, which was estimated at 1,300, compared with about 2,000 votes cast two years ago.
“In previous elections, the ballots were mailed in, so everybody got a ballot mailed to them,” Mascia said. “Even though the general counsel said that this system would actually increase the voting, it didn’t.”
Meanwhile, Martinez, a first-time candidate in the resident commissioner election, said her aim is to get the administration to become more responsive to tenants’ concerns regarding the quality and level of services.
“We have a lot of issues on safety and security,” she said. “We have issues with management of the complexes; there’s maybe one manager for five complexes. Sometimes you don’t even see a manager for months … and that’s a problem.”
Martinez said she plans to become an effective advocate for the largely Spanish-speaking residents of Lakeview Homes on Buffalo’s West Side, whose needs, she said, are often overlooked by the Housing Authority.