Editor’s note: Today The Buffalo News begins a series of editorials endorsing candidates for a number of offices. These endorsements by the editorial board are intended to aid voters in their evaluations of those seeking office. Whether you agree or disagree with our recommendations, we urge you to vote and take part in our electoral process.
Mayor Byron W. Brown deserves a third term leading Buffalo, and we endorse him for that. We just wish he was acting like he was hungry for the job.
Here’s the No. 1 fact: Buffalo is booming. Not just doing better or showing signs of life. It’s booming, and for that, Brown gets a share of the credit.
Although in many cases Brown’s role was simply to not get in the way, the fact is that he didn’t get in the way. In a city of titanic political egos, that’s not as insignificant an achievement as it may seem. As a result, Canalside is a fast-developing district, with two hotels, two hockey rinks and other amenities in various stages of development.
Perhaps more significantly, sections of outer harbor land long owned by the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority will be transferred to the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and to the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. The city, which lusted after the land, backed away to the long-term benefit of all Western New Yorkers.
Brown had a more direct role in the selection of the Buffalo Sabres HarborCenter project to fill the Webster Block, adjacent to First Niagara Center, and to give development rights for prime inner harbor land to Ellicott Development, which had been competing for the rights to the Webster Block. While that latter decision raised some legitimate questions about the process, the fact is that Brown has encouraged development in a city that was thirsting for it.
Brown has been a competent mayor. He understands issues and keeps abreast of the details that make a difference. He has been strong when it mattered.
Still, he could be a better leader. The mayor has a penchant for secrecy that he may believe serves him, but which in fact betrays weakness. It can be difficult to get public information from his administration.
He should also be more involved in Buffalo’s schools in a third term. While he has no formal role in the school district, the city helps support it financially. That gives him a legitimate platform from which he can advocate on behalf of taxpayers and students, neither of whom are getting a fair shake. This is a critical issue. The poor record of the city’s schools and its weak leadership are a dead weight on a reviving city.
It is also dismaying that Brown is treating the election as a foregone conclusion. It may, indeed, be that, given his incumbency and the city’s overwhelming Democratic tilt, but by avoiding debates with his opponent, Sergio Rodriguez, and not even making a point of asking voters for their support, he is treating the election – and voters – with something akin to disrespect.
Rodriguez, for his part, is both sharp and enthusiastic. But he is too green for this position, and has offered little in the way of specifics during the campaign. We hope he will continue to seek ways to involve himself in the region’s public life, assuming he fails in his bid for mayor. He ran once before for a seat on the Common Council, but lost. He should look there again or to the Buffalo School Board, both of which need members with the kind of passion he exudes.