UPDATE: Incumbent Byron W. Brown won the September 12, 2017 Democratic mayoral primary, winning 51.7% (13,346 votes), to Betty Jean Grant’s 12.6% (3,267 votes), and Mark Schroeder’s 35.7% (9,219 votes). Approximately one-quarter of the city’s registered Democrats cast ballots on a weather-perfect mid-September day. Here’s how Buffalo News veteran political reporter, Bob McCarthy, characterized the results: “Brown surpassed the magic 50 percent mark in the primary, an impressive feat against two well known opponents. But it still means he was supported by just over half of the city’s Democrats, and Schroeder beat poll predictions with 35 percent.” [Also, see this article with neighborhood results.] For the reasons I expressed in my initial post below, I am quite disappointed in the outcome. But, I am inspired by the positive and issue-oriented campaign Mark ran, and greatly appreciative of the opportunity to meet and get to know the candidate and his bright and energized staff (in particular, Jenn Orr and Cherelle Syph).
Members of the Buffalo News editorial board endorsed incumbent Byron W. Brown for mayor in the September 12th Democratic primary election, characterizing the choice as “an easy call.” Their decision was simple and effortless despite an acknowledgement that Mr. Brown’s main opposition, Mark Schroeder, has not only “shown himself as a valuable asset” as City Comptroller, but would make “a credible mayor.”
The Buffalo News justifies its decision by claiming that “the case for change” has not been made. I emphatically disagree.
Had the region’s largest newspaper waited a week to announce its endorsement, and honestly assessed its September 6th article, “Byron Brown’s 12 years as mayor: By the numbers,” they would have seen how the incumbent’s record should give every Buffalonian reason to strongly consider a change at the top.
Likewise, had the editorial board re-read the paper’s July 24, 2016 editorial, “City comptroller is working to ensure public information gets to the public,” they would have recalled the stark contrast between and Mark Schroeder’s refreshing “commitment to open government that citizens of a democracy deserve,” and the Brown Administration’s consistent record of “hinder[ing] access to information.”
Here are the major reasons that I will vote on September 12th in the Democratic primary election to replace Byron Brown with Mark Schroeder for Mayor of the City of Buffalo:
HUMAN BEINGS, NOT BUILDINGS, DEFINE A CITY: Our current mayor has the audacity to tout “an economic development strategy” that he claims “stabilized and grew the economy.” He proudly takes credit for $6.1 billion in new economic activity. But, he refuses to shoulder any of the blame for the poverty that permeates much of the city. As reported in the September 6th Buffalo News article, during Byron Brown’s 12 years as mayor, the city’s overall poverty rate has increased from 26.9% to 33.0%, while Buffalo’s child poverty rate has mushroomed from an already-unacceptable 37.5% in 2005 to a reprehensible 53.9% in 2015 (the most recent year statistics are available). Buffalonians deserve so much better.
HOMICIDES AND FEAR OF VIOLENCE CONTINUE TO PLAGUE BUFFALO NEIGHBORHOODS. The Buffalo News would have city voters view the mayor’s “public safety” record as representing “a clear area of progress.” This sleight-of-hand is accomplished by focusing on the city’s 19.53 % decrease in “violent crime rate” per 100,000 between 2005 through 2015. Two factors greatly diminish the significance of this “progress.” First, as noted in the September 6th report, Buffalo’s overall rate remains significantly higher than the rates in Rochester and Syracuse. More importantly – and not reported in the Buffalo News article – the number of homicides on City of Buffalo streets has risen from 37 in 2008, to 42 in 2015, and 44 in 2016. And, the trend toward an annual increase in loss of life through homicides continues in 2017.
NOTE: As Mark Schroeder has emphasized during recent mayoral debates, Mayor Brown’s police department has an embarrassingly low rate of “clearing” – that is, resolving – homicide cases. According to City of Buffalo records, only 11 of the city’s 44 homicides in 2016 have been cleared – a dismal result reflecting, almost certainly, the low level of trust between the city’s law enforcement officials and the communities they serve. And the human costs to surviving family members – who are unable to find the comfort of “closure” – is immeasurable.
MAYOR BROWN’S “GREEN CODE” EMPOWERS DEVELOPERS AT THE EXPENSE OF RESIDENTS AND EXISTING NEIGHBORHOODS. Byron Brown misled city residents by promising a new zoning code that would protect the character of existing neighborhoods. What we got, however, was the “Uniform Development Ordinance” – informally known as the Green Code” – a set of rules and standards that make it easier for developers to build what they want, where they want. Adding insult to injury, Byron Brown has used his appointment and hiring authority the past 12 years to stack the Zoning Board of Appeals, City Planning Board, and, most importantly, city hall planning staff, with individuals who consistently view proposed projects from the perspective of developers, not residents.
MAYOR BROWN HAS DISREGARDED THE QUALITY OF LIFE OF FRUIT BELT AND ALLENTOWN RESIDENTS BY FAILING TO EFFECTIVELY ADDRESS GENTRIFICATION AND PARKING ISSUES. As mayor, Byron Brown is a member of the Board of Directors of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus (BNMC). Rather than using that position as a means of protecting the adjoining residential neighborhoods, he has ignored the recommendation in the BNMC “2010 Master Plan Update” that the City of Buffalo act as “lead agency” and prepare a “Generic Environmental Impact Statement” to guide BNMC’s future development and reduce adverse impacts on the surrounding communities. As usual, big, new buildings, not human beings, were Mr. Brown’s first priority.
MAYOR BROWN’S APPOINTEES HAVE RENDERED SEQRA – THE STATE ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY REVIEW ACT – TOOTHLESS AND VIRTUALLY MEANINGLESS. SEQRA is a state law intended to empower government decision-makers and the public by providing objective information and data whenever a proposed development project or policy might have a significant adverse impact on any one or more aspect of the environment. During the past two years, Mayor Brown’s staff has only recommended preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement – “the heart of SEQRA” – once. And, disturbingly, the environmental assessments are performed – not by the Common Council, Zoning Board of Appeals, or City Planning Board – but by the Mayor’s planning staff, virtually guaranteeing a pro-development disregard of impacts on natural resources, the character of existing neighborhoods, traffic, etc.
MARK SCHROEDER IS A MAN OF INTEGRITY AND COMPASSION. I had not met Mark Schroeder until I struck up a conversation with him at a rally-for-science several months ago. Since then, I have attended a number of debates and community meetings and observed him answering questions and explaining his concerns and plans. Each time, I have been impressed by his candor, humility, compassion for Buffalo’s residents and neighborhoods, his goals, genuineness, sense of humor, and decency. I can understand why the pro-Byron-Brown Buffalo News described Mark Schroeder in July 2016 as “among Western New York’s most consistently valuable public officials since he first became an Erie County legislator in 2002.”
I am convinced that Mark Schroeder is the kind of compassionate and forward-looking public official that the residents of the City of Buffalo – the entire City of Buffalo – deserve.
If you would like to learn more about Mark Schroeder’s plans for the City of Buffalo – or, perhaps, volunteer to help him unseat Mr. Brown – here are links to his website: https://www.markforbuffalo.com/, and his campaign’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/markforbuffalo/.
With All Due Respect,