to his leadership as a primary cause. His accomplishments are
a result of measured political calculations that have left anti-
establishment progressives frustrated and critics longing for
a more inspired and visionary version of, well, Mayor Brown.
But, enough about him. Who else? What else? I spoke about
this year’s mayoral election with a group of people, including
India Walton, a community activist and mother from Buffalo’s Fruit Belt neighborhood; Robert Galbraith, the cochair
of the Buffalo chapter of Democratic Socialists of America;
Tia Brown, a biracial queer-identifying writer and lifelong Buffalo resident; Patty MacDonald, the founder and chief strategist of Project Slumlord; and Pat Burke, an elected official
who serves the people of South Buffalo with a healthy dose
of Irish pride and forward-thinking political stances. They all
had strong opinions, and, in a town like Buffalo, no one is surprised by that; it’s in our city’s DNA. Who we’re yet to become
is the only subject up for debate.
What do you think of the current mayor’s tenure so far?
India Walton: I have mixed feelings about the work that
the mayor has done so far. I’m super proud that we have an
African-American mayor. It speaks to the culture of inclusivi-ty that’s possible in Buffalo; however, the work that he’s done
is pretty lopsided. The people who have prospered the most
are the people who were already affluent in Buffalo, and that
trend has just continued. I think that for a mostly Democratic
city, we are not nearly progressive enough, and leadership in
Buffalo, in general, is not progressive enough. It’s much more
conservative than it should be.
Robert Galbraith: Buffalo has seen a lot of superficial
changes during Brown’s tenure that have not added up to
material gains for everyday Buffalonians. Brown’s program for
the city has been a continuation of the same trickle-down economic theory that has been exacerbating inequality in America for nearly forty years, joined with the discredited “broken
windows” philosophy of policing that disrupts and punishes
poor communities without meaningfully addressing serious
Tia Brown: I can’t speak on the entirety of his time as
mayor, but since I have been back in Buffalo for two years,
there seem to be a lot of public concerns left unaddressed.
Patty Macdonald: Mayor Brown deserves some credit for
the good things that are happening in Buffalo, in particular
the projects that are financed by the Buffalo billion. Positive
growth at the neighborhood level, however, has happened in
spite of and not because of the Brown administration. Many
City Hall departments are dysfunctional and understaffed.
Improvements to the 311 system and better technology for
the Department of Permits and Inspections have been long-promised but not delivered.
Pat Burke: The first thing to point out is that there have
only been three mayors since 1978. If the mayor is elected
to a fourth term, that would make it forty-three years with
only three mayors in office. I don’t think that is a good thing
for anyone. Being Buffalo’s first African-American mayor gives
Byron Brown a special place in our history and is a major
accomplishment. There have been some accomplishments,
such as the Green Code, and some failures, such as the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority.
What do you think about the slate of candidates for this
year’s mayoral race?
IW: There’s the incumbent; Betty Jean Grant, who has a
pretty lengthy political history in Buffalo; Taniqua Simmons, a
local activist; Terrence Robinson, a person I’ve never heard of
and don’t know anything about; and then there’s Mark Schroeder. That means it’s establishment, establishment, establishment, and two rogue individuals. It’s difficult for me to
know who to take the most seriously out of those options. I
don’t think much of any of them with the exception of Betty
Jean, because I can see at least that she’s a person that could
be held accountable, because she has such strong ties to the
RG: I’m really happy that this year there is a serious race
with multiple candidates. It’s encouraging that there are several people challenging the status quo and the dominant political economy in the city. The fact that this election is again
being primarily contested in the Democratic party primary is
troubling, however. I hope that candidates raising the issues
of inequality of resources and power continue to organize and
challenge the extractive corporate hegemony all the way up
to the general election and beyond.
TB: I consistently hear things about Schroeder, and Grant
gets a few shout outs here and there. But, if there’s anything
we’ve learned from recent political races, voters have to
research all of the faces and listen for what they’re not saying. For example, Taniqua Simmons is saying a lot of what
needs to be said.
PM: Mayor Brown is the no-surprises candidate. We can
expect more of the same from him, which means a continuation of poor codes enforcement, continued loss of our architectural heritage, and neighborhood safety getting little more
than lip service. Mark Schroeder would bring transparency
to local government, something sorely needed and clearly
lacking under Mayor Brown. In addition, Mr. Schroeder has
a strong work ethic, and his staff is extremely efficient and
responsive. His presence in City Hall would be a welcome
change. Betty Jean Grant is a champion of social justice and
her voice is an important one in the mayoral contest.
“IT’S A NECESSITY FOR ANY CANDIDATE
FOR MAYOR OF THE CITY OF GOOD
NEIGHBORS TO TOUT COMMUNITY, RIGHT?
I DON’T MEAN PATTING-THE-HEADS-OF
CONGREGATIONS COMMUNITY. I MEAN
RECOGNIZING ALL OF THE MEMBERS.”