To stay the course
The Spectrum endorses Brown for mayor
Published: Thursday, September 5, 2013
Updated: Thursday, September 5, 2013 23:09
Even though President Obama messed up his name last month during his visit to Buffalo, The Spectrum has decided to endorse the reelection of Byron Brown for mayor.
The race is distinguished as the first mayoral election in Buffalo history to not feature a white, non-Hispanic candidate. A theme percolating in the minds of Buffalonians is progress.
Since Brown took over in 2006, Buffalo has seen positive changes in certain areas and is now on an upward trajectory. There have been more development projects happening in the city, lower property taxes and responsible fiscal management.
While we are thrilled to see $1.7 billion worth of infrastructure projects occurring presently, and the potential for resurgence that accompanies them, there is no doubt that there is still much more work to do.
Buffalo fell on hard times due to the recession. The latest data released by the census bureau has indicated that the city’s poverty rate was at 31 percent in 2011 – the most recent year for which statistics are available. That’s almost three times the national average, according to the National Poverty Center.
The data also says the city has the third-highest rate of childhood poverty, according to the National Center for Children Living in Poverty. And Buffalo is the fifth poorest city among all American municipalities with populations of at least 250,000.
On top of all that, the FBI reported the city has the 11th highest rate of violent crime out of all major cities in the United States.
Brown’s challengers, Bernard Tolbert (D) and Sergio Rodriguez (R), have emphasized these statistics. The most prevalent criticism propagated by the opposing candidates is that Brown has not done enough to reduce crime and combat poverty.
However steep the challenges are for alleviating the economic problems the city faces, it would not be fair nor fully encompassing to place all the blame for what’s gone wrong on Brown. He came in at a time when the country was nearing a period of economic collapse; and when the global recession hit, it was inevitable that Buffalo would be affected. As a de-industrialized urban center that has seen a large loss of manufacturing jobs incrementally over the last several decades, the financial crisis was certain to make matters worse.
Regardless of who was in office, similar numbers would manifest and an increase of misfortunes would materialize.
During a time of such adversity, the job of a mayor is damage control.
In the wake of Detroit filing bankruptcy, it is worth noting that our city, which has faced similar industrial and governmental challenges, has not descended into insolvency induced by institutional failure.
In fact, it has been making strides.
Mayor Brown has instituted a budget that has resulted in an improved credit rating, reduced taxes and an overall increase in government efficiency. His policies have encouraged the private sector to invest in the city and he has helped facilitate much of the expansion that is now taking place – such as Terry Pegula’s development of the Harbor Center downtown.
This is clearly progress and a step in the right direction. Buffalo has not seen promise of this kind in recent memory. Brown should be afforded the opportunity to continue for another term trying to improve the city. Both Tolbert and Rodriguez lack the experience to make the kind of impacts Brown has made.
Neither Tolbert nor Rodriguez has ever held public office, and Rodriguez is only 32 years old.
Brown is not necessarily the best candidate we could ever hope for, and if there was stronger competition we might be saying it is time for a change. But he is the best candidate – the only plausible one.
We think he has had some genuine accomplishments. But there are also ways he has underperformed. In 2006, the city’s unemployment rate was 6.3 percent, and now it is 10.2 percent, according to the Department of Labor. Buffalo Public Schools are also noted for their appallingly low graduation rates.
Brown has done enough to earn another term, but he needs to increase employment and reform the city’s education system. Rodriguez has proposed the mayor’s office take complete control of the school board. We think Brown was right to affirm his position to continue cooperating with the Board of Education. The public, however, should put more pressure on him to create more programs that assist our students through high school and ensure higher graduation rates.
During the Clinton administration, much research demonstrated that after-school programs resulted in improved academic performance and fewer minors getting into legal trouble. The specific hours in between school getting out and parents returning from work have been designated the “prime time for juvenile crime.” Common sense and a practical approach indicate there should be more after-school programs for our public schools.
We also want to see more initiatives to reduce crime, including putting more cops on city streets, which will increase employment and help make Buffalo safer.
Brown has the power of the incumbency. He has been able to generate more endorsements, fundraising and mainstream support than any other candidate. It is as safe a prediction as one can make in politics that he will win.
Students who live in the city who will be voting on Sept. 10 should remember former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill’s observation that “all politics is local.” Every student who commutes to school interacts with local government countless times, in ways in which they are often not even conscious. But be conscious of the fact that Brown is the best candidate in this election.