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Two candidates challenge Mayor Brown in mayoral debate

Photo+by+Tara+Hark+%2F+All+three+Mayoral+candidates+take+the+stage+in+a+debate+.
Photo by Tara Hark / All three Mayoral candidates take the stage in a debate .

Photo by Tara Hark / All three Mayoral candidates take the stage in a debate .

Photo by Tara Hark / All three Mayoral candidates take the stage in a debate .

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The Democratic mayoral primary debate occurred last night with two major candidates challenging the incumbent, Mayor Byron Brown. The three Mayoral candidates are Mayor Byron Brown, Betty Jean Grant, and Mark F. Schroeder.

As a Buffalo State graduate, Mayor Brown is the first African American mayor in Buffalo history. If Brown wins this election, it will be his fourth consecutive term as mayor. Another Buffalo State Graduate, Betty Jean Grant, previously served on the Buffalo School Board and is currently an Erie County Legislator. Mark Schroeder, an Empire State graduate, with twenty-five years of experience in the private sector, came into politics as first as a legislator, and now on his second term as City Comptroller.

The Candidates were pressed to give solutions for the problems facing the City of Buffalo including poverty, crime, lead poisoning, and neighborhoods. Although Brown had much to boast about with the rapid growth in Buffalo’s infrastructure and economy, he was on the defensive for many other issues.

Poverty:

Buffalo is the fourth poorest city in the United States.

“We know that poverty is a national problem. Poverty exists all over the country, and we also know that many entities must work together to address poverty. We have focused on the education of our children; supporting youth programs and education programs since I’ve been mayor with investments of over 61 million dollars. We are now seeing our graduation increase to 64%. And more young people going to college in the city of Buffalo than ever, in the history of this city,” said Mayor Brown.

“The poverty level was 29% when the mayor took office, it’s 37%. So, poverty has risen on his administration, not gone down,” said Grant.

In a post-debate interview, Schroeder refuted Brown’s claim of higher graduation rates.

“When the mayor talked about the graduation rate being 64% that’s disingenuous, in the African American community it is less than 50%, in the ESL community it’s less than 50%. If you don’t know it, you can’t do anything about it. I do. And I have a plan for it,” said Schroeder.

Crime:

According to statistics, Buffalo has a higher crime rate than that of the national average. Grant’s ideas for reducing the crime rate include hiring a new commissioner. She stated that the current commissioner is “in over his head.” She also believes the city should be enforcing body and dash cams on all police officers. As well as preventative measures, such as community centers to train our youth, and most importantly to create more job opportunities.

Schroeder plans for providing more extensive training to police officers and to double the amount of community police officers working. Schroeder firmly believes that officers involved in the community have a better ability to communicate with the people of that community.

“Crime is 35% less since I’ve been mayor,” said Brown.

Lead Crisis:

All three candidates agreed that the lead exposure in Buffalo is a serious problem. Schroeder stated, “it rivals Flint, Michigan.”

“The mayor has been absent on this issue…I am going to put together a task force of other leaders and experts in the field so that we can go forward,” said Schroeder.

Grant supported Schroeder’s claim that our lead problem is comparable to Flint’s. “The lead based water pipes need to be replaced.”

“The lead based water pipes need to be replaced,” said Grant.

Brown explained that he has already assembled a task force. “we have been working with the county. We have been working with the buffalo board of education to provide city services.”

“We have been working with the county. We have been working with the Buffalo Board of Education to provide city services,” said Brown.

Development and Neighborhoods:

The drastic contrast between the development downtown and the disparity on the east side was a topic to be addressed.

“I have been a leader after decades of disinvestment on the east side of Buffalo, in directing resources to the east side.” The mayor goes on to mention an extensive list of infrastructures on the east side he has assisted with including the Apollo Theater and Tops on Jefferson Avenue.

Commenting on city development, Grant expresses her desire for Inclusionary zoning.

“Give the people of the city of Buffalo a say in what happens in their community,” said Grant.

Finances:

Since Mayor Brown has taken office, Buffalo has had a better credit rating and better finances.

As comptroller for Buffalo, Schroeder claims he is responsible for that.

“Brown was asleep at the wheel when national grid charged tax payers for millions of dollars for thousands of lights that don’t exist. We noticed it, we did something about it, we did an audit, and returned to the citizens of Buffalo one million dollars,” said Schroeder.

“You’re a Johnny-come-lately and you’ve been along for the ride, while we have done the hard work for the people of Buffalo,” responded Brown.

Investigation:

It was expected that Brown’s colleagues’ legal trouble would be mentioned at this debate. Mayor Brown’s political advisors Steve Casey, Maurice Garner, and Steve Pigeon are all currently under investigation.

“I say as they go, so goes the mayor of the city of Buffalo,” said Grant.

“The Buffalo News two weeks ago, did a front page, suggesting that there are seven probes on our mayor, and possible indictments, and possible subpoenas. This is very troubling,” said Schroeder.

“During the course of my political career, I have built a reputation for honesty, integrity, and a record of accomplishment. I think the fact that people that I know are being looked at, has no bearing on me,” said Brown.

He reaffirmed his stance, ”There is not a credible shred of evidence that there is any probe into anything that I have done.”

Closing Statements

In her closing statements, Grant expressed her genuine concern that Buffalo may suffer from gentrification.

“I’ve decided to put forth a vision that centers on some of the things he’s (Mayor Brown) has been lacking on. I only care about the neighborhoods, I want to help them. I know how to do it,” said Schroeder.

“It’s easy for my opponents to attack my record because I have one. I have cut the tax rate residentially and commercially since I have been mayor. I have reduced the crime rate by 35% since I’ve been mayor. We have taken 15, 000 guns off the street since I’ve been mayor. And my two opponents, they don’t have a record of contributing to the progress that we are seeing now in the City of Buffalo,” said Brown in closing.

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Two candidates challenge Mayor Brown in mayoral debate