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Buffalo Democrats are trying to stop socialist nominee India Walton by any means necessary

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23.08.2021

The Buffalo Common Council, the all-Democratic legislative body for that city in western New York State, has voted to "explore" the possibility of eliminating the city's office of mayor. This comes less than two months after socialist candidate India Walton won a stunning primary upset over the incumbent Democratic mayor. Although members of the council have not specifically described the move as a way to prevent Walton from becoming mayor, the timing is noteworthy.

On June 23, Walton, a union organizer and activist, defeated four-term Mayor Byron Brown, the former chair of the New York Democratic Party and a longtime ally of outgoing Gov. Andrew Cuomo. In fact, Walton will be the only candidate on the ballot in November — Republicans have not won a mayoral race in Buffalo since the 1960s, and didn't even field a candidate this year. Walton appeared set to become the first self-identified socialist mayor of a major city in 60 years, at least until Brown launched a write-in campaign that may receive millions of dollars in support from developers. Now the city's lawmakers are considering abolishing the mayor's position entirely.

Buffalo lawmakers voted last month to study replacing the city's mayor with a city manager who would be selected by the nine-member council. Councilmember Rasheed Wyatt, who proposed the change, said the city manager would "carry out the will of the Council members." The vote set a 90-day deadline — which would fall two weeks before the mayoral election — to lay out the benefits and drawbacks of changing the city's governance structure. Wyatt argued at a council meeting in July that the city manager would not be "concerned about elections" and instead would focus on "outcomes for the people he reports to."

While about a dozen cities in New York have a city manager, only two function without a mayor: Batavia and Long Beach City. Both are much smaller than Buffalo, the second-largest city in the state after New York City.

The council vote was not without its detractors. Councilmember Christopher Scanlon opposed the measure, arguing that it would allow a bare majority of the nine elected legislators to decide who runs a city of more than 270,000.

"I'd rather have someone be appointed by thousands and tens of thousands of people than … five people," Scanlon said. "I think that, quite frankly, could lead to some nefarious behavior, where you only need five votes instead of tens of thousands."

Wyatt, who has frequently clashed with Brown, told the Buffalo News the move was in response to Mayor Brown and his predecessors, noting that over the last four decades the city's population had shrunk while poverty continued to rise. He also said the move was prompted by "backlash" he received from Brown's administration over Wyatt's opposition to the implementation of speed cameras in minority neighborhoods, which the council ultimately voted to remove over Brown's objections.

"We cannot continue to govern in that type of way where if you don't do what the mayor wants, he can attack you or not give you information," he told the outlet. "That is just not a good model and it's shown over the years, the decades, that model does not help the residents in the City of Buffalo, especially those who are poor."

Brown pushed back on Wyatt's characterization.

"Under the Brown Administration we have record economic development of well over $7 billion, the lowest tax rate in over 25 years, property values rising citywide, more than 2,100 units of affordable housing created, the largest spending on youth employment ever and the most diverse........

© Salon


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