James W. Pitts and David A. Franczyk did agree on a few things Tuesday night: The Kensington Expressway, building a new University at Buffalo campus in Amherst and urban renewal have all been costly mistakes that the city is still suffering from.
They also agreed that there should be a civilian review board for the Police Department and that the recent pay increase the Council gave itself was deserved.
Otherwise, Pitts, the Common Council president, and Franczyk, the Fillmore Council member giving up his seat to challenge Pitts in the primary, didn't display much common ground during a fast-paced, hard-hitting debate sponsored by the Buffalo Association of Black Journalists.
The event, which also included the Council member at large candidates, drew close to 100 people to Langston Hughes Institute.
"The status quo is a recipe for disaster," Franczyk said.
But Pitts said later that Franczyk "has been part of the status quo for 14 years."
Pitts, often referring to himself in the third person, said he offers "experienced and strong leadership that gets results."
But Franczyk said Pitts "has had his chance. Now give me a chance."
On the question of regionalization, Pitts said such terms are "anti-minority" and called for electing city and county officials who are sensitive to the issue.
Franczyk said a countywide "smart growth" policy would help bring prosperity back into the city.
Pitts took a few shots at Franczyk, saying that cleanup work he referred to in his district "must have been done with phone calls from Harvard" when Franczyk was attending classes there.
Franczyk responded that he learned a lot and never missed a Council or committee meeting.
Pitts also said that with all the great ideas Franczyk has "he should have turned around the Fillmore District by now."
Franczyk said that with the city's declining population, it might be time to consider electing the Council president from the ranks of the existing Council members rather than having a separate position.
"We need to challenge all existing notions," he said. "I'm willing to have one term (as president) and give it up."
On the issue of the "extra" one percentage point of the 8 percent sales tax, Franczyk said eliminating it "would gut a great deal of the county services to the city."
Pitts said the county should be forced to share the extra $22 million the eighth percentage points brings in or eliminate it.
Both sought to impress with their commitment to diversity.
"My life is testimony to my belief in the diversity of the city," Pitts said.
"I live what I believe," Franczyk said.
The seven candidates for the three at-large seats presented a variety of viewpoints, not infrequently having little to do with the question.
Ronald H. Fleming offered several good "sound bites," saying that rather than neighborhood schools "we should have neighborhood teachers who care" and decrying politicians who take $100 bills but leave all their 10-cent pieces home "so they can look you in the eye and say, 'I haven't got a dime' " for a particular project.
Jeremy C. Toth said government spends its resources trying to help small businesses "overcome hurdles we create rather than removing the hurdles."
Incumbent Beverly Gray, an African-American, raised some eyebrows concerning relations with the police when she said, "Black officers are just as vicious as white officers."
Niagara Council Member Robert Quintana said more loans for small and minority businesses need to be made available. "And we need to change our psyche and stop bashing Buffalo."
Concerning the schools, Charley H. Fisher III said City Honors is a fine school, "but what about the others? . . . We can't have two school systems for the haves and the have-nots."
On the condition of the school buildings, incumbent Rosemarie LoTempio said some are 75 years old "and we're not taking advantage of the state funding" available to help build new ones.
Kevin D. Horrigan said "education is the main reason the city is losing population and we need more accountability from the schools." He said the city comptroller should be more involved in the management of the schools.