If good politics mean change, Buffalo's Common Council appears poised for a Renaissance, with newcomers already guaranteed to take a third of its 13 seats this year.
Even before the primary Sept. 14, lineups dictate that four new political figures -- and perhaps more -- will emerge to fill Council vacancies.
Incumbents vs. the upstarts also sets the theme in the at-large Council race, where four reform advocates are challenging three incumbents for three all-important Democratic ballot positions.
Candidates project they will spend from a few thousand dollars to nearly $50,000 in the primary -- with incumbents usually holding the edge in fund-raising.
Money may not make a difference, however. Predictions are that upstarts could capture two of the three Democratic lines, adding to the turnover in the Council.
"You need both," Majority Leader Rosemarie LoTempio said when asked about the newcomers.
"God forbid that we'd have a Council with 13 new people, because you've got to have somebody who knows what to do. But there's nothing wrong with having fresh faces," she said.
Among other issues, upstarts blame incumbents for enacting Buffalo's unpopular garbage service fee and for handing themselves a 24 percent pay raise last year, boosting Council salaries to $52,000.
Council veterans, on the other hand, tout their experience and take credit for chipping away at the garbage fee, cutting it from $141 in 1996 to the present $109.
Mrs. LoTempio, 63, a fixture on the Council since 1982, appears to have strong support in the heavy-voting districts in North and South Buffalo, offering her perhaps the best bet to retain her seat, observers say.
A graduate of East High School and the University of Toronto in 1957, she also maintains ties with a long list of civic, school and community groups.
Adding to her strengths are endorsements from the Democratic and Conservative parties, Mayor Masiello and a host of unions, local political clubs and business groups.
Mrs. LoTempio also likes to remind voters that she protected their pocketbooks and headed off cuts in fire protection and other city services while serving as chairwoman of the Budget Committee.
She also takes credit for setting up the Administrative Adjudication Office, which deals with minor infractions ranging from housing code problems to noise ordinance violations. She said the office has helped to save an estimated $1.5 million a year by cracking down on false fire alarms.
Countering complaints that she has been in office too long, her campaign slogans tout her Council leadership, claiming it is, "Experience you can't afford to lose."
"The truth . . . is you have to have young blood . . . Some of the new Council members have been very effective . . . but the older members have helped those council members to become effective," Mrs. LoTempio contends.
Other incumbents feeling the heat are Council Member at Large Beverly Gray and Niagara Council Member Robert Quintana, who gave up his district seat to make a bid for the at-large seat vacated by former Council Member Barbra Kavanaugh, who resigned to take a state job.
Quintana, 37, holds the Democratic and Conservative endorsements.
"I believe I have the leadership skills and the vision to continue to make our city better," he said.
In addition to eight years on the Buffalo police force -- four as a community police officer specializing in drug prevention -- he has been a national representative for both United Way and Every Person Influences Children.
The chairman of the Police Reorganization Committee, Quintana says he's campaigning for more programs to prevent youth crime.
"We're not investing enough dollars or creating innovative, effective programs . . . We're losing an entire generation of young people," he said.
He also wants to see more schools built and renovated and more job creation and business development, especially in neighborhoods.
A graduate of Leadership Buffalo, he expects to complete work on his bachelor's degree in business administration at D'Youville College early next year.
And, while he rates Council experience as a "tremendous background," Quintana added: "I certainly consider myself one of the new reformers. I never supported the status quo, and I think my record speaks for itself."
Ms. Gray, 48, was the only incumbent denied the Democratic endorsement, despite political credentials that include being a County Committee member and former first vice president of Grassroots.
As a result, she appears to face an uphill battle to retain her Council seat. Supporters include Council President James W. Pitts and Deputy Assembly Speaker Arthur O. Eve.
The operator of UJAMMA Child Care Service, she is a state-certified specialist with an associate's degee in early childhood development.
She was elected to the Council in 1995 and now is chairwoman of the Civil Service Committee.
If re-elected, she intends to work for a residency rule that's fair to both the city and city workers who live outside Buffalo, she said. She also wants an independent citizen review board to oversee police conduct and consolidation of Buffalo's development companies to free up more money to attack blight and improve neighborhoods.
Ms. Gray supports tax abatement for new businesses in distressed areas, including breaks on both property taxes and any other help "that will entice new businesses to come into distressed areas."
Among her accomplishments, she lists: helping to secure $3.5 million to develop the former Apollo Theater on Jefferson Avenue as the new home of Buffalo's public-access television and approval for a new Masten District police precinct house.
She is running "to give legislative support to a forgotten community" and to help encourage economic revitalization, she said.
"I also believe there needs to be more women in government. Women bring another perspective that I believe is much needed," she said.
Three of the at-large challengers appear to be making strong bids to voters citywide: Kevin D. Horrigan, co-founder of the 21st Century Club; Charley H. Fisher III, endorsed by Democrats, Liberals and the Buffalo Green Party; and Jeremy C. Toth, co-founder of the New Millennium Group, who is on leave as staff counsel to Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, D-Buffalo.
A fourth would-be Council reformer, East Side community newspaper publisher Ronald H. Fleming, expects to spend only about $3,000 on what he calls a "poor people's campaign."
Horrigan, 31, resigned recently from his city job as a neighborhood development specialist to make a first run for office. He's also chairman of the issues and policies committee of the 21st Century Club, a group of young government leaders interested in city issues.
Among other endorsements, the South Buffalo native is supported by a handful of Democratic clubs, the Buffalo Council of the AFL-CIO and Citizens Action Organization.
Horrigan decided to enter the race after visiting a friend who recently moved to North Carolina to find new opportunities, he says.
"We need . . . new people in city government. I have witnessed firsthand people leaving the city because of the condition of our schools and the lack of job opportunities," he said.
Like others, he also criticizes school administrators for "missing out on opportunities to improve" and claims Buffalo needs to better develop its businesses.
We have to make city hall and the economic development agencies more conducive for growth . . . make them more customer-friendly," he said.
A former Council staff intern, he also calls himself "a big believer in streamlining government" and claims he has worked on neighborhood issues in every city district.
"The experience I bring is very well-rounded . . . I know how to get things done . . . I plan on going in on January 1 and hitting the job running," he said.
A South Park High School graduate, Horrigan earned a degree in political science at Buffalo State College in 1992.
Fisher, 45, on leave as Erie County's minority and women business coordinator, is also president of Friends to the Elderly, Youth and Family Center, a Masten District community group. After extensive experience in civil rights groups and politics, he is making his first run for office.
His political leadership posts include Democratic zone chairman and district committeeman as well as chaplain of Grassroots. He also has been a leader in BUILD of Buffalo, the national Rainbow Coalition and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
Fisher also claims 13 years in public service, ranging from chief of staff to Deputy Assembly Speaker Arthur O. Eve to staff member of the County Legislature.
"I believe I can contribute to the city as an outstanding lawmaker. I will attempt to pass a series of legislative reforms and local laws that will make Buffalo better in its operations, services and opportunities," he said.
He will push to abolish the garbage fee and improve city services, including snow removal, he said. Fisher also estimates there are 1,000 dead shade trees and 15,000 trees at risk in Buffalo, a situation he calls "a classic example of underservice."
He also complains that officials did not deploy enough equipment during last winter's snowstorms. "We don't have enough snowplows to provide service," he said.
Another key issue is reforming Buffalo's public education system.
"My direction is very clear: The citizens of Buffalo want the Common Council to address the issue of schools," he said.
Fisher also calls lawmakers' pay raises "very wrong for Buffalo."
"We've been overly taxed and underserved for too long," he said.
A graduate of Kenmore East High School, he attended Canisius College and Empire State College.
Toth, 29, a graduate of City Honors, the State University at Albany and the University of Buffalo Law School, also criticizes the pay raises.
"There is no fiscal responsibility on the Council," he said.
Why did he enter the race?
"I'm not satisfied that we are reaching our potential," he said. "I see the Council as, more often than not, standing in the way of progress."
As chief of staff and counsel to Hoyt, Toth says he has "a comprehensive knowledge of all the major issues facing Buffalo." He also keeps track of areawide issues through New Millennium, a coalition of young community leaders who advocate for regional improvements.
Toth says he helped supervise the writing of more than 20 pieces of state legislation, including two that became law -- a measure to broaden the powers of family court judges in custody cases and one making it a crime to use an attack dog against police.
He also criticizes the present Council for affording lawmakers too much in public money that can be spent on "pork barrel projects" and believes too few members focus on the good of the entire city.
"There's no long-term vision, no collaborative effort. Nobody's taking a look at the larger picture. We waste all this money because politics wins out over policy," he said.
As an example, he points to patronage jobs for family members of Council members.
Major issues Toth stresses include the problems of public education, economic development, housing and crime.
"And always, basic service delivery . . . For me, the city needs to get back to doing the basic issues of city governance and doing them well," he added.
His endorsements include several Democratic clubs in East and South Buffalo as well as labor unions and the New York League of Conservation Voters.
Fleming, 54, publisher of Fine Print News, a Fillmore-area newspaper, and board president of Block Clubs of Buffalo and Erie County, made an unsuccessful bid for district Council member in 1997. However, he says he decided to run again "to improve the quality of life for all citizens of Buffalo."
He recalled: "I decided while working with block clubs and seeing the despair on the faces of people I came in contact with . . . I think people are overtaxed and underserved."
Fleming was also producer and host for six years of a former WKBW television show, "Building a Decent Future," and a talk show called "The Fleming Report" on WUFO radio.
After graduation in 1968 from Virginia Union University in Richmond, Va., Fleming was drafted as a linebacker by the San Diego Chargers of the National Football League. However, his career was cut short by an injury.
As major issues in the race, he lists getting rid of the garbage fee, reinforcing the residency rule for city workers and assigning more police officers to bicycle patrols.
He would also seek to improve the senior citizen centers and recreational centers and playgrounds and swimming pools for kids.
As for his skills and experience, Fleming says he has been married 31 years has 10 children. "I'm pretty proud of that, he said.
He also cited his volunteer work and media involvement in community
Democratic primary winners will go on to face three Republicans in the November general election, Patrick J. Shine, Mark D. Lopez and Ricky T. Donovan Sr., who have no primary contests.