In giving Common Council President James W. Pitts an overwhelming re-election victory in Tuesday's primary, Buffalo voters unmistakably rejected not only his opponent, Fillmore District Council Member David A. Franczyk, but also his major financial backer, Rite Aid developer Carl Paladino.
Paladino, in his Sept. 11 "My View" column, rhetorically asked, "Why (are) business leaders . . . contributing to the campaign of Dave Franczyk?" I agree with Paladino that the reason is simple -- but not for the explanations he stated.
Paladino and other power brokers have savaged the City of Buffalo for the last decade, carving and dividing land in a game of private monopoly for the few masquerading as if it were in the interest of the many.
Pitts and preservationists have constantly exposed and then opposed such power grabs. Pitts has a vision for transforming downtown buildings into "smart" structures that are tied to the Internet and global communications so businesses will again call downtown home. And as an ecological and environmental friend of our neighborhoods, Pitts has protected green space.
Did Paladino make a "value decision" when he attempted to tear down two buildings next to the Berger's building for yet another parking lot? His overdevelopment of Rite Aid pharmacies has left numerous abandoned stores throughout the city.
Neighbors of the Elmwood/Bryant area, like me, vigorously opposed his proposed expansion of the Rite Aid at the corner. We are not alone. Residents in the city's newest housing project at South Division and Swan streets also opposed a Paladino proposal to develop a 160-car parking lot on the corner that would endanger their children's play areas and depreciate their property.
The truth is that Paladino found a kindred spirit in Franczyk. During his watch, the once-proud Fillmore District turned from a clean and stable neighborhood into the "Beirut of Buffalo" -- a disaster area of boarded-up houses and vacant storefronts.
Most disturbingly, much of this happened while Franczyk was using a predatory campaign style that racially divided the district.
So how does one explain Paladino's support of Franczyk through seven different corporations, accounting for 44 percent of funds raised, 10 times more than any other contribution, and four times the allowed amount for individual donors?
Paladino has such little respect for the citizens of Buffalo that he claimed in his commentary that he and Franczyk share a "vision for tomorrow," when he really hoped to have bought himself a Council president.
"Politics," said Ambrose Bierce, "represents the strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles." That is what Paladino-Franczyk really represented -- special interests over good ideas. The choice was a clear one, and the citizens of Buffalo made the correct choice on Tuesday. The city, and all of its citizens, are better for it.
ROSS T. RUNFOLA is a professor of social sciences at Medaille College and an attorney.
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