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Why are city streets filled with potholes?

Why do city schools lack the resources of suburban schools?

Why do city pools open late each year?

There were no softballs for Mayor Masiello at Highgate Heights Elementary School as His Honor answered questions Thursday from Kathi Lyons' eighth-grade English class.

"I want to know why schools outside Buffalo have more than we do?" asked 13-year-old Danielle Lee.

Masiello didn't deny the disparity between city and suburban schools but said his hope is that, one day, Buffalo schools will have the money needed to adequately educate young people.

And when Daniel Russell, 14, asked how City Hall could sit by and allow a reduction in instrumental-music instruction, Masiello was quick to criticize the School Board for unfairly raising people's fears.

"I personally feel they can find ways to save money and save music, art and other extracurricular activities," he said.

OK, but what about the drug dealers who roam the streets, or the safety of city parks?

This was no easy crowd, and the mayor knew it.

"Good question," Masiello said over and over again.

Roderick Peoples asked, "Will city pools open on time this year?"

And Christa Lee pleaded for more jobs for teen-agers.

And, asked Jeremiah Williams, what about the poor condition of city streets?

For 30 minutes, the mayor alternated between defending his record and asking for help in making Buffalo a better place to live and learn.

And finally, there was the type of far-reaching question that stumped Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., during his unsuccessful 1980 presidential primary bid.

Rema Abdallah, 13, wanted to know about the mayor's dreams for young people.

Unlike Kennedy, Masiello had an answer.

"The biggest thing I can achieve for you as mayor is give you a good education and provide a high quality of life," the mayor told the class.

As the cross-examination continued, the mayor grew more comfortable. That is, until Daniel Russell raised his hand with one more question.

Mayor, do think O.J. Simpson is guilty?

Whoops! A question Masiello clearly did not expect or want to answer. A long pause preceded his response.

"I've known him a long time, and I liked him, and he's a true sports icon in this community," the mayor said.

Masiello, searching for a diplomatic out, said, "If it is O.J. who took those lives, the system will find him guilty."

And finally, an answer to Daniel's question.

"If you're asking me if I think he's guilty," the mayor said, "I don't think I can answer that."

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