Some antics by Common Council President James W. Pitts served to call attention to a piece of the Buffalo City Charter that ought to be dumped. If it ever had a rationale, it's been rendered pointless by modern communications.
The charter says that when a Buffalo mayor goes out of New York State he must give notice to the city clerk, a step that automatically makes the Council president acting mayor, with full powers. It also turns the president's duties over to the Council president pro tem, an otherwise useless title.
With Mayor Masiello away, Pitts's turn in the big chair led him to consider vetoing the Council's approval of the plan to have a private company run the Buffalo water system. Pitts eventually backed off, but not before stirring anger among Council colleagues who vowed to override.
Who needs this stuff?
The idea that a mayor requires an on-premises replacement when he goes out of state dates to the 1928 inception of the charter. However, with e-mail and the fax machine added to the mobile telephone as means of quick communication, the mayor can be the mayor from anywhere. The simple act of going out of state should not cause a switch of mayoral powers.
Furthermore, the arrangement has the equally pointless side effect of bumping the Council president out of a vote on Council business whenever the mayor leaves New York.
Consider the scenarios. If a mayor goes across the Peace Bridge for the Fort Erie races or a time at the beach, theoretically the city clerk should be notified and the Council president should take over. What about when the mayor goes to New York City but flies into Newark Airport? On a long flight, is the mayor back being the mayor again when the plane enters New York air space, or must that wait until the landing at the Buffalo Airport?
Let's scrub these rules. Let the mayor be the mayor. By fax, if necessary.