Buffalo voters in eight of the nine Common Council districts have decisions to make Nov. 4, when two-year district terms are on the line. There is no competition in the Masten District, where incumbent Democrat Byron W. Brown is unopposed.
Though it would be desirable to see the Republican Party come to life in the city, providing better competition, Buffalo continues to have a huge Democratic registration advantage. In these circumstances, the Republicans cannot find it easy to field effective candidates and support them.
This year's crop of GOP hopefuls has turned up several public-spirited individuals who are earnestly concerned about the city and its future. However, most are overmatched by the experience and quality of the Democratic incumbents.
Council members are paid $41,895 a year. The Council as a whole often disappoints, but there are some individuals with personal initiatives who are compiling good records by helping their districts.
Delaware District: Coppola
For nearly 14 years, Democrat Alfred T. Coppola, 55, has represented the Delaware District with his personal brand of constituent service including individual assistance in appealing property assessments.
Typically, Coppola marches to his own drummer, often in combative fashion. Ordinarily he is not strong on citywide issues, but he continues to stump for the city to enter the business of distributing electric power and has managed to convince City Hall to set up an advisory committee to study the idea. It could be an interesting review in this era of power deregulation.
Republican Anthony R. Lombardo, 39, owner of Empire Limousine Service, is trying for the second time to unseat Coppola. He has opposed police precinct consolidation and worries the city is losing the middle class. The Delaware District could use a strong new voice in the Council Chambers, but Lombardo lacks the spark to be the answer.
Ellicott District: Miller-Williams
Incumbent Democrat Barbara Miller-Williams, 41, a Buffalo police officer on leave, is finishing her third year on the Council. She can list a good set of goals but still hasn't gotten a solid grip on the job. She also seems to be paying inadequate attention to some parts of her district.
Her Republican opponent is Sandra D. Waugaman-Beck, 37, a personal-care aide and Air Force veteran, who decided to enter the race "to make a difference." She would like to get rid of drugs in her lower West Side neighborhood and to see more retail downtown.
Both candidates leave much to be desired, especially in a district of many substantial needs. Our nod goes to Miller-Williams, but she needs to improve for the sake of her constituents.
Fillmore District: Franczyk
David A. Franczyk, 43, is an easy choice to continue as the Council representative of this diverse, relatively poor district. In his 12 years on the job, Franczyk has proven to be thoughtful and innovative. He has done well in balancing the needs of both his black and white constituents, a difficult but essential task.
Franczyk has also been creative in citywide endeavors, most recently as a sponsor of a site-review process for new commercial developments. He was the Council's first recycling proponent and has been a preservation advocate.
If there's a question, it's whether Franczyk is losing energy for a tough, frustrating job. He may need a new challenge.
Franczyk has both the Democratic and Republican lines. His opposition is Ronald H. Fleming, 53, who appears on three minor-party lines. Fleming, publisher of the Fine Print newspaper, is a sincere candidate, but he offers no good reason to oust Franczyk.
Lovejoy District: Fontana
The good news for Lovejoy voters is that both the major-party lines are represented by good candidates. Both show considerable promise as they make their first runs for public office. Richard A. Fontana, 25, part owner of Fontana's Restaurant, is the Democratic candidate. Mark D. Lopez, 30, a truck driver who is active in the New York Army National Guard, has the Republican nod.
The energetic Fontana is our recommendation. His enthusiasm and confidence should be tapped as this far East Side district confronts the standard array of urban issues. Fontana is aware that some parts of the district have decayed, some others are showing signs of decline and some are relatively healthy. In all cases, he vows to work for a strengthening of neighborhoods by providing good services, a sense of community and basic leadership.
Lopez, earnest and knowledgeable, supports growth of block clubs, wants the garbage fee abolished, supports school integration and favors expansion of the Hennepin Park community center.
Incumbent David J. Czajka, 36, was beaten by Fontana in the primary by 236 votes. He returns on the Conservative line. The intelligent Czajka has not made the most of his potential in his four years on the Council and seems not sufficiently in touch with his constituents. Ricky T. Donovan is on two minor-party lines.
Niagara District: Quintana
Incumbent Robert Quintana, 35, on leave from the Buffalo Police Department, is seeking a second term on the Democratic line. Quintana is bright, forceful, ambitious and determined, and he has a good street sense. He shows good initiative. But sometimes he wants to have it both ways as when, in 1996, he voted for the budget but against the unpopular garbage fee needed to balance it.
Overall, however, he clearly merits continuation in office.
Quintana has been able to begin a systematic housing-code enforcement program in his district. He took heat for reorganizing human-service agencies but believes he has ended duplication of effort. He is unhappy with what he considers a lack of police visibility in the district.
His opponent is Antoinette (Toni) Guercio, 44, who is involved in her family's well-known Grant Street grocery store. She advocates zero-based budgeting, a Common Council downsizing, an end to the garbage fee and a greater share of the sales tax for Buffalo. Mrs. Guercio is sincere in her devotion to Buffalo, but she needs a better sense of the Council job -- its possibilities and its limits.
North District: Zuchlewski
Democrat Dale Zuchlewski, 42, completing his sixth year on the Council, has grown into one of its better members. He is less argumentative than in the past and has developed a good understanding of the fiscal realities facing the city, a trait not always shared by his colleagues.
As chairman of the Community Development Committee, he gets good marks for annually shepherding the city block-grant budget through the Council. He was co-sponsor of the site-plan review process governing new commercial developments and has played a role in overseeing his district's strong retail growth. Zuchlewski has been a good advocate for public schools.
His Republican opponent is David L. Penna, 45, a customer-service agent for US Airways. Penna's main theme is a promise to hold a binding referendum on an end to busing for school integration at the elementary-school level -- even though school organization is not a Council responsibility. Penna advocates shrinking county government in favor of local control.
North District residents who have watched Zuchlewski grow in the job have no good reason to bounce him out now.
South District: Lockwood
Incumbent Bonnie Kane Lockwood, 42, is left with just the Conservative line after a 247-vote defeat in the crucial Democratic primary. Even though she is not conducting a particularly active campaign in the three-way general election, Lockwood is so clearly the best candidate of the three that an endorsement for one of her opponents would be impossible to defend.
Because he has won the Democratic primary, Dennis T. Manley, 48, a former program manager for National Fuel, is favored to win the seat. But his candidacy is seriously tainted by inflammatory issue-making. Manley has accused Lockwood of supporting a program to move public-housing tenants into a private South Buffalo apartment complex when no such program exists. Such tactics raise serious questions about how effective Manley can be in the give-and-take of the diverse Council.
The Republican candidate is Denis P. Coakley, 25, a teacher who lost to Lockwood two years ago.
Coakley is an earnest candidate who wants to repeal the garbage fee and see a return to neighborhood schools. But his inexperience shows.
For her part, Lockwood, completing her second term, is a thoughtful, innovative, determined Council member with a strong sense of her community's needs. District voters should find her name on the ballot and keep her in City Hall for two more years.
University District: Helfer
Incumbent Kevin J. Helfer, 39, is an enrolled Conservative who runs with the Republican line as well. Despite his status as the Council's only non-Democrat, Helfer plays an active role in all aspects of Council business and has emerged as an outstanding representative.
He is an imaginative non-stop worker who played a major part in getting the University at Buffalo to become involved in projects in the residential areas around the South Campus. He has been particularly successful in housing rehabilitation and in bringing minority workers into the construction business. Thinking beyond district boundaries, Helfer vows to put a major focus on downtown Buffalo.
Liberal Party candidate Betty Jean Grant, a teacher, offers the only opposition. Helfer, finishing his fourth year on the Council, clearly merits re-election.