As his two challengers sound the clarion call for change, Masten Council Member Byron W. Brown is running on his record as a two-term city legislator.
In Tuesday's Democratic primary, Brown, the endorsed Democrat and Liberal Party candidate, faces Charlie Thomas Jr., a retired mill worker, and Kenny Williams, a Buffalo firefighter.
Despite what Brown's supporters see as an impressive record of accomplishments during his nearly four-year tenure on the Council, both Thomas and Williams express disappointment over the current state of the district as a whole. A predominantly African-American district, Masten is also one of the city's poorest.
"I still see apathy in Masten, because hope has been put aside," said Williams. "There needs to be better delivery of basic services, such as tree trimmings, (baiting for) rodents, new curbs and (razing) dilapidated housing."
Thomas, too, laments the pace of change and what he sees as the dire conditions in Masten.
"There are numerous vacant lots, boarded-up homes, youth and adults hopelessly wandering the streets," he said.
But Brown touts a number of initiatives he helped implement that he says have vastly improved conditions not only in Masten, but throughout the city.
Among them was the creation of a master plan for the growth and development of the district that includes targeted demolitions of dilapidated housing and plans for new commercial development.
Brown is proud of obtaining nearly $20 million in the city budget for major projects in the district, including street paving and sidewalk replacement. He also sponsored nearly a dozen job fairs that have helped more than 6,000 unemployed and underemployed people find full- and part-time jobs.
Brown added that he seeks to enhance the delivery of city services and continue infrastructure improvements by creating a comprehensive community development corporation and a marketing strategy to promote investment in the district.
Thomas, who is first vice president of the Hamlin Park Community and Taxpayers Association and an executive officer on the City/County Task Force on Crime, also takes credit for a number of initiatives he helped develop as a private citizen lobbying local lawmakers. Among them are the teen curfew ordinance, the deli task force and using the city's Bawdy House Law to shut down drug houses and evict their tenants.
"I'm running because I see a problem in the City of Buffalo, and I don't know a person in the city who is better qualified to tackle them than me," Thomas said.
If elected, he said, his main goals would be to seek to rehabilitate viable vacant houses in Masten, create jobs and provide safe places for children to play. Thomas, who is endorsed by the Conservative Party, said his campaign is being financed entirely from his own pocket. He's spent less than $1,000 so far.
Williams, who is endorsed by Arthur O. Eve Jr.'s Unity Coalition, wants to focus on reducing blight in the district. As a city firefighter, he said, he's only too aware of the many vacant and dilapidated properties in the district. Williams said he would push for the development of new single-family homes in the district, as has been done in the Ellicott District.
"If Ellicott can rise from the ashes the way it did, so can Masten," he said.
Williams anticipates spending about $10,000 on his campaign. Brown, who is backed by the Grassroots political organization, expects to spend about $20,000.