History will be made when the new Common Council is sworn in Friday: It will have the Council's first-ever black majority, and women will hold six of the 13 seats.
"This is a tremendous, historic window of opportunity," said new Council Member at Large Charley Fisher III.
In addition to incumbents James Pitts, Byron Brown, Barbara Miller-Williams and Beverly Gray, the other African-Americans on the Council are Fisher, Karen Ellington and Betty Jean Grant. The other women on the Council are Rosemarie LoTempio and newcomer Mary Martino.
In interviews this week, five of the six new members said they were all looking forward to going to work for their constituents and plan to focus on the stability of neighborhoods. And most said their major concern is helping residents to protect and improve the quality of life, including finding ways to protect citizens against those who destroy it.
Martino, South District, is already a driving force behind two new issues in the Council, the attempt to prevent a disposal company from turning the Hopkins Street recycling plant into a garbage transfer station, and the effort to secure testing at Hickory Woods, where residents fear that buried coke wastes may be causing health problems.
Martino's Council aides are her sister Bridget Corcoran and Jean Egan.
"They are loyal residents of South Buffalo and want to see the community advance," the Council member said.
Martino and Grant of the University District are active in many community groups.
Grant worked closely with her predecessor, Kevin Helfer, on the problem of absentee landlords -- including the University at Buffalo -- in the northwest part of the city.
"A lot of neighborhood destabilization is caused by bad landlords and bad tenants," said Grant, who won her post without securing the Democratic Party endorsement.
"Nobody gave me this election," she said. "It gives me the freedom to advocate for the people."
Grant said the university's effort to bring its houses into code compliance has fallen short.
Grant so far has appointed one permanent aide, Viola Soles.
Dominick J. Bonifacio Jr., Niagara District, and Joseph Golombek Jr., North District, both are taking leaves from their jobs.
Bonifacio said the second and third generations of youths he worked with during his 32 years as director of the Butler-Mitchell Boys and Girls Club helped elect him. He resigned that post to take a better-paying city Parks Department job, which he now is leaving to take over the Council post.
Bonifacio, who on Wednesday helped residents to appeal their assessments, said he will be concentrating on the problem of absentee landlords who allow drug addicts and dealers to destroy their properties.
"I'm not in a position to turn my back on any problem," he said.
Bonifacio's aides are Peter Savage Jr., son of the deputy mayor, and Margarita Cardona.
Golombek, a global studies teacher at Riverside Institute of Technology, will go on leave at the end of the semester. His focus will be on trying to arrange after-school activities to keep girls and boys off the streets, and he thinks he has at least one site lined up.
A former Common Council aide himself, Golombek has appointed Kenneth Kerr and Gayle Aikin to his staff.
Both Bonifacio and Golombek live in apartments in homes they share with their parents. Both say their parents were instrumental in getting them elected.
Fisher, 45, got a jump on the other new members. He was elected with the others in November but shortly afterward was appointed after the election to serve the remainder of the term of Barbra Kavanaugh, who resigned to become deputy state attorney general.
Fisher points out that some vital neighborhoods are split among Council districts but that he represents the city as a whole. He said Elmwood, for intance, is divided among four districts. He will ask the four district members to join him in meeting with leaders of Forever Elmwood and the Allentown Association.
"I'm going to try to be the lawmaker who provides broad-stroke legislation for the city," said Fisher, an ex-County Legislature aide.
Ellington is the new Council member for the Fillmore District, replacing David Franczyk who gave up his seat to seek the Common Council presidency. Because of other commitments, Ellington was not available for an interview.