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The amazing thing is Tony Masiello will probably again run for mayor. He ought to be run out of town.

Masiello contributed to a reverse miracle. He and predecessor Jimmy Griffin spun a half-billion dollars of gold into straw. The money was pipelined from Washington to heal hurting neighborhoods in a city buckled by mill closings and suburban flight.

The series by News reporter Jim Heaney confirmed what a glance at long stretches of the East Side reveals. Most of the money sent to save us was squandered on no-account agencies, used by Masiello and Common Council members to seed patronage pits or wasted on loans a banker wouldn't touch with rubber gloves.

The transfusion pumped from Washington, the lifeblood sent to revive the city, was mostly spilled down the political sinkhole. Just like the vats of beer that were poured down the sewer when the downtown Breckenridge Brew Pub went belly-up six years ago, stiffing the city on a $600,000 loan. The beer flowing down the drain is a symbol for a rancid system. Only when Masiello was forced last year by the business community to hire a competent planning commissioner, Tim Wanamaker, did some of the holes get plugged.

The grim irony is a homegrown mayor who claims to love the city has done Buffalo more harm than any factory closing or image-killing blizzard. Given his limited skills and gift for backslapping, Masiello ought to be glad-handing folks in a casino lobby, not running a city on the brink. Rhetorical question to private business owners: Would you hire this man?

Masiello called the half-billion-dollar disaster "a politically motivated system trying to please everybody -- to our detriment."

He sounds like a witness to a drive-by shooting, instead of the guy behind the wheel. Memo to Masiello: You're the mayor. You're to blame. You're paid to take control, to either understand this stuff or -- since that's asking too much -- to hire somebody who does. We're the victims. You're the guy with the smoking gun.

Masiello was plucked out of Canisius College a generation ago by then-Democratic Party boss Joe Crangle for his sports-star name recognition, requisite ethnic background and bland affability. But Crangle's Creation, Masiello-stein, lacked a core philosophy, a basic understanding of urban ills and cures that no mayor can lead without.

His 11-year reign of error has been marked by no imagination and little direction. Edicts are routinely ignored, rules not followed, incompetents elevated, favored developers indulged. Even in a culture of low expectations, Masiello carved a subbasement niche. The frittering of hundreds of millions of dollars is just one way he squandered our potential and misused helping hands. It wasn't him but a state lawmaker who finally got things rolling with the priceless asset of miles of undeveloped city waterfront. It wasn't him but disgusted citizen activists who pushed to repopulate a downtown blighted by the shells of empty buildings. It took him 10 years to fulfill a campaign promise to cut the police force down to size with one-officer cars. The decade-long delay cost the city tens of millions of dollars in salaries and benefits. And on and on.

Masiello's hands were off the wheel as the city's car careened along winding roads, straight into the brick wall of a financial control board. Mercifully, the board took the keys from his hand, patted him on the head and sent him to his room before he could do more damage. But the wounds may be fatal.

Nice guy? You bet. You know where nice guys finish. The tragedy is he has taken this city down with him.


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