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END OF THE MASIELLO ERA
A DOZEN YEARS IN OFFICE ARE ENOUGH FOR THE MAYOR OF THIS TROUBLED CITY

Buffalo Mayor Anthony Masiello announced Friday that he does not plan to seek re-election this fall. It's a wise decision. Running again would have inflicted a great deal of pain on the mayor and his family for problems that weren't always under his control.

But the hard truth is that this mayor made more than his share of mistakes -- of commission and omission -- in his dozen years in office. Masiello, like most politicians, staked his reputation on the management team that does much of the day-to-day work of government. The quality of that team was uneven, at best, through his 12-year administration. Even more troublesome, he could not bring himself to weed out the mediocre members of his administration. He did bring in some strong administrators relatively late in his tenure, but "better late than never" doesn't work well in politics.

But Masiello himself has been, consistently, a decent man serving during tough and trying times. And, ironically, his formal announcement came as he announced a budget proposal that seems to show the city turning a financial corner at last.

Political observers debate whether that could have been enough to make the argument that Masiello deserved a fourth term. We think not.

It's too late for the mayor to overcome the more enduring image of a city in decline and functioning now under a financial control board. The control board, after all, provides the clout to get things done that couldn't get done by the elected city leadership, mayor and Common Council alike.

In addition, Masiello would find it hard to defend charges that he had an ineffective leadership style, too often marked by hand-wringing expressions of dismay instead of swift responses to mistakes by administration officials. Masiello valued personal loyalty too highly, even when it conflicted with good governance.

But the mayor also leaves office with some solid accomplishments, including a key reorganization of the Police Department, major health care insurance changes that save millions of dollars, reductions in the city work force and a landmark agreement that turned the costs and management of a regionally important parks system over to the county.

He leaves an open field for a group of contenders that already includes two high-profile Democrats -- State Sen. Byron Brown and community activist Kevin Gaughan -- and lower-profile candidates Judith Einach and Louis Corrigan. Others, including Republican Kevin Helfer, also are reportedly considering runs.

There can be absolutely no doubt, even among his detractors, that Tony Masiello loves his city. He poured his heart into his job, from struggling with bad financial numbers to enthusiastically leading small groups of interested Buffalonians on walking tours of new downtown housing sites. It's also worth noting that during his 12 years, his administration never was touched by scandal.

He took pride in the city and found pain in its difficulties. And he never lost hope that better times would one day return to his beloved Buffalo. We wish him well.