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Q&A: Anthony Masiello on the City of Buffalo

Anthony M. Masiello became Buffalo's mayor in 1994. The 57th mayor steps down this weekend to make way for Mayor Byron W. Brown. Masiello discussed his tenure.

Q: What is your legacy as mayor?

A: We've made dramatic improvement. Internally, city operations went from an antiquated, obsolete government that was decades behind other cities in the delivery of service to a more modern 21st-century government. We have reengineered every department. We've brought in new technology and new equipment and management plans. We have downsized without rancor and without diluting our city services. We have kept our taxes fair and responsible. Our government now is leaner, with 1,100 fewer employees. We're leaving the city with a real surplus of $39 million. There's a lot to be proud of, there. Externally, there's growth and momentum we haven't seen in decades. The value of permits taken in 2005 is $290 million, proof positive that more investment is happening in our city. It was $95 million five years ago. Downtown development is in its second and third phase. Inner harbor development is underway. The medical campus is growing and throwing off significant new investment. Many of our neighborhoods have dramatically increased in value and attractiveness.

We ended the desegregation case, which I think is important to the city's educational future. We've championed charter schools as a viable option in many of our neighborhoods and for many of our parents. We rebuilt the infrastructure in many of our commercial neighborhoods, like Elmwood and Hertel avenues and Main Street and Jefferson and Chippewa, all leading to new investment. We have significant investment happening on the East Side of Buffalo.

I think I have changed the tenor of this community and the image of this community to one of a more progressive, caring and respectful community. We've embraced all segments of our community who, at one time, didn't have a place here. The gay community, minority community, everybody, regardless of background, is a valued member of our community.

Q: How does downtown development fit into that legacy?

A: Downtown development is happening, as we speak. From older buildings being converted into new uses, to newer, more boutique office buildings being built in our city's downtown core. The infrastructure has been improved, crime has been dramatically reduced and all over Main Street there are people buying buildings and fixing them up. Most of those places have been gap-financed, in some way, by the city.

Q: What would you like to redo?

A: I definitely made a mistake in not pursuing more governance on the school board. I think the mayor is accountable for education, and to have three members on the school board, I think, is a logical, responsible course of action. I think we would have made it a better board, and we would have helped make it a better school system. And I hope Byron Brown pursues that avenue.

Q: What other advice do you have for incoming Mayor Brown?

A: Always do what's in the best interest of the city. Always be forward thinking, positive and focused. Always believe in yourself. I think one of the problems he's facing is that in the black middle class in our city, buying power is very weak because of a lack of good-paying jobs, and the tax base is still very, very fragile. There is no regional plan for our community and you have to have a regional plan, but you also have to focus on the distribution of wealth in the core of that region and that is Buffalo.

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