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Council hopefuls face Democratic panel

"I was just saying to Mickey, 'Isn't this Democracy 101?' " Common Council President David A. Franczyk observed Monday evening in the basement social room of Parkside Lutheran Church in North Buffalo. "This is as basic as it gets."

Franczyk was on hand as Delaware District Democratic committee members gathered to take the measure of the candidates for the vacant Common Council seat created two weeks ago when Marc A. Coppola was elected to the State Senate.

Franczyk and Mickey -- South Council Member Michael P. Kearns -- both spoke to the group, reassuring them that, although the City Charter says the Council has the power to fill any vacancy, the sentiments of the committee people will be taken into account.

Nevertheless, they were doubtful.

"We represent the people," said Jim Bagarozza, zone chairman for the 20th District. "It is our right. This is our choice. The Council should mind their own business."

"What safeguards could be made to prevent the Council from voting for purely political reasons and not in the best interests of the city?" asked John Feroleto, uncle of hopeful Michael J. LoCurto.

LoCurto, an aide to Assemblyman Sam Hoyt and the favorite to get the appointment, was the first to address the group. He outlined his background -- School 66, City Honors High School, master's degree in urban and regional planning at the University at Buffalo -- and promised to work on improving neighborhoods and neighborhood business districts.

"I will be as tenacious as a Council member as I've been in asking your support," LoCurto said, noting that some committee people have gotten three letters and two phone calls from him.

Next up was Pedro Velez Lopez, who said he was born in Puerto Rico, has lived in Buffalo since he was 5 and has been a Delaware District Democrat for 16 years. He added that he is working on a degree in economics and urban studies.

"I see a rebirth coming," he said. "I'm a real estate agent. I would like to see property values go up. I walk the neighborhood and see [the effects of] absentee landlords, and I think that should be addressed."

The third candidate was Samuel R. Marie, a Buffalo native educated at School 77, Burgard Vocational High School and Erie Community College, as well as a Vietnam War veteran and Buffalo police officer for 22 years.

"My goal is to improve the quality of life," he said. "I'm leaning toward a law enforcement agenda, based on my understanding of the needs of our city. I would like to be the voice of the citizens in City Hall."

After they spoke, Kearns promised to abide by the decision of the committee people when they vote to endorse someone.

County Democratic Chairman Leonard R. Lenihan said the selection process is still open. Potential candidates should contact the Common Council, he said, or County Democratic headquarters.


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