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Editorial: The News endorses Byron Brown for mayor

Editor’s note: Endorsements by The Buffalo News editorial board are intended to aid voters in their evaluation of those seeking office. Whether you agree or disagree with our recommendations, we urge you to vote and take part in our electoral process.

The endorsement for mayor in this month’s Democratic primary election is an easy call, but it’s not because incumbent Byron W. Brown lacks a credible opponent. Rather, it’s that both the mayor and the city comptroller have done well in their respective jobs, and that Comptroller Mark J.F. Schroeder hasn’t made the case for change. For that reason, among others, we endorse Brown for a fourth term in office.

The Sept. 12 primary is critical because – shamefully – the winner of that vote will face no Republican opponent in the general election. Next week’s winner will be the winner of the election.

Brown has been a strong mayor for Buffalo. He has been focused, restrained and productive. Some of that is due to his good fortune in being mayor when opportunity arrived, both in the development of Canalside and the economic development explosion whose fuse was lit by the state, largely through the creation of the Buffalo Billion program.

But this is Buffalo, where it would have been fair to worry that a mayor might have been tempted to intrude where he could only be a hindrance. He didn’t. He has been a productive partner in Buffalo’s revival, and that counts for a lot.

He has also been a strong steward of the city’s finances, controlling both spending and taxes. That was critical. The city’s finances were in a shambles when he took over as mayor. The state had imposed a control board to oversee spending in Buffalo. Under Brown’s leadership, the control board went into a dormant state; it no longer needed to hover.

If the mayor has a weakness it is the one that both of his opponents – Schroeder and Erie County Legislator Betty Jean Grant – have identified: too little attention paid to East Side neighborhoods. It’s a fair criticism, but it accounts for most of the arguments leveled by Schroeder and Grant. It’s insufficient to overcome his achievements, which include some on the East Side: more than 6,400 vacant and abandoned structures demolished and the beginning of the Northland Corridor project that will create a light industrial economic development hub there.

Schroeder has two problems in trying to unseat Brown: Not only has Schroeder failed to make the case for removing a successful incumbent, but he has shown himself to be a valuable asset as comptroller. The former state and county legislator is performing well in his current position – no surprise there – and while we are confident that he could also make a credible mayor, there is no reason today to make that change.

We are less certain of Grant’s prospects for a successful mayoralty. She suggests, for example, the need to set up checkpoints at all entrances into the city to search for guns. The idea, we are certain, springs from genuine concern about gun violence in the city, but it betrays a lack of insight into the consequences of a program that would be, in the end, unworkable.

The shame of this election is that, once again, the Republican Party is leaving its city voters without an option for November. Some of that is strategic – the lack of a challenger in Buffalo could reduce Democratic turnout in November – but it’s a poor excuse for failing to make the party’s best case for a change in leadership. It’s an approach that cedes the city to the Democratic Party for years to come. Competition is better.

It may not all be clear sailing for Brown in a fourth term. The FBI recently raided the offices of the Grassroots political club that helped propel Brown into the mayor’s office. That could turn into a distraction of unknown dimensions. Stay tuned.

We hope Schroeder and Grant will remain committed to public life and will continue to look for new ways to serve. But Brown has earned the votes of city residents for another term.

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