Byron W. Brown, Buffalo’s first African-American mayor, has again made history, although this time not as “the first.” His re-election victory Tuesday makes him just the second person to win a fourth term as mayor of Buffalo, a political feat accomplished by the late, legendary Jimmy Griffin.
The voters have spoken, four times now. It is safe to say that Brown has a mandate. Known as a cautious politician, he can now at least unbutton his suit jacket and spread his wings. He has a track record of accomplishments, and now has the opportunity to add to that record.
For as long as many people can remember, Brown has been at the helm of a city whose downtown has undergone a transformation. The waterfront is developing in ways that prioritize public access. The Pegula-developed HarborCenter came to be after the city took bids on what was once a parking lot. Downtown housing is hot, as is North Buffalo. The West Side is coming back.
The Tesla factory is beginning operations at South Buffalo’s RiverBend – land the mayor made sure was remediated and readied for development back when there was little to no interest in such development. Andrew M. Cuomo, the Buffalo-friendly governor, took notice.
That leaves the East Side, which had been neglected for decades long before this mayor came into office. It will take time to rebuild, but the process of redevelopment has begun. Part of the Buffalo Billion is being spent to create the Northland Corridor. That project, with a Workforce Training Center at its heart, is in its early stages, but should help transform its neighborhood.
The mayor’s political allies and opponents should be willing to work with him in this all-important effort – the city cannot truly thrive if a vast swath of territory continues to languish. The mayor should seek those people out – and call them out, if they decline. Turning the entire city’s fortunes around should be a nonpartisan effort.
Brown has made some unpopular, but correct, decisions. He led the committee that promoted a renewed downtown train station when others wanted to revitalize the historic Central Terminal.
Brown works hard and pays attention to the details, knowing when to interject and when to allow progress to proceed unimpeded. Being mayor is hard work. It is controversial and invokes and invites criticism.
Mayoral tenures can be measured in dog years. Twelve years in office, with four more to come, is a political lifetime. As he starts his fourth term, Brown should keep in mind the solid mandate he has been given, again. Look east, and think big.