By Erin Carman
If we want Buffalo to continue to grow, economically and socially, into a city with a good quality of life, we need long-standing political power brokers to make room for fresh faces and ideas in local elected office.
Buffalo is a segregated, midsize city built on relationships. Relationships are powerful and necessary. They are crucial for building community-based power, accomplishing ideological goals and enriching our city through new perspectives and innovations.
However, relationships can also be used to limit new and dissenting voices in order to hang on to power. If small numbers of political and financial power brokers leverage relationships to act as political gatekeepers, opportunities for the electorate to hear and vote for new voices are hindered.
When local party leaders and elected officials make backroom deals, stacking the deck before a primary election even occurs, our city is harmed for the sake of short-sighted, purely power-fueled victories.
When long-standing leaders stack the deck based on person- or group-based loyalty, our local democracy is further harmed.
And, when long-standing leaders seek loyalty for the sake of loyalty, our city is again harmed.
What do I want to see instead? I want to see our local parties and leaders stand for specific ideologies and not for hoarding power. I want to see our leaders use the power of relationships to embrace varying perspectives within their offices and administrations to create space for innovation.
I want to see more everyday citizens empowered to speak out without fear of professional or political repercussions from power brokers who are displeased with a dissenting voice.
I want to see candidates with no prior party or political relationships have viable candidacies unhindered by political officials using relationships to drown out alternative voices.
If we want our city to continue to grow and benefit all of our residents, we need to be willing to create space for the many and not the few.
My hope for the 2019 political process is that long-term elected county and city officials, along with party leaders, take the opportunity to uplift democratic ideals by refraining from negotiating deals outside of the electoral process.
Allow for the feasibility of new candidacies by ensuring an honest primary process. This will allow for movement toward the Buffalo “renaissance” we have all been hoping for: a city that is grown by and for the people.
In addition to new candidates stepping forward, we need long-standing leaders to refrain from old-school gatekeeping. Our city deserves better.
Erin Carman is an assistant professor for the Social Work and Sociology Department at Daemen College.