Buffalo Mayor: Gravitas Optional

29 Jul

For decades, Buffalo’s mayors have ranged from uninspired to downright incompetent.

Buffalo's Mayors

Jimmy Griffin: definitely motivated, if a poor decision maker. Anthony Masiello: melting vanilla ice cream. Byron Brown: ehhhhhhhh. Unfortunately, Mickey Kearns wouldn’t fare well on this scale either.

Reading stories this week about Brown’s play-for-pay scam, our collective resignation to it (as voiced by Donn Esmonde), and the FAILed mayoral campaign this year, I am weary that Buffalo will ever see a great mayor ever again (if we ever had one – who do you pick from this list?)

Which got me to thinking . . . if there will never be a great mayor of Buffalo in my lifetime, is that a problem? Some cities have obviously been lifted up by the bootstraps by the sheer force of will of their mayors. Giuliani and Bloomberg in New York. Oscar Goodman in Las Vegas. Waves of Daley’s in Chicago. Other cities, like Dallas, Seattle, Tampa, Portland, etc etc seem to be booming just fine with average political leadership.

In Buffalo, our political leaders argue about chicken coops on the West Side and slaughterhouses on the East Side, returning cars to one block sections of road, and the opening of Dollar General stores. Even our “scandals” never reach Kwame Kilpatrick magnitude – a couple hundred thousand bucks to a failed restaurant and a $30,000 kick-back to political supporters for a housing development are Elkhart, Indiana sized problems. The problem with Byron Brown is not that’s he’s bad . . . it’s that he’s not good. On the big stuff – historic preservation, the Seneca Casino, brownfield redevelopment – he’s in line. On the second tier stuff – smartcode upgrades, Citistat FAIL, a terrible hotel on the waterfront – he needs work. On the stuff that grabs the headlines – redlight cameras – I could care less. He even fights with unions sometimes, which is always a good thing.

But he has no plan, no vision, no ideas. Its just an even keel, and the boat doesn’t get rocked. Is that a problem? Can Buffalo prosper on mediocre leadership that first does no harm? Is there a great Buffalo mayor on the way, that I don’t see? Would Hoyt or Higgins add any more gravitas? Or do we need a Buffalo version of Chicago’s Daley to really get us moving? I hope the answer is no, because I don’t see it coming.

One Response to “Buffalo Mayor: Gravitas Optional”

  1. Ethan July 30, 2009 at 10:53 am #

    Here’s some food for thought… or possibly some thoughts for food:

    http://www.economist.com/blogs/gulliver/2009/06/liveable_vancouver.cfm
    http://www.alternet.org/environment/141657/is_vancouver_about_to_become_the_greenest_city_in_the_world/

    Where do we find a leader that has a plan that gets us closer to those top ten cities? I’d use them as models.

    By the way, what’s one thing all of those cities have in common (and why does the Economist think health care is so important as to include it as a factor in such a ranking?)

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