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A Region in Crisis Presents Buffalo's Next Mayor with Unknown Challenges

By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – New York State Senator Byron Brown got the Erie County Democratic Committee's endorsement this weeekend in his bid to become the next mayor of Buffalo.

The announcement came as no surprise in a race that has tapped Brown as the front runner for weeks. But reports that a control board could be on the way for Erie County is throwing one interesting curve into the race.

Other candidates are also steadily joining the race to become Buffalo's next mayor. But whoever wins will have to deal with - not just one - but maybe two control boards.

Some state lawmakers are on record saying a control board is likely for Erie County - possibly before the end of the year.

And some, including independent candidate Kevin Gaughan, believe that means a push for more consolidation and regionalism between the city and county.

"Look, we have these two governments. They are like two, old, costly nineteen-fifties cars." They cost a lot...they eat a lot of gas...they don't get us anywhere," said Gaughan. "The idea now is to take these two broken systems and from them create, in accordance with what is happening around America in more vibrant communities, and move forward."

But not everyone is so sure about the concept, or certainty, of a merged government.

Democratic Committee Chair Len Lenihan doesn't believe that kind of "top down approach" is the solution. And he doesn't think a county control board would expect the next mayor of Buffalo to advocate for one.

"People have a misconception about what a control board does," said Lenihan. "A control board doesn't come in with designs and plans and initiatives. They come in to discipline spending. They come in to make sure every dollar that's spent is spent wisely and constructively. They don't come in with a plan to restructure government."

Those are undoubtedly questions that will be answered in the months and years to come. But, with dual control boards possibly on the horizon, any candidate running to be Buffalo's next mayor will probably have to go on the record now about how he or she feels about consolidation.