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Commentary: Buffalo Needs To Claim Byron Brown As Its Own

By Elena Cala Buscarino

Buffalo, NY – In my youth, I cared little about politics or politicians, but that's a little like saying I don't care much about air. I've learned that the quality of one's political representatives, much like the air one breathes, is obviously going to affect the overall quality of life. Herein lies the point of having someone who has actually made a career of specializing in politics act as your political representative.

That having been said, I have to come clean about my relationship to one of the candidates in this year's Buffalo mayoral race. I had the pleasure of attending Buffalo State College with Byron Brown. He was a genius in our journalism classes, quiet and reserved until something needed saying, and then say it, he did. I've seen him behave the same way in the mayoral race; he's not a chest-beater, he positive and resolute. That's patent Byron.

He is the only friend I have who stayed in town after journalism school. Buffalo is his adopted home, and the home of his wife and son. And for these past twenty-three years that I have known him, I have asked him the same question over and over, "Why do you want to be in politics?" His answer has always centered on his belief that he can make a difference; that he can make things better; that he can improve life in this city that he loves.

"The private sector would love to write you a huge check," I tell him. "Go get a real job." And then I realize that this is his vocation, not a job.

It hurts to have a friend in politics. You watch their coat get splattered with their opponent's mud and pray they don't roll up their sleeves and dive in. Thankfully, the intelligent public has intervened, asking for issues, the heart of a political race.

Speaking of races, the first one in a campaign centers around who can win the most endorsements and contributions. In case you think that being in a race doesn't cost a lot of money, slap yourself silly right now. Believe it when I say that every candidate goes for every endorsement and every bit of funding they can. The endorsements get you there, and the contributions pay your way. Funding is aptly named a war chest, though some--like Byron think of it more as campaign funds, period. In the right hands, contributions are a necessary means to put forth the issues...not the issue itself.

Another source of pain for me in this race has been that other type of race...the black and white of it. It is so tired. People ask me if I think Buffalo is ready for a black mayor. In the 23 years that I have known Byron, I admit, I have noticed that he is black. Aside from being happy for the African-American community, that they can call Byron their own, color has never, and never should, come into play because we have evolved so far past that. I'm happy to say that Byron and I belong to the same family of man. In this way, I claim him as my own.

Career politician? Maybe. But when there's an important job to be done, people are wisest to call in a specialist. Byron was referred to as "...the steamroller that is Byron Brown" in a recent print article. I think of a steamroller when I imagine Buffalo being leveled through regionalism. So what would Byron be, a scaffold?

Buffalonians deserve to have a smart, articulate, experienced, well-intentioned, forward-looking gentleman do their bidding for them on a political level. Yes, I answer, Buffalo is more than ready for this mayor, and a new bridge, and Bass Pro, and waterfront development, and an end to wanton spending. Buffalo needs to claim Byron as its own.

Listener-commentator Elena Cala Buscarino says she stayed in the Buffalo area to write, teach and raise her children.