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Should Buffalo abolish its mayor in favor of a city manager? Discuss

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown wearing a gray suit, brown tie, white shirt and white carnation on his lapel talking into a WBFO microphone
Chris Caya
The mayor of Buffalo would be replaced by a city manager under an idea sent for study to the Legislation Committee of the Common Council Tuesday.

Maybe Buffalo needs a city manager form of government instead of the strong mayor system used in the city. That is from Councilmember Rasheed Wyatt, who suggested the current system isn't helping the city's poorest residents.

The University District councilmember persuaded his colleagues Tuesday to study of the possibility of a city manager.

It wouldn't be simple and wouldn't be easy. Assistant Corporation Council Carin Gordon told the meeting that any shift like this would require a public referendum.

In sending the idea to the Legislation Committee, Council President Darius Pridgen was careful to say that didn't mean anything more than studying the idea.

Wyatt said, with billions of dollars sloshing through City Hall and city government, little of it appears to have sloshed into most of the city's neighborhoods and they remain just as poor as decades ago. He said another means of delivering services may be needed.

"People who are professionals. A city manager is a professional. He's not someone that is concerned about elections. His job is professional, outcomes for the people he reports to. The city manager will be elected by the Common Council, in conjunction with the community," Wyatt said.

Seated University District Common Councilmember Rasheed Wyatt wearing a blue suit, white shirt and red tie in front of a brown background
Buffalo Common Council
University District Common Councilmember Rasheed Wyatt proposes a city manager form of government during Tuesday's session.

North District Councilmember Joe Golombek said the Council looked at the same idea a dozen years ago and it didn't go anywhere. He said some research on his part made him skeptical, because what he found was that the city manager system evolved as a way to keep the old elite in power when threatened by racial and ethnic minorities.

"In the early 20th Century, when there was a fear of people that were living in cities, people like us that are sitting here, Black people, ethnic people, etc. And the old white Anglo-Saxon Protestant ruling elite saw themselves losing power," Golombek said, "and so there was an attempt to sort of corral government so that it wouldn't be power to the people any longer."

The South District's Chris Scanlon opposed the study, saying it's better for voters to decide who runs city government.

"I'd rather have someone be appointed by thousands and tens of thousands of people than, I believe, the councilmember referenced being appointed or selected by the Council, where you only need five people," Scanlon said. "I think that, quite frankly, could lead to some nefarious behavior, where you only need five votes instead of tens of thousands."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.