Did You See the Mayoral Debate & Other Things (UPDATED)
1. Federal prosecutors may soon ask to exhume a dead convicted drug dealer who died while awaiting sentencing. Well, there’s a death certificate, but the government has reason to believe the guy’s not dead. An ingenious getaway attempt, if true, to escape on paper. This would make a great script.
2. I watched the last half of last night’s mayoral debate. Unfortunately, not one channel saw fit to broadcast it live on TV. I had to find a stream online (and thanks to the magic of Apple TV, we were able to Airplay it to the TV after all). The local media – Channels 2, 3, 4, and 7 and YNN all abrogated their responsibility as FCC licensees to inform and educate the population. It is unconscionable that Channel 4, who had one reporter acting as moderator and another on the panel, couldn’t see fit to preempt a couple of Merv Griffin game shows to get this debate to as wide an audience as possible. Absolutely disgusting.
You can watch it here at WIVB.com. Mayor Brown seemed petty and defensive – his closing argument implored voters to pick him over a bunch of “novices”. Burn.
But when the sitting Mayor can’t accomplish simple, promised reforms in his seven years in office, why not consider the novices? I also think Tolbert’s work history is far more extensive and accomplished than Brown’s, and Rodriguez was a Marine. Denigrating their backgrounds and experience is hardly a winning strategy for someone who went from being a legislative staffer to the Common Council to the State Senate, and never stood out for bold initiatives or ideas, but relied instead on the power of the political machine.
For their parts, Bernie Tolbert acquitted himself well, but Sergio Rodriguez was a standout. He was conversational – he didn’t sound like he was reading off a script or memorized group of talking points. He was answering questions in a way that really connected with an audience that was audibly hostile to the sitting Mayor. Tolbert’s substance was very similar to Rodriguez’s, and they pressed the Mayor relentlessly on crime, jobs, and education.
The only advantages I think Brown has now is his massive, loyal-by-necessity machine, and his huge pile of cash. Well, they’re actually pretty huge advantages when you put it that way. But in terms of connecting with voters and really questioning the engagement and competency of a Brown Administration which is taking undue credit for progress with which it had nothing to do, Tolbert and Rodriguez have a real shot if they can get their messages out. You could hear, if not feel, the frustration and dissatisfaction rolling through the assembled crowd.
When Rodriguez and Tolbert said they wanted to make the city more business-friendly by streamlining permitting, lowering fees, increasing predictability and uniformity, and setting up a “one-stop shop”, Brown said the city was working on it.
Working on it?! You’ve BEEN THE MAYOR FOR SEVEN YEARS. YOU CONTROL – WITH ORWELLIAN EFFICIENCY – EVERY EXECUTIVE FUNCTION IN CITY HALL. SEVEN YEARS AND YOU’RE STILL “WORKING ON IT?” City Hall is – and has been – a fetid swamp of bureaucratic sloth and mendacity.
When describing Yugoslav communist self-preservation, corruption, and stasis, Milovan Djilas wrote that a “New Class” had been created, comprised of dictatorial bureaucrats. In Buffalo, we have the same phenomenon – marginally educated people hired and retained not for their merit, but for their politico-financial loyalty to the bureaucrat-di-tutti-bureaucrats, Byron Brown. Forget the “political class” of WNY – our larger problem is this new patronage class. They are neither working class nor transitioning into middle / upper middle class; they have instead carved out their own patronage class whereby your social mobility is founded on the political ties – and donations – you make, rather than your labor, smarts, or merit. It takes seven years to do simple things because the patronage class is united in its opposition to any reformation of the bureaucracy that guarantees it its oft-redundant jobs.
Byron Brown cannot take on the patronage class because his entire political career is founded on their interdependency.
The candidates can talk about downtown domed football stadiums until the cows come home, but there is a huge question mark hanging over the city of Buffalo that Mayor Brown hasn’t even seen – much less answered – in the 7 (SEVEN!1) years he’s been occupying the 2nd floor of City Hall.
3. The Congressional Republicans’ descent into nihilistic brinksmanship continues apace. When your only philosophy and platform is to hate Obama and deny millions of people access to affordable health insurance, I guess that’s what you’re left with.