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Byron Brown's second-term challenge

Usually, a mayor entering his second term is a pretty good gig in this town.

Jimmy Griffin and Tony Masiello were just getting warmed up, eventually serving 16 and 12 years, respectively, before wearing out their welcome. At the start of their second term, they were sitting pretty.

Brown on primary night That is not the case with Byron Brown.

Yeah, he won re-election handily, but the road ahead looks rocky.

The Common Council majority that is on, shall we say, unfriendly terms, with the mayor has hung together and is poised to appoint a successor to Brian Davis. My guess is they'll appoint someone who will give them a veto-proof majority.

But that's not Brown's biggest problem.

No, that would be called the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

And the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.

And the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

And, depending where their investigations stand, the State Police and the Erie County District Attorney.

Brown and company have been under investigation for One Sunset, allegation of pay to play involving city contracts, the decision to release Leonard Stokes from police custody, pressure applied to city workers to work on Brown's re-election campaign, the use of federal block grant funds, and who knows what else investigators have turned up while knocking on doors and sifting through subpoenaed records and computer hard drives

Brown's people can talk up the prospect of their man being a running mate of Andrew Cuomo next year, but that's not going to happen. The last thing Cuomo needs while running under the banner of reform is a running mate under the cloud Byron Brown finds himself under.

The smartest thing Brown could do politically is to try and mend some fences, but that's not in the cards either.

He and Steve Casey seem to be spoiling for a fight with Democratic Party HQ. Brown and Erie County Executive Chris Collins appear to have formed an alliance of sorts that involves, to some degree, Brian Higgins and Steve Pigeon/Tom Golisano. (More on that another day).

Higgins aside, that cast of characters is not likely to endear him to a lot of Democrats, here and across the state. And Brown isn't exactly dealing from a position of strength; he doesn't necessary control a majority of party committee seats in the black community, much less the city, much less the county.

Politics aside, Brown has his hands full.

HUD has given his administration six months to straighten out the block grant program and the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency and the Buffalo Economic Renaissance Corp. are a mess.

The city is bleeding jobs, some 6,600 since he took office.

He needs to add flesh to the bones of his anti-poverty initiative.

Violent crime is on the upswing and the police department isn't exactly a hotbed of innovation.

The state's fiscal problems mean the days of Albany functioning as an ever-more-generous Sugar Daddy have come to an end.

Brown's inner circle is down to just Casey, flak Peter Cutler and Finance Commissioner Janet Penksa, who Brown keeps saddling with the task of fixing every money-related problem that crosses his desk, of which there are many.

Good luck finding truly top-shelf candidates to sign up for a round of duty. As the steady flow of talent out of City Hall attests, working for Byron Brown means being micro-managed and/or bullied by Steve Casey. Just ask Rich Tobe, Tim Wanamaker, Len Matarese, etc.

Suffice to say, the talent leaving is a lot better than what's replacing it.

Add this all up and you've got a mayor whose biggest challenge as he begins a second term is simply surviving.

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City Hall | Politics
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