Skip to primary navigation Skip to main content

Phony protests over Council appointment

Haynes, curtis before council

It's a phrase that's been evoked since Saturday, one we're going to hear right through Election Day:

"Honor the Process."

That's what supporters of The Rev. Darius Pridgen are saying in the wake of the Common Council's decision to appoint Buffalo State economics professor Curtis Haynes Jr. to succeed Brian Davis as representative of the Ellicott District. (Haynes is pictured above, flanked by Mickey Kearns and David Rivera.)

In doing so, the Council rejected the recommendation of Democratic Party committeemen to appoint the Rev. Darius Pridgen, who won the nod by a razor-thin margin over city firefighter Bryon McIntyre. Haynes finished third.  According to the Honor The Process crowd, the Council should have rubber-stamped the recommendation.

News flash to you Honor the Process people -- the process has been honored.

Thanks to a citywide referendum in 2006, it's a different process than the one historically used to fill vacant Council seats. One that didn't always result in the party choice getting the appointment, I might add.   

Yes, it's true, the Council historically has approved the party's recommendation. But not always.

Take 1981. Eugene Fahey vacated his University District seat for an at-large position. Committeemen voted to recommend Rosemarie LoTempio. Fahey persuaded his colleagues to instead appoint Scott Gehl.

Fast forward to 2005. Jimmy Griffin resigns his South District seat and a fellow named Mickey Kearns decides he'd like to be considered to replace him. He gets nowhere; some Council members refuse to even accept his resume or meet with him. Committeemen recommend Jeff Conrad and the Council obliges. The process didn't strike Kearns as transparent or democratic.

Kearns subsequently runs for the seat and wins. In 2006, he gets the Council to approve a measure that changes the process, requiring candidates for vacant seats to submit a resume to the Council and sets the stage for interviews and other scrutiny.

Sounds reasonable. I mean, how many employers don't vet job candidates in such a fashion, and instead simply hire people -- no questions asked -- based on the recommendation of a third party.

The Council approved the change unanimously, and so did voters in a referendum. The measure passed with 81 percent of the vote, including 82 percent in Ellicott.

The new process was soon put to work, when Antoine Thompson vacated his Masten District seat after winning election to the State Senate. The Council appointed someone with obvious qualifications, who at the time was serving as a member of the Erie County Legislature. He also managed to win the recommendation of Democratic committeemen.

The fellow in question was Demone Smith, who on Thursday called his colleagues "tyrants and despots," in part, I guess, because they used the process proscribed by city law rather than old-school politics.

Smith and the protesters who convened Wednesday night on the steps of City Hall -- led by Sam Herbert, who does not even live in the Ellicott District -- would lead us to believe they are upset because the process was not honored. The old process, that is.

What they're really mad about is that Pridgen -- their preferred candidate -- was bypassed.

They believe, and rightfully so, it was primarily because Pridgen was in league with Grassroots, the mayor's political organization. The Council majority bloc is at odds with Brown and they were not about to appoint someone sympathetic to the mayor, especially when a veto-proof six-member majority was at hand.

Is that fair? Nope.

Is that politics? Yup.

Would Byron Brown have done things any differently than Dave Franczyk and Co.? I think you know the answer.

Brown and his surrogates are in no position to cry politics.

I mean, this is the mayor who appointed his campaign manager as deputy mayor.

Who nominated the chairperson of Grassroots to the one commissioner job in City Hall that provides a six-year job guarantee, while every other commissioner serves at the pleasure of the mayor.

Who reacted to news that one of his other commissioners strong-armed her employees to work on his
campaign by holding his tongue for six months and then nominating her for another term.

Brown and his deputy, Steve Casey, have done more than anyone in City Hall to poison the waters. In the Ellicott District vote, they have reaped what they have helped sow. 

Then there's the argument that the appointment of Haynes somehow thwarts the "Will of the People."

The people, in this instance, are voters and committeemen.

Seems to me, voters approved the new process.

And yes, they voted for Brown in the mayoral primary last September by a three-to-one margin.  But it's a stretch to say that obligates the Council to appoint the mayor's preferred candidate. Using that logic, if Kearns were to resign, the Council would be obligated to appoint an opponent of the mayor, given that Brown garnered only 22 percent of the vote in the South District last fall.

It doesn't work that way.

Then there's the committeemen. I'm sorry, but the district's battling political factions bear little resemblance to the Will of the People. We're talking strictly self-interest.

And even the committeemen's "will" seems pretty indecisive. In a weighted vote, Pridgen defeated McIntyre by  3,325 to 3,152.  That doesn't exactly make him Landslide Lyndon.

Put another way, of the 62 committeemen in attendance, 31, maybe 32 voted for Pridgen -- including Brian Davis. Another 30, maybe 31, cast their lot for McIntyre.

Put yet another way, almost as many committeemen blew off the meeting -- 22 -- as voted for Pridgen.

Will of the People?


The will of the people will be exercised come Primary Day this September, when Haynes stands for election for the final year of the term of office. Voters will exercise their will again in 2011 when the office will be up for a full four-year term.

In the meantime, please, no more Will of the People. Or Honor the Process. 

Call it what is is -- political posturing.

When you consider who Haynes succeeds -- Brian Davis, a deadbeat with a criminal record -- he represents a huge upgrade.

I have three questions for those protesting his appointment. Why didn't we hear from you when you learned Davis:

-- Lied to voters about his education.
-- Gave $30,000 in anti-poverty funds earmarked for his district to help fund a restaurant owned by one of his buddies on the other side of town.
-- Intended to keep his Council seat after pleading guilty to criminal charges, despite state law that required him to step down.

The fact is, you were OK with all that, or at least silent. And that silence -- indeed, tacit approval -- extended all the way to the second floor of City Hall.

Now comes outrage, over what? The appointment of an educator and an economist -- an economist, for crying out loud, in the third-poorest city in the nation -- to hold office for the next 11 1/2 months?

Uh, oh, I feel a John McEnroe moment coming on.

Elsewhere, the Buffalo Geek has a good post on Thursday's theatrics, including video.


(Follow this blog and my reporting on Facebook and Twitter. Have a story tip or something you want to share? e-mail me.)


City Hall | Politics
comments powered by Disqus