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UPDATED: Fact-checking HUD claim

By Jill Terreri

The claim that the city has had to repay funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has been repeated at least twice by Republican mayoral candidate Sergio R. Rodriguez during recent debates. 

"Because of this mayor's lack of administrative capabilities, we had to return money to HUD," Rodriguez said Tuesday. 

It is true that the city has a checkered history in spending HUD funds stretching back three administrations, detailed in this explosive audit from 2011.

"The City is not able to demonstrate that it made the best use of CDBG funds to meet the community's needs," is one memorable line. 

The News' story about the audit is here, and a follow-up story, where the city claims it will not need to repay the funds, is here

The audit demands repayment of $500,000, and recommends justifying the spending of $24 million more, or return it. 

But the city "did not have to return any funds to HUD," agency spokesman Adam Glantz said today.

When HUD determined that certain activities were ineligible for HUD funding, the city had to use its own funding for those, Glantz said. The federal funds could then be used on other, eligibile activities, he said. 

UPDATE: Rodriguez's campaign has brought my attention to this Investigative Post story from July 2012, which states: "Auditors recommended the city repay nearly $500,000 in funds," and that HUD Buffalo office Director of Community Planning and Development William O’Connell said "about $100,000 has since been returned by the city and the balance is the subject of ongoing review."

The question I posed to HUD this week was whether the city has had to pay back funds since 2006, and I got the unequivocal response from Glantz above. I'll follow up with him to clarify further, but likely won't have an answer until after Labor Day. 

Video: Will mayoral debates have impact at polls?

here was plenty of political sniping during three mayoral debates that were held this month. The News' Bob McCarthy talks with Brian Meyer about the debates' potential impact and about a new TV spot being aired by Bernie Tolbert:

Challenger backs Tolbert for mayor

   By Robert J. McCarthy

   In the first mayoral primary election pitting two African-Americans against each other, challenger Bernard Tolbert has snared the backing of the Challenger, the city's top black newspaper.
   Announced on the front page of this week's edition with a photo of a beaming Tolbert, the paper echoes the Tolbert campaign theme of "a better choice" in the endorsement editorial's headline.
   "He wants to make Buffalo a better place to live for everyone. And he has the knowledge, the vision, determination, and management skills to make it happen," the Challenger said.
   The newspaper also made it known it is unimpressed by incumbent Mayor Byron W. Brown, seeking a third term.
   "We have a man who tells us we are safe when we are not; that there is progress all around, but not around "us.' We have a person who gets on TV, looks dead into the camera with a straight face and tells us about all the jobs there are in this city...tell that to the brothers holding down corners day after day."
   Tolbert noted the "significance" of the backing.
   “This endorsement also helps me reach out and ask the people of this community if, after eight years of Byron Brown’s Buffalo, do you feel safer?  Is your standard of life better?  Do you have jobs that pay living wages?  Are your children being properly educated in our schools?" he said. "I know from talking to citizens in every city neighborhood that the answers to these questions are a resounding no."
   The Challenger also endorsed in two competitive Democratic primary races for the County Legislature, favoring incumbent Betty Jean Grant over Joyce Nixon in District 2, and Timothy Hogues, also an incumbent, over Barbara Miller-Williams in District 1.


Dixon receives backing from Democrat Schroeder

By Robert J. McCarthy

   When Democrats endorse Democrats, it usually doesn't make big news.
   But when a Democrat endorses a county legislator who caucuses with the Republicans, Politics Now takes notice.
   That's exactly the case in the endorsement of Buffalo Comptroller Mark J.F. Schroeder, a Democrat, for Legislator Lynne M. Dixon of Hamburg, who is registered with Independence and caucuses with Republicans.
   "Lynne Dixon is an independent leader who is committed to the neighborhoods she represents, and is accessible to her constituents," Schroeder said. "I am proud to support her for re-election to the Erie County Legislature."
   It's not as if the race is uncontested. Democrats are challenging with Michael R. Schraft, whom they consider a strong candidate.

Fact-checking the third debate

By Jill Terreri

We took a look at some of the claims made in the mayoral debate Tuesday night, and fact-checked what we could turnaround in one day. 

I had hoped to include Sergio Rodriguez's charge that the city had to return funds to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, something Mayor Byron Brown had steadfastly denied in an earlier debate. HUD demanded payment in an audit, but I'm waiting to hear from HUD about whether those funds were paid, or if some other arrangement was reached. (Following the audit, city officials contended they wouldn't have to pay the money back.)  

Investigative Post's Jim Heaney looks at some of the debaters' claims surrounding poverty, unemployment and economic development in a five-minute segment on WGRZ.   

Some other city headlines from today's Buffalo News include a look at Uniland's new plans for a 12-story hotel and office development at Delaware and Chippewa, and the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo's willingness to talk to preservationists about a re-use of St. Ann's an iconic church on the East Side. 

In state news, Gov. Andrew Cuomo will be in Lockport today, and the state has charged the Buffalo Niagara Enterprise with making the best use of its suite at Ralph Wilson Stadium. 

Giambra beaming over de Blasio's rise in polls

   By Robert J. McCarthy

   Bill de Blasio, the New York City public advocate, is widening his lead in the race to succeed outgoing Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. And that's good news to one upstate supporter -- former County Executive Joel A. Giambra.
   "I just have a kinship with him," said the Democrat-turned-Republican Giambra. "He's the type of Democrat we need."
   Indeed, Giambra hosted a fund raiser in Buffalo earlier this year for De Blasio, who became known to many upstaters in 2000 as Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign manager as she ran for the U.S. Senate.


Rotary award proves good timing for Brown

  By Robert J. McCarthy

   Some days it's good to be an incumbent when running for re-election as mayor of Buffalo.
   Mayor Byron W. Brown, facing a challenge from former FBI agent Bernard Tolbert, receives a major award from the Buffalo Rotary Club today in a bit of good timing just 12 days before the Democratic primary.
   Brown will be recognized as a Paul Harris Fellow at a special meeting of the club dedicated to Rotary youth programs on Templeton Landing Restaurant. Brown is being recognized for working toward Rotary’s shared goal of educating and providing jobs for youth in the City of Buffalo.
    “In becoming a Paul Harris Fellow, Mayor Brown joins a remarkable company of persons throughout the world, all recognized for their devotion to the ideal of goodwill, peace and understanding,” said Rotary Club of Buffalo President Jim Tyrpak. “It is the goal of Rotarians the world over, and one Mayor Brown clearly shares.”

A few post-debate observations

By Robert J. McCarthy

   A few observations from a panelist in Tuesday's mayoral debate at Channel 17 studios:

   -- Neither challenger -- Republican Sergio Rodriguez nor Democrat Bernie Tolbert -- scored the "direct hit" on incumbent Byron W. Brown. Both are trailing badly in the polls, but neither offered any startling revelation or made a sensational accusation that might set a new course for the race.

   -- Tuesday's debate was especially important. It occurred before the next Buffalo News/Channel 2 poll, allowing the next set of respondents to be as familiar with the trio of candidates as possible. And it likely had most widespread exposure of any of the debates.

   -- Brown remained consistent in his stand on the state's new gun control law -- the NY SAFE Act. The News reported in February that the mayor refused to take a position on two key provisions -- a ban on assault weapons and a limit on bullets in an ammo clip. Despite repeated questions, he again avoided answering during the Tuesday faceoff.

   -- Rodriguez may have gained the most. He demonstrated a knowledge of facts and figures, and generated the most "buzz" from the session. The question now is will he move up in the polls in a city with a 7-to-1 Democratic enrollment advantage.

   -- When Tolbert was questioned about criticism over a lack of "passion" in his campaign, he stepped up to the plate with one of the most passionate defenses of his love for Buffalo during the campaign.

   -- Brown may have elicited a fair amount of sympathy in a discussion about crime, and how it is he -- and only he -- who shows up crime scenes and funerals.

   -- None of the candidates showed any support for extending Metro Rail, despite the key role the subway is expected to play in servicing the expanded Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. Though other government funding sources may be available, none of three men who might lead the city for the next four years seems interested in supplying dollars from Buffalo.

Wednesday's must-reads from Washington

By Jerry Zremski

WASHINGTON -- The anniversary of the March on Washington will dominate the news today, and it dominates today's top reads, too.

First, The Washington Post shows that 50 years after the march, the economic gap between blacks and whites persists.

Meantime, The Los Angeles Times takes us back in time and shows that the main reaction before the March on Washington was fear.

And on a radically different topic, NPR shows that calls of impeachment are by no means unique to President  Barack Obama.

Video: Meyer & McCarthy recap and analyze third mayoral debate

The News' Brian Meyer recaps the third mayoral debate, while political reporter Bob McCarthy gives an analysis of the event, which featured candidates Sergio R. Rodriguez, Bernie Tolbert and incumbent Mayor Byron W. Brown.

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About Politics Now

Robert J. McCarthy

Robert J. McCarthy

A native of Schenectady, Robert J. McCarthy came to The Buffalo News in 1982 following a six-year stint at the Olean Times Herald. He is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University, and has been covering local, state and national politics since 1992.

Tom Precious

Tom Precious

Tom Precious joined The Buffalo News in 1997 as bureau chief at the state Capitol, where he covers everything from statewide politics and state government fiscal affairs to health care, environmental and municipal government matters. Prior to The News, he worked for news outlets in Albany and Washington, DC.

Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri is an Amherst native and has covered politics and government in upstate New York since 2003. She joined The Buffalo News in 2012 and covers City Hall.

@jillterreri |

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski, The Buffalo News Washington bureau chief, has reported from the nation's capital since 1989 after joining The News as a business reporter in 1984. A graduate of Syracuse University, Zremski is a former Nieman fellow in journalism at Harvard University. In 2007, he served as president of the National Press Club.

@JerryZremski |