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Rodriguez stands alone at block club meeting

By Jill Terreri

Republican mayoral candidate Sergio Rodriguez alerted reporters on Tuesday that he and Mayor Byron W. Brown were scheduled to appear that evening in front of a block club in the city's north east corner. 

The appearance could have marked the only venue where both candidates would appear before the Nov. 5 election. Brown has not agreed to any upcoming debates (Rodriguez participated in pre-primary debates, which also included Brown and Democrat Bernie Tolbert) and it's not clear they will discuss the issues one-on-one in any venue before general election ballots are cast. 

But Brown didn't attend the Judge's Row Block Club meeting at St. Michael's church near Kensington and Eggert, and a spokesman said he did not commit to going, though Rodriguez's campaign noted that the block club felt confident enough that the mayor would be there that they promoted the appearance on its web site

Rodriguez had the floor to himself, and talked about crime and education, jobs and a residency requirement for police officers, according to WBFO's Mike Desmond. 

Continue reading "Rodriguez stands alone at block club meeting" »

New vendor in the City Hall cafeteria

By Jill Terreri

The audience for this post is likely narrow, but it will be useful to anyone who works around Niagara Square and eats lunch.  

Sue's New York Deli is taking over operations in the City Hall cafeteria, under terms the Common Council is set to approve when it meets at 2 p.m. today. 

It appears, from the restaurant's menu from its other operations, that more healthy options will be offered in the cafeteria. Sue's has locations on Main Street in the theater district and at 130 S. Elmwood Ave., next to City Hall.  

Public Works Commissioner Steve Stepniak didn't know on Monday when the service would switch over, but said that the new vendor has done a walk-through and wants to bring its own equipment in. 

Continue reading "New vendor in the City Hall cafeteria" »

Brown, Rodriguez scheduled to appear together

By Jill Terreri 

Mayor Byron Brown and his Republican challenger, Sergio Rodriguez, have not scheduled any one-on-one debates before the general election.

But the candidates are scheduled to appear together tonight, according to a release from the Rodriguez campaign. (Rodriguez wants to debate, Brown does not.)   

The Judges Row Block Club is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. at St. Michael's Church, 81 Burke Drive, near the Kensington and Eggert intersection. 

It could be the only time the two remaining mayoral candidates are in the same room before the Nov. 5 election. 

Continue reading "Brown, Rodriguez scheduled to appear together" »

Rodriguez's economic development plans

By Jill Terreri

Republican mayoral candidate Sergio Rodriguez released a five-page economic development plan today, emphasizing greater hiring opportunities for women and minorities.

He continued to press his case that the construction around town is not helping people in neighborhoods and said he would make sure that hiring "goals" for women and minorities would be turned into requirements in his admininstration. 

Continue reading "Rodriguez's economic development plans" »

Schroeder's marina audit

By Jill Terreri

Here's the full audit of the Erie Basin Marina from Comptroller Mark Schroeder, including the city's response and significant plans to change the way business is done there. 

Schroeder's office found the city's vendor, Brand-On Services, owes the city $343,245, which should be paid immediately, he said. 

The story on the audit is here, and a story about the planned improvements to the marina are here

Missing from the audit below is the response from Brand-On Services, whose president is Renee Wolasz. The Wolasz family runs the business, daughter Julie told me today when I reached her at the Hatch. Julie Wolasz declined to comment on the audit because she said no one in the company had read it yet. The audit was filed today with the Common Council. (To clarify, the company was fully aware the audit was taking place - auditors had been there for months - but the comptroller audits city activities, and the appropriate city department has the chance to write a response that is included in the audit, vendors do not. The vendor is able to look at the audit once it is released to the public.)

The city is planning to seek the missing payments, though it disagrees with Schroeder's final amount, and will solicit bids for a new operator in time for the 2014 season.


Erie Basin Marina Audit

Brown promises more economic development, but not more debates

By Jill Terreri

Mayor Byron W. Brown promised more economic development in the city in remarks to reporters after his victory speech tonight, but did not commit to debating his general election opponent, Republican Sergio R. Rodriguez. 

News Staff Reporter Mark Sommer was at Statler City, where Brown talked about what happens next: 

"We want to focus on continuing to strengthen this community economically, helping businesses to grow, and bringing more jobs to the residents of this community.  You'll be seeing more housing subdivisions and development taking place.  Now is the time to begin to rebuild the population of this great city.


 "We want to focus on the arts community, which we think is a critical economic engine  in this community, and you will see more focus there.  We are going to focus on providing additional support to our public schools in a very strategic way, and I will be very aggressive in bringing more strategic support ot our schools, and to redouble our efforts in rebuilding neighborhoods."

Continue reading "Brown promises more economic development, but not more debates" »

More on city's HUD spending

By Jill Terreri    

The question of whether the city had to repay the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for misusing federal funds has been at the center of a line of attack from Republican Sergio Rodriguez against Mayor Byron Brown. 

Brown denied this claim during a debate, and HUD spokesman Adam Glantz told me last week that the city "did not have to return any funds to HUD."  The city has to use city funds for programs that aren't eligible for federal funding, and then use the federal funds on other, eligible activities, he said. 

Then Rodriguez's campaign pointed to this Investigative Post story, which says the city had returned $100,000.

I followed up with HUD for a clarification.

Continue reading "More on city's HUD spending" »

Rodriguez not impressed with Schumer endorsement

By Jill Terreri

Republican Sergio Rodriguez was not impressed with Sen. Charles Schumer's endorsement of his fellow Democrat, Mayor Byron Brown, during an event on Main Street yesterday. 

In a statement this morning, Rodriguez continued his criticism, that Brown has not done enough to improve education, and noted the city's unemployment rate and crime statistics. 

"I agree with Sen. Schumer: indeed Buffalo is turning around. But we're going in the wrong direction," Rodriguez said. 

He added later: "If we don't address the basic fundamental needs of people, which is the ability to provide their children a decent education as well as a safe environment, then there is no amount of waterfront entertainment that will convince people to live in the city."  

Continue reading "Rodriguez not impressed with Schumer endorsement" »

Tolbert, Rodriguez, keep up attacks on Brown

By Jill Terreri

Democrat Bernie Tolbert and Republican Sergio Rodriguez kept up their attacks on Mayor Byron Brown today, criticizing him on two of the major issues of this campaign, jobs and education. 

Tolbert noted the city's loss of population under Brown, and the unemployment rate, which he did at the debate last week at WNED. He also rolled out a four-point economic development plan, which is also posted below. 

Continue reading "Tolbert, Rodriguez, keep up attacks on Brown" »

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. 

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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.

[email protected]

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.

[email protected]

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 | [email protected]

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 | [email protected]