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Five Questions with Demone Smith

Every Sunday, we'll publish a quick Q&A with someone from the local political world. Instead of touching on the latest in policy issues and proposed legislation, the intent is to catch a glimpse of the person behind the title. The interviews are done via email.


Council Majority Leader Demone A. Smith addresses his colleagues during a Common Council meeting on Jan. 24. (Derek Gee / Buffalo News)

Demone A. Smith

The basics
Age: 38
Job title: Buffalo Common Council member, Masten district; Council majority leader
Family: Wife, two children
Education: Wilberforce University (B.A. in political science)
Party affiliation: Democrat
Previous work experience: Erie County legislator
City Salary: $52,000 + $5,000 for work as majority leader

The questions
What's one thing people don't know about you?
Big comic book fan as a kid. They increased my reading ability. [World of] Warcraft fan, as well.

Continue reading "Five Questions with Demone Smith" ยป

Smith, Russell in line for Council leadership positions

Update 4:33 p.m.: Kearns did not keep Finance Committee chairmanship -- that went to Delaware Council Member Michael J. LoCurto.

Here's my story.


Masten Council Member Demone A. Smith said he expects to be named the Common Council majority leader when city lawmakers reorganize this afternoon.

Smith also said University Council Member Bonnie E. Russell will become the new president pro temp of the Council -- which will come with additional duties but no $2,500 stipend -- when the Council holds its reorganizational meeting at 2 p.m. in Council Chambers.

As we already knew, current Majority Leader Richard A. Fontana will take over as Council president, with Fillmore Council Member David A. Franczyk set to lose the post he's held for eight years.

Also according to Smith, who was packing up his Council office today getting ready for a move to the majority leader's office:

--South Council Member Michael P. Kearns will stay chairman of the Finance Committee.

--Ellicott Council Member Darius G. Pridgen will become the new Legislation Committee chairman, with the previous chairman, North Council Member Joseph Golombek Jr., taking over the Community Development Committee from Delaware Council Member Michael J. LoCurto.

--Russell will keep the chairmanship of the Civil Service Committee, and Niagara Council Member David A. Rivera will stay chairman of the Claims Committee.

A majority vote of the Council is required for leadership and chairmanship posts.

Fontana, Smith, Russell, Pridgen and Golombek are part of the new Council majority, as Fontana had been aligned with Franczyk, Kearns, LoCurto and Rivera.

Leadership positions, except for president pro temp, and chairmanships come with stipends: $10,000 for president; $5,000 for majority leader, and $1,000 each for the committee chairmen.

--Aaron Besecker
Follow me on Twitter: @BeseckerBN


No informal reorganization meeting planned, Fontana says

The city lawmaker expected to become the next Common Council president said today he has no plans to call an informal reorganization meeting before the official votes are taken Jan. 3.

Lovejoy Council Member Richard A. Fontana called a meeting Dec. 13, but no business was discussed after Council President David A. Franczyk claimed the meeting was illegally called.

After that meeting did not yield the discussion Fontana had hoped, he said he might call another meeting of lawmakers.

In the end, that won't happen because it appears some lawmakers don't want to have that conversation, Fontana said today.

In previous years, lawmakers have typically met privately in a political caucus, which is not open to the public, to discuss leadership positions and staff changes prior to the official vote in early January.

Masten Council Member Demone A. Smith, who Fontana has said has the votes to become the new majority leader, said again today that there are several lawmakers who would have enough votes to take the post.

Last week, Smith said there are "a lot of people" who want to be majority leader.

Here's a blog post on Council leadership plans from last week.

--Aaron Besecker

Fontana, Smith expected to take Council leadership posts

Updated: 2:38 p.m.; 4:09 p.m. -- with comments from Demone Smith.; 6:58 p.m. -- links to documents involving claim of "illegal meeting."

The Common Council's majority leader said today he has the necessary votes to make him the next Council president, a move that forms a new majority in the lawmaking body that some view as more friendly to Mayor Byron W. Brown. Fontana_headshot

Lovejoy Council Member Richard A. Fontana (pictured at right) said he has votes from at least five of his colleagues to take the reins of the city's legislative branch when it reorganizes in January.

Fontana, who previously expressed interest in the presidency, also said there are at least five votes to make Masten Council Member Demone A. Smith (pictured below) the new majority leader.

Smith_headshotCurrent Council President David A. Franczyk, who has held the post for eight years, said the expected shift on the Council weakens the body's independence.

"He's giving the mayor control of the Common Council," Franczyk said today.

Fontana disputed Franczyk's claim, saying he's worked on behalf of all Council members and plans on continuing to do so.

"I've always been an independent Council member and I'm not going to change that as Council president," he said.

Smith said that him taking the majority leader post is one scenario that could play out.

"There's a lot of people that want to be majority leader," Smith said.

In terms of Fontana and the Council presidency, Smith said there are five lawmakers solidly behind him.

"We think we need a change," he said. 

The move represents a departure of Fontana from the ruling majority, which also included South Council Member Michael P. Kearns, Niagara Council Member David A. Rivera, Delaware Council Member Michael J. LoCurto and Francyzk.

The new majority would include Fontana, Smith, Ellicott Council Member Darius G. Pridgen, University Council Member Bonnie E. Russell and North Council Member Joseph Golombek Jr.

A Council majority has various powers, including being able to decide which lawmakers become chairs of various committees, as well as on staffing appointments in the City Clerk's Office and to the Council's central staff.

The reorganization of the Council, which happens every two years, was supposed to be discussed during a caucus held Tuesday night at a Seneca Street restaurant. The official votes on reorganization happen in early January.

Instead, after some lawmakers called television news crews and made claims about a potentially illegal meeting, no Council business was discussed Tuesday night, lawmakers who attended said.

Here's the Channel 2 report and the Channel 4 report

The Buffalo News received no prior notice of the meeting, even though a memo dated Dec. 7 about the planned meeting was circulated to Council members.

Fontana today produced an opinion from interim Corporation Council David Rodriguez -- a mayoral appointee -- that found no violation with the meeting.

Compare the latest meeting notice to the one Franczyk sent out for the 2009 reorganization meeting.

Stay tuned for updates. That's all for updates for today. Check out tomorrow's paper for more.

--Aaron Besecker
Follow me on Twitter: @BeseckerBN

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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 |