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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. 

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. 

Brown, Tolbert on education

By Jill Terreri

Whether the  candidates were expecting it or not, the state of the city schools has become a major issue in the mayoral campaign. As the problems make headlines every day (a recap of those can be found on the School Zone blog) questions about what Mayor Byron Brown and Bernie Tolbert have planned when it comes to the schools have peppered both debates, and are expected to come up at tomorrow's debate

I sifted through interviews with the candidates and their past public statements, as well as information from their campaign web sites, and stories in our archive, to report today's story comparing Brown's and Tolbert's education plans. 

Continue reading "Brown, Tolbert on education" »

Of debates and polls

By Jill Terreri

A quick catch up on the mayoral election:

The Democratic primary is quickly approaching - less than three weeks away - and debates can be a good way to learn the differences between the candidates. That of course depends on several factors, including how completely the candidates answer each question.

Mayor Byron Brown is seeking a third term. Democrat Bernie Tolbert, a former special agent in charge of the FBI in Buffalo, is running, as is Republican Sergio Rodriguez, a Marine veteran. Rodriguez is also staging a write-in campaign for the Conservative line during the Sept. 10 primary. 

Continue reading "Of debates and polls" »

Brown's opponents hear a political tune

By Jill Terreri

The timing of Mayor Byron Brown's announcement that the city will spend $400,000 to fund band and orchestra programs that had been cut in 14 public schools raised a few eyebrows. He explained at his big announcement yesterday, complete with children playing instruments, that he had been at work on a solution for a month and a half. Whatever the reason, the announcement was made one month before the Democratic primary, where he will face former FBI Special Agent in Charge Bernie Tolbert.

Tolbert pointed out that on the subject of the school district, Brown frequently notes that he has no governance over it. 

Continue reading "Brown's opponents hear a political tune" »

Ask Sergio anything

By Jill Terreri

Republican mayoral candidate Sergio Rodriguez will answer voters' questions at 5 p.m. today on Reddit, a social media platform. 

As of 12:40 p.m. today, the forum had 75 comments - many of them substantive - from inquiring minds inside the city and out. They cover a range of topics, including crime, abandoned buildings, neighborhoods and parks.   

Rodriguez isn't the first politician to take questions on the site. President Barack Obama, and Newark Mayor Cory Booker have done it, too. 

Rodriguez will face the winner of the Democratic primary between Mayor Byron Brown and Bernie Tolbert, the former head of the FBI's Buffalo office.

Brown has so far outfundraised them all, and has $1.3 million on hand, to Tolbert's $200,000. Rodriguez has just $1,083 on hand, according to campaign finance filings this week. 

Tolbert has been attending events and campaigning for months, but recently ramped up his public comments about violence in the city, at an anti-violence summit on Wednesday and in a video on his Facebook page.  

GOP mayoral hopeful welcomes Tolbert move

By Robert J. McCarthy

It didn't take long on Tuesday for one participant in the Buffalo mayoral race to acknowledge the expected candidacy of Democrat Bernard Tolbert after sources indicated the former head of the Buffalo FBI would form a campaign finance committee.

And for announced Republican candidate Sergio Rodriguez, it was all about even having a race for mayor in 2013. As far as he was concerned Tuesday, at least there will be a contest against Democratic incumbent Byron W. Brown, whom some thought might go unchallenged this year in his bid for a third term.

“We welcome the entry of a new candidate into the race and are pleased to see democracy in action," Rodriguez said. "For the first time in nearly a decade, voters will be given a choice in the general election regardless of the outcome in the primary."

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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]

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