Ups and Downs, Week of June 6
Apparently prompted by a story in the Buffalo News on abject conditions in the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority’s Kenfield/Langfield development, on Monday Congressman Brian Higgins called for a long overdue investigation in the BMHA, an agency responsible for providing a housing safety net to Buffalo’s poorest families which has long been a mismanaged patronage dump, arguably worse so under Mayor Byron Brown’s administration. (Higgins is not the first member of Congress to demand such an investigation: The late Congresswoman Louise Slaughter was a persistent critic of BMHA and the city’s use of federal community block grant money—especially during a period when Brown was researching a run for Slaughter’s seat.) Reporter Sue Schulman tweeted that a reader wrote her and asked her who the “target audience” is for such a story. One Buffalo, indeed. We suspect there’s so much more to the story of BHMA mismanagement these past 10 years or so, and an investigation provides an opportunity to correct mistakes and establish a municipal housing agency that can provide safe and adequate shelter. Now is the time, when interim leadership can make changes that might be difficult—politically, culturally—before a new executive director is hired.
Amherst Supervisor Brian J. Kulpa, an architect and urban planner by trade, unveiled a forward-looking redevelopment plan for the Boulevard Mall site that incorporates public transportation and green infrastructure to reinvigorate acres of parking lot with mixed-use vitality. Though we’re a little uneasy that the site could be classified as a “low income community” and benefit from Opportunity Zone tax credits when just around the corner a new Whole Foods has a bar and a cafe with a Bocce Ball pitch. We’re pretty sure that Whole Foods and the state’s Opportunity Zone initiative used different market research methodologies.
Welcome back to “Downs,” Assemblyman Erik Bohen: According to the latest campaign finance disclosure reports, Bohen’s committee transferred $31,500 to the Erie County Republican Committee in May. That’s out of the total of $76,189 that Bohen’s committee raised to fund his successful special election run for the 142nd District seat vacated by Mickey Kearns when he became Erie County Clerk. It’s almost as much as the $34,960.25 Bohen’s committee spent on his campaign. That would be all well and good if Bohen, who ran on the Republican and Conservative party lines in the special election, weren’t continuing to insist that he is a Democrat: Since taking the seat, he has sought to caucus with Assembly Democrats (they don’t want him), and he recently sought the Democratic Party endorsement for election to the seat this fall. (Erie County Legislator Pat Burke, whom Bohen beat in the special election, handily won the Democratic endorsement to take another shot in the heavily Democratic district in the fall.) Bohen’s voter registration card may identify him as a Democrat, and he may even espouse Democratic Party ideals, but the money flowing in and out of his campaign and the political allegiances he made to win the special election say something else. And that money and those alliances come with a price.
Political protests a la carte: Cynthia Nixon’s plane was an hour late last Friday, and the squad of Andrew Cuomo supporters dispatched to greet the governor’s Democratic primary challenger had diminished to about a dozen and a half, mostly young people in their 20s. An equal number of Cuomo supporters—all but one, a short guy in a suit and white tie and a cap, who was left in charge—had ditched the scene as soon as the TV cameras left, we were told. The cameras had arrived on time, around 7pm, to capture Nixon’s arrival, but she was late; in her absence, they recorded some footage of the protesters, then moved on to their next Saturday evening assignments, some for them planning to circle back when the actress finally arrived for the roundtable discussion with progressive activists, who were awaiting Nixon patiently inside the workshare space on the first floor of 515 Main Street. Here’s the thing: A couple of the signs the protestors waved at Nixon suggested she was not welcome here in “Upstate,” which is not a geographic term anyone who grew up west of Rochester would write on a sign and bring to a demonstration in downtown Buffalo. “We call it Western New York,” we told a reporter from the Guardian, who had used the term himself as he drew our attention to its use on the signs. “It’s a clear indication that these folks, or at least their signs, were shipped in from somewhere else.” The guy in the cap carried a sign that read “This is Cuomo County.” County or country, apparently it is and it isn’t.