Mayoral candidates take part in contentious debate

Aug 28, 2013

The three candidates for mayor of Buffalo debated the issues during an hour-long forum at the WNED studios Tuesday night. The candidates traded attacks throughout the program.

Democrats Byron Brown and Bernie Tolbert joined Republican Sergio Rodriguez in debating issues such as crime, education, poverty and jobs. The candidates answered questions from a panel of journalists, including WBFO's Eileen Buckley, WGRZ's Claudine Ewing, and The Buffalo News' Bob McCarthy. The debate was broadcast live on WBFO and WNED-TV.

Democratic challenger Bernie Tolbert and Republican candidate Sergio Rodriguez attacked Mayor Brown often and the record of his two terms in office. On schools, Rodriguez says he wants a fundamental change.

"I absolutely agree that it is a crisis situation in the school district. We are only graduating 47 percent of kids from high school. I am thinking full mayoral control over the education system. This is a model that has worked in New York City. They have seen a 19 percent improvement in graduation rates in New York City," Rodriguez said.

Buffalo schools graduate Tolbert says a mayor has to be an activist.

"Our school situation can be described best as dire. The current administration has said schools do not come under the purview of the mayor's office. Therefore it's the responsibility of the board of education, the superintendent and others. I say that as the head of the city you use your office as a platform to talk about the issues facing our children," Tolbert said.

Mayor Brown says he has a deputy mayor for education and has put more money into schools.

"I started a summer reading program to get our children reading and writing over the summer months. I have continued that program and it has grown every single year. One of the first things that I did when I came into office as mayor is spent more money for our Buffalo Public Schools. During my tenure, we have sent an additional $13 million to the Buffalo Public Schools," Brown said.

The debate is the last scheduled debate before Brown and Tolbert face off in the September 10 Democratic primary. The winner will take on Rodriguez in November.