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First Hat In the Ring for Mayor

As a school kid learning about WWI, my hero was flier Eddie Rickenbacker,
because his squadron sported the “hat in the ring” insignia on the sides of
their biplanes.  The meaning was that he and his scrappy bunch of pilots
were eagerly and visibly joining the fight–even though the foe at the time
seemed to have overwhelming advantages.  So after a week or so of hearing
that no one was officially running for mayor of Our Fair City, I was delighted
that one of the speculated candidates last night cast his hat firmly in the
ring.

Greeted by an enthusiastic crowd stuffing the Marcy Casino at
Delaware Park, Councilman Michael “Mickey” Kearns made it clear from
the beginning of his declaration speech to the end that he’s positioning
himself squarely as the progressive candidate.  Hearing a politician start
an announcement for office with a reference to Frederick Law Olmsted was
something entirely new for me, but somehow appropriate to the setting in the
middle of Olmsted’s signature Buffalo park.  Mickey cited Buffalo’s civic
and political leadership of over a century ago for bringing the nation’s
premier landscape architect and park planner to Buffalo, then giving him what
he needed to make the system of parks and parkways happen “built to last,” as
Mickey said.  He also cited the present-day work of the Olmsted Parks
Conservancy as an example of the type of leadership the community can and
should be practicing today.

The speech was full of applause lines and themes that clearly
resonated with the crowd.  A statement that taxpayers should be considered
both customers and “the boss” by City Hall led directly to taking the
present administration to task for its handling of last winter’s snowfall. 
Mickey blamed a lack of good candidates for public office as one factor
encouraging out-migration, saying, “People are voting with their feet, rather
than at the election booth.”  And he railed against what he considers the
City’s over-reliance on cameras for public safety, calling cameras a reactive
solution, and saying “He has yet to see a camera put the cuffs on someone.” 
He took aim at the current administration for what he called the police
department’s low morale and overwork reflected in the amount of overtime currently
being paid.

There was more thoughtful discourse, as well, especially about
city neighborhoods and development–in my experience, rare to hear in a campaign
speech.  He called for “smart development” as opposed to “desperation
development,” and got extended applause when he stated, “Demolition does not
equal development!”  He expressed his support for community gardens and
urban agriculture, saying that instead of getting in the way, the City should
ask, “how can we help?”  He also pointed to the Grant/Lafayette turnaround
as an example of what should be supported and encouraged citywide. 
Quality of life in the city, Mickey said, requires safe neighborhoods, quality
schools, and safe, walkable commercial districts with density.

About the current mayor, Mickey stated that, while “the election
is not a referendum on Byron Brown,” we as a city can’t afford to wait another
four years for progress.  He cited a previous Buffalo mayor, Grover
Cleveland, as saying, “what is the use of being elected and re-elected if you
don’t stand for something?”  About the current mayor’s already formidable
campaign fund, Mickey said that his dad (who was beside him) told him, “A
million dollars doesn’t come free.”  To applause, Mickey told the crowd, “My
debt will be to you!”

Afterward I caught up with Councilman David Rivera, one of three
councilmembers attending the announcement with Mickey (the others being
Delaware District Councilman Michael LoCurto and Lovejoy Councilman Fontana),
who told me that he has worked together with Mickey on “many progressive issues”
during their time on Council together.  “As people get to meet Mickey this
summer, they will come to admire and respect him as I do.  Mickey is very
progressive, and is very open to dialog with people on issues.  It’s not
about the politics with Mickey–that’s what I admire.”

Up
next: Mayor Byron Brown is expected to announce his candidacy for re-election
on Saturday.

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