Mickey Kearns is long gone from the Buffalo Common Council, now in Albany, and that means that right now the citizens and taxpayers of South Buffalo have no representation on the Buffalo Common Council.
Enter “The Process”.
“The Process” is the solicitation of the public for anyone in the community who would like to serve by appointment for the rest of the year, until voters can decide who their Councilman will be for the remaining three years of the term come November. The Common Council did just that, had their interviews, and the end result, sadly, is that there is no consensus for a replacement.
The first monkey wrench thrown into the works came via Bryan Bollman. Bollman works as the district staffer for Councilman Fontana. From everything I have heard, he is an especially hard worker and very passionately devotes his time to his neighborhood for the betterment of Buffalo. Unfortunately for him, that neighborhood happens to be Lovejoy and Kaisertown, as that is where he resides and thus is not eligible to serve or run in the South District.
Then there’s A.J. Verel. The man has an impressive pedigree in business ventures and is a devotee and advocate of kickboxing. As was reported today, his name also pops up on the Division of Parole web site. We all have a past, but if Verel can explain and overcome his, then that is something that should be left up to the voters, no?
Numerous other candidates were vetted, some dropped out, but as of this moment the Common Council is at a stalemate, and it has little to do with the quality or credentials of the people before them. What it has to do with is factional politics. The “Majority” on the Council, the “Minority” on the Council, who the Mayor likes or dislikes, the possibility for a veto proof “Super-majority”. Quite frankly, the average voter doesn’t understand much of this, and more importantly, few really give a damn. What it is all about, and should be about, is good governance – reasonable people assembling to make wise decisions and write laws and do the public good. We expect and in fact demand a collegial decorum among our legislators.
Whalen initially applied for the position, but then dropped out just before the interview process took place. Although he didn’t get into a detailed explanation for his change of heart, it probably had much to do with the political dynamics going on behind the scenes. He did his due diligence and met with many leaders and people on the Council, and walked away from the experience believing that minds had already been made up and decisions were already in the works, so why bother?
Tim Whalen brings excellent credentials to the table – he comes from a highly respected family in South Buffalo which has been in government and politics for multiple generations. His dad and granddad served on the Common Council back in the day. In December, 2010, Whalen was appointed to the Erie County Legislature after receiving a nearly unanimous vote of recommendation from the Committeemen in the district. He would be there today, except the Legislature downsized from 15 to 11 members, new lines were drawn by a Federal Judge and the end result was the South district was carved out of existence. During his one year tenure on the Legislature, Whalen chaired Economic Development, served on two other committees and was an active, hands on Legislator.
The best skill he brings to the table is an innate ability to bring people together and find accommodation and compromise. That is something the Common Council could probably use a bit more of. When Whalen stepped down, he reached out to another of the candidates, Matt Fisher, someone who he had little political standing with, but recognized him as a tireless advocate for the people of South Buffalo. Fisher’s appointment bid is seemingly also going nowhere.
Perhaps it’s time for the Councilmen to think a bit outside the box as the deliberations continue. My guess is that if they give Tim Whalen a call and ask him to interview, he would be glad to oblige.
The best quote from Whalen was delivered in this article in Artvoice. “Maybe this neighborhood is ready for a healing,” Whalen said referring to that day’s committee vote for the council seat. Good advice. And perhaps apropos for the Common Council as well.