David Franczyk has served on Buffalo’s Common Council since the 1970s. He has overseen the social and economic collapse of the Broadway Fillmore neighborhood, which was once one of the city’s most bustling commercial districts.
Despite his long tenure and entrenched relationships, he hasn’t been able to do much good for his district, and he is unable to offer a list of any substantive accomplishments. In fact, his tenure has been marked with controversy and charges of racially motivated self dealing during the last redistricting.
In many ways, he has come to typify the old ward style politics that has held Buffalo back for so many decades. His behavior in office has been about self preservation, not serving the public interest.
He was Common Council President during that legislative body’s redistricting process in 2011, which produced a particularly egregious example of racially motivated gerrymandering. Franczyk controlled the redistricting process.
Ellicott district councilman Darius Pridgen wanted to represent the city’s poorest African American council district while living in his luxury waterfront village residence. But Pridgen didn’t want the perpetual headache of representing the Allentown demographic, given his role as an East Side pastor and his socially conservative views.
Franczyk wanted to represent a Polish community on the East Side that no longer lived there, so he desperately needed to find more white voters in order to be re-elected, he thought. So the two men conspired to solve both of their problems with the redistricting map, depicted below:
The result was a redistricting map that privileged self preservation over other issues of representation that are important to our democracy:
- The Latino community was denied a district that would have given them a chance at political representation. Instead, their lower West Side neighborhood was divided between three districts: Fillmore, Ellicott, and Niagara. The map was particularly egregious in light of the County Legislature’s redistricting map, which divided the Latino community between two Legislative districts, dooming the relatively small community from achieving any meaningful political leverage.
- The LGBT community had wanted a district drawn around the Elmwood Village, Allentown, and Downtown. That would have required that the Ellicott district shifts eastward, merging with Fillmore. That scenario would have drawn Pridgen out of his district and would have put Franczyk in a strongly African American district.
Ironically, Franczyk’s redistricting map has outraged two key demographics that he thought would comprise his new constituency: the Allentown demographic, which feels cheated of a Council district to which it thought it was due; and the largely Latino residents of the Shoreline Apartments housing complex on the lower West Side.
Political observers say that it’s unlikely Franczyk will be able to unite his ethnic Polish base, the Irish vote in South Buffalo, the LGBT community in Allentown, and Latinos on the West Side. The African American vote has become very influential in the district, and political operatives say that at least one black candidate is sure to emerge.
Many civic leaders, including the publisher of this newspaper, have called on Franczyk to embrace retirement and let the next generation take the reigns. Some have gone further, demanding that Franczyk’s redistricting map be redrawn.
Businessman Joe Ludwig — a successful multimillionaire who intends to self finance — has already begun planning for a run next year. The political chattering of late has included names like Marilyn Rodgers, the Director of the Central Terminal Restoration Corporation; and Joe Mascia, the Housing Commissioner.