The embattled and deeply unpopular Councilman David Franczyk is resorting to mudslinging early this election cycle, in what observers call “an obvious sign of desperation.” On the first day of petitioning, the Councilman sent three of his taxpayer funded patronage staffers — longtime operatives Greg Olma and Mike Kuzma among them — to the Marine Drive housing complex with directions to smear Joe Mascia, the popular housing commissioner.
Olma and Kuzma entered the building illegally and were ousted from the property after residents called authorities. The two men would not have been able to access the complex, but the badly mismanaged housing authority recently cut 24 hour security patrols at the property.
“Joe is a beloved figure at Marine Drive and other housing complexes too. With everything that he does for us, it was really offensive for a Councilman who we never see to send these two guys in their late 50s to smear him at our front door,” says a 20-year resident who felt harassed by the political operatives.
Mascia is well known for fighting city hall and standing up to the Mayor. In recent months, he has been sounding the alarm over chronic dysfunction and financial mismanagement at the city’s housing authority — which has fallen largely on deaf ears at the Mayor’s office.
I’m told that the two operatives had several doors slammed in their faces before being kicked out of the complex.
In a sign of even deeper political desperation, to date Franczyk doesn’t have any petitioning presence in the Broadway-Fillmore section of the city — which is considered the historic heart of the district. The neighborhood has suffered a devastating economic collapse over the three decades that Franczyk has served in office.
Many longtime residents and civic leaders blame him for the condition of the neighborhood.
Franczyk is having a very difficult time articulating a rationale for his reelection. His critics say that he has no accomplishments to mention despite being the longest tenured person on the council. They say that he sees everything through a racial ‘black-vs-white’ lens that is not only archaic in this day and age, but an offensive abomination — especially coming from an instructor at Buffalo State College.
In his last reelection, Franczyk won by about 200 votes — and that was against a deeply flawed candidate in Sam Herbert, who frequently posts perverted and suggestive pictures to Facebook. Prominent leaders in the black community say that Herbert “has an obvious behavioral problem.”
Even the Polish community which was once his political base now blames him for the deplorable condition of their neighborhood. In particular, they blame him for the neighborhood’s disinvestment — a dilapidated housing stock that overwhelms the district; vacant lots that the city refuses to maintain; a Broadway market that is falling apart; a crumbling St. Anne’s.
“If he doesn’t have the clout or the capability to do something for his neighborhood after 30 years in office, then he should do us all a favor and step aside,” says Mascia. “We need new ideas — badly and yesterday. He has had every opportunity to show us what he can do.”
Mascia has fielded petitioners in every one of the district’s neighborhoods — from Allentown, to the First Ward, to Broadway-Fillmore, to Ferry-Grider. His campaign is on pace to have collected 1,500 signatures by Sunday evening.
“I fully expect Franczyk to try to smear me and spread all kinds of lies,” says Mascia. “I’m your average Joe. I’m just like voters in the district — I share their problems, their frustration, and their dreams for our neighborhoods. I’m running for the Common Council to represent common people — all people, regardless of race or how much money you have, religion, ability, or orientation.”
“This campaign is for everybody and it’s about everybody. It’s not about me, it’s about us,” Mascia explains. “I’m hardly a perfect messenger — but you’re always going to know that I’ll stand up and fight for what’s right.”
Mascia has built his campaign a theme of diversity and inclusiveness — in a sharp and compelling contrast with the incumbent. At a recent “anti-racism rally” held in Niagara Square last week, Mascia said “It’s time to shake off the racism that continues to hold our city back.”
Some observers say he was referencing Franzcyk’s 2011 redistricting of the Common Council.