Terry Robinson, the city’s most respected city planning advocate, is being urged by activists to seek the Democratic Party nomination for Mayor of Buffalo. The embattled three term Mayor Byron W. Brown is alleged to have denied approval of a 50-unit East Side affordable housing development because his friend and political backer, Rev. Richard Stenhouse, was not offered an $80,000 consulting contract on the project.
Brown is expected to forgo a reelection bid, during which period the Mayor and his associates would be subject to depositions, discovery, and further public disclosures of the administration’s dealings with NRP Development of Cleveland, OH, making his reelection largely implausible.
Robinson sits on the City’s Preservation Board and is board member of Preservation Buffalo Niagara. He is an obvious contender for the Democratic Party nomination for Mayor of Buffalo next year. But Robinson, a Democratic Party stalwart, may more likely become the next Erie County Clerk.
Robinson grew up in the Humboldt Parkway neighborhood before studying at Princeton University and becoming a police officer. Now retired, he has emerged as one of the city’s most energetic thought leaders on city planning and urban policy. Robinson is highly qualified, well respected, and deeply immersed in the region’s activist communities.
He is considering the contest but has made no commitments.
Activists expect that Robinson’s policy platform — rumored to be in the works — will be a thought provoking manifesto on the direction of urban policy.
Robinson is known to support the removal of the Scajaquada Expressway and restoration of the Humboldt Parkway, among other ‘rightsizing’ infrastructure projects. He has advocated to preserve the outer harbor’s natural environment, to remove the Skyway, and to direct public investment in physical infrastructure — like streetscapes, public spaces, and parks — towards the poorest and most marginalized neighborhoods.
Robinson is seen as a post-faction figure who can unite the longtime rival political groups that have dominated East Side politics: Grassroots Inc, and Unity Coalition; while having broad appeal in the Elmwood Village and North Buffalo. His advocacy of ‘more broad based’ economic development policies have been called ‘cutting edge.’
“Terry Robinson would be a catalytic mayor who believes deeply in participatory planning, decentralized decision making, and inclusive economic development,” says Matthew Ricchiazzi, the controversial publisher and Cornell-trained urban planner. “He would bring Buffalo into the 21st Century in terms of governance.”
Many operatives — even those inside City Hall — see an opportunity to usher in a new regime, and they are looking for a forward thinking, progressive minded, populist intellectual who is capable of leading an organizational and political culture wholly unlike the one we have today. In many ways, these unique times require Robinson’s style of leadership and policy posture.
One source speculates that the influential businessman and civic leader Hormoz Mansouri may serve as campaign chairman.
Other candidates considering a mayoral bid on the Democratic Party line are City Comptroller Mark Schroeder, County Legislator Betty Jean Grant, and former Housing Commissioner Joe Mascia. Council President Darius Pridgen is being urged to run by some activists, but has thus far declined.
Republicans Chris Jacobs and Carl Paladino have been named as mayoral contenders in the past, but have not expressed interest publicly.