Mayor Byron W. Brown was campaigning at Amherst’s Crosspointe Business Park at the offices of GEICO, the car insurance company owned by Warren Buffett‘s Berkshire Hathaway and lured to Western New York with a hefty package of public subsidies. The Mayor stopped in for five minutes, greeted employees near the entrance of the call center, and quickly left.
Buffett also owns The Buffalo News.
It was unclear why the Mayor was there. Brown did not meet privately with anyone, as if for a job interview or campaign solicitation, raising many eyebrows and the concerns of Black voters in Buffalo.
“Why is he campaigning in Amherst?” asks one East Side activist. “He voted to locate the train station at Canalside rather than the East Side, and rather than engaging with his constituents — who elected him — he bans us from the building and then runs off to campaign in the suburbs.”
It comes less than a week after Brown refused to attend the City’s heralded Dyngus Day Parade at the Central Terminal, where his absence was widely noticed. Many believe the Mayor to be afraid of the East Side. But others think that the Mayor’s skipping of Dingus Day was rooted in shame.
Brown did not notify media of the Amherst appearance.
Earlier that morning, voters were outraged at the Brown administration’s handling of the train station’s site selection, in which the public was banned from a private building — owned by Senator Chris Jacobs and Sam Savarino — that houses Empire State Development, the Erie County Industrial Development Agency, and the Buffalo Urban Development Corporation.
“New York State Corruption continues. An illegal meeting held where a decision impacting the public was made regarding the proposed train Station – that meeting was in clear and indisputable breech of the state’s Open Meetings Law,” explains Grand Island Councilman Mike Madigan, a Republican.
“As per the open meetings law, that meeting is required to be open and accessible to the public regardless of what location it is held (public or private) and regardless if it is live streamed,” he explains. “This precedent must not be allowed to stand.”
Katrinna Martin-Bordeaux, the founder of Young Black Democrats of WNY, agrees.
“They turned around and used the police like private security. There was no disturbance other than them harassing the community. This building received tax incentives from us, housing publicly funded government offices — with lucrative lease arrangements — that deny access to the people,” she explained on social media.
“My Black mayor treated his own community like common menaces and criminals, to impress the wealthy folks,” she adds.
The Amherst appearance has operatives wondering if Brown is planning to run for a countywide office — like County Clerk — because of his immense unpopularity on the East Side, and among Black activists in particular.