BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) - Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown officially announced his re-election campaign Saturday morning, seeking a third term as mayor of the Queen City.
Brown made the announcement at the Rev. B.W. Smith Family Life Center on Michigan Avenue in front of a crowd of hundreds of supporters.
Brown painted a picture of a city on the rise that is seeing new development and where the lives of the residents are improving.
"This is a great time in Buffalo, this is an historic time. Taxes down, crime down. People feeling hopeful and optimistic about the future of this community," said Brown.
Brown says his administration has been guided by the principles of improving the city's finances, attracting new investment and making the streets safer. He also points to the more than $1.7 billion in economic development projects underway in Buffalo.
Brown's Republican challenger, Sergio Rodriguez sees things differently, however.
"The realities that residents are experiencing are much different than the fantasy that the administration is creating," said Rodriguez.
Rodriguez refutes the Mayor's claim that city is heading entirely in the right direction, noting that unemployment in the city is higher than it has been since 1980, and that homicides rose in the city last year by about 40-percent.
He also says it is "not true" when the Mayor claimed that the city is "in its best financial condition in decades."
"For the past three years, we've had to dip into our reserves at an annual average of $13 million a year. Revenues have declined in the city, that's a fact, while expenses have increased," explained Rodriguez.
"Now we only have about $12 million left in our reserve for this year. If we dip just one more time at the same rate we have for the past 3 years, we don't have any rainy day funds whatsoever. So things are not doing well in respect to our financial stability," he added.
His major criticism of the administration, however, was that the mayor has not done enough to fix the failing Buffalo School system.
Mayor Brown points to his support of the Say Yes to Success program, which provides scholarships for city graduates, but his message to students was about creating opportunity, and making sure they have jobs when they graduate.
"....and they need to know that when they graduate from school, there are employment opportunities for them in this community," said Mayor Brown.
But to Rodriguez, it's a message that doesn't resonate with residents who see graduation rates below 50-percent.
"If we're not graduating half of the kids from high school, what jobs do we have waiting for them? What jobs?" he asked.