BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - The candidates vying to be the next mayor of Buffalo are preparing for their first debate. The August 14 debate will give people an opportunity to see all three mayoral candidates at once.
News 4's Brittni Smallwood will serve as a panelist, and Call 4 Action's Al Vaughters will serve as the moderator. The Buffalo Association of Black Journalists (BABJ) is hosting the event.
Sandy White of BABJ said, "It's extremely important for our citizens to hear the candidates. This year BABJ decided that better than any other year, we should give the mayor and the future candidates an opportunity to expand on their vision for this region."
For an hour and a half, incumbent Byron Brown will answer questions along with the Democratic challenger Bernard Tolbert and Republican candidate Sergio Rodriguez.
Buffalo News political reporter Bob McCarthy said, "I think a lot of people are going to be watching very closely to see how each of them performs, how they answer the question, how they rise to the challenges that they may be presented with. Even just how they handle themselves."
McCarthy says people will likely analyze which candidate emerges as the leader after this debate. This year's mayoral race is unique because for the first time, all three candidates are minorities.
"If you look at a long history into the 20th Century and the 21st Century, mayors of Buffalo are either Polish-American, Italian-American, Irish-American or African-American. And now we're in a situation where we have two African-Americans and a Hispanic vying for this," McCarthy said.
He says the polls have shown that people know Brown and not Rodriguez or Tolbert, but he says it's still early in the campaign.
"That's why we have campaigns," McCarthy said. "That's why we have still more than seven weeks to go in this campaign, and when you think about it, it really hasn't even gotten started yet."
If Brown wins the Democratic primary, McCarthy says Rodriguez will still have a fighting chance. He says the last time a Republican was elected mayor in the Queen City was 1961.
But McCarthy says it's possible national Republican officials could come to Buffalo and campaign for Rodriguez.
News 4 also reached out to each candidate to see how they plan to improve crime in the city if they're elected.
The incumbent, Byron Brown said he would "continue to hire more police officers who are visible and in neighborhoods and continue to be relentless against the criminal element".
Democratic challenger, Bernard Tolbert emailed us this statement:
"The first thing is to ensure that law enforcement officers are deployed strategically and effectively where they should be---on the streets protecting citizens. Second, it's essential to work regularly in a collaborative way with law enforcement partner on all levels in order to curb to the kind of violence that has put Buffalo at the top of the list as the most violent city in New York State.
I will also work to ensure that the law enforcement officers have the appropriate equipment and up to date training. For example, there is an FBI training course that is available to City of Buffalo and the city officials never take advantage of that training by sending officers from the Buffalo Police Department.
It's also important to realize that we cannot arrest our way out of Buffalo's current situation as one of the most violent cities in the nation.. We must find smarter ways to invest in our people to provide hope and opportunity. The best social programs and law enforcement tactics are education and jobs and I will partner with local businesses and organizations to create mentor programs, job fairs and training opportunities for the youth of our city."
Republican candidate Sergio Rodriguez had this to say:
"When you go to violent areas in the city of Buffalo like parts of the East Side and the West Side of Buffalo where people are killing each other, shootings are happening nearly every single day. They don't have police officers that are actually walking the beat. So in those areas it makes sense to go with two-man police vehicles. It will encourage officers to get out of their cars and walk the beat and get to know the neighborhood. Especially in light of the fact that 63% of the police force lives outside of the city so anything we can do to encourage these police officers to engage with the community that their hired to serve we need to do it.
The next thing we need to do is implement crime prevention programs that work. One is the cease fire [program]. In the city of Boston they've implemented this program.
Another aspect is the cameras on electric poles. All it does is move criminal activity from one corner to another. It doesn't do anything to deter crime. How about having a police dash cam because it helps us in terms of litigation? Now it preserves the integrity of the police officers and it keeps citizens honest as well. It can be used as evidence."
There is another Lake Effect Snow Warning in effect for Erie, Wyoming, Chautauqua and Cattaraugus Counties from Thursday through early Friday.
Lake Effect Snow Warnings return today with the chance for an additional foot for some areas.
A 26-year-old male employee of Ying's Wings and Things told police that Haibo Jiang, also known as Jimmy Ying, choked him until he passed out.
A Good Samaritan died Wednesday while trying to assist the driver of a tractor trailer who got stuck in the snow.
Viewers sent in photos from the snowfall around Western New York.
The Wyoming County Sheriff’s Office says a tractor trailer crashed on Route 39, in the Town of Eagle.