Could Buffalo become a city without a mayor?

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Could Buffalo become a city without a mayor?

The Buffalo Common Council is studying a change in the city’s form of government which would abolish the office of mayor.

University councilman Rasheed Wyatt says Buffalo is one of the poorest cities in the country, and it has been that way for more than 40 years.

Governance at City Hall has also been the same and Wyatt says it is time to change.

“I think it would be insane for us to continue with this same form of government that has not yielded the results that we would have thought,” Wyatt said.

Wyatt says Buffalo should look at changing its form of governance, abolishing the office of mayor in favor of a city manager who answers to the common council.

“This model, I think over time, will prove itself that it could be the model that could help us turn that tide so we are not talking about being the third poorest city in the nation,” he added.

The common council approved Wyatt’s resolution, which directs council staff to study a possible change in the city’s form of government.

Mayor Byron Brown says Buffalo already has a person to manage the city’s affairs – and it is the mayor – who, Brown points out, has done many good things for the city.

“Well there is a huge difference,” Brown said. “The mayor is elected by the people, is directly accountable to the people.”

There are 62 cities in the state of New York and about a dozen have a city manager – but only two of those cities are run without a mayor: Batavia, which has a city manager who is hired and directed by the city council, and Long Beach City on Long Island.

“Currently, everybody votes for the mayor,” UB political science professor Shawn Donohue said. “What would replace it would be, if you can get five of the nine common council members to agree on the city manager, they would pick who is in charge.”

Donohue also points out city manager form could make governance less democratic.

“You have, let’s say 55 to 66 percent of the city, [they] could be in a position where they’ve got a lot more than their fair share of resources from the city, why would you ever want to give that up?” Donohue said.

As long as that majority of councilmembers keeps their people happy, Professor Donohue told us, why would they want to share with the minority faction?

He also says the change would require a referendum, and that is not likely this election cycle.

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