by Michael Mottern
It was said by some rogue Buffalo (NY) political folks several years ago, including someone from the “U.S. MLO” – United States Marxist-Leninist Organization – newspaper distributor, that considering a run for mayor would be great thing for the community. However, once a Democratic Party Committee Member, and a member of the, U.S. Friends of The Soviet People, informed him that he would need a political party affiliation in order to run, the subject was dropped like a hot potato.
In Buffalo, the office of the mayor is a pretty large job. It determines the police budget, closing budget gaps and deciding where the money is going to come from in a city that doesn’t have a very large tax base (as of 20 years ago). Right now, the medium income in Buffalo averages $35,000 a year. Buffalo residents are largely working-class poor and did not get a taste of the new Buffalo Renaissance. Under mayor Byron Brown, Buffalo is one of the most affordable housing markets in the country while remaining, statistically, the fourth poorest city in America.
Buffalo was called the ninth most liberal city in America according to Forbes magazine, and has a very good activist community. I was once told by the American political parties professor at Buffalo State College that Buffalo was “the Beirut of political parties,” and the University of Buffalo is known for its radicals. So when the time came to replace the incumbent Democrat this year, India Walton stepped up to the plate to stop several years of developer expansion and excluding the community from a place at the table by defeating him in the Western New York primary last Tuesday!
While she did not get the Working Families party line due to a technicality, the WFP did campaign for her fervently and got out the vote in a Democratic primary that had the lowest voter turnout in years, according to Erie County Democratic Committee Chair Jeremy Zellner. She took the lead immediately in the early voting and never relinquished it – Mayor Brown didn’t campaign at all, writing off India as too radical a political figure for Buffalo. But Brown has been quite attentive to closing budget gaps by imposing penalties and fees and speeding tickets with the help of ubiquitous speed cameras that disproportionally hurt working-class commuters, inhibiting them from going just 20 miles per hour or 25 miles per hour near a school zone thoroughfare. Once the people started complaining, the city legislature took the speed cameras down, but the mayor’s mindset was unchanged.
Since India announced her candidacy online and with the DSA local in Buffalo, she stressed not closing budget gap loopholes on the backs of poor people. She can be a real asset in City Hall and can have a real connection with the people, unlike previous administrations. Reallocating public money back to the community in block grants and infrastructure is a dire necessity that benefits all Buffaloers. I spoke to India a few times on the campaign online and by phone, and we agree that public transportation needs to be made a priority, i.e., extending the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority rail line out to the suburbs and burying the 33 Expressway which demolished Humboldt Parkway in the late 1950s and early 1960s when Robert Moses bisected Olmsted Delaware Park (the main park in North Buffalo). India will be a breath of fresh air for many local residents that aren’t used to high priced lofts and developments, and giveaways to rich people in the form of tax breaks just for setting up shop on the waterfront while the rest of the city residents have to pay full property taxes instead of 7 years tax free (like on the waterfront)..
India Walton has made national news, grabbing several headlines from Mother Jones and CNN, as well as catching the eye of Nina Turner campaign for Congress. Let’s hope she stands strong and turns back Byron Brown’s proposed run as an independent. Social Democrats USA endorses India Walton for the mayoralty of Buffalo, New York.
Michael Mottern is First Vice-Chair of Social Democrats USA.