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Buffalo Land Deal: Public Spat Could Be Costly | News

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Buffalo Land Deal: Public Spat Could Be Costly
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BUFFALO, NY - In the end, the result was what everyone seemed to want, although experts say it could have some negative consequences.

There was plenty of public fighting between Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown and the Common Council over the land transfer agreement to help keep HSBC Bank form leaving the city's waterfront.

Initially, the council was reluctant to immediately sign over the all of the waterfront land. eventually, they transferred only a portion of it. And for a while, it was not apparent the land deal would happen in time.

The episode played out publicly and bitterly for two days.

Larry Quinn, of the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation, which was seeking all of the waterfront land, sent sparks flying Tuesday by saying of the council, "They're playing with the livelihood of citizens of buffalo, and it's criminal almost."

After Wednesday's acrimonious council meeting, Council President David Franczyk said of the mayor: "He can call a special meeting, and I set the date, not the mayor."

The Mayor later responded, "Sadly the community and the media got to see the petty politics that the council plays out on a regular basis." 

By Friday, long after the deal was done, business leaders summed the ordeal up this way: "It suggests sometimes our heads and mouths aren't entirely connected," said Andrew Rudnick, President and CEO of the Buffalo-Niagara Partnership.

Rudnick said these public squabbles are exactly what potential business investors are not looking for.

"The more things are out in the limelight, the more investors are out of their comfort zone," Rudnick added. "It's tough enough to do business much less to do business in a heated political environment. So it makes precious, scarce investment that much less certain."

FRANCZYK: In Democracy you have that vigorous, tough debate in that marketplace of ideas, and the end of the day you make a decision.

REPORTER: Don't you think all of the fighting could scare away a business who'd rather come into a quiet, stable scenario?

FRANCZYK: I would think that aggressive public discussion makes a lot better sense than hidden, closed-door deals that... dealing with public money and public land that nobody knows about.

The normally mild-mannered mayor said, with 4,000 jobs on the line, he had no choice but to speak out.

MAYOR: It was a real nonsensical, unprofessional process that these five members of the council engaged in.

REPORTER: Do you think calling out council members only adds to the animosity?

MAYOR: I think we have to be honest. And I think people are expecting all of us to do our jobs. If I don't do my job, I should be called out by the public.

In the end, Rudnick said it's unlikely Buffalo's rough-and-tumble politics alone would scare away investors. But when given an equally suitable choice between Buffalo and a politically calmer town, you can guess where a business might be more inclined to go.

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