Schroeder Sees a ‘Tale of Two Cities, recalls Mario Cuomo

BY TONY FARINA

Buffalo City Comptroller Mark Schroeder has not yet fully committed to running for mayor next year, but he is certainly acting like a candidate, attending events across the city and talking about the problems many in the city still face despite the much-hyped development success fueled to a great extent by Albany.

In a recent interview, Schroeder recalled the powerful convention keynote address delivered by Gov. Mario Cuomo in 1984, the one where he talked about the fear and problems facing many in the country despite President Reagan’s comment that he didn’t understand that fear, saying “why, this country is a shining city on a hill.”

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President Ronald Reagen with Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Ed Koch.

But Cuomo stated not everyone was sharing in the splendor and glory, and that “there are more poor than ever, more families in trouble, more and more people who need help but can’t find it.”

Referring to the despair in the faces you don’t see, Cuomo said “in fact, Mr. President, this is a nation–Mr. President you ought to know that this nation is more a ‘Tale of Two Cities’ than it is just a ‘Shining City on a Hill.'”

Schroeder says Cuomo could have been talking about the Buffalo of today, with the much-needed development and young people taking up residence and and a second city filled with despair and little hope, racked by crime, and not part of the discussion.

“They are asking, ‘what about us,'” said the city’s fiscal watchdog who said the 170 shootings recorded in the city between January and the end of July and low graduation rates in the 50 percent range, even higher among blacks, tell the story of that second city. “Many of these people are just not at the table, and we have to change that,” he said.

Schroeder says that message of inclusion and diversity is the one he has been delivering across the city in recent months as he considers a possible run for mayor next year although he says a final decision won’t come until after the November elections.

There is a great deal of speculation about the current mayor, Byron Brown, who is in his third term, especially with his former top assistant reportedly talking to a special grand jury that was convened to investigate Steve Pigeon, a longtime advisor to the mayor. Is Casey talking about his time at City Hall? No one knows, and so far Brown hasn’t said much, even about whether he will be a candidate for a fourth term next year.

And the Rev. Michael Chapman, pastor of St. John Baptist Churh, reportedly is also a possibility that would set up a possible three-way primary with two of the candidates being black if Brown runs. For now, Rev. Chapman acknowledges he is exploring a possible run but stops there. As for Brown, who knows what might be out there for him, either in the public sector or government.

The one candidate who looks like a go right now is the comptroller who has money in the bank, a strong record of opening up the city’s books to the public, and experience in both the public and private sectors which he says makes him ideally suited to lead the city.

Stay tuned.

Comptroller Mark Schroeder at the St. Patrick's Day Parade in the Old First Ward.
Comptroller Mark Schroeder at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in the Old First Ward.