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Paladino: Williams Was Hired Because He's Black

Brian Davis: Screw you, Paladino, and get the hell out of town

Last Thursday, in a public forum, developer Carl Paladino did what he so often does when a microphone is placed before him: He said something that enflamed the citizenry, drew the TV news cameras down upon him, and awakened his political enemies.

Carl Paladino

To wit, he said that the only reason Buffalo Public Schools Superintendent James Williams had been hired was because he’s black.

Now, there are a number of things that can be said about the hiring of James Williams that are demonstrably true: that he was hired despite a dismal performance as superintendent in Dayton, Ohio, a post from which he was fired; that he owes his job to M&T Bank chairman Robert Wilmers, who liked Williams’ pro-charter-school, anti-union positions; and that his hiring was a surprise to much of Buffalo’s school board, who learned that Williams had been given the job when Florence Johnson, then school board president, told the media how happy she was to welcome him to Buffalo.

But I don’t think his being black had anything to do with Williams getting the job. Neither does Ellicott District Councilmember Brian Davis, who filed a resolution condemning Paladino for making racist remarks in a forum attended by children. (The forum was the Niagara Frontier Industry Education Council breakfast.) Davis said Paladino should apologize to Williams and resign or be removed from the boards of Buffalo Place and Buffalo Civic Auto Ramps.

The second part of Davis’s resolution asked the state legislature to consider legislation that would allow state and other municipal agencies to back out of leases and contracts with individuals who demonstrate a pattern of racist speech. (Paladino, of course, leases lots of office space downtown to government agencies.) After an impassioned speech, in which he refused even to utter Paladino’s name, Davis asked the Council to bypass sending the resolution to committee and to pass it immediately.

But the second part of Davis’s resolution gave pause to several of his fellow councilmembers.

“I have some questions about whether it’s constitutional, which is why I think it’s better if it goes to committee,” said North District Councilmember Joe Golombek. He also said, in a somewhat rambling discourse that included a tale of mysterious dog slayings in his district, that he’d hesitate to vote on passing any part of the resolution without first seeing a transcript of Paladino’s remarks. Delaware District Councilmember Mike LoCurto agreed with Golombek in a mixed metaphor: “We’re treading on dangerous waters,” he said.

Davis relented, agreeing that the part of the resolution aimed at punishing Paladino’s interests could be sent to committee, while the blanket condemnation could go to a vote on the floor immediately. That part passed by a vote of five to four.

For his part, Paladino told the Buffalo News that he won’t apologize to Williams, whom he calls “a total failure.”

geoff kelly

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