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Buffalo School Board Election Backlash

by Chris Stevenson

Gwen Neal of the local SCLC once called Buffalo the “Twilight Zone.” Where else can you have a school board election where only 5% of the voters come out, but 800 more absentee votes wait in the wings. Bryon McIntyre stands to be the first black male to win a board seat since Pastor Darius Pridgeon. Therein lies the reason for suspicion. Where was 800 warm bodies that they couldn’t come out and pull the lever? “Perhaps they went to the privy.” According to WBEN:

“Bryon McIntyre, who leads his challengers by 60 votes in the Buffalo School Board elections, says he expects a counting of the 800 outstanding absentee ballots will not result in a clear cut winner, and he expects a judge to eventually settle the matter. McIntyre, who currently leads incumbent Florence Johnson and Catherine Collins in a race for the third available seat on the ballot, tells WBEN that ‘if the victory is anything short of a thousand votes, then they’ll drag it into the courts.'”


McIntyre dubs himself “The Candidate for the Kids,” if that’s true I find it highly refreshing. There was a time when the Buffalo Public (and vocational) Schools turned out countless numbers of successful, productive blacks. This was before someone threw the monkey wrench of indifference when what was needed was intensity. Inner city families were breaking down, focused teachers were retiring, flaky teachers (teachers on a private agenda to either sabotage black students or make-out with them) were infiltrating. Your kids today are lucky if they can operate a cash register that displays the correct change at a convenience store as opposed to arguing over the correct change in a drug deal. The Buffalo schools failed to adjust and the importance of the children was replaced by the importance of the billion dollar construction deal and battles between the teacher’s union and the school board and during the ’90’s a battle between the Superintendent and the School Board.

Combine this with racist hiring and promotional practices that have only just begun to be addressed and you have one big mess. McIntyre of course can’t solve all these issues, but if he really redirects priorities back to the children-especially the many black kids now attending Buffalo schools-and throws his own monkey wrench into the schools’ pattern of producing prison inmates through low test scores, high dropouts rates, and school violence he would have exceeded his expectations. His election could symbolize a changing of the guard; from perpetual career-machine run politics that only allow things to stay as they are (‘ala Grassroots Inc. Florence Johnson) to an independent seat with fresh ideas.

Florence Johnson’s tenure goes way back, but what has she accomplished? Historically she was Grassroots (GR) first ever elected official from back in the early ’90’s. This was around the time of the schism with Arthur O. Eve’s group (UNITY), a time when the then-Deputy Assembly Speaker fell out with one too many of his young proteges and several key members-including current Buffalo Mayor and former Queens resident Byron Brown ll joined GR. Flo Jo won the Ferry District School Board seat back then before going at-large. Unless they can indeed pull another rabbit out of their hat, she is just another of the growing numbers of GR casualties. The only rabbit left is that the amazingly high absentee numbers were worked by that wing that is all-too-familiar with working together; Chris Jacobs, Dr. Catherine Collins and Johnson. 3 People, 800 phantom voters, 60 vote deficit. Need I add that McIntyre and GR have feuded for years (not that I’m implying anything).

Normally I don’t consider Dr. Collins or Jacobs to be Grassroots, but consider that to be the case right here, right now. By the end of Election Day, (thought by some to be held in May to strategically yield a low turnout) John B. Licata was leading with 4,961 votes, Jacobs 4,239, McIntyre 3,831. Recount of the machines was just this Monday (5/11) with no significant change for McIntyre according to Machine Recanvass Results submitted to me by Pete Reese Monday night: Mac picked up 12 votes, Flo-Jo picked up 20 votes and are in 3rd and 4th place respectively and Dr. Collins in 5th. Patricia Devis-also running At-Large-lost 120 (100 due to “misread on one wheel”) Jacobs lost 20. As of this writing McIntyre is believed to be 50 votes ahead of Johnson and 63 ahead of Dr. Collins.

Re-count of the absentees started today (5/13) at 10am (or Tuesday the 12th the end of the business day according to another source) under close SuperVision (so I’m told) and recanvissed (recalibrate) machines. McIntyre is a columnist for the Challenger, as well as a Substitute Teacher. Known to be critical of everyone in the Board of Education from the Superintendent to the Hall Monitor, barring a dramatic loss he now stands to be in the hot-seat, which isn’t totally unfamiliar to him. He is also a fireman, which is good because our inner city schools are on fire. Can he douse the flames of low expectations, underachievement, black youth self-hatred and neglect that has been the hallmark of the Buffalo Board of misEducation?

One thing he seems thus far to have proven is, you can win an election on a an incredibly low budget. McIntyre says he spent under $3,000 while the incumbents (Jacobs and co.) spent a combined $75,000. Now that’s getting a bang for your buck. Sam Herbert told me earlier Monday that if you are spending $60,000 for a seat that pays $5,000 something is wrong. Along those same lines this is the best political climate to win without spending much because people are becoming more distrustful of the big money candidates. Welcome to the Obama era (remember Obama’s grassroots supporters raised his first several million dollars tenaciously through the Internet and Facebook), peoples’ candidates-like McIntyre and maybe even Herbert-are now becoming the in-thing.

Chris Stevenson is syndicated columnist who writes for the Buffalo Challenger. Contact him at pointblankdta@yahoo.com

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2 Comments on "Buffalo School Board Election Backlash"

  1. Most of the warm bodies you speak of in this and most elections have know ideal who they are voting for or who is running. Your Mom may be the exception, most are told, you may not believe that, but check it out. I couldn’t compete with the over 76 thousand spent. Fact, the absentee ballots are sent out and certified by the Board of Elections, the Deputy Commissioner for the Dems always have the Inner City African Political Club that has the most City Zones in that position (check that out). I did worst in the community I served the most, I call it the Obama Factor(educated whites vote for progressive black before a black will). Those senior centers and homes have political staff are active in the political game, most get straight cash for delivering (check that out). I personally have more experience than all the board members in educational advocacy but I wont play ball politically and let things stay the same and claim false gains.
    Peace to You, and thanks for your thoughts.
    Bryon J McIntyre

  2. Diana Johnson | May 15, 2009 at 7:26 pm | Reply

    Mr. Stevenson,

    I just finished reading your piece in The Challenger about the recent Buffalo School Board elections. You are entitled to you opinions. However, your statement, “Where were 800 warm bodies that they couldn’t come out and pull the lever? was either thoughtless or ignorant.

    These “warm bodies” were probably the elderly (like my mother), or sick or handicapped who take their civic responsibilities very seriously but could not get to the polls. Others may have known they would be out of town on election day but wanted their votes counted anyway. Furthermore, to get absentee ballots sent to her automatically for every election my mother had to document the reasons why she cannot “come out and pull the lever.” If you were questioning the timing of the count of the absentee ballots, you certainly did not make that point clear.

    If Mr. McIntyre and other candidates had thought about encouraging the elderly, sick, handicapped and eligible others to complete absentee ballots, the outcome of this school board election might be different.

    Diana Johnson

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