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State of the City Speech: Free at Last

Brian Meyer of the Buffalo News reports that Mayor Byron Brown has relented: The public does not have to pay $35 to hear his State of the City speech on Thursday. Those who wish to attend need only pay if they want to be served lunch, and if they do, about a third of the price of their ticket will benefit something called Mayor Brown’s Fund to Advance Buffalo.

We first wrote about this practice—turning a civic event into a fundraiser for a private charity controlled by the mayor—in 2007, when Brown delivered his first annual State of the City address. (It’s worth clicking the link for the quotes from the late Jimmy Griffin at the end.) Back then, we had a hard time discovering what it is Mayor Brown’s Fund to Advance Buffalo intended to do. Last week, AV editor Buck Quigley looked through the not-for-profit’s paperwork and discovered it has not put a lot of money on the streets—just $8,500 by the end of 2007, when it sat on assets of $60,000. Quigley estimated the mayor’s fund will raise another $20,000 on Thursday afternoon.

Seems almost like wonder if Mayor Brown’s Fund to Advance Buffalo is saving up for a rainy day. I wonder if the folks who control that fund—Brown stalwarts like Steve Casey, Mike Seaman, Dana Bobinchek, and Alisa Lukasiewicz—will find more ways to spend that money this summer, when the mayoral election will be looming?

Last week attorney Peter Reese protested the mayor’s use of the City of Buffalo and CitiStat seals on invitations for what he said amounts to a private fundraiser. The mayor’s spokesperson, Peter Cutler, denied to the Buffalo News that Reese’s protest influenced the mayor’s decision to open a limited number of seats to the public free of charge.