Buffalo Students First: What is it?
by Buck Quigley - posted 1:18 pm, April 24, 2009
Last Friday, we reported about the petition challenges submitted against every single challenger in the May 5 Buffalo School Board election. Thanks to a comment on our blog from Chet Morton, we learned that Glenn Aronow—the man who notarized all the challenges—is the Director of Government Relations for the Buffalo Niagara Partnership (pictured).
By Monday, I was on the phone with Aronow, asking if he could explain why a group known as Buffalo Students First shares the same address (665 Main Street, Suite 200) as the Partnership. Buffalo Students First put out this slick mailer endorsing Catherine Collins, Chris Jacobs, and Florence Johnson for the at-large seats on the board.
He explained that he was in Washington, DC, and couldn’t talk. I asked him again on Tuesday. He said he’d call me when he got back to town. I called him Thursday, and he told me not to call him on his cell phone anymore. He said he was at a lunch, and couldn’t talk to me. He reminded me that he told me he’d call me when he returned from DC. I asked him if he was in town. He said yes. I pointed out that he didn’t call me.
Aronow then called back later, and said he’d send me an email response to my questions: What is Buffalo Students First, and why all the aggressive challenges to every school board candidate who is not an incumbent?
Here is his reply:
Buffalo Niagara Partnership:
The Partnership, which is made up of approximately 2,500 local employers, has been involved in elections at all levels of government for many years. Our organization has supported races for Buffalo Public School board for approximately 10 years. We’re a regional organization, but understand Buffalo is at our region’s core — and the success or failure of the Buffalo Public Schools is directly linked to how the city fares. Improving public education is a also priority of our members for a specific business reason: they need a workforce that is prepared to compete both locally and in a global economy. The Partnership strongly supports candidates Chris Jacobs, Florence Johnson and Dr. Catherine Collins. We’ve helped raise money for these candidates and have donated some staff time to assist with the campaigns, and the efforts of the coalition, Buffalo Students First.
Buffalo Students First:
The Buffalo Niagara Partnership is a supporter of Buffalo Students First, which is a coaltion of businesses, community organizations and stakeholders, and school choice advocates that support progressive reforms and policies in educating Buffalo school children. Buffalo Students First advocates for and supports programs and policies that improve how education is provided in Buffalo’s Public Schools. Buffalo Students First is supporting candidates in this year’s school board election that share the coalition’s vision for education and putting Buffalo school children first.
There are very clear laws and procedures to be a candidate for any elective office in New York State, including Buffalo school board. Obtaining the required amount of vaild petition signatures is a basic legal requirement to get on the ballot that all candidates are fully aware of. When there is overwhelmingly clear evidence that signatures are not vaild or obtained in a fraudulent manner, those signatures should be challenged, and that’s what we did. To ensure fair elections, candidates should and must abide by the same laws and procedures.
Director, Government Relations
Buffalo Niagara Partnership
665 Main Street, Suite 200
Buffalo, NY 14203-1487
P: (716) 852-7100, ext. 236
C: (716) 628-1367
F: (716) 852-2761
The Partnership extends its thanks to the member businesses in its Leadership Circle. These companies represent the Partnership’s most significant financial supporters.
They also advocate squashing the campaigns of any and all challengers. Click here to see the specific objections Herbert Bellamy filed against candidate Fred Yellen, notarized by Aronow.
But what is Buffalo Students First? There don’t appear to be any records at the state or county level showing that it’s a political committee, or an LLC, and there’s no DBA or assumed name certificate on file. Are there any actual students involved with Buffalo Students First? Or is it just a surreptitiously named gang of “businesses, community organizations and stakeholders” throwing their money around to advance the status quo of a struggling urban school district with a disastrous dropout rate in the third poorest city in America? Does every member of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership want to stand up and take credit for stifling this opportunity for the community to select a change when they step into the voting booth?
This morning, school board challenger Bryon McIntyre and community activist Peter A. Reese filed a complaint with the Erie County Board of Elections, requesting an investigation into the involvement of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership through Buffalo Students First in the ongoing Buffalo School Board Election process. The election is May 5.