BUFFALO, N.Y .— Erie County Legislator Betty Jean Grant and City Comptroller Mark Schroeder seemingly had little to lose coming into Wednesday night's Democratic primary debate airing on WGRZ-TV and WNED-TV.
Incumbent Byron Brown seems the clear-cut favorite in the race. He has an experienced campaign team which has won three citywide contests for mayor. And campaign finance reports submitted late last week, showed Brown had nearly a half-million dollars to spent in the final days of the primary contest.
Grant and Schroeder aggressively went after Brown. And 2 On-Your-Side put some of those claims to our Verify test.
Early in the debate, Grant criticized the use of so much money for the Tesla solar panel plant in South Buffalo.
“When you have a billion dollars, just about 750-million dollars at (Tesla) and a building’s that vacant for over two years, that’s bad use of money,” said Grant.
But the factory is anything but empty. 2 On-Your-Side reported just last week the plant had started production. A Tesla spokeswoman acknowledged that the operation was up and running.
Grant has apparently missed the news.
"I knew they were waiting to get operational. I was campaigning last week so I had no idea it was operational,” said Grant.
So, Grant's debate statement that the Tesla plant was not running, clearly was false.
Later in the debate, Schroeder noted recent Buffalo News reporting about the various investigations of people close to Mayor Brown.
“Not me, the Buffalo News, in a front page article reports that there’s seven probes on you, having to do with possible indictments.”
While investigations certainly can lead to indictments or criminal charges, there has been no indication from investigating agencies that Brown is a target, facing possible indictment."
We asked Schroeder what information he had tying the criminal probes directly to Brown. He had none, responding, "Time will tell."
Based on that, we have to rate as false Schroeder's suggestion that Brown faces imminent indictment.
Another debate topic tonight that 2 On-Your-Side has reported on extensively is the city police department's ability to solve homicide cases. Schroeder noted Rochester has a much better record on clearing murders.
When we asked Brown about this after the debate he noted several steps to address the problem, “I am confident that with the programs and strategies that we have put in place the the homicide solvability number will continue to increase.”
But Schroeder was correct. The Rochester force's ability to solve murders has been better than that of the BPD.
We rate Schroeder's claim as verified.
There was another issue we could not immediate make a call on. The city's poverty rate was raised by Schroeder and Grant. Both charged there is a greater percentage of Buffalo citizens living in poverty now than when Brown started as mayor 12 years ago.
The Buffalo News reported that figure has climbed. When 2 On-Your-Side quickly checked data with the US Census Bureau, it appeared the percentage had dropped slightly. Given the deadline tonight and the conflicting information, we've decided to look at Buffalo's poverty figured again. When we have a clearer indication whether poverty has risen or fallen in the city, we will report that.