BUFFALO, N.Y. - The debate between Mayor Byron Brown, Democratic challenger Bernie Tolbert and Republican challenger Sergio Rodriguez, Wednesday, had plenty of attacks, sarcasm and claims, as all three tried to appear that they're the better person to lead Buffalo for the next four years.
2 On Your Side took a look at some of the key issues the candidates discussed - crime, unemployment and issues at the Buffalo Police Department -- and put them to our Truth Test.
According to the state Labor Department, the region's unemployment rate is 7.4 percent. And in 2006, when Mayor Brown came to office, the rate was at 5.2 percent for Buffalo-Niagara Falls.
During the debate, economic development in Buffalo was a big topic and was part of the overall discussion of employment and whether the city has been creating jobs. Of Brown's ability to create jobs, Rodriguez said, "lets take a trip down memory lane and go back to 2006, June, the unemployment rate in the City of Buffalo was 6.3 percent, you know what it is in June of this year? The latest available statistics, 10 percent so unemployment has actually increased in the City of Buffalo."
So was Rodriguez truthful?
It turns out he's right.
When Niagara Falls job data is removed, and Buffalo is only focused on, the city's unemployment rate rises to 10 percent. And when Mayor Brown took office in 2006, the rate hovered around 6.5 percent.
The issue that got much attention was crime. All candidates care about the issue. However, the discussion between Mayor Brown and Rodriguez got heated.
Both Brown and Rodriguez said the other person was wrong.
"Homicides went up 40 percent last year, the year prior shootings went up 70 percent," said Rodriguez.
"Mr. Rodriguez's statistics on crime are just absolutely false. Violent crime with shootings has gone down by almost forty percent from last year to the same period of time this year," Brown said, and that, "there are less homicides this year, than the same period of time last year."
There were 49 total homicides last year. There were 36 total homicides in 2011. Therefore, homicides went up 36 percent.
According to the Buffalo Police, there have been 25 homicides so far this year and 27 at this time, one year ago. So, when the Mayor says there were fewer homicides, he's right, but just barely.
The debate about reforms with the police department are two-fold, in staffing and overtime. There were some claims by Tolbert and Rodriguez that police are severely understaffed and therefore, run up huge costs in overtime.
This is what Tolbert and Rodriguez had to say about the department:
"They've hired 225 police officers since the Brown Administration came on board," said Tolbert, "what they've failed to mention is that they've lost almost 260 police officers through attrition, which results in a net negative for the police officers in the Buffalo Police Department."
"We spent $11 million last year in overtime, for the police force," said Rodriguez.
However, according to a city spokesperson, citing the Erie County Crime Lab, Tolbert is wrong and that there have been 230 new police officers hired since 2006, when the Brown Administration came to power. And 156 police officers have retired since then.
So, there are 74 more police officers today than when Brown took office.
Rodriguez's claim that the police department spent $11 million on police overtime last year is correct. According to the city comptroller's office the number was $11.2 million.
New York State Criminal Justice Division
New York State Labor Department
Buffalo Police Department