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Buffalo Mayor, Erie Co. Exec. spar over snow plowing in wake of historic blizzard

County Executive calls city snow plowing effort an “embarrassment”, Mayor chalks up remark to someone “crumbling under pressure”

BUFFALO, N.Y. — In the wake of Buffalo’s Christmas Blizzard of 2022, it appears a feud has broken out between the Erie County Executive and the Mayor of Buffalo over snow plowing, and who should be responsible for it in the future.

At his daily storm briefing on Wednesday morning, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz revealed that he has begun talking with his staff and state officials regarding the possibility of the county taking over the direction and operation of snow plowing in the city's during major snow events in the future.

He also suggested the city’s track record following such events has been historically abysmal.

His plan was apparently unbeknownst to Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown.

“An Embarrassment”

Poloncarz had just spoken about how, in the aftermath of the devastating storm,  the county had taken over the responsibility of clearing one-third of the city’s streets, many of which remained snow-clogged several days after the blizzard subsided.

“These are streets we normally aren’t responsible for, but there’s a reason why the state and the county came in taken over operations…. because we knew we could get in there and clean it very quickly. The mayor is not going to be happy to hear this but storm after storm after storm, the city unfortunately is the last one to be open and that shouldn’t be the case. It's embarrassing to tell you the truth,” said Poloncarz.

Poloncarz also expressed his frustration as a resident of the city.

"I just don't want to see it anymore. I'm sick of it. I live in the city of Buffalo, and it pains me to see the other 25 towns and two small cities open in times when the city (of Buffalo) isn’t. Again, I know the mayor is probably not going to be thrilled to hear this, but I don’t care. I want it done,” Poloncarz said.

“Cracking Under Pressure?”

"I'm cool calm and collected and I don't lose my mind during a crisis,” said Mayor Brown at a separate news conference which began ten minutes after the County Executive concluded his.

Brown noted the city took the brunt of the blizzard, in terms of snowfall, wind gusts, power outages, and deaths associated with the storm.

“No other community had the severity of impact that Buffalo had,” Brown said, insisting that the city can deal with average or even large amounts of snow. But he also was quick to say no community could have withstood the onslaught of such a storm alone.

As to Poloncarz’s criticisms, Hizzoner said,” some people handle pressure differently. Some keep working and trying to help the residents of our community and some breakdown and lash out. This has been stressful, and people have been working around the clock and without sleep. I’m just going to chalk it up to someone feeling that pressure and crumbling a little bit under it.”

Turning a bit cooler in his demeanor Brown added, “he has never once directly, County Executive to Mayor, said any of these things to me. So, to say this during a news briefing is a little strange and a little odd. As strong as the County Executive could be in a news conference, he did not say any of this to me on the phone or face to face. I want you all to process that for a moment,” Brown told reporters, shortly before concluding his briefing.

Brown also disputed Poloncarz’s claims that the city has been absent from daily calls to community leaders coordinated by the county both during and after the storm.

County Exec: We Could Do Better

“The city has its own problems from other communities because of the size of the streets and the parking issues. I understand that” said Poloncarz.  “But we have more capability than the city…we have the money, and we can afford to hire the contractors. We have the emergency operations center. I don’t believe the city has had one open for this event or for the last one. “

However, Brown stated he will not allow any other government to usurp the responsibility for street plowing in the city.

“We appreciate mutual aid…but the weight of the responsibility of the City of Buffalo falls on me as the mayor,” he said.

“We will do what it takes in the future to ensure our community is open as soon as possible… and if that means we have to get trucks, hire contractors, and get more people to handle an area that Erie County has ever been responsible for, we’ll do it,” said Poloncarz.  "And if we have to, by working with the state, we will find a way to get through these storms quicker by taking over operations if need be.”

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