Buffalo Commons



The Role of Water in Buffalo's Lead Exposure Crisis

Daniel Cadzow — Jan 31, 2022

This policy brief was drafted by Daniel Cadzow, Policy Fellow at PPG and an advocate for environmental justice and equitable transportation infrastructure. The brief finds that Buffalo’s lead in water levels are more troubling than many residents realize stemming from our manufacturing history and combined sewage overflow system. The author detail his own home’s susceptibility to lead contamination and demonstrates that lead may appear in dangerous, unpredictable bursts. Lower …

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Ecovillages in the Rust Belt

Joshua Swiatek — Dec 20, 2021

This policy brief shares information about Ecovillages, provides examples of 4 other Rust Belt cities with Ecovillages (Cleveland OH, Highland Park MI, Ithaca NY, and Gibsonia PA.) and describes the potential for Buffalo to develop one (or more). Ecovillages can address many inequalities in varying ways by greening vacant lots; returning ownership of vacant lots to the community; building green and sustainable communities; promoting economic development; increasing quality of life; and …

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Community Gardens as Urban Greening: Cutting Crime and Improving Wellbeing

Nicole Capozziello — Jan 7, 2021

This policy brief shares vacant land statistics in Buffalo, highlights Philadelphia as a vacant property transformation case study, and makes the case for community gardens as the ideal form of urban greening for Buffalo.

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Shrinking Jails, Rising Costs: Erie County's Wasteful Jail Budget

Colleen Kristich — Nov 21, 2020

This policy brief presents data on the makeup of the Erie County jail population, which has reduced by 48% since 2017. It examines the capacity of both jails and determines that one jail could be closed, with savings redirected to other community-based harm reduction services. The brief compares Erie County spending on jails with spending on mental and public health, and makes recommendations for County leaders to further reduce the jail population, capture the savings of decarceration, and …

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Footage Release Policies for the Buffalo Police Department

Sarah Wooton — Nov 16, 2020

To be effective accountability tools, police body cameras must be accompanied by good policies governing their usage and giving the public access to footage. Otherwise, exemptions in state freedom of information laws can be used to limit the disclosure of critical evidence of misconduct.

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Eliminate 2018 Traffic Fees and Address Unequal Traffic Enforcement in Buffalo

Andrea Ó Súilleabháin, George Nicholas, Jalonda Hill — Jun 18, 2020

The Buffalo Common Council should repeal its July 2018 amendment to Chapter 175 of the Cityof Buffalo Code that added 13 new fees related to traffic violations. The thirteen fees:• Are dramatically higher than those charged by other cities in New York;• Do not promote public safety and are not reliable revenue sources;• Exacerbate Buffalo’s already severe problems with poverty, racial disparity, andcommunity-police relations.

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The Eastside-Airport Metro Rail Extension

Citizens for Regional Transit — Aug 23, 2019

This policy brief provides information regarding the expansion of NFTA metro-rail services in east-side Buffalo to the Buffalo Niagara International Airport. 

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Census 2020: Making Western New York Count

Anna Blatto — Jun 10, 2019

This policy brief offers an overview of the 2020 Census: what it is and why it matters for Western New York.

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Low-Wage Work in Buffalo-Niagara

Sam Magavern, John Sullivan Baker — Nov 20, 2018

This policy brief presents data on Buffalo-Niagara workers with a median wage of less than $15 per hour. It includes a list of all the occupations that fall into that low-wage category, along with the number of workers in each occupation and the hourly wage. Setting the data in the context of de-unionization and the shift from manufacturing to service jobs, it analyzes the loss in job quality and offers recommendations for reversing it. The brief was researched by Cornell University High Road …

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Community-Owned Solar Power and Micro Grids

David Yovanoff — Aug 1, 2018

This policy brief discusses how community owned solar projects and micro grids offer a sustainable alternative to reliance on the large power grid and polluting fossil fuels. It explains how micro grids work and looks at how they are connected to and can improve standard power grids or macro grids.  

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Electric Buses for the NFTA

Zachary Persichini — Aug 1, 2018

This brief discusses many reasons that the NFTA should invest in using electric buses. After explaining the differences in bus technologies, it details numerous environmental, public health, and economic benefits of electric buses. The brief closes with case studies to show how other cities and counties across the world are beginning to use electric buses.

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Methane Leaks from Natural Gas Pipelines: Solutions for New York

Jordan Hawkins — Aug 1, 2018

This brief explores the problems with methane leaks from natural gas pipelines, the obstacles that prevent change, and solutions that have been proposed by New York State and others. While most methane leaks do not pose an immediate threat to safety, they can have serious and sometimes deadly consequences, and methane is a major contributor to climate change. New York has proposed a Methane Reduction Plan. The plan is a good start to combat the issue, but research reveals additional tools to …

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Good Food Buffalo Policy Brief

Jessica Gilbert — Jun 26, 2018

This policy brief provides a snapshot of the current status of school food at Buffalo Public Schools and several ongoing school food improvement initiatives.

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Urban Expressway Removal in Buffalo: The Historical Context

Daniel Cadzow — Mar 30, 2018

This policy brief was drafted by Daniel Cadzow, Policy Fellow at PPG and an advocate for environmental justice and equitable traffic infrastructure.  

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The Consequences of Being Unbanked in Buffalo

Jessica Gilbert — Feb 28, 2018

This policy brief was drafted by Jessica Gilbert, a research associate at the Partnership for the Public Good and a Ph.D. student in geography at the University at Buffalo. It offers national and local information about people who lack bank accounts and describes some of the impacts of being “unbanked,” including reliance on exploitative services such as check cashing, rent to own stores, and pawn shops. This research supports the work of the Buffalo Niagara Community Reinvestment …

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Body Cameras for the Buffalo Police: Best Practices for Policy Creation

Sarah Wooton — Dec 21, 2017

This policy brief was drafted by Sarah Wooton, policy analyst at Partnership for the Public Good. It recommends that the Buffalo Police Department adopt policies governing the use of body cameras with a focus on six areas: activation, pre-report viewing, footage retention, footage protection, public disclosure of footage, and public input. Research suggests that simply adding body cameras may not improve policing without strong policies in each of these six areas.

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Performance-Based Assessment for ELLs

Bridget Murphy — Nov 29, 2017

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Taking the High Road to Canalside: How Community Activism Has Shaped Buffalo’s Waterfront

Michelle Zhao — Oct 27, 2017

This policy brief documents the efforts of local advocates to bring “High Road” economic development to Canalside, to advance community benefits over corporate control. It was drafted by Michelle Zhao, the 2017 Cornell High Road Fellow at Partnership for the Public Good. After setting out the historical context of Canalside and the fight that won its preservation, the brief focuses on the period of 2004 to 2015. It details the proposal to bring a Bass Pro Shop to the Inner Harbor, …

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Better Policing for the City of Buffalo: Toward Community, Transparency, and Justice

Andrea Ó Súilleabháin — Sep 26, 2017

This policy brief recommends that the Buffalo Police Department expand its community policing efforts through culture change and incentives, a diversified police force, increased training, improved transparency and oversight, more restorative justice and diversion programs, and the use of crime prevention through environmental design.  The brief is based on “Collaboration, Communication, and Community-Building: A New Model of Policing for 21st Century Buffalo,” a 2016 PPG …

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Why Buffalo Needs Inclusionary Zoning; Affordability, Workforce Development, Inclusion, and Quality Housing

Sarah Wooton, Sam Magavern — Jun 2, 2017

Buffalo’s housing market faces four severe challenges: affordability, job access, inclusiveness, and quality.  Inclusionary zoning is a proven tool for addressing all four issues.  Inclusionary zoning asks that when a developer creates new housing units, it reserve a certain percent for affordable housing.  Thus, inclusionary zoning leverages the power of the market to create more high-quality affordable housing units, often near job centers and transit lines, and to make …

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Health Equity: The Path to Inclusive Prosperity in Buffalo

Tracey Ross — May 8, 2017

With billions in public and private investments in the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and Governor Cuomo’s historic “Buffalo Billion” investment in economic development, the city of Buffalo is poised for resurgence. Yet persistent racial inequities in health, wealth, and economic opportunity inhibit the city’s growth. Without a change in course, these inequities will take a heavy toll on the city as immigrants and communities of color grow as a share of its population …

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Lead Poisoning: Triggers and Thresholds

Adam Hains — Feb 10, 2017

Hains reviews the basic framework of federal and state laws aimed at preventing lead poisoning.  Given the growing body of research that even small amounts of lead cause can decrease cognitive performance and increase behavioral problems, Hains suggests that New York State lower its threshold of concern and supply additional funding, so that more children receive case management services and more units get their lead problems abated.

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The Public Service Commission Should Deny National Fuel's Request for a Rate Hike

Sarah Wooton — Oct 26, 2016

National Fuel (NF) has requested a rate hike of $41.7 million per year.  The Public Service Commission (PSC) should deny this request because: It will unduly burden low-income customers, who are already struggling to pay their utility bills; NF is a very profitable company, with skyrocketing executive compensation and large dividends; As noted by the PSC’s auditors and other experts, many of NF’s claimed expenses are questionable; and Instead of investing in additional fossil …

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A Plan that Bears Fruit: A Community Land Trust and Other Tools For Neighborhood Revitalization in the Fruit Belt

Fidèle Menavanza Jun 22, 2016

On December 1, 2015, the City of Buffalo’s Common Council passed a resolution placing a moratorium on the sale of city-owned lots in the Fruit Belt neighborhood.  The Fruit Belt includes the area enclosed by Cherry Street, Jefferson Avenue, Best Street, Main Street, Goodell Street, and Michigan Avenue – a neighborhood where the City of Buffalo owns over 200 vacant lots.  The City promised not to sell lots to developers until “a duly approved strategic plan” had …

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A Planning Board for Erie County

Anthony Hilbert Apr 13, 2016

The Partnership for the Public Good (PPG) unites 212organizations working to build a better western New York.  Each year, the partners vote on their top policy priorities for the coming year; these priorities become the PPG Community Agenda.  The very first Community Agenda, formed in 2008, included a provision calling for a planning board in Erie County.  Since that time, the reasons for a planning board have only become more compelling.  There is a reason that every other …

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A Community Benefit Agreement for the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus

Anthony Hilbert Mar 9, 2016

The BNMC is the region’s largest economic development project.  Clustering health institutions together on one campus creates many collaborations and efficiencies and increases the potential for spin-off job creation.  Inevitably, however, any large scale development also includes some negative side effects for the community, particularly those who live nearest to it.  Traffic and air pollution increase.  Parking becomes a problem on nearby residential streets.  …

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Redesigning the Scajaquada Expressway

Justin Booth, Daniel Cadzow — Feb 8, 2016

The Scajaquada Expressway was constructed in the early 1960’s and is now at the end of its functional life.  The redesign and rebuilding of the roadway offers the opportunity to make it less dangerous and more compatible with the natural, historic, and cultural fabric of the parks, parkways, neighborhoods, schools, colleges, and museums it serves and impacts.

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Buffalo Niagara - How Are We Really Doing

Lawrence Brooks — Jan 20, 2016

There has been a lot of good news lately in Buffalo: Harbor Center and Canalside, RiverBend and Solar City, the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus expansion, new hotels and restaurants, even an uptick in employment and population.  But most of this good news is economic, and there is much more to our region than just economic activity.  These positive developments have prompted reactions such as “rebirth” and “resurgence.”  But perspectives on Buffalo vary …

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The Potential Impact of Legalizing, Regulating, and Taxing Marijuana on Erie County and New York State

Sam Magavern — Oct 28, 2015

The costs of continuing the prohibition of marijuana far outweigh the benefits.  Prohibition costs the public a large amount of money in law enforcement expenses and lost tax revenue; it imposes great harms on individuals, families and neighborhoods by criminalizing relatively harmless behavior and spawning a large, violent, underground economy; and it contributes heavily to the large racial disparities in our criminal justice system.

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Earned Sick Time Policy Brief

Kyle Friend — Jul 18, 2015

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A Raise for Fast Food Workers Will Help Western New York

Sam Magavern — Jun 3, 2015

The most pressing problems in Western New York in many areas of life, including education, healthcare, and criminal justice, can be traced to a single root: poverty.  Families living in poverty suffer from lower graduation rates, more chronic diseases, and more criminal violence than families earning living wages.  In our region, as around the nation, roughly 45% of workers are employed in low-wage service sector jobs.  Those jobs are not going away; in fact, they are the fastest …

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Poverty, Race, and Community Policing in Buffalo

Partnership for the Public Good — Mar 27, 2015

The region’s inequality has dramatic effects in every aspect of life, and the criminal justice system is no exception.  As PPG documented in its 2013 report, Alarming Disparities, African-Americans account for 14% of Erie County’s population but 43% of arrests and 65% of prison sentences, and Hispanics represent 4.7% of the population but 7% of arrests and 9% of prison sentences.  For some charges, the disparities are especially striking; for example, African-Americans …

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Coordinated School Health in the Buffalo Public Schools: Statement of Need and Recommendations

Sam Magavern, Jessica Bauer-Walker, Renee Cadzow — Feb 27, 2015

This policy brief on coordinate school health for the Buffalo Public Schools was prepared by Renee Cadzow, PhD, D’Youville College, Department of Health Services Administration and Co-Director of the Center for Research of Physical Activity , Sport and Health (CRPASH); Jessica Bauer-Walker, Executive Director, Community Health Worker Network of Buffalo; and Sam Magavern, Co-Director, Partnership for the Public Good. (February 2015) Acknowledgements: Liese Ness, Community Coalition …

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High Road Economic Development: Best Practices

Sam Magavern, Jessica Bauer-Walker, Renee Cadzow Feb 25, 2015

High Road Economic Development is an economic development strategy that emphasizes high quality jobs, environmental sustainability, and broad access to opportunities for a diversity of businesses and workers.  High Road Economic Development prioritizes both a healthy economy and a healthy community.  It ensures that public dollars result in both public good and economic growth, and that economic benefits are distributed equitably.  The following list captures many best practices …

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The High Road Economy: Principles and Practices

Sam Magavern, Jessica Bauer-Walker, Renee Cadzow Feb 25, 2015

The High Road is an economic strategy that emphasizes high quality jobs, environmental sustainability, and broad access to opportunities for diverse businesses and workers.  The High Road prioritizes a healthy economy and a healthy community.  It ensures that public dollars result in both public good and economic growth, and that economic benefits are distributed equitably.  The High Road Economy promotes democratic practices, the Triple Bottom Line (people, planet and profits), …

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Why New York State Still Needs Single Payer Health Care

Sam Magavern, Jacqueline MacKeller — Dec 3, 2014

Conventional wisdom in the United States holds that our health care system, while costly, achieves some of the best outcomes in the world.  A report by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), however, conclusively refutes these assumptions.  In a survey of current and historical health data for 17 other high-income democracies, the IOM found that the United States ranked dead last in life expectancy among males and second-to-last among females, despite spending substantially more per person …

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Town IDAs in Erie County: 2011-2013

Sam Magavern — Nov 14, 2014

In addition to the Erie County Industrial Development Agency (IDA), Erie County has five town IDAs: Amherst, Clarence, Concord, Hamburg, and Lancaster.  In this policy brief, we review the performance of the five town IDAs from 2011 to 2013 and find that most of the projects that they have approved have involved restaurants, retail businesses, hotels, speculative office parks, or other projects that are highly unlikely to grow the region’s economy and create a net gain of jobs.

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A True Minimum Wage for Tipped Workers

Sam Magavern Nov 13, 2014

The most pressing problems in Western New York in sectors such as education, health, and crime can be traced to a single root: poverty.  Families living in poverty suffer from lower graduation rates, more chronic diseases, and more criminal violence than families earning living wages.  In our region, as around the nation, roughly 45% of workers are employed in low-wage service sector jobs.  Those jobs are not going away; in fact, they are the fastest growing occupations in the …

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Raising the Minimum Wage: Key Facts and Figures

Sam Magavern Oct 28, 2014

In New York State, roughly 37% or workers earn low wages (less than $15 per hour, or $31,200 per year).  In Erie County, the percentage is 41% (159,800 of 393,600 wage-earning workers).  94% of low wage workers in New York State are age 20 or over.  67% of those earning low wages are working 35 hours per week or more.  51% of those earning low wages have some college education or more.  53% of low-wage workers are female.  53% are white, 18% are black, 21% are …

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Buffalo School Board Governance

William Miller — Dec 9, 2013

The Board of Education of the Buffalo City School District consists of nine members elected annually by the voters of the school district.  Six members represent sub-districts within the city in three-year terms. Three members serve in an “at-large” capacity for five-year terms.  A School board member must be a citizen of the United States, qualified to vote, able to read and write, eighteen (18) years of age or older, a qualified voter of the District, and the only member …

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English Language Learners and Standardized Tests

Adam Faeth — Dec 9, 2013

A surge in limited English proficiency (LEP) enrollment became a nationwide phenomenon between 1995 and 2005, as virtually all regions of the country experienced a rapid growth in immigrant population.  In Buffalo, the increase in ELL students stemmed largely from the active resettlement of refugees from around the world in Buffalo.  In 2004-2005, Buffalo had 2,539 LEP students who collectively spoke 46 different languages.  In 2009-2010, that enrollment number shot up to 3,481 …

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Erie County as a Metro-Wide School District

Gabriella Agostinelli — Dec 9, 2013

Studies show that the quality of a child’s education is largely dependent on her family’s wealth, race, and residence.  When a child living in deep poverty is educated in a poor school district, she has little exposure to the opportunities and experiences enjoyed by children in wealthier districts.  Metro-wide school districts attempt to equalize educational opportunities for all students, raise regional academic achievement levels, and generate better relations across …

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Should Buffalo Move Back to Neighborhood Public Schools?

Nicholas Fischer — Dec 9, 2013

It is a school where the majority of its students come from the neighborhood surrounding it.  Aside from private or magnet schools, students must attend the school assigned to their neighborhood.  This is no longer the model in Buffalo or in many cities.  For the past forty years schools have bussed students across the district.  Today there is a debate as to whether Buffalo Public Schools should return to the neighborhood school model.

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Teacher Residency Requirements in Buffalo: Reconciling Community Benefits with Marketplace Realities

Lee Bender — Dec 9, 2013

In 2011 Buffalo Public Schools repealed a requirement that its teachers live in the district — a “residency rule”.  Because the city’s urban population accounts for only one quarter of the metro population, this rule severely restricted the teacher applicant pools.  However, the residency requirement had some benefits to the community — such as providing neighborhood role models and making teachers more aware of the students’ life situations and …

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The Downside of Standardized Testing

Nicole Intschert — Dec 9, 2013

Children in the United States are tested “to an extent that is unprecedented in our history and unparalleled anywhere else in the world.” The federal No Child Left behind Act has triggered a standardized testing “explosion,” the repercussions of which have been felt throughout the nation.  Standardized tests are those where “all students answer the same questions under similar conditions and their responses are scored in the same way, and may include …

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Title I Funds in Buffalo Public Schools: Educating Children in Poverty

Amanda Dermady — Dec 9, 2013

Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act provides federal financial assistance to public and private schools with high percentages of children from low-income families with the aim of helping children meet state academic standards.  The Act was originally enacted in April 1965 as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “War on Poverty” and is currently authorized under President George W. Bush’s No Child Left behind Act.  Title I funds are allocated …

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Community Health Workers: A Holistic Solution for Individual and Community Health

Sam Magavern, Jacqueline MacKeller, Jessica Bauer-Walker — Nov 26, 2012

Community Health Workers (CHWs) go by many names, including outreach workers, patient navigators, peer health educators, and lay health advocates.  CHWs help people overcome obstacles by accompanying them through treatment, monitoring needs for food and housing, leading education campaigns and empowering community members to take charge of their own health.  As members of the communities they serve, CHWs establish relationships of trust with those they serve, bridging the gap between …

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Concentrated Poverty and Public Education

Gretchen Sullivan Apr 17, 2012

The biggest problem facing Buffalo’s public schools is the fact that most of the students live in poverty and segregation.  Western New York school districts, including Buffalo, are similar to public school districts around the nation, in that they work quite well when their students are affluent or middle income.  When their students are living in concentrated poverty, however, there are innumerable barriers to academic success.  Nationally, the close correlation between …

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Reshaping Buffalo's Recycling Initiatives

Sam Magavern, Lauren Schwarzenholzer — Apr 5, 2012

The city of Buffalo recycles approximately eight percent of its curbside waste per year.  This is far below the national average of 27% and pales by comparison with cities such as San Francisco, which recycles at a rate of 72%.  Within Western New York, there is also great disparity in regard to recycling.  The Town of Tonawanda, to give one example, currently recycles 13.5% of its curbside waste.

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Buffalo's Sprawl: Fiscal, Environmental, and Social Costs

Robert Grimaldi Feb 16, 2012

Rolf Pendall has aptly summarized Buffalo’s development pattern as “sprawl without growth.”  Between 1950 and 2000, the region gained only 80,881 people, but the urbanized area nearly tripled, going from 123 square miles to 367 square miles.  The city of Buffalo’s population declined from 580,132 to 292,648 (a loss of 287,484), while the rest of Erie County grew from 319,106 to 657,617 (a gain of 338,511).  From 2000 to 2010, the trend continued, with the …

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State Funding for the NFTA Reduces Pollution, Fights Poverty, and Promotes Economic Development

Robert Grimaldi Feb 7, 2012

New York State should support public transit in Buffalo-Niagara by increasing Transit Operating Assistance and increasing the NFTA’s allocation of low-cost electric power.  There is no more effective tool for reducing pollution, cutting poverty, and promoting economic development than affordable and comprehensive mass transit.  In recent years, New York State has been cutting its funding to the NFTA, even as the NFTA’s costs have been rising.  State funding has been …

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Best Practices in Mental Health at Corrections Facilities

Sahil Jain — Nov 1, 2011

Police, court personnel, and correctional staff interact with, stabilize, and treat more persons with mental illness than any other system in America—making criminal justice agencies the largest mental health provider in the United States.  Yet a wide gap exists between the training of corrections staff and the enormous responsibility they have for day-to-day management of mental health issues.  To narrow this gap in jail and prison settings, the best practices include training …

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Reforming Buffalo's Tax Foreclosure Process

Jonathan Baird — Sep 30, 2011

The City of Buffalo holds an annual foreclosure auction to collect on delinquent taxes and fees owed by its residents.  This is a way for the City to raise revenue that would otherwise go unpaid and for Buffalo citizens to buy buildings and lots at bargain prices.  But the foreclosure process is imposing a high cost upon some of Buffalo’s most vulnerable citizens, creating an unnecessary burden on people trying to stay in their homes, and adding to the already existing epidemic …

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Refugees, Food Insecurity, and Community Gardens

Dorian Rolston — Aug 10, 2011

Nearly nine in ten resettled refugee households endure food insecurity, meaning that they are without “access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life.”  Because western New York resettles hundreds of refugees per year, many of them on Buffalo’s west side, we have a unique opportunity to combat refugee food insecurity.

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Greening Buffalo's Vacant Lots

Christopher Szczygiel — Jul 5, 2011

Greening vacant lots is one of the most cost effective ways for Buffalo to improve its neighborhoods.  At a bare minimum, Buffalo can combat blight, raise property values, raise property tax revenue, lower crime rates and improve residents’ quality of life with a simple program to clean up, green up, and maintain vacant lots.  Vacant lots are also prime locations for parks, playgrounds, bike trails, walking paths, community gardens and urban farms.  Greening lots can …

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The Triple Bottom Line in Buffalo: Standards for Economic, Social, and Ecological Success

Jeffrey Baker — Jun 27, 2011

In respect to human capital, or people, the triple bottom line requires fair and beneficial business practices towards employees, the community, and the region.  Such practices include offering fair salaries, safe working conditions, decent hours, healthcare, and educational opportunity.  In terms of the environment, or the planet, the triple bottom line requires businesses to engage in sustainable environmental practices. Businesses aim to reduce their carbon footprint by carefully …

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A Green Building Ordinance for Buffalo

Donna Budniewski — May 27, 2011

All new building projects in the City of Buffalo totaling 5,000 square feet or more that are city-owned, city-financed or city/state subsidized should be LEED-Silver certified.  The City of Buffalo should mitigate its contribution to global warming and reduce reliance on energy and natural resources while improving the quality of life or its residents, employees, and visitors.  Multiple federal/state funding incentives and significant tax credits exist for going green.  Green …

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Looking for Trickledown Under the Peace Bridge: A Critique of the Public Bridge Authority's Economic Impact Claims

Donna Budniewski Apr 19, 2011

The Public Bridge Authority’s economic impact analysis, presented in its environmental impact statement for the Peace Bridge Expansion Project, offers a grossly exaggerated impression of the project’s benefits.  The Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority has proposed a significant expansion to the operations of the international crossing between Buffalo and Fort Erie known as the Peace Bridge.  The plans presented to the public in 2007 would radically alter a five …

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How City Hall Can Foster the Urban Farming Revolution in Buffalo

Michael Raleigh — Mar 17, 2011

The City of Buffalo has made strides in recent years to make urban farming an accepted use of vacant land.  However, the fact remains that the City is unwilling to “take risks” in this area.  There are a number of policies that restrict the freedom of farmers to get access to land, gain long term land security, grow a diversity of foods (including animals), and sell the food.  In order for farming to really take hold and have a transformative effect on the local food …

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What Climate Change Means for Buffalo

Sam Magavern — Mar 17, 2011

Why should state and local governments respond to a problem with so many national and international ramifications? As we have seen, Buffalo and New York have much to lose from climate change, and much to gain from preventing it.  Moreover, it is clearer than ever that states and localities will have to lead the way.  In the past two years, the Democrats have failed to pass meaningful climate change legislation despite controlling the Presidency, Senate, and House.  The chances …

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Responding to New York's Budget Crisis

Sam Magavern — Feb 10, 2011

Wealthy individuals and big businesses have benefited dramatically from reduced taxes and increased subsidies, and they should make a fair contribution to resolving New York’s budget crisis.  Taxes on the very wealthy and reduction of corporate welfare will do much more to reinvigorate the economy and restore fiscal health than drastic cuts in health and education spending.

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Green Municipal Building Ordinances

Donna Budniewski — Oct 27, 2010

In 2006 the town of Babylon, NY adopted a local law that requires LEED certification for “new construction of commercial buildings, office buildings, industrial buildings, multiple residence, or senior citizen multiple residence over 4,000 square feet”.  As an incentive, the town will refund certification fees paid by developers if a new project achieves LEED status.

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Unemployment and Poverty in Western New York

Owen Field — Apr 29, 2010

It is a common understanding that a high unemployment rate means that more people are out of work and therefore more people have fallen into poverty.  But the relationship between unemployment and poverty is complex, and the two may not always relate very directly.  It is necessary to examine states, counties, and even cities separately to determine the extent of this relationship and the possibilities of other influential factors.

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Who is Living in Poverty and Why?

Sam Magavern — Apr 29, 2010

In thinking about poverty, it is common to focus on those places and populations where the poverty rate is the highest, where poverty is the most concentrated and visible.  Thus, many associate poverty with inner city residents, people of color, high school drop-outs, never-married mothers, and people without jobs – all of whom suffer from disproportionately high rates of poverty.  There are both good and bad reasons to focus attention on these groups, but it is important to …

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Drug Testing by Potential Employers

Neil Diegelman — Apr 28, 2010

New York State should pass laws that regulate pre-employment drug testing in order to maximize fairness, accuracy, and efficiency while recognizing employers’ needs to maintain a drug-free workplace.  Drug testing, when done properly, is quite accurate and has standardized procedures to ensure fairness.  A pre-employment drug test can be an effective way for an employer to check on factors influencing whether an applicant will be productive or continuously tardy or have attitude …

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Local and Minority Hiring Practices

Kasia McDonald — Apr 28, 2010

This brief discusses various strategies to ensure a diverse and local workforce at the Canal Side project on Buffalo’s waterfront.  To make the project as advantageous to the community as possible requires the use of exact language in contracts governing the development, active participation of local neighborhoods, a monitoring system to track efforts made by developers and jobseekers and then distribute the results to the community, and civic oversight to hold the businesses …

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Transportation and Low Wage Work

Michael Raleigh — Apr 28, 2010

Living on a low wage can be extremely difficult, yet the number of low wage jobs in metro Buffalo grew by 17% from 2004 to 2008.  This means that many more people are struggling to figure out how to survive with less money.  It also means that it is becoming increasingly difficult for many people to afford transportation.  As the location of employment has dispersed throughout the region, transportation has become a basic need similar to food, clothing, and shelter.  A …

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Children First! Child Care Assistance in Erie County

Alexa Rissoff — Apr 27, 2010

Child care subsidies are distributed in each county in New York by the county’s Department of Social Services.  Due to a drop in state funding, Erie County has changed its eligibility level from 200% to 125% of the poverty line.  The former level for eligibility should be reinstated because subsidized child care has social, financial and societal benefits.

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Strengthening Unemployment Insurance

Robert Mietlicki — Apr 27, 2010

A person’s eligibility for unemployment insurance in New York State is determined by the New York State Unemployment Insurance Law.  A person may be eligible for benefits if he lost his job due to a lack of work, such as the end of seasonal or temporary employment or the downsizing of a company.  A person may also be eligible if he was fired because he did not meet an employer’s qualifications for a job.  A worker may be denied unemployment benefits if he was fired …

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The Problem of Worker Misclassification

Ryan Parisi — Apr 27, 2010

Employee misclassification is a significant problem that continues to plague the labor market. Unscrupulous and unknowing employers alike are costing individual workers and society tremendously. Not only are workers missing out on legal protections, but society is losing contributions from employers that should be paid into different employment systems (payroll taxes, unemployment benefits, workers compensation benefits, etc.).

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Criminal Convictions and Employment Rights in New York State

Robert Strassel — Apr 26, 2010

New York has a strong policy toward preventing discrimination based on prior criminal convictions and its progressive policy outlook should encouraged.  In 2007 a report concluded that New York employees were largely unfamiliar with State laws regulating an employer’s use of prior criminal convictions for employment-related decisions, and in response, the legislature amended Section 296 of New York Executive Law to require employers to post and disseminate information regarding a job …

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Education Levels and Low-Wage Work

Dannine Consoli — Apr 26, 2010

Is education the key to getting low-wage workers out of poverty and into higher paying, middle class jobs? In the United States, roughly one in three jobs pays a low wage.  The Center for Economic and Policy Research defines “low wage” as less than 66 percent of the median wage for male workers (the median weekly pay rate for men in the fourth quarter of 2009 was $825).  Employees with higher levels of education do have a significantly lower probability of working a …

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How to Improve Erie County's Work First Program

Rachel Jones — Apr 26, 2010

The major shift to a welfare to work model happened in 1996 with the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act.  This federal law aimed to decrease dependency on public assistance by – among other things – forcing people to work for their assistance.  Erie County did not need this Act to focus on work. Erie County Department of Social Services has been enforcing work requirements and operating as a work first county since 1988.  In 1994, the County created its …

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Overtime Violations

Lisa Diaz-Ordaz — Apr 26, 2010

Overtime violations are especially prevalent in low wage jobs.  Some of the industries with notably high instances of violations include the restaurant and hotel industries, retail, drug and grocery stores, private households and home health care.  Within these industries, occupations with the most overtime violations include childcare workers, home health care workers, waiters and bartenders, cooks and food preparers, retail salespeople, cashiers and stock clerks.  A quick …

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TANF and Higher Education

Leah Hardy — Apr 26, 2010

Welfare reforms in 1996 created the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Block Grant program (TANF).  Under the assumption that a job will provide recipients with a path to self-sufficiency, this program focuses primarily on putting them to work.  Unfortunately, this work-first focus has not resulted in a path out of poverty for the majority of recipients.  New York State must reform its TANF program to provide relevant education and training for its recipients, equipping them …

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Paid Sick Leave: Should Investing in the Workforce be Mandatory?

Stuart Frame — Apr 22, 2010

Paid sick leave is a benefit supplied to employees: it means that they are allotted a certain amount of days every year when they can call in sick and the employer still pays them for a full day of work. Roughly 86% of U.S. workers currently receive at least some paid sick leave as a benefit from their employers.  While workers at larger businesses have more paid leave than workers at smaller firms, in every sector of the economy the vast majority of workers get paid sick leave.  Most …

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Canal Side: How Will the Community Benefit?

Owen Field Apr 1, 2010

For the last two years, PPG partners have voted to make a community benefit agreement (CBA) for the $300 million Canal Side development a plank in the PPG Community Agenda.  A CBA would include binding guarantees about quality jobs, green design, local businesses, local and minority hiring, and mixed income housing.  Each year, PPG leads its partners and other citizens in crafting a Community Agenda: ten policy actions that government can take in the course of the year to revitalize …

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Playing an Insecure Hand

Kasia McDonald Feb 1, 2010

For a growing number of families and workers in Western New York, low-wage work is the only—or the last—employment option.  In 2009, one out of four jobs in the region were in occupations where the median annual wage fell below the poverty line for a family of four.  This rising reliance on low-wage work is a discouraging change from the post-war economic boom when incomes and standards of living soared—a period that continues to shape our employment and lifestyle …

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City of Buffalo Living Wage Ordinance

City of Buffalo — Dec 31, 2007

The city awards many contracts to private firms to provide services to the public and to city government. Experience indicates that procurement by contract of services has all too often resulted in the payment by service contractors to their employees of wages at or slightly above the minimum required by federal and state minimum wage laws.  Such minimal compensation tends to inhibit the quantity and quality of services rendered by such employees to the city and to the public.  …

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Violent Crime in the City of Good Neighbors

Regional Institute — Feb 1, 2007

A look at violent crime rates over the past twenty years shows that the ebb and flow of crime in Buffalo has reflected trends in many other cities: up in the early ‘90s, down during the mid and late ‘90s and rising gradually since 2000.  Similarly, the city’s shrinking police force is mirrored elsewhere as cities struggle with limited resources— resources that are hard to direct given uncertainty about the causes of crime.

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Poverty: A State of Extremes

The League of Women Voters of Buffalo/Niagara Oct 1, 2006

New York was the only state where both poverty and income exceeded national levels in 2005, with 13.8% of residents living in poverty and a median household income of $49,480.  This high poverty/high income paradox underscores a widening ‘wealth gap’ observed in New York and nationwide.  Buffalo Niagara differed from the state in 2005, with a poverty rate (12.7%) close to the U.S. average and a median household income that was $4,000 below the U.S. median.  Within the …

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