Buffalo Common Council Summary: Week of February 19, 2024

Date: February 23, 2024

by PPG Staff
Each week, PPG summarizes important takeaways from the major Buffalo Common Council meetings. We also include information from council meetings related to our Community Agenda items. If you want to learn more about how the council meetings work and how you can get involved, check out our guide.

For this summary, we will report on the Caucus and Regular meetings. ‘Council Member’ is abbreviated as CM; ‘Council President’ as CP; ‘President Pro Tempore’ as PT; and ‘Majority Leader’ as ML.
In the Caucus meeting, members heard about two of the city’s American Rescue Plan awards. The first was $340,400 to Dress For Success to fund programs helping women in the workplace, while the second was roughly $200,000 for Villa Maria College to run three years of a tech apprenticeship training program. CM Wyatt reiterated his perplexity that so many other businesses were encountering hurdles when they tried to access these funds.
The council also heard about the renovation of the Perry Projects. This will cost hundreds of millions of dollars, including planning, demolition, and building, to create 405 units of affordable housing. Most of this money will come from the federal government and New York State.
CM Rivera and ML Halton-Pope spoke about the proliferation of unlicensed marijuana shops. Rivera said that the state did not appear to have the enforcement capacity to address this. Halton-Pope outlined the health and economic dangers these retailers present, and encouraged them to apply for permits to avoid legal trouble with the Attorney General.
In the Regular meeting, the council continued its celebration of Black History Month with a performance by the violinists from Vibrant Strings. The council also honored noted educator Yvonne Hargrave and young basketball phenom Jaiden Harrison, who this season became the boys’ Western New York career record-holder for most points scored. Next, they recognized the work of all-around artist and entrepreneur Edreys Wajed, and finally Derrick Parson, the executive director of the Exchange at Beverly Grey. The Exchange serves BIPOC entrepreneurs, and works with businesses applying for American Rescue Plan funds.
The council sent two police promotions to the Civil Service Committee for consideration. The Buffalo Police Department would like to promote Todd McAlister, one of two officers involved in the 2017 killing of Wardel “Meech” Davis in police custody, to Chief. McAlister is currently a defendant in a First Amendment and wrongful arrest suit being brought by a local lawyer.
The city’s law department recommended settling in several lawsuits against the city, including at least two personal injury charges against the police. The council sent these to the claims committee. There, matters pertaining to pending litigation and legal advice are dealt with in executive session; when the material is considered sensitive, open meetings law allows for closed-door sessions. In order to find out about these cases, the public instead can consult New York’s court system filings.
Council members also passed a new law concerning short-term rentals (Airbnb-type rentals). This legislation aims to regulate the rapid growth of this type of rental in Buffalo by granting historic districts the power to deny licenses for these units. The law also includes a slew of health and safety regulations and increases fees for licenses and violations. These fees are lower for people in owner-occupied dwellings (e.g. folks who rent out a room or floor of their house) than for rentals that are not owner-occupied.
Finally, the council adopted a resolution by Zeneta Everhart urging New York State to allocate tens of millions of dollars to after school programming. These programs, the resolution notes, “contribute significantly to the academic success, physical health, and social-emotional growth of students.”