Buffalo Common Council Summary: Week of March 11, 2024

Date: March 15, 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 Civil Service, Finance, Legislation, Community Development, and Rules Committee meetings. ‘Council Member’ is abbreviated as CM; ‘Council President’ as CP; ‘President Pro Tempore’ as PT; and ‘Majority Leader’ as ML.
The Civil Service committee heard from Nathaniel Barnes, the newest appointee to the Buffalo and Erie County Library Board of Trustees. Barnes is a school principal and literacy expert, hoping to improve reading skills at Arthur O. Eve School of Distinction. Barnes’ appointment fills the vacancy left when a former board member was asked to resign over his anti-LGBTQ+ comments and objection to a PRIDE month event in the library. City Historian Lindsay Lauren Visser spoke about using her new post to prepare the city for events like the 2027 anniversary of the end of slavery in New York State. Incoming Poet Laureate Aitina Fareed-Cooke has worked with many arts organizations in the city, as well as Creatives Rebuild New York, a program to place artists in community-based organizations.
Gregg Szymanski, from the Comptroller’s Office, spoke to the Finance committee. Now that new police contract numbers and snow plowing costs have come in, he said an additional $23 million will be needed in the budget. “Where do we make up that revenue?” asked CM Nowakowski.  “Where do we make it up? It’s not going to be made up this year,” replied Szymanski.
“It’s not going to fall from the sky,” said CM Wyatt. The city, he noted, is always hoping for a windfall-- from gambling revenues, from cannabis licensing, from sales taxes-- but that’s not happening. He urged the council to press for hiring slow-downs, and to spend less, especially on things residents don’t see a need for. “I think people are good with paying taxes when they believe they’re getting something for it,” he said. For example, he pointed out PPG’s press conference about Proactive Rental Inspections.  If the city would hire more inspectors and ensure safer homes, he said, people could see that the city government is doing what it promised.
In the Legislation committee meeting, State Senator Sean Ryan presented “City of Good Neighborhoods,” his plan to address Buffalo’s lack of affordable, decent housing in Buffalo. Ryan sought council support for his bills, three of which are currently in committee in the NYS Senate.
CM Wyatt and CM Rivera sponsored resolutions to support these NYS proposals. CM Wyatt said that these proposals align with a plan launched by Dr. Henry Taylor and a coalition of community and academic groups to “fix the East Side of Buffalo.”  CM Rivera pointed out that these initiatives would help poor residents to develop generational wealth, and the city could fill some of its vacant lots.
Other CMs did not think that the council should support these housing improvement measures, however. CM Feroleto and CP Scanlon said that they wanted affordable housing to be spread across the county, not just concentrated in the city. ML Halton-Pope explained that she would support a resolution asking the state for more Aid and Incentives for Municipalities (AIM) funding, but would not support this resolution. CM Rivera said he was “bewildered” that other council members were not supporting these proposals. ML Halton-Pope motioned to recommend “receiving and filing” the resolutions of support, and CP Scanlon seconded the motion. This means that the council is unlikely to adopt the resolutions. PPG sent a letter to the council explaining our deep disappointment in the council for its lack of support.
The Community Development committee agenda had only one item-- a letter to the Postmaster General to urge that the USPS retain its enormous William Street location, rather than moving it to another city.
The Rules committee meets extremely rarely-- they last met in 2020. This week’s meeting was to review the revised rules of order. This document lays out the meeting schedule and the procedures that the council will follow (which are largely derived from Robert’s Rules of Order).