Buffalo Common Council Summary: Week of March 18, 2024

Date: March 22, 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.
The Caucus meeting began with a presentation by Commissioner of Administration and Finance Delano Dowell, who sought council approval for three American Rescue Plan contracts. The Hispanic Heritage Council of Western New York will receive $1 million towards the building of a Hispanic Heritage Cultural Institute, and The Service Collaborative will get $1 million to create a Neighborhood Improvement Corps, which will provide employment and perform maintenance in the city. The service organization Most Valuable Parents is being awarded a quarter million dollars to develop an intensive parent and student mentoring program to improve attendance, reduce suspensions, and raise student achievement in five Buffalo schools.
In the Regular meeting, council members recognized women from each district, including PPG partners: Diann Takens, founder of Peace of the City, and Courtney Deuro from the Center for Self Advocacy, an organization that advocates for the rights of people with developmental disabilities. In his introduction to Deuro’s recognition, CM Nowakowski pointed out that the Disabilities Advisory Board, though written into city law in 2003, has yet to become a reality.
The Council voted to approve a contract with City Swim Project to provide swimming and life-saving youth programs. They also adopted a resolution to reestablish the dormant Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprise (MWBE) Task Force, which will work to encourage and facilitate MWBE economic participation.
The Council moved to “approve with conditions” the sale of a house that the city took by foreclosure. Previously, this sale had been held up by CM Feroleto because he objected to the city’s policy of keeping the proceeds of these sales, rather than returning the profits to the property owners. This practice has been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, but seems to be still in effect in Buffalo. Because the house is now decaying, they decided to let the city sell the house, but only if the proceeds from the sale are kept in escrow until the money can be returned to the family.
When the question of actively supporting four bills to help with affordable housing came up, CM Wyatt asked for a roll call, meaning that he wanted each CM to go on record with their vote. The Council voted 7-2 not to issue a resolution of support; CM Wyatt and CM Rivera were the only dissenters.
The council also voted to be more careful about hiring city staff. By taking “proactive vacancy control measures.” This is meant to help with budgeting, especially since the city won’t be receiving any more COVID-related federal funds in future years. This resolution is intended to stiffen the city’s approach to hiring; necessary positions will be filled, but there will be a sincere effort to cut out excess spending for jobs. Personnel costs comprise over 90% of the city’s budget, noted CM Rivera.