Buffalo Common Council Summary: Week of April 17, 2023

Buffalo Common Council Summary: Week of April 17, 2023

Date: April 28, 2023

By Anna Blatto

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.

This week's summary focuses on the Regular Meeting, the Common Council's primary meeting, where they make official decisions on issues.

In this week’s Regular Meeting, the Council referred City of Buffalo bond rating reports from Moodey’s Investment Services and Standard & Poor (S&P) to the Finance Committee. The City maintained an A1 rating from Moodey’s and an A+ rating from S&P. 

A letter encouraging the Common Council to support the New York State surplus fund return requirement written by Sarah Wooton, Director of Community Research, and Kate Lockhart, Vacant and Abandoned Property Program Director at the Western New York Law Center, was referred to the Finance Committee. Surplus funds are funds that become available after a foreclosed home is sold. It is the difference between the money earned from the foreclosure sale and the debt owed by the homeowner. In the past, the City of Buffalo has opted to return surplus funds to the previous owner of the foreclosed property. This year, the City has removed the surplus fund return policy from its website and will use it toward the City’s budget. The letter asks the Common Council to support the following:

  • a proposed NYS requirement to return surplus funds
  • the city administration returning surplus funds from the 2019 auction
  • a pause on In Rem auctions until the surplus return process is codified 

The Common Council has approved some co-mingling events on Chippewa. Co-mingling events allow bars and clubs that are typically 21+ to allow guests 18+ to attend. While two venues requested ten dates, the Council ultimately approved two for each.

CP Pridgen shared details from a meeting of stakeholders earlier in the day on 4/18/23. He explained the Entertainment District is the only area in the City that requires Council approval for co-mingling events. CP Pridgen stated this is due to the environment the entertainment district fosters and the need for extra police presence and vigilance on the event dates. He explained stakeholders at the meeting were nearly unanimously opposed to removing the ordinance requiring Council approval for these events in the Entertainment District. CP Pridgen specified stakeholders would monitor the outcome of the events and meet again to discuss the next steps, if any. 

Several Council Members debated the addition of a late file to appoint members to the City of Buffalo Citizens Salary Review Commission. 

Firstly, CM Golombek objected to the late file just before the announcement of the item. The Council moved on initially, but CM Wyatt expressed concerns, sharing his understanding of the rules requiring Council Members to declare objections before the beginning of the agenda. Assistant Corporation Counsel Karen Gordon was present to add detail; ultimately, Corporation Counsel will review Council procedures, and the Council will reconvene if necessary. 

CP Pridgen returned to the item for discussion at the end of the agenda. CM Golombek rejected the proposal as the New York State budget delay may prevent the City from knowing where it may be financially until May or June. He explained salaries increased last year and is vehemently opposed to rash decisions, believing the item should have been sent to committee first. 

CM Feroleto added the City Charter requires a Citizens Salary Review Commission to meet every two years to review and submit recommendations. He noted the last time they met was five years ago; prior to that, it had been 18 years since the Commission convened. CP Pridgen pointed out that the meeting of the Commission does not necessarily mean there will be pay raises but that the City Charter requires the Commission meeting. Ultimately the resolution passed 7-1 (with one member excused). The resolution calls for a report with recommendations for the compensation of elected and other officials by May 1, 2023. It is unclear whether the Commission will meet this deadline.

Finally, CM Scanlon urged Common Council members to include mental health and related services to law enforcement officers in the upcoming city budget. He shared four officers 40 and under have passed away in the past year and is hoping for support to make services more widespread.