|Date:||June 9, 2023|
By Sarah Wooton, Regine Ndanga, Dejia James, Megan Battista, and 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 Civil Service, Finance, Legislation, and Community Development Committees. We abbreviate “Council Member” as CM, "Council President" as CP, and "Majority Leader" as ML.
ML Rivera proposed deferring discussion at the Civil Service Committee Meeting on demanding transparency regarding City job vacancies. Instead, he hopes to invite representatives from Human Resources to address the Council on the matter. CM Bollman suggested the administration appear before the Committee and discuss implementing streamlined processes to attract and retain competent management coordinators.
During the Finance Committee Meeting, the Buffalo Fire Department (BFD) representative informed the Committee that their request to purchase a used fire truck, previously approved by the Common Council, had been withdrawn. The seller denied the sale, stating that a bid process and vote were required. CM Bollman inquired about alternative avenues for purchasing another used vehicle, to which the BFD representative confirmed they were exploring such options due to the lengthy timeline associated with buying a new vehicle, which could take up to 18 months. CM Wyatt raised a question about collaboration between BFD and the fire union in making purchases, and the representative indicated that they believed collaboration was taking place.
In light of the repairs needed for fire trucks due to the December 2022 blizzard, ML Rivera proposed reallocating funds to cover these repairs and motioned for approval.
ML Rivera also requested additional information from the Comptroller's Office to ensure consistent discretionary fund spending across all branches of government. However, since no representatives from the Comptroller's Office were present, the Committee decided to table the item.
CP Pridgen urged the Committee to address three items previously tabled: the upgrade of city vehicles to electric, an inquiry into license plate readers, and a lease audit report for the Records Facility. ML Rivera then motioned to receive and file these items.
During the Legislation Committee Meeting, T. Thomas presented a zoning amendment for 20 Armin Place, seeking to convert it into a family-oriented senior residential facility. Many residents attended the meeting and expressed opposition to the proposal. Yolanda, a resident, filed a petition highlighting concerns about the absentee landlord, unlawful activities, and lack of property maintenance. Christine, another resident, emphasized the importance of property maintenance and expressed doubts about Thomas' capabilities.
CM Scanlon questioned Thomas about property management, as the residence had faced code violations for the past four years. Thomas defended himself, citing pandemic-related regulations that prevented tenant eviction, and admitted to not contacting all residents to discuss his plans. CM Scanlon hesitated to approve the proposal but suggested submitting it without a specific recommendation and requested Thomas to contact their office for further discussion.
Former Buffalo News reporter Bob McCarthy addressed the Community Development Committee regarding placing a historical marker at the intersection of Eagle and Washington Streets. This location is where President Abraham Lincoln's funeral train stopped in Buffalo on April 27, 1865. Although the Council unanimously supported a resolution to create the marker in 2021, it has been tabled since then. CP Pridgen expressed his commitment to ensuring its completion before January and mentioned other requested historical markers, including one at Johnny B. Wiley. CP Pridgen motioned to table the item.
The Committee postponed discussions on concerns regarding violence at Lafayette Square.
The Committee initiated a public hearing regarding the closure and partial abandonment of a South Park Avenue Right of Way section. Tom George from the NFTA presented plans to renovate the DL&W train shed and construct a new train station near Canalside, which necessitates using a portion of South Park Ave. Right of Way. CP Nowakowski voiced approval for the proposal. The Committee then sent the item to the Council without recommendation.
John Fraser, Director of Development for Community Preservation Partners, a national developer of affordable housing, discussed the acquisition and renovation of Ellicott Park Townhomes. He requested approval of the PILOT agreement, which would exempt them from property taxes in exchange for making payments in lieu of taxes. Fraser mentioned that tenants are enthusiastic about the plans. CP Pridgen raised concerns about drug dealing at the townhomes but motioned to approve the PILOT agreement.