Buffalo Common Council Summary: Week of June 12, 2023

Buffalo Common Council Summary: Week of June 12, 2023

Date: June 16, 2023

By 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 includes the caucus and regular meetings. We abbreviate “Council Member” as CM, "Council President" as CP, and "Majority Leader" as ML.

During the Caucus Meeting, Brendan Mehaffy, Executive Director of the City of Buffalo's Office of Strategic Planning, confirmed filing the Annual Action Plan and the Capital Budget. The Annual Action Plan allocates funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (H.U.D.) through four entitlement programs: Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), HOME Investment Partnerships (HOME), Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG), and Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA). Funding levels remain consistent with last year for public service agencies, streets and sidewalks, and housing, with a slight decrease for community centers due to reduced federal funding. The Capital Budget aligns with Citizens Planning Council (CPC) recommendations, prioritizing vehicles, fire, the Department of Public Works (DPW), and street and sidewalk maintenance.

A Department of Management Information Systems (MIS) representative discussed a proposed agreement with Catalyst Consulting Group, Inc. for a new Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. The budget earmarks $1.1 million to upgrade the Division of Citizen Services' CRM software, implementing a modern, software-as-a-service 311 call center. Catalyst Consulting Group, Inc., a certified minority business enterprise, will assist MIS in evaluating procedures to enhance the efficiency of city departments in delivering services to residents. The new system will include an app for monitoring the status of 311 calls and reports.

During the Regular Meeting, the Common Council approved MIS's agreement with Catalyst Consulting Group Inc for the new CRM system. They also adopted the Affordable Housing Taskforce Bylaws and meeting minutes.

Two tenants and Fruit Belt Community Land Trust members also expressed concerns about unfair rent increases. The Council referred the matter to the Community Development Committee for further discussion. Council President Pridgen emphasized the importance of the Fruit Belt Community Land Trust, an organization dedicated to affordable housing, maintaining affordable rents rather than raising them by nearly 50%.

The Common Council approved the 2023 recommendations from the Citizens' Salary Review Commission, which include an average raise of 12.63% for elected officials, including the Mayor, the Comptroller, Common Council Members, and elected Board of Education Members. CMs Bollman, Colombek, and Scanlon dissented in the vote. Read more about this here.

The Council approved two items discussed in the previous week's Community Development Meeting: the Ellicott Park Townhomes PILOT agreement and the closure and partial abandonment of a portion of the South Park Avenue Right of Way. CM Nowakowski ensured South Park would remain safe for cyclists despite closing the bike lane during construction.

The Council approved the establishment of the Lower Black Rock Historic District. CM Golombek noted that the district's conditions would preserve 1942 Niagara Street, but the developers can relocate the house if necessary.