|Date:||December 23, 2021|
By Elizabeth Quinlan|
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, the Common Council held six meetings. For this summary, we will focus on the Community Development Committee meeting. The Community Development Committee focuses on matters pertaining to work or improvement using revenue from another government unit.
During the Community Development Committee meeting, attorney Sean Hopkins spoke to councilmembers about the second phase of the McCarley Gardens Apartments pilot project. He said there is "ample justification" for the pilot project because it includes subsidized workforce housing. Council President Pridgen said this item could move forward favorably because the pilot project at McCarley Gardens is separate from the more controversial land acquisition project. Pridgen said that McCarley Gardens residents had been consulted, and nobody he knows of is against the pilot project because it keeps folks in their homes or moves them into something better. The Council approved the motion.
A Bailey Avenue resident addressed the committee regarding her user fee bill. She explained that she is penalized with more and more late fees every quarter, so her balance due has risen to over $3,000. She asked Councilmembers if there is a payment plan or late-fee forgiveness program to help her pay off her bill. Councilmember Wyatt thanked her for sharing her concerns and said he would like more information on this matter. The committee sent this item to the Common Council Finance Committee for further discussion.
Pam Lanich, an attorney from the WNY Law Center, shared a PowerPoint presentation and provided the committee with a brief overview of the New York State Homeowner Assistance Program. She explained that this brand-new program for homeowners is opening on January 3, 2022, across the state. With American Rescue Plan funding allocated, the program will help homeowners hurt financially by the pandemic to stay in their homes. New York homeowners can apply for help in paying property taxes, water fees, sewage fees, user fees, and more. To qualify, household income must be equal to or less than 100% of area median income. The WNY Law Center will conduct community outreach for the program and assist homeowners with applications.
Jean Souliere, Chief Executive Officer of BusPatrol LLC, presented a camera program that promotes school bus safety. He shared alarming statistics about the number of children hit and killed by cars that don't stop for school buses, even with fully extended stop arms stop signs at the front of the bus. Souliere shared video footage demonstrating how easily accidents happen and how AI-assisted technology can tag vehicles and capture license plate numbers. Souliere noted that the BusPatrol program changed driver behavior in participating cities. Those who break the law receive a video of themselves driving past a stopped school bus, so 98% of offenders don't get a second ticket.
BusPatrol has no up-front cost because offender fees completely fund it. The CEO stated that 60% of revenue would go to BusPatrol to administer the program, and 40% would go to Buffalo's City. BusPatrol would provide Buffalo officials with data about safety hotspots to increase signage and patrolling. The program would create zip code-specific safety videos for schools, social media, and DMVs.
Councilmember Wyatt shared his "hesitancy" about any program that profits from people's mistakes, misinformation, and occasional "lack of common sense." He cautioned that the rollout of a program like this would have to include a warning period to educate drivers and children who ride school buses. Councilmember Rivera pointed out that if BusPatrol would be issuing tickets at $250 each, any city revenue collected should go to traffic calming structures.
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