Buffalo Common Council Summary: Week of June 27, 2022

Buffalo Common Council Summary: Week of June 27, 2022

Date: July 1, 2022

By Sydney Browne|

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

For this summary, we will focus on the Regular Meeting. The Regular Meeting is the Common Council's primary meeting, where they make official decisions on issues. The Legislation Committee held a Special Council Committee Meeting for a public hearing on reapportionment regarding the proposed redistricting map for the City of Buffalo.

This week's Regular Meeting began with remarks from Reverand Al Warner. He recognized the work "Eight Days of Hope" and Steve Tyber, the founder and CEO, throughout Buffalo. After reading scripture from the Bible, Warner expressed his excitement for Councilmember Nowakowski and Erie County Councilmember Howard Johnson hosting an associated event to improve Filmore District.

Various councilmembers then asked for certain community members to be kept in mind. The Majori family was mentioned following the passing of deputy city clerk Kathleen Majori. Councilmember Wyatt then asked for prayers for Anthony Wiley, a member of the Buffalo Promise neighborhood who had passed away recently. Finally, attention was brought to the True Bethel Church memorial service for Valeria Marrera and a moment of silence was held.

Council Member Golombek held a special presentation in honor of Al Vaughters, an award-winning investigative reporter retiring from News 4 after 28 years. Michelle, Vaughters' wife, gave a speech thanking the Common Council and Buffalo community for showing her husband kindness during their time here. Golombek presented the pair with an award before Council Member Wyatt extended special remarks.

Common Council approved or sent most of the agenda items to committees. The Council discussed an agreement with the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority (BMHA). Council Member Wyatt expressed his desire to see the following conditions in place:

  • A town hall with public housing residents within 30 days;
  • Quarterly meetings with the BMHA Executive Director Gillian Brown and the Kenfield Langfield Tenant Council;
  • Revised policy regarding tenant lockouts to be filed with the Common Council;
  • A written response to outstanding tenant complaints filed with his office;
  • A ledger that speaks to the $3.6 million BMHA requested to address tenants currently owe;
  • Detailed quarterly reports on the use of ARP-issued funds;
  • A written summary of how to handle past due balances; 
  • Reimbursement of tenants who reported towed cars to the University District office without notice; and
  • A list of board members in admittance for the last six meetings

Council President Pridgen made a point to note there are millions of dollars of rent due from BMHA residents. If Council did not approve the agenda item, residents would receive eviction notices next month. The Council estimates the decision would impact roughly 4,000 people.

Council Member Scanlon noted Common Council could not set policy as BMHA is an independent organization and must work together to address community needs. Council Member Golombek stated that his district has the second-highest BMHA residents and wants to clarify what Council can and cannot do. He wants to hold BMHA's feet to the fire but recognizes the Common Council does not have the authority. Councilmember Rivera stressed the Council's impending recess and the urgency associated with this bill before Common Council moved to approve the agenda item.

Council Member Wingo spoke on issues of food store licensing in Masten District, alluding to transparency problems with ownership in new storefronts. Council Member Nowakowski addressed the importance of the Broadway-Bailey neighborhood clinic, expressing confusion as to why it's closing without neighborhood input. He then urged the Council to call on state officials to address the issue and figure out a solution to take care of community members. Council Member Golombek noted the danger of cars parking in bike lanes in his district, citing a recent case of a young female biker passing away after being hit on Michigan Avenue. 

Finally, Council Member Wingo passionately spoke on a drafted resolution about referring to "the East Side" as "East Buffalo" in the media. He urged that this resolution should not be a discussion of rebranding or gentrification. To further support the effort, Wingo cited the negative national coverage of East Buffalo following May 14 that brought an association with violence and poverty. Rather than regulate neighborhoods to "the side of something" or an epithet, he would like the change to reflect inclusion and referenced areas like North Buffalo and South Buffalo. The council member concluded his speech by stating that while his constituency will always be and know their community as the "East Side," the issue is inclusivity and equity. 

The rebrand remains a point of contention. While some elected officials, nonprofit leaders, and residents are in support, many feel a shift to East Buffalo erases history and is a performative gesture that overlooks decades of disinvestment and segregation. Since the resolution's introduction, The Challenger published a new issue with "EAST SIDE!" on the front page and the following statement: "With all due respect, Councilman Ulysees O. Wingo's resolution to rename our community 'East Buffalo' is an untimely, divisive distraction that smacks of gentrification. We are East Side strong [,] Mr. Wingo!"

The Legislation Committee held a Special Council Committee Meeting for a reapportionment public hearing. Over 100 residents spoke out against the proposed redistricting map for the City of Buffalo and the lack of public participation and transparency in the process. Common Council must approve a new redistricting map every decade. Our City Action Buffalo led a call for council members to reject the proposed map residents overwhelmingly disapproved and maintain the status quo. Rusty Weaver, Director of Research at Cornell ILR Buffalo Co-Lab, curated an alternative map in "Open Analysis of Common Council Redistricting Plans for Buffalo, NY."

Two days after the hearing, Common Council published an announcement of a special session to vote on the redistricting map. However, the Council postponed the July 1 meeting amid backlash and the Buffalo News Editorial Board article, "City's Proposed Redistricting Maps Falls Short of a Reasonable Standard of Fairness."

Need more than just a summary? Contact us at info@ppgbuffalo.org, or find full meeting information and schedules here: http://buffalony.iqm2.com/Citizens/Default.aspx