|Date:||May 20, 2022|
By Tanvier Peart|
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 will focus on the Regular Meeting and a Special Session. The Regular Meeting is the Common Council's primary meeting, where they make official decisions on issues. The Council held a Special Session to vote on Mayor Brown's 2022-2023 recommended budget. During the week, the Common Council also held a series of budget workshops with the City of Buffalo Executive Departments. There was no Caucus Meeting this week.
The Regular Meeting began with a word from Common Council Chaplain Rev. Al Warner about the mass shooting at the Tops on Jefferson. The Council followed with a video tribute to the 10 lives lost on May 14 Council President Pridgen read into the record. Council Member Wingo—whose district the mass shooting took place in—was the first to share his thoughts about the tragedy. He called for action and unity to not operate in silos for the benefit of the community.
Council Member Scanlon pledged to do more and urged members of the white community not to tell Black people "how to grieve" and not let the white supremacist off the hook as a "kid"—or label the tragedy as a "mental health situation." Council Member Bollman expressed gratitude for community and faith leaders during this time. Council Member Nowakowski challenged white people to confront hate and bigotry in their own circles head-on.
Common Council referred the appointment of a Chief Diversity Officer for the City of Buffalo to the Civil Service Committee. The Council also directed the City of Buffalo Fair Housing Report to the Community Development Committee.
The Council adopted Council Member Golombek's resolution concerning changes to the state's proposed primaries and the financial impact on the City of Buffalo. Last month, a judge ruled New York will hold both congressional and state Senate primaries on August 23 after the Court of Appeals rejected senate and congressional maps. Gubernatorial and state Assembly primaries can commence in June for now. Golombek calls attention to the possibility the City of Buffalo might not have the funding to hold two primaries and asks New York State to come up with the necessary funds. Council Member Golombek's resolution also requests for the primary to take place in September to allow June to be the start of the political season, encouraging stronger participants in the petitioning process due to warmer weather.
Common Council approved the appointment of members to the new Community Police Advisory Committee that will replace the former Police Advisory Board (PAB). Council Member Rivera thanked the PAB for its service and hopes the new body will be able to foster a better relationship between the community and police.
The 65th Annual Allentown Art Festival received the green light. The Council also voted in favor of waiving fees for the Juneteenth Festival.
Council President Pridgen confessed the Common Council would have long days ahead as it must settle the city budget by Friday. He stated the Common Council will hold discussions outside of traditional meetings and public hearings and is confident the body can make the necessary amendments and come to a decision by the close of business on May 20.
Council Member Wingo encouraged those who want to donate time or money, including funeral costs, to the Resource Council of WNY or call his office at (716) 851-5145. There is an overwhelming response, and he wants to work in a coordinated effort to increase impact.
The Buffalo Common Council planned to hold a Special Session to settle Mayor Brown's 2022-2023 recommended budget at 2 p.m. but approved a recess to continue negotiations. PPG joined community members and organizers to call for an executive order to halt the vote in light of the May 14 tragedy at the Tops on Jefferson and the need for people to grieve.
Council reconvened after 5 p.m. with a motion to approve the budget with amendments. Council Member Wingo of the Masten District spoke out about the removal of the controversial ShotSpotter technology, noting residents in his district he surveyed overwhelmingly wanted the surveillance program. He also expressed disappointment in the ability to take his amendments back to his constituents and alleged Council President Pridgen, Majority Leader Rivera, Pro Temp Scanlon, and Finance Chair Wyatt held a meeting to negotiate without his knowledge.
Council Member Scanlon agreed with Wingo in many respects about the lack of transparency. Council President Pridgen acknowledged negotiations with the administration and mentioned the amendments include:
Council Member Wyatt, who also serves as the Finance Committee Chair, conceded working late to reflect the priorities of the people. He noted wanting to reduce the police budget but didn't have the votes. Council Member Rivera echoed listening to the people and negotiating until 1 a.m. with the administration to do the best they could under the circumstances. He was grateful as failure to act would mean the recommended budget passed as is. Regarding transparency, Pridgen and Rivera disclosed leadership reached out to council members about the meeting to attend.
Council Member Golombek expressed concerns about the initial budget recommendations, including ShotSpotter and the increased taxes. He's thankful for the amended budget and commended the Council for working together to make it happen. Council Member Bollman said he stayed late into the night and remained unashamed to do so for his constituents. Council Member Nowakowski noted his participation and the Council's vested powers to amend the budget on their own, which is what those who worked late did.
Council President Pridgen pointed out five or more council members cannot be in a meeting together, or else it becomes public—which is why the Finance Committee worked on the amendments. Additionally, he reminded what is before the Council is a proposal for amendments and is not set in stone without a vote. Pridgen also clarified that the Common Council will still need to vote on receiving a grant for ShotSpotter should federal funding become available. Though the Council decided to remove the technology from the budget, he did not want to give the impression the Buffalo Police Department would automatically receive the technology.
The Common Council approved the motion to pass the amended budget.
Missed this week's budget workshops on May 18? Click below to view on the Buffalo Common Council's Facebook page:
Budget Workshop - Part 1 (3:35:59):
Budget Workshop - Part 2 (1:04:03):
Budget Workshop - Part 3 (14:03):
Need more than just a summary? Contact us at email@example.com, or find full meeting information and schedules here: http://buffalony.iqm2.com/Citizens/Default.aspx