Buffalo Common Council Summary: Week of November 1, 2021

Buffalo Common Council Summary: Week of November 1, 2021

Date: November 5, 2021

By Becca Bass |
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 two meetings. For this summary, we will focus on both the Caucus Meeting and the Regular Meeting. A Caucus Meeting is where members from a specific political party, in Buffalo's case, the democratic party, meet, but official voting on issues does not occur. The Regular Meeting is the Common Council's primary meeting, where they make official decisions on issues.

This week's Caucus Meeting was brief and entirely procedural. First, the councilmembers reviewed the agenda items for the Regular Meeting. The Council assigned each item to a committee, approved, denied, received and filed, adopted, or left it open for discussion at the Regular Meeting. There was no substantive discussion of any of the agenda items.

During the Regular Meeting, after the opening prayer and memorials, the Common Council sent the 2022 Capital Budget and 2023-2026 Capital Improvement Program Recommendations from the Mayor's Office to the Committee of the Whole for further discussion. The proposal includes $25 million in requested bond sales to finance capital improvements, which specifically includes proposed investments in:

  • Citywide infrastructure ($4.3 million);
  • Community safety buildings and equipment ($8.2 million);
  • Citywide demolitions and code compliance ($500,000);
  • Cultural, parks, and recreational facilities ($7.3 million);
  • Albright Knox infrastructure improvements ($714,000);
  • Buffalo City Hall improvements ($250,000);
  • Ballpark field upgrades ($510,000);
  • City Department of Public Works vehicles ($1.9 million); and
  • East Side Transfer Station improvements ($325,000)

Council President Pridgen announced a public hearing on November 16 at 2 p.m. in the Council Chambers regarding potentially permanently closing Fosdick Avenue to traffic and transferring jurisdiction of the street to City Honors School/ the Buffalo Board of Education. This street is between the school building and the school's proposed new athletic fields. Pridgen proposes a comprehensive traffic and parking study to look at the potential impact of this street closure on traffic and parking in the broader neighborhood.

The Council President gave an impassioned statement in opposition to a proposed new liquor store on Michigan Avenue by the arches of the African-American Heritage Corridor. He believes another liquor store in the corridor is disrespectful and against the wishes of the community.

The Council sent an agenda item related to the potential placement of the new Bills stadium in Buffalo to the Community Development committee. Councilmember Wyatt announced a public hearing on November 9 at 5:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers for researchers to present analyses of the potential impacts of moving the stadium to the City of Buffalo. Anyone interested in voicing an opinion who cannot attend the meeting can submit their thoughts through this form: https://forms.gle/sVDgDpdd7xdtUW1f7

It does not appear the Common Council has a significant say in the negotiations around the placement of the stadium. Still, the body remains eager to encourage more informed public discussion of the issue. Council President Pridgen emphasized that any stadium deal will involve significant taxpayer contributions, and taxpayers deserve a say.

Councilmember Nowakowski, who represents the Old First Ward and the Perry Projects—an area of interest in the discussions of possible stadium locations—emphasized that his goal is to pursue the best interests of his constituents. He underscored the importance of ensuring affordable housing options and shared that the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority (BMHA) plans to redevelop the Perry Projects. Nowakowski stated BMHA plans must be transparent to better inform the conversation about the stadium location.

The Common Council adopted a resolution establishing an ad hoc BMHA Oversight Task Force to improve current policies and practices of the BMHA. In response to a denied request for a short-term non-owner-occupied rental unit (an Airbnb), Council President Pridgen spoke out against the growth of Airbnbs in Buffalo, stating we need a clear municipal policy to restrict these kinds of units.

Councilmember Nowakowski spoke to clarify an approved motion to forgive and abate the Theater of Youth's debt to the city. The Theater of Youth has a 25-year lease to occupy a building the City of Buffalo owns. In 2005, the Common Council approved the abatement of debts related to utility costs based on the theater's investment in capital improvements to the building. However, the lease was not properly amended to remove the theater's responsibility for utility costs moving forward. The present motion forgives the debts and moves to revise the lease.

During closing announcements, Councilmember Wingo emphasized the importance of community attending district stakeholder meetings to become better informed about councilmembers' role and scope of influence. Councilmember Wyatt announced that every second Wednesday of the month, there are E-District meetings at 995 Kensington Avenue at 5:30 p.m. These meetings offer an opportunity to talk about police issues.

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