Buffalo Common Council Summary: Week of November 7, 2022

Buffalo Common Council Summary: Week of November 7, 2022

Date: November 15, 2022

By Rose Thomas, Sarah Wooton, and 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 Common Council Summary focuses on three meetings. The Finance Committee concerns all matters about the budget and issuance of bonds. The Community Development Committee focuses on issues about work or improvement using revenue from another government unit. The Legislation Committee focuses on local laws, ordinances, and general legislation—except for civil matters.

In the Finance Committee, Crystal Middleton, Director of Planning in the Office of Strategic Planning, introduced the City of Buffalo's ("the City") Four-Year Strategic Plan 2023-2027. According to Director Middleton, the department did a lot of community engagement to help inform this plan that focuses on four strategic priorities:

  1. Thriving neighborhoods and people (e.g., affordable housing, access to parks and services);
  2. Smart and sustainable infrastructure (e.g., smart cities technology, investing in existing infrastructure);
  3. Climate resilience (e.g., energy efficiency, creating a climate action plan); and 
  4. Economic opportunities and mobility (e.g., expanding employment and education opportunities, growing commercial corridors)

Council Member Rivera asked that the department create measurable outcomes for the plan. "What are we actually accomplishing?" he asked. Director Middleton explained that the department has an internal program with specific action steps, which identifies which departments are responsible for each step and what the funding source is for each project. Council President Pridgen asked that the department prioritize helping people who live in Buffalo and currently own historic buildings to take care of those buildings and restore them. He said it's mostly just big, established developers from elsewhere who have the money and technical knowledge to restore historic buildings.

Council Member Wyatt expressed that we should focus on helping renters to purchase homes since many landlords don't take care of their properties. Other council members also suggested we reconsider which parts of the city we're focusing on for development.

Note: There will be a public hearing on the Four-Year Strategic Plan on Tuesday, November 22 at 10am. If you want to speak at the hearing, reach out to Council Staff at (716) 851-5105 or councilstaff@buffalony.gov. Read more about the plan here.

Next, the Investment Debt Officer reported the City's finances to the Council. The only item of note seemed to be an $11 million police arbitration award with no further details. The debt officer moved $6 million of the American Rescue Plan funds to cover this expense in the books.

Council Member Wyatt asked how the economy's circumstances affected the City's finances. The debt officer explained that sales tax income remains consistent. However, the increased interest rates have both helped and hurt Buffalo. The city is receiving more interest on the money it has in the bank due to the higher interest rates but must pay more on future bonds because of the higher interest rates. Most of the City's funds are in KeyBank and JPMorgan.

The Community Development Committee began with a discussion on the snow plan. Nate Marton, Commissioner of the Department of Public Works ("DPW"), stated that the GPS monitoring system would be interactive where residents can see the status of snow removal on their street. He's had several conversations with Parking Commissioner Raymond Wagner about snow removal. Marton stated DPW could look to add GPS to sanitation trucks as some residents complain about a lack of garbage pick-up. 

Council Member Wyatt expressed concerns about residents who lived on dead-end streets and hoped GPS monitoring would assist with this. He suggested creating a better communication piece as it's essential for residents to know what is happening, especially during bad weather. Seniors are one of the most vulnerable populations in the area and are most affected by snowstorms. More efforts are critical to ensure the safety of seniors who may not have access to the GPS maps on their phones.

Council President Pridgen requested DPW complete the following year's snow plan by April 1, 2023. However, Commissioner Marton stated that the deadline might be too soon for his team. Council Member Rivera noted concerns about approving the new budget after May, which could impact the timeline.

Anita Sanders, Owner and Founder of Trace Assets Protection Services, spoke on the scope of work she was looking to do with the purchase of 894 Kensington Ave. She hopes to redevelop the commercial space and include the vacant lot she wants to purchase to create a four-story commercial building with three upper floors for residential areas, 25% for seniors. The remaining 75% is workforce housing with amenities. This initiative is through the Community-Based Real Estate Development Training with an expectation to engage other nonprofits, such as Eight Days of Hope. 

Council Member Golombek asked if Sanders had any experience in community engagement. She stated that she has worked with a few nonprofits and hopes to engage fresh food groups to have a mart in the commercial space. Council Member Wyatt said that he would table this item until Anita Sanders first meets with the community about this development.

James Morrell, Director of Public Transit at the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority ("NFTA"), spoke on installing bus shelters at NFTA stops. He believes clearer sidewalks would make such efforts a reality. Council Member Wyatt sought this as an opportunity for collaboration with snow removal as it may be difficult for people to get to their bus stops or miss their bus due to vast amounts of snow. Morell stated that his team sends out a guide called "Winters Riders" on how riders can safely navigate during inclement weather. 

Council Member Feroleto spoke on an item to amend a chapter of the traffic ordinance during the Legislation Committee. The recommendation comes from the Department of Public Works and the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy to address the ring road in Delaware Park and South Park. Council Member Wingo asked for consideration of parade streets to the amendment due to speeding around MLK Park. 

Nolan Skipper, City Engineer, noted the DPW surveyed residents near both park locations and hosted two public meetings for community engagement. Based on the survey results, DPW would like to have an ordinance amendment in place to formalize the road closures with enforcement.

For clarity, DPW seeks a complete closure of the Delaware Park ring road at all entrances. South Park will still have one-way access from the Botanical Gardens. The committee approved the Chapter 479 traffic ordinance amendment.

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