Buffalo Common Council Summary: Week of September 12, 2022

Buffalo Common Council Summary: Week of September 12, 2022

Date: September 16, 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 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.

The Community Development Committee started with a discussion on street construction and the notification residents (or don't) receive about construction. Right now, there isn't a written policy for resident notification of street construction. As a result, many residents complain to council members they don't receive construction notifications about their neighborhood. Council President Pridgen stressed the need for a written policy and asked the Department of Public Works (DPW) to draft one. The City engineer agreed to draft a policy.

DPW is working on creating an online map for road closures. This way, the City of Buffalo can add road closures to the database, and the closures will show up on Google and Apple maps. Residents can then avoid the closures.

The City is in talks with National Grid about replacing its streetlights with LED lights. LED lights will save energy and be more cost-effective than the existing lights.

Residents from several East Side block clubs spoke up against the Hopewell outpatient opioid clinic slated to open in the Cleve-Hill plaza. There are now 1,800 signatures of residents who oppose this clinic. As neighborhood residents and Council Member Wyatt have advocated against this clinic, they've learned it is a federal initiative. Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes and Senator Kennedy are helping to push back against the clinic. They've reached out to Congressman Brian Higgins to discuss the problem.

Council Member Wyatt thanked Governor Kathy Hochul for the home improvement grant funds she made available for homeowners on the East Side. However, the council member explained that the funds are now gone because the need is so great. He hopes New York State will add more money to this fund.

A resident activist asked the Council and the DPW to ensure that all light poles are numbered. Residents can't report malfunctioning streetlights to National Grid without numeric identification. Council members will meet with DPW to discuss their options.

Council President Pridgen emphasized that developers must have community meetings before the City sells lots to those developers. Pridgen explained that this policy prevents speculators from purchasing publicly-owned land and neglecting it.

Council Member Wyatt asked for an update on the government access channel. He explained it's important for residents to hear the conversations that electeds are having about the Buffalo community. Yet, the government access channel is challenging to find right now. Wyatt requested that someone provide an update at the next Community Development Committee meeting.

The Finance Committee opened with a discussion on City Court facilities. The Comptroller's Office is taking over this plan to discuss how $400,000 will go into planning. Council approved the motion. Moving forward into the Recovery Plan Performance Report, there was a suggestion it was not as simple to spend money, and it is a process to get finances out the door. Council members stated that they had met with DPW and administration and had good communication. The money would have to be spent by December 31, 2024. The Council tabled this agenda item.

The Departments of Human Resources, Compensation and Benefits, and Civil Services initiated the 2022-2023 Benefit Advisors Benefits and Insurance Consultant Extention. Antoinette Palmer, the Director of Compensation and Benefits, spoke on the medical benefits and their workers in the community who come back to consult with them on the best recommendations and prices for medical and pharmacy benefits. She insisted that they would continue to follow laws, comply with them, and see if plans were up to date. 

This work is hoping to save $11 million. Council Member Wyatt requested a summary from them. Director Palmer also spoke on the Be Well Healthcare Medicine Police and Fire IOD Extension 2022, where they have been contracted to help injured police and firefighters both on duty and retired. This contract is in term for four years and is extended every year. They are requesting $154,000, and this price will go up 3% each year. The Council approved the motion.

The Legislation Committee began in the middle of resident testimony, complaining that the Common Council is not providing adequate notice of a public hearing that does not give people enough information to respond. Some residents feel there is no order or transparency in the civic process. Specifically, critics of the amended Elmwood Crossing Planned Unit Development (PUD) feel alterations reflect a compromise that might not benefit the community. There were multiple requests for Common Council to table the items so neighborhood associations and residents could learn more about the project and how it differs from the initial proposal.

Council Member Rivera requested attorney Marc Romanowski discuss the purpose behind the amendments to the PUD for clarity. Romanowski, who works for the Elmwood Crossing Group, touched on the evolution of the amendment and shifts due to the changing market because of COVID. He cited community discussions for maintaining a home set for demolition for a pocket park. As a result, the house will remain with a shift in green space designs. He also noted claims about a lack of community engagement as "inaccurate," listing hosted public events.

Council Member Rivera acknowledged these engagements and a shift in the PUD due to community feedback. He noted Common Council's intention to table the item before resident testimony.

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