|Date:||December 3, 2020|
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 five committee meetings, but our attention will focus on three: The Finance Committee meeting, the Education Committee meeting, and the Legislation Committee meeting. The Finance Committee concerns all matters about the budget and issuance of bonds. The Education Committee focuses on issues regarding teachers, schools, school property, training, and the Board of Education. The Legislation Committee addresses local laws, ordinances, and general legislation, except for civil service matters.
During the Finance Committee meeting, councilmembers discussed Mayor Brown's Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding allocation. (The City of Buffalo received $11.4 million from the Cares Act Congress passed.) According to the request sent to the Council, the funding is "a flexible source of funding that can be used to pay costs that are not covered by other sources of assistance, particularly to benefit persons of low and moderate-income." Common Council sent it to the Regular Meeting, recommending approval, and discussed borrowing money from the collective city and school board budget to cover a funding gap for Buffalo's first quarter. Councilmember Rivera expressed concern about the unknown ability of the city to repay the money borrowed. As a result, Common Council tabled the issue for further discussion and will soon receive the Comptroller's 2020 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR).
The Comptroller's responsibility is to audit and control the financial activities of all departments and agencies of the City of Buffalo, as well as serve the accounting, debt management, and investment functions. The Comptroller will hold informational sessions on the CAFR on December 9 at 10 a.m., and 2 p.m., for an hour each, though Common Council did not clarify if those meetings would be public. Later in the Finance Committee meeting, Councilmember Wyatt discussed his displeasure at the increased overall overtime numbers for first responders, considering the City of Buffalo added more first responders to increase capacity during regular business hours.
During the Education Committee meeting, the Council received a presentation on the Virtual Pathways program, a New York State transfer high school with five locations (and 154 students enrolled), that supports withdrawn, overage and under-credited students. The Redesigned Pathway Academy has 296 students enrolled, 11 locations within the city, and supports students — as early as the ninth grade — without transfer who can stay at their home school. The 10-minute presentation was highly informational and can be viewed at the two- to 12-minute mark during the Education Committee meeting Facebook video for those interested in learning more.
During the Legislation Committee meeting, Common Council held a hearing on a resolution by the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board to improve sidewalk and street conditions for pedestrians and cyclists on Bailey Ave, between Main Street and Broadway Street. Multiple members of the advisory board, in addition to people from the community, spoke in support of the resolution – including Jalonda Hill (Buffalo Fair Fines and Fees Coalition), Todd Timmons (East Side Bike Club), and India Walton, Executive Director of the Fruit Belt Community Land Trust. The conversation centered around recent pedestrian deaths by car on Bailey Avenue, and the disproportionate placement of safe street measures in wealthier areas of the city. For instance, Elmwood Avenue and Bidwell Parkway have much more walkable streets than Bailey Avenue, and Bailey Avenue has no bike lanes. (Even Councilmembers Bollman and Wingo discussed how dangerous it is attempting to cross Bailey Avenue.) Councilmembers Golombek, Wingo, Bollman, and Nowakowski all verbally spoke in support of the resolution, but the Council tabled the resolution until it can make funding available.
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This summary was drafted by Orlando Dickson, Civic Educator at Partnership for the Public Good.