Buffalo Common Council Meeting Update: Week of Sunday, October 12, 2020

Buffalo Common Council Meeting Update: Week of Sunday, October 12, 2020

Date: October 11, 2020

Each week, PPG summarizes important takeaways from the major Buffalo Common Council meetings. PPG will also include information from meetings related to our Community Agenda items.

This week, Common Council held two meetings: A Caucus Meeting, and a Regular Meeting. A Caucus Meeting is where members from a specific political party – in this case, the Democratic Party – meet, but official voting on issues does not occur. A Regular Meeting is the primary meeting of the Common Council, for members to make official decisions on issues.

During the Caucus Meeting, two noteworthy issues were raised. Mayor Brown vetoed an amendment to a law Common Council passed meant to ensure that speed cameras in school zones are only active between 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., and 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.  With this veto, the speed cameras will be on all day, and residents may receive tickets for speeding no matter the time. Councilmembers noted that the original purpose of the cameras was to protect children during school hours, not to automate traffic regulation throughout the day. Common Council and residents believe this will result in false positives for residents who are unaware the speed limit applies throughout the day.

Another issue raised is Mayor Brown filing his veto after the 30-day deadline, which normally makes the law veto-proof. In response, a City of Buffalo lawyer stated the Mayor is interpreting Governor Cuomo’s COVID-19 State of Emergency as granting special powers to his office. These powers allow for an extension of any veto deadline for laws passed by the Common Council on or before March 7, through June 7. Council President Pridgen explained Common Council has the authority to override vetoes at their disposal and requested the city lawyer provide clarification on whether Cuomo’s State of Emergency extended the veto deadline.

The Common Council seems to be in universal agreement that Buffalo residents’ misuse of ATVs and other recreational vehicles is a growing problem. A measure containing increased fines and fees – specifically for recreational vehicles – might pass in the coming weeks. The new law will also include a stricter impound measure in the case of misuse, or a lack of registration.

During the Regular Meeting, the Common Council referred a complaint against the Buffalo Police Department, on behalf of Morgan Eaton, to the Police Oversight Committee – alleging officers engaged in perjury and tampering with evidence. The Council agenda lists the next Police Oversight Committee will take place on November 11 at 2:00 p.m., though committee dates are subject to change.

Common Council also sent PPG’s letter in support of removing Chapter 69 City Code – prohibiting the consumption of alcohol with an “open container” in public – to the Legislative Committee. Written by Tanvier Peart, a new PPG team member, the letter highlights how open container laws disproportionately impact people of color and are an antiquated approach to public safety, leading to biased enforcement. Buffalo Police arrest data, obtained through a New York Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request, reveals roughly 82 percent of all persons detained under the open container law in Buffalo are Black.

Lastly, Council President Pridgen’s measure to rename Fillmore Ave to “Black Lives Matter Way” passed unanimously. This measure is meant to recognize the Black Lives Matter movement, which began in 2013, in light of the recent extrajudicial police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor that have led to worldwide protests and civil unrest throughout the country. As a note, streets are at oftentimes named for organizations that have contributed to the advancement of justice and equity in communities.

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