|Date:||October 18, 2020|
Welcome to PPG’s weekly Buffalo Common Council update! Each week, PPG summarizes important takeaways from the major Buffalo Common Council meetings. We’ll also include information from meetings related to our Community Agenda items.
This week, the Common Council held four meetings, but our attention will focus on two: The Civil Service Committee meeting, and the Legislation Committee meeting. The Civil Service Committee concerns all matter relating to the creation and abolishment of officers and employees of Buffalo. The Legislation Committee focuses on local laws, ordinances, and general legislation – except for civil service matters.
During the Civil Service Committee meeting, the committee discussed the residency requirement of Buffalo Fire Commissioner Renaldo, who, after being granted a six-month waiver for moving to Buffalo, failed to do so by the appointment deadline. Commissioner Renaldo agrees by his own admission that he missed the deadline, but is currently a Buffalo resident. Union representatives believe the Civil Service Committee should hold Commissioner Renaldo to the same strict residency standards that non-management firefighters must obey, denying them employment if they do not meet residency requirements by the deadline.
Committee Chair Wingo stated that even though Commissioner Renaldo missed his residency requirement deadline, Mayor Brown appointed him, and only the mayor has removal powers. Wingo also stated that even if Common Council had removal powers, such an action would not make sense as Commissioner Renaldo has already moved to Buffalo before Common Council would have taken action. Common Council President Pridgen noted that the Council has no enforcement mechanism – or investigative branch – for any city employee who does not meet residency requirements. The only enforcement mechanism available is for the person who appointed the city employee to remove the employee. Civil Service Committee members universally believe there should be an alternate Council enforcement mechanism and investigative unit to ensure employees respect the residency requirement. Still, Commissioner Renaldo will remain in his position.
During the Legislation Committee meeting, members of the committee discussed the misuse of recreational vehicles mentioned during a previous session. Buffalo Police Captain Rinaldo stated BPD currently has a no-pursuit policy to limit collateral damage that could potentially occur, making it difficult for police to pull over these vehicles. Captain Rinaldo notes chases are not necessary, because law enforcement can – more often than not – identify the owner of the recreational vehicle, so he recommends a more robust registration mechanism. Common Council showed universal support for increasing fines and impounding non-registered recreational vehicles.
The Legislation Committee also held a public hearing on the landmark application for the Michigan Sycamore Historic District, featuring comments from our partners at Preservation Buffalo-Niagara that own property within the district. This expansion would expand the Michigan Sycamore Historic District – established in 2017, and expanded once before in 2019 – to include additional properties. Christiana Limniatis, Director of Preservation Services at Preservation Buffalo-Niagara, stated the Michigan Sycamore Historic District is located within the African-American Heritage Corridor, a New York State designated heritage area. Christiana also noted that out-of-state speculation and racist disinvestment have harmed the area, which is why the landmark designation is so crucial to ensuring members of the local community control the future of the buildings.
New York Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes and former Council President George K. Arthur each sent in letters of support for the landmark designations, in addition to nearly 100 Buffalo residents – 55 residing within the Michigan Sycamore Historic district. However, an owner of a gas station located in the district took issue with the landmark designation, citing Common Council did not properly notify him of the possibility of such a designation. Council President Pridgen expressed support for preserving the Ellicott District’s history, and the intent to approve the landmark designation. Pridgen also noted Common Council met its notification requirements before asserting the businessman’s property needs extensive improvements.
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