Media Release: Community Groups Announce their Collective Policy Agenda for 2022

Date: January 14, 2022
Media Release: Community Groups Announce their Collective Policy Agenda for 2022

Each fall, Partnership for the Public Good leads a democratic process among its partners to determine the Community Agenda for the coming year. This year’s Agenda addresses important topics such as public land, language access, tenant protections, police oversight, water equity, and more.

In thirteen years of creating and supporting a Community Agenda, PPG partners have seen many of their goals realized on issues such as fines and fees justice, statewide climate legislation, creating Buffalo’s first community land trust, increasing minimum wage, and removing off-duty police officers—without training or oversight to work with young people—from Buffalo Public Schools.

On January 13, the 2022 Community Agenda was announced at a virtual event opened by local spoken word poet Brandon Williamson, creator of Pure Ink Poetry. An advocate for each proposed policy shared why it matters for our city and region.

The 2022 Community Agenda includes eleven policy change priorities:

  1. Public Land for Public Benefit
  2. A Comprehensive Well-Supported Cultural Plan for Buffalo and Erie County
  3. Public Banking: Public Money for Public Good
  4. The Forgotten Population: Foster Care Youth, Young Adults, and Alumni
  5. Institute Independent Police Oversight in the City of Buffalo
  6. Expand Language Access at All Levels of Government
  7. Buffalo Tenant Bill of Rights
  8. Improving Water Equity for Buffalo Residents
  9. Establish an Office of Sustainability in Buffalo to Ensure Climate Justice for All
  10. Leverage New Fair Housing Laws and Create Incentives to Dismantle Regional Segregation in Erie County
  11. Make the City of Buffalo Auction Work for Buffalo Residents

The full text of each plank is available here

Speaking to the number one priority of using public land for public benefit, Jeannette Koncikowski of Grassroots Gardens said, “In Buffalo, prices have skyrocketed and many of us are effectively being priced out. This doesn’t acknowledge the investment that community members have made in our neighborhoods. We need to take a neighborhood decision-making and restorative justice approach and create a policy to freely transfer lots to community partners.”

On the need to create a comprehensive cultural plan for Buffalo and Erie County, Richmond Wills of Just Buffalo Literary Center said, “Ask yourselves who and where we would be without the artists and cultural organizations that have provided much needed creative outlets, especially to under resourced communities? We are going to move forward with this cultural plan. To be successful we need to bring the City of Buffalo to the table. The time is now. Imagine having artists contributing to civic conversations. This is a moment of new opportunity.”

On the need for focused support for foster care graduates, Leah Angel Daniel of Fostering Greatness said, “Young adults who have aged out of the foster care system are one of the most underserved and underrepresented populations in the city.” This Community Agenda item calls for additional specialized support for young people transitioning out of foster care in city services, through the youth services department, housing support services and funding, and employment programs, for example.

Ting Lee of the Language Access Working Group spoke about the need to increase language access at the city, county and state level. “Equal access to government services is a basic right that has been denied to people with limited English proficiency. 11% of Buffalo residents speak a language other than English at home. In Buffalo schools, students speak over 82 different languages.”

Laura Conboy of the UB School of Law Civil Rights and Transparency Clinic spoke about dismantling regional segregation through county-wide policies, include new fair housing laws and increasing zoning density. She said, “By incentivizing affordable housing in high opportunity neighborhoods, we would make sure residents have meaningful choices about where they live. Segregation is not a problem we have tried and failed to solve here. We’ve never really tried. Behind the problems is a root cause— segregation—we need to treat the disease and not just the symptoms.”

Several elected officials joined the meeting to voice their support for the Agenda:

“For years, my office has been proud to work alongside PPG and so many of the hundreds of agencies and advocates who have contributed to this agenda to advance important policies that directly impact the lives of Western New Yorkers,” said Senator Tim Kennedy. “I'm thrilled that this year's Community Agenda Roll Out includes a bill I sponsor in the State Senate that would expand language access here in New York State, and I remain committed to driving forward inclusive policies that create a more just, thoughtful and diverse New York.”

Erie County Legislature Chairwoman April Baskin said, “With the Community Agenda, we are starting off 2022 with a strong progressive agenda for Buffalo and Western New York. PPG’s advocacy has played a vital role in the policy victories that have been achieved at the state and local level. They put issues at the center of public debate and allow public officials to propose local laws that deal with those issues. Back in 2018 when I joined the County Legislature, PPG was my school, a pillar, and the backbone to move Erie County to take a stance.”

Senator Sean Ryan said, “PPG’s annual Community Agenda gives us a valuable look at the priorities identified by some of Western New York’s most passionate champions and sets the table for important work at the State, County, and City levels every year. This year, I am happy to see those priorities include a focus on utilizing vacant public land for sustainable uses and expanding language access. As New York’s leading refugee resettlement region, it is especially imperative that we work to ensure that the many thousands of residents who are not native English speakers have the support they need when trying to access critical services.”

Buffalo Common Council Member Joel Feroleto added his support for a comprehensive cultural plan. He said, “Buffalo has an abundance of outstanding cultural organizations and I'm pleased a comprehensive approach to support these is included as a priority in PPG's annual community agenda.”

Buffalo Common Council Member Mitch Nowakowski said, “Every year, the Partnership for the Public Good releases a community agenda which serves to give elected leaders a sense of the most pressing issues affecting our constituencies. I look forward to partnering with PPG, and my colleagues across local, county, and state government, to ensure we move the needle forward for the great City of Buffalo in 2022.”

Speaking to the number one item on public land, Buffalo Common Council Member David Rivera said, “One of the main concerns I hear from constituents is about the lack of green space, which is why I was not surprised to learn it made the top of the list on PPG's Community Agenda. Whenever I travel to other thriving cities, I am aware of how much publicly accessible green space exists and how much Buffalo is lagging in this arena. I've always supported additional green space in the Niagara District, and would like to see the City of Buffalo develop a more comprehensive master plan that includes more publicly-owned land that can be utilized and enjoyed by residents.”

Buffalo Common Council President Darius Pridgen spoke in support of the Tenant Bill of Rights, and Buffalo Common Council Member Rasheed Wyatt spoke in support of independent police oversight.

A video of the event with all participants’ remarks is available at PPG’s facebook page: