You Are the Mayor / County Executive

25 Jun

You are the Mayor of Buffalo or the County Executive of Erie County.

Name 5 things that you would implement right now that would have a significant positive impact on the city or region.

(Photo credit: Eye8Pudding via Flickr)

24 Responses to “You Are the Mayor / County Executive”

  1. Good Grief June 25, 2008 at 7:16 am #

    Growth moratoriums. With a shrinking population, skyrocketing gas prices and a continually weak economy, it is absolutely despicable that we continue to allow our suburbs to expand outwards – its only shooting ourselves in the foot. Can it really be any simpler than –

    Shrinking population + Growing infrastructures + older housing/structures left for dead = the county has huge fiscal problems.

    But somehow people don’t get it.

  2. al-alo June 25, 2008 at 7:43 am #

    1. extend metro rail to airport/NF/UB
    2. get Blue Jays to play 8 games a year in Buffalo
    3. require all new development to be dense mixed use
    4. create a user friendly homestead and businessstead program to give abandoned buildings and land to any person or entity with a sound business model to repair and maintain.
    5. build small public markets throughout the region to give farmers access to residents, and residents access to fresh produce. (they dont have to be all crazy big and fancy)

  3. steve June 25, 2008 at 8:31 am #

    Not necessarily in this order, but:

    1. Work with the Senecas to rehab or develop housing near downtown for the casino workers. Entice them to live in the city where they will work. (Try to get something back other than crumbs from the casino take. They were interested in this in the Falls, I heard, but lack of action by the prior city administration took the issue nowhere.)
    2. Drive a bulldozer through AM&As…make it shovel ready. What the hell, all we have to show so far is court costs.
    3. Do something…anything?…about the Buffalo schools. So long as the schools are or are perceived to be substandard, the suburbs will continue to expand.
    4. Finally, once and for all, for ever and ever…develop AND implement a comprehensive strategy on preservation in the city. Preservation of historic doesn’t have to be an impediment to development and, with propery strategy, planning and guidelines, it need not be a last-minute, 11th-hour, get-my-lawyer-on-the-phone cluster-f***.
    5. Be Giambra-like in terms of vision regarding regionalism and govt. consolidation, but most definitely be somebody else in terms of implementation.

    And one for the road…

    6. More cowbell.

  4. Chris Smith June 25, 2008 at 8:32 am #

    City of Buffalo:

    1. Establish a public agenda for growth commission which will include members of local government, unions, private citizens, advocacy groups, and small and large businesses to create a list of annual priorities and measure the success of meeting those goals each year..

    2. Development of uniform zoning laws and Smart Code for the City of Buffalo. Established in concert with the Buffalo Planning Board, Common Council, Buffalo Preservation Groups, and local neighborhood associations. Re-examination of all deed restrictions placed on property prior to 1950.

    3. Modernize city technology to achieve procedural efficiencies for citizens doing business with the City. Make documentation available to the public via the city website and reduce the need to actually speak with a city employee when performing research, record gathering, or when filing required forms or payments with the city. Benchmark off the success of other mid-sized cities.

    4. Public real estate website for city owned property. The sale of city-owned properties will take place on a rolling basis and properties in foreclosure will need to be bonded by the buyer. The proceeds of the sales will fund loans to first time home buyers in the city and tax credits for renovation and restoration of historic properties. Regular inspections will be conducted post-sale and those who fail to improve their properties will be cited for housing code violations and fined as necessary.

    5. Implementation of a municipal wireless internet system. Providing low cost broadband Internet access to everyone in the city. When we connect our people to the network, knowledge is shared and awareness grows.

    Erie County:

    1. Implementation of a singular Industrial Development Association. Bring to an end the backroom squabbling between localities as to where business will be located. We all benefit when a company chooses to locate in Erie County.

    2. Transparency in government. Live coverage on public access television of all meetings of the Erie County Legislature sessions. Publication of all committee and legislative agendas on the Erie County website 24 hours prior to meeting date. Publication of all minutes from committee and full legislative session on the Erie County website within 24 hours of completion. Publication of all Erie County collective bargaining agreements on the Erie County website. At least 50% of legislative session to be held at night in various offsite locations throughout the county. Recording and publication of all committee and legislative votes on the Erie County website.

    3. Recall provision and term limits for Erie County Executive and Erie County legislators added to the Erie County Charter.

    4. With the assistance of the BNP, BNE, the Community Foundation of Greater Buffalo, local colleges, and other community organizations; institute a business incubator that encourages small technology and business services startups to incorporate in Erie County.

    5. Explore regionalism for all backchannel public services. Water, sewage, parks, IT, accounting, and centralized purchasing.

  5. steve June 25, 2008 at 8:33 am #

    Sorry, that should read “preservation of historic assets” in item #4.

  6. ike June 25, 2008 at 8:33 am #

    drastically lower taxes and reduce expenditures correspondingly

  7. JB June 25, 2008 at 8:43 am #

    1) Consolidating ECC to a single downtown campus
    2) Rolling up multiple business assistance organization (BERC, IDAs, etc) into a single one-stop-shop for small businesses (cut red tape and turnaround times)
    3)Housing strategy noted by al-alo above
    4) Divert more public funds from large business subsidies to small businesses strategies
    5)Merge more city public services and county public services, reduce duplicity of costs

    Choosing 5 is pretty tough, especially since there are so many competing priorities… damn.

  8. Jim Ostrowski June 25, 2008 at 8:55 am #

    In Erie County NY 17% of the workforce works for government. In Erie County PA, it’s 10%. Give those 30,000 unneeded workers the invitation to join the free marketplace.

  9. anthony v June 25, 2008 at 9:12 am #

    1. Put in place a suburban growth moratorium. The last thing WNY needs is more wasteful and tasteless suburban sprawl while our cities (Buffalo and Niagara Falls) struggle. Redirect development to said cities. There is plenty of land available. WNY NEEDS to end its parochial attitudes. Protecting one town’s interests over the region has left us in the position we are in today. People want walkable communities, which our cities have to offer. The regions which support their core cities are the healthiest- NYC, Austin, TX, Denver, Portland, et al- even Washington, DC has seen a renaissance on it’s infamous U Street Corridor- site of 68′ riots.

    It is ridiculous that we have subsidized corporate office parks in Amherst and Wheatfield, while downtown Buffalo and Niagara Falls have ample office space and an infrastructure in place to support them.

    2. Expanding the metro rail to NF, UB North, Airport. I’m glad al-alo said this. With rising gas prices, a clean, reliable metro system would be very desirable to a populous.

    3. Consolidation. City-county mergers have proven record all across the country of saving the tax payers money while improving services for all residents. You need to look no further than Nashville-Davidson County, Miami-Dade County or Indianapolis for the results. Don’t just stop at government, school districts should be consolidated. My wife works for the Fairfax County, VA school district. It is a model in efficiency and student achievement. It ensures that certain impoverished areas are not segregated. It allows students from neighborhoods, where poverty and gang violence prevail to attend quality schools.

    4. Pour everything we have into developing (in some aspects continuing) a financial /technology/ medical/ light industry economy.

    5. Change our attitude, provide hope and inspiration. The people of WNY are the best people in the world. However too often we have adopted a “why” and not a “why not us” attitude. We need to fight for the life and region that we want. My wife and I left for DC on August 1, 2006. Since August 2, 2006 we have been trying like hell to get back. There is nothing better than Thursday in the Square, a weekend walk around Niagara Falls and the nearby gorge, a Bills, Sabres, or Little Three Basketball game (sorry UB) game, a day trip to Ellicotville,dinner on Elmwood, Hertel, or Pine Ave, and most importantly seeing the people you love.

  10. Terry June 25, 2008 at 9:17 am #

    1. – 8. Secede from the State of New York (which, if you look at some maps from the early 1800s, it’s interesting to see that this area wasn’t considered part of New York)

  11. sbrof June 25, 2008 at 10:28 am #

    I was going to comment but someone beat me to the great ideas…

    1-5. ditto al-alo

  12. hank June 25, 2008 at 10:40 am #

    1 METRO RAIL–Make it more than the joke it is. Run it to the Airport, to UB,to the Falls.
    2. I agree-if the Bills can play in Toronto, the Blue Jays can play in Buffalo–especially when the Bisons are on road trips. They’d have SRO crowds, and plenty of people dropping money downtown.
    3. Tear down the skyway and stop shitting around—develop the River area
    4. Break the BTF/BOE/Superintendent “Sicilian Thing” and get the Schools in order.
    5. Allow the city to Annex 1st ring suburbs, as Buffalo South (Charlotte) does. Imagine the decrease in Government jobs if Kenmore and Cheektowaga became part of Buffalo–lots of occupied homes with owners that can pay taxes. HMMM.

    Geek’s “Implementation of a municipal wireless internet system. Providing low cost broadband Internet access to everyone in the city.–
    That’s Socialism Chris!”. Govermment needs to supply FEWER services, not MORE.

    The County needs to break the tiers of government under them. Does the Village of Kenmore need it’s own police force when the Town of Tonawanda–of which Kenmore is part of with no real boundary–has their own police? Does the Town of Tonawanda need ITS own police force, when a county-wide police force (like CMPD—Charlotte/Mecklenburg PD) patrols both the city and the entire county outside the city? The Town of Tonawanda could be relieved of the cost of having a Police Chief, asssistant chiefs, and all the vehicles and infrastructure, and the Kenmore PD could be eliminated. If county government ran correctly and publicly (I agree Chris), then there wouldn’t be a need for all these town and village boards. Layers of government are layers of taxpayers money being wasted. It’s just not necessary.

    Welcome the thousands of employees that no longer work for county, village and towns and get private employers to come into the area–everyone works and pays taxes, and the workers who will pay them will not get them back in their pockets on paydays. The money can then be used to better the region.

  13. Jonathan June 25, 2008 at 11:15 am #

    1. Make it a metro government. Buffalo, Amherst, Tonawanda,Clarence,West Seneca, Lancaster and Depew. All rolled into one entity.

    2. Have the Metro lines expand outward. Bus and Rail. Make it easy to go anywhere. With Gas Prices, people would take it. And at stations make it card access only. No free rides on the train. Like real rail systems have.

    3. Strip Pat Hotung of ownership of Main Place Mall. Make the Main place mall and the old Ama’s into a giant shopping complex. The Buffalo version of the Niagara Outlets. Really entice the Canadian shoppers downtown. And oh yeah open till 10pm every day execept Sunday.

    4. Improve the schooling in the City.

    5. Entice Canadian companies to locate US HQ’s here. Really tap the closeness of Toronto to Buffalo.

  14. Stan P June 25, 2008 at 12:37 pm #

    1. Mandate a single countywide school district

    2. Allow Buffalo to annex suburbs based upon simple popular vote (ala Houston)

    3. Consolidate all IDA’s into a single county IDA

    4. Extend the Light Rail system to airport, Tonawanda, Amherst and Hamburg

    5. Consolidate ECC in downtown. Any expansion of UB goes downtown. Build an outdoow amphitheater downtown on the waterfront similar to Artpark

  15. Frieda June 25, 2008 at 12:46 pm #

    Look at other cities to see what was successful and see if adaptation is possible.

    1. A standard 10 year tax abatement program on all new construction and renovation in targeted areas. It was just such a program that is credited with turning center city Philadelphia from a desolate windswept no man’s land into one of America’s most vibrant urban cores over a 15 year period. With a residential population of around 90,000, It is Second only to NYC in the number of people who walk to work. New development, or redevelopment is taxed at a rate which start at the current value on the under-developed real estate plus a small % increase, and escalates to 100% over a 10 year period.

    2. Work with Non-profits to pro-actively attract the “new immigrants” to the Buffalo area. The new immigrants are apparently instrumental in helping NYC to re-invent many of its neighborhoods.

    3. Sell vacant but viable buildings for $1 to urban homesteaders (including new immigrants). A tool used very successfully by Baltimore to re-invigorate their core neighborhoods. And then give the homesteaders a tax credit for rehabilitation equivalent to a percentage of the cost of demolition.

    4. Solicit investment from industrialist in the rising economic power centers of India and China., in addition to Europe and Canada. Everyone wants Honda an VW, but how about TATA.

    5. Whatever can be done to Expedite UB’s expansion of the Downtown Medical Campus ,and the South Campus.

  16. Bill Altreuter June 25, 2008 at 1:32 pm #

    In no particular order, some attainable things:
    1) Close the Ring Road in Delaware Park to motorized traffic.
    2) Walk through a different neighborhood every Saturday morning at a fixed time. Talk to the people who live there about what they’d like to see done. Assign a staff member to follow up, and track the follow up on a website.
    3) Re-structure the management of the Broadway Market. Promote the Market as a regional attraction.
    4) Reach out to the UB School of Urban Planning. Listen to what actual experts say. Hold public forums with the department chair, the Common Council and my development deputy at multiple sites around the city to discuss change and how to implement it.
    5)Merge as much as possible with county services, starting with cops. Use savings to reduce taxes.

    Less attainable: 6)Work to downsize the number of schools, with the goal being to have fewer, better schools, rather than the multiple mediocrities we have now

  17. Mike In WNY June 25, 2008 at 1:49 pm #

    1. Restore property rights.

    2. Eliminate most permits and fees.

    3. Eliminate the majority of building and zoning ordinances.

    4. Reduce government spending with corresponding tax decreases.

    5. Install a computerized/synchronized traffic light system for the City of Buffalo.

    In summary, get government out of the way, let people keep their money to invest and drive the economy.

  18. Mike In WNY June 25, 2008 at 1:53 pm #

    If the opinions expressed in these comments are any indication of the direction we will take, downward economic trends will continue. Most people are advocating more of what has already failed miserably, more government.

  19. Chris Smith June 25, 2008 at 2:41 pm #

    “1. Restore property rights.”

    Care to expand on that or do you just want to leave that as a talking point without substance?

    “4. Reduce government spending with corresponding tax decreases.”

    Ok, how? What would you cut and how would you cut it? It’s easy to just say “cut taxes”, “reduce spending”, etc. without defining exactly how you intend to make that happen. Phased approach/ All at once? What are the priorities for reductions in spending?

  20. Mike In WNY June 25, 2008 at 3:53 pm #

    Restoring property rights is a fairly simple concept. A person owning property could do virtually anything they want with it as long as it does not lead to they physical harm of others.

    Reducing government spending is broad, but not just a talking point, such as “leadership by example” or “change”. I would start with eliminating all funding, incentives, tax breaks, etc. for private enterprises. Next, I would eliminate all cultural funding. I would privatize government services, such as trash collection, police, fire, highway maintenance and many others. Taxation that funds anything that is not equally shared/used by all would be eliminated. I would also push for a school voucher program that puts parents in direct control of their children’s education.

  21. TheRover June 25, 2008 at 7:13 pm #

    Ultimately, Byron and Chris are handcuffed. Dial 1-518-BIG-FAIL (Albany)and tell them to take their foot off our neck.

    Also, what if I really don’t want to live in the city?

  22. eac June 25, 2008 at 7:57 pm #

    without look at anyone else’s comments yet, and without much detail, here’s my five:

    1) appoint University Research liaison office & commissioner/whatever. Mission is to tap into all the potential ways the education & research community (from mighty UB to lowly Hilbert; who knows where good ideas will come from?) can work for, with the city & region. From providing poli-sci interns, to conducting zoning/traffic/growth/shrinkage/etc master-plan research, implementing computation solutions, or asking for help setting up a research-based spinoff private start-ups, I think we really need to tap the youthful and cutting edge demographic, and make sure they have a stake in the city’s future, directly & indirectly. Our children… is our future. Which leads me to

    2) Dis & Dismiss Williams; Conduct a real, rigorous search for replacements with real credentials. In the short-term, search for creative and inexpensive programs for setting the system straight (it is not privatization; education is a right); in the long-term, look to regionalism and more equitable distribution of educational resources, as well as new means for raising such resources. Above all else, find ways to get parents more involved in the schools themselves; plenty of research indicates that the biggest predictor of school success is parental involvement: school isn’t a glorified baby sitter, and education shouldn’t stop when kids leave school for the day.

    3) no doubt Chris said something like this above, but fully web-out the gvt. Get the city-sponsored wireless, get a city-wide $100 laptop program (into the schools, presumably), overhaul city services online, make documents available, make meetings live-streamed and archived as a matter of course, all that stuff. Get 21st century tech on. Green it up too: solar panels on city hall. ok, discrete solar panels, so the preservationists don’t shit a brick, whatever. Maybe the ramp next door… could build a bunch of carport shades with panels on the top, to power the ramp itself anyway, and whatever more.

    4) rip out the god-damn cameras. One way or another, hire enough cops to have real beats again- be they on foot, segway, (I know, they look ridiculous), some new technology, scooters/motorcycles, horseback for fucks sake, but can we make policing less of a dystopian autocratic, politicized nightmare and more of a community-spirited affair? I think we have the capacity. Police more than anyone need to be proactive more than reactive to be most effective. building relationships by being out of the cars is key.

    5) start broaching the regionalism beast. Starts with Kenmore, with Blasdell, with Lackawana, with whoever will listen. Merge one department, one service, one whatever at a time… baby-steps. But it really is time to be more integrative.

  23. Denizen June 25, 2008 at 8:05 pm #

    I. Metropolitan organization:
    A. Create a metro government that governs the city of Buffalo and all the inner-ring suburbs in one unit,
    B. For resident nostalgia purposes, leave some existing suburban municipalities to function in-name-only. Dissolve suburban village governments completely; turn them into donation/grant-supported non-profits which will effectively be glorified chambers of commerce/resident associations kind of like the Elmwood Village Association.
    C. Leave Eric County Government to only really concern itself with rural townships. Get rid of police department in rural towns, use sheriff’s deputies to patrol them. Get rid of those stupid redundant village governments that currently exist within those towns. And if possible, combine said sparsely-populated towns into larger units that can be governed more efficiently.
    D. As a part of the new metro government, have a smart-growth focused land use planning commission. This will replace all the old municipal IDAs, planning divisions and boards. For this office, hire some acclaimed planners that know their shit when it comes to progressive urban design and economic development. This department will focus on growing Downtown Buffalo as the economic and transportation hub of WNY, while preserving older suburban downtowns and village centers as localized activity nodes.

    II. Economic Development
    A. Provide large tax abatements to businesses that relocate from the suburbs (or from outside the region altogether) to downtown (or near downtown if industrial). Provide similar benefits to developers who can built office/industrial space to accommodate such businesses. Bonus points for building on shovel-ready parking lots or remediating brownfields.
    B. Work out a deal with power authority to provide competitive electricity rates to all businesses operating in the city’s urban core.
    C. Regional govt. will enact a tax-base sharing program so areas of the regional city who lose businesses to other areas will not be penalized.
    D. Make all of Downtown’s Main St. (from Goddell to the waterfront) a sales tax-free zone for retailers.

    III. Transportation
    A. Complete overhaul of region’s bus system. Eliminate barely-used routes, while putting more buses along high-demand lines. Abolish stupid zone system. Make limited stop “destination” lines that connect the city’s most popular destinations and neighborhoods without stopping every 200 ft. Until money can be raised/obtained for expanding light rail, devise a user-friendly express bus system that connects the suburbs to downtown very conveniently. New Park-n-ride stations will help encourage ridership.
    B. Moratorium on widening/expanding roads in “growing” suburban areas while the region is still shedding population.
    C. When money comes thru (and it must be aggressively lobbied for!), expand the fuck out of Metro Rail. UB, Airport, Niagara Falls, Southtowns, ect. ect. ect.
    D. Turn “complete streets initiative” into active legislation. Pain bike lanes all througout the city on well-trafficked streets. Also, tame many of those death-trap, suburban arterial roads to be more bike friendly.
    D. ROAD DIET- In other words downgrade/eliminate obsolete high-speed roads. Tear down skyway; downgrade Scajacuada expressway to a low-speed, scenic parkway. Retrofit stone bridge over Delaware Ave. for pedestrian/bike use, effective reconnecting both halves of the park into one great seamless park like Olmsted intended.

    IV. Land Use/Planning
    A. Within regional land use planning commission have a preservation committee which is proactive instead of reactive, it will assemble a list of the region’s most important historic landmarks which may be in some danger of abandonment or demolition. The committee will go through each neighborhood and identify a handful of the most historically-significant buildings.
    B. Uniform smart zoning code exactly as Geek says above. Also have basic urban design standards for new buildings proposed to be built within “urban context zones.” These standards will focus on form appropriateness, not subjective design, in other words make sure buildings aren’t set back behind 80 ft. of parking spaces and aren’t formless cinderblock one-story boxes in what is otherwise an urban streetscape.
    C. Anull all deed restricts set prior to 1950 as alluded to above

    V. Education
    A. Create one regional one school district, while preserving current districts as localized “sub-districts”. Allow more elasticity between the sub-districts, the city will have a specialized urban sub-district, while parents in neighborhoods on the edge of the city will have option of sending kids to adjacent suburban schools.
    B. Down-scale the “forced bussing” rules within the city sub-district; open up enrollment in the achievement-based schools (Hutch Tech, City Honors) to the entire metro population, while at the same time allowing specific neighborhoods to have their own schools again. In better neighborhoods set aside 15% of enrollment to students from poorer neighborhoods.
    C. Provide students within the urban district vouchers to spend their federal edu. allotment on private schools.

    that’s all for now….

  24. leftwny June 26, 2008 at 12:17 pm #

    For the region:

    Move to a borough form of government.
    – Buffalo and Lackawanna are consolidated into one borough.
    – Grand Island, Tonawanda and Kenmore into one borough.
    – Amherst, Williamsville, Cheektowaga, Sloan, Depew into one borough.
    – Hamburg, Blasdell, Orchard Park, West Seneca into one borough.
    Each borough has ONE school district, ONE police department and Council (consisting of 5 members and a supervisor), all other services like Streets, Parks, IDA’s and the like are ONE unit for all 4 boroughs under the CITY of Buffalo. This way the burbs get their cops and schools but everyone saves on the items that are not a hot button like streets.

    For the CoB schools. Create a tier system for the schools.
    – Have 3-4 schools of excellence with testing to get in, as found currently at City Honors.
    – Have 4 BIG High Schools (2000) for students who are not issues in the classroom. Make these schools comparable to a suburban school.
    – Have 3 Small specialty schools for Science/Computers, Trade and Service industry.
    – 1-2 rubber room schools for the kids who simply can not be productive in a normal setting. Make them overnight or militarty style…who cares. Just keep them away from the average kid who wants to do something with their life.

    For commerce, move ALL industrial operations to the old Bethlehem site. Since it would be in the city of Buffalo, the taxes would not be lost. The 2 miles of lake front land on that site is much more then what Buffalo will EVER need in the future. After this is done, find a way to relocate General Mils south and demo every fucking grain elevator. Remove 100% of industry from the Buffalo river and clean the fucker up.

    Break the Damn unions in the area. Not the union workers but the power of the collective whole. Since there would be essentially 4 new governments and school districts, EVERY union contract that is NOT A COUNTY contract is up for negotiation. Raise the wages if needed for the paycheck and ELIMINATE the fucking mess in benefits and pension. If some people in Florida get the shaft, too fucking bad!

    Say no to blue collar jobs. Make skills and education the key commodity for those who work in the area.

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