Tag Archives: Buffalo Common Council

Post Election Predictions

9 Nov

After a short campaign that was more yawn than scream, Mark Poloncarz succeeded last night in breaking an important glass ceiling: first WNYMedia commenter elected County Executive. Congrats, Mark – like the Bills, enjoy the win for 24 hours, then get down to work.

How predictable was Chris Collins’ four year slide from competent businessman to arrogant and out of touch Six Sigma aficionado? Looking back, the signs were there; his fate a possible scenario, not an inevitability.

In that vein, let’s have a little fun making some predictions about Poloncarz’s next four years. Here are mine – be sure to add your own witty additions below. And before these get too accusatory vis a vis my supposed partisanship, there are my best guess, not my wish.

– Arts and Libraries: The libraries will get more money. The arts will get more money. Colin Dabkowski will declare victory, and the theater scene safe once again in Erie County. The average citizen won’t notice the difference. The City of Buffalo will continue to have no arts budget whatsoever, and will keep getting a free pass.

– Control Board back in the news: Collins’ mattress stuffing of stimulus dollars and reductions in the county payroll may have been bashed on this site, but they did keep the county control board (read: adult supervision) at bay. If Poloncarz rehires staff, reopens clinics, funds the libraries, gives more bed tax to the CVB, and/or spends stimulus money on road projects, expect the control board to step in. Plus, don’t forget Collins’ budget projections contained future deficits, wiping out Poloncarz’s opportunities to fund election promises.

– Speaking of staff: The largest organization Poloncarz had run previous to this new role as chief executive was the comptroller’s office, a small manpower pool by any measure. Whether because of a feud with Collins or from original desire, Poloncarz often tried to increase the size of his staff, a trend that seems destined to continue if he hires his “czars” for economic development and other issues. I bet we’re talking about a bloated county staff in four years: official positions, patronage hires, and extra advisors.

– Old tensions reignite: With no Republican politician of any stature left in Erie County (sorry Chris Jacobs) to serve as a convenient foil, the internal divisions of the local Democrats leap to prominence, a more high profile version of the Buffalo Common Council’s 9-0 in-fighting. Lenihan continues his Brett Favre impression, the Democrat majority in the county legislature fails to coalesce, and we hear more talk about Cuomo requesting a peace. Ironically, these divisions may magnify (or at least perpetuate) a city vs suburb division. Collins and Brown were at least partners in crime, and their truce eased difficult ECMC and parks negotiations. The Poloncarz/Brown tiff will not allow such official mutual public support.

Grand solutions: Poloncarz issued a number of audits and reports as comptroller, his clear duty to find efficiencies and waste. Some were small issues (cell phones and parking spaces), and some were bombshells: reorganizing all volunteer fire departments, for instance, a recommendation that landed him in hot water with local fire halls. Now that Poloncarz is in charge, he has the power to not just advise but implement. How many big radical solutions will we see from his office? How much support will he get from rank and file county staff if he sweeps in and “fixes” everything?

– Medicaid Savings: Of this prediction I am the most confident – fighting Medicaid fraud is the new Six Sigma. The effort will be public and deliberate. The individual cases will be private (of course) and the actual savings hard to quantify. The supporters of Poloncarz will declare victory before November 2015. The Republican candidate will note that Medicaid spending continued to rise each year despite fraud investigations. Your view of its record will depend on the tint of your partisan sunglasses.

The #BUFTruck Legislation: Tabled Again

26 Oct

Yesterday, the Common Council’s Legislation Committee met again to take up the issue of food truck legislation. Attorneys for both sides spoke, indicating that some progress had been made – some of it by the attorneys over beers – but that significant issues remain unresolved.

In some ways, this sort of legislation-by-committee of stakeholders is a textbook example of how not to push a legislative initiative. Evidently, the meetings between the food truck and brick & mortar representatives degenerated into shouting. It’s time for the common council to understand that it’s never going to satisfy everybody, and that life isn’t fair. So, it needs to craft some reasonable rules, implement them, pass it, and let the market figure out what happens.

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One of the proposals includes a sunset provision – after one year, the law expires unless the common council takes action to amend or renew it. This gives everyone an opportunity to see how the law works in practice over four seasons, and both sides seemed amenable to it.

One of yesterday’s speakers was Christina Walsh from the Institute of Justice.  The WNY Food Truck Association retained her to explain to the Council that fewer regulations are better than more, and that complicated regulations in some cities have essentially turned trucks into outlaws. She indicated that these food trucks help get feet on the streets and generate their own jobs and economic activity. Most significantly, she helped to rebut the canard that the food trucks have all the advantages over brick & mortar restaurants. Tell it to someone who (a) doesn’t know where the truck is on any given day; and (b) has to wait in inclement weather to get food they need to eat in inclement weather.

How pathetic is it that the Food Trucks had to retain the services of a freedom expert in order to fight for the right to serve tacos, burgers, coffee, and BBQ from mobile canteens?

Councilmember David Rivera indicated that the meeting yesterday had been set up to get input from additional voices, but that none of them had shown up.  The meeting was somewhat abruptly adjourned after 45 minutes.

I have some questions out to various people involved in this issue, and as I get more details I’ll relay them here. In the meantime, be sure to join the WNY Food Truck Association Facebook page, and follow your local food trucks:

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Buffalo Common Council 86es Food Truck Rules, For Now (UPDATED)

29 Jul

Yesterday, there was a hearing at the Buffalo Common Council on proposed legislation that would allow food trucks to actually move about during the day, pay a meter, and stay at any given location for two hours. Certain restaurants, like Jim’s Steakout and ETS, are vehemently opposing the law.  They say it’s not fair, that it’s too easy for the food trucks to become set up, and that they can set up at a location for “days on end”.

UPDATE: Here is the text of the proposed legislation: 

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To placate the brick-and-mortar restaurants, the Common Council tabled the issue for a month – the most profitable month for food trucks. Absent from this decision is the consideration that food trucks rely on the good weather to break even – they are at a massive competitive disadvantage during the winter months. What the restaurants are doing to the trucks is akin to the trucks clamoring for restaurants to be required to, e.g., open their windows when it’s sub-freezing.

Food trucks don’t cost a pittance. They cost tens of thousands of dollars to purchase, set up, stock, fuel, and operate. Does ETS have to fill up a 22 gallon tank with diesel fuel costing $4.15 per gallon?

The restaurants aren’t entitled to artificial protection against competition from government. The food truck phenomenon (my favorite is the Where’s Lloyd taco truck) is in need of regulation and rules, but they should be fair to both sides – not just to the established brick-and-mortars.

In Buffalo, it’s never easy. There are too many entrenched and intransigent bureaucracies that have zero incentive to change or be efficient. (By contrast, during a trip to Washington this week, I noticed food trucks simply parked at a meter, serving food to waiting customers in the downtown core. The regulations for opening a food truck business are quite clear, and handily set forth at this website.

Once granted this license, you agree to operate according to the law. You can only solicit customers who flag you down. The 35-year-old law was intended for ice cream trucks and obviously did not foresee social media playing such a vital role. Please understand that this is current regulations and we will enforce the rule for vendors who do not follow this rule, traffic and parking rules.

For example: If a Mobile Vendor parks on A Street NW for 5 customers who flag them down or alerted the vendor they were waiting via social media, the vendor needs to find a legal parking spot to serve customers and then must leave once all customers are served. Anybody found not following these rules is subject to fines and possible revocation of their license.

Here is the report from Channel 2. It’s too bad that the city can’t, and won’t, tackle an issue that’s been evident for a year now, and instead chooses to punt in order to provide restaurants a competitive advantage of doubtful fairness.

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For the record, the currently active food trucks in Buffalo are:

Where’s Lloyd (tacos)

The Whole Hog (BBQ)

R ‘n R BBQ

Roaming Buffalo (Buffalo favorites)

Coming soon is Fork on the Road (Vietnamese street food)

Buffalo Common Council Adopts 2011 Capital Budget

9 Dec

COMMON COUNCIL ADOPTS 2011 CAPITAL IMPROVEMENT BUDGET & 2011-2015 CAPITAL IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM

BUFFALO, NY— At a special session held today, Thursday, December 9, 2009 at 10:00 a.m., the Buffalo Common Council introduced and adopted their amendments to the Mayor’s Recommended 2011 Capital Improvement Program (“CIP”) and Budget.

After weeks of exhaustive hearings, workshops and review, the Council voted unanimously to amend the Mayor’s Recommended 2011 CIP and Budget. Highlights of the Common Council’s actions include allocations of the following amounts for the following projects:

$300,000 for the Richmond Street Lighting Project which will place much needed Olmsted Parks-style luminaries on Richmond Avenue from Symphony Circle to Forest Avenue

$253,632 for Masten District Infrastructure Improvements which will repair sidewalks on Fernhill and Maple Ridge Avenues and reconstruct the Viola Circle Park Islands.

$450,000 for the Nevilly Court Field Turf Installation Project which will be used to install a multi-sport field turf at Nevilly Court for use by any league in the City of Buffalo

$321,000 for North Buffalo Hockey Rink Improvements which will be used to expand and improve the current outdated locker room; the improvements will include modernization of the locker room area, new lockers and layout revision

$400,000 and $150,000 for Lovejoy District Streetscape Improvements and Genesee Gateway Streetscape Improvements respectively. These projects will enhance the curbs, sidewalks, signage, lighting, and landscapes in these business districts in order to attract more customers to the area

$1,405,000 for the creation of the City Court Prisoner Lock-up in the basement of the City Court building. This will allow the City of Buffalo to reassume the responsibilities for the detention and transport of pre-arraigned individuals arrested by the Buffalo Police Department

$150,000 for the Buffalo Zoo Main Animal Building Roof Repair

$413,020 for various repairs and upgrades at Shea’s Performing Arts Center

$240,750 for the Kleinhan’s Music Hall Revitalization Plan

$53,500 for Replacement of Windows in the Pan American Building Annexes

$188,320 for Coco-Cola Field Ball Park reconstruction

$457,960 for Emergency Bridge Repairs

$223,000 for Restoration and Conservation of Public Art

$202,444 for renovations at the City of Buffalo Police Department Headquarters

$1,206,650 for various upgrades to the City of Buffalo Fire Department Facilities and the purchase of Fire Apparatus. These funds will continue the City’s efforts to update the City’s fire fighting fleet

$240,750 for various improvements at the Broadway Market

$561,750 for improvements and upgrades to community centers throughout the City of Buffalo

$342,400 for City Court Emergency Generator installation

$5,146,561 for Citywide Infrastructure repairs and replacement

$1,605,000 for improvements to Citywide Parks including Olmsted Parks

$1,305,000 for Citywide Tree Removal and Planting

$2,686,022 for Demolitions of dilapidated Buildings and Structures throughout the City of Buffalo

$4,097,241 for other Capital projects and improvements throughout the City of Buffalo.

The $22.4 million 2011 Capital Improvement Program and Budget as adopted by the Common Council will now be returned to the Mayor for final consideration.

For further information regarding the Common Council Adopted 2011 Capital Improvement Budget and 2011-2015 Capital Improvement Program, please contact your district Common Council Member or the Common Council Legislative Staff Office at 851-5105.

HSBC – Canalside or Bust?

6 Aug

Last night, after several hours of shuttle diplomacy between the 2nd and 13th floors of City Hall, the Buffalo Common Council unanimously voted to sell the Webster Block to the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation.  The ECHDC will now  make the property available to HSBC Bank as it considers its options for a future home for their retail bank management operations.

The property was conditionally sold to the ECHDC for the sum of the appraised value, $3,320,000 with the proceeds of that sale to be equally distributed amongst the nine commercial districts and the Citywide Fund, pending the use of the property by HSBC for its professional/administrative and/or back office functions.  If HSBC does not acquire the property (with a site selection letter sent to the Mayor and Council) for its use by January 1, 2011, or a later date agreed upon by the Mayor and the Common Council, the agreement will be terminated and the property will revert back to the City.

Now that we’ve dispensed with the formalities of reporting, lets get into why this all went down in the first place.

It all began in 2002 when HSBC Holdings purchased Household Financial Corporation (Headquartered in Chicago, IL), a consumer lending company and one of the most profitable sub-prime lenders in the industry for $15.5BN.  Prior to that purchase, HSBC was a major global player in Corporate, Investment Banking and Markets (CIBM), wealth management and distributed, but limited retail banking operations.  Household made money hand over fist during the boom years as the lender of choice for consumer retailers and by giving high risk adjustable rate mortgages to poor people.  You might also recall Household being fined nearly $500MM for predatory business practices prior to their purchase by HSBC.

The Household purchase did not go so well for HSBC.  When the sub-prime bubble burst, HSBC was holding the bag on over $20BN in defaulted loans and wrote off over $51MM in loans every day in 2008.

HSBC has emerged from the crisis with a more robust balance sheet, but there is still tension in the ranks of HSBC management between former Household executives and HSBC executives who were on staff prior to the purchase.  The Household executives have gone about centralizing operations into their Chicago offices while HSBC executives have sought to centralize operations in NYC.

Caught in the middle are cities like Buffalo, where the bank has significant operations, but lacks the executive presence of NYC or Chicago as the headquarters of HSBC Bank USA, N.A. moved to NYC from Buffalo in 1999 after HSBC purchased Republic Bank.  This is a global corporation with several holdings, including Hang Seng Bank Limited, HSBC Finance Corporation, HSBC USA (HBUS), The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited, HSBC Bank USA, N.A., and HSBC Holdings, plc (the mothership). What I’m getting at is that this isn’t simply an issue of a US bank dealing with the City of Buffalo. This is one of the world’s largest, most tentacled and complex organizations.

Essentially, without much local executive oversight, most if not all, of the operations managed from the Buffalo facility can be managed anywhere.  This makes the people and lines of business in Buffalo a chit to be fought over by divergent forces in the bank.  Over the course of the past several years, bank sources tell us that issues with asbestos, mold and the general age and condition of One HSBC Center have reinforced the desire of bank management to evaluate other options for their operations.  They currently lease over 75% of the available 1.2MM square feet within the building and have concerns with the long term viability of landlord Seneca One Realty and maintaining a presence in what they deem to be a sub-standard building.

The bank retained Jones Lang LaSalle to review its location options and issue the RFP for HSBC’s location selection when their lease at One HSBC Center expires in 2013.  Several local options emerged and slowly leaked out to the press over the past month.  Perhaps a waterfront location, perhaps the Webster Block, perhaps a new companion tower at One HSBC Center, perhaps Crosspoint in Amherst…all options were bandied about, but sources at the bank and with the city tell us that HSBC only had eyes for the Webster Block.

Sources within HSBC in Chicago tell us that they had been interested in the Webster Block option because the ECHDC could allocate the property for their use after the Canalside land transfer agreement was passed last week.  The bank would then not have to deal with a public process for their move, avoid any debate with the Common Council and receive a prime piece of property on which they could build a new facility next to their Atrium complex and build a parking garage.  When the Canalside land transfer agreement was derailed by Bass Pro pulling out of the project and the Common Council’s unwillingness to transfer the land to the ECHDC without a Community Benefits Agreement, it became an “emergency” to find another way to transfer the Webster Block for HSBC’s consideration.  The bank had previously set a deadline to make final site selection recommendations by Friday.

However, the underlying battle is not where in Buffalo HSBC will put their employees, but if they will stay here at all.

There is significant pressure inside the bank to relocate the Buffalo operations to HSBC facilities in the Chicago region, including offices in Chicago’s Financial Loop, Mettawa, and Vernon Hills.  HSBC has made no guarantees that they will choose to stay in Buffalo, they have simply added the land on the Webster block to their palette of options.

Over the next six months, every politician in New York will make a visit to the management office of HSBC in New York City and Chicago to offer them the moon in exchange for staying in Buffalo.  The loss of 6,000 jobs in Buffalo would be a near extinction level event for this region.  In an election year, everyone will want to share in the glory of saving those jobs and holding one of the shiny gold shovels at the groundbreaking ceremony.

If we get that shiny new building in Canalside for HSBC, what of the tallest structure in Buffalo?  I guess progress can now measured in empty buildings and the avoidance of job losses.

Shit, it’s been a rough week, hasn’t it?

Canalside 2, Electric Boogaloo

4 Aug

In about an hour, the Buffalo Common Council will be meeting to discuss the latest Canalside emergency.  Evidently, the council needs to transfer city owned portions of the proposed Canalside district to the ECHDC immediately or HSBC Bank will consider a relocation outside of Buffalo.  WNYMedia will be covering the meeting live on Twitter with the #buffcouncil.  I’ll post a full summary of the meeting later and there will be coverage  tonight from our TV partner YNN and I’ll be live with Brad Riter on our radio partner WECK1230 after the Yankees game (5PM).

I’ll reserve comment on how ECHDC is now acting as if they were chartered like the ECIDA and instead focus on the possible outcomes.

1.)  Council agrees to the Mayor’s proposed Community Development Agreement (a “compromise” proposal as opposed to the Common Council proposed Community Benefits Agreement) and the land is transferred to ECHDC.  HSBC is then offered property (with incentives) to relocate 300 yards down the street to Canalside from One HSBC Center and Phillips Lytle will be given the Donovan Building.  This leaves the tallest building in Buffalo empty, perhaps forever.  After all, the building needs capital intensive updating and renovation, which will be hard to complete without tenants.  Also, how many companies in Buffalo can fill even half of the 38 floors and sprawling side buildings?  Ummm, HSBC, that’s about it.

2.)  HSBC is offered the Canalside property but they choose stay at One HSBC Center.  The ECHDC takes the land they want in order to recruit a new anchor tenant for Canalside without providing the Common Council the input they desire into the selection and planning process.

3.)  HSBC is offered the Canalside property yet chooses to vacate the Tower and build a new complex in Amherst (rumored to be Cross Pointe Business Park off the 990).  One HSBC Center goes dark, they choose not to stay in the city and several thousand jobs leave our urban core…making investment from a new Canalside anchor tenant less likely.

None of these options are “double plus good” and each result leaves more questions behind than answers.

This action by the ECHDC could be the “Red/Green Budget: Development Edition”, an epic miscalculation which can change the face of a region irrevocably.

So, let’s see how this strong arm tactic works out, if nothing else, it’ll be fun to watch the FAIL circus set up today at the Common Council.

Emergency!

4 Aug

The completion of the decade-long Bass Pro courtship has suddenly resulted in a flurry of Canal Side related activity.  Instead of talking about new retail jobs, we’re talking about preserving existing ones.  HSBC has shifted a lot of work out of Buffalo, and the city is scrambling to keep what we already have.  HSBC’s lease in its eponymous tower is up in 2013, and they’re talking about what they want.

On Tuesday, Mayor Byron Brown called an extraordinary emergency session of the Common Council for Wednesday to debate and vote on whether the city will transfer the Webster Block (the parking lot in front of HSBC arena) to ECHDC as part of a deal to keep HSBC in downtown and enable it to expand its operations.  

But some city lawmakers continue to balk at anything where “community benefits agreement” doesn’t appear in the same sentence as “Canal Side”. Even with Bass Pro long gone, some continue to demand a CBA, which would require jobs at Canal Side to pay a “living wage” – about $10 – 12/hr, depending on whether the employer offers health insurance. The state minimum wage is $7.25.

I imagine that HSBC is very good at paying a living wage, thanks, and on its face that shouldn’t be a sticking point here.  Furthermore, as an inducement for their votes, Mayor Brown has offered up $1MM per common councilmember to spend in each district as they see fit.

But there’s no current guarantee that the Webster Block will actually go to an HSBC-related use, and what if *gasp* Cabela’s or something else ends up in there without a CBA in place!?

In this instance, there is a very real potential that the city will sacrifice real & existing, well-paying, white-collar jobs on the lofty principle of guaranteeing a set of less-crappy wages for hypothetical, future jobs.

Hypothetical emergencies aside, I guess the first “tenant” for Canal Side’s “mixed-use” project will be HSBC, and possibly even Philips-Lytle.  There seems to be a lot of panicky brinksmanship going on with the Common Council, and perhaps everyone should take a deep breath and figure out what’s really going on with respect to HSBC.  It’s sometimes like we pivot from emergency to emergency, and each time the patient dies on the operating table.

Double Secret National Search

19 Jul

Today, Karla Thomas, Commissioner of Human Resources for the City of Buffalo appeared before the Buffalo Common Council to answer questions about the “national search” conducted to hire a new Commissioner of the Buffalo Police Department.  And by “answer questions”, I mean she was visibly annoyed by the requirement to be there and informed the Council that she simply posted the job to various free websites, performed no background checks, did not vet the applications, was not part of the selection process, conducted no followup on the applications, nor was she in any way involved aside from forwarding resumes to the Mayor.  Watch Thomas give us her best Sgt. Schultz impression during the hearing:

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If you haven’t been following the story, the Mayor decided to hire Daniel Derenda, who served as Deputy Commissioner of Police under previous Commissioner H. McCarthy Gipson (who was fired while in a hospital bed).  Derenda is a close political ally of FIRST Deputy Mayor Steve Casey and was appointed to the position of Deputy Commissioner with no previous command experience.  He also lacks a college degree or extensive professional education, typically precursors to a nomination to the top police job in one of America’s 100 largest cities.

Marc Odien has the details on the “national search” which included several job postings which were submitted to various job websites this past weekend.

Human Resources Commissioner Karla L. Thomas insisted at today’s hearing (video coming soon) that the use of 14 free Internet sites where the job opening was posted produced 33 “well qualified” candidates out of a pool of 41 applicants.

However one of the two sites she claimed fed the listings to 13 other sites shows a different story.  Note the date: 17 July 2010

As of Saturday, the City began  soliciting applications and resumes for a job they have already awarded to the guy they found by the water cooler during their supposed “national search”.

Let’s be honest here, no “national search” was conducted.  There is no definition of “national search” that could possibly be stretched to define what happened.  In politics, the smallest lies can create the biggest problems.  For being such supposed expert political operators, Casey and Brown repeatedly demonstrate a keystone cops level aptitude for political machinations.  They are just not very good at this whole “Mayoring” thing.

There was no need to promise a national search for the job when they had no intention of actually conducting one.  Not following through and not being transparent about the process only gave their political opponents the opportunity to debunk the Mayor’s story.  Which they are doing with great enthusiasm.

There were two ways to go about the process of replacing Commissioner Gipson.

1.)  Conduct an honest and transparent search for a replacement, much like what was recently done in Albany.  Their task force (appointed by the Mayor) found qualified candidates from around the country and then subjected those candidates to a public review and vetting process.

The pool of 48 candidates for the city’s next police chief has been winnowed to nine, seven of whom are from outside the Capital Region. The group includes the local head of the FBI, the head of security programs for the World Trade Center, the chief of police in Rochester, Buffalo’s former police commissioner, a former top State Police official and a former deputy chief from Detroit.

Deputy Albany Police Chief Steven Krokoff also has made the cut to receive an interview with the advisory task force picked by Mayor Jerry Jennings to vet the resumes — the only internal candidate to survive the process.

The pool also includes the current chief of the Saginaw, Mich., police and the former chief in Gaithersburg, Md.

The names emerged as the panel also scheduled two additional public forums on the chief search.

Initially, the task force, led by retired Albany County Judge Larry Rosen, had planned to keep the names of applicants confidential until the panel had concluded its interviews and forwarded a handful of names to Jennings for consideration. But the task force reversed course on that issue Monday, citing the immense public interest in the search.

Conducting an open search would have yielded top candidates and involved the public in the process.  Simply posting 100 word job descriptions on free websites was not a “search”, it was a passive solicitation.

2.)  Appoint Derenda to the position without conducting a national search.  Elections have consequences and Mayor Brown was re-elected by a massive margin to lead the City of Buffalo and make Commissioner level appointments.  A direct appointment accompanied with the reasoning behind his endorsement, backed up with endorsements of other commanders within the Department would not have lead to an easy confirmation, but it at least would have been honest.  It may have limited the damage to Derenda’s credibility in the community and within the Department.

Unfortunately, the Mayor went the Dean Wormer route and conducted a “Double Secret” national search and did it clumsily.  The internet makes it pretty easy for us to find out how the search was conducted and this one never really happened.

The Beginning of the End for Canal Side

16 Mar

Several years from now, when the old Aud site is still a flat concrete wasteland, we’ll look back to March 16th as the day the Canal Side scheme fell apart.

Today, the Common Council of the City of Buffalo decided beggars can be choosers. They decided they’d rather have theoretical good paying jobs that don’t exist, rather than lower paying jobs that do exist. They made this decision on behalf of the public, many of whom I’m sure don’t share their sentiment, the rent being due and all.

Today the Common Council adopted a number of requirements, lobbied for by various small advocacy groups that have the hubris to presume they speak for the public at large, that will scuttle the Canal Side development. Some of those requirements are laudable and reasonable – green building initiatives for example. But one particular requirement, that businesses larger than 20 employees pay a “living wage” – a completely unrealistic number not paid by retail establishments anywhere in the country, will be the nail in the coffin for skittish retailers wary of expanding anyway.

The City of Buffalo Common Council makes all sorts of ridiculous pronouncements, and most are easily ignored. Unfortunately, in this case, the Common Council has teeth. If they don’t transfer the land to the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp, then Canal Side doesn’t get built. And if they stick to their guns on this provision, the City will continue to own empty land. But don’t worry – there will be plenty of well paying imaginary jobs waiting to exist.

Last summer, two years after I moved back, I wrote about how 2010 and 2011 looked hopeful, because of a number of projects in the queue. Now, with Canal Side beginning the slow downward spiral, the Statler and Hotel Lafayette closed, and other projects stalling, I’m not so sure.

A couple of additional thoughts to head off arguments at the pass. First – what of the idea that such demands are justified since public money is involved? First, its not the City of Buffalo’s money – its the state, feds, and NYPA paying for the bulk of this development. If they demand a living wage, they are at least in a more reasonable position to do so. Second, the requirement is inconsistent and arbitrary – plenty of other projects, far less important, get subsidies and public money without this need. And third, hasn’t the city living wage requirement caused enough problems already? It’s already keeping groups like Buffalo Reuse from hiring workers to take apart more homes. It’s already driving out business (for- and non-profit) and raising costs, and Buffalo is no less poor. Perhaps it’s time to try a different tack, other than driving away jobs by making demands.

Second argument to debunk – wasn’t Bass Pro not coming already? After all, they haven’t signed any binding agreements? For two years, ECHDC and Bass Pro have been saying they can’t sign a binding agreement until all the environmental reviews are complete. We are days away from that being done. Now we’ll never know if they are telling the truth or not – Bass Pro has a gold plated excuse to no longer come. Congrats, City of Buffalo Common Council – you let Bass Pro off the hook.

Common Council Drama

15 Jan

Image Courtesy of The Buffalo News

In a 6-2 (Smith, Russell opposed) vote of the members, Buffalo State Economics Professor, Dr. Curtis Haynes, was appointed to the Buffalo Common Council representing the Ellicott District.   Haynes is replacing human failpile of corruption, Brian Davis, who is currently dealing with some serious legal issues.  There was no suspense about the outcome of today’s vote, but there sure was drama.

This is Buffalo after all, so nothing can happen without the requisite amount of drama and theatrics.

Demone Smith, Masten District Councilman was none too happy with the decision of the “tyrants and despots” of the Common Council to appoint Haynes to the seat when the district committeemen had voted (by a small margin) to endorse Rev. Darius Pridgen for the position.  Demone did his best impression of Arthur Kirkland as the resolution came to the floor for a vote.

Demone felt that tradition and past process required that the Common Council would simply rubberstamp the endorsement of the district committee.  However, Demone may need to re-read his City Charter, Article 3, Section 6:

9-19-2006 by L.L. No. 17-2006, effective 12-6-2006

In the case of a vacancy in the office of district council member, otherwise than by expiration of the term, the remaining members of the council shall appoint a qualified resident of the same political party and district as the council member whose place is vacant to fill such vacancy until the first day of January following the next general election at which a district council member may, pursuant to law, be chosen for the balance of the term. The person so elected shall take office on the first day of January following such general election.

Prior to an appointment, the Common Council shall direct the City Clerk to advertise the vacancy for a minimum of five (5) days on the City’s Web-site and Public Access Media outlets, and obtain from any qualified resident seeking consideration for appointment, a current resume, a letter requesting appointment to the vacancy.

In the case of a vacancy in the office of president of the common council otherwise than by expiration of his or her term, the remaining members of the common council shall appoint one of their members to fill such vacancy until the next organizational meeting.

Nowhere in the charter does it say the Council shall decide upon the replacement by vote of the district committee.  In 2006, the Common Council voted to change the process and make it more transparent.  The measure was also placed on the election ballot as a referendum and the citizens of Buffalo voted (80-20 in favor) to formalize the process to include resumes, interviews and additional transparency…such as it is in Buffalo government.

Dr. Haynes and Niagara District Councilman David Rivera felt the process was followed, of course.

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and Demone said that the “Four white men and one latino on the council, in a city that is nearly half African-American…conspired to ignore the vote of the community”.

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The process was followed as described in the charter with the requisite dash of politics.  The non-Grassroots-affiliated Democrats wanted a six vote, veto-proof majority to oppose Mayor Byron Brown and seemingly got it with Dr. Haynes.

The voters of the Ellicott District will get their chance to cast their vote on the appointment in the special election in September to fulfill the final year of the term.