Our Elected Leaders Have An Open Floor For Proposing New Ideas
I understand that a big part of a Councilmember’s job is addressing constituent complaints and being accessible by attending community meetings. Most items addressed by any government body are the mundane and routine matters necessary to operate a municipality. However an important part of being a Councilmember is also being a legislator and a leader that raises important issues for consideration and discussion.
Every two weeks elected leaders at the village, town, city and county level meet and vote on how to run our local governments. At these bi-weekly meetings elected leaders have an open floor to raise any issue they want for discussion and action. Elected officials have the ability to be heard on any topic they wish and ask their colleagues for support.
As I did in 2012, I reviewed every resolution filed by Buffalo Councilmembers in 2013. The Buffalo Common Council consists of nine elected members. The City Council meets approximately twenty-four times per year. In 2013, two hundred ninety nine resolutions were filed by Councilmembers, for an average of twelve resolutions per meeting. One hundred ninety three Council resolutions addressed the following:
80 – Waiving permit fees for block clubs and non-profit organizations (i.e. using city park, special events, band shell rental).
25 – Approve the issuance of bonds for capital budget projects.
9- Symbolic support for a cause or federal/state legislation (Support World Wildlife Annual Earth Hour Campaign, Support Reducing Greenhouse Gas Pollution Under the Clean Air Act).
12 – Approving the hanging of street banners for community events.
5 – Support for various grant funding applications by community organizations.
5 – Trail blazing signs to name a city street after someone.
53 – Appointments of – marriage officers, boards, staff positions in the Council, Commissioner of Deeds
4 – Property tax waivers for various properties
In addition to the above 193 items, another 29 resolutions addressed routine matters of city government including property right of way items, budget transfers etc. None of these resolutions contained any new ideas or initiatives by Councilmembers.
Substantive Initiatives Raised By City Councilmembers
Only seventy seven Common Council resolutions addressed new ideas or concerns of a substantive nature regarding City government. The substantive resolutions filed in 2013 were:
Darius Pridgen (26 resolutions) – Public Safety Crosswalks, Sheehan Property & ECC Collaboration, Smoke Free Initiative, Amanda Lynn Hearing with Erie County Legislature, Investigation of Erie County Medical Center, Support Expanded Use of Coca Cola Field, Ordinance Amendment Chapter 413 Street and Sidewalks, Telecommunications Resolutions, Moratorium on Demolitions in the Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor, Community Chess Project for Niagara Square, Formation of Fruit Belt Advisory Council, Ordinance Amendment Chapter 316 Peddling & Soliciting Street Vending, Council Approval for NFTA Bus Stop Changes That Effect Parking, Pedestrian Safety at 190 Ramp, Church Street and Bingham Adams Mark Hotel, Public Notice of Delinquent City of Buffalo Accounts, Trico Building Moratorium, Crime Prevention in Rental Units, Swimming in Unauthorized Areas, Neighborhood Watch and Block Club Training, Moratorium on Demolition- St. Ann’s Church, Prohibit Parking in Front of Buffalo City Court, Traffic Concerns During Events, Creation Special Zoning District Jefferson between Clinton & Genesee, Request New Sign Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Expressway, Student and Government Day Program Initiative, Impending Closure of the Market Arcade Film & Arts Center.
Richard Fontana (14 resolutions) – Audit on the Street Lighting System in the City, Formation of a Cat Task Force, Establish and Appointing Members to the Business Regulatory Task Force, Amend Charter Section 175 to Allow One Free Ton of Garbage at Transfer Station Per Year to Only Owner Occupied Dwellings, Ordinance Amendment Chapter 365-2 Acceptance of Scrap Refrigeration Units, Ordinance Amendment Chapter 175 Collection and Disposal Charges, Ordinance Amendment Amend Section 103-38 General Method of Demolition, Sale of Vacant Lot to Homeowners on Brinkman Ave., Telecommunications PEG Program Schedules, Penalty for Slum Landlord at 1258 E. Lovejoy, Ordinance Amendment Chapter 511 The Use of Map on City Zoning, Hold Independent In Rem Auction for Demolition, City Hall Security.
Demone Smith (10 resolutions) – Support for a Dome Stadium in Buffalo, Irregularities at the Erie County Board of Elections, Give Buffalo and WNY A Level Playing Field With NY Television and Film Production Tax Credits, Security Cameras in Taxicabs, Ordinance Amendment Chapter 154 Fair Employment Screening, Local Review and Approval of Liquor Store Licenses, Ordinance Amendment Sponsor Acknowledgment in MLK & Riverside Parks, Concerns Regarding Board of Education Signatures on Grants, Establish a Housing Policy Committee, Elimination of NFL Blackout Rules.
Joseph Golombek (10 resolutions) – Ordinance Amendment Chapter 316 Peddling & Soliciting Street Vending, Denial of Scrap Processors’ License for 409 Hertel, Ordinance Amendment Article IX Mobile Food Vehicle Vendors, Advocating for a No Kill Policy for Animal Shelters, Ordinance Amendment Chapter 437-6 Taxicab & Liveries, Move School Board Elections to November, Recycling Within BMHA Properties, Traffic Management of Border Crossings Between WNY and Canada, Invitation to ECC to Partner with City of Buffalo on Downtown Campus Expansion, Public Financing for City of Buffalo Elections,
Bonnie Russell (4 resolutions) – Procedure for Swearing in Certain Individuals Testifying Under Oath Before the Common Council, Denial of Food Store License Application for 3172 Bailey, Ordinance Amendment Chapter 263 Licenses, Ordinance Amendment Chapter 313 Peace and Good Order.
Michael Locurto (4 resolutions) – Reason for Denial of Food Store License Application 2248 Main Street, Exploring Funding Incentives for Development of Former North Park Library, Investigating Traffic Calming Measures for Starin Avenue, Exploring Participatory Budgeting in the City of Buffalo.
David Franczyk (4 resolutions) – Battaglia Transfer Station Application to NYS DEC 1037 Seneca, Protect Ornamental Landscaped Gardens, U.S. Post Office Removal of Postal Mail Boxes, Stem Advance of Blue Algae on Lake Erie.
Christopher Scanlon (3 resolutions) – Urge City of Buffalo to Reevaluate Their Relationships with Banks that Refuse to Be Responsible Neighbors, Amend Charter With Respect to Collection of Occupancy Taxes, Ordinance Amendment Section 309-17 Animals and Vehicles Restricted to Certain Areas,
David Rivera (2 resolutions) – Request Traffic Study Richmond Ave., Butler Mitchell Clubhouse Renovation Project.
Pridgen Taking The Most Initiative
Filing resolutions and having your resolutions passed and implemented are different discussions. In this article I am simply seeking to document what efforts Councilmembers took to raise an issue by being proactive enough to file a resolution to bring the item before the Council. The Councilmember taking the most initiative in 2013 at least according to filed resolutions was Darius Pridgen. Pridgen took the most initiative in 2012 as well. The Councilmember with the least initiative in 2013 was David Rivera. On one end of the spectrum Pridgen filed 26 resolutions whereas Rivera filed 2.
The City of Buffalo Needs Bold New Ideas
Out of the above mentioned seventy seven items, very few are creative or innovative. We need leaders who are willing to initiate bold new ideas.
Former WNY resident Seth Godin, the author of many top selling books says the following about our fear of taking initiative in his book Poke The Box: “The simple thing that separates successful individuals from those who languish is the very thing that separates exciting and growing organizations from those that stagnate and die. The winners have turned initiative into a passion and a practice. The challenge, it turns out, isn’t in perfecting your ability to know when to start and when to stand by. The challenge is getting into the habit of starting.”
While this article focuses on the Buffalo Common Council, from my review of other local government meeting agendas there seems to be a lack of new ideas and new approaches being discussed and tried across the Buffalo region. Leadership is about taking initiative, the City of Buffalo and Western New York need elected leaders who are passionate about initiating new ideas.