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Few Ideas

Few Ideas
Ranking the Leadership Initiative of Buffalo Councilmembers

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. A key part of being a leader is taking the time and effort to propose something worthy of discussion or debate.

As I did in 2012 and 2013, I reviewed every resolution filed by Buffalo Councilmembers in 2014. The Buffalo Common Council consists of nine elected members. The City Council meets approximately twenty-four times per year. In 2014, 265 resolutions were filed by Councilmembers, (299 were filed in 2013). Of the 265 resolutions filed, 203 addressed routine items such as:

• Waiving permit fees for block clubs and non-profit organizations (i.e. using city park, special events, band shell rental);

• Approving the issuance of bonds for capital budget projects;

• Supporting federal/state legislation and community agency grant applications;

• Approving the hanging of street banners for community events;

• Trail blazing signs to name a city street after someone;

• Appointing marriage officers, boards/committes, staff positions in the Council;

None of these resolutions contained any new ideas or initiatives by Councilmembers.

Substantive Initiatives Raised By City Councilmembers

Only sixty two Common Council resolutions addressed new ideas or concerns of a substantive nature regarding City government, down from seventy-seven in 2013. Ranking Councilmembers by the number of substantive items filed results in the following list, which includes some examples of the substantive resolutions filed:

(27 resolutions)—Protecting Neighborhoods Threatened by Gentrification; Deem Town Gardens LLC as a Public Nuisance; Require City Approval Before Methadone Clinic Opens; Strategic Plan for Fruit Belt Neighborhood.

(12 Resolutions)—Moratorium on New E Cigarettes & Hookah Stores; Urge NYSDOT to Absorb all Responsibilities for Maintenance and Upkeep of Skyway; Development of the Outer Harbor and Preserving Public Access.

(9 Resolutions)—Public Financing for City Elections; Mandate that the U.S. General Services Comply with Federal Law Regarding Peace Bridge; Move School Board Elections to November; Purchase of 1859, 1869 & 1873 Niagara Street for Future Public Use.

(7 Resolutions)—Kensington Avenue Traffic Study; Daytime Curfew Ordinance; Reduce/Restrict Mass Gatherings in University Heights; Bailey Avenue Traffic Study.

(7 Resolutions)—Neighborhood Development Plan for City of Buffalo and School District; Buffalo Land Banking; Condemnation of 1507 Jefferson; Post Demolition Lots.

(7 Resolutions)—Reviewing the Art in Public Places Program; Establish Committee for Participatory Budgeting; Buffalo Firefighter Overdose Prevention; Elmwood Avenue Bridge Detours Over 198.

(7 Resolutions)—Hold Independent Auction for Demo Slated Properties; Side Street Speed Limit; Instituting Fines Aimed at Stores Selling Untaxed Cigarettes; GPS Technology to Reduce Number of High Speed Police Chases.

(6 Resolutions)—Ordinance Amendment Slip Rental Erie Marina; Pothole Plan; Support Central Terminal for Fast Speed Trains; Revoke Methadone Clinic Approval.

(2 resolutions)—Environmental Justice Concerns Near Peace Bridge; 1270 Niagara Convert to Brewery.

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 2014 at least according to filed resolutions was Darius Pridgen. Pridgen took the most initiative in 2013 and 2012 as well. The Councilmember with the least initiative in 2014 and 2013 was David Rivera. On one end of the spectrum Pridgen filed 26 resolutions whereas Rivera filed 2.

The dictionary defines “initiative” as: the action of taking the first step; responsibility for beginning or originating; the characteristic of originating new ideas or methods; the ability to think and act without being urged by another.

Napoleon Hill a well known author on how to be successful in life, wrote a book in 1928 titled The Law of Success In Sixteen Lessons. In lesson five—Initiative and Leadership—Hill states: “Initiative is the very foundation upon which this necessary quality of Leadership is built. One of the peculiarities of Leadership is the fact that it is never found in those who have not acquired the habit of taking the initiative.”

Where Are The Challengers?

In cities around the Country local laws are being passed regarding poverty, living wages, inequality, crime, open government policies, term limits, campaign finance reforms, and ethics. Meanwhile in Buffalo, very little of substance is being proposed or implemented. Most incumbent Councilmembers don’t seem to be very energetic in terms of proposing new ideas. Equally disappointing is the fact that six out of nine Council races will be uncontested in this year’s elections.

Elected incumbents tend to be cautious and like the status quo as it exists. The activist community in Buffalo appears to be equally apathetic about city government. Before being re-elected to a four year term incumbents should have to face challengers, put forth their accomplishments and their ideas. Sadly for a majority of Buffalo Council Districts no such discussions or debates will take place before incumbents serve another four year term.

Paul Wolf is an attorney and the Founder of the Center For Reinventing Government.

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