More Ideas for a Better Buffalo-Niagara
1. Reform Tax Foreclosure Process:
The City of Buffalo should improve its tax foreclosure process for owner-occupied properties by doing the following:
- Limit foreclosures to cases where the combined tax, sewer, and user fee delinquency is at least $500 and/or the water delinquency is at least $1,000;
- Limit the foreclosure fee to the City’s actual costs;
- Allow residents to pay their bills with credit cards at all stages in the process;
- Accept partial payments do not charge interest on the portion of the bill that has been paid;
- Cease the practice of charging water and sewer fees after shutting off the water;
- Return to the practice of sending quarterly user fee bills, and start to send separate, individual bills each time a tax or sewer payment is due; and
- Work with local non-profits to create a hardship fund to offer grants to owner-occupants unable to pay tax, sewer, water, or user fee bills due to a temporary hardship that is no fault of their own.
2. Improve Access to Public Information
The City of Buffalo and Erie County should put more information on-line, including:
- Building and demolition applications and permits;
- Housing inspections information;
- Crime statistics by street or neighborhood;
- Health Department inspections; and
- Copies of all government contracts.
3. Engage Citizens Through Participatory Budgeting
City of Buffalo Council Members should use participatory budgeting to determine how their “member-item” Community Development Block Grant funds are spent.
4. Establish Public Financing of State Elections
New York State should pass legislation to create a system of public financing for all state elected offices similar to the successful program in New York City, in which contributions from individuals are matched six to one with public money.
5. Move the Election of the Buffalo Board of Education from May to November
New York State should pass bill S.2478 to move the Buffalo School Board elections from May to November in order to increase voter participation and lessen the costs associated with the election process.
6. Stop Illegal Gambling and Do Not Expand Legalized Gambling
To limit the numerous, proven costs of gambling on the community, such as increased poverty, increased crime, and reduced jobs,
- New York State should reject a constitutional amendment to expand legalized gambling;
- New York State should stop allowing video lottery terminals (a form of slot machine) at racetracks, which violate the state’s compact with the Seneca Nation;
- The City of Buffalo should rescind its contract with the Seneca Gaming Corporation for the Buffalo Creek Casino, based on the numerous violations of that contract by the SGC.
7. Improve Buffalo’s Recycling Rate
To improve its recycling rate, the City of Buffalo should:
- Hire a new, full-time recycling coordinator immediately.
- Revise the City’s recycling ordinance so that it complies with state law by clearly requiring single family residences to recycle.
- Reach out to businesses and multi-family properties to remind them that recycling is legally required and, after sufficient publicity, reminders, and warnings, begin to enforce the law.
- Fully implement the law requiring solid waste collectors to submit quarterly reports on tonnages of material collected for recycling and disposal, and publish those reports on the City’s web site.
- In permitting public events, make sure that the event organizers have adequate recycling facilities and plans for the event.
- Promptly appoint a Recycling Advisory Panel as a subcommittee of the Buffalo Environmental Management Commission to develop recommendations on yard and food waste, composting, education and marketing, and regulations and policies.
8. Create a Comprehensive Plan for a Significant Park on the Outer Harbor, with Funding to Implement It.
The City of Buffalo, County of Erie, State of New York, NFTA, Niagara River Greenway Commission and Greenway Standing Committees should create an Outer Harbor park that
- provides public access to Lake Erie;
- provides greenway, bikeway and waterway connections from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie, Tifft Nature Preserve, the Botanical Gardens and beyond;
- completes Frederick Law Olmsted’s legacy by having a lakefront park connecting Buffalo’s park and parkway system to Lake Erie and celebrating the relevance of Olmsted’s design and conservation principles;
- demonstrates sustainable practices throughout.
9. Establish a Region-Wide Cultural Plan
Erie County and the City of Buffalo should partner with the cultural community to establish a region-wide cultural plan, including dedicated funding sources, that recognizes and strengthens the economic impact of the arts.
10. Include All Modes of Transportation Access in Plans for the Waterfront
The Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation and all partnering government agencies should ensure that multi-modal transportation access is included in all short-range and long-range development plans for the waterfront – from the Outer Harbor to Niagara Falls. Plans should accommodate bus, rail, paratransit, pedestrian, and bicycle access. Parking areas should be kept at a minimum, to provide disincentives for driving and incentives to use park-and-ride lots or alternative means of transportation wherever feasible. Public forums should be held to allow public input on access to the waterfront.