•on December 5th, 2013
The official PPG partner vote on the planks for the 2014 Community Agenda will take place on December 13 at 9 a.m. at PPG Headquarters – 237 Main Street, Suite 1200. During this session, each organization that submitted a plank will have the opportunity to give a three minute pitch for their policy plank. Representatives from PPG partner organizations will have the opportunity to vote on which planks will be included in the 2014 agenda.
The official 2014 Community Agenda Rollout will be held on January 17 at 2 p.m. at Merriweather Library – 1324 Jefferson Avenue. Press and elected officials will be invited, along with all of PPG’s partner organizations.
Click here to view a list of links to the proposed planks for the 2014 Community Agenda.
•on December 4th, 2013
PPG has a radio show, the Public Good, each Tuesday from 1:00 to 1:30 pm on WUFO AM 1080. Each week will feature a PPG Partner or other person working toward the public good and discuss some of the region’s hottest issues. Listen on your radio or at www.wufoam.com.
Join us for the Public Good on Tuesday, December 10, when we sit down to chat with Ronjonette Harrison of H.E.A.R.T. (Helping Empower At Risk Teens) about innovative ways to help at-risk youth. Join the conversation at 716.837.1112.
•on November 27th, 2013
On November 25, the Erie County Industrial Development Agency (ECIDA) hosted a public hearing on Uniland Development Company’s request for$3.2 million in sales, mortgage, and property tax breaks to help finance the development of a 12-story mixed-use building at 250 Delaware Avenue.
The Partnership for the Public Good was among a handful of organizations who spoke out against Uniland’s application for ECIDA funding, alongside its partners from the Coalition for Economic Justice.
Following the hearing, The Buffalo News posted an article by Jonathan Epstein: click here to read
News columnist Donn Esmonde followed up with his own column, stating that PPG and others “spoke truth to the typhoonlike power of our corporate-handout culture.”
“The project adds more office space to a downtown buckling under the weight of vacancies, even before the lights go out at 38-story One Seneca Tower,” Esmonde wrote. “It includes hotel space of questionable need, given downtown’s four ongoing hotel projects. It constructs a new parking structure while emptying Delaware North workers’ vehicles from the nearby Augspurger ramp. It punches a huge tenant hole in the Key Center.
Around here, we call that ‘growth.’
Someday, someway, it has to change. Shuffling pieces on a chessboard already abundant with blank spaces misuses taxpayer dollars, sabotages the free market and perpetuates a gravy train sorely in need of a roadblock.”
The Partnership for the Public Good presented the following statement at the hearing:
“The application of Uniland for ECIDA assistance for its Delaware North project highlights the need for stricter state laws and stricter county-wide policies for IDA assistance. The Uniland proposal is by no means as egregious as some of the projects routinely approved by the suburban IDAs, involving wine stores, donut shops, doctor’s offices, car dealerships, and speculative office space. The project is located in the downtown core, and it involves a business that exports services beyond our region. However, it still does not appear to create a net win for local taxpayers. Several aspects of the proposal raise concerns.
The But For Test
Public assistance should be reserved for job creation or retention that otherwise would not occur. Otherwise, the assistance is just gravy, adding to the profit margin of the developer and/or employer without creating any benefit to the public. In this case, there is no real evidence that Delaware North would fail to create new jobs or move jobs elsewhere if Uniland does not receive public assistance. Unfortunately, our flawed economic development system encourages businesses to talk about moving when they apply for assistance, or when that assistance is challenged, but more than such talk should be required to pass the “But For” test – particularly when the project is also slated to receive large subsidies from other state programs such as Excelsior and Brownfields.
New Construction in a High Vacancy City
Uniland’s application would be stronger if it involved reusing an existing office building. Reuse confers many environmental benefits and helps preserve the architectural character of the city. In addition, subsidizing new office construction is a dubious strategy when vacancy rates are high. The Buffalo News recently reported that by January 1, the vacancy rate for downtown Buffalo office space will be 22%, with a 24.4% vacancy rate for class A space, in part due to heavily subsidized office projects such as One Canalside, Catholic Health, Avant, and HealthNow.
It is not a good use of public money to pay for highly profitable companies to move from one office building to another in downtown Buffalo. Delaware North received large subsidies to locate in the Key Tower, where it appears that they have paid no property taxes for the duration of their lease, and now they will be heavily subsidized on Chippewa. When the Chippewa subsidies run out, will they move again, and again ask for subsidies?
Projects such as the Uniland proposal impose real costs on the taxpayers, diverting revenue that would otherwise be used to pay for police, fire, public works, schools, etc. Part of the reason for the NFTA’s ongoing fiscal crisis and its recent need to raise bus fares is the diversion of mortgage tax revenue to IDA-funded projects. Where should the public be spending its money: moving residents to jobs and job opportunities via environmentally friendly public transit, or moving Delaware North from Main and Chippewa to Delaware and Chippewa?
Thank you for considering these thoughts.”
•on November 15th, 2013
The annual Movement Dance Party fundraiser will be held on Friday, December, 20 at 9 p.m. at The Foundry, located at 298 Northampton in Buffalo. Come enjoy live music spun by some of the hottest local DJs, plenty of locally brewed beer, and the chance to dance and mingle with Buffalo’s favorite movers and shakers. Admission limited to those age 21 and over. Look for updates and more details on our PPG Facebook page.
•on November 14th, 2013
Buffalo News columnist Rod Watson published an article entitled “Smartening up so justice applies to all” as a follow-up to the release of Open Buffalo’s report on alarming racial disparities in the Erie County criminal justice system.
“Blacks are three times as likely, and Hispanics twice as likely, to be ensnared as their numbers in the general population would suggest,” Watson wrote. “And for African-Americans, the disparities can’t be explained by poverty alone because the percentage of blacks locked up in Erie County is higher than the percentage of blacks living in poverty.”
Watson’s column points to flawed policies and high poverty rates as the main contributors to these racial disparities in our local system, arguing that seemingly neutral policies actually target neighborhoods that are disproportionately poor and comprised of people of color.
However, Watson’s closing observation gave a vote of confidence to the Open Buffalo initiative and its partner organizations, suggesting that implementing restorative justice and effecting change in this system may be possible with the right people working toward it.
“But maybe an even bigger reason for optimism is that the groups pushing reform are some of the same organizations that made Buffalo change futile development policies and pay living wages to boost the economy,” he said. “They’ve clearly learned how to work with – or prod, prick and push – government and business to do the smart thing.”
Click here to link to the original article on The Buffalo News website.
•on November 13th, 2013
New Open Buffalo Report on Disparate Number of Minorities in the Criminal Justice System
The report can be found here
This Tuesday, Open Buffalo released a new report, Alarming Disparities: The Disproportionate Number of African American and Hispanic People in Erie County Criminal Justice System. The report reveals that in Erie County representation of the African-American and Hispanic populations is disproportionately high in each stage of the criminal justice process, from arrest through sentencing. For example, African Americans represent 14% of the county’s population but 65% of its prison sentences. To our knowledge, this is the first compilation of this racial data in western New York. Representatives from Open Buffalo partners such as the Partnership for the Public Good, Prisoners are People Too, Center for Employment Opportunities and the Erie County Restorative Justice Coalition, and other community leaders discussed the findings and called for government and community to unite in addressing them at a press conference.
•on November 6th, 2013
On November 6 at the Buffalo Common Council Legislative Committee meeting, The Partnership for the Public Good presented a statement in support of public financing of City of Buffalo elections.
“The Partnership for the Public Good, which unites 146 community organizations working to build a better Buffalo, supports the public financing of City of Buffalo elections. Research and experience have shown that public financing works. In other places like Maine, New York City and San Francisco, matching funds have leveled the playing field for challengers against well-monied incumbents. A wider array of candidates run for office and elevate civic debates based on ideas, rather than the special interests of campaign donors. It’s time to get our elected officials out of the fundraising game and insist they do the job we elected them to do: tackle important issues and listen to their constituents.
A recent report from Demos titled “Fresh Start: the Impact of Public Financing in Connecticut” shows just how feasible and valuable public financing is. Connecticut passed its system in 2008. In 2012, 77 percent of successful candidates used public financing.
The Demos report found that public financing:
- Allowed legislators to spend more time with constituents;
- Increased the number of donors;
- Decreased the influence of lobbyists;
- Spurred more – and more diverse – candidates to run for office;
- Led to a more substantive legislative process with more important bills passed.
If Connecticut can do it, so can we. The public financing of elections would be a major step forward for the City of Buffalo.”
•on November 6th, 2013
Next week’s Public Good Radio Show will feature Teresa Deluca of Hands Across Buffalo, an effort to promote racial unity and community commitment to better understanding race and poverty.
Tune in on WUFO 1080am or www.WUFOAM.com every Tuesday at 1pm.
•on November 5th, 2013
Cornell University’s School of Industrial Labor Relations recently published an article in their news center that featured interviews with several former High Road interns. The piece gives a brief background on the High Road fellowship program, which has placed 67 students in internships with a variety of PPG’s community based, non-profit partner organizations since its inception in 2009.
“Every placement associated with the program tackles Rust Belt challenges like urban revitalization, quality job creation, the green economy and small business development,” said Megan Connelly, coordinator of the ILR program. “High Road fellows have and continue to make immense and lasting contributions to the fabric of these organizations,” she said.
The article also includes brief interviews with three of PPG’s summer 2013 fellows: Zachary Benfanti,
Courtney Sokol, and Renée Wall. These students served at Learning Disabilities Association of Western New York, the Clean Air Coalition, and the Everywoman Opportunity Center, respectively. The three describe the work that they did and the skills and insight that they were able to take away from the experience.
To read the article in its entirety, visit: http://www.ilr.cornell.edu/news/HighRoads_11413.html
•on November 5th, 2013
Tune in to WUFO AM 1080 today at 1 p.m. We’ll be interviewing Elizabeth Triggs, founder and executive director of None Like You, We Care Community Outreach about community revitalization projects on Buffalo’s East Side. Triggs will be talking about housing rehabilitation, community gardens, and their upcoming Thanksgiving event.
Tune in at WUFO 1080AM or www.WUFOAM.com every Tuesday at 1 p.m.