Council embraces public input on budgeting - The Buffalo News
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Council embraces public input on budgeting

City residents would be invited to give more input into how the city spends taxpayer funds under a proposal unanimously adopted by the Common Council on Tuesday.

The proposal would set up a working group to explore allowing the public greater opportunities to get involved in the city’s spending decisions. The concept, known as participatory budgeting, is used in New York City and other governments, including housing authorities, counties and states.

“It’s a democratic process in which regular community folks get to decide how to spend some budget money,” said Natasha Soto of the Clean Air Coalition. “I think it’s always important to have decisions made more democratically.”

The resolution calls for a report to be produced by March 15 on how to implement participatory budgeting and which types of funds should be included.

It was the last regular Council meeting before an August recess, but council members acknowledged that a special meeting is likely before September.

In other business:

• Lawmakers decided to discuss the sale of four parcels on High Street to St. John Baptist Fruit Belt Community Development Corp. for a market, cafe and pharmacy during a committee meeting next week. The sale of 226, 232, 236 and 238 High streets for $162,000 would allow the developer to use a site that would not interfere with the nearby Meidenbauer House at 204 High,, which historic preservationists believe should be saved.

• Lovejoy Council Member Richard A. Fontana submitted legislation to explore lowering the speed limit for side streets from 30 mph to 20 or 25 mph. In introducing the measure, Fontana pointed to the hit-run incident that left a 2-year-old girl in critical condition on Sunday.

“I’m hoping that residents realize their vehicles are a weapon,” Fontana said.

• A request from the state on a project that would connect the Peace Bridge with the northbound I-190 was not voted on because North Council Member Joseph Golombek objected to its presence on the agenda. Any Council member can object to any item that is not filed by the Council’s deadline. Golombek has advocated for some Peace Bridge neighbors, who are opposed to the project. The state said the Gateway Connections Project is necessary because it removes traffic from local streets by putting vehicles directly on the highway.

Golombek also objected to a filing from Empire State Development, in which the state agency says that the demolition of the former Episcopal Church Home will not have a significant impact on the environment.

• A proposal to regulate e-cigarette stores and hookah lounges was introduced by South Council Member Christopher P. Scanlon. The city currently has no jurisdiction over the stores, and Scanlon would like to hear from health experts about the effects of smoking e-cigarettes.

• In an upcoming Education Committee meeting, the Council will discuss the city’s legal relationship to the school district. An opinion from Assistant Corporation Counsel Alan P. Gerstman found that without a change in state law, the city cannot take over the schools and eliminate a separate school system.


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