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Solitary confinement, 'welcoming city' top 2018 agenda for Public Good Parntership

Reform solitary confinement in Erie County.

Certify Buffalo as a “Welcoming City.”

Provide affordable housing opportunities county-wide.

Those are the top three components to the Partnership for the Public Good’s Community Agenda for 2018.

The organization - which describes itself as a community-based think tank - comprises 276 community groups ranging from social services agencies to neighborhood groups, from arts organizations to environmental advocates.

“There’s a really big range of folks with totally different backgrounds and totally different priorities,” said Andrea O’ Suilleabhain, the partnership's deputy director.

Each December, the partners submit proposals for the annual Community Agenda. The proposals must be linked to an active campaign, and each submitting organization must explain how the its proposal benefits the community and how partnership involvement will add value to the effort.

And from there, the partners vote for their top 10 proposals for the year.

“The partners pitch all the ideas. They give two-minute pitches, and there’s a debate, and then there’s a vote,” O’ Suilleabhain. “We list them in the Agenda in order of” which received the most votes.

“It’s an amazing democratic process,” O’ Suilleabhain said.

In this year’s cycle, there were 21 proposals that were voted upon by the member organizations.

The partnership released its 10-point Policy Agenda for 2018 on Friday at the Frank E. Merriweather Library Auditorium, 1324 Jefferson Ave.

In terms of refining solitary confinement, the partnership says the Erie County Legislature should comply with specific rules at the county Correctional Facility and Holding Center, including no solitary confinement of vulnerable persons like people under 22 years old and people with intellectual or physical disabilities or significant mental health problems. It also wants solitary confinement limited to 15 or 20 consecutive days out of 60.

The city and county also should become certified as “Welcoming Communities” while ensuring that people with limited English proficiency have equal access to government services and civic participation, the partnership says.

And Buffalo should pass an inclusionary zoning ordinance that applies to all new developments with 10 or more rental units. The ordinance should require developers to set aside 30 percent of the units for people with an income below 60 percent of the area median income.

Other items on the policy agenda for this year are:

  • Expand community policing, increase and improve police training and reduce arrests in Buffalo;
  • Establish an accessible Office of the New York State Office of Persons with Developmental Disabilities in the City of Buffalo;
  • Invest in the Fruit Belt Neighborhood;
  • Make the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority work for Western New York;
  • Pass the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act and end arrests for low-level marijuana possession in Buffalo;
  • Ensure that banks fulfill Billion-Dollar Community Benefits Agreements with Western New York;
  • End lead poisoning of Buffalo’s most vulnerable citizens.

Following unveiling of the policy agenda, the partnership will conduct Public Policy Advocacy 101 training for the winning ideas, O’ Suilleabhain said.

Participants will learn things techniques and strategies like how to set up meetings with elected officials and how to present public forums.

“It’s really about the community groups taking the lead throughout the year,” O’ Suilleabhain said.

Examples of successful Community Agenda planks include:

  • passing state Land Bank legislation to address the abandoned housing crisis;
  • requiring the Tonawanda Coke plant to install pollution reduction technology;
  • expanding the City of Buffalo’s recycling program;
  • raising the state minimum wage;
  • bringing restorative justice training and programs to Buffalo Public Schools and to local correctional facilities.
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