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COMMON COUNCIL DROPS STUDY OF CITY MANAGER GOVERNMENT

A push to bring a Council-city manager form of government to Buffalo fizzled Tuesday when the Common Council shelved a plan that would create a task force to study the pros and cons.

James D. Griffin, the bill's lead sponsor, conceded he doesn't have the support to keep the effort alive, claiming it's "just not the time" to advance a reform that could have seen a professional manager take over many responsibilities performed by the mayor.

Griffin was among six lawmakers who voted to receive and file a bill he introduced this summer that would have taken the first step by thoroughly researching the issue.

Two Council members voted against shelving the plan, insisting Buffalo has nothing to lose by empaneling a group of volunteers to explore the reform. North Council Member Joseph Golombek Jr., who sponsored a similar effort last year, claimed many officials are bent on protecting a system that isn't working.

"There's a fear of change in Buffalo," said Golombek.

Niagara Council Member Dominic J. Bonifacio Jr. said he's at a loss to explain why the Council derailed the effort even before the plan could be thoroughly studied.

"I don't know why it became a dead issue at this stage," said Bonifacio. "Why not at least study another way (of running government)?"

But Ellicott Council Member Brian C. Davis said spending time and energy to study a Council-city manager model would divert attention from more pressing priorities.

"We can't let something like this detract from the real issues, like expanding our tax base and improving our finances," said Davis.

Mayor Anthony M. Masiello said he thinks the Council did the right thing by ending the debate.

"I think a strong-mayor form of government is more accountable to the people, and I'm glad (Council members) see it that way," said Masiello. "Over the last several years, a strong mayor and the Common Council have worked together to do some really good, tough things."

Some Council members suspect the plan was also hurt by some people's perceptions that the changes could hinder minority representation in City Hall. At a public hearing last month, one speaker said many people believe that Buffalo might elect its first African-American mayor next year. Council-city manager forms of government typically diminish the administrative duties of the mayor and in some cases even eliminate the elective position. Griffin made it clear a couple of weeks ago that it was never his intention to try to diminish minority representation.

In other business, the Council:

Authorized the Police Department to buy five used cars at a cost of $40,000 but delayed a vote on a $120,000 request to purchase eight new Ford Tauruses for use by law enforcers as unmarked cars. Some Council members said the vehicles are not suitable for use as marked patrol cars and will only be used by police officials who have take-home vehicle privileges.

Sent to committee a proposal by Council Majority Leader Marc A. Coppola to impose tougher zoning and licensing restrictions on adult use establishments such as topless bars and adult bookstores.

e-mail: bmeyer@buffnews.com

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