A faith-based group that has made a name for itself holding elected officials accountable is pressing for better oversight of absentee landlords in Buffalo, greater federal funding for public transportation and "smart growth" legislation at the state level.
An estimated 500 people turned out Thursday at St. Martin de Porres Church on Northampton Street for the meeting of VOICE-Buffalo, a group of urban and suburban congregations that regularly challenges government officials on policies and funding priorities.
Primarily at issue were the city's maintenance of a rental registry, attempts to revitalize Charlie Perkins Park on East Ferry Street, community policing in Buffalo, and efforts to establish a planning board for Erie County. The group also called for the demolition or rehabilitation of several city properties.
The meeting was called as a way to "give our values a voice in the public arena," said the Rev. M. Bruce McKay, pastor of Pilgrim-St. Luke's United Church of Christ and co-president of the group.
The city keeps a registry of landlords, but representatives of VOICE-Buffalo say the registry needs to be maintained better and frequently updated to help prevent problem properties.
"It really is a critical way in which citizens are able to keep tabs on absentee landlords," said McKay.
VOICE-Buffalo also lobbied for improvements at Charlie Perkins Park, although the group hasn't taken a stance on whether the city should resume caretaking duties for Buffalo parks, which have been maintained by county workers since a 2004 deal with the county. That deal is being reconsidered amid complaints park maintenance has suffered.
"We've tried to work with both the city and the county. Our concern is that they be maintained well," McKay said.