Back on the grid
Was great having time off to spend with the family, but with everyone back safely in their respective places - two in college, and a third working in New York City - it's time for City Hallways to get back to work.
We've made some improvements, including a new logo (Do you like it? It was designed by Qina Liu of The Buffalo News's web staff), more photos and a weekly poll (See below) asking City Hallways readers their views on an issue-of-the week. I hope you'll participate..
An 'only in government' moment
Lots of chatter lately coming from the fire department, especially over the resignation of deputy commissioner Kevin Peterson, who is dropping back to the union ranks as he prepares to retire. The move seemed a bit unusual to me, but turns out it's not all that unique in city government. Typically, I'm told, political appointees promoted through the ranks as Peterson was will drop back to their unionized civil-service position for a day or two prior to retirement in order to qualify for union benefits such as cashing in accrued sick and vacation time. The unusual thing with Peterson, I'm told, is that he's doing it for six months. And that's because he wants to get the maximum vacation-time buyout available to him, 50 days, which he'll qualify for after working six more months.
Also unusual I'm told, is Mayor Brown's decision to post the deputy commissioner openings, rather than just announcing his appointment.
More things change, more they stay the same
It was about a year ago that City Hallways posted a picture of the all- male photo array outside Council chambers, depicting the nine-men-in-a room comprising the 2015 Common Council. Since then, two Council members resigned for other jobs, and an election was held of all nine members last November. A new photo array outside Council Chambers depicts the 2016 Council.
Two of the faces are new. Joel Feroleto replaces Mike LoCurto in the Delaware District, and Ulysees Wingo replaces Demone Smith in Masten. But even as things changed, so much stayed the same. The 2016 Council, like the 2015 one, remains all male, and still consists of one Hispanic male, three African-American males and five white males.
From Poland to Polonia
I met a family in City hall, visiting from Poland. They flew into Toronto, then traveled around the country, going to Washington, D.C., to Arizona, Texas, Las Vegas, and then, in the final leg of their vacation, stopped in Buffalo for a few days because they heard the city has a large Polish population. They visited St. Stanislaus Church, but noted the church has only one mass a day. Not the large Polish community they expected.
I told them about Buffalo's big Dyngus Days celebration, which seemed to impress the Polish visitors. And I told them that Buffalo does still have a sizable Polish, but that suburban migration resulted in Cheektowaga having a sizable Polish population as well.
“I heard of Cheektowaga” the Polish man said. "They have a shopping mall.”
This week's poll
City Council/City Schools: What do You think?
As I’ve mentioned before, the Common Council seems determined to have a bigger say when it comes to Buffalo schools, particularly since Wingo became Masten Councilman. His wife is a teacher, and he’s a youth minister. He’s taken over the Council's Education Committee. While the committee only met sporadically last year, Wingo has scheduled monthly Education Committee meetings for 2016, starting with one later this week.
Given that theme, the first City Hallways poll question is education related. I'll post the poll all week, but please only vote once. I'll publish the results next Monday. Along with a new poll.
Planning Board meets this afternoon. The big item is Canterbury Woods on Gates Circle. Also on the agenda is the still controversial Sweet Pea Market, 226-238 High St., in the Fruit Belt, which got more controversial when residents recently learned the plan now includes higher-end apartments. My colleague, Jonathan Epstein, has stories on both issues in today's paper. Here's story on the Gates Circle project redesign. And another on the Sweet Pea Market controversy.
Others agenda items include:
*Expansion of parking lot at Foundry Lofts, 1700 Elmwood.
*Conversion of warehouse at 510 Washington into 13 market-rate lofts with 1,370-square-feet office space.
*Construction two three-story apartments with 10 units each at 494-502 Seventh
*Construction of convenience store with gas pumps at 511-525 Broadway.