Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown’s funding wish list from Albany is big, but, based on the city’s needs, not greedy.
Brown and other New York State mayors made their annual political pilgrimage to the state Capitol last week, each with a shopping list.
The Buffalo mayor made a strong case for $1 million to make City Hall more secure, including X-ray equipment to screen visitors, new steel bollards to protect the building and additional security staff. The city also wants to close some entrances.
The city lost some federal aid in 2011, as did Albany, Syracuse and Rochester. But, as the mayor pointed out, security vulnerabilities remain at the nation’s tallest city hall, where 1,700 people work. Americans are more aware than ever of the need for heightened security following recent attacks on businesses, public buildings, churches, schools and other places where people gather.
Buffalo police officials earlier told a Common Council committee the city had received $50,000 from the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services to install X-ray screening at the front entrance of City Hall. The system is expected to be in place by March. Plans are to eventually place cameras on every floor, including stairwells, elevators and other heavily trafficked areas. The mayor was correct in cautioning about the openness of the building in this post-9/11 environment.
Other important items on Brown’s funding wish list:
• Some level of state assistance for the $30 million it will cost to consolidate six Department of Public Works facilities that are now spread across the city. The mayor wants a public works campus that will house equipment, the animal shelter and auto impound lot.
This is an idea that would increase efficiency for DPW workers and so deserves the state funding necessary to get it in motion.
• $30 million for a new round in the continuing project to reopen Main Street to vehicular traffic. Brown wants to fund construction expenses for the 400 block of Main and the Seneca One Tower block.
Returning cars to Main Street is a significant part of the downtown revitalization. Traffic has already returned to the northern blocks of Main Street. More funding is vital to continuing the work, which is boosting business in an area devastated by the opening of the pedestrian mall 30 years ago.
• Brown wants permission for several cities, including Buffalo, to tax wireless telecommunications providers at the same level now charged to utility companies. Doing so could raise several million additional dollars per year for Buffalo and perhaps stem the current losses of $2 million as more residents move from taxable landline phones to cellphones. If we’re going to tax telephone service, it should be done fairly.
The city owes much to the state for creating the Buffalo Billion that is helping remake the economy. The mayor’s latest requests will fund important projects that will move the city forward. It is not too much to ask.