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City considering regulations friendly to food trucks

Renee Allen
R&R BBQ serves customers in Buffalo Lakeside Commerce Park earlier this year. (Sharon Cantillon / Buffalo News)

Draft regulations for food trucks, expected to be circulated internally among city lawmakers this week, include several proposals called for by food truck operators.

A template for proposed rules for mobile food vending in the city is being drafted, and Common Council members will be able to have input before an official proposal comes before the entire body for a vote, North Council Member Joseph Golombek Jr. said.

Golombek called the draft measure a "fair compromise" that combines the best aspects of the proposals from each side in the debate.

"This is not the final law that's going to be going in front of the Council," he said during Tuesday's Council meeting in City Hall.

Golombek said the initial draft that lawmakers will review will include the requirement of a 100-foot buffer between an operating food truck and an existing restaurant.

The initial proposal will also include a "three strikes and you're out" provision, which would see a food truck permit revoked after the third violation.

"I would like to be very hard on these guys," Golombek told me today, noting that most of the food trucks have followed a set of self-imposed rules.

Here's what Golombek had to say about the issue at Tuesday's Council meeting:

Golombek said the initial proposal would call for a permit fee of more than $1,000, which would cover a 15-month period.

Both the Western New York Food Truck Association and Entrepreneurs for a Better Buffalo submitted proposals for food truck rules, after a committee of all parties failed to reach a compromise.

The proposal from Entrepreneurs for a Better Buffalo, a group representing some brick-and-mortar restaurants, was criticized by the food truck group as "protectionist."

Golombek said he does not like the proposal for special vending districts around Elmwood and Hertel avenues, that was suggested by the Entrepreneurs for a Better Buffalo.

The proposal for city rules would not cover the downtown business district, which would continue to fall under rules established by Buffalo Place, Golombek said.

The lawmaker said he'd like to see the trucks in his neighborhood.

"If I knew they were coming down my street at 5 o'clock," he said, "maybe I wouldn't make dinner tonight."

Read the Food Truck Association's proposal here, and the brick-and-mortar group's here.

City lawmakers tabled a set of regulations in July.

--Aaron Besecker
Follow me on Twitter: @BeseckerBN

With Walter out, could another Republican step in?

WALTERRaymond W. Walter's election to the state Assembly has left an open seat in the Erie County Legislature.(Derek Gee/ Buffalo News File Photo)

There's a short-term gig available in the Erie County Legislature.

Raymond W. Walter, an Amherst Republican, formally resigned his 4th District Legislature seat last week to head to Albany to represent the 148th Assembly District. Walter won the unexpired term of former Assemblyman James P.  Hayes, who resigned in September to take a private-sector job.

That leaves a vacancy in the 15-member county Legislature until the end of the year.

County Legislature Majority Leader John J. Mills said last week that Republicans are considering appointing someone to fill the seat -- which represents Clarence, Newstead, Akron and parts of Amherst and Cheektowaga -- for the remaining weeks in December.

Filling the job for only a few weeks, however, may be difficult.

The Legislature is scheduled to meet at least three more times before the end of the year, and could hold additional meetings if it needs to take up potential budget vetoes from County Executive Chris Collins.

Will Walter's absence change the voting power of GOP members of the Legislature as they take up Collins' 2012  budget proposal? Not likely.

Votes are still based on a 15-member Legislature, which means it will still take eight votes to make a budget change and 10 votes to override a veto. So the Dems, if they stick together, will have enough votes to make changes to the budget, but will still need to convince at least one of their Republican-caucusing colleagues to join them to override a veto.

By January, none of that will matter. The Legislature will downsize to 11 members, and Legislator Edward A. Rath  III will take over a newly formed district representing Clarence, Newstead and northeastern sections of Amherst.

--Denise Jewell Gee


Romney picks up Team Skelos

ALBANY -- In a move likely to shock nobody, the State Legislature's top Republican said today he is endorsing Mitt Romney for the GOP presidential nomination.

Of the GOP field, the former Massachusetts governor is probably most politically aligned with Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a moderate Republican from Nassau County. Skelos went out of his way to note that the Romney endorsement came only after the Senate leader held "extensive'' talks with his fellow Republicans in the Senate.

"Of all of the candidates running for president, he is the one most uniquely qualified for this moment. Mitt Romney’s policies will translate into more private-sector jobs and more opportunities in New York and across the country, and I am proud to endorse him for president,” Skelos said.

-- Tom Precious

Jacobs to assume clerk office next week

Republican Christopher L. Jacobs will be a few weeks ahead of other newly elected office holders when he officially assumes the title of Erie County clerk some time next week.

Jacobs, who defeated Democrat Maria R. Whyte on Election Day, now fills a clerk vacancy created by the May resignation of Kathleen C. Hochul, who won a special congressional election. And because the election fills a vacancy, election law allows him to assume the office once the Nov. 8 vote is officially certified, according to Democratic Elections Commissioner Dennis E. Ward.

"I'm planning to take the office when the vote is certified," Jacobs said, "considering how long the office has been vacant."

Ward said he expects the certification process to be completed some time next week. And as soon as Jacobs signs an "oath card" promising to uphold the Constitution, Ward said Jacobs is authorized to take over the office, begin his duties and draw a paycheck.

--Robert J. McCarthy

Cuomo heading to Hollywood for campaign cash

ALBANY – A Hollywood trade publication is reporting Gov. Andrew Cuomo will be heading to California next week for a deep-pocket fundraiser held, in part, as a thank you for his successful push to legalize gay marriage in New York this year.

The Hollywood Reporter says people will pay at least $1,000 apiece to attend a cocktail reception with Cuomo and $12,500 for dinner in the Los Angeles home of interior designer Michael S. Smith and his partner, James Costos, an HBO executive.

The lineup of guests for the Dec. 2 fundraiser, including many reliable donors to progressive political causes, will feature director Rob Reiner, producer and director J.J. Abrams, sports and entertainment executive Casey Wasserman and Candy Spelling, the widow of TV producer Aaron Spelling. Spelling, a millionaire, was most recently in the news for winning $90,000 on slot machines at Las Vegas.

The trek by Cuomo, who until a recent trip to Puerto Rico limited his out-of-state travels, will be coming at a time when New York’s finances are eroding. Cuomo is mulling calling the Legislature back to Albany in December to deal with a worsening budget deficit.

A source close to Cuomo confirmed the Hollywood fundraising trip. The money is for his 2014 re-election campaign account.

"New York Governor Taps Hollywood for Re-election Cash," reads the Hollywood publication’s headline.

Besides Smith and Costos, who also have a home in New York, the hosts include socialite Wallis Annenberg, Vanessa Williams and former U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd, who now heads the Motion Picture Association of America.

-- Tom Precious

Callan to work on Poloncarz transition team

A former associate deputy for County Comptroller Mark C. Poloncarz will serve as an "unofficial executive director" for his transition team as he prepares to move into the office of county executive.

Poloncarz told the Erie County Legislature today that he has asked Timothy C. Callan to serve in that role.

Callan, who worked in the comptroller's office from 2006 to 2010, has also worked for the Erie County Legislature's Democratic Caucus and as an aide to former Rep. John J. LaFalce. He has a doctorate in political science.

Poloncarz plans to announce members of the executive committee for his transition team on Saturday.

An aide to Poloncarz said Callan would serve in a volunteer capacity for the transition team.

--Denise Jewell Gee

Legislators want time to examine polar bear proposal

The polar bears are heading for committee -- or at least a debate over whether Erie County should contribute a third of the $18 million price tag of a project to build a new habitat for the Buffalo Zoo's bears.

Erie County Legislature Chairwoman Barbara Miller-Williams sent the $6 million funding request to the Legislature's Community Enrichment Committee this morning after several legislators said they wanted time to examine the proposal.

County Executive Chris Collins on Tuesday surprised legislators when he sent over a request to use left over funds in several lines in the 2011 budget for the zoo's capital project.

Zoo President Donna Fernandes reiterated her concern to legislators that the zoo is in danger of losing its polar bears if it does not make progress toward its goal to raise $18 million to upgrade the habitat that houses the polar bears to meet modern standards. The exhibit was first built in the 1890s, she said. 

Fernandes told legislators during a work session today that Collins told her to secure funding commitments from the City of Buffalo and from private foundations before he would move the proposal forward. Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown has proposed giving the project $535,000 from the city's capital budget next year. 

She said the zoo has commitments for just under $8 million so far for the project.

Some county legislators have called the timing of the zoo proposal "awkward" as they complete their review of a 2012 budget proposal that would cut more than 300 county jobs.

--Denise Jewell Gee

Pridgen calls for responsibility among food store operators

Council Member Darius G. Pridgen has heard many complaints about food stores in the Ellicott District during his first 11 months in office.  Pridgen_headshot2

From the sale of marijuana-shaped candy and synthetic pot to loitering to selling loose items, like cigarettes and diapers, the city lawmaker believes store owners need to be more accountable.

Pridgen will meet this morning with business people in his district who hold city food store licenses.

"I am pro-business. I want businesses to come to the Ellicott District," Pridgen said during a meeting of the Common Council's Legislation Committee on Oct. 11. "...However, I want business owners to be responsible."

Pridgen sent a letter to licensees about the meeting, being held at the Pratt Willert Community Center.

City lawmakers, who hold the power to grant food store licenses, regularly set conditions for the licenses to include bans on the store selling anything that would be considered drug paraphernalia.

Pridgen has said he wants the owner of each store applying for a license in his Council district to appear before the Council prior to a vote being held.

--Aaron Besecker
Follow me on Twitter: @BeseckerBN

(Photo by Charles Lewis / Buffalo News Staff Photographer)

Staff levels for county executive's office seen as 'moot' as Collins prepares to exit

Erie County Executive Chris Collins won't be in office in January, but the Legislature still set aside 45 minutes for his office to talk about the 2012 budget for the county executive's administrative staff this morning.

Nobody showed up, and Chairwoman Barbara Miller-Williams said she received no word from his staff that they weren't coming.

"We're disappointed of course," Miller-Williams said. "We're here ready to take care of the people's business. I think it's disrespectful, and I feel that we're all still in office until the end of they year. It's our responsibility to review the budget."

Miller-Williams, who also lost a re-election bid for her seat last week, placed a call to the main line of the county executive's suite when it became apparent no one was coming. She got voice mail.

Grant Loomis, a spokesman for Collins, said it is the budget department that has handled the presentation for the county executive in the past. Budget Director Gregory Gach met with legislators on Monday and has had staff present for many of the presentations this week.

"The budget department has historically handled this presentation, which is simply related to personnel lines in the county executive's office," Loomis said of the 45-minute time slot scheduled this morning. "All discussion of the county executive's office budget is moot given last week's election."

The Legislature's Finance, Management and Budget Committee has meetings scheduled throughout the week to meet with department heads to review Collins' proposal for 2012. The Legislature will hold a public hearing on the budget at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 22, in Old County Hall. 

The slot reserved for the county executive's office was the first no-show of the week.

County Comptroller Mark C. Poloncarz, who will replace Collins as county executive in January after winning the election last week, is scheduled to appear before the Legislature on Friday to talk about his views on the budget.

--Denise Jewell Gee

Silver bike accident was far from home

ALBANY -- The mysterious bike crash involving the always-private Assembly Speaker, Sheldon Silver, took place last Thursday in Puerto Rico, a spokesman confirmed this afternoon.

Silver was in San Juan for a couple days for a conference of top Latino leaders from New York state. Michael Whyland, a Silver spokesman, said today the Legislture's top Democrat was out for a ride in the sun when he hit a pothole. A couple of good samaritans stopped to help and the Manhattan lawmaker was taken to the hospital where he was treated for a few hours and released.

Silver was in Washington earlier today but refused to provide any specifics about the accident when approached by a New York Times reporter.

The accident caused some rather severe bruising around the lawmaker's face.

Original reports had it that Silver crashed when he hit a pothole while biking around his lower Manhattan district.

--Tom Precious

New York Times photo: Silver arrives for meeting in Washington with bruise

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About Politics Now

Robert J. McCarthy

Robert J. McCarthy

A native of Schenectady, Robert J. McCarthy came to The Buffalo News in 1982 following a six-year stint at the Olean Times Herald. He is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University, and has been covering local, state and national politics since 1992.

Tom Precious

Tom Precious

Tom Precious joined The Buffalo News in 1997 as bureau chief at the state Capitol, where he covers everything from statewide politics and state government fiscal affairs to health care, environmental and municipal government matters. Prior to The News, he worked for news outlets in Albany and Washington, DC.

Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri is an Amherst native and has covered politics and government in upstate New York since 2003. She joined The Buffalo News in 2012 and covers City Hall.

@jillterreri |

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski, The Buffalo News Washington bureau chief, has reported from the nation's capital since 1989 after joining The News as a business reporter in 1984. A graduate of Syracuse University, Zremski is a former Nieman fellow in journalism at Harvard University. In 2007, he served as president of the National Press Club.

@JerryZremski |