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Today in City Hall: Rainy day fund, cats and the Skyway

By Jill Terreri

This morning, the Common Council met with Comptroller Mark Schroeder and his staff to discuss establishing a policy for how to spend the city's "rainy day fund." A policy is expected to be introduced in time for Tuesday's Council meeting. The city established the fund in 2008, and it contains enough money - $36 million - to cover a month's worth of city expenses. But the Council never enacted a policy as to when the money should be used. They agreed that it cannot be used for general budget shortfalls, and should be used only in extraordinary circumstances.  

The city's fiscal position is much better than it has been, though Schroeder has been concerned that the city is spending through its undesignated reserves, which are separate from the rainy day fund. These undesignated funds are filling gaps in the city budget, as Mayor Byron Brown has cut property taxes. 

Today the city is working to process $30 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that had been frozen since May and was released Wednesday. 

Also this morning, Brown hosted heart disease survivors and the American Heart Association to mark "Go Red for Women Day." 

The Common Council will be taking up some items of interest when it meets on Tuesday:

* A resolution supporting plans for a downtown stadium, known as the Greater Buffalo Sports & Entertainment Complex, which was signed by all nine Council members.  

* South Council Member Chris Scanlon submitted a letter from state DOT, in response to his letter in support of a study to take down the Skyway. The letter from DOT's Region 5 office, on Seneca Street, notes that the department has committed to a plausibility review to "identify the critical issues associated with the continued existence or removal of the Skyway" but that the Skyway "remains an important component of the Buffalo metropolitan area transportation network."  

* Scanlon and Delaware Council Member Mike LoCurto are working on the issue of bank-owned homes, which have become eyesores in certain neighborhoods. Scanlon has sent letters to 9,500 households and businesses in his district in an effort to get them involved in encouraging the banks to foreclose on the homes so they can be sold to new owners. 

"These properties sit for years, deteriorating and attracting illegal activity, when they could be in the hands of responsible homeowners who will maintain them," Scanlon said. 

LoCurto submitted a resolution supporting Assembly legislation aimed at making sure bank-foreclosed homes be properly maintained. 

* Scanlon also submitted a letter from South End Marina Secretary Fred D. Langdon regarding possible advertising uses for the grain elevator there, including "real-time public service type of announcements such as: time, temperature and road closings or game scores for the Bills and Sabres." 

* Council President Rich Fontana is calling for the comptroller to audit the city's street lighting system "to recoup monies owed to the City of Buffalo. Such audit may also improve the performance of National Grid as it pertains to maintaining the street light and wiring system." Fontana cites a similar audit in the late 1990s that resulted in reimbursements to the city from Niagara Mohawk of more than $1 million.  

* And in a further effort to get the cat population in Buffalo under control, Ellicott Council Member Darius G. Pridgen is proposing a "cat task force" to form and make recommendations to the Council "on how to humanely address the overpopulation of feral/stray cats within the City." 

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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 |