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Rodriguez not impressed with Schumer endorsement

By Jill Terreri

Republican Sergio Rodriguez was not impressed with Sen. Charles Schumer's endorsement of his fellow Democrat, Mayor Byron Brown, during an event on Main Street yesterday. 

In a statement this morning, Rodriguez continued his criticism, that Brown has not done enough to improve education, and noted the city's unemployment rate and crime statistics. 

"I agree with Sen. Schumer: indeed Buffalo is turning around. But we're going in the wrong direction," Rodriguez said. 

He added later: "If we don't address the basic fundamental needs of people, which is the ability to provide their children a decent education as well as a safe environment, then there is no amount of waterfront entertainment that will convince people to live in the city."  

Continue reading "Rodriguez not impressed with Schumer endorsement" »

New pizza parlor, health facility planned for West Side

By Jill Terreri

A new make-your-own pizza parlor in Allentown was approved by a panel of lawmakers on Tuesday, after it received the support of the city Planning Board.

Crust is planning to open in mid- to late-September at 244 Allen St., at the corner of College Street, in the former location of Sample restaurant. According to the architect, Elizabeth Buscaglia, the restaurant will have interior and patio seating. Slices will be offered, and customers will be allowed to make their own pizzas, she said. The fast-casual concept is popular on the West Coast. The general manager will be Peter McConeghy.

Continue reading "New pizza parlor, health facility planned for West Side" »

Today in City Hall

By Jill Terreri

Good morning,

Today is packed with meetings here in City Hall. Here's a run-down: 

  • The Planning Board meets at 8:15 a.m. today in Room 901. The agenda includes plans for a new doctor's office at 501 Seventh St., a new 300-space parking lot for the Larkin building, and exterior renovations to Trinity Tower Apartments at 33 Linwood Ave. and to Sinatra Realty's building at 400 Elmwood Ave., south of Bryant Street. James Nash will ask the board to re-establish a restaurant at 162 Allen St., and Crust Buffalo will ask to re-open a sit-in restaurant at 244 Allen St. T-Mobile will also appear before the board again about locating a 90-foot cell tower at 535 Northampton St. The board won't meet again until Sept. 10. 
  • The Common Council will hold a special session at 3 p.m. today to tie up loose ends before the Council takes its annual August break. Votes are expected on contracts for public works projects and other items that can't wait for September. 
  • The Council will have several committee meetings as well, including Civil Service at 9:45 a.m., Finance at 10 a.m., Community Development at 1 p.m. and Legislation at 2 p.m. All committees meet in Council Chambers. Discussion of "zombie foreclosures" will take place during the Finance Committee, specifically about what elected officials can do.  Discussion of new proposals regarding what Buffalo can do to reform its own foreclosure process is also possible at 10 a.m. At 2 p.m., the Legislation Committee will hear from residents upset with Time Warner, and the city's head of telecommunications, Tom Tarapacki, will update the committee about concerns at the Apollo Theatre
  • Over at the IDA headquarters at 143 Genesee St., the Buffalo Urban Development Corp. will meet at noon. The BUDC is expected to award a three-year contract for operations, monitoring and maintenance of the RiverBend site in South Buffalo to TurnKey Environmental Restoration. The first year will cost $93,340, and the subsequent two years will be negotiated.  

Fontana undercover

By Jill Terreri

There doesn't seem to be a neighborhood issue Council President Rich Fontana won't take on. Even if it means staking out a problem neighborhood store at 3 a.m.

A man had applied to the city to open a shop that sold tobacco in Lovejoy, which requires approval from the Common Council. Michael Montanez told lawmakers that the product he would be selling - known as e-liquid cigarettes - would help people reduce their dependence on nicotine. 

But Fontana said the results of his "investigation" indicated that customers at the building where the store is located would be hooked on something much more potent. 

Fontana had heard complaints about narcotics activities at 1190 Lovejoy St. and wanted to see for himself. At 3 a.m., he took his wife's car - to disguise himself - and was flagged down as he drove by.

"They say, what can we get you?" he said.

Continue reading "Fontana undercover" »

Council wants answers from Time Warner

By Jill Terreri

Time Warner Cable's decision to switch from analog to digital format for public access channels, which could cost some customers more, didn't sit well with Common Council members on Tuesday.

"These are the channels that they should make as simple as possible," said Ellicott Council Member Darius G. Pridgen.

The lawmakers grilled the cable company's representative about why people who are already cable customers would be charged a dollar per month to view public access, government and educational programming, and asked the company to drop the fee. 

"You're paying twice for public access," said Council President Richard A. Fontana. 

Continue reading "Council wants answers from Time Warner" »

Today in City Hall: Fire contract

By Jill Terreri

Good morning,

Today, the details of a tentative 15-year contract for firefighters, which has already been approved by the union's membership and the Brown administration, will be analyzed by the city's control board. 

The control board doesn't have any authority to approve the contract, as it is in advisory status, but members are expected to give an analysis of the document's true costs to city taxpayers when it meets at 1 p.m. today in the first-floor conference room of the Market Arcade. 

Comptroller Mark J.F. Schroeder also analyzed the contract, and found that it will cost the city $23 million, which is available in city reserves, though it could end up costing more as firefighters retire, induced by incentives in the contract. Approximately half of the department will be eligible to retire by June 30, 2015, and the city could face costs of "several million dollars," as it pays out for accumulated sick and vacation time, Schroeder wrote. 

The Common Council was prepared to vote on the contract last week, but the city wanted to give the control board time to review it. 

A Council vote is expected next week. 

From today's Buffalo News, Mark Sommer looks at Horsefeathers Market & Residences on Connecticut Street, which is part of a renaissance on the West Side, and Brian Meyer talks to Thomas Eoannou about his purchase of the North Park Theatre.

And in North Buffalo, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen is set to open in late October

 

Buffalo comptroller analysis of fire contract

Today in City Hall: Big projects to start

By Jill Terreri

Good morning, 

The Common Council will meet at 2 p.m. today in chambers and is expected to approve millions of dollars for construction projects, including $15.8 million for a redesign of the 500-block of Main Street and $2.4 million for streetscape improvements to East Lovejoy and Clinton streets and Delavan Avenue.

Main Street downtown is in the midst of a transformation, as it is being reconfigured to allow for the return of vehicle traffic. The 500-block is the most expensive piece of the project, and is expected to begin in September, and will be completed by summer 2015. Mark Cerrone, Inc., won the bid for Main Street, while Concrete Applied Technologies Corp. won the bid for the Lovejoy District streetscapes. The Lovejoy work is expected to begin in August. 

The Council will also approve consultant contracts for capital improvements to more than 20 community centers all over town. The projects are funded with federal block grant funds from prior years that were unspent.  

Continue reading "Today in City Hall: Big projects to start" »

Today in City Hall: Budget vote

By Jill Terreri

Mayor Byron Brown's proposed $482.5 million spending plan is up for a vote by the Common Council during a special meeting at 3 p.m. today in Council Chambers. 

Council leadership and the administration are working out the details this morning, and the amendments have not been printed up, I'm told. 

The Council's budget hearings involved questions to department heads related to many matters outside of what was contained in the budget, so it's unclear what Council members will do to change the proposal. 

Continue reading "Today in City Hall: Budget vote" »

Today in City Hall: Budget and Broderick Park

By Jill Terreri

The Common Council kicked off its budget workshops this morning in relatively brief meetings with some of the city's largest departments. 

The questions tended to deal with matters of concern to the Council, not necessarily what was in the budget. 

The Taxation and Assessment Department discussed the inquiries they were getting about the state's STAR program, which offers property tax breaks to homeowners. Basic STAR recipients must re-apply this year - senior STAR recipients re-apply every year. The city department doesn't administer the program, but it does send out the tax bills. Department officials said they worried that the state won't be able to tell them all of the properties that should be getting the exemption until June, and property tax bills must be mailed by July 1. 

Continue reading "Today in City Hall: Budget and Broderick Park" »

Today in City Hall: Smarter Cities

By Jill Terreri

Good morning, 

Today Mayor Byron Brown will welcome a team from IBM, which is offering technical assistance to the city through its "Smarter Cities" program. 

The grant offers services to help the city address quality of life issues using data, valued at $400,000. A team will be in Buffalo for three weeks. 

The city already uses data through its CitiStat program to decide where to make investments and to place staff. The city's Clean Sweep program is also data-driven, and is based on calls to 911 and its 311 center, which handles non-emergency complaints about illegal dumping, rats, broken street lights and other quality of life issues.

Continue reading "Today in City Hall: Smarter Cities" »

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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.

rmccarthy@buffnews.com


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.

tprecious@buffnews.com


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 | jterreri@buffnews.com


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 | jzremski@buffnews.com

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