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Council's Police Oversight panel to focus on policy

By Jill Terreri

The Common Council's Police Oversight Committee is preparing for its first meeting next week, and Chairman David Rivera made clear today what the committee will not do. It won't investigate officers or reveal details of matters that could turn into a lawsuit for the city, he said.

"Our goal is not to investigate police officers," said Rivera, who is also a former officer. "Our goal is to assist them."

The department is in the midst of turmoil over several unrelated incidents involving officers.

In the wake of a disturbing cell phone video of an officer assaulting a man in handcuffs and an unrelated incident in a bar that left a man in a coma in which two officers were present, many Council members did not see a reason to revive the long-dormant committee. They changed their opinion last week.  

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Wyatt gets committee chairmanship

By Jill Terreri

The Common Council's newest member, Rasheed Wyatt, has been appointed chairman of the Civil Service Committee, one of four committees that meet every other week.

Committee assignments are made by the Council president, Darius Pridgen, and the Council does not vote on them.  

Wyatt was appointed by the Council on Jan. 28 to fill a vacancy in the University District, and on Tuesday, the Council approved a new roster of committee appointments. 

Putting a new Council member into a committee chairmanship - which comes with a stipend - isn't new for this Council. When South Council Member Chris Scanlon was appointed in 2012, he was immediately made Finance Committee chairman. He has since ascended to lead what is arguably the Council's most important committee, Legislation. 

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Today in City Hall: Pridgen's day

By Jill Terreri

A crowd of about 300 people is expected in Council Chambers today at 2 p.m., when Ellicott Council Member Darius Pridgen is elected Council president by his fellow city lawmakers. 

Pridgen, who surprised some in City Hall by his effort to quickly line up the support of all of his colleagues, is so confident that he will be elected Council president that his staff has already moved into the president's office on the 13th floor, and Lovejoy Council Member Rich Fontana has moved out. 

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Council members reiterate anti-fracking stand

The Buffalo Common Council, which unanimously voted to ban hydraulic fracturing in the city, hosted an anti-fracking organization during a news conference today in City Hall. 

Council Majority Leader Demone A. Smith said even if Buffalo isn't a prime candidate for fracking, upstate officials should stick together.

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Five Questions with David Rivera

Every Sunday, we'll publish a quick Q&A with someone from the local political world. Instead of touching on the latest in policy issues and proposed legislation, the intent is to catch a glimpse of the person behind the title. The interviews are done via email.

Niagara Council Member David A. Rivera addresses his colleagues during a Jan. 24 session of the Buffalo Common Council. (Derek Gee / Buffalo News)

David A. Rivera

The basics
Age: 53
Job title: Buffalo Common Council member, Niagara district
Family: My wife, Esther; two sons, Joshua (wife, Norma) and Jonathan (wife, Stephanie); two grandchildren, JD and Alilah.
Education: Associate degree in social science
Party affiliation: Democrat
Previous work experience: I spent 25 years with the Buffalo Police Department. I started as a patrol officer and was later promoted to detective and then detective sergeant.
City salary: $52,000 + $1,000 stipend for chairing Claims Committee

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Recent hires in City Hall

The latest hires in city government include new interns and an aide for Common Council members.

Both South Council Member Michael P. Kearns and Niagara Council Member David A. Rivera have hired former aides as paid interns.

Kearns hired Matthew Fisher, while Rivera hired Sean Mulligan -- both at a rate of $15 an hour.

Continue reading "Recent hires in City Hall" »

Fee stays same, tweaks made to proposed food truck law

Customers visit The Whole Hog food truck last summer in downtown Buffalo. (Charles Lewis/Buffalo News)

A revised set of proposed rules for food trucks in the City of Buffalo has been unveiled with no change to the proposed $1,000 annual license fee.

Council President Richard A. Fontana, Niagara Council Member David A. Rivera and South Council Member Michael P. Kearns each said this week they'd like to see a lower proposed fee.

However, North Council Member Joseph Golombek Jr., the bill sponsor, said even though those three lawmakers have talked to him about it, he believes the proposal of $1,000 is fair.

"If you can afford $80,000 for a truck, I don't think a $1,000 fee is too excessive," Golombek said today.

Rivera said he initially took the position of having a lower fee because he wanted the city's fee to be more in line with the fees in other cities roughly the size of Buffalo, but there have been compromises as the law has developed and he will not push for a lower fee.

"If food trucks are willing to live with it, that's fine," Rivera said today.

When asked today whether the group was willing to accept the size of the fee, Mitchell M. Stenger, attorney for the Western New York Food Truck Association, said he was in the midst of canvassing his members.

As The Buffalo News reported last week, changes were already planned to the draft regulations. The amendments that have been proposed -- all of which were suggested by a group of food truck owners -- are:

--Distance: Food trucks must stay at least 100 feet from "the nearest edge of any building or section of a building comprising a licensed food establishment, excluding any patio, awning or temporary enclosure attached thereto..." where there is an open kitchen.

The previous version of the proposed rules called for a 100-foot buffer between a food truck and the property line of a restaurant with an open kitchen.

--Garbage cans: Removing a requirement for two, 65-gallon garbage cans and replacing it with the mandate that food trucks "must be equipped with trash receptacles of a sufficient capacity that shall be changed as necessary to prevent overflow or the creation of litter or debris."

--Hearing: Any food truck cited for its third violation would still be subject to an order to close immediately. However, the newest version of the proposed rules would allow the food truck to remain in operation until a hearing is held and a determination is made by the city.

Police or the Department of Permits and Inspections would still be able to force a a food truck to stop operating at a location if a blatant violation if found and its the third offense, but it wouldn't be an indefinite closure subject to a hearing, Golombek said.

Under the law, a hearing would be required within 60 days.

Golombek said he would have preferred a smaller time frame for the hearing, but he has been told by City License Director Patrick Sole Jr. that a hearing could not be guaranteed within the a shorter window if less than 60 days was required.

The previous version of the rules did not allow the food truck to remain in operation once it was shut down and a hearing was needed.

Golombek said that while the existing food truck operators generally have been "pretty good" at following the rules, he wants rules in place in case the next round of operators aren't as complaint.

"I'm concerned about he next level of food trucks," Golombek said. "...I want to make sure that they're as good as these guys are now."

Read the new rules here. And here are some video clips of the debate on food trucks in Common Council Chambers last week.

--Aaron Besecker
Follow me on Twitter: @BeseckerBN


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 |