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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

By Jill Terreri

Final preparations are underway for the city's tax foreclosure auction, which starts tomorrow at 9:30 a.m., and lasts for three days, over at the convention center. A new list of 2,829 properties was posted on the city's web site this morning. The list has been cut from nearly 4,400 properties as people settle their tax bills or work out payment plans.  

The Common Council will also hold their pre-meeting caucus at 2 p.m. today, in which they'll discuss hiring DiDonato Associates for work on a second-floor addition to the Hatch Restaurant. They think the work - design, engineering, construction administration and inspection - can be done for $120,000. A request for bids to operate the Hatch is going out this month, and if the expansion is expedited, the city can realize more revenue from a new operator, according to a memo to lawmakers from City Engineer Peter Merlo. 

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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 Michael LoCurto

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.

Delaware Council Member Michael J. LoCurto speaks during a Feb. 7 meeting of the Buffalo Common Council. (Derek Gee / Buffalo News)

Michael J. LoCurto

The basics
Age: 40
Job title: Buffalo Common Council member, Delaware district
Family: Like most Italians, too many aunts, uncles and cousins to list in one blog post.
Education: B.A. in media study, University at Buffalo; master's of urban planning, UB.
Party affiliation: Democrat
Previous work experience: Special assistant to former State Assemblyman Sam Hoyt; adjunct professor, UB Planning Department.
City salary: $52,000 + $1,000 stipend for chairing Finance Committee

Continue reading "Five Questions with Michael LoCurto" »

City Hall notebook — parking, landmark, redevelopment project

A few odds and ends from Tuesday's Common Council committee meetings:

Parking restrictions

HELFER_headshot--The city will try to clarify its "confusing" rules related to parking in front parking meters on federal holidays, Parking Commissioner Kevin Helfer told the Legislation Committee.

Currently, city law explicitly allows free parking at some meters, but just in the downtown business district. However, the practice has been to allow free parking at all meters in the city on six federal holidays, said Helfer (pictured at left; photo by Charles Lewis/Buffalo News).

"To me, it makes sense to get rid of that confusion," he said.

Continue reading "City Hall notebook — parking, landmark, redevelopment project" »

No vote yet on Acropolis expansion

City lawmakers today put off a vote on a permit that would allow an expansion of the Acropolis restaurant on Elmwood Avenue.

The city's Law Department is still working on finalizing conditions that will be attached to the permit, Delaware Council Member Michael J. LoCurto said during today's Common Council meeting.

Assistant Corporation Counsel Alan P. Gerstman said the department will have a draft of the conditions to LoCurto for his review on Thursday.

The Council could next vote on the permit when it meets again March 20.

Acropolis owner Paul Tsouflidis has received his city music license, which allows the use of DJs.

Here's Mark Sommer's recent story on the situation surrounding the Acropolis.

--Aaron Besecker
Follow me on Twitter: @BeseckerBN

No vote on Acropolis expansion today

-- Update: 3:07 p.m. --

The city needs to complete the environmental review for the proposed Acropolis expansion, so there was no vote today on the matter.

Assistant Corporation Counsel Alan P. Gerstman made the announcement during this afternoon's Common Council meeting.

The need to complete the environmental review was not raised during this morning's caucus.

12:52 p.m.: City lawmakers today appear headed toward some action on the proposed expansion at the Acropolis restaurant on Elmwood Avenue.

At this morning's Common Council caucus, Bradley Hamm, an aide to Delaware Council Member Michael J. LoCurto, asked whether the proposal from restaurant owner Paul Tsouflidis could be considered in parts.

There are three issues involved in Tsouflidis' proposal, Hamm said: proposed use of the second-floor patio, the proposed second-floor bar and the use of the second floor as restaurant space.

Hamm said LoCurto, who was not present at the Caucus meeting, wanted to approve the second-floor patio with conditions, deny the application for the bar and approve the use of restaurant space on the second floor.

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Smith, Russell in line for Council leadership positions

Update 4:33 p.m.: Kearns did not keep Finance Committee chairmanship -- that went to Delaware Council Member Michael J. LoCurto.

Here's my story.


Masten Council Member Demone A. Smith said he expects to be named the Common Council majority leader when city lawmakers reorganize this afternoon.

Smith also said University Council Member Bonnie E. Russell will become the new president pro temp of the Council -- which will come with additional duties but no $2,500 stipend -- when the Council holds its reorganizational meeting at 2 p.m. in Council Chambers.

As we already knew, current Majority Leader Richard A. Fontana will take over as Council president, with Fillmore Council Member David A. Franczyk set to lose the post he's held for eight years.

Also according to Smith, who was packing up his Council office today getting ready for a move to the majority leader's office:

--South Council Member Michael P. Kearns will stay chairman of the Finance Committee.

--Ellicott Council Member Darius G. Pridgen will become the new Legislation Committee chairman, with the previous chairman, North Council Member Joseph Golombek Jr., taking over the Community Development Committee from Delaware Council Member Michael J. LoCurto.

--Russell will keep the chairmanship of the Civil Service Committee, and Niagara Council Member David A. Rivera will stay chairman of the Claims Committee.

A majority vote of the Council is required for leadership and chairmanship posts.

Fontana, Smith, Russell, Pridgen and Golombek are part of the new Council majority, as Fontana had been aligned with Franczyk, Kearns, LoCurto and Rivera.

Leadership positions, except for president pro temp, and chairmanships come with stipends: $10,000 for president; $5,000 for majority leader, and $1,000 each for the committee chairmen.

--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 |