City Council Masters of Minutia

Buffalo City Council members meet every two weeks to take actions on the many different issues and items that come before them. Councilmembers have the ability to raise any new ideas or concerns they have by filing a resolution, which will bring the item before the full Council.

As I wrote about in a previous article, Councilmembers file very few resolutions that propose new ideas or items of substance. The most common resolution filed by Councilmembers is a request to waive permit fees for community organizations or block clubs putting on special events. Last year 40 such resolutions were done, which made up 13% of the resolutions filed by Councilmembers. At the July 23, 2013, Council meeting 14 of these resolutions waiving permit fees were filed (see list below).

– Waive Special Event Permit Fee for Artists and Cyclists Event

-Waive Special Event Permit Fee and Park Permit Fee for “Squeaky Wheel Outdoor Animation Festival”

– Waive Event Permit Fee and Park Permit Fee for “Sperry Park Unity Day”

– Waive Special Event Permit Fee for New York Walleye Kids Fishing Derby

– Subaru Chase Band Shell Fee Waiver Resolution

– Waive Permit Fees for Summer Music Series in Delaware Park

– Special Events Waiver Permit Fee for the 8th Annual Queen City Jazz City Festival

– Special Events Waiver Permit Fee for the 16th Annual Parade Proclaiming Buffalo for Christ

– Special Events Waiver Permit Fee for Chalkfest Buffalo

– Special Events and LaSalle Park & Pavilion Waiver Permit Fees for BreakOut and Love Buffalo

– Waive of Permit Fees for Primera Iglesia Metodista Undia Christian Youth Festival

– Waive Event Fees for the YMCA Cazenovia Park Camp

– Waive Special Event Fee for the 2013 S. Park Italian Festival

– Waive Special Event and Permit Fees for Seneca Nation Day in South Buffalo

Councilmembers like being asked for a favor and when a community group asks to have the cost of permit fees waived for their event, I don’t think such a request has ever been denied. I am sure that these are all great community events but instead of having time spent drafting and filing a resolution and then taking time up at a Council meeting, perhaps such requests can be directed to an appropriate City office for processing. The City Code could be amended if necessary to state that community organizations can have permit fees waived for an event by submitting a request to a specified department for approval.

The City of Buffalo as one of the poorest cities in the country has so many issues that the Council could focus on by proposing and debating new policies. Instead the Council gets involved in busy work minutiae that could be handled by administrative staff members. In addition to waiving permit fees, the Council approves all deli store licenses, used car lot licenses, pawn store licenses, restaurant licenses etc.

Administrative staff should take care of processing and approving administrative paper work. The City Council should be where policy goals and objectives are debated. The Council spends so much time mastering minutiae that it is difficult for members to focus on the bigger picture.

What do you think? Is it important for City Councilmembers to address waiving permit fees for community organizations or should that task be delegated to the staff of a City department?

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