BRO submission by Fred Brace - Buffalo NY:
Jim Heaney, a former reporter for the Buffalo News and now the editor of the "The Investigative Post" recently presented a three part series for WGRZ - Ch.2 on the City of Buffalo's uncollected Housing Court fines which go back to 2006. Whatever the final figure is that is uncollected, as pointed out ranging from 12 to 22 million dollars, the fact that very little if any has been collected is inexcusable.
Buffalo NY is third poorest city of its size in the USA and any portion of that money collected could go a long way in helping out. As a member of the City of Buffalo Housing Court, serving as a Housing Court Liaison at the pleasure and direction of Judge Patrick Carney, I have a very good idea of where these monies could be utilized. One of the key City Departments that could benefit is the City of Buffalo's Permits and Inspections Department. Besides the obvious need for more personnel, whose ranks were gutted under previous administrations, this money could be used to upgrade their reporting to 21st Century standards so that reporting in the 311 Citistat System would be totally transparent to whomever put in the request for inspection.
As of now there is absolutely no way to follow a housing case through the court system. Also, monies that are collected by the Rental Registry Department are, by law, supposed to go to Permits and Inspections but are currently being put into the general fund for the City of Buffalo and are not earmarked for the Inspections Department. Building Inspectors in the city have a thankless job and are inundated by numerous frivolous complaints that must be answered to satisfy the rules set up for CitiStat. This was not the express purpose for CitiStat but something it has morphed into over the past few years to camouflage poor performance in a cloud of meaningless numbers.
The City of Buffalo desperately needs to put all of these fines out to collection, through a professional collection agency, and benefit from whatever dollars it can collect. Mark Schroder, the City of Buffalo Comptroller, needs to insure that this process takes place immediately and that its results are completely transparent.... nothing else should be accepted by the citizens of Buffalo.