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New licensing board to regulate Buffalo businesses

WBFO File Photo

What carries the bureaucratic name of the Independent Licensing Hearing Board is actually an attempt to do something about quality of life problems in the City of Buffalo.
The city issues licenses for all kinds of things, business licenses for food trucks to licenses for corner delis through the Department of Permit and Inspection Services. When something goes wrong, resolving the problem goes back to the same people in the department to decide.

However, the courts don't like that and can reinstate the license. South District Councilmember Chris Scanlon said the current system means the department is "judge, jury and executioner" and its decision is often thrown out in court.

"This isn't an issue that's particular to one district. It's not an issue that's particular to one type of license. So I hope anyone out there thinks that we're not going out to target any particular any type of license or any particular kind of license or any particular kind of business," Scanlon said. "This is to look at any businesses in throughout the City of Buffalo that are licensed by the City of Buffalo's Department of Permit and Inspection Services."

Council President Darius Pridgen reiterated that the process will apply to any business getting a city license.

"That's very important, because we don't want the public to think we are just trying to target one industry, one business, but anybody," Pridgen said. "And this puts it in place once everything is done - if this council approves it - so that its fair, it's out there. Independent body and it's not Permits and Inspections policing themselves."

Masten District Councilmember Ulysees Wingo said problem businesses need to be stopped.

"We don't have a lot of teeth in a lot of the things we are executing. They get away with a lot," Wingo said. "And, again, like you said earlier regarding the fact that when we go to court, it's easily overturned or whatever the case is. But I just want to say publicly that I definitely am happy with the the fact that we're moving forward with this Licensing Hearing Board."

That board would be a five-member panel that will make an independent decision on what to do about a bad license holder. Scanlon said the panel would be similar to the State Liquor Authority - and that works. He hopes to get the board into place as soon as possible.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.