Often times it is the small things in the operation of an organization that highlights bigger dysfunctional issues. The process of obtaining a street banner to advertise a community event in Buffalo is an example of a small item that highlights bigger issues.

One of the great things about living in the Buffalo area is the many festivals held throughout the City. Community organizations that sponsor festivals or other events like to publicize such events often times by placing a banner across a city street as a form of advertising. Before a street banner can be put up a permit must be obtained from the City which makes sense. The process utilized by the City to issue a permit for a street banner however, does not make sense and highlights in a small way the dysfunctional manner in which local government operates.

Obtaining a permit for a street banner in the City of Buffalo requires the involvement of the following city offices and officials:

1) A Buffalo Common Councilmember must file a Resolution authorizing permission to hang a street banner.

2) The Councilmember Resolution must be filed with and processed by the City Clerk’s Office.

3) The Councilmember Resolution must be voted on and approved at a City Council meeting.

4) The Mayor’s office must approve the banner request.

5) The Law Department must approve an insurance policy regarding the banners that must be obtained.

6) The Buffalo Arts Commission must approve the banner.

7) According to the City Charter the Special Events Advisory Committee must also approve the banner.

8) The Department of Public Works must inspect and approve safety standards before banner installation.

Wow! As communicating between different government departments located in the same building can be difficult, you can imagine how smoothly this process goes at times.

This cumbersome process can be cut in half by simply eliminating the involvement of the Council, City Clerk and the Mayor. Do we really need to have elected officials involved with and spending time on approving street banners? Perhaps City officials should spend their time on bigger issues and let departmental staff simply process a one stop banner permit request.

In Rochester, New York just a thruway ride away from Buffalo, the process of obtaining a permit for a street banner is handled completely by their Department of Environmental Services, which is basically the same entity as the City of Buffalo’s Department of Public Works.

The issuance of a street banner permit is but one transaction among thousands handled by City government on a regular basis, but the cumbersome process and multiple players involved highlights the dysfunctional and overly bureaucratic way that government operations are handled. Perhaps someone in the City Council can take a look at the policies and procedures for obtaining a street banner and come up with a better way?

www.reinventinggov.org 

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