A proposal to “ban the box” on Buffalo job applications, the question that asks if an applicant has a criminal history, is being revived in the Common Council – and so is the expected debate.
A similar effort occurred last year, but it has been under review since it was introduced.
The argument against asking the question on job applications is that many times people who have served time or been convicted of minor offenses don’t even get an interview after checking that box.
It’s one reason ex-cons have higher unemployment rates.
The argument for asking the question on applications is that employers should know about a criminal background from the beginning.
Nearly a year after Council Majority Leader Demone Smith first suggested the city “ban the box” on job applications for employers in the city, as more than 40 other local governments have done, the Council will consider again Tuesday enacting the law.
But this measure is expected to inspire more debate than many of the measures that come before the Council.
“I don’t think this will be a quick turnaround,” Smith said.
There are 7,000 county residents who are in prison, on probation or parole, and thousands more who have convictions but are not under supervision, said Jeffrey Conrad, regional director of the Center for Employment Opportunities.
Making a decision not to hire someone solely based on a criminal past is against the law, but Conrad said that many ex-cons are not granted an interview once the box is checked.
“Really, what this does is, it allows people to get in the door and give them a chance to get beyond the conviction and get them a job,” he said of the proposed law.
Criminal records are public and easily can be found, said Fillmore Council Member David A. Franczyk, who said he hasn’t made up his mind about the proposal.
“We should know about an applicant,” he said.
The measure would require all employers in the city, with some exceptions, to remove any questions relating to criminal history from job applications.
The city and its vendors would also be covered by the law.
The law does not prevent asking questions about a criminal history during job interviews.
Exempted employers would include law enforcement agencies, schools, employers with fewer than 15 workers, and organizations that work with children, young adults, senior citizens or people with disabilities.
Employers who violate the ordinance would be subject to fines of up to $1,000.
In other Council business last week:
• A proposal for a facility to house former federal inmates near East Ferry Street and Bailey Avenue was approved.
The halfway house planned for a former glass factory at 73 Leslie St. is not near many houses, and it will provide job-training and supervision, said Franczyk. He toured Firetree Ltd.’s Syracuse operation before he agreed to approve the project.
• A self-serve frozen yogurt shop won approval to locate at 802 Elmwood Ave., the former home of Dolci Bakery. White Rabbit Frozen Yogurt plans to open June 1, said owner Andy Kondola.
• A new pizza shop was granted approval to open at the corner of Allen Street and Elmwood Avenue. Allentown Pizza will open at 197 Allen St. on June 1, said owner Joe Mahiques.
• A small expansion of Acropolis OPA restaurant at 708 Elmwood Ave. was approved. Owner Paul Tsouflides plans to enclose an area to create a new hallway and will expand to make room for a cooler.
• The Council voted to lower the first-time fee for food trucks from $1,000 to $800 and changed the boundaries of the downtown special vending district, allowing food trucks at Canalside.
• Three appointments were made: Franz H. Ross, certified general real estate appraiser, was appointed to the Appraisal Review Board; Don Gilbert, former vice president of the Allentown Association, was appointed to the Preservation Board; and Michael J. Finn, a principal engineer with the Department of Public Works, was appointed to the Water Board.