Kevin Gaughan is a Buffalo civic leader and nationally-known expert on state and local governance and community renewal. Over the past eighteen years, Kevin brought regional cooperation to Western New York, as the Washington Post wrote, by sheer will power. For his efforts to improve governance and preserve Buffalos heritage, The Buffalo News has called Kevin the conscience of our community.
Kevin is a graduate of Harvard University, Georgetown University Law School, and he studied international relations at The London School of Economics. He is the author of At First Light: Strengthening Buffalo Niagara in the New Century, and he has written and spoken throughout the nation on local governance, Buffalo history, and community renewal. His civic work has been profiled in USA TODAY, the Yale Law Journal, and the international radio station, Voice of America.
In 1997, Kevin conceived of and organized the Chautauqua Conference on Local Governance. Under the auspices of The Ford Foundation, the conference gathered more than 2,500 participants to the Chautauqua Institution to hear Americas leading local governance scholars and practitioners. Attracting national attention, Kevin was credited with beginning a region-wide discussion on how Buffalo Niagara can reduce fragmented government, thwart sprawl, and restore shared community across social, racial, and geographic boundaries.
In 1998, Kevin launched the Region-Wide Conversation, a program of inter-church visits and discussions to foster understanding among urban and suburban residents. More than 30 places of worship participated, and two American cities adopted the program.
In 2000, Kevin again marshaled broad community support for his Canal Conversation, a two-day public forum on the Erie Canal, waterfront development, and cultural tourism. The gathering gave voice to some 3,000 citizens, whose insistence that the Canals western terminus be restored insured that Buffalos unique history would serve as the centerpiece of waterfront development.
In 2003, as New York State prepared to impose a financial control board on the City of Buffalo and its school district, Kevin founded Buffalo Conversation, a program by which citizens directly participated in local policy decisions. By emphasizing citizen concerns rather than politicians interest, the Conversation breathed new life into the American tradition of town hall meetings, attracting 1,700 citizens, 64 elected officials, and 48 community leaders. It was broadcast live by local ABC affiliate, WKBW-TV, and featured the first ever joint meeting of the Erie County legislature and the Buffalo Common Council.
Buffalo Conversation continued in 2003 and 2004 with examinations of public education, and the proposed merger of the City of Buffalo with Erie County, the latter being broadcast live by local CBS affiliate, WIVB-TV, and was among the highest-rated locally-produced programs in Western New York history.
In 2006, Kevin published a comprehensive study on the size and cost of local government in Western New York (www.TheCost.org). Backed by this study, for the past seven years Kevin has led a movement (www.LetPeopleDecide.org) to let peopledecide the size and cost of county, town, village, and state government, as well as public school districts.
Utilizing the petition process and his volunteer corps of citizens, since 2009 Kevin has placed more propositions before voters than anyone in the history of New York State. To date, his efforts have resulted in voters adopting measures to reform government in 3 counties, 6 towns, and 1 village, saving taxpayers $5.2 million dollars per year. In 2012, The Yale Law Journal published an article surveying local government reform in America, with Kevins work as the principal narrative. In conjunction with publication of the article, Kevin was invited to speak at the Yale Law School in March, 2012.
In 2012, Kevins article in The Buffalo News calling for an overhaul of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority was widely credited with helping to stop the Authoritys plan to reduce bus service and routes in the City of Buffalo.
The Buffalo News and The League of Women Voters of New York State have both named Kevin an Outstanding Citizen of the Year. He is the youngest recipient ever of the Red Jacket Medal, presented by the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society for civic leadership.
In 2013, The Buffalo News included Kevin among its list of the 25 most influential people in the Buffalo Niagara region. For five consecutive years, readers of Artvoice Magazine named Kevin Buffalos Best Individual Activist. And a poll conducted by WBEN Radio in 2010 named Kevin as Western New Yorks most fascinating person.
Kevin is an attorney with offices in downtown Buffalo. He is an adjunct professor of history and government at Daemen College, and he lives in Buffalos Elmwood Village, where hes an avid runner, tennis player and, as a former United States Youth Sailing champion, weekend water warrior.