I hope you are finally able to get out and enjoy some of this sunshine! It certainly was a harsh winter, and spring showed little improvement. The rough weather only served to further highlight how desperate our infrastructure is in need of repair.
The deterioration of county roadways has caused several public safety concerns. Fixing these issues as quickly as possible must be a priority. In April, I was pleased to announce that several road repairs I had advocated for in the district I represent have been funded by the administration for 2014. However, I don’t believe the $27 million Road Project List goes far enough. I joined my colleagues in the Legislature in approving the transfer of $5 million from fund balance to the operating budget to allow for additional road work this year. We cannot let this construction season go by without fixing as many roadways and filling as many potholes as possible. The residents of Erie County deserve safe roads.
In another matter, we have also seen other challenges in Erie County that need immediate attention. We are working to correct the issues with Child Protective Services within the department of Social Services. Both are two serious issues facing the county and both involve public safety.
Regarding CPS, as you have read in the news, there have been several recent tragedies involving young children. Sadly, many of these children’s issues were known to the Department of Social Services and Child Protective Services (CPS), which had existing cases on these young lives. I believe there are lingering issues within that department. There was a restructuring done a few months ago, but I do not believe now, nor did I at the time, that those efforts could help the overwhelmed caseworkers do their job, which is to protect vulnerable children. Last year the County Executive added seven caseworkers and three managers to CPS. I had instead requested the allocated funding be used for 10 caseworkers, because I believe DSS needs the qualified workers to properly handle an increase in the number of cases. In light of the recent failures in that department, and based on numerous phone calls and emails I have received, it is clear that the internal changes been made do not go far enough. It is also time to change the leadership at DSS. I recently joined Legislator Joseph Lorigo in calling for the resignation of DSS Commissioner Carol Dankert-Maurer, and I believe a comprehensive search must be conducted to find the best person to lead this important department.
As Chairwoman of the Health and Human Services Committee, which reviews items from DSS, I sponsored a local law that called for changes to the Erie County Community Coordinating Council on Children and Families, which supports CPS. The Legislature approved the changes to allow the council to operate more efficiently and better serve the community. Especially now, it is critical that we look at every possible opportunity to ensure the necessary services are being properly delivered to children and families. The purpose of the Erie County Community Coordinating Council on Children and Families is to preserve and strengthen the family unit and to aid in the establishment of a nurturing environment to encourage the proper development of children. The County Executive is expected to sign off on the local law soon, making it official. We also discussed the needed changes to New York State laws in committee. As a legislature, we came out in full support of those changes that would improve the reporting and follow-up systems in place for CPS.
Thank you for the privilege to serve. Anyone with questions about County issues is encouraged to contact me at my Legislative Office at 858-8671 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/legislatorlynnedixon and information is available on my website at www.erie.gov/legislature/district09.