ERIE COUNTY, NY— On January 1, 2012, Mark C. Poloncarz was sworn in as Erie County’s eighth County Executive during a ceremony held at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center.
Remarks As Prepared For Delivery—
Good morning and thank you all for joining me here today. I am honored to be here and in your presence. I am here because many people had faith in me and supported me, many of whom—too many in fact to mention individually—are here today.
I do want to recognize a few though, starting with my family—my mom, Janice, my dad, Charles and my two younger brothers Robb and Kevin—as well as my extended family members. They have all done more to make this day possible than they could possibly know. They have made me the person that I am today, and have stood by me every step of the way—when I made the decision to first run for comptroller and with my decision to run for county executive. Thank you for your support.
Thank you to all off our elected officials especially to our amazing, united, WNY Congressional Delegation of:
Brian Higgins, Louise Slaughter and Kathy Hochul.
I would like to thank Mayor Byron Brown and the members of the Buffalo Common Council in attendance.
I would also like to thank those from the County Legislature for attending and especially those in the minority for their strong showing of bipartisanship.
Thank you to all the state, city and local judges and all other elected officials who have joined us here today.
I want to thank Len Lenihan, who has been a mentor to me and has always believed in me when others have not.
I want to thank my friends in organized labor. I will never be ashamed of my blue-collar upbringing or the immense support I have received from the hard-working men and women who make up our community.
I also had an incredible campaign team along with thousands of volunteers and supporters. These people dedicated countless hours of their time knocking on doors, making phone calls, passing out literature and getting paper cuts labeling envelopes. I thank you for believing in me and working so hard. Not just for me, but for all of us.
And to my transition team, led by Michael Joseph, this community owes you a debt of gratitude and I owe you my enduring admiration and thanks for the volunteer effort you have put in on behalf of the people of Erie County. The goal of the team was to help me build a strong and capable administration that is representative of all of Erie County and I believe they have done that. Thank you for your time and talent in helping me identify an exceptional team, true public servants.
And, of course, none of this would be possible without the support of the people of Erie County. Six years ago you gave me the privilege, at the height of the worst fiscal crisis this community had ever seen, to serve as your independent taxpayer watchdog – your Erie County Comptroller. And now I want to thank you for giving me the privilege to serve as your Erie County Executive.
Today is an incredible honor and as my administration goes forward I promise I will never forget who my bosses are—every one of you.
Over the last several years, I think we have all learned a lot about ourselves and what government is and what it should be. Government is not a business and it should not be run like one.
A business is concerned with maximizing profits to benefit a select few—its owner or shareholders. However, a government is concerned with the welfare of those it represents, all of its citizens, not just taxpayers. We as a government represent the youngest child that may need protection from an abusive adult or the oldest adult that may not be able to turn anywhere else other than the greater community to provide for his or her basic medical needs.
Government exists to take on precisely those tasks that the private sector can’t or won’t. We unite to care for the penniless and provide a safety net for those who have fallen; maintain common amenities such as parks and libraries; and create and maintain a safe infrastructure with broad value for the benefit of all.
When times are tough, businesses look to maximize their profits by spending less—either reducing the quality of the product they sell or service they provide or by laying-off workers. The business’s bottom line always comes first and there is little social regard for the people involved.
With a government, the people come first and elected officials are stewards of the public’s assets. Our responsibility is to not only manage treasured assets like libraries and parks for the citizens of today but hold them in a public trust for generations to come. And, when times are tough, ensure that the people’s government and the services it provides are there for those who need it most.
I think we would all agree that, right now, we are facing tough times. However, lately County government has been acting too much like a business and abandoning its true owners – the people – when they need it most.
When people need their libraries the most—hours have been cut.
When people looked to important, though small, cultural organizations to not only entertain but to enrich the mind these organizations struggled to keep their doors open after funding disappeared.
When our poorest, and often youngest, citizens needed access to quality, affordable health care—health clinics were closed.
And when people were forced to turn to public assistance—they were met by a government that viewed them with disdain.
Well, that all changes. Instead of doing less, we’re going to do more and give Erie County’s residents a government that truly represents them, a government they can be proud of again.
We’re going to do it by not only ensuring government provides the services the public needs and deserves, but we’re going to do it as efficiently and effectively as possible. We’re going to do it by spending your hard earned dollars MORE WISELY.
I’m proud to say this has already started with the adoption of the 2012 Amended Budget. With cooperation between the Legislature’s Majority and Minority and the former county executive, we were able to come up with a modest amendment package that reflected the priorities and values I talked about as a candidate, but did so without raising taxes a single cent.
We were able to restore things like the rodent control program, Operation Primetime for our youth, and funding to our smaller cultural institutions. We also restored staffing cuts intended to weaken the Comptroller’s Office and would have seriously jeopardized the Department of Social Services’ ability to help those of us in need.
We did this by focusing on the needs of our constituents and working together to meet those needs. This is just the beginning of what will be a cornerstone of my administration: cooperation between branches of government while ensuring we follow sound budgeting and financial practices. We will work together to spend within our means without compromising the quality of service we provide.
As your comptroller, I’ve spent the past six years identifying waste, fraud and abuse within County government which could result in millions of dollars in cost savings. However, very few those recommendations have actually been implemented by prior administrations.
As your county executive, this week I will issue several executive orders to implement many of those past recommendations and I pledge to work with the new comptroller to find additional savings and efficiencies going forward.
We’re going to do it by working together, finding common ground, listening and respecting one another.
Erie County is much more than any one of us or any one place. It’s urban, suburban and rural communities; its cities, towns, villages and even a few hamlets.
Over the last six years, I have had the opportunity to travel from one corner of our great county to the other and talk to thousands of residents—all as diverse as the communities they live in.
And although issues and opinions differed from one place to another, we need to realize that we are all in this together.
I am here today because Democrats and Republicans, Conservatives, Liberals and Independents put their faith in me. If my administration is to succeed, it must be guided by partnership rather than partisanship. The voters are demanding the best of their elected officials. Our best can only come by elevating cooperation over conflict.
I am committed to working collaboratively with all our colleagues at every level of government. In particular, I look forward to building a strong relationship with Mayor Byron Brown of Buffalo. The relationship between the City and County is so important because our futures are linked. A thriving city will directly lead to thriving suburbs and rural communities.
Although we have come a long way from the days of “Red and Green” budgets, there are many challenges ahead. At the top of the list is to stop our region’s decline. The release of the 2010 Census delivered a stark reminder of the reality that confronts us. People try to explain population and job loss as an “Upstate” problem. Well, it’s not an “Upstate” problem, it’s our problem. The fact is while almost all other areas north of Westchester County saw some population growth, the exodus from Erie County and Western New York continued.
To stem that tide, job number one for my administration will be promoting job creation and economic development.
And while government cannot create jobs on its own, it can create an economic climate that invites business in and encourages it to grow and create jobs.
For too long, Erie County has been riddled with missed opportunities; plagued with disappointment as the result of misguided policies and our local economy has been crippled by poor leadership and silver bullet projects that never panned out.
We have long anticipated when we would finally implement our plans for growth and invest in projects that actually provide a return on their investment. The days of disappointment are over in Erie County. New leadership has arrived and tremendous opportunities lie before us.
We have the ability to lead the state in innovation. We must capitalize on the emerging sectors of our economy as well as our unique geographic location and natural resources.
My administration understands that we cannot simply live by our failed economic development policies of the past. We must compete on a national and global level and can only do that by creating a better economic development system.
My administration will work to end the divisions between our unnecessary myriad of economic development agencies, and instead move to create a “one-stop-shop” for businesses to locate here and expand here.
We will not only work to bring in new business from other parts of the country but also, for the first time, we will finally focus on leveraging our strategic international border to attract business from Canada. Canada is our nation’s largest trading partner and its economic hub—Toronto—is 90 miles away. But when it comes to our relationship with them, it might as well be 9,000 miles away. That changes today as we work to create a new relationship in which our friends from Canada are not just shoppers in our malls, but investors in our community.
As my administration goes forward, many challenges lay ahead—but also many opportunities as well.
And when our work is done, let those who come after us see that we stopped talking about the future we hope for and started taking action to get there by making decisions to do what was right, though difficult, over what was easy but wrong.
Today, County government is back in the hands of those who truly own it—the people of Erie County.
We have a lot of work to do and I am up to the challenge. I hope you are too, because I need your help.
Starting today let’s make Erie County the place we know it can be. We don’t need to imagine any longer.