Event at Downtown Library Spotlights Successes of Past Year, Outlines Actions on Challenges Ahead
County Executive Unveils Initiatives for a Stronger Community, Details CPS Reforms
ERIE COUNTY, NY— Today, Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz was joined by elected officials, business and community leaders, and concerned citizens as he delivered his 2014 State of the County address at the Mason O. Damon Auditorium in the Central (Downtown) branch of the Buffalo & Erie County Library. Speaking before a crowd of nearly 300 people in a wide-ranging 50-minute speech, Poloncarz highlighted numerous successes of the first two years of his administration while also acknowledging the challenges facing our community and proposing actions to face those challenges. While recognizing the effects that poverty has on Erie County residents, the address also unveiled a major new administration initiative to strengthen fragile families, “Initiatives for a Stronger Community”, a health and human services plan which will serve as a counterpart to the County Executive’s “Initiatives for a Smarter Economy”, which was released in 2013.
“In the last year, the people of Erie County have seen many examples of how governments can work together for the benefit of the entire region. In our response to the Blizzard of 2014, in new economic developments and new jobs coming to our area, and in the way municipalities approach the provision of services and maintenance of infrastructure, residents have witnessed government working efficiently and effectively to do the people’s business,” said Poloncarz. “As County Executive, I continue to focus on representing all residents countywide and working to provide a government that holds the line on spending while providing the services people expect. We will continue to cooperate with our partners in the public and private sectors to strengthen our economy, community, and legacy.”
Poloncarz listed several of his administration’s achievements from the past year, including:
- An outstanding countywide response to the Blizzard of 2014 that brought county government together with municipalities, law enforcement, emergency responders, and utilities to coordinate actions & communications during the first blizzard to strike our area since 1993, and which had no loss of life;
- A marked increase in Erie County’s public health emergency preparedness score, from 65% in 2011 to 95% in 2013, underscoring his administration’s commitment to maintaining public health and improving public health capacity in order to protect residents;
- Working with NYS Senator Charles Schumer to address and review with FEMA Administrator W. Craig Fugate an audit seeking repayment of $48.5 million in costs related to the October 2006 surprise storm, and seeing that amount reduced to a repayment $700,000; and
- Increased cooperation between municipalities, such as Erie County and the City of Buffalo, to address infrastructure maintenance and road repair in a collaborative manner.
“We are strongest when we work together, and each of these examples shows how governments at every level can cooperate to better serve their residents. No one entity can do it all, but if everyone can help according to their resources, we all benefit,” said Poloncarz. “I thank the many partners we’ve worked with during the past year for their belief in what Erie County can be and for their willingness to roll up their sleeves and work with us to better our region.”
During the address, the County Executive announced a number of major initiatives to address the issue of poverty in Erie County. Poloncarz noted it has been 50 years since President Lyndon B. Johnson announced his “War on Poverty” and called on the community to come together to continue the War on Poverty in Erie County. Poloncarz noted the impact poverty in the county has on the greater community along with several actions his administration has undertaken to address poverty and its myriad effects, including the imminent opening of the new Erie County Health Mall; a new partnership with Catholic Health, the Buffalo Public Schools and the Say Yes program to expand social work, mental health services, and clinics into Buffalo Public schools; and increased collaborations with partners to bolster workforce development.
Poloncarz also unveiled his “Initiatives for a Stronger Community”, a counterpart to his “Initiatives for a Smart Economy” economic plan, to address health and human services delivery across Erie County. The new initiatives are designed to help fight the war on poverty in Erie County by strengthening fragile families, providing supports for people when necessary, and providing the tools necessary for individuals and families to learn new skills and make better choices.
In addition, the County Executive outlined sweeping reforms he is proposing to amend New York State law as it pertains to the NYS Child Protective Services system. The proposed reforms address many of the problems CPS workers face in doing their jobs and stiffen penalties for those who abuse children or abuse the CPS reporting system by filing false claims against individuals.
Poloncarz added, “All too often elected officials talk about ‘protecting taxpayers’ when we really should be working together to ‘protect people’. The reforms and agenda we propose today do just that – they protect people. We will never shy away from doing all that we can to protect children and strengthen families, and we will not stop trying to make the system better, no matter how difficult the task. As in other areas, we will work with partners from all sectors of the community, as this is a community-wide issue, to build a system that is more flexible, proactive, and energized in serving the children and families who need the help.”
The 2014 State of the County address can be read here .