Highlights Include Restoration of Vital County Services, Intergovernmental Cooperation, Transparency & Openness, and focus on Economic Development Initiatives
ERIE COUNTY, NY— Today, Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz reflected on the progress his administration has achieved over its first 100 days, which fell on April 9, 2012—Dyngus Day.
Poloncarz said, “In electing me as their Erie County Executive, the public rejected the idea that government is a business and therefore should be run like one. Since that day, through the transition and over my first 100 days in office, I have worked to change the culture of Erie County government. As Comptroller, I understood that creating a better County government isn’t about spending more money, but using the resources you have as wisely as possible.”
“I firmly believe that county government serves an important role and we should return it to its core mission: provide the programs and services that residents and taxpayers demand as effectively and efficiently as possible. We have worked to do that by restoring vital programs like rodent control and the day care subsidy, both of which leverage state and federal resources to provide an exceptional value to the community.
“I said that promoting job creation and economic development would be a top priority of my administration, and over the past 100 days we have made real progress. We have been working with our partners in state government to reform a local IDA system run amok. It is my goal to make these agencies accountable to the taxpayers, whose dollars they hand out, for fostering real job creation and economic growth rather than simply relocating existing businesses. We have begun to build a relationship with or Canadian friends that goes beyond simply being shoppers in our malls to truly investing in our community.
“I believe that for my administration to be successful, it must be guided by partnership rather than partisanship, and that our best can only come by elevating cooperation over conflict. That means working with your partners in the community and across every level of government. Whether that’s working with the Legislature Majority and Minority to expedite the approval for the County’s 2012 capital program in order to begin construction projects across Erie County sooner than they have been in years, or coordinating an historic effort among all of the County’s 44 municipalities to submit a joint application to create one of the state’s first land banks and finally address our growing vacant property problem.
“Additionally, I believe it is the public’s right to know the process of governmental decision-making and it is an expressed goal of my administration to create a more open and transparent Erie County government. This effort started immediately in fighting to restore cuts to the independent Comptroller’s Office and in issuing Executive Orders in the public eye rather than internal memos. Since then, we have streamlined the process for public access to government records (through FOIL) by email, and are now working to create a system that will archive all County contracts in the public view.
“Over the past 100 days, we have achieved many things; however there is still much work to be done. I look forward to meeting those challenges ahead. 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.”
Restoration of Services:
Rodent Control Program: At the suggestion of then-County Executive-elect Poloncarz, the Legislature included $369,848 to the 2012 Adopted Budget to restore the Rodent Control Program—36 percent of which (approximately $133,000) will be reimbursed by New York State. Poloncarz announced that the highly successful rodent baiting and trapping program, administered by the County’s Department of Health, would begin responding to rodent complaints across the County as of March 15, 2012. Reinstating the program was vital to public health and very cost-effective compared to a locally administered program. [December 13, 2011; March 14, 2012]
Operation Primetime: At the suggestion of then-County Executive-elect Poloncarz, the Legislature included $400,000 to the 2012 Adopted Budget to restore Operation Primetime. Operation Primetime is a program that provides funding to community based organizations that provide activities to youth throughout the long summer months. [December 13, 2011]
Day Care Subsidy Program: Poloncarz expanded Erie County’s Day Care Subsidy Program by returning the income eligibility rate to 200% of the Federal Poverty Rate. The County was able to raise the income standard, and include an additional 200 children in the program, with no local fiscal impact until 2014 by leveraging available federal and state child care funds. Day care is not just a vital service for working families and a meaningful experience for children but also an important building block for the economy. Research has suggested that for every $1.00 spent on child care in Buffalo-Niagara, $2.06 of additional economic activity is generated in the local economy. This increase took effect as of March 5, 2012. [February 13, 2012]
Improving Our Parks for Residents to Enjoy: Poloncarz added approximately $500,000 in funding to the County’s 2012 capital construction program for renovations to park shelters, parking lots, paths and facilities in County parks in spring and summer 2012. This includes old parks shelters being demolished and rebuilt; allowing parks users to enjoy new facilities in 2012. In addition, money was added for the rehabilitation of parking lots and paths, such as the deteriorating parking lot at the widely-used Chestnut Ridge Park. [March 29, 2012]
Submitted Joint Application to Create the Buffalo Erie Niagara Land Improvement Corporation: Erie County and the cities of Buffalo, Lackawanna and Tonawanda submitted a joint application to become one of the first five communities in New York State to create a land bank. This countywide land bank will transform the way abandoned properties are dealt with by municipalities by creating a coordinated structure and simplifying the process for municipalities to dispose of these properties and return them to productive use. While the city of Buffalo prepared to submit an application to the State over the summer, the Brown administration was met with disinterest from the former-county executive and was to submit a lone application. Understanding how important inter-municipal cooperation was to successfully achieving a land bank, the Poloncarz administration coordinated with all 44 cities, towns and villages across Erie County to create an inter-municipal agreement and submit the strongest joint application possible. [March 30, 2012]
2012 Erie County Amended Budget Adoption: Then County Executive-elect Poloncarz worked with the Erie County Legislature Majority and Minority to draft a modest amendment to the 2012 Proposed Erie County Budget that was approved unanimously by the Legislature and adopted as the 2012 Erie County Adopted Budget in December. This amendment included the reallocation of approximately $5 million in funding to a number of priorities outlined by Poloncarz and agreed to by the Legislature, including: restoration of the Rodent Control Program and Operation Primetime; restoration of 6 positions within the Comptroller’s Office, the Deputy Commissioner of Emergency Medical Services and 50 vital positions within the Department of Social Services; and $931,841 in funding for 37 smaller cultural institutions. [December 13, 2011]
Initiating Work on Our Crumbling Infrastructure Sooner: Poloncarz expedited the County’s 2012 capital program for construction projects on County roads, bridges, buildings and other critical infrastructure needs. In recent years, the County’s consolidated bond resolution for construction work was transmitted to the Legislature for its approval in late May or early June. In order to start construction projects earlier and get local construction workers on the job sooner, in mid-March Poloncarz sent the bond resolution to the County Legislature which just unanimously approved it on March 29th – the earliest approval in years. As a result, nearly $40 million in construction work will start in April rather than the summer and get money reinvested in our community. [March 29, 2012]
Partnership to Bolster WNY Economy through Increased High School Graduation Rates at Buffalo Public Schools: The Poloncarz administration has formed a partnership with Say Yes to Education, the City of Buffalo and Buffalo Public Schools to provide college tuition for students graduating Buffalo Public and Charter High Schools and successfully gaining admittance to a SUNY college. While the college tuition guarantee is funded privately, Erie County will be an instrumental partner towards building programs ensuring children will graduate high school including; after-school programs, summer programs, mental health services, public health services, and neighborhood based legal clinics. Long term the program will bolster the Western New York economy; increase the high school graduation and college-going rates for students in the Buffalo Public School system, increase property values in the City of Buffalo, decrease juvenile crime, and more. As a core steering member of this unique and transformative model, Erie County plays an important role in the success of Say Yes to Education. [Ongoing]
Creation of Broader Planning Process for New ECC Academic Building: The Poloncarz administration has engaged in an open dialogue with Erie Community College President Jack Quinn as they continue to make plans for a new academic building. In addition to reaffirming the County’s contribution of $7.5 million towards the project, the County and College will work together to ensure a broader planning process to ultimately determine the scope of the project and its final location. [Ongoing]
Refocusing Economic Development Efforts of the Erie County Industrial Development Agency: Poloncarz has worked to change the culture within ECIDA and make it an asset for countywide development by bringing much needed scrutiny to projects seeing tax abatements. As part of this culture change, Poloncarz appointed former-Congressman John LaFalce, who has become ECIDA Chairman, Brenda McDuffie and Chris Johnson to ECIDA’s board along with himself and Legislature Chairwoman Betty Jean Grant. As part of these efforts, ECIDA has put a moratorium on abatements for Hotels and begun the process of reinvigorating its Policy Committee to tackle, among other things, adaptive reuse policy. [Ongoing]
Ending Business Poaching Among Town Industrial Development Agencies: The administration is working with local New York State Delegation leaders to draft and introduce legislation that will help create a new system where town IDAs help to create new jobs and foster real economic growth rather than relocate existing businesses from one town to another with no net economic gain. Poloncarz believes that communities should have a say in how their tax dollars are used by another community for economic development purposes. [Ongoing]
Analyze Best Structure to Coordinate Workforce Development with Business Community: The administration made significant changes at the Workforce Investment Board and will be convening a Workforce Development Summit with leading local experts and business leaders to assess the gap between workforce development programs and the actual positions businesses are looking to fill. The resulting plan will work to connect job seekers with employers through integrating a new strategy focused on training for, and filling, employer needs. [Ongoing]
Leverage Strategic Geographic Boarder with Canada: In addition to efforts to bring in new business from other parts of the Country, the Poloncarz administration is focusing in on leveraging our strategic international boarder to attract new business from Canada. After hosting introductory meetings with the Canadian Consul General in Buffalo and other leaders, Poloncarz will continue to work to build a better relationship with Canada that goes beyond simply being shoppers in our malls to truly investing in our community. [Ongoing]
Open and Transparent Government:
Issuance of Executive Orders: Instead of issuing internal memos, County Executive Poloncarz has issued Executive Orders, which have been made publicly available on the County’s website, in an effort to keep the residents and taxpayers of Erie County informed of his actions when they do not require Legislative approval. His first order of business after being sworn in as Erie County’s eighth County Executive was to issue five such Executive Orders with an additional five Orders signed since. [Ongoing]
FOIL Website Portal: County Executive Poloncarz signed an executive order streamlining the process by which the public can access government records electronically by email. As part of this order, an electronic form was created and added to the County’s website where the public can submit records access requests or initiate an appeal by email in accordance with New York State’s Freedom of Information Law (“FOIL”). Each department or division of a department’s FOIL Officer now maintains a specific email account for the receipt and response to request for records that will be directly accessible to the public through this form. [March 15, 2012]
Strengthened Comptroller’s Office: At the suggestion of then-County Executive-elect Poloncarz, the Legislature included $579,907 to the 2012 Adopted Budget to restore 7 positions within the Erie County Comptroller’s Office eliminated by the former-county executive. Poloncarz believes in a strong and independent taxpayer watchdog and as such, worked to ensure his successor would have all the resources necessary to perform that function on behalf of the residents of Erie County. [December 13, 2011]
Public Review of Contracts: The administration is working to create a process by which all contracts Erie County enters into will be approved electronically and maintained in a publically searchable archive on the County’s website. Poloncarz believes that the public has a right to know who the County contracts with, for what services and for how much. [Ongoing]
Removing Disc Golf Course at Chestnut Ridge Eternal Flame Falls area: After concerns were raised by the public, the Poloncarz administration revisited the process followed by the previous administration establishing what was a mostly-constructed disc golf course within the Eternal Flame Falls area of Chestnut Ridge Park. After it was discovered that no formal or documented process was undertaken by the previous administration in establishing the course, which violated County and New York State mandates, the Poloncarz administration immediately removed the course. [March 1, 2012]
Reestablishing Process for Cultural Funding: The administration, with members of a cultural advisory board, is working to reestablish a defined process, similar to the previous Erie County Cultural Resources Advisory Board (“ECCRAB”), by which cultural institutions are selected to receive funding from the County. The goal will be to create a better, stronger process that ensures the fair and equitable appropriation of operational support in order to ensure our cultural institutions, large and small, continue to play a significant role in our region’s economy and overall quality of life. [Ongoing]
Buffalo Bills Stadium Lease Negotiations: As a candidate, Poloncarz discussed the importance of taking a proactive approach to renegotiating the lease agreement for Ralph Wilson Stadium with the Buffalo Bills. Accordingly, as the first Executive Order he signed after being sworn-in as Erie County Executive, Poloncarz called on the County Attorney to immediately commence an RFP process to procure the services of a special counsel to support upcoming negotiations and in early March selected the firm of Nixon Peabody LLP from the 13 respondents. Since then, Poloncarz and his administrative team have met with Bills executives on several occasions regarding lease negotiations in hopes of reaching an agreement as soon as possible. [Ongoing]
Create Medicaid Waste, Fraud and Abuse Taskforce: On his first day, County Executive Poloncarz issued an Executive Order calling for the creation of a Taskforce to work towards establishing a Medicaid Anti-Fraud & Waste Division within County government. This taskforce is in the process of reviewing the previous efforts of Erie County as well as those that other counties have undertaken in conjunction with the New York State Office of Medicaid Inspector General (“OMIG”), in order to establish a division dedicated to rooting out waste, fraud and abuse of Medicaid by the 2012 budget year. [Ongoing]
Built an Administration Representative of all of Erie County: While transitioning into office, County Executive Poloncarz made it an expressed goal to bring in the most qualified individuals for top positions in his administration—both by recruiting from the private sector and promoting career civil servants who have demonstrated excellence in their public services. This includes a majority of Commissioners and Department heads who have never worked in public services before including the first woman Commissioner of Health and Chief of Staff to the County Executive. [November-December 2011]