Modified: March 11, 2016 11:09am
Policy-Laden Address Encompasses Public Health, Environmental Protections, Workforce Development
County Executive Spotlights Achievements, Notes “Our Place in History” As An Opportunity to Advance Ten Policy Initiatives
ERIE COUNTY, NY— Today, Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz was joined by elected officials, business and community leaders, member of the cultural and not-for-profit communities, and concerned citizens as he delivered his 2016 State of the County address in the recently-refurbished auditorium of the Buffalo History Museum. Speaking before a capacity crowd of over 200 people, the County Executive’s fourth State of the County address spotlighted numerous achievements from the first four years of his administration and outlined an ambitious agenda to further extend public health and environmental protections across Erie County during his second term. Citing “Our Place in History” as an opportunity to act on the challenges facing Erie County today and leave a better legacy for tomorrow, Poloncarz issued a wide-ranging call for action on multiple initiatives while noting Erie County’s resurgent economy and leadership role in creating a stronger, healthier, more inclusive community.
“The economic prosperity returning to Western New York presents an opportunity to grow into a stronger, more cohesive and well-planned community that counts all of its populace as resources and assets, and we are joining together to create an Erie County that extends equal opportunity to all. Just as we are the product of generations past, so will we help to shape future generations and we must not miss the opportunity to do it right,” said Poloncarz. “Today, we are addressing challenges that hold us back from our true potential and divide us where we should be unified. We are tackling tough problems with realistic and achievable proposals that will have lasting positive effects, and we are laying the groundwork for a cleaner, healthier, and more equitable Erie County far into the future. A better Erie County is within our grasp if we have the courage and perseverance to work for it, and today we are sending out a clarion call for action to do that.”
The County Executive’s wide-ranging address contained several new initiatives designed to protect and promote public health and the environment, strengthen ethics and transparency in government, build a workforce that is ready for employers’ needs and has the opportunity to take part in Erie County’s growth, plan a more integrated Erie County, and remove barriers to diversity. These initiatives include:
- A call for the passage of a local law which would ban all lightweight, disposable plastic bags in Erie County. Millions of these bags are distributed by retailers every year, inevitably littering our landscapes and polluting our water resources, while a ban on these bags would significantly diminish such pollution.
- A proposal to create a central screening, information, and referral line for individuals and families struggling with opioid addiction along with the need for dedicated staff to support the Department of Health’s rapidly-expanding role as a lead agency in the fight against opioid addictions. These actions would provide a central hub to link addicts with treatment and would reinforce community response to the issue.
- A proposal to allocate $3.75 million over the next five years, $750,000 per year, to combat lead poisoning in Erie County. The funding would be used to expand inspections and remediation, add investigatory and case management professionals, and purchase equipment for homeowners to address lead issues.
- A renewed push to reform Child Protective Services’ laws in New York State. In 2014, the Poloncarz administration proposed and authored 19 pieces of legislation designed to modernize NYS protective services law, which was written in 1973 and not changed much since. The administration will enlist the help of the WNY delegation to move these pieces of legislation forward in Albany.
- A proposal for a new, comprehensive Ethics law and reinforced Board of Ethics to eliminate conflicts of interest, clarify legal definitions and penalties, and increase transparency and public faith in government.
- An initiative to create a residency requirement for all new Erie County employees which will reinvest in our community and our workforce.
- A proposal to establish a first source labor policy in Erie County to help more local workers benefit from local projects. This would compel businesses contracting with erie County to employ a certain percentage of our county workforce with special consideration given to disadvantaged workers, strengthening our community by building a more divers and racially inclusive workforce.
- A proposal to create a ten-person “Operations and Strategic Planning Committee” to assist Erie Community College (“ECC”) and the county to better address the needs of the college and the greater community. This volunteer committee, composed of five county delegates and five college delegates, will jointly examine issues related to the current operations and future direction of the college and will help to create a better, stronger community college.
- A call to create an effective Erie County Planning Board to assist all municipalities in aligning their development objectives with those of the Regional Economic Development Council and the One Region Forward initiative.
- A proposal to pass a Fair Housing Policy in Erie County, which would ensure that housing discrimination no longer hinders our community from reaching its full and inclusive potential.
“We are not only keeping the dream of a vibrant Erie County alive, we are working hard to expand the dream and extend opportunity even further,” said Poloncarz. “However, just as we are the products of generations past, so will we help to shape future generations and we must not miss the opportunity to do it right. It is time to show the world what we can do.”
Poloncarz also noted several of his administration’s achievements from his first term as County Executive, including:
- Expanded protection of public health, particularly through the creation of the anti-opioid task force to develop a community-wide response to the scourge of opioid addiction. Other public health accomplishments included the passage of a local law regulating electronic cigarettes, the expansion of mental health services in schools through a partnership with Say Yes and others, and the creation of the Erie County Health Mall to improve local health outcomes.
- Economic development such as the opening of the North Youngmann Commerce Center in Tonawanda, a key component of the “Initiatives for a Smart Economy” economic development plan, along with policy changes in Erie County and at the Erie County Industrial Development Agency (“ECIDA”) that mandate equal pay for female employees and protect taxpayers’ money through tax scofflaw and clawback provisions. Poloncarz also noted the creation of a fast-track for MWBE certifications so that more women and minorities can participate in Erie County’s growing economy.
- Environmental protections including the first and most stringent microbead law in New York State, a law that was emulated by other counties and eventually at the federal level; the investment of millions of dollars in the Rush Creek Interceptor Project to protect Lake Erie’s water supply; and the creation of the WNY Sustainable Business Roundtable, among other advances.
- Infrastructure investments in county roads and bridges totaling nearly $100 million over the past four years, with a corresponding call to action for the Western New York delegation to secure state funding for local roads that is equitable to the amount being invested in New York City and Long Island.
- The creation of new county initiatives focused on poverty, diversity, and inclusion. Erie County’s Poverty Committee and New American Committee, both products of Poloncarz’ 49-point “Initiatives for a Stronger Community” health and human services plan, began meeting in 2015 and will form a vital conduit to provide a voice for the county’s most impoverished residents, wherever they may reside, as well as those coming to Erie County from abroad to pursue the American dream.
A capacity crowd of over 200 people was on hand to hear Poloncarz deliver the 45-minute speech, which was carried live on Time Warner Cable News and can be viewed at http://www2.erie.gov