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May 2014 Column - More should be done to protect children, fix highways


OFFICE HIGHLIGHTS

Erie County Legislator Kevin Hardwick has planned District Outreach Meetings in August to meet with residents and discuss County issues and answer questions.

Erie County Legislator Kevin Hardwick, Chairman of the Community Enrichment Committee, is pleased to announce that the Legislature has approved the lowest-bid contractor to erect Erie Community College’s new STEM Building on the North...

Last month the other county legislators and I voted on a number of proposed amendments recommended by the Erie County Charter Revision Commission.  One of the more controversial ones called for the creation of a Council of Governments...

Erie County Legislator Kevin Hardwick has joined New York State officials and the NYS Department of Transportation (DOT) to educate residents about the new High-Intensity Activated CrossW...

Erie County Legislator Kevin Hardwick, joined by Erie County Clerk Chris Jacobs, Purple Heart recipient Ron Pilozzi, and City of Tonawanda Mayor and Air Force veteran Rick Davis, dedicated the new Purple Heart sign...

oneilj - Posted on 14 May 2014

I have always subscribed to the philosophy of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The problem is that sometimes things do break and action is required. Such is the case currently in county government in a couple of vital areas.

The first one is literally a matter of life and death. It concerns several deaths of children in the past few years and the inability of Erie County Child Protective Services to prevent these tragedies. These senseless deaths affected every person in our community who has a heart. They certainly impacted the county executive. At a lunch he hosted last year for Republican legislators, he described the pain he felt reading the reports produced following the investigations of the children’s deaths. Last month, he produced a list of 19 recommendations to state legislators designed to improve the chances for children needing our protection.

I do not know if any of the executive’s proposed reforms will be adopted or even whether all of them should be embraced. What I do know is that the county executive realized that the current system for protecting the most vulnerable children in our community is broken, and he is doing everything in his power to fix it. For this, I applaud him.

The second matter involves the deplorable condition of the county highway system. County Legislator Ed Rath calls this a public safety crisis. I would tend to agree. To be sure, the county road system has been suffering for years. Draconian cuts during the red-and-green budget fiasco left the Department of Public Works with far too few resources to adequately maintain the sprawling county road system.

The deterioration was gradual, which to many, I suppose, made it invisible. This year’s harsh winter, however, has exposed the road system for what it is — a mess. The county executive recognizes this and has taken some steps to alleviate the problem. I am at odds with him currently, though, because I think more needs to be done. I do not want to dwell on our differences in this column. Instead, I want to focus on how we fix the broken county highway system. I look forward, therefore, to working with the executive, the Department of Public Works, various town officials and my colleagues in the Legislature to develop long-term solutions to our challenges. We should consider all options, including alternative funding mechanisms and further collaboration with the towns. Together, we can make our road system better. But we have to admit that there is a problem and work together to solve it.

If you have thoughts you would like to share, I would love to hear from you. I can be contacted by phone at 858-8672 or via email at kevin.hardwick@erie.gov.