The devil is in the details. I could not help but think of this old saying as I sat watching County Executive Mark Poloncarz deliver his State of the County Address a couple weeks ago.
It was well-written address that avoided the laundry list approach of so many such speeches. It was supported by projected graphics which were both appropriate and interesting. I also thought the county executive did I nice job in his delivery, one of his best performances to date. Following the speech I told the county executive that I enjoyed his speech more than I did President Obama’s State of the Union Address. I was being honest with him, as I had the sense that where the president was merely reciting words on a teleprompter, the county executive passionately believed in every word of his address.
While the county executive did a nice job of summarizing recent accomplishments and forwarding some new proposals, I was taken aback by his announced intention to fight the War on Poverty in Erie County. In my political science classes at Canisius College, I talk about American federalism and the appropriate role of the various levels of government. One of the most important tasks of county government is to maintain our county road system. Following our brutal winter, our roads are understandably in rough shape. It is our responsibility to make sure that the men and women who rely on these roads to get to their jobs to make the money they need to pay their property taxes have an adequate surface upon which to drive. This must be our first priority. We should, therefore, let the federal and state governments take the lead in combatting poverty.
In 1964 President Lyndon Baines Johnson declared war on poverty in the United States. Half a century later the federal government is trillions of dollars in debt and poverty is still a major problem. If the federal government with its massive resources cannot defeat poverty, I am not sure what the prospects are for Erie County. I am, however, willing to listen to the specifics of the county executive’s plan. The devil is, after all, in the details. Perhaps he wants to increase support for our community college, as education has long been viewed as a pathway out of poverty. I certainly would be open to discussing such a measure. But before we attempt to wage the War on Poverty with our limited county resources, we had better first win the War on Potholes.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.