With new leadership in place at the Erie County Legislature, increased oversight will naturally follow. For the past two years, the County Executive had the benefit of a Democratic-controlled County Legislature. I believe this allowed for gaps in the checks and balances between the two levels of government.
Too often the former Legislature majority allowed important items to dodge the committee process. As a result, the necessary discussions and proper vetting of issues didn’t happen. According to Erie County’s Charter, the Legislature is a separate and independent body of government elected to provide oversight. I believe the new majority will accomplish that. The county's elected officials and various departments send items to the Legislature for approval. I will ensure each item receives the proper review before coming to the floor for a vote, while also being mindful of time limits to improve governmental efficiency.
The new Majority Caucus has decided to hold all committee meetings on Thursdays; typically one week after a legislative session day. This allows for members, the public and speakers to properly schedule for these critical meetings. Much of the Legislature's work occurs during committees, where the setting encourages open discussions and questions, as well as presentations from experts. I am looking forward to serving on several legislative committees, as well as serving as Chairman of the Finance and Management Committee in order to lead the Legislature’s efforts to thoroughly monitor the county budget throughout the year. With this increased oversight we can best identify savings and opportunities for efficiency.
For the first two years of the County Executive’s term, his agenda moved forward with very little opposition. During that time, my colleagues and I in the Minority Caucus made an effort to meet with the County Executive to discuss county issues. I look forward to continuing that working relationship in the majority, which is particularly important now that we have control of the Legislature. Our new Legislative Majority does not plan on acting as a roadblock to the County Executive; instead, we intend to be a larger part of the discussion on where taxpayer dollars are spent. We want to ensure that items will go through the proper procedure. While serving in the Minority, we worked with the other side of the aisle to successfully stop a tax increase. This ability to work together, along with a number of other significant votes, clearly demonstrates that government, despite party affiliations, can work together to do what’s best for the community.
One message that we will be delivering to the County Executive is that infrastructure repairs must become a priority. Last year, bridge projects were postponed the same day Erie County gave half a million dollars to renovations at a historic tourism site. Supporting our tourism and cultural assets has merit, but not at the expense of infrastructure maintenance and public safety. With the intense winter weather experiences across our county over the past few weeks, we are reminded how critical it is to invest in our Department of Public Works to have crews ready to handle snow, flooding and everything in between. I personally want to thank our DPW crews for their hard work and dedication. They often go above and beyond the call of duty, and I have heard from many residents who were very grateful for their work.