GUEST COLUMN: Building a Healthier, Cleaner, Better-Connected Erie County

Modified: April 8, 2019 1:47pm

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I was honored recently to deliver my 2019 State of the County address, an annual opportunity to report on the county’s financial strength, how we are doing today, and plans for the future. There is much good news: unemployment is at its lowest rate in more than four decades, the county property tax rate is at its lowest level in nearly two decades, and thanks to growth in the private sector there are now 578,700 jobs in the Buffalo metro region. We can’t take credit for all of them, but we are putting workforce development and business investment programs in place that help grow our local economy.

We can take credit for the significant investment my administration has made in county infrastructure, an issue that my critics consistently misrepresent. If they were honest, they’d acknowledge that the $419 million in combined capital and Highway Division operating funding we’ve invested in roads and bridges since 2012 has had a significant impact. With 2019 road work added in, my administration will have invested nearly $500 million….half a billion dollars….in infrastructure investments over eight years. Don’t let anyone tell you we are not fixing our roads!

Elsewhere, Canadian investment in Erie County is booming and the new business park at the Bethlehem Steel site is taking shape with the construction of a new street into the site. We are protecting public health in the fights against both tobacco and lead and are also constantly vigilant in protecting the health and well-being of our seniors. While the state of Erie County today is strong, we must work to ensure that it is strong tomorrow too.

To do that, I am proposing to build out broadband capacity in underserved urban areas and rural areas with little coverage. Increasing high speed access to the Internet boosts our economy and equalizes opportunity for all county residents. We will do that by laying the ground work for a countywide open-access broadband fiber service network – “Erie Net.” In total some 360 miles of additional fiber would be laid, connecting government buildings, libraries, school, and any interested business.

With identity and consumer theft at an all-time high, I believe the county must establish an Office of Consumer Protection, as in other counties around the state, to better protect you in your banking and consumer affairs. In conjunction with this office we will reinstitute the currently inactive County Consumer Protection Committee. This new office and the reformed Committee will offer the protections consumers need to feel secure in their transactions, wherever in Erie County those transactions occur.

Additionally, we will promote the health and well-being of all county residents as we unveil a new Health and Human Services Plan: “Live Well Erie.” The new Plan will focus on the theme of promoting lifelong health and wellness of all residents. Check this column again in the future for more on our “Live Well Erie” plan.