With Christmas approaching, many people are rediscovering the magic of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Recent events, however, have had me thinking about a different Dickens classic, namely A Tale of Two Cities. It’s the one that starts, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times . . .”
The Erie County Legislature is not the United States Congress. For this, I am thankful. As I write this column, Congress is debating whether or not to shut down the federal government or keep it going for another few weeks. Meanwhile, the Erie County Legislature has already passed our 2018 Budget after making a few changes to Mark Poloncarz’s Executive Budget and the executive has agreed to not veto any of the changes.
In Washington the process has been characterized by partisan wrangling and political posturing. In Erie County we have worked together in a bipartisan manner to provide people with the services upon which they have come to rely. These include county roads, libraries and sheriff patrols. This year we were able to increase funding for Erie Community College by half a million dollars. The County Executive put a quarter million in his proposal and the Legislature added another quarter million. This additional support continues are bipartisan efforts to address the chronic underfunding of this community gem.
I was also able to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to secure additional funding for a number of worthwhile organizations in Grand Island and the Tonawandas. Among these were senior centers on both sides of the Niagara River, the Boys and Girls Club of the Northtowns, the DeGlopper Memorial and the Historical Society in Grand Island, as well as Ken-Ton Meals on Wheels and Brighton Place in the Town of Tonawanda. There is also money in the budget for life saving AEDs in the City of Tonawanda and a thermal imaging camera for the Sheridan Park Volunteer Fire Company. Funds were also included for the Clean Air Coalition, an organization that has worked hard to improve air quality in Grand Island and the Tonawandas. Money was also included for the Millstream Educational Community Gardens in the City of Tonawanda. A dedicated group of volunteers led by Mandy Sampson will use this money to further improve a former rundown playground the city’s Millstream Village neighborhood. I also worked with my Democratic colleague, Peter Savage, to secure funding for the Ken-Ton Closet. This brainchild of Jill O’Malley provides clothing and school supplies to children in our community.
We cut the county property tax rate for the fourth consecutive year, too. In addition, we were able to assume half of the community college chargebacks that are normally added to the property tax bills of the municipalities of students travelling to community colleges in other counties, such as NCCC. These charges will now be spread across the entire county. This is a big plus for us, as an inordinate amount of our students attend NCCC.
It may not be the absolute best of times in Erie County Government. But it has not been bad as we work together to better our community. Meanwhile, Washington has us thinking about Scrooge.
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 email@example.com.