Poloncarz pushes ‘new renaissance’ for all in county
Says proposals will build on progress; Republicans blast condition of roads
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz proposed initiatives for agriculture, consumer protection, internet connectivity and health and human services Wednesday during his State of the County speech.
“Now is not the time to rest on our laurels but to work even harder to ensure this great new renaissance is felt by all,” Poloncarz told his audience at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.
But criticism over the condition of county roads also put Poloncarz on the defensive.
“If my critics were honest, they’d acknowledge that the $419 million in combined capital and operating road funding we’ve invested in our roads and bridges since 2012 has had a significant impact,” he said.
“Don’t let anyone tell you we aren’t fixing our roads,” he added.
“The county executive can say whatever he wants,” said Legislature Minority Leader Joseph Lorigo, C-West Seneca. “The fact of the matter is if you go out and drive the county roads throughout Erie County, you’ll see they are in deplorable condition.”
In what could be seen as an opening argument for his reelection bid this year, Poloncarz credited his administration with tax break reforms, workforce development programs and investment in the Bethlehem Steel site. As for public health and safety, he reminded his audience of his successful push to end the sale of tobacco and e-cigarette products at drugstores and other pharmacy retailers, investments to combat lead poisoning in children, the county’s passage of the Fair Housing Law and its rapid emergency response to storms like the January blizzard.
Poloncarz pointed out that the unemployment rate was 8.9 percent when he took office in 2012 and is now 3.9 percent, the lowest end-of-year unemployment rate for Erie County in more than four decades. The number of jobs in the Buffalo Niagara region totals 578,700, which is 27,000 more since 2013, he said.
“While we can’t take credit for creating all of them, we can take credit for putting programs in place that helped,” he said.
He sought support for new endeavors that would “create the best Erie County we can be.” Among his key proposals: • Create a “Live Well Erie” health and human services initiative to improve the health and wellness of children, working families and seniors. This effort will include programs to strengthen early childhood development; a mobile van to bring social services, senior services, health and veterans departments directly to residents; and an enhanced, free dining program for seniors.
• Return downhill skiing to