The following is a guest column from Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz:
It is hard to believe that we are nearly halfway through 2018 and headed into the busy summer season. While the upcoming months promise good times spent with family and friends, the months already behind us this year have been filled with activity in county government. New laws, new resident protections and new investments in our infrastructure are the focus of my column this month.
In March, I was pleased to sign a new Erie County Code of Ethics for elected officials, officers and employees of the county. The new law, which I had called for more than two years ago, was approved unanimously by the Erie County Legislature and increases transparency through consistent language to clearly define conflicts of interest, improper acts and other violations of public employment. It’s a strong step that brings Erie County into the modern era.
March also saw the signing of a new local law banning conversion therapy in Erie County. Sponsored by Legislator Burke, the law is meant to ensure the physical and psychological well-being of minors by prohibiting the practice of conversion therapy, which is any formal treatment that aims to change the sexual orientation and gender identity of a minor. Our law provides needed protections for our youth when they are at their most vulnerable.
In May, I was joined by members of the labor community and Legislators Savage, Burke, Baskin and Bruso to sign an amendment to our local apprenticeship law that eliminates a loophole some contractors had used to avoid having a NYS Certified Worker Training Program in place. These programs provide valuable education and career training in skilled jobs to our local workforce and also reduce reliance on out-of-area labor for construction projects. I thank the legislature for working with my administration to eliminate the loophole, thereby protecting local workers in the process.
May also included the signing of a new county Fair Housing Law, extending anti-discriminatory protections for individuals seeking housing to include protections against discrimination based on gender identity, citizenship or source of income. Building an inclusive county requires fairness, diversity and equal opportunity for all, especially when residents are choosing a community to live in. The Fair Housing Law levels the playing field for everyone seeking housing.
County investments in infrastructure and youth programming are also on tap this year. Last month I proposed an additional $3 million in road funding, on top of the $28 million already committed for road work in 2018, to do even more following the lengthy winter we just endured. While uninformed critics demean the efforts of county crews to repair our roads and bridges, I understand the critical nature of the work they are doing and will always ensure the safety of our driving public through effective road repairs.
While we have accomplished a lot so far in 2018, there is much more on the way this year. In the next few columns I will detail those initiatives. Stay tuned!