On November 5th, Genesee County residents will have the opportunity to elect the entire County Legislature body. Of the 9 seats that are up for election, only 4 are contested. It's disappointing to have the majority of our County representatives ushered into office without choice, not because those 5 people are unqualified or will do a poor job, but because we are missing out on the free discussion of ideas between a diverse base of candidates. Options bring out the best of us and choices for voters make us stronger. For the remaining 4 seats, we have 2 candidates each for Districts 5, 6, & 9 and 3 candidates for District 8 (City of Batavia Wards 2 & 3).
I am proud to be one of the 3 choices for District 8. It humbled me to receive an endorsement from the Genesee County Libertarian Party when I decided to run for office as a group of people I had only known since January (save one person whom I had not seen since high school) had learned enough about me in the few short months it took for our party to form, organize, and hold a convention to put their trust and faith in me. Those who saw me work as the initial Membership Committee Chair and currently as the Elections Committee Chair understand what I bring to the table in terms of dedication, drive, organization, and communications. As a County Legislator I will leverage my 30+ years of professional experience to represent the citizens in District 8 with a commitment to fiscally responsible decision making and fairness.
We all know Genesee County is not treated fairly by the state. We are taxed yet not equally supported. What is imposed on us is not fully funded. Despite our deep-seated belief in the Constitution we are squashed with rules and regulations like the S.A.F.E. Act. However, what things are in our control we need to do a far better job of managing and our local government must first and foremost represent our citizens fairly. What we cannot control locally, our elected local officials must actively fight for by relentlessly addressing concerns to our elected state officials. Our local officials and government employees must not complain to the taxpayers about how mandates are crippling us, sigh, then invoke higher taxes. Instead, we must represent those hardworking people and approach our assemblymen and senators, demand action, report on commitments and objectives, and call them out when there is no response. The fight should not be left up to the every citizen to undertake alone. As a County Legislator I will be committed to take Albany to task by engaging our state representatives on every possible occasion through every possible avenue to address our concerns.
The items under our immediate control are not insignificant. The County Legislature instituted an additional 1% sales tax in 1994 to pay down debt. Here we are 19 years later and we're not only still paying down debt, we're taking on new debt while the added tax lingers. Sales tax revenue has increased over the last 10 years, but so have prices (most notably gasoline which has risen about $2/gallon over that period while influencing many other price points) and that simply adds to the burden on taxpayers who are paying more for less. The County has a roughly $20M fund balance to bridge revenue gaps with an additional $9M in unallocated funds while carrying $14.5M in debt costing taxpayers $600K in interest payments in 2013 alone. The County has borrowed millions to spend on infrastructure that only a few hundred of our 60,000+ citizens will ever use. The County is losing over $1M annually on the County Nursing Home while the majority of our long-term care citizens have their needs met through privately run facilities in the county. Band-aids will not stop the hemorrhaging. The County has plans/commitments to spend millions on leasing space over the next decade. Unemployment at or slightly below the state average is great, but it's been that way for years. More telling is Genesee County's per capita income which is annually $4K-$5K below the state average. The County annually funds the GCEDC with over $200K in cash plus pays one of the highest IDA salary and benefits packages in the state to their personnel who then waive millions in taxes for corporations who pay them 1% of every deal. The jobs created under this model are often not full-time positions or able to raise the bar on per capita income. The County implemented a local surcharge for auto registration, but what's the value add, especially to people who rarely drive? To top it off, we're now facing a 2.22% increase in property taxes that will be enacted right after the election.
How is any of this fair to Genesee County taxpayers? All of it has come to fruition through local decisions.
We need to make better choices and we need to change our approach. We can learn from the folks at Independent Living of Genesee Region (ILGR) whose website (www.wnyil.org/ilgr) reads:
"ILGR is an agency dedicated to the idea the people deserve the right to live their life the way they choose. Our philosophy is not to do things for you, but to give you the skills and resources to do it for yourself. That’s the true meaning of independence."
Some of our most challenged citizens do not want handouts - they want to be educated, empowered to make their own choices, and treated with equality. Long ago, I learned one of the keys to successful management is to break down barriers and provide the necessary tools for employees to get their jobs done. Government needs to foster that for all of us. Stop trying to do everything and instead start enabling. Where we must offer services, we must do so with extreme efficiency. We are not doing so today.
I continue to be available by phone, E-Mail, and social media. Please take the opportunity to contact me with questions, concerns, and ideas. I look forward to representing you and doing what I can to make Genesee County the most attractive and affordable place to live, shop, and do business in WNY.
Thank you for your consideration on November 5th. Whatever your choice, please vote - you matter!