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March 18, 2020 - 4:52pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in legislature, video, live stream.
Video Sponsor

The Genesee County Legislature is trying using Zoom for the first time to run one of its meetings to help with social distancing.

June 17, 2014 - 10:47am
posted by Howard B. Owens in legislature, Darien.

It's not necessary, but County Attorney Chuck Zambito is advising the County Legislature to pass a resolution indemnify the Town of Darien against any potential damage caused by the new communication tower installed on fire department property.

If there was some unexpected accident, such as the tower falling, the Town of Darien would face no liability whatsoever if somebody was hurt, Zambito said.

However, the town is holding up signing an agreement to accept emergency radios from the county in order to get the hold-harmless agreement.

"I'm not sure how the two are connected," Zambito told legislators during the Public Service Committee meeting Monday.

It's not the first time the Town of Darien's actions have had Zambito scratching his head. During construction, the town required the county to apply for a building permit, even though legally, the county didn't need a permit.

"In the end, rather than fight about it, I said, 'OK, apply for the building permit' and they immediately gave it to us," Zambito said.

The tower in Darien was built on property owned the Darien Volunteer Fire Department. The county provided the fire department with a hold-harmless agreement because if there was an accident, the fire department could have been sued without it.

That simply isn't the case with Darien, Zambito said, but town officials are insisting on an agreement anyway.

Zambito will draft an agreement and present to the Legislature at a future meeting.

April 6, 2012 - 1:55pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in legislature, public notices.

Wednesday, I put on my publisher's hat and spoke before the Ways and Means Committee about a pair of bills pending in the Assembly that would allow online publication of public notices.

Currently, state law requires notices be published only in printed newspapers.

The bills, 6058 by Assemblyman Steve Hawley, and 9075 by Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, would expand publishing options to online news sources that don't run printing presses.

We didn't report on this matter because I couldn't report on something I was participating in and we had no reporter available to cover it.

Long explanation for: here's the unofficial (meaning, not yet approved) wording prepared by the recording secretary that day, Sarah Kingdon, to serve as a report on the meeting.

Batavian Publisher Howard Owens was present to seek support for Assembly Bill 6058 and Assembly Bill 8075 which would give public agencies the option to place legal notices with either print publications or online news publications. This act would amend the general construction law, in relation to allowing for online publication of public notices. Mr. Owens feels that public notices should be easily accessible by a broad range of members of the public, and online is now a more common source for news than newspapers. He also feels this will offer greater options for archiving and searching of data. Legislator Cianfrini asked if this would be more cost effective. Mr. Owens responded that there is potentially a cost savings, and that he feels an RFP process should be done so that the County can get the best price from local news media. After a discussion of the committee it was decided that Chair Hancock will compose a general letter of support which she will distribute to the Committee for their approval prior to sending to State Officials for support. This was approved upon motion of Legislator Cianfrini seconded by Legislator Leadley.

March 14, 2012 - 11:37pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in genesee county, legislature.

With its 2012 legislature, Genesee County has made history -- maybe ... probably.

In all likelihood, Genesee County has the first legislature in New York State history with a female majority.

The historical record is hard to nail down, according Mark LaVigne, deputy director of the NYS Association of Counties, but a check he conducted with all the other counties turned up none willing to dispute the claim.

He discovered Otsego County has more women on its legislature -- seven, but also has seven men, and Sallie Brothers in St. Lawrence County is the only woman on a board otherwise comprised of 14 men.

In the absense of any evidence otherwise, then, it seems reasonably certain that 92 years after women won the right to vote they claimed the majority of a legislature in New York for the first time in one of the state's most conservative counties.

"I think it’s excting," said Marianne Clattenburg, serving her first term on the legislature. "It’s a testament to the good job that the women who are here have been doing. The fact that women continue to get elected is exciting. I look forward to working with the women and all the member of the legislature."

Chairwoman Mary Pat Hancock called the legislature a "magical nine" and said she is proud to serve with all the members.

"What’s exciting to me is to lead a legislature of nine interested, educated people who really want to dedicate their time to the job and are willing to cooperate and willing to work together," Hancock said.

Reminded that he is now part of a historic minority, first-time Legislator Frank Ferrando laughed and then said he admired the women elected to the board.

"It’s just great just being a part of the legislature," Ferrando said. "We’ve got some real key people, some leaders who are women. It’s great working with them."

Esther Leadley agreed a female majority is historic, but also appropriate when a majority of registered voters are women.

"I'm proud of Genesee County," Leadley said. "You know I am. I speak out about how proud I am of Genesee County whenever I can."

Photo: From left, Shelly Stein, Annie Lawrence, Mary Pat Hancock, Esther Leadley and Marianne Clattenburg.

February 3, 2012 - 1:18pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in legislature, Medicaid.

Press release from the Genesee County Legislature:

Importance of Medicaid Petition Drive. Why should Geneseeans Care?

$9.2 million six years ago was the amount Genesee County was spending for Medicaid. 50% of the total program cost is the responsibility of the taxpayer in New York State which is the same in most of the other 49 States. New York State has the 57 New York counties paying a share of this Medicaid Bill each week which in 2012 equals about 18.5% of that 50% state share.

Six years later, $9.8 million is the dollar amount representing 18.5 cents of every dollar spent for Medicaid that Genesee County taxpayers must fund in the 2012 budget year.

Approximately 7,200 individuals are enrolled in Medicaid in Genesee County. In 2014, the Federal Health Statute (Affordable Care Act) is mandating states to select a health care program for those particular state residents in need of health coverage and eligible to enroll. In New York state the choice has been made, Medicaid will be the primary payor. 

Current estimates that there are 5,000 additional county residents eligible for this proposed/expanded Medicaid program. This means an additional 69% increase in Medicaid funding, or in 2012 dollars would mean $6.30 per thousand just to pay the county’s 18.5% of this unfunded mandate.

This is a call to be answered by Genesee County and all New York State residents that have concern to be proactive with their county’s Medicaid petition drive.

Blank petitions are available at your town and village offices and once you have obtained signatures return to your town or village hall or local library. Petitions may also be sent to county residents electronically by contacting the Clerk of the Genesee County Legislature, Carolyn Pratt, 344-2550, ext. 2202, [email protected]

September 27, 2011 - 4:10pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in genesee county, legislature, Mary Pat Hancock.

Press release:

County delegates from across the state recently elected the Chair of the Genesee County Legislature Mary Pat Hancock to serve as president of the New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC) during their annual meeting.

“Chairwoman Hancock has proven to be a wise voice on the NYSAC board and a committed advocate for counties. We are pleased our members have elected her to serve in this leadership capacity,” said NYSAC Immediate Past President William Ryan, a Westchester County legislator.

“I am honored to serve as president and to continue the work which is necessary to address the serious challenges we face,” said the Honorable Hancock. “Implementing an effective property tax cap, redesigning Medicaid and improving the process for State reimbursement to counties for delivering state services locally will be our top priorities.”

Hancock has served on the Governor’s Task Force on Local Government Reform, and is a 2002 recipient of the New York State Senate Women of Distinction Award. She currently serves on the Genesee Finger Lakes Regional Planning Council and is chair of the Genesee Transportation Council.

“New York county leaders are facing unprecedented challenges in governing and we are fortunate to have Mary Pat Hancock of Genesee County to dedicate her talent, passion and commitment in a leadership position,” said NYSAC Executive Director Stephen Acquario.

The New York State Association of Counties is a bipartisan municipal association serving all 62 counties of New York State, including the City of New York. Organized in 1925, NYSAC’s mission is to represent, educate and advocate for member counties and the thousands of elected and appointed county officials who serve the public.

November 30, 2010 - 11:57am

The Genesee County Legislature will meet at 4 p.m. Wednesday to discuss the 2011 budget for the final time, with decisions before them that will have consequences for the local economy and civic environment for years to come.

Top on the agenda is what becomes of Genesee Justice.

countybudget03a.jpgCounty Manager Jay Gsell's preliminary budget called for eliminating seven Genesee Justice jobs and creating three new staff positions in the Probation Department, with probation taking over most of the pioneering restorative justice program's functions.

All of the county's top justice system experts -- including District Attorney Lawrence Friedman, Sheriff Gary Maha and Public Defender Gary Horton (inset picture) -- have lobbied to save Genesee Justice.

The experts say Genesee Justice has saved the county millions of dollars because many people who might otherwise be incarcerated are carefully supervised by Genesee Justice. The loss of Genesee Justice could mean that in a few years Genesee County will need to build a new jail at a cost of up to $30 million.

County officials, however, say these are dire economic times and costs need to be cut and taxes can't be raised. The county needs to trim about $7.5 million from its initial spending plan for 2011.

For years, Genesee Justice was funded entirely by grants, but over the years some those grants have dried up and local taxpayers must pick up about $237,000 of the operational costs of Genesee Justice.

Gsell plans to save that money, figuring that probation can assume the key functions of Genesee Justice.

"We know what services Genesee Justice delivers and we know how it is delivered," Gsell said for a previous story. "What we're looking at is how can we deliver that same level of service to the community through the Probation Department."

Julie Smith, probation director, said her department can assume the services and still help keep down the population level of the jail.

For example, Smith said, probation handled the release-under-supervision program for 26 years before handing it off to Genesee Justice in 2006.

Maha warned, however, that in neighboring counties, where there are no programs like Genesee Justice, the counties struggle with their jail populations.

"If the jail population increases, the State Commission of Correction will come down and tell us to do something about our increased population -- like build a new jail or put on an addition," Maha said. "We'll be like our neighbors to our south who had to build a jail addition to address their jail population."

Besides Genesee Justice, the legislature needs to decide what to do with the Soil and Water Conservation District, which is facing a 15-percent expense cut.

The cut, local farm leaders say, could end many vital services Soil and Water provides to farmers, helping keep them in business in a tough economic and regulatory environment.

"(The cut) would be a real detriment to the agriculture industry in Genesee County," said Brad Rodgers, chairman of the Soil and Water board of directors. "Even level funding would hurt us."

Scott Page, president of the Genesee County Farm Bureau, believes keeping Soil and Water is critical to protecting Genesee County's economic base.

"If we hurt ag, we miss an opportunity to move forward," said Page. "The more we build off our agricultural base, the better the local economy will do."

The conference meeting at 4 p.m. Wednesday will not include a public comment period, but the session at the Old Courthouse is open to the public.

Following the conference meeting, the Ways and Means Committee will convene. Final budget amendments will be voted at that time, which are recommendations for the full legislature to consider. The full legislature will vote on the final 2011 county budget Dec. 8.

January 19, 2010 - 5:26pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in legislature, schools, state.

A legislative roadblock could jeopardize New York’s ability to win a federal lottery of sorts – President Obama is ready to hand out $4.5 billion in education funding to select states that demonstrate a solid plan to improve education.

One of the criteria in Obama's "Race to the Top" competition is a commitment to increasing the number of a state's charter schools. That’s the biggest obstacle the New York Legislature faces in coming up with a winning application.

The state is heading toward a legislative package that increases the cap on charter schools from 200 to 400, but also makes it much harder to get a charter school approved. The Legislature refused to act last night on a compromise bill offered by Gov. David Paterson that would have made another 200 charter schools more likely.

Critics of the legislation – such as New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg – have blasted the Legislature for risking New York’s chance at hitting a $700 million jackpot.

Batavia City School District Superintendent Margaret Puzio is not among the critics.

First, she said, charter schools are just one of the criteria in the competition; second, charter schools are not necessarily a great thing for education.

“States may loose points (for not increasing the number of charter schools), but the bigger question is what has the state done in the past and what is it doing in the future to improve failing schools,” Puzio said. "If we have really effective public schools, we would have less need for 400 charter schools."

Charter schools, Puzio indicated, actually detract from the ability of public schools to improve.

“Charter schools are very controversial,” Puzio said. “People say that public schools are a monopoly, that they are controlled by the teachers' union, that they can’t be truly innovative. That’s just not true.”

There have been no attempts to start a charter school in Genesee County, at least as far as Puzio knows, and she's been in the area since 2002.

If there were such a school in the county, it might draw students from not only Batavia, but Elba, Pavilion, Corfu or any part of the county, and the federal dollars for each of those students would follow the students, Puzio said.

That puts public school districts at a disadvantage, Puzio said, because charter schools can be selective in their admission criteria while public schools must take all students.

“Unless they are held to the same standards, it seems unfair to take funds from public schools and give them to charter schools,” Puzio said.

The lack of interest in charter schools in Genesee County is one of the things that indicates local residents are largely satisfied with the quality of the area's public schools, Puzio said.

"My general takeaway is that what happens with school budget votes and what we see in surveys is that the people of Genesee County find our public schools are very responsive to their needs," Puzio said.

April 8, 2009 - 7:21pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in politics, genesee county, legislature.

Steve Ferry, a Darien Town Council member, made his case tonight that Genesee County Legislator should serve staggered four-year terms rather two-year terms with all nine seats up for election in the same year.

Legislators seemed inclined to favor the idea, but bristled at the idea that the Legislator could enact a change without proper study and community committee meetings.

At the end of the meeting, Ferry told the legislators that they are leaders and should lead.

"You are elected officials, public servants, and if serving the public means putting it on the ballot, then do it," Ferry said.

Ferry's position is that the current two-year system is a disincentive for people to get involved in the local policy decisions and that too many legislative seats draw only a single candidate each election cycle.

"It seem ridiculous to have a legislative board having all nine people up for election at the same time," Ferry said.

Legislators, by and large, rejected the notion that there isn't enough public involvement in the county government.

"One reason we don’t have a lot of people involved is this is a well run county and we don’t have a lot of controversy in the county," said Legislator John J. Hodgins.

December 3, 2008 - 2:07pm
posted by Philip Anselmo in politics, genesee county, legislature, Albany, steve hawley.

Our state representative, Assemblyman Steve Hawley, was one of several interviewed recently by Rochester's Democrat & Chronicle about the push for complete financial disclosure by state lawmakers. From the article:

State law requires lawmakers, who are part-time even though their government salaries are $79,500 a year (plus stipends for every senator and about two-thirds of Assembly members) to report any sources of outside income of more than $1,000 to the Legislative Ethics Commission, which is made up of a majority of lawmakers and has never publicly criticized a lawmaker.

They also report to the commission ranges of their income, in six categories ranging from less than $5,000 to more than $250,000.

The public can see the sources of the income, but not the categories of the amounts.

When asked if he would support more comprehensive measures of disclosure, Hawley responded: "That would serve no useful purpose now." However, despite his feeling that the law would be useless, Hawley nevertheless said he was for more disclosure.

Assemblyman Dan Burling out of Alexander had this to say: "I don't think changing a law will change a person's integrity. It comes down to a person being honest."

What? Then why do we have laws? Isn't our penal system based upon reform, which implies that integrity is not a fixed virtue? Doesn't the very notion of parole or institutions such as drug court imply that people can "be reformed" despite past incriminations?

Sen. Vincent Leibell, out of Putnam County, told the Democrat & Chronicle that he is against more discolsure. He claims that such reform would lead to an "erosion of privacy" and "discourage people" from serving on the legislature. Is there really a lack of people unwilling to take $80,000 for a part-time job?

Leibell's fellow Putnam County legislator, Assemblyman Greg Ball, sees things quite differently.

"While a lot of people focus on campaign-finance laws, as long as you allow outside business interests, there will be corruption," (he) said... Ball introduced a bill this year to prohibit lawmakers from earning money beyond their state salaries, but it went nowhere in the Assembly and was not introduced in the Senate.

Do constituents have the right to know if their representatives are making money on the side? Do they deserve to know from whom and how much and how often?

Keeping such information secret "confirms the worst suspicions of cynics who say that the elected representatives don't work for the people — they have outside interests that have primacy," said Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York. "Lawmakers have to understand how outrageous that is to the average citizen."

Lerner makes a fine point. But this whole debate brings up a much greater issue: How much transparency should be demanded by the people of their representatives? If the people of New York already feel that many, if not most, of their lawmakers are not getting the job done for them, doesn't it only make it worse to find out that the person you're paying $80,000 makes $150,000 from some other source? What if those two sources come into conflict? Lerner hints at this very situation, or at least the perception of such a situation. What do you think? What are the rules in other states?

Please be sure to check out the full article by Jay Gallagher and Heather Senison out of Gannett's Albany Bureau.

June 14, 2008 - 7:52am
posted by Howard B. Owens in legislature, taxes, steve hawley, property tax.

Here's a gloomy story to start of your Saturday with: Don't expect property tax relief soon.

The impression left by the D&C story is that the state legislature is dissecting the issue into particle detail rather than just dealing with the basic issue: Property taxes are too high.

All sides have expressed a desire to do something about property taxes, but the way to get there, like the path to so many goals in Albany, is clouded.

A property tax cap, proposed by a state commission put together by former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, has won the support of Gov. David Paterson. But state lawmakers, including those who represent Monroe County, are not convinced Paterson's proposal is the answer.

Back in the 1970s, when Californians got fed up with the state Legislature's wishy-washy, spineless approach to property tax relief, they passed Jarvis-Gann, better known as Proposition 13. 

While the transition to new ways of funding and operating schools and government hasn't always been easy for California, property taxes are a lot lower and everything still operates just fine.  Maybe there needs to be a voter revolt in New York, cause it's sure sounding like the Legislature wants to sit on its hands.

Here's Steve Hawley's reply:

"I'm not sure we should be focusing exclusively on the school tax," said Assemblyman Stephen Hawley, R-Batavia, who was a member of the Genesee Valley Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) before he was elected to the Legislature.

Hawley suggested exploring different property tax rates based on income and family situation, not strictly home value, and noted that government spending is the root of the problem.

"A reasonable solution is to stop trying to be all things to all people," he said.

Certainly, reducing waste in government and the size of government is a good place to start, but the idea that the government would A) develop an even more complex tax scheme (different rates based on family size and income?); and, B) start meddling in the structure of New York families doesn't sound very Republican-like.

Maybe Hawley can contact us or leave a comment and try to explain better what he's talking about, because this sound bite sounds more scary than helpful.

May 28, 2008 - 3:28pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in legislature, veterans, Memorial Day, steve hawley.

From reader Georgia Voss:

My husband and I were honored to have a visit Sunday with a Korean Veteran who was to be honored with 6 others on Memorial Day by Steve Hawley.  I saw no mention of this in the Daily News and am curious if you folks have knowledge of the event and other participants.

So we contacted Assemblyman Hawley's office, which provided the following information on honors handed out Monday:

  • Thomas E. Hayes Specialist Four, AUS, of the US Army, received the New York Medal of Merit. Hayes served in Vietnam and his military service covered 1969 to 1971.  He is a Silver Star winner.
  • John E. Corrado was awarded a Conspicuous Service Cross.  Corrado served in Vietnam and was in the Army from 1968 to 1970.
  • Ettore Ianni also received the Conspicuous Service Cross. Ianni served in Korea and was in the Army from 1951 to 1970.
  • Keith A. Weinert also received the Conspicuous Service Cross.  Weinert is a Vietnam veteran and served in the Army from 1967 to 1970.

The Conspicuous Service Cross was created by the New York Legislature in the 1920s. It is the highest award New York can bestow in its veterans. Recipients must have distinguished themselves by performing particularly brave and heroic acts which earned them individual citations while serving in the armed forces.

May 15, 2008 - 8:25am
posted by Philip Anselmo in wbta, legislature, airport.

Check out WBTA for this and other stories:

• A new hangar will go up at the Genesee County Airport, and it will cost some $695,000. The county legislature approved the contracts to two Rochester firms and another from Fishers. A state grant will cover $300,000. The hangar will have ten bays that the county will rent out for between $280 and $350 per month.

May 14, 2008 - 7:57am
posted by Philip Anselmo in crime, wbta, legislature, United Memorial Medical Center.

Check out WBTA for these and other stories:

• The United Memorial Medical Center could face a tough road ahead in getting its construction projects financed. "Organized labor," writes Dan Fischer, is blocking the state legislature's renewal of a law that allows non-profits to borrow from Industrial Development Agencies at low finance rates. The unions insist that the law include a provision that says projects funded through IDA financing must pay "prevailing union wages," which could put costs too high to manage. (This seems like a complex story. I would like to find out more about it. Such as: How can the labor unions block the law? And why wouldn't IDA-funded projects already be required to pay prevailing union wages?) UPDATE: Found more information here at the Buffalo News.

• A deck of playing cards illustrating 52 (unsolved) homicides and missing persons cases from around the state will be issued to prisoners across the state, including those at Genesee County Jail. Inmates may call a toll free number printed on the card if they have information.

• The Genesee County Legislature will meet tonight at 7:00pm at the Old County Courthouse.

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