BUFFALO, N.Y. - Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz delivered the State of the County at Buffalo State College on Wednesday, touching on everything from economic development to the opioid epidemic.
Here were a few key points:
1) Poloncarz called the county's purchase of the old Bethlehem Steel site in Lackawanna a "legacy project." The 147-acre site will be transformed into a high-tech industrial park. Here's a 2 On Your Side report from February on the county's purchase.
2) "Job growth is up while unemployment is down," Poloncarz said. Since he took office as County Executive in 2012, that's certainly true, with unemployment dropping by more than three points in that span, mirroring national post-recession trends. It should be noted, however, that the unemployment rate in Erie County has increased by 0.3 percent, according to the latest February 2017 data. This February, the rate was 5.6 percent, compared to 5.3 percent last year. In an interview after the speech, Poloncarz said that's probably due to a decrease in major construction projects, noting that SolarCity will soon begin hiring in South Buffalo. The national unemployment rate in February 2017 was 4.7 percent.
3) Poloncarz spent a considerable amount of time on the opioid epidemic, which is already on pace to claim more lives in 2017 compared to last year. Poloncarz said more than 1,700 calls have already been placed to the county's new addiction hotline, which is leading them to be able to get in-person treatment. "Our program is a success, and many lives have possibly been saved across Erie County," Poloncarz said.
4) Poloncarz called for a stronger ethics code. "I support this legislation, and call on the Legislature to pass it as soon as possible," he said.
5) Poloncarz said aspects of President Donald Trump's proposed budget blueprint would devastate parts of the county, including the proposed elimination of HEAP, block grants and the Great Lakes Restoration Iniatitive. 2 On Your Side covered this issue earlier this month.
Please visit this website to read the full State of the County.