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Poloncarz: Poverty, health, and the economy are third-term priorities for Erie County

Kyle S. Mackie/WBFO News

Mark Poloncarz identified poverty, health and wellness, and the economy as the top priorities for his third term as Erie County Executive during his inauguration ceremony Tuesday.

Poloncarz, a Democrat, won reelection in November. After taking the oath of office at Old Erie County Hall, he said he credited that victory in large part to the revitalization of the local economy over his past eight years in office.

“When I ran for executive, I said my primary focus would be on rebuilding our economy. That is exactly what we have done,” Poloncarz said. “If you remember, we have gone from the highest unemployment rate the county had seen in decades to the lowest, and now we have the highest job count Erie County has had in more than 50 years.”

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul praised Poloncarz for his role in the region’s much-discussed “renaissance,” and for changing residents’ view of local government. She said he is “sweeping away the bad and bringing [us] to an era where people believe in the possibilities of government again.”

Credit Kyle S. Mackie/WBFO News
From left to right, NYS Attorney General Letitia James, Monroe County Executive elect Adam Bello, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz and Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul pose at Old Erie County Hall.

Several other local and statewide elected officials joined Hochul in attending Tuesday’s ceremony, including New York Attorney General Letitia James.

“It’s no wonder that we find ourselves here today to celebrate a third term for Mark,” James said. “He is the right person for the task at hand and just the type of partner we need in Western New York.”

James’ office is currently working with Poloncarz and Erie County on a landmark lawsuit against opioid manufacturers and distributors that is expected to go to court in March.

In his own remarks, Poloncarz highlighted achievements like the opening of the Erie County Health Mall on Buffalo’s East Side in 2014 and the county’s response to the opioid crisis, which he said is now considered a national model by the U.S. Department of Justice. But he also acknowledged that there is much work left to be done.

“I have no interest in leading our county if only the wealthiest among us succeed,” Poloncarz said. “We must ensure all benefit from the recent success by giving those struggling to get by the tools they need to climb higher and provide for their families.”

One way Poloncarz pledged to help struggling Erie County residents is by increasing the rate paid to daycare providers within the next year “so their employees can make a more livable wage.” He also said he will continue to budget $750,000 annually throughout his third term to fight the threat of lead poisoning.

Other issues Poloncarz said he plans to champion in the next four years include clean energy, bikeable and walkable communities, and supporting newly-arrived immigrants and refugees.

“And we will take on other important issues that face our community, like the future of a convention center and a new lease with the Buffalo Bills,” Poloncarz added. “We can and will lift all boats as Erie County’s tide continues to rise by investing in our neighborhoods, our communities, our people, through our government.”

Kyle Mackie is a multimedia journalist with reporting experience in Israel and the Palestinian territories, the Western Balkans and New York City. She joined WBFO to cover education and more in June 2019.
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