County Executive Delivers 2017 State of the County Address
3/6/2017 6:30:00 PM
COUNTY EXECUTIVE MCCOY TOUTS SUCCESSES AND AGENDA FOR THE COMING YEAR
Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy today delivered the State of the County address to the County Legislature where he outlined the significant progress the county has made to further stabilize county finances, to provide a safety net for frail county residents, bring people together, implementing strategies to battle poverty and working to battle the crisis of opiate addiction.
In the address, McCoy noted the work the administration has done for the last three years to protect county residents from the threat posed by the growth of crude oil processing and train traffic in Albany. Along those lines he said the work his office has done as part of a coalition will continue in the days ahead.
"Over the last five years, we have worked tirelessly to enhance programs for all county residents and to develop meaningful partnerships to implement programs and services to benefit county residents," said McCoy. "We will continue to advocate for those living in the county that face threats from crude oil shipping. This is a battle we've been waging for three years and I will not rest until we are victorious in court."
In 2016 McCoy announced his plan to implement an "Equity Agenda," a new initiative with UAlbany's Center for Human Services Research to assess how the county can improve policies and programs for residents. Over the last year the center has conducted an assessment of county departments, which will lead to an Equity Strategic Plan.
"The cornerstone of what we do every do is working to improve the quality of life for those facing poverty, racism and discrimination," said McCoy. "The plan we have in hand will guide us as we strive to improve access and the quality of programs for people in Albany County."
In the speech, McCoy outlined how the county departments of health and mental health will work with the county's newly created Opioid Task Force to develop and implement strategies to confront the growing crisis of opioid abuse in the county. Over the last two years Albany County has worked to educate the public and provide monthly training on the use of Narcan, a lifesaving medication.
McCoy also announced directing the County Attorney to begin the process of joining other c counties in litigation aimed at holding pharmaceutical companies accountable for the loss, pain and suffering caused by their failure to advise patients about the dangers of opioid addiction.
McCoy detailed how his administration has stabilized county finances, built county reserves and kept the county budget under the state tax property cap for the last four years. McCoy indicated that the county has significantly reduced its financial subsidy of the nursing home and that he anticipates further reductions in the future. He also noted that the additional investment in the Times Union Center will help the county attract high profile events to the region to benefit the downtown businesses.
"We have rebuilt our finances from the ground up and I am especially pleased with the work our team has done at the nursing home," said McCoy. "The days of being reactive are over. We are being proactive and executing our plan to provide top-notch care, work closely with staff and upgrading the facility."
In light of that, County Executive McCoy said there will be a $60 million investment in improving the Albany County Nursing Home, pending approval from the State Health Department. The planned renovation includes a single floor addition, upgrades for the facility and a re-purposing of the tower building. A number of county departments will be part of a health care complex, including a 9-1-1 dispatch presence by the Sheriff's Department.
In the area of criminal justice McCoy said a multi-faceted approach such as Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) has helped to reduce recidivism and provided community-based treatment for non-violent offenders. McCoy also announced that the county is making progress on the establishment of a Mental Health Court, which would provide treatment options rather than incarceration for those with mental illness.
He expressed optimism that during the state budget process, state lawmakers and the governor will incorporate his proposal for a state takeover of funding for indigent legal services borne by county governments. Despite the fact the Justice Equality Act, originally drafted by the county executive passed both houses of the State Legislature last year and got widespread support in the legal community and from newspaper editorial boards statewide, the governor vetoed the measure.
"I remain concerned that we are perpetuating a two-tier system of justice in the county and in the state," said McCoy. "The message continues to resonate and we are working with our partners to make sure our leaders acknowledge the problem and provide hope for defendants in New York. The state has a constitutional obligation that it continues to pass on to counties."
McCoy also noted the work done by the Regional Immigration Assistance Center, which launched in 2016, has come to the forefront due to developments in Washington and new federal immigration restrictions being imposed this year.
"This office has worked to train lawyers in the applications of immigration law and has worked to educate the legal community and community organization to help non-citizens overcome the challenges they face in our community," said McCoy.
McCoy emphasized the three "Healing Moments" forums sponsored by the county and the Interfaith Coalition has helped advance dialogue in the community on how we can embrace racial and ethnic diversity and improve police-community relations.
"Following a divisive election year, we need to find ways to talk to one another and to come together," said McCoy. "These forums are intended to give us a chance to do that. I am thankful for those who have participated and helped us engage one another."
In the speech, McCoy further highlighted several initiatives and accomplishments of 2016 including:
- The launch of "Albany County Cares," a wide-ranging campaign to advancing the message that the county is dedicated to serving those residents most in need and providing opportunities for children to thrive, enjoy physical activity and enjoy Lawson Lake County Park.
- The growth of activities and programs sponsored by the successful launch of the county Department of Recreation, which continues to partner with AAU to bring sports and fitness programs to underserved areas of the county. Last year more than 2,000 youngsters participated in county programs and with the addition of other sports this year; that number should increase.
- The accomplishments and services offered by the Department for Aging, which has provided to provide meals and needed services to seniors in rural areas of the county. McCoy noted that he was especially pleased that in 2016 the county was named an "Age Friendly Community" by the World Health Organization.
- The county's commitment to the success of the Albany County Land Bank, which continues the task of rebuilding our communities, block by block. The Land Bank has been a key driver in stabilizing neighborhoods and adding more than $1 million in assessed value back to the tax rolls.
The 2017 State of the County message may be read here [PDF]