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How We Came to Be: NYSAC’s Story

The History of NY’s County Government

State Legislative Session Overview

Federal Issues Impacting Counties

Counties Helping Counties

Volume 36, Issue 1  |  Winter 2015

President’s Page NYSAC OFFICERS Hon. Anthony J. Picente, Oneida County President

From the NYSAC President, Hon. Anthony J. Picente, Jr.

Hon. Randall Douglas, Essex County President Elect Hon. Maggie Brooks, Monroe County First Vice President

Reflections on 90 years of service and support to New York counties

Hon. William Cherry, Schoharie Second Vice President Mark R. Alger, Steuben County Immediate Past President

MEMBERS Hon. James D. Hoffman, Wayne County www.co.wayne.ny.us Hon. John LaPointe, Washington County www.co.washington.ny.us Hon. Joanie Mahoney, Onondaga County www.ongov.net Hon. Edward P. Mangano, Nassau County www.nassaucountyny.gov Hon. Marcus Molinaro, Dutchess County www.co.dutchess.ny.us Christopher Moss, Chemung County www.chemungcounty.com Hon. MaryEllen Odell, Putnam County www.putnamcountyny.com Mr. Richard M. Tobe, Erie County www.erie.gov Hon. Herman Geist, Esq., Westchester County www.westchestergov.com Hon A. Douglas Berwanger, Wyoming County www.wyomingco.net

TREASURER Mr. Robert F. Currier, Albany County www.albanycounty.com

PARLIAMENTARIANS Hon. Herman Geist, Esq., Westchester County


n 1925, our founding members had a vision. By establishing a formal structure for training county officials, peer to peer from all over the state, they could achieve a higher level of best practices for their constituents. This vision has produced a modern and powerful Association dedicated to advocating, educating and serving the 62 counties of New York State. We have come a long way as an Association over the past 90 years, but we continue to do many of the same things we did in 1925. We are still focused on training and education, and we have become powerful advocates for counties and local taxpayers. We bring the concerns of the citizens to the statehouse of Albany. We also provide direct staff support to counties looking for data and research on local laws, policies and finances. No one knows county governments better than your NYSAC staff. The role of county governments has become more complex over the years. We deliver a broader array of services, we fund more programs, and we interact with more levels and departments of government. Despite this growth, it is still often challenging to describe this often invisible level of government, but let me touch on just a few areas where we serve the public. We manage the electoral process. We arrest, jail, prosecute, and defend accused criminals. We record, archive and maintain every real

estate transaction, court proceeding, birth, and death that takes place within our boundaries. We are the first responders, the emergency managers, public health officials, and the restaurant inspectors. We make sure that a gallon of fuel and a pound of turkey are accurate at our gas stations and delis. We make local laws. We collect property taxes. We plow and pave roads, maintain bridges, and dig culverts and county roads from Suffolk to St. Lawrence counties. We handle solid waste, sewer systems, and water systems from Saratoga to Chautauqua. We ensure the safety of every at-risk child, and we provide social services to those who cannot support themselves. We rescue abused animals, and prosecute the abusers. We provide addiction and mental health services to residents who need them. These are just some of the ways our county members serve New Yorkers all across our state. And these are the issues that NYSAC tracks and advocates for in Washington, Albany, and across our state. Here’s to 90 years of support and service to our counties, and here’s to dedicated, loyal and active county officials whose efforts to make this state strong are to be commended. Thank you for your loyal participation in NYSAC; the unity of this organization is what gives us all collective strength in the statehouse. Thank you and best wishes for 2015!


Hon. A. Douglas Berwanger, Wyoming County www.wyomingco.net

www.nysac.org  3


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Director’s Note NYSAC STAFF Stephen J. Acquario, Esq. Executive Director Karen Catalfamo Office/Financial Manager Nicole Correia Communication Coordinator Patrick Cummings, Esq. Counsel Jackie Dederick Records Manager Mark LaVigne Deputy Director Dave Lucas Director of Finance & Intergovernmental Affairs Patricia Milkiewicz Executive Assistant Juanita Munguia Marketing Specialist Jeanette Stanziano Director of Education & Training Gil Strizich Legislative / Office Clerk Tammy Thomas Communication Assistant/ Receptionist Katy Vescio Deputy Director of Government Relations

From the Executive Director, Stephen J. Acquario


his year marks the 90th anniversary of NYSAC, the counties’ official voice in Albany. It also marks nearly a century of efforts to strengthen and improve New York’s system of regional government at the county level. I have been at NYSAC for a number of years, and I have always viewed NYSAC’s role as assisting the counties as they continue to evolve towards modern, efficient and dynamic regional governments. Our state has decentralized service delivery through the counties. However, through the decentralization of government, the administration- and, unfortunately, the financing- of these essential public services have become the responsibility of the local taxpayer. Counties are indeed uniquely situated to provide these services, but the local taxpayer is not in a position to sustain financing state and federal programs. To effectively do this, adequate reimbursement must be provided to counties. Our purpose comes with our position, and we bring that purpose to our jobs each and every day. NYSAC and its membership, the 62 counties of New York, must continue to be the laboratories of democracy, striving to reform the administration and public policy objectives of the various federal and state programs. We must not just think “outside the box,” but “think outside the building,” with respect to allocating tax dollars for programs and services for New Yorkers. Through innovative thinking and ambition, our communities and state will continue to thrive into the next century with whatever resources we have at hand.

Throughout these 90 years of support and service, NYSAC has represented the interests of New York’s counties at all levels of government, and has strived to inform and educate our members on matters germane to county government. While it is important to remember our past efforts, this anniversary also requires us to examine the future, and the role counties can play in that future. There will always be challenges, but these challenges present opportunities. Counties are embracing opportunities for shared services and efficiency initiatives with other local governments. While most counties have been part of these arrangements for decades, the current tax freeze law puts a renewed focus on the roles and responsibilities of local government. We can seize this opportunity to showcase our efficiencies and learn new ones which may be applicable to our communities. Our counties and local governments, and the essential programs and services we provide, are on the critical path toward a strong and healthy future for New York State. That path does not begin and end in Albany. That path runs through our counties, our towns, cities and our villages. As local leaders, we are always prepared to partner with the state to build support for changes that strengthen our communities. In 2015, your Association staff looks forward to working collectively with all the counties and the state to strengthen the partnership that will bring all levels of government together in the best interest of New York State. 

www.nysac.org  7


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PUB L IS H ED 3 TIMES A YEAR President • Hon. Anthony J. Picente, Jr. Publisher • Stephen J. Acquario Managing Editor • Mark F. LaVigne Editor • Nicole Correia Staff Writers • Nicole Correia, Patrick Cummings, Mark LaVigne, Dave Lucas and Kathryn Vescio Advertising Staff • Juanita Munguia

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Table of Contents Cover Image • The Creation of New York’s Counties, a painting in the Nassau County Office Building. Courtesy of Hon. Edward Mangano, Nassau County Executive

Winter 2015

NYSAC News •  Volume 36, Issue 1

NYSAC Informs with e-news publications: NYSAC Weekly Wire Emailed every week during the Legislative Session. Highlights county-related issues and activities taking place in Albany. Counties in the News Daily news updates from counties across the state, compiled by NYSAC and delivered to your inbox. To sign up visit www.nysac.org





How We Came to Be: NYSAC’s Early Days Our Evolving Counties: A History of New York State County Government

15 17

A Genealogy of Counties

The Ways We Organize: County Government Structures in New York State


Looking Ahead: The 2015 NYS Legislative Session


The County-Federal Intersection: Pending Issues in Washington


Counties Helping Counties: Snowstorm Recovery in Western New York

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Preparing for Disaster: Emergency Management Certification & Training


Erie County’s Focus on Economic Development Gets Results


The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative

Eat Smart Restaurant Week: Putnam County Program Promotes Health, Supports Businesses A Shared Celebration, a Shared Mission: Cornell Cooperative Extension and NYSAC


Suffolk County Battles Powdered Caffeine Sales


NORA Broadband Initiative Advances in Niagara and Orleans Counties


Reflections and Lessons: Twelve Years in the Ulster County Legislature


NACo County Explorer: Mapping County Data


New Program Supports Emergency Services Dispatching


State Austerity Policy and Creative Local Response


In Memoriam: Ira Jay Cohen


Counsel’s Corner: Local Laws


Scenes from the NYSAC Photo Album

www.nysac.org  11

How We Came to Be: NYSAC’s Early Days

The 1925 New York State Political Scene  New

By Mark LaVigne NYSAC Deputy Director

York State’s population is 11,162,151, of which 5,873,356 lived in New York City, and 1,494,195 (13%) were non citizens.

 Al Smith returns to the office of Governor after

being beaten in the 1924 presidential election by Herbert Hoover. While in office he enacts of number of progressive reforms including a workers’ compensation law to give laborers proper compensation for their claims.


 Governor Al Smith uses the power of executive

From 1920 through 1929, the nation’s total wealth more than doubled. This economic growth, along with the introduction of the automobile and the radio, are credited with the beginning of America’s “consumer society” perception. The radio was the way to reach audiences from New York to California; and the car was a new way to get from here to there and back.

 Governor

he Roaring Twenties were in full swing in New York in 1925. The economic boom on Wall Street, the expression of new art forms through the Harlem Renaissance and the explosion of the jazz scene in clubs throughout the City.

The nation was five years into Prohibition, which was instituted in 1920 with the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Speakeasies became the hotbeds of jazz music in New York City. And the organized corruption from Tammany Hall was at full strength. New York State Governor Al Smith just lost his bid for the president in 1924, but brought home to Albany an ambitious reform agenda that he introduced in his January 1925 State of the State Address. Governor Smith called for the wholesale realignment of state agencies, including doing away with the elected Secretary of State, who would be later charged with bribery and abuse of office. At the county level, keeping up with the changing social, economic and policy dynamics of the time was becoming more and more complex. We had to respond to the new and growing demands in the areas of public safety, health, transportation and social welfare. A handful of county leaders came together because they knew they could learn from each other, and their voices would be stronger together in Albany and Washington if they could tell a collective story. They volunteered their free time to create the first county-focused educational seminar, and together they advocated for their growing local needs to state leaders in the Capitol. In 1925, this small but growing group of county officials formalized their relationship, calling themselves the New York State County Officers Association, and giving rise to what would later become the New York State Association of Counties. Nine decades later, this association of county officers continues to carry out that original mission. We educate each other. We represent the county point of view. We advocate for reforms that will help our communities. And we serve our county officials whenever the need arises. We represent varied counties and regions, but we remain stronger together. 

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investigation to restructure New York State government, eliminating or re-organizing various branches. Al Smith forms a committee to conduct a comprehensive study of New York’s barge canal system. One of the recommendations is for the expansion of canal projects throughout the Mohawk Valley.

 The

first woman was elected to statewide elective office— Florence E. S. Knapp—as the Secretary of State. (This was the last year the Secretary of State was an elected position).

The Honorable Joseph A. McGinnies (R) was Assembly Speaker, and the Honorable John Knight (R) was the Temporary President of the State Senate. 

Only one women--Rhoda Fox Graves (R) of Gouverneur—served in the State Assembly. 

The Legislature met for the regular session at the State Capitol in Albany on January 7, 1925 and adjourned on March 27.

 George

Washington Olvary is the newly elected leader of Tammany Hall, the notorious New York City political machine. Tammany Hall continues to function as a dominant force in New York City politics throughout the 1920s.

 The

Great Gatsby is published, which is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s account of the roaring twenties in New York City.

 The Supreme Court case Gitlow vs. New York reflected America’s

growing fear of communism. The decision would make the state and federal governments adhere to the same conventions concerning free speech.

The Legislature met for a special session at the State Capitol in Albany on June 22, 1925 and adjourned on June 26. This session was called by Governor Al Smith to reconsider state park legislation that had been passed during the regular session.

 The

International Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters is organized in Harlem. 

Highlights compiled by NYSAC Legislative Clerk Gil Strivich.

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Our Evolving Counties: A History of New York State County Government By Anastasia L. Pratt, Ph.D. Clinton County Historian


roadly designed to improve methods for protecting against enemies and to maintain law and order, New York’s 62 counties have evolved to carry out locally functions specified by the State of New York. These functions, which include maintaining records, enforcing state laws, conducting elections for the state, and providing economic assistance through social services programs like Medicaid and Aid to Dependent Children, reflect the role of the county as a regional government that encompasses, without necessarily superseding, the jurisdiction of the cities, towns, and villages included within the county’s borders.

The First Counties As early as 1665, New York’s land was divided into counties. Seeking to create laws for a colony that had moved from Dutch to British control the previous year, the Convention of Delegates recognized 17 towns and Yorkshire County. The Duke’s Law of 1665 created ridings, or judicial districts, which served as early versions of counties. Later, in 1683, the General Assembly of Freeholders, convened by Governor Thomas Dongan, passed the Charter of Liberties and Privileges, which laid out how the colony should be governed. Based on the Magna Carta and similar to current constitutions, the Charter divided New York into 12 counties, which became the basis of representation for the colony and the administrative unit for the court systems established at the same time. The Duke of York signed the Charter, which he vetoed five years later when he ascended the throne as King James II. After he abandoned the throne in 1688 and Governor Henry Sloughter called for a new assembly in 1691, a statute that reinstated those principles was passed.

The Birth of Local Governments in NYS Ratified in 1777, New York’s first State Constitution recognized the 14 counties

14  N YSAC News Winter 201 5

established in 1683 and established a system wherein counties—along with cities and towns—were designated as units of local government. Eleven years later, the State Legislature divided all existing counties into towns, legally recognizing the municipalities and their role within the governmental structure. Over the next 137 years, the number of counties first decreased (when two were ceded to Vermont as part of the 1790 settlement of the New Hampshire land-grant controversy) and then increased as acts of legislature created 50 additional counties, usually when an area had about 1000 residents, with new counties formed from existing counties. The newest, Bronx County, was formed in 1914. Beginning in 1936, the County Charter Movement, and various New York State laws, allowed for changes to the scope of a county’s ability to act. Nassau was the first county to become chartered.

Evolving County Government Structures Every county in New York State, regardless of designation, includes an executive or administrative authority and a legislative body, both of which determine an administrative structure, and additional elected or appointed officers who carry out specific duties. Administrators, with titles including Executive, Administrator, Chair of Legislative Body, and Manager, carry out various assigned functions and duties on behalf of the county legislature. Originally composed of freeholders (1683), boards of supervisors were composed of elected town officers who served ex-officio as county officials or by elected city officers whose sole job was to serve as county officials. After a 1960s determination that the election process for boards of supervisors violated the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, the legislative bodies adjusted by redistricting to allow for the one person-one vote principle or by creating a system of weighted voting which reflects the represented population.

Legislators are joined by various other officials, some of whom are elected and others of which are appointed. One of these officials, the sheriff, was created in 1683 by the first Assembly of the Colony. Originally appointed by the governor to a one year term, sheriffs are now elected officials whose jobs reflect the needs of the county. Similarly, district attorneys, county clerks, and coroners work for the benefit of county government as a whole. County Court, Surrogate Court, and Family Court judges are also elected from within a county to serve.

Varied Sizes, Varied Histories While the structure of New York’s counties is fairly similar, they differ in size and history. Population varies greatly, for example, with Hamilton County counting 5,379 in 2010 while Suffolk County numbered 1,419,369. In terms of population density, Hamilton County boasts fewer than three people per square mile, while Nassau County has more than 4,500 people per square mile. Rockland County includes 175 square miles, St. Lawrence County 2,700. Among the notable figures for whom the counties are named are George Clinton, third Governor of New York and fourth Vice President of the United States; James II of England, who was both the Duke of York and the Duke of Albany before becoming King of England; Jonas Bronck, an early Dutch settler; John Broome, the fourth Lieutenant Governor of New York; the Cayuga tribe; Christopher Columbus, the European explorer; Thomas West, the third Baron De La Warr; and Robert Fulton, the inventor of the steamship. Other counties were named for counties in England and for Native American words, phrases, or tribes. Though varied, New York’s counties have often come together to assist one another, to call for state action on common needs, to share services, and to improve upon an alwaysevolving local government structure.

Genealogy of New York’s Counties

www.nysac.org  15

The Ways We Organize: County Government Structures in New York State By Mark LaVigne NYSAC Deputy Director


county administrator or manager position to oversee the day-to-day administration of county government. The remaining eight counties have retained administrative control of the county through their legislative body.

New York State’s 57 counties outside the City of New York have generally adopted one of 3 methods of county organization, Charter counties with an elected executive or appointed administrative official, counties with an appointed manager or administrator organized under county law, and those operating under the administrative direction of an elected legislative body.

The Municipal Home Rule Law gives non-charter counties the ability to change their administrative structure through the enactment of local laws. These changes are not subject to mandatory public referendum unless the local law abolishes diminishes or curtails the powers of an elected official. The legislative body may delegate certain administrative responsibilities to its chair or an appointed administrative official, as long as the legislative body retains overall administrative authority.

ew York is a diverse state with a long history of home rule and local decision making in the establishment of its local government structure and organization. The 57 counties located outside the City of New York have adopted varying methods of governmental organization, based upon their own perceived needs and decision-making processes.

The State Constitution delineates county governments’ powers and responsibilities through the Local Government Bill of Rights and the Statute of Local Governments. County Law and the Municipal Home Rule Law establish the procedures and standards set forth by the state legislature.

County Charters — 22 counties: 18 currently with county executives elected in county-wide general elections and four with appointed administrators or managers. Appointed Manager/Administrator — 21 counties have administrators and 10 have managers.

Article 4 of the Municipal Home Rule Law empowers counties to adopt and amend a county charter. A county charter may be enacted to establish the structure of county government, as long as an elected legislative body is maintained to determine county policy through powers of legislation and budgetary appropriation. County Charter Law allows for the creation of a position of county executive, elected in a countywide general election, with the power to veto actions of the legislative body.

Legislative Body — 8 counties provide County Law makes no provision for oversight and administration through their an elected executive and places all board chair and/or committees that have authority for governance of a county jurisdiction over specific departments. under the auspices of the elected legislative body. Under county law, the legislative body is empowered to delegate certain administrative The county charter adoption process may be initiated through resolution functions to the chair of the body, to committees formed to oversee of a legislative body or through a petition process of county voters. operations and administration or to an administrative assistant as long The legislative body is empowered to draft a proposed charter under as overall authority is retained by the legislative body. its direct supervision, delegate drafting authority to a committee of the legislative body, or through a commission established and appointed The Municipal Home Rule Law delineates the general authority and by the body to draft a charter resolution. restrictions on local government’s ability to enact Local Laws. The Municipal Home rule law also contains provisions known as the County A new county charter or an amendment to an existing charter cannot Charter Law, which establishes the process by which counties may take effect until it has been approved by the voters through public adopt a county charter to define the corporate powers of the local referendum. If the proposed charter calls for the abolition of a government. department or transfer of duties of a department in a city or a town to the county, the proposed charter must be approved by a majority of Currently, 22 of the 57 counties outside the City of New York have voters residing in the cities, and the voters in areas outside the cities organized their administrative systems under the provisions of a county taken as two separate whole vote counts. If the charter transfers charter. The 35 “non-charter” counties use the provisions of the County powers of a village to the county, all affected villages must approve Law and the Municipal Home rule law to adopt their administrative the proposed charter or amendment as well.  structure. Of these counties, 27 have enacted local laws to create a

www.nysac.org  17

Looking Ahead: The 2015 NYS Legislative Session By Dave Lucas, NYSAC Director of Finance & Intergovernmental Affairs and Katy Vescio, NYSAC Deputy Director of Government Relations


s state lawmakers negotiate the 2015-16 State Budget and consider proposed legislation, county leaders can expect action on at least a handful of measures that will directly impact our counties. NYSAC has urged state lawmakers to consider the following items, and the impact on local government:

Medicaid The Medicaid zero-percent growth cap remains a fiscal bright spot for counties, and 2015 will be the first year that county Medicaid costs will not rise. Unfortunately, there are already signs of this cracking. The NYS Department of Health has proposed new emergency regulations that would nullify the Medicaid Cap by holding counties 100 percent fiscally responsible for new Medicaid costs related to “immediate needs for personal care services.” DOH estimates the first-year cost to counties above the state imposed cap could reach $35 million, and will likely grow thereafter. The state must not disregard the Medicaid cap, and we have urged the state to find a solution that does not impose new costs on our taxpayers.

Safety Net Public Assistance A few years ago, the state increased the county share of Safety Net funding to 71 percent and reduced the state share to 29 percent. Initially this was offset by fully federalizing both state and local TANF costs. But over the last five years, Safety Net costs have increased by more than 25 percent, while TANF and Family Assistance costs have actually declined. This leaves counties paying 71 percent of a fast growing program where nearly all aspects of program eligibility and benefit levels are controlled by the state. This Safety Net funding shift is part of a long string of decisions by the state to gradually walk away from its constitutional responsibility to care for the needy and place most of this funding responsibility on local property taxpayers. By not sharing these federal resources equally with counties, local taxpayers are forced to cover hundreds of millions of dollars each year in what were historically state costs. We have implored the Legislature and Governor to restore historic funding shares to 50/50 and provide much needed relief to local taxpayers.

Indigent Defense With the recent settlement of the Hurrell-Harring litigation, NYSAC has encouraged the State Legislature to support full state funding for the five counties involved in the settlement and to lay the groundwork to support similar funding for all counties. We have urged the state to gradually takeover all the costs of indigent criminal defense services as envisioned under federal law and as implemented in most other states. The 2015-16 State Budget will be the starting point for fundamentally altering the justice system in New York to ensure fair representation for all individuals.

Property Tax Freeze We expect that most counties will satisfy the requirements of year one of the tax freeze initiative enacted last year, allowing tax rebate checks from the state to be paid to local homeowners. It remains to be seen how many counties will meet the year two requirements that include staying within the tax cap and also submitting a shared services or government efficiency plan that provides one percent in savings in the tax levy. Counties have had years of difficult budgets and slow economic recovery, so we have made a number of recommendations concerning the property tax freeze:

Shared Services and Government Efficiency Most counties have been implementing shared services with other local governments for a long time, some of these arrangements go back several decades. Under the current tax freeze law, counties are expected to take the lead on developing and expanding shared services arrangements. Counties strongly support acting as the lead in aggregating and developing such arrangements. NYSAC believes the Governor has identified a good option in providing additional incentives for participation in shared service arrangements through a $500 million matching grant to help lower property taxes for homeowners.

Continued on page 19

18  N YSAC News Winter 201 5

Continued from page 18

We would like state leaders to also consider:  Setting aside a portion of this funding as cash incentives that would flow directly to local governments that enter into highly vertically integrated shared services arrangements.  Creating incentive pools under which grants would be provided to counties to help them finance shared services arrangements that require an upfront investment in order to encourage broader municipal cooperation.  Provide a grant program to counties for seed funding to municipalities to pursue shared services or consolidations.

Improve the Property Tax Cap Upon Reauthorization The Tax Freeze and Property Tax Cap are closely linked and we believe some modifications are necessary to the tax cap law upon reauthorization. As enacted, the property tax cap law did not foresee several consequences that have been exposed during implementation that should now be clarified to improve the law. We have urged the state to consider the following recommendations:  Municipalities should be able to exempt capital debt from the formula, just as schools are allowed to do. It is not uncommon for a large share of new county debt to be the result of state requirements.

 Increases in PILOT revenue should not be included in the tax cap formula.  The court-ordered expense exemption should be extended to refunds ordered as a result of tax certiorari proceedings.

One-Time Surplus Funds Numerous ideas have been floated regarding the use of these onetime funds. We agree with the Governor that these funds should be used for one-time expenditures, and have strongly encouraged the state to support the use of these funds for the purposes of:  Creating an Emergency Preparedness Loan Fund – This could involve the creation of a $100 million permanent fund that would cover immediate cash outlays in very broad state and/or federally declared natural disasters or emergencies to help cover immediate costs.  Creating an Infrastructure Bank – A permanent infrastructure bank that would offer very low and/or no interest loans for local public infrastructure projects under a certain dollar value.  Implementing Statewide Broadband – Counties strongly support the Governor’s proposal for access to high speed broadband Internet access in remote, rural and underserved areas of the state. 

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The County-Federal Intersection: Pending Issues in Washington By Dave Lucas NYSAC Director of Finance & Intergovernmental Affairs


hile state government is the 800-pound gorilla in the room for county government in regard to influencing how counties must put their budgets together and provide services, the federal government is not far behind in its sphere of influence. There are several significant federal issues that have been pending in Washington that directly impact county finances and service delivery in New York. The commencement of the 114th Congress could change the dynamic of several of these initiatives significantly.

Affordable Care Act With a new Republican majority taking over the U.S. Senate next year they will control both chambers. The House, under Republican control has voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act nearly 50 times. In the past, these bills never moved in the Senate. It is unclear whether the new Senate will be able to muster the necessary 60 votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act outright, but there will likely be some bills that significantly modify the law that do make it to the President’s desk. Any bill that would gut the existing law would likely be vetoed by the President. Even so, there are other ways Congress could change the ACA law that would be difficult for the President to veto, especially when such changes are linked to must pass appropriation bills or are protected under special rules in the budget process. Proposals that reduce or eliminate the enhanced federal Medicaid match for childless adults would cost New York and its counties billions of dollars annually in lost federal support. This enhanced federal match in conjunction with the state-imposed Medicaid growth cap will provide much needed fiscal relief that can help lower county property tax bills for homeowners and small businesses across New York in the years to come. In addition to the fiscal benefits of the ACA to counties, more than one million New Yorkers have already signed up for health insurance since open enrollment began in 2013. The law is projected to reduce the number of uninsured New Yorkers by more than one half over the next few years and many counties are expected to see the number of uninsured drop by more than 60 percent. Access to affordable and comprehensive health insurance provides significant benefits to counties in reduced costs for emergency health and human services and increased productivity related to a healthier workforce. If Congress does not act on the ACA, the Supreme Court will. The U.S. Supreme Court has decided to intervene in litigation related to whether the federal health insurance exchanges can offer federal tax subsidies

to low income individuals and families to help them buy health insurance at a lower out-of-pocket cost. The lawsuit alleges that the federal exchange that currently operates in 36 states (New York operates its own exchange) cannot provide federal subsidies as is currently the practice under the IRS interpretation of the law. The federal tax subsidies are a lynch-pin of the law in that it supports the individual mandate to buy insurance by making it more affordable for low income people (including younger and healthier people). The individual mandate to buy insurance is critical for insurance companies because the broader risk pool allows them to offer health insurance coverage at more affordable rates. If the court ruled these federal subsidies cannot be provided through the federally operated exchanges, it would effectively eliminate both the individual and employer mandate to purchase health insurance as it would become unaffordable for just about everyone. The unraveling of the federal health insurance marketplace would spill into states that operate their own health insurance exchanges and potentially jeopardize other aspects of the law that are beneficial to New York. The ruling should be released in the summer of 2015.

Immigration President Obama has released an Executive Order that would dramatically modify current immigration law and practice. The President is proposing to focus more federal deportation resources on undocumented immigrants that are a threat to national security or public safety, have criminal backgrounds or deemed a danger in some other way. What this directive generally does is change the effective immigration status for nearly five million people in the country illegally – many of them are currently living in New York. According to a letter from Senate Co-Leader Dean Skelos to the state’s congressional delegation, this action could make several hundred thousand undocumented people in New York eligible for Medicaid based on past New York State court rulings. These new costs would be a 100 percent state charge and could exceed $1 billion per year according to Leader Skelos. This would place undue fiscal pressures on the State Financial Plan and would place all programs at risk of cuts to pay for the new mandate, or require tax increases. Under any scenario that forces costs higher for the state, it would likely have a direct negative fiscal impact on counties as well.

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Multi-Year Transportation Bill

Marketplace Fairness Act

Congress has not enacted a multi-year transportation bill in several years, which dramatically impacts the ability of states and local governments to plan for long-term infrastructure needs. In addition the federal highway trust fund currently does not have the stable revenue source that is necessary to support the nation’s road, bridge and other transportation needs.

In May 2013, the U.S. Senate voted 69 to 27 to approve the Marketplace Fairness Act (MFA), a bill that would allow a state to require sales and use tax collection by out-of-state retailers if the state simplifies its sales tax system. The bill has not moved in the House.

Locally-owned bridges have also suffered from the elimination of federal aid through the Highway Bridge Program, coupled with other changes in federal transportation programs that severely limit the availability of federal resources for local road and bridge projects. New York counties need Congress to enact a stable and multi-year funding stream for national and local infrastructure purposes. Congress also needs to restore the Highway Bridge Program and increase funding for the Surface Transportation Program to allow regional transportation officials more resources, authority and flexibility to decide where best to make investments in state and local transportation infrastructures.

New York, and nearly a dozen other states, has moved ahead with its own law (often called the “Amazon Law”) that requires certain purely internet-based retailers to collect sales taxes on purchases made by state residents from out-of-state vendors. This law has helped level the playing field between internet-based retailers and bricks and mortar retailers to some degree, but the law leaves gaps and a large share of sales taxes related to internet purchases are still not being collected in New York. This perpetuates an unbalanced competitive market for “main street” retailers. The adoption of the Marketplace Fairness Act by Congress would provide an opportunity for New York and other states to fill in the gaps in sales tax collections while leveling the playing field among retailers nationwide. 

Federal Tax Reform and Municipal Bonds While gridlock in Congress has been the norm the last several years, there is hope that some tax reform can be enacted. A targeted reform of the corporate tax code seems to have the most legs, at least for now. As part of federal tax reform efforts, there have been proposals in recent years to eliminate (or cap) the tax-exempt status of municipal bonds. Counties and local governments across New York depend on the tax-exempt status of municipal bonds to leverage scarce local resources to help finance critically important infrastructure projects. Over the last decade more than 3,500 projects have been financed using tax-exempt municipal bonds in New York, accounting for nearly $150 billion in investment in our future. Localities primarily use municipal bonds to support the construction of schools, hospitals, roads and bridges, water and sewer systems, along with other key public health and safety projects that not only support local needs, but strengthens the regional and national network of essential public infrastructure that makes the U.S. economy productive, dynamic and fit to compete globally in the next century. Losing, or limiting, this tax exempt status will place a chilling effect on future infrastructure projects which are responsible for creating millions of jobs nationwide. New York State and the nation cannot afford to fall further behind in addressing our infrastructure gap. In 2013, the American Society of Civil Engineers rated the federal government commitment to the nation’s infrastructure at a D+. This, unfortunately, continued a nearly 25 year decline in this metric. It is important that we avoid federal tax changes that make local investment in much needed infrastructure improvements more difficult or costly.

Erdman Anthony









erdmananthony.com (585) 427-8888 NY: Albany l Buffalo l Rochester PA: Harrisburg l Pittsburgh l FL: West Palm Beach l ME: Portland

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Counties Helping Counties: Snowstorm Recovery in Western New York By Nicole Correia NYSAC Communication Coordinator


ur state and our counties have been tested time and again by forces of nature. In November, we faced another challenge when a large winter storm bore down on Western New York, burying parts of Erie and Wyoming counties – some areas received over 75 inches of snow in just a couple days. And, as we’ve done before and will do again, counties from around the state sent help. County leaders don’t always see eye to eye, and in some ways our varied counties face different challenges, but when one county needs support, other counties never hesitate to chip in. The following counties reported sending assistance to the impacted areas in the form of fire department personnel, rescue crews, snowplows, highway personnel, dump trucks, salt trucks, front-end loaders, fire equipment, service-mechanic trucks, loaders, truck operators, mechanics, snowmobilers, groomers, and heavy duty snow blowers.

“On behalf of the people of Erie County, I want to extend a sincere and heartfelt ‘thank you’ to  Allegany County the over one dozen NYS counties that reached out and assisted us as we bore the brunt of a  Cattaraugus County ferocious November snow storm that deposited nearly seven feet of snow in some areas of our  Chemung County county. In a true showing of camaraderie  Cortland County and a powerful spirit of common purpose, our brothers and sisters from around the Empire  Essex County State answered the call for aid without hesitation, coming together to support their W NY family  Livingston County here on the shores of Lake Erie,” said Erie  Montgomery County County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz. “New York is a great state that pulls together in times  Oswego County of adversity, especially when that adversity is  Saratoga County storm-related, and once again we witnessed a willingness to help ‘thankful to be a part of such  Schoharie County an interconnected and caring community of counties.”  Tioga County  Albany County

 Tompkins County  Yates County

22  N YSAC News Winter 201 5

Chemung County sent a crew of six with three plows and a large snow blower to assist Erie County.

Montgomery County sent a crew to assist.

Tompkins County sent a crew along with a front-end loader and two dump trucks to help cart snow off roads in Buffalo.

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Preparing for Disaster: Emergency Management Certification & Training By Terry Hastings Senior Policy Advisor NYS Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services


ndividuals run for office for a variety of reasons, but the desire to manage disasters is generally not one of them. Yet, elected leaders have important responsibilities during a disaster and will inevitably find themselves in a crisis situation at some point during their tenure. With New York State’s diverse risk profile and the growing trend of extreme weather events, it’s really a matter of when, not if, elected officials are faced with the realities of dealing with a major disaster. To help prepare County Chief Executives and other local public officials for these situations, Governor Cuomo has launched a training program in partnership with the New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC). The Emergency Management Certification and Training (EMC & T) Program is administered by the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (DHSES) and supports Governor Cuomo’s goal of unified emergency management training for County Chief Executives and other emergency management stakeholders. DHSES has worked with the New York State Emergency Management Association (NYSEMA) to develop standardized curriculum for three tiers of training aimed at: County Chief Executives (Tier 1), County Emergency Managers (Tier 2), and other local public officials within the counties (Tier 3). The training covers all facets of emergency management, including disaster preparedness, response and recovery. It also outlines the legal authorities and responsibilities related to emergency management in New York State.

The record lake effect snow storm in Erie County is just one of the numerous recent extreme weather events in New York State (Photo Credit: Reuters)

24  N YSAC News Win ter 201 5

DHSES has partnered with NYSAC to deliver the one-day Tier 1 training and holds an annual EMC & T Academy that brings together County Chief Executives and County Emergency Managers from around the state for the training. The training includes sessions taught by County Emergency Managers and opportunities for Chief Executives to share lessons learned and best practices. DHSES is also actively conducting the Tier 3 training across the state in partnership with County Emergency Managers. In total, more than 1,200 individuals have received training through the EMC & T Program. Completion of the training is not just a good idea; it’s now also a grant requirement, as County Chief Executives and County Emergency Managers must complete the training for their counties to remain eligible for grants administered by DHSES. Accordingly, DHSES will continue to partner with NYSAC and NYSEMA to ensure the training is both available and relevant. More information about the EMC & T Program can be found on the DHSES website (www.dhses.ny.gov). DHSES has also worked with NYSAC and NYSEMA to develop an Emergency Management Guide for Elected Officials. The guide is available on the DHSES website. 

Erie County’s Focus on Economic Development Gets Results By Mark C. Poloncarz Erie County Executive


n economic renaissance is happening here at the western end of New York State, a rebirth that builds on our rich industrial heritage while transforming our economy into a contemporary engine powered by the jobs of the future. This rebirth did not happen in a vacuum. It did not occur because Erie County government sat back and let the private sector lead. Instead, Erie County took the lead in changing the way we pursue economic development opportunities. That change is paying off with the creation of thousands of new jobs in our community. When I took office in 2012, the county’s unemployment rate was 8.9% and our population was dropping. However, I understood county government can and should play a leading role in the economic development of a region. Prior to being elected, I said that if I was given the privilege to lead our community, my deputy county executive would act as the economic development czar for the region, and that is exactly what I did when elected. I also tasked major components of my administration to focus on economic development, and the results of all these efforts are bearing substantial fruit. Today, our unemployment rate has dropped to 5.7%, An additional 15,000 people are employed in our community than in 2012 and, for the first time in decades, we are seeing population increases. Encouragingly, college graduates are a significant portion of this population growth, coming to Buffalo and the new Erie County for careers in the high-tech fields emerging locally and to enjoy our unparalleled quality of life.

Rebirth Through Careful Planning This rebirth did not happen in a haphazard or uncoordinated way, but rather as the result of careful planning, cooperation, and commitment between county government and our partners in the public and private sectors. In 2013, I released my economic plan, known as “Initiatives for a Smart Economy.” The plan identified 64 separate initiatives in 12 sectors of our economy that we could implement in a short time period. The plan leverages the County of Erie’s assets and abilities, combines them with the resources of our Industrial Development Agency, and incorporates them as key supporting elements of the Regional Economic Development Council’s priorities for our region. This coordination acts as a “force multiplier” in creating change and revitalizing our economy. The results are already encouraging, with more than 40 of the initiatives underway and roughly half of those completed. One of those initiatives is to increase the number of Canadian companies opening American subsidiaries in Erie County. We had a big

win when Canadian steel manufacturer Welded Tube, recognizing the advantages of locating a U.S. subsidiary here in Erie County, invested $40 million in a modern pipe making facility located on the former Bethlehem Steel site. They brought with them nearly 100 new jobs. Other Canadian companies, such as Outfront Portable Solutions, a patio furniture manufacturer, and TLC Foods, a pet food manufacturer, have also seen the benefits of an Erie County location, like direct access to rail, port, and truck transport. All have located their U.S. operations here rather than in the southern climes they had sought in the past. We are taking this initiative to the next level by retaining an international consulting firm to help identify additional Canadian companies interested in opening American subsidiaries and, hopefully, placing them in Erie County. Another key to revitalization is taking advantage of our location on Lake Erie to create a “Blue Economy” based on our ample water supply and other clean, green technology based here. Last year we announced a big win as the former Republic Steel site in Buffalo becomes the future home for Solar City’s $3 billion investment in the largest solar panel manufacturing plant in the western hemisphere. Seeded by Governor Cuomo’s “Buffalo Billion” initiative, this project is revitalizing a large brownfield site that sat dormant for 30 years, and is an example of how focusing economic development opportunities on our community’s unique strengths can turn a virtual wasteland into one of the largest manufacturing facilities in our nation. Along with supporting industries and accompanying subsidiaries, this project will bring thousands of well-paying jobs to the shores of Lake Erie and the banks of the Buffalo River. The Solar City project is a good example of Erie County’s land redevelopment priorities, and involving public-private partnerships to create a built environment that is sustainable and has the infrastructure to grow across all sectors. Our area’s rich industrial heritage provides both opportunities and challenges, and careful stewardship of our land and water resources is a top priority in the new Erie County. This involves not only major improvements in water treatment infrastructure but also improved water access and management of natural areas along our waterways. A 2007 Brookings Institute report estimated that every $1 spent on Great Lakes restoration activities will lead to $2 of economic benefit, and in Erie County we are seeing that borne out as our revitalized waterfront draws thousands of residents and visitors each year. County government can and must play a role in turning the economic tide around for a region, and you need look no further than Erie County

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The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative By Katy Vescio NYSAC Deputy Director of Government Relations


he Great Lakes-- Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie and Ontario-- are an important part of the heritage of the United States and Canada. The Great Lakes represent the largest fresh surface waters in the world - 84 percent of all of North America’s fresh surface water comes from these lakes. Collectively, the lakes hold 6 quadrillion gallons which represents just over 20 percent of the world’s supply of surface fresh water. It is easy to see why the Great Lakes are fundamental to New York State’s economic, environmental and social future. The Great Lakes enable businesses to flourish, provide incredible tourism opportunities, and are an important habitat for numerous native species. New York borders two of the Great Lakes, Erie and Ontario. These lakes are among New York’s most precious natural resources. Nine New York counties border Lakes Ontario and Erie, and 23 more counties are within the Great Lakes basin, or watershed. (See map.)

Source: NYS Department of Environmental Conservation.

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Continued from page 26

The History of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative

Oswego County

Recognizing the importance of the Great Lakes on a national scale, the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration (GLRC) was created by Executive Order in 2004 to identify the Great Lakes as a national treasure and call for coordinated action between states and stakeholders to improve quality of the basin. The GLRC forged partnerships to create and enact a strategic plan encouraging land and water conservation efforts. These efforts demonstrated a national commitment to restore and protect the environmental integrity of the Great Lakes waters and watershed, and protect the area’s environmental and economic future.

Oswego County recently received $186,960 through the GLRI from USDA Forest Service to do a tree planting project on brownfield sites. Oswego County will identify, evaluate, and select brownfield sites that generate polluted runoff into Lake Ontario to plant 600 native trees and shrubs, which will contain run-off from approximately 80 acres of land.

In 2006, six federal agencies, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S.D.A. Forest Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Natural Resources Conservation Service and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation pooled resources to create a dedicated funding stream for projects to improve the Great Lakes. This was the beginning of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. In 2009, a new commitment to this effort saw the appropriation of $475 million in new funding. Since then, the GLRI received $300 million in Fiscal Years 2011, 2012 and 2014. Sequestration cut funding for the GLRI to $285 million in Fiscal Year 2013. Applicants for GLRI funding can be not-for-profits, private companies, and in many cases, local governments. Counties across New York benefit from projects funded by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) to restore shoreline, combat erosion, improve water quality and protect lakefront areas. This funding stream is an important tool for counties, funding projects that enhance and improve communities along the lakes. Following are several examples of how New York counties are applying for and using GLRI funding.

Oswego County continues to have erosion problems at Camp Hollis, a summer camp facility owned in part by the county’s Youth Bureau. Situated on the shore of Lake Ontario, the camp’s bluff loses frontage each year due to erosion. In the years ahead, the GLRI could be an important funding source for the county as a shoreline stabilization plan is realized.

Wayne County In Wayne, dollars spent helping farmers with water quality improvement not only helps Lake Ontario, but also bolsters agricultural jobs and businesses in the county’s most vital economic sector. In conjunction with USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and Farm Service Agency, the Wayne County Soil & Water Conservation District has brought in over $1 million dollars in agricultural conservation management cost share funding. The funding will help over 50 farms. Funding through the GLRI brings financial assistance and technical assistance to private landowners to implement conservation practices, such as cover crops, conservation crop rotations, filter strips, prescribed grazing and wetlands restoration.

A Look to 2015 for the GLRI

In partnership with the Genesee Finger Lakes Regional Planning Council, Livingston County has applied for GLRI for funding for major stream bank stabilization and restoration in the Town of Conesus. This project, if funded, would address water quality concerns as well as mitigate against future property damage due to flooding and storm events.

In December 2014, as part of the Omnibus Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2015, Congress approved $300 million in funding for the GLRI. The House of Representatives also passed a five-year authorization of the GLRI, ensuring the continuity of this important program years into the future. For the nine states bordering these lakes, and the hundreds of communities that rely on the lakes for their economy and way of life, this funding stream ensures stability and progress will continue into the future.

In this area of the Lake Ontario watershed, preventing, managing, and eradicating invasive species is a top priority. Most of what is known as the Finger Lakes region in New York is within the Great Lakes watershed. Invasive species that show up in one lake can easily be transferred to another lake if a recreational boater transports their boat from one lake to the next with an invasive weed hitching a ride. Issues confronting Conesus Lake and other Finger Lakes are a problem to the Great Lakes as well. Funding for watercraft stewards is sorely needed to ensure invasive species are not introduced by recreational boaters. Stewards attend to recreational users at boat launches to educate boaters about the importance of washing their boat to remove invasive species that could be hidden on the hull. Funding in 2015 through the GLRI could go a long way to preventing further invasive species spread in this region.

Source: Rand McNally http://education.randmcnally.com/classroom

Livingston County and Conesus Lake

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Eat Smart Restaurant Week Putnam County Program Promotes Health, Supports Local Businesses By Allen Beals, MD, JD The Commissioner of Health in Putnam County


ood nutrition is important for a long and healthy life, and local economies benefit from a strong restaurant sector. The intersection of these realities, coupled with the fact that chronic disease and obesity prevention tops the NYS Department of Health’s Prevention Agenda 2013-2017, led the Putnam County Department of Health to plan and implement a two-week restaurant event, entitled Eat Smart Restaurant Week (ESRW). The phrase “eat smart” was selected over “eat healthy,” based on the fact that the notion of “healthy” eating may be a turn-off for many, conjuring up images of a plate of steamed broccoli. The initiative was designed to spotlight the concept that “healthy and delicious can go hand in hand,” and to attract customers who were interested in both tasty offerings and good health. Many factors contribute to the epidemic of obesity and the associated illnesses of diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. Among the risk factors identified by public health researchers is a trend for Americans to consume more “away-from-home foods” than ever before. These foods often have more calories, salt and fats than homecooked meals, and are served in bigger portions as well. Putnam County Department of Health

(PCDOH) food sanitarians have worked closely with its food operators on food safety issues for decades. In fact, ensuring food safety is a fundamental health department activity. In recent years, the PCDOH’s sanitarians have expanded their role beyond informing and educating around regulations and compliance issues. The department began hosting an annual Food Operators Seminar in 2007 to provide a forum to educate about new trends in the food industry. Although the one-day program is not mandated, the event has been wellattended each of the eight years it has been held. Typically nearly 40 percent of the county’s 377 food establishments attend. In addition to disseminating information and education, the gathering has been used to “read the pulse” of restaurateurs and other food preparers, to assess what training needs may be going unmet and to identify new areas of potential collaboration. National Restaurant News, the leading trade publication for the foodservice industry, has reported that customers say they will eat out less frequently due to concerns about their health. Putnam food operators were aware of this market forecast and additionally felt that they might be missing out on a growing market of more health conscious diners. The ESRW concept was conceived to address this trend

and had its early launch to the local industry at the March 2014 seminar. A panel discussion was held with local Putnam farmers, chefs, restaurateurs, the Health Commissioner and a manager from the Putnam County Planning Department. In addition, presentations were made by a PCDOH food sanitarian and a nutritionist, all of which served as a springboard to move the project forward and gain support from food operators. Since there was no registration fee for participating restaurants, this new event could not only highlight more Putnam restaurants, but also could include a broader variety of food establishments, important given the fact that “away-from-home-foods” are not solely limited to dine-in restaurants. By the time ESRW kicked off in September 2014 for its two-week stretch, 35 Putnam eateries were on board. Restaurants, deli or counter-style establishments, one “fast-food” chain and a few cafeteria-style operations all were eager to work closely with health department nutritionists. Together they finely tuned selected menu items to ensure they were both delicious and healthy. Participants were allowed to submit between two to five recipes and a pre-established four-point criteria system was used to assess the selections. Health department nutritionists formulated the guidelines based on evidence-based practice and analyzed the recipe submissions—all at no cost to the restaurant operators. The four principles included moderate portion sizes for meat, poultry, fish, cheese, pastas and grains; an emphasis on fresh, local vegetables; healthy oils, also in moderation, and finally, salt and high sodium ingredients used sparingly. Our nutritionists, working with the chefs, tweaked each recipe until it was acceptable under our healthy choice criteria. Continued on page 29

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Continued from page 28

ESRW kicked-off with a press event, unveiling a specially designed ESRW event logo at one of the early participating restaurants. Further news releases included announcements when new restaurant menus selections were approved and “photo ops” when “participating restaurant” signage was put on display at individual locales. Marketing included media releases, social media posts, online publication and calendar listings utilized by the PCDOH; advertising dollar support from the Putnam County Tourism Office, as well as full endorsements from Putnam’s Economic Development Corporation and the Office of the County Executive. Pre-event publicity also included a 30-minute television production which aired opening week on “Good Day Hudson Valley,” featuring three owner chefs and health department staff.

Plans are already underway for the 2015 ESRW, scheduled for September 27 through October 11. Customer satisfaction survey results from the inaugural event have been collected and are being analyzed. Food operators and other stakeholders are being formally and informally solicited for their opinions, with ongoing face-to-face feedback, and a planned survey and focus groups at next year’s seminar. This input will be used to improve next year’s event.

employing social marketing and a comprehensive promotional campaign, the Putnam County Department of Health has reimagined what public health can do to educate and inspire the public to make more informed and healthier choices in their diet.

By developing and strengthening these business and community partnerships,




       


   

    


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A Shared Celebration, a Shared Mission: Cornell Cooperative Extension and NYSAC By Kathryn J. Boor the Ronald P. Lynch Dean, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and Christopher Watkins Director, Cornell Cooperative Extension; Associate Dean, CALS, Cornell University


s the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and Cornell Cooperative Extension prepares to celebrate 150 years of Cornell University’s land grant mission, we would like to extend our congratulations to the New York State Association of Counties upon its 90th anniversary. For almost a century, the college and Cooperative Extension have been working in concert with NYSAC to create resilient, vibrant communities throughout New York State. From Chautauqua to Suffolk, from Clinton to Queens, our mission to create and share “knowledge with public purpose” has often only been made possible through collaboration with members of NYSAC, an organization which shares in this exceptional cause. Some of our most visible partnerships are programs like those offered through the Pelletier Institute--a direct partnership between NYSAC and the Community and Regional Development Institute (CaRDI), a program administered through Cornell--and the Local Roads program. Both programs help to ensure informed officials and safe infrastructure. Other initiatives involve food security and agricultural advancement. From bringing the latest research on farm-based beverages to producers, to connecting growers with new markets and food entrepreneurs with food safety experts, our work translates into real gains for our stakeholders. High tunnel innovations extend our growing season, helping producers in their business, and ultimately

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result in more fresh produce being available to consumers, giving them healthier options and more nutritious—and delicious--choices. Further, the recent successes of SnapDragon™ and RubyFrost™ apples are an outstanding illustration of how an academic enterprise can join with private industry to drive economic development. Our common objectives extend beyond the field’s edge through workforce training. The Harvest NY dairy certificate program and collaborations with colleagues at the Finger Lakes Community College, Genesee Community College, and other institutions result in individuals who are trained and ready for a variety of jobs across the industries of the state. The work of FarmNet and the Small Farms Program addresses the business needs of our farms and assures information resources as growers and producers transition to future generations. In recent years, we have joined forces with local and state agencies through the NY EDEN program to address emergency response needs, including during the recent blizzard in Western New York. Our work preparing the Empire State’s youth through 4-H programming extends from the furrows of Upstate to the Boroughs of Downstate where Manhattan’s Food and Finance High School houses our innovative Hydroponics, Aquaculture, and Aquaponics Learning Labs. And, of course, Cooperative Extension’s work in the areas of nutrition education, financial literacy, and renewable energy strategies touch the lives of millions of New York State residents every day. And, like NYSAC itself, CCE is evolving to meet the needs of those it serves by investing in new structures such as regional extension agents engaged in economic development. In short, our combined efforts yield many success stories, and those, in turn, lead to successful communities and counties. This impactful, community-based approach maintains the relevance of our shared mission regardless of whether the community is Upstate, Downstate, Western, Northern, or somewhere in between. On a personal note, we are pleased to be directly involved in NYSAC’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on Farming, recently made into a standing committee, and the discussions and recommendations emerging from that collaboration speak to the spirit of partnership between our organizations. Our predecessors who founded our respective institutions may never have imagined the scope and reach of our work today, but we are confident that what we do each day delivers on what they dreamed could be accomplished. Again, we extend our congratulations to NYSAC and its members on this 90th year, commend your accomplishments thus far, and look forward to what the next 90 years will bring all of us working together.

Suffolk County Battles Powdered Caffeine Sales By Michael Pitcher Suffolk County


fter gaining passage of a Suffolk County law banning sale of powdered caffeine to minors, Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory and 18th District County Legislator William Spencer traveled to Washington, D.C. on December 9 to lobby the Food and Drug Administration to enact federal legislation to do the same thing. They will be joined by the parents of 18-year-old Logan J. Stiner of LaGrange, Ohio, who died of a powdered caffeine overdose. Suffolk’s ban was the first ban on sale of powdered caffeine to minors adopted by any municipality in the country. “Powdered caffeine is a dangerous health threat to everyone, but especially minors,” said Gregory. “A single teaspoon of powdered caffeine is the equivalent of 25 cups of coffee, and the potential for overdose and abuse is a clear and present danger. We are hopeful the FDA will adopt a similar ban and carefully regulate dosage recommendations as well as requiring prominent warning labels.” “The bottom line is that a simple mistake in how powdered caffeine products are used can lead to loss of life,” stated Legislator William R. Spencer, M.D. “This local law will protect youth from overdosing on powdered caffeine. These products entice consumers by promising to give extra energy, focus, weight loss, and even increased sports abilities, without addressing the significant dangers that they pose. The health risks are especially hazardous for our youth and even small amounts can lead to overdose.”

The Suffolk County legislation drew wide support from health care professionals, including Suffolk County Health Commissioner James Tomarken, and also was supported by the Long Island Chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women. “This substance has potentially serious detrimental health effects and should be avoided,” said Dr. Tomarken. In a letter of support, Dr. Tomarken reported that the Department of Health Services issued a Health Bulletin in English and Spanish in August 2014 warning of the dangers of Powered Pure Caffeine, which was adapted from a similar FDA warning. “It is highly concentrated, and therefore it is easy to mistakenly use too much, which could result in an accidental overdose,” said Dr. Tomarken. “I fully support the resolution to prohibit the sale of powdered caffeine to minors in Suffolk County.” Wilma Holmes Tootle, President of the Long Island Chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, sent in a letter of support. “Our youth are our most important resource and we must preserve and protect them to ensure that they have a viable future,” she said. “As the U.S Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning about this potentially dangerous product, we applaud your leadership in the fight to save our youth.”

Gregory and Spencer, Logan Stiner’s parents, Dennis and Katie, and Senators Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut are lobbying the FDA to classify pure caffeine as a drug and implement protective regulations, including the ban of the sale of the product to minors.Other leaders taking part will include representatives of Science in the Public Interest, a Washington, D.C.-based consumer advocate group that has been putting together a petition to press the FDA to implement regulations.

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NORA Broadband Initiative Advances in Niagara and Orleans counties By Lynne Johnson Orleans Legislator


takeholders from the Niagara-Orleans Regional Alliance (NORA) recently reviewed findings from an intensive study designed to identify addresses without access to terrestrial broadband Internet services throughout Orleans County and the towns of Cambria, Hartland, Lockport, Newfane, Porter, Royalton and Somerset in Niagara County. NORA leadership began coordinating participation with multiple municipalities in 2012 through a study helmed by Evhen Tupis of BPGreene & Associates. BPGreene’s study involved gathering public data and augmenting it with regional drive-through information, along with interviewing area home and business owners. The findings actually revealed 3,921 unserved addresses between both counties that the current New York Broadband Map previously claimed was almost 100-percent covered. Cable and Internet providers are able to report to the state that an entire census block has Internet coverage, even if only one house on the block has Internet access. This practice results in inflated reports of addresses with coverage. Typically, NYS controls how the data is presented; yet NORA has recently shown that this is a faulty approach. NYS has verbally accepted our survey results and is now willing to update their maps with NORA’s more extensive data. This will allow Niagara and Orleans counties to re-qualify for grant funding that would otherwise not be available. With the rural areas of Niagara and Orleans counties barely 65-70 percent covered, high-speed broadband Internet throughout both counties is essential. Therefore, NORA stakeholders requested the Orleans County Land Restoration Corporation (OLRC) use the study data to seek Requests-for-Proposals (RFP) from last-mile Internet providers. Regionally, it was well-known that there were unserved areas, but it was startling to see the full scope documented so concretely. The formal study enabled the OLRC to release an RFP with authority. Once the proposals are evaluated, NORA collaborators can openly pursue funding channels. The RFP represents an open and competitive process in which stakeholders invited over 20 last-mile broadband and telecommunication providers to submit proposals to provide service to both counties. The proposal stressed that the intended purpose is the “installation of ‘last mile’ infrastructure,” which is required to permit 100 percent coverage to our unserved areas. The RFP went on to detail that this was in no way a proposal for “middle-mile” Internet solutions. If the problem is going to be solved, legislators from Orleans and Niagara insist it needs to be resolved in its entirety in both counties.

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and David Godfrey Niagara Legislator

A proposed solution could be providing broadband access wirelessly through a network of servers mounted on tall structures. The BPGreene survey listed structures over 40 feet tall throughout both counties, which might be sufficient for transmitters. NORA is also pursuing grants to outweigh the cost of bringing broadband to these rural areas. With the passage of New York Proposition 3, it is clear that the state is 100-percent behind efforts such as the NORA initiative. The bond proposition allows the state to borrow up to $2 billion for technological projects in schools. Proposition 3 focuses on “smart schools” and bringing new technology to educational institutions. It is simply not good enough to put technology in schools, often times children are unable to do their homework because their residence is part of an unserved area. By working with school districts throughout Orleans and Niagara, NORA will also be able to help schools to identify where broadband is needed in order to “reach the last child,” and assist districts in negotiating coverage with ISP vendors. Respondents were asked to quote both the local cost and conditions to meet the initiatives’ goals. Each proposal will be evaluated before a go-forward plan is pursued, in order to assure that implementation can stand on its own and requires no long-term taxpayer subsidy. The project scope explains that the proposals need to be fair and that the cost of broadband Internet service should be no greater than equivalent service from nearby terrestrial broadband Internet providers. NORA stakeholders have made it clear that we are not looking for companies to come in and provide unreliable service for an unfair cost. The RFP goes on to explain that the broadband Internet service limitations shall be no more restrictive than equivalent limits from nearby incumbent terrestrial broadband Internet providers. The Internet has become a significant force in the quality of daily life for Americans. The Internet is no longer something that can be looked at as simply entertainment or a luxury. A 2013 Department of Commerce report details how Internet access and use has a measurable impact on employment, health, income, consumer welfare and civic engagement. The data further suggests that Internet use benefits individuals, society and the nation’s economy while “individuals who lack connectivity find themselves at a significant disadvantage compared with their peers.” The goal of the NORA initiative is to provide residents, small and agri-businesses, students and each county’s rural tourism industries with Internet service that is equal to that of the more metropolitan areas throughout New York State.

Reflections and Lessons: Twelve Years in the Ulster County Legislature By Gerald Benjamin Distinguished Professor of Political Science and former Ulster County Legislative Chairman


very year, the Ulster County Legislature invites former members to its holiday party. I dropped by the Santa Fe in Kingston for the 2014 party – the restaurant is the latest incarnation of the watering hole across from the county building at which we regularly had our “meeting after the meeting” when I served in the ‘80s and ‘90s. I left (voluntarily!) in 1993 after serving six two-year terms, the final two as legislative chairman. Later, I led the process that produced the county’s first charter, still controversial with some members. I also had a chance to take satisfaction in another kind of legacy: one of my former students in the New Paltz Political Science Department is now the Legislature’s minority leader.

Serving in county elective office was one of the great experiences of my life and career. I spent many years being formally educated in government. While in school I paid special attention to how state and local governments were structured and operates, especially in New York. Being a county legislator gave me a perspective on the practicalities of how and why things work in local government that simply could not be gained in the classroom. This does not mean, I hasten to say, that schooling in political science is irrelevant. Rather, it turned out that there was great value for me in being able to build upon what I already knew by adding the lessons drawn from hands-on experience.

Drawn to Service from Varied Backgrounds People seek to serve in the county legislature, I learned, for a variety of reasons: personal, communal, ideological. Each brought his or her own experience – to cite some examples – as a teacher, insurance broker, small business owner or police officer. That is, every one of my colleagues had lived lives different than had I, and saw things from different perspectives than mine, and knew things I did not know. Each legislator was selected by the voters who themselves made calculations after looking at the candidate’s personal background, party, character, and/or views on issues. Formal credentials like those considered by a human resources professional were largely irrelevant. There was and is no civil service exam for elected office. Elective office required no state issued license. We gained legitimacy because the people made us “the deciders” by electing us. Their expectations

of each of us differed from district to district, community to community . Moreover, once we were elected, I and each of my legislative colleagues had one vote. I could decide nothing on my own. When I served, the County Legislature had 33 members. It took 17 to pass a resolution, 22 to issue a bond.

Experts and Experience There were some early lessons in humility. In one case – entirely outside of what I had ever considered the work of government - the county undertaker’s association approached a committee to renegotiate the costs of disposing of unclaimed human remains. This was a perfect subject for a cost-benefit analysis, I thought. I proceeded to do one – without checking in advance with the committee chair. Not surprisingly, he received the results with no great enthusiasm. I don’t remember the exact numbers, but soon after he advised the undertakers’ representative in a following committee meeting something like, “You want $400 per case. We’re paying $200 now. Let’s split the difference. The county will pay $300.” I learned something. Sometimes it was not bad to have advanced degrees. There are people – some department heads in government, some outside advocates – who tend to rely on their formal educations, to assert to elected officials that they know better simply because they are heavily credentialed. It helped that I could push back by saying, “I have degrees too, and I am elected. Let’s not accept this on your word alone. Let’s see some evidence.” The best legislative decisions we made when I served occurred when we recognized and acted in accord with our institutional responsibilities, and after informed deliberation in committee, in party caucuses and on the floor. In this process, members’ views were considered , and their votes were equal, but each was not equal in his or her knowledge on particular issues or in skills in building agreement within the body. To get things done, our Legislature needed to recognize the value (in fact the legal requirement) of fundamental equality in representation, and at the same time the need for inequality in influence and the practical distribution of institutional power.

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Reflections and Lessons:

Twelve Years in the Ulster County Legislature Continued from page 33

I learned that the role and experience of each legislator must be valued, but I also learned that legislators sometimes wrongly are unwilling to give consideration to the genuine contribution that may be made by people with specialized knowledge. Learning from experience leaves gaps. Long-serving members might have confidence in the County Attorney or the Planner. But they were often too quick to say: “I’ve been doing this a long time. It’s just experience and common sense. I don’t need to hear from any so-called experts.” I came to understand that the trick was to welcome what experts could provide, while understanding this was - and in fact should be - only part of the decision-making equation in a representative body. This requires mutual respect, the elected official for the expert, and the expert for the elected official.

The Responsibility to Present a Positive Model of Democracy After 12 years, I did come away with one big concern: Too few of my colleagues systematically attended to how legislatures work (“the rules”) or the details of the operation of county government – best practices and alternative approaches to policy or administration. Though almost all had a genuine and deep commitment to public service, too few were thoughtful to that how the legislative institution presented itself – its decorum, its propriety in debate – shaped community attitudes towards representative institutions, and indeed toward democracy. People are quick to condemn politicians, too often unfairly, and are increasingly skeptical about legislatures in particular. In our extraordinary contentious contemporary political environment, I am more than ever convinced that modeling the value of our representative institutions, and their effectiveness, remains a crucial task for our county elected representatives.

• NYSHIP is available to virtually all public employers across New York State

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• More than 1.2 million public employees, retirees and their families have health insurance through NYSHIP

A unique health insurance plan developed for New York’s public employees For additional information regarding The Empire Plan, public employers may visit our web site at www.cs.ny.gov or call the Employee Benefits Division of the New York State Health Insurance Program at 518.485.1771 New York State Department of Civil Service, Employee Benefits Division

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NACo County Explorer: Mapping County Data

By Emilia Istrate, PhD Director of Research and Outreach, National Association of Counties


he National Association of Counties (NACo) recently unveiled its latest map interactive tool, the County Explorer. This online tool is a one-stop-shop for county data and profiles for each and every of the 3,069 U.S. counties, while incorporating city-county searches and other queries. This is an upgraded version of the previous NACo database County Intelligence Connections (CIC), with the addition of familiar “Find a county” searches available on the NACo website.

What information can you find with County Explorer? The County Explorer map is free to NACo members and other users interested in county information. It is easy to access through the NACo website at www.naco.org/countyexplorer or by going directly to explorer.naco.org. The interactive map allows users to map county data from more than 70 datasets and 500 county indicators for the latest year available. The indicators range from county finance and demographics to the number of bridges and roads in a county.

To use the map, you must first select an indicator by clicking on the top left-hand side corner “Map an Indicator.” For example, how many county-owned bridges are in each county? By selecting the Transportation category in “Map an Indicator,” then hover over “Bridges” and click on “All Bridges- County Owned,” you can see on the map the number of county-owned bridges and click on any county to see specific data at the county level. Beyond the individual county data, the map shows how counties compare with each other on a specific indicator. The darker the color on the map, the higher up is the county in the rankings on that indicator. The legend placed at the bottom right hand side of the map explains not only what the colors on the map represent, but also the year of the data and the name of the indicator. Below the map (Page 36), County Explorer has the list of the definitions for the indicators shown on the map. The County Explorer allows users to see two indicators for a county simultaneously. For example, you might want to see the number of county-owned bridges and the share of county households within $10,000- $24,999 income bracket. To see the second indicator, the user needs to click on “Compare an Indicator” tab in the top right-hand corner and select the appropriate category, in this example, “Economy”, then “Household Income”, and click on “Percent of Households with Income Between $10,000- $24,999.” Continued on page 36

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NACo County Explorer: Mapping County Data Continued from page 35

The interactive tool also incorporates the information available through NACo’s “Find a County.” You can locate a county on the map directly by clicking on the location of that specific county or typing in the name of the county in the search box in the top right-hand corner. The “State Search” button provides the ability to see a list of all the counties in a state with some basic county info. In addition, by doubleclicking on any county on the County Explorer map, you can find the names of the county officials in a county and other county government information.

Using County Explorer Data to Support Your Work County elected and staff can use the County Explorer in their daily work or strategic planning, communication and advocacy activities. Users can use the map images in their materials and presentations, as long as they attribute all images to NACo Research. On Windows computers, the user should press the “Print Screen” button on the computer keyboard to copy an image of the screen with the County Explorer map displayed. Then paste it into Paint, MS Word or another program to crop the map part of the image. On a Mac computer, the user should press the “Cmd” key plus the “Shift” key plus the number “4” key and then click and drag across the area they want to copy. After releasing the mouse, the image is saved to the desktop. For advocacy purposes, the County Explorer includes a category of printable county profiles on specific topics such as Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT), the estimated cost for counties of the removal of the

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federal exemption of municipal bond interest, and profiles of county economies. For PILT profiles, the user would select “Map an Indicator,” select “County Profiles,” then “PILT” and click on “PILT Profiles.” Clicking on any county on the map or typing the name of a county in the search box in the top right-hand corner, will allow the user to see the one page printable PILT profile for the selected county. Because these PDF profiles show up as an additional webpage, the user needs to ensure that her web browser allows popups. County specific profiles can prove a useful tool for county leaders and decision-makers with in-depth looks at specific areas of concern. The County Explorer map has a companion data query tool - County Explorer Extraction Tool, useful for more sophisticated data users. For a paid annual subscription, users can access data files of the data shown on the map and also previous years of data starting with 2000, to build their own trends and rankings. NACo updates the County Explorer map and the extraction tool monthly with new years of data and additional datasets. For example, in November, the NACo Research Department added to County Explorer 2013 Secure Rural Schools (SRS) funding and the 2014 number of artsrelated establishments. In December, the County Explorer gained 2013 education attainment data. The County Explorer is the latest NACo product designed to support counties and the easy-to-access data provides a powerful tool. Our hope is that all NACo members will utilize the County Explorer and join us in building a useful and effective tool. 

New Program Supports Emergency Services Dispatching By Robert Barbato Director, DHSES Office of Interoperable and Emergency Communications


new state program recognizes the role that Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) operators play in protecting the public, and the key partnerships among first responder agencies across all levels of government. In October 2014, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the distribution of $10 million through a new aid to localities program to support emergency response operations across the state. The program, entitled the Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) Operations Grant, provides reimbursement for expenses associated with emergency services dispatching. PSAPs receive citizens’ calls for help, and initiate the dispatching of emergency services. Throughout New York State, counties provide the majority of 9-1-1 answering and dispatching operations, and coordinate the services among municipal, county and state responders. Given the increasing burdens for on-going operations, the program provides relief for sustaining these vital services. Participating counties can apply for reimbursement of their operating expenses in a PSAP, including personal service, maintaining equipment and other on-going expenses for sustaining their operations. County operators throughout New York, and around the country, have provided many models to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of emergency services dispatching. The new program promotes and recognizes best practices and efficiencies, such as the consolidation of operations and sharing of services across jurisdictions, as well as multi-jurisdictional PSAPs capable of dispatching services for both local and state first responders.

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Local law enforcement and emergency managers in New York have shown great leadership in planning for the increasing demands from the public, and use of new technologies for communicating in their daily lives. Through the sustaining resources of the grant, counties may now make greater investments of their resources in Next Generation 9-1-1 (or NG-911) technology, which will enable text messaging, data services and improved geo-location for emergency response. As a non-competitive grant, state aid is allocated by formula allowing for an equitable distribution among applying counties. The formula uses quantifiable elements and relevant metrics reflective of a county’s operational scope, demographic elements, emergency services call metrics, progress made in deploying new technology and adherence with state and national guidelines for emergency communications. Using these factors balances county needs with an overall goal of developing a reliable and consistent 9-1-1 structure throughout the state. The grant is open to all 57 counties and the City of New York. SFY 2014 was the first year of the new grant, which is envisioned to be an annual program. The grant is administered by the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services.  For further information, and a list of the 2014 awards please refer to: http://www.dhses.ny.gov/oiec/grants/2014-15-PSAP

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State Austerity Policy and Creative Local Response Cornell Conference Brings Leaders Together to Discuss Tax Cap Challenges By Mildred E. Warner Cornell University


t’s no secret that local governments and school districts across New York State are under increased fiscal pressure due to the tax cap and the tax freeze. On December 9, 2014, local governments, school districts, civil society and union leaders gathered at the Gideon Putnam in Saratoga Springs, NY to discuss the challenges they are facing under the tax cap and the tax freeze and explore opportunities to respond. Co-sponsored by the Fiscal Policy Institute and Cornell’s Community and Regional Development Institute, with funding support from the NYS Union of Teachers, the conference featured research conducted by Drs. John Sipple and Mildred Warner and their students. The presentations covered the impacts of the tax cap and declining state aid on revenue and expenditures of school districts and cities, counties, villages and towns. While other states have tax caps, New York’s is one of the more stringent. Other states accompanied their tax caps with dramatic expansions in state aid to localities and school districts and recentralization of expenditure responsibility back to the state level. New York State did not. Without reform, the tax cap will undermine the long-term viability of local government in New York State. Our analysis found if the tax cap had been implemented ten years prior, local governments today would have 30% less property tax revenue – too low to maintain the level of services citizens expect. (For more on this, see NY Property Tax Cap Impact Analysis at www.mildredwarner.org/ gov-restructuring/Tax_Policy_Impact_Analysis.pdf.)

Still Seeking Mandate Relief In the closing panel, moderated by Susan Arbetter, Tompkins County Administrator Joe Mareane was asked if the tax cap should be renewed. His response: “It should not be renewed. It was ill-conceived. It was based on a false premise that local governments are profligate, wasteful and they duplicate each other and are inefficient. And if you look at the facts, that’s absolutely not the case.…There were a couple of premises that were made when the cap came about: (1) we are going to cap property taxes and that’s a good thing; (2) we are going to provide meaningful mandate relief, meaning that the state was going to pick up some of its own costs to provide some relief to local governments... That second part of the equation never happened. So I think it’s time to start over, and I do think it’s time for a strong focused push on…. meaningful mandate relief.” According to US Census of Government Finance 2007 data, New York is one of the most decentralized states in the nation. Sixty-four cents of every dollar of state and local expenditure is spent at the local

38  N YSAC News Win ter 201 5

level. Only four states are more decentralized than New York. The state funds its redistributive expenditures through counties, and these mandates crowd out the ability of counties to invest in other areas that promote economic development and quality of life.

Targeting Investments Wisely Cornell students conducted research on economic development, social indicators, infrastructure, redesigning service delivery and possibilities for community/union/ local government collaboration. The conference recognized the need to engage the state in new discussions about reform of the tax cap – and about economic development and infrastructure policy. Full details on the conference can be found at http://cardi.cornell.edu/cals/devsoc/outreach/cardi/training/ local-fiscal-stress.cfm. Regarding economic development – student research noted the need to shift focus from casinos and tax abatements to investment in people, place and business that promote upstate communities. They profiled positive examples of leadership by anchor institutions in Syracuse and Buffalo, neighborhood-based development strategies in Rochester and the role of land banks to address foreclosed properties in upstate cities. Regarding infrastructure, the picture is bleak. New York State underinvests in infrastructure leaving local governments in a challenging environment of needing to invest in roads, bridges, water, and sewer systems without the necessary funds. Programs like the proposed state infrastructure bank will not address the underlying funding problem. Students recommend the state invest some of the $5 billion windfall in infrastructure. (Read more at www.mildredwarner.org/govrestructuring/Local_Fiscal_Stress_Infrastructure.pdf.) In terms of innovations in service delivery, the student team focused on how to design effective and fair user fees, promote co-production with citizens, and build administrative structures to support shared services. In other states where shared services are promoted, Councils of Government or empowered counties are provided the authority and the aid to enable them to take the lead on design and administration of new sharing arrangements. In New York State, sharing rates were lower in counties with more inequality among municipalities (by income, property tax, race and age). To promote more sharing, an administrative support structure is needed. See “Do Municipalities Share Services with Poorer Neighbors?” at www.mildredwarner.org/ gov-restructuring/Do_Municipalities_Share_Services_with_Poorer_ Neighbors_Final.pdf.

www.nysac.org  38

Continued from page 38

Local Governments Urged to Use Student Research

Property Tax Revenue Shortfall if NYS Tax Cap Were Implemented Ten Years Prior

The challenge we face in New York State is how to reframe the debate. Local governments are efficient, and as noted at the conference, expenditures and taxes have been flat in real terms over the last decade. The challenge is the lack of a state partner – to assume fiscal responsibility for state mandates, enable more sharing among municipalities and promote intelligent infrastructure and economic development policy. What was perhaps most exciting about the conference was the students and the research findings they presented. These young people are concerned about New York’s future and worked hard to provide solid research for use by local governments across the state. All presentations and issue briefs developed by Cornell students for the conference are available on the website along with videos of the plenary sessions. We encourage you to take a look by visiting www. mildredwarner.org/restructuring/fiscal-stress.

All local governments, NYS Comptroller Data, 2000-2011 Research and findings under the direction of Dr. Mildred Warner, Department of City and Regional Planning

Bob Lowry, the Deputy Director, NYS Council of School Superintendents, noted, “The worry is that the kids in the future will not have the opportunities that kids had in the past.” Our young people care about the future of local government. By bringing local governments, school districts, unions and civil society groups together we hope to identify ways to increase efficiency and promote more effective partnerships both at the local level and with the state. 

www.nysac.org  39

In Memoriam Ira Jay Cohen, 1944-2014


ra Jay Cohen leaves behind a long and storied legacy of public service, not just in Sullivan County and with NYSAC, but throughout the state. Through his participation in NYSAC, the county attorneys association, the NYS Treasurers and Finance Officers’ Association and other statewide public policy organizations, Ira had a positive impact on the lives of a generation of county leaders. Ira passed away on October 26, 2014. All of us at NYSAC will miss his wisdom, his passion for public service, and his deep committment to our organization and our mission. Ira was born to Malvin and Florence Cohen on November 28, 1944 in the Village of Monticello, where he spent his childhood during the glory days of the Borsht Belt. He remained a resident of Sullivan County for virtually all of his adult life. Ira was admitted to the New York State Bar in 1969. During his 20 years of practicing law, he was appointed as the Sullivan County’s first Public Defender, and later as a part-time Assistant County Attorney. In 1992, his increased interest in local government, particularly in the area of real property taxation, culminated in his appointment as Sullivan County’s first full-time County Attorney. During his tenure as the County Attorney, he became an expert on issues of Native American gaming, and he worked tirelessly to protect the county’s position in Bankruptcy Court, particularly in the Concord Hotel bankruptcy. His active participation in the local legal community prompted him to serve a term as president of the Sullivan County Bar Association. Following his tenure as County Attorney, Ira ran successfully for the position of Sullivan County Treasurer in 2005, a position he held until his death. Ira also provided counsel to various municipalities on issues of real property taxation, and planning and zoning.

Described by friends and colleagues as a true “people’s advocate”

Ira was a sought-after expert in real property tax law statewide, and was a longtime advisor to NYSAC, as well as the New York State County Treasurers and Finance Officers’ Association and other municipal groups. Ira served as chair of the New York State Tax Enforcement Advisory Committee, and he was president of the NYS County Attorney’s Association from 1999-2000. In 2011, Ira was named Treasurer of the Year. Described by friends and colleagues as a true “people’s advocate,” Ira was also affectionately regarded as the county’s Renaissance man, whose passion for law and justice was equaled by his fondness for music, cooking, painting, gardening, motorcycles, sports and antiquing. Ira was proud to be a child of 1960’s, and his experience at Woodstock Festival in 1969 remained a pivotal moment in his life. Ira faced many health challenges, which included kidney failure, and pancreatic cancer, and in 2008, he was given the supreme gift of life from his dear friend, and colleague Nancy Buck, who donated one of her kidneys to him.  We will miss Ira’s presence at our conferences, his participation in our standing committees, and his guidance on county issues. NYSAC is grateful for the time we had with Ira and all that he gave to our Association.

40  N YSAC News Win ter 201 5

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Spring/Summer 2015 NYSAC News Magazine

Deadline Date April 24, 2015 • Submit articles of 750 words to mlavigne@nysac.org

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Local Laws: Toys, Taxis, and Pet Stores By Patrick Cummings Counsel, New York State Association of Counties

Albany County Legislature Passes Local Law Banning Children’s Products that Contain Certain Chemicals On December 8, 2014 the Albany County Legislature passed a local law banning products that may expose children and/or infants to toxic chemicals. This local law needs to be approved by the County Executive in order to become law. The Legislature found that many common children’s products contain toxic chemicals known as carcinogens. The law lists chemicals of concern such as benzene, lead, mercury, antimony, arsenic, cadmium, and cobalt. The Legislature further stated that continued exposure to some or all of these chemicals could result in cancer, brain damage, kidney and liver damage, and developmental delays. The local law defines the banned products as any product that contains the chemicals listed above that is primarily intended or marketed for individuals 12 years of age or younger including, but is not limited to, clothing and toys. Products specifically carved out of the local law include batteries, consumer electronics, paper products, or a drug, biologic, medical device, food, or food additive regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration. Any individual or entity found to knowingly sell or offer to sell these banned products within the county would be subject to a fine of $500.00 per violation and up to $1,000.00 for any subsequent violation.

Nassau County Creates a Taxi and Limousine Commission On December 2, 2014, Nassau County passed a local law creating a County Taxi and Limousine Commission. Nassau County was granted the authority to regulate local taxi and limousine related issues by way of a home rule request sent and granted by the State Legislature in 2003. Shortly thereafter Nassau County passed an ordinance requiring registration of all for-hire passenger vehicles operating within the county. Recently, with the growing number of for-hire passenger vehicles operating within the county, the Legislature and County Executive found it prudent to create a county commission that can oversee the licensing and safety regulations of these services.

Counsel’s Corner

42  N YSAC News Win ter 201 5

The local law permits the new commission to: regulate and supervise for-hire vehicles with the county; prevent unlicensed or unregister forhire vehicles from operating within the county; and adopt and implement regulations that will help the commission accomplish the before stated goals. County leaders have stated they expect the commission to be self-funded through fines and registration fees.

Nassau County Adopts Local Law Regulating Pet Stores and Pet Dealers On August 6, 2014 Nassau County adopted a local law to more efficiently regulate pet shops and pet dealers within the county. According to the local law, the Legislature found that some pet stores and pet dealers within their county were operating their facilities with substandard living conditions. Additionally, the Legislature found that pet store and dealers varied in their treatment of cats and dogs they sought to sell to families and that these families have limited ability to discover the way a potential pet was treated prior to purchase. Due to the findings of the Legislature, this local law set new guidelines for pet stores and dealers within their county, including: requiring that any dog or cat must be at least 8 weeks old, in good health and weaned from its mother before sale; dealers cannot purchase animals from breeders that in the past year have 1 direct violation or 3 indirect violations from the USDA; every animal for sale must have daily access to fresh food and water; pet store must keep their receipts from breeders for at least 2 years; sets a standard living space size for all pets for sale; required space for exercise; and requiring a veterinarian certification/reasoning for any animal in the store that is euthanized. The local law also requires all pet stores and shops keep on file background information on the pet (if known) such as breed, gender, identifying marks, date of birth, date of arrival to the store, and the name, state, and USDA number of the breeder or broker. Enforcement of this law requires that the County Consumer Affairs Office inspects each pet store at least once annually. Any pet store or shop found in violation of any sections of this local law shall be subject to a fine of $500.00 for the first violation, $1,000.00 for a subsequent violation and $1,500.00 for any violations thereafter.

Scenes from the NYSAC Photo Album

Our county predecessors from the 1960s and 70s

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Profile for NYS Association of Counties

NYSAC News: Winter 2015  

This issue commemorates the 90th anniversary of the NYS Association of Counties and includes articles on the history of county government, t...

NYSAC News: Winter 2015  

This issue commemorates the 90th anniversary of the NYS Association of Counties and includes articles on the history of county government, t...

Profile for nysac