Democratic Caucus of the Monroe County Legislature

Statement from Monroe County Legislator Mark Muoio on Special Committee to Investigate COMIDA's Relationship with County Executive's Office

Tom MorriseyComment

Legislator Mark S. Muoio (D - Rochester)

Rochester, New York - "This week, new revelations regarding the COMIDA and I-Square debacle have come to light. Unanswered questions about the relationship between COMIDA and county administration officials and often conflicting accounts of the events of the past two weeks continue to be ignored, and therefore it remains imperative that the legislature act on the request to appoint a special investigatory committee."

Legislator Muoio's proposal calls for the creation of a temporary committee to investigate the activities of CaMillA's handling of the I-Square situation, pursuant to Section C 2-6(C)(5) of the Monroe County Charter and Section 209 of New York State County Law.  The committee would have the power to subpoena witnesses, compel testimony under oath, and require the production of documents. The proposed committee structure is bipartisan, featuring three members from each caucus of the Legislature. It would also incorporate input from private citizens, potentially including law enforcement and legal experts and representatives of good government groups, to ensure its work is conducted at a high standard.

-30-

Legislators Call for Committee to Investigate COMIDA – County GOP Collusion

Tom MorriseyComment

Rochester, New York – Members of the Democratic Caucus of the County Legislature have proposed creating a temporary legislative committee to investigate whether the County of Monroe Industrial Development Agency (COMIDA), the economic development arm of the county, improperly provided confidential information to and acted at the direction of the Monroe County Republican Party in relation to politically-motivated attacks upon the private I-Square LLC development in Irondequoit.

Legislator Mark S. Muoio (at podium) discusses his legislation, joined by (L to R) Assistant Minority Leader John Lightfoot and Legislators Joseph D. Morelle, Jr. and Joshua Bauroth.

“As public concerns over this apparent collusion have mounted, I along with my colleagues believe it is time to determine whether any improper actions were committed by county employees in an effort to help a political party’s chairman save face and attempt to salvage his political attacks,” said County Legislator Mark S. Muoio (D – Rochester), the measure’s sponsor.  “Government employees releasing confidential and possibly damaging information related to a development contract suggest serious ethical concerns.  The possible direction of these public employees by a party leader escalates the potentially inappropriate nature of what happened.  There are many unanswered questions, and our goal is to find answers on behalf of county residents.”

Pursuant to Section C2-6 (C)(5) of the Monroe County Charter and Section 209 of New York State County Law, the County Legislature has the ability to create temporary committees to investigate the activities of county employees.  These committees have the power to subpoena witnesses, compel testimony under oath, and require the production of documents.  The proposed committee structure is bipartisan, featuring three members from each caucus of the Legislature.  It would also incorporate input from private citizens, potentially including law enforcement and legal experts and representatives of good government groups, to ensure its work is conducted at a high standard.

“It is the County Legislature’s duty to use its powers to promote the goal of creating the most transparent and ethical county government in the nation,” said Assistant Minority Leader John Lightfoot (D – Rochester). 

“My colleague’s proposal should be taken up by the legislature without delay to show how serious we are about restoring public trust in government, and ensuring that vital governmental agencies and operations are not being suborned to support political goals,” said Minority Leader Cynthia W. Kaleh.  “I look forward to working with my colleagues in the legislature to pass it.”

The legislation enacting the investigatory committee will be submitted to the President of the Legislature, who will be asked to use his power to introduce it as a Matter of Urgency between committee meetings, allowing the Legislature to consider it at its meeting on April 12.  If the President decides not to introduce it, it will be introduced by Legislator Muoio for consideration during legislative committees on April 25 and 26 and by the full Legislature on May 12.  To express support for the legislation, concerned individuals can contact the President of the Legislature’s office at (585) 753-1953.

-30-

County Legislator Flagler-Mitchell to Host Public Forum on Safe Firearm Storage Act

Tom MorriseyComment

WHAT:

Legislator Ernest Flagler-Mitchell will invite experts, advocates, and other members of the public to provide testimony, information and insight on his proposed safe firearm storage legislation. The legislation would require Monroe County firearm owners to use a gun safe or trigger lock on weapons not in their immediate possession or control.

Those wishing to speak are asked to please sign up by contacting the Democratic Staff Office at (585) 753-1940. Walk-ins will be accommodated as time allows.

A draft copy of the proposed legislation is available for review at DemocraticLedger.org/s/Safe-Firearm-Storage-Act-Draft.PDF

WHEN:

Saturday, March 19, 2016, 11:00 a.m. – 1 p.m.

WHERE:

Franklin Campus Auditorium
950 Norton St.
Rochester, New York 14621

Legislator Sheppard Advocates for Office of Public Integrity that Fully Complies with National Standards

Press ReleasesTom MorriseyComment

Rochester, New York – Legislator James M. Sheppard (D – Rochester), a former director of the City of Rochester’s own Office of Public Integrity (OPI), believes that Monroe County’s proposed office is compromised by not being given the appropriate independence and oversight necessary to do its job effectively.

Legislator James M. Sheppard is a former Office of Public Integrity director and has proposed applying national standards to ensure that the county's new office has the appropriate independence and oversight necessary to be effective.

 “I took the initiative to reach out to the County Executive in writing because she has shown a willingness to amend this legislation to better serve the needs of the people of Monroe County. My colleagues and I share her vision of creating a county government that is the most transparent and ethical in the nation,” said Legislator Sheppard.  “I believe that the citizens of Monroe County deserve oversight of county government that is neither compromised in its creation nor weak in its execution.  Furthermore, this is an opportunity to create a legacy of accountability in government that all citizens can be proud of.”

Legislator Sheppard suggested a series of additional changes to the draft legislation in a letter to County Executive Dinolfo on February 17.  Drawn directly from the standards of the national Association of Inspectors General, these changes include:

  • Establishing an independent selection committee to recommend candidates for the County Executive to select from, with its members being:
    • The Monroe County District Attorney;
    • A Police Chief, designated by the Monroe County Association of Chiefs of Police;
    • An attorney with experience dealing with investigations of fraud, theft, deception or conspiracy, designated by the Monroe County Bar Association;
    • A Certified Public Accountant with experience in forensic auditing or internal controls, designated by the Rochester Chapter of the New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants;
    • The chairperson of the existing Monroe County Board of Ethics, whose members are appointed by the County Executive, subject to Legislature approval.
  • Giving the Office the mission of establishing fraud control programs, inspections, and operational surveys to identify and address shortcomings that could lead to abuse or fraud before there is any waste or misuse of public funds.
  • Establishing specific qualifications for those appointed as Director of the Office of Public Integrity, including ten years of experience in relevant fields, such as the judiciary, law enforcement, or fraud investigation.
  • Requiring that the Director and office staff attain certifications to the qualification standards of the Association of Inspectors General.
  • Requiring that audit and investigative findings be publically reported.
  • Establishing legal consequences for those found guilty of purposely impeding or obstructing an investigation of the Office.
  • Giving the Office the authority to conduct criminal investigations when necessary.

“Four guilty pleas were just entered in relation to the criminal LDC scheme that an independent audit says cost county taxpayers tens of millions of dollars,” Legislator Sheppard said.  “Creating an Office of Public Integrity that does not have a proactive mandate to prevent fraud, waste and abuse through inspections, review and audits, and provide the kind of oversight that could have prevented that scandal is unacceptable.  We need to demonstrate that we have learned from the past and are not willing to compromise our integrity as we look to the future.”

-30-

Legislator Flagler-Mitchell Announces Intention to Re-Introduce Safe Firearm Storage Legislation

Tom MorriseyComment

Rochester, New York – Legislator Ernest Flagler-Mitchell (D-Rochester) announced today that he will be re-introducing his Safe Firearm Storage legislation that would require gun owners to secure guns in an attempt to prevent accidental discharge, stop gun thefts, and keep guns out of the hands of criminals. 

Legislator Flagler-Mitchell announces his legislation, joined by (l to r) Brockport Police Chief Daniel Varrenti, Minority Leader Cynthia Kaleh, Legislator Joshua Bauroth, Gary Pudup, retired sheriff's deputy and representative of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, Legislator LaShay Harris, Legislator Justin Wilcox, and Legislator Vince Felder.

“Last year was heartbreakingly violent nationally and locally, with many families being devastated by shootings, including my own. Tragically, 2016 has started off the same way” said Legislator Flagler-Mitchell.  “As a firefighter and elected official, I knew I had to act, and this common sense measure is a practical way to curb the flow of guns from law abiding owners to the criminals who use them to commit crimes.”

Last weekend ten people were shot in two separate incidents, which continued a violent trend from last summer with mass shootings at the Boys and Girls Club on Genesee Street and a house party on Woodward Street both claimed lives, including that of Legislator Flagler-Mitchell’s cousin Herbert Thomas. In discussing shootings last summer, Rochester Police Chief Ciminelli stated that 60 percent of gun crimes committed in the city in 2015 were executed with stolen firearms.

“We know that most gun owners are responsible and do the right thing,” stated Brockport Police Chief Daniel Varrenti. “However, this common sense measure helps raise awareness for those who don’t know proper storage standards and ensure that there are consequences for those who don’t store their guns properly and are used in a crime.”

The proposed legislation would require gun owners to keep their weapons secured with a lock or stored in a safe that has met nationally-accepted standards for resisting burglary attempts when the weapons are not in the owner’s immediate possession or control, with the goal of helping to stem the flow of weapons into violent criminals’ hands.

Democrats Praise Office of Public Integrity Amendments

Tom MorriseyComment

Rochester, New York – Democrats in the Monroe County Legislature are pleased to hear amendments to County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo’s draft Office of Public Integrity legislation were announced today, including subpoena power, a set term for the office’s director, and a prohibition from involvement in partisan political activities, all recommendations made by Democratic legislators during the committee process.

“Today’s changes mirror some of the most important points that I and my colleagues raised when this was discussed in committee,” Legislator Mark Muoio (D – Rochester) said. “I am pleased that our suggestions were heard by the administration and the original proposal, which we were unable to support due to its lack of independence, has been so significantly strengthened through the legislative process.”

At the Legislature’s Agenda/Charter committee last month, Democratic legislators provided the administration with information from the national Association of Inspectors General regarding best practices in use throughout the country. Most of the newly strengthened OPI proposal reflects the Association’s recommendations.

“County Executive Dinolfo promised a new and more open Monroe County government, and on this issue, she has delivered,” said Minority Leader Cynthia W. Kaleh (D – Rochester). “When Democratic legislators and members of the public responded to her proposal with concerns and suggestions, the vast majority of them were incorporated. I am proud that we were able to contribute to crafting a more independent Office of Public Integrity, and look forward to continuing to find common ground with the Executive.”

Minority Leader Kaleh Issues Statement on Nelson Rivera Plea

Tom MorriseyComment

Rochester, New York — Please see the following statement from Democratic Minority Leader Cynthia W. Kaleh regarding Nelson Rivera’s plea in the LDC case:

As early as August 2009, the Democratic Caucus had identified numerous
warning signs in the LDC contracts being put before the Legislature. These warning
signs, dismissed as “playing politics” at the time, were completely ignored.
However, our worst fears have been confirmed by the Maggio, Wiesner, and
Rivera pleas: high-ranking county officials and others were colluding to rig these bids to
the benefit of a well-connected group of people at the expense of the taxpayers they were
meant to serve.

Both the Maggio(1) and Rivera(2) plea agreements mention specific questions by our
caucus that struck at the heart of the illegal behavior regarding LDCs. We were rebuked;
had our concerns been listened to at that time, taxpayers might have been saved tens of
millions of dollars and this entire scandal might have been avoided before it even began.

There is a reason that the County Legislature votes to approve contracts and has
the power to question the administration before voting.

These are sad days for the taxpayers of Monroe County, as the county legislature
ceded its responsibility as an independent watchdog of the Executive Branch, affording
these men the opportunity to enrich themselves. It has now been shown in a court of
law that those who should have been serving the people’s interests instead chose to
serve only their own.

---

[1] John Maggio Plea and Cooperation Agreement: Exhibit A – John Maggio Factual Statement, Paragraphs 22-26

[1] Nelson Rivera Plea Agreement and Allocution: Exhibit B - Factual Allocution - Count Four, Paragraph 21

Without True Independence, Democrats Won’t Support Office of Public Integrity

Tom MorriseyComment

Rochester, New York – Democrats in the Monroe County Legislature voted against a measure to create an Office of Public Integrity in the Agenda/Charter Committee.  The legislation establishes the office and allows the County Executive to appoint the director as a department head, but does not offer much detail on the functioning of the office, lacks a funding source, and fails to provide the director any guarantees of autonomy.

Seeing the legislation in its current form as only renaming and consolidating existing ethics and transparency-related functions of the county government – functions which failed to prevent any of the LDC or county employee-related scandals of the past decade – Legislators Justin Wilcox (D-Brighton, Henrietta) and Mark Muoio, (D-Rochester), the Democratic members of the committee, voted “no.”

“While the aim of the legislation is laudable, its current form only gives ‘public integrity’ lip service, primarily because the office would not have independence, as recommended by the Association of Inspectors General,” Legislator Wilcox said. “You can’t expect someone to honestly investigate the person who signs their paycheck and can fire them at will.”

The Association of Inspectors General is a national organization that issues guidelines, offers model legislation, and uses best practices to help governments set up offices of public integrity. In line with their recommendations, the Democratic Caucus has introduced legislation in the past to create such an office with more independence and offered to help the County Executive to improve this legislation.  Their suggestions include a set term of appointment for the director, modeled on the process used to select the County’s Public Defender, restrictions on his or her involvement in partisan politics, and additional powers for the office, such as issuing subpoenas and requiring compliance with investigations as a condition of employment for all county workers and contractors. 

“We think this is a critical issue and needs to be done right to ensure an office that will actually have an impact on ethics and transparency in this county,” stated Legislator Muoio. “We will continue to work with our colleagues in the Administration and the Legislature to help fulfill Ms. Dinolfo’s promise to deliver the most transparent and ethical government in the nation.”

Democratic caucus members continue to press for a dialogue with the Executive’s Office and majority legislators on improving the bill before passage.

Democrats Applaud Homeless Shelter Funding

Tom MorriseyComment

Rochester, New York – Democrats in the Monroe County Legislature applauded today’s announcement that Monroe County will be giving the Rochester Emergency Action Committee for the Homeless (REACH) $50,000 worth of goods and services to help open a homeless shelter for this winter.

“This action shows that there is never a wrong time to do the right thing.  The Democratic Caucus has been pushing for this funding, even offering budget amendments earlier this month, and we are relieved that the homeless population will not have to risk their lives braving the elements this winter,” Minority Leader Cindy Kaleh (D – Rochester) said. “I would personally like to thank Reverend Peter Peters and all the members of REACH who continued to advocate at the county level for this shelter, even when the proposal seemed stalled. Their faith, determination, and compassion have won the day, in a fashion befitting the holiday season.” 

Democrats Elect Cindy Kaleh Leader in County Legislature

Tom MorriseyComment

ROCHESTER, N.Y. - Democrats in the Monroe County Legislature have elected Cindy Kaleh as the Minority Leader of their caucus. Kaleh has served in the legislature since 2008 and previously served as Assistant Minority Leader.  Kaleh represents the 28th District, which includes the Lyell-Otis, Jay-Orchard, Dutchtown, Edgerton, and Maplewood neighborhoods of northwest Rochester.

“Since 2008 I have been a proud member of the Democratic Caucus. So that all of our residents have the opportunity for lasting growth and success, we have worked diligently to protect access to critically important services, such as child care, public safety and education for the working families of Monroe County,” Democratic Leader Kaleh said. “I am grateful to the members of the Democratic Caucus for selecting me as the minority leader and, along with the new leadership team, look forward to working on long term solutions to the issues that face all of the residents of Monroe County.”

Legislators John Lightfoot (District 25) and Ernest Flagler-Mitchell (District 29) were elected to fill the Assistant Minority leader positions being vacated.

Bi-Partisan Breastfeeding Legislation Passes County Legislature

Tom MorriseyComment

Rochester, New York — Legislation authored by Minority Leader Carrie Andrews to establish a county policy designating rooms for breastfeeding and lactating mothers was approved at the Monroe County Legislature Tuesday night with unanimous bi-partisan support. The law will pertain to buildings owned, leased, or operated by the County.

“This is an exciting step for Monroe County employees returning to work after giving birth,” Legislator Carrie Andrews (D-Rochester) said. “We worked closely with advocates and experts during this process to ensure that we had a piece of legislation that would support new mothers. As we went down this road we were made aware of the enormous health rewards of breastfeeding for mothers and their newborns and for that, I applaud my colleagues for their bipartisan cooperation that has led us to this important step. I believe that this new policy is a win for new mothers, advocates and this legislative body as we demonstrated tonight that we can put politics aside and put people first.”

“I am thrilled that Monroe County has voted to support breastfeeding in County buildings.  It has been well researched and documented that breastfeeding offers countless benefits for both mothers and babies.  Breastfeeding has been known to reduce cancer risk in both mothers and babies, reduce respiratory illness and support optimal overall health and brain development,” said local lactation consultant Diane Cassidy, IBCLC, stated. “In addition, breastfeeding is financially advantageous and promotes bonding.  In a society where new mothers return to work so quickly after delivery, it is important for organizations such as Monroe County to support the transition back to work by offering a private space where a mother can pump her milk.  This is an important time for Monroe County to show that it can lead by example.”

Also signing on to support the legislation were Legislators Cynthia Kaleh (D-Rochester), Dorothy Styk (D-Perinton), Debbie Drawe (R-Penfield), Mary Valerio (R-Chili), Karla Boyce (R-Mendon), Kathleen Taylor (R-Greece), and Majority Leader Stephen Tucciarello (R-Gates). A final draft of the legislation is available here.

 

Democrats Question County Executive-Elect Dinolfo’s Silence

Tom MorriseyComment

Rochester, New York – Democratic appointees to the county’s Compensation Policy Commission (CPC) abstained from voting on its final report yesterday, objecting to the unlawful nature of the Commission as it ignored requirements set out in the highest law of Monroe County, the county charter. The 19 day process was rushed and flies in the face of County Executive-Elect Cheryl Dinolfo’s pledge to run the most ethical and transparent government in the country. Today, Assistant Minority Leader Cynthia Kaleh called on Dinolfo to speak out. 

“This pay raise proposal will be the political gift that keeps on giving and then some. Come the next election, the current Sheriff will have the incentive of a guaranteed raise and pension increase whereas any new candidate would be given a significantly lower salary for performing the same duties,” said Assistant Democratic Leader Cynthia Kaleh (28th Legislative District – Rochester). “Given the budgetary impact this will have on the County moving forward, I would hope County Executive-Elect Dinolfo would speak out against this unprecedented and nonsensical pay scheme.”

“In addition to our belief that this ‘sliding scale’ pay schedule recommendation is uncommonly stupid, the entire commission is unlawful and a complete sham, making any recommendation illegitimate,” said CPC member, local attorney, and County Legislator-elect Mark S. Muoio (21st Legislative District – Rochester). “Through no fault of her own, this commission will be a stain going forward for Ms. Dinolfo. During her successful election campaign, she championed an ethical and transparent government time after time. This commission is the opposite, saddling her and taxpayers moving forward and I expect, and I think citizens would welcome, her opposition to this recommendation.”

Not only did the schedule of the Commission contradict the County Charter itself, it also met in a severely abbreviated manner when compared to previous commissions that deliberated for at least six months.  Requests for information were denied, as was a request to interview and receive testimony from Sheriff Patrick O’Flynn so that commission members could better understand the role and responsibilities of the office.

Democratic Appointees Abstain from Voting on Sheriff’s Pay Raise

Tom MorriseyComment

Cite unlawful process, hasty and predetermined results

Rochester, New York – Democratic appointees to the county’s Compensation Policy Commission abstained from voting on its final report today, which recommends a major pay increase for the Sheriff now and additional annual raises for the future.

The appointees chose to abstain because they do not believe the commission is legitimate, as it ignored requirements set out in the highest law of Monroe County, the county charter:

Members shall be appointed by the President of the Legislature, and shall serve for two-year terms commencing as of the first day of January following each general election at which members of the County Legislature are elected... The Commission shall submit its report and recommendations, in writing, to the Legislature, with a copy to the County Executive, no later than the first day of July preceding the County fiscal year in which such recommendations are proposed to become effective.

- Monroe County Charter, Article II, Section 11 (emphasis added)

“Regardless of the content of the committee’s recommendations, we believe that voting ‘yes’ or ‘no’ would have granted legitimacy to a commission that we believe is unlawful,” said appointee Mark Muoio, Esq. “The County attorney has yet to sufficiently answer questions I and fellow members have repeatedly expressed regarding our compliance with the charter, and I have deep concerns about contributing to what I believe is an illegal action by voting on this report.”

“In addition to our belief that this process itself is unlawful, we find the final recommendation entirely unacceptable,” said commission appointee and County Legislator Joseph D. Morelle, Jr.  “We are automatically rewarding an elected official for the length of his service.  A newly elected Sheriff would earn significantly less than the current sheriff and most other law enforcement leaders in the county, regardless of his experience, ideas, changes in his responsibilities, or any of the other important concepts that would normally be considered when setting an individual’s salary – undercutting the majority’s very justification for installing this commission in the first place.”

“It is a sad day in Monroe County when a commission is asked to evaluate the salary of one of the county’s top law enforcement officers outside the law,” said appointee Gary Pudup, a veteran of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.  “To this day, we have yet to have an open discussion of this matter within the law.  Both the public and the Office of the Sheriff were ill-served by this dog and pony show.”

Legislator Ernest Flagler-Mitchell Responds to California Mass Shooting

Tom MorriseyComment

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims’ families, but that is not enough.”

Rochester, New York – Legislator Ernest Flagler-Mitchell (D-Rochester) has released the following statement in response to the mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif. that has claimed at least 14 lives.

“I continue to be horrified by the senseless gun violence that has taken too many lives across our nation and here at home.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims’ families, but that is not enough.  Elected officials need to come together and start discussing solutions to our gun violence problem in the United States.  I plan to reintroduce my legislation requiring the safe storage of firearms in Monroe County as soon as the next session begins.  We need to find reasonable, common-sense solutions that will make it more difficult for terrorists, criminals, and other violent individuals to get their hands on powerful weapons, and I am prepared to work with all those willing to stand up to make our communities safer.”

Legislator Flagler-Mitchell’s cousin, Herbert Thomas, lost his life in a mass shooting on Woodward St. in September 2015.

Republican Legislature Majority to Give Sheriff Hefty Raise

Tom MorriseyComment

Rochester, New York - At tonight’s meeting of the County Legislature, the Republican Majority Leader introduced a last minute proposal to give the County Sheriff a pay raise. 

“This is a back door maneuver to give the Sheriff a hefty pay raise. This body rightfully defeated a $37,000 pay increase in 2011,” stated Minority Leader Carrie Andrews. “It is especially galling considering that just moments before, the County Executive gave a budget presentation stating that due to state mandates we only control 15% of the county budget. This pay raise is an egregious way to spend what little we control locally when so many families continue to struggle to make ends meet.”

After heated debate, the proposal passed on a party line vote, 17 – 11. 

Monroe County Now Holds Lowest Bond Rating Among Large Counties as Rockland Upgraded

Tom MorriseyComment

Rochester, New York – On October 14, Moody’s Credit Rating Service upgraded Rockland County’s bond rating to Baa1 with a positive outlook from Baa2, citing improved budgeting practices as part of the rationale. As a result, Monroe County now holds the lowest bond rating amongst New York’s large counties with a Baa1 rating and a stable outlook.

“Rockland County’s bond rating upgrade leaves Monroe County with the lowest bond rating among large counties in New York State.  This is a problem because like an individual with bad credit, when we need to borrow money, we need to pay higher interest rates, which means we will spend extra taxpayer money to complete necessary projects,” stated Legislator Paul Haney (D – Rochester).  “With over $800 million of bond and note debt at the end of 2014, even if our low bond rating only costs the County 1/8 of 1% additional interest, a minimal amount, the annual cost to taxpayers is $1,000,000 a year.”

“As our cumulative deficits grow from year to year, we simply cannot afford to be wasting money paying on higher interest rates. However, Rockland County’s example does show that even while allegedly being handcuffed by state mandates, large counties can improve their financial standing through improved budgeting practices, something we need to do immediately so that we aren’t saddling taxpayers with unnecessary expenses in the future.”

 

Legislator Flagler-Mitchell Announces Safe Firearm Storage Legislation

Tom MorriseyComment

Legislator Ernest Flagler-Mitchell (D-Rochester) announced legislation today that would require gun owners to secure guns in an attempt to keep them out of the hands of criminals. 

“This year has been a heartbreakingly violent one nationally and locally, with many families being devastated by shootings, including my own,” said Legislator Flagler-Mitchell. “As a firefighter and elected official, I knew I had to act, and this common sense measure is a practical way to curb the flow of guns from law abiding owners to the criminals who use them to commit crimes.”

Locally, mass shootings at the Boys and Girls Club on Genesee Street and a house party on Woodward Street both claimed lives, including that of Legislator Flagler-Mitchell’s cousin Herbert Thomas. In discussing the violent summer, Rochester Police Chief Ciminelli stated that 60 percent of gun crimes committed in the city in 2015 were executed with stolen firearms.

The proposed legislation would require gun owners to keep their weapons secured with a lock or stored in a safe that has met nationally-accepted standards for resisting burglary attempts when the weapons are not in the owner’s immediate possession or control, with the goal of helping to stem the flow of weapons into violent criminals’ hands.

Legislator Morelle Proposes LDC Abolition Study

Tom MorriseyComment

Legislature Democrats plan to introduce legislation calling for a professional legal review of the county's relationship with various local development corporations (LDCs) to determine if the county can legally abolish them.

"After years of offering financial reforms and increased accountability by the Democratic conference to no avail and an investigation of LDCs by the Attorney General's office, we have seemingly reached a consensus that it is time for local development corporations as they currently exist to go," said Legislator Joe Morelle (D-Irondequoit), the legislation's sponsor. "Unraveling this mess, however, will not be accomplished with a wave of our hands. It is time to bring in professional legal experts to determine if the county is even able to end its contracts with the LDCs to best protect taxpayers."

Local development corporations are, theoretically, independent entities created to handle various projects around Monroe County, including upgrading county phone and computer systems, the rollout of new public safety radio systems, and the operation of the Civic Centre parking garage. Most have no employees and contracted with private companies to perform the work associated with these projects. They currently hold millions of dollars in debt related to these projects, and it is unclear, were LDCs to be abolished, whether that debt would be assumed by Monroe County and if so, how that transfer could be accomplished.

For media availability, please contact Dennis O'Brien at 753-1930.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz Issues Release in Support of Monroe County Microbeads Ban Sought by Democratic Caucus

Tom MorriseyComment

Note: The Democratic Caucus of the Monroe County Legislature thanks Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz for his support and advocacy as we work to pass a microbead ban in Monroe County.  Erie County was the first in New York State to pass a ban, and its legislation served as a model for Monroe County's own bill. The following release was sent out by County Executive Poloncarz's office.

NEWS RELEASE - SEPTEMBER 30, 2015
 
POLONCARZ URGES MONROE COUNTY TO JOIN STATEWIDE MOVEMENT OF BANNING SALE OF ANY PRODUCTS CONTAINING MICROBEADS
Erie County was first in state to approve protective measure supported by environmental advocates

ERIE COUNTY, NY— Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz is urging elected officials from Monroe County to consider legislation that bans the sale of products containing microbeads, continuing a statewide movement to stop the spread of harmful products that pollute our water supply.
 
As part of the efforts by Poloncarz’s administration to encourage other counties to pass similar local laws, the county executive has sent a letter to Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks urging her to support the proposed local law that was referred to her earlier this week by the Monroe County Legislature after a legislative liaison representing Poloncarz addressed that legislative body.
 
“My letter to County Executive Brooks reinforces the need by elected officials throughout the state to take action on microbead legislation,” said Poloncarz. “The response to our legislation here in Erie County has been positive as my office has not heard from any business owner or local distributing company indicating that banning microbeads would cause a detriment to their business. Microbeads have an impact on us from an environmental, health and economic perspective and have been proven to negatively impact our waterways. “
 
Erie County’s legislation is being viewed by other local governments as a template for proposed local laws across the state, including Chautauqua County, where the Chautauqua County Legislature passed a similar ban and Chautauqua County Executive Vince Horrigan has indicated he will sign it into law after the requisite notice and public meeting period has passed.
 
Microbeads are a synthetic alternative ingredient to such natural materials as ground almonds, oatmeal and pumice and are added to over one hundred personal cosmetic products, including shampoos, toothpastes and body cleansers. These synthetics pose a serious threat to the environment after they are rinsed down household drains and eventually pass through wastewater treatment facilities to enter local waterways, collecting and spreading pollutants and harming fish and other aquatic life.
 
Erie County Legislature’s local law was the first piece of legislation to be approved in the state to address the growing environmental issue. Poloncarz remains hopeful that other counties currently studying the issue and the negative long-term effects microbeads have on the Great Lakes watershed will pass similar local laws.
 
“I believe there are certain moments were the leadership of those elected to office are defined and that is why I am urging County Executive Brooks to stand with me and stop the spread of these toxic plastics,” said Poloncarz. “Our legislation passed unanimously with bi-partisan support, which I believe shows the importance of this issue. The danger these products present to our health can no longer be ignored, especially when you consider that microbead legislation has stalled in both Albany and Washington, D.C. Action is needed at the local level and we must continue the positive momentum we have by having other municipalities join the statewide movement to preserve a cleaner environment for generations to come.”
 
To read the letter County Executive Poloncarz sent to County Executive Brooks, click the link below:
http://www2.erie.gov/exec/sites/www2.erie.gov.exec/files/uploads/microbead%20ban%20monroe%20county%20executive%20letter.pdf

Brooks Administration to Study Legislator Styk’s Microbead Ban

Tom MorriseyComment

A Democratic proposal to ban the sale of personal care products containing microbeads in Monroe County will be sent to County Executive Maggie Brooks for further study and review following discussion in the Legislature and the hand-delivery of a letter from the Erie County Executive urging her to act. 

“Although I am disappointed that we did not take the opportunity to immediately approve this measure, I am pleased that my Majority Caucus colleagues agree to its critical importance and will send it to Executive Brooks for further research,” said Legislator Dorothy Styk (D-Perinton, East Rochester), the referral’s sponsor. “I will continue to be a strong advocate on issues that pose a potential threat to the health of the people I represent, both in my district and throughout this county, and urge the county administration to work as quickly as possible to return this legislation to us for passage, preferably by our next meeting.” 

In both Erie and Chautauqua Counties, similar legislation has been introduced and passed unanimously with overwhelming bipartisan support. Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz sent a representative to tonight’s Agenda/Charter committee meeting to deliver remarks regarding the overwhelming support Erie County’s measure has enjoyed from residents and businesses, and to hand-deliver a personal message urging the measure’s passage to Executive Brooks.

“The emails, phone calls and face-to-face interactions I have had with constituents regarding this proposal have been overwhelmingly positive,” said Legislator Styk. “I look forward to continue working towards passing this broadly-supported idea that would protect our water quality, the health of those we represent, and economically vital industries, and thank my legislative colleagues and the County Executive for working with me on this issue.” 

Microbeads are plastic particles added to products like face washes as an exfoliant. Passing right through treatment facilities and into the Great Lakes, the beads absorb toxic chemicals like PCBs and DDT, and are then ingested by fish. As larger animals – including humans – eat lake fish, the toxic substances bioaccumulate at higher and higher levels. Recent SUNY Fredonia research has shown that Lake Ontario has some of the highest measured plastic levels of any body of water on Earth.

###

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz has publicly encouraged his Monroe County counterpart to support the ban.

Read Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz’s letter to Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks