Picente Calls for Action in State of the County Address

In his 2010 State of the County Address, Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente, Jr., today called for changes and action to change how local governments work and address long-standing issues.

“The very simple, obvious conclusion is that we cannot continue to operate government in the 21st Century the way it was done even 10 or 20 years ago. It’s not working. There is too little efficiency and too much waste,” Picente said. “Consolidation is being studied but not adopted because the ideas are never quite perfect enough; bold infrastructure and community development ideas are stalled in details which are driven by the fear that what’s good for everyone may not be better than what is good for a few; and partnerships with the Oneida Indian Nation are never quite acceptable no matter what the terms because greed, bias and posturing get in the way.”

“We need to change, and we need action.
  • Action to put into practice ideas that can consolidate services and lower costs.
  • Action to throw away old grudges and differences and focus on solutions, not politics.
  • Action to commit to partnerships that will weather successes and failures with a vision committed to moving forward.”
Picente called on all partners to work together to “move forward on consolidation, and invest in our education sector and infrastructure for economic development.  This needs to be done together as the people we serve have run out of patience.”
Picente stressed the benefits of consolidation of services and regional cooperation.
“If any of us were to design a system to maintain roads and protect the public, no one would use the public works and public safety system we now have. We all recognize it is inefficient, duplicative and wastes the efforts of the fine men and women who work for our communities. But for almost 20 years, whenever a plan emerges to change this, it stops dead. This is the choice: Waste money or save money. It’s that simple,” he said. Picente set these goals for 2010:
  • Consolidation of 911 to allow the City of Utica the option of putting 12 police officers on the street and a quarter of a million dollars in savings to the fire department.  It will also cut New Hartford’s annual spending by almost three quarter of a million dollars.
  • End the duplication of services in public works services across Oneida County.
  • Reduce the overall taxpayer cost of public safety in the town of Whitestown
  • End the alienation of our largest employer and begin collecting revenue instead of piling up legal documents.
  • Aggressively develop assets through one coordinated regional plan that will jump-start our economy when the global economic picture changes – including our airport, business parks, downtowns and colleges.
Picente’s wide-ranging State of the County Address also touched on several important areas for the region:
Oneida Indian Nation: Last year, I proposed a plan to end years of lawsuits between the Oneida Indian Nation and its neighbors. It was rejected out of hand … This region is struggling and the Oneidas move on.  My challenge is simple; I want to know what the better deal is and where to pick up negotiations.”
MVCC: “Let’s set a goal over the next five years of raising the number of community college graduates and let’s create new outlets and strategies for learning including more on-line availability for students who need to work full-time.”
Highways: “Recently, some County Legislators have proposed that we expand our Public Works contracting beyond snow plowing to general road maintenance currently provided by the County.  It is an excellent proposition that needs to be explored.  I would like to see it be even more creative as roads do not stop at town boundaries.  Towns that are neighbors should bid together as two or three jurisdictions.”
Noting that Oneida County was able to maintain its credit rating despite difficult times, Picente stressed that state and federal actions drastically impact the county budget. “County Government gets it. Every year, New York State hands us cost increases that we absorb by responding to the challenge of managing in a perpetual crisis. As each state budget drops new costs at our door, we come up with new ways of operating …”
“The reality of our situation though, should make it clear that New York State taxpayers cannot subsidize an endless array of services that cost more money than we have to spend. The route to closing New York State’s $7.5 billion budget gap is not to shift it to counties, but to stop spending on programs we can’t afford,” Picente said. “The real issue is a structural reform of Medicaid. Oneida County, just like many other counties, cannot afford to keep spending more than $1 million a week on this program. It’s a huge fiscal drain that serves as an anchor around our necks to keep us from looking to the future, because we have to pay that bill.  In the coming weeks I will convene a summit to deal with the Medicaid issue on a local level.  It will include hospitals, nursing homes, transportation providers and all agencies that receive Medicaid reimbursement.  We will explore ways that we can reduce costs and deliver services in a more efficient manner.  There has to be a better way to reduce local costs and we can no longer wait for Albany for reform or look to Washington for more bailouts.”