Albany County Executive Dan McCoy delivers optimistic State of the County address
Albany County Executive Dan McCoy delivered his 11th State of the County Address Monday night virtually.
McCoy began his speech saying his prayers and thoughts are with the people of Ukraine amid the Russian invasion. This is the second year the Democrat has delivered his address remotely.
"We're in a far different place today than we were 12 months ago," McCoy said. "I sit here before you know that the ship is steady, the course is certain, and the strength of our county is strong."
McCoy paid homage to more than 500 county residents lost to COVID-19 as he summarized the local battle against the virus and the massive vaccine rollout.
"While we were making valiant efforts at vaccinating our entire population, there were challenges and barriers," said McCoy. "Throughout many minority communities, we saw disparities. We also saw cultural and generational mistrust of government. In response, we created a public service announcement campaign through many forms of media, including television network stations, we engaged local leaders, members of the clergy, culture organizations and community-based nonprofit organizations to get out the facts, to displace disinformation, to promote vaccination and to provide access."
McCoy says his vision shaped by the pandemic, is one of inclusiveness, to break down barriers and to dedicate resources to achieve equity in health, mental health and wellness for all citizens.
"It is a vision that recognizes the changing landscape of our industry, and commitment to [an] economic development plan that spurs job growth, fosters partnerships with labor and development opportunities for training and education to members of our historic disadvantaged communities," McCoy said. "And a vision that sets us on the path to ensure that we severely decrease our carbon footprint by implementing policies that remove reliance on fossil fuels, including a commitment to a passenger vehicle fleet that is 100% electric within the next five years."
McCoy adds more EV charging stations will be built. He praised the soon-to-be-built Plug Power facility in Slingerlands that he says will create up to 1,600 jobs in the next five years. He noted a new affordable daycare center for employees of Shaker Place Rehabilitation & Nursing Center is in the works, with an expected opening in 2023.
"Oftentimes, traditional daycare centers are too costly, and a person has to choose between working and staying at home," said McCoy. "To address this issue, I'm announcing that we shall be offering an affordable payment schedule for employees. The sliding scale shall have a rate, and then the rate is reduced accordingly based upon employees’ household income."
McCoy plans to use MVP Arena in the city of Albany to "jumpstart economic development and to bridge the downtown neighborhoods with the South End neighborhoods," by offering programs and opportunities designed to assist those living in historically disadvantaged areas. He plans to extend recreational programs and also pointed out recent upgrades to the county’s rail trail along with improvements to county property and new programs for residents at Lawson's Lake.
"We need to be bold for the health and wellness of everyone," McCoy said. "We must be inclusive. As these programs expand, it is paramount that access to them is not limited by zip code, or a parent's ability to provide a ride. All barriers must be brought down, and we must find partners to bring these wellness opportunities to everyone."
McCoy also touched on two annual $29 million dollar payments in American Rescue Plan funding.
"For the first installment we used the money to stabilize the finances by replacing lost revenue," said McCoy. "This year we've created a task force with the legislature and fiscal representatives of the county to develop a plan for the second $29 million. The hope is that the plan and projects from these monies shall be the seeds and catalysts for other projects that continue with our overall mission of health, wellness, and quality of life to our residents as we break down barriers."
29th District Albany County Legislator Mark Grimm calls McCoy's Mental Health Taskforce Initiative "an important step to removing the stigma around mental health." Grimm praised the new daycare at Shaker Place and another plan of McCoy's to rehabilitate property at an undisclosed location so that crime victims' advocates would be able to have a comfortable private setting to converse and interview.
But, the Republican says McCoy's address was lacking in some areas. "There's no mention of the state’s disastrous bail reform policies," Grimm said. "Every elected official should speak out about this. There are too many violent criminals on the street, and they pose a threat to every county citizen. That has got to be one of our top priorities. Secondly, local governments are swimming in money due to the wild spending in Washington. Local governments including Albany County should be working harder to ease the tax burden, that should be a higher priority, especially with the effect this runaway spending has had on inflation. Overall, I think the state of the county, we're making progress, but more needs to be done. Particularly in the area of crime."