Albany County Executive Dan McCoy is in the midst of his eighth State of the County Listening Tour. The Democrat spoke with WAMC's Capital Region Bureau Chief about his efforts to connect with residents.
"I decided eight years ago one of the biggest problems was a lot of people didn't realize what county government does every day. The effect that we have on multiple programs throughout every village and town and city in Albany County and how we really assist in everything from early intervention for children, for bus transportation, probation, a dental clinic, we have programs obviously for mental health patients, health, so there's a lot of ways we intertwine in the community and I really wanted to get out first and foremost let people know where their taxes are going so they understand that, but also hear back, from the, hopefully at the end of the census, the 320,000 residents that I represent, what they need out of county government, what services they feel that they need. And part of my equity agenda is really changing the way we operate and give the people a prism of services and give them an opportunity to better their life, to send them to college or get them into a trade, get them off assistance or give them opportunities to again, better their life. So, the listening tour really comes in effect of not just listening to the residents but I get to listen to the town supervisors and mayors and board members and get their point of view of what they're going through and what help they may need in the future or how we can run programs for shared services and duplication of services, so the more programs we partnership with, the more money we save the taxpayers of Albany County."
Dave Lucas: As you go from town to town, I would think you find that different municipalities and their leaders accept your visits in different ways..
"Let's take Green Island for instance, it's a little bit smaller, but they have different issues. You know obviously everyone, with the property tax increase of 2 percent, everyone's trying to stay under that. It's getting harder. And one of the things I talk about, people gotta pay the rent, they gotta put food on the table, they gotta pay the mortgage. We're trying to be creative in government because I always say bills go up, right? Your cable bill goes up, your insurance goes up, your worker's comp goes up, nothing goes down.
So as bills go up and unfunded mandates or other programs that you've been running in your town or village, say, even $20,000 could throw off the Village of Green Island, okay, where $20,000 in Colonie wouldn't make or break any of the programs they['re running, but in the village it does. They have the same type of issues but on a different scale. You know you look at Watervliet. Some of the issues they were having: they went over the budget last year, they had to raise taxes, they needed more help and we helped them out in other ways that we can or programs, we try to help them.
And then we go from the river communities to Colonie, and the issues are different. They feel that the population's getting too big, there's too much construction going on, not everybody but some people, they're worried about congestion, they're worried about schools. You go to the city of Albany and they're worried about infrastructure. And you know the Land Bank, we spent over $3 Million dollars on the Land Bank, rehabbing the buildings and revitalizing streets with the blight. And we're working on that. So the city has a different issue than Coeymans, Ravena which I have coming up July 25th, they have different issues than anyone else. CDTA cut one of their busses going out there that hurts them from getting in here to go to work, because CDTA wasn't getting enough riders but the handful of riders that were going out there now need other means of transportation. Altamont, you know, Westerlo or Knox, they have different issues.
So we've been expanding services where people need more outreach they can't get to us so we're bringing it to them, so these are things I learn from being on the road, or listening to people or going to town hall meetings or neighborhood meetings. These are issues that people said ‘hey look, this really affects my quality of life.’ When CDTA closed the bus routes down in the hill towns, myself and then-supervisor Kevin Crosier go together, we got volunteers, we filled in where CDTA dropped off. So these are issues that affect the community one way or another differently than it may affect the city of Albany and Colonie."
Dave Lucas: What are people most concerned about?
"People are scared. They're scared about this president. They're scared about his policies. And most importantly, the way they changed the federal tax, the SALT and everything else, it's affecting them. It affected their returns, it affected the way they file, and then most importantly programs that were in place may fold now - they're not gonna get the funding or they're concerned the state had the $3 billion deficit and how's that gonna affect them. So there's a lot of uncertainty that they were worried about. They were scared of what was going on in the federal level, what was going on in the state level and then most importantly about us not raising their taxes, and once of the biggest issues which was interesting to me was the shared services, people want to see more government sharing services and making government smaller.
One of the topics that kept coming up was the size of our legislature. It is the biggest in the state of New York, it's the biggest in the country, and people would ask me 'why do we have 39 legislators?' and I'd say 'well, here's your legislator, you can ask him that question.’ Yes I was there for 12 years and yes I think it is too big but I'll leave it to the legislature on a downsizing measure."
Democrat Dan McCoy currently serves as president of both the County Executives of America and NYSAC, The New York State Association of Counties. Here's his County Listening Tour Schedule (dates remaining)
Town of New Scotland Board Meeting
Wednesday, June 12 at 7pm
2029 New Scotland Rd., Slingerlands, NY 12159
City of Cohoes Knights of Columbus
Tuesday, July 16 at 7pm
255 Remsen St., Cohoes, NY 12047
Town of Coeymans Board Meeting
Thursday, July 25 at 7pm
19 Russell Ave., Ravena, NY 12143
Albany CANA Board Meeting
Wednesday, September 4 at 6:30pm
Albany Public Library Main Branch
161 Washington Ave., Albany, NY 12210