1. The County Budget and Minimizing Taxpayer Costs
2. Voter Choice and the County Charter Review Commission
3. Ethics in Government
4. Transparency in Government
5. Develop a Proactive Economic Development Strategy

1. The County Budget and Minimizing Taxpayer Costs
While the County’s fiscal situation has improved considerably in recent years with improved reserve balances and prudent management of recent budgets, the County should remain diligent and review all expenditures and investigate opportunities to save money in both operations and capital expenditures, support creative solutions to our budget challenges, and improve the delivery of County services.

The County should continue to look for innovative programs and strategies for addressing public health issues such as the Opioid Epidemic, gun violence, and domestic violence as well as environmental risk factors in our communities that can incur significant costs on the public sector.

Our County should always be open to the potential for streamlined management to lower costs and provide more efficient service.  Life Cycle Costing should be employed in the purchase of large capital equipment to minimize total cost over the life of the equipment.

Finally, County agencies and the legislature should strive to take more advantage of state grant and economic development opportunities.

2. Voter Choice and the County Charter Review Commission
The Albany County Charter Review Commission and its Charter revisions proposed in 2014 seek to modernize and streamline our government operations.  In addition to cost savings, the Charter Review Commission believes greater accountability and effectiveness will result from the proposed Charter revisions.

For a variety of reasons, the County Legislature has resisted putting the proposed changes before the voters so that they can choose whether or not to make the Charter revisions.  This government belongs to the voters, and they have the right to decide the structure of the County Charter that was created to serve them.

Many long-term incumbents in the County Legislature have already voted against voter choice on the questions of downsizing the County Legislature, the creation of a non-partisan and independent legislative redistricting commission, and replacement of the old patronage-based county coroner’s system with a professional medical examiner’s office.

These changes proposed by the County Charter Review Commission have yet to be presented to the voters for their acceptance or rejection in the voting booth. These decisions should be in the hands of the voters.

3. Ethics in Government
Ethical standards in government are critical to the effective performance of governmental services at any level.  Albany County needs to recognize the desire of its citizens for decision-making that is devoid of any conflict of interest on the part of decision makers.

A strong code of ethics in government is critical for its citizens to trust, accept and support the decisions of their government officials.  In Albany County, we must demonstrate unequivocally, for example, that hiring decisions are made on the basis of merit, and not nepotism or cronyism. The legislature must always seek the path of ethical conduct to reinforce the public trust in County government.

A second issue relating to ethics in government is campaign finance reform.  We have seen large sums of money enter state and local elections in recent years.  Sometimes this money is coming from outside an election district.  Sometimes it spawns negative ad campaigns that misinform voters.  These practices do nothing to generate trust in officials once they are elected and they raise the issue of a conflict of interest between the public interest and that of very large donors. While there may not be a County legislative remedy for eliminating big money in politics, we can look to transparency as a tool to help address this issue.

4. Transparency in Government
Like a strong code of ethics, it is an important underpinning for the trust that citizens must have for their government officials if they are to accept and support the decisions made by those officials.

The Albany County Legislature has made great strides in recent years towards greater openness, and many of these best practices that I advocated for, such as video recording public meetings and web posting proposed legislation before official votes of the legislature, have been put in place.

Nevertheless, it remains important that the legislature continue to seek full transparency in such areas as filling vacancies on advisory boards and staff positions, and in the bidding and awarding of contracts by County government.

5. Develop a Proactive Economic Development Strategy
The Capital District is home to many new industries, technology development activities and research activities associated with the Green Economy of the future. The time is now to figure out how Albany County can work with its municipal partners in a coordinated strategy to take best advantage of all the private and public investment that is taking place in this region.

As a national leader in the development of this new innovation-based economy, the Capital District is poised to continue growing its Green Economy as outside investment continues to flow into the region. Albany County has many assets that position it well to participate in this new economic activity. But it needs a flexible and dynamic strategy to take advantage of the economic forces impacting the region over the next several years.

Sustainable economic development in Albany County must rely on a multi-faceted approach that builds on the foundation that is already here in our community.

We are fortunate to have many small businesses that call Albany County home. We are fortunate to be part of the Capital District of New York State, a region that has seen private sector job growth due to numerous state and private sector investments in nanotechnology, new green technologies like solar, wind and biomass energy systems, energy efficiency and environmental technologies.

We have an agricultural sector that has been shrinking over the last few decades but now is facing a potential rebirth as the local food movement gains momentum both in the Capital District and downstate.

Finally, Albany County is blessed with tremendous intellectual capital with a highly trained and educated workforce.

An important principle of sustainable economic development is the preservation of the environmental assets and natural resources that not only contribute to the economic wealth of the community but also provide the clean air, water and open space that protect our health and maintain the character of our communities.  These environmental assets are often public goods that provide benefits to all that live in our communities across the region.

Our natural environmental assets as well as the man made built environment are now threatened by the potential impacts of climate change if we do not rapidly reduce our dependence on fossil fuel resources that are a significant factor influencing the climate.

Fortunately, we are positioned to benefit from a move away from fossil fuels as we have the opportunity to see our local energy efficiency and renewable energy sectors grow rapidly as the Green Economy builds momentum in response to local, national and global trends.

From this foundation, Albany County has many assets to build on as we move forward into the 21st century and participate in the economic evolution taking place in the Capital District.