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Poloncarz calls counties without mandates "reckless"

Posted at 6:30 PM, Nov 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-24 18:30:09-05

ERIE COUNTY, N.Y. (WKBW) — Two Republican senators want to make sure those in power making decisions have checks and balances to follow.

Senator Ed Rath and Senator Patrick Gallivan are introducing a bill that would require any public official like a county executive who is extending on their own a state of emergency or executive order have to go before their respective legislative board such as the county legislature first, to make the case as to why, and get it approved.

“We must recognize that people are anxious when it appears there is no end in sight,” said Senator Rath.

“Our system was never designed to have one person in government making all these decisions,” said Senator Gallivan.

The bill would need bi-partisan support to pass.

This comes a day after Republican members of the Erie County Legislature signed a resolution urging the state legislators to work to remove Poloncarz’s executive powers.

The bill is in reference to 1244 pages of executive orders and emergency order extensions done unilaterally since March of 2020 by Poloncarz. Under the New York Executive Law, Poloncarz has the ability to grant these extensions on his own, and implement new mandates.

Both senators say they are not aware of any other county in the state that is still under a state of emergency.

There are other counties in WNY that have a higher positivity rate than Erie County. In Cattaraugus county, the 7 day rolling average is 12%.

In Niagara County for example, Chairwoman Becky Wydysh said:

“While we are certainly concerned about rising COVID-19 numbers in Niagara County, we are not implementing any mandates at this time. First, unlike Erie County, Niagara County is not under a state of emergency and has not been for months. This means any decision on new COVID-19 restrictions would require a vote by the Legislature in consultation with our Director of Public Health. “

When asked about this issue, Poloncarz called those other counties “reckless.”

“I know it’s going to make them mad, but they’re acting reckless by not implementing the appropriate standards,” he said during a press conference. “If they want to talk about freedom, they can have the freedom to die or have their constituents die because it’s reckless.”

In response, Niagara County Chairwoman Wydysh said:

“It’s truly disappointing that Mark Poloncarz would choose to call Niagara County reckless over a policy difference on how best to handle the increase in COVID-19 cases across the region.  We have no interest in turning this into a political hot potato between neighboring counties. 

“As I stated, we believe the key to getting the increase in cases under control is not more mandates, but wide availability of free testing so those who test positive can be isolated and the spread of the virus can be slowed.  That is why we have called on New York State to re-establish its state testing clinic at NCCC. 

“To that end, what is disappointing is the fact that Erie County has the resources to offer free testing to its residents AND Canadian citizens, but is excluding Niagara County residents from such testing.  We are one region, with people traveling back and forth, so it is in our collective best interest to expand testing to more people. 

“Niagara County never turned away a single Erie County resident from our testing and vaccination clinics because we recognize that we are in this together.  I urge Erie County to open testing to the entire region.”