February 2017 Column – Making the Most of a Short Month

Just because February is the shortest month, does not mean there is nothing happening.  This is certainly the case at Old County Hall, as the County Legislature grapples with a number of issues vital to our community’s future.

The Board of Trustees at Erie Community College has chosen a search consultant to help them select the college’s new president.  The resolution to spend taxpayer dollars to hire the firm awaits the county legislature’s approval.  ECC is at a critical juncture.  Declining enrollments, increasing costs and competition from other community colleges have made it more and more difficult for the college to make ends meet.  The new president will have to meet these challenges and move the college forward.  We need to select the best person for this important position and for this reason I favor the use of a consultant to help identify the best candidate.  The Chair of ECC’s Board of Trustees refers to this as an investment rather than a cost.  I agree.

Erie County Medical Center is also facing some tough choices.  They would like to refinance some existing debt and borrow additional funds to improve their facilities.  They have asked the county to help them with the borrowing, as our credit rating is better than theirs.  In return, they are willing to give us a credit against money we are obligated to pay them every year to cover costs associated with uninsured patients.  The issue is actually quite complex.  I have confidence, however, in our ability to work with hospital officials and the County Executive to continue to meet the medical needs of our citizens.

The County Executive also recently announced that the county is filing suit against a number of doctors and pharmaceutical companies, alleging they pushed opioids despite evidence they were dangerously addictive.  The opioid epidemic is real and has touched too many families in Erie County and across the nation.  The county has already expended hundreds of thousands of dollars in a variety of areas to try and address the problem.  If it can be proven in court that the big pharmaceutical companies were aware of the risks and hid them from both doctors and patients, then they ought to be forced to pay for their actions.

On a personal note, my father passed away two years ago.  He had been diagnosed four months earlier with acute myeloid leukemia.  He did a lot of living in those four months.  He saw another Thanksgiving, another Christmas and one more wedding anniversary.  This would not have been possible without the blood and platelet transfusions he received, gifts of life from so many selfless donors.  To honor them, as well as my father, I participated in last month’s blood drive sponsored by the family of Tonawanda teen Jed Woomer, a wonderful young man who left us way too soon.  The family turned their grief into something wonderful by helping the Red Cross replenish its blood supply during a critical shortage.  They should inspire us all to do what we can to help others, even in a short month like February.

If you have thoughts you would like to share, I would love to hear from you.  I can be contacted by phone at 858-8672 or via email at kevin.hardwick@erie.gov.

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