It was a very good year for the Albany County Legislature’s Democratic Majority.
Albany County in 2016 continued delivering crucial services and competent government to its more than 305,000 residents without increasing taxes.
In December, Albany County legislators and the county executive agreed on a $652 million budget for 2017 that does not raise the tax rate and slightly decreases taxes for the average taxpayer. Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature voted to pass the budget unopposed for the first time in memory.
The Albany County Legislature’s Democratic Majority invested in Albany County’s future in 2016. Members voted to break ground on a $20 million project to enclose and modernize the county’s nearly 27-year-old Times Union Center arena in downtown Albany. The Legislature this year also conveyed dozens more parcels to the Albany County Land Bank Corp., which works to overcome neighborhood blight, and committed $250,000 more to the land bank, bringing the county’s total commitment to the non-profit agency to $1.75 million.
The Legislature invested in Albany County’s people. Four years after Majority Leader Frank Commisso and other Democrats successfully fought against selling the Albany County Nursing Home to a private company, the county’s financial share for operations at the facility has dropped by half and revenues are increasing. Legislators credit the hiring of a seasoned director, the introduction of cost-savings measures and changes in billing.
In May, after years of planning and saving, lawmakers formally opened the Albany County Helderberg Hudson Rail Trail, a miles-long, paved path that takes walkers, joggers and bikers to and from the Port of Albany and Voorheesville. The Legislature’s Democrats also voted to support a major health initiative introduced by Leg. Paul Miller (D-District 32) that raised the age to buy tobacco and nicotine products in the county to 21 from 18.
Later in the year, legislators authorized County Executive Daniel P. McCoy to enter into a lease agreement with Soldier On for the organization to build housing for homeless military veterans at the former Ann Lee Nursing Home. They also approved a law sponsored by Leg. Gary Domalewicz (D-District 10), strengthening the county’s notification requirements for residential lawn pesticide applications.
Fourteen newly elected legislators joined the body in January, including 10 Democrats. In January, members elected Sean Ward, a Democrat from Green Island, to the leadership post of chairman of the Albany County Legislature.
The Legislature in 2016 introduced 643 pieces of legislation, including 620 resolutions and 23 local laws. On a month-to-month basis, members authorized spending for public safety, social services, health care and recreation, made significant personnel appointments, applied for and accepted several grant opportunities and entered into agreements with various organizations to promote public good.
Talks between the county executive and Legislature produced the third consecutive annual county budget without a tax rate increase, and the fourth consecutive budget to fall under the state’s property tax cap. Citizens and taxpayers benefit when the Legislature works with the county executive, while also providing checks and balances, the Legislature’s Democratic leadership noted during the successful 2017 budget negotiations.
The Albany County Legislature in 2016 became the most transparent legislature in the Capital Region. It started videotaping/live-streaming all of its meetings and posting them on the county website, and voted to appoint five members to the reconstituted Albany County Ethics Commission.
The Albany County Legislature passed several local laws in 2016. A law introduced by Leg. Bryan Clenahan (D-District 30) and Leg. Alison McLean-Lane (D-District 14) allowed the sale of non-dangerous fireworks, such as sparklers, within Albany County. Clenahan also led a successful charge to incorporate the Crime Victim and Sexual Violence Center into the Albany County Charter. Legislation introduced by Leg. Doug Bullock (D-District 7) established a sustainable energy loan program in Albany County.
The Legislature also passed a local law allowing Albany County to impose a six percent tax on the occupancy of hotel rooms for at least two more years. The revenue will help fund Times Union Center improvements, the convention center opening in downtown Albany and more.
In November, 67 percent of Albany County voters voted to incorporate the Albany County Probation Department and Board of Elections into the County Charter.
The Legislature’s Majority Office wish you all a very happy New Year. Have fun and be safe.